Friday, 30 May 2014

Star Fleet: Disaster/Victory at Attica Beta

It's been a while since I played a game of ACTA: Star Fleet. In fact, the last time we tried out the new drone rules, which were a bit burdensome. So I reverted to the old ones this time. I ran a practice game against myself, mainly to reacquaint myself with the rules, which worked. I totally dropped the ball on several things, as you'll see. The scenario was Call to Arms, which pretty much amounts to "You have eight turns to shoot one another to death. Terrain is optional." I fancied loading one fleet into a few high value ships, and giving the other an Initiative and movement advantage. One alternates movement by ship in this game, so if you have more ships, you can outmanoeuvre your opponent. The fleets were as follows.

Federation Taskforce:
Flag: USS Mars, Mars-class Battleship  (the large model with four nacelles
USS Farragut and USS Yorktown (to the starboard and port, respectively, of Mars), Constitution-class Heavy Cruisers
USS Carolina, Escort Cruiser

USS Reliant (a model from Shapeways, used because it's the Reliant, of course!), Discovery-class (?) New Scout Cruiser

Klingon Fleet:
IKS Revenge, D7C Command Cruiser (represented by FD7 model with a bullet-shaped prow rather than the other cruiser's standard curved triangle)
IKS Doom, D5WD Drone Cruiser (her third nacelle, located on the centreline on her rear hull, makes her stand out)
IKS Brazen and Bombardier, D6 Heavy Cruisers (the two identical other cruisers)
IKS Interceptor and Invidious, F5 Frigates (the larger pair of small ships)
IKS Mosquito and Gnat, E4 Light Frigates (the tiny wee things)

Having experienced severe frustration in previous battles because it's effectively impossible to fix ships when things break as a result of enemy fire, all the ships involved had high Crew Quality ratings. In practice, this meant everything was fixed at once, but these are most of the highest-rated ships in the fleet, so it seems fine. In terms of terrain, the only piece of any import was the dust cloud. It shaded the Feds and their opponents equally, but obscured the entire Federation fleet at the beginning of the battle. The two asteroid fields and planetoid never got a look-in. The Feds won the pre-battle Initiative roll, forcing the Klingons to deploy first. I placed the heavy ships on the left and the light ones on the right, having some misplaced idea about distracting the Federation fire with the light ships.

The Klingons won the Initiative roll for the first turn, and I advanced the right flank of small ships. The Federation force moved en bloc into the dust cloud, where it would contentedly remain for a while, doing nothing more strenuous than move a few inches or turn on the spot. USS Reliant proved her weight in gold by blocking a lot of enemy fire. She also did some illegal things, as I realised as I looked more closely at the rules. The Klingons aimed to take out the Mars, reckoning correctly that at more than one third of the cost of the fleet, her loss would gut it. However, I forgot that she was also the most heavily-protected ship on the board, defended by the Reliant's Scout functions, the Carolina's escort capabilities, and her own massive armament and shielding. The Federation instead elected to shoot at the closest targets, which saw the small Klingon ships bloodied and beaten. One F5, IKS Invidious, is destroyed by the Carolina's drones. An E4, IKS Mosquito, is blasted into dust by Mars' weapons.

As the disaster on the right flank became apparent, turn 3 saw the Klingons decide to get the hell out of Dodge before anything else went disastrously wrong. Federation sensors spotting the Klingons preparing to go to high warp, however, led to the Federation squadron charging across the battlefield, and unloading an obscene number of photon torpedoes right down the throat of the very expensive (and seriously under-performing) D5WD Bombardment Cruiser. A lot of the Federation ships' previously useless aft-firing phasers went toward the surviving small ships. The cruiser Yorktown destroys the second F5, IKS Interceptor, with rear phaser fire. Farragut fires the crucial shots that mangle the D5WD, two of her photons passing straight through the enemy's shields, and following up with some equally effective phasers, which demolished her shields and crippled her. Reliant did some tidying up, destroying both the E4 Gnat and the D5WD. Although the Klingons fired back with all they had, it caused nothing more serious all game than two criticals (both at once repaired) and some moderate hull and shield damage to Mars and the two heavy cruisers.

In retrospect, employing such small ships against an enemy battleship was a bad idea. I ended up trying to bring them into effective combat range, which is very low, thus endangering them. I should have either selected a mass of small ships or made everything medium-sized and capable of enduring some punishment. Putting them on the flank meant they were an even more distinct target than if they had been amidst a lot of cruisers. Finally, their separation from the cruisers and proximity to the Federation ships meant they were in a horribly exposed position when the final turn came. I should also have remembered that the Reliant and Carolina were force multipliers, and considered eliminating them before trying to damage the battleship. From the Klingon perspective, the best thing that can be said is that I was reminded of what not to do!

You can see the battle unfold approximately below. I tried to take photos as things proceeded, but a few of these are staged afterwards, so apologies for any continuity errors.

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