Sunday, July 28, 2013

Spaceship miniature game - Starfire with Firestorm Armada models

So, spaceships.  Where did this come from?  I have never done spaceships miniatures before and so I bought some earlier this year.  Why does a wargamer ever need a reason to start a new project?
Back in the early 80's, and before I got together with my partner (and now wife), I used to do a fair bit of science fiction boardgaming (ones I played a few times that spring to mind are WarpWar, Starforce, Titan Strike, Ogre, Dune, Sword and the Stars) and also spaceship boardgames.  I did play Starfire a bit (the original ziplock bags and then the second edition), SFB a lot, Yaquinto's Shooting Stars  and FASA's Leviathan a little bit, and some space fighter miniature rules called Starhound (but playing with someone else's homemade spaceships).  I stopped doing this around 1985.
When the spaceships turned up my wife asked "Since when are you into spaceship gaming?"
And I replied (with the truth!) "Oh, in the early 80's I used to do a lot of space gaming."
"Oh, before my time then..." and lost interest in further conversation. No "What are you doing?!" or "How much did you spend?" or rolling of the eyes.  A keeper.
The acquired ships
The ships are a bunch of painted Firestorm Armada ships - a few starter kits and models.  Large models, but I am expecting I can also use them to play some games with my children.  And I like using larger spaceships.
The Firestrom armada ships - mostly Dindrenzi and Terran.
I have acquired a few spaceship rules (and science fiction boardgames, but that is another story) since over the years, assuming I would maybe get back into it - Full Thrust, Silent Death, Starfire 3rd edition (and Ultra edition!), Attack Vector: Tactical, Squadron Strike. Also some more recent that are available as a PDF; THW 5150: Fighter Command being the most recent.

But what rules to use? I am looking for quick games with maybe up to 1/2 dozen ships a side.  Not fleet battles, and not detailed ships as per SFB.  Full Thrust looks ideal and I may try them later, but to get me in the mood for spaceship gaming, I am going to use Starfire.  I loved Starfire more than SFB but I never liked the large battles and large ships that were in Starfire and also played smaller scenarios.  So I will go with that for now, but I do have Full Thrust, Starmada Nova, Warcosm and 5150:FC on the top of the pile to try out. I am using Starfire as I know the rules, not because I think it is the best system out there for me.

Starfire 2nd Edition box
Starfire very quick overview
A ship in Starfire is a represented by a list of ship systems, from left to right with shields and armour to the left and weapons and engines further in (see below for an example).  Damage is crossed off from left to right, although some weapons can skip armor and/or shields.  Ships move up to 6 hexes and need to move a number of hexes before they can turn 60 degrees (no vector movement here).  Range of beams etc is normally around 10, and missiles are 20.   Players moves ships one at a time alternatively and fire one at a time alternatively.  Who moves or fires the first ship is via initiative that is rolled for at the start of each turn.  Movement is broken down into 6 phases - in phase 1 all players move ships up to one hex, second pahse all players move ships another hext, then thirs phase.  Can only move in phases up to your movement rate, so faster ships will get a movement advantage.  when fighters turn up, they move further than 6 and there are more phases to compensate.  that's about it.,  no specific weapons firing arcs but no ship can fire 60 degrees to the rear.
Starfire Mods
Life would not be complete without tinkering with the rules.  So this is what I have done so far:
I use the rules from the second edition except for:
  • I use the ships systems from the 3rd edition (with magazines, engine rooms etc) so I can use the ship designs from "The Stars at War". I did not want to design ships for Starfire.  Although interesting, I did not want to invest in learning design when I am unlikely to play many games of Starfire.
  • I converted the to hit table from 2d6 to 1d6 (I like rolling single dice - always bugged me the 2d6 per weapon)
  • If you roll 2 1's when firing with all the ships weapons, you inflict a critical hit and inflict another hit 1d6 systems further in (or the last one if you roll higher than the number of systems left)
I was looking for something simple with only a few ships (a lot of battles are large with lots of capital ships) and a few different ship types to try out my first foray in 28 years (wow, it sounds like a lot when I write it down!).  So I used scenario 2 from "The Stars at War" with the Khanate of Orion defending a Space Station with a Light Cruiser and 3 escorts.  Attacking is the Terran Confederation with 2 destroyers and 2 frigates.
Khanate of Orion

Spacestation BS1 (0) SSSAAAALhQRGRGMg (0)
CL Karhae (flag) (3) SSSSSAAAA(Bbs)G(II)LR(I)RMgQsH(CIC)(II)(I)Qs(II)(I) (6)
ES  Malkon  (2) AH(I)GRMgQS(I) (4)
ES  Talron (2) AH(I)GRMgQS(I) (4)
Forces start 20 hexes of the planet (Mazdranar)
Terran Confederation

DD Napoleon (flag) (2) SSSSSAAAAHW(I)LM1(I)(I)(I)WMgLhQ(I)(I) (6)
DD Discovery (refit) (2) SSSAAZHL(I)(I)WMgQs(I)(I)(I) (5)
FG Outreach (2) SSAHX(I)(I)(I)GRMgX(I)(I)Qs(I) (6)

For those not familar with Starfire the main things to know are:
S = Shield
A = Armour
(I) = Engines
G = Gun
R = missile launchers
W = Gun /missile launcher combo
L = Laser
The Game
 Starfire is hex based and  so I dragged out the hexsheets from Leviathan and put them on the floor.  I have a dark wood 3x5 fold out table that I would have used if it was non-hex.  Not that fond of hex based miniature games, and I could have done with larger hexes.  But you play with what you've got! 

