Marcus sounds the alarm!
Having played in a demo of Red Alert from PSC games at Salute 2019, I was really taken by the design. I had often toyed with the idea of playing Command & Colours Ancients, and eventually bought Memoir ’44 for one of my boys for Christmas, but it has never been a favourite. However, the theme of Space fleet combat and the dynamics really seem to work. They certainly seemed to reach a sweet spot for me.
However, I didn’t buy the game at Salute. Despite some very good offers, I just didn’t want the miniatures. I have some space ships of my own, plus the aesthetic didn’t really appeal. Soon afterwards though PSC released most of the components separately.
Unfortunately, due to building work at home, the game was consigned to storage after just one play won by Son “Tzu”, who can’t get enough games (Or should I say winning games…). Now in lockdown, it has made its reappearance.
Having played through the first scenario for a second time, we set up Declaration of War, the second introductory scenario. Like all the scenarios, the introductory scenarios mark both fleets’ starting positions. However, they also mark the exact deployment of each unit. In later scenarios you choose where to deploy your fleet, which is chosen by drawing a card for your core force and having some additional points to choose additional units.
In this scenario the objective was simply to destroy 13 points worth of the enemy. The initial set up is shown above.
I had to cobble together some fleets as I am still repainting some old models (from Zandris IV). We played a Star Trek inspired game (despite the fighters), Federation (Son Tzu) versus Romulan (Me). Still, I didn’t have enough figures for all the units in this game, so the number of units was often displayed on a dice with the unit. The Federation was particularly short on Cruisers, so the Intrepid’s (Voyager) represented three ships, and the groups of two Nova’s (destroyers) also represented three ships. Three ships is the default strength for most units (all in this game). A hit will normally result in the loss of one ship.
The earth-like planet is at the centre of four hexes and the gravity well extends through these. This inhibits movement but it is more difficult to hit another ship inside it from outside the gravity well. Asteroids and planets block line of sight, as do ships. We also missed some markers only available with the core game. I used blue counters for “star” tokens. These are order tokens used in addition to the command cards. Also there are Red Alert markers. These are a combat result which can occur on the custom dice, illustrating “when bad things happen” during combat. They will require a retreat. I had a couple of these from an expansion, but that was all, so I used additional red counters.
Early contact and Son Tzu’s fighters take some damage while the Romulans move up on their left and…
…in the centre, the Romulan fighters also suffer some damage, but nearly knock out a federation unit.
But a very different picture emerged after the next moves.
Son Tzu moved up his fighter on the Federation right and used a “fighter swarm” combat card against my Battleships. With seven combat dice, he rolled five hits, turning my warbirds into a cloud of incandescent gas. If we had some debris tokens, they would be on the table adjacent to the two “yellow” fighter groups. One of them suffered a loss minor loss as a result.
Things did not look good for the Romulans at this point. 6 – 0 down. However, the Romulans also struck back with a concentrated fighter attack forcing back the battleship group in the centre marked with a Red Alert (which probably saved the group from destruction at that point), causing the remaining Federation battleship to retreat two hexes. One of the Romulan fighter groups was also badly damaged and retreated. However, The Romulans are still 6 – 0 down, with the Federation cruisers moving up into the centre.
Son Tzu could smell victory, but it was to prove elusive. The remaining Romulan fighters and destroyers picked off the remaining battleship to take revenge and even things up, despite taking some damage. While Son Tzu waited for the perfect card to launch his final assault, the Romulans deftly vectored their strike classes, the destoyers (again) and cruisers onto one cruiser group as it moved up in the centre…
…and then the other.
Although the second Romulan battleship group took some severe damage from long range fire (just out of the picture), they held up while the strike craft gave the Feds a hammering.
Those cruiser groups were worth three points each. Just before taking down the last one, the Romulan Cruiser group on their left, moved up for an easy kills on a crippled fighter group (revenge for the earlier battleship swarming loss).
The single point for that fighter, and the three points for each cruiser group gave the Romulans seven precious points. With the earlier six for the battleship, that made a game winning 13 – 6 to the Romulans. Doubtless the federation could have taken out a lot of heavily damaged ships if there had been a next turn, with their undamaged destroyers and second battleship group, but that was not to be.