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Star Wars: Echoes of the Sith Recap – Session 1

HurriconCampaignTitle.v1The following includes works of fan-fiction. It is not endorsed by Lucasfilm™, Disney™ or any of their affiliates. Star Wars is copyright and trademark Lucasfilm, Ltd.

For those just tuning in, our “Star Wars: Echoes of the Sith” campaign was conducted at Hurricon 2015 by The Just Dice League and The Lakeland Roleplaying Guild. It went extremely well and we got several requests for re-caps of the games, the story and to have the scenarios posted. The following write-up is for Session 1, the first miniatures game in the campaign.

Session1a

Rebel convoy leaves the station.

Lothal, Two Weeks After The Battle of Endor…

Captain Lo’Pu sipped her drink as she skimmed through her holo-newsfeed on the bridge of the Nebulan B Frigate, Justice. The beverage was from her home world, Ry’loth; one of the few comforts she allowed herself. She preferred an austere lifestyle, one of discipline and dedication to a singular goal. A goal that had not changed for years, but now seemed closer than ever – defeating the Galactic Empire. Even the one small treat she allowed herself served that goal. It was a reminder of what lay at the center of her resolve: her home and the suffering Ry’loth endured under the boot of the Empire. Each sip she took from the hand-crafted pottery kept the memories alive and honed her focus.

And focus was exactly what she needed. The mission she had been given was as routine as they come. Escort duty. Not just escort duty, but escort duty over junk and low-level prisoners plucked from the hulks around Endor, the remains of the Imperial ships unable to escape the death throes of the second Death Star that the Alliance had recently put down. In actuality the assignment was a mixed blessing. While it gave them a welcome respite from the intensity of the past few weeks it also tempted them to relax drop their guard, something that was dangerous in a galaxy thrown into chaos.

But it was worth the risk. The strain of the recovery operations in the battle’s aftermath broke some of her comrades and drove the rest to the brink, including herself. The destruction and loss of life was catastrophic to both sides of the battle and, to her, dealing with the screams of the wounded and disposing of the dead were even more traumatizing than the combat that caused the casualties. In the heat of battle she was in control and her actions saved lives. She could still summon the exhilaration from when her ship took the kill shot on an Imp-star deuce moving to intercept Home One. It was…

A warning alarm sounded. Incoming ships. Several and large.

Snapped from her reverie, Lo’Pu stood and stepped closer to the viewport. In a matter of seconds the space before her was filled with a massive Imperial fleet, a mix of star destroyers and dreadnaughts. Her hands went numb, allowing her cup to slip from her fingers and smash onto the deck, the hot, viscous liquid spreading out like the blood she knew would soon be spilt.

“Open a channel to all ships,” she commanded. Steeling her voice she issued her commands, “We don’t have a chance against those ships, but we need to do as much damage as possible. All warships form on the Justice. We will isolate and destroy one of those Victory Star Destroyers. Freighter captains, if you are boarded you are clear to abandon ship, the cargo is not worth the risk. I say again, abandon your cargo if necessary. May the Force be with us all!”

***********

Vice Admiral Emmett’s teeth ground together as his fleet dropped out of hyperspace. Their deployment was not at all what he had ordered. His subordinates had each taken it upon themselves to jockey for a closer position to the objective. Whether due to arrogance, over eagerness or desire to prove themselves was irrelevant, the result was the star destroyers far too close together and with virtually no room to maneuver. Luckily he expected this mission to have some rough patches. After all, his ships and their crews were pulled from all over the galaxy and thrown together, the only commonality being their devout loyalty to Lord Vader. He didn’t know them and they didn’t know him. It appeared he would need to forge them into a cohesive unit in the fire of combat. Not ideal, but doable.

