Family Game Night Reviews

Because setting yourself up for failure is fun, I’m going to take a shot at getting a post up each weekend in 2020. They might not all be strictly gaming related … but what the heck – it’s my blog and I suppose I can do what I want with it!

To kick 2020 off, I’ll do some “timely” game reviews. I had some time off this Christmas season, so the family had time for a couple family game nights. We had a few games recently purchased and un-played, so we gave them a twirl.

First up is Charlie’s Angels, published in 1977 by Milton Bradley. I’m a total sucker for any board game involving a 1970’s or 1980’s TV property (well, almost all of them), so when we saw this baby priced $20 in an antique shop, it was a shoo-in.

I instantly called Sabrina when we got the game home, but we soon discovered that each player takes control of their own team of Angels for the game, so no fighting over the individual Angels is required. The game concept is kinda cool. You have a board that is a sort of a modified grid. Onto this grid you place the Villain. The Villain moves one space on each player’s turn, the direction of the move chosen by the player in question. The player then rolls two dice and can move one of his or her angels each with each dice. If you can’t move the entire number on the dice with an Angel, you give up your move.

The goal is to trap the Villain – sort of a Charlie’s Angels checkmate. Each Angel that is in on the trapping is worth one point for their player. You play three games, total the points, and determine the winner. There are some cards that can be helpful … or harmful … so you take a risk pulling one. You also have to think a bit about how you want to move the Villain – you don’t want to be left out of the capture, so sometimes you’re really on the Villain’s side in the game. We had a good time with Charlie’s Angels, with the game ending in a three-way tie – not a bad ending for a family game.

One issue – I noted that the rules did not specifically disallow moving back on your path on your turn. They probably should have, because this seemed to make the game too easy, and it just didn’t feel right.

Next up was a funny little dice game – really a packaged version of old dice rules – called Skunk. Simple concept – you have two dice to roll. The dice replace the “1” with a skunk. On their turn, a player takes the dice and can roll them as often as they like, totaling the points rolled. If they roll a skunk, they get no points for this turn and have to pay a penalty (1 chip, or 2 if you rolled a skunk and a “2”). If you roll two skunks, you lose all the points you’ve acquired and pay a 4 chip penalty. To win, a player must get his total above 100 – she can go as high above 100 as she dares. Once a player goes over 100, the other players have to try to beat them on their next turn. The chips in the pot do to the winner of each round.

The game is really all about risk – how daring are you, and how lucky?

In our first game, I managed to zero-out midway through. When my daughter went over 100, I needed something like 60 points to beat her. I started rolling, got hot, and actually won the game. On our third game, I decided to do exactly that each turn, figuring I might eventually get hot again … and wound up rolling a skunk every time on my first or second roll.

We had a fun time with Skunk, and since up to 8 people can play it would probably make a fun party game. To make it more “grown up” you could turn it into a drinking game, with a drink taken on every skunk or double skunk. I suppose you could also play Strip Skunk … but then again, maybe not.

Finally, we have Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game, published in 2000, also by Milton Bradley. We bought this one for my daughter for Christmas, and she was raring to play it. It took a while to read the rules, but they weren’t too complicated and we had a good time playing it.

I took control of the bad guys, while my wife had to play Oz and Xander and my daughter got Buffy and Willow. The game is fun, pretty fast paced, and pretty easy to figure out. Evil sure looked like it was going to win this one – in short order, two of the goodies were out of the game and Evil had all the magic items. In the end, though, Buffy and Willow knocked off the evil minions and then teamed up on the Evil vampire and snuffed him out. Fortunately for them, the main villain doesn’t automatically get to move every turn. My guy spent three turns in a row not moving while they beat the crap out of him. C’est la vie.

So there you have it – three fun games for the family. All were purchased in antique stores for low prices and all were well worth it.

Expanding the Final Frontier

Some of my readers may remember my review a ways back of Star Trek – Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier. It’s a nifty little RPG, the first with the Star Trek license, designed to accompany some metal miniatures produced by Heritage Models Inc. of Dallas, Texas. Frankly, I fell in love with it – rules lite, somewhat compatible with old school D&D, includes stuff from animated Trek – totally up my alley.

I’ve also talked a bit about my love of original Star Trek on this blog HERE and shared some basic spaceship battle rules I designed to go along with my Star Trek vapor-campaign (i.e. a campaign I’ve designed but know I’ll never actually play).

