Original Starfire blew my mind

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Re: Original Starfire blew my mind

Postby Cralis on Tue 12 Apr 2016 00:04

jbanes wrote:
Cralis wrote:I think you missed what I was saying. For the purposes of doing pre-designed scenarios, I'm thinking that we could build ship cards for specific ships and/or ship classes where the ship systems are printed onto the card into the correct order, and you would use "marker" counters to show when they are destroyed.


You're right. I did misunderstand. My apologies.


Sheesh! Don't apologize! It was likely that I wasn't clear enough :)

As for the "empty hull" cards to allow players to design their own ships, I'm still thinking about that. While your design has some advantages, the disadvantage of requiring all those system counters (as you point out on your blog, shields and armor specifically) doesn't really scale well when ship sizes increase. Plus, you will run into issues where counters are larger than the remaining row space and have to move down a line, which might be confusing and would leave unused boxes.


All very good points. The only real issue is that it does not help with the proliferation of tokens. The game will still need a lot of damage tokens. Though this does homogenize the tokens quite a bit!


And that was what I was thinking about. You don't have to have counters or tokens, you could use marking stones or anything to cover the "square" on the card for each system.

Then I got to thinking... I wonder if I could ask Litko to make smaller versions of these to use: http://www.litko.net/products/Critical- ... wyNiuZe-jY

Would be fun!

In terms of token reduction, I do see shields as an easy win. Since shields are always to the left and can regenerate, I am thinking of making shields a track that uses one token. If the track is vertical, shields would "drop" as damage is taken and "go up" as they regenerate. For regen, there could be a side track for counting turn number.


And this would certainly work VERY well for pre-designed ship cards!!

But I was going to say, on your blog you keep calling Starfire "old" ... I think the issue with table top wargames is that there is a definite shift from abstract game materials and mechanics to more visual. You are replacing the "string of systems" with an actual ship control board ... a purely visual component. We are working on moving from counters to miniatures ... a purely visual component.


I think southwestforests hit the nail on the head here. Miniatures are more tactile which is a nice to have. Player mats and tokens have the advantage of displaying critical rule information in a manner that is easily digestible. These visual aids make the game more accessible to a wider audience. This may not seem like a big deal, but you have to understand that the attention span of the modern gamer is a lot shorter. If the game doesn't provide cues they expect, the likelihood of the player sticking with it drops precipitously.


Understood, especially on the attention span issue. It's rather unfortunate. I've kind of settled into the realization that I will likely never find new players to play most of the games on my shelf.

BUT, it's gotten us thinking about other possibilities...

Keep in mind that old doesn't equal bad. In fact, I love old stuff with a passion! But it does mean that the audience is severely limited. And I think Starfire is way too cool to limit it like that!


Agreed. I'm just not very good at the marketing bit.

While it does make the game more visually appealing, the downside is that it becomes less complex. While many would celebrate that as a good thing, the truth is that the massive campaign system that has allowed players to run hundreds of game months (and in at least one case, THOUSANDS of game months!) is very abstracted.


For what it's worth, I 100% agree with you. I don't ever see the current Starfire going away. (Ultra / Solar / etc.) What I do see happening is that a simpler "gateway drug" could be used to entice players into the game. Those that are interested could upgrade to the full experience while players looking for a casual experience can still enjoy the full universe.


Sadly, I've heard this a lot but I no longer believe that to be true. Newer, younger players just aren't interesting in monolithic games that aren't computer games.

As it stands today, Starfire has been all but wiped from the memories of board gaming enthusiasts. Even those who play modern war games like X-Wing, Warhammer, or the SFB spin-offs don't seem to remember Starfire. Which is really sad when you consider the incredible role it had in founding the genre of space combat. It deserves better as far as I'm concerned. :)


Starfire has had a hard life. I'm hoping it's going to end up like Abraham Lincoln: a dozen hard stops followed by victory in a presidential election. ;)
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Re: Original Starfire blew my mind

Postby jbanes on Tue 12 Apr 2016 23:29

Cralis wrote:And that was what I was thinking about. You don't have to have counters or tokens, you could use marking stones or anything to cover the "square" on the card for each system.


Right. But they're all stand-ins for tokens of some sort. The problem comes down to volume. A large number of pieces might work for a player doing this on his own. It would get prohibitive if it were ever packaged into a commercial product. Too many components can seriously kill a game.

