Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Manila AAR, Play Aids for Avalanche Press "1898"

Still getting acquainted with Avalanche Press' "Great War at Sea" series. Haven't yet decided how it will play out as a table game, but want to give myself time to think over and experience it RAW.

Ergo, did some more work to play the Basic Combat Rules. Made a play aid to help myself keep track of where the fleets are and their range bands. As the map isn't used, the BCR allow the entire fleet to be at only one range. Each side can attempt to close or retreat a range band, i.e. if you are at Long, you can switch to Short Range. This is decided by the player with the faster fleet. But if both are the same speed, you dice off and the winner decided the range band [they have outmaneuvered the opposition]. It's abstract, but not a bad sysemt, especially if you use Leaders to provide a modifier to the dice roll.

Below, image of the two fleets, starting off at long range, arranged in little groups I find easy to track due to the log sheet. The Close Range band I intend to use later [it represents being in the same hex in the advanced combat rules]. I also plan to allow groups of ships to be at different ranges, so for example torpedo boats might close in while bigger guns stay farther away. This makes a lot of sense if you out-gun and out-range the opposition.

As can be seen on the counters, the U.S. outguns the Spanish in Secondary Batteries by 7-2, and in Tertiary Batteries 9-6. Tertiaries can't fire at Long Range, so it is to the U.S. advantage to exploit the 7-2 edge and stay at Long Range, which they succeed in doing for the first three turns of the game, trashing one Spanish Cruiser, the Castilla.

Below, it is easy to track both the range bands and targeting by aligning the ships during the firing sequence. So the Olympia is firing upon the Reina Cristina at left, next to which the Baltimore and Raleigh are preparing to pound the Castilla. To Right the Raleigh and Concord fire upon Isla De Cuba, and the Petrel and McCullogh upon Isla de Luzon. When the firing sequence changes, I align the Spanish Ships the same way v. the U.S. ships.

I made my own sheet - I could photocopy the ones in the booklet, but it's a lot easier to keep track of the battle when all the ships are together in an order that makes sense to me.

To left bottom, I've the Advanced Turn Sequence and a summary of Torpedo Combat and its modifiers and special rules. Still working on the formatting, but this was pretty helpful.

Even with the play aids and the rules laid out, the entire thing sits on my bureau.

I recommend using different colored dice - helps to roll faster as you divide say all secondaries up as red dice, all tertiaries as yellow dice, etc.

In this play, I did all the rules correct. Battle report is as follows:
Both fleets have a "1 Slow" speed rated ship, and must roll off to change range.

Turns 1-3: U.S. wins the range test every turn, and keeps fleets at Long Range, taking advantage of the 7-2 ratings in Secondary Batteries. They pretty much trash the Castilla and damage the Reina Cristina. The Spanish manage to shoot really well, getting about 2-3 hits for their 6 dice [2 dice over 3 turns], and knocking out a Gun and a Hull on Boston.

Turn 4: As the Spanish have a lesser 9-6 disadvantage in Tertiary batteries, and an 8-2 edge in Torpedoes, they want to close the range. On the fourth try, they do so! Their gunnery isn't effective, as they bounce a Tertiary Hit off of Boston's lightly armored guns. However, they do well with Torpedoes, hitting with 3 and despite one fail at Damage they do inflict three Hull hits on Boston and sink her! U.S. Torpedoes miss.

Turn 5: Spanish again win and keep the range close. Victory celebrations don't last long, as the U.S. gunnery leaves both Castilla and Reina Cristina without guns and dead in the water. The Velasco and Don Juan lose their Guns. The Spanish Fleet now has only 4 of 8 batteries left, all Tertiary.

Turn 6. Spanish keep the range close, but to no avail. All four guns miss completely, and the U.S. fleet sinks the Gen Lez. and Don Antonio, and loses gun on the Isla de Cuba. The Spanish fleet has no guns firing, two ships DIW and two ships sinking. Resistance is futile, they strike their flags but are proud to have sunk one Yanqui ship!

Final Analysis. The rules are pretty straightforward except for Damage, which is a bit convoluted in its conversion of redundant damage to dead systems. Also, the Damage charts have some "you get nothing" results, which is emotionally unsatisfying - Hey, I hit where's my damage man!? There should be something, even if it isn't much.

Changes I'd make at this point, would be in the Damage chart and allow Groups of ships to change range bands on their own, and be at different ones. This would allow small ships to close in and fire torpedoes, while others stand at distance and fire guns. 

Next Project will be to modify the Log Sheets and add some heavier Spanish ships to the mix, then have some even battles. Massacring the Spanish every time isn't enough of test of the Basic Combat rules, altho it was very satisfying to sink just one U.S. ship!

I'll also share some of the math and conversion issues of putting these rules on the table - it's not quite as easy as I thought it would be! I am also leaning toward IGO-UGO for the firing rules, rather than simultaneous [aagh! Naval Rules Sacrilege!]

