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Posted on Jul 27, 2020 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“You got YOUR Star Destroyer in my Enterprise!  No you got YOUR Enterprise in my Star Destroyer!” – Squadron Strike Board Game Review

“You got YOUR Star Destroyer in my Enterprise! No you got YOUR Enterprise in my Star Destroyer!” – Squadron Strike Board Game Review

Rick Martin

Squadron Strike    Board Game Review Part 1.  Publisher: Ad Astra Games   Game Designer: Ken Burnside   Price:  $74.95

Passed Inspection: Easy to learn; fits any science fiction TV show, movie or book; has its own campaign; true 3 D space combat; well written rules; on-line support;  innovative game design

Failed Basic:  the quantity of information may be a little intimidating to some

A Long Time Ago Where No One Has Gone Before the Hot Looking Cyborgs Have a Plan…

A great war spills out in to the great galaxy

Rebel ships are ready to engage the heavy cruisers of the Lumpy Fore-headed Space Grumps

Suddenly a Huge Space Carrier of Galactica proportions appears out of hyperspace

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There are heroes on all three sides…

But wait there’s more – a huge World War 2 looking Space Battleship appears and destroys everyone with its Typhoon Kinetic Cannon!

If you can name all the references I just made to different science fiction television. shows and movies, I’ll repair the Time Rotor in my T.A.R.D.I.S and take you to any time period you want to travel to!  If you are continuing to read this, you must be science fiction fan and, if you are a science fiction fan, Ad Astra Game’s “Squadron Strike” is your dream come true!

Squadron Strike is published by Ad Astra Games and designed by Ken Burnside.  It is a complete space ship combat game in which you can play using their star fighter and capital ship designs or import any ship from any science fiction universe be it Star Wars, Star Trek, Star Fleet Battles, Battlestar Galactica, Space Battleship Yamato, Babylon 5 –  you name it and this game can simulate it.

I’m presenting the review of this game in two parts.  This part will look at the basic and intermediate aspects of the game and its ability to cover everything from snub fighters to Death Star size battle stations and everything in between.  The second part of the review coming in a month or two, will look at the advanced rules and Ad Astra’s campaign universe.

The game’s components include:

One perfect bound 144-page rule book which has no setting-specific information

Once Campaign Book covering the Empire/Directorate War Universe

 1 2-panel 4×3′ space map (32×36 hexes)


2 counter sheets for the Empire/Directorate War

9 laminated AVID cards (8.5 x 3.67″) 

2 laminated RALT/reference cards (8.5 x 5.5″)


1 SSD book (24 pages)


1 Tutorial Book (52 pages, fly-through tutorial starting in 2D, going to 3D)


1 Scenario Book (28 pages)


16 tilt blocks (8 red, 8 blue)


100 stacking tiles (68 white, 24 light blue, 4 dark blue, 4 black)


4 dice (1 red, 1 blue, 2 black)

Plus there are tons of on-line support including a free smartphone app for Android and iOS, a Virtual Map that grew out of it, and SSDs for ships of different shows, books and games.  Check out :http://www.adastragames.com/  for more information.

The full color rule book is smartly written and laid out with tons of examples to walk you through the learning curve.  Each book has a code that allows you to access the ship design tools provided by Ad Astra.

So, I really want to talk about all the cool stuff in this, but I should start with how to play:

The Sequence of Play is reminiscent of X-Wing: You and your opponents simultaneously  plot your movement, including pitching and rolling in 3D, adjust your leading indicator, move your ships, roll dice for combat, get to the end of the turn, repair things if you can, and start the next turn.  If you’ve played other plot-move-shoot games, this will be very familiar once you learn the play aids.

There are many variable sub-steps depending on the scale and scope of the scenario and what options (torpedoes, fighters, etc) are employed by ships.  Some scenarios are one on one ship combat, other scenarios may be fleet actions with capital ships and star fighters, fighting around terrain such as planets, black holes or nebulas.

