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Federation Commander: Klingon Border» Forums » General

Subject: Too creaky for modern audiences? rss

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Michael Ptak
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I'm looking at this game and thinking about trying to get into it with a buddy of mine because it offers more individual ship focus (and better balance) than Attack Wing. I've had an on-again-off-again interest with Starfleet Battles/Federation Commander starting with exposure to Starfleet Command, and this was the latest attempt to study the rules system.

And now I've finally grasped the structure of turn-impulse-SubPulse is supposed to work. And then it occurred to me that this tedious turn structure is going to test the patience of modern gamers, especially attack wing ones, who are used to quicker resolution. And knowing this game has tables doesn't help either...

There are great things about this system (like power management) but I wonder if being too tied to its predecessor means this game will never really compete with newer games on the market. It's a shame because it doesn't have to be that way and the game does have much to offer.

I'm still going to try to learn how to play this but I want to take a look at some shortcuts. Learning how to do the tabletop rules would help port the Attack Wing players over, and eliminating sub-pulses for movement looks to help speed play considerably.

This is just an opinion post I guess, but if anyone has any suggestions on play-aids or assistance on learning the game it would be helpful
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Todd Warnken
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I think you are correct in your assessment. If you want a faster lighter game, ADB sells a version of Starmada based on the Starfleet Universe. It is much easier and faster.
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David Villa
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Can you please post a link to the Starfleet Universe Starmada game?

Thanks!
 
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Todd Warnken
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http://www.starfleetgames.com/starmada.shtml
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Federation Commander has been my the game of choice for my son and I, but I get that even the streamlined nature of FedCom are perhaps not streamlined enough. Star Fleet Battle battles tend to weigh in at 4-8 hours for us, FedCom at 1-2 hours which we find acceptable.

Starmada plays even faster. However, I found the Starmada based system just too streamlined: much of the flavor of the game is lost and duels are not interesting at all. It isn't a bad *game* on its own though, so those coming in fresh may find it preferable, just don't expect much without squads on both sides.

If you do tackle FedCom, I recommend using nice poker chips for power and damage accumulation. That one simple change makes the accounting (which is nothing more that addition and subtraction) more *enjoyable*. There is something *visceral* about stacks of chips representing damage piling up.

These also make nice turn and impulse counters. The other "trick" is learning how to read the turn chart quickly and efficiently. Once you can rattle off all 8 impulses of a turn in under a minute (barring anything other than maneuver) the game flows much better. But that does require *understanding* the turn sequence.

Finally, we use custom dice (just large dice with stickers on them) to mark each ships speed and maneuver (only rarely needed when two ships tie in every respect for maneuver priority).

Those items almost doubled the speed at which our games flowed, which means we can resolve a duel in 30 minutes now.
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Robb
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You could always try out Silent Death. I find that game pretty fun.

In fact here is a pic of my buddy and I playing it on one of our camping trips.



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Art Bugorski
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No, not really. It's a streamlined war game, but a war game none the less. If you want a thematic game or a euro this isn't it. I don't see this in the same genre as Attack Wing. Sure, same theme, but Attack Wing is like checkers to this games chess.
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Part of the issue is whether you want a game suited for duels or smaller squadrons, or if you prefer larger fleet engagements instead.

Generally, Federation Commander is closer to Star Fleet Battles in terms of scope, with FC a more streamlined means of resolving smaller engagements than SFB. In comparison, both the Admiralty and Nova editions of Star Fleet* Starmada are really suited more for fleet engagements, as is A Call to Arms: Star Fleet.

One option could be to keep an eye out for the pending "version 1.2" revision to ACtA:SF. It's being substantially re-worked relative to the original, and should run much more smoothly (and more in keeping with how the SFU should work as a setting) as a result. But the onus would still likely be on larger engagements, in order to get the most of what the revised system will have to offer.

