Jul 022009
 

The Challenge of Starship Command: out-thinking, outshooting, and out maneuvering your opponent in a warp speed dogfight.  Your crew lives or dies on your skill and cunning, asyou turn to bring your strongest shields and most powerful weapons toward your enemy – an enemy that might be another Starship, a massive robot Berserker or an alien being that dwarfs even your massive ship.

At least, that’s what the back of the box says.

I fell in love with boxed strategy and RPG games when I was about 12, which was not too long after this game was first published.  I had a decent collection of games that featured 2D folded paper maps, card board tiles that you punched out of the original sheet and then hoped to god you didn’t lose and complicated rules.  Also generally featured were damage sheets, reference manuals (purchased seperately of course) and the wide world of house rules.  Car Wars, Battle Tech, Panzer Brigade and more.

One game that always eluded me though was Star Fleet Battles.  A friend one town over had the game and refused to play it as he wasn’t a big fan of strategy games.  He had purchased it only to save it as a collectors item.  Even though I wasn’t a huge Star Trek fan, I longed to take control of my own federation ship and match wits with some other kid who also longed for the same.

A few weeks ago, I was wading through a local library book store with my family and what did I spy?  The Deluxe edition of Star Fleet Battles!

trek1Note: Click the images for larger versions.

I couldn’t belive my eyes.  I mean, we had arrived at the sale a few hours after it started, going on a whim and here was this gem, just sitting there on a table.  I scooped it and another game (more on that one later) into my loving arms and went in search of a volunteer to ask how much it was.

The clerk thought for a bit and then said “well, the games are a dollar each.  So two dollars for both games.”  Two dollars!  Talk about random geek findings heaven!  I flipped the box over, saw the 1979 copyright date, dug into my pocket and placed two crumpled dollar bills on the table.

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I know that this isn’t like finding an early edition of some major comic book at a yard sale.  I doubt anyone else at the sale even realized how old the game was or how much I wanted it.  Still, it was such a cool find I could not keep myself from glancing around.  Somewhere, there was a grown up person who had been a 12 year old kid in possession of this game and it had ended up donated to a libary book sale.

I ogled the back a bit more.

  • Over 200 multi-colored full thickness die-cut counters that represent the ships of seven fleets.  Full thickness!
  • a 20 x 24 inch tactical map.
  • Comprehensive rules of play.  They weren’t kidding either.
  • Easy to use game charts and displays that reduce the complexities of space combat.

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With my kids safely ensconced in the childrens section, I sat down beside them and gently opened the box to see what I would find.  I got a lot more than I bargained for!

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The first thing I saw in the box was a copy of “What’s Hot” magazine, Issue 8 published July 1989, featuring a look inside Star Trek V.  What’ s Hot was published quarterly by General Foods corporation.  As such, it contained a lot of ads for the company’s products.  Things like Kraft Cheese and Kool-Aid.  I occasionally came across these magazines in my  youth and this one was in pristine condition!  not only did it feature Star Trek V, but it had a pull out poster commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1st man on the moon, along with the send away insert that came with the original magazine.

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Whoever put these things in this box, they did so and then never touched them again.  Everything inside was in near mint condition.  The box itself showed a little bending and some scratches and scuffs but not much else.

Under that were two other little gems.  The first was Star Trek: The Next Generation magazine, from June of 1989.  Cool!  The magazine features blueprints and designes from the show, detailed summaries with pictures of three episodes, one of four collectible posters (still stapled into the magazine like the day it was published), interviews and a bunch more.  It was a kick just looking at the ads!

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Also included was the Star Trek Ship Recognition Manual: The Klingon Empire (1983) by Fasa.  They not only handled the tactical side of Star Trek for many gamers, but also published Battletech and Mechwarrior among many others.  Clearly I had stumbled on some small part of a Trek fan’s collection.

Remember those easy to use game charts and displays, as well as the “Over 200 multi-colored full thickness die-cut counters that represent the ships of seven fleets”?  These things were all in the box, and they weren’t even touched. No die-cut counters were punched, no old pencil marks or eraser stains on the sheets, the map itself was beautifully folded.  Clearly this game had never even been played.  The light blue manual was uncreased and in wonderful condition.

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That moment of digging through this box in a libarary store room with my kids next to me and the smell of a 30 year old game wafting up – it was for that moment like being 12 again and prying open a brand new game for the first time.  Above you can see some of the ship’s detailed out in ‘damage blocks’ that can be colored in as the shields fail and physical damage occurs.  Also the rules book, the un-punched die-cuts and the folded map.

At the bottom of the box I found two sixes, two unopened ziploc style baggies for the die cut counters and a “MASTER SHIP CHART — COMMANDER’S STAR FLEET BATTLES”.

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This was done up on beautiful, old style perforated dot-matrix printer paper with the spooly bits torn off the sides.  I don’t believe this was native to the game itself.  I know that this game was later released as a computer game as well.  I’m wondering if this is either a hand made chart that someone put a lot of time and effort into compiling or a print-out from the later released computer game.

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The board game archaeologist in me can’t help but wonder what happened to this game between 1979 and 1989.  Someon purchased it and never played it.  Then a few other Star Trek collectibles were deposited in the game box between ’83 and ’89.  It’s my guess that after 1989 the box wasn’t opened again. Then perhaps someone’s Mom, getting on in years and cleaning up the place decided to donate it to a libarary book sale 30 years after it was first published.   That’s quite a journey.

