Turn 3 begins with JHI in a bad spot – they’ve lost one ship and the Broadsword is damaged. They’re outnumbered on the Cyclops. Vandar ships have maneuvered or jumped into their hexes – and to make things worse, those ships stand ready to unleash their attacks, whereas the JHI ships are pretty much obligated to play a Crew action at some point if they’re going to get people on the Cyclops. JHI has the initiative chip.
Nathan briefly discusses an idea he’s considering – he could play a Jump card on the Cyclops. He’s got the ship’s reactor occupied and fully repaired. If JHI doesn’t play Crew actions as their first card, Vandar would be able to Jump the Cyclops out of their boarding range. The cost of doing so would be twofold – he would play one less crew action on the ship this turn and possibly suffer in the boarding action as a result, but perhaps even worse he would put a Field Disruption card on a ship in the middle of a firefight.
Mark’s got a decision point here too – he didn’t manage to adjust the Broadsword’s drift enough to get it adjacent to the Cyclops, but he’s close. He can board it from this distance, but it’s long range for an assault lance so he’d be rolling d20s for accuracy dice. He could play a Thrust card to move first and get adjacent, and he’d really like to move two hexes if he could (so he wouldn’t end up in the same space as the Dragon with its nasty Disruptor), but he’s down an engine – he can only get into the Dragon’s hex on that one engine, and the Firebird still gets his rear armor if he does that. I missed it during the game, but looking at the situation now, Nathan has even better positioning for his ships than I realized at the time. Plus he’s just heard Nathan’s plan to Jump the ship – getting adjacent on the first card will do Mark no good if the Cyclops isn’t there on the second card.
Cards are down – let’s do it.
We have a bunch of attacks followed by crew actions, and nothing else!
The previously undamaged Pike faces Disruptor fire from both the Raptor and the Dragon.
Hull breaches are next to impossible to repair (you need 5 points on a repair roll to change it to Destroyed), and when you get one there’s a chance the whole ship is destroyed – you make a ship destruction roll with a number of impact dice equal to the hull breaches on the ship (in this case, one). If you beat the ship’s hull integrity, the ship is destroyed and removed from the game. The Pike’s hull integrity is one, so Nathan would have to roll 2 points on one die – and he rolls none. The Pike survives for now.
For comparison, the Raptor has a hull integrity of 0 – a single hull breach has a 50% chance of destroying the ship.
The Firebird’s attack causes Heavy Damage to the Broadsword’s other shield, and the attacks are concluded.
Time for crew actions.
I ask Nathan if he’s going to seize the initiative.
“Really? Why not?”
“Because he’s about to get more boarders on from his other two ships – I want to wait and see where they land so I can react to them.”
That makes sense to me – having the initiative worked against Nathan earlier in the game when Mark first boarded the ship and he doesn’t want to repeat that experience.
Nathan leaves the initiative in Mark’s possession, and Mark’s crew cards execute first.
First, the difficult case of the Broadsword. Mark decides that the time has come to use the Forged in Battle card he drew, ‘Their Finest Hour’. I was expecting this card to be used on the Cyclops as it can cause a huge swing in the battle, but the space battle has resulted in enough disrupted crew on Mark’s other ships that he felt forced to use it now. The entire Broadsword crew rallies (four were currently disrupted), and he draws a Hero.
But what shall Mark do with his boarding action? He has quite the choice here… he’s two hexes away from the Cyclops which means he’ll roll d20s for accuracy dice, and the Cyclops is the main scenario objective, but it’s not the only way to win the scenario – victory is determined by whoever controls the most ships in the end, with the Cyclops counting for two ships. The Broadsword is directly adjacent to both the Dragon and the Firebird…
Mark makes a choice that takes Nathan by surprise. He makes a boarding attempt on the Firebird, sending 6 crew and leaving just one back on the Broadsword (it’s a good idea to leave someone back on a ship when boarding – boarding crew with assault lances disrupt when you miss the target ship, and you want to leave someone they can rally to, otherwise they will surrender.)
Not bad, but Mark did have to give up an opportunity to get more crew on the Cyclops to pull this off.
When you have multiple actions of the same type, you choose the order – Mark will be boarding with the Pike next with its crew action, followed by his crew action on the Cyclops, so members of the Pike’s crew that get on board will be able to also activate as part of the Cyclops’ crew action.
