středa 26. srpna 2015

And now for something completely different...

Or, I have a battleship and I'm not afraid to use it

I like fantasy skirmish. However, having two space fleets blasting at each other is a joy I can't resist. In the past, I have had a game or two of Full Thrust with quite unsatisfying ships taken from the Galactic Emperor, but when I was browsing an e-shop this summer, I noticed Fleet Commander 1: Ignition. I looked at the photos ("hmmm, a game with plastic spaceships, cool") and description ("Spaceship battle in 60 minutes?") - and those got me so interested I had to download and read the rules.

The plastic ships are nice - each side gets 4 frigates (class 1), 2 destroyers (class2) and 1 battleship (class 4), with the two sets having a different design. They are claimed to be pre-painted, but it is rather a bold claim to make. Either way, they are ready to use straight out of the box.

The game pits two equal forces (depending on scenario) against each other on a 5x5 grid, which puts it in the camp of abstracting the whole theme rather than simulating it. It is dice driven - each turn you pick three dice (move, shoot, shield) in any available combination, roll them and use the results or keep them for later use.

The results can be "diagonal", "orthogonal", "any direction" or "special". Direction results are used to move/attack/defend in a direction, while the specials can be used to charge the Weapon of Doom mounted on your battleship, or to react in your opponent's turn in the advanced game.

There is no randomness in combat: you just nominate the attackers (based on the dice and circumstances), total their attack stats(1 for frigate, 2 for destroyer, 4 for battleship), and nominate a single target that gets all the love, unless the opponent has a shield or special result to use. You eliminate 8 classes of the opponent, or fulfill another victory condition, you win the game. Simple as that.

Games: The first game we played was a basic game, without additional rules, and it was fun nonetheless. Rules explanation, setup and game - it all took only 50 minutes, although my brilliant tactics (along with a proton cannon and opponent's blunders) probably contributed considerably. Despite having lost, my friend insisted on another game.

Just ate electric death!

The second game was a full one, with frigates becoming nasty hit-and-run buggers instead of strategically valuable speedbump, destroyers being a long ranged threat and special results being much more than special weapon fuel. We both picked the same special weapons: Proton Cannon for me (basically a battleship killer, dealing damage equal to 2x target's class) and those annoying Drones/Fighters for him (they stick to a target ship and deal 2 damage on opponent's turn until it succumbs or shoos them away). Some lessons were apparently learned, because the asteroid fields blocked shooting lines, and opponent's battleship hid behind them.

Yes, the half-painted fleet is going to win. Again.

Enemy frigates became quite a nuisance, jumping close to my destroyers, hitting both for 25% of their hull points and jumping away again.

The battleship launched figthers at my frigate, which went down in three turns.

However, when launching the fighters the enemy battleship got too close, and I was able to get her in me sights, scorch her with my proton cannon and giving her all the goodness from one battlegroup. The opponent then tried to hide his capital ship behind a screen of lesser vessels, but these merely delayed the hungry predator of my battleship. 

After that I only mopped the remnants of opponent's scattered forces and claimed another victory, only to hear promises of revenge next time.

Sound effects not included. Add your own.

Summary: So, did we like it? Hell yes. Although the game can't deny its abstract side, it still feels like a space battle directed from a command centre (rather than from the bridge of a ship). The rules are easy to learn, but the game is far from easy to master - there are meaningfull choices every turn, and the placement of one's fleet and terrain is extremely important. I believe this game is going to see a lot of plays, and I'm sure I'll get the expansion with cruisers. 

And should it become stale one day, I can still play Full Thrust with those beautiful ships.

P.S.: As I'm not using this blog to log my boardgame plays, don't expect much posts in the next month or two - yes, it is that good ;-)

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