It really is the question.
Every playtester who tried out A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, without exception, started their games with every ship cloaked when it came to work on the Romulans. They were surprised when they did not just lose, but got absolutely hammered.
Part of it was that their opponents were already used to the fleets they were in charge of (such as the Federation and Klingons). However, a great deal was that they had read the rules on cloaks, and decided that was the be all and end all of Romulan tactics.
Oh, there is so much more to them than that…
It should be said that there are times when your entire fleet approaching under cloak is a good idea. I recently played a game where two Snipes and a Battle Hawk (pretty much the smallest ships in the Romulan fleet) were up against a a Klingon D6 and D7, a mis-match if ever there was one, over a battlefield that had no terrain at all. There was no way I would cross all that empty space without a cloak!
Oh, and for those wondering, I lost but took out the D6. Would have got the D7 too, if I had not lost a string of initiative rolls towards the end…
On the face of it, cloaks look all kinds of awesome. For every incoming hit, you roll a die and, on a 2 or more, the hit is completely ignored – it just flies off into empty space! If a hit does make contact, most will just make your shields shudder a little, making you practically invulnerable. You even get to use the Reload Special Action while cloaked, allowing you to bring more of those all important plasma torpedoes on line.
There are downsides, naturally. And these are what most new Romulan players tend to gloss over! First, you can only move 6″ a turn which means, if you are not careful, your opponent will literally run rings round you, denying the crucial short-ranged plasma shot. He will keep extending the distance until you get bored, frustrated, do something stupid – decloak and let fly with torpedoes at long range – and then he nails you with every weapon he can bring to bear.
You do, of course, have to decloak in order to fire, which is fine. If you have popped up in the right place (out of arc ofmost return fire and close enough so your plasma torpedoes do not suffer from Energy Bleed), then your opponent will be panicking, dedicating as many phasers as he can to reducing the strength of your torpedoes, leaving little to fire back at you. The problem comes in the next turn, where you have to make a choice – rely on a handful of phasers while you reload for another attack or try to recloak in which case you don’t get to fire at all and have to weather an absolute storm of firepower with just 4+ Stealth to protect you (it doesn’t – generally speaking, Romulans have great shields but their hulls can take precious little damage).
What will be interesting will be the different tactics different Romulan players develop over the next few months. When you spring out of a cloak, you do not get to move normally at all – instead, you can place your ship up to 6″ in any direction with a free turn. And this has some interesting implications. If thinngs have become up close and personal, you can completely wrong-foot an enemy, popping up behind him. Or you can use that 6″ to pop up from behind a thin asteroid field (You thought I was behind the rocks? Ha!).
The goal, however, is to uncloak as close as you can to the enemy (ideally within 8″) so you can unleash the full power of your plasma torpedoes. Even the humble Snipe carries 7 Attack Dice worth of these weapons – imagine rolling 7 dice against, well, any enemy. One hit will seriously cripple or annihilate the shields of a heavy cruiser. A second salvo will likely 0ut it out of the battle, at worst. This is why I normally use Snipes in pairs…
My favoured tactics is to group Romulan ships in ‘hunting packs’ of 2 or 3 vessels and spread them around the battlefield as they close in to the enemy. Decloak one pack and let a choice target have it but, crucially, just as it recloaks, uncloak another so instead of the enemy ganging up on the first, he finds he has to divert phasers to fend off another explosion of plasma. Add, rince, and repeat.
Sometimes this tactic even works!
You’ll develop your own. There are several playtesters who swear never to try to recloak once engaged, and this is certainly valid. Romulan ships are very capable vessels with many that can go toe-to-toe with the heaviest Federation or Klingon ships. For them, Cloak is just another trait, one that can be used as an aid but in no way entirely defines the ship.
In Other Star Fleet News
Our chaps in the casting facility have been working day and night (literally) to meet all your orders. We are now looking at starting to ship A Call to Arms: Star Fleet on the week of the 12th, though gamers in the US may see the rulebook a week before that.
More Federation and Klingon ships will be up and available on the web site this week.
Work has already started on the first supplement for A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, due for releaee about this time next year, though we will have a couple of ‘mini’ releases before then.
The official UK launch at Dragonmeet on Saturday was a great success – many thanks for all those who took part in the demos, and we hope you enjoy the ships you picked up!
A few lucky mail order customers are going to be receiving a free Pocket Edition of A Call to Arms: Star Fleet.