The admiral first dispatched orders to his dreadnaughts. They were to give the destroyers some space and close on the rebel convoy that was strung out from the station like a string of pearls, their hulls glittering in the light of the system’s sun. They were also told to fire at will on the combat vessels pulling away from the unarmed freighters. The rebels’ abandonment of their cargo was a good sign because it indicated they had not discerned how important their cargo was.

Next he orchestrated the movements of the destroyers, at times having them pass close enough to have set off proximity warnings had he not ordered them disabled. The whole time his voice was calm, yet firm. In short order the ships had righted their courses and were bearing down on the insurgent vessels. Better still, the voices of his captains had transitioned from strained to confident. Clasping his hands behind his back, Admiral Emmett walked to the main viewport and issued a final, simple order, “To all captains,” he said. “No quarter to the enemy and secure all transports.”

THE GAME

System: Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars Armada.

Armada is part of FFG’s family of Star Wars miniatures games that delves into the area of capital ship battle. The game currently focuses on ships of the Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance. Ships are modeled on stands that have dials and cards. The dials denote shields, which decrease as hit are taken, while cards on the stand give the firing arcs and dice the ship may fire. Like X-Wing, each ship has cards with more detailed information and two other decks of card with upgrades available (at a points cost) and damage as hits finally deplete the shields and hit the hull.

Following X-Wing and Imperial Assault’s examples, FFG will be offering successive waves that will enhance the game. The miniatures are made on a sliding scale, meaning that they are not truly in scale with each other as you may remember them in the movies. Fortunately for those interested in a constant scale, there are alternatives. More information on that will be at the end of the article.

While normally a two player game, Armada can easily be adjusted to allow for more. At Hurricon ’15, we had a total of eight players, each with two ships. The break down was as follows:

Galactic Empire

  • Four Victory Star Destroyers
  • Four Dreadnoughts (Using stats from FFG’s Gladiator)
  • Fighter Support
  • Two stands DX-9 trooper transports

Rebel Alliance

  • 2 Nebulan B Escort Frigates
  • 2 Bulk Cruisers (Using stats for Nebulan B Escort Frigates)
  • Four flights of Corellian Corvettes
  • Fighter Support

GM Controlled

  • Five stands of Rebel transports

Scenario

The Imperial fleet’s objective is to recue Admiral Montferrat who is aboard one of several transports. The admiral is vital to leading the Imperials in the rest of the “Echoes of the Sith” campaign. Meanwhile, the Rebels must simply make it out alive, after destroying as many Imperial ships as possible. Neither side knows the objective of the other.

Deployment

Rebel Deployment

Rebel Deployment

The Rebel fleet was set up at the narrow end of a 8×5 foot gaming table. The fleet was set up with the transports in the center and escorted by Nebulan Bs and Corellian Corvettes on the right and left. Each player had a Neb-B and Corellian Corvette flight stand.

Imperial Deployment

Imperial Deployment

The Imperial fleet was set up at the opposite end, with two players on each side. Each player had one Victory Destroyer and one Dreadnought. Both sides were also given modest fighter escorts, while the Imperials had special stands with custom fan made DX-9 Stormtrooper carriers.

Game Summary

The game played out pretty much as the fan fiction above outlined. The Victory Star Destroyers are slow and not very maneuverable. As they turned in to move towards the enemy fleet, chaos ensued with several near collisions. The Rebels, on the other hand, aside from the GM controlled transports, were fast and flew circles around most of the Imperial fleet. While they were generally weaker and more fragile, their maneuverability allowed them to damage several Imperial ships before being forced to leave the table. The Imperial were able to capture two sets of transports, recuing the Admiral and the winning the scenario.

Imperial ships overtake the convoy of freighters.

Imperial ships overtake the convoy of freighters.