Friday, May 12, 2017

"Star Wars Starship Battles": The Rebels Strike Back!

So after playing the most basic form of the rules, it seemed only fair to try them with the advanced rules and - most importantly - the use of Class 4 ships: starfighters. 

Not only do starfighters, e.g. "snubfighters", provide iconic imagery of the genre, like the X-Wing and the TIE fighter, but many of the most important battles seem to be decided by the use of starfighters. Who can forget General Dadonna's answer to the damn good question, "Pardon me for asking, sir, but what good are snubfighters going to be against THAT?" in the briefing before the battle of Yavin? Well, "An analysis of the plans provided by Princess Leia has demonstrated a weakness in the battlestation - but the approach will NOT be easy."

So I scrubbed together a little Rebel squadron to take on some of the iconic bunch of Imperial Star Destroyers I have laying around [16...but who's counting??]. Never having played with the starfighters, I tried to guess at a reasonable force balance, and at least was partially aided by the game's point system.

It should be noted that altho I'm using the Advanced Rule "Fleet Building" and Optional Rule "Special Abilities" I'm not using the "Fleet Commander Options" Optional Rule. This would add a bit more to the game, and this force has no less than 3 ships with the Fleet Commander Special Rule, but hey, one thing at a time!

Below, the Imperial Squadron: 3 x Imp Star Destroyers, 3 x "Infinite" TIE fighters, 2 x TIE Interceptors, 2 x TIE Bombers, TOTAL 191 points. Cards to right with the Imp dice set to '20' each as they seemed to hit up there WAY too much in the last battle and replays!

Zooming into the images will show the stats and special rules:
- The ImpSD is just a great ship - solid armor, powerful guns, Tractor Beam and can launch a fighter a turn. I consider this the standard by which all capital ships are measured!
- The classic TIE fighter is only OK with 14 Defense and +2 Laser Cannon - BUT, it has the special rule "Infinite" so when it is destroyed it is returned to the Fighter Pool and can be relaunched again! So, you never really run out of the little boogers. This seems a bit cheap as it is only 1 pt more than a Y-wing, but the Y has two guns and up to 3 Damage, or triple the TIE, which is pretty useless against a capital ship packing too little punch. 
- The TIE Interceptor is much better - 16 Defense and TWO +3 Laser Cannons, and the special rule "Interceptor" so it can pass through any enemy starfighter that doesn't also have "Interceptor" Of course, all this goodness costs more, so it is 6 pts. 
- Finally, the TIE Bomber is also quite good - for what it is supposed to do. At only 4 pts, it may have a weak Defense of 13 and a lame +1 Laser Cannon, but it has killer +4 Proton Torpedoes that deal out 4 Damage - enough to take most capital ships halfway to the scrap yard; AND it has the special rule "Long Range Bomber" which allows it to attack non-fighters at 2 squares away dealing half damage [2 Damage]. This is important since with the 13 Defense most Point Defense on capital ships would tear these things to pieces.

Below, the Rebel Squadron: the Class 2 Unique ship "Home One", 2 x Rebel Cruisers, 1 x Rebel Transport, 4 x Y-wing, 4 x A-wing [one Ace], 3 x B-wing, 2 x X-win [one Ace and one Luke Skywalker X-wing - "May the Force be with Him!"], TOTAL 192 pts.

- Home One is a very solid ship with slightly weaker main guns but Fighter Launch 2, so it can launch two starfighters a turn, important for the "close in and swarm" tactic I'm planning, and it costs just a little less than an Imperial SD at 50 pts.
- The Rebel Cruiser is a much weaker ship but it costs half as much. The main guns are half as good but the Defense is only a point worse on the front Face. More importantly, it has Fighter Launch 1 and 7 Hull points, making two of these a little better than the Imp Star Destroyer if they roll up [14 Hull, twice the starfighter launch, and more maneuverable].
- The A-wing is a scrappy little starfighter with a good 16 Defense and "Interceptor", but the weapons are a bit weak, with two +1 Attacks, one a Blaster Cannon and the other Concussion Missiles, but the latter are +3 Attack v. nonstarfighters and do 2 Damage.
- The B-wing is a heavy hitting if vulnerable ship. It has only a 13 Defense like the TIE Bomber but with three weapon systems it can deal out a whopping NINE damage if they all hit! It's Proton Torpedoes are +3 Attack and deal SIX of the damage, then there's an Ion Cannon that's +4 Attack and up to 2 Damage. The Laser Cannon seems like an afterthought, but hey, it can be used to destroy nearly any starfighter - this is a cool ship!
- The X-wing is a very nicely balanced starfighter with two +3 Attacks, and the Proton Torpedo does 4 Damage. It has 16 Defense, good as an A-wing. It's only limitation is that the Proton Torpedoes can only be used against nonstarfighters, so in a dogfight it only has one Attack, while the Y-wing and A-wing both have two. Still, the high Defense makes it the best all-around starfighter if you don't know what you'll be up against. But in a dogfight, I'd want to have twice as many Attacks! The Ace ups these stats to +4 Attacks and 17 Defense.
- Luke Skywalker's X-wing is of course pretty amazing and can deal some dangerous hurt; TWO +5 Attacks for up to 6 Damage against non-fighters, and the "Force Sense" Special Rule gives adjacent starfighters -1 Defense. He can take it, too, with an 18 Defense and - unusually - TWO Hull Points. Overall, my only criticism of the ship is that it still only has one Attack, albeit a +5 Attack, against fighters, making it weaker than most of the other ship types in a dogfight. I'd have given him two +4 Laser Cannons for 1 Damage, instead of one +5 for 2 Damage as that extra Damage point is redundant v. starfighters. Still, put him into the middle of a bunch of starfighters and he's going to impact them!

