Fantasy Games Unlimited or FGU as we called it came out with this cute Star Trekish.. very Star Trekish.. boardgame called Star Explorer in the early 80s.
It's so old, that it takes me back to my RPG beginning in 1980 or so. The game comes with a d20, but it was the kind that was sold back then where you had to use a crayon to wax in the numbers. (The owner of a large gaming store here in Toronto does not believe me when I say we had to colour in our own dice back then). Look at this. they don't make them like they used to! I'll use it as my Starbase in the game.
|Uncoloured DIY dice that came with the game.|
I've played it with my buddies years ago, and they liked it. It is a very easy game, and is dripping with TOS theme. It can be played solitaire, so I tried it out again after all these years.
The main objective in the game is to score as many Victory points (VPs) as possible after exploring 4 Class-M Earthlike planets near one of your Starbases. At the end, you compare your VPs to determine how you rated in the game.
Less than 50 VPs: You are reassigned to a garbage scow
50-75 VPs: You are mentioned in dispatches.
76-100 VPs: You receive a commendation
101+ VPs: You are recommended for a promotion.
The game components unfortunately are not up to today's standards. The space map for instance, is green. Yes, green.... I could not bear to play on a green space map..
..so I dug out my old FASA Starship Combat game...
and used the black space map and laid out the Star Explorer tables on the side.
I decided to go 3D and use some of my Attack Wing ships instead of the counters.. because.. well..why not.. I have them.
I also painted up some planets for Attack Wing and decided to use them as well.
I rolled the location of the 4 planets, placed the Starbase in the middle, and placed out the map board.
The 11:00 o'clock planet is # 1, the 1:00 o'clock planet is # 2, the 8 o'clock planet is #3 and the 6 o'clock planet is # 4.
My ship starting stats are Engines 7 (max speed per turn in hexes), Teleporters 8 (the maximum number of teams I can beam down unto the planet), Shields 4, Beam weapons 2, Missile 1.. Fuel is 100 points and Armour is 100 points. If armour goes to zero, my ship is destroyed.
I have on board:
1 Navigation team
1 Fire Control Team
1 Damage Control Team
2 Geology Teams - used for geological missions
2 Fuel Energy teams - used for prospecting for fuel
2 Botany teams - used for plant based missions
2 Animal Physiology Teams -used for animal missions (herbivore or carnivore)
2 Sentient Contact Teams -used when encountering intelligent life
3 Medical Teams -used for medical emergencies
7 Military Teams (a.k.a. Redshirts) - jack of all trades. No modifiers but can be used if they are the only boots on the ground for a mission.. eg.. there is a geological encounter and you didn't beam down any geological teams.
Each of these teams have their own counters..
I have 20 turns to go to each of these planets. Thus I need to hustle.Fuel management is critical to this game though, so I have to keep an eye on things.
Every hex can have a space encounter if you roll a 6 on a d6.
The type of space encounters in the game are:
Space Cloud (I assume a nebula): You must roll greater or equal to your speed this turn or get stuck that turn. Every nav team aboard gives you a +1 modifier to your roll.
Asteroid Belt: You have the option of stopping and prospecting for fuel using your fuel engineers, or doing a Han Solo and keep going, risking damage to your ship.
Radiation Storm: You decide how much shields you want turned on (costing you fuel) to subtract from a d10 roll in the number of crew killed. The number of damage control teams aboard reduce the d10 amount as well.
Gravity Well: You have the option of stopping or lose double your fuel used this turn to keep going.
Traders: You meet traders along the way and can purchase using your fuel as currency (paying by dilithium crystals I imagine) crew or ship components, stellar or planetary maps, or by fuel by giving up some of your teams (I assume this you are trading their equipment for fuel).
Pirates: Have the option when meeting them to run away (will cost you VPs though), bribing them with fuel or combat.
Encountering Zangid ("Klingons" wink wink) battle cruisers, battleships or dreadnaughts, and have the option to run away (losing VPs), parlaying with them (between 5 to 15 VPs) or combat (also 5 to 15 VPs).
