So last Monday we sat down to run Silent Fury in a way we haven’t done before – this was a game where we tried to take meticulous care to record all of what was going on so we could put up what amounts to a giant example that spans a full game.
If you’ve read some of our previous battle reports you’ll see that I generally write up a mix of describing what’s going on in the game and various depictions of the heroism of the crews or the effects of the weaponry. This time I’ll be low on fluff and high on the actual mechanics of play and what happened within only the framework of the game rules – so it might not be as much fun to read, but it will give you some idea of how the game is played and what the players are concerned with when they make their decisions.
Our good friend and fellow game designer Mark Fastoso agreed to join us and face off against my brother, Nathan. In terms of experience there’s a fairly wide gap – Mark has played some older versions of the game a couple times whereas Nathan has been at nearly every playtest and convention game we’ve run.
The two scenarios we have on the site right now are intended for convention games with larger numbers of players, so for this two-player game we made a smaller version of Distress Signal, cutting the number of ships in half. It’s also our first playtest of that scenario – may as well kill two birds with one stone!
In short, both sides are responding to a distress signal from a large, disabled ship – the ship has lost power and there’s no crew left on board. One side rightfully owns the ship and wants it back, the other is trying to steal it out from under their noses.
This scenario features two ‘factions’ we came up with, Jovian Heavy Industries (JHI) and the Vandar as part of an experiment we’re conducting with asymmetry. Our prior ship designs were all over the place, with these factions we’re trying out ‘common characteristics’ that distinguish the design philosophies across a faction’s ships in general. JHI ships are tougher and pack on more shields and armor along with a preference for cannon weaponry. Vandar ships are more fragile and usually feature a mix of Lasers and Disruptors, and tend to focus on engines and additional firepower.
In game terms, JHI ships tend to have more shields, higher armor values, and better hull integrity values.
Vandar ships have more engines, more generous thrust charts, and a nice mix of longer-range lasers and nasty short-range disruptors, but lack armor, shields and hull integrity.
Jovian Heavy Industries (JHI) ships for the scenario:
And the JHI derelict the two sides are fighting over.
Setting up the game
I took some shots before my players arrived as I was getting things ready.
The basic materials – our custom hex board has replaced our big convention space mat since it helps the game fit (barely) on our four and a half foot game room table.
Vandar Ships, with their action hands and vector tokens. Note the color-matching we do here – this lets you look at a ship’s action hand color to quickly reference which ship on the board it belongs to.
JHI ships – also color matched, and you’ll note that these have striped tokens. We’re gotten better about fielding fleets of similar paint schemes, but when we were using random ships it was very nice to have a solid vs. striped fleet tokens to determine which ships were friendly or hostile. It also let us double up on colors – there’s a striped yellow vector token set and a solid yellow set and you can use them in the same game if needed. JHI starts with the initiative chip – it’s that hazardous looking symbol on the right.
And cards and vector tokens for the Cyclops (also striped since it’s a JHI ship). Note that I’ve pulled out both sets of grey cards – if you have any crew on a ship you get to play cards on it, so since this ship is going to be boarded by both players they’ll each get their own set, but they don’t get to play those cards until they have crew aboard.
Left to right, our Forged in Battle, Field Disruption and Critical Hit cards. The scenario sheet is below.
Shields added to ships, one cube for each shield generator. There is a large shield disparity between the two forces – the JHI ships get five and Vandar gets just one. Shields are down at the start of the game unless the scenario specifies otherwise, so ships with shields generally play a Defense card in their first set to get them up.
The scenario dictates that the Cyclops begins the game with every component powered down, so each component gets a power down token.
A pile of damage tokens (These are from Litko) ready to be placed. From left to right, top to bottom: Light damage, power down, heavy damage, fire, destroyed, and hull breaches.
D20 and D12 accuracy dice, and our custom red Effect dice and black Impact dice. At a convention I’d give each side their own set of these, for ease of photography the players will share the one set and roll in the die tray.
Ship miniatures and initial crew for the Vandar ships. The scenario also gives players a ‘prize crew’ that can be placed on any of their ships.
A close up of the Dragon mini and its standard compliment of crew. We paint the base of the crew to differentiate its type – blue for spacers, yellow for engineers, red for marines. There are also battlesuits which have their own distinctive miniatures.
Crew and ship miniatures for the JHI ships.
As part of setup the players place crew into specific components on their ships and distribute the prize crew. The prize crew is quite large (8 in the prize crew, and 9 ‘standard’ crew compliment for all three ships) and I didn’t shrink it for the smaller scenario (since it’s meant to result in a major boarding action aboard the Cyclops), so these ships wound up with almost double their amount of ‘usual’ crew to start the game with.
Mark spreads his crew evenly, more or less.
Both Battlesuits are on the tiny Stiletto.
Nathan on the other hand splits most of his extra crew between the Firebird and the Dragon, adding only one spacer to the Raptor.
Time for ships to get on the map! The Cyclops is placed in the center of the board with both vector tokens underneath it (this means the ship is ‘stopped’ and won’t drift anywhere). Also, a quick note about the hexes on the board – the bright white dots mark the center of each hex to make them more visible, and the grey / blue dots are the hex sides – other than the unusual look it’s functionally the same as any other hex board, we were experimenting with patterns for a custom design and liked this one since it resembled a starfield.
Mark sets up the JHI ships heading in the general direction of the Cyclops with an initial vector of 2 (which means he can put the trailing vector token up to 2 hexes away from the ships). Top to bottom, that’s the Broadsword, the Stiletto, and the Pike.
Apologies for this and any other blurry images. Here are Mark’s ships in relation to the Cyclops. Something to note here is that of these initial vectors, only the Pike is on course to end up directly adjacent to the Cyclops – the other ships will need to adjust their course to make sure they reach the ship. One option Mark had here would be to adjust his initial vector tokens to give him a more favorable approach – if the Broadsword’s trailing token (green) were one hex north, then the Broadsword would be drifting directly towards the Cyclops, but right now he’ll pass several hexes north of it. Perhaps even better, he could have the token two hexes north, which would result in a drift south of the Cyclops, but with a thrust or two in the direction the Broadsword is already facing he would be on the correct course soon enough. In his defense, Mark is not mainly a space gamer (though he does enjoy Star Fleet battles), nor is he a hardened Silent Fury veteran, and is less at home in a vector-movement system than Nathan is. Nathan sets up the Raptor up north there with the blue tokens – he is facing directly south but his current velocity is towards the south-east.
Nathan sets up the Dragon (yellow) and Firebird (red) on the opposite side of the board.
Also heading towards the Cyclops, and in a tighter group than Mark’s ships.
At this point I asked our combatants to talk about their initial plans.
Mark: I want to get to the Cyclops as fast as possible, get my guys on board and escape.
Nathan: The Dragon and the Firebird are going for the Cyclops. The Raptor is making an attack run to harass Mark’s ships on the way in.
Let the game begin! Both players begin playing cards for the Orders phase of turn 1. The laptop is for my note-taking and is not used in the game.
These posts get pretty big with the images so I’m breaking them up into separate parts – we’ll get the game underway in part 2!