Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Wargamer's Wandering Minds to Space Ships (part 1)

 Naturally while I am painting Dark Ages Saxons and Vikings, I started thinking about Star Trek.  One follows the other like a sunrise after the cold night.....


On my birthday last December, I was supposed to get together with my friend Mr. PC and play this old chestnut of a board game..

10 years old this game is, and still awesome.

We ended up cancelling because my whole family got sick (not COVID, but some other virus) and life is dumb.  Then some time later while BORED at work I was thinking about the game and Star trek in general (because I was REALLY bored), and how come I don't have any Star trek miniatures? On a whim I typed into google "Star Trek Miniature Wargame" and found a new rabbit hole to go down.  
Or you could call it a black hole.
Because it's a hole...(announcer voice) IIINNNN SSPPAAAAACE.


What follows will mainly be the journey down that black hole.  Mostly to serve for my own online storage.  I'll also advertise it as a guide for others.  It might be amusing, especially from the POV of someone who is not a trekkie (like myself).  I'm primarily a historical gamer, but I've always said that I like Sci-Fy and Fantasy as long as it's Star Wars, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings.  I've played starship games at conventions and had fun.  The main difference is that instead of making "boom! boom! vroom!" noises while moving tanks you make "pew! pew! Bzzzzt" noises while moving starships.  You DO make sound effect noises while playing miniature games don't you?  It can't be just me.

But If I am gonna do some spaceship gaming it's gotta be Star Wars or Star Trek because I cannot be bothered to learn some other setting.  You should see the way that my eyes glaze over when I start to read some other version of the galaxy...."These are the bloopbloop aliens they come from  the planet megabloop and their culture revolves around the concern for bloopiness" and I feel asleep because it soooo boring.
I think Trek beats out StarWars for ship to ship combat because Starwars is usually about fighters zipping around.  Think about every cool space scene in Star Wars and what you're following are characters in fighters, not the big ships.  Star Trek is more about crewed ships slugging it out and barely ever uses fighters, which is more to my taste.  I kinda want Age of Sail ships of the line...but in space. And Trek has been described as Horatio Hornblower.....but in space.   

Also; According to my research, I'm about 20 years late to the party of wanting to do starship combat with Star trek style ships.  WAAAAY behind the curve.  Once again I demonstrate that I have my fingers on the pulse of the wargaming community...  

I had to learn a lot of new vocabulary.  I was helped by poking around the internet, posting on TMP,  and by internet best friend David from the Lasgunpacker Blog.  

First question: Which Trek?


TOS stands for The Original Series which aired on TV from 1966 through 1969 and then onto syndication.  Apparently, it only got real popular after syndication.   It's Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Bones.  TNG stands for The Next Generation that aired on TV from 1987 to 1994.  Picard, Riker, Data, and Crusher.  It's the endless Kirk vs Picard debate.  Pick your side now.  These represent the two subgenres of Star trek as they cover different time periods / tech levels.  You could of course mix them together because it's ALL MADE UP ANYHOW but the historical gamer in me thinks that's too much like putting WWII tanks on an AWI battlefield.  

Things to think about while choosing: 
Ship appearances: 

Everyone loves the Classic Enterprise.

I love the classic Enterprise.  Turns out this is called a Constitution Class starship.  I didn't know that starships had types/classes but I suppose that makes sense.   
I even don't mind that every ship in the Star fleet kinda looks like this one, but with more Rocket-thingys stuck to it, or stuck on in different places. 

"Need More Rocket-Thingys Please!"

OK, the rocket-thingys are actually called Nacelles, I had to learn that to figure which miniatures to buy, and more on that later.  While researching fictional starships you come across a lot of 'made up' words.  (OK, 'nacelle' is not a made up word and it actually means "streamlined body sized according to what it contains",  But it SOUNDS made up) 

What is true for the TOS is true for TNG, The Federation had an aesthetic and went all in.
You're gonna get saucers and rocke... nacelles.  

I was always partial to the conflicts between Starfleet and the Klingons, and these two factions are kinda everyone's favorite anyway.  You don't see a lot of people going to Star Trek conventions dressed as Romulans, because Romulans are Boring.  (at least that's what I guess, I've never been to ST convention.  I'm not judging, I go to miniature wargame conventions so I don't really have the moral high ground).  

This is the classic Klingon ship from TOS.
I hate this ship.

This ship looks like a snapping turtle wearing a bad hat.  It's awful.  And the Torpedo tube in the front gives it an "OOOHH my gOOOOSh" expression. 

and trust me: every Klingon ship looks like this one.  You would think that for a show about the future and space they would have more imagination.  Apparently what they didn't have was a good enough budget for different ships.

Klingons from TNG and later times just have cooler ships.
This thing just looks menacing.