To keep the original Star Trek RPG alive, and to pass some time, I decided to produce some character stats for a few of the aliens introduced in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

A Quick Rules Primer

Before I present those character stats, and because most people do not own the Star Trek adventure game, here’s a quick primer on some of the rules:

Characters in Star Trek have ability scores … and they’ll be pretty familiar to old school gamers: Strength, Dexterity, Luck, Mentality, Charisma and Constitution. And yes – you generate them with 3d6 in turn, as God intended. There’s also a size attribute and movement attribute, and there is a 1% chance for most characters to have psionic powers; Vulcans are always psionic, and Kzinti are psionic on a roll of 1 on 1d8.

Combat is pretty standard for old gaming, but in Star Trek the attacker rolls 1d6 and adds his Hand-to-Hand combat class and modifies it by his Strength and Dexterity (-1 for each point below 9, +1 for each point above 12), while the defender rolls 1d6 modified by H-H class and Luck. If the attacker’s roll is higher than the defender’s, the defender takes the difference in damage.

For ranged combat, you have a “to hit” chance based on your Dexterity, and if you hit you then roll damage based on the weapon used, and the defender rolls 1d6 modified by Luck, taking the difference (if positive) as damage. Damage is deducted from Constitution in this game, rather than from hit points.

As an example of how species were presented in the game, here’s how they present Vulcans in the book: Pointed-eared humanoids of great emotional control and logic. Their blood is based on copper salts and they have protective nictitating membranes to protect their eyes from dirt and glare. They have limited powers of telepathy and empathy in that they usually have to be in contact with a subject for the powers to operate. Once every seven years they must mate or die. Basic size: 200cm, Basic move: 11m, ST +3, DX +2, MN +3, CT +4.

That’s enough info to give you an idea of how the game works.

The Aliens

For the aliens I chose, I did “excel-shopping” to put them in Starfleet uniforms.

Arcturian Security

Arcturians are humanoids from Arcturus IV, a very large and dense planet. All Arcturians are clones, and there are over 100 billion of them in their home system. Arcturus IV is best described as an anarcho-capitalist society, with no central government to speak of. Despite their lack of central authority, the Arcturians are militaristic, and provide the bulk of the UFP’s infantry forces. Many also work in Starfleet security and marines. They are also known to have a great appreciation for the works of Shakespeare. Arcturians are often contemptuous towards outsiders.

Basic Size: 180cm, Basic Move: 11m, ST +3, CT +3, CH -1, increase H-H Class by +1

Betelgeusian Command

Betelgeusians evolved from leopard-like birds – perhaps something akin to griffons. They have retained the talons and bone structures of predatory birds, but walk upright, and have two mouths. One mouth is used for speaking, the other for eating. Their home planet is Betelgeuse IV. Betelgeusians are known to be aggressive, but also calm and decisive. They have a strong hunting instinct.

Basic Size: 210cm, Basic Move: 10m, ST -1, DX +2, CT -1, add +1 to H-H rolls using their talons

Kazarite Biologist

Kazarites are known to be simple shepherds on their own planet, preferring the company of animals to most sentient humanoids. They possess the power of telekinesis, which they use to propel their simple spacecraft through space. Kazarites sometimes enter Starfleet as biologists. They are capable of communicating with animals.

Basic Size: 175cm, Basic Move: 10m, LK +1, MN +1, CH +3


Rhaandarite Communications

Rhaandarites are a child-like species, sometimes considered the “country bumpkins” of space. They have a lifespan of many centuries, and do not mature until they are 150 years old. They also continue to grow their entire lives, with the oldest topping 240cm. Rhaandarites are good at taking commands, not giving them, but they are very loyal and trustworthy. They originate on the planet Rhaandar orbiting Alpha Indi. Males and females can only be told apart by the style of jewelry they wear. The Rhaandarites are known for hiding their technology in jewelry.

Basic Size: 190cm, Basic Move: 10m, LK +1, MN -1

Rigellian Engineer

Rigellians evolved from saber-toothed turtles in ancient times (but no word on whether they are descended from a certain “friend of all children” we all know and love). They usually wear armored exoskeletons, which give them a sense of security. Their society is broken into two castes, the lords and attendants. Lords are taller (usually 200-210cm) and are capable of laying eggs. Attendants are shorter (165-175cm) and hold all real power in their society. It is the attendants who sometimes join Starfleet. They originate from Rigel III*.

