This past weekend we pulled out the old FASA Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator again, and this time we tied something a bit different.
An Excelsior class battleship was thrown back in time and space, landing deep inside the Klingon empire. Alarmed by the appearance of this unknown and very large ship, the Klingons scrambles a fleet of six D-7A Painbringer class cruisers. These ships were top of the line for the time period, but obsolete by the standards of the mighty Excelsior class. The question was if their numbers would make up the difference.
The Klingons split their forces, threading their way through the system’s planets and asteroids to close the distance with the Excelsior. One brave ship crossed the center line into the open, hoping to draw their target out. It was a challenge that the Excelsior was happy to accept, lumbering forward and managing to get two of the D-7’s into sight. Hoping to score two quick kills to thin the herd, the Excelsior opened fire at long range. One ship was damaged, but survived. The other vaporized under the big ships assault.
The Klingon pack then descended, with three of their ships closing to point-blank range and pouring fire into the Excelsior. The battleship took significant damage, but was still in good shape. However the proximity of the three D-7’s meant that further engagement was risky. The Excelsior boosted strategic shields and decided to ride out the fight, throwing the rest of her power into her weapons.
Her aft torpedoes vaporized one of the two ships that had held back, whose explosion damaged the other ship sitting at range. Then her forward guns ripped another D-7 apart, and the cascade of death began.
The exploding ship caused damage all across the Excelsior, damaging systems and tearing at her hull, but she survived. The D-7 behind her did not and it exploded. This second explosion smashed into the Excelsior, knocking out her engineering grid, savaging her warp and impulse drives, and further tearing apart her superstructure. Unfortunately this also destroyed the third D-7.
The Excelsior was unable to endure any longer. The third starship explosion finally broke her hull and the great battleship erupted like a supernova. The blastwave reached much farther than that of the small D-7’s, far enough to hit the one remaining Klingon cruiser. The blast nearly wiped out the last vessel, but with three hull points remaining the Painbringer was able to limp home with news of their victory.
Songs are still sung of this battle in the Klingon warrior’s halls. The fate of the Excelsior class ship remains unknown to Star Fleet.
It was a great battle.
By the numbers, the sides balance out with four and a half D-7A cruisers to one Excelsior Mk I, but I bumped it to six considering that a single torpedo from the Excelsior could destroy a D-7 with a clean hull hit. Given the results, I think the sides were fair. We picked sides by random draw, with the Excelsior coming under my command.
The Klingon player quickly realized that he was out gunned and chose the Mutually Assured Destruction strategy, which is probably the best tactic for the circumstances. I was hoping to score more kills in the first round, but ended up damaging sub-systems instead of landing killing blows. In the end I probably should have dumped power into my engines and torpedoes, trying to get some distance and pounding away with the massive 20 point weapons, but the greater numbers and speed of the D-7’s made me decide to try trusting my ship’s durability instead.
This game was again great fun. The pounding the ships take makes you feel like the starship is being battered apart. It feels very Star Trek and plays quickly. There is a sweet spot on range, and it’s farther out than you’d think. The weapons in the game are brutally accurate, even at a longer distance, and the optimum range for engagement is more distant that the mobility of the ships would lead you to believe. Though in this case the Klingon commander was correct to go hull-to-hull with me instead of risking me picking him off.
However the shields still don’t feel right. It’s hard to power all six shields and have them make a difference, meaning you routinely leave some sides completely unshielded. Even a fully powered shield only takes the edge off an incoming salvo. This feels decidedly un-Star Trek. I haven’t come up with a good solution for this yet. Also it’s frustrating when you fire a massive torpedo at a target, something powerful enough to wreck the ship, and the result is a single beam weapon being knocked out. I believe there is an optional rule in the book regarding this, I’ll have to look it up.
It’s been a lot of fun re-discovering this old favorite. We’re hoping to play it again, and next time with a third player. A good Klingon, Romulan, Star Fleet battle would be epic.