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Monday, October 17, 2005

Starfleet Battles, Conquest of the Empire

As Sunday afternoon arrived, it was time for the inaugural Starfleet Slug-a-thon. Since there were three of us, me, Cim and Colin, I decided to act as controller, while Colin took a Klingon D7 and Cim took a Federation Heavy Cruiser. I went over the rules on Ship Systems Displays, (SSD's) Power generation and consumption, ship facing, manoeuvring, shields, weapons systems, shield reinforcement and Drone use.

The first turn saw a few hiccups related to pre-plotting of movement, but after that, both players settled into the game. Colin, who is a old hand at the game, showed good use of his Klingon ship, keeping drones out to draw phaser fire, reinforcing shields and keeping good bearings on his target. Cim, after taking a drone hit, was able to negate the threat after that, mostly by destroying the drones with his Phaser 1's, but it was the photon torpedoes that proved to be the undoing of the Klingon.

Cim was able to fire three full spreads, and only missed with 3 torpedoes the entire game. Since he had 4 tubes, that meant he hit with a total of 9 torpedoes, or 72 points of damage. Colin's disruptors were also able to score some hits, but since not all were at optimum range, he was frequently getting 4 or 3 points per hit. The main game breaker was the ability of the Federation Cruiser to absorb a lot of internal hits without compromising critical systems.

It was good to get a game of SFB under our belts, and even though we played with only the most basic of rules, there is a lot of depth to the considerations that must be made, as well as the very important movement plot. If you can get a good shot on a weak shield at close range, it can be a very satisfying manoeuvre. The World Series of Poker bluff of the day occurred when Colin, who had just asked me in secret for a clarification of the Tactical manoeuvre (the ship will use high impulse to make one 60 degree turn, but does not need to plot the timing or direction), spent a few minutes diligently appearing to complete a very detailed movement plot.

Worst dice roll of the day came as Colin missed with a full broadside of disruptor bolts. The best dice rolls were most of Cim's photon torpedo rolls, as he went 9 hits for 12 shots.

Needless to say, James T. Kirk would have been happy, in his stentorian way, and would have heartily approved of Cim sending another Klingon b*****d to Stovokor.

After SFB, Mike dropped in, and we set up Conquest of the Empire (COTE). It was very fortunate indeed that we had built the game table, as COTE would never have fit on our regular table. The map is beautiful, and very large. Once the pieces are set up, it really does give a very grand impression.

Since none of us had played before, we went over the rules, which are fairly brief, and started the game. As the game went on, we developed a real appreciation for the underlying rules, especially the auction for turn order and alliances. It is really amazing how much depth this auction adds to the game, and while no one wanted to spend more than 10 talents on this auction in the first round, by the fourth, one of these went as high as 30.

The available cards add another dimension to the game, and having your actions limited to 2 per round means that you really have to decide whether or not you want a good, but higher priced action card versus making an army move or recruiting new forces. The merchant cards, I am sure, will be highly sought after in the next game, as well as the Diplomacy cards which can provide good temporary troops for a campaign season.

By the end of the game, we were really enjoying ourselves. Colin, who had been leading for a few rounds, would clearly win the game unless Mike, who was in second place, was able to take over a few of his influence tokens. Unfortunately, Mike did not have enough remaining actions, so Cim decided to throw his main army into a battle that saw the drastic reduction of both armies, which allowed Mike to swoop in for the very narrow win.

Of course, while this was happening, I was able to execute a nice naval move/battle off the shore of Egypt which eliminated Mike's galley and which allowed me to make a maritime move of my Ceaser and some troops which then allowed me on the next turn to claim two of Cim's undefended influence tokens, allowing me to edge just ahead of him.

So, in the end, Mike was victorious, though he owed his victory to Cim, Colin was second, I was third, and Cim, last but not least in battlefield glory.

I can only imagine how this game would play with the full complement of 6, and can only hope that we get a chance to try it out one of these days.

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