Chris dropped by on Thursday to give Babylon 5:ACTA a go. I remember us poring over the Lurkers guide to Babylon 5 (it's still active!) after many episodes back in our high-school days. So he's seen the series. The two fleets I've got assembled and basecoated are Earth Alliance and Shadows. I figured 7pts at Raid level were a good number and the Earth Alliance actually had options, since I ran them as 'Army of Light' from the Signs and Portents book. Chris wanted to be EA, even knowing that meant I got to be the coolest First Ones, the Shadows. I had a young Shadow Cruiser (War), worth 4 raid points, and three Shadow Scouts, 1 raid point each. This meant my fighter complement was two flights of Shadow fighters. At least they now get to use their shields in dogfights... I told Chris my fleet had three 'Whitestar killers' but he still took one (Raid), two Omega Destoyers (Battle, four Raid points total), a Nova Dreadnought (Raid), and the lesser Assault variant of the Hyperion x 2 (2 Skirmish, one Raid total). The Earth ships had total fighter superiority, a full 12 flights of Thunderbolt Starfuries vs my two flights of Shadow fighters. I fudged a variant of 'Space Superiority' as the mission so the under-gunned Shadows at least got to deploy out of Hyperspace, laid down three asteroid fields (densities 1, 1, and 5), and it was on.
+++Earthforce One, Transit point Io+++
Mr Morden, I have a little irritation on the rim. Our mutual problem at Epsilon Eridani has proven somewhat of a rallying point. Elements with some loyalty to Earth have reported the location of a few of our wayward ships. We can't let more seditious elements from Earthforce link up with that station, they might pose a threat to Earth security.... and our mutual projects. Have your associates deal with them, won't you?
2260.04.16.19:21 Quadrant 5.
Personal Log of Anla'shok Warren: The Earthforce convoy has been running silent for days now. Captains Yoshi of the EAS Nemesis and Chuikov of the EAS Phobos seem uneasy allies. I don't blame them, misfortune seems to have dogged the group since Nemisis linked up. That's why I'm here, at last jump a shuttle went down from the Nemesis and encrypted Comms went out in tight beam one hour later from planet side. Three hours later, Whitestar 11 reported something on intercept course. Ranger One always said a war was coming and I'm damned if I'm going to let potential allies get picked off before it even gets going. The Earth ships are spread out in two groups, my idea, I've masked the signals so it appears they are moving apart rather than toward each other. Here it comes, first catch of the day.... In Valens Name, its a Shadow scout ship. I hope there aren't more out there.
It was too much to hope for, two more Scouts have shimmered out of Hyperspace right amongst some asteroids to the flank of Chuikov's main group. They've got an Omega, a Nova and a Hyperion, and my Whitestar, but they are going to struggle to hit anything between that debris and First Ones technology jamming their targeting. Earthside R&D may think it has beat Minbari stealth, but Shadow tech is something else. We are moving to assist.... wait they are targeting us. Another Shadow ship has come out of Hyperspace, much bigger. We've just lost the EAS Hobart, with all hands.
We are in serious trouble. The interceptors on the Earth ships have been running hot and the Shadow Scouts have inflicted minimal damage. The Shadow Cruiser was another matter. It's beam sliced a Hyperion class and a Scout finished it. Chuikov has ordered his Destroyer and the accompanying Dreadnought to Scramble! Scramble! The Thunderbolts will be able to seek out the Scouts in the Asteroids while the big guns try and line up the enemy cruiser.
The pilots score an immediate success with their missile strikes, taking out the armament on one of the Shadow scouts. However, many pilots report they are unable to break enemy stealth. Worse, damage is beginning to pile up on the Nova class Australia and several of the shots have have glanced our Whitestar. The Vorlon living skin of this ship has so far protected us but +++static+++
+++Rerouting command Protocols+++
+++Accessing bridge recorder EAS Phobos. Captain Chuikov:
Our strange ally is gone. I never quite trusted his half Minbari crew but he never steered us wrong. Where is Yoshi? Wait, there's the Nemesis riding to our rescue. The Shadow Cruisers are incredibly agile. Able to scuttle sideways like the spiders they resemble. They are out of arc of our main guns but the Australia has them lined up with its rail guns and the Nemesis just pegged it with its main beams. The black ship is trying to hide in asteroids but the Thunderbolts will root it out.
They seem to be able to regenerate and even shield themselves from damage? What the hell are they? That's even beyond what the Minbari have. No matter, I saw the last beam strike from the Nemesis shave off one of the black spines from the big vessel. Chuikov to Australia: all port cannons time-on-target on that smaller ship in the asteroids. Fire!
We've taken one of their smaller ships now and opened the door for the Thunderbolts to tackle the large enemy ship directly. The Australia didn't make it though. The old girl survived the Dilgar and Minbari wars only to die out here, fleeing from our own government. As soon as I find out who these guys are, I'll make them pay! All fighter wings, Davai Davai. Captain Yoshi, send your wings to clean up that other ship.
Whatever that thing was, the combined beams of the Nemesis and my girl Phobos have sent it straight to hell. We've lost the Hyperion Hobart, the Nova Australia, and the Whitestar. They've lost two of their small ships, and it seems all further stomach for a fight. Enemies have broken off. No Jumpoints.... just gone from all scopes. We are in a dangerous position. They were able to jump right amongst us without warning and we've lost three of our ships already. All ships emergency jump, take us away from Babylon 5. Time to lay low.
I had so much fun. ACTA is a game of special ship traits, designed to represent all the things we see go on in the show. I think Chris found it a bit rock-paper-scissors at times. Particularly when his fighters kept failing stealth rolls and the accurate guns of the Shadow Scouts negated the Whitestars stealth. On the other hand, the first fighter missile strikes scored a double crit and disabled the weapons on one of my few ships for effectively two turns (since fighters fire first). Earth ships also have interceptors, basically shooting non beam shots out of the sky unless I can concentrate enough fire to overload them. So while I may have had three 'Whitestar killers'... they struggled to even land a single hit on anything else due to lack of overall shooting dice. And that fighter disparity. Ouch, so many Thunderbolts able to roam with relative impunity. Final analysis: I killed one more skirmish point than Chris but he had done more damage to my big Shadow Cruiser while his Omegas were largely unscathed. We didn't have time to answer the question of whether I could use my superior manoeuvreabily to dodge beam arcs on two lumbering Omegas and pick one off but I am not confident, especially with a swarm of fighter-bombers dogging my steps.
Ruleswise, we used the Powers and Principalities rules including the optional rule that ships can ignore critical based on priority level. Raid level ships ignore one, Battle two, War four. Cries in ACTA are bad and in my opinion big ships like an Omega can become pointless if a good Shadow beam hit does something like impacting their steering or disabling their main beam. It's still possible but they would have to be taking focused fire. The other bigs rules change is that I made a critical-deck. Rather than more annoying rolling we just draw cards, one card for each crit will prevent boring double ups, though I have doubled the cards for the crits that happen more often on the table. I made ship cards too. There is the odd unfortunate typo and I see I accidentally made the the Nova the 'Early Years' rather than the 'Third Age' version but it's great to avoid referencing the books.
I'm real keen to play again. Maybe not with the Shadows though, unless someone else wants to use them as they happen to be beginner friendly, if lacking in fighters. They could drop a scout for heaps of supporting flights? I'll get on to the allied League, Narn and Minbari ships for the proper Army of Light. Sharlin vs Shadow Cruiser would be an Epic matchup.
Thanks for reading.