Strikemaster class Brig, by Gypsy Knight Games
Once again I picked up a new ship from Gypsy Knight Games (GKG) based solely on the enjoyment I had from past products. I wasn’t specifically looking to integrate this ship into a Traveller campaign (which is easily doable), and I don’t have an ongoing set of gaming sessions set in their alternate Clement Sector setting. I got this for three very simple reasons. The first is that they put out some kick-ass high quality gaming supplements. I have yet to be disappointed with any of the things I have purchased from them. Secondly the artwork and deckplans are nice. Many publishers scrimp on the artwork, especially full color artwork. The Traveller GURPS materials where chock-full of grey-scale artwork, but it added a lot to the pleasure of the game, and I wish more publishers would listen to their gaming constituency and do the right thing. Finally I like to support my gaming community, especially the small publishers who do this more for the love of the game than as an attempt to earn a living at it. Enough of the fan-boying, let’s get on with the review!
The cover is always a helpful sales tool, and as usual the artwork of Ian Stead is enjoyable just to look at. The ship, while small, still looks deadly and menacing without having to resort to a lot of distractions. The first few (five to be exact) pages provide some history behind the creation of the ship. When I first saw the teaser post that the Strikemaster class brig was coming, I first thought, “WTF… a brig?? Nobody has used the term brig for a naval vessel since the end of sail”. Luckily enough, the included introduction answers that very same question I had! There are a couple of pages of fiction outlining the beginning of the civil war, with ships having to pick which side they want to support. The fiction itself is decent enough, and with a little bit more polish it could be easily expanded upon for a nice short story.
One of the things to keep in mind is that the Clement sector setting is very much about smaller-scale ships. No 500,000 Dton Tigress class dreadnoughts floating around. The Strikemaster itself comes in at 400 tons. Building multi-thousand ton warships is fun in and of itself, but most gamers play with much smaller ships, so this fits well within a gaming session. It also lends itself to a size of ship that a player has a remote chance of surviving an encounter with. A full-up 5k Dton destroyer typically wouldn’t even break a sweat swatting down a PC’s Free Trader or other smaller adventure-class ship. But at 400 Dtons, the Strikemaster does fit the role of ye olde naval brig - a small, fast combatant that is able to hold it’s own with similarly sized naval vessels and poses a significant threat to mere merchanters.
Ship Design and Description
Once again GKG does an excellent job of describing the layout of the ship, both visually and textually. They make note that the primary armament, a particle beam barbette, is mounted dorsally. The accompanying images also amply illustrate this fact. The ship layout is well done, both logically and visually. You see not only the expected areas (bridge, airlock, crew quarters, docking bay, etc), but little things like the bathing facilities that would not be in every cabin like on a passenger liner. Areas set off from the mess deck for food preparation and storage, even between-deck lifts. I do like the fact that some designers call these out on deckplans. It just makes them feel more realistic.
The room descriptions match well with the deck plan illustrations. The ship itself has three primary decks, with the upper level being officers country, with an officer’s mess, the main deck with the control spaces, ships crew quarters/mess, ships troops/mess, and the hangar. The lower deck is set aside for cargo and engineering. All pretty standard and logical. I do have a couple of quibbles and questions about the choices though. It’s a small ship, and to have three separate mess areas seems a bit excessive to me. While larger ships have more space to burn, smaller ships do not. And the design follows the idea of a ship with a crew much larger than this one’s. I could see, perhaps, keeping officers and crew separate, but not the ships’ crew and troops. A ship this small is really not the type that can afford the luxury of dedicated marines.
While there is a great level of detail and information concerning the ship itself, there seems to be relative dearth about the crew. The total crew complement is listed on the ships information card (5 officers, 14 crew, 6 troops), but I didn’t see anywhere a breakdown on exactly what positions were being filled. Obviously the 6 ships troops makes for easy reading, but is that 5 troops and a single officer, or is that 6 troops? How many are ratings vs. NCