“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…