It should be noted that an "Ace" variant for any starfighter usually means +1 Defense and +1 to all Attacks, and usually costs 1 point more.

Force Comparisons: The A-wings are 5 [6 for Ace], the B-wings 6, the X-wing Ace is 7 [6 for regular X-wing] and Luke Skywalker's X-wing is 9 pts. So the total investment in starfighters for this force is 71 out of 192, or 37%. The Imps have 31 out of 191, or 18%. So nearly a perfect 2-1 ratio of starfighter advantage. 

This is offset by the 35 point advantage in Imperial Class 2 ships, and they have unlimited range on their nasty batteries that deal up to 7 Damage a turn - each! The Hull Point totals are 30 to 30, however. The interesting difficulty will be the "Infinite TIE Fighters" that can be put into play again the turn after they're destroyed. The only way to stop this is to destroy the Imp SDs, which is the goal anyway! In gunnery, the Imps have 27 Attack bonuses v. 16 for the Rebels, a 1.7 - 1.0 advantage, so almost 2-1. Clearly, Imperial gunnery will be crucial to this fight as it is where much of their point advantage is resting.

Overall, the sides are interesting: both have strengths but different strengths.

SETUP below. The Imps win the setup roll-off, so the Rebs setup first. Playing across the wide side of the board, I don't want the Imps to be able to nestle in a far corner - just more gunnery with infinite range, up to two turns more, if I favor a side. I set up the Rebels smack in the middle, basically. I put both Rebel Cruisers together, hoping their starfighter Launching would be mutually supportive somehow. I set up the Imps in a corner, protecting all their sides except one, and all their rears, from nasty starfighter attacks. It also has them as far away as possible, giving them the most time for gunnery at distance, their forte.

Round 1 below. Imps lose Initiative - they sit tight and Fighter Launch three Infinite TIE Fighters, one each. The Rebels move full forward to Fighter Launch as close as possible. I picked the A-wings to pin down the TIEs yet be able to penetrate the starfighter screen if needed. I also hoped their two weak Attacks would still deal nasty to the TIEs.

Note that in their present positions, all the Rebel capital ships can hit the side Face of the right-most Imp SD, and most of them the middle SD, also. The turning rules make it hard to change this since you can only turn AND move forward. So those SDs would have to move forward 2 squares, then turn AND move forward a square the next Round, blocking the adjacent SD from any movement. This is a bit of a quandary since if they are not against the edge and crammed together, they are A LOT more vulnerable to starfighter attack. They are hoping to trash enough Rebels to win the gunnery duel, regardless of attack angle. Also, they outflank the Rebels in return, anyway - but will it help as much?

Round 1 Attack Phase. Imps blast Rebels off the map, hitting 5/6 shots, destroying two Rebel Cruisers and Reducing the Rebel Transport. Argh! The Force is with them!!

In return, Rebs knock out 7/10 of the right-most SD, Reducing it - small compensation.

As this is a playtest, I'm not very interested in hot dice! I reroll all Attacks, upping the Damage on the rightmost SD to 8/10, and saving one Rebel Cruiser by rolling average.

Round 2, the Imps again lose Initiative. Interestingly, this gives them first movement, and the opportunity to get starfighters where they're needed and lock other starfighters into position. So "losing" Initiative is more like a win with starfighters. Unfortunately for the Imps, all the Rebel starfighters are A-wings with "Interceptor" and they can just move away!

So, the forward positioning of the TIE Fighters [above] is pointless. But, they can occupy a square and keep the Rebel starfighters from attacking the weakened SD or the flank of the leftmost SD, so that's what they do instead [below].

The SDs then Fighter Launch nearly all their remaining fighters, two TIE Interceptors and a TIE Bomber. These protectively occupy more squares , leaving only a 3-square attack point at the front of the left SD; with Defense 16, I'm hoping it will be able to hold off the Rebels..

