Guest Author - Jay Shaffstall
Battlestations is a board game. Wait, no, it's a role playing game.
Drat, it's not either. Or it's both. Or rather, you can play it either way. Picture a board game that you can play as a tactical space combat game, complete with boarding actions. Picture a space opera role playing game that uses a board for resolving tactical missions.
However you describe it, it's a lot of fun.
The setting for Battlestations is a slightly generic galaxy, complete with alien races. Your character in Battlestations can be any race. The details of the galaxy are left deliberately vague, so your GM can flesh it out herself. She can take what's there and run with it, or completely rework it to fit her own visions of the galaxy.
The aliens in Battlestations are, well, alien. You won't find pointy eared humans with psychic powers here. Any of the races can have psychic powers, and most of them don't have ears.
Humans are, well, humans. They breed like rabbits and are flexible. In game mechanics, humans get a better chance to accomplish professional actions (those actions in your character's profession).
Silicoids are rock based creatures that can take physical punishment. They only have one hand, but if that hand holds a blast rifle, you've got a nice marine.
Tentacs are tentacular creatures that can hold a lot of items ready to use. Canosians also have a lot of arms, but their most distinguishing characteristic is their ability to move very fast by tumbling (they look like a tumbleweed). Canosians can get to where they want to go fast!
Xeloxians have six hands, and are basically nothing more than six arms with a mouth in the middle of where the arms join. Xeloxians can move faster by dropping items from their hands and using them as feet.
There are more alien races in Battlestations, but that gives you a feel for the variety available. Each race has its own special ability and stats (such as number of hands, movement, base hit points, etc).
Each character in Battlestations is trained to perform a profession. Scientist, Marine, Pilot, Engineer, and Psychic are examples of professions. Any character can have skill levels in any skill, but characters are generally more likely to succeed in the skill that matches their profession. In game terms, to succeed at a task two dice are rolled and the total plus their skill level is compared to the difficulty of the task. If the skill being used is a character's professional skill, they can reroll one of those dice (or both of the dice if the character is also human). The second result might not be any improvement, but for those cases where one of the dice is a 1 or 2, it's worth trying.
Every profession has a place in Battlestations. The game simulates space combat and boarding actions at the same time. So while an Engineer may be working with the engines to transfer power from shields to guns, a Marine may be protecting that engineer from enemy boarders who are trying to sabotage the engines. Another Marine might load herself into a boarding missile and take the fight to the enemy ship. All this at the same time that the pilot is trying to dodge missiles and put the bulk of a planet between her ship and the enemy cannon.
Try It First
The best way to get a feel for Battlestations is to find a gaming convention where Battlestations is being run, and give it a try. The creators, Jeff & Jason Siadek, seem to run events at Origins and Gencon each year, and playing with the creators is a great way to get a feel for the game.
If you're a role player, you'll love Battlestations as a great way to simulate the excitement and close escapes of space opera. Every game I've played so far has been exciting and close, where we could have failed the mission but pulled it out by the skin of our teeth.
If you're a board gamer, you'll appreciate it as a light tactical game that allows you to carry the same character from mission to mission, getting stronger along the way.
Battlestations is published by Gorilla Games, and more info can be found at the Battlestations web site.