Sunday evening story hour: "Gimme back those frigates!"

A Sunday evening game story for you, if you will. Pull up a chair while I recount a harrowing tale of defeat and revenge… in the cold depths of space!

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been playing a Star Fleet Battles campaign with a friend. A campaign is a series of linked scenarios that you play through in sequence–in this case, six scenarios depicting the long and difficult journey of a Hydran dreadnought trying to escape Klingon territory after a particularly disastrous diplomatic fiasco.

I’ve been playing Star Fleet Battles with this friend for months now, and I’ll be honest: I’ve never won a single game. Not one. Not even when he handicaps himself by giving me access to better ships and technologies than he has. So you can imagine how I felt going into this campaign, in which I was going to have to try and stop his dreadnought’s escape.

The first battle in the campaign went even worse for me than I had anticipated, and made me start questioning why I play this self-esteem killer of a game in the first place. The opening scenario of the campaign featured an encounter between his dreadnought and two small, lightly-armed Klingon frigates. There was no question who was going to win; I just hoped to inflict a bit of damage before my frigates died.

Not only did I inflict very little damage, but within a few turns he had crippled and captured both frigates, meaning that he could bring them in as reinforcements for himself during future scenarios in the campaign.

My chances of success had been low enough just against his dreadnought; how was I possibly going to succeed against his dreadnought and two of my own captured ships? The shame was nearly too great to bear. I almost surrendered to despair.

And so we met up to play the second game in the campaign. This fight was a bit more evenly matched–his dreadnought was being faced not by two lowly frigates but by a Klingon strike carrier and its escorts. And of course, mocking me with their very presence, there were the two captured Klingon frigates, now serving as escorts for my opponent’s dreadnought.

The fight began, and my opponent decided not to engage my carrier force; if he could just get his dreadnought far enough away from me, he could disengage and successfully complete the scenario without having to bloody his hands in actual battle. When I saw the dreadnought turning about to make a run for the edge of the map, I knew what I had to do.

Forget the dreadnought. I was going to get those frigates back.

“Let the coward run,” barked the commander of my Klingon carrier group. “Leave no Klingon behind! All vessels, bring me those frigates–alive!” Ignoring the dreadnought, I turned the pride of the Klingon fleet against the two frigates, which (still badly damaged from the drubbing my opponent had inflicted on them in the last game) were trying to limp off of the board without being noticed.

The frigates put up quite a fight, considering that they were both nearly crippled. But although one of them was accidentally destroyed in the ensuing fracas (remember the scene in Star Trek III in which the Klingon captain executes his ship’s gunner for accidentally destroying the target ship instead of just crippling it?–well, it went like that), the final frigate had no chance. A careful disrupter salvo stripped its shields away without damaging the ship itself, and shortly thereafter Klingon boarding parties were flooding aboard, quickly overthrowing the despised Hydran captors and restoring the nearly-decimated frigate to its rightful place on the bottom rung of the Klingon navy.

Meanwhile, the dreadnought slipped away. I’m pretty sure I’ve not seen the last of it.

The craven Star Fleet Battles rulebook would have you believe that letting the dreadnought go constitutes a huge tactical defeat for the Klingons.

But by Kah’less–I have done as honor required. The next time I face down that damnable dreadnought… at least he won’t be stealing any more of my frigates.

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