Archive for April, 2007

Thoughts on Fleets

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2007 by redcoat668

With the premiere of Spider-Man 3 pre-empting this week’s movement, I have some extra time to consider fleet organization. While there will be some tweaking when I recieve my resource points for this turn, I think my basic concepts are sound.

I’ve chosen in general to follow a “carrier group” strategy rather than trying to fit in as many beams as possible. In this approach, you pick a capital or special-role ship as the flag of your task force and then design the rest of the fleet around it as escorts and support elements. This has the advantage of producing an integrated and fairly versatile fleet, which is important when you don’t know exactly what you’ll be facing. It also has the bonus of being more “fluff” appropriate, at least for the Earth Alliance. This model has served me pretty well in past games, and many posters on Mongoose’s ACTA forum recommend it.

With that in mind, I constructed both “carrier” groups and “scout” groups, the one for potentially contested targets and the other to explore the backwater Minor Systems near my homeworld. How well this works in practice, I won’t know till Turn 2. In particular the scarcity of ships with the Jump Point trait amongst my scout groups concerns me. Hopefully the influx of cash will allow me to bring in a few more Hyperions to bulk things out.


The First Turn: Scramble For Resources

Posted in ACTA Campaign on April 28, 2007 by redcoat668

The first turn movement has been submitted, and the campaign is officially underway!

As might be expected it was a race on all sides to claim as many neutral systems as possible for that inital resource boost. Both the Minbari and the Earth Alliance had the bad fortune to roll Raiders in their starting systems, and were stuck there dealing with them (me by just staying in place, Gary by fighting a crazy skirmish in which three Battlewagons managed to take out one of his Sharlins). Thus we were left out of the intial rush. In a way I appreciated this, because I got to see what everyone else was doing before I implement my own expansion plans next turn.

In general, everyone seemed to follow the same MO: break up your initial 10 points at War Priority into as many scouting elements as possible, while leaving a strong core at your home system. As a result, the pattern of expansion was roughly spherical (or circular, I suppose, on a 2d map) with new acquisitions radiating out from the home systems.

There being a lot of empty space, this initial push was without battles but two systems are now contested: the resource-rich Carthage system where Non-Aligned and Narn scouts are cautiously stalking each other as they survey their prizes, and the absolutely worthless Fager system where Narn and Centauri task forces are facing off. Will the historical hatreds bring them to blows? Or will realpolitik prevail?

Mechanically, the turn system seemed to go pretty well. Once we got down to work (damn you, Chicken Time!) the movements got registered quickly and there were no disagreements about how things worked. It did, however, take a super-long time to roll up all the various “special” things (dead world types, “special” features, and soforth) All in all it took us about two hours to get everything done. Not bad, but when you’re running Iron Kingdoms right afterwards it does cut into your roleplaying time.

One idea might be to roll the features ahead of time for all the remaining systems. It would also be nice if we could reduce the movement submitting process to an email…then we wouldn’t even have to congregate except for battles.    

The Players and the Stage

Posted in Uncategorized on April 28, 2007 by redcoat668

The Stage: the Shannedam County map cunningly reworked for Babylon 5.

The Players:

Rich: Centauri

Scott: Narn

Bob: Narn (you can never have too many Narn)

Marc: League of Non-Aligned Worlds

Rob (A lot of people in our circle of friends are named Rob or Bob…it’s like a Russian novel): Drazi

Gary: Minbari

And, of course, Me: Earth Alliance

Duel of Ages, or, Setting up

Posted in ACTA Campaign on April 24, 2007 by redcoat668

Game design is a tension-filled endeavor, rife with competing forces. In technical terms, we call this “Simulationism vs Gamism.” Less obscurely, it’s the question of “accuracy” vs playability. You want your game to represent its subject as accurately as possible, but doing so requires more rules, which makes it less playable. So you cut out some rules, but now your game bears about as much resemblance to “reality” as a tofu hot dog. So the rules come back in and you go round and round like two drunken Spanish-style fencers.

This eternal conflict has been the subject of much debate in our A Call to Arms group as we gear up for the first turn of our campaign. We’re dealing with largely uncharted territory in that the section in the ACTA rules about Mega-Campaigns is…er…nebulous. Rich, our Centauri player, who is the “mastermind” behind this whole thing is re-using the Shannedam County map from FASA’s beloved Renegade Legion universe to give us some structure, but we’ve still got to figure out intrasystem movement, resource allocation, and so on. It doesn’t help that at least three of our players are completely new to ACTA, so the amount of “crunch” that it’s fair to ask them to ingest is limited.

The system resource issue, in fact, quickly snowballed into a hellish snow-demon of epic proportions. Should system resources be as per the rulebook or some other way? Can you repair/build in a contested system? Should you need a mechanism to move resources from system to system? And the children…what of the children?

Rich, Marc (our League of Non-Aligned Worlds player), and I loves us our crunch. By the time we got finished discussing the topic we had 40 (!) pages worth of email and rules options which would have fit right in with ADB’s gloriously complex Federation and Empire (without a doubt one of my favorite games although I’ve only ever been able to force other people to play it once). Needless to say our newbies were not pleased.

In the end we decided to go back to basics and use the rules “as written” in the Sky Full of Stars supplement for all the major issues. In a way I’m pretty happy with that decision…with so many players simplicity is probably the way to go, especially considering that we’re pulling the “Mega” level stuff from between our collective buttcheeks and none of it has actually been tested.

Sadly, it means the  Privateer rules I came up with get tabled for now. But then we’re not using the Interstellar Alliance ships either (screw you, John Sheridan!) so we are effectively without ninjas as well. 

Thrilling Backstory

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2007 by redcoat668

*tap tap* Wow…is this thing on?

I guess the best place to start is with the backstory. It worked well enough for Lord of the Rings. And Conan. And Krull, although much of the rest of that movie did not quite work so well.

 I’m one of a group of six friends who live in and around the Philadelphia area and who regularly play games together at our local game shop. We’ve been kicking around with Mongoose’s Babylon 5: A Call to Arms rules, and have at last decided to break down and run a campaign. But not any campaign, mark you…a MEGA campaign. A campaign with multiple star systems and fleets the size of which would beggar both the imagination and our bank accounts.

Naturally, I felt that such an undertaking needed to be brought to the eyes of a public already starved for accounts of geeks playing with spaceships. Hence – this blog. Thrill to our exploits! Marvel at our miniatures! And most importantly, for those of you who are considering starting up your own wargaming campaigns…learn from our mistakes.

This blog is intended to chronicle the progress of our campaign, be it long or short. It is also here to provide an opportunity for me to spout off about topics I find interesting. Most of these have to do with geekery and library work, so if those things don’t rub you in feel-good kinds of places then you probably won’t find much of interest here.

If they do…welcome! And…uh…try not to make a mess.