There’s one last element to the scenario — a huge Titan bearing down on a space colony — I didn’t mention yesterday, and that is that the space lords have sent us a relief force!
Roll one die at the beginning of the End/Repair Phase and record a running total. When the total is equal to or greater than 12, the TDF player receives reinforcements (BCH, BC, CA x4) within 2 hexes of (E). This happens once per game.
Oh but it’s not here, yet.
After the jump, I’m sure it will arrive any minute.
On my first move I jump most of my fleet. Ships like frigates and destroyers (which don’t have a damaged side) have a symbol on the back which shows that they have “jumped out” and cannot attack or be attacked on that turn. At the end of the turn, they “jump in” at their new location. There is a “jump out” counter to place on top of capital ships, since they have a damaged side as well and you can’t just flip them over. I “lead” the Titan a bit, jumping my ships in just a bit ahead of the Titan in anticipation of it advancing into my fire.
End of the turn. I roll a 2 for reinforcements.
On the second turn, I leave my fleet in place. Nobody jumps out, but instead everyone mans the battle stations. I draw a Titan card.
I puzzle over it a little because it doesn’t seem to make sense. The arrow is pointing forward but the hex with the arrow in it is behind the starting hex. I’m not sure what this could mean. Oh, wait.
Great. That means the Titan will move one hex backwards. I have to say, in all of my preparation for this game, I didn’t look at the Titan cards very carefully (spoilers, you know) and it never even occurred to me that the Titan could move backwards. I thought this was a simulation. You mean Titans can actually move backwards?
This move puts all but two of my ships out of range of the Titan. The two ships are frigates, and with their minimal combat factors of “1” each, they need to combine and then roll a six to destroy even a single Titan defensive laser battery. They do not. The Titan then cycles through its targets for its six defensive lasers (the left column), its primary beam weapons (middle) and its spinal mount (right). Miraculously, I only lose three frigates. Then I fire my missiles.
As if to register agreement with his thought, the flare of a beam weapon struck out from the berserker-ship. But the beam looked odd and silvery, and it plowed only a few yards among exploding rocks and dust before fizzling away like a comic firework. It added dust to a cloud that seemed to be thickening in front of the berserker. Probably the machine had been firing at him all along, but this weird space would not tolerate energy weapons. Missiles, then?
Yes, missiles. Kind of like the missiles in another, more recent space game called Eclipse, the missiles in Astra Titanus seem kind of overpowered. If you can volley them on a single turn within three hexes of the Titan, you can roll a bunch of dice. If they don’t reach the target on the first turn, they move farther on the second turn but roll fewer dice. Both my missiles hit this turn so I roll six dice, except the Titan has working defensive lasers so I roll one fewer.
My missiles score two hits on primary beams, still leaving the Titan with 3 (that was just armor I destroyed), two hits on defensive lasers, which means it is still at 6, and one miss. I’d like to knock the primary beams down further before engaging with my larger ships, but I may not have a choice.
Another 2 for reinforcements. (total: 4)
On the next turn, I decide to jump out my upper group of frigates, which are too far from the action and every turn they don’t destroy something is a wasted turn. They’ll never make it through the game and I think their pilots know it.
The Titan moves down towards the lower destroyer/frigate group. The two missile destroyers combine to attack one of the laser batteries, and the destroyer and frigate target another. I need to roll 4 or better on the first attack and 5 or better on the second. Neither one happens. The Titan retaliates by destroying a destroyer, both missile destroyers, and a frigate. I’ll never fire those last two missile salvoes.
The upper group jumps back in closer to the Titan.
During the End/Repair Phase I roll a 1 for reinforcements (total: 5). Ugh, that means they are at least two turns away.
The Titan replies by pounding up the gut, three hexes straight ahead. I combine the upper group against one laser battery and the bottom against another. I need to roll a 2 on the first attack and a 3 on the second. I do. That finally brings the Titan down to four laser batteries. The Titan takes out one frigate and one destroyer. Then it stops, because that’s what the isotope says. In atom-card-speak, that’s the red “stop” icon on the bottom of the leftmost column. The primary beams vaporize a frigate and two destroyers. The spinal mount is mercifully restricted to a range of one on that card. It doesn’t fire.
I have two more missile destroyers in range, but one is hiding behind an asteroid. The rules say that if a missile moves into an asteroid hex, the missile is immediately destroyed. So only one missile destroyer can salvo. The missiles can reach the target this turn. Since the Titan still has defensive lasers, I only roll two dice instead of three. I get a drive hit and one defensive laser. He’s down to three of those pesky batteries.
Yet another 2 for reinforcements. (total: 7) I still need a 5 next turn.
The frigates, however, are once again out of range. Because the Titan prioritizes targets, I can’t fully distract it just by putting cannon fodder in its path. But I can close in and at least distract the defensive laser batteries.
But the disparity in size and power and armament was too great. The ship, which still contained three lives, had not a tenth of the attacker’s bulk, and could not nearly match its firepower. On and on the unliving killer came, lurching and staggering in its contested passage. Now the damned this was only nine hundred kilometers distant. Now only eight.
