This weekend, I played my biggest game of Star Fleet Battles yet. My opponent and I each had 600 points with which to purchase a squadron of starships. We each showed up to the field of battle with four ships–my force consisted of a Federation command cruiser, two heavy cruisers, and a plasma cruiser. He was playing the Vudar (a former subject race that rebelled against their Klingon overlords) and fielded a Vudar battlecruiser and three war cruisers. What diplomatic debacle had pitted the peace-loving Federation and the Klingon-hating Vudar against each other that day, none can say.
It was an epic battle–at least in comparison to the one-on-one starship duels we usually play. The Federation and Vudar primary weapon systems are fairly similar–the Feds have their famous photon torpedoes while the Vudar equip their ships with ion cannons; both are heavy-hitting weapons that work best at short range. (The Vudar are weaker in the phaser and drone department, but compensate with a defensive system that can make their ships extremely difficult to hit.) That meant that my opponent and I both pursued the same basic tactic: close to within striking range, concentrate the squadron’s fire on one or two targets, then peel away and maintain a safe distance while frantically reloading our weapons.
And that’s how it played out. On the initial pass, I learned what happens when four Vudar ships all concentrate their firepower on a single Federation vessel: said ship goes BOOM. I lost my command cruiser, but my surviving ships quickly exacted revenge by damaging his battlecruiser and destroying a war cruiser while they tried to escape. We both backed off and stalked each other for the next few turns while we reloaded weapons, then I charged. In the ensuing chaos I lost a heavy cruiser and took down one more of his war cruisers, leaving us each with two fairly battered surviving ships. Reflecting that no sane starship captain would continue an engagement after suffering 50% casualties (and noting that it was creeping towards 11:00 pm), we called it a draw.
Going by the point value of ships destroyed, he did manage a technical victory–he scored an official Marginal Victory and I suffered a corresponding Marginal Defeat. But that’s about as close to victory as I’ve ever gotten against this particular opponent, so in my mind I had done the Federation at least somewhat proud.
I’ve got no brilliant observations about the game, except that it did show me that SFB does not necessarily become unmanageable when you play larger battles. Having multiple powerful ships adds a lot of tactical options–and the amount of concentrated firepower they can pour at a single unfortunate ship is a bit scary. And I also learned that splash damage from exploding ships is nothing to be laughed at–one of my heavy cruisers (rather unluckily) took serious internal damage when the plasma cruiser went down in flames.
All in all, a great match. I don’t know when the next match is, but now that I’ve witnessed the awesome firepower of a starship fleet, I’m going to have a hard time being satisfied with just one or two measly starships…by