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Star Fleet Battles is an incredibly complex game, with new products coming out on a regular basis. In order to make sure that each product is as good as it can possibly be, Amarillo Design Bureau sends playtest copies of new releases to the Star Fleet Staff, players who review the material, check it for inconsistencies with existing material, and play it...usually several times.Why Playtest?
Most playtesters do the work because they love the game, and because they want to contribute to it in some way. Star Fleet Battles has had nearly unprecedented longevity for a board game. In a very real sense, this is due to the work of the playtesters, keeping the game from strangling itself on new products.
It's a lot of work; it's also a lot of fun.OK, What Do I Need To Playtest?
Each of these points deserves further discussion.
Playtests based off of the previous edition of SFB are a waste of your time, and ADB's, and ultimately, the player's. The Captain's Edition has so many revisions from the previous edition that it's almost always obvious when a playtest has been done with the Commander's Edition with a bit of work.
What can cause serious problems is when a subtle change between the rules versions creeps in, such as the many changes in the tractor beam rules. These take more time to catch than it's usually worth...and the more time ADB has to spend determining whether a playtest report is of value, the less time they have to develop new SFB products.
Please invest in the Captain's Edition before playtesting.
There are two kinds of SFB players. Those who want only finished products with no glitches, bugs or problems, and those who want new SFB stuff yesterday, and want to leave their mark on the game.
If you're the first kind of player, don't feel bad. You're in the majority.
If you're the second kind of player, seriously consider playtesting.
As a caveat, there is a reason why playtest material is being sent out to playtest. It might break. It might break spectacularly. You might see a problem with a scenario or ship or rule that slipped by everyone on the Staff, everyone at ADB and the original designer. Sometimes, the problems can be fixed; sometimes they can't.
Playtest material appears in Captain's Log as well as on this web site.
You can look at Communique in the Commander's Circle and playtest any of the "new" ships.
Playtesting for this game (work on elements of new expansions, tests of proposed changes, balance checks) is managed on the BBS under the F&E section. (Work on Advanced Operations is conducted in that topic under New Product Development). Go there to see what needs done. As work progresses on Advanced Operations (through late January 2001) and on "expansion fixes" (through April 2001) these new rules will be posted in the topic and you can find them by asking Jeff Lakind where the latest files are. The files often change every two or three days which is why we don't put them into the download section. Links for Ship Information Tables are included in the topics.
Amarillo Design Bureau is not in the business of giving things away for free. Playtest material is put up with the express purpose of soliciting reports and feedback on it to fix errors and make the products better.
In order to do this, when you find something that doesn't work, Tell ADB about it.
Email, to email@example.com, is the fastest way to get in touch with the Bureau. Emailed responses and reports also take priority over surface mailed reports, simply because it's more efficient.
A good playtest report will cover the following information:
An example follows:
Ship Playtest: D5X
Number of Times Played: 3
Opponents: Kzinti CMX, Hydran RNX, Fed BCJ
Problems: Initial impressions were that the BPV was too high. Playtesting changed impressions.
Changes Proposed: We feel that the D5X should have the wider D5 disruptor arcs; the C7 and B10 both have the wider arcs mounted on 30 box engines, and we're baffled as to why the SSD had the arcs reduced.
Worth Adding: A remarkably `fun' ship to fly, so yes. High priority for Module X1.
Battle One: CMX
As with most X-ship duels, the ship with the lowest drone firing rate ended up using its Gx racks in ADD mode. The limited lab facilities really hurt the D5X in this duel, but not enough to make it worth revising them. The CMX followed a wave of drones in, the D5X ADD'ed them down, and used its slightly superior phaser set and disruptors to pummel the CMX on the way in. X-ship reserve power made the medium range (5-8) fire relatively bloodless for the Kzinti. The Kzinti launched an SP early on, followed the drone wave in. The D5X player, seeing an opportunity for a clean getaway, fired overloaded phasers and disruptors at range 4, then turned off, launching its own drones. CMX waded through the drones, got to range 2, fired everything...then tractored the D5X which had burned its reserve warp to block damage. 6 Type-IX drones later, the D5X conceded.
Battle Two: Hydran RNX
The D5X stayed out of overloaded phaser range versus the RNX, which launched fighters. ST-X prove to be just enough of a threat to fire overloaded phasers at at range 4 (outside of phaser-2 range), and not fast enough off packs to catch another X-ship. When they packed, the D5X sniped with OL disruptors. Hydran RNX gatlings made short work of the Klingon drones from SPs and racks. Stingers never got within ADD range. Klingon ran the RNX out of Stingers, avoided getting decisively engaged, and then made periodic passes into range 8 to whittle the RNX down to size. Avoiding the range 5 OL phaser bracket allowed the disruptors to do significant damage.
Battle Three: Fed BCJ
D5X overwhelmed BCJ's drone defenses with 4 rack launched type IXs and 6 SP launched VIIIs, closed to range 5 with an ECM drone in attendance. ECM ended up cancelling out, while Fed phasers overwhelmed by drones. BCJ fires 6 OL photons, hits with 4. D5X is hurt, not quite crippled. OL phasers and disruptors chew large hole in Fed forward shield; two IX drones come in on another shield, doing light internals. D5X ends turn at range 5. Fed tries reloading photons, gets overrun, and dies on impulse 13 of turn 2.
Playtesters: Ken Burnside, Kent Wilkinson.
Scenario playtests are similar to the ship playtest above. Rule playtests and comments are handled a bit differently.
Rules are reported on in the Line-Item Format, which consists of the rule number, a brief (one or two word) keyword, a concise description of what you think is wrong, and WHY, followed by the date, and your name and Email address.
(G92.xx) : Damage Priority : We've found that if the IPG is hit, the Vudar DW is toast. It's almost as bad as playing an Andromedan and getting your DisDev hit. We recommend changing the IPG's DAC hit from "Drone" to "Flag Bridge". Depending on how many IPGs various other ships have, this may not be a good idea, granted. 13 Mar 96, Ken Burnside, firstname.lastname@example.org
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