*I should note that, in contrast to Paramount/CBS' "Starfleet", ADB has it as "Star Fleet", due to the particular licences which they operate under. (Indeed, as shown in sourcebooks like Prime Directive Federation, ADB's Star Fleet works quite differently to much of what is shown in later Franchise material for the on-screen Starfleet.)
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Keith Anderson
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I enjoy Federation Commander and it is my current favorite...with some changes to address the 'creaky' characteristics. It just felt like the design did not step quite far enough away from SFB especially in the use of sub-pulse movement (slow and no firing during most of them anyway) and damage allocation (faster than SFB but still slow and cumbersome).

Some threads that may be of interest follow. The first is one I posted and still use to streamline the sub-pulse movement and damage allocation. I do have a matching color coded damage allocation sheet I'd be glad to geek mail if you are interested. It really speeds things up considerably.

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/882468/fast-play-federation-...

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/400129/sfb-versus-fc
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Ruben Rigillo
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AngryStarAnarchy wrote:
No, not really. It's a streamlined war game, but a war game none the less. If you want a thematic game or a euro this isn't it. I don't see this in the same genre as Attack Wing. Sure, same theme, but Attack Wing is like checkers to this games chess.


Art is absolutely right!
Wargames implies some sort of "complexity", and nowadays, due to lack of time, concentration and other, this "complexity" looks like no more affordable to many gamers.
It's not the first time I read about requests of old wargames reprints in order to have them more "streamlined".
As Godeke said wargames need to be understood, and once we are able to do it, they usually go very smoothly.
This doesn't mean of course you are forced to like "complex" wargames but we should give them some more tries....if we like their theme!
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Michael Ptak
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Some of the features of the game look pretty interesting, but still mired in older wargame conventions where easier alternatives are available and have more in common with modern games.

For instance a deck directing damage instead of a chart could be used. The Ship Status Display chart and damage allocation on it is still pretty attractive, and workable using damage tokens instead of a throwaway sheet or needed lamination.

Energy allocation is still pretty straightforward. For myself, I'd wish cards could be present for each weapons system. Then I have everything at a glance, can tilt the card after firing to show it's been spent, and it's a place to put energy when charging the weapon.

I don't like complicated tables but these don't seem that bad. I'm familiar with target numbers and phasers are easy enough to reference.

I think the biggest "issue" I have with the system as I see it is the excessive impulses. 8 phases is good enough for movement, but those sub-pulses seem a bit much. Saying "you move this many hexes in an impulse" seems good enough for me, though I'm also moved to abandon hex charts in favor of using the tabletop rules. The movement guides and distances seem familiar enough coming from an X-Wing/Attack wing background to be more useful than negotiating how exactly a ship can move on a hex field. The rules don't seem as clear as I'd like on how to use this though.

I think my buddy and I are interested in single-ship duels we can resolve quickly. For me, I like the "weight" of the system of tracking a capital ship, managing power, and taking care of it's weapons. But I want the game to move fast, and I don't see fleets going beyond 3 ships honestly.
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Norsehound wrote:
For instance a deck directing damage instead of a chart could be used. The Ship Status Display chart and damage allocation on it is still pretty attractive, and workable using damage tokens instead of a throwaway sheet or needed lamination.


How do you correlate the area of the ship hit with a reasonable damage effect when using a random deck? Because that also removes the strategy of maneuvering to hit fragile exposed systems.

While you might not care of for that extra level of detail but it is more or less required in a war game.

I guess my point is that FedCom is not creaky at all: it is a rather elegant modern wargame. However, wargames might not be to you or your friends tastes, which is fine. War-themed thematic games like Attack Wing may scratch that itch perfectly.
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Gabriel Conroy
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I think FC is a good game but I agree with the OP that it didn't move forwards enough from SFB. Multiple sub-impulses and fractional energy points are the major flaws for me: the book-keeping and turn order tracking drags games out unnecessarily. Whereas Star Trek Attack Wing is far too simplistic for single ship duels (and still manages to be quite fiddly when you consider all the special rules introduced by cards), it does move more quickly as a game, and that gets it played a lot more.

