When I was a kid, on those days when I was getting better from being sick, but not yet well enough to to school, for a special treat, I was allowed to set up camp on the couch and watch TV (on our old black and white set, you betcha). Aside from "The Price is Right", the real appeal of weekday afternoon TV was my getting to watch reruns of the original Star Trek series. While clearly of a different order than the Church of Star Wars, it had its own distinct charm, and over the years (the movies, the Next Gen., DS9, Quantam Star Leap, etc.) my affection for the franchise has only grown.
So it was a real pleasure on Wednesday to get a chance to play A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, a game organised by none other than ChrisB, my opponent from last week's Blood Bowl game. This was entirely ChrisB's baby: he provided minis, mats, terrain, and reference sheets, along with a pile of rather handy reference tokens. All in all, a pretty sweet deal.
|I can just imaging the shimmer.|
This was a group game, with seven of us (I think?) running a small fleet or single dreadnaught. I had a pair of old-school Romulan Warbirds (ChrisB had been careful to point out had the lowest point total on the table ;), which I remembered fondly from my couch days. While that meant I wasn't going to be throwing out fiery death (or, at least, thought I wasn't going to), I did have the advantage of cloaks, and my inherent sneaky, under-handed disposition; a perfect combination when playing Romulans.
|You'd think two Imperial fleets could work together, but no. Because, Romulans.|
Moving clockwise around the table, I was looking at a Klingon cruiser / destroyer combo, a Romulan cruiser / destroyer combo (same ship class, but sold to the Romulans, and I think equipped with cloaks), another Klingon cruiser / destroyer combo, a Romulan dreadnaught, a Terran Empire (ie., goateed) dreadnaught, and a Federation cruiser / cruiser combo, consisting of none other than the Enterprise herself, and a specially-constructed Texas-class cruiser, the Beaver.
|The Romulan dreadnaught "Wait, what d'you mean this thing has a cloak?"|
|The unwashed humans. Middle fleet was pulled because the crew were no-shows.|
The Terran dreadnaught was, I thought, the pick of the litter. ChrisB really did a bang-up job on the ships.
I think in the end we only got in about 4 or 5 turns, between figuring out the rules and the inevitable delaying effect of a multi-player game, but even then, we had fun. More than a few brave crews met a fiery, vaccum-y death. Not mine, of course, but still . . .
Festivities opened with me opting to be the only Romulan captain to engage cloaks (!). Across the table, a quick alliance formed between DaveB's Romulans and skyjack's Klingons, which moved to pinch Vonplutz' Klingons between them and the Romulan dreadnaught under ernieR. The Federation and Terran Empire ships also seemed to form an alliance of convenience, and long range shots were traded all-round.
In the meantime, I slowly chugged my way towards the planet. Although my ships were a bit on the wee side, they could still throw out a nasty one-turn punch before needing a few turns to re-cloak and re-load. Each of us had a secret objective; mine was to make sure that no one ended the game within 2 inches of the planet. That meant I was perfectly happy to cruise along under cloak, and let the rest of the gang tear each other up.
Vonplutz's initial intention of engaging the Romulan dreadnaught turned out to be a mistake, when the behemoth in question unloaded it's torpedo bays and phaser banks in the Klingons' general direction. Turns out, it had lots of both.
|Turns out, this was a bad idea.|
In the meantime, the allied Klingon / Romulan force obligingly pushed their way into my firing arcs . . .
|Yes, come closer, my pretties.|
. . . while the puny earthlings played "hide behind the planet", and blasted away at the Romulan dreadnaught.
|The Beaver, being coy.|
Having decided that a point-blank exchange of fire with a dreadnaught was, perhaps, not the wisest course of action, Vonplutx put the innate agility of the Klingon ships to use, and ran away. In the process, however, he gave the Federation cruisers a rather tasty firing solution, which they found themselves hard-pressed to resist. In the meanwhile, I believe it was around this point that ernieR noticed that his Romulan dreadnaught came equipped with a cloak, and decided to try it, rather than being shot to pieces by AlexM's evilhuman dreadnaught.
|It's not easy being green.|
In the following turns, Watts made the mistake of exposing his Beaver to the firepower of the combined Klingon / Romulan force. Perhaps predictably, they decided to gang up on it, and the Beaver took a pretty fierce pounding. While this was going on, I opted to decloak (we were starting to run out of time), and since the Beaver was too far away for me to get my licks in, I decided to fire my one big shot at Vonplutz's Klingons instead.
|The Beaver, getting pounded from all sides.|
Although the Warbirds are more or less designed around the ability to fire off a single, massive salvo of plasma missles, Vonplutz managed to weather the storm. His ships were definitely banged up, but were still in the game. In the meantime, he manoeuvred to give himself the choice of returning fire, or join the group hammering away at Watts' Beaver.
|Not long now. I think she's going to blow.|
At this point, things looked pretty grim. Although she was solidly build, and some of the ships shooting at her were on the small side, the Beaver was getting sprayed from four directions at once. It wasn't long before she went to pieces, leaving the Romulan / Klingon group sandwiched between Vonplutz's Klingons, the two dreadnaughts, and the now vengeful Enterprise (which I think managed to take out one of the small Klingon ships). Meanwhile, I was in a position to sneak up behind pretty much anyone I wanted of the three cruiser / destroyer fleets, and give them a rather nasty surprise.
Now things got a little hairy. Although he was fully cloaked, ernieR's dreadnaught continued to take effective fire from the Terran dreadnaught, with photon torpedoes finding their way through the cloaking field, and through the Romulan's own shields, to hammer her hull with criticals. At the same time, skyjack decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and opted to jump to warp speed (i.e., run away). The sight of a Klingon ship fleeing was enough to put the blood up for pretty much all the small-ship captains on the table, and we quickly decided to gang up on skyjack.
|Admiral AlexM, muttering "Why won't you just DIE!"|
|Brought to you by Brazzers.|
It was like watching the Beaver go down all over again. With six ships hammering away at his rear from point-blank range, it wasn't long before skyjack's second ship was torn to pieces.
We more or less called it at that point. If I remember, a few more of the smaller destroyers were taken out by the last round or two of firing, but that more or less was it. Watts had met his victory condition, having moved the Enterprise to within 2" of the planet. I'd more or less abandoned any hope of winning when I joined the gank on skyjack, but I did get in a couple turns of fairly effective fire, and brought both my ships through the game pretty much unscathed.
All in all, it was a blast (pun intended). I've played the B5 version of ACTA in the past, and while some of the special rule interactions can be ambiguous, the core mechanics of the game are pretty solid. ACTA:SF is an interesting creature in itself. ChrisB informs me it exists essentially because of an IP loophole; while Paramount owns Star Trek, the game's license stems from the old technical manual, and thus retains independent validity as long as the owners don't use any of the material produced after the original series and animated series (so no movies, etc.). While this means no USS Reliant, it also means there's a Star Trek game out there that uses something other than crappy clik-figures.
|My thoughts on clik-figs.|
My plate is pretty full right now, and if I'm going to play a starship game on a regular basis, it'd likely be Spartan's firestorm armada. That said, I'm already giving them my money for Dystopean wars, and those Romulan ships are looking kind of appealing . . . ;)
Next week it looks like another Blood Bowl game, and likely Maurice after that. I've been doing a bit of painting, but work and family have been making time rather limited. I seem to have broken the initial spell of SWO:TOR though, so there's some hope for the future. Until then, live long, and prosper.