Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Reminder to All Captains - Count Those Drones!

So we played a little Federation Commander over the weekend ...


I took the CC Yorktown and the old CL Arizona out on a "keeping the cats out of the yard" mission against Apprentice Blaster's Kzinti BC and CM.

End of Turn 1
My idea was to have the CL stay in close and play wingman to help keep the drone wave off of the CC. Things went well until Turn 2.

Middle of Turn 2
Each of my ships had launched a drone on Turn 1. The Kzinti launched on Turn 1 and early on Turn 2. As we closed in we lit each each other up with phaser, photon, and disruptor fire. After some close-in maneuvering, I realized all four Kzinti drones were going to hit the CC on the same impulse. I managed to turn off so that two were hitting the #2 shield and two were hitting #3. "It's only four drones, I can handle that". This was a tremendous error and shows just how rusty I was.

So the drones hit, I line them up for defensive fire and say "OK, four drones - " and Blaster says, no, that's four drones. "What, I have four drones out there-" No, there are eight drones he says. "OK, eight drones-" no, eight drones on this shield, eight drones on that shield he says. "Wait, those are four drones PER COUNTER?!" - yes, he says, "I wondered why you weren't shooting at them before."


Apparently at some point a few weeks ago I told Blaster to use one counter for all the drones he launched the same turn at the same target. He remembered this, I did not. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts I didn't notice that his pair of ships with 8 launchers had only lunched 4 drones over 2 turns - at least going by the number of counters on the board. The outcome was pretty bad. I did manage to stop 7 of the 16 drones. I stopped two more with tractor beams though, and when I lost the tractors those two hit the ship as well. Been a long time since that's happened to me.

At the end of Turn 2 the CC is in pretty bad shape but still has some teeth. It's not going to outrun anyone but with a fresh shield towards the enemy and some charged phasers I should be able to stop drones long enough to get some more shots off.

(I did manage to rip up the Kzinti Battlecruiser before this happened - overloaded photons are still nasty up close (even with only 2 left) - but not as badly as the CC was hit)

Turn 3 was pretty much the game. We were still in close but I was reloading photons and the Kzin had disruptors and drones ready to go. The poor Yorktown did manage to turn a new shield but did not have enough phasers to stop the incoming drones. After a final volley of phaser fire the CC went down hard.

On Turn 4 the CL disengaged with no internal damage other than armor, ending the encounter.

It's been a long time since I marked off that many boxes on a Fed CC and an even longer time since I've actually had one blown out from under me. It was largely stupidity on my part with the whole counter-counting thing. All I can say is I won't forget that anytime soon.

One tricky thing with drones vs. old-school SFB thinking is that given the turn structure a drone can move 3 hexes before you will ever have a chance to fire at the thing. This makes the job of an "escort" quite a bit tougher as once the drones close to zero range only the target can shoot at them. That 0-3 hex range is where phaser-3's are most effective, and it can be tricky to make that work, especially on slow moving ships. I'll be puzzling that out more, especially since Blaster seems pretty attached to his missile boat Kzinti ships.

A dislike: Federation drone racks in Fed Commander are terrible. Most ships only carry one, and it's the hybrid-loadout type, i.e. the G-racks from SFB. Now in SFB they are fine  - against the Klingons I could load up with all anti-drones, giving me an 8-shot defensive system. On the Romulan border I could load all drones, giving me an extra offensive system. In Fed Commander the Feds go halfway - 2 drones, 4 ADDs. Against drone-heavy opponents I can burn through the ADD ammo in half a turn and against non-drone opponents I only have two shots and then have to reload. It's inadequate either way. Beyond that, with only one drone on the ship, any halfway decent penetrating volley will kill it anyway. I've played a few battles with them recently and I'm not loving them at all.

Not my lights, but a nice set.

One big like: The Federation Old Light Cruiser - It's not terribly expensive, it has a lot of power, a solid phaser suite, and it can take at least one good volley from any direction thanks to the armor. I've always had a soft spot for these ships and so far they've worked pretty well. Sure, I expect to lose both torpedoes and the drone rack on any significant amount of internal damage but with 8 phasers and 30 power I should have enough energy left to move and take some shots afterward.


Stu Rat said...

No Wild Weasels in Fed Com?

Anthony Emmel said...

I have always liked the Old Light Cruiser myself. :)

Hey, that's not as embarassing as when I was teach my kids how to play BattleTech. I forgot I had had taken a cockpit crit and then jumped into Level 2 water. Glug, glug, glug....

Blacksteel said...

Stu - Shuttles are quite diminished from SFB - no Weasels, no Scatter-Packs, no MRS, no SWAC, etc. I'm fine with that most of the time but yeah, It would have been nice to have used them here for something besides damage boxes.

A.E. - Ouch! I had an opponent forget to pay for his shields once a long time ago. He was pretty embarrassed when he realized it. I still pounded his ship, but I tried to be nice about it.
Note: Fed Commander doesn't require power for shields, fire control, or life support, and I like that change.

Anthony Emmel said...

I actually have FedCom Klingon Border and the Klingon expansion. I still haven't played it. D'oh!

(I do have it with me at work today to glance at over lunch.)

Now unshielded ships...there was an old Commander's Edition scenario, I think it's in CL#4, titled "The Titan and the Unicorn." A Kzinti TF (with Gorn and Fed support) catch a Romulan fleet in a forward dry dock. Locks of Kzin fighters, PFs, and drones targeting a powered down Romulan fleet with only a single ship (maybe 2) on picket duty. It's Pearl Harbor. :)

Blacksteel said...

I remember Titan and the Unicorn! I think I've played it once ...

Task Force's other space combat game, Starfire, had several scenarios that were deliberate recreations of WW2 naval battles. It had a Pearl harbor one as well that was just as one-sided. Never saw much point in playing it other than as a "how much can you do in a bad situation" type of challenge. Even then, a lot of that depends on die rolls more than player skill.

If you liked SFB I'd say take a look at Fed Commander. It's lighter, but still pretty close to the flavor of SFB. I'm adding to ours pretty steadily now and figure it will see some regular action.

Anthony Emmel said...

Well, it's not too one-sided. There are a lot of capital ships on the Romulan side; if they activate, the Kzin player can be in a world of hurt. :)