I don't agree that FC is an 'elegant modern wargame'. It's a fun system but one which is still rooted in design expectations of the 1970s. There have been some clever ideas since then, including the use of cards, interesting dice mechanics and even custom dice, to handle things that used to have to be laboriously tracked by hand or looked up in tables. I imagine with a few changes in mechanics and components it would be possible to come up with a further evolution of the FC system - one which keeps the important elements of the game like power management and maneuvering, but plays in half the time.
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Michael Ptak
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If I'm recalling the damage table right, you just roll 1D6 and the follow that result going right and damaging each system for each point of damage. A card deck would be pretty much the same with perhaps three tiers of damage allocation which may be dependent upon something like target-to-aspect or conditional like burn through damage. Its simpler to use to allocate hull damage after going through shields, because it eliminates the extra step of consulting after rolls. And it should be just as random as the chart is anyway.

It feels like a wasted opportunity that fedcom did not adopt these newer mechanics to make a Star Fleet Universe game more accessible. But it's not a stretch to believe svc's only objective was to strip an old game of complicated rules, which leads us to this predicament since its a reimplementation, not a redesign from the ground up.
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I don't know the SFB card resolution system since I never played. I only started playing space ship battles with systems integrate with RPGs so I don't know what design elements were altered to enable table based damage allocation but I suspect there must have been weighting changes.

Norsehound wrote:
If I'm recalling the damage table right, you just roll 1D6 and the follow that result going right and damaging each system for each point of damage. A card deck would be pretty much the same with perhaps three tiers of damage allocation which may be dependent upon something like target-to-aspect or conditional like burn through damage. Its simpler to use to allocate hull damage after going through shields, because it eliminates the extra step of consulting after rolls. And it should be just as random as the chart is anyway.


Under your proposal all I can see happening is replacing a single die roll for each burn through volley (not each attack) no matter its size with a card for each point of burn through damage. If somehow you get a huge attack (generally because you're stupidly close to an enemy) then you're turning over 4 or 5 or 20 cards. I don't see how it's simpler to consult multiple cards than it is to consult a single row or two of one table after one die roll.

Randomness of a card deck may be too great. The roll is only 6 results with the table being heavily weighted towards particular types of damage with other types of damage only possible on high damage attacks or once heavy damage has been suffered (name bridge hits and frame hits). If you take first/second row damage you see 33%/50% of the 'low' damage (1 - 3) hit spaces are power but only 27%/33% of the total hit spaces are power damage. Multiple low damage hits are going to sap power faster and eliminate weapons faster (28%/22% versus 8%/13%) than a few higher damage hits.

It may be possible to use cards for this but I don't see how it would be done simply while retaining the low versus high damage weightings, especially how it would more simple than one die roll. Maybe it's not desirable to retaining the weightings, but I don't know.

While you might want to fire all weapons to get a large hit it may be more effective to save power and do less damage this impulse, risking the target moving out of position but gaining a substantially larger likelihood that any damage done reduces the targets damage and power potential in a predictable way that simply seems less likely with cards.
 
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Les Marshall
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You seem to want Star Trek, individual ship commands and streamlined play.

I take great umbrage with whoever described SFB and/or Fed Comm as "clunky". SFB was, in fact, a very detailed imagination of a space combat system in which players decisions were rewarded to a very granular scale. Sure, the rulebook began to look like an old fashioned phone book, (a trait shared by Advanced Squad Leader) but, no other game allowed players to have a ship to ship duel with so many meaningful decision points. Experienced tournament players were quite capable of concluding such a duel in 2 hours.

Where you are dead on is about todays mass market. The advent of both computer games and Euro games has reduced the interest and patience in many to take the time to learn and play such games. There are still a fantastic array of war-games in publication but, a relatively small (but dedicated) share of the gaming market participates.

