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Tag Archives: FASA

Considering House Rules for Star Trek: STCS

Following up on yesterday’s post, I’ve been thinking about some house rules for Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator.

First, I did find the excessive damage rules. It’s specifically for sub-systems that get hit, like shield generators and sensors. These systems have damage tracks, from one to five, with each point on the track being harder to make repair rolls on. The excessive damage means that for every full five points of damage done to the system, another box on the track is marked off. Thus a four point phaser hit counts as one on the track, while a 12 point hit would mark two boxes off.

There is no corresponding rule for weapons. Those have a different track with the statuses Operational, Damaged, Repaired, and Inoperable. Repaired weapons are limited to half power. I am considering something similar for excessive damage, maybe making damage of 10 or more points automatically destroying the weapons.

Regarding my dissatisfaction with shields I’ve been considering two options:

  • Double the amount of shield points you get per power point. For example, instead of a 1-to-4 ratio, make it 1-to-8. My concern with this solution is that part of the tactical aspect of the game is trying to get the firing angle on your opponent where they have light or no shields. However, in our previous games we’ve never been able to maintain very strong shields. Even in my Excelsior, I never had a single shield facing up to maximum strength. I only had all my shields powered up on the first turn, and then at a minimal level. Combined with how often we’ve dropped shields completely to power weapons and movement, and how quickly a salvo can strip off a ship’s shields, I don’t think this would unbalance the game or reduce the tactical aspects. I’m leaning towards this solution.
  • The other idea I was thinking about was reducing how much damage weapons do to shields, say 1/2 rounded down. A five point shield would still stop five points of damage, but the shield level would only be reduced to three instead of being completely stripped off. This has more of a Star Trek feel, but adds one more step of math to the game, and while not a complex equation by itself it will still slow the game down. It also doesn’t address the power allocation issues that often lead players to run with few or no shields at all.

Combining the two is also a possibility, but that would be a significant change. I think trying one at a time would be better. I also don’t want to increase the length of the game too much and by improving the shields I run the risk of doing that, so caution is best.

1000px-USS_Exeter_remastered

 

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Gaming, Science Fiction

 

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Star Treken Across the Universe

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.

Things learned:

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.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Gaming, Science Fiction

 

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Boldly Going

This past weekend a friend and I cracked open a game I haven’t played since the 1990’s, the Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator by FASA.

This is the space combat game that FASA released to go with their Star Trek role playing game and it was a favorite of ours back in the 80’s and 90’s. The FASA Star Trek line was an excellent example of a licensed game. FASA never created a set of role playing rules that I cared for, but they excelled at world building and the Star Trek universe they created was a beautiful melange that combined the original series, the animated series, the movies, and most of the book timelines into a working whole. It was a more complete and solid continuity than what the shows actually provided.

And while I was not a fan of the RPG rules, the Combat Simulator played to FASA’s strengths. It’s a solid and versatile set of light wargaming rules that convey the feel of starships slugging it out in deep space. We found the rules far more accessible than the venerable Starfleet Battles, and for the time period the production values were excellent. The counters are on thick cardboard with full color illustrations. They are so nice that over the years I’ve used them for other space games.

This is a game I’ve been wanting to get back to the table for a while now and for our first combat I picked a battle between classic foes; two Starfleet Constitution class cruisers named Hawk and Broadsword and two Klingon D-7M Deathbringers named Blood Penguin and Wilhelm. We used a moderate sized map with several planets, asteroids, and moons to thread through and set up on the far sides. By random draw I took command of the Starfleet forces and my friend marshaled the Klingons.

Federation ships are tanks, less maneuverable and with fewer weapons, but those weapons are more powerful, have more complimentary firing arcs, and longer range. Klingon ships are faster and more maneuverable, with more weapons and a penchant for rear firing guns. While Starfleet would rather pound targets at range, Klingons prefer to over run their enemies and fire weapons where their targets have lower shields.

With this in mind my Constitution ships came out at a cautious pace hoping to get a long range alpha-strike in, while the Klingons came fast and dodged through the sensor shadows of the planets. This proved to be a tactical mistake on my part, as I severely underestimated how much distance a starship can cover. My slower speed also gave the Klingons a tactical advantage, letting them move after I’d moved my lumbering cruisers. Before I knew it, the D-7’s had overflown me and opened fire.

The Broadsword was lucky, taking evasive action and avoiding harm. Hawk was not so lucky. The Blood Penguin came in behind her and unleashed all her forward weapons at point-blank range. The Hawk barely survived, her hull savaged by the attack.

I realized I needed to up my game to have any chance of survival. Throwing caution to the wind I dumped my shield power into the engines, trying to match the D7’s. The Hawk surged across the sector, the Blood Penguin in pursuit and looking for the kill. Broadsword broke off from the Wilhelm and moved to provide long range support for the Hawk, while Wilhelm dodged behind a planet. Hawk turned to make a last stand, damaging the Blood Penguin, but the ruthless Klingon ship unloaded again. The Hawk exploded, however the Blood Penguin had miscalculated and was too close. The D7 was smashed by the explosion, barely surviving, but too weak to endure the Broadsword’s avenging salvo.

A running battle ensued as Broadsword and the more nimble Wilhelm danced for position. In the end Wilhelm was able to win position over Broadsword and deliver a killing blow, but again the captain had miscalculated and was too close. The combination of the Broadsword’s final attack and her death explosion was too much for the D7 and she also exploded.

It was a lot of fun to bring this game out of retirement and it was fun to see that even though the game is more fiddly than modern designs, it’s still a lot of fun. In fact I think it still fills its role well as something that can introduce players into more complex wargames.

I’m looking forward to bringing the Starship Tactical Combat Simulator out again soon, perhaps with another player or two. Maybe add some Romulans, pull out the cloaking device rules, or maybe write up rules for a Doomsday Machine.

 

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