Stop and have a look at the situation, because all of us at the table did. Mark’s little miracle where his spacer managed to surprise and defeat Nathan’s battlesuits has unhinged the relative safety of Nathan’s position as we enter shooting, and all of a sudden, despite everything that has happened so far, Mark has a chance to disrupt every one of Nathan’s remaining crew during shooting (One shot from component 8 to 5 is a given for a single disruption from the Battlesuit bonus, one shot from 9 to 7 will need to roll a single point plus the battlesuit bonus to disrupt both crew in the medbay, and the longshot is a single die from component 6 to 3, which would need to throw 2 points all by itself to disrupt both crew.) It’s not a great chance, but if he pulls it off then Nathan’s crew won’t have any active friendly crew to rally to and they will all surrender during the drift phase.
The bottom line is that with the right die rolls, Mark could take the ship right here and now.
I turned to Nathan.
“Do you regret not seizing the initiative?”
“Yes. Yes I do.”
The Raptor repairs its Vibration Disruptor with its crew action. On to the Cyclops!
Time for Mark’s crew action on the Broadsword. He has one active and two disrupted crew, but the Rally dice are kind and he rallies both disrupted crew, and sends them over. Despite rolling d20s, he lands them both – one on 3, and one on 12.
Meanwhile, on the Firebird….
There are three Thrust actions played now, but only one actually works – the Pike has one but both its engines are inoperable. The Firebird has one but Nathan’s crew are all disrupted and thus also cannot operate the engines. Only the Dragon gets to use the thrust action played this round.
The last card of the turn is a story of plans gone awry. The Pike and the Firebird have attacks that fail for the same reasons their last Thrust did, and the Raptor attack misses. The Broadsword has yet another crew action, but before it goes off the Dragon’s attack results in a Fire in the Broadsword’s last component with Active crew – she surrenders in the Drift phase. Mark’s boarders on the Firebird still have a crew action played in their automatic set, and use it to repair the power downs they caused. As for the Cyclops…
Also, the Pike has fires – during drift we check to see if the fire spreads or causes an explosion.
For once Nathan isn’t well position at the start of the turn – the Dragon only has its Vibration Disruptor in arc and range of the Firebird. The Raptor has drifted out of range (It could shoot the Cyclops in the front but its autocannon is too weak to hurt the front armor – Power 2 vs. Defense 6 doesn’t even match half the defense, so it can’t hurt the Cyclops at all), and while the Pike could turn and fire it’s engines and weapon are inoperable. Only the Firebird is positioned to fire all its weapons – one can hit the Cyclops, the other can hit the Dragon.
Mark’s major card decision for the turn concerns the Firebird – he desperately wants to start shooting the Cyclops to try and hurt Nathan’s crew there and give his last few crew in the fight a chance, but he only repaired the one weapon in arc to light damage – he could blaze away and risk the damage (and the two crew in the component), or try to spend the time to fix it with a crew card before shooting it. He’s also got a pretty good shot on the Dragon right now that Nathan may not give him if he waits a card to start firing.
The Pike’s cards are easy – it’s drifted away from the fight and it’s useless without engines or a weapon, so it’s a damage control turn – all crew actions will hopefully get the fires out.
Nathan will be trying to finish off Mark’s crew on the Cyclops.
The Dragon has a classic problem in Silent Fury – he does have the Firebird in his (generous) weapon arcs so he could attack now, but he’s got his weaker armor exposed. Depending on the situation sometimes you can play a Defenses card to reconfigure your shields and take care of the problem, but the Dragon only has 2 armor on the side – shifting the Dragon’s single shield for 3 defense won’t be any better than defense 2 against the Firebird’s power 3 weapons. So he choice comes down to either attacking now, or throw down a Thrust card, take the first attack in the side, and then rotate the better front armor to face the enemy.
The Dragon doesn’t have a reactor, so it can’t jump, which would be another option in this situation.
Aboard the Cyclops, Mark is still just hanging on by a thread, and he’s practically out of crew he can reinforce with.
Pretty simple turn – the Raptor and the Firebird both repaired their light damage, and the Pike rallied its one disrupted crew (there are only 2 left) and sent them both in to repair the Fire, but failed to roll the 2 points necessary to do so. Skipping ahead of the Cyclops for the moment, the Dragon again took advantage of it’s ability to thrust backwards and moved back one hex, turning its front against the Firebird.
Aboard the Cyclops:
Second card! The Firebird and the Dragon attack each other but both fail to do damage (and Mark is getting frayed – after declining to seize the initiative for the crew action and costing himself a battlesuit, he then feared the Dragon would stop the Firebird’s attack so he seized the initiative at this point, thus fatally granting Nathan the chance to grab the initiative again for the next crew action) – the Firebird also shoots the Cyclops and succeeds in disrupting one of Nathan’s crew.
