In our first Action Point for the Close Encounters Expansion for Space Empires 4X from GMT Games, we took a look at the Empire Advantage Deck and the Alien Technology Deck. In this Action Point, we will take a look at some of the new units that are available to players to wage various types of war on their enemies. There are a good mix of new types of units, including ground troops, very powerful new ships as well as a new type of ship. All of these new units create a great deal of choice of strategies and also place new stresses on players as they now have to worry about their enemies using these new technologies against them and must prepare in some way.
Every space game needs a “Death Star” and Space Empires 4X now adds in their version called the Titan. These things are huge folks and require Ship Size 7 Technology to even build. And you thought Dreadnoughts were big?!? The Titan is a massive weapon that attacks at A7 and will do 2 hits to a single ship when successful. They are also heavily armored and a roll of 1 is not an automatic hit against them, unless that ship is a Fighter. So there are some ships that will be unable to damage a Titan as it has a defense strength of 3 as a base. Not much will stand up to a few rounds with a Titan!
They also have some drawbacks though as they are simply huge, slow moving hulks. They can never retreat and can never be screened by other ships. Also, Fighters will get a +1 to their attack strength against a Titan. The Titan can also carry up to 3 Fighters of its own if the player has researched the Fighter Technology.
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” ―Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope
Now to the fun stuff! A Titan doesn’t fire on a Colony as other normal ships do. Instead, they can target the planet that the Colony is on and destroy it. They don’t need to roll and no defense can help the poor planet out. It is simply automatically destroyed and in place of the planet the player will place one of the new Destroyed Planet markers.
The Flagships are simply a special unit that players will all have at the start of the game that adds some flavor and intrigue to the game. The Flagship is a unique unit and if ever destroyed, cannot be replaced. It can be upgraded with various Technology and never has a maintenance cost. Interesting note about the names of each of the units:
Enterprise – Besides the obvious Star Trek reference, the USS Enterprise had her last deployment at the time of the game’s release.
Victory – The name of Admiral Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Thunder Child – In H.G. Well’s book War of the Worlds, that was an ironclad ship that destroyed two Martian Tripods while covering the escape of a refugee ship.
Argo – From Greek mythology, Jason and the Argonauts.
Boarding Ships add a new method of attack to a player’s arsenal. After researching Boarding Level 1 Technology, a player can build Boarding Ships (BD). Boarding Ships may make Boarding Attacks, which is an attempt to take over an enemy ship without destroying it. The Boarding Attack functions differently than a normal attack though. The Hull Size of the ship being attacked is subtracted from the attack strength of the Boarding Ship. All other modifiers and technologies are ignored with this attack with the exception of Experience Modifiers (we will cover Experience in a future Action Point).
For example, a Boarding Ship is attempting to board a Cruiser (CV) which has a Hull Size of 2. The Boarding Ship will subtract the 2 Hull Size of the Cruiser from it’s own attack strength of 5. It will then need to roll a 3 or less to hit. If the Boarding Ship has upgraded to Boarding Level 2 Technology, their attack strength increases to a 6. If a Boarding Attack is successful, the ship is captured and can be used by the capturing player to attack their enemy. It must wait one turn though as the captured vessel must be learned a little bit before it can attack.
If the Boarding player can get the ship back to a friendly Ship Yard, it can be scrapped to gain new technology. The scrapping player will gain one level of Technology in each areas that the captured ship has better Technology.
But, I like that there is a counter to Boarding. If a player has researched the Security Forces Technology, all of their existing ships immediately gain Security Forces. This research simply adds one to the Hull Size of their ships for the purposes of repelling boarders. There is also a 2nd level of the Tech that adds a total of +2 to the Hull Size. As you can see in the previous example of a Boarding Attack, adding +2 to the Hull Size will make it such that only a roll of a 1 will end in a success for the Boarding attacker.
Transports are ships that are used to carry Ground Units. They can participate in a space battle and fire as E1 but will only do 1/2 damage to an enemy counter. They are only Transports after all and are not designed as devastating weapons. They can also take one hit before being destroyed. These Transports can pick up their troops when passing through a hex they control without having to stop. They can carry up to 6 Ground Units of any kind. When a Transport is destroyed in a space battle, they will lose Ground Units they carry. If there are two Transports in the same hex in a space battle and one is destroyed, Ground Units form the destroyed Transport be saved by moving them to the surviving Transport up to their maximum carrying capacity.
The Transports can also be upgraded by researching Ground Combat 3 which will make their defense strength increase from 1 to 2 as they will become Armored Transports. With this upgrade also comes Drop Ships which allow units deployed from the Armored Transport to be able to fight as soon as they land rather than having to wait to fire until the 2nd round of combat.
Ground Units represent a large amount of troops and units come in 5 different types, including, Infantry, Space Marines, Heavy Infantry, Militia and Grav Armor. These units never require Maintenance costs and can only be placed on a player’s colonized planets. These units provide a defensive benefit against enemy bombardment and cannot be eliminated by bombardment. You might question how Ground Units can provide a defensive benefit? Well, you have to imagine them using surface to air missiles shooting at incoming ships in defense. The way they work in defense of bombardments is that if there are 1-3 Ground Units present, they offer the planet a defense strength of 1. When there are 4+ Ground units, the defense strength increases to 2. The bombarding player simply makes rolls with their ships to determine if they hit taking into account the defense strength rating provide by the presence of Ground Units.
Ground Combat is a little different than ship to ship combat. First off, an invading force that encounters enemy ships in the same hex as the planet they intend to invade, must first fight a space battle. The space battle will commence and all Transport Ships carrying invading Ground Units will not be allowed to attempt to land until after the 2nd round of combat is finished. It is wise for an attacking player to screen their Transport ships so they have units to invade with. At the end of the 2nd round of combat, the landing procedure will commence. After the space battle is concluded players will then move to ground combat. Ground combat is slightly different from space combat. First off, Tactics Technology upgrades are ignored by Ground Units. In the case of a class tie, the defender will always fire first. The Infantry pictured above fire at class D and will hit on a roll of 5 or less. They also have a 1 defense value. Compare that to the more powerful Space Marines units that fire during an attack with a C6 and while defending at a D5. The Space Marines have a defense value of 2 and can take 2 hits before being eliminated.
Ground combat is always to the death with no option for retreat. The sides simply keep shooting according to their fire class until one side loses all of their units. If the attacking force is victorious, the Colony has been successfully captured. The victorious player must then remove one of their Ground Units, which represents the permanent resources needed to manage the captured colony. The victorious player then has to destroy any Ship Yards and Bases on that planet. This captured Colony will then function as normal and will produce CPs for the capturing player, can grow in future Economic Phases and the occupying player can build Ship Yards and Bases in this hex.
I will have to say I liked ground combat. I didn’t think that I would but it is definitely a nice addition to the game. Be warned though. The Ground Units and invasions will add more time to the game but I really liked it.
Lots of new toys to explore with this expansion. In our next Action Point for the Close Encounters Expansion for Space Empires 4X, we will take a closer look at the new Research and Industrial Centers optional rule.