Stars&Lasers is a game of Space-borne combat designed by Mac Cross.
I was introduced to it while gaming in the South London Warlords, a club known for being the organisers behind the Salute!. If you don't know what Salute is, please, check http://www.salute.co.uk/!!
As said, Mac introduced me to this fantastic game short after my arrival to UK (in the non-pandemic 2017!).
I was looking to use my Battlefleet Gothic (BFG) starships in a game, and he told me that any spaceship could be used for his game! “Nice!” was my answer. And so it began.
He sent me a copy of the basic rules, that in this game, are also the advanced rules. That is the first strong point of the game. Simple, direct rules.
After a little explanation on how does the turn for each ship goes, we went straight into a battle. And what a battle! The game plays with the “inertial” mode with a simplified system where your ship has to move all its thrust (logical!) and can accelerate or decelerate for 2’’ of movement BEFORE moving. After that, the only way of “slowing down” is by “zigzagging”, like real naval ships do. Each turn is 2’’ of movement, so be aware of having enough speed! Also, take care of asteroids, as hitting them will mean lots of nasty damage to your hull!
But I forgot to mention on how you get to activate your ships! Each ship gives you a die, and each die from both players go into a bag. That is the “activation bag”. Each time a ship needs to get activated, you draw a dice, the colour indicating which player can activate a ship.
Back to the turn. Once you moved your ship, you can fire, launch your missiles, load new missiles (I call them torpedoes!) and launch starfighters, starbombers or boarding ships (someone said Space Marines?). Shooting is as easy as looking at the stats of your starship, each point of “firepower” is a D20 you can assign to shoot at an enemy ship within arc of fire. Look distance and what you need to hit is… rolling equal or more than that distance! As easy as that. For me, used to the complicated Artillery Table from BFG or from modifiers from other games that was a welcome shock. There are some weapons with different rules, and bombers and starfighters can only shoot as far as 6’’ away (meaning that a 6+ always hit for them), but all of them use this rolling a D20 for hitting rule. Each hit overloads a shield, except torpedoes and bombs, they bypass them. Once you got no shield, you against hull. Each hit that damages the hull, can critical hit the ship… With different and sometimes devastating effects.
Perhaps I miss some special rules for ship to ship boarding and ramming. But perhaps the good thing of this game is the elegancy of its simplicity. I have since introduced also introduced many people to it, and most of them loved it. We are even playing with old BFG ships with this game, as we see it simpler to include into our 40k Narrative campaign.
The game is as easy as this. It gives you a very good grab of spaceborne ship to ship combat, and Mac keeps updating it with new rules, new scenarios and with continuous material. You need to think on how to position your ships regarding your and your opponent speeds and manoeuvrability.
Like a chess game, you need to try to think where your enemy will be and where you want to be then to be able to unleash a great volley of firepower on them. It allows for different tactics (for example, I am more of the “herding torpedo volley” while Mac is more on the “point-blank torpedo launch”) and the experience of a big ship being mauled by small, more manoeuvrable ships is sometimes priceless.
As I said, it is the game I always use now for spaceship combat, giving you what is for me a nice balance of “realism” (we are talking about spaceships!) and complexity. And for the most… You can use any spaceship model you want!!!