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Subject: Getting started -- suggestions needed rss

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MSV Burns
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Hello BGGers,

I have to confess, I purchased Battlestations mostly because it looks cool and it appeals to my (growing) appetite for nostalgia, but knowing full well that I may never get a chance to play it.

However, if I throw my weight around a bit, if I beg, wheedle and cajole and if I cash in all my gaming/political capital, I should be able to force the issue and get it to the table ONCE.

So if I want any chance of multiple plays, I better do a good job as referee. With that in mind, I've a couple questions for the more experienced.

1. Of the missions in the book, which to start with? I see that 'Boot Camp' is suggested, but it doesn't seem all that 'sexy'. What other missions seem like they'd be good for a first time, but with a little more oomph than Boot Camp? None of the complexity-1 missions look that intriguing. (I'm planning on running through Boot Camp solo to get a handle on things, btw)

2. I'm considering giving the players slightly accelerated characters to start off, perhaps just rank 2, or maybe even 3 or a blend. It always seems a little more fun when you can *do* things, but I don't want to go overboard. Any thoughts?

3. Hit points. It doesn't seem like you get very many of them, compared to the amount of damage weapons do. I presume this comes out in the wash of gameplay, but it seems like one-shot kills could be a problem.

4. Anything else you can think of to make this a 'success'. There will be three players in the crew. One will be fairly enthusiastic about new games, role-playing and nerdishness. One will be in the middle, and will (hopefully) warm up to the system as we start having laughs. The third one will be lukewarm at best, and mostly being a 'good sport' by playing along.

Thanks in advance! robot robot robot
 
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JC Connors
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Marqos wrote:


1. Of the missions in the book, which to start with? I see that 'Boot Camp' is suggested, but it doesn't seem all that 'sexy'. What other missions seem like they'd be good for a first time, but with a little more oomph than Boot Camp? None of the complexity-1 missions look that intriguing. (I'm planning on running through Boot Camp solo to get a handle on things, btw)


Actually, Boot Camp is a great mission to start off with. It has a nice Star Trek feel, lots of things for characters to do, and requires players to be inventive and fast-moving to finish it. I've played it twice with new players and each time they all enjoyed it. You're right -- the other low complexity missions aren't as interesting or varied (at least until you get into the expansion missions, which are way better). Also, Boot Camp gives players a solid understanding of the mechanics, and if you can referee it, then you can referee just about anything. The only downside to Boot Camp is that it can be long - 3 to 4 hours.

Marqos wrote:

2. I'm considering giving the players slightly accelerated characters to start off, perhaps just rank 2, or maybe even 3 or a blend. It always seems a little more fun when you can *do* things, but I don't want to go overboard. Any thoughts?


I dunno, starting characters worked fine for me. In fact, for both groups of new players, I simplified things for them so we could get started right away (both groups were RPG'ers, so I knew they'd spend forever looking at all the abilities unless I helped them out!). I gave them all human characters with a choice of one of 2 starting special abilities. It worked great.

Marqos wrote:

3. Hit points. It doesn't seem like you get very many of them, compared to the amount of damage weapons do. I presume this comes out in the wash of gameplay, but it seems like one-shot kills could be a problem.

If you've got a Scientist, characters can recover pretty quickly. I haven't had a problem with the earlier scenarios with insta-kills (in fact, though I've had some people knocked out, I've never had anyone die). It all depends what the NPCs are armed with, I suppose.

Marqos wrote:

4. Anything else you can think of to make this a 'success'. There will be three players in the crew. One will be fairly enthusiastic about new games, role-playing and nerdishness. One will be in the middle, and will (hopefully) warm up to the system as we start having laughs. The third one will be lukewarm at best, and mostly being a 'good sport' by playing along.


Keep it moving fast! Like an RPG, Battlestations works best if the GM is flexible and quick on his feet. Also, print out some of the quick reference material on BGG for the players. Since the book is fairly big and the information is spread out unevenly, the game can grind to a halt with inexperienced players unless you help them out. Recommend them actions to take, but don't overwhelm them with every single action and special ability.

Also, I picked up a pack of Star Wars miniatures to use instead of the standup counters. This works GREAT and instantly made my players enjoy the game more since they're spoiled by fancier Eurogames these days. If you've got some extra money to spend, I'd highly recommend this.

Good luck -- Battlestations is a great hybrid game, and I think you'll enjoy it.
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MSV Burns
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Hey, thanks for the thoughtful, meaty response. I think you covered it so well, nobody else needed to say much, heh.

The miniatures idea is pretty cool too -- just what I need, an excuse to plow more money into this hobby. And I've spent all that time scoring, cutting and folding the pieces that come with it!
 
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Uwe A. Redjac
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Marqos wrote:
1. Of the missions in the book, which to start with? I see that 'Boot Camp' is suggested, but it doesn't seem all that 'sexy'. What other missions seem like they'd be good for a first time, but with a little more oomph than Boot Camp? None of the complexity-1 missions look that intriguing. (I'm planning on running through Boot Camp solo to get a handle on things, btw):


I suggest you use a mission WITHOUT an enemy crew to run the first time. Why? Because it will slow down the game. You would need to coordinate a whole crew as the referee and this takes more time like something in the style of BOOT CAMP, where you only carry out things like Missile launches and push two Robots around. Less (work) is more (fun) here because you can run the mission faster and downtime for the players is less.

