I had a chance to drop in for the Friday evening slot at our local gaming convention, Council of Five Nations in Schenectady, New York.
The event I pre-registered for was:
Fly Until you Die * Silent Death
Game Master: Stephen Watts * 22 Players * Teen14
(In Space no once can hear you scream). Miniatures Combat. This event is an eleven ship on eleven ship battle. Miniatures provided. No experience necessary. Rules explained and taught. May run longer than four hours. Beginners encouraged.
Now I haven't played Silent Death in years - and even when I did, it seemed like all my games were teaching newbies how to play, so I was looking for a chance to play some "serious" Silent Death for a change.
As it turned out, only five players signed up for this event, and one of those was a 'no show' - so it was me and a teenage kid versus Chris and Andy (my old adversaries from last year's Pacific battle).
Our fleet consisted of two gunboats (Drakar - the unpainted mini - and Star Raven - the multi-color ship), a heavy fighter (Sentry - red), two missileboats (Lance Electra - blue), and some fighters (Night Hawks - orange - and Star Ravens - green models). We had a slight edge in crew quality.
The enemy fleet had a Betafortress (a very large gunboat), two Hellbenders, two Pharsii IIs, some Thunderbirds and some Pit Vipers (small fighters). They had a superiority in missiles.
As the game developed, our opponents sent their Betafortress off to their right flank, and their other ships up the middle. We concentrated our five larger ships on the Betafortress, and swung our fighters out on our right flank to swing in against their main force.
As I mentioned, my partner was the teenage kid (his father was in another game). He was a bit impetuous (charging his missile boats straight into the melee in the middle of the board, for instance, despite being warned by the GM that his weapons had minimum range limitations!), and when told to stop peeling the 'china marker' pencils, explained that he had attention-deficit disorder. We had to watch him, as he kept knocking models over, bumping the gamemat, and kept forgetting the movement rules. He also talked non-stop ("Can we board enemy ships in this game?" "I played a game like this once, it was a naval game with Benedict Arnold." "What I think you should do with your ship is swarm the big gunboat..."). The GM had to give him a lot of coaching on the tactics. Nevertheless, the kid did play the game and was excited about it, so that was good.
Things went well for us in the furball that ensued on the right flank. My Night Hawks closed to short range and devastated their targets, while the kid's Star Ravens managed not to die like small fighters usually do. (By the way, note the clever ID collars which the GM made up for the ships - our side was green; theirs was red.)
Meanwhile in the gunboats battle, the Betafortress took a pounding against its front arc armor, then came about and got pasted again on its right side armor. Our opponents fixated on the kid's lead Lance Electra, trying to knock it out before the missile phase (almost!).
We all expected lots of death and destruction when it was finally time for missiles and torpedoes to come into play. The GM had a clever system to handle torpedoes - he provided laminated torpedo markers, and we could write the target's ID on the back with our china markers.
As it turned out, the torpedoes worked out to be more attritional than destructional... our fleets just got weaker and weaker. My gunboat (Drakar) eventually ran out of ammo for most of its weapons. The kid's Star Ravens were amazingly alive and unscathed, and lived to launch more torpedoes later in the game (forcing the Pharsii IIs to make a run for it). And the kid's unconventional tactics with his surviving Lance Electra (running away from the fight after the other Lance Electra was blown up) meant that he had an undamaged ship available at the end of the game - with a full missile load! (He kept trying to fire missiles, but couldn't make his lock-on rolls!)
In the later stages of the game, we managed to develop the dreaded Silent Death "conga line" - formed when one ship move, then another ship moves onto its tail, then an enemy moves behind it, then...
The game was scheduled for a 7pm to 11pm slot, although the event description did warn "May run longer than four hours." We played until 1:30 in the morning. (Well, the kid's dad did have to take him home around midnight.) In the end, Chris and Andy conceded the game when their remaining ships were too damaged to fight on (either no weapons or no drive) - I was down to my gunboat, damaged, out of ammo with half its weapons, but I also had the kid's fresh Lance Electra and two remaining (damaged but fightable) Star Ravens.