GM Afterthoughts

First, the miniatures. By using custom made, as well as FFG, miniatures, the game was vey cinematic. Aside from the fighter stands, capital ships were in a nearly consistent 1/7000 scale. The custom ships included DX-9s and Nebulan-Bs from Mel Miniatures on Shapeways. Resin Dreadnoughts and transports were made by Utar of Task Force 4222. He also has a Shapeways store, Space Supply Depot, that offers Corellian corvettes and several corvette variations. And he offers stand adaptors, so that “flights” of three corvettes can be on one stand. If you want to make your table look more like the opening scene of A New Hop. Mel and Utar’s models are the way to go.

Secondly, game setup. Given the length of the table and how far each fleet was placed, the opposing fleets should probably start out closer than the 4 feet they began at. Also, with the Imperial fleet having two lines turning inward from the sides of the table, the game had a real chance of ending before it started. Had the Imperial fleet collided, severe damage could have taken out all four of the Empire’s heaviest ships. If the scenario were run again, we would deploy the Imperials across the table and two feet closer.

Another issue was the fact that, when the game was played, Wave 2 of Armada had not yet been released. At the time of writing, they are on the ship transiting the Pacific Ocean. That would have changed the composition of both fleets. Rather than four Victories and four Gladiator proxies, the Imperial would most likely have had one Imperial Star Destroyer, two Victory Destroyers and four Gladiator proxies (Dreadnoughts) and two Imperial Raiders (with proxy Lancer models supplied by Utar Ships). The Rebels would have remained the same, but gained one MC80. The Rebel players would have more investment being potentially able to engage and defeat one or more of the larger Imperial ships before escaping to hyperspace. However, the Imperials still need to be overwhelming in order to give the scenario the correct feel for the rest of the campaign.

Rebel Bulk Cruiser skirts the action on the way to hyperspace.

Rebel Bulk Cruiser skirts the action on the way to hyperspace.

Epilogue

Admiral Montferrat sat alone on the floor and leaned against the bulkhead with his eyes closed in hopes to dissuade conversation. The rebels had converted a Class-A cargo container into a field expedient prisoner conveyance and all around him junior officers from an array of branches filled the cavernous hold with the hum of conversation, coughing and snoring. Luckily none of the others had indicated they recognized him as anything other than the lieutenant his rank board proclaimed. While he had no way of knowing if a fellow captive had revealed him to the insurgents it seemed unlikely that, if his cover had been compromised, he would still be among the rabble and not undergoing strenuous interrogation. So he waited, knowing that his future was rescue or obscurity. Fifty-fifty chance at best.

It had been at least a couple days since he was herded into the container, though exactly how long he couldn’t be sure. He was working through estimates based on sleep and meals when a shutter passed through the ship that caused his eyes to snap open. It was a familiar sensation, but hours of doubt and tedium made him question his first instinct until it happened again and he was sure. The freighter was taking fire. And a lot of it. The admiral was willing to bet much of it was coming from turbolasers. All around him his fellow captives began to shuffle and chatter in nervous confusion. Those who were asleep were now waking up and looking about as if they could see through the metal hull and discern what was happening.

The admiral simply waited. He closed his eyes again and visualized the scene playing out just a short distance away.

The Imperial ships would use their larger guns to bring down the shields first. They would avoid using the full battery for fear of over-penetration. The DX-9’s will have already launched, the Storm troopers aboard doing a final equipment check and getting last minute intelligence from the sensor sweeps of their target. When they got the word the shields were down the DX’s would unleash a devastating salvo of ion cannon fire….

Almost on cue the dim lights inside the container failed and cast the prisoners into darkness, which elicited a few shouts from those with less fortitude. The lack of emergency lighting was yet another sign of the rebels’ lack of resources and their fragility even while basking in a great victory. It caused the admiral to grin for the first time in weeks.

With the ship disabled the assault craft would mag-lock onto the hull, most likely near the freighter’s central walkway. The troopers would set shape charges, blast a hole in the ceiling, then use the smoke for cover as they dropped in and spread through the ship to eliminate any crew that had failed to make it to an escape pod. Once the craft was secure the specialists would move to the cargo container access port knowing it would be locked and require forceful entry. This time they would forgo the shape charge and use a more delicate approach.

