Saturday, February 18, 2012

USE ME Starship Battles

I've had a copy of USE ME Starship Battles kicking around since late December, and there's been some pressure to give it a review, so I'll give it my best shot. Keep in mind, I've played exactly one game thus far using the intro scenario featured on the Alternative Armies website, so I don't have huge experience with the system, but as simple as USE ME is I expect that I have a good handle on it.

Book Contents:
  • Basic rules including several weapon types, four classes of ship (Fighters, Destroyers, Cruisers, and Battleships), planetary terrain, shields, and boarding actions
  • Extra equipment
  • Living ships
  • Starbases
  • Vector Thrust Movement
  • In Gravity Well Jumps and EMPs
  • Extra weather/terrain rules (Micro Meterors and Gas Nebulae)
  • Cloaking
  • Orbital Mine Fields
  • Orbital Defense Stations
  • Campaigns
  • Solo play guidelines

Stats in Starship Battles are simple... every ship has an Elan value, movement, and as many weapon systems as you choose to purchase. Turns consist of rolling initiative (a simple d6) toss, and alternate activation by Elan rating (Elan's main function). Winning initiative just allows you to choose whether to act first or second at each Elan rating, meaning that higher Elan ships will always go first, regardless. Destroyers and Fighters may be grouped into squadrons which act on the squadron leader's Elan rating.

Ships or squadrons of the same Elan rating are activated one by one and may perform two actions: Move, Fire, Boarding Action, Raise Shield, Ramming, a special action (optional rules), or a scenario-specific "Unique" action. Starship weapons include plasma (armor penetrating close-range), beams (midrange anti-fighter/anti-ship), missiles (long range), and smart missiles (AoE).

Ship combat is also simple: ships roll to hit with a bonus for targets with bonuses/penalties to the d6 roll, followed by an opposed penetration roll (ship size attack bonus vs. ship size defense bonus and misc mods). Depending on the level of success, different grades of hits are assigned; ships that have already received damage are even more fragile. Shields provide penalties to to-hit rolls and penetration, but cost a ship's entire actions for the turn. The best way to deal with shielded ships is to board them with a larger ship filled with marines (success removes the ship from play). Bigger ships are tougher and hit harder; fighters are incapable of damaging larger ships without nukes.

Solo play guidelines are pretty basic: roll a d6 based on the role the fleet is taking and determine its battle strategy, follow accordingly. This turned out worse than it could've for the Terran fleet I used, instead of sniping at range with their missiles they chose to close to point blank range.

Impressions overall:

It's a quick-play system that does the job, and the solo play guidelines are decent enough. Planetary terrain has a tendency to significantly slow-down ship movement, which encouraged my ships to melee during the game. Having played Starmada before this, I find the lack of order writing refreshing. Since it's possible to have ships of the same design with a different Elan rating I will be mounting them on numbered poker chips in the future to aid in identification. Vector thrust movement will also be a good addition to make maneuvering more interesting.

Pick it up, it's worth the initial investment.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Derek,

    Thanks for posting this review of the UM006 rules set. Your points are well made.

    I will link this review to my own blog and also on the website.

    Gavin Syme
    Creative Manager of Alternative Armies &