The ship in Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker Fury survived that encounter. I don’t think my three frigates will survive theirs. But they jump out, as does my battleship, which until now was in orbit around the colony. It will have some missiles to fire.
The Titan continues straight ahead. Oh my God it’s headed for that asteroid! The asteroid suffers a devastation event, which I think is the game term for it being annihilated into pebbles. The Titan shrugs it off, suffering just one drive hit at the end of the turn. But the two missile destroyers are completely exposed to the fire of three defensive laser batteries. Miraculously, they all miss.
My heavy ships are now within range of the Titan. Its primary beams now have real targets. And they miss both the cruiser and battlecruiser. They’ll be singing and drinking about this turn back on Objective Colony. The spinal mount’s range is two on this card. The only vessels in range are the until-now lucky missile destroyers. Goodbye.
Did I say missiles were imba?
dr 6 = reinforcements! one heavy battlecruiser, one battlecruiser, and four cruisers appear in the upper right portion of the map. I’ll have to have them move (“jump out”) immediately.
The relief force is to the upper right, and enters jump space. I manage to destroy one spinal mount box and one drive box. The Titan destroys one frigate, damages one cruiser and one battlecruiser.
Worse, it fires its Omega weapon. For the Rhea-class Titan, this is a Gravity Well Generator. You know what those are, right?
If there is a TDF unit within weapon range: Skip the next Jump Out and Jump In phases.
Yikes. That means my fleet of reinforcements is trapped in jump space, and can’t jump back in this turn!
The battleship isn’t in jump space, though, and salvoes its missiles. One misses, and the other hits the drive. I can’t slow this thing down now. Every drive hit is a waste.
The reinforcements are still jumped out!
The Titan plows through another asteroid, taking yet another drive hit. The battleship fires at a spinal mount but misses. That armor is miles thick. The Titan destroys a frigate but misses the battleship. The spinal mount range is 3, but the objective is 4 hexes away.
My battleship salvoes its missiles, and gets one drive and one defensive laser hit.
My reinforcements jump back in near colony. Finally.
It’s crunch time: the Titan is right over the colony. I need to destroy its weapons in short order. The spinal mounts have a defense of 10, while the primary beams have a defense of 9. I combine fire to put two shots on the spinal mounts and three on the primary beams. In no case do I need more than a 4.
I get one hit on the spinal mount and two on the primary beams. But the spinal mount still had armor left. The Titan is down to one primary beam, though. And some defensive lasers.
The defensive lasers vaporize the frigate. The primary beam destroys the damaged battlecruiser.
The Rhea has both of its spinal mounts left, and they have a strength of 6 each. The colony defense is 9. The Titan misses on a 1 or 2. The colony has 4 hit boxes, and each successful hit destroys one. If I lose all four, the colony is destroyed and I lose.
There goes half the planet.
We have plenty of firepower left. The heavy battlecruiser and the battlecruiser add up to 9 attack. Three cruisers combine for another 9. And the battleship and a cruiser combine for 8. Three shots at the spinal mount, two of which hit automatically. The last hits on anything but a 1.
I roll a 2.
The Titan’s spinal mounts are all destroyed. It fires its defensive lasers and primary beam at my ships, damaging both the heavy battlecruiser and the cruiser. My return fire destroys everything else. The colony is saved. Someone’s getting a promotion!
The funny thing about all this is that there is already a game called Berserker, which is a much more literal translation of Fred Saberhagen’s world of inimical machines. You can still buy it from Flying Buffalo Co. (makers of Nuclear War!) for the princely sum of $6.95 (not a typo) plus three bucks shipping. It originally came out in 1982. It does a nice job of incorporating a lot of the Berserker universe into the game, including boarding parties, C-drives, and berserker dreadnoughts. There is one problem with it, though.
It’s a two-player game.
It might seem strange to object to a person playing the berserker side in a boardgame, but in my mind, it’s a lot stranger to not immediately see the contradiction. It’s kind of like having someone play the shark in Jaws: the menace is supposed to be a microcosm of man’s fear of the unknown, not your pal Dave. Having a system drive the enemy ship would work even better in Berserker, which purports to be a game about an unliving, unfeeling machine programmed to wipe us all out.
There had been a battle, perhaps fought while men on Earth were hunting the mammoth with spears. The berserker had met some terrible opponent, and had taken a terrible lance-thrust of a wound. A cavity two miles wide at the widest, and fifty miles deep, had been driven in by a series of shaped atomic charges, through level after level of machinery, deck after deck of armor, and had been stopped only by the last inner defenses of the buried unliving heart. The berserker had survived, and crushed its enemy, and soon afterward its repair machines had sealed over the outer opening of the wound, using extra thicknesses of armor. It had meant to gradually rebuild the whole destruction; but there was so much life in the galaxy, and so much of it was stubborn and clever.
But for $6.95, you can’t complain too much.
Tomorrow: A different way to game the system.