IntroductionA couple of months ago, I ran a Full Thrust game at the Helensburgh Games Club entitled "The Assault on Starbase 13". In that game, the attacking Federation fleet did stupendously badly - so much so that it has become near legendary. Since then, I've been wondering if my scenario was too unbalanced, one side was supernaturally lucky or whether the fleet players merely blew it. In order to answer these doubts, I decided to rerun exactly the same game again. Call it a parallel universe, if you like! So, here's how it went...
ForcesThe Federation attacking fleet consists of:
- USS Intrepid (Battleship)
- USS Invincible (Battle-cruiser)
- USS Gemini (Carrier)
- USS Danube (Heavy Cruiser)
- USS Callisto and USS Phoebe (Light cruisers, adapted for mine-sweeping)
The Orion defences were:
- Starbase 13 (Battlestation, built of 4 quadrants. Each quadrant is approximately battleship strength. 2 segments can fire in any one direction. The station automatically rotates 90 degrees clockwise each turn)
- Minefield (a thick minefield, about 24" from the starbase)
- Terror (missile-armed heavy cruiser, initially docked at the battlestation)
For several turns, the minesweepers at the front of the Federation fleet took hits from the base's long range weapons. At this range, the firing was not particularly effective, but it was completely one-sided. 4 squadrons of Orion fighters were launched from the starbase; they were pleasantly surprised to find that the Federation carrier didn't respond by scrambling its own fighters.
In return, the starbase played an event card to overload a pair of its heavy phasers. To the Federation's great relief, both weapons burned out instead of unleashing a hurricane of firepower on their poor vessels. Even so, the base's other weapons caused a lot of hurt to the USS Danube and a moderate amount of damage to the USS Invincible. These 2 ships were just not powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with a battlestation all on their own!
ConclusionAt this point, we ran out of time and packed everything away. Had we been able to continue, the starbase's rotation would have turned its somewhat damaged quadrant 2 away from the attackers and brought the undamaged quadrants 3 and 4 into play. When that happened, the USS Danube's life expectancy would have been very short indeed. The USS Invincible might have inflicted some more damage before it was destroyed in turn. The battleship USS Intrepid was still too far away to be more than a minor nuisance at this stage; it would either have to flee or to tackle the battlestation on its own (and that would only have ended in one way).
I'm still wondering if this scenario can be won by the Federation, or whether they need considerably larger forces to do so. Reason tells me that it should be possible, though I think it needs much better co-ordination and manoeuvering skills than my Federation players possess. Here's how I would do it:
- Move at a reasonable speed (6" or 8", perhaps) so as to lessen the amount of closing fire.
- Send the minesweepers a turn ahead, to clear a path through the minefield.
- Use the Federation fighters solely to defend the fleet against missiles and hostile fighters; the starbase has a stupendous amount of flak and so attacking it with these is tantamount to suicide.
- The Federation capital ships must arrive at optimal range of the base at pretty much the same time. It should be possible to get 3 heavy ships (plus 1 or 2 light cruiser/minesweepers, if they survive) to attack and overwhelm a single quadrant on the base. Of course, as the station rotates it will constantly present fresh quadrants, but as long as the majority of Federation ships survive then these can be depleted in turn.