Campaign Variations

Playing A Call to Arms: Star Fleet is good. Taking part in a campaign adds a whole new dimension, however.

In a campaign, you will forge temporary alliances, break truces, build deadly rivalries, and see your fleet expand to dominate your corner of the universe – or be smashed apart by a ruthless enemy! The campaign system for A Call to Arms: Star Fleet is designed to be quick and easy to get to grips with (no counting out Resource Points or following supply lines to each portion of your fleet!), allowing you to dive right into the action. Campaigns can easily build a narrative for your fleet, so it becomes more than just a collection of models.  You will be able to recount (to anyone willing to listen!) how the brave crew of the USS Phoenix fought bravely, outnumbered, against a squadron of Klingon frigates while several decks raged with fire!

A small Federation force, spoiling for trouble!

From top to bottom, A Call to Arms: Star Fleet was built for epic battles across the stars, where dice rolls and tactical choices would combine into a narrative that describes great and terrible deeds in a fight for supremacy.

However, A Call to Arms: Star Fleet is also as much your game as it is ours and while the campaign rules included in the rulebook contain enough to keep you fighting for months on end, variety is also the spice of life (and war).  Here, we will look at some subtle changes you can make to the campaign rules in order to change the whole tone of a war.

Starting Forces
We left this quite vague in the book, stating that campaign fleets can be pretty much as large as you like. However, we are guessing that many people will stick to 2,000 points as the default. There is absolutely no need to do this!

We already suggest that you can go larger for a longer, more in-depth campaign, but what about going smaller? A campaign where everyone starts off with just 1,000 points could represent small forces dispatched to a newly discovered world full of riches many light years from reinforcement. Players will likely be very cautious during the initial clashes as one large battle could see the complete destruction of their entire fleet and loss of the campaign!

You can also play around with variable starting forces, similar to the way points values in scenarios can change. Every player rolls a dice; on a 1, they have 20% less points, on a 2 they have 10% less points.  On a 3-4, they will have the campaign ‘default’ number of points, but on a 5 they get 10% more, and on a 6 they get 20% more. This may seem a little unfair and it is a brave fleet that starts at -20% and starts to punch above its own weight.  However, the campaign system in A Call to Arms: Star Fleet is robust enough to handle this disparity (remember, it can already handle a player dropping out for a few weeks and then returning with no one the worse off) and, anyway, war is never fair!  There is also something rather appealing about starting as the underdog and eventually triumphing.

To take this idea a step further, you could ‘set’ the points bvalues for each fleet before the campaign starts.  For example, you might decide the story behind the campaign is that the Klingon Empire is working on a new type of technology that could see them become undefeatable in battle.  Both the Romulans and the Federation send forces into Empire space to stop them. Because the Klingons are on home ground, they may be awarded a 20% bonus to the points value of their campaign fleet, while the Romulans and Federation both start with a -10% penalty. If a fourth player joins in as Orions, who are just there for an good opportunities that arise rather than full scale invasion, they might have -20% of the fleet value.

Scenarios
There are a number of scenarios that do not appear on the table for campaigns, mainly because we wanted to keep the default campaign rules fairly generic. However, you need not be bound by this! By creating your own scenario table, you can feature scenarios suitable to, say, pirate attacks and raids, rather than full blown battles, or perhaps scenarios based in unusual areas of space (such as the Gravity Well scenario).

You can also change the random point value of scenarios, either by actually changing the values in the table to allow for smaller or larger fights, or changing the table completely and making it based on 2D6, so fights tend to be weighted around a central range of points with only a few very small or very large battles. This will make things more predictable, but you can also make sure such a table is weighted towards the high or low end, maybe doing the latter to reflect a campaign centred on pirates or ‘spoiling” forces trying to tweak the tail of a much larger enemy.

Skills & Refits
You can have a tremendous amount of fun creating your own tables of Skills & Refits, including specific technologies and personalities that are central to your campaign narrative. For example, you need not just have a Skilled Captain – you might get Admiral Cunningham, Hero of Tarsus IV and renowned expert in the overloaded photon strike (with appropriate special rules to demonstrate this). In the Klingon campaign mentioned above, ships might start appearing with the new technology on board, further altering the balance of power in the war.