A Major Event could happen ( a disturbance back at the Starbase, a new tax on traders, increased tension with the Zangids, increased pirate raids, etc)
I head to planet 1, which has my "mission" pre-set. Every planet has 3 missions, and for the most part, you don't know what to encounter until you get there. You are, after all, an explorer. You do get 1 pre-set mission in order to point you to which planet to go first when you're playing with other players.
The type of planetary encounters in the game are:
Planetary Disasters! - After beaming down your team, they could be affected by such things as avalanches, ion storms, psionic storms, earthquakes, heavy gravity, poisonous atmosphere, severe weather, meeting a trader, meeting pirates, encountering the Zangids (e.g. Klingons). In many cases, away teams get killed.
Diseases! - Only medical or military teams on the planet can be assigned to this. Like all encounters, you don't know what the encounter is until after you beam down teams though. After beaming down your teams, they could be affected by a planetwide disease, in which case, your medical teams race to cure it. As more turns are wasted trying to discover a cure, you roll to see how many of your teams die. None die in turn 1, but say, 4 teams on the planet whereever they are die in turn 4. For every medical team assigned to the disease encounter, you get a +2 modifier. You need to beat a 17 on a d20 roll on the first turn to cure it, less on later turns. If successful, you score 10 VPs.
Disturbances - Only your military teams can be assigned to this. Usually because of a major event. You get a +2 modifier for each such team assigned, and later must roll to see if any of these teams get killed. If successful, you score 15 VPs.
Geologic Encounters - Only your geological or military teams can be assigned to this, but only the geology team gives you a +2 per team when rolling to resolve it. In this encounter, you roll to see if your team has encountered new mineral deposits with the chance of being killed. Different to-hits depending on the type of planet you're on. (The rule book says you score 2d6 VPs on page 13, but 1d6 VPs at the back- I went with 1d6).
Plant Encounters. - Only your botany or military teams can be assigned to this, but only the botany team gives you a +2 per team when rolling to resolve it. In this encounter, you roll to see if you have discovered new plants (food crops, medicinal, sentient, poisonous, etc), with a chance of being killed for poisonous, medicinal or aggressive plant. Between 5 to 7 VPs if successful.
Animal Encounters - herbivore or carnivore. Only your animal specialist or military teams can be assigned to this, but only the animal team gives you a +2 per team when rolling to resolve it. In this encounter, you roll to see what kind of new animal is discovered and decide beforehand if you want to befriend, trap, chase or hunt it down. There are various to-hits. The animal types range from passive to sentient to speedy, armoured, camouflaged, etc. If you spot a sentient animal, you are allowed to use the sentient specialists on them for the +2 modifier. After the encounter, you roll to see if some of your people were killed. Herbivores give you 5 VPs, Carnivores 7 VPs.
Sentient Encounters. Only your sentient specialist or military teams can be assigned to this, but only the sentient team gives you a +2 per team when rolling to resolve it. In this encounter, you roll to see what your initial impression of this species is by their tech level (from caveman to spacefaring). Then you decide what your strategy is (befriend, bribe them, a show of science or a show of force). After you decide your strategy, then and only then do you roll what their real tech level is as looks could be deceiving. A show of force might work on cavemen, but less so when you realize these primitives are really Renaissance Era. There is some chance your teams can get killed if the wrong strategy was picked. VPs range from 1 to 10, depending on the tech level.
Prospecting. This is a free mission you can do on every planet, and that is to prospect for fuel. Only your fuel engineers or military can be assigned to this, and you get a +2 modifier for every such engineer assigned. There are no VPs awarded, but you get fuel, depending on the planet. You must also roll to see if any teams were killed as well.
I head galactic NorthWest to planet 1.
It's 10 hexes to get to planet 1. My max speed is 7, but it will cost me 13 fuel.. I just go 5 this turn.
I go 5 hexes (speed 5) and spend 9 points of fuel. For each hex, I roll to see if there any space encounters. On the 3rd hex, I encounter a space cloud. I need to make a roll greater than my speed, or else I get lost in the nebula and stop this turn. No problem, and I get past it.
On turn 2, I have 5 hexes to go, and have no encounters on the first four hexes, but I encounter a radiation storm just as I get to the planet.
