Here’s a First Look at Tachyon Squadron, the latest Evil Hat Kickstarter

Evil Hat and Fate are taking us to SPAAAACEEE with not one, but two new titles:  Tachyon Squadon and Fate Space Toolkit. It’s a surprise for me, to be sure, but a welcome one!

Tachyon Squadron is currently on Kickstarter, and has already funded with 33 days still left on the clock. But, don’t think there is nothing in it for you now that it’s funded. If you pledge, at any level, you get access to a preview copy of the game in the form of a text-only PDF! Not only that, at time of writing, a tier reward has already been unlocked to get us a second text-only preview of Fate Space Toolkit! I’ve already read through the Tachyon Squadrons preview and, as a big fan of Fate, I am both pleased and intrigued by the mechanical additions this game is bringing.

Enthusiasm is all well and good, I hear you you say, but you need a little more if you’re going to put down cold, hard cash on this. I couldn’t agree more. Which is why I’ve written up for you my initial thoughts on what Tachyon Squadron is bringing to our Fate tables. Read on to find out more!

No Guts, No Glory!

The world of Tachyon Squadron is set hundreds of years into the future. Faster-than-light travel, realized by hyperdrives, have taken humanity to the stars. After colonizing countless star systems, humanity found itself divided between two great star empires: the Stellar Republic and the Dominion of Unity. The Republic is a flawed but democratic society, and the Dominion  a militaristic, autocratic one centered around a single ruling family. I think we know were this is headed, right?

The history of Tachyon Squadron calls it the Great Galactic War or simply the War, which broke out eleven years prior to the events portrayed in the book. Mighty fleets clashed, great armies fought, and billions died. After a decade of interstellar warfare, the two sides worn down by attrition, an armistice was signed. Everyone cheered! There was even cake.

But the life of massive space empires are rarely simple, and the galaxy gasped as a renegade star system – 26 Draconis or more commonly Draconis – broke away from the Dominion of Unity and declared its independence. The Dominion said no you don’t, and sent in what was left of its starfleet to put the rebels down. This left the Stellar Republic in a bit of a pickle, as they didn’t want a new war but they also didn’t want to let pass the opportunity to thumb their nose at the Dominion. Thus they decided to recognize the independence of Draconis, while officially remaining neutral in the brewing conflict.

Unofficially, the Republic’s Intelligence Service worked with the nascent Draconian authorities to smuggle three squadrons of decommissioned starfighters into the system. Secured through back channels, these starfighters gave the Draconians a means to fight with. They only needed able bodies willing to risk life and limb in the name of freedom, adventure, and credits.

That’s where we come in.

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A space cruiser that looks like its taken some inspiration from an O’Neill cylinder. 

What About the Crunch? What’s New with the Crunch?

That’s a good story, but you wanna know what Tachyon Squadron is bringing us that we already don’t have with Fate Core or the other Toolkit books. Quite a bit actually.  I’ll touch on some items that stood out to me as I read the text.

What Happened to My Troubles?

After a primer, the books hits the deck running with its Creating a Pilot chapter. Immediately, I noticed that something was different. In the 30-Second Version, at the top of the very first page of the chapter, there was something missing under the second bullet point – the Trouble Aspect. It’s gone!

Yes, Tachyon Squadron is already shaking up our expectations of a Fate game and we’re only on page eleven of the book. In lieu of a Trouble aspect, we’re getting what’s called a Decompression aspect (as in the psychological kind, not the vented into cold, airless void of space kind). Decompression is two aspects in one slot, demanding the creation of an explicitly positive version of how your pilot unwinds and an explicitly negative version.

For example, T-Rex is a pilot and a known womanizer. His positive Decompression is Popular with the Ladies. But there are also rumors floating around that he Doesn’t Take No for an Answer.

Because of the potentially prickly nature of Decompression, the book is careful to include some advice on choosing Decompressions that may discomfit our fellow players – just change it and don’t be a jerk about it. Useful, if perhaps obvious, advice.

I am cautiously intrigued by Decompression. On the one-hand, those of us who play a lot of Fate having been making do creating single Troubles that have both positive and negative uses for awhile now which can make this decisive split seem a bit unnecessary. On the other hand, and I know I’m not alone here, I have ran plenty of games and had many conversations where creating a two-edged Trouble is challenging to the point of off-putting for players. Splitting it in two may alleviate this consternation, and could even bring back players who have struggled with aspect creation in the past (though that might be too bold a claim).

Time, and play sessions, will tell.

Get Your Gear, It’s Time to Fly

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Light ’em up! 

In this game, gear that offers a distinct mechanical advantage is handled like a stunt. Okay, no big deal we’ve been handling it that way for awhile now. There are a couple of twists though with Tachyon Squadrons implementation of it.

To start, gear stunts are free. Have as many as you’d like (or can feasibly carry) and they won’t cost you a single point of Refresh. However, and this is the other twist, they don’t provide a static bonus. Instead, a piece of gear allows you to turn a success into failure on the dice themselves! The book calls this maximizing a die, allowing you to turn up to two dice on a roll into a positive result.

Let’s say, for example, Queen is jumped by a pair of Dominion loyalist on the way home from a bar. She pulls her Trusty Blaster, represented as a gear stunt which allows her to maximize one die, and fires. On 4dF, she scores a plus, a minus, and two blanks. She chooses to maximize the minus die roll, for a Fair +2 result.

The example gear stunts in the book also incorporate a couple of other ideas that we’ve seen. Weapon and Armor rating make a return. Also, some stunts can have aspects attached that represent a drawback or a flaw – an idea we saw in Fate Toolkit. Finally gear stunts can have an effect such as the Stimpack, a once per session use stunt recovering a mild consequence as a free action.

For me though, the real excitement is in maximizing a die. It’s an idea I haven’t encountered before in Fate, but it’s something I look forward to implement in my games in the future.

Rules of Engagement

The chapter on combat in Tachyon Squadrons is pretty meaty.  I won’t go into all of it here (I’ ll save some for when you read it yourself), however I do want to touch on Engagements or Conflicts and the flow of an exchange because it’s a little different here. Engagements consist of four parts: detection, maneuver, action, and end of the round.

The Maneuver phase is probably the most crunchy, representing starships jockeying for position before going in for the kill. In this phase, you’ll write out a chart. Everyone will perform an overcome action with the Tactics skill (one of the games new skills). Each starfighter is then placed on the chart based on the result of their roll. Actions and stunts can affect this positioning, representing the ebb and flow of battle.

I can see how this phase can enforce the style of play, that knife distance starfighter combat, that the game is shooting for. That said, as a matter of preference, I don’t see any reason this couldn’t be handled with the standard mechanics of Fate Core and a little descriptive power. That said, this may be a boon for folks who like miniatures and more tactical play. I will certainly give it a try before forming a final opinion.

Do You Have the Right Stuff?

Overall, my initial impression of Tachyon Squadrons is very positive and I am very interested to see where Evil Hat are taking these ideas with the Fate Space Toolkit. I already feel like my pledge is paying off, and it will continue to do so as they roll out the next preview text. When that happens, I’ll be back here to talk about it. In the meantime, stay frosty and check out Tachyon Squadrons on Kickstarter.

 

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