I have some more content queued up for POP-001, but I have to get some bugs out of my system. I did a review of Star Frontiers with the intention of returning to review the expansion set Knight Hawks. It's been 2.5 years, so I should do it now.Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks Boardgame, The Campaign Expansion, and Warriors of Light Module
Designer: Douglas Niles
Pages: Boardgame book, 20 pages. Expanded book, 64 pages. SF0, 32 pages.
Number of players: 2+
Star Frontiers is a classic science fiction role-playing game that was first introduced in 1982. One of the most exciting aspects of the game is the Knight Hawks expansion, which focuses on ship-to-ship battles. This expansion provides players with an opportunity to engage in space combat, which is a crucial element of the science fiction genre. This set was a boxed set like Alpha Dawn and even follows the exact same book and page count as the original.
The key features of the Knight Hawks expansion are the ship-to-ship combat and ship design system. Players have the ability to design their own spacecraft from scratch, giving them the freedom to create vessels that suit their playstyle. The ship design system is complex but rewarding, allowing players to customize every aspect of their ship, from its weapons and defenses to speed and maneuverability. Plus every part of the customized starship simply works with the ship-to-ship combat system right out of the box.
The combat phase is where the action really heats up. Players can choose from a variety of weapons, such as lasers, missiles, and torpedoes, to attack their opponents. Each weapon has its own unique characteristics, such as range, damage, and accuracy.
The game uses what I call a Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry system of weapons and defenses. There are missiles, lasers, proton beams, and electron beams. I seem to recall neutron beams, but I think stole that from Starfire, another excellent game from the time period. Specific attacks are modified or negated by specific defenses which creates a wild dynamic where ships might have the WRONG type of firepower. As confusing as the terms are, there are only three or four so you can roll with it pretty easily.
There is a damage control phase, where players can repair any damage their ship has sustained during combat. This phase is vital, as a damaged ship is less effective in combat and can be destroyed more easily. Players can repair damage to their ship's hull, engines, weapons, and defenses, but doing so requires time and rolls against the DRC rating of the ship. It is far less complex than StarFleet Battles and can be adapted to be more Traveller-like by ignoring the DRC for some aspects and allowing characters to use their new starship skills to get stuff done. I wouldn't suggest making every repair a character skill roll, but the nugget of the idea is there.
I play StarFleet Battles, so I can't call this set complex or deep, but it has Basic and Advanced rules can get new players going with minimal fuss. Was I to stop the review here, the boardgame rules are stand-alone and would get 5 of five stars.
You'll notice that I gave this set 3 stars. That is because the integration with Alpha Dawn sucks. In Alpha Dawn, we left the characters with 3 PSAs with a max of 6 ranks. Knight Hawks throws in 4 more Star Ship Skills which are not PSA, but dependent on PSA. And require them to be nearly maxed out.
On day one of purchasing the box set, you are months away from having your old characters gain the necessary skills to use this set. That's garbage. What does firing a gyrojet weapon at a tank have to do with lobbing a giga-ton nuke at a ship in orbit? Driving a car is related to jumping a spaceship? No. That shouldn't be a thing.
I could explain the way I handle this hitch, but instead, I will ding this set 3 stars and allow you to engage with your players as you see fit. I WILL give this set one additional star for adding more vehicles and space combat into the mix while resolving the chronic "First World Star Frontiers Problem".
What I call the First World Star Frontiers Problem is a lack of creativity in the creation of modules. It is really a problem of having too many options or possibilities available in the rules and settings hampering an author's ability to create an engaging scenario. Virtually all of the modules lay out a scenario, then strip the players of some or all of their weapons and kit. That is a systemic railroad if I ever saw one.
Don't do that to your players, do anything else.
Knight Hawks actually fixes this problem as even lifeboats have guns and ammo, tools are weapons and the ship is a flying storehouse. Giving the characters a massive starship basically means if they lose their gear, they go back to the ship and gun the f--- up, and come back with a vengeance. This is a better playing experience than losing it all and coming back from nothing. Half of the game is shopping for kit or designing spaceships. Why bother striping gear for every pre-packaged adventure?
In conclusion, Star Frontiers Knight Hawks is an adequate expansion that adds a new dimension to the already good Star Frontiers RPG. The ship-to-ship battles are engaging and challenging, requiring players to think strategically and use their resources wisely. While the system may be overwhelming at first, the rewards are well worth the effort. If you're a fan of science fiction and role-playing games both halves of this system are for you.
You can pick up a copy on DriveThruRPG either in PDF or Print. Either is very nice and the two boxed sets are combined together, so it's just one purchase. Personally, I would buy the combo PDF and Print set so you can print off as many of the map pieces and counters as you like. Star Frontiers has really nice counters and starship deckplans.