It's not till later on in the franchise, like Star trek III and after that you start to get cool Klingon ships like the famous Birds of Prey ships.  

Of course all these ship types exist simply because the TV show or movie script required one, "the bad guys need a ship and make it look cool."  The same type of ship even gets bigger or smaller depending on what the script calls for.  I find it hi-larious that there are 4 types of Bird of Prey star ships that all look the same but are different sizes, because during the TV shows and movies they used the same model over and over and just made it look bigger or smaller for the story arc.  


For me; the Trek that hits the Nostalgia bone is Next Generation.  If yours is TOS then you're probably about 10/15/20 years older than I am and are firmly into 'older man' years while I am just middle aged.
I can remember when I was just barely a teenager and TNG came out on TV; and my family would gather 1 night a week to watch together; before we were all separated by time, death, and bitterness.  That's almost the very definition of Nostalgia.  

Moving on: Rules

This is a whole new genre for me and it's fun to explore virgin territory, so I have no idea what rules are good for Space Ships zooming around going pewpewpewBOOM.  And there is no official TNG miniatures game unless you count Star Trek Attack Wing (which is just like Xwing, but with Trek ships,.  But I already have Xwing so don't need to duplicate it.)
Poking around the internet there seems to be two rule sets that come up over and over again; Full Thrust and Starmada.  

Apparently Full Thrust has been around for ages and ages, and is now free online and can be found at Ground Zero Games.  However, it goes through a bunch of revisions from the core book through the fleet books and there are other versions besides.  Yet, I did come across this:

This version of Full Thrust seems to have everything combined
and was updated in 2021, so fairly recently.

You can find this version free HERE.  
As I read the rules, they seemed awfully familiar to rules used in a space game I played years and years ago that I enjoyed.  So I either have already played and liked these rules OR all space games are kinda same.  

Online there are numerous conversions of FT to Trek from people who got here waaaay before me (did I mention I'm decades late to this party).  Though most are for classic Trek / TOS style ships.  And part of the fun is the endless tinkering to make your own ship designs.  

I've been using some free time at work to design ships for the eventual playtest.
Here is a rough and ready Ship Status Display (SSD) that I threw together.
That's right; I go to work in order to have free time.
There is no such thing at home.

The other rule set is available on Wargame vault for like $10, so I did an impulse purchase as the price was less than a pack of cigarettes...

There are about a hundred different versions of Starmada,
but the UNITY rulebook seems to be the latest and bestest.

Starmada is about 2 steps up in complexity from FT.  The gameplay is not super complex (though the ship construction rules are looking to be a real exercise in maths) but did require some extra reading.  
Starmada does have a Trek source book but it's for TOS era, but I might pick it up anyway just to see what they do, how they make the ships.  

I Know a Filler Post When I See One

This project is in it's infancy.  This post is mostly filler because I can't crank out painted Dark Age warriors as fast as I would like, but gotta post something or you all will forget about me.  But it's funny how a new genre can really spark the imagination and take us by surprise.  It's a special kind of excitement; researching about rules and miniatures, thinking about scenarios, and how this is or that.  Seeing what's been done before and how I would do it now.  I don't think board gamers get this kind of rush.  It's the rush of antici..........pation.

More on this as it develops.  I can hear you groaning from here.  


  1. Thanks Stew, a nostalgia blast for sure and thanks for the two links. I went in for Talon a couple of years ago, which is a boardgame of ship-to-ship combat, but while competent, it just didn’t set a spark for me, perhaps I need to see 3D models to get that.

    Kallistra do hexes in black for space games and also do a range of lead models, I think they even have their own rules, but for anyone wanting to convert their old boardgames to the figure table, it is a helpful place to start.

    Oh and course, TOS was the best! It was the seed that spawned everything in space that followed, plus it kept this young mind totally absorbed and engaged ….. I can even do that thing where spock opens his hand, separating his fingers to either side in two pairs (live long and prosper), my grandkids can’t, so it keeps me cool! But then they get Pokemon and I don’t!

    1. Thanks Norm. It’s not that I don’t like TOS I just remember TNG more, plus I think the ships are cooler.

      The Kalistra stuff is tempting but seems expensive for now. But thanks for making me aware as I hadn’t thought of it. πŸ˜€

  2. ToS was the best for sure - I really have not watched much of any of the subsequent films or TV series as I am not a huge scifi fan - I enjoyed it in syndication in the late 60's/early 70's UK but that was when I was aged around 8-10 years old....
    Will you have any figures in this project ie "Beam us up Scotty" - or will it solely be inter starship warfare you engage in?

    1. Thanks Kieth. I really haven’t kept up to date on trek either. It’s just a universe that everyone knows so it’s easier to grasp versus random factions. πŸ˜€
      I’m thinking just starships bc that’s the cool part.

