A while back, while talking about smaller games, I introduced Mark to the old Dwarfstar microgame line, which is largely available for free print-and-play, which also makes them good for Vassal play. We ended up trying the one game I have an actual physical copy of: Star Viking. It’s basically the high idea from H. Beam Piper’s novel Space Viking, but with a functioning central government defending things from the ‘vikings’ (so maybe set most of a century before that novel). It features a neat idea of mini system displays which are hidden away from a player who has nothing there.

My one attempt at this game before ended with a frustrated Viking player, and despite warnings about that, Mark volunteered to try them. Overall, the Vassal module for the game is pretty good, but for some reason, it doesn’t have a proper Viking strategic display for him to commit his moves to, so we had to fake that. At any rate, I worked out the starting Federate deployment, Mark purchased his starting units, and I told him which systems were in play. (Another problem is that damage is marked directly on the unit markers… but ‘repair’ requires looping through the entire sequence.)

Mark went with two Viking sloops (SL) instead of one BC, and sent them to a pair of low-priority systems, Raneb (Tech C, Wealth 8) and Nebka (Tech D, Wealth 6). At the latter he found a Federate Escort (FE) and immediately withdrew. Raneb just had local defenses, with three Militia units showing, but with plenty tougher under them (including an air unit; ground units have trouble fighting ships and fighters). Mark decided to be cautious and landed in the one area with a wealth rating (E) that I hadn’t garrisoned, and plundered it (for 1MCr). I stayed huddled in the other wealth-generating areas, and the turn ended with us inactive.

The administration phase at the end is where you build new units. The Viking problem is ships are expensive, and their base income is really just for repairs and maybe a new ground unit to carry on board. Federate base income is about seven times as great, with as much again staying with individual systems for new local defense units. However, victory is with Victory Points, which you buy, and they’re more expensive for the Federate player. Also, there’s random events for Federation politics every turn, and the first turn I rolled “Bloated Bureaucracy”, which makes everything (including VPs!) 1MCr more expensive.

Most of the local defense units start in play (you randomly draw 10 that do not start the game), and I built a new Army Group (AG) on Raneb, and a couple more elsewhere, as well as building a new Frigate (which requires a die roll first). Mark bought a new ground unit, and 4 VPs.

For the second turn, the SL at Raneb left (in case a Federate force showed up, which it didn’t), and he showed up at Horus (Tech C, Wealth 8) and Sanakht (Tech B, Wealth 16). At the former he found a FF (loaded with combat pods) waiting and pulled out. Sanakht had a FE and two armed merchantmen (AM; local defense) at it, but he went into the orbit that they weren’t guarding. I moved in after him, and after a round where we all missed, he withdrew from the system again. This time there was no random event, and I passed a die roll to build a BC, and put the rest into 3 VPs. Mark put all his income (10) into VPs.

On the third turn, both SLs arrived at Tiergran (Tech B, Wealth 14). There were no Federate units present, but the local defenses included three patrol boats (PB), a fortress (FD), a pair of powered armor units (PT), grav armor (GA), and security forces (SF). Mark went into the inner orbit and engaged the PB stationed there for another round of misses. I pulled out and landed fighters (FT) from the second PB at the capital (the third stayed on watch in the outer orbit). The SLs went down to the main planet, and engaged the PT there, with both sides doing one hit to the other.

This was important, as taking a hit destroys one unit carried aboard as cargo. A better idea would probably have been to set down in an empty space and unload, though that would allow me to send everything on-planet after him (at the cost of uncovering spaces for plundering). Anyway, he lost a raider detachment (RD, and about equivalent to a SF) without it firing a shot. I moved in one of the PBs (and the one in the outer orbit moved to the inner orbit), and the FT, doing a hit to both SLs, destroying a PT that was still onboard the second one. Mark left the planet, and eliminated the PB that had moved to deep space, while it got a critical hit to eliminate a SL. I gave chase, and he eliminated the FT while taking another hit on the remaining SL, and then jumped out of the system.

I repaired the damage the PT, and loaded the BC up with some new-built fighters, and bought 12 VPs. The Vikings bought another 10, while the SL went home for repairs on the next turn. The SL returned to Raneb on turn 5, found a FF waiting and left again. On 6, it showed up at Zoser (Tech A), found lots of ships there, and withdrew. On 7, it went home and picked up new units, arriving at Demar (Tech B) on turn 8. Despite PBs and a FF, he hung around, unloading a PB in combat. He got a hit on the FF, then the PBs arrived, and he destroyed one of them, and pressed on to the Inner Asteroids. I followed, and another critical hit destroyed the SL. The FT was then chased down and destroyed, after doing more damage to the FF.


It’s a 12-turn game, and we did crank through the turns to see where VPs ended. Final score was 124 to 99 Federate favor. I has more inflation/graft on the last turn to drive up prices again, but I was already ahead of the Vikings.

There’s a lot of neat things here. The combat is a little fiddly (it uses a fairly large differential chart), but there’s some interesting ideas there. The system displays are the centerpoint of how the game works, and I’m always irritated that there’s no terrain on the planets (well, some spaces do cause modifiers, which is interesting), so I always have the idea to do something a bit more elaborate.

Getting going as the Viking player is definitely a pain point in the game. I hope to get a chance to try them out at some point and see if I can pry things open. I think I have some understanding on what needs doing, but I will say that it does feel like too many Federate (not local defense) units are allowed at the start. Reducing the initial Federate presence may be needed for balance so there’s more of a chance of not always running into good space assets for the first few turns.