Basic Size: 170cm, Basic Move: 9m, DX -1, CT +2, armored skin rating of 1, skilled swimmers, +2 to H-H combat rolls using their claws and bite

Saurian Doctor

Saurians are reptilian humanoids who come from Psi Serpentis IV, a volcanic planet of heavy gravity, dim light and poisonous gases. Saurians can breath many gases, and are generally resistant to poison. They have four hearts, and their large eyes are sensitive to bright light. They are especially known for their Saurian brandy, which even exported into the Romulan Empire.

Basic Size: 180cm, Basic Move: 11m, ST +1, DX +2, CT +4, CH -1, skilled swimmers, +1 to H-H rolls with their claws

Zaranite Navigator

Zaranites come from the harsh planet of Mu Capricornis II (or Zaran II). They have two hearts and are capable of stopping one in order to meditate on their choices in life and so one heart can repair itself. They breathe fluorine gas instead of oxygen, and so usually wear special breathing apparatus. The Zaranites have a love of logic, numerology and mathematics almost equal to the Vulcans, but they are not non-emotional, and in fact can be quite belligerent. They live past the age of 400.

Basic Size: 180cm, Basic Move: 10m, MN +1, CT +2, CH +1, 5% chance of psionics

* It’s a funny thing, but Star Trek used Rigel as the location of a whole lot of alien settlements/civilizations/etc., most likely because it was a star name that was familiar to people. Unfortunately, Rigel is really far away … as in far enough away to not make sense in the context of the show. As a result, I treat references to Rigel as being to the much nearer Alpha Centauri A in MyTrek, since it is also called Rigil Kentaurus.


A while back, I was playing around with creating YouTube playlists based on Saturday morning TV shows from different years. The one’s I managed to create – not an easy thing, since most of those classic shows are not remotely public domain – are live on the site. If you search for “SaturdayMorning1968” – or other years – you’ll probably find them.

In the process of making these lists, I came across a Canadian sci-fi show called Starlost. Given the audience for this blog, many of you have probably heard of this show and maybe even seen it. The episodes are on YouTube, and I must say that the one I watched I quite enjoyed. I watched episode 15, thus starting near the end of the series, but it wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on.

The show could be good inspiration for folks who run Metamorphosis Alpha, as it has a similar setting. Episode 15 involved a creature that I thought would work well as a monster for fantasy, post-apocalypse or sci-fi games, but I must issue a SPOILER ALERT here, since the creature and its stats give away the plot of the episode.

Scroll down past the episode link if you don’t care about spoilers, or better yet, watch the episode first and then check out the monster stats …





The episode involved  giant mutant bees that I thought would make a pretty good monster. Their Blood & Treasure stats are below:

Giant Mutant Bee
Type: Monster
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 14
Attack: Sting (1d4 + Poison III)
Movement: 30′ (Fly 80′)
Save: 15
Intelligence: High
Alignment: Lawful Neutral (with evil tendencies)
No. Appearing: 2d4
XP/CL: 1,200/6

Giant mutant bees are highly intelligent bees that measure up from 3 to 4 feet in length. They are very aggressive, wishing to expand their territory and domination over “lesser” species by any means possible.

A giant mutant queen bee is capable of controlling one humanoid creature at a time, communicating through something akin to radio waves and issuing orders to it in a subtle-enough way that the controlled creature does not recognize that it is being controlled. This domination has a range of 1 mile, but can be extended through the queen’s drones – thus up to 2 miles.

A giant mutant queen bee can control normal bees within 1 mile, sending swarms of them to harass and attack her enemies. She can read the thoughts of humanoid creatures within 3 miles.

Giant mutant bees enjoy a +3 bonus to save vs. poison, while the queens are immune to poison. Cold damage acts as a slow spell on giant mutant bees.

A giant mutant beehive consists of one queen and 2d4 drones.

A Moment of Paternal Pride

Just a quick note today to show off something that made me very happy, for a few reasons …

This is a shot of the game table where my daughter ran a session of Blood & Treasure for a group of her friends.

Of course, it makes me happy to see my game being played, especially on a table instead of via the internet.

