Saturday, May 4, 2013

G&G VIII - Operation: Shell Game

Once again we have convened for the 8th annual Gaming & Guiness, and for the first time, we are playing miniatures outside the Warhammer 40,000 universe. It is a lot easier to get initiates to jump in when they only have to buy and paint a single ship, and Mongoose's Call to Arms: Star Fleet Battles accomplishes this fairly adroitly.

Most miniature games are designed as two-player affairs, with each commander responsible for selecting and commanding an army, warband or fleet. In most instances it is a simple matter to adapt this paradigm to a multi-player context, with each player controlling a single element; in this case, either an Enterprise-like Constitution class heavy cruiser or their classic nemesis classic D7 Klingon battlecruiser.

Earl and I already have our own fleets, and I painted up some ships for the out of towners, but Mike T. and Pete painted up their own in a single afternoon at my place, and the results were very good.

We ended up with a 4 on 4 battle that Earl and I designed our own scenario for entitled "Operation: Shell Game". Most of these sorts of games work better or are more memorable if there is some sort of narrative involved, so we decided to have the Klingons escorting 4 small, neutrally flagged freighters across the board. The premise was that one of the ships would contain illegal weapons the UFP needed to destroy, and another would be holding hostages they would need to rescue. Although the Federation is at war with the Klingons, they could not directly attack the freighters since they were technically non-combatants.

In order to determine the contents of a freighter, a Federation ship would need to get within six inches of it and roll as many dice as their Labs characteristic (8) and meet a total of 29, meaning that they should only need 1-2 turns of scanning to accomplish this.

I had the basic premise in my head weeks ago, but getting the points and victory conditions figured outwas a real team effort. The rewards for finding and retrieving the hostages had to be great enough that the Starfleet players didn't simply ignore them and try to win by simply eliminating the hostiles. The punishment for their accidentally destroying the ship with the hostages had to be severe as well, so we agreed that this would be a total loss for the Federation.

Scott's USS Intrepid leapt across the board at the Klingon right flank and unleashed a volley of photon torpedoes at Island Mike's IKV Black Dog; he returned fire with his disruptors and battle was joined. It only took a couple of turns for everyone to get into a fairly substantive knife fight near the centre of the table, which suited us Klingons just fine, since that was where the decoys were.

The Intrepid's impetuousness paid off, when they identified the merchant vessel Blood Eagle as containing the metaphasic weapons, and then destroyed it with concentrated short-range fire shortly after that. Meanwhile, on the other flank, the freighter Crimson Dagger slipped away unscathed with it's cargo of hostages bound for a 're-education facility' deep within the Klingon Empire.

In the end, that escape allowed the Klingons to eke out a narrow victory, since the P'Tahk and Black Dog were lost with all hands, and the First Blood was a crippled hulk by the time the smoke cleared. My own vessel, IKV Vengeance, came away relatively unscathed, but more importantly, took out Rob's shieldless USS Poltava with with a volley that included a staggering and unprecedented six critical hits.

The Federation did manage to interdict the Klingon WMDs (with the sensor logs to prove it), but at significant cost, namely the total loss of both the Poltava and the Hood (as well as a shipload of hostages).

Most importantly, for a homegrown scenario designed by a bunch of rookies, we had equal portions of fun and tension for the duration. And none of the models got broken, which was also very gratifying.

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