Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Fleet Captain: the card deck

In Fleet Captain the deck of playing cards is used as a sort of initiative mechanic, based upon Crew Inefficiency and the captain's Incompetence.  At the beginning of each turn d6's are thrown to see who gets to go first each card flip.  If Bob rolls a 4 and Susan rolls a 5 that means that Susan must act first after every flip until the turn is over.  You can think of the cards as sort of an impulse/phase time management mechanic, with better crews and smarter captains making better use of their time.  Let's look at Bob's fleets.

Bob is playing a contingent of Middle-Aged Uplifted Spacefaring Tortoises, a.k.a. the Maust.  He has 5 ships in his fleet:

  • The MDF (Maust Defense Force) Warhol, a cutting art, state-of-the-edge Heavy Cruiser and his Fleet Captain's ship.  As Bob's personal vessel, it is not rated for inefficiency or incompetence.  It can act on any phase of Bob's choosing.
  • The MDF Kinkade, a leaky old battleship that should have been sold for scrap seven centuries ago.  The Captain's Incompetence is rated Jack-Queen or JQ, which is not too bad.  That means he can attempt a Captain's Maneuver any time either of those cards come up.  The crew has an appalling Inefficiency of 234, which means the ship can only move or fire when those cards come up.  Picking which vessels to activate when a low card comes up is one of the tough command decisions the Maust hope Bob is capable of making.
  • The MDF Pollock, a decent light cruiser design with only a slight tendency to explode.  The captain of the Pollock graduated from command school with top honors, but hasn't gotten along with the Fleet Captain since that embarrassing incident at the Admiralty Christmas Party, so his Incompetence is only JQ while the fleet is under Bob's command.  The crew is astonishingly well-trained, with an Inefficiency of 23456789.
  • The MDF Bob Ross and Alex Ross, a pair of destroyers of the same mediocre class.  The commander of the Bob Ross is a young go-getter with everything to prove.  Her Incompetence is JQK, meaning she can attempt a Captain's Maneuver on any face card.  This kid just might have it in her to be Fleet Captain some day.  She's managed to whip her sad-sack crew into an Inefficiency of 234567, which is pretty decent for this fleet.  The Alex Ross, on the other hand, is commanded by a wily old fool near retirement.  No way in hell is he sticking his neck out any more than he has to.  His Incompetence is J and his lack luster crew is 2345.  Note that these two vessels have the exact same engines and guns and hullpoints and nearly the same name, but one of them is going to get a lot more done on any given turn. 
So let's look at some of Bob's options when various cards are drawn.
  • A black (black means move) 5 would indicate that Bob could opt to move the Warhol, the Pollock or either Ross.
  • A red 3 means that any vessel in the Fleet could opt to shoot.  Red=shoot.  This would be a good time to actually use those giant zap guns on the Kinkade.
  • A black Queen would mean that the Warhol, Kinkade, Pollock or Bob Ross could attempt some sort of special movement-based Captain's Maneuver, like flying through an asteroid hex unharmed or doing a 180-degree turn.  Note that NPC Captains only succeed in some maneuvers on a d6 roll where they beat their vessel's Slowness, so the sluggish Kinkade probably shouldn't try anything too dangerous.
  • An ace always indicates that the only vessel you can activate is your flagship.
  • In this fleet, any ten card would mean only the flagship can move/shoot.
Note that the Crew Inefficiency is written out long form 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10, rather than just Inefficiency 5 because it also serves as the damage track for crew casualties.  Crew losses are marked off starting with the 2 and working up.  Similarly, the critical result Captain Bumps Head On Console can eliminate the Jack from his or her Incompetence rating.

Note that all vessels only get to Move or Shoot each turn and at the beginning of the turn there's no good way to tell if you should move now or hold out for an opportunity to fire.  You MUST move/fire if you can.

You can tell whether or not you've moved or shot by the markers mentioned in the Equipment Needed list.  Before all this card malarkey you place a marker face down next to each vessel.  Pick it up when ever you move or shoot.  Also, shooting actually involves a one hex forward Drift before you resolve fire, so every vessel moves every turn.