A Look at A Call to Arms: Star Fleet

We should start seeing some pretty models of space ships in the next week or two (and they will be coming thick and fast!), so now seems right to have a little look at some of the changes we have made to A Call to Arms (whether you are used to Babylon 5 or Noble Armada).  This is by no means a complete list; consider it more a whistle stop tour of the new rules…

Movement Phase
When nominated to move, a ship must be moved in a straight line forward.  No ship can travel more than 12” in a turn, and ships may remain stationary if they wish.

Now that you have your ship in motion, you will at some point want to change the direction of its movement. All ships have a Turn score, which rates how quickly they can turn.  A ship must move forward a number of inches equal to its Turn score before it can make a turn.

A turn can be anything up to 45°.

A ship can turn more than once when it moves, so long as it moves a number of inches in a straight line equal to its Turn score before each turn.  A ship cannot use straight line movement from a previous turn to count towards the distance moved before a turn can be made.

As you can see here, the rules for movement are, if anything, even simpler than before.  The Turn score is no longer how many turns you can make during movement, but how far you must travel before a turn can be made.  A simple change, but far more intuitive.  Also note there is no minimum movement any more – neither needed nor welcomed in the Star Fleet Universe!

Attack Phase
We’ll just look at a few things here…

Fore F – 90 degrees forward
Fore Half FH – 180 degrees forward
Aft A – 90 degrees back
Aft Half AH – 180 degrees back
Port P – 90 degrees left
Port Half PH – 180 degrees Left
Starboard S – 90 degrees right
Starboard Half SH – 180 degrees right
Turret T – 360 degrees all round

If a target lies on the border between two fire arcs, then the attacking player may attack with weapons in both fire arcs.

New fire arcs have been added to cope with the Star Fleet Universe, and the change of rule on what you do if a ship lies between fire arcs makes Federation ships with their FH, PH, and SH phaser banks particularly nasty when they come at you head-on.

A roll of 4 or more on each Attack Dice is a hit.

If a weapon system is firing at a target at greater than half its range, each Attack Dice will suffer a –1 penalty due to the great distance.

Take note: there is no Hull score in this game.  If you can see a ship, it matters little how big or small it is, as the technology is good enough to get the hits.  In fact, with Phasers having the Accurate +2 trait, few of them will miss. Combining this with the new fire arcs means that tactical movement is far more critical in this game, but you still must master the element of chance with the Big Weapons, such as photons.

Every hit will reduce a ship’s remaining shields by one. Any hits that are not absorbed by Shields will go through to the hull.

Shields are not perfect defences, however, and powerful attacks may be able to blast some energy through them.

Every Attack Dice that rolls a 6 will ignore the Shields completely and instead strike the hull directly, rolling on the Attack Table.

Yup, they leak!

Power Drain
Some Special Actions demand a great deal of a ship, so some systems have to be reduced or turned off altogether so enough power remains available to keep a ship flying.  If a Special Action is noted as having Power Drain, then the player must choose one of the following penalties and apply it to his ship.

* May only move up to 6”
*May only fire phasers this turn
*May only fire one weapon system this turn (if the ship only has one weapon system, it may not fire at all)

For a long time in the playtest rules, we had various mechanics that stated if you do Special Action A, then Bad Thing B happens, if you do Special Action C, then Bad Thing B happens, and so on.  A right confusing mess.  In the end, we unified everything under this Power Drain rule, allowing players to decide where their ship’s power would be best used in a turn. For example;

High Energy Turn!
Crew Quality Check: 8
Power Drain: No
Effect: Pushing the ship’s engines to dangerous levels, the Captain orders his ship to turn hard to gain a position of advantage. The ship can increase one turn by up to 180 degrees. If the Crew Quality check is failed, then the ship does not gain an extra turn and automatically increases the Critical Score of its Impulse Drive by +1 for every 45 degrees extra it tried to turn.

Nasty! Moving on, a new universe needs a new set of traits, of course.  Here is a small selection of the new or altered ones;

Agile: The ship can pull very tight turns, allowing it to out-manoeuvre other vessels with ease. This ship can turn 90o whenever it turns, instead of 45o.
Anti-Drone X: Protected by dedicated anti-drone missiles, this ship is all but immune to drone fire.  Roll a dice for every Attack Dice of drones attacking a ship with the Anti-Drone trait.  Each roll of a 2 or more will destroy one Attack Dice of drones.  If any dice roll a 1, an Attack Dice of drones will be destroyed as normal, but the system will then run out of ammunition, reducing the Anti-Drone score by 1. Ships reduced to an Anti-Drone score of 0 will no longer benefit from this trait.
Armour X: Not purely reliant on shields to protect them, some older ships have electro-static capacitors to absorb damage.  The total number of hits from a weapon system against a ship with this trait will be reduced by the Armour score.  Their effects are completely ignored.
Fast: A few ships are specially designed to be faster than normal, trading firepower for increased speed.  A Fast ship may move up to 14” in the Movement Phase, and may move up to 21” if it performs an All Power to Engines! Special Action.
Stealth X: Some ships have superior active stealth systems that can render their ships nearly invisible to their enemies. After an attacker has declared any weapon attacks on this ship, a lock-on must be achieved. For every hit a ship with this trait takes, the owner rolls a dice.  If the dice rolls equal to or greater than the Stealth score, all effects of the hit are completely ignored.

