First, the background: Although the rulebook stats up the spaceship minis that were once known as the Starfleet Wars range, the actual setting for Galactic Knights is different from the SfW milieu. The book gives the timeline for the battles of the 24th and 25th centuries, “when humanity has made its leap to the stars … and find[s] intelligent alien races equally interested in expansion.” Notably, while the GK miniature starships range covers five factions (similar to the Five Powers of Starfleet Wars), the main Galactic Knights rulebook only addresses two blocs, the Terrans and the Avarians—details of which appear in sidebars throughout the book. Two other groups (Entomolians and Carnivorans) appear in their own rulebooks, while the Aquarians have some fan-created material, and that’s it.
In addition to spaceship minis, a bunch of 10-sided dice, and a hex mat, players need stat sheets and a drift marker for each ship. This indicator is how the game simulates vector movement and serves as an on-the-table indicator of a ship’s velocity. Each turn consists of four or five phases, depending on whether you’re using the standard rules or the command rules:
- Drift phase
- Initiative phase
- Maneuver phase
- Fighter & missile phase (command rules only)
- Combat phase
The drift marker follows the ship around. During the drift phase, each player moves his or her ships according to their drift. To do this, move the drift marker up to the ship’s hex, then move the ship the same number of hexes in the same direction (so if a drift marker is three hexes southwest of its ship, move the marker three hexes northeast to where the spaceship sits, then move the ship three hexes northeast, so the drift marker is once more lies three hexes to the southwest of the vessel). To quote the rulebook, “Drift is kind of like a ship’s shadow, pushing it along.” To simulate the physics of a zero-gee environment, drift is unaffected by ship facing and vice versa.
Once all the ships on the board have drifted, it’s time to roll for initiative. Each player rolls a d10 and adds the total number of functioning sensors in his fleet (up to a max of +4). The player who rolls the highest can either maneuver half his ships, wait for the other guy to maneuver all his ships, and then maneuver his remaining ships; or the high roller can let the other player maneuver half his ships, then maneuver all his own ships, and after that watch the other player maneuver the rest of his ships. The winner of the initiative phase also gets to shoot first during combat (more on that later).
To maneuver, you need functioning engines. Each engine on the ship stat sheet has a number. Add up the total from all your engines to calculate your available maneuver points (example: a ship with three engines with a 2 rating has a total of 6 m.p.; if it loses one of those engines its m.p. total drops to 4). A ship can spend its maneuver points in four ways: thrusting, turning, rolling, and counter-thrusting.
- Thrusting: a ship can move one hex in the direction it’s facing for every 2 m.p. it spends. Note the drift marker stays where it is, increasing the drift rate the next turn.
- Turning: a ship can rotate one hex face for every 1 m.p. it spends.
- Rolling: a ship can turn upside down (to turn a damaged side away from the enemy) for 1 m.p.
- Counter-thrusting: a ship can move its drift marker one hex in any direction (thus increasing its drift rate the next turn) for every 1 m.p. it spends.
You can perform any combination of maneuvers in the same phase, as long as you have enough maneuver points to pay for them all. Once everyone's done maneuvering, it's time to fight. We'll take a look at GK combat in the next installment of this Galactic Knights review.