An Appreciation of Gratuitous Space Battles
My first experiences with tactical space combat gaming date back to the late 1970’s. I played such board games as Alpha Omega, Imperium, Star Fleet Battles, Federation Space, Star Fire, and the Starfleet Combat Simulator. While all these games were enjoyable in their own aspects, the level of record keeping involved in the more complex ones lead to such long game play that I tired of them over time. During the 1990’s, I tried my hand at making a customized board game for my own use. I took what I thought were the best aspects of Star Fire and the Starfleet Combat Simulator and combined them to create a game where the player could fight ships from various popular science fiction TV shows and movies such as Star Trek, Star Wars, and Babylon 5. I later played an early computer game based on Star Fire called Star Empires.
The great majority of my game play was against myself. What gaming I did with others usually resulted in me losing. I loved designing the ships, but obviously was not much of a tactician. I left gaming entirely for about a decade while I focused my hobby time on 3D CGI science fiction art of original spaceship designs. The 3D CGI work led to a hobby website called renderosity.com.
I am now approaching the end of my major involvment with 3D CGI art. I wanted a modern computer tactical space combat game to try out. I thought I would end up playing Homeworld, but noticed youtube videos for Gratuitous Space Battles. As I watched the sample videos, I realized that I just had to check this game out. Soon I was on the Positech website and becoming very excited about the description of the game.
Here was a game that focused on the apsects of gaming I found most enjoyable: designing the ships and setting up a sizable fleet encounter. Here was a game that did all the tedious record keeping for me but allowed a lot of customizing of ship designs. Here was game that remembered all the complex fighting rules for me and executed the battle in a glorious visual and aural way; all I had to do was watch the spectacle and enjoy the drama of the fight! I did not even have to expose my lack of strategy to another player since the game came with plenty of scenarios I could fight alone. Finally, the gaming sessions did not take hours to complete; I could design a few ships, set them up,and watch the resulting battles all in under a half an hour. Great for casusal playing while still interacting with my wife!
I quickly purchased my copy of the GSB Collectors edition and got the Parasite Fleet as well. I began exploring the GSB forums and was delighted to see that many of my favorite science fiction ships from Star Wars, Star Trek, and Star Blazers could be added, all for free! It was a great bonus to be able to get the Hilgarian ships from Homeworld and some dreadnaughts designed specifically for GSB as well. To lessen the learning curve of GSB, I studied the GSB guides by various fans as well as delving into the GSB forums. Due to all the useful advice I found, I was soon able to rack up enough honor points to buy many of the cool ships hulls and ship components I wanted.
I am very satisfied with my purchase of GSB! It is the computer game that most closely matches what I want in a tactical space combat game. I am very glad to be able to support an independent game developer like Cliffski. It is great to know that GSB has developed such a devoted following.
Finally, here are the hints I picked up from other GSB players that have proved most useful as I learn the game:
Create specilized types of fighters: fast fighters and dogfighters
Create specialized types of frigates and small cruisers: missle ships, EMP ships, beam ships, anti-fighter ships
Use the formation order and cooperative order together for frigates and cruisers
Use the Stick Together order for fighter squadrons
Large cruisers with a mixture of weapons survive longer if they have a cloaking module as well as any of the various repair modules
Keep updating your existing designs with higher technology ship modules and try refighting scenarios using fewer of these more advanced ships
Keen observation of enemy ships will easily show you the types of weapons they are carrying. Learn the various icons used for weapons systems by each of the races. Zooming in on individual ships during the battle is one of the must fun parts of the game.
GSB is as much about learning from each battle as it is about designing ever better ships
I hope my humble contribution adds to other players’ enjoyment of this outstanding space combat game.