Each ship has an SSD (Ship System Display) which shows your ship’s systems and performance characteristics.  Each ship is rated for every conceivable thing you can think of in a space craft – shields, armor, thrusters, impulse and warp engines, weapon systems, bridge and emergency bridge locations (for larger ships), cockpits for fighters, etc.  If you are familiar with the venerable Star Fleet Battles game system, you’ll be right at home with Squadron Strike’s SSDs.  With the combination of the ship design spreadsheet and the downloadable SpaceShipPDF utility, you can take any ship from any game system, book, TV show or movie you’ve ever liked, and re-create that specific craft in Squadron Strike. While that spreadsheet is daunting, and requires a modern version of Excel, there’s a product in development that gives you pre-built ship templates that you slot weapons into, making ship customization a lot simpler.

Each SSD has clearly marked areas for a ship’s defenses, the hit locations where damage boxes live, and charts your 3D firing arcs for different weapons, based upon your target’s position and the attitude and roll of your craft. There’s even space for the ship’s weapon tables, to minimize paper shuffling at the table. As your ship takes damage, boxes are marked off on the SSD. One interesting aspect of damage allocation is that if you going to lose a critical ships system due to a weapon hit, you choose to take that damage from the ship’s hull points.  That way you can save an important system, such as your photon torpedo tube, from the vagaries of a d10-based hit location system, but hull boxes eventually run out, and they also get hit by damage allocation, and they get hit early and often.

Damage allocation is the Achilles Heel of games of this class with ships with this much detail.  In Squadron Strike, it’s streamlined with a set of very basic rules (with weapon specific exceptions) It’s fast. Even the way the rulebook recommends calling out your hits (as X points to location Y) speeds up play.

The heart of Squadron Strike’s movement and firing arc  system is a play aid called the AVID (Attitude Vector Information Display).  This is a 2D representation of a 3D sphere that your spacecrafts pitch and roll in, and it’s also used for shooting bearings.

While it looks a little intimidating, the AVID is really just a plotting tool for moving the positions of the nose and tail of your ship; this moves your left and right sides along, as well as the top and bottom of the ship.  You use a grease pencil to draw a line from where your ship’s front is pointing to where you want it to point and follow some individually simple steps to place the other symbols. Figuring out how the various symbols move in relation to each other came easily to me, but I can see how they might be confusing to other people. That free app that I mentioned up above does all the AVID record keeping for you, which is great.

3D is shown by marking the nose position on inner rings of the AVID, you show how your craft either noses up or down and you can also show how you pivot, bank and roll using the same technique.  The Squadron Strike tutorials guide you through the process of learning this system of maneuvering through 3D space.   

The rings of the AVID are color coded, and in a nice touch, the RALT (Range Angle Lookup Table) gives you Pythagorean distances in matching color coded bands, making matching a bearing angle and getting the range as clean as I’ve ever seen it. When playing in person, Squadron Strike uses cardboard box minis showing the left, right, top, bottom, front and back of your ship rather than flat counters.   This box miniature is put on tilt blocks (a cut cube that looks like a chair, with a shallow side and a steep side) to show the exact orientation of your craft  in 30 degree increments. (Yes, you can also face hex corners as well as hex sides)  To show the “altitude” of the ship, you put stacking tiles under the craft.  There are two sheets of laminated cardstock with punch out ships.  Just follow the simple instructions to glue them together or tape them and you’re ready to sail the sea of stars (Ripped off that quote from the wonderful anime Captain Harlock and its prequel Endless Road SSX.)

You also have various charts showing how your ship moves and how different actions on the AVID such as your pivot, pitch and roll affect your movement.

I mentioned the smartphone app earlier, and really, it’s a game changer. You still need to know how to play the game, but it moves Squadron Strike from “I could talk my buddies who played SFB into playing this every now and then.” to “I could probably hold regular game sessions of this.”  Look for “AVID Assistant” on the respective app stores. 

I got to play Squadron Strike online using their Virtual Map, which I’ve been told has grown out of their AVID Assistant software.  Ad Astra schedules regularly recurring games on this tool, and, well, the pictures show how nice it looks. That’s a boardgame, not a video game, there, and it just runs in a web browser.

Anyway, back to the game, not the software that supports it.