Fed. Comm. was designed with the intent to provide a lighter rule system and a faster game. It succeeded IMO in spades. You can buy Klingon Border which has a very small rule book compared to SFB and play a duel or small fleet action in much less time than a similar game of SFB. There are three main changes that allow this including; the virtual absence of energy allocation, streamlined damage allocation chart and the reduction of impulse decision points from 32 to 8.

Having said all this, you are quite correct that Fed. Comm., though streamlined is still rather much for the average attention span of today's board gamer. If you buy into this game you must understand that relatively fewer people will take up the gauntlet with you. Of course the same can be said of Opera versus network television and you must judge what experiences YOU want to have.

If Fed. Comm., let alone SFB, scares you off and Attack Wing feels too thin (which it certainly is for duels) then you should strongly consider the other miniature systems available. Piggybacking on some of the comments above, I have tried both Starmada and A Call to Arms: Star Fleet. While I very much like Starmada, it is my opinion that A Call to Arms does a better job of capturing the nature of SFB. ACTA:SF version 1.2 will be released soon. It plays quickly, rewards maneuver decisions and has chrome in the form of race based weapons and crew based actions.

Whatever you decide, hope you enjoy the ride
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Scott Johnson
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Harumph! I pegged you as an umbrage-taker!
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With respect, I don't think it's fair to dismiss the critics here as lacking in attention span. I could equally well argue that people defending FC are unable to appreciate good game design. Neither are true.

There are some valid points about the opportunity which was missed with FC. Attack Wing has shown there is a decent market for a Trek-based starship combat game. A read through the AW forums shows that it's not all driven by later Trek versions - many players are interested in using TOS era ships. Similarly, many AW players want more detail such as shield facings and more thematic torpedo rules. Drawing on its SFB heritage, FC could have been that game, if it had been much more accessible and streamlined.
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Les Marshall
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achates wrote:
With respect, I don't think it's fair to dismiss the critics here as lacking in attention span. I could equally well argue that people defending FC are unable to appreciate good game design. Neither are true.

There are some valid points about the opportunity which was missed with FC. Attack Wing has shown there is a decent market for a Trek-based starship combat game. A read through the AW forums shows that it's not all driven by later Trek versions - many players are interested in using TOS era ships. Similarly, many AW players want more detail such as shield facings and more thematic torpedo rules. Drawing on its SFB heritage, FC could have been that game, if it had been much more accessible and streamlined.


Not dismissing critics at all. It's just that SFB and Fed. Comm. serve a different part of the market than does ST:AW. It is undoubtedly true that the majority of the gaming market wants simpler, faster, prettier games to play. Such games are easier to teach, can be completed in a short sitting, and generally more appealing to younger gamers and families.

Nevertheless, there is an active market for more complex games with designs that more often serve function over aesthetics. There is a subset of gamers who want a more "simulation" type experience and are willing to consume a larger, more complicated rulebook and a longer playtime. Neither one of these paradigms necessarily has implications for "good game design".

Where I really disagree with you is about FC "missing the mark". It was not intended to reach the same mass market as ST:AW or X-Wing. Neither was it intended to be a "new" game design from the ground up. FC was designed to take the body of work from SFB developed over 30 years and make it a more accessible version. Virtually all the the same ships and scenarios from SFB playable in a more compressed time frame and with a more accessible rule book.

Without a doubt there is a market for a game between FC and ST:AW. Some recent mini's games discussed above serve nicely. However, given the licensing limits of ADB, I'm not sure they should be the designer of a mass market game at that level as they cannot capture any of the motion pictures or subsequent television series as source material.
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I love this game. It is my top choice if and when I can find an opponent. Nothing comes close to capture the Trek naval combat style from the series and movies.

I believe the problem is not related to the design. The problem is the attitude of the company towards modern trends in gaming and the current concept of community support.

Here are a few examples of changes that would make the game more appealing to a broader audience without any changes to design or main mechanics:

- Enhanced components. Some could be for luxury. Some are simply a necessity, like a decent set of movement templates for the tabletop rules (the only available are print out black and white paper templates).