Round 2, Rebel movement. I pondered this a while. The maneuverability of the Class 3 ships was pretty useful here, with all of them moving diagonally and changing facing freely to end up on the Imperial side Faces. They then all Fighter Launch. Luke's X-wing emerging from the Cruiser, the X-wing Ace and a B-wing from Home One. The A-wings engage TIEs, with the Ace positioning to attack either SD or the TIE Interceptor, depending.

Round 2 Attack Phase. Revenge of the Rebel Cruiser! It rolls hot with its Turbolasers and knocks off the remaining two Hull Points of the Reduced Imp SD.

The Rebels target the center SD, rolling hot and inflicting 10 Damage, including 7 from Home One, 1 from the Transport, and 2 from the A-wing Ace's Concussion Missile.

Round 2 Attack Phase starfighters. The Interceptors to right both miss, the center one is outmatched by the A-wing that edges it out with a Concussion Missile [barely].

Round 2 Imperial Attack Phase. Gunnery smokes the second Rebel Cruiser, but the Imps miss 3/5 shots, and the TIE Fighter and Bomber also miss. I forgot to attack the Transport with the TIE Bomber's 2-square range, but it couldn't destroy it with 2 damage anyway, and I forgot to attack with the A-wing and Luke Skywalker, also! I also forgot to fire the Point Defense on the A-wing Ace and Luke Skywalker's X-wing. Learning pains...

Round 3. Imps lose Initiative again, but IMP starfighters get into position first. I forgot to Fighter Launch the remaining TIE Bomber, however. The SD doesn't move - too awkward and slow, and there's no advantage to doing so. Home One moves in closer and Fighter Launches two Y-wings. I picked them for their versatility against fighters or the SD. During Attack Phases, Home One misses, the Transport kills the adjacent TIE Fighter, but in return it is destroyed by the SD's Turbolasers - it's Ion Cannons then miss Home One. The left batch of A-wings miss and are missed by the TIE Fighter and Bomber. In front, the one TIE Fighter kills the X-wing Ace [THAT was a surprise!] and survives three Attacks! The left TIE dies while missing with its Attacks. I guess he didn't ace the Imperial Academy! 

Catching up on some mistakes, the Point Defense on the SD kills the A-wing Ace but misses Luke Skywalker - twice. Luke then attacks twice [once for last Round, once for this Round] and rolls hot, hitting 3/4 of the time including one Proton Torpedo run, for 8 total Damage - the Force IS with him! Note that if his other Proton Torpedo Attack had hit instead of the Laser Cannon, OR if Home One had hit once, the SD would be toast! As it is, it is Reduced.

Round 4. Things are wrapping up fast, with a wild starfighter melee between the two Class 2 ships, and little reason to maneuver, but I move Home One forward a square anyway, then Fighter Launch another Y-wing and a B-wing. Home One guns down the Reduced SD which misses in return. All that's left is the Starfighter Attacks.

At left, the Y-wing misses both attacks and is missed in return by the TIE Bomber. The two center TIE Fighters are destroyed by the B and Y-wing respectively, as Luke misses the right TIE. For sheer revenge at what is obviously an Imperial defeat, I attack Luke's X-wing with both TIE fighters, hoping for a long shot success since he has two Hull Points and 18 Defense. Wonder of Wonders...both hit! Luke is defeated, altho as a Major Hero he'll be rescued from Vacuum and return to the fight in the future after a long Bacta Bath.

Round 5. The lone TIE Bomber is an Imperial devotee, clearly! instead of surrendering, he tries to take out the Y-wing, but just misses. In return, he's killed three times over.

Final Result. Rebels have 100 pts surviving, including unused B and Y-wing. The Imps have a 4 pt TIE Bomber alive, and access to Infinite TIEs if they only had an SD!

The Cost. Imps lose three SDs, two TIE Interceptors, 1 TIE Bomber, 3 Infinite TIE Fighters, for 187 pts. The Rebels lost all three Class 3 ships, two A-wings [including an Ace] and two X-wings [including an Ace and Luke Skywalker!] for 92 pts.

The Cards show a wide variety of casualties in the storm of destruction!

- I'd toss the Rebel Transport, a Y-wing and B-wing for another Rebel Cruiser. It'd give me a bit more Hull and gunnery, and another Fighter Launch capability.
- Setup was ok, but I think I'd deploy the Class 3 ships farther to the side if I set up second. This would give them the ability to threaten the side Faces of the Star Destroyers, while Home One would hit the side if they turned, outflanking the static Imp plan.
- The Imps don't gain anything by splitting up. As they want distance for gunnery, they either deploy in the center [if first] or a corner [if second]. 
- There's a method to the madness if deciding how to run your Attacks, which provides a lot of the decision making each Round. Maneuver isn't that important for Class 1-2 ships, but it is pretty important for Class 3-4 ships. Basically, the big ships lumber around providing either long-range gunnery or short-range starfighter defense.
- This game is clearly designed to get you into a wild melee of starfighters. The big ships don't last long with the powerful, infinite-ranged gunnery. 
- If I fought down the long-edge of the map, there'd be one more Round of gunnery before the starfighters struck. This could certainly trash another Rebel Cruiser, but with average rolling the three Imp SDs are putting out about 10 Damage a Round while the Rebels are inflicting about 7 Damage a Round, pretty much Reducing one Imp SD.

