Full Thrust Cross Dimensions Trial Game

Having become increasingly disliking of the combat resolution system for Starmada: Admiralty Edition (S:AE) I finally looked up Full Thrust: Cross Dimensions (FT:XD). This variation of the Full Thrust rules combines the rules from the multiple Full Thrust books (available for free from Ground Zero Games) and adds some new weapons. I had looked at Full Thrust a while back but having the rules spread across multiple books with later books modifying some of the basic mechanics put me off somewhat.

What has been irking me about combat in S:AE was the iterative process for rolling each attack. Each attack with each similar weapon system requires a total of three die rolls with multiple dice. My issue isn't the number of dice rolled but the number rolls made. There is a roll to hit, a roll to overcome defenses, and a roll to determine damage allocation. This provides for a great amount of granularity for how different weapons behave allowing for the creation of one weapon that may be highly accurate with a high rate of fire but does not have much penetration or damage potential or another that has difficulty getting past defense but inflicts a great amount of damage on impact. It's actually one of the strengths of the design system within the game. The down side is that rolling a handfull of dice, sorting out which ones hit, rolling to see which ones penetrated then sorting those dice out, and then rolling for damage (sometimes with a multiplier) can begin to take time, especially with larger squadrons of larger ships mounting multiple weapon types. Individual weapons, engines, and shields/armor are potentially damaged from the first hit onwards. A battleship could potentially lose it's main gun in the first hit just as easily as a frigate.

Combat in FT:XD is much smoother. There are a limited number of types of weapons and there is only one roll that is modified by the target's defenses. This reduces the game's ability to closely replicate how weapons from specific books/shows/movies (which let's face it, generally falls into Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and occasionally Babylon 5) behave but does simplify gameplay. Roll to hit, typically hits are counted on 4, 5, or 6 and apply damage (applying half of the damage to armor if present) to the hull boxes. Systems are rolled for critical damage at the end of each of three or four rows of hull boxes, depending on the construction options used for the ship. A battleship's main gun won't be a candidate to be destroyed until after it has sustained enough damage to destroy a typical frigate.

I tried the sample scenario included with FT:XD using my GZG starship miniatures, this being the first time they were used for the game they were designed to be used with. The scenario is simple, each side has mirrored forces of two cruisers and three frigates. One side has to attempt to exit his ships off the opposite side of the table and are set up in a line abreast formation. The other side is to intercept and destroy the opposing player's force before he can get them off the table. This player deploys in two columns, one with the two cruisers and the other with the three frigate, in a corner on an approximately 60 degree bias from the table edge. My 9 year son Phillip played the interceptors and I played the blockade runners.

We both quickly picked up the basics of the game. Phil had no problems writing preplotted movement orders after I told him he could use left and right instead of port and starboard for indicating turns. Combat was quite smooth as I expected, slowing down only for the first couple threshold checks until we got the hang of the mechanic. By the end of the game I had lost my frigates and one cruiser had been effectively disabled while Phil had lost a cruiser to a containment breach in his power core and a frigate to weight of fire. His remaining frigates were heavily damaged but his remaining cruiser was untouched. My cruisers did manage to exit the board though. We called it a tie since I exited the board but had lost three of my escorts in the process. The upside is that we both managed to avoid the usual first game high speed pass that most FT players seem to experience since momentum is conserved turn to turn.

My impressions are that while I liked the faster combat I found that I prefer my starship games to be played on a hexmap for ease and speed. Turning and measuring, then turning and measuring again was a bit fiddly and moderately annoying with ships in close proximity and maintaining formation. So I'm left with something of a quandary. I like the combat resolution (though I have my doubts about adapting settings satisfactorily using the limited weapon options) but didn't like the movement mechanics with FT:XD. In S:AE I like movement on a hex (I use a modified movement mechanic rather than the one in the rules) and the differentiation between weapons but want a streamlined resolution mechanic. Majestic 12 changed the way combat works in their latest version, Starmada Nova Edition, but I'm not sold on it as it now uses a more complex defense mechanism though I suppose I ought to give a run using the sample rules in the interest of fair evaluation. I'm told Colonial Battlefleet may be what I'm looking for but don't really want to spend $15 + printer ink to find out it isn't what I want. I'm already invested with Starmada, both the base version as well as the licensed Starfleet Universe version, so will probably stick with it but the hunt continues. All this though has had me wondering if I still have the draft version of a starship game I had been working on about six years ago but never finished due to getting bogged down with figuring out how to assign point values.


John said...

Hey Sarge,

In something of a similar boat with regards to starship games myself. My group left Starmada AE after optimizing the crap out of its shipbuilding, to the point where the games themselves were uninteresting. We looked at Starmada NE, but it didn't really click for us. I've been curious about FT for a while, having read the various rulebooks (and found their simplicity to my liking), but the lack of hexes was offputting. My understanding is that GZG tended to make their games gridless with the understanding that it should be easy to convert to gridded, but I'm not sure how true that is. We did give Colonial Battlefleet a try a month or three ago, and had a pretty good time. I really liked their initiative system, tech system, and roles system for shipbuilding, but there was a bit much arithmetic involved in their ablative, regenerating Star Wars/Trek-style shields (and a battle between two defensively-optimized fleets using such shields seems like it could be near-interminable). Their firing system is somewhere between FT's and AE's in terms of complexity; three phases per battery (to-hit, armor pen, crits), but many fewer dice per battery than we saw in AE and no multiplication between phases. If I were to roll my own system, I'd probably take FT and graft on some of CBF's neat parts.

Sergeant Crunch said...

This morning I was thinking of a two roll system, a roll to hit and a roll to penetrate. Each does a single point of damage on a damage track system similar to CAV. Still working it out in my head.

theDM'sRevenge said...

So, I play a version of FT that has been modified for Star Wars. The guy who modified it switched the rules to using squares, which should translate pretty well to hexes, I'd imagine.

When i compared the origional GZ rules with the SW:modified ones, I seem to recall that his converison ratio from inches to 2-inch squares was something like 3 or 4 (inches) to 1 (2-inch square).

Here's a link to both the "website" where he keeps his FT stuff (http://webpages.charter.net/dervel/?C=M;O=D) and the modifed rulesbook itself (http://webpages.charter.net/dervel/Full%20Thrust%20Star%20Wars.pdf).

tabascojunkie said...

Hey Crunch. Have you looked at Starmada Fleet Ops at all?