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Friday, August 22, 2014

Starfire I, Scenario 1: First Contact, March 3, 2205

Well, judging by the hits, the trip to outer space didn't hurt none.  I can assure you that the relevancy of any ship gaming project will be carefully thought out and explained, and perhaps you'll have your horizons broadened!  Which is a good reason to go to sea in the first place, and I might add, why many a young lad has done just that.

The first Starfire scenario pits a Khanate escort class vessel against a Terran frigate, the science ship Discovery.  The science behind Starfire is that Faster-Than-Light drives are not yet invented, but "holes" or "Warp Points" in space have been discovered, and sometimes they are 2-way.  So as long as one can burn / thrust out to them, light-years are crossed quickly.  In fact, the burn to/from the Warp Points to desirable planets is longer than the trip btw the Warp Points.  Thus, a good reason to control the points, and...have a war over them!  Two birds with one explanatory stone - nicely done!

Anyway, the Terran ship pops out of the Warp Point 23 hexes away from an outer base / patrol of the Khanate, and the scenario rules present a classic naval problem.  Facing a foreign ship, the Terran is unwilling to fire the first shot [OK, these are NICE Terrans, think Star Trek Terrans before 40K Imperial Terrans].  So the Khanate ship has both the Initiative each turn as well as restricting the Discovery to only returning fire a full turn later.  Since the player with Initiative fires one ship first [and there's only one ship per side in this scenario] this means that the Khanage escort vessel has two turns of shooting before the Terran can fire back.

Scenario 1 in its original graphic glory - haha. Plain blue hex map [naval game?] with scratch pad on the bottom left, black Warp Point with Discovery in blue on left, Khanate patrol ship in red with planet behind.  End of the first turn, the Terran has advanced from the Warp Point and the Khanate is departing its patrol route to investigate.

The victory conditions ask the Terran to pass within two hexes of the Khanate ship and exit the Warp Point for a win, and to pass within two hexes of both the Khanate ship and the planet for a decisive win.  The Khanate player [but not the NICE Terran] can also win by destroying the Discovery as well as depriving them of their victory conditions. However the catch is that the Discovery must exit the board with intact science instruments for the "pass within two hexes" victories to count.  So an interesting problem surfaces, in that the Terran ships is designed thus: 
(2) S A X H I L X I M I I I I (6)  where "X" = science instruments.  

So basically, the Discovery loses one set of science instruments on the third hit, and the second on the seventh hit.  If the Khanate player hits with both weapons a turn, that gives four turns of being shot at.  With two free shots on the Discovery before it can even shoot back, that leaves only TWO turns of receiving fire [maybe a third if there's a miss] before the Terran ship has lost the game.  In terms of giving fire, the Khanate vessel is designed like this: 
(2) H A I G I M I I (4) 

So the two ships are equal in maneuver, but the Terran vessel is 50% faster, 6 to 4 hexes a turn speed.  In weaponry, the Terran has a Laser and a Missile, while the Khanate has a Gun and a Missile.  Guns hit well at short distances, and Missiles need a few hexes to arm properly, so are best from 3-18 hexes.  The net is that for the Khanate to score two likely hits a turn, one with each weapon, they need to be between 2-5 hexes away.  Closer and the Missile system is unlikely to hit, farther and the Gun is unlikely to hit.

It's a classic naval case of intelligence gathering and forcing a patrol line.  The Discovery is faster and bigger, but the Khanate ship has the initiative.  The Khanate player is striving to get and keep the Discovery at optimum range for a few turns, while the Discovery is attempting to elude optimum range, fire back, and accomplish the intelligence fathering that will the game for Terra.  

So how does it play out?

SOLO PLAY.  Starfire's RAW movement system is that each player move every ship one movement point, beginning with the side that LOST the Initiative roll.  So a slight advantage for the Initiative winner.  Turns must be made at the end of a movement point as dictated by its Turn Mode.  So the Initiative winner will see a turn before they move.  As Turns are limited, it is quite helpful to be able to respond to them.  So even playing SOLO, the Starfire system works nicely as Initiative dictates who has the edge in movement.  More than once I found myself with an unexpected opportunity for the Discovery, the more maneuverable ship.

Despite having Initiative, the speed 6 of Discovery was able to elude optimum range alternating between too close and too far.  However, the Khanate ship finally took the best shot that seemed forthcoming after some dancing around.  Fortunately, the dice were with them and they still got their two hits. as the Discovery sped away after passing within two hexes [too close].  Then as the Discovery sped to buzz the planet, the Khante ship was able to slowly knock out the science instruments with Missile fire.  It was close, however, as the Khante player lost an engine and was only half the speed of the Terran vessel.  However, the Khanate player had the position advantage, being able to cover first the route to the planet and then the route to the Warp Point.  I played well for both sides, and it was a victory for the Khanate.

End of game - Khanate player has knocked out the last scientific system on Discovery while she attempt evasion after fast buzz of planet.  Note the cool space map I got from EN Publishing at RPG Now.  They cost a brutal $1.50, and copied out well.  Skip Starscape Hex Maps 1 and go on to 2 or more, as the maps in 1 aren't very interesting.  I like at least a background of stars.  I used these maps for the replays and they make a big difference over the plain blue.

I played a second time with lower expectations - just to buzz the Khanate ship and speed back to the Warp Point and escape back to Terra with invaluable intel.  Altho another close run battle, the Tactical Victory was much easier for the Terran, even against an alert Khanate player.

So a well thought-out scenario, that could easily be used as a problem in any naval game from ancients to moderns - outmaneuvering a slower, slightly weaker vessel with a position advantage to achieve mission parameters.  Good stuff!


  1. Thanks for this. I think I have played this scenario, and the next one, on and off about 6 times over the last 25 years or so. I agree that is is a great scenario and the rules hold up well over the years. I played the second scenario last year and I have been mulling over playing another Starfire game this month. Your post has certainly inspired me to do so!

  2. You're welcome! I'm in a sort of routine that I do this instead of watching TV or something. It's relaxing and helps wind me down. The old hex'n counter games are really a "pastime" worth pursuing. My account of Scenario 2 is above, but 3 will probably have to wait several days.

    I think the rules have held up well, but am planning some simple mods to make it a tad more realistic, or just simpler. For instance, switching to 1d12 instead of 2d6 with the same combat chart, and making 1 a critical hit.

    1. Actually (now that I remember) when I dug out Starfire to play last year, I converted to TO HIT chart all to 1d6 with 6 being a critical hit, unless the TO HIT was a 6 only.

      This year I am planning to split a ship's systems past the armour into 3 rows and randomly roll for the row to start taking damage. Once that row has gone, roll randomly for the one of the two remaining rolls. It will take some of the predictability out of it. I have not tried it, but have been thinking of this for 2 months now and your post in definitely getting me closer to trying it out. I am also thinking of simplifying the to hit and damage to be more like Full Thrust weapons, but that is another story...