So in three Rounds there'd be three dead Rebel Cruisers and either three Reduced SD, or, 1 Destroyed, 1 Reduced and 1 undamaged SD against an undamaged Home One. Or, they could destroy Home One with 1-2 Rebel Cruisers Destroyed or Reduced. This would still leave a weakened Imperial force taking on about 7-8 starfighters, which would be close.

Most importantly, it should be noted that the Imps had less points and only rolled average, unlike the last couple of playtests of the rules! [OK, ok, it was only ONE less point, but still...]

Well, I think there's a bunch of clear decision-points for players in this game, even playing it "as-is". It's more interesting than it seems at first glance, and certainly falls into the One-Hour Wargames spectrum of having a lot more play than you think until you actually play it and think about it. The flavor is excellent, including the game pieces themselves. I must say that I do prefer to have the ships out of scale relationship to each other but VISIBLE to my naked eye. So a blow against scale "realism" here.

Some things I'd like to change are:
- giving the Initiative winner choice of moving first or second,
- slowing the pace of the big ships dying to long-range gunnery [possibly by introducing some Ranges or making the Damage = how much you beat the Defense, up to the max],
- make the starfighters feel more like "squadrons" instead of single ships, 
- adding another facing direction [so 8 instead of 4],
- keeping main batteries from shooting at starfighters; the Point Defense should be enough  since everyone has access to starfighters and most ships have some fighter defense, also.
- doing something about total freedom with Attack selection and sequential Attack resolution. Perhaps some sort of Target Acquisition rule to encourage ships to pick targets and stick with them, or it could also be proximity-based.

I do want to preserve the Star Wars feel to the system and stay within the perimeter of the rules as much as possible. While the movement is heavily abstracted, it's very surprising how little that matters given the technology involved, and this is a game about space COMBAT not SPACE ASTROGATION anyway. General concepts and decisions about positioning are there for the players, and they DO affect the game, and that's all that matters at our level of play anyway, since all the technology is very heavily theoretical, to the point where it's hard to add details to it at all!

So altho this isn't the game I would have designed for Wizards of the Coast, and I do think they could have done a LOT more with the Advanced and Optional rules, there is more here than appears at first, and more to work with. I'll slow the pace at which I was thinking of introducing changes, and try to hit a couple of very specific things for next time.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Star Wars Starship Battles: Grand Moff Winkie Strikes!

Playing Axis & Allies naval WWII at the game club got me thinking about my Star Wars ships from the Wizards of the Coast brief naval foray - with mixed results - into "Star Wars Starship Battles", and their line of 60 ships. I have a whole bunch of them, which I've acquired in lots over the years as my interest in the story world ebbs and flows. Sometimes I think it is just great, and other times I think it is just ridiculous [and yes, I'm a Jar-Jar Binks disliker]. Some of my forward drive was to acquire a number of capital ships, including a few dozen Mon Calamari / Rebel ones, and - best of all - Imperial Star Destroyers.

This was part of a plan to have great big fleet battles with the ships, but my interest petered out in the search for the right rules. Now, however, I think I've found the right direction and style which would of course be One-Hour Wargame Fleet Battles. There are no naval rules in that book, but the WWI / WWII rules I threw together for my son - posted HERE - worked pretty well and have encouraged me to continue developing them. 

So, I busted open the boxes and the drawers, organized everything and thought about how to adapt them to outer space, specifically to Star Wars fleets. One thing led to another, and it got me pondering 3D gaming, on which I previously posted HERE. But inevitably Wee Willie Winkie saw the pile of ships after a day or so, and his little eyes bugged out and he desperately wanted to play with them. I re-read the original rules and we sat down to bang out a game. 

This was also a good idea b/c it follows with my personal rule to always try the RAW [Rules As Written] before I tinker with them. This is both respectful of the original design and intent as well as educational. Far too often, gamers tinker with rules after one go [or less!] and quite frankly they usually mess them up - including yours truly!

Wizards of the Coast, "Star Wars Starship Battles"

Quick Start Game. It's pretty simple...nearly simplistic. The "section titles" tell most of it:
Choose Sides, How do I win? [destroy enemy fleet!], Setup, Who Goes First? How to Read a Stat Card, Starship Classes, Rounds [Turns] and Phases, Targeting Faces [ship sides], Special Abilities. 
Advanced Rules only add Fleet Building to the mix. Optional Rules are better; they add Special Abilities, Fleet Commander Options, and Team Play, plus an "historical scenario".