Case in point is Sector Prime: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/14 ... board-game

I really think it looks like a cool game. Funding is not going well, though. Granted they had the problem where discounted price + shipping was more than retail. (Doesn't make a lot of sense.) Now they've fixed it so that it equals retail. But that raises the question: Why is the unit price so high?

Answer?

- 100 Traxium Crystals
- 100 Drone Tokens (cubes)
- 13 dice
- 12 Force Fields
- Plus all the usual stuff

Components can kill a game fast.

Then I got to thinking... I wonder if I could ask Litko to make smaller versions of these to use: http://www.litko.net/products/Critical- ... wyNiuZe-jY


Ok, I gotta admit. I want those. Those look friggin' awesome! I think I'd just drop'em on a board whenever the "pew-pew!" starts. Really doesn't matter what game we're playing. :lol:

In terms of token reduction, I do see shields as an easy win. Since shields are always to the left and can regenerate, I am thinking of making shields a track that uses one token. If the track is vertical, shields would "drop" as damage is taken and "go up" as they regenerate. For regen, there could be a side track for counting turn number.


And this would certainly work VERY well for pre-designed ship cards!!


Very true!

Agreed. I'm just not very good at the marketing bit.


Marketing come down to sharing your excitement with others. Professional marketeers kind of fake it. The best marketeers just share their love for stuff. Ask yourself the hard question: Why do you love it so much? If you come up with a fantastic answer, then just share it with others! If your answer is other than you expected... well... time to take a hard look at your own beliefs and see how you can realign your message around them. :)

Sadly, I've heard this a lot but I no longer believe that to be true. Newer, younger players just aren't interesting in monolithic games that aren't computer games.


I still don't know how to play modern Starfire, so this is not a criticism or a ding of any sort. My goal is to present the view from the outside and see if we can get to answers that are satisfying to the market.

In my time lurking I've heard a lot of people say they absolutely need a spreadsheet to play modern Starfire. Those same players then complain that it feels too much like a computer game.

Which raises a legitimate question: Should Starfire's future be as a computer game?

I think the general response is to the effect of, "We made all these rules so you can do anything. If we programmed it into a computer it would be nearly impossible to replicate all of this flexibility! The unexpected is what makes the game great!"

Which is an absolutely fair point. To which the reply might be: "What good is flexibility if you can't use it? How many players play Starfire on a regular basis? Would constraints improve that situation?"

To answer that question, one might point at something like the Star Wars prequels where George Lucas was able to make his movies without any constraints. The result had a lot of references and Easter eggs packed in if you knew where to look. You know what it didn't have? A plot. Enjoyment for the audience. Fresh ideas that impacted viewers.

I don't know where the conversation would go from here. It seems like those who dismiss Starfire would win the argument at this point. Do we have a good response? Or can we change the conversation by answering the question: "Why would I as a player choose Starfire over the multitude of other 4x and wargame options?"

Starfire has had a hard life. I'm hoping it's going to end up like Abraham Lincoln: a dozen hard stops followed by victory in a presidential election. ;)


Don't sell it short. It had an amazing run that inspired one of the greatest Sci-Fi book series of all time! That's nothing to scoff at. The residual on the brand may be a bit weak at this point. Yet I strongly believe it could be capitalized on with the right ideas and marketing. :)
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Re: Original Starfire blew my mind

Postby LordKron on Wed 13 Apr 2016 06:55

IMO the difference between the older versions (up to Classic) and now is that originally Starfire was a tactical combat game with campaign and strategic level rules added on over time. Now it's become a strategic level game with tactical level combat as an offshoot.

Up to Classic, you could play existing scenarios or easily do DYO by selecting a point and TL limit. Choosing systems to install in a short was fairly quick and easy. Now, short of the QSR rules, ship design is a far more tedious process (tech trees and fractional accounting as many systems are no longer integer increment in HS).

A start might be to write a simple history based on the QSR ships (and improved versions thereof). Put it in a format like SAW where there is an intro to the story, then battles followed by short interludes. Letting players see the tech progression might help players understand the tech trees.
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Re: Original Starfire blew my mind

Postby jbanes on Wed 13 Apr 2016 07:32

LordKron wrote:IMO the difference between the older versions (up to Classic) and now is that originally Starfire was a tactical combat game with campaign and strategic level rules added on over time. Now it's become a strategic level game with tactical level combat as an offshoot.


