Monday, March 30, 2015

Fighter Command: first impressions

After a few quick tests to check if I understood the rules well (especially the rules about sensor range and dogfighting), I went on to run my first game of 5150 Fighter Command. I used MapTool to play the battle, which went smoothly. I also created a basic "framework" for future 5150 Fighter Command games.

[rant mode on]
I cannot say I was impressed by the public release of the Mote VTT. The project owners admitted they changed plans outlined in their crowdfunding campaign and are now focused on implementing a virtual tabletop service. I understand that software projects are prone to miscalculations that increase budget, leading to delays or reductions in scope. The fact remains that Mote does not show any immediate improvements over MapTool. With the recent facelift of the RPTools site and the codebase being available on GitHub, I would recommend MapTool over Mote to anyone interested.
[rant mode off]

My first game used a single flight of two light fighters of the Planetary Defense Force, on patrol looking for pirates. I added three Possible Enemy Forces (PEFs) and ruled that only one of them would become a flight of pirate light fighters. Simple and safe but, hey, that was my first full battle.

"Simple and safe," right? The topmost PEF turned out to be the flight of 3 pirate fighters. They closed in and triggered an In Sight test. My fighters launched Fire & Forget missiles, damaging the guns of one of the pirates. However, the pirate leader's countermeasures avoided the missile impact, and it entered a dogfight against my Star. Unloading its rockets and mass driver cannons, it damaged the ship's communication systems. My Star reacted, also dogfighting and firing his two railguns -- but they caused no damage. The pirate leader activated again (all the action so far happened during the movement phase of the turn) and hit my Star's ship again on the comm systems, causing it to explode, however he ejected safely [thanks to the "larger than life" advantage]. Anyway, after this, the battle was over for me.

There is a lot going on within a 5150 Fighter Command game. The turn structure has a bunch of changes from other Two Hour Wargames titles. Although those changes make sense for a starship game, they take some time to get used to. The dogfighting system is really cool, making even very "small" games like the one I played interesting.

I still have to try some games involving capital ships along with fighters, but at least I have already made some tests with two and three-hex long ships in MapTool.

That is all for now. Given the many different ship and weapon attributes (not to mention two distinct ship classes, fighters and capital vessels) the quick reference on this game is quite extensive. Still, the basic procedures (for movements and attacks) have remained simple. With a few more games, I expect to be able to set up and play some scenarios quickly.


Ivan Sorensen said...

Thanks for sharing!
I've seen really mixed comments on this set.

What would you say are the ups and downs, particularly if you already enjoy the THW style?

Ricardo Nakamura said...

Hi Ivan

So far (i.e. without including capital ships) I would highlight:

The good:
1. The dogfighting system works well and meets my expectations for a sci-fi fighter combat. The rules for this and special maneuvers are a little scattered but once you figure them out, they are fun.

2. The modified turn system with movement and action phases makes a lot of sense for a ship game.

The middle ground:
1. The turn sequence is more complex than in other THW titles. For instance, an enemy ship may approach (in the movement phase) causing an in sight, leading to a dogfight, with attacks and damage from both sides. Then you have reactions and finally the other side will move, then each side will still have their action phases to shoot and possibly react. It all makes sense but it's a lot to manage in a single turn.

The bad:
1. The rules for ship collision seem, to me, an artifact of the compressed space in the hex map. Fighters don't block line of sight, I wouldn't expect them to ram into each other often enough to require rules for this. But then, what do you do when two ships end in the same hex?

2. Sometimes, rules overlap requiring careful interpretation of the situation to figure out what to do. For instance, say two ships act simultaneously in the In Sight resolution. One will fire a missile, the other will try to dogfight. They are "simultaneous actions" but you do have to resolve both and they might interfere with each other. What should I do? Test countermeasures (for the missile) and if they work, proceed to dogfight? Add a house rule to re-roll ties in the In Sight?

Ivan Sorensen said...

Appreciate the rundown.

My one complaint with their systems is that when multiple things are all happening at once, it can get pretty hectic to keep track of all the reactions you need to go through.

I imagine that's much hte same here?

Does it have the usual campaign rules and all that good stuff?

Ricardo Nakamura said...

I think I've become used to the THW system so I can handle the actions and reactions usually. In Fighter Command, the division of a turn into movement and actions requires some extra attention.

About the campaign system: yes, there is a campaign system not unlike the one from Star Army but with two variants for attack and defend missions.