So, the second game that has kept my interest since I started gaming is Full Thrust by Ground Zero Games.
Now, there are a host of games on the market at the minute that allow you to fight various scales of space battle from the small scale fighter battles of the X-Wing miniatures game to the massed battles of Firestorm Armada but for some reason I find myself coming back to Full Thrust. Now, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for massed space battles as much (or perhaps more so) as I am for stompy mecha which is a big draw to Full Thrust
Firstly, for those of you who read these posts and think “That’s another great game I’d like to play but I just don’t have the money!” I’d like to point out that the rules are free to download at – Ground Zero Games – and playing with simple counters allows you to experience the game without spending a penny which is a bonus for the cash strapped gamer on a budget. There is also a “Full Thrust Light” version to give you a taste of the rules before you delve in deep. As a side bonus, the Ground Zero Games Christmas offers are on right now so picking up some of their awesome ship miniatures is cheap right now too.
Federal Stats Europe “Richelieu” class heavy carrier and Kra’Vak “Ka’Ton” class attack cruiser
Like BattleTech from my previous post, one of the things that draws me to the game is the fact you can design your own units. While there are books of pre-generated units for the miniatures made by GZG you can pick up any ship models and create yourself an SSD (Ship Status Display) to use them. The original Full Thrust rule book is still valid as a stand-alone rules set however the two “Fleet Books” update them significantly, adding better design rules and updating some of the game mechanics to improve balance.
SSDs for a missile armed battleship and a strike carrier
Ship design can have a significant effect on how you play the game. Missile heavy or beam heavy? Light hull and powerful shields or heavy hull and slabs of armour? Fighter carriers or a fleet of ships with an interlocked point defence network? Like with all design systems, maximising one aspect leaves you vulnerable in another so your optimised missile and fighter defence fleet will struggle against an enemy primarily armed with beam weapons.
Additionally, through Fleet Book 2, the game introduces a range of alien technology. The incredibly manoeuvrable K-Gun (kinetic gun) armed Kra’Vak, The brood ships of the Phalons and the (totally not inspired by the Babylon 5 Shadows) Sa’Vasku. Each of these offers a different play style to the standard human tech and, I can attest, bring terror to a human fleet until you know how to deal with them in a way that isn’t jumping to hyperspace as soon as the opposing player puts them on the table!
Another factor I like, again similar to BattleTech, is the way in which armour and hull points ablate and internal systems get damaged. Sometimes, this can render a ship unable to fight long before its last hull point is marked off. It also sometimes lets a heavily damaged ship fight on even when the hull is riddled with holes and it should have failed a long time since. I’m not a fan of games where everything works perfectly until the unit is fully destroyed. I think that change in fighting capacity and the flow of the game that can occur when a lucky hit knocks out your primary unit’s main weapons or drive adds a certain thrill to a game.
The rules also allow for both “Cinematic” and “Real Life (ish)” movement modes.
Cinematic lets your ships behave as though they were moving through a fluid with sweeping turns the like of which you see in every Star Trek battle scene. The Vector movement system, as the name suggests, has movement of ships vary depending on the thrust applied to the side of the base course and for ships to be travelling in one direction while facing another. It’s not perfectly representative of real world physics but, again, adds another dimension to play if you choose to use it.
The basic flow of play will be fairly familiar to anyone who has played X-Wing or any of the similar games currently available. Each player writes the moves he wants his units to make on his fleet’s control sheet as a combination of how much of his available thrust he is spending to speed up, slow down or turn. When the move phase comes around, everyone moves based on the orders written on the sheet. After which, fighter, missiles, beams, alien pod weapons, etc. fly, damage is tracked, critical damage worked out and then everything starts again.
Fleet sheet for a small strike group consisting of an escort carrier, escort cruiser, missile cruiser and a pair of frigates
Shooting is very much a “Bucket of dice” system with larger ships with multiple systems at close range capable of rolling twenty or more D6 to determine hits and damage… Again, something that appeals to me in some primal gaming way!
There is a thriving online Full Thrust community with Facebook groups, blogs and websites full of fan rules for different technology bases found in various Sci-Fi franchises… some of these rules more balanced and successful than others.
I strongly recommend checking out this game!