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FEDERATION COMMANDER: KLINGON BORDER

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc., 2 or more players, ages 10 and up, 40 minutes on up; $59.99)

 

Star Trek lives! And, in case you were wondering, is in good health under the auspices of Stephen V. Cole, designer of Star Fleet Battles, in his latest foray into the Star Trek Universe with Federation Commander: Klingon Border.

Federation Commander comes in a slim white box (housed in a full color slipcase) jammed with a ton of components: six mounted map sections, 16 full color and laminated ship cards, full color die cut counters (40 one-inch “counters” and 216 half-inch “markers”), two full color, laminated player reference cards (and a wipe-off marker to use on the laminated components), a package of paper clips (!) to use on the Energy tracks, a pair of six sided dice and 52 page rulebook.Fedcommander

While the size of the rulebook might be a bit daunting (52 pages seems more in fitting with a hardcore wargame), the division of the volume into chapters make the game easier to digest than might be expected.

Chapter 1 gives you “Basic Rules”. This includes, right on page three, “Fast Start” rules dividing the action into four basic stages which allow you to wet your feet and take it from there. Chapter 2 follows with “Movement”, three “Combat”, four “Weapons”, five “Systems”, six “Terrain”, 7 “Ships” and 8 “Scenarios”. An index, found on the last page, helps you locate the pages holding the answers to any specific questions that arise.

Scenarios give the players a situation, tell where to place starting units and, of course, their objective. In addition, players can score based upon the amount of damage inflicted upon the enemy (e.g. damaging and/or destroying enemy ships). Turns follows a standard sequence: energy allocation, impulse procedure and end of turn.

Energy Allocation is a key concept here. Energy is power and power allows your starship to act. In game terms, power is defined for each starship in points, charted on your ship’s card. (Power sources include warp and impulse engines, reactors and, sometimes, batteries and are colored blue on the ship cards so they’re easy to locate.) You must decide how to spend those points to maximum advantage by first, setting your speed (determining how many hexes you’ll move during your turn) as well as deciding, during the turn, your priorities regarding repairing damaged shields, firing weapons, using a tractor beam and specialized movement such as evasive action.

Turns are divided into eight “impulses”. During each impulse, ships move (three, possibly four times) and may fire or launch weapons and do other actions in certain order. First, energy is paid to increase or decrease your speed. Then, you move. (Ships targeted by “seeking” weapons launched in a previous turn may now defend against them.) Ships on the offense may fire weapons, resolving any damage caused to targets. Then, ships may do other functions including dropping (turning off) their shields and using their Labs, Transporters and/or Tractor Beams. Finally, ships can launch “seeking” weapons (including drones, plasma torpedoes and shuttlecraft). These procedures are repeated seven more times to conclude the eight impulse turn. Once complete, the “end of turn” procedure is followed.

End of turn is a “follow up” phase. Players may transfer unexpended energy on their ships to “batteries” (up to battery capacity) to save for future use or weapons. (Energy that cannot be saved is lost.). Players also erase any “used” marking on their ship’s weapons track so weapons can be used again, conduct Marine hand-to-hand combat to capture an enemy ship and, finally, determine available repair points and repair any damage previously sustained.

The game continues until one side has either destroyed the enemy or forced them to retreat or has met the objective of the chosen scenario.

Federation Commander can be played at two different scales: Squadron Scale and Fleet Scale. The two-sided ship cards containing information about each ship devote one side to each scale. Having both scales available allows you to customize the game to your liking depending on how much time is available for a session and how many ships you wish to pilot through space. One advantage of Squadron Scale, however, is its more forgiving nature. Ship cards at that scale display more “boxes” for charting energy and damage so it can take more “hits”.

Federation Commander captures much of the flavor of Star Fleet Battles as well as the Star Trek series. The Federation and the Klingons get most of the attention here (although less well known races – Kzinti, Orion and Tholian – are present) and you’ll notice other Star Trek references such as tractor beams and transporters in the game system. More importantly, in this re-evaluation of starship combat, game play is simplified. Here, the 32 impulses of SFB are cut down to only 8, damage determination is easier and you can shift power to different shields to better ward off attack, just like Captain Kirk. On a more pragmatic note, although there is some bookkeeping involved (an element which may not appeal to everyone), the color coded charts and ship cards allow for grease pencil marking and erasure to make keeping track of everything easy. The rulebook seems to cover everything and the neat division of chapters makes finding answers to questions relatively painless although the organization is a bit unusual (for example historical background to the Star Fleet Universe is on page 16, the list of credits and components appears on page 22!)

Federation Commander: Klingon Border has everything you could want in a game of starship combat. With streamlined rules and judicious use of color (in ship cards and play aids especially), Federation Commander is a game for SF fans who glory in piloting starships against fierce foes against a Star Trek backdrop. – – – – – Herb Levy.


 

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