It also makes me happy to see that the little acorn didn’t fall too far from the tree. Gaming was never something I pushed on my daughter. She showed interest from an early age, mostly because we collected some of those D&D miniatures that WoTC put out. Out games were not very serious and used rules I made up as I went along – mostly me asking what she wanted to do, and then having her roll the dice and try to beat a number to do it. We had fun – her party consisted of Romeo the dwarf, Aladdin the cleric, Tinkerbell the thief … and a few others. I don’t remember them all, but I do remember that the wacky antics of Romeo the dwarf were our favorite.

Since those times, we’ve played some real D&D – recently using the Moldvay Basic set with some family friends, wherein she has a played a thief that was the only smart enough not to challenge a dragon while 3rd level … and thus was the one who survived the fight without a scratch. The others should have listened to her, but a couple of them were just learning the game, and the most experienced player had most recently played 3.5 edition … so you know how that works in terms of player survivability. Just a wee bit different than old Basic D&D.

But now the child has become the DM (or Treasure Keeper, in this case), and it was fun to listen to her introduce her friends to the concept of gaming. They wanted to try because of Stranger Things – who knows how good that show has been to table top gaming? Listening to people who have never played before start hatching crazy plans involving 10′ poles and finding a way to kill the witch without destroying her treasure brought a smile to my face – the game may be old now, but it has the same goofy effect on the players. And, most importantly, they had fun and wanted more – 3 sessions in all before one of them went off to college.

Folks, games are supposed to be about getting people together and having a good time. D&D and its many clones and descendants do just that – so raise a glass to the games, and all the people who designed, played and enjoyed them over the years.

And no – I’ve not disappeared from the hobby. I’m taking a sabbatical and planing to get back to work in earnest in 2020.

How to Referee a Murder

One of my favorite genres of movie is the mystery. I’m not talking about film noirs and gangster pictures – though I love them as well – but the films in which a wealthy man or woman is found dead in her mansion, and a detective has to weed through a bunch of suspects to find the real killer, all the while more victims are piling up.

This sort of plot can be a fun diversion for a game of Grit & Vigor, provided you have players interested in such things. A small group of players, from one to three, works very well with such a mystery. Usually, one player is the head detective and the others are his or her assistants. To get you started, here’s a handy list of potential suspects. Roll as many times on the table as you see fit, but the more suspects there are, the longer the mystery should take.

1 The man-child – always large, strong and dangerous
2 The devious woman – manipulative to the extreme, and after money
3 The wayward son – wealthy young man, usually with a drinking problem
4 The genius – a house guest, usually a scientist, psychologist or doctor … with a secret
5 The housekeeper – an older woman, cold in demeanor
6 The playgirl – female version of the wayward son, she loves “unwisely”
7 The maid – a young woman of common parentage, either stalwart or superstitious (or maybe a mix of both)
8 The caretaker – an older man who looks after the grounds, suspicious of everyone
9 The chauffeur – usually seems worried that he is suspected
10 The ingénue – young, pretty and destined to inherit a fortune
11 The butler – did he actually do it?
12 The ardent – a foolish young man in love with one (or more) woman in the cast of suspects

Each suspect should have two of three of the following – motive, means and opportunity. One suspect, the murderer, has all three. Each suspect should also have a piece of information useful for solving the crime. It is the job of the detectives to clear the suspects and gather the clues, all the while running against the clock as suspects (and their information) are eliminated by the murderer. The murderer will try to eliminate the most useful pieces of information first.

The action should all take place in a mansion, with nobody permitted to leave. In a pinch, use a Clue board for the first floor, with note cards to represent the cellar, the attic and the upstairs bedrooms and any other rooms you want to include. A few useful clues should be spread around the rooms, so detectives have a reason to search them. The least useful clues should be the easiest to find.

And don’t forget secret passages!


A couple years ago, I lost my mother to a brain tumor. It came out of nowhere, and it was shocking and horrible. I spent a couple months after she died knowing I had not fully dealt with the loss, but also not realizing that the knot in my stomach that barely allowed me to eat and sleep was caused by those emotions. It’s funny how one can overlook the obvious. I finally, one day, stopped at the cemetery where she is buried. I was alone, and was finally able to break down and cry. Boy – what a cry. And after the cry, the knot was gone and I was finally on the path to dealing with my loss. I wasn’t done – there have been other cries, and much thinking about my own mortality and how it may affect my loved ones – but I was at least dealing with it.

I know this is technically a day late, but …

Mom – I love you and miss you! You put much good in me with your love and teaching and joking and, yes, your punishing when I needed it. And by golly, when I was a bored and lonely teenage nerd, you even played D&D with me. What more love can any mother have for her son?

