Board and counter Wargame (1979). Task Force Games (TFG). Designed by Stephen Cole.
Star Fleet Battles was first developed as a game of tactical combat between starships in the Star Trek universe. However, the limitations of the licence under which the game is produced, and the extent to which the various themes found in the original material were differently emphasized by the game developers and later television shows, led to the creation of a separate continuity (the Star Fleet Universe) for the game. The licence allows the game to include elements from the television franchise only as it existed before 1979. As a result, the Star Trek feature films, and later developments in the core franchise, are not reflected in the Star Fleet Universe. Instead, the game continuity adds a wide variety of new alien races, ship types and technologies. In addition, while the various films and television series have concentrated on the more pacifist and cooperative aspects of the original show, the game has focused on developing its militaristic elements, creating a Future History suitable for a Wargame.
The game is played on a hexagonal grid with counters, in two dimensions. The core game design is a good representation of combat in Star Trek, in which the third dimension is rarely mentioned and ships manoeuvre in a way which is intuitively rather than physically convincing. Much of the gameplay revolves around allocating energy amongst various ship functions (such as shields or phasers) and the widely varied technologies available to different races. Star Fleet Battles can be complex to play, but the complexity is rooted in the range of available tactics rather than in the fundamental mechanisms of the game. Starfleet Command (1999 Quicksilver Software, Win) is a direct conversion of Star Fleet Battles to a real time Videogame with a three-dimensional display. The gameplay is similar to that of the Wargame, though the nature of the interface often leads to ships circling each other at close range rather than engaging distant enemies, as in the original game. As a visual experience, the digital version is undeniably superior.
Related works: Star Fleet Battles has been released in a number of different editions: Pocket (1979 TFG) designed by Stephen Cole; Designer's (1979 TFG) designed by Stephen Cole; Commander's (1983 Amarillo Design Bureau [ADB]) designed by Stephen Cole and Captain's (1990 ADB) designed by Stephen Cole. Various related Wargames have also been produced: Federation and Empire (1987 ADB; rev 1993; rev 2000; rev 2004) designed by Stephen Cole is a strategic game, modelling conflict on the galactic scale; Federation Space (1981 ADB) designed by Stephen Wilcox was an earlier version of Federation and Empire; and Federation Commander (2005 ADB) designed by Stephen Cole is essentially a simplified version of Star Fleet Battles, intended to be easier and faster to play than the original game. Amarillo Design Bureau have set two other games in the Star Fleet Universe: Star Fleet Battle Force (2001 ADB) designed by Stephen Cole, a Collectible Card Game, and Prime Directive (1993 ADB / Task Force Games) designed by Mark Costello and Timothy Olsen, a Role Playing Game in which the characters are members of elite exploration and combat teams. Prime Directive has been rereleased as both a GURPS (2002 ADB; rev 2005) and a d20 (2005 ADB; rev 2008) game; in these versions players are able to adopt the roles of a more diverse range of characters.
There have been several sequels to Starfleet Command: Starfleet Command II: Empires At War (2000 Taldren, Win); Starfleet Command: Orion Pirates (2001 Taldren, Win), an expansion to Starfleet Command II, and Starfleet Command III (2002 Taldren, Win), which appears to be set in standard Star Trek continuity rather than the Star Fleet Universe. [NT]
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