Game Review: Full Thrust

This review is the result of my first few games of Full Thrust with Neldoreth last Tuesday. Unfortunately, my camera batteries died immediately and I wasn’t able to get any photos of the action.

*** Update (April 4, 2011): Neldoreth hooked me up with a photo that he took of our game and I’ve included it later in the review! ***

Full Thrust

Full Thrust by Ground Zero Games
Official GZG website

Full Thrust is an easy to comprehend skirmish-style rule system for space ship combat. It includes basic and advanced rules, multiple battle scenarios, ship design rules, and a campaign system. In addition to the Full Thrust rules, there are several expansion supplements – More Thrust and two Fleet Books – which expand the rules. All of the rules are currently available for download, for free. This review will cover elements from Full Thrust and More Thrust.

Each player starts with a fleet of ships that can range from small escort class ships to massive capital ships that carry multiple star fighter squadrons. Each ship is represented on the board by a model or token. In my case we used my ships from Games Workshop’s Battlefleet Gothic range. For each ship, the players have a paper Ship Systems Display (SSD) to track damage and reference the various capabilities of the ship. Each operational or weapon system is represented by an easy to understand icon and as damage occurs to systems or the hull, the icons are cross off. At first glance this can seem quite overwhelming but you quickly learn how easy it is to use and reference. Tracking damage this way also eliminates the need to have counters all over the table.

Each game turn is broken down into two basic stages, movement and shooting. The movement phase is perhaps one of the most interesting and nerve wracking aspects of the game. Full Thrust factors in inertia, so each ship begins the game moving at a rate defined by the scenario. Each ship has a number of Thrust points that are used to either change velocity or turn the ship. Direction of travel is tracked using a twelve point heading system that is static in relation to the table. So a ship heading at 12 o’clock is moving in the opposite direction of a ship heading at 6 o’clock. Changes to heading occur gradually during forward momentum to simulate the effect of inertia. The nerve wracking part of this is that each player secretly plots the movement of all their ships for the turn and all players reveal their movements simultaneously. All movements are carried out before the phase is finished. This can lead to some interesting results as you truly have to anticipate your opponents movements correctly or you may end up flying right past them in the ‘wrong’ direction unable to shoot! This could be the most time consuming part of the game but it goes by quickly because all players are actively participating (little waiting for someone to do their thing) and once you get the plotting system down, you can plot your moves much faster.

In the shooting phase, players take turns back and forth selecting one of their ships and shooting at an enemy ship. The game mechanic for this is very elegant and consistent. With few exceptions, the range between the shooting and target ships is used to determine the number of dice that will be rolled for each weapon being fire. The dice are rolled and for each result of 4 or 5 the target takes one point of damage and for each result of 6 the target takes two points of damage. This method of determining damage is consistent among nearly all weapons including attacks made by fighter squadrons. There are various optional systems that ships can be equipped with to mitigate damage as well as weapons that operate slightly outside of the general damage scheme but overall it is consistent. Each point of damage is recorded and when a ship has no more damage points left it is destroyed. This can happen very quickly, especially in smaller escort ships that may only have 3 damage points!

Each ships damage points are divided into a number of threshold levels depending on the number of damage points they have. When each threshold is crossed, the player rolls a die for each system on the ship. For every roll of 6, the system being rolled for is destroyed and unusable for the remainder of the game. The likelihood of system destruction gets progressively worse for ships with multiple thresholds, for every subsequent threshold cross, the numbers needed to destroy a system increase. For example, after the second threshold is reached, each system will be destroyed on a roll of 5 or 6. This can lead to some interesting situations where you have ships with completely inoperable weapons systems, or a ship with a destroyed drive system that just continues moving in the same direction and velocity for the remainder of the game! Space is indeed a dangerous place. This is another nerve wracking aspect of the game because even though your ship may have suffered relatively minor damage to the hull, there is a chance that you will be crippled in some other way. Players go back and forth shooting with each of their ships and resolving damage until they have all passed or fire. One of the basic strategies here is to try and take destroy opponent ships before they have a chance to shoot with them. When all intact ships have fired, a new turn begins and players begin plotting their next movements.

The various weapons and systems cover a multitude of options ranging from energy based weapons like beams, photon torpedoes, and the mighty nova cannon, to explosive weapons like missiles and mines. There are also starfighter squadrons that can be launched from carrier ships, defensive screens, cloaking fields and anti-fighter defensive batteries that can take out enemy fighter squadrons.
Despite it being our first time playing the game we managed to get play three games, each taking around 45 minutes. This was using the basic scenario though, so the fleets were rather small and consisted of 3 escort class ships and 2 cruiser class ships. For the final game, we each added a capital ship just to change things up.

The rules for this game were very easy to pick up and we only needed to look things up a hand full of times to double check things we couldn’t quite remember. Not too bad for our first play through. Despite the simplicity of the rules, the tactical depth of the game is immense. Very similar to Kings of War in that sense. I look forward to playing many more games using these rules and possibly tying it in to some sort of Warhammer 40k battle, with orbital bombardments and reinforcements being dictated by the results of the Full Thrust battle.

The ship design and campaign rules are a very nice addition. Although there are plenty of pre-designed ships provided with the rules, the opportunity to customize my own ships is exciting. I’m currently currently working working on an automation spreadsheet to make the process really fast and will make it available on the site when it is complete. I may even work on a web-based version that wouldn’t need to be downloaded. I haven’t read over the campaign rules at this point but if the rest of the rules are any indication, I expect them to be quite sensible and Neldoreth and I will no doubt set up a campaign in the near future. I’ll be sure to post about that when it happens.

So there you have it, a basic overview of Full Thrust. I highly recommend this game to anyone interested in space ship combat. There are other options out there (Battlefleet Gothic and Firestorm: Armada) but in my opinion you can’t beat a game that is elegantly designed and simple to learn, yet covers all the bases…. not to mention the fact that it’s free!


One Response to Game Review: Full Thrust

  1. HappyDD says:

    One comment, as the observer of this game: The first two games were played with frigate- and (destroyer?)-class ships, that is, small ships that were easy to fly around and nimble. When WWaSP and Neldoreth added the Dreadnoughts in the third game (big, bad ships with tons of guns, armour, and mass displacement) it added a new level of strategy. With the little ships they raced towards each other, guns blazing, at max speed. With the dreadnoughts, this strategy didn’t work as well. Picture two fat kids in a pool riding inner tubes splashing towards each other at top fatty speed. When the dreadnoughts were in range, it was glorious destruction, but then the bigger ships couldn’t put on the brakes fast enough and drifted by, out of the battle.

    I think that once players get that mechanism is under control, there will be some really exciting duels that really mimic what space battle should look like.

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