STAR FLEET BATTLES
STAR FLEET BATTLES

THE HISTORY

This project began fifteen years ago with the publication of a draft rules prototype in SFB Module P6: The Galactic Smorgasbord. It was known from that time, and until just recently, as Star Fleet Assault, but we have revised the title to clarify what's going on (by adding "Marines") and because this has turned from a small, one-time project into the first in a series of three or four game modules of a new product line.

The objective is a 24th-century ground-combat game which is fast, simple, and fun and can be played simultaneously with Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander without slowing them down. I have fanatically fought against those in the playtest group who wanted to add just about every "special rule" ever seen in a ground-combat game. I want a game with no record keeping, and without a lot of exceptions and modifiers. For example, I refused to include a "command and control rule" since every unit has the equivalent of a satellite phone and Internet access, and nobody is ever out of contact with headquarters.

Each counter is a group of five Marines (i.e., a "Boarding Party" from SFB or a "Marine squad" from FC, facilitating interactions) or a single vehicle (tank, ground combat vehicle, shuttle, or whatever). Each hex is 100 meters. While you can stack a lot of units in one hex (more infantry than vehicles, but still a lot), only a few can fire out of that hex in each direction.

The game system is one of player turns. On your turn, each of your units can either shoot or move, not both. Shooting comes first (after which the unit is turned upside down so that you remember not to move it), then movement, then you turn all of your upside down units right side up. When you shoot at an enemy unit, you cross-index the kind of unit that is shooting with the kind of unit being shot at, adjust this for any terrain that provides protection, and roll one die. The enemy unit might be destroyed, stunned (turned upside down so it won't be able to shoot or move on its next turn), or unharmed.

The first game module, SFM: Assault!, includes Marines, other infantry (commando, heavy weapons, engineers, Prime Teams, militia), and vehicles (tanks, trucks, engineer vehicles, command vehicles, and various light-armored troop carriers).

Units will be able to dig in, call for regular artillery or transporter artillery, do assault landings with shuttles or transporters, do close assaults, use opportunity fire to shoot during the enemy turn, and conduct air strikes with fighters or gunboats.

Many have asked if we could do minis for this game, and while in theory we could, science fiction minis just do not sell very well, so that one comes down in the "let's see" category. (They could probably be used in Prime Directive, so maybe.)

Star Fleet Marines Assault and Star Fleet Marines Last Stand is in stores now.



DESIGNER'S NOTES

In military history, there is a special place for the gallant "last stand" of a surrounded and outnumbered force, waiting for rescue (or perhaps knowing that no rescue is going to arrive in time). From the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae to the 400 Marines on Wake Island, from 10,837 French troops surrounded at Dien Bien Phu to a quarter of a million Germans wiped out at Stalingrad, last stands come in all sizes, with the good, the bad, and the merely unlucky in the starring roles. Sometimes troops fight for nothing but honor as did Napoleon's Old Guard at Waterloo. Sometimes they fight a delaying action to gain time as did the Texians at the Alamo. Sometimes they fight for their very lives as did the British at Isandlwana.

As we moved through the final design, testing, and editing steps of this product, we found certain items that deserved a note to the players.

Long after the Last Stand counters were printed but before Last Stand was published, players began sending in all kinds of "monster" scenarios (from dragons to dinosaurs). We may include counters, rules, and scenarios for those in future products.

The Federation counters are dark blue in Assault but light blue in Last Stand. For that matter, the blue infantry in Assault is a different blue than the blue vehicles in that product, giving us three shades of blue. We have no idea why. The computer files use an identical shade of blue, the print files were prepared in the same way, and the counters were printed on the same press in the same factory. For now, blue is blue.

Someone asked why the Klingon vehicles were not made black like their infantry. That is because the vehicles have details and color that were lost on a black background.

In Assault, the "feline" infantry is yellow with green icons while the "feline" vehicles are orange with black icons. In Last Stand, the "feline" infantry is orange with black icons while the "feline" vehicles are yellow with green icons. Let's just assume that yellow/green is Lyran and orange/black is Kzinti.

When we did the counters for Last Stand, we gave the OP FIRE, turret, and battle position markers different colors than those in Assault. The theory is that players can use the various colors to keep track of different sides or units. While Last Stand has no scenario with civilians of opposing sides, some future scenario designer will be able to utilize this feature.

We did include the "missing" rules from Assault, i.e., external passengers, combat inside ground bases, and two-man outposts. We also included counters for some of the shuttle types that did not have specific counters in Assault. We added one entirely new rule (defilade) and hinted at an elite units rule.

When I did the map, I invented new terrain types including a depression (a big hole in the ground), a triple-level mountain, and cliffs. We decided to "name" the terrain features just so the playtest staff could keep track of what they were discussing by phone or email. Zasu Pitts was a famous American actress from 1917-1963. Her name was used in Harvard Lampoon's Bored of the Rings as the location where the "one ring" could be thrown to destroy it and end the curse, and stuck in my mind from the time I read that book three decades ago.

The most common question we get is how to use Star Fleet Marines for combat inside a starship. Star Fleet Marines is not really designed for that, but a future game KRAG (Klingon Rapid Assault Group) will cover that arena.

Work has already begun on the next module. This was going to be Armored Cavalry but given all of those monster scenarios it has been suggested this be retitled as Here There Be Dragons.-Stephen V. Cole


LAST STAND: UPDATE FOR ASSAULT

In some regards, the rulebook pages for Last Stand are an just as much an update for Assault as a new book. There are several reasons for this.

  1. We wanted Last Stand to be playable without Assault. This was for our retailers, who hate having an expansion which the cannot sell without the base product that might be out of stock on the day that particular customer comes in.

  2. We wanted to update the rules in the hands of players and this was the most efficient way.

The 15 pages of "reprinted" material amount to about 1% of the price of the product. The map, cover, and counters are the expensive parts. It effectively added a few pennies to the price to accomplish goals #1 and #2 above.


SCENARIO BALANCE

While the rules for Star Fleet Marines are fairly simple, the tactical complexities of the scenarios are anything up. Given terrain and an unpredictable enemy deployment, it is effectively impossible to playtest the scenarios adequately (but we did try). It could take 100 playings of each scenario to stumble into the best possible defense and the best possible attack on that defense and to balance the forces accordingly. So if you play a scenario and find it wildly unbalanced, send us a note describing your deployment and tactics and what force you think it needs. Maybe you saw something we didn't, or missed something we thought was obvious.

Copyright © 1991-2014 Amarillo Design Bureau, All Rights Reserved Updated 21 February 2014