The Romulan fleet comprises three broad classes of ship. First, you have the the ‘original’ ships, as seen in The Original Series. These ships are based on (or actually are) pre-Warp designs that have been retrofitted to make them competitive. Then, you have the Kestrels, Klingon ships bought and converted by the Romulans. Finally, there are the latest vessels, often called the ‘Hawk’ series, that are good looking and extremely potent in battle!
All three of these classes appear in A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, and all have various components in common. All carry plasma toropedoes, for example, seeking weapons that automatically hit the enemy and do vicious amounts of damage (the drawbacks being they are best fired at near point-blank range, and can be neutralised by defensive fire – still, when an enemy gets overwhelmed and plasma smashes through his remaining shields, you will find his hull often boils away to nothing!). And all have the Romulan cloaking device that allows the ships to literally disappear from view.
Games against Romulan fleets really require you to ‘change gear’ and approach the battle differently than if you were fighting Klingons, Gorns, or anyone else. We have sometimes referred to these games as ‘sub-hunts,’ where the Romulans are constantly testing defences and seeking holes in an enemy line, popping out briefly to launch a nasty plasma attack, then cloaking and retreating.
Of course, that is just one way of playing with the Romulans, and more experienced players may find it is better to approach an enemy under cloak, pick the right time to uncloak, and then stay visible for the rest of the battle, allowing plasma torpedoes to cycle as quickly as possible.
That said, it can be quite nerve-wracking when you are playing the Federation and you have to scan a planet that you just know has cloaked Romulans in the area, as you have to approach the danger zone on the enemy’s terms!
To round the cloaking rules off, we are producing ‘clear resin’ versions of every Romulan ship, allowing you to replace a painted model with one that is obviously cloaked, so you can see at a glance which ships in your fleet are doing what. Plus, having clear ships on the table when they are cloaked is just insanely cool!
Anyway, onto today’s preview, and we are going to be taking a look at the ‘classic’ Romulan ships for now, that appeared in The Original Series, and some larger vessels that are based on the same technology.
The Battle Hawk is a good, solid ship for a starting Romulan ship. Cheap as chips at just 120 points, yet carries two good-sized plasma torpedoes (few ships will be able to stop all of the damage from getting through from just one Battle Hawk, and if several gang up it just gets plain nasty), a decent amount of phasers and 24 Shields. On top of that, of course, it can cloak and avoid everyone while it reloads its torpedoes!
Only paying 120 points, of course, there will be some downsides, principally the damage it can sustain – just 8 points, so if just a few phasers start slipping past the shields, then trouble is not usually far behind. Battle Hawks need to uncloak as a mob, unload on a prime target (think Battlecruiser or Dreadnought, don’t mess around with the smaller escorts) with massed plasma, then get out of Dodge fast, usually by cloaking again.
It is when Romulans try to cloak in the middle of battle that we have found they are the most vulnerable (hence experienced players not doing it too often) as while they are extremely safe while hidden, they spend a turn in transition where they cannot fire any weapons (and we have found drones are a choice weapon here, as the Romulans cannot even use a phaser-3 to stop them) and must take any incoming fire with just ‘half’ a cloak before they can fade from view. The Battle Hawk, at least, is helped in this as it has the Armoured trait, which creates twice as many painless ‘bulkhead hits’ as normal.
If, however, you are looking for a ship even more extreme than the Battle Hawk, try a Snipe – it has only 6 Damage and 20 Shields, but is as agile as a Klingon Frigate, and has an additional plasma torpedo (kicking out 7 Attack Dice in total!). A real (shielded) eggshell armed with a hammer!
If you are looking for something larger, try the War Eagle. Just 20 points more than the Battle Hawk, it has 50% more Damage on its hull, and one massive plasma torpedo that, alone, matches all three launchers mounted on the Snipe – when that big ball of gas gets launched, not much is going to stop it getting through! It also means the War Eagle has the ability to engage from range (as plasma torpedoes diminish in strength over distance), whereas ships like the Battle Hawk andm, especially, the Snipe are better off getting up close and personal.
The Romulan fleet will suit the player who likes to be sneaky – there can’t be anything better than a cloaking device for that – and enjoys delivering knockout attacks that can really smack another ship about in a single blow. However, they also require caution, as all Romulan ships are vulnerable when trying to cloak and if you spend too much time hiding in a cloak, it just gives your enemy time to boost his shields back up to full strength, forcing you to start all over again.
However, a large Romulan fleet in expert hands is something to behold. Wings of ships fade in, boil a heavy cruiser into space dust, and then fade out again. As the enemy begins reacting to them and starts firing into empty space, trying for a luck hit, another group of ships decloak at short range, unload, and then disappear themselves. A canny Romulan admiral will use this ability to keep an enemy off balance, forcing them to react to him, no matter what the Initiative Dice say that turn.
They are going to be a favourite for a great many players, I think – and dreaded by many more!