Star Fleet Battles Basic Set
Star Fleet Battles Basic Set Playtest Review by Ryan Peck on 09/12/01
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
A classic game of starship combat.
Product: Star Fleet Battles Basic Set
Author: Steve V. Cole
Category: Board/Tactical Game
Company/Publisher: Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc
Year published: 20
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by Ryan Peck on 09/12/01
Genre tags: Science Fiction Space
Background: Star Fleet Battles, a game of tactical starship combat in the 23rd century. Elements of the game are set in the original Star Trek television series (there are Romulans, Klingons, Federation), but allot has been done to expand it beyond that. (over 20 original races currently exist).
Scale: One hex equals 10 thousand Kms. A speed of 1 is equal to the speed of light. Each counter is one ship.
Length of play: Depends on the number of ships. A one on one duel can take an hour or two.
What you get: The basic set contains a rulebook that weighs in at 224 pages. The rulebook is 3 hole punched, and designed to be merged with other expansions. About a third of the pages of this are ship descriptions. This includes warships, bases, and civilan shipping. The rulebook is VERY well organized, using an alpha numeric code. All ships descriptions fit into section Rx.xx, direct fire weapons are in Ex.xx etc. A book of ship system displays (SSDs), a map, counters, several play aids (DAC, Impulse chart, etc) and dice are included.
Gameplay. Each ship has a SSD (Ship System Display). A visual layout of the ship that shows you all the items on the ship, firing arcs of weapons and notes needed for game play. These are quite complete including the rule number so you can reference the ship in a hurry. The SSD also include weapons charts for all weapons the ship can carry.
Before the turn begins each ship must calculate how much energy is available and allocate it to such things as movement, recharging weapons, powering shields. One of this game's strengths is not so much what your ship can do, rather what they ship cannot do. Each ship has a limited amount of energy to spend each turn. Proper management of these assets can get allot more out of your ship then simply firing weapons.
Once this is done the turn The turn is broken down to 32 phases called 'impulses' (similar to Car Wars). During each impulse ships move, launch seeking weapons, then fire. If a ship moves on a particular impulse depends on it's speed, but it can launch or fire on any impulse. Other activities include using tractor beams (useful to grab an escaping ship, or to stop incoming seeking weapons) or transporters (to lay mines, or send over Marines boarding parties)
While there are quite a few types of weapons available they pretty much break down into two main types; direct fire, and seeking. Direct fire weapons roll dice for there results, while seeking weapons are placed on the map and follow you around. If a ship gets damaged, it strikes one of the 6 shields that surround the ship (one per hexside). If all the shield boxes on your SSD are destroyed a DAC (Damage Allocation Chart) informs you of what internal systems are gone. The DAC is carefully balanced to prevent you from losing all of your weapons in one strike.
The Races: Each stellar nation has it's own unique technology, and design philosophies. The Klingons have weapons that fire often, have great arcs, however there spartan ships cannot take damage well. The Kzinti love drones (nuclear missiles), while the Orion Pirates can double the power output of their engines. Each race is carefully balanced against it's neighbors, and no single race really dominates any of the others. The basic set includes the Federation, Klingon, Romulan, Kzinti, Gorn, Tholian, and Orion pirates.
Other: Steve Cole's company was one of the first to use a online BBS. This tradition continues at www.starfleetgames.com. It is monitored and professionally run (no flame wars, or posts by young children that just learned to swear), and a interesting group of intelligent people hang out there. If you have a question it is very easy to get an answers online. ADB is also open to player suggestions for new ships, and other rules.
What else it out there: Several supplements are currently available adding rules for fighters, new races, new ships, and tons of scenarios. This expands the Star Fleet Universe to cover almost a 200 year period. A online version is available (currently covers tournament ships only, but a full version is expected shortly). A full line of miniatures is also available. A bi-annual publication called 'Captains Log' offers fiction, new scenarios and new ships.
Downside: The game is quite detailed. Allot can happen during a turn, and while everything is spelled out, it can be quite simple to overwhelm a new player. It does however have a loyal following that is always willing to help out new players. Summary. Star Fleet Battles is a great game, allot of blood sweat and tears has gone into making this consistent, and fun to play. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a intelligent game that requires subtle tactics.