I hadn't thought about it that way. You make an interesting point!

Up to Classic, you could play existing scenarios or easily do DYO by selecting a point and TL limit. Choosing systems to install in a short was fairly quick and easy. Now, short of the QSR rules, ship design is a far more tedious process (tech trees and fractional accounting as many systems are no longer integer increment in HS).

A start might be to write a simple history based on the QSR ships (and improved versions thereof). Put it in a format like SAW where there is an intro to the story, then battles followed by short interludes. Letting players see the tech progression might help players understand the tech trees.


So you're thinking something like a campaign book separate from the rules? Perhaps something written from the perspective of particular character(s) who get "promoted" to more responsibility throughout the storyline? I.e. I might start as a commander of a bunch of escorts trying to hold an enemy invasion into the system at bay. For my successes I get promoted to larger fleets. Eventually I'm given control over an entire sector of battle. When I get high enough in rank I get control over ship production and research.

The scenarios would probably specify some initial decisions intended to familiarize you with the tech tree. These would ward off initial improvements in enemy technology. Upcoming scenarios would require you to make your own tech decisions which could have a make or break effect on the rest of the campaign.

Is that kind of what your thinking is? If so, I really like it! Without impacting the rules (which need to remain referenceable) you could slowly introduce players to the game one step at a time. The player is never forced to go beyond their comfort level. It also brings a lot of story back to the game which I really love in original Starfire.

The cherry on top is that it gives the player a way to make full use of both the tactical and strategic games! Want a quick game with a friend? Dial it back to early in the game. Want to fight over an entire sector without worrying about construction? Skip to the middle. Ready to play the full game but want a bit of structure? The end of the campaign has got you covered!

These are some really cool ideas!
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Re: Original Starfire blew my mind

Postby Cralis on Wed 13 Apr 2016 16:14

LordKron wrote:IMO the difference between the older versions (up to Classic) and now is that originally Starfire was a tactical combat game with campaign and strategic level rules added on over time. Now it's become a strategic level game with tactical level combat as an offshoot.


I can't agree with that for one reason: you can play the tactical rules without the strategic rules, but you cannot play the strategic rules without the tactical rules. This is true for ALL six versions of Starfire.

Up to Classic, you could play existing scenarios or easily do DYO by selecting a point and TL limit. Choosing systems to install in a short was fairly quick and easy. Now, short of the QSR rules, ship design is a far more tedious process (tech trees and fractional accounting as many systems are no longer integer increment in HS).


Tech tees can be easily flattened by saying SL = EL. Heck, that's explicitly stated as an equivalent in the rules for SSF (and is implied in USF and GSF). We even have a download of all of the systems that can be sorted by SL.

Admittedly, fractional sizes and the generational systems do make ship generation a bit more... overwhelming ...for BYO scenarios. And what would be really neat is a system for "purchasing" branches so you can set an EL and then buy branches to simulate how systems become available in the strategic game. That's on my future list to do.

What is really missing are scenarios. I was kinda hoping authors out there would write up scenarios from their campaigns (*hint* *reminder* you know who you are!). But ultimately a big chunk of this is my fault for not getting the background history and rules completion done faster.

You don't know how badly I wish I could work on Starfire full time :/

A start might be to write a simple history based on the QSR ships (and improved versions thereof). Put it in a format like SAW where there is an intro to the story, then battles followed by short interludes. Letting players see the tech progression might help players understand the tech trees.


The QSR is incredibly simplified, so at best it could be a gateway, it wouldn't replace having scenarios and history for SSF. That said, I have been thinking about a previously suggested idea for providing scenarios for the QSR rules. AND for the QSR miniature rules.

A history wouldn't work well since the QSR rules will never be as complete or have progressions like the other rules. But it would be awesome to have a bunch of scenarios to play.

jbanes wrote:So you're thinking something like a campaign book separate from the rules? Perhaps something written from the perspective of particular character(s) who get "promoted" to more responsibility throughout the storyline? I.e. I might start as a commander of a bunch of escorts trying to hold an enemy invasion into the system at bay. For my successes I get promoted to larger fleets. Eventually I'm given control over an entire sector of battle. When I get high enough in rank I get control over ship production and research.