You can, of course, go one step further – have a seperate Skills & Refits table for each fleet. The Klingon table might concentrate on extra Transporters, Shuttles and Marines, while the Federation table might focus on crew benefits. If you come up with any good ideas for this, be sure to post them on our forums – the best may make it into the forthcoming supplement so everyone can witness your genius!

Winning the Campaign
Another area obvious for fiddling with is the victory conditions of the campaign. The default setting concentrates on Prestige Points to achieve victory, with players varying the number required to make for a long or short campaign. No reason for you to stick with that, however!

You might decide to build victory conditions around the narrative behind the campaign. If you are fighting for territory, the first player to win 5 Space Superiority missions might be the winner. Maybe the first to win a number of Explore a Strange New World, if you are in an unexplored area of space. It could be the utter destruction of a specific fleet or, in small point value campaigns, perhaps the destruction of a specific enemy ship (obviously the Admiral’s long term nemesis from the previous campaign!) would grant victory or, at least, a bonus number of Prestige Points. The really ambitious may run a campaign with a set number of ‘turns’ but give every fleet a different objective. You might end up with more than one winner – or none!

 

I hope that has given you some ideas to use in your own games or, at the very least, has lit a spark that makes you want to start a campaign. It really is the best way to get to know your fleet and I would even recommend a small campaign for brand new players to the game. By the time the campaign is complete, win or lose, you will be something of an expert in the game!

We’ll be delving into other areas of A Call to Arms: Star Fleet in the future, as well as taking a few sneak peeks at what is coming up. Meanwhile, here is a new ship, the Klingon E5 Battle Corvette – weird!

E5 Battle Corvette

Mongoose on Kindle

Here at Mongoose, we are always keen to try out new things and see what new technologies have to offer. However, that does not mean that everyone at Mongoose always embraces new things.

For years I have stuck my head in the sand and proudly told all and sundry that I liked real books, with real pages made out of real paper. I am sure there are many out there who can sympathise.

Last year, we looked at putting a few books on Amazon’s Kindle device, partly as an experiment, partly as one step to broaden our markets. There are plenty of Kindle ‘viewers’ about but I wanted to see exactlywhat our products would lok like on the real thing, so I bought a ‘company’ Kindle. It was abut that time, when I started using it, that I realised what a colossal idiot I had been. Talk about instant convert – I bought the Kindle version of the book I was already reading and have not bought another paper novel since (I am also reading a lot more than I had before, which can never be bad).

Since then, we have moved a small number of our books to the Kindle, and they are now available on Amazon. Our current line up looks like this;

Standing Alone

Standing Alone

Far and away our most popular offering on Kindle thus far, Standing Alone is a ‘Shotgun Mike’ novel written by MJ Dougherty, and is set in our Armageddon 2089 universe (due for a return to the Traveller system this year). The world is on the brink of a new world war, and a new series of conflicts has arisen, fought by skilled men and women piloting huge robots called Warmeks. This novel focusses on ‘Shotgun’ Mike and the United Kingdom’s struggle for independance from the European Federation.

Sister Devout

Sister Devout

Set in our Deus Vult setting for Legend, Sister Devout charts the life of a young novice who is dragged into the terrifying and often brutal Order, a secret part of the Church dedicated to preserving the safety of Mankind by any means necessary. Her personal feelings towards both of them become increasingly confused as they join forces to battle corruption within the Church of Rouen, and the true nature of her duties become apparent. Headed by the Archbishop of Rouen, once a knight in the Crusades, a coven is seeking to claim power throughout Europe by raising an army of pure evil, an act in contravention of all laws of God.

The Dragons of Lencia

The Dragons of Lencia

Written by ex-Mongooser Rochard Ford, The Dragons of Lencia sees Telnac, King of Lencia, planning to launch a crusade against the Drakkarim of Nyras and restore his country to its former glory. Meanwhile, Warmarshal Ranghor of Darke, overlord of the Drakkarim nation, plans a conquest of his own. Heroes from across Magnamund will be drawn into this bitter conflict in search of glory and riches, but as the armies of two warring nations clash, they will soon learn that only pain and death await them in the land of the blue dragon.

