There are just a handful of tabletop games that have any longevity. Star Fleet Battles (SFB)
has been around since 1979, which is pretty amazing. The game is based on the Star Trek Original Series (TOS) and includes a variety of species not found in any other series.
The game places you in the Captain’s chair to do battle with a host of enemies. Ships are ranked by Basic Point Value so players can select ships of the equal power or use the point system to handicap one or more players. All ships are limited to certain pre-planned actions that consume energy. With limited energy only bold, daring, and cunning captains win.
Your choices of powers are: Federation, Romulan, Klingon, Gorn, Kzinti, Tholian, Orion Pirates, WYN, ISC, Lyran, and Hydran. Each power’s ships have a different flavor and to win you need to know not just your ship, but the enemies too. If that’s not enough, each power has dozens of ship choices. No two ships are remotely the same, captain. Planning is key to winning.
All ships share some basic characteristics: a top speed, turn rate, boxes representing equipment, weapons, shields, etc. When a ship runs out of internal boxes, it is all over. Boxes require some energy to function, with a few exceptions like shuttles or drones which are self-powered.
There are a myriad of weapon choices. Phasers are found on most ships, especially Federation ships. Phasers have a couple of different types basically describing the range and power. The Fed’s also have a photo torpedo as a heavy weapon. Klingon’s use disruptors which are more powerful than Phasers but require more time to charge. To offset the rate of fire, they have drones as a supplemental weapon. The Romulan’s have a monstrous weapon called the Plasma Torpedo. One hit can blow down a cruiser’s shields; two hits can transform a cruiser into an expanding ball of plasma. Luckily, they can only fire once per three (or two) turns. For this reason, they have cloaking devices and pseudo-torpedoes to fake out an adversary.
SFB is a knife-fight, not a slugfest. The last thing most captains do is waltz up their opponent and let ’em have it. Usually, your opponent can make you pay more for that than you can afford. Then they wipe the game board up with what is left of you. Don’t do it.
The game turn is broken into 32 (or 16 in the Cadet game) segments called an impulse. In a turn’s 32 impulse series, each ship has X energy to move, shoot, power shields, and run other systems. This means you have to both posture and fight. Bluffing is critical to SFB.
Each ship has a best firing point and range, so know what it is and get there when you are good and ready; hopefully that point is not where your opponent wants you to be. In addition, some ships are equipped to either dance outside of your sweet spot peppering you fire or ride right through it.
One of the coolest aspects of this game is the player derived content. Each book has one or more pages of submission information. Players write articles, tactics, artwork, create ships and scenarios. Sometimes key concepts are named after the creative ones. Three classic attacks are named by players or for them. Mizia strikes ,The Gorn Anchor and Yo-yo-ing are all player created strategies.
Doesn’t it sound complex? Heck yeah, but wait until you add on Advanced Mission to the Basic rules for even more detail. The options are endless. But the best feature of SFB is the player support from the staff at Amarillo Design Bureau. Their website is loaded with content, including a free download of the Cadet Game. This is a simplified rule set of the Basic edition rules. Don’t forget to check them out on Facebook.