Aim For The Head

This past Saturday I invited a few gaming compatriots over for a game of our still-in-development Metaverse 2. This game would see pitted against each other forces from Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica. The B5 force was an Earthforce fleet from the Earth-Minbari War era. The BSG force was a Colonial fleet from the 1st Cylon War. These two fleets from these two eras have never faced each other upon my gaming table and I hoped that it would be interesting. Arriving for the game were Will, Kevin, Matt, Dave, and of course, myself. Kevin and Will offered to take the helm of the Colonials leaving Earthforce to Matt, Dave, and I.

Text in italics is instructive rather than narrative and serves only to provide a glimpse at the underlying mechanics at work.

We would not be pulling a scenario from the book, rather I hastily constructed a narrative scenario for us to play. In this case, first contact with the 13th Tribe has not gone well and the Colonials, thinking that Earth is in league with the Cylons, have opened a new front in the war. The Colonial Battlestar Group in this game would be conducting a reconnaissance in force upon Altair IV, a fringe Earth colony. The Earthforce garrison would need to repulse the Colonial interlopers.

The Earthforce Garrison of Altair IV consisted of the following fleet:

Altair Garrison

Command Squadron

EAS Centaur - Avenger Class Heavy Carrier Gamma Model
     8xSA-20A Nova Starfury Flights
     20x'Hammerhead' Mk1E5 RADAR ASM Ordinance Packages
     40x'Mamba' M1E2 RADAR AFM Ordinance Packages
EAS Hades - Olympus Class Corvette Delta Model
EAS Cyrus - Olympus Class Corvette Delta Model

Line Squadron

EAS Warspite - Hyperion Class Heavy Cruiser Delta Model
     1xSA-20A Nova Starfury Flight
EAS Hammer - Nova Class Dreadnought Beta Model
     4xSA-20A Nova Starfury Flights
EAS Dauntless - Nova Class Dreadnought Beta Model
     4xSA-20A Nova Starfury Flights

Frigate Squadron

EAS Scorpio - Artemis Class Heavy Frigate - Gamma Model
EAS Orion - Artemis Class Heavy Frigate - Zeta Model
EAS Cyclops - Artemis Class Heavy Frigate - Zeta Model
EAS Europa - Artemis Class Heavy Frigate - Zeta Model

Scout Squadron

EAS Keres - Oracle Class Light Cruiser Gamma Model
EAS Pontus - Olympus Class Corvette Delta Model

Monitor Squadron

EAS Sphinx - Orestes Class System Monitor Gamma Model

1st Missile Squadron

EAS Zhukov - Sagittarius Class Missile Cruiser Beta Model

2nd Missile Squadron

EAS Aurora - Sagittarius Class Missile Cruiser Beta Model

3rd Missile Squadron

EAS Demeter - Sagittarius Class Missile Cruiser Beta Model

The Colonial Battlestar Group consisted of the following:


Command Squadron

Athena - Columbia Class Battlestar Block 1
     8xViper Mk II Squadrons
     4xRaptor Mk I Squadrons
     12xAGM-75N "Uranus" Missile Ordinance Packages
     16xASIM-54A "Lightning Javelin" Missile Ordinance Packages

1st Wing - 1st Squadron

Sovereign - Apollo Class Heavy Gun Cruiser Block 1

1st Wing - 2nd Squadron

Rhea - Nemesis Class Heavy Cruiser Block 1

1st Wing - 3rd Squadron

Solaria - Olympia Class Light Cruiser Block 1
Demeter - Brenik Class Frigate Block 1
Tethys - Brenik Class Frigate Block 1

1st Wing - 4th Squadron

Victorious - Lightray Class Missile Frigate Block 1
Pythia - Lightray Class Missile Frigate Block 1
Acropolis - Lightray Class Missile Frigate Block 1
Rycon - Lightray Class Missile Frigate Block 1

2nd Wing - Command Squadron

Providence - Valkyrie Class Light Battlestar Block 1
     4xViper Mk II Squadrons
     2xRaptor Mk I Squadrons
     9xAGM-75N "Uranus" Missile Ordinance Packages
     8xASIM-54A "Lightning Javelin" Missile Ordinance Packages

