Thursday, September 08, 2011

Fleet Captain: before you flip those cards

Before you start flipping cards to see who flies where and who shoots what, you actually have to do a little planning ahead. This simulates your best efforts to direct the rest of the fleet to where you want them to go on the board. Every Fleet Captain should be supplied with a set of counters. On side could be marked by Fleet/Faction/Polity/Race/Whatever or it could have a nice starfield decoration or it could just be blank. The other side of the counters should be marked in one of four ways:

Before the cards are deployed, every ship in play must have one of these markers face down next to it. If one guy at the table is holding up the game you are allowed to raz him for it. I suggest humming the Final Jeopardy countdown music in unison.

When you get a move result (a Black card) you activate the unit you are moving by flipping over their marker.  If you are shooting (a Red card) just pick up the marker and put it back in the pile.  A ship with no marker cannot be activated.  When one of your dumbass captains makes a normal move (using a 2 through 10 playing card) this is how it works:

FORWARD ARROW: Roll your movement die, move the full amount (divided by your Slowness, dropping fractions).  Optionally, you may sideslip one hex right or left on the last hex of your move.  A sideslip is an easy concept to show but can be hard to convey verbally, basically you nudge over one column while retaining your facing.  Like this little red ship making a 4 hex move that ends with a sideslip to the right:

Don't rotate your vessel at any point,
just slip to the side.  You dig?

If you can wrap your head around that sideslip thing the rest of this will be dead easy.  A key point to remember is that you can only sideslip at the end of your move.

RIGHT or LEFT TURN:  Move forward the full amount dictated by dice and Slowness, then turn your vessel one hexside (60 degrees) in the direction of the arrow on the marker.  That's it.  That's the whole deal.

STOP SIGN: The stop sign is a total lie.  In space they have this thing call Momentum.  (We have it here on Earth, too.  But it's easier to miss when it gets mixed in with Drag and Gravity and Ham Sandwiches and what not.  In space Momentum is just about the only thing they got going.)  A stop sign means your vessel executes a Drift maneuver.  You move forward exactly one hex.  After you move that one hex you may turn one hexside to your right or left, at your option.  You may not sideslip.

Notice how all these schmuck captains and their sucky vessels are about as graceful as oxen in tutus?  An especially important consideration here is that each turn NPC vessels have this nasty tendency to enter the hex immediately in front of their nose whether it is a good idea or not.  It doesn't matter if the enemy has dropped gravitic mines there or if that hex is surrounded by the sphincter of a giant space amoeba's bunghole. 

This is why the rules dictate that if you shoot you always Drift as well.  So your moron junior captain can smash into things right at the moment of his ultimate triumph.  Before you fire, you drift one hex forward.  You may not turn.  Also, if you run out of cards for the round and still have movement markers down, all remaining vessels Drift forward one hex, no turn allowed.  This can happen because the cards aren't just flipped off the top of a deck.  At the start of each turn the scenario organizer or some designated person deals off a small pile of facedown cards.  The number of cards so dealt is equal to the number of ships in the largest player fleet in the game.  This little pile is then turned over one card at a time.  The round is over when the last card in this small stack is turned over, whether everybody acted or not.  The cards used are discarded until an entire deck is exhausted.

Of course, the Special Maneuvers available to all captains can modify these rules.  But those are tricky and uncertain.
  • Your flag vessel may move less than a full move if you so desire.
  • Your flag vessel may turn or sideslip at any point in your move, if you placed the appropriate marker (you can only sideslip in a Forward Move, etc.).
  • If you put down a Stop Sign then your flag vessel may either sideslip when you drift one forward OR turn to face any direction if you go straight ahead. 
  • In general, the Special Maneuvers rules work even better for your Fleet Captain.