Crossposted from the SFU blog on BGG.

Last year, after running through the first SFB monster scenario, I figured I’d try to run through one of those each ‘game calendar’ year. Recently, Patch and I started up the ‘main’ fight for Y159 for us, so while I was down visiting my dad, I started up this scenario, which is loosely based on the original series episode “The Immunity Syndrome”.

It’s mostly an exercise in the lab and research rules. The ship needs to generate research points, and when it has enough, it rolls for a random method to win the scenario. Shuttles, probes, and special sensors can also aid in this (scouts and survey vessels have a fairly easy time with this scenario), and range to the monster matters for how much information is collected. In the meantime, the monster does damage to the ship by rolling on the same information table, but scores damage from it. It only does one point of damage to shuttles each turn, but it also has MCIDS, so they are unlikely to live at range 3 or closer.

This leads to some timing issues: You base information (/damage) off of your ‘closest pass’ during the turn, but don’t resolve it until after the impulse sequence is over (which is natural, under the circumstances), meaning you have to record that info, and update it as the turn progresses. In this case, you also have to keep track of what shield the monster was on when you first hit that range, as that’s where damage will be scored. The major question is at what point in the turn sequence is the damage done? If it’s step 8C, Final Records Stage (when information from the labs is rolled, using the same table), then it happens after shield repairs are done (8A).

The minor (nitpicky and technical) question deals with what part of the impulse is range for information gathering determined in? A ship could tow a shuttle into range three, and then use the Special Landing Procedure to get it back out again (or just get it into the ship, which is also at range 3). Since MCIDS is in the Direct Fire Weapons chapter, it should fire at that point, and would get the shuttle out of harm’s way before MCIDS fires (though it does specifically fire at anything about to hit it during the Movement step, so maybe MCIDS doesn’t ever fire in 6D?). The only lab function that takes place during an impulse, identifying seeking weapons, happens in 6B4, which implies to me that range for information purposes might be best resolved then, which is before the shuttle shuts down as part of the landing procedure in Step 6B8.

A year ago, I was thinking of just going with Kzinti cruisers each year, and watching them upgrade. But currently I’ve been playing as Lyrans (I’ve got a Lyran squadron in the current fight, and should be playing as them against Mark soon), so I thought I’d get some time in on their CA. That may have been a mistake. It’s a good combat cruiser, with a higher-than-normal BPV of 131 (reduced for being before ESG capacitors), but it only has two shuttles and four lab boxes, meaning it doesn’t gain information particularly fast, but at least it has good shields. This meant that I needed 419 points from the labs instead of the normal 400.

Another wrinkle is that shield reinforcement doesn’t work on damage from the amoeba, so the only way to resist shield damage is by using damage control to repair damage done. Finally, the entire scenario is on a timer, after 20 turns the amoeba splits, and information gathering has to start over on both of them. So retreating out of range for a while to repair shields isn’t really an option either.

I initially approached at speed 18 to get close to the monster on the first turn, and then went speed 12 for the rest of the scenario, as that is a handy speed for managing shuttles (going faster than 12 makes it possible to kill your own shuttle once tractored, though good timing can still avoid that). The monster only goes speed 4, but moves completely randomly, meaning that it can be hard to get exactly the pass you want. With only two shuttles, and one of the possible solutions being a suicide shuttle, I flew them very conservatively to keep out of MCIDS range, and then played lots deck crew games to repair the shuttles in rotation.

By the end of turn 7, every shield had taken significant damage. #3 and #5 were nearly down, and were out of action for the rest of the scenario. A range 0 pass on the amoeba caused a 20-point hit on shield #1 while generating 40 points of information, and then I took the damage on #4 the next turn, which took out about half the shield, but only generated 4 points of information. In fact, the monster tended to roll slightly better on the table than I did for much of the scenario.

After that, I tried keeping to further passes, accepting slower information gathering (and trying to rely on the two poor shuttles more) while working the #2 and #6 shields, and concentrating repairs on them (and eventually all on #2 after a bad turn put it most of the way down, but #6 held out for a while). Turn 8 saw the use of the last probe (the fifth one being kept in reserve, as it is needed for one of the possible solutions), and I was getting worried about the time limit.

Eventually, another close pass (range 2, closer than intended) got a good roll, while doing minimal damage to shield #1 (8 out of the remaining 13), followed by two more good rolls got me to exactly the 419 points needed at the end of turn 16.

Log of information gathered during the scenario.

The roll for the solution… 3! Do 200 points of damage to the monster to destroy it! …I was really glad to not get the ‘try again after another 100 points of information’. Between the damage and timing, that probably would have been a loss. I had already done 34 points early in the game (up to 50 points are allowed without voiding one of the other results), and now I overloaded the disruptors, released the ESGs, and did a range 1 pass that did 154 points of damage and knocked my #6 shield down to two boxes. The next turn, I went back and at range 1 finished it off with a second volley. That also collapsed the #2 shield, and if the damage should happen before the repairs, took two internals (F Hull and an ESG).

I spent quite a while on this scenario, playing one or two turns at a time. Once through the initial setup, and done getting into the groove, it was fairly tedious, and too much of an accounting exercise to really enjoy. I should also note that the random movement of the monster also tended to be biased in direction ‘1’. Over the course of 18 turns, it moved from 2115 to 2001. There was a fair amount of wandering back and forth (it went 14 hexes in 18 turns at speed 4), but it did keep drifting to the top of the board, and it was happenstance that I didn’t need to adjust things at the end. I don’t even recommend this as a good way to get used to operating a ship, as there’s too few demands on power. On the other hand, it is very good for getting used to maneuvering a ship, and possibly using shuttles more.