Admiral Montferrat stood up in the darkness, smoothed out his uniform and straightened his hat. After a few minutes the darkness was shattered by the bead of plasma torch beginning to slice through the center of the main cargo hatch. It casted odd shadows around the hold and across the huddled officers who inexplicably shied away from what was clearly the first indication of salvation. The admiral walked against the tide toward the ever growing hole to freedom and waited patiently until the uneven oval crashed inwards landing a meter in front of his boots that, while dulled somewhat from his captivity, still managed to shine in the brilliant light stabbing through the breach. On the other side a handful of soldiers in white armor snapped to attention and saluted, no doubt updating the fleet commander through their helmets that their target had been located.

Stepping carefully through the still smoldering opening the Admiral said “You have my gratitude gentlemen. Now, please get me off this hulk so that I may assume command.”

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X-Wing RPG Crossover AAR

Last week Metalhead and I had the opportunity to try out some rules that bridged RPG and miniature gaming using Star Wars X-Wing. In doing so we tweaked the Stress rules and expanded the options available to the four PC’s who were crewing a single YT-1300 with a pilot, 2xGunners (top and bottom quad-lasers) and an Engineer. The scenario had them being chased by 8 vanilla TIEs run by the GM and temporary assistant GM (me). Instead of the normal turn order we did the following:

  1. TIE’s Activate (Maneuver from dial and single Action)
  2. YT-1300 Activates (see below)
  3. YT-1300 Shoots (see below)
  4. TIEs Shoot
  5. End Phase
The TIE Swarm advances in V formation.

The TIE Swarm advances in V formation.

The YT had upgraded Shields and Hull (+1 to each), was equipped with a Stealth Device and had 2xHoming Missiles (fired by the pilot). During activation the players did the following:

A) Pilot executes a single maneuver:

  • White Maneuvers (on dial): No additional effect
  • GREEN MANEUVER: -1 Stress Token
  • RED MANEUVER: +1 Stress Token
  • Maneuver NOT on the dial: Make a piloting skill check
    • SUCCESS=Maneuver completed, +1 Stress
    • FAIL=GM Selects Maneuver & +1 Stress Token
    • CRITICAL FAIL: 1 Critical Damage & +1 Stress Counter
  • STRESS: Only white/green maneuvers may be performed (i.e. only on dial)

B) Perform an Action: Pilot could Focus, Evade or Target Lock. The two gunners could make a skill check to receive a Focus token. Critical Failure resulted in no shooting that turn.

TIEs pursue the fleeing YT-1300

TIEs pursue the fleeing YT-1300

During the Combat Phase the two gunners and the pilot (if applicable) could make an attack. Gunners were considered to have Luke Skywalker’s crew ability.

The Imperial pilots close in for the kill.

The Imperial pilots close in for the kill.

Finally, during the End Phase the Engineer could make a skill check to do one of the following:

SUCCESS: perform one of the following:

  • Redirect Power to Shields: Restore a Shield
  • Redirect Power to Engines: Remove 1 Stress Token
  • Repairs: Flip a face-up damage card face-down
  • Countermeasures: Provide Pilot +1 Agility in following turn.
  • Engine Boost: Pilot immediately performs a free Boost Action.
  • Fire Anti-pursuit Lasers (if overlapped)

FAILURE: do nothing.

CRITICAL FAILURE: GM selects one of the following:

  • Engine Glitch: Only Green maneuver may be performed in next turn
  • Weapon Glitch: One quad gun knocked off line for one turn OR missiles disabled for one turn.
  • Computer Glitch: Red Target lock removed
  • System Overload: Gain +1 Stress token
  • Shield Failure: Lose 1 Shield

photo 3The result of the encounter was that the YT-1300 was able to splash 2 TIEs and then was disabled just before it could get off table (i.e. to the hyperspace point), which was technically a PC loss. Here’s what we learned:

Improves

  • Allow multiple crew and/or droids to take actions during Activation or in the End Phase (the latter if they didn’t perform one in the former, for example, a Co-pilot could establish a Target Lock while the pilot performed an Evade).
  • Limit the off-dial maneuvers available and/or increase the difficulty.
  • Increase difficulty of End Phase actions.

