Fangs Out!* #FirstImpressions of #Talon (@gmtgames)

Courtesy BGG

Way back in the day I was a Star Fleet Battles (Amarillo Design Bureau/Task Force Games 1979+) player. My first game was the pocket edition in the half-size plastic baggie. In junior high and high school my friends and I obsessed with SFB. One of my friends designed the original TK5 destroyer. I even got into the strategic game, Federation Space (Task Force Games, 1981) that eventually evolved into Federation & Empire (Amarillo Design Bureau/Task Force Games 1986+). When I pack all my SFB stuff together it overflows a medium-cube moving box (that’s 3 cubic feet of stuff).

But time changes things. Whereas in my younger years I absolutely loved the excessive energy management required in SFB, and the long scenario play times, I gradually moved away from the game. I tried other games, like the FASA Star Trek: Starship Tactical Simulator (1983) or Agent of Gaming’s Babylon 5 Wars (1997). In the mid 2000’s, I tried to get into Federation Commander (Amarillo Design Bureau, 2005), the SFB successor, but it just didn’t click. Indeed, my game of choice for starship battles became Ground Zero Games’ Full Thrust (1992) or a derivative.

Courtesy BGG

In 2017, GMT Games offered a reprint edition of Talon, originally published in 2015. My interest was peaked by a series of post in the Castiliahouse blog where they were playing Talon. So I pulled the trigger on the P500. The second edition game delivered not long ago.

Upon unboxing, the first thing that struck me was the large, coated counters and the wet-erase markers. You mean I am going to write on my counters? Then I started digging into the rulebook.

And I am in love.

The basic rulebook is a slim 16 pages. The game mechanics are very straight-forward and explained in just 9-pages of Basic Rules. What I love is that energy management still is important, but instead of allocating everything (aka SFB) or several things (FC), in Talon one chooses “power curves” which are in effect “presets” for Power/Speed/Turn Radius. As a general rule, as a ship’s speed increases, the Turn Radius likewise increases while Power decreases.

Simple…Fast…and Fun!

Moving away from the SFB Power Allocation sheet, or the FC Ship Status Display, to info on the counter also helps with the fun. This makes the game easy to teach, an important consideration these days as I my main gaming partners are the RockyMountainNavy Boys.

Courtesy BGG

My plan is to get Talon to the table, probably in the next few weeks, using the Advanced Rules (just gotta have rule 15 THE BIG GUNS). I think the RMN Boys will like Talon; they like Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game and I know this will be a step up in complexity, but not nearly as much as Federation Commander or (shudder) Star Fleet Battles. Maybe someday I will play those games with them, but I am not so sure it will ever really happen. My taste in gaming has changed in nearly 40 years (go figure). In my early days my craving for simulationism was fulfilled by games like Star Fleet Battles. These days a more player-friendly game, like Talon, is welcome on the gaming table.

*Fangs Out:  Aviator-speak for when a pilot is really hot for a dogfight.

My View – Captain’s Log #43


Captain’s Log #43, published by Amarillo Design Bureau. House magazine supporting the Star Fleet Universe. Date of Publication 13 June 2011.

I have been a long-time player of Star Fleet Battles, starting with the little pocket folio in 1979. I also played the original strategic game, Federation Space, and its later incarnation Federation & Empire. More recently, I picked up the rules for Federation Commander and Star Fleet Armada. On the RPG side, I have the Prime Directive first edition, D20 edition, and portions of the d20 Modern edition. I have also been a (fairly) faithful reader of the Captain’s Log magazine. I started with CL6 and missed just a few in the twenties.

Each Captain’s Log contains a wealth of material and this issue is no different. Fiction, status reports from the company, new rules, scenarios, ships, tactical discussions and the like covering the entire gaming line of the Star Fleet Universe. This is alot to cover, so I will focus on the fiction which is where most of the “creative” content is focused.

The cover art is well done with a recognizable Romulan Warbird and an older Federation cruiser further off. SFU players will recognize both ships instantly. However, the asteroid to the upper right looks like a misshaped doughnut.

Usually, the Star Fleet Universe fiction is good; however, this issue definitely has a mixed bag. The first story, “A Measure of Fear,” tells the story of the other battles when the Romulans probed the Neutral Zone (as depicted in Star Trek The Original Series episode “Balance of Terror.”) Overall a decent story, but the medical plotline is distracting and adds nothing to the story. Rating (scale of 1 to 5): 4

The second fictional piece, “Flotilla Commander 2,” is not so good. The piece reads a bit like a wargame AAR; indeed I think it may be the AAR to a playtest session of the new Star Fleet Marines module mentioned on page 30. Poor graphics and a story that does nothing and goes nowhere make this a weak item. Rating: 2

The third historical fiction item is “Armed Transport Amarillo.” The article is actually a set of character profiles for use in the Prime Directive RPG. Unfortunately, none of the character stat blocks are provided. Rating: 1

Another RPG-inspired ficitonal piece is “Texmex: Planet of the Cows.” Again a useful item for a Prime Directive RPG game (or maybe inspiration for a SFB/FC/Armada scenario) but again a lack of a stat block makes it less-than-useful. Rating: 2

The next piece of historical fiction is intended to be a comedy piece. “Kolmes Inspection” tries to be funny but it is not my cup of tea. Rating: o

Class History: Federation Fast Raiders, Part Two” provides the background of a new class of ships. This type of “history” is where Captain’s Log excels. Alas, there is much repetition as each ship is discussed individually; a better class overview with the key points would have helped. Rating: 3

Great Chlorophon Captains” is part of the Omega Sector of races which I don’t play so therefore I have no reason to judge this historical snapshot. Rating: NA

Crew Roster: Federation Frigate” compliments the frigate deckplans found in  the latest version of Prime Directive: Federation. The article fails to point this connection out. Still, a useful piece for a Prime Directive adventure. Rating: 4

So there you have it. After weighting the different articles, I think the fiction in this issue rates 33 out of 60 points, or a 55% score. Though that seems low, the rest of the issue makes up for this low fiction score. There are three new Federation Commander scenarios, five new Star Fleet Battles scenarios, and the usual excellent tactical articles. There are also six new ships for Star Fleet Battles, six new Federation Commander ships (including ground bases), four new Starmada ships, and five new Federation & Empire ships.

Regardless of which one (or which ones) of the Star Fleet Universe games you play this issue is a worthwhile purchase.