Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Enterprise Incident

STP

Star Trek Panic by Fireside Games & USAopoly

Stardate 5027.3: Captain James T. Kirk has ordered the crew of the USS Enterprise across the Neutral Zone and into Romulan space, his reasoning unclear. Eventually, the ship is surrounded by two Romulan Battle Cruisers and a single Romulan Bird of Prey, the flagship of this small fleet. Kirk and Commander Spock beam aboard the flagship to have a conversation with the Romulan Commander who happens to be a woman. Spock seemingly betrays Kirk, the latter having some sort of psychosis when he tries going through a force field which contains him inside a Romulan brig. Dr. McCoy arrives, checks out the captain and finds him mentally broken, discusses prognosis with Spock, Kirk snapping and calling Spock a traitor and attacks the Vulcan. Kirk receives a Vulcan Death Grip and dies. Bones takes Kirk’s body back to the Enterprise.

Meanwhile, Spock and the female Romulan commander make eyes at one another, a lot of fingertip to brow and cheek touching takes place, and the Romulan commander goes and changes into something less military and more loungewear-like. On the Enterprise, we learn, via a startled Nurse Chapel, that Kirk still lives and the subterfuge is revealed: It’s all been a plan to get a hold of a Romulan cloaking device. McCoy performs a little facial reconstruction on Kirk and turns him into a Romulan, and the captain beams back aboard the Bird of Prey, sneaks around, Kirk-fu’s a few Romulan security guards, steals the cloaking device and escapes. Spock’s dubiousness unfolds, and just as he’s about to meet the Romulan House of Pain, he gets a beam-out rescue once Chekov manages to isolate his DNA from his Romulan distant kin-folk. The Romulan commander throws herself on Spock as he’s dematerializing and ends up in the Enterprise transporter room with the Vulcan.

Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, charged with wiring the cloaking device to the starship, has a tough time, at first, Kirk bugging him about needing the device running yesterday, Scotty yelling, “I’ma doin’ the best I can!” The three Romulan vessels go to battlestations mode, Kirk demanding that Sulu “Get us out of here, warp factor nine!” A brief chase ensues, but finally the cloaking device kicks in and the Enterprise disappears and escapes back over into Federation space.

It’s an awesome episode from the third season of the Original Series.

It also happened to be the second mission we drew in our first game of Star Trek Panic. Needless to say, we weren’t as lucky as Captain Kirk and his legendary crew.

The latest game which utilizes the Castle Panic engine, this particular iteration is steeping with the Star Trek theme and is much more difficult than the original version. It’s a cooperative game, each player taking on the role of one of the characters from the Original Series. Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, Bones, Scotty, are all available, and each has a special ability which will help during crucial phases of a game turn.

Each player gets a turn which is divided into phases. First, you draw a number of cards until you reach the hand size limit based on the number of players. Cards can be useful items, phaser targets, specialty cards, and some of them have small insignia along the bottom of the card that denotes whether it is a command, science, medical or engineering card. More about that is a moment. Next, if necessary, you reveal a new mission.

Revealing a mission is simple: there are 18 missions available, each on a card which details the specifics of the mission and how it needs to be accomplished, including how many turns you must complete the mission within for success. There are different kinds of missions; for The Enterprise Incident, you need to manuever into short-range with a Romulan Bird of Prey, and commit four cards out of the players’ hands, two each of command and engineering–the latter use the cards with the appropriate insignia on them. So, a new mission is only drawn on the player’s turn if a mission is not currently underway. Also, to beat the game you need to complete five missions.

Third phase of a player turn allows for the trading of one card between the current player and another. Fourth phase is when the player uses the cards from his hand to either damage the enemy starships, or use them for the special ability they confer, or to commit towards mission victory. The player may use as many cards as they have in their hand, and in any order. Likewise, during this phase, the player may manuever the Enterprise one sector, right or left, on the board, or move forward towards some target. To replicate moving forward, all of the pieces in the two forward arcs are moved one range closer to the ship.

Fifth phase is where the player checks the mission status, and whether or not victory has been achieved or if a another turn on the mission turn board has been used. If the turn marker is moved to the zero spot before the mission is completed then the mission is a failure.

The sixth phase is where the game can get extremely nerve-wracking. This is the point when all of the Klingon, Romulan, or Tholian starships on the board move one range closer to the Enterprise. There are only three ranges, long, medium, and short. Then each enemy gets to fire, causing a minimum of one damage per hit. Your shields can only take two hits, as well as your hull. Ship damage can quickly become catastrophic if you cannot manage to destroy the enemy vessels during the fourth phase.

The seventh phase is when new threat tokens are drawn, two each player turn. The player draws them one at a time, and if it is an enemy starship a d6 is rolled to determine which arc the ship is placed within. The ship will always be placed in the long-range of that arc. Some of the threats are immediate, random events, like a comet or ion storm, whereas one of them is a starbase that offers the player help if they can get the Enterprise within short-range in order to dock.

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The USS Enterprise surrounded by Romulans in The Enterprise Incident.

What can happen quite quickly is the game escalates from a manageable combat situation, like that pictured above from the television episode, to something far, far worse. Every player adds two threat tokens to the board at the end of their turn. We had four players and, granted, not each token was an enemy starship, but they quickly added up.

We lost when our Enterprise took its sixth and final hull damage, the left warp nacelle blasted into oblivion by one of the nine enemy vessels surrounding the weakened Federation ship. There was no hope of repairing, we had lost maneuverability several player turns earlier, and still onward they came, Romulans, Klingons, and the pesky Tholians.

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Captain Kirk and I wore the same expression at some point during our Enterprise incidents.