The Slayer’s Guide to Hobgoblins

Slayer's Guide to Hobgoblins

Mongoose goes full circle with this title. Our first ever book is now available on Kindle, now revised to be used with any fantasy-based roleplaying game (and it is just great for Legend!). It features extensive information on the military race of Hobgoblins, from their complex tribal structure to their very efficient methods of waging war. Games Masters will find a huge amount of new material they can incorporate into their existing campaigns, allowing them to portray hobgoblins with incredible depth. Players will find each Slayer’s Guide to be an invaluable tool for their survival, giving them that necessary vital edge.

We will be releasing more Slayer’s Guides via Kindle very soon, including some brand new titles that did not see the light of day all those years ago.

Sex, Dice and Gamer Chicks

Sex, Dice and Gamer Chicks

Possibly the funniest title we have ever released, Sex, Dice and Gamer Chicks casts an irreverant eye on gaming and gamers. Just what drives a rules lawyer? What are the secrets to fame, success and riches as an all-star games designer? Are female gamers weird? All these questions and more are tackled (if not exactly answered) in this tome.

For the Future

Electronic publishing, in one form or another, is clearly in the future of every publisher and we are casting a keen eye on what could be possible. Over the next few months we will be regularly adding titles to Amazon for your Kindle reading pleasure, but we are also taking a good look at other formats. The Kindle Fire is adding new possibilities and Apple’s own iBook Author system means gaming books can reach new possibilities on the likes of the iPad.

Throughout 2012, we will be trying them all!

The Bigger They Are…

Gamers are a funny lot. No sooner do we start shipping the models for A Call to Arms: Star Fleet than they want to know what we have planned next!

Just about as soon as the rulebook for A Call to Arms: Star Fleet was finished, work started on the first supplement, provisionally entitled Battleships.  You won’t have to think too hard about some of its content, at least!

Anyway, in-between warships from World War II, Sandrine has been working hard on the first range of new ships for the Star Fleet Universe as well, and here you can see the first fruits of her labours.

Federation Battleship

This handsome brute is the Mars-class Battleship of the Federation. Bigger than a Dreadnought, it is the Fed’s last word in warship design.

With 100 points of Damage and 45 Shields, it is probably going to take another battleship to bring it down. It carries a total of ten photon torpedo tubes, two of which point behind so the old trick of getting a smaller but more nimble ship to sit behind and pound away is not going to work against this vessel! Nine drone launchers will be sufficient to bombard, well, an entire enemy fleet if you so wish, and there are massed ranks of phaser upon phaser.

Cruiser & Battleship

As you can see in this size comparison, the Mars-class is shaping up to be an impressive miniature and as soon as it goes through the prototyping process and gets a lick of paint, we’ll be showcasing it on Planet Mongoose.

Over the next few months, you will be hearing a lot about the new edition of Victory at Sea, but keep your eyes peeled as we’ll be slipping in some hints and previews on Battleships.

 

The Washington Treaty

Throughout the new Victory at Sea rulebook (which is shaping up to be a handsome beast!), we are including a number of ‘articles’ that get into the nitty-gritty of naval warfare during World War II.  The following is a first draft of a piece on the all important Washington Treaty…

 

At school, we were all taught that the cause of the First World War was the shooting of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.  This is not completely believable as, it has to be said, no one is that popular.

Once you start digging into the causes of the war, the reasons become twisted and complex (though Black Adder’s view that it was just too much trouble not to have a war does have some merit). The network of treaties and alliances that both bound Europe together and segregated it into two camps was certainly the vehicle by which war arrived, but there is more to it than that.

We are interested in the naval perspective and that had a strong part to play.  Britain was the dominant world power throughout the 19th Century, controlling the largest empire in history.  To do this, it needed an immense navy able to patrol the waters of every corner of the globe.  While other nations remained relatively weak in comparison, the status quo remained in check.  Towards the end of the 19th Century, this precarious balance began to topple as the rise of other industrial nations, such as Russia, America, France, Japan and, of course, Germany, threatened to close on Britain’s level.

This, in part, manifested itself in the navies these nations started to construct. After all, if you wanted to claim your nation was a serious power and a real presence on the world stage, the only way was to be able to at least give the Royal Navy a challenge.

Those in Britain could see what was happening, and the Two Power Policy was instituted, whereby a commitment was made to ensure the Royal Navy was at least as strong as the next two strongest navies combined.  This was to be achieved through raw industrial might, by producing twice as many battleships, and through technological innovation.  It was the latter that started the long spiral downwards.

