A periodic blog about Games, Books, Movies, Pop culture, Technology and whatever else I happen to feel like writing about...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Starfleet Battles

While I was at my mom's celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend, I decided to look through some of the things that I had left to rescue a few games. I found old copies of Barbarian Kings, The Air Eaters Strike Back, Hot Spot, a deck of French Tarot cards and my Starfleet Battles rules and expansions.

I have the original boxed set, with the first version of the rules, as well as expansions #2 and #3. I had decided to bring Starfleet home so that Cim and I could play around with some tactical starship combat. We have both been reading the Honor Harrington books, and seeing that there is a starship combat game based on the series, I decided that it would be a good time to get back into some SFB to test the waters for a possible purchase of the newer system.

Before we go any further, I do realize that the Saganami Island Simulator (based on David Weber's Honor Harrington books) is much closer to Full Thrust than SFB, but I never got into Full Thrust.

SFB, to those who read any of the internet fora on which it is discussed, is more of a religion than a game system. The adherents keep trying to convert new followers, and the detractors keep pointing out how convoluted and heavy the rules can be. I must be one of the rare moderates in this case, as I believe that, while the rules can be fairly heavy, there is a very good game in there for those that have the patience to become familiar with the system.

The basic system is not overly complicated, in that engines produce power, which can be used for propulsion, weapons and shields. This is not too complicated, but once you add rules for transporters, boarding parties, mines, transporter bombs, Wild Weasel and Suicide Shuttles, etc., there can be an awful lot to remember.

Many years back, while I was in Pembroke visiting my parents, I remember playing a quick game against my friend Gilles. It was a simple Fed CC vs Klingon BC, two fairly evenly matched ships. Gilles had collected many of the rules supplements, while I was more familiar with the standard rules (if such a thing can be said to exist in SFB!). I remember being very surprised when Gilles announced that he was putting my ship under a tractor beam. I remember saying that he couldn't do that, as my ship still had functioning warp engines. He then picked up supplement two or three and showed me the new rule allowing this. It seems that the rules had been changed, and that ships could now be tractored at warp. The next time that we played, as he tried to tractor my ship, I immediately announced that I had put more power into my tractor beam than he had, turned his ship so that I was facing the weak shield and cut loose with every phaser that I had charged. Ahh, the memories...

If players are all familiar with the rules, and there is agreement on which rules will be used, SFB can be a very rewarding game. It can also be a long game, and some players might not relish the degree of micro management required. But, if you always wished that you could command a Federation Starship on a daring rescue mission or klingon raid, few games approach the SFB experience.

I am quite hopeful that we will be able to dust this off on the weekend, as well as play our first game of Conquest of the Empire. As always, a full report will follow.


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