Star Trek Tactical Combat Simulator

Back in the early 1980s, FASA published one of my favorite things ever - the Star Trek Role Playing Game. Included with the first edition was the Star Trek Tactical Combat Simulator. 

This book provided a quick way to play out starship combat and though it shared more than a few similarities with Star Fleet Battles, the TCS was a distinct game in its own right. The rules were simple and provided a ladder approach with a basic, intermediate, and advanced version of the rules included in the book. It was all you needed to game out your starship encounters in a fast and easy way.

My first experience with TCS came about when I was looking for something to replace the mind-numbingly awful rules for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Without really getting into it, the game made everything a chore and provided all the flavor as a cardboard box. Maybe some people like it, but it just didn't get the job done for me. 

What did make Wrath of Khan work for me was its space exploration game, where you move from system to system and make alliances and explore strange new worlds. There was occasional ship-to-ship combat and I found that the system was so clunky that it basically slowed down and ruined everything else.

So I really wanted to keep playing Khan while jettisoning the game's combat system. What I found in TCS did the trick very nicely. To give you an idea of how the game works, I'll provide a playthrough of a basic and intermediate game. I'm still learning the ropes of the advanced game but I'll update with more when I've got that under my belt.

TCS Basic Game

At the start of each turn in TCS, you allocate power to your shields, engines, and weapons. Whichever side has the most movement points wins the initiative (has tactical advantage) and can decide whether or not to go first. After movement is combat and then there's a short end-of-turn phase where you get all your power back and get ready for the next turn.

In this scenario, I just wanted to explore the game a bit. I pitted the Enterprise C against a Klingon D-7.  I chose a large map, so it took a few turns of maneuver to get into firing range. We begin the action in progress with the Enterprise firing two phaser banks at 8 power each at the Klingon ship.

The first shot hits and the second misses. Klingon forward beams are damaged. Five points of damage to the Klingon superstructure. The Klingon ship returns fire and inflicts two hits to the Enterprise's superstructure.

In the next turn, the Enterprise went straight for the throat. The Klingon captain put all power into shields and weapons, reducing maneuverability to just one hex. The Enterprise went the other route. Ninety percent power to engines and the rest to weapons. 

In a stunning display of tactical ability (or incompetence if you're looking at it from the Klingon perspective), the Enterprise maneuvers behind the Klingon ship and fires point blank at it with both missiles. 

The first missile rips off the other beam weapon while the other plows through the meager rear shields and does 20 damage to the superstructure, rending the ship apart. The Enterprise wins an easy victory.

Well, that was really neat but it lacked the sensation of the Star Trek movies and TV shows where crews are rushing around everywhere to repair stuff and pieces of the ship are getting mushed by enemy fire. Let's see if the Intermediate Game can remedy this.

Intermediate Game

This time I dialed back on the Federation abilities by picking a slightly less powerful ship. So we have the USS Hood, an older Constitution class ship. We are still fighting a Klingon D-7.  

In the intermediate game, we are looking beyond just moving and fighting. This time, we need sensor locks and we also have variable damage (more than five points of damage will be spread to other areas beyond a single hit location). We also have repair ability at the end of each turn and we can also lose efficiency due to crew losses. But the basics of movement and fire still predominate.

Turn 1

In the first turn, both ships detect each other and steer towards the center of the map. The Hood fires at long range and fails to score a hit. The Klingons score two lucky hits at extreme long range.

The Hood's forward deflector shields are damaged and the ship's fore is without shields. Oops!

Turn 2 

The Hood veers right, hoping to keep its vulnerable forward section away from the Klingon ship. The captain keeps an even amount of energy to all systems (shields, engines, and weapons) and arms the missiles just in case we end up with the Klingon ship in our crosshairs. Twin blasts from the FH-3 phasers hit the Klingon ship, scoring a hit against the D-7's impulse engine and the ship's superstructure. The sensors are also destroyed. 

Oh man! Now it is a fight.

The Klingon D-7 hits three times, knocking the forward port shields out with the second hit and dealing five damage to the Hood's superstructure.

Repair Phase: Both crews frantically attempts to repair their damage and succeed. 

Turn 3

Hood Power Allocation: 70 per cent power to engines. The remainder is distributed equally to shields and weapons. We've got 7 Movement Points to play with. Lots of maneuver here. 

Klingons pour 90 per cent power to engines and 10 to shields. Going for maneuver this turn too.

Klingons have tactical advantage so Hood moves first.

They have created some distance here where their fire is more effective at longer ranges and the Hood deals less damage.

And true to form, both of the Hood's shots miss. The Klingons have nothing to fire back with right now.

Turn 4

Hood Power Assignment: 20 to engines / 10 Shields / 14 Weapons

Missiles armed. Port and Starboard Phaser banks ready to fire.

Klingon D-7A Power Assignment: 24/5/7

Hood fires its port beams. The first shot does five damage. The second does six damage. Another engine hit on the Klingon D-7A. Also one of the port firing beam weapons has been rendered inoperable.

Klingons score one hit on the Hood. The Hood has lost number six deflectors. The shields are gone on port rear side.

Repair Phase:

Klingons race to fix the engines. We roll a 1. Back up to full power.

But the Hood fails to fix its broken shield deflector after rolling a '10'.

Turn 5

Well, this is tense now. The Hood is totally exposed on its rear. If the Klingons get a shot in there, it's game over.

Klingons Power Allocation: 40/0/4 - no power to shields(!)

Klingons have tactical advantage. Federation moves first. 4 MPs. The Klingons stay on the Hood's port side. Its sensors have found the weakness.

Hood fires port phasers. Klingon sensors are damaged along with the engines. The Klingons return fire and inflict 6 damage to the Hood superstructure. The port shields are gone so the hits go right in. The Hood's hull is down to fifty per cent. It is time to get out of here!

During the repair phase, the Hood's crew manages to repair the number six deflector shields. Just a bit late on that!

If the Hood can make it to the edge of the board, it warps out of there. Let's see if they make it.

Turn 6

Last turn. Power Allocation phase: 

  • Hood 40/4/0 (engines, shields, weapons)
  • Klingons are 8/16/18
Hood has tactical advantage so Klingons move first.

Hood moves.

Neither ship is in the other's firing arc. Hood has reached the edge of the battlemap. The game is over! I would say that's a handy Klingon win though it was close at some points.

Klingons came out of it with 10 per cent damaged hull. Loss of sensors and one inoperable beam weapon. They also had a slightly damaged Impulse engine.

The Hood suffered considerable damage. Her hull was down fifty per cent. Major loss of crew. Despite all that, her vital systems were operational at the end of the battle.

Well now, that felt a lot more like Star Trek! Throughout the game, I was trying to maneuver carefully and take my opponent's weakness and damage into account. I was rolling die and hoping for good repair rolls. In general, I felt like I was at the helm of one of these ships and wincing every time I took a hit. I can't wait to try the Advanced Game, even though I feel this is enough for me. 

Most of the game is spent recording power allocations and looking up charts. For me, this was made much easier by copying the data into Excel and just manipulating it that way. The math isn't exactly hard, but there is a fair bit of erasing and recalculating. 

As I played this game solo, I randomly rolled a die to determine power allocation for both sides each turn. Then I made the maneuvers that made the most sense. Even playing solo, I found the game quite tense. If you like Star Trek, you should definitely check out TCS. It's a very decent game.


  1. Cool report! The intermediate game sounded like Star Trek to me :)

    1. Hey! Wow, it's great to hear from you! I'm over at twitter at sign hexsides. Hope you are well.


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