It has to be remembered what battleships meant at the turn of the century.  They were the most complicated and powerful vehicles on the planet, and an outward projection of a nation’s status.  If you did not have a large fleet of battleships, you were a nobody.  In a way, they were viewed in the same way as nuclear weapons and carrier groups were during the Cold War, or how stealth and drone technology is viewed today.  They meant power and prestige.  They meant everything to an aspiring nation.

When the Royal Navy launched HMS Dreadnought in 1906, it took a huge leap forward.  This ship used steam turbines, making it the fastest battleship in the world and, eschewing the numerous secondary batteries of the era, carried ten main guns, literally making it two and a half times more powerful than any other ship afloat.  In one stroke, the Royal Navy had made every other battleship in the world obsolete – including its own.

The effect was to effectively ‘reset’ the clock.  Britain had Dreadnought but now the other industrial nations had a chance to catch up by producing their own ‘dreadnoughts.’  Thus began a dangerous arms race that led directly to the gap between Britain and other nations shrinking and culminating in the First World War.

Despite drawbacks of battleships that might not have been quite so obvious at the time, along with inconclusive results of the war at sea (arguments still rage today as to who really won the Battle of Jutland), when the armistice was signed and peace reigned once more, every industrial nation began a mad scramble to build more battleships, and to make them bigger.

Britain still had the world’s largest navy, but it was being closely followed by the USA and then by Japan. In 1920, the USA declared it would build a navy second to none, while Japan had already started its 8:8 programme (the building of 8 battleships and 8 battlecruisers). In 1921, Britain showed its determination to keep pace by ordering the construction of the G3 battlecruisers and N3 battleships.  This acceleration of capital ship construction quickly raised new fears of an escalation of arms, as the similarities to the Anglo-German dreadnought race leading up to the First World War were apparent for all to see.

Meanwhile, the strategic thinking in Britain was not aimed at Germany, Japan or even France (the Entente having been signed a few years earlier), but at the rising industrial power across the Atlantic, America.  For its part, America was beginning to assume its role as the leading economic power of the world and saw a confrontation (military or otherwise) with the leading trade power, Britain, as something of an inevitability.

What happened next is extremely important, as though it happened nearly twenty years before the outbreak of the Second World War, it was probably the most powerful factor in effecting how the war was to be fought at sea.  It changed everything.

The Washington Naval Conference took place from November 1921 to February 1922, at the behest of American politicians who started having second thoughts about engaging in a dangerous, expensive and unpredictable arms race. It was an unprecedented move.  The five leading naval powers (the USA, Britain, Japan, France and Italy – Germany was already under heavy restrictions from the Treaty of Versailles) attended, with the aim of reducing the number and power of battleships in the world. This was to be the first international arms treaty of its type.

Total tonnage limits were imposed on the signatories, along with a maximum limit of 35,000 tons for any single vessel and with no gun larger than 16”. It should be noted that this tonnage excluded fuel and boiler water, as the British claimed their global empire required higher fuel loads and thus they should not be penalised. It was something they got away with.

Also, only two carriers per nation could exceed 27,000 tons, and those two were limited to 33,000 tons, an exception made because existing battlecruisers under construction were being converted into carriers (such as the Kaga, Akagi and USS Lexington).  Guns on carriers were sharply limited, so nations could not side-step the treaty by putting a few aircraft on a battleship and calling it a carrier.

New ships could be built or replaced under the treaty, but the other signatories had to be notified of each new build. Fortifications and naval bases were untouched, though no new sites could be built, and many existing ones could not be improved, barring those on the mainlands of the signatory nations.

The navies of these nations started building ships in a new heavy cruiser class, but few new battleships were built.  Instead, conversions were made to existing vessels, resulting in fleets that had a lot of World War I era ships.

Every participating nation had their own reasons for signing the Washington Treaty, and every nation used their own methods to circumvent it.

Britain
Britain was the only nation forced to scrap large numbers of frontline ships to meet the treaty’s obligations, thus causing it to finally abandon the Two Power Policy (much to the relief of the Treasury). In all, 28 capital ships were scrapped, close to the combined strength of both the Japanese and American battle fleets.

