Saturday, August 23, 2014

Starfire Scenario 2: Escalation without Capitulation

Well, the first scenario is pretty easy for the Terran to get a minor victory and hard to get a major victory.  Skill of the players is probably the most decisive factor, but the Khanate player needs positioning skill in a big way to defeat the Discovery, and the Terran needs it to win a Decisive Victory.

Scenario 2 is similar in situation, but very different in forces available.

The Khanate player has a new Light Cruiser - CL - and three Escorts, and a small Base 1.  Their total force output in weapons is 6 x Guns, 5 x Missiles, 2 x Laser Beams [skip Shields].  The Terran force that is returning to thru the Warp Point to the original encounter has 6 x W [Gun/Missile Launchers = dangerous at every range out to 17 hexes, basically] and 1 x Laser Beam.  So overall, the Khanate player seems to have the advantage.  Ahhh, but what about "maneuver"?  The Terran has a significant edge with two ships at Velocity 6 and one at 5, while the Khanate player has a CL with 6, four escorts with 4, and a Base at 0, of course.  And the scenario makes the Base very vulnerable to hits since it has no "dodge" ability.

The Terran also has an edge in ship size.  With three "larger" ships, two frigates and a destroyer, vs. a CL and three Escorts plus a Base 1 [small], the Terran has a lot more durability ship to ship.  These leads into the classic naval problem of "ship size".

Are more smaller ships better than a few large ones?  In Starfire, the answer is "no" IMHO.  Small ships are easier to bash up until they've nothing but engines and all their useful systems like weapons are gone.  Also, in these early games, targeting restrictions mean that it's more sensible to concentrate on and smash a small ship than disperse fire on several ships.

With this in mind, the Terran plant was to crush each small ship in turn, while letting the CL run free until all firepower could be concentrated upon it.  The Khanate plan was the same.  To concentrate upon the frigates and take them out of action until just the Destroyer was left. 

Game Victory Conditions awarded 1 point per destroyed system with bonus points for completely destroying a ship / base.  Makes sense, since a badly damaged ship can still be salvaged and the crew saved, while a total loss means no ship and dead crew.  Anyway, the beginning of this third-fourth play of Scenario 2 looked like this:

Terran ships in blue stacked up on left, exiting the Warp Point [the '+'] with Khanate ships in red stacked together left of the white base and black/blue planet.  The plans differ - whose will prevail??

The Terran setup is a no-brainer - together exiting the Warp Point.  The Khanate one I thought about quite a bit.  Originally I stacked them with the Base.  But the first replay led to the static Base being trashed with Terran missile fire.  So this time I opted to put the Khanate squadron overlapping the range of the Base Missile launcher, with their three more.

The Terran plan was to engage the Khanate ships outside of range of the Base weaponry.  And it yielded immediate results.  The naval problem to the Khanate player is that their fleet is stronger in weaponry but weaker in range and Speed.  The Terran's slight edge in Missiles and the vulnerability of the Base means that the Terran can use position to maximize the odds against a portion of the Khanate ships.  Which is exactly what they did.

On turns 1 and 2, the Terran held back, just within range of the Khanate ships and out of the range of the Base.  The Terran achieved hits at a 3-1 ratio for two turns, trashing one Khanate escort down to two engines, and causing it to begin limping for home off the right board edge.  The Khanate player realized this couldn't continue, and sped the fast, powerful CL towards the Terran squadron as the escorts held off, only being able to add two missile launchers at this range.

The Earth Squadron being quick on threat analysis, they pulled back a bit to engage the light cruiser on their best terms.  They achieve 5-1 hits with missiles on turn 3, and do well on turn 4, by which time the Cl had to announce "Shields Down!" along with some Armor penetration.  On turns 5 and 6, the Khanate CL tried to outmaneuver the Terran squadron which had two speed 6 and one speed 5 ship, but the attempts failed, and the Cl took a battering, losing much of its firepower.  Seeing their larger sibling bashed, the escorts decided they had to intervene - to their doom!

Khanate CL tries to outmaneuver Terran squadron stacked up [in blue] on the right, while the escorts hold back, and the trashed escort departs the board to the right, solo.

The two Khanate escorts were too fragile to withstand the line of battle.  Altho the weakest Terran frigate Outreach, had to withdraw from the battle with nothing but engines, the Khanate CL was reduced to no weapons and another escort was smashed to just a couple of engines.  The maneuvering forced the Terran to close up and drive forward, so the Khanate base was able to fire off a few shots and contribute to the damage of Outreach, but it wasn't enough.  Despite the frigates withdrawal, the two Terran ships had enough firepower to pull the teeth on the last escort whil closing with the base and trashing it with accurate fire.  The base blew up, the Terrans were between the Khanate ships and their escape route, and only the damaged escort from turn 2 managed to escape.

Terra holds the field!  erhm, "space"!  One frigate on the left, the destroyer on the right, no survivors between!

I played this scenario a few times, and either keeping the khanate ships together or spreading them out according to speed resulted in bad things.  The edge in speed/range for Terra is too good, and the Khanate stands little chance of holding them off.  The vulnerability of the Base is more of a liability than an asset, I'd trade the Base for upgrading two escorts to Frigates any day.

The Naval Problem reminds me of the German Scout Squadron in WWI on the North Sea.  A powerful, fast, heavily gunned squadron with light armor is an impressive threat against either small, fast, unarmored ships or less maneuverable larger ships.  This also seems like a realistic modern naval problem, with the combo of fast, missile -armed ships defeating slower gun - armed ships.  And what a defeat it was!  The final victory point total was 102 to 20 in favor of Terra, plus the loss of four out of five ship assets for the Khanate and no Terran ship losses.

We can see that the war has escalated, but also that the Khanate ships will fight to the finish and refuse to capitulate.  This will NOT be a short war, friends!


  1. Of the early scenarios, this is my favourite due to the different sized ships on each side. i have only played it a few times over the years but I really like it. Thanks you for posting a very detailed analysis of the forces, situation and options. Very informative and very interesting. And an AAR too! I read it twice and likely will read it again!

  2. Man this takes me back - LOVE Starfire and the 'historical' progression of the scenarios and the introduction of new weapon systems etc. Still got my original pocket game handy in fact (as well as Starfire II and III), might have to look into doing a game or two.