Talk to anyone about gaming and they will automatically start off about the latest offering for X-Box, Playstation or the PC. Now far be it from me to knock video games - I've been known to occasionally throw my life away trying to beat my son on the little silver screen but this was not always so!
Take, for example, Federation Commander (FC), the newest gaming system from Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc (ADB), released in 2005. ADB has been around for a long time, originally being part of Task Force games, and FC is the next stage in evolution of Star Fleet Battles (SFB),the classic Trek board game designed by Steve Cole back in 1979.
Its a fast-playing starship combat board game that has addressed many of the problems with SFB that have turned new gamers away from it. For example everything you need to manage your ship is on one card and a lot of the more complex rules have been left out. What's more, it is good value, with a downloadable beginner's pack, starter set and expansion packs which are scenario based with new ships, new enemies, and new situations. This means that opponents fleets are more evenly matched and you are not faced with learning complicated additional rules. "Once you master the rulebook, there are no more rules to learn, just more ships to fly, more weapons to fire, and more worlds to explore."
Fleet Commander might not be entering the mega-buck market but it has a small core of gamers who are getting converts from the ranks of ex-SFB players who have become disillusioned by the growing complexity of the game and new gamers who find that they can play a game within minutes of opening the Starter-set box.
Sure, it might not have the special effects of Star Trek: Legacy or the fast-paced first-person-shooter action of Star Trek: Elite Force (still on a par with contemporary shooters). However it has a personal interaction value that these do not have. No amount of chatter over TeamSpeak can equal the personal banter of facing someone across a table. It's a good night out - or if you play them with your family, a good night in! Marine Cadet, Chris and I will be playing some introductory battles over the coming school holidays with some of the Sydney Federation Commander crowd. We'll let you know how we got on next issue!