So, why did Britain sign up to the treaty, if the cost were to be so heavy?

Well, by the turn of the century, America’s industrial capacity had grown significantly, finally overtaking that of Britain’s (Britain’s industrial production at the time was just under a fifth of the world’s total, the USA’s just under a quarter).  Therefore, Britain could not out produce the USA in the long term, as it had managed with Germany, and it certainly could not consider maintaining the Two Power Policy with Japan added into the mix. The treaty allowed Britain to maintain parity with the USA for two vital decades and avoid an arms race that could end in disaster, either financially or in outright war with America.

The first casualties were the scrapping of the G3 battlecruisers and N3 battleships. The latter were to be 48,000 ton vessels with reinforced deck armour and carry nine 18” guns, the largest weapons to be mounted on a British ship.

The need to increase armament and armour while keeping under the treaty limitations led to experimental designs, such as the Nelson and Rodney, which retained some key concepts from the G3 and N3 ships. These ships used boiler feed water tanks as part of their armour and had unusual gun arrangements designed to maximise firepower and limit weight. Ships were also designed that could have armour added to them after a war began.

USA
The treaty immediately stalled the building of new battleships for America and, in fact, it would build no new battleships for nearly twenty years, until the USS North Carolina came about in 1937.

As overall ship length is a factor in its speed, and because greater length meant more weight, America developed high-strength boilers to gain higher speed in smaller ships.  Ships also adopted an ‘all or nothing’ approach to armour, heavily reinforcing the most critical areas such as engines and magazines, but having very little elsewhere. The reasoning was that thin armour would be of no use anyway in an engagement so the ship would be better off without its weight (which must have been a great comfort to the crew stationed in those areas).  However, these approaches allowed American ships to fit within their treaty obligations but retain heavy protection, spotty though it might be, and firepower.

The US Navy initially had a low opinion on the use of carriers, even after Billy Mitchell’s display of aircraft bombing the German battleship Ostfriesland.  To be fair to the brass, the demonstration demonstrated little, as it took the aircraft many runs to deliver a knock out blow on an ageing and stationary target. Still, they got their own back as Mitchell was court-martialled for insubordination a few years later (researching him, he does not sound like someone you would want round for dinner).

However, the treaty did force the conversion of the USS Lexington and Saratoga from battlecruisers to carriers, starting the US Navy on its path to having carriers at its core. The treaty was thus a major cause of the USA turning from battleships to carrier-based forces.  Pearl Harbour was the final nail in that coffin.

France
Joining in with experimental designs, such as the Dunkerque and Richelieu with their strange turret arrangements, France started to rebuild its navy.

As a nation, France was not happy with the treaty, as it put France on parity with Italy.  This was, first, something of an affront to its dignity as an imperial nation and second, from a more practical view, put France at a strategic disadvantage for while it had to cover both the Atlantic and Mediterranean with its fleet, Italy only needed to cover the latter. However, its close tie with Britain mollified French politicians somewhat. If France came under serious threat, Britain would be obliged to act (which worked out well, as the denial of aircraft during the German invasion and subsequent rout at Dunkirk proved).

Italy
While other nations used cunning engineering developments and carefully restructured the design of their battleships to circumvent the sprit of the treaty (which was, remember, to limit not just the numbers and size of battleships but their power as well), Italy took a far simpler approach.  It just flat out lied about the tonnage of the new ships it was building.

As with France, Italy had little interest in its navy fighting far from its own territory, and built no carriers until the Second World War was clearly going to happen.

Japan
Withdrawing from the treaty in 1936, Japan continued its original building programme, which included putting 18” guns on the Yamato, a massive violation of the treaty.

Japan was the wildcard.  Britain and America were both deliberately blocking Japanese trade in favour of their own and if Japan had any ambitions in the Pacific, then the extensive British colonies there hemmed her in.

The treaty was modified in 1930 during the London Naval Treaty, which limited the guns that could be put on cruisers, splitting the class between light and heavy cruisers.  It also limited the size and firepower of submersibles, ending the idea of the big gun submersible which both the British and French had already tried with the M Class and Surcouf respectively, effectively creating underwater cruisers (not that the idea was a good one, and both submersibles ended up at the bottom of the sea),

During a round of naval talks in London, Japan stunned everyone present by suggesting the abolition of the battleship in its entirety.  The argument put forward was persuasive but it fooled no one – the battleship was the only weapon that realistically threatened Japan and if Britain and America folded their fleets, Japan would be free to reign in the Pacific.  The proposal was refused, as Japan planned and expected, and they left the meeting, eventually terminating their part of the treaty.