  3. Look up Star Trek FASA, that’s what all the egghead players liked to use from back in the wargaming days of yore. Very in-depth and complicated and can be played with traditional counters on a hex map or with minis.

    I love all trek personally. Like you it brings back great memories of Tuesday evening dinner times when we were actually allowed to watch tv while we ate (Cos mum was and still is a Trekkie). Seeing TNG episodes on BBC2 at 6pm in the 80’s got it started for me even though mum had us watch the original show rerun’s around the same time.

    Fun that you suddenly have the urge to start this new project!

    1. O and just so you know, Romulans and Cardassians are my fav aliens in the Star Trek setting - not boring at all!

    2. Thanks Dai. It’s hard to find FASA stuff these days but I’m looking around.
      It is kinda a random urge but we wargamers are prone to these sorts of things.

      You would like Romulus better. πŸ˜€

  4. Obviously I am pretty excited about this diversion of yours.

    One thing you did not mention is Starfleet Battles/Federation Commander, which take the detail up to 11 and 8 respectively. Both have a free trial ruleset online.

    I have many fond memories of watching TNG on Saturday evenings in my Star Trek PJs, and then later watching the nightly reruns on channel 40 with a buddy of mine.

    1. Thanks David. Hopefully we can come together on this so I can get a taste. πŸ˜€

      Nice call on FC. I have DLed the free version and reading it. When you poke around the internet for space rules recommendations you’ll hear FT, FT, SM, FT, SM, random rules that someone wrote on they’re blog, FT, SM, and then FC. πŸ˜€

  5. I remember the family gathering to watch TOS on our non-remote control television, back in the day when there were only four channels...can't say I've followed Star Trek much since then. I do remember dabbling with space gaming back in the day (both board and a smattering of toy ships). The main Sci Fi we got into back then was "Starguard" (I guess we're just a bunch of grunts at heart). I even re-acquired a set of those rules just out of nostalgia (defined however you'd like). Nice write up and summary of what's out there for Trek gaming.

    1. Thanks Ed. It’s just a little dabble into space ships and something different for this mainly historical gamer. πŸ˜€

  6. It's nice to know that I'm not alone in having a short attention span and multiple project ideas πŸ˜‚
    Great analogy with the Trek space combat like age of sail combat, I'd never thought about that but it's perfect. Put me in with the Vulcans, no emotion and I like that logical approach to everything lol

    1. Thanks Ivor. It’s a funny thing with us gamers that while doing one project our minds wander to the next. πŸ˜€
      I think a lot of space games also play like navy games.
      I’d have a hard time being logical; especially about silly miniature war games.

  7. Star Trek is great and all but I'd rather see Pigs ...SPAAAACCCEEE! :) Truthfully, I'm more of a Star Wars fan but I do really like the J.J. Abrams movies. I've never been drawn to the various spaceship (or airplane) miniature games out there either but they are quite popular so I feel like I'm in the minority there. I could have sworn that Star Trek had spaceship game just like Star Wars did but then again, I could be wrong. Either way, I reckon this new project will be even more exciting than when Kirk fought a Gorn! ;)

    1. Thanks Jeff.
      Star Trek attack wing is the trek version of Xwing. I have Xwing though I haven’t played it in ages. Space ships would be a new genre for me but something I think would be doable with only about 5-8 ships per side and of course no terrain.
      I’ve seen the JJ movies but couldn’t tell you anything about them now so were probably pleasantly forgettable. Except for Simon Peg as Scotty. πŸ˜€

  8. Interesting side project, I guess I'm TOS, I did have 28mm star trek figures for the first film 1980? , but I swapped them for lots of ECW figures, I probably wouldn't have done that if they'd been star wars figures! Space ships and line of battle ships make sense, always nice to have something on the back burner!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks Iain. Yeah, a side project of probably limited scope and very much on the back burner. Right now it’s more of a project for my mind to tinker with. πŸ˜€

  9. Next Gen period for me too, but my all time favourite was DS9, great story telling and overall arc and also shady federation organisations.

    1. Thanks Tony. DS9 was pretty good as well. πŸ˜€

  10. Time to remove the cause and not the symptom? ;)

    I'm with Tony on this one - DS9 was the best of "our" ST, although TNG played a similar role for me - my dad and I watched it together, and he was never a science fiction guy. Looking back, I suspect he was indulging me. Have you thought through what you're going to use for minis? I know there are metals out there, but have no sense of what the newer options might be.

    1. Yeah. DS9 was likely a better series but TNG definitely hits the nostalgia button hard. πŸ˜€
      Ships will be the topic of the next trek post.

  11. Interesting approach Stewart, look forward to seeing how this progresses, from it's infancy stage now to what you do with it, can always be treacherous finding a new rabbit hole to go down ! LOL

  12. The Starmada Trek source book is for the TOS era is actually a conversion of another game, Star Fleet Battles.