Thanks for kick-starting this thread and letting an old-school tactics grognard reminisce.
I began my love/hate relationship with SFB back in the early '80s. Stayed with the game through the chaotic mess that was the “Addenda” time period, when every other rule seemed to be changed at least once and even some of the changes altered or superceded other earlier addenda. As Colonel Bogie said, “Madness…utter madness!” Gave up the game, cold-turkey style, in the late 90s and do not plan on playing it again.
The source material developed for the game universe’s background is absolutely amazing – much more than canon Trek from the post-1969 era concerning the later adventures of the original series’ crew (i.e., Paramount films 1 and 3 through 7; 2 and 6 were actually really good!). The game background is very much of a “Cold War goes hot” theme, and its internal consistency deserves applause. Seeing a much more pessimistic, militarized Federation was sobering yet fascinating – doubly so when viewing the greater strategic situation involving the Federation’s allies as well as enemies and neutrals. The “General War” was very much like a galactic version of Europe in the summer of 1914, and the way it played out in SFB terms was handled pretty well, on the average.
However, the persistent egomania of the designer coupled with too much “tech sloshing” between the different races’ weapons and entire hull classes being copycatted, plus years of “ruler lawyering” that many players excelled at instead of solid tactics, left me permanently soured. When a game system is mercilessly flogged into going forwards until you need an index of other indices just to keep track of everything, it’s time to grab your six-sided die and roll for a sanity check. I did buy the PC games of the “Starfleet Command” series when they were new, but was greatly disappointed at how the did remove the oppressive weight of the analog paperwork & numbercrunching burden, only to squander that chance for greatness by opting for an unbalanced and unrealistic game that played poorly when compared to how “tight” the tabletop pencil-and-paper original worked. That was a huge disappointment!
I still have all of my old Commanders’ Series rulebooks & such from boxed Volumes I, II and III…all my Captain’s Log issues from 1 to 21 or so…various other long out-of-print goodies also, such as “Battle Damage: Code Red,” “Federation Space,” the original X-Ships supplement from 1985, etc. I do wish that I never threw away my complete print run of every issue of Nexus, what with all of the scenarios and original fiction that’s still never been reprinted elsewhere. (My sole defense there is that I was a dumbassed kid at the time.)
In GSB, anyone can play as the Interstellar Concordium and set up their own dream Echelon formation; “…to boldly go where no one has kicked ass before!” I really enjoy that. The sheer joy - and far from thoughtless, uncritical joy - that I derive from Cliffski’s GSB sometimes makes me think back to those earlier decades of traditional tabletop wargaming.