The scenarios would probably specify some initial decisions intended to familiarize you with the tech tree. These would ward off initial improvements in enemy technology. Upcoming scenarios would require you to make your own tech decisions which could have a make or break effect on the rest of the campaign.


What you are describing is "Stars at War" for Classic Starfire.

Is that kind of what your thinking is? If so, I really like it! Without impacting the rules (which need to remain referenceable) you could slowly introduce players to the game one step at a time. The player is never forced to go beyond their comfort level. It also brings a lot of story back to the game which I really love in original Starfire.


Exactly, which is why that is the eventual goal of SSF. It's just taking a while to get there.

The cherry on top is that it gives the player a way to make full use of both the tactical and strategic games! Want a quick game with a friend? Dial it back to early in the game. Want to fight over an entire sector without worrying about construction? Skip to the middle. Ready to play the full game but want a bit of structure? The end of the campaign has got you covered!


None of the versions of Starfire have true "campaign" level rules that put the player somewhere between "Admiral" and "Emperor" as you suggest above. There is only scenarios and the full strategic system. That's been suggested a number of times but nobody has been able to develop satisfactory rules for it.

That's not to say it can't happen. It just hasn't been done yet.
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Re: Original Starfire blew my mind

Postby jbanes on Wed 13 Apr 2016 19:22

Cralis wrote:What is really missing are scenarios. I was kinda hoping authors out there would write up scenarios from their campaigns (*hint* *reminder* you know who you are!). But ultimately a big chunk of this is my fault for not getting the background history and rules completion done faster.

You don't know how badly I wish I could work on Starfire full time :/


Hey, you never know. Maybe one of these days we can drum up some interest and make it a contender in the wargame space again. :)


Is that kind of what your thinking is? If so, I really like it! Without impacting the rules (which need to remain referenceable) you could slowly introduce players to the game one step at a time. The player is never forced to go beyond their comfort level. It also brings a lot of story back to the game which I really love in original Starfire.


Exactly, which is why that is the eventual goal of SSF. It's just taking a while to get there.


Can't wait to see it!


The cherry on top is that it gives the player a way to make full use of both the tactical and strategic games! Want a quick game with a friend? Dial it back to early in the game. Want to fight over an entire sector without worrying about construction? Skip to the middle. Ready to play the full game but want a bit of structure? The end of the campaign has got you covered!


None of the versions of Starfire have true "campaign" level rules that put the player somewhere between "Admiral" and "Emperor" as you suggest above. There is only scenarios and the full strategic system. That's been suggested a number of times but nobody has been able to develop satisfactory rules for it.


I can understand why that would be difficult. There's a couple of major leaps in there. It would take some pretty sophisticated skills in both writing and game design to bridge the gaps between expansions of the systems. Not to mention dealing with the complexities of open development toward the end of the campaign.

What you are describing is "Stars at War" for Classic Starfire.


Excuse me for a moment... (*squeals in excitement like a little girl*)

I'll be back in a bit. I have some instructions to brain-guzzle. In the meantime, I'm gonna leave these here:

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Re: Original Starfire blew my mind

Postby Cralis on Wed 13 Apr 2016 23:55

jbanes wrote:Too many components can seriously kill a game.

Components can kill a game fast.


Maybe. But that's not universally true. Some very good and popular games have a TON of counters and pieces. New games... not just old tabletop wargames. Twilight Imperium. Settlers of Cataan. Axis & Allies. Risk.

Then I got to thinking... I wonder if I could ask Litko to make smaller versions of these to use: http://www.litko.net/products/Critical- ... wyNiuZe-jY


Ok, I gotta admit. I want those. Those look friggin' awesome! I think I'd just drop'em on a board whenever the "pew-pew!" starts. Really doesn't matter what game we're playing. :lol:


Pretty much what I was thinking!

Agreed. I'm just not very good at the marketing bit.


Marketing come down to sharing your excitement with others. Professional marketeers kind of fake it. The best marketeers just share their love for stuff. Ask yourself the hard question: Why do you love it so much? If you come up with a fantastic answer, then just share it with others! If your answer is other than you expected... well... time to take a hard look at your own beliefs and see how you can realign your message around them. :)


It's more than that. It's knowing when and where to put out information, getting deals put together, getting the right information to the right place. It's something I've had some help over the last year or so, but it's not natural to me.