In Squadron Strike you have Mode 0, Mode 1 and Mode 2 movement mode, which are named after the number of Newton’s Laws they obey.  Mode 0 movement obeys none of Newton’s Laws.  This is the type of movement in many space games; where you can move and then stop or turn with no drift or momentum.  Mode 1 movement adds momentum and velocity to the game in a fashion similar to energy management for airplanes, but without gravity: You thrust and build up speed going in the direction your ship is pointed, turning bleeds speed. Mode 2 movement is how you fly a craft through the vacuum of real space. It’s like the old arcade game Asteroids: Your ship’s facing is completely disconnected from your direction of travel. To slow down, you cut engines, swivel nose to tail and apply thrust to decelerate. This is the most realistic and might be the trickiest to learn from a new player’s perspective. One of the things the rule book does is give you extensive illustrated examples of all three movement modes; each example taking up two facing pages to make things clear.

The great thing about Squadron Strike is that the concepts of these different movement modes can be learned in any order if you wish.  That way you aren’t overloaded with too many rules too quickly. I have played with Mode 1 movement, and Mode 0 movement looks very similar. I’ll cover Mode 2 movement in the second part of this review, after playing some of the ships from the Traveller supplement to the game.

Squadron Strike also allows you to build weapons based upon the universe you are trying to model and, and each supplement comes with weapons specific to that setting, usually with a couple of design notes explaining why that particular mix of abilities were chosen. Learning weapon design by reverse engineering prebuilt weapons is something I’m looking forward to. 

There is even a rule set for adding mecha (anime style robots) to your game so if you want to add VF-1 Valkyrie veritech fighters to your Star Destroyer’s complement of Twin Ion Engine fighters, it can be done! There are rules for cloaking devices, crew rate, legendary crews, transporters and much more.

Really, “it can be done!” kind of sums up the list of options in the book. Based on skimming some of the supplements, it looks like a major part of designing universes is deciding what *not* to use.

A playing card-driven scenario generator is also included, so there’s plenty of variety beyond “We both take 500 points of ships, start on the opposite end of the map and crush each other.”

The more I dig into this game, the more my enthusiasm grows for this wonderful system.  If you love space combat, this is really the one game you can’t live without.  It opens up a whole universe of game play that will keep you busy for years to come.

Since GenCon has gone virtual because of the pandemic, you can try out the game through the magic of the internet and get taught in starship combat by the game’s designer, or the regular playtesting team!  Some of these events are previews for products (and settings) that haven’t been published yet.

The Squadron Strike events for GenCon Online (www.gencon.com) are:

BGM20189500Romance of the Seven Realms Teaching GameThu @ 12:00 PM
BGM20189610Squadron Strike: Traveller — Snakebite SquadronThu @ 3:00 PM
BGM20189504Romance of the Seven Realms Teaching GameThu @ 5:00 PM
BGM20189505Romance of the Seven Realms Teaching GameThu @ 10:00 PM
BGM20189506Romance of the Seven Realms Teaching GameFri @ 8:00 AM
BGM20189507Romance of the Seven Realms Teaching GameFri @ 10:00 AM
BGM20189501Squadron Strike: Diaspora — RequisitionFri @ 3:00 PM
BGM20189508Romance of the Seven Realms Teaching GameFri @ 5:00 PM
BGM20189614Squadron Strike: Exiles Stars — Teapots in a TempestFri @ 7:00 PM
BGM20189509Romance of the Seven Realms Teaching GameFri @ 10:00 PM
BGM20189606Romance of the Seven Realms Teaching GameSat @ 8:00 AM
BGM20189607Romance of the Seven Realms Teaching GameSat @ 10:00 AM
BGM20189609Romance of the Seven Realms Teaching GameSat @ 3:00 PM
BGM20189616Squadron Strike: Axanar — Below DecksSat @ 3:00 PM
BGM20189623Squadron Strike: TinyFleets PreviewSat @ 7:00 PM
BGM20189628Squadron Strike: Axanar — Below DecksSat @ 7:00 PM
BGM20189617Squadron Strike: Empire Directorate War — DevilSun @ 12:00 PM

And, if you can’t make GenCon Online, check out the recurring games Ad Astra hosts here:

https://vtt.mikezekim.com/events/ 

Armchair General Rating: 99 %

Solitaire Rating: 3 for most scenarios (5 for solo scenarios)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer. He designed the games Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Expansion and Sherman Leader for DVG and has designed the solo system for Forsage Games’ Age of Dogfights.  In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!


game cover
dog fighting
Bearing and Firing Arcs
Mode 1 movement example
digital avid and board
star fighter duels
a mighty cruiser
Two cruisers engage in battle

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