Final Frontier – “Out of Time”

“Stardate 301709.017 – Captain Andrews of the HMS Nash recording… A distress signal has been received from the Victoria-class Deep Space Station Awdry, stationed on the border of the Shimmering Zone. A probe was sent into the Zone and when it returned, the crew were unaware that it had been infected with a Karrian virus, which shut down all but basic life-support systems on the station. The virus has now been purged from their systems, but Commander Michaels has reported that a Karrian Marauder has been detected approaching his currently defenceless station. Both the Nash and the HMS Webb have been dispatched to defend the station until such time as their defences are brought back online. Whilst we have already arrived, the Webb is still en route…”

Regular visitors to my blog will have realised that there has been a break in my normal schedule of posts, with last weekend’s post not actually appearing. Various external factors and lack of time prevented me from; A) actually gaining access to the shared computer and B) having the time to actually do something to feature on the blog. Hence the double meaning of this blog’s title.

However, normal service has been resumed, mojo recovered and I have typed up enough of my scribbled notes to actually play-test my Star Trek inspired hex-based starship combat game…Final Frontier!

So, having now play-tested them, I thought I’d present the play-test as a batrep, to give an idea of the rules and how they work, with an overview at the end to see whether they did what they were supposed to.

So, the introductory fluff above gives the basic set-up and the picture below gives the layout of the playing area.

As I do not own a space combat mat marked out in hexes, but do own three sets of Marvel Heroscape tiles, I’ve used the Asphalt tiles to create my playing area. the single concrete hex in the middle represents a small moon (“That’s no moon…”).

To the right of the picture you can see the currently vulnerable DSS Awdry and the HMS Nash (Hoorah!)and to the left the Karrian Marauder (Boo!). Due to a slight disparity in the points costs of the two opposing forces, the HMS Webb will be ‘warping in’ at the end of Turn 2, adjacent to the DSS Awdry. Now, let’s take a look at stats of the ships involved…

First, we have the HMS Nash, which is a Unicorn-class Corvette operated by the New Albion Royal Navy (or NARN, for short). Corvettes have 6 Bays and therefore fall into the Light category of ships.

Of course, now you’re wondering what a Bay is… A Bay is what I’ve called the spaces each starship has available to mount additional systems. Each starship rolls off the production line with three standard systems built in – a long-range scanner, a shield generator and a forward-facing high energy weapons array, more commonly known as Scanners, Shields and Weapons. Each ship then has a number of additional spaces, known as Bays. These are most commonly filled with impulse engines (or Engines), each Bay of which produces a Power dice, which are then spent on powering other systems. However, they can have other systems in as well…

Anyway, back to the HMS Nash. As it has 6 Bays available, I decided to fill these with 5 Bays of Engines (producing 5 Power dice) and the final Bay with a Torpedo Rack. The advantage of a Torpedo Rack is that it does not require Power dice to operate, they do a set amount of damage (3 Hits) and they have a set Range (6 Hexes). However, the disadvantage is that you can only fire Torpedoes once and then it takes 4 Turns for the rack to recharge. I’ve decided that as this is a Unicorn-class, the Torpedo rack will be front facing.

Next, we have the HMS Webb, a Bulldog-class Frigate, which has 8 Bays, meaning it falls into the Medium category. I decided to fill all 8 Bays with Engines, so when it finally arrives, it will have 8 Power dice available each turn.

Finally, we have the Karrian Marauder, which is effectively a Dreadnought, meaning that it has 12 Bays and falls into the Heavy category. As the Karrian Collective are not the most adventurous of souls, all 12 Bays are filled with Engines, meaning t has 12 Power dice to assign each Turn.

The points cost of each ship is based on the number of Bays it has, so the NARN have a Corvette (6) and a Frigate (8), which equals 14 ‘points’. The Karrian Marauder has a value of 12, so the NARN player has a 2 point advantage. To offset this, the HMS Webb begins play off the board and will ‘warp in’ at the end of Turn 2. The DSS Awdry will reboot its systems and go back online at the end of Turn 10, so the Karrian player needs to get to it before Turn 10, whilst the NARN player needs to prevent this from happening, by delaying or destroying the marauder.

Right, let’s boldly go where no-one has gone before…because this is the first time the rules have been used.