Have a look at Missions like WORMHOLED, PENTAQUARKS, SETI or of course BOOT CAMP for missions easy to run.

Do yourself also the favour and have prefabricated characters instead of wasting time with the players picking races, professions, skills and abilities themselves (without actually knowing anything about the game). Then explain to them the races, abilities and equipment which they HAVE (instead of everything they could possibly choose from).

If they like BS after the first game, then you can be lenient later on and allow them to readjust their heroes before the next mission to suit their personal tastes better.

Marqos wrote:
2. I'm considering giving the players slightly accelerated characters to start off, perhaps just rank 2, or maybe even 3 or a blend. It always seems a little more fun when you can *do* things, but I don't want to go overboard. Any thoughts):


Unnecessary. Players can do enough on rank 1 already. Higher rank also cranks up MD. For an introdutory game, less is again more here.

Furthermore: BS also lives by its limitations. I.e. by things it does NOT allow to do and thus making it a challenge to deal with problems.

Marqos wrote:
3. Hit points. It doesn't seem like you get very many of them, compared to the amount of damage weapons do. I presume this comes out in the wash of gameplay, but it seems like one-shot kills could be a problem.


Not the case. Characters only get knocked out when down to 0 HP. Dying only happens on -5 HP.

Furthermore, healing has characters back pretty fast (barring they dropped to -5 HP of course).

Marqos wrote:
4. Anything else you can think of to make this a 'success'. There will be three players in the crew. One will be fairly enthusiastic about new games, role-playing and nerdishness. One will be in the middle, and will (hopefully) warm up to the system as we start having laughs. The third one will be lukewarm at best, and mostly being a 'good sport' by playing along.


Besides the above (choose a mission easy to run) I'd also suggest you go to the yahoo newsgroup for BS and check out if there is anything useful for you. Their files section has character pads for instance or other nice stuff.

Next: make sure the players cooperate. There is not much room for Divas, especially in the long run. It starts with picking the Characters and Professions. If everyone insists on playing a Marine (or Pilot or whatever) and other professions remain vacant the crew will suffer. I suggest the Crew to have one Hero of every profession.

Which leads to the next advice: make the crew have 4 Heroes if you hope to run BS in the long run. Bots are no substitute for characters, they are just good as an addition. In a one-off game at low MD they may suffice, but in the long run one hero of every profession is better. What you could do is ditch the guy who is reluctant anyhow and let the other two guys play two heroes each. The third guy still can join later if the first two have been won over.

Which leads to the next advice: instead of cajoling players into this, I suggest you try to reach out and get into contact with people who are open to the game to begin with. Run a game at a game store if you can to get more exposure and attract new players into your crew.
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Jeff Siadek
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These guys have given some fine advice. I'll throw in my own 2 credits worth.

For mission choice, I'd reccomend "Bad Apple Shakedown Cruise" as the sexiest simple mission. You get boarding and ship to ship action without too much complexity. For a much simpler mission, try "First Contact."

I'd warn against starting with higher ranked characters. In Battlestations, there are plenty of options that aren't rank dependent. Higher ranked characters have more chrome that is difficult to explain. When I run the game at conventions, I always bring pregenerated characters but accept other characters. If a player is interested and arrives early enough I help him build a character. I think the game is best with each player running a single character because it feels more visceral. "I just got hit for 7 points" is more personal than "My Engineer just got hit for 7 points."

Hit Points are not a problem. "Luck" will eliminate instakills until late in the game when it is exciting and heroic. Make sure they have a Scientist or a Science Bot to heal damaged characters.

For beginners, I usually knock the MD down by one. There are some subtle tactics that aren't obvious to the beginner such as power management and having the pilot act last. I like to let the players figure these out for themselves.

Keep the action moving! If you don't know a rule offhand, guess (the rules tend to be fairly intuitive) and look up the official rule after the game.

Good Luck!

Jeff Siadek
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Ramon Zarate
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I agree with everyone, but I wanted to stress on bootcamp as a first mission, it's really intense and will get your players into it very quickly.

And I had a very cool situation where the ship was out of control and was on a fly by trajectory through the objective ship, the scientist teleported everyone into the objective ship as they flew close by and then rushed for the pilot who eas knoecked out at the helm and quickly escaped with him as the ship was moving further away from the targe (which makes teleporting more dangerous)... then a missile hit the ship right after the whole tripulation had escaped which destroyed the ship, then the explosion destroyed the final two missile launchers so everyone was safe.

After that play, we played Battlestation like maniacs.

Another mission I love is the one were you have to turn in some prisioners who hijacked a ship... maybe that is in the expansion?

Finally, I would suggest you dare to improvise in favor of gameplay, as you get the hang of it, you will need to "improvise" less (and by improvise I mean not even paying attention to the die rolls you need).
 
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MSV Burns
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Wow! Excellent, excellent suggestions one and all, and ones I look forward to implementing. These thoughtful responses are very, very much appreciated.

This game looks pretty bloody fun -- I may have to take Uwe Reuter's advice and find some new friends just to play it with, if I can't seduce the regulars! goo
 
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