Full Thrust

Science Fiction Miniatures Rules

Published by Ground Zero Games, 1994. (Distributed by GeoHex in the U.S.A.)
This review copyright 1995 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated March 10, 1997

I've always loved games of spaceship battles. The first one I ever played is still one of the best: GDW's Triplanetary. Since then I've tried a score of space ship combat games: some are good, some are poor, some are mediocre. The best ones are those that represent vector movement in a simple, playable manner - the main reason Triplanetary is still a great game.

Full Thrust, a set of miniatures rules for space ship combat, is one of the few games that surpasses Triplanetary. Nominated for the Origins award on the 1995 ballot, it lost out to Blood Bowl as best miniatures rules. But in my book, it wins hand down. This is by far the simplest and most-playable vector movement rules I've ever seen. Other games may have more intricate rules that return more realistic results, but Full Thrust combines extreme playability with very satisfactory vector movement. In my book, if a system is only 10% as complicated as another system but returns 90% of the realism, the simpler rules system is by far the better one.

The game runs very smoothly and intuitively. Each ship has a thrust rating, usually from 2 to 8. Each player plots his ship orders and they are revealed simultaneously. A written order is easy to write - a sample might look like:

Ship     Vel      Order     Vel    Order   Vel   Order   Vel   Order   Vel
 A        4       +2,S1      6
 B        6        P2        6
 C       12        -        12

Ship = the ship identifier, usually on the model base.
Vel: current velocity at the start of the turn.  After each order, add
       the change in velocity to the previous velocity, and record the
       result under the next Vel heading.
Order: + or - means change in velocity, S or P means turn to port or
       starboard a number of points.
So ship A is increasing its velocity from 4 to 6 (``+2'') and is turning one point to starboard (right) (``S1''). Ship B is maintaining its current velocity and is turning two points to port (left) (``P2''). Ship C has no change in either course or velocity: it goes straight ahead its current velocity of 12", which will also be its velocity at the start of the next order phase.

A turning template that fits over a ship model is provided with the game. A point is simply one twelfth of a circle, or 30 degrees. Ships turn half of their points at the beginning of movement, and half at the mid-point of movement. So ship B would turn one point to the left, move three inches, turn another point to the left, then move a final three inches.

A ship may change velocity by its current thrust rating. It may change course by half its current thrust rating at most. Change in velocity and change of course combined cannot exceed current thrust rating. A ship rated with Thrust 8 is therefore much more maneuverable than one rated with Thrust 2.

The game lists standard ships of different sizes, and has extensive rules on customizing your own, using a point-based system. Various weapon types are provided: beam weapons, pulse torpedoes, missiles, fighters, mines, needlers, submunition packs, etc. Some weapons can fire in narrow arcs, others in wider arcs - but you pay more points for the privilege. Shields and point and area defenses can protect a ship, and there are miscellaneous other systems as well. Each is rated for the space it takes up in a ship and point cost. The cost of a better thrust engine is related to hull size - all fairly simple and logical.

The game has a simple critical hit system that is very enjoyable. Each ship has one or more ``threshold'' points, depending on the size of the ship. When a ship takes enough damage to move it over a threshold, the owning player rolls a die for each system on the ship. A roll of six means the system is hit critically, and is out of commission. However, a successful damage control roll later can reactivate most systems. Hitting the engines the first time cuts the thrust rating in half, and hitting it a second time breaks it entirely - no more change of course or velocity until a damage control party can repair it.

Various other rules, such as for asteroids and space stations, and some scenario suggestions are also provided. The supplement, More Thrust, details more rules, some alien races, tournament rules, and more scenarios. While not mandatory, More Thrust can enhance your enjoyment of the game - especially the new fighter rules.

The net effect of these rules is a game that runs smoothly and easily and most enjoyably. Add a nice star map and some good-looking ship models and you have a visually stunning game, as well. All in all, Full Thrust is highly recommended to any science fiction gamer.

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