The rulebook also has a Starship Concordance, including a brief description of every ship [all 60!] and WONDER OF WONDERS a Glossary! This is excellent and has over 75 entries. Overall, the rule book is very well done: clean writing, great artwork, clear explanations, easy to follow, a paragon of everything a rulebook should be. 

There's also a handy summary sheet that comes with the boxes of collectible ships:

Game Map is a grid 11x17 squares, with a planet on one narrow edge - you fight down the narrow length. Deployment is diced off and seqential, within the first three squares of each side. Starfighters don't start on the table but are Launched from larger ships. Recommended game size is 300 pts.

Ship Classes are in four types, 1-4: 1 are "super-big" [perhaps "silly-big"], 2 are a large ship like an Imperial Star Destroyer, 3 are smaller crewed ships like the Imperial Shuttle and Rebel transports, and 4 are starfighters. Most of the Unique ships are class 3 including the Millenium Falcon, Slave 1, Tantive IV, Outrider, Wild Karrde, and Virago. Class 4 are all starfighters; there's lots of variety but they're all pretty fragile [they represent one ship, not a squadron or flight] altho some hit quite hard. These include the famous Rebel "wing" ships, A, B, X and Y, Imperial TIE and variants, and a number of ships from the Clone Wars. 

All classes have a couple of unique ships in them, famous from the movies or books. The Unique ships have more special rules and "character". Class 3 ships tend to have greater anti-fighter capability [a nod to historical ship classes].

Ships move 1-4 spaces, equal to their class, and exert a Zone of Control into adjacent spaces, blocking most ships from passing through unless they can clear them completely - there's no stacking. Some ships like starfighters only stop each other, and there are exceptions with special rules.

All ships have a card which gives its characteristics including Attacks/Damage, Defense, Abilities, etc. All the cards and a list can be found at Rebel Scum HERE

Following along an alternating Move-Attack-Damage Round, ships move on the grid, possibly to get a shot on a more vulnerable side or rear "Face". There is no range limit, but starfighters only attack and are attacked when adjacent to any ship, so the game can be said to have 2 ranges: infinite and adjacent. Most ships have a special ability of some kind, even if it's just a weapon variation. A D20 is used to resolve Attacks, with most ships having attack bonuses of +1 to +5, with most being in the 1-3 range. Most ships have a Front Defense of 14 or higher, and If your roll beats the Defense of the Face you're attacking you score all of the damage your weapon inflicts.

The turn sequence is:
  1. Initiative Phase. Roll off, loser moves first and winner gets to move in reaction to it.
  2. Move Phase. Initiative loser then winner move sequentially. 
  3. Attack Phase. Initiative winner then loser attack sequentially. 
  4. Damage - all damage from shooting is resolved now, simultaneously [thus, there's no advantage to shooting first, it's just to resolve it in a simple order].
I think that covers everything you need to know, so here we go!

Wizards of the Coast, "Star Wars Starship Battles"

With some trepidation, I prepared for battle with Grand Moff Winkie! [pictured below, posing to strike fear in Rebel Scum across the known galaxy...but "Army" vest??]

Actually, more terrifying to Rebel Scum is the 208 points of Star Destroyers arrayed before him! Speaking of which, here they are:

This is a tough squadron. They have perfectly balanced armor, weapon systems, and hull strength. Their armor is 16-13-10 on Front-Side-Rear, using D20 for combat. Their two shooting systems are a +5/3 Turbolasers [Attack bonus/Damage] and +4/+3 Ion Cannon, that gets a +1 if the target ship is not reduced [partially destroyed, more later]. So for most capital ships, these Star Destroyers have a 50% chance to hit, and with two-three hits will destroy any but the biggest ships. They also have a +2 Point Defense which auto-attacks all starfighters that are in adjacent squares - usually on an attack run, of course!

Opposing their oppression of the galaxy are the Rebel Scum, erm, Alliance, Freedom Fighters etc of the universe, champions of peace, dignity and well, you know the rest:

The squadron comes in at lower points [Grand Moff Winkie, like a Wookie, hates to lose altho he does NOT tear the arms off either life forms or 'droids]. From left to right, are a Rebel Assault Frigate, a Mon Calamari MC80, Home One, and another MC80. The cards are in the wrong order, however. All the ships are close but not quite as good as the Star Destroyers with a point or two less defense or weapon attack/damage. They come in it at 30-44-50-44 pts, for 168 total, vs 52x4 / 208 for the Imps. 
But hey, shouldn't the Rebel Alliance be the underdogs??

The fleets deployed, below, along the narrow edge of the square-grid chart of intersteller space. Seems the Rebels are defending a rebellious planet from Imperial retribution.

Both sides are allowed to deploy up to three squares in, dicing to see who deploys first, with the second having the advantage of watching the opposing deployment.