I elect to spend 2 energy on my shields and coupled with my damage control team, I knock of 3 points of lost crew on a d10 roll. I rolled a 2, so the crew is safe. No casualties so far.
You have to watch your fuel in this game as it could get tight. I cross off fuel as I use it, whether in travel, using my shields, firing my beam weapon or missile weapon.
I'm at the planet, and found it is a swamp world. I beam down the following teams based on an assessment of the likely encounters I might find on a swamp world.
1 medical team
8 max per my transporter limit.
The counters come off my ship while they are down there. You place them on the green map on the side, but since I used green counters, I place them on paper to better show it.
I roll for my encounters and they are:
Animal Carnivore Encounter.
Disease Encounters are resolved first. I assign my medical team and my military team to it. This planet is infected and I race to cure it. On turn 1, need a 17 (thus I need to roll a 15 on my d20)..Amazingly, I rolled a 19 on the first roll. Resolved! 10 VPs earned.
Geologic encounter. I assign my 2 geological teams for a +4 modifier in total, but I failed my roll. No luck this turn. I could forfeit this mission, or stay on the planet next turn and keep trying. No one was hurt.
Animal encounter- I assign my 2 animal teams, but no such luck as I encounter a sentient species! I don't have my sentient specialists so no modifiers. I fail to trap it. No one was hurt.
There were no plant encounters so my 2 botany teams were useless on turn 1.
I beam up my botany and medical teams, and send down all my sentient specialists to focus on the sentient animal encounter.
My geology team finally was successful on their mineral hunt, as was my sentient team bagging the sentient animal. Luckily, no one was killed in either encounter.
I head to planet # 2 at speed 7, burning 15 fuel. No space encounters.
I boot it at speed 6 and I encounter traders..
It's too early in the game, so I make no trades.
I also go at speed 6 again, and I encounter the Zangids.. Klingons.. just as I reach the planet. It is one of their battlecruisers, smaller than their battleship or dreadnaught, but still a pain.
You get the same VPs whether you fight or parlay, so I decided to parlay. Silver-tongued devil that I am, I succeed for the 5 VPs.
It turns out planet # 2 is a forest world.
I send down the following teams:
2 fuel engineers
This planet's encounters are:
Animal - Carnivore - I assign my sole military team (no roll modifiers though)
Sentient Life - I assign my 2 sentient life teams for a +4 total modifier
Plant - I assign my 2 botany teams for a +4 total modifier
and I choose also to fuel prospect- I assign my 2 fuel engineers for a +4 total modifier
Animal- I decide to chase an armoured carnivore with my military team. Pity I don't have any animal team specialists. I do it for 7 VPs, but my team is killed doing so.
There are no replacements unless I go back to the starbase, so now I am short 1 redshirt team. Even if I do go back, you only get 1 team replacement, so I need to hope there are not too many deaths out here.
Sentient encounter. Their tech level appears Space Faring. I decide to do a Show of Science, and found out there real tech level is 20th Century, which makes my roll easier. My sentient team with their +4 modifier does so. Cue Shatner's opening line.. new life and new civilizations!
Plant encounter. My botany teams with their +4 modifier discover a new food crop! More VPs scored.
Prospecting. My two fuel teams though not only fail to find anything, but one team is killed!
I'll head to planet # 3 at speed 7 but want to stop by the Starbase and refuel on the way there.
Just as I head out, I encounter asteroids though!
I won't stop and burn a turn and will risk flying through it. I need to beat my speed of 7, which I do and make it past no problem.
I also encounter a radiation storm as well on this turn.
I elect to raise 2 shields at the cost of 2 fuel. With my damage control team, my modifier is -3 for any sickness roll. Luckily, I rolled a 3, so no one got sick and died.
I head to the starbase at speed 2. No encounters.
At the Starbase, I refuel 25 points and get a military team replacement (which I lift off my killed card).
I head to planet # 3 at speed 7.
I encounter pirates though.
No bribery for me and we fight it out. The honour of Starfleet and all that.
The pirates have 1 beam weapon, 1 missile weapon and can take 90 points of damage before being destroyed. However, in the game, both sides must break off if 75% of damage is taken. If it happens to me, I must make a run for it. Needless to say, all of this will cost me my life and/or VPs if not successful.