Sustains

  • Crew acting independently in their assigned roles
  • Objective driven scenario (not just fight to the death)
  • Beefed up PC ship

Overall the concept really worked. The game played quickly and smoothly and all players were engaged in the action. The build up in the RPG portion preceding the battle really amped up the tension and was framed by some more role playing that further increased the cinematic feel. It also turned out to be a great way of introducing new players to X-Wing.

I greatly look forward to trying this again with some of the tweaks we identified with a large ship or a small squadron of fighters. A few more stabs at it and I think it could easily be applied to the epic ships, too!!

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X-Wing Epic Play Game Review Part I: The Point of No Return

Back in 2012 I was fortunate enough to attend Star Wars Celebration VI with Stinky Cheese. One of the things I was most looking forward to was checking out a miniatures game that Fantasy Flight Games was about to release: Star Wars X-Wing. Swinging by their booth we drooled over the preview models, picked up a copy of the core game (foolishly skipping the expansions) and, within hours, had our fighters battling it out on my kitchen table.

I immediately fell in love.

Over the next several months I bought another core set and consumed the new waves as they were released. At Gen Con 2013 I ran to the FFG booth in the opening minutes and waited nervously in line until I had secured the new releases. Later that weekend was when they made the official announcement about epic/cinematic play and debuted the first “huge ship” models, the CR-90 Corvette (the first ship shown in the SW saga) and the GR-75 (of “escape from Hoth” fame). We, of course, gawked over the display, marveling at how gorgeous the models appeared.

Over the next several months more details emerged about the huge expansions and the new Epic Tournament format. Tons of speculation (read “arguments”) could be read on the forums as to how viable the expansions would be and if their overall impact on the game would be positive. One of the sticking points for many of the hardcore miniature gamers was FFG’s decision to use a “relative” scale which is smaller than the fighter’s 1/270 (FFG’s rationale for this can be found here). Overall I remained tentatively optimistic. And, one year after I put my nose print on the glass case at Gen Con, I finally got to man the bridge of the CR-90 and give epic play a shot.


Game Overview

Scenarios: CR-90 “Point of No Return” Campaign Scenarios 1, 2b & 3b

Imperial Objectives (all scenarios): Disable 1 section of the CR-90

Players: Mr. Cupcake, Metalhead, Pawatrooper, Stinky Cheese, Pookie and Shart Storm. In Scenario 1 I took the helm of the CR-90 (the only Rebel ship). For the succeeding games we randomized the teams.

Note: I’m only providing a cursory overview of the squadron lists and objectives as the former has assignments that are fixed and the latter is directly copyrighted material that I don’t want to post completely online. The full details of the scenarios can be found in the campaign booklet provided with the Tantive IV Expansion.

Scenario 1: Imperial Victory

Rebel Objective: Survive 6 Turns

Rebels: 1xCR-90 Corvette

Imperials: 6xTIE Fighters

This game was pretty straight forward. The Imps closed in on the Corvette, got inside the turbo lasers’ minimum range and chewed up the hull. The zero agility of the CR-90 pretty much allowed the TIE’s to cause damage with impunity, especially when they got to Range 1. The one moral victory was splashing two TIE’s with the “cowcatcher” effect when I executed a bank that they didn’t expect. It wasn’t enough, though, as the fore section was crippled early in Turn 5’s Combat Phase.

Scenario 2b: Imperial Victory

Rebel Objective: Escape off neutral board edge.