Mark threw in the towel at this point – there was no way he was going to be able to fight for control of the Cyclops now and his only functioning ship was the captured Firebird.
Nathan nicely showed his skill as a player (he is at least the second best Silent Fury player in the world for the time being). He played to the strengths of his powerful, short range weapons and he got his crew on the Cyclops very quickly, which freed up all of his ships to attack Mark’s vessels as they attempted to drop their crews a turn later. The Raptor’s spoiling attack worked better than he had any right to hope for, getting its Vibration Disruptor in the same hex as two JHI ships in two turns was brutal, particularly for the Pike.
I think Mark had the unfortunate trifecta of a rough game – he was both out-rolled and out-played by a more experienced player, but as we discussed the aftermath of the scenario we also decided that the way in which I’d written the scenario and designed the ships likely favored the Vandar as well, putting another nail in Mark’s coffin. Despite all that we did see one tantalizing chance of victory appear for him, a hope the dice were quick to squash, and his little boarding surprise that captured the Firebird was a joy to beohold.
In terms of scenario imbalance, I think these all played their part in hurting Mark’s chances:
First, the scenario gives the initiative chip to the JHI (thematically they are just going to recover their own ship when the Vandar jump them), so Vandar has first opportunity to seize it at a time of their choosing. This greatly aided Nathan’s spoiling attack.
Second, Vandar sets up their ships after JHI. This let Nathan set up the spoiling attack in the first place, whereas JHI doesn’t get an equivalent opportunity to try to pull off something like that themselves.
Third, the JHI ships’ strength is in a head-to-head ranged battle – they have better defenses and weapon power than Vandar does, so they should be able to beat them in a straight-up shooting match if they can keep from getting outmaneuvered. In this scenario however, both sides need to get close to the Cyclops, which in turn means they have to get really close to each other – basically forcing JHI to come into Disruptor range, even without a spoiling attack.
So based on those I’m going to make some changes to the scenario and ships – Vandar can have the initiative chip to start. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do with setup yet, but it won’t be one side first, other side second – perhaps I’ll stagger it so both sides alternate setting up ships with prize crew first, then add in any ships without prize crew second.
As for the JHI being forced to close range issue, I don’t want to re-jigger things too much just because the tactical situation is unpleasant for JHI ships – Nathan and I discussed it and we think we can kill two birds with one stone. Vandar has a nice mix of longer range lasers and those short-range disruptors that compliments their maneuverability nicely, and they feel pretty good to play as a result – you can either use your better ranged lasers to try and poke at your enemy’s weak sides from a distance, or you can do what Nathan did and make close-range disruptor passes.
JHI is pretty much cannons all day every day, without much of an interesting secondary option – so we’re going to try giving the Broadsword’s scatter cannon the ‘Area 1’ special, which means that it’ll pick a hex to attack instead of a ship, and every ship in or adjacent to that hex will suffer that same attack. In the game above, this would have meant that the Broadsword could have simultaneously attacked the Dragon, the Firebird, AND the Cyclops (and the troops just deposited on it) on turn 2 – and with repeated attacks it could do so more than once. That won’t make the approach to the Cyclops any less scary for JHI against Vandar disruptors, but it makes it far scarier for Vandar, so now both sides face an unpleasant tactical situation. Thematically we’re now thinking of making JHI a ‘Cannons and Area Effect’ weapons faction, especially since the Terminus in Nemesis Day already sports its own extremely nasty area effect weapons.
Oh, and those stupid aliens that did practically nothing – they’re meant to be at least an inconvenience for the first side to board the ship. I put them in there to give the late-boarding side a little breathing room (the big version of this scenario is our first convention game for Fall In, and we can’t expect new players to be making masterful plays their first game so I don’t want the one smart cookie from Vandar to get on the Cyclops and just fly or jump it out before the other side figures out this inertia thing enough to land their own troops). I’m going to try having the aliens roll two dice in melee (still with a bonus), and perhaps add a third alien – they’ll still be gone pretty quickly no matter how nasty I make their offense since they still die on disruption, but I need to strike a balance so they’re not so nasty that nobody wants to be the first ones on the ship (of course at our convention game, we’re not going to tell our players about the aliens in advance – they’ll be an exciting mid-turn discovery).
If you’ve read all this, thank you and I hope you enjoyed it! We’ve got some exciting things around the bend and we’re hoping to bring the most impressive-looking version of the game we’ve ever done to Fall In this year, hopefully I’ll be posting pictures of some new ships and a grand space map soon.