Wednesday 22 May 2013

Full Thrust: Arachnophobia!


At the weekend, I finally received the finished version of my Full Thrust event cards from the printers.  That being so, there was only one choice of game for this week's club meeting!  [For my ATZ fans, I know it's been a long wait, but good things are coming.  Soon...]

Sa'Vasku bioships entering human space
So, I thought it was high time to bring out my Sa'Vasku alien fleet.  Normally, I don't use these at the games club because they're tricky to control.  In Full Thrust, these space-dwelling creatures have their own energy allocation rules and this makes them much more complicated to manage than any of the other fleets.  Still, I thought I'd give my older son the chance to learn how to use them.

The Scenario

Right, I'm not a great fan of "line 'em up and shoot until everyone bar me is dead" games, so I needed to come up with a scenario for the game.  Here's how this one goes:

The setting is near the Federation planet 'Caledon'.  This is a fertile, M-class planet, sparsely populated with a total of about 10 million humans, mostly farmers.

In distant orbit around Caledon there is a large space station, home to a zero-G manufacturing facility and owned by the M.D.B. corporation.

Further off, the bulk freighter Pride of the Orient is in trouble.  She's supposed to be delivering raw materials to the M.D.B. factory, but one of her holds has ruptured and she's shed 8,000 of ore into space.

So far, this is just a regular day in the Caledon system, but sensors have picked up the rapid approach of some alien vessels.  The good news is that the Federation have a significant squadron of assorted light cruisers and heavy destroyers present; these were due to take part in the "Solar Freedom XXVI" exercises next week.

The bad news is that the Federation have no idea what the alien creatures want.  Are they just passing through (migrating)?  Are they trying to make contact?  Or are they planning to attack?

Special Rules

  • Federation forces may not fire on the Sa'Vasku until either they approach within 12" or until the aliens make a hostile action.  To compensate for this, the Federation have a larger force than the biofleet [by a ratio of about 5:4 in points].
  • Sa'Vasku have 3 possible objectives; they must secretly choose just 1 before the game and that will set their victory conditions.  The Federation win if the Sa'Vasku fail to meet their chosen objective.  Note that the Federation player(s) don't even know what the possible objectives are, let alone which one has been picked by the Sa'Vasku.
  • Objective A: It's spawning time!  To win, at least 3 out of the 4 alien ships must release spores into the planet's atmosphere.  They may accomplish this by entering planetary orbit; the ship may then spawn [release spores] in place of firing on any subsequent turn.  Note that this will probably render the planet unsuitable for human habitation thereafter, though it might make a good scenario for a ground-based battle.
  • Objective B: Curious!  The space factory has been emitting some strange radiations; the Sa'Vasku wish to find out more.  To win, they must board and capture the facility, then take away at least some of the crew as prisoners.  Captive human factory workers may be moved to a nearby Sa'Vasku ship at the same rate as boarders, so if the ship has 4 boarding parties then it may transport 4 "items" per turn, either boarding parties, groups of captives or a mixture.  Bonus points for capturing all the workers from the factory!
  • Objective C: Hungry!  The Pride of the Orient has spilled some of its cargo; the Sa'Vasku can consume this to win.  Initially, the spillage is clumped into 2 x size-4 "asteroids" or chunks.  These may be fired upon; 4 points of damage will split a size-4 into 2 x size-2 asteroids, each placed 3" in a random direction from the "parent".  Similarly, 2 points of damage will split a size-2 into 2 x size-1.  A size-1 chunk may be consumed by a Sa'Vasku ship that flies over it; the ship may repair 1 lost biomass box when it does this.  If either a Sa'Vasku hits a size-2 or larger chunk, or a Federation ship hits any chunk then the ship must dodge or take damage as normal for an asteroid field.  To win, the aliens must consume at least 4 x size-1 chunk.

The Game

For the first couple of turns, the Sa'Vasku approached slowly, not making any use of their advanced drives and potentially incredible maneuverability.  Indeed, they did possibly the worst possible thing at this time: the outnumbered bioships opened fire on the central group of cruisers!  This clearly signaled their hostile intent and the Federation commodore immediately ordered all his ships to return fire.

Damage was taken by both sides over a couple of turns of shooting.  In particular, one of the 2 Sa'Vasku "cruisers" was badly hurt and the smaller Sa'Vasku "destroyer" lost all maneuvering and shooting ability.  On the other size, the Federation cruiser Callisto was damaged significantly.  Indeed, Callisto and her sister ship Phoebe, along with the destroyer Sable all took hits from leech pods - a particularly pernicious bio-weapon that clings to the hull of its target and continues to gnaw its way through in further turns unless it is killed.

On turn 3, the 2 damaged small Sa'Vasku vessels drifted forward, but the other pair of bioships suddenly accelerated.  Their battlecruiser turned towards the planet at high speed and ended up face-to-face with the small (and trembling!) scout cruiser EndeavourEndeavour gave her best shot and certainly hurt the beast that was bearing down on her, before she took 11 points of damage in return out of a possible 12.  With life support failing and the command bridge in disarray, the gallant ship was abandoned and left to drift.

Despite being troubled by a leech pod, the destroyer Sable and her undamaged sister Oryx threw down some massive salvos on the monster and caused it a lot of injury in return.

