Brunswick, Georgia is about half-way between Savannah and Waycross - a manageable one-hour drive for all parties. David scouted out potential gaming locations and the McDonald's at exit 36 made the short-list. Yesterday, we played our first game of SFB inside an operating McDonald's! We used the small map and counters instead of the usual big map and miniatures. I'm 100% sure that the big setup would have gone over like a lead balloon.
As different as the environment was, the game itself was top-shelf. As a scenario designed by Yours Truly, I couldn't have been happier with how things played out. I struggle as a scenario designer with the issue of "balance." Balance, to me, means "does each side have an equal chance of completing their objective?" In this instance, I hit the nail on the head. With that, on with the battle report!
The Hydran / Klingon border
The Klingons had a small battlegroup out for a field-test of their new Mauler weapon. The Firebrand mauler-cruiser suffered a catastrophic systems failure the first time it fired it new wonder-weapon and took itself out of the battle. Well, the Klingons drove off the Hydrans and pushed the stricken cruiser into orbit around a nearby gas giant with the intention of retrieving it shortly. Fleet tug Kronos' Back got the call and made haste to collect the cruiser. The Hydrans of course knew there was a broken-down cruiser nearby with some new-fangled weapon mounted on it and sent out ships to hunt for it. Black Horse and Jager II found the tug and cruiser soon after they'd paired up. The battle was about to resume.
David and I flew the Hydrans. I was using a Lancer destroyer and David had a Hunter frigate. We made "getting into the same hex and flying as one" a priority early on. Hydran weapons are very strong and equally short-ranged. It was crucial that we combine out initial volleys onto the same shield to cause as much pain as possible during our first attack run.
Captain Mike wasted no time in launching drones, his favorite part of SFB. He had to get the D6M off the far edge of the map - a 38-hex journey, slowed down by the cruiser he was dragging.
We're much closer now. I've popped out my fighters and Dave and I are towing one each via tractors so they can keep up with us. You can see that two others are starting to lag behind. The initial group of drones had been dealt with but more were of course on the way. That Klingon shuttle under the hand of Git is a scatter-pack.
See, I told you. Mike randomized which fighters the drones of the SP would chase.
We've got a lot of stuff going on here. First, the fighters at the bottom of the picture turned tail and brilliantly dragged the drones over a live shuttle whose phaser completely failed to knock out a drone. The two fighters closer to my ship were both killed by drones when their chaff failed. David's Hunter punched a big hole in the #6 shield of the tug, then made a HET to quickly turn around because his ship had been just crushed by disruptors and phasers on the way in. I think David took out the first of two tractors on his first volley. My Lancer got a solid range-0 volley into the tug but the second tractor hit was not forthcoming.
I plotted a HET for the next turn and took a beating crossing the nose of the tug/cruiser combination but the ship held. Once I got my tail towards the stricken #6, I reversed and fired more phasers into the ship. Again, the final tractor hit was nowhere to be found.
The start of turn 4. Dave's frigate and my lone remaining Stinger-I are in striking distance. I had a long turn-around trip since I'd gotten turned around last turn. Dangerously, I plotted a second HET and risked breakdown to get back in the fight more quickly.
The breakdown roll is passed!
The tug is again beset by little green men. It holds though. Klingon tugs are no joke.
Amazingly, the tug and my destroyer end up on the 42XX row at the end of turn 4. ONE hex of movement, at any point during the game and he'd have been away. The fighter of course stayed in the fight and would lend its last two fusion shots to the carnage.
To begin turn 5, the Klingons and Hydrans blasted away at each other but all that really came of it was that the final tractor damage box was hit very early into the massive 51-point volley from Black Horse and the Firebrand had no way to exit the map. A Hydran victory!
That was a crazy game and very tense. I was really worried that the Hydrans would be severely out-classed but they really held their own against a very powerful opponent. Mike got every drop of utility out of his tug and beat up cruiser. The cruiser still could produce power for its shields and phasers so its seven ph-2s were working for much of the game. Early on, Mike had stashed its power into the batteries so it would be able to keep firing later in the game. Good move there, Mike. David's frigate got picked on early - primarily because Mike figured (rightly) that it would fall apart easily. It hung on long enough to get two shots from its fusion beams and was invaluable in drone defense. My destroyer got brutalized, taking many internals, but I also was able to absorb a ton of damage on the shields - I lost three entire shields - that's getting your money's worth!
Our lovely view of a vacant lot next door. It rained cats and dogs most of the afternoon.
Thanks for the game guys! Looking forward to our next meet-up.