So, first thing to do is determine who goes first. As these rules only use d6’s (and a fair few of them) each player rolls a d6 and adds the number of ships they currently have in play. Whoever rolls highest goes first. The Karrian player rolled a 2, +1 for their Marauder, for a Total of 3, The NARN player rolled a 5, +1 for their Corvette, for a total of 6. The NARN player therefore goes first.

As both ships were at a fair old distance, the NARN player decided to assign 1 die to Scanners (otherwise it won’t know where anything else is. This is space, which is big, so you can’t just look out of the windows to see what’s there – unless it’s very, very close). The remaining 4 Power dice he assigns to Movement. As the Corvette is a Light vessel, it can move 1 Hex for each Power dice assigned. You can only change facing by 60 degrees for each Hex moved, which means that every ship moves in lovely little arcs. As the HMS Nash is a little bit smaller than the Karrian vessel, the NARN player decides to move towards the small moon (“That’s no moon…”) to use this as cover, and lay in wait for the bigger vessel.

The Karrian player, realising that the Nash is nowhere close, assigns 1 dice to Scanners. As the Marauder is a Heavy vessel, each hex of movement costs 3 Power dice – the marauder has 12, so after the 1 spent on Scanners, it uses 9 for 3 hexes of movement and assigns the last die to Shields. As all ships have used up their Power for this Turn, the Turn is over.

Turn 2: Initiative is determined as before, with the Initiative rolls favouring the NARN player again (a trend that would continue throughout the game).

The NARN player assigned 1 dice to Scanners, 2 to movement, 1 to Shields and 1 to Weapons, and began to creep around the moon, with the intention of attacking the Karrain Marauder from the side and therefore outside of its forward firing arc. (Each ship has four firing arcs – Front, Left, Right and Rear. As the majority of the ships in Star Trek only fire from the front, the standard built-in Weapons fire in a 90 degree arc from the front of the vessel. If you want additional Weapons covering the other firing arcs, this costs a Bay for each additional array.)

The Karrian player, realising the danger posed by the Nash, assigns 1 dice to Scanners, 9 to movement (moving 3 hexes) and 1 each to Weapons and Shields, and brings his Marauder about, towards the Nash.

With a bit of technicolour stretchy- space visuals, the HMS Webb drops out of warp, on the edge of the playing area, just behind the DSS Awdry. Thus ends Turn 2.

Turn 3. This is where it started to get fun… The Initiative roll once again favoured the NARN player and he assigned the HMS Nash’s 5 Power dice; 1 to Scanners, 2 to Movement and 2 to Shields and swung out from behind the moon, directly in front of the lumbering behemoth that was the Karrian Marauder. Suicidal? Nope, Captain Andrews had a cunning plan…

Captain Rogers of the HMS Webb assigned his 8 Power dice as follows; 1 to Scanners, 1 to Shields and the remaining 6 to Movement. As the Webb is a Medium vessel, it costs 2 Power dice for every hex moved, so he moved slowly forward towards the Karrian vessel, hoping to catch it unawares.

Channelling his inner Vader, with a cry of “I have you now!”, the Karrian player assigned 1 dice to Scanners, to ensure he could see and fire upon the Nash, 6 to movement, to move the final three hexes in front of his prey, 2 to Shields (just in case) and 3 to Weapons. Every dice assigned to Weapons not only allows you to roll that number of dice to Hit your opponent, but also adds to the Range of your Weapons. Basically, the more power pumped into your weapons array, the more damage it can potentially do and the further it can reach. As the Karrian player had put 3 Power dice into Weapons, he got to roll 3 dice and could fire at the Nash, which was within 3 hexes of his firing arc, as shown in the picture below;

And if you look closely, you can see that the the Karrian player rolled a 2, a 5 and a 6, which counts as 2 Successes (i.e. 4+ on a d6), meaning that the Nash had taken 2 Hits. The Nash, if you remember, had assigned 2 Power dice to Shields in anticipation of this kind of attack, and was hoping that this would block any damage. Rolling his 2 dice, the NARN player rolled a 2 and a 5, so only 1 Success, meaning he took 1 hit.

The way the rules work is, that for each Hit you take, you lose 1 Power dice from you total, so the Nash was now reduced from a total of 5 dice to a total of 4. Oops!

