JanB1 wrote: ↑
Tue Sep 12, 2017 12:04 am
Flatfingers wrote: ↑
Mon Sep 11, 2017 8:02 pm
Did you never play Star Fleet Battles
? A rules-lawyer's paradise, that one.
No. But it sounds like a game where I could live out my rule-lawyer-side.
Pls tell me more about it. ^^
This could take a while.
The short version is that Star Fleet Battles
is a turn-based tabletop ship combat game based loosely on original Star Trek. A game starts with all players picking ships of roughly the same size from the large library of ships, and geting a diagram of that ship showing lots of "hit boxes" for all the various systems. There are lots of different factional ships -- Federation, Klingon, Romulan, Tholian, Orion, Lyran, Hydran, even Kzinti (because Larry Niven's Kzin showed up in Star Trek: The Animated Series
for which Niven wrote episodes). There are even starbases -- taking on one of those was a whole game in itself.
Here's an example of a classic ship design:
The game starts with everyone putting markers for their ships on the big hex board. Each player writes down their orders for movement and firing, then everyone executes their movement orders simultaneously, then firing. And note that most weapons have firing arcs, so maneuvering was important for acquiring a favorable ship facing. Weapon damage is calculated for each ship, and hit boxes get marked off, first for shields (which are also positional), then for hull and internal systems. When damage reaches a certain point, that ship goes boom.
That's about it. It may not sound like much, but the fun is in the rules... and there are a lot
of rules. Specifically, there are different rules for the many ship systems -- weapons, engines, shields, batteries, labs, transporters, tractor beams, shuttles -- that are shared by all ship types. Then there are additional rules for shuttle types, and boarding parties, and ECM/ECCM. And then there are rules for ship systems that are unique to each faction: Tholian ships can lay webs; Federation ships can use a "positron flywheel" that stores power; Gorn ships are just loaded with shields and hull points, making them highly survivable; Romulans have cloaking devices and pseudoplasma torpedoes that look just like real torpedoes (forcing you to expend short-range weapons to try to knock out those fake torpedoes, potentially leaving you with no defensive weapons for the real
plasma torpedo just behind it); Klingons and Kzin (especially the Kzin) have drones (basically lots of little torpedoes); and so on. And then on top of THIS there are rules for special maneuvers such as "high energy turns," as well as rules (and ships) for different eras in the SFB's alternate Star Trek universe.
What this means is that for a game among seasoned players, who agree to use a large subset of the rules, there are so many options just for each ship, and so many possibilities for interactions among ships, that you have no idea what's going to happen once the photons start flying. This creates opportunities for creative tactics. A clever tactician who knows how to get the most from his ship's systems, including skillfully managing his ship's power and facing relative to opponents, can usually find a way to outlast his opponents.
I'll give you an example. I used to love to play Romulan ships like the War Eagle shown below because they're designed to have multiple ways of being sneaky. (And note that Romulan ships having sneaky systems is a great example of gameplay mechanics supporting gameworld asthetics and storytelling.) I've mentioned the pseudoplasma torpedo -- it was always a hoot watching someone sweat trying to guess whether that enormous plasma bolt about to smack into their shields was real or not.
But the real fun came from combining the Romulan ship capabilities. My favorite gimmick was to cloak, then carefully try to maneuver in between two opponent ships (preferably with the ship to my rear not facing directly at me with his most powerful weapons!). Just before dropping my cloak, I'd prepare a couple of surprises, one of which was to have a big Plasma-R torpedo charged up. I'd drop the cloak, then as soon as possible fire a pseudoplasma torpedo, then the real torpedo. If I'd set my trap right, I could bring down my first target's weak rear shields with one blow, and maybe even do some internal damage.
My second trick was even more fun: there was an obscure rule that allows Romulans (following the classic Trek episode "Balance of Terror") to drop a Nuclear Space Mine out one of the rear-facing shuttle bays. Basically this was a big honkin' nuclear bomb. This trick didn't always work, but when it did, the ship behind me would be going too fast to get out of the way of the nuclear mine -- they'd run into it headfirst. Since the forward shield is normally the strongest, it didn't always take down all their forward shield points, but it did get most of them, leaving that ship dangerously exposed to any other ship doing a head-on firing run.
I'd then recloak, recharge, decloak, and fling torpedoes for as long as it took to wear the other guys down. The other players learned to hate me.
Which was my downfall. When they figured out these tactics, they'd wait for me to decloak and then they'd gang up on me. Since Romulan ships are mostly sneaky, and cloaks take a lot of power, there's not much left for shields, armor, and hull points... so if I didn't score big on my first pass, I'd usually wind up taking a shellacking early on, then limping my way through the rest of the game until someone put me out of my misery.
Man, this game was fun.
There were three computer versions made of SFB. They didn't capture all the rules-lawyering fun of the tabletop game, but they actually did a surprisingly good job of delivering the basic features and wrapping them into a mission-based storyline. (And I have to admit I didn't miss the pencil-and-paper power allocation and movement planning for turn-based play.) The ship customization features were pretty nice, too, and by the time of the third game they were able to use ship layouts from Deep Space Nine and Voyager.
Star Fleet Battles is still being played today because it's a unique and well-designed system that enables emergent gameplay. Like the Apollo Guidance Computer sim, SFB is not to everyone's taste, but what is?