In my time lurking I've heard a lot of people say they absolutely need a spreadsheet to play modern Starfire. Those same players then complain that it feels too much like a computer game.

Which raises a legitimate question: Should Starfire's future be as a computer game?


You probably don't know it, but Starfire-as-a-computer-application has failed three times now. Reasons vary, but it's been attempted. If I had the time I could make an attempt at it myself, but my other duties and everything-not-Starfire make it virtually impossible at this time.

I think the general response is to the effect of, "We made all these rules so you can do anything. If we programmed it into a computer it would be nearly impossible to replicate all of this flexibility! The unexpected is what makes the game great!"


I'm not "the general response" ... it can be done. It will just take a lot of work and time. But it's entirely do-able. Both the tactical game AND the strategic game. For any version.

It had an amazing run that inspired one of the greatest Sci-Fi book series of all time! That's nothing to scoff at. The residual on the brand may be a bit weak at this point. Yet I strongly believe it could be capitalized on with the right ideas and marketing. :)


Steve White and Charles Gannon are STILL writing Starfire novels. Many people still remember the game. And you're right; with the right capitalization it could come back. It's something that we are slowly working on.

You don't know how badly I wish I could work on Starfire full time :/


Hey, you never know. Maybe one of these days we can drum up some interest and make it a contender in the wargame space again. :)


Not maybe. When. The ONLY thing stopping me right now is time.

The cherry on top is that it gives the player a way to make full use of both the tactical and strategic games! Want a quick game with a friend? Dial it back to early in the game. Want to fight over an entire sector without worrying about construction? Skip to the middle. Ready to play the full game but want a bit of structure? The end of the campaign has got you covered!


None of the versions of Starfire have true "campaign" level rules that put the player somewhere between "Admiral" and "Emperor" as you suggest above. There is only scenarios and the full strategic system. That's been suggested a number of times but nobody has been able to develop satisfactory rules for it.


I can understand why that would be difficult. There's a couple of major leaps in there. It would take some pretty sophisticated skills in both writing and game design to bridge the gaps between expansions of the systems. Not to mention dealing with the complexities of open development toward the end of the campaign.


New stuff is mostly going to be for the newest version(s). But maybe we (or someone who has the time) can backport it to previous versions. But we have to get there first.

I'll be back in a bit. I have some instructions to brain-guzzle. In the meantime, I'm gonna leave these here


Yep, that's similar to what I was thinking. :)
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Re: Original Starfire blew my mind

Postby LordKron on Thu 14 Apr 2016 06:01

Actually, 2nd Ed came the closest with its version of GKW. You had the sector maps and IIRC a list of what forces were initially available. At that point, players played Encounter at Orman as written, but we're free to make their own operational decisions from there.. From what I remember (it's been 20+ years since I had a copy of GKW), about all that was missing was tech research (you could research tech known by the other side IF you got scans or captured an example) and the ability to design your own ships.
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Re: Original Starfire blew my mind

Postby southwestforests on Thu 14 Apr 2016 09:14

jbanes wrote:Is that kind of what your thinking is? If so, I really like it! Without impacting the rules (which need to remain referenceable) you could slowly introduce players to the game one step at a time. The player is never forced to go beyond their comfort level. It also brings a lot of story back to the game which I really love in original Starfire.
Brings to mind the early days of Avalon Hill's Squad Leader WW2 game. somewhere in their material, though in not precisely these same words, was, "Yes, the rules are three feet thick, but if you aren't doing that thing in that scenario, then you don't need to use the rule for it, do you."
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Re: Original Starfire blew my mind

Postby jbanes on Thu 14 Apr 2016 20:44

Cralis wrote:
jbanes wrote:Components can kill a game fast.


Maybe. But that's not universally true. Some very good and popular games have a TON of counters and pieces. New games... not just old tabletop wargames. Twilight Imperium. Settlers of Cataan. Axis & Allies. Risk.


What you're saying is true. It comes down to a formula of perceived value vs. cost. As long as your perceived value greatly exceeds the cost, you can get away with it. To some degree.

