Friday, November 12, 2010

Full Thrust, the way it was meant to be played

At GenCon last summer, I got bitten big-time by the spaceship wargaming bug. I demoed War Rocket and had a blast, but the pulp sci-fi setting didn't really resonate with me. I wanted more of a deep-space naval experience, kind of like Star Wars/Trek but without the added burden of a well-developed setting.

Enter Full Thrust, the granddaddy of spaceship wargames that's still going strong almost two decades after it was first published. The game is officially in its second edition (free on the Web) but a fan-made, creator-sanctioned PDF offers an updated representation of the game. It's called Full Thrust: Cross Dimensions, and it's also available as a free download.

The best part about Full Thrust is that players are explicitly encouraged to use any miniatures they want to assemble their fleets. There's an established universe for the game, and the publisher sells miniatures to go with this setting, but it's not essential for the playing experience. The creator notes several times in the rules that the game can be grafted onto any number sci-fi settings, including (of course) homebrew universes.

So, in true Full Thrust fashion, I assembled two mishmash fleets using miniatures from 4 different game lines and manufacturers. For smaller escort ships, I'm using the starfighters from Silent Death. For medium-sized destroyers and light cruisers, I'm using a handful of BattleTech/AeroTech miniatures. Heavy cruisers and battleships were drawn from Starfleet Battles and Firestorm Armada, both of which have some beefy, cool-looking ships.

To a casual player who's more familiar with branded miniatures games, my fleets might look like a mess. But to me they're a perfect example of the Full Thrust ideal: generic fleets composed of the various miniatures, painted up and ready to hit the battlefield (er, space-field?).

I'll make a little universe one day to go along with my fleets, but right now they're just the Gray Fleet and the Green Fleet. Original, huh?

We played our first game of Full Thrust the other night. Thankfully my opponent had played the game a time or two before, so between the two of us we were able to get up to speed quickly.

In Full Thrust, players plot each ship's movement on a piece of paper at the start of each turn. Then, all ships are moved at once. This puts players in the interesting position of trying to anticipate their opponents' maneuvers, and react accordingly. It's also possible that your ships will find themselves with nothing to shoot at because of your opponent's maneuvers. It took some getting used to, but by the second game I was really enjoying the movement system.

Combat is fairly simple, with most ships mounting huge banks of beam weapons, or various missile/torpedo systems. I'm told the combat resolution system inspired similar systems in Uncharted Seas and Firestorm Armada.

The deep space felt mat in these photos is from Hotz ArtWorks. It was a custom job, like almost all of his products, and it took about a month and a half to get to me in Chicago. But the wait was worth it...while playing at our local game store, about a dozen gamers wandered over throughout the evening to ask about our game, drawn solely by the gorgeous spectacle of two fleets exchanging volleys on the pretty felt mat.

The asteroids were pieces of lava rock mounted on flying bases, and the planet was a decorative bamboo ball I snagged from a hobby store. It looked great as a storm-wracked gas giant looming in the middle of the battlefield!


Dangerous Brian said...

Ah Full Thrust. Possibly the one wargame that gets more googling gamerhusbands and botfriends into bother than the all the rest combined.
So worth it though.

Supah said...

Love the hex map. And a month and a half for a custom? I could've drawn one of these up for you in 5 minutes, complete with hazards. Radioactive. Cosmic. Space. Dust. That's sentient. All it takes is the right crayola.

David said...

Great looking game. I hope you write up some more AARs in the future.

I have some Full Thrust material on my website if you're interested, though I haven't played in a couple of years.

Desert Scribe said...

Nice job. I agree, paint jobs can tie diverse ships together into a cohesive fleet.

Bosky said...

Terrific looking photos. Cool planet, cool mat, and cool ships. I've always meant to try Full Thrust, so maybe I'll give the Cross Dimension rules a go. I ended up as a Silent Death player instead, and I'm glad to see you snuck a few Salamanders and a Dart in there.

Unknown said...

Are there unbroken links to the Full Thrust rules? The ones in your interesting article are a disappointment, since I cannot follow up.

Patrick W. Rollens said...

Try googling it. That's what I do.