- Support to free, open source , virtual tabletop environments like Vassal or Roll20.

- Acceptance of user created content, rules variations, alternate settings, etc.

- Playaid app to expedite play and roll / table resolution.

These are just a few. I really would like to see this game take off and reach the audience it deserves.
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Greg Maynard
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You are right that all these things could expand the audience. From my reading however it seems that all of them have been considered at one point or another by ADB.

- Enhanced components. They attempted to do this to some extent with Federation Commander although not to the extent many people wished. Probably the main reason is that they have made a conscious choice to use local (i.e. US) manufacturers to support local economy. Most of the high quality components seen in other games are manufactured in places with cheap labour like China.

- Vassal etc. I'm not sure why they take the stance they do about this but they do support an online version which has a free trial and a minimal cost. www.sfbonline.com There is a Vassal version of Federation and Empire.

- User created content. They have been badly burnt in the past by others producing content that didn't work well and turned people away from the game. Perhaps more importantly their license from Paramount has strict limits and REQUIRES them to curtail anyone outside themselves producing unlicensed material for use with their games. Not the best situation but it does allow them to continue publishing and developing and they actively seek player input, just that they have to have the last word or they could lose their license.

- There is an app to handle damage allocation. http://appcrawlr.com/ios/sfb-dac Others have been considered and may be possible but again they have to be careful about license restrictions.

I could be wrong about some of the above but this is what I have heard over the many years this game has been around. I know that to some people ADB comes across as very restrictive and arrogant but this is not their intent, rather largely a result of their restrictive (but perpetual) license and the small size of the company (6 employees, 2 p/t). They welcome input and have very active discussion boards but have to be careful about what they do.
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Michael Ptak
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Rulesjd wrote:
You seem to want Star Trek, individual ship commands and streamlined play.

I take great umbrage with whoever described SFB and/or Fed Comm as "clunky". SFB was, in fact, a very detailed imagination of a space combat system in which players decisions were rewarded to a very granular scale. Sure, the rulebook began to look like an old fashioned phone book, (a trait shared by Advanced Squad Leader) but, no other game allowed players to have a ship to ship duel with so many meaningful decision points. Experienced tournament players were quite capable of concluding such a duel in 2 hours.

Where you are dead on is about todays mass market. The advent of both computer games and Euro games has reduced the interest and patience in many to take the time to learn and play such games. There are still a fantastic array of war-games in publication but, a relatively small (but dedicated) share of the gaming market participates.

Fed. Comm. was designed with the intent to provide a lighter rule system and a faster game. It succeeded IMO in spades. You can buy Klingon Border which has a very small rule book compared to SFB and play a duel or small fleet action in much less time than a similar game of SFB. There are three main changes that allow this including; the virtual absence of energy allocation, streamlined damage allocation chart and the reduction of impulse decision points from 32 to 8.

Having said all this, you are quite correct that Fed. Comm., though streamlined is still rather much for the average attention span of today's board gamer. If you buy into this game you must understand that relatively fewer people will take up the gauntlet with you. Of course the same can be said of Opera versus network television and you must judge what experiences YOU want to have.

If Fed. Comm., let alone SFB, scares you off and Attack Wing feels too thin (which it certainly is for duels) then you should strongly consider the other miniature systems available. Piggybacking on some of the comments above, I have tried both Starmada and A Call to Arms: Star Fleet. While I very much like Starmada, it is my opinion that A Call to Arms does a better job of capturing the nature of SFB. ACTA:SF version 1.2 will be released soon. It plays quickly, rewards maneuver decisions and has chrome in the form of race based weapons and crew based actions.

Whatever you decide, hope you enjoy the ride


But the game still uses a nested turn structure that can take a lot of time when you compound it together. Sure, speeds moved from 32 to 8, but there's still the one-hex-movement per sub-pulse and even the tracking of sub-pulses and full turns. This is well and good for detailed simulations but if FC was trying to reach out to a more casual audience I don't think it succeeded. It became easier to play for SFB fans and perhaps a few others, but those approaching it from Wings of War, X-Wing, Sails of Glory? will find it tedious.