Twilight Imperium for example is a massive game. It easily has the same ratio of value to cost as a microgame like Tiny Epic Galaxies. But there will typically be fewer customers because of the higher price and greater investment in time.

The way to look at it is that both Twilight Imperium and Tiny Epic Galaxies have been reduced down to the lowest cost that makes sense while being optimized for value to the end customer. This gives them both excellent standing in the market. The question is do you want your business to focus on the pickier premium market expecting perfection in every aspect, or do you want to focus on the volume market where you can offer a really good product at a low cost to a wider market. Both markets have their advantages, but I feel Starfire has historically been in the latter market. Which is why my thinking focuses there.

It's more than that. It's knowing when and where to put out information, getting deals put together, getting the right information to the right place. It's something I've had some help over the last year or so, but it's not natural to me.


Yes and no. A lot of what you're talking about comes with experience. You have to start smaller, though. If you can get a grassroots community going opportunities will present themselves. The key is to choose opportunities that are aligned with the current level of your business. It can be far too easy to overreach and take on too much risk for the business. So start small and work your way up. Hey, I'm a software engineer and I've done it professionally when the supposed professionals failed. It's not quite as hard as it seems.

In other words, I absolutely believe you can do it and do it well. Just look at this great start you got going on in this thread! I've already bought more products, read Stars at War, and spread your message far across the interwebs*! 8-)

* Seriously! You will now find tweets in #Starfire that are about more than a sexy DC comics alien superheroine. Tweet some more! :)

You probably don't know it, but Starfire-as-a-computer-application has failed three times now. Reasons vary, but it's been attempted. If I had the time I could make an attempt at it myself, but my other duties and everything-not-Starfire make it virtually impossible at this time.


I do know that it has been attempted. While I know that most of the official attempts have failed, I'm also aware of the unofficial attempt in Space Empires. Which if I'm not mistaken hasn't done too badly for itself.

Computer games are a very different market. It would involve licensing to a studio with development staff willing to create it, executing an appropriate licensing contract, being careful to shield your business from risk, etc. If your studio looks for funding through Kickstarter it's going to undersell itself for the publicity. Which means it will need to find other sources of funding to succeed.

Given the residual on the brand (pretty low at the moment) it wouldn't surprise me if most studios would pass.

So from that perspective I totally get what you're saying. I was taking the devil's advocate position on the complexity of the Starfire rules. It certainly is not easy to turn into a successful computer game!

It had an amazing run that inspired one of the greatest Sci-Fi book series of all time! That's nothing to scoff at. The residual on the brand may be a bit weak at this point. Yet I strongly believe it could be capitalized on with the right ideas and marketing. :)


Steve White and Charles Gannon are STILL writing Starfire novels. Many people still remember the game. And you're right; with the right capitalization it could come back. It's something that we are slowly working on.


8-) 8-) 8-) 8-) :D

Hey, you never know. Maybe one of these days we can drum up some interest and make it a contender in the wargame space again. :)


Not maybe. When. The ONLY thing stopping me right now is time.


That's the spirit!

New stuff is mostly going to be for the newest version(s). But maybe we (or someone who has the time) can backport it to previous versions. But we have to get there first.


To be clear, I was being general in the discussion of a campaign book. I'd absolutely think in terms of a new product. Possibly a Solar / Ultra companion product. There's no point in making a companion for a legacy product.

If you wanted to relaunch the legacy it would make more sense to launch an alternate product line that re-invents the old stuff rather than focusing on re-releases. e.g. I love how everyone talks about QSR as if it's an entire branch of the Starfire history! That's pretty cool!

I'll be back in a bit. I have some instructions to brain-guzzle. In the meantime, I'm gonna leave these here


Yep, that's similar to what I was thinking. :)


Did you notice the die? That's my replacement for the impulse track. I'm thinking that impulse should be moved to a central game mat. Ships can keep track of their current maximum by using a die. As damage occurs they can turn down the die.

I also remembered part of the thinking that turned me off this line of reasoning. My original idea was to have the hulls standardized, possibly even with the ship names affixed to the cards. Unfortunately, the first edition is pretty inconsistent about ship load-out from scenario to scenario. I looked into second edition and that seems to resolve the issue.

More photos!

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These are from Twitter BTW. Feel free to follow me @ClassicGamerTWR for the latest.
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