“The Lone Gray Wolf” is an interesting mini campaign for SFB that I’ve had some desire to play ever since the days of Commander’s Edition. Back in Captain’s Log #41, there was an ‘update’ to it, positing that this situation could have happened before, maybe an early version was even the reason why it was tried at the height of the General War. This provided for alternate versions of the campaign in each Klingo-Kzinti conflict, which works out to a W-era, Y-era, two ‘middle years’, and late-GW variants of it. The fourth one happens to be set in Y160, our group’s current scenario date, so with our expanded Vassal playing time, I talked Mark into playing through it with me.

A Klingon dreadnought goes alone to the Kzinti capital to negotiate a peace. The talks break down, and the dreadnought is forced to make its lonely way back to Klingon lines, with Kzinti forces hunting for it. There are six Kzinti groups hunting for it, and the dreadnought must survive six scenarios to win through. But, this is not ‘face each force in turn’. Instead, each scenario starts with a die roll to determine which force finds the dreadnought this time. Repeated rolls of the same number will bring up the same ships (worse for wear from the previous scenarios, just like the dreadnought, and if the Kzinti ship(s) were destroyed before, this becomes a ‘free pass’ for the Klingons). The Klingons must conserve fuel, and must stay to speed 20 or below most of the time, and can only disengage by acceleration once in the entire campaign.

Mark volunteered to take the Kzinti, and after some pondering over drone choices (especially for me, as they have to last for six battles), and deciding to try MRS shuttles (which added more drones to the mix), we started in mid-August. The first roll was a ‘6’… the weakest Kzinti group, a single FA-L (drone-armed freighter; also about the only ship unchanged from the original version). Against a C6 early dreadnought (this is the second time I’ve piloted one), Mark’s main hope was to force me to at least expend consumables, either launching drones, or using T-bombs.

Setup is always with the Kzinti a half-map behind the C6, and Mark set up about six hexes off to one side. Initial speeds were 17 for me and 18 for the FA-L. I spent on 4 ECM and 1 ECCM while Mark didn’t spend anything on EW. I spent half the turn getting turned around, while the FA-L first turned to parallel my initial turn, and then turned in. As I started setting up for an oblique attack, Mark fired his two bearing ph-2s at range 7 with a +2 shift to do one point of shield damage, and then turned off. Three impulses later, just short of the oblique, I fired all bearing weapons (4xph-1, 2xph-2, 4xdisruptors overloaded off of batteries) to do 11 internals through shield #5 with below average rolls (phasers never rolled under a 3, and two disruptors hit on a 2/3s chance). Internals were all over, taking out two of three control spaces, and reducing the sensor rating to ‘3’ (making drones a really chancy weapon, as he had a 50-50 chance of losing lockons and all drone tracking next turn), but not taking out any weapons.

Turn 1, Impulse 23, showing movement from Impulse 17 through 32.

Two impulses later, the left waist phasers were in arc, and better rolls did three points through the down shield, for two hull, and one sensor hit, reducing it to ‘0’. By the end of the turn I was six hexes away in a stern chase, and it was obvious that Mark would be trying to disengage by acceleration. I went down to speed 12, overloading the disruptors and recharging the phasers and batteries, while the FA-L went its maximum of 23 (…okay, 31, we forgot about the freighter’s acceleration limits).

I immediately volleyed everything I had, trying to get it down to less than half its original warp power, and unable to disengage by acceleration. The phasers were a bit more mixed (with a 2 in the mix, but also two 6s), but all the disruptors hit, to do 17 internals through the #3 shield. This took out the last control space, two phasers, both impulse, and left just enough warp to disengage with. On impulse 4, I turned to get the right boom phasers into arc, and did two more points to take out the shuttle and a third phaser. After that, the distance opened up, and Mark got me off the down shields, so that I couldn’t do any internals, even if I got the waist phasers to bear, and he disengaged.

We checked what the next group would be after that. And it was… 6! again!

We set up and did a half turn in a short session, just to see if I could get internals before it fled. Between scenarios, all shields are regenerated, and limited repairs can be made (he repaired the sensors, a couple warp, and I don’t recall what else). However, he set up smartly in a far corner, and I couldn’t manage more than about two greater speed than him, and couldn’t do more than dent a shield.

We’ve started scenario 3, which should be much more of a challenge. (Spoiler: he got his second-best group.)

Mark was just too aggressive given the disparity in power between the ships. Of course, group #6 is probably best to see towards the end of the campaign, hopefully after something has done some real damage, and the Klingons have to be a lot more cautious. Catching me with a scatterpack could have been bad, but even that is unlikely to scare an intact C6 much (partially because of drone speeds, and partially because it doesn’t have to give much credence to the FA-L’s pop-guns).

The real goal would be to drag things out. It’s unlikely to go anywhere near twenty turns (at which point he rolls again for another group to show up), but if he can get me thinking about it, I might make a mistake. And of course, short of hoping for that, the goal should be to get me to use T-bombs or drones, but with a fresh C6, the FA-L just couldn’t force that either.