Thar She Blows

Here’s a little beastie that popped into my head today while I was walking the dog. Strangely enough, there was a cloud-filled sky …

Cloud Whale
Type: Elemental (Air)
Size: Huge
Hit Dice: 36
Armor Class: 16 [+1]
Attack: Bite (6d6 + 1d6 electricity), slam (3d6 + 1d6 electricity)
Move: Fly 100′
Save: 7
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 3,600/37

SA—Resistance to cold and electricity, immune to fire

SP—Gaseous form, gust of wind •••

Cloud whales look just as you might expect, as masses of clouds in the shape of whales. They swim through the sky, only rarely descending near the ground, feeding on incendiary vapors and smoke. These vapors are spouted from the cloud whale every so often as a gout of flame, and coagulate within them as “flambergris”, a waxy, reddish mass about the size of a human fist, that can be used by magic-users in fire-oriented magic. A ball of flambergris is worth 500 gp. A ball can be set ablaze and thrown in the manner of alchemist’s fire.

Faux Fiends

Illustration by
Arthur H Young

A while back I started a project of converting old monsters for B&T, but changing the names and descriptions so I could just make them open content. I’m not done yet, mostly because I’m planning to illustrate the monsters with nothing but public domain stuff to keep the project “cost effective”, or, as I would put it, cheap.

Since I’m always looking for ways to keep this blog alive, I figured posting a few of these monsters would be a good idea. To keep things interesting, I’ll also post a few old classics from the blog and NOD magazine updated to the new B&T.

Type: Monster
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 16
Attack: Fists (1d4)
Move: 30′
Save: 14
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 600/7

SD—Immune (electricity)

Ampes are annoying dungeon monsters that hook up with parties (whether they like it or not) and follow them around, getting in the way and making an inordinate amount of noise. They fight to defend themselves, but not the party they are following. They are shaggy humanoids with pointed faces. Ampes are always hungry and thirsty, and they have a terrible lust for treasure, being able to detect precious metals and gems up to 100′ away. If fed or given drink, it becomes wonderfully loyal to its benefactor, but this loyalty ends if the ampe is not given at least 30% of any coins and/or gems its benefactor finds.

Ampes store up great amounts of static electricity in their bodies, and can generate 50 points of electricity damage each day through their touch. It need not inflict all 50 points of damage with a single touch. If it drains all of this power, it immediately falls asleep for one hour, during which time is regenerates up to 25 points of static charge; recharging completely requires another 7 hours of sleep.

Ampes can weave their own hair into nets, which they carry around their waists like belts.

Type: Monster
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 16
Attack: Bite (1d8) and hook (1d6 + trip) or claw (1d6 + constrict) or ray gun (see below)
Move: 30′
Save: 15
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Chaotic (CE)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 400/5

These cybernetic outlaws know no fear. They are equipped with metal jaws that can bite through nearly anything (+2 to sunder attacks) and mechanical arms with exchangeable attachments: Ray gun, hook or claw. Cyborgs can store unused weapons on their belts; it takes a full round to exchange one attachment for another.

Dune Devil
Type: Elemental (Earth)
Size: Large
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 17 [+1]
Attack: Shriek (60′/2d6 sonic)
Move: 30′
Save: 14; MR 30%
Intelligence: High
Alignment: Chaotic (NE)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 1,800/8

Dune devils are gangling monsters who stalk blazing deserts at high sun, feasting on the good and letting the wicked alone. Although they are called “devils”, they are no relation to the actual devils of Hell. Dune devils are brought to the material plane by magical summons. They are peerless trackers (90%). The monster attacks with a shriek. By pressing its lips against a creature, it can kill them instantly (save to negate).


Thoughts on Designing a Game

A couple weeks ago I came across this little image:

Brought to you by Pluto Water … and if you don’t know what that is, click to find out

It belonged to some form of baseball game. You’d spin the arrow and find out if you got a single or strike, etc. I imagined some kids back in the “olden days” whiling away a Sunday afternoon with this game. and this inspired me to write Pen & Paper Baseball, a companion game, so to speak, to Pen & Paper Football (available now).

I’m in the process now of testing the game rules, and I’m pretty happy with them. I need to “adjust the mixture” a bit, but overall I have a working set of rules, I’ve designed a fantasy league to test them with and … and this is most important … I’m having fun doing it.

