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D. Patton
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Myrtle Creek
Oregon
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Knight Hawks was the spaceship boardgame expansion for the Star Frontiers RPG published by TSR back in the early 1980s. KH expanded role-playing elements of the RPG and also contained a playable space combat boardgame.

The game's contents are two rulebooks, a large hex-map, counters to represent starships, planets and other icons in the game, a module/scenario booklet and ten-sided dice. The first, thinner rulebook is dedicated completely to the boardgame. The campaign rulebook has information on playing a strategic level, multi-star-system campaign and a few additions to the boardgame; the campaign book's primary purpose, however, is to expand the RPG.

The game represents combat between the good guys, a United Planetary Federation (UPF--cute, huh?) and an oppressive evil empire of worm-like beings called the Sathar. The game's counters present ships for both forces ranging from the lowly fighter and civilian freighters all the way up to the titanic battleships. A few pirate ships and unknown alien counters are also provided if the players decide they want to build scenarios around those types of forces.

It's interesting to also note that both sides forces are identical stat-wise. That is a UPF battleship's weapons, armor, engines, etc. are identical to a Sathar battleship's loadout. This simplifies play balance but may make some players wish for more characteristic ship types or capabilities. One thing I have noticed is that the two forces (in scenarios) tend to rely on different ship classes. This helps personalize the forces a little more without distubring game balance.

The game is percentile dice based (as was the RPG) and allows for a wide range of possibilities for ship damage and a large spectrum of gunnery skills. The game is broken down into the basic game and the advanced game. The advanced game differs in adding more weapons and defenses for the ships and in providing a new turn phase, the repair phase, every third turn.

KH is somewhat unique in that when it's your turn, your opponent can intervene in certain cases. For example, if you move your ships within range of your enemy's ships during your turn, he gets to fire at you BEFORE you get to engage him. You get to do the same on his turn though so it's balanced.

During repair turns, each ship may attempt to allocate its limited damage control teams to repair damaged systems or the ship's hull. Players allocate a ships DCR rating (30 - 120%) to repair attempts.

Let's say you want to make sure you get your engine back on line and your ship has a DCR of 120. You can allocate, say, 90 pts f your 120 total to the job. Roll the dice and if you roll 90 or lower, then the repair succeeds. That leaves you with 30 DCR points to allocate to other repairs. Alternately, you could have tried, say, 40 pts (40% chance of success) in hopes of having more points
for other repairs. DCR is a precious resource.

Combat is resolved on a combat table. Cross referencing the weapon fired with the target's defense gives you a chance of successfully hitting the target. This number is modified by range (lasers for example dissipate in intensity the farther they travel) and other factors such as evasion attempts, interceptor missiles fired to fool incoming ordnance, etc.

If a weapon successfully hits, a result on the damage table is looked up and applied to the target ship. Results can be mundane as loss of hull points (lose your hull points completely and the ship explodes), a combat control computer, or even a fire which caused damage until it's put out (by allocating DCR in a repair turn).

Movement is based on acceleration/deceleratio factors (ADF) and maneuever rating (MR) for each ship. MR tells you how many facing changes (one hex side) a ship can make in a turn. ADF tells you how many hexes a ship can speed up or slow down in a turn. There is no maximum speed in KH.

The scenarios provided in the boardgame rules, the scenario modules, later published modules and Dragon magazine articles helped expand the game somewhat. There is an OGRE analog mision for KH involving a Sathar Juggernaut intent on destroying a planet being defended by several smaller UPF ships. New ship types such as privateers and private yachts, additional weapon upgrades and expanded rules for playing the game with miniatures were also introduced in gaming magazine articles.

Overall, KH is a decent little hex-map counter game. It's well worth the usual $10-20 secondhand price it usually takes to catch a set. I have also heard that TSR (pre-WOTC) authorized it to be made available for free download on one of the Star Frontiers fan sites.





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Robert Gamble
United States
Plymouth
Massachusetts
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There are some really nice elements to this game. I had it when I was much younger, and recently picked it up again. It's certainly possible to differentiate sides by focusing on different mixes of the base ships, but if I remember (at work so I can't check), the ship classes (Destroyer, etc) aren't completely homogenous (they can have different weaponry for instance). Plus, the bigger book has a ship construction system if I recall.

The game itself still hits a sweet spot for me. I played it a few months ago, and while I think there was something odd about the way movement and fire interacted (it was implied that ships could choose to fire on an enemy at any point in their move - but the rules were vague on the subject), I really like both the movement and (particularly) damage subsystems.
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Anders Gabrielsson
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Uppsala
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I've had this laying around for well over a decade after picking it up on a whim at a con auction, mostly because we played the RPG (which is in the same pile on top of my RPG bookcase) when I was a kid. I should take another look at it.
 
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Forrest & Ryan Driskel
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Longmont
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Hi! I just picked up a copy of this second hand and I am wondering when would be a good time to sit down for this one.

How long does it take to play?
 
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