2nd Wing - 1st Squadron

Iapetus - Kopis Class Fast Destroyer Block 1

2nd Wing - 2nd Squadron

Ophiuchus - Luna Class Destroyer Block 1

Both fleets were burdened with rather primitive ships that would lag behind the rest. Earthforce had the ancient Orestes monitor and an old Oracle scout. The Colonials were saddled with some pre-Cylon designs in the Nemesis, Luna, and Breniks. Additionally, aside from the EW package on the Oracle Light Cruiser, the average sensor rating across both fleets was only 11. Neither side was likely to achieve a spectacular hit rate.

When a starship fires its weapons a sensor array must be selected to be used against each target. All to-hit rolls against a target are made with the selected sensor. A sensor array has a rating which determines the basic to-hit number that is needed on a D20. A rating 11 sensor, before modifiers and other adjustments, would require a roll of 11 or less on a D20.

The first order of business was to find out how good or bad our commanders and crews were. Both sets of players rolled on their appropriate charts to find out what kind of admirals and crew they had under their command. The Colonial Admiral turned out to be brilliant as did the Commander in charge of his 2nd wing. If that was not enough, every squadron but one (the Nemesis Heavy Cruiser) had Veteran crews.

On the Earthforce side of the table, the commanding Admiral was also brilliant but almost all the starship crews were Regular. The Oracle scout was Veteran, which was handy, while the Nova Dreadnought squadron was Green.


When a fleet is designed the quality of the commanding officers and starship crews can be set to one of three levels. However, if the player wishes they can set any of them to 'Roll' in which case the they are determined randomly at game start with a weight to the randomness as determined by qualities set at the Navy level. This allows for players to have as much or as little control over this aspect as they like.

The quality of a commander determines the die type used when rolling for command points; D4, D6, or D8. The quality of starship crews determines how readily and easily they will select their targets among the enemy fleet. Green crews will need constant supervision (and likely more command points) while Veteran crews can mostly left to make the right decision on their own.

The game began by the Colonial players making decisions about their entry into the battlespace. In this era of Mk I Raptors that don't have jump drives, the only way to reconnoiter the battlespace was to bring in starships. Until they put a starship on the table they would be blind as to the disposition of the Earthforce ships. The Colonial players secretly decided on their entrance strategy and made appropriate markings on a map.

When they had been informed that the Colonial players had made their decisions, the Earthforce players deployed their forces into the battlespace. Crucially they left two squadrons of ships in Hyperspace as a reserve.

Babylon 5 ships use the FTL type Spatial Drive which permits them use of another play space that is 1/10th the size of the table being played on. Ships can move about that play space and transition back and forth using their FTL drive.

With the Earthforce starships on the table, the Colonials performed their initial jumps in.

The battlespace was dominated by Altair IV itself with its only moon slowly orbiting it. In loose formation on two sides of the planet, Earthforce had most of their fleet lazing about. In a flash of FTL energy, a single ship arrived, the Valkyrie.

Earthforce was expecting either a small recce force or a mass jump in of the Colonial fleet. What they got was something else entirely. The Providence, a Valkyrie Class Light Battlestar, had jumped into high orbit of Altair IV and right in the middle of the garrison fleet. This was one hell of a Recce.

For a brief few seconds both sides sat stunned and then leaped into furious action. Every gun that could train on the little battlestar warmed up and began sending hate its way, burning a few pockmarks into her hull. The Valkyrie quickly brought up a robust Flak Wall to protect itself and turtled for the time being. Curiously no Raptors or Vipers left the ship, it seemed content to simply sit for a moment and observe its surroundings from behind a wall of lead.

The Valkyrie was the flagship of the 2nd wing and home to a one star commander. Using their command points for the turn, they activated one of the Colonial tactics, 'Flak Wall'. This tactic allows for all the starship's PDS and weapons with a PD value to be used twice in one turn, however, no weapon with a PD value can be used against starship's for the turn.

Tactics are a method to add flavor and tactical choice to fleets. They are chosen at the navy level, so every fleet in that navy receives that tactic. Players use the command points generated by their command rolls each turn to activate their tactics.