Should be said here that most of the game mechanics are tried and true, not very inventive at all, and have the same usefulness and limitations they've always had. Nothing to say that one can't change them permanently or by scenario, but the rules do not offer variations. For example, it would be very easy to have multiple deployment procedures:

  1. Player A deploys half his ships, Player B all, Player A the other half of his ships, or,
  2. Player A deploys half his ships in Points, etc, or,
  3. Player A divides his fleet in 2 equal parts by points or ships - then dices randomly between them to deploy one part first, followed by B doing the same, then A's second squadron, then B's second squadron.
  4. Players alternate deploying ships by class, Player A first with his Class 1 ships, then Player B, Player A with Class 2 ships, then Player B, etc.
My point is not that the game can't easily be tinkered with due to the combination of simple setup and ship points, but that the rules don't include any variations. Anyway...

Turn 1 setup - there's not much space in this outer space...wall-to-wall ships here!

Turn 2, an experiment in maneuvering reveals that it is hard to get on a ships flank without some ship also being on YOUR flank - a combo of infinite ranges and cramped map.

Turn 3-4 result in a quick pummeling. Fortunately, the Grand Moff - as usual - rolls much better than I do, making it easier for me to "LTWW", or in this case, LTGMW. 

Turn 5, below, has two Imp Star Destroyers facing a lone MC80. This won't last long...
Total destruction is quickly accomplished and the MC80 dies altho it manages to Reduce the left Imp before de-atomizing in a flashy glow.

Grand Moff Winkie striking a martial pose! This sector of space is now cleansed of Rebel Scum, but the price was high - two Star Destroyers destroyed and one Reduced. Still, Empire loyalists can sleep better tonight knowing the flames of rebellion have been dampened by the boys in blue and their fearless leaders.

Nice pose, but I forgot to have him sneer, which seems the Grand Moff thing to do.

Well, that was not that hard to get through. But I kept asking myself...why are we moving at all?? The game looks pretty cool, and we like the ships and the feel of them, overall, but yeah, there's some serious problems with the game.


  • The pre-painted ships are mostly quite good - better than most gamers paint!
  • Love the cool cards, and the flipping them for reduced values when damaged.
  • Game parameters are simple enough to teach a 7yo Grand Moff.
  • Fluff presence is pretty good - Ion Cannons, Tractor Beams, Targeting and sensors all offer variety but without it being distracting or overwhelming.
  • The general feel is pretty good, with nice graphics on the playing pieces.
  • Turn sequence is easy to follow.

  • Game is beyond simple, it's "simplistic" and that reduces its play value.
  • Some of the fluff presence is incorrect according to canon. Some is just incorrect according to English or reality [e.g. a frigate that is bigger than a cruiser].
  • The map board is way too small for 300 point fleet battles. You'd just HAVE to get two at least and fight them together.
  • That being said, ships die so fast - especially the smaller Class 3 - that space gets made pretty quickly. The infinite shooting ranges compound the problem.
  • There are only two ranges; unlimited and adjacent [for starfighters and tractor beams]. This means there's nearly no reason to maneuver. 
  • unlimited ranges also means class 3 ships are blasted immediately - they have fewer hull points, lower defense, and it just makes sense.
  • Since the defense of ships thins to the side and rear, your best bet is to keep your butt against the back of the board - ideally in a corner - then starfighters can't attack your vulnerable flank or rear!
  • If you maneuver to get on a ships flank, you are usually flanked yourself, somewhere in your force.
  • hardly any weapons have an arc - they just shoot anywhere. Two variations are straight ahead on the "spine" of the ship, and broadsides directly away, but few ships have them.
  • There's only four facings, the flat side of each square on the space grid. This is a bit awkward at times. Using the diagonals for facing adds only a little complexity and it's actually easier to differentiate the sides of the ship.
  • All shooting is effectively simultaneous and there's no target priority; You just start shooting at a ship until you destroy it. Then you move on to the next ship you want to destroy. So combat is basically about matching weapon damage to the remaining hull points on a ship for efficiency.
There are times when its just frustrating that they didn't make it about as complex as the miniatures game - which would have made it infinitely better. It almost seems like they said to themselves, that the little people figures deserve lots of characterization and depth, but ship fighting is just like playing with glass bottles and hammers - smash them up and be done with it!

Overall, I am inspired to add some variations and improve it, altho it is also tempting to just can the whole thing and start from scratch. We'll see, I took some notes on possible tweaks.

As for the ships, I really like them overall. While I can paint better in general it takes me a lot longer to do it! Some of the ships are nice enough that I wouldn't bother painting them better, anyway. There's a lot to be said for relatively cheap models that are ready for table.

Some of the ship models are hard to find [old original, e.g. infinite TIE Fighter], but their prices aren't bad - no worse than Shapeways or Odyssey Slipways, altho those are super-detailed models. While Millenium Falcon is about $18, and an Imp Star Destroyer about $20, the Geonosian Starfighter is usually 99 cents! I find it annoying that the classic TIE fighter is usually $3-5 EACH no less. However, if you average out the cost of a fleet that you purchase on the basis of likes and fluff, you still save money compared to most gaming projects. And of course the time factor is significant for those of us with family or who are not yet retired.

