Rocketmen Comments

So we managed to get a few games of Rocketmen in last night. The card distribution in the game seems a little wonky. I was, over a small number of packs mind you, able to get almost no Legion of Terra ships and my friend Ryan was, over the course of a case, able to get a huge number of rare Venus ships. Very odd.

Still I was able to trade for a large number of Legion of Terra ships so I’m not complaining :-) Why do I find evil so fascinating in games?

If you’re familiar with Pirates the game has a fair number of twists to it. The main change is that each ship has an AP (Action Point) rating. A ship can use an AP to move, shoot, make boarding attacks and mine resources. Each ship also has a number of pods that it can use to mount shield or weapon pods. So each ship can be given a slightly different load of pods to effect its performance in the game.

As well as the cargo rating from Pirates ships also have a Weapon Rating to determine how effective the ship’s weapons are and weapon and movement ranges. Unlike Pirates, where each mast has a distinct range and firepower, the ship has a single range for all its weapons. Rocketships, a particular type of ship in the game, have the Extended Range ability that allows them to pay AP to extend the range but at a cost of increasing the WR for the shot by +1.

Weapon pods are used to give a ship an attack. Shield pods are used to defend the ship by increasing the Weapon Rating (WR) of each ship firing on it by one per shield pod. Attack success is determined by taking the firing ship’s WR, adding +1 for each shield pod on the target, adding in any other modifiers and then trying to roll that combined total or higher on 2d6. There is far more of a curve to combat than in Pirates.

What that means is that unlike Pirates you can never really be certain that you are outside of the range of your enemy. Or suer how many attacks it can make. A ship in Rocketmen, especially ships with long movement, can easily cross a third or even a half of the playing area in a single turn. And since a ship can fire as many times as it has pods. Some ships also have a special ability to allow them to either fire multiple pods or make additional shots for no AP cost.

So there is a balance between how much a ship can do in the game but it is possible that the ship that last turn moved across the board to position itself within striking range can now use that AP power to shot in the next turn.

Cruisers in the game can be quite difficult to remove since they all have the Armoured Hull ability that increases a firing ship’s Weapon Rating by 1. Since quite a few ships have WRs of 7 or even 8 this has a decided impact in the game. In our game last night some of my ships were needing to roll an 11 or greater to hit Ryan’s cruiser. Ouch!

Despite the fact that we were supposed to be trying to mine resources Ryan and I basically spent all of our time trying to blow the hell out of each other’s ships. One area where this game pales slightly in comparison to Pirates is that there is a greater depth of interaction between characters, crew and ship in Pirates. But then this is only the first iteration of Rocketmen so that is really to be expected.

Since there are no firing arcs or turning restrictions its quite easy to move and maneuver ships into good firing positions. Hitting is another matter :-) Given the high WR ratings of a lot of ships its actually rather tricky sometimes to hit ships. Especially cruisers. So typically ships with either a lot of weapon pods or with characters like the Weapons Officer, who reduces the WR rating of the ship by 2, can have a fairly significant impact. As long as you can hit. I had a Legion of Terra ship with four weapon pods on it and spent two turns missing with every shot.

We played the game at its default 30 point size with no reserve fleet. The next batch of games will be with a reserve fleet and I think we may look at increasing the initial point allotment from 30 to 50 points to make it possible to have squadron elements that are defending mining ships. At 30 points there isn’t enough room in a fleet to have ships that are specifically dedicated to mining.

So certainly a fun game. We both had a good time playing it and I definitely want to play again. Especially now that I have some Martian and Legion crews. But the 30 point fleet size is something that I am sure most people will quickly discard to allow for more interesting games.

Definitely a lot of potential in it and it will be fun to see what they do with the next expansion.

A few comments I forgot to add earlier.

Some of the smaller ships (the fighter squadrons mainly) are a it of a PITA to re-assemble. I’d actually suggest leaving the fighters assembled once you put them together. A Mercury fighter squadron might have as much as 16 individual pieces used to construct four fighters.

I have a few comments about the strategy of the game but I am going to leave those for now until I have had a chance to play the game with a reserve fleet and also play at a higher point total.