Monday, January 2, 2012

A couple of free games

There are a multitude of free rulesets available for minis sci-fi gamers, but most of them are generic games such as Full Thrust or Hordes of the Things.  Those are great games, but sometimes people want to play a set of rules that is intertwined with a particular setting.  I recently became aware of two such rulesets, free downloads for a pair of specific, well-known intellectual properties.

First, and arguably the most recognizable to non-gamers, is Federation Commander: First Missions, based on the original Star Trek television series.  Published by Amarillo Design Bureau, FC is actually a leaner version of the company's venerable Starfleet Battles, which although very popular takes a very long time to play. 

The free version includes the basic rules at the Fleet Scale level, which is about half as detailed as the Squadron Scale rules.  The download also comes with printable counters, two ship system displays (Federation Constitution-class heavy cruiser and Klingon D-7 battlecruiser), and a hex map.  So for the cost of paper and ink for your printer, you have a quick-play version of the ship-on-ship battles like Kirk & Co. used to have.  For people who gave up on SFB as too esoteric, this game might give you your Trek fix for a lot smaller time investment.

The second fictional offering is probably just as famous among gamers, probably less so to the non-wargaming public, although it also has a hefty background setting.  I'm talking of course, about that original game of giant robots blowing each other up, BattleTech.  In addition to the BattleTech Quick-Start Rules, which has 24 pages (8 taken up by in-game fiction), publisher Catalyst Game Labs also offers more free background material, the BattleTech Universe Book, which is twice as many pages as the game rulebook.

This version of the game includes the quick-start rules that cover battlemechs, tanks, and the poor bloody infantry (conventional and power-armored), the appropriate mech/vehicle/infantry record sheets, a color hex map, and lots of counters.  If you've been out of the game awhile and want an easy way to get back into BT, I can't think of a better means than this.

So if you've always wanted to wargame in the Starfleet Battles universe or the BatteTech setting (or just want to sample some well-known rules), here's your chance to do at no cost.


Brad said...

Comments on both (as I have direct experience!)

Federation Commander isn't a bad game at all, but to be perfectly honest, I feel they tried to streamline Starfleet Battles unsuccessfully. It's still more complex than it should be. The free version also really doesn't prepare you for the full version adequately.

The Battletech Quickstart, however...they're essentially the rules, in toto, for Battletech. You don't have to buy anything. Considering how thick and detailed the new rulebooks are, I prefer the QS simply because it's much easier to use. Ignoring real-world physics and focusing on giant robots beating the crap out of each other is paramount to enjoying BT.

Desert Scribe said...

Thanks, Brad. I didn't know you were familiar with Fed Commander. I want to give it a tryout sometime. Do you have the full version?

And it's been a loooong time since I played me some BattleTech. We'll have to play that one of these days, too.

Anonymous said...

Star Fleet Battles is not near so complicated if you play Basic Set with just D7's and CA's for a while. If you play the heck out of the duel scenario with several combinations of ships and then move on to fleet battles, you can postpone adding anything from Advanced Missions for fifty games or so.

Basic Set is far more of a complete starship combat game than I ever gave it credit for as a teenager. I use the sequence of play from the old cadet book and have had some success in training new players. (How seeking weapons, shuttles, and direct fire commands line up is critically important.)

The new ACTA variant of the game may be a more successful streamlining than either FedCom or the one on the Starmada engine. But if you and your pals can handle 32 impulse phased movement with secret and simultaneous orders every time... I'd stick with the grandaddy of a space games. (The cards in Module A+ help.) It just does that epic Wrath of Khan duel to the death like nothing else can!

Spartan 117 said...

Played SFB back in the 70s and 80s, but not FedCom. I will give it look. Battletech though, I played that when it first came out, up through the mid 90s. Love big stompy robots...

HoldFast said...

I played a ton of Star Fleet Battles back in the day as well. Truly enjoyed playing it most of the time. But, the game does not scale up very well and the players need to be aware of that. A single ship vs. single ship battle can still take two hours to complete. A massive battle with several players and 12 ships per player, as gamers are prone to attempt, becomes utterly impossible to manage. FedCom tries to fix that by reducing the details as the size of the game increases. I've played the free game, liked it, and would like to play again. The ACTA version is new and is intended to play with miniatures. I would very much like to play that someday.

HoldFast said...

Shameless plug here.. I run a GURPS: Prime Directive campaign. GURPS:PD is the RPG product from Amarillo Design Bureau. The campaign is currently on hold, but if anyone is interested in Trek-inspired RPGs, please browse my campaign website on Obsidian Portal.
Thank you!