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SM1 The Planet Crusher

James Lowry
United States
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Microbadge: Star Fleet Battles fanMicrobadge: Fascinating!Microbadge: Legendary Monthly Video Game Geek Review Contest winnerMicrobadge: KHAAAAAAANNNN!!!!!Microbadge: ASL fan
I've been thinking of doing a bit more SFB for a little bit. And then airjudden talked about having gone through all the monster scenarios from the Commander's rulebook some time ago, and posted a solo game against against a new one.

I've occasionally thought about trying some of the solo monster scenarios out. And with some vacation time available, he inspired me to go through with it.

This is part of my group's plays, so the date is Y158. Starting at the beginning, I went with SM1, which features a monster inspired by the episode "The Doomsday Machine" (but not nearly so tough). I've been wanting to get back to the Kzinti, and went with their main cruiser of the era, the Strike Cruiser. (The better CA and CC classes exist, but there's more CSs than CCs and CAs put together. The first BC will be converted from a CS in about two years.) This meant ignoring SM1.432, which states all drones are speed 20 (such technological marvels are a decade away).

Paying for Type II/V drones wasn't worth considering. With MCIDS swatting down up to three drones an impluse, speed 12 wasn't worth the 0.5 BPV per drone. (In general, I'd think speed 12 should be 0.25 instead of the same 0.5 of speed 20, but I suppose the idea is that ships are slower in this era.)

Speaking of slow ships, the CS only has 27 warp, limiting it to speed 28 (with the one point of impulse thrown in). And it only has two disruptors and two ph-1s; the main weapon is pretty much the drones, which I can't count on.

Starting to wonder if this was really a good idea, I looked over the details. You can't fire on the monster unless at range six or closer (there goes the idea of softening it up first). And it fires at range six or less, with no adjustments for range, and no effect from EW. At the top end, it does 35 damage—ouch! That's starting to look like a ph-4.

But the low end is only 10 damage... and it only fires once per turn. Since there's no reason not to go to point-blank range, the real primary weapon of the CS comes out: 10 ph-3s. And at speed 6, it's much slower than the CS. The robot rules move it towards the planet unless a ship is within two hexes, at which point it'll pursue that ship like a seeking weapon.

I pondered loading up on transporter bombs. It wouldn't be too hard to get the planet crusher to run over them, but the extra BPV cost would up the amount of damage I needed to do to defeat it. So I went no frills; just a stock CS with no commander's options. With a BPV of 116, the balance formula said I needed to do 186 damage to it, while I would lose if it did 200 damage to the planet it was headed for. I contemplated that if things went poorly, and I needed time, I could let it get to the planet, and chew on it for at least five turns. Assuming the inhabitants were non-Kzinti natives, this should be acceptable to the Hegemony—unless the natives were especially tasty.

With little to fear with a set up on the far side of the map (with the target planet at the upper middle; I went speed 23, charging phasers, fire control on, shields at minimum and no disruptors. I headed more-or-less straight at it, while it mostly headed straight up, with a couple hexes of direction B thrown in, ending at range 16.

I randomly rolled for all planet crusher movement that had two possibilities. One thing I'm not sure of is where in the movement order it goes. I judged it as a ship, so it went first, as I was always moving faster—except when it was in range two of me and 'pursuing' my ship, then it gets the 'no you go first' exception. It might make sense to rate it as a seeking weapon (targeted on the planet) at all times.

For turn 2, I put disruptors to standard loads, planning on overloading them off of battery unless I took a bad hit, put shields to full, and went speed 25. I immediately turned to heading F to get ahead of the planet crusher and came in, showing my #6 shield. We both moved on impulse 16 and hit range 5.

A '3' did 25 points on the 22-point shield. I spent one battery on reinforcement, planning on using the other 4 to overload the disruptors. Disaster! The two internals hit a phaser and disruptor! I took the left side disruptor and ph-1, since the next pass would certainly be off the right side.

I turned in, and on impulse 22, entered its hex. The planet crusher would have also moved, but in pursuit of my ship stayed where it was. I launched four drones and all forward-facing weapons.

Well, almost. I forgot about the two 360 ph-3s until I noticed my power wasn't balancing on the follow up shot.

MCIDS fired at the first three drones... and missed! My overloaded disruptor automatically hit at range 0 for 10, the ph-1 did 7, and the ph-3s did 15. The next impulse, the drones hit for another 48. The impulse after that, I finished my overrun and did another 21 points with the remaining 6xph-3.

101 damage and delayed the monster a hex. Not a bad turn's work.

From gallery of Rindis
Turn 2, showing Impulse 16, with movement from beginning to contact on impulse 22.

At the end of the turn, I was still at range 6, which meant I knew it would fire on impulse 1, and hit my #4 shield. I partially recharged phasers, overloaded the disruptor, recharged batteries, went speed 9 and put 8 extra power in the the shield. That would block anything but a '1', and the five batteries would stop that if needed.

A '5' did 15, putting 7 points on the shield. I turned around, executed a snap-turn (slip in one direction followed by a turn in the opposite direction, and then fired at range three on impulse 25 (which kept the weapons clear for turn 4...). The disruptor missed, but the bearing phasers did another 10 points of damage.

From gallery of Rindis
Positions at end of turn 2 and turn 3 impulse 25.

The planet crusher went in direction B for its next move allowing me to slip into range 2, and then get to range 1 on impulse 32. It moved into my hex for the end of the turn, where I launched a second set of drones, only to watch the MCIDS instantly kill three of them....

Wanting to be able to get back out of its seeking range, I went speed 13, overloading the disruptor, charging all phasers, and putting 8 onto #1 for the same plan as last time (it had been a stronger shield, until I dinged it with that overload on the first pass...).

The planet crusher did 20, putting 12 on the #1 shield, and I immediately added two more with feedback from an overloaded disruptor. That did 10, the ph-1 did 6 and the six bearing phasers did another 22. On impulse 3, I moved out of the hex and did another 15 with the rear ph-3s for a total 65 damage for the turn.

Sadly, while it followed me, it chose a direction that didn't lead away from the planet. I danced ahead of it a little, but finally got out of seeking range and paralleled its course until the end of the turn, where I turned in to get to range 2 off my shield #2.

I went with much the same plan as the last two turns, with speed 9 and 10 reinforcement on shield #2. The planet crusher rolled '6' to not even hurt the shield, and moved into it, doing another 40 damage with the right-side weapons.

Total, 216 damage. Creature destroyed.

From gallery of Rindis

It really is a pretty simple creature to deal with. Slightly random movement helps give it some more interest. I thought I was in trouble when those two internals took out important weapons, but the complete failure of MCIDS after that more than made up for it. The fact that it never rolled less than a '3' also helped a lot, but I was reasonably well prepared for that after the first pass.

I note that the rules state that the creature gets one shot per turn at each ship present (when it gets within six hexes), so I'd think taking a frigate squadron against it might be a pretty stiff challenge.
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