Deep Space Navigator

``Board'' game designed by Jim Craig, published by Tactical Templates

and Star Fighter

Design "borrowed" (without credit) from the above, published in Italy by Camelot
These remarks by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated January 13, 1998

Deep Space Navigator has one of the best vector movement systems ever invented for a space ship game. You play on a piece of paper, using different colored pens to represent different ships. A dot represents your current position. Each turn you take a plastic template (provided with the game), line up your current position and your past position, then make a mark equidistant forward in a straight line. This is where your space ship would end up if you don't apply any acceleration. (In the pure physics of spaceship movement beyond a gravitational field, slowing down, speeding up, and turning are all acceleration.) The template is graduated forward and backward, in left and right arcs, and you may change your course by picking a different spot on the paper, then counting out the number of change marks. This tells you how much fuel you spent to change course, and you mark off fuel. Each ship has a limited amount of fuel. (Too much, actually, but we reduce it by half or even by three-quarters for more tension.)

There are various beam weapons and torpedoes available, and the game has rules for them. A ship record sheet includes compartments - the ship can be hit from any of 12 sides. As you take damage, you tend to turn your wounded side away from the enemy - the game reflects logic in this sense.

The game is excellent, and includes paper preprinted with an asteroid field in case you want to try combat there. The few faults are: the weapons systems and hit location systems are adequate, but a bit lackluster, and it's hard to play with many ships - six is about the limit before things get messy. Also, the box cover art is some of the worst I've ever seen - a prime example of why game designers should hire graphic artists to do the art work instead of doing it themselves.

Still a fine game, and if you can find one (long out of print, the company is gone), snap it up!

Star Fighter

Boulder Games has a limited number of copies of Star Fighter, an Italian remake of Deep Space Navigator. While the ethics involved are somewhat questionable (claiming it came out of their school days, in a search for the perfect starfighter game - when it's obviously copied from Jim Craig's game), they have in fact improved the game in some ways. And, unfortunately, made it worse in others.

The improvements are:

  • A point-based system to build ships with, improving on some of the lackluster details I mention above.
  • A better combat resolution for some of the weapons.
  • A different approach to shields, which I've actually combined with the original to create my own hybrid rules I'm very happy with.
  • Rotated the ship sectors to resemble a clock - I like this better, but can't really use it since it doesn't match the original plastic template, which I prefer - see below.
The debasement is unfortunately fairly major: the plastic template has some problems:
  • The material is poorer quality - still serviceable, though.
  • The cut-out spaces are punched, deforming the template slightly.
  • Such single holes are also not as useful as the arcs in the original game.
  • They've changed the numbering system in a bizarre way - adding one to each distance for no reason I can comprehend.
  • They don't number the front arc, which is where you need it the most. You have to rotate the template constantly to check distances.
  • And worst of all, they've broadened the turning arcs making it easier to maneuver. This means you can make a major blunder and get out of it fairly easy. Deep Space Navigator requires more planning, and punishes bad moves more severely - which feels true, to my mind. A tactical-based game should punish major blunders.
The last fault is actually fairly easily remedied: ignore the third change-of-course arc on each side, and do not allow ships to change that much. You can then either add a new arc between the first arc and the midline, or simply have only two arcs, and charge +3 for a double change in course.

Aside from that, the game is fairly good, and adds some good ideas which I've used to spice up my games of Deep Space Navigator. I'm glad I got it, over all.

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