Setting up and Managing the Stellar Conquest Full Thrust Campaign

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As a group of us were getting interested in Full Thrust, I decided that a campaign would be a fun way to keep people's enthusiasm up, as well as getting some battles fought.

A number of campaign settings and rules have been posted on the GZG-L list and various other websites over the years, but the simplest system I could find appeared to be that of the old Avalon Hill boardgame, Stellar Conquest, a near mint copy of which I happen to own.

I simplified the rules somewhat, and added Captain and Admiral ratings from a post to the GZG-L list by Sean Schoonmaker, plus some ideas from a set of campaign rules by Roger Burton West, and the result is the rules we played this campaign under (which can be found here on Chris' website as I haven't got round to coding them, myself).

Setting Up the Game
One of the great things about Stellar Conquest is the game board - a two dimensional star map of local-ish space with 55 star systems. In the board game, one draws cards for each star to determine the presence and type of main world in that system. The cards are sorted by star colour (yellow, green, blue, red). Yellow stars (F or G types), for instance, are more likely to have terran type planets which are crucial for population growth, while blue stars are more likely to have mineral rich planets that produce more resources.

So, my first task was to pre-generate all the primary worlds from the card deck. I recorded all this information as I went in a simple Excel spread sheet. Detail of my master star system listThen, with Traveller Book 6: Scouts in hand, I went back through the star list and roughly fleshed out each star system to determine the number of planets, their type and whether there were interesting things like asteroid belts present. In the example (left), I drew a card for the Sirius system that indicated two planets of interest - one a Minimal Terran world and the other a Barren, but Mineral Rich world. Each world can support a maximum population of 20 million people. Subsequently, I determined that the Sirius System consisted of 10 orbits, that there were two gas giant planets and that all the other orbits contained small rocky worlds of no particular interest. This level of detail is of great use as the campaign has progressed and battles have begun to take place, as it gives the commanders of each battling fleet options for deployment.

Another reason for doing all this pre-generation early was that as I was also playing in the game, by the time the game commenced I could no longer remember details of any of the 55 systems I had generated!

The initial set-up called for four strategic players so I fielded the Eurasian Solar Union, Chris Harrod opted for the Neu Swabian League, Antony Spalding, after initially favouring the New Anglian Confederation, decided on giving the United Nations Space Command a run (under the catchy title of 'the Oceanic Colonies'), and Paul MacQuibban became very keen on the Imperial Japanese Space Fleet.

Each player began with a 2000 Full Thrust point fleet, four Scout Troops (of 9 Scout Ships each) and 35 Colony transports, plus 25 Industrial points to spend as they saw fit. Basic movement for fleets and scouts was two hexes per turn. By a complicated method involving the average price of Scout ships, I had worked out that one Stellar Conquest Industrial point was worth 63 Full Thrust points.

The ESU and IJSF opted for more ships at start-up and the ESU, IJSF and NSL purchased the technological development “3 Hex movement”. The Oceanic Colonies bought Level 1 Industrial Tech (allowing the building of Factory complexes on colony worlds which would, in turn, increase the number of Industrial Points each colony would produce).

From the beginning I had decided that there would be a secret fifth power involved and this would be my 2005 Christmas present, the Kra'Vak. At almost the centre of the campaign map is the Draconis system, and this seemed the perfect place for them. So, I plonked all their colonists on Draconis V (which happened to be a Terran type world) and spent all their Industrial Points on ships (some 3500 points all up). Chris had mentioned the Berserkers as a possible fleet type for the campaign, and how they would move randomly in a battle. I shamelessly stole this idea for the Kra'Vak, except it was to be their strategic moves that were random.

To keep things simple, as I was both player and referee, I pre-plotted the ESU moves out to about Turn 7, working out a strategic plan of expansion. Then, as the other players' orders came in, I resolved all movement and scouting.

Managing the Game
An early report for the NSL Campaigns with any detail generate enormous amounts of information. The more freedom the players have, the more things they want to do which in turn creates more things to keep track of. So, to keep track of the ship builds, fleet organisations, technology developments and move plots, I constructed an Excel spread sheet for each player. This sheet also served as a turn report as each fleet, scout troop or individual ship would report its status and whether it had encountered something or not.

In the example below, we see a report for the Eurasian Solar Union for Turn 16 - a production turn.

ESU report for Turn 16, including builds Firstly, we have the move reports for fleets (and the establishment of a colony). Then, the reports for Scout Troops, which includes the exploration of the Indi System. "Flash" reports serve to highlight important information for the player - usually the presence of hostile ships or colonies, or the detection of Command Posts.

The Production phase report follows with increases to populations on planets (only for Terran or Sub-Terran worlds), number of Industrial Points produced, and what they have been spent on. In this case the technology development "4 Hex Movement", and a partial purchase of Controlled Environment Technology which allows settlement of barren Worlds - and ships.

As Production Phases happen only every four turns, most reports are a lot briefer than this one. Though the Oceanic Colonies, after splitting up their Scout Troops, generate about twelve separate Scout reports.

Chris's printout escapes down his hall At the time of writing this, we are 24 turns into the game. Chris, in a moment of madness, actually printed out his report and found that it ran “over a 100 pages long … glued together [it] is a scroll of paper that stretches the full length of my hallway (about 25 feet long).”!

To which we say, "Thank Goodness for computers!"

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