Will I play it now that I have it?  Probably not.  The game is now safely ensconced on my book shelf.  I did spend some time paging through the rules though.  I’m older and I have a lot less time on my hands.  I also now see the value of keeping something like this for the sheer nostalgia value.  And my cats would probably eat the die-cut counters.

[tags]star trek, star fleet battles, board games, geek heaven[/tags]

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

  11 Responses to “Star Trek’s Star Fleet Battles – Published in 1979 by Task Force Games. Purchased by me for a buck at a library”

  1. I’m a long-time SFB’er, and I have seen one and all of those components.
    That Master Ship Chart should have been native to the game, not homemade. It looks like you have an early-mid-80’s box there. The Commander’s Edition rulebook is the third(?) edition of the rules, the tractor-fed ship chart came with it.

  2. Hey Lee,

    Thanks for the info! Much appreciated as I like to know what it is I have. :)

  3. WOW! Great story. That’s the biggest bargain ever! And what a cool bonus items you got. I can imagine the excitement :h) Sometimes I buy hometaped TV VHS with no label just to have some fun looking what was taped.

    Congratulations for the find… It seems that the propietary was a Star Trek Fan, but probably found the game too complicated.
    I don’t know if I would punch it. It survived that way for 30 years! Who am I (or you) to put an end to that?

  4. As noted above – looks like you have the “Commander’s Edition” of the game (roughly 3rd edition, sort of). The designers re-released it again under their own company name recently (IE., not through Task Force Games), and the “Captain’s Edition” is still in print – cleaned up a lot from that, and with updated graphics.

    ALSO – since you mention lack of time, you may be interested to know that the designers have made another game based on the same license. Kind of like an ‘SFB lite’ – full-color ship sheets on laminated cardstock (with top-down drawing of ship silhouettes as background for them), simplified rules, faster play. Check it out – “Federation Commander: Klingon Border” was the first one in this new series. Very cool game, IMHO.

  5. @Xander I came across the Federation Commander game when I was online researching SFB. It looks like a lot of fun as well.

    @VIruete Thanks! I was completely, jaw hanging down surprised to find this sitting in front of me.

  6. The rules in the captains edition of the game published from 1999 onwards by Amarillo Design Bureau (ADB) have eliminated many many loopholes, errata and unbalanced rules from the commanders.

    However the commanders SSD’s for the most part (say 75% not all) are correct/unchanged (many have been corrected/deleted/changed etc and are snazzier/more detailed). You can download some examples of the updated captains SSD’s I think still from the adb website. Check out the tournament ship ones which are free i think.

    The updated captains master rulebook can be ordered as well for $50 – it has 95%+ of the rules from basic, advanced missions and most of the expansions (except for r series of ship expansions and ssds). Id probably recommend that since it is the cleanest up-to-date complete ruleset if you get into it. (i have it and just about everything through expansion R11).

    If you play with an existing SFB group, the updated rulebook is probably all that you will need assuming you have access to other players with the updated SSD’s etc. Your counters etc will still be the same as well as the basic map. You can probably copy the race SSD’s you will be using from theirs (assuming they can provide you with copies of the SSD’s you will be using).

    Also check out SFB online – if you subscribe to that you will be set as most of the “captains edition” ships are all in the game i think. (not sure if All ssd info is included) Its been a while since i subscribed.

  7. Ben, this sounds like a great jumping point. I’ve considered doing something like this but never put it into action. I’d love to see this expanded upon. Given the demographic shifts you have a huge potential to not just have the obvious zombie conflict but also a potential civil war between the orcs and other “higher” races. Then if you continue down a long storyline you could potentially have the rumored wizard collage come into play and rise up against the now standing cleric hierarchy.

  8. Great story. I too played the Commander’s Edition briefly in the 80s. I stashed mine away and finally gave it away a few years ago.
    I just bought another copy off of eBay in fairly complete condition. I can’t wait until it arrives.

    From the photos, it looks like you have the second version of the Designer’s Edition. The Commander’s Edition was first published in the early 80’s with a change in the rule numbering system. The back of the Commander’s Edition box was the same text/pictures as the Designer’s but in blue. The Second version of the Designer’s Edition front box cover is the same as the 1st version of the Commander’s Edition (or vice versa).
    They then published a second version of the Commander’s Edition called Star Fleet Battles Volume One.

    Anyway, congratulation on your find. You really should learn to play it.

  9. I am a long time SFB’er also. Bought the Designer’s Edition in 1979 at a RPG store in the Omni in Atlanta. I have long since wore it out and lost it. If I remember correctly it had a blank cardboard bottom and said Designer’s Edition on the box. Still you found a great find. I paid $36 for it in 1979.

  10. I hope you understand if I say that it is now a moral imperative: I am required to hate you! LOL

    I was introduced to SFB back in high school not long after it first came out. I’m pretty fair at strategy games, but out of all the games I played against the fellow who introduced me to SFB, I only ever won one game.

    I haven’t played in quite some time, but now one of my co-workers is interested in learning, so it’s time to pull out the old SSD’s again!

  11. Hey Clif,

    If I can ever find anyone to play this, it’s on the top of my “Stuff I can’t get people to play with me” list.

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