Turn 4: Due to first blood having been drawn by the nefarious Karrian against the stalwart members of Her Britannic Majesty’s navy, I got a bit excited and was halfway through blowing the crap out of the marauder with both naval vessels, when I realised I’d forgotten to assign dice to their Scanners, meaning that they couldn’t actually have fired upon the marauder…so  I started the Turn again.

Turn 4 Redux: Luckily for Captain Andrews and the crew of the HMS Nash, the NARN player won the Initiative again. Was it the presence of the HMS Webb, adding another +1 to the roll? No, just the Dice Gods favouring the true sons of Albion and not the cyber-insects of the Karrian Collective…

Captain Andrews stared at the rusty-looking dreadnought filling the viewscreen directly in front of them. Whilst it had damaged the Nash, there was still plenty of fight left – “Ahead full” he commanded, and watched as the enemy vessel got closer “and…wait for it…fire torpedoes! Now hard to starboard!”…

Having assigned 1 of 4 remaining Power dice to Scanners to ensure he can fire on the Marauder, and calculated the distance involved, the NARN player fires his torpedoes, then using his last 3 dice, veers off just in front of the Marauder, ensuring that the Nash ends up outside of its forward firing arc. As the Torpedoes do an automatic 3 hits, the Karrian player rolls the 2 dice he had assigned to Shields, but only manages 1 Success. So, the marauder takes 2 Hits and loses 2 Power dice, meaning that it now only has 10 Power dice remaining. God save the Queen!

The HMS Webb, having watched this exchange, assigned 1 of its 8 Power dice to Scanners, 1 to Shields and the remaining 6 to Movement, meaning it drew closer to the marauder, creeping up on its right hand side.

The Karrian player, shaken by the damage caused by such a tiny vessel, assigned 1 dice to Scanners, and the remaining 9 to movement, the intention being to put the moon between itself and the two NARN vessels, then come down towards the Awdry…and eat it.

Turn 5: Once again the NARN player won the Initiative (and this was not due to having a +1 advantage for ships in play – the Karrian player was just rolling crap…)

The Nash assigned 1 Power dice to Scanners, so it knew where its enemy was, and the remaining 3 Power dice to manoeuvre back around behind the Marauder.

The Webb assigned 1 dice to Scanners, and 6 to Movement, deciding to go over the top of the moon (“That’s no moon…”), as this costs less in movement than going around it, but does mean that other ships can see you.

The Karrian player, realising that both ships were attempting to chase it down and it only had 5 Turns left until the Awdry became invulnerable, assigned 1 of its remaining 10 dice to Scanners, so it knew both where its prey and its enemies were, 6 to movement, moving 3 Hexes closer to the Awdry, and the remaining 3 to Shields.

Turn 6: Once again the NARN player won initiative.

The Nash assigned 1 dice to Scanners and, as the marauder was in its front firing arc and withing 3 Hexes, the remaining 3 to Weapons. The Nash rolled 2 Hits, but the Karrian player with his 3 dice worth of Shields blocked all of them.

The Webb assigned 1 dice to Scanners, 4 to Movement, moving two Hexes and behind the marauder, and the remaining 3 to Weapons…and opened fire. However, whilst the Webb scored 2 hits, the marauder’s Shields manged to block 1 of them, so only suffered 1 Hit, reducing its Power dice to 9.

The Karrian player, realising he was rapidly running out of both Power and time, assigned 1 of its remaining 8 Power dice to Scanners, 3 to Movement (moving a measly 1 Hex), and used the remaining 4 on Shields, anticipating that the NARN player would throw everything at it next turn.

Turn 7: Yet again the NARN player won Initiative! The dice just kept falling their way…

The Nash assigned 1 of its remaining 4 Power dice to Scanners, 1 to Movement and the last 2 to Weapons…and fired. However, whilst the Nash scored 2 Hits on the marauder, its superior 4 dice worth of Shields blocked them all.

The Webb, having 8 Power dice to play with and being directly in the rear of the marauder, assigned all but 1 of its dice to Weapons, the remaining dice being used for Scanners. However, whilst the Initiative dice favoured the NARN player, his Weapons dice didn’t, meaning that he only scored 3 Hits out of a potential 7, all of which the Karrain player blocked with his Shields.

