Friday, June 19, 2015

Weekend Warrior: SF Knight Hawks

Game 2 of a pair of Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks battles with my friend John S. Having gotten an idea of the mechanics in Game 1 (where I handily fended off his 3 Assault Scouts), John went in the other direction this time. In particular, he took note of the SFKH rule that a ship with speed zero (0) can pivot to any desired facing within a turn, irrespective of MR (maneuver rating). This makes for a pretty attractive strategy of taking a single, slow, high-value capital ship and letting it be a stationary, rotating gun platform (even though in other situations the big slow ships are a bit devalued). So giving a budget value of 6 mega-credits to both sides to buy ships, this was exactly enough for John to purchase the big Sathar Heavy Cruiser, while I picked a UPF Assault Scout and Destroyer in response (price 2 and 4 respectively). From John's perspective, the added value was that he wouldn't have to deal with momentum and turning issues so much.

Turn 1-2 --  John starts in the center of his side with a speed of 3. While seemingly minimal, this itself was nearly a misstep, as the big Heavy Cruiser only has an ADF of 1, so it's going to take 3 turns to come to a stop and pivot at-will. At the end of turn 2, I've got my ships positioned together for an attack run from the left side (and I like having my bigger ship ahead to attract and shield any weapons fire).

Turn 3-4 --  I make my close-up attack run, and the dice go very well for me. In particular, I get tremendously lucky with a nuclear torpedo sneaking in through his defensive ICMs and the 4d10 damage dice come up: 10, 9, 9, and 7 -- so there goes 35 of his initial 80 hull points. John targets all his weapons at my scout, looking to score the first casualty; I take evasive maneuvers to get away from his torpedo-fire. However, the zig-zag flight path doesn't allow me to get much distance from the cruiser, so on the next turn John comes to a stop, lines up on my scout, and blasts it out of existence with laser-fire. Meanwhile, my destroyer has come back around for some long-range cannon fire (which misses).

Turn 5-6 --  My destroyer makes another strafing attack, as we trade rocket and laser fire. The cruiser pivots after each of my attacks to shoot with its forward-firing cannon and sequence of 3 laser batteries. At the start of this turn sequence we're about even on hull points, with 40 each; but the fact that he's getting more cannon shots lined up is a bad deal for me. (Generally I get 1 or 2 laser attacks on my turns, versus 4 on his.) Still, I get some very lucky hit rolls and both of our hull points tick down together into the single digits. At this point I'm out of rockets and torpedoes, but the opponent is not.

Turn 7 --  Realizing that I can't afford to give him free cannon-shots while I'm trying to maneuver, I bring my destroyer to a stop, facing off cannon-to-cannon against the much larger ship -- and at just the right distance so I'm out of range of his remaining torpedoes and rocket batteries (which probably a new player would not be able to arrange on the open tabletop play area). Chances are against me here -- he has more guns and I've only got a 20% chance to hit with lasers from this range. But...

The dice come up 19% for a hit, and the Sathar Heavy Cruiser explodes into a ball of flame! Victory to the UPF this time.  John says: "Yeah, that's about what happens with the dice when you play Dan."

Conclusions -- I felt a bit sorry at the end of the weekend for the completely absurd run of luck I had through all of our games for about 72 hours; I wound up winning all 4 games that we played. John played very thoughtfully and absolutely deserved to head back home with at least 1 or 2 victories under his belt, but the dice were just crooked in my favor for some reason. The strategy of the stationary Heavy Cruiser was totally solid (especially for a lone vessel, and a new player wrestling with the movement rules), and while not a lock, he really deserved to win this game more than any other. Better luck next time!


  1. Did you ever try to run the Sathar War campaign? I never got around to trying it back in the day. Now I doubt I'd have time. But it always looked fun.

    1. I did with a friend staying at my house for a few days. But we found the written rules were broken in the Sathar player's favor (which was me at the time). (1) Sathar victory is predicated on destroying a certain number of space stations. (2) When you set up a battle, you can pick any speed you want and Sathar attackers move first.

      So: In each battle I set my speed at exactly the number to land on the space station. I move first, land my whole fleet on the station, launch torpedes & everything, never failed to blow up the station. Then in turn 2 the fleet jumps off the other side of the map as UPF attempts to maneuver for a response. So as written it was painfully lopsided.

      Some of my current house rules attempt to address this: max starting speed 10, for example. But like you I may never have a chance to playtest and see if this actually fixed the major problem with the setup/victory conditions.

    2. And note that the Sathar player could launch the mass attack even before the UPF can switch on defensive screens or anything (another thing I now fix with a house rule).