Rebels: CR-90, 2x X-Wings & 1x B-Wing

Imperials: 3xTIE Fighter, 2xTIE Interceptor, 1xTIE Bomber and 1xTIE Defender

This game went rather poorly for the Rebellion. The fighter screen moved forward and got one, solid volley off before the Imperials shot past them. This was exacerbated by an unfortunate overlap that blocked on of the X-Wing’s Koiogran Turn and, for all intents and purposes, put it out of the game. The rest of the fighters did their best to come about, but couldn’t prevent focused fire from virtually every Imperial fighter that crippled the fore section in turn 4 or 5 (can’t remember exactly).

Scenario 3b: Imperial Victory

Rebel Objective: Fix the Hyperdrive

Rebels: CR-90, Wedge Antilles, 1x B-Wing

Imperials:

Group 1 – 2x bombers, 1xLambda

Group 2: 3x TIE Interceptors

Group 3: 6x TIE Fighters

This was a really fun scenario to run. It involved an escalation of force by the Imps as Groups 2 and 3 arrived several turns into the game. In retrospect it was also the scenario where the Rebels did the best job in working toward their objective, especially considering we were not doing energy management correctly and the scenario heavily depended on energy management (see below). They also did an excellent job keeping their fighters shooting and splashed several Imperial ships, including the Lambda shuttle and several TIE’s.

Scenario 4: (not played, ran out of time)


Campaign Summary

The biggest thing we noticed was that the tactics for the Imperials over the campaign got fairly repetitive: ignore the fighters, close with the CR-90 as quickly as possible and focus fire on one section. In each game the Corvette was put out of commission with relative ease (3b being the closest it came to victory). This prompted us to review of the rules1 and it turned out that we mishandled the energy steps (see below), most likely due to the fact we were using printouts from a squadron builder that obfuscated/confused the energy rules.


Mistakes We Made

  1. The Reinforce action can be performed FROM any section ON either section.
  2. The CR-90 should have rolled for potential damage when it collided with the TIE’s.
  3. CR-90 secondary weapons do not allow for the additional Defense Dice from extended range (caught this mid-game).  For example, the “hard points” upgraded with Turbo Laser and Quad Lasers, which is why the Turbo Laser has the rule that the target doubles their agility.
  4. When allocating energy it is placed on the Ship Card up to the maximum amount of energy then can be assigned to upgrade cards up to the card’s energy limit. The Energy Steps include:
    1. Gain Energy: Place the energy on the SHIP Card
    2. Allocate Energy: Move energy from the SHIP Card to any Upgrade Cards (up to the energy limit)
    3. Use Energy: Use any upgrade abilities that have the word “energy” (once per card per turn, secondary weapons still fire in the Combat Phase)

Primary takeaway: use actual game components should be used for the first pass at new expansions.


First Impressions

The campaign itself does have some merit and was, for the most part, a ton of fun to play through. Next time I will definitely play it using the optional rules for “non campaign play” where players are given freedom to equip the CR-90 as desired. This would allow the Rebel player to equip quad lasers in the fore and aft sections, something that I believe would help it fight off enemy fighters.

As for aesthetics I think the huge ship scale held up quite nicely with the fighters. The ship is big enough to look impressive and the detail is so exquisite you can’t help but cut it some slack. That being said I am still interested in doing a test game with the Kenner CR-90 and some modified movement rules (or simply let the model move in a set path) as it does look a lot more epic next to the fighters.


Part II – The Hurricon 2014 JDL Challenge (coming soon):

In the next few weeks we will have run a JDL Challenge using the Epic Play Tournament format I will post a recap as well as final thoughts and impressions of the huge ships. Stay tuned!!


Notes

1There is a standing rule in “The Bunker” that we are not a book club. If a rule isn’t known and can’t be looked up quickly we make our best ruling and drive on with the game. This sometimes leads to errors, but it also prevents things from becoming too bogged down. There’s plenty of time to read between games and make adjustments for the next time.

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