With respectable reaction time the Avenger Heavy Carrier let loose her Starfury compliment loaded mostly with anti-fighter missiles but a few with nukes. With the Valkyrie not launching any Vipers this seemed like a golden opportunity.

However, this opportunity was soon ruined. Seeing the mass of Starfuries ready to pounce, the Valkyrie used her long range dual-purpose rail cannons to perform a suppression barrage aimed at the Avenger's fighters. Feeling like rain against the hull of the Avenger and her escorts, this barrage shredded the loitering Starfuries. In minutes, eight flights of Earth's best starfighters were decimated. The Valkyrie's actions came at a price; her positioning had put her in optimal range to strike at the Earth ships but the concentration on her Flak Wall left little offensive firepower with which to capitalize on this opportunity.

After just a minute or so of playing turtle inside the Earth fleet, the Valkyrie used her second FTL drive and jumped out of the battlespace.

With a successful recce performed the Colonial Admiral jumped in part of his group. The Kopis and Luna Destroyers jumped in facing the rear of the Avenger Heavy Carrier. The Columbia Battlestar jumped in nearly a light second from the planet right behind a Sagittarius Missile Cruiser. The Apollo jumped in even further out opposite the Columbia.

Having predicted that the Colonials were about to perform a mass jump the Earthforce Admiral called in his reserves from hyperspace. Entering realspace in high orbit, the dreadnought squadron and the scout squadron joined the battle.

The Colonials use the FTL type Jump Drive which allows point-to-point FTL transition. However, when the jump is performed there is a deviation that is reduced by the sensor rating of the ship making the jumps somewhat inacurrate.

The battlestar emerged from FTL directly behind a Sagittarius Missile Cruiser and quickly turned its guns on the ship's aft. Within a few minutes the aft section was a mess of twisted metal and debris. The ship survived more or less in one piece but without power and drifting.

The two Colonial destroyers had jumped out behind the Avenger Heavy Carrier and the Artemis Heavy Frigates but much further apart then they intended. At this distance they would not be able to assist each other with PDS, a situation that would haunt them in mere moments.

The Earthforce reserves managed to enter the battlespace almost dead-center of the garrison fleet and positioned to burn towards any of the Colonial ships. While Earthforce ships of this era do not have the weapon range of later periods, the two Nova Dreadnoughts still pack a decent ranged punch that made the Colonials wary.

The array of turrets on the dreadnoughts quickly angled on the Kopis Destroyer and in a modern art project remodeled the destroyer into something resembling disintegrating swiss cheese. The Sagittarius' unleashed their missile compliments at the Luna Destroyer and quickly overwhelmed its ancient PDS destroying every weapon system in the front of the ship. In response the two Colonial destroyers eviscerated the nearest Sagittarius Missile Cruiser leaving it little better than a piece of drift wood.

Far to port of the Novas, the Apollo sat helplessly out of range. In a strange maneuver it seemed to be thrusting to port opening the range.

With the Sagittarius directly to its front rendered inert, the Columbia began launching her Viper's and Raptors. Seeing the violent entry of the Novas into the battlespace and their effect on the Kopis Destroyer, the Colonial Admiral called on the rest of his forces.

The Columbia, now not hindered by a missile cruiser off its bow, brought its massive sublight engines online and began cruising closer to the center of the battle. However, it seemed as if the Earthforce fleet was doing its best to avoid the Colonial flagship with the bulk of the fleet thrusting away. One exception was the ancient Orestes which was actually vectoring towards the Columbia, not exactly a fair fight.

The Novas spun 90 degrees to port beginning a pirouette maneuver while the Oracle raced for the supposed safety of the middle of the fleet. However, another series of flashes disrupted the status quo once again.

Close into the fleet, the Olympia Light Cruiser and her escorting Brenik Frigates popped in to say "Hello". To the rear of the Oracle, but conveniently on the broadside of the Novas, the Nemesis Heavy Cruiser arrived with the Lightray Missiles Frigates following behind. The battle just got a little more complicated. 