Terrans come on the board and advance over 2 turns into missile range.  They focus on one of the Escorts (Malkon) and do 3 damage, reducing its speed to 2 and taking out the Gun.

Exchanging missiles

The Khanate missed 2 out of four shots available (a 6 is a miss!) focusing on the Discovery.

Terrans have one more laser (range of 8) in total than the Khanate, and so move closer.  The Khanate have more Guns, so need to get closer too (guns are range 9 with a 1 in 6 chanve of a hit; range 6 is when there is a 50% chance to hit. Beams will only miss on a d6=6 out to range 8.

Malkon loses second weapon and effectively out f thefight, napoleon has M1 so splits between Karhae and Malkon.

Closing in....

Kahae focuses on the Discovery and takes out shields and armor, and the Talron does first blood on an internal system (a hold) of Discovery.
I just like the look of the ship so here is a pic (Dindrenzi Cruiser standiung in for the Khanate Karhae)

The Terrans are now in range of the Space Station. It has two missile launchers that it targets on the Discovery. Yep.  Laser and Engine gone.  Talron then takes out remaining weapons on the Discovery.  Karhae hits with all weapons on  Outreach,  but all Outreach weapons are still OK - they are well back in the ship list of systems.

Something I have forgotten after 20 years is that missiles don't hit well at range 0-2.  Oops for the Khanate who I have moved quite close to the Terrans.  The Terrans have dual missile/gun launchers so are fine at short range.

Karhae gets 4 hits on the Outreach - not looking good - Talron hits on its shots and Outreach has no weapons left. Napoleon proceeds to rip the guts out of Talron.

The ships in action
Only Napoleon and Karhae and the pace station left. The Napoleon can take more damage than the Karhae at this stage, but the Space Station will keep sniping.   It will be a close run thing.

Karhae is too close!  Only it and the Terran destroyer Napoleon is left in the fight.  Karhae begins to turn and run for the Space Station.

A couple of turns are spent exchanging shots as Karhae runs closer to the space station.  Napoleon gets the initiative for the first time in ages, fires first and takes out Karhae laser and missile launcher.  So Karhae only has one weapons left; but Karhae fires back and takes out a weapon on Napoleon too.  Space Station still sniping.

Karhae is back near the Space station.  Eventually Napoleon becomes devoid of weapons.

I played a few more turns with pot shots being taken but Napoleon lost its last weapons before being able to drop the shields and armour on the Space Station.  So a win the the Khanate, but with much damage to both sides.


Even for a simple combat sequence, there what a lot I forgot about tactics - Beams Vs Missiles, close range stuff, rear arcs etc.  And to really focus on the order that the ship systems are!  But I had a blast.  It may be awhile before I drag them out again but I hope to do so later this year.  Not sure if I am up to the complexity of some of the rules after playing Starfire - firing arcs, written orders etc may end up being too much for what I want from spaceship gaming!


  1. I wish I'd kept my copy of Starfire now - after years of looking at various rules trying to find one I liked, it would appear that, after reading your post, I still have a soft-spot for Starfire.

  2. I must admit, another reason I did use Starfire (apart from knowing the rules) is that I have read dozens of other rulesets, but the simplicity of Starfire ships and combat (at least the early editions) just meshes so well to produce a fun fast game.

    1. I also have a soft spot for Starfire, but I have to say Full Thrust may be simpler. Also Vassal has a Starfire Module here:

    2. I think you may be right. I have been relooking at spaceship rules this year after playing a few more Starfire games over the last 2-3 yeaars. I recently played a small game using Shooting Stars (not the Yaquinto game but a recent set available on Wargames Vault). it was fairly simple and fun but I have not had a chance to play any more and so still unsure if they hold up to repeated playing.

  3. Those Starmada ships look nice. Good battle report. I know how you feel about trying to remember rules. I'm playing RRtK right now after a few months off and it is a lot of page flipping at the moment. I'd hate to see what 20+ years would do.

    1. Thanks Sean, the ships are nice. I have been looking for reasonable painted spaceships for a while now and these seemed like a good thing.

      Starfire is simple and so the rules are not difficult to remember/pick up again. OTOH, I recently went back to my own ancient rules after nearly 2 months away from them and it felt like I could not remember half the rules (and I wrote them), so I know what you mean!

    2. I just downloaded Starfire rules from Starfire Design studios after I say they where selling the pocket game for 95$ on ebay. I''l be using 1/2500 scale Star Trek models to play.

    3. Excellent to see another Starfire player. I have the first three editions in paper, don't think I will get rid of them. I would be interested to hear how you go with the rules. I keep meaning to get the ships out again but other projects just seem to get priority!

  4. Starfire, you say? Very much alive and well:

  5. great stuff - I broke out my Starfire I ziploc bag and played a bit recently. This blog was my inspiration, and now I see he isn't the only one!

    I was also led to the Starfire Forums, which provide lots of inspiration and thoughts. I am pretty happy with SF2, but the rules are actually still progressing!

    1. Yes, that blog nearly got me to play a second game this year. I really need to dig out the spaceships again!