Last night I had the opportunity to run Space Combat in my Star Trek Adventures game. I was running the scenario A Vulture Among the Stars by Fred Love that was in Issue 2 of Modiphia. Combat called for a single Ferengi Marauder against my player’s Intrepid Class ship.
I had 4 players at the table that night so that meant it was 4 crew turns against the 5 of the Marauder (it’s scale) a round. This is where I come to my first recommendation in running space battles. Since the Initiative is ‘popcorn-like,’ jumping from one side to the next unless momentum/threat is spent, I recommend having markers for each player and each enemy initiative slot. Something you can flip over to denote that person/slot has acted this round. I found a shorted the enemy an initiative or 2 because I forgot the players spent momentum to keep the initiative a time or two. Having a clear indication of who has and hasn’t gone each round would have helped. Especially when determination can be spent to take a second turn in the same round or the commanding officer can direct others.
Tip #2 versatile is going to generate the players momentum and you threat so go ahead and use both before you roll damage. Phasers have Versatile 2… meaning every Effect rolled grants you 2 Momentum/Threat. Due to the Momentum Limit, you might as well spend it before you roll damage to gain extra dice on the attack roll and extra damage. Be sure to leave 1 behind for a reroll of that damage dice if necessary.
One of the cool parts of the scenario is that it’s not just a pitched battle. The players had 4 lifeboats to worry about as well as a pending warp core breach on wrecked vessel. All of this put some urgency on the players and gave me great things to do with my threat tokens and complications rolled. So, try to have either a cool location with your fight with environmental hazards that add an unknown element or outside factors that the players need to worry about. It will add a lot.
One of the things that is mentioned in the book that I think really worked well to keep the feel of Star Trek, was not hiding what the enemy was doing. There wasn’t a PC sensor operator at my table last night, but every time I had the Marauder do something I had the Sensor Operator(me) say to the table “Captain they are moving into attack formation. Captain, it appears they’re recharging their shields. Captain, we are being scanned.” And so forth. It pulled the players from all the dice I was rolling back into their characters and to the scene.
There is a bit of bookkeeping in space combat. Power management will be a factor in longer engagements. It may be a good idea to have a visual representation of that rather than having to erase a number over and over. We used poker chips for Power it worked well. However, in this instance the combat went quickly it was over in 3 full rounds The Marauder fled the field after suffering 3 breaches.
Which brings me to my last point. Space combat is vicious. With good momentum spends you can easily Breach with just about every shot. The Marauder breached the Intrepid class vessel twice missing it’s third phaser blast altogether. While there was a bit of flipping through charts and descriptions to find out what each breach meant the end result was great. Describing the hit; the players shaking about in their chairs; the consoles sparking; my players really enjoyed it.
I do have to say hats off to Fred Love the writer of the scenario it worked quite well. Also, Captain Brasha became an instant favorite villain of my table. They wanted her to escape so she can be a reoccurring menace to them, and boy do I have plans. 😊