We start off at range 10, or 500,000 Kms apart.
Range 9 - I elect to raise 3 of my shields and burn 3 fuel. The two-hit for both of us is 16. Amazingly, we both hit each other at such long range. The pirates score 18 points of damage on me, but my shields can absorb 30 points (10 points per shield points raised). No critical hits either. I damage the pirate by 30 points, so now he is down to 60 hull. My cost is the use of 1 beam weapon for 1 fuel. I can fire both of my phasers, but at this range, it's a waste of fuel.
Range 8 - I risk not having shields as it unlikely the pirate can hit me at 15 or higher. We both miss each other. My cost is the use of 1 beam weapon for 1 fuel.
Range 7- I choose no shields. The pirate misses, but I hit him causing 18 points of damage. He is now taken 48 out of 90 damage, or 53%. Not enough to break away. My cost is the use of 1 beam weapon for 1 fuel.
Range 6 - I choose no shields again. Our to-hit is 12. We both miss. My cost is the use of 1 beam weapon for 1 fuel.
Range 5 - We are now in range for our missile weapon as well. Our to-hit now for the beam is 11 and 16 for the missile weapons. I decide to raise 2 shields for the cost of 2 fuel. The pirate hits me for 21 points of damage. Thus, 1 point of damage gets through as I absorb 20 points with my 2 shields. However, it is a critical hit though and I lose 1 team, which turns out to be my navigation team. Luckily, they are not killed but incapacitated for 6 turns (in sickbay presumably).
I hit them with both my beam and missile weapons, damaging them to 93 points. The pirate scum are destroyed. I score some VPs.
Well, I continue on to planet # 3.
I reach the planet.
I discover it's a radiated world.
I beam down the following teams:
1 fuel engineer
My encounters are
Sentient - I assign my 1 sentient team
Geological - I assign my 2 geological teams
Animal- Herbivore - I assign my 2 military teams since I didn't beam down any animal specialists.
Sentient Encounter- They appear to be Renaissance Era, so again, I'll do a show of science. Nothing too aggressive, as I just have the 1 sentient team for a total of +2 modifiers.
It turns out they are actually at the 19th Century level. My Show of Science worked and I made the roll. Phew! 7 VPs.
Geologic Encounter- My two geological teams made the roll, but one team was killed!
Animal - We found us a passive herbivore. Since I get no modifiers, I decide on the nice and easy befriend tactic. It worked! No losses either.
Prospecting - Again, I failed my roll and lost another fuel engineering team. The dead are piling up!
I head to the fourth planet that is just 7 hexes away, so I go at speed 7, fuel cost 13. No encounters.
After reaching planet 4, I have 18 fuel left. From planet 4 to the Starbase, the distance is 8 hexes. I should have enough fuel barely to make it if not stopped and should end the game with just 4 fuel left out of my start of 100 plus 25 refueled up from before. My fuel prospecting however, has been abysmal, losing 2 fuel engineer teams so far.
It turns out planet 4 is an Aquatic World.
I beam down the following teams:
The encounters are:
Plant - I assign my 2 botany teams for a total of +4 modifier.
Animal-Herbivore. - I assign my 2 animal teams for a total of +4 modifier.
I assign 1 military to the plant mission, 1 to the animal mission. My sentient specialists are not assigned as they can't be used, unless the animal encounter turns out to be sentient.
Disaster- My away teams encountered a massive earthquake and I lose 2 teams killed right off the bat. I choose the sentient and 1 military. More dead piled up.
The Plant Encounter turns out to be the discovery of a poisonous plant. My botanists made the roll, but the poison killed one of the teams. Aargh..
The Animal Encounter is a Speedy Herbivore. I decide to give it a chase, and we bagged it, but another death. I lost one of my animal teams.
This planet has cost me 4 away teams killed.
The total dead from this game so far is noticeable.
I head back to the Starbase. No encounters. I am short one hex though.
I reach the Starbase. No encounter. As predicted, down to 4 fuel left.
In the game, you get 5 VPs extra a turn if you make it back before turn 20. I score thus another 25 points.
Total VPs in the game: 110.
I am recommended for promotion.