I played battletech recently and had some similar problems as a matter of fact, with varying checks on compounding modifiers, to check to see if critical damage was dealt, assigned critical damage, and determining which subsystem was hit and rolling for other effects. I had the same urge I did with poking at FC: that is to try streamlining the game to keep the desired detail but without as much procedure into everything you wanted to do.

SFB made by engineers make sense. I won't doubt that SFB/FC works well for players who enjoy the procedure and the structure into simulation games like this, but I don't think much of the audience out there is. As I say, for myself I can't help but imagine streamlined components for this game to cut down on procedure (like a damage deck). I think it is possible to have the same amount of detail but with less book consulting and administrative work.
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Art Bugorski
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Norsehound wrote:
As I say, for myself I can't help but imagine streamlined components for this game to cut down on procedure (like a damage deck). I think it is possible to have the same amount of detail but with less book consulting and administrative work.


This isn't really possible: you cannot remove procedure and not lose detail. For example, with a damage deck, you can have a "hit the cockpit" critical, when you are firing in the rear arc. You've lost the detail of "how exactly did I hit the cockpit, any nothing else??? Bit of the story. Also, you can' maneuver to aim at a specific part of a ship to cause a particular type of damage. This is actually a big part of Battletech. Also with a generic damage deck you cannot have some models more prone to a certain type of damage (eg better protection for the pilot, but at the cost of exposing the engines more). So streamlining always sacrifices details. Now, you can paste on the same details, but without a solid lead up to it, it feels kind of hollow.

Now of course some people want that. Some people want to watch a highlight reel of just knockout punches, and some people want to see the fight develop and the tactics used. Different markets, different niches.
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AngryStarAnarchy wrote:

This isn't really possible: you cannot remove procedure and not lose detail. For example, with a damage deck, you can have a "hit the cockpit" critical, when you are firing in the rear arc. You've lost the detail of "how exactly did I hit the cockpit, any nothing else??? ...


This is why I love the old high detail games. While I can enjoy a rules-light game, they constantly present situations where it is obvious that firing opportunities and other situation existed in the time "between" the turns and that is source of frustration.

SFB/FedCom impulse based movement seems tedious, until you learn the rhythms of it and can use it smoothly. That was why I emphasized in my earlier post the importance of *learning* the system and a few play aids we use.

A rules light game is like a potato chip: I can enjoy it, but it is as rich as deep as a fried potato with salt can be. Maybe you season it to make it a bit more interesting, but it will *never* be as interesting as a full meal with diverse choices. SFB/FedCom are meals. Sadly, most of gaming seems to be heading to fast food and potato chips.
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Michael Ptak
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So... a damage deck that assigns damage based on the aspect of where the damage came from. Front? Photons. Sides? Hull. Rear? Shuttledeck. One damage card with three results. It could be that each ship has its own damage deck if one universal deck can't cover everything or, as you say, you want to create a ship that responds to damage differently.

That gives you some of the detail of assigning specific damage based on aspect without taking the time to dig out a table, cross-reference your results with it, and then read off one damage point at a time to your opponent. You have the answers at a glance with one card dealt.

And I don't see how this hypothetical deck would be different from the damage chart. You still have to go through the shields before assigning the critical system hit. For anything that hits those critical systems first, like the bridge? There have been lucky hits in Star Trek before. Just talk to Kruge's gunner.

But when it comes down to it I think the biggest disagreement I have with this system compared to modern games is still the turn structure. Damage tables can work, so can the weapon tables and FC's energy allocation is quite workable. But I'd wish for a smoother system for moving my ships and governing when I can fire. Impulse-sub-pulse is tedious. I don't want or care for a level of starship battler at that slow of a pace. That's what Starfleet Battles is for.
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