So – here are a couple things to keep in mind when you’re designing a new game or an add-on or adventure to an existing game.

ONE – Make a Rough Draft

You have to start somewhere. Conceptualize in your mind what you’re trying to simulate, come up with an easy way to do it, and then put it down on paper. It will change, but you have to get the rough draft down before you can make it better. Do not get bogged down in the minutia right off the bat – work on the overall concept and do it in broad brush strokes. The details will come later.

Once you have a rough draft, play it. This will show you where the obvious errors lie, and may point you in a completely new direction. With my baseball game, for example, I initially decided on a single dice roll to determine the broad spectrum from strike to ball to foul ball to grounder to fly ball, etc. This worked in general, but the details were wrong. I tinkered with that single roll quite a bit before I decided I’d have to do it in two rolls – one to see if the ball was struck by the bat, another to figure out how hard it was struck and a third to figure out the direction. I tried to pack too much into a single roll, and the game really demanded it be spread out a bit. Simplicity is always the goal, but you can also oversimplify.

TWO – Think About Player Agency

A good game should involve meaningful choices made by the players. Candy Land, as great as it is for spending time with little kids and helping them learn their colors, is not so great a game for adults because it involved no meaningful choices.

For my baseball game, there are fortunately some meaningful choices built into the game being simulated – should I try to steal a base, do I throw out the runner heading to second or the one heading to first, etc. At this point, my rules don’t have quite enough meaningful choices, so I’m now engineering an additional choice to make the game more interesting. I’m not sorry I waited to do it. My current set of rules has allowed me to get quite a few of the probabilities right – chances of throwing a strike vs. a ball vs. the ball getting in play, chances to catch a fly ball, etc. Now that the basic rules are working, I can play with modifying them.

THREE – Don’t Forget About Random Chance

Chess is a great game, but it’s all about choices. Awesome for strategy … but maybe not the best simulation of warfare, which is rife with random chance screwing up brilliant strategy and tactics. You want to achieve a balance between player choice and random nonsense – after all, every batter is planning on hitting a home run, but few actually manage it. In the game simulations I’ve run so far, I’ve had some wonderful random chances figure in to make the games exciting – unexpected home runs tying up games in the ninth inning and line drives that were certainly going to win the game for a team being surprisingly caught out.

FOUR – Do Your Research

Do your research. It can come after you have made your rough draft, but it does need to happen. I have a massive database of firearms, aircraft, automobiles and tanks that I built when I was designing Grit & Vigor because, frankly, I didn’t know nearly enough about those things to design a simulation that felt right. Most of that data remains unused … though it won’t forever … but all of it was vital to getting the game real enough – and I mean “enough” – that people could make informed decisions within the game about what to do. I did a tremendous amount of research into professional football games for Pen & Paper Football – from numerous eras – to get things like the likely yardage gained on different types of running plays pretty close to correct. Not exactly, mind you, but pretty close and accurate enough that somebody who understands football can make an informed in-game decision about whether they should run or pass in a 3rd down and 4 yards to go situation.

Even if the game you are working with is fantastic, many of the physical laws of the universe are going to apply, or at least are going to apply until magic enters the picture. If everyone has a good chance at jumping 20 feet forward, what’s even the point of having magic. Do your research – it’s important and will not be wasted.

FIVE – The Fun Factor

Some folks are genuinely happy with exacting, detailed simulations of things that take hours and hours to play. I’m not. I like games to be light, fast and fun. I like games that leave enough time in between rolling dice and making decisions for chatting and snacking. I like fun, and I try to make games that allow groups of people to have fun without too much investment of time and money – because we never seem to have quite enough of those things, do we?

My Trek – Part 5

Last week I introduced the first part of my spaceship battle rules, which set the scene and defined the terms, so to speak. Today, we finish them up with the actual combat rules.

Combat Rules

Combat is handled in turns. Each turn is divided into 12 phases. Each phase determines when a ship can move (based on the ship’s speed) and when it can attack.

All movement is handled on a grid. During a phase when a ship is permitted to move, it can be moved one space forward or turn 90 degrees.

