Saturday, April 27, 2013

SciFi Saturday – Rules and Conversions Booklet

The Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks boxed miniatures each come with an 8-page "Rules and Conversions" booklet. For a long time, it's piqued my curiosity, because to my knowledge no one's ever scanned or presented this document online. Why would miniature conversion rules be needed when the original Tactical Book already included (brief) ones on the inside back cover? So this was an additional reason to finally break open those shrink-wrapped boxes I'd kept for a decade, and finally assess and publicize the contents.

The "Rules and Conversions" booklet is identical in both boxes. Page 2 presents assembly diagrams for all 12 spaceship miniatures in the original series. One flaw: the UPF Battleship is shown being assembled in two halves, split laterally down the hull; when in actuality it comes in front-and-back sections (the Sathar Heavy Cruiser, however, is shown correctly).

The first section presents a "Simple Rules" set (p. 4-6), which could be used by people who didn't have any access to the original boxed-set game. In summary, this eliminates: planets, stations, carriers, fighters, landing, orbiting, and any ships not included in the boxed miniatures. There are no defenses (like masking screens), no range diffusion (i.e., the -5% per hex penalty for lasers), and no acceleration or deceleration. On this latter point, every ship simply has a fixed speed that it must travel every turn, based on its ADF rating from the normal game. Kind of an interesting abstraction.

The second section is the "Conversion Rules" (p. 6-7). As it turns out, these are really the same as those found in the Ares #17 article, "Fire at Will!" by Carl Smith, which I find to be basically underwhelming. What it shares with the Tactical Book rules is reasonable: play on a table or floor with no hex map, and use a protractor for turning (1 hex-face = 60 degrees). So is the detail for forward-firing weapons: fire in arc 30 degrees left or right, with the +10% head-on bonus if the target is within 5 degrees of the bow. But it also changes the scale to 1" = 5,000 km (from 1 inch = 1 hex = 10K km in the original book), requiring a very clunky multiplication of all the acceleration/deceleration factors used during gameplay (and also a seemingly enormous space to recreate action on the original boardgame map; like about 9 feet long by my calculation).

Also, it introduces a new rule for "Area (Zone of Control)", saying that ships "screen" one another and block shots against anything behind them; which is both an enormous strategic alteration to the game, and also really hard to swallow from a simulation perspective; there being a lot of room in 3D outer space. (Additionally, the suggested use of smaller ships to screen larger ships is exactly the opposite of my strategy recommendations for the game.) So I don't actually recommend that anyone use these Conversion Rules; sticking with the original Tactical Book looks more elegant to my eye (but maybe someday we'll try to test out these alterations to confirm how they run). Finally, the back cover has a printed protractor, but obviously this would be quite difficult to use in practice.

In the spirit of scholarly review and criticism, I present the Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks Miniatures Rules and Conversions booklet below, for what I think is the first time online. (Click the image to download a PDF):


  1. i was just blogging aout star frontiers the other day! only version id ever seen - was missing from opened store set

  2. Odd little rule set. Especially the protractor.

    1. Very much so! Coincidentally, just yesterday I bought two actual protractors at my school bookstore (because this paper one sure wouldn't cut it).