Turn 8: The next Turn followed a similar pattern – the NARN player won Initiative, fired on the marauder with both ships and had their Hits deflected by its Shields, as all three ships moved closer to the Awdry.

Turn 9: Once again the NARN player won Initiative. The Nash assigned 1 Power dice to its Scanners, the remaining 3 to Weapons and, as 4 Turns had passed, fired its Torpedoes again. It only scored 1 Hit with its Weapons, but the additional 3 automatci Hits from its Torpedoes took this up to 4. The Karrian player, having assigned 4 dice to Shileds the previous round, only managed to block 1 of these, taking 3 further Hits and reducing its overall Power dice to 5.

The Webb used 1 dice of Scanners, 2 on moving 1 hex closer and the remaining 5 on Weapons, scoring an impressive 4 Hits, 2 of which were blocked by the marauder’s Shields. However, this reduced its overall Power dice to 3! Oh dear…

The Karrian player, realising that he probably wasn’t going to last much longer, assigned his remaining 3 dice to Shields.

Had this game been part of an ongoing campaign, rather than a play-test, the Karrian player would have had the option of using his Power dice to  ‘warp’ off the board (but would have only needed 2 Power dice to do this), effectively running away, but this battle was going down to the wire.

Turn 10: This was it – the final turn. Unsurprisingly, the NARN player won the Initiative once again.

The Nash assigned 1 of its remaining 4 dice to Scanners, and the remaining 3 to Weapons. Rolling the maximum possible 3 Hits, the NARN player was surprised when the Karrian player managed to block 2 of these with his Shields. It still took a single Hit, so would be reduced to 2 Power dice…if it survived until next turn.

The Webb assigned 1 dice to Scanners and with a cry of “This is what you get for messing with the New Albion Royal Navy!”, opened up on the marauder with its remaining 7 dice. Scoring an impressive 4 Hits, the NARN player cheered as only one of these was blocked and the Marauder exploded!!!

As I didn’t have a suitable explosion marker, this is how it was represented on board;

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!!!

So, the idea was to try and design a set of space combat rules, that were simple to use and easy to learn, that had a degree of strategic play, both in manoeuvring and assigning resources, included a simple starship design system and had the flavour of Star Trek. But, most importantly, were fun.

Whilst there were a few minor issues with remembering that every ship HAS to assign at least one dice to Scanners or they’re flying blind, and that to ensure you don’t forget when ships have had their dice reduced, some kind of ship card would be helpful, they pretty much worked the way I’d hoped.

I’d just like to thank Simon Moore of Fantorical for getting me started on this project and my friend Chris Holroyd, who listened to my crazy ideas regarding this and made some very pertinent and useful suggestions. Hopefully, within the next week I’ll have the rules typed up and available from here, for others to try them out themselves

For regular followers, thank you for your patience and I hope that this post was worth the wait. I have no idea, as yet, what next week will bring, but can guarantee that it probably won’t be spaceships, as I’ve run out of flight stands and need to order some more…

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24 thoughts on “Final Frontier – “Out of Time”

  1. “I hope that this post was worth the wait.” – Well worth it Jez. A simply terrific posting that was full of thrills and spills, and some great spacefaring rule ideas too. I absolutely loved it and I’m looking forward to seeing those rules of yours being typed up and ready for use 🙂

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    • Thanks Simon. They’re about 50% done already. Other optional systems include transporter rooms, cloaking devices and shuttlecraft hangars. Plus there will be sections on space phenomena, such as gas clouds and planetoids and how they affect play and “fully operational” space stations. Not bad for someone who’s never actually played a space combat game, but maybe that helped, as I just had an idea of what I thought it should be.

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    • Thanks Andy. Once I’d got bitten by the bug, the rules almost wrote themselves. My friend Chris proved invaluable for bouncing ideas off.
      Hopefully I’ll have the rules available by next weekend, so you can download a copy and give them a a go. Might need some spaceships though, and I might be doing a post on how to do this for a reasonable price.

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  2. I can only assume the New Albion Royal Navy still uses the purchase system for officer promotions. That two such excitable clods as Andrews and Rogers are allowed to command to command anything larger than an escape pod is near-criminal. The fact that you were able to use a Temporal Rescission Generator to give them a second chance is clearly a violation of the William Murray Accords. It seems likely that Temporal Enforcement Agents are already assessing the impact of erasing you from existence for this heinous act.