Some models you buy may not have cards anymore, and you have to download and print them yourself - not an insurmountable task given our friends at Rebel Scum.

In summary, you will be seeing more of these ships and some more reports - I just don't know how much of the rules will be left in the end!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

FOR SALE POST: Star Wars Fleets

Stealing a good idea from a pal, I'm going to start posting items I have for sale here, just in case the right buyer comes along. I'll try to keep everything oriented around naval / space ship gaming, of course.

First, Odyssey Slipways fleet ships 

in 1/10,000 scale, from HERE.
These are lovely scale ships, cast in resin. Very clean, easy to work with. No regrets with them as ships, I'm only selling them because my eyesight and time are more limited now, so I'm not going to finish this project. Heartbraking, as I really like them. Ah well...

They paint up easily and well. My demo presentation is a classic Star Wars ship - it was a medical frigate where Luke Skywalker got his new hand put on HERE at 46 seconds in.

Nebulon B Frigate from "The Empire Strikes Back" ending scene [ship is heading to you].
Image result for nebulon b frigate

Painting test- bottom is finished ship, including a shading, protective dip. Two above are primed in shades of grey. Bottom is a U.S. quarter, showing size [about 1.5" or 3.5cm] Easy!

Front view - lighting shows the deep sculpting - easy to paint!

Same, back view.

Back view, more flash - diminishes the depth of sculpting, but shows ship at play distance.

In the flesh with Studio Bergstrom Millenium Falcon for comparison [at 4x scale size!]:

Your fleet, presently sitting at drydock on my shelving...

Odyssey Slipways 1:10,000 scale capital ships for sale
List #, quantity of ships, type, total cost US$

  1. 3 x Nebulon B = $12.50 [one painted, two cleaned / primed, ABOVE]
  2. 2 x Nebulon B2 = $12
  3. 3 x Lancer Frigate = $10.50
  4. 4 x Corellion Gunships = $10
  5. 4 x Carrier Corvette = $10
  6. 1 x Imperial Escort Carriers = $10.25
  7. 2 x Carrack Cruisers = $10
  8. 1 x Assault Frigate A = $12.50
  9. 1 x Assault Frigate B = $12.50
  10. 1 x Imperial Enforcer = $12
  11. 1 x Imperial Interdictor = $12
  12. 1 x Flurry, Rebel Starfighter Carrier = $12
  13. 1 x Old Republic Heavy Cruiser = $11
  14. 1 x [Old Republic] Dreadnought = $11
  15. 26 ships = $202, pics of blisters / bags are HERE

Below, Wizards of the Coast Prepainted Nebulon B - it's a bit bent, but not TOO bad...

Surrounding it are the next bunch of items, cool fighters from Studio Bergstrom!

Second batch are 1:2250, or 1/4 the size of the 1:10,000, 
so in other words they are four times as big as they should be. This is good, because at 1:10,000 starfighters are almost invisible! All games exaggerate the size of the fighters in relationship to the ships, it's just necessary.

Studio Bergstrom fighters shown here with Wizards of the Coast plastic Rebel Assault Frigate [as usual, somewhat bent]. But the TIE just above and to right is my test paint job.

You can see where I was going with the look - little flights of ships at various heights.
Closeup of the Millenium Falcon in white metal

Anyway, these squadrons are from Studio Bergstrom, which is HERE.  Altogether there are 44 starfighters and 1 VERY FAMOUS tramp freighter! Why 44? In an obsessive moment, I think I watched the battle scenes from Episodes IV and VI and counted the actual ships doing the attack runs, and that's what I came up with...

  1. 1 x Millenium Falcon [cleaned and black-primed]
  2. 15 x X-wing [cleaned and white-primed]
  3. 11 x Y-wing [cleaned and white-primed]
  4. 6 x B-wing [mint metal]
  5. 12 x A-wing [mint metal]
  6. 44 fighters [@55cents] and MF [$1.70] = $26

For the opposing Imperials, shown HERE, I ended up with a nice batch of ships, including plenty of cannon fodder for the Rebels to shoot to pieces, AKA 24 TIE fighters!
  1. 24 x classic TIE fighters ["eyeballs"] [cleaned and grey-primed]
  2. 7 x TIE bombers ["dupes"]
  3. 6 x TIE advanced X1 [aka Darth Vader's fighter]
  4. 6 x TIE interceptors ["squints"]
  5. 2 x TIE experimental air superiority [sk x1?]
  6. 51 TIE types [@55 cents] = $28

From Odyssey Slipways [above]
  1. 1 x Tantive IV = $10
  2. 2 x 9 ARC starfighters = $23
  3. Total OS 1:2250 ships = $33


You may reply with a comment here with your interest, and "May the force be with you!"