Sunday, May 8, 2011

A closer look at Starfleet Wars (part 3)

The initial Starfleet Wars game book provided basic rules for starship combat as well as advanced options for a more detailed SfW game.  A couple of years later, Starfleet Wars Book 2 added expanded rules, including space stations, transports, specialized anti-fighter ships, a superweapon, and the type of ship that inspired this blog’s name.  This rules supplement doesn't add anything earth-shaking to SfW, but it does round out the game nicely, as you will see.

Before I get started, you need to know I’m working from a partial copy of SfW2, which I acquired along with several spaceship minis in an ebay purchase.  Although the supplement runs 12 pages long, I only have the center eight pages.  Luckily, the Starfleet Wars Book 2 entry at Board Game Geek can help fill in some of the blanks, and the Observer’s Directory & Identification Manual will help complete this sketch.

The SfW sequel includes rules for space stations and starfortresses.  What’s the difference, you ask?  Well, gleaning what I can from the ODIM and my incomplete copy of Book 2, space stations are basically slow-moving (speed factor 1) platforms that function identically to starships, complete with maximum offensive/defensive factors and particle weapons.

Starfortresses, on the other hand, are modular constructs that have to be taken out one piece at a time.  The nomenclature for the components is evocative of Apollo-era NASA terminology, complete with esoteric acronyms: Medium Auxiliary Weapons System (MAWS), Life Support System (LSS), Mobile Armed Destroyer (MAD), and so on.  Each module has a certain in-game function, such as weaponry, sensors/fire control, or power generation, as well as its own power rating.  Starfortresses can also repair other ships during a game.

When a starfortress section takes damage equal to its power rating, it’s destroyed.  Interestingly, an attacker has the option of aiming at a specific type of module, but not an individual section.  The shooter takes a penalty on the to-hit roll for trying to target a certain kind of module, but a successful hit means the defender must apply damage to the designated sort of equipment.  Conversely, if someone who just shoots at the starfortress as a whole (without targeting a specific module) scores a hit, the defending player gets to choose where to assign the damage.  Also of historical note, Book 2 includes rules for using starfortresses in MAATAC, the publisher’s ground-combat game in the Five Powers setting.

My favorite part of the second book is, of course, the section on super galactic dreadnoughts—which, apparently, are just like galactic dreadnoughts, except they go to eleven.  SGDNs have a total power of around twice that of GDNs (the Victory-class, for example starts with 480 power units!), and up to 20 times the capacity of stellar destroyers.  Just as important, these massive ships’ maximum offense and defense reach the double digits, meaning they can deal a world of hurt to smaller craft, while the lesser vessels probably won’t even be able to scratch the supers.

The supes also hold quite a few fighters, nearly as many as galactic attack carriers, and carry enough particle weapons that their players will have a hard time shooting them all in a single game.  Not only that, but this largest ship type possesses a Close-In Defense System factor of 100 percent.  That means that for every CIDS shot (and ships get one attack for each one-tenth of their power remaining), the SGDN gets an automatic kill!  Since CIDS target fighters (and a maximum of a dozen fighters at once can attack a single ship), sending fighters against a super galactic is pretty much a suicide mission.

But wait, there’s more!  Not only do you get all the conventional offensive and defensive factors of a capital ship, but if you own a superdread, you also add a bonus factor to those values.  After calculating your power allocation for your lasers and shields in the usual manner, you add an additional amount to each value for your dreadnought.  In other words, spend 100 power units for an offensive factor of 10, and add another 7 to that total just because the ship in question is a Terran super galactic dreadnought.  Not until an opponent weakens the super to one-quarter of its starting power does the ginormous starship lose this additional factor.

As the supplement says (but in different words), these extra points reflect the awesomeness of the SGDN.  The book also caveats no more than two supers per side in any single battle, otherwise game balance could go out the window.

With such a powerful ship type, it seems that it would take vast numbers of lesser starships to wear down a super galactic dreadnought.  Such a game might prove interesting at first, but such an exercise in attrition would probably quickly become boring to one or both of the participants.  Luckily, Starfleet Wars Book 2 includes a weapon capable of dealing enough damage to give pause to all starship captains, even those commanding SGDNs.  What, exactly, is this device?  You can find out in part four of my Starfleet Wars review.

1 comment:

maxmike said...

Yo. Scribe. Send me your realspace addy at my account and I'll hook you up with a full copy of part 2.