    It might be easier to assess a forward arc if it is 120 degrees (so it goes down the middle of the side/front hexes) for when you start using larger (longer ranged) ships. If the side arcs are also 120 degrees (the two side hex faces) there is a small overlap, “the sweet spot” exploited by superior naval officers.

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  3. An entertaining batrep. The rules appeared to be simple but fun. Good to see the NARN achieving victory.

    Say, did you receive the Doctor Who spinners I sent you? I’m hoping they didn’t get lost in a black hole or a wormhole.

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    • Thanks Bryan. It was fun to play and took longer to type up and post than actually play. And apologies for not acknowledging the receipt of your generous gift. They arrived safely and are awaiting suitable basing.

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    • Thanks Kaptain. No Power assigned to Scanners means that the ship is ‘flying blind’, so cannot ‘see’ other ships and therefore fire on them. This ‘dead’ dice becomes more important when fielding ships equipped with cloaking technology, as you will then be rolling it (and possibly assigning more dice to Scanners) in opposition to dice assigned to the opponents cloaking device.
      There were times that I was calculating the most effective use of the Power dice I had, which was what I’d hoped to achieve by writing the rules in this way. I think it will reward tactical play, but will need a few more play-tests to iron out any wrinkles.

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      • Thanks – the scanners did seem a little redundant, but I can see the point of them now.

        This does seem to be shaping up to be the kind of spaceship game I am looking for; a small number of models, with simple rules and minimal bookkeeping. Most games tend to assume that you will use lots of ships with simple rules, or a few ships with fiddly rules. I’m not thrilled about the hex-rid, but hex-grids can be replaced with normal movement.

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        • Glad I was able to help. The hex grid was chosen as most starship combat games tend to use them and it saves having specific ‘arc templates’ for movement, but as you say, not everyone likes them. Should be relatively simple to knock up a ‘movement wheel’ and ‘firing arc’ template and add them to the rules. That way they can be used by anyone.

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  4. Nice batrep, and interesting take on the rules, I like the hex system myself (though I’d have to have green space, as I don’t have that many dark grey ones).

    The ships look great, especially the NARN.

    Cheers Roger.

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  5. This feels right, and is looked right. Reading it slowly and carefully it all seemed to fit together neatly and well. Any minor complexities can easily be remedied simply by making some token markers and possibly some nice star cards to put the tokens on (to remember current ship status for each individual vessel). I see a lot of work has gone into these, and I would say the effort was well worth the time spent.

    Excellent.

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  6. I concur. A lot of work has gone into this, and you can tell. Tarot read the whole thing out to me while I was eating my toast and marmalade, before getting nose to the grind stone for another day`s work schedule. She read it with all the appropriate accents and voices, like reading a novel to an audience haha, bravo tar`, this made it so cool to listen to. Yep, nice, simple, easy to follow EVEN though I`ve not seen the rules, the batrep was explained with enough detail that I could see the rules evolving in my head as I listened.

    I think you may be onto a winner here.

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    • Thanks Steve. I would have liked to have heard that, as I’m certain it was as entertaining as it sounds. My philosophy regarding rules is they should only be as complicated as they need to be. The simpler the rules, the easier they are to learn, meaning no constant checking of the rules and no real arguments regarding what can and can’t be done. Which leaves more time to play and have fun. I’ve been speculating on a simple mechanism for ‘landing parties’, as we obviously need transporter rooms and shuttlecraft. And once I’ve found a suitable vessel, I may treat you all to the exploits of the infamous privateer Captain Crowe…

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  7. Oh, absolutely about simplicity in rules. Most of my preferred games (especially playing solo) use simplistic mechanisms.. almost as simple as the suggestions found in Don Featherstone`s “Solo Wargaming” or Stuart Asquiths “Airfix Military Modelling Guide to Solo Gaming”… both of these absolute classics of the pioneering days of the hobby.

    But then there is the (seemingly contradictory) absolute opposite end of that spectrum, with games like “Advanced Squad Leader” which they reckon takes you about ten years to learn…. I concur on that actually: and “Terrible Swift Sword” another mammoth of a game that can take a day to set up and a week to play a game (on one map), or a month if using all three maps to make the big/whole game.

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  8. Pingback: Final Frontier – The Rules | Carrion Crow's Buffet

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