Phase Zero: The Command Phase

Before the normal phases of a turn begin, there is a “Phase Zero”. During phase zero, captains give orders to their ship for the current turn, as follows:

  1. Power points are assigned to the ship’s three major systems (engines, force fields, weapons), and possibly to the ship’s tractor beams and invisibility device. You can do this by writing it on a paper. Ships start the game with 8 power points, and can put no more than 3 PP into each of their systems.
  2. Speed is determined. The amount of power directed to engines determines a ship’s maximum speed during a turn – the captain can choose to move at any speed up to and including this maximum speed.
  3. If a captain wants to self-destruct their ship, they must decide to do this now. The self-destruction occurs during Phase 12 of the turn. See below for more information on this last resort tactic.

Combat Phases

The table below indicates which phases a ship moves during the turn, based on the ship’s current speed. In the chart below, “H” stands for “half sub-light”, “F” for “full sub-light” and each number for a hyper speed.

“•” indicates a phase in which the ship can move.

Phase H F 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Ships can attack during phases 3, 6, 9 and 12. All ships move during a phase before any attacking takes place. Moves and attacks occur simultaneously. Thus a ship destroyed during an attack phase may still carry out its attacks for that phase.


To attack, a captain designates a target, counts the range in spaces to the target and rolls their attack dice. The following deductions are made from the attack roll:

Condition Deduction
Range 4 to 7 spaces -1
Range 8 to 11 spaces -2
Range 12 spaces -3
Attacker Hyper4 or above -1
Attacker Hyper8 or above -3
Defender Hyper4 or above -1
Defender Hyper8 or above -3
Target is Size D -1
Target is Size E -2
Target is Size F -3
Targeting a specific system (see below) -3
Target is “blocked” by another ship or object -3
Target is invisible -6

If a weapon’s attack roll is higher than the force field’s value, it deals damage to the target’s hull equal to the modified dice roll minus the force field value. Thus, an attack roll of 16 against a force field with a value of 12 deals 4 points (16-12=4) to the target’s hull. The target’s hull points are reduced by 4 in this case.

Targeting Systems

A captain can either make a general attack against a vessel, or it can attack a specific system. Attacking a specific system carries a -3 deduction to the attack roll.

If the targeted attack roll would score at least 6 points of damage (i.e. the modified attack roll is at least 6 points higher than the target’s force field value), then the targeted system is damaged (see below).

Hull Damage

As a ship suffers hull damage, it loses key systems and personnel. This is depicted in the game by the loss of power points. You will remember that a ship begins the game with 8 power points. As it suffers damage, its total available power points drop, as follows.

Damage Level Hull Points PP
No damage 100% 8
Light damage 75% 7
Serious damage 50% 5
Critical damage 25% 2
Destroyed 0% 0

The following table helps one determine a ship’s damage level based on its size class and current hull points:

Size Class None Light Serious Critical
A 60-46 45-31 30-16 15-1
B 48-37 36-25 24-13 12-1
C 36-28 27-19 18-10 9-1
D 24-19 18-13 12-7 6-1
E 12-10 9-7 6-4 3-1
F 6-5 4 3 2-1

A ship reduced to 0 HP is destroyed and removed from the board during the next Phase Zero.

System Damage

When a system is damaged, its maximum factor is reduced by one step, i.e. from Factor III to Factor II, Factor II to Factor I or from Factor I to Off-Line.

Until a system is repaired, it cannot be energized above its current best factor. Thus, if weapons are at a best of Factor II, only 2 PP can be directed to them. Each turn during Phase Zero, a ship can attempt to repair a system by rolling 1d6. If the roll is a “6”, the system’s factor is increased by 1 step. Only one such system can be repaired at a time in Phase Zero.


When a ship self-destructs, it makes a final “attack” against all ships within 12 spaces. The total attack roll against each target (including friendly vessels) is 12d6. This is reduced by 1 dice per space between the self-destructing ship and the target.

Assembling a Fleet

To keep games fair, all ships are assigned a point value derived from its size and its other capabilities. To stage a game, decide on the point total for each fleet and then use those points to purchase ships.

PTS Size Max. Speed Force Fields Max. Damage
100 A Hyper 9-10 V 9d6
50 B Hyper 7-8 IV 5d6
25 C Hyper 5-6 III 4d6
10 D Hyper 3-4 II 3d6
5 E Hyper 1-2 I 2d6
0 F Sub-light 1d6


Special Weapons and Abilities PTS
Aft Weapons 25
Invisibility Device 25
Torpedoes 25
Missiles 10

Example: A Size A ship that can travel at Hyper10, has Type V Force Fields, Type III weapons, torpedoes and aft weapons, is worth 100+100+100+50+25+25=400 points.