This was a calculated move on Japan’s part, as they immediately started an aggressive ship building programme designed to steam ahead (pardon the pun) while their enemies were still confined by the Washington Treaty. Dedicating itself to technological superiority, knowing it could not beat Britain or America through industrial strength, Japan immediately started construction on two of what would become the largest and most powerful battleships the world would ever see – the Yamato and Musashi, each nearly twice the displacement of the next largest warships afloat.

The Second London Naval Treaty was signed in 1936, imposing further limits on tonnage and firepower but, tellingly, a number of clauses were built into it.  Japan had already walked out of the treaty and Italy had followed them, so Britain, France and the USA more or less agreed that if any nation, anywhere in the world, violated the terms of the treaty, then their own restrictions would also be allowed to relax.  What happened next was, perhaps, predictable.

Once one nation started building ships that violated the treaty (and Germany was certainly a factor here – though by no means the only guilty party – with its construction of first the pocket battleships then the Bismarck and Tirpitz), the others had to join in or risk being left behind in a field of military endeavour that decided which countries were actually empires and which were just countries. The result of all this as agreements broke down was an arms race, the very thing the Washington Treaty was designed to avoid.

The Washington Treaty had a powerful effect on the ships used in the Second World War and, to a large extent, how they came to be used.  It forced carriers upon navies before they had been properly proved in battle (though they would be fully embraced soon enough), and limited the ultimate size of most battleships that fought in the war as well as their weapons. Moreover, its breaking down made peace between some nations impossible.

All that said, the Washington Treaty has been much maligned in subsequent years as it obviously did nothing to stop the Second World War.

It is, however, entirely possible that it did stop the Anglo-American War of the 1930’s…

 

Victory for Victory at Sea

The decision has been made. Vx Racing (working title) has been consigned to another round of developmental tweaking until we are happy with it, and our new miniatures game for 2012 will be Victory at Sea, accompanied with a full range of finely detailed models covering just about everything that floated during World War II!

Some of the ships have already had their digital modelling previewed, and we’ll continue to showcase new designs until we have some painted examples ready for you. While Sandrine concentrates on the miniatures, the rest of us have gathered a coven of Naval Boffins (including the Seamaster himself, David Manley), and we have been busy picking apart the old rules set, getting rid of the things we didn’t like and concentrating on playability and historical accuracy both.

A great deal of progress has been made already, though we are far from saying ‘this is definitely how it is going to be.’  However, I can say we have already made the following changes;

  • Crew stat has gone (fairly obvious, that one).  But then, so has Turning…
  • Critical hit system, is now a blend of the old and that of Noble Armada/Star Fleet.  Most critical hits will degrade performance but a tiny few will be catastrophic, blasting turrets free, igniting magazines or even destroying a ship completely – for those ‘Hood’ moments.
  • Torpedoes are now different according to type, are way more inaccurate but far more devastating.  Get hit by one of these, and you’ll know it. Still, now we have proper rules to evade them too.
  • Looks like submersibles will not be in the main fleet lists, but instead used for special ‘convoy’ or ‘raid’ scenarios.
  • There will be a pre-game scouting phase, though the details of this have not been completely worked out yet.
  • Critical hits are now nastier but ships can take more damage overall (well, until the torpedoes start swimming).
  • Armament, ranges and damage potential will all be far more accurate.
  • Fires have been integrated into the critical hit and Crew Quality system. Your battleship can be on fire on all decks, but you no longer have to track every individual flame.
  • AP and Super AP are now gone, replaced by an AP stat for each weapon.
  • All ships will have points values.

Lots more work to do, of course. Barely started looking at aircraft, and only the Royal Navy and Kriegsmarine lists have thus far been rejigged for the new rules. However, it is shaping up to be a corker and one well worth keeping an eye out for.

We’ll do some more previews on Planet Mongoose in the near future, as well as showcase some of the new minis.  Right now, I am off to see if Sandrine has finished off her rendition of the Scharnhorst!