Accurate +X: With superior targeting systems or effects that take little time to travel the gulf of space, these weapons are very accurate and likely to hit their targets. Each Attack Dice rolled for this weapon system adds the Accurate score.
Energy Bleed: This weapon’s power greatly diminishes at long ranges.  If fired at a target over half its Range, it will lose 1 Attack Dice.  If fired at a target over three quarters of its Range, it will lose 3 Attack Dice.
Kill Zone X: This weapon has an optimum range for unleashing its devastation.  Beyond this range its power dwindles but up close, it can be lethal.  If this weapon attacks a target within a number of inches equal to its Kill Zone score it will gain the Multihit 2 trait or, alternatively, double an existing Multihit trait. A Multihit score of D6 will therefore become 2D6.

So, what does all this add up to?  Let’s take a look at a rather familiar ship…

Constitution-class Heavy Cruiser                    180 Points
The workhorse of the Federation, this ship has a good balance of capabilities.  It is more than just a combat ship, as it can conduct research, rescue, and exploration missions, among many other tasks.

Ships of the Class: 1700 Constitution, 1701 Enterprise, 1702 Farragut, 1704 Yorktown, 1706 Exeter, 1707 Hood, 1708 Intrepid, 1709 Valiant, 1711 Potemkin, 1716 Endeavour, 1718 Excelsior

Turn: 6
Shields: 24
Damage: 32/11
Marines: 5
Craft: 4 Shuttles
Traits: Labs 8, Tractor Beam 2, Transporter 3

Weapon  /  Range  /  Arc  /  AD  /  Special
Phaser-1  /  18  /  FH /   2  /  Accurate +2, Kill Zone 8, Precise
Phaser-1  /  18  /  PH /  2  /  Accurate +2, Kill Zone 8, Precise
Phaser-1  /  18  /  SH /   2  /  Accurate +2, Kill Zone 8, Precise
Phaser-1  /  18  /  AH  /  2  /  Accurate +2, Kill Zone 8, Precise
Phaser-3  /  6  /  T  /  2  /  Accurate +1, Kill Zone 2, Precise
Photon Torpedoes  /  15  /  F  /  4  /  Devastating +1, Multihit 4, Reload
Drone  /  36  /  T  /  1  /  Devastating +1, Multihit D6, Seeking

Command Cruiser (CC) Variant (1703 Lexington, 1705 Excalibur)        +25 points
Change AH Phaser-1 to Turret arc.  Add Command +1 trait.

So, what can we tell about this ship?  Well, with Turn 6, it can make two 45 degree turns if it moves at full whack (similar to a Klingon D7, but that ship has the Agile trait, allowing it to turn in tighter).  The Photons and Drones seem to be the ‘sexy’ weapons, but you will quickly find there are several different ways of stopping a Drone hitting you, and Photons have that pesky Reload trait – this time round, not only do you have to skip a turn when firing torpedoes, but you cannot have made a Special Action in the turn previous either.  In practice, Drones are best used to help overwhelm an enemy’s defences, while Photons are superb at the ‘final strike,’ when you have brought down an enemy’s shields completely and are wanting to burn him from stem to stern!  With 4 Attack Dice and Multihit 4, the Constitution-class is more than capable of delivering a death blow to a weakened ship.

That leaves the Phasers, with a mere 2 Attack Dice each.  Don’t sound very exciting?  Well, let’s take a closer gander.  A range of 18 is perfectly respectable in the Star Fleet Universe (you’ll note Photons do not stretch that far), and the fire arcs are pretty wide.  In fact, if the Constitution faces an enemy head on, it can get 6 Attack Dice of phaser on target.  With Accurate +2, you need just a 2 or more to hit at short range; get within 8″ and that Kill Zone 8 trait will kick in, effectively giving the phasers Multihit 2.  That makes an average of 10 Shields knocked down in one salvo, which will halve the shields of a lesser ship or completely strip a smaller one bare (see previous comment about Photons).  Once the shields are down (or even before that, as they do ‘leak’), that Precise trait will bring a good crop of critical hits your way.

The phaser-3 battery is not much cop, admitedly and though it may get used in those ‘kitchen sink’ moments, these weapons tend to be kept in reserve, not fired unless the ship gets surprised by a Drone or Plasma Torpedo – then that little pop gun can make all the difference!

You’ll also notice some other things we have not covered in this preview; with the Labs 8 trait, the Constitution is a serious scientific vessel, able to garner data quickly and efficiently – and yes, we have suitable scenarios in the core book to do just that! It has a good number of Transporters, allowing hit and run boarding actions against unshielded opponents, and a decent amount of Tractor Beams to either cause enemy ships problems, or to be used as a defence against Drones or shuttles that get too close (some of them explode, you know!).

Overall, the Constitution is a good, solid ship, equally at home on its own or within a tight battle formation.  The addition of the Command Cruiser variant is just the cherry on the cake!

Next time – we plumb the mysteries of the Advanced Rules chapter and cast a critical eye on another vessel…

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