Last time we took a look at the forthcoming A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, we concentrated on the differences between it and Babylon 5 & Noble Armada. This time around, we are going to take a gander at the Advanced Rules and preview another ship…
Some ships, notably those of the Romulan Star Empire, are equipped with cloaks. Once engaged, a cloak will cause a ship to disappear, both visually and on sensors. This allows for a wide range of tactics, from approaching an enemy unseen to launching a surprise attack, to safely escaping after decoying a superior force.
To engage a cloak, a ship must use the Engage Cloak! Special Action at the start of its turn. During this turn, the ship may not move more than 6 inches and may not make any attacks. However, it immediately gains the Stealth 4+ trait.
While cloaked in subsequent turns, the ship gains the Stealth 2+ trait but cannot launch any attacks of its own. It may not move more than 6 inches in a turn and cannot use any Special Actions aside from Disengage Cloak!
Transporters, Tractors and weapons with the Seeking trait cannot be used against a cloaked ship.
To disengage the cloak, a ship must use the Disengage Cloak! Special Action at the start of its turn. The ship may be moved up to 6 inches in any direction and turned up to 45o in any direction before it makes its normal move – the enemy never knows exactly where a cloaked ship is or where it may reveal itself. It loses the Stealth trait but may fire normally.
A ship will automatically and immediately lose its cloak if it enters a dust cloud or asteroid field. A ship may start a game cloaked unless denied by the scenario being played.
The Stealth 2+ trait basically keeps a cloaked ship hidden but, because Stealth is now rolled against every single hit, it allows players to ‘shotgun’ areas of space and get some lucky hits. The cloaked ship can weather the storm as it retains shields though, as players will soon find out, a lucky hit can still cause immense problems and a cloaked ship cannot attack at all. The trade off comes when a ship decloaks, as it gains that 6″ repositioning move, which can be very useful.
We noticed in playtesting that players with Romulan ships cloaked all the time. As they quickly learned, this is not a good idea – cloaks are another tool, one of many that Romulans have, and the rest should not be ignored no matter how sexy cloaking is!
A ship need not rely purely on its shields to defend against every attack. Drones and plasma torpedoes can be directly targeted by phasers and neutralised before they strike a ship.
Defensive fire takes place as soon as a ship is targeted by a drone or plasma torpedo and is about to be hit. A phaser may only fire once per turn, whether it is used for attacking an enemy ship or defensive fire, and the owning player must decide which phasers will defend against which attacks if multiple seeking weapons are coming in. Traits such as Accurate apply as normal but Kill Zone will not as drones are engaged beyond this range.
Against Drones: Any phaser with a fire arc covering the attacking ship may be used to defensively fire against drones it launches. Roll the phaser’s Attack Dice as normal. Every successful hit will remove one Attack Die of drones.
Against Plasma Torpedoes: Any phaser may be used against an attacking plasma torpedo in the same way as it can be used against drones. However, every successful hit from a phaser will reduce the Attack Dice of a plasma torpedo by 1. If enough phasers successfully strike it, the plasma torpedo may be nullified altogether.
Using Drones Against Drones: Drones can be used for defensive fire, although they may only target other drones. They are used in the same way as phasers but no Attack Dice are rolled. Instead, each drone launched as defensive fire will automatically nullify one Attack Die of enemy drones.
We tried many variations of this rule and I was initially unhappy with having to traack every phaser used for defence because it is out of sequence for the ship and is more bookkeeping to follow. In practice it is hardly ever an issue. Phaser-3s are so short-ranged that they are almost always on defensive duty, so it only becomes a conscious decision to bring the phaser-1s to bear – and unless you are getting swamped by drones or there are no target in that particular arc, you are never going to do this. The reverse is true too – you tend not to use phaser-3s even at short range unless you know you are safe from drones. The consequences of not keeping them back from a surprise attack is just too great, even if you have adequate Anti-Drone coverage.
Basically, the rule works, is easy to understand so we kept it!
Most ships are equipped with laboratories, packed with scientific equipment to aid them in exploratory missions. In some scenarios ships are required to gather a certain number of Information Points from enemy ships, bases, planets or anomalies.
During each turn a ship does not perform a Special Action and is within 6 inches of a target it wishes to scan, roll one die for every Lab it has in the End Phase. The ship will gain this many Information Points from the target. If the target is within 3 inches, each Lab will roll two dice instead.
Unless otherwise stated, every ship carries one Probe Launcher. A Probe may be fired in any fire arc in any End Phase and will gather four dice worth of Information Points from any target within 6 inches. A ship may not fire another probe in the next turn as it must reload its launcher but it is free to fire another thereafter.
A cloaked ship may not use Labs or probes.
Fairly self-explanatory, these two. You won’t just be fighting in some missions!
There are some things I have skipped over for now, either because they reference other rules areas or are fairly lengthy (transporters and tractor beams, for example), but we will come back to them soon enough. So, let’s round this off with a look at another ship, an old staple of the Romulan fleet – the KR Heavy Cruiser (which will also give Klingon fans some clues too!).
KR Heavy Cruiser 165 Points
Converted from surplus Klingon D6 hulls, these were some of the first warp-powered starships the Romulans deployed. Each ship mounts two type-S torpedoes, all the ageing frame of the old D6 could carry.
Ships of the Class: Praetorian, Patrician, Kestrel, Shrike, Annihilation, Retribution, Retaliation, Proconsul.
Craft: 4 Shuttles
Traits: Agile, Cloak, Labs 4, Tractor Beam 3, Transporter 5
Weapon / Range / Arc / AD / Special
Phaser-1 / 18 / F, P, S / 3 / Accurate +2, Kill Zone 8, Precise
Phaser-2 / 12 / A, P / 2 / Accurate +1, Kill Zone 4, Precise
Phaser-2 / 12 / A, S / 2 / Accurate +1, Kill Zone 4, Precise
Plasma Torpedo-S / 16 / F, P / 4 / Devastating +1, Energy Bleed, Multihit D6, Reload, Seeking
Plasma Torpedo-S / 16 / F, S / 4 / Devastating +1, Energy Bleed, Multihit D6, Reload, Seeking
* So long as it has a Shields score above 0, a KR Heavy Cruiser suffering an attack from within its Fore arc will have the number of hits it sustains halved, rounding up, with the exception of any hits that penetrate the shields. These are treated as normal.
Let’s compare it to the Federation Heavy Cruiser we last previewed, as they are very close in points cost (the KR gives away 15 points).
One big difference is with a Turn score of 4, the KR can make three turns in a move to the Heavy Cruiser’s two. However, it is also Agile, so those turns can be up to 90 degrees, ensuring the KR can always turn tighter than a Federation ship (and yes, most Klingon ships can do this too!). Romulans will need this as well, for the KR gives away a little in Shields and quite a bit in Damage, so it is by no means as durable (though the Fore Arc Shield special rule, also applicable to all Klingon ships) helps out a great deal.
There are less Labs, but more Tractor Beams and Transporters, suiting the more offensive role of the KR. Just don’t expect it to perform as well when doing ‘science stuff.’
The three up front Phaser-1s are nice enough (compared to the four the Heavy cruiser will always be able to get on you, or six if it gets you dead in-between firing lanes), but the phaser-2s will always be relegated to opportunity fire or even defensive work, leaving you to rely on shields most of the time to absorb drone hits. However, with those two plasma torpedoes up front, you will be looking to swoop in, hit hard, and then retreat.
The latter is made much easier by the elephant in the room, the Cloak trait. Simply fade out, leaving the Federation to lick its wounds – or, better yet, suffer another attack from your second cloaked ship that is now making an appearence!