Far to the flank the Colonial Admiral continued to dump fighters from his battlestar but seemed disinterested in actually using them for anything. Directly to the front he watched as the Luna struggled to save itself turning away from the Earth ships, leaking atmosphere in a trail behind it.

The arrival of the Olympia and her escorts was intended to be a disruptive event for Earthforce. Instead they jumped in at optimal range in the broadside of two Nova Dreadnoughts, not to mention the myriad of light ships in the area. It did not take long for the turrets of the dreadnoughts to target the new arrivals. Holes were rendered, plating was melted, and hull destroyed as the fusillade of fire tore at the ships. Then came the coup de grace; both Novas opened their missile cell doors, each releasing 36 missiles. When the wave was over the Olympia was destroyed, one Brenik was floating wreckage, and the second Brenik would have been better off had it actually been destroyed with its squadron mates.

In any other battle this would have been seen as a tactical victory for Earthforce, yet in the midst of this hurricane of destruction the three Colonial ships had opened their silo doors and unloaded every nuke in their arsenal, every single one targeted on the Avenger Heavy Carrier, the Earth flagship. A series of bright flashes later and the carrier looked like a steak left on the BBQ too long. Critically, the ship was now without power and virtually the entire crew was dead. Earthforce was now leaderless.

In response to this affront, the Nova Dreadnoughts unloaded their opposite broadside, including missiles, entirely into the Nemesis Heavy Cruiser. Missiles and Lasers tore into the pre-Cylon beast tearing out great chunks. As the ship left a trail of debris and bodies, a bright flash was seen and then the ship was no more; her reactor had gone critical.

In the wake of this apocalypse of death, the Earthforce fleet was leaderless. Stepping into the command position was the Captain of the Hyperion Heavy Cruiser. Being only a captain his ability to command this fleet would be limited but he did manage to maintain some order.

With the elimination of the commanding officer of the Earthforce fleet, command would normally fall to a subordinate officer. However, the Earth fleet only had one flag rank officer and therefore command fell to a starship captain of their choice. This replacement would only get one command die and be considered a poor commander.

The Orestes continued its meandering towards the Columbia while the Columbia accelerated towards it. The Avenger's escorts raced off to hunt down the Luna while the Novas and Artemis' vectored for the Lightray Missile Frigates.

As if trying to hold of the beast single handedly, the Orestes continued to accelerate with its meager engines. The Columbia had finally launched all her squadrons.

Sensing an opportunity to unleash the Starfuries, Earthforce launched all nine remaining squadrons at the Lightrays.

With all the Earth fighters tied up the time was right for a Colonial strike as well. Four squadrons of Raptors loaded with nukes, escorted by eight squadrons of Vipers, made an attack run on the Oracle. This little ELINT ship had annoyed the Colonials for too long, lending its EW support at all the wrong moments.

At nearly the same time, Starfuries and Vipers descended on their targets and brought destruction with them. The Starfuries were nearly unopposed by the meager PDS of the Lightray Frigates. A couple of passes with pulse guns and all four frigates were destroyed.

The Colonial strike received more resistance. With no better target, the Novas turned their pulse guns on the fighter strike and tore holes in the lines wiping out Vipers and Raptors by the dozens. However, enough Raptors managed to loose their nukes to break the Oracle into two pieces, achieving their objective.

It was at this point that the Hyperion's Captain lost his nerve and called a retreat for the Earthforce garrison.

At the beginning of each turn all commanders roll their command dice and are granted that many command points for the turn. However, should the flag commander roll the number of morale thresholds the fleet has reached, or less, than the game is lost. Since the Earthforce commander was now a no-name starship captain and therefore a single D4 for command, this was comparatively easy. Earthforce had also reached three thresholds which meant that only a roll of four would continue the game. Every starship and starfighter squadron destroyed adds their morale value to the morale thresholds.

This was a nail-biting game with many twists and turns. These two fleets are surprisingly compatible and make for a good match-up. The game also goes to show that taking out the enemy's command structure is a viable tactic in any period or medium.

Thank you to Dave, Matt, Kevin, and Will for a fantastic game.

The rules we used are the still in development 2nd Edition of Metaverse. 1st Edition can be found here.

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