As the other undamaged Sa'Vasku ship accelerated, the ship's counselor on the Phoebe had a premonition.  "Captain, it's going to fly right past us!" she exclaimed.

The captain immediately ordered "Hard a port!  Full stop!" - but even then the Federation cruiser couldn't turn tightly enough to bring most of its weapons to bear on the enemy.

The leech pod attached to the Callisto chewed its way into the engineering section and accidentally caused a warp core breech.  Panic ensued, though in the end the ship's structural integrity was compromised by the leech: she fell apart before she blew up!

At the same time, the leech attached to the Sable also ate its way through the hull and destroyed the smaller ship.

Meanwhile, the leech that was attached to the Phoebe was running rampant!  For 3 turns in a row, mixed teams of security and engineering tried to contain the thing and flush it out into space, but it just kept on dissolving its way through deck after deck.  It even managed to destroy the navigator's manga collection!

Now, here's the good part: the Federation commander was holding a "Makeshift Repairs" event card and could have used it to stop the leech pod at the cost of one of his ship's systems (a point defence, say - not needed in this scenario).  For 3 turns he agonised over whether to play the card for a guaranteed success (minus a ship's system) or whether to roll the dice for a 50% chance of success, but keeping all systems.  Each time, he chose to roll and lost!

With only 1 cruiser fully operational, the Sa'Vasku gave up their plan of capturing humans from the space station.  Instead, that ship made a screaming high-speed turn past the M.D.B. facility and fled into outer space.  The other Sa'Vasku cruiser was hurt, but was still able to out-accelerate the defending ships quite easily and escape.  Of the 7 initial Federation vessels, 3 were now lost; the remaining 4 took out their anger on the heavily damaged Sa'Vasku battlecruiser and destroyer.  Neither of these bioships survived.


  • Los Angeles: survived
  • Toronto: survived
  • Phoebe: moderate damage
  • Callisto: destroyed
  • Endeavour: drifting hulk
  • Sable: destroyed
  • Oryx: survived
  • Battlecruiser Cisplantin: destroyed
  • Cruiser Zoloft: badly damaged
  • Cruiser Carboplatin: survived
  • Destroyer Zofran: destroyed
Mission: capture subjects for experimentation - failed

Overall: Federation Victory!  The Sa'Vasku player was not familiar with their special rules; had he understood their capabilities better then this could have been a very different game!

[Update: a second game using (almost) the same scenario is available here:]


  1. Nice BatRep. Looking forward to seeing more of your Starships and your Zombies.

    Just so you know when I was in communication with Irregular Minis askign some questions about ships I wasnt able to find images of I mentioned you as the source that led me to them and helped me decide to place my initial ship order for their minis.

    Also what do you use for your Starship bases, it looks liek you have 3 or 4 different ones.
    Also if you are interested in a couple of the plastic "dimestore" ships I have coming let me know, since I will be getting 144 of then I am willing to send some your way. Just let me know. Hopefully they will be arriving tomorrow. If you do want a few it might be a week or so till I can get them out in the mail, most my extra spending $$$$ went to my Irregular Minis order.

    1. Thanks, Doug. I've already asked Irregular whether they've seen an increase in business after my articles. However, it seems they have so many other lines as well that this cannot easily be determined.

      As for basing, my older ships are on Games Workshop flying bases. The really old ones are unpainted (clear), the later ones are coloured black. My more recent ships are on 25mm steel washers, again painted black.

      Thanks for the kind offer of dimestore ships. I do appreciate this, but I suspect that postage costs would make it unrealistic. I've discovered that I could buy 144 of these in Europe for just over £15, though I'm really too busy to deal with even a few at the moment.

  2. Great report! I have to agree with you, objective driven games make much more sense than plain aimless shooting all around the cosmos! The idea to draw a bit of a planet on the space station is a nice touch.

    1. Well, I can't take credit for the space station's base; it's a prepainted miniature from the defunct Doctor Who Micro Universe range!

    2. Hugh, Darn you. You just gave me an idea for a ship to try and scratch build to occasionally have "pop" up in my Games.

      A TT Type 40, Mark 3 with a malfunctioning Chameleon Circuit causing it to be stuck as a Blue British Police Box. Granted the thing would be the size of a speck of dust if it was in scale, though mine will be a tad larger more for aesthetics, so that you can make out what the ship actually is. Will just have to figure out its stats for Full Thrust and 5150 Star Navy.

  3. Another great game and report. I like the secret victory conditions for keeping it fresh. Seems like a more nuanced approach by the alien player could have really put a wrench in it for the Federation Admiral.

    1. If I'd had more time to think about it, I might have added some more possible objectives, including one where both sides could win by making peaceful contact. However, that would have to be quite hard to achieve, else there's not much of a game to play!

  4. Good bat-rep on what turned out to be an interesting fight and it was fairly obvious from the outset that the Alien player(s) hadn't fully used their advantages but as with all games they're a learning process.

    I must say that I'n not a great fan of the bioship types, but they do look very alien.

    1. Yes, the Sa'Vasku player really wasn't familiar with how these ships operate at all!

  5. What a shame that the Savvy player didn't use a little subtlety! I'd love to see a re-fight of this where the Federation was kept guessing for longer about the alien's true intentions.

    1. I think that a player who was more familiar with the unusual strengths and weaknesses of the Sa'vasku would have made this game much more exciting. Perhaps I will re-run it some time :-) .