Was the game fun? Yes, and no. I think it’s much more manageable with fewer players or, maybe, better skilled players. We played as a family. It was late when we started, and all of us are used to the semi-casual nature of Castle Panic. However, I believe we were just starting to get the rhythm down when all hell broke loose and our ship was overwhelmed.

Still, it wouldn’t be a Panic game if it weren’t overwhelming at some point. And it certainly was, but in a good way. There’s a lot of fun, even in defeat.

Live long and prosper.

*****

Star Trek: The Original Series pictures used are copyright CBS.

Charlie Don’t Surf! Or Climb Everest.

Happy Sunday everyone. Hopefully, you tossed a few dice, checked results on a CRT, and played the right OPS card at the right time. Speaking of which, I’d like to thank the folks over at the various wargame-centric Facebook pages for taking a look herein, and also for answering my question regarding LNL’s Rommel at Gazala CRT results! The answer is rather obvious…now that it was suggested. Thanks, again!

So, this is a continuation of brief descriptions/AARs/musings over the remaining two games I played in the last week. Both were solo affairs, and in the end I liked one a lot more than the other. Let’s go!

*****

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Decision Games’ Khe Sanh ’68

Always searching for a great solo ‘Nam game, I picked up this title and had high hopes for it.

With Khe Sanh ’68 by Decision Games we have a small format game which uses a point-to-point movement system, is somewhat card-driven, and is entirely a solitaire game. I love Vietnam War consims, and the battle for Khe Sanh is an excellent choice for exploration.

Pictured above is the game after set-up and before the first turn. NVA units are inverted to facilitate the fog of war through-out game play. The hexagons are US firebases, the squares clear, the circles jungle, the triangles hills, the red stars the NVA bases, the red squares NVA entrenchments. The cards represent different actions depending on sides; the US cards give reinforcements, bonuses, and help determine if a turn is used or not. The OPFOR cards completely dictate movement for the NVA, also bringing in reinforcements, and adding some bonuses. The overall objective: keep or take Khe Sanh.

US always goes first. You pick a card and use it, bring in reinforcements, move, and have combat. The NVA draws a card which determines whether they get to do any of those actions. There is a number on each card, both US and OPFOR, which determines if turns are used (or added) to the turn track.

I’ve played this game twice, and have won with a “Tactical Victory” each time. Unfortunately, it’s a leaves a hollow victory in my gut. The game is extremely repetitive, with choices that don’t really feel all that effective. Maybe, in some regards, this simulates the Vietnam conflict all too well? As a game, it’s tedious. Fortunately, it doesn’t take up a great deal of time.

*****

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Victory Point Games’ Disaster on Everest

Okay, I know: not a wargame. I cover all types of games herein, so if you’re only visiting for consims this is your chance to make a quick exit.

I love Victory Point Games (VPG) States of Siege games, their wargames, and a number of their Euros, this specific title falling into the latter category. I have bought all of their partnered titles with GMT, and had hoped for a long relationship between the two publishers. I helped Kickstart their Nemo’s War, 2nd Edition. I am extremely curious about their recent news of leaving California, overseas printing, and their relocation process.

So, after the rather depressing game of Khe Sanh ’68, I brought out Disaster on Everest (DoE). Pictured above is the game at set-up, before first play.

You pick a team of guides and hikers out of four possible teams. Each guide and hiker has their own movement values, and their own abilities and skills–each allows some sort of travel or survival bonus, but varied enough to be both interesting, and challenging to play. The team starts at the High Camp spot on the board; above, the rectangle at the bottom of the board with the two square markers (the guides) and the six circular marker (hikers).

The object: lead the hikers to the top of Everest and then back down to the High Camp. Points are awarded for success, or are lost due to misfortune.

Gameplay starts with a random drawing of an event token. Each token has three items of importance to game flow: the event itself, the cost in prestige to buy the event, and a number which represents which passes are blocked with snow. While there is duplication of event tokens, there are enough included within the components to not draw the same one (generally) twice in a row. So, there are some events which you will want to purchase, like oxygen tanks (which help with movement), and others which represent catastrophes that slow movement or even kill hikers. All the while, there are threats of a storm brewing; unpurchased event tokens are placed on the Storm Watch track , and once the six spaces are filled the storm hits. Movement is reduced, and the game is over in nine turns.

The combination of events, passes being blocked with snow, a brewing storm, and the need to reach the top of Everest, makes for a nail-biting experience. There were hikers I was rooting for, one guide which I thought was better, and I really hoped to achieve the summit and bring the team back home.

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Disaster on Everest endgame.

Only two of my team made it to the summit, Candie and Fernando, and as you can see above, Candie was two spaces away from reaching High Camp on her descent. Fernando still had three passes to navigate. Simon and Hektor never made it beyond the South Summit.

When the game is over, you return all of the event tokens to the drawing cup and pick one for each character. See the tokens in the Storm Watch track? See how they have Lost, Near, Medium, and Far, with Saved, Live, or Die? You draw one for each hiker (not the guides) and determine whether they made it back to High Camp if still on the board making their way up or down Everest. In the picture above, none of my team had gotten lost (see the empty Lost box?), so I had to draw for all hikers in the green “Near” circles, and the one in the red or “Far” circle. The ones in the black circles near the top were doomed, and I drew all “Die” results for the remainders. The guide with Candie is allowed to sacrifice himself, so she didn’t die, but then I didn’t get many points for her regardless.

After the complete team wipe, I scored a -15. The result: horrific loss.

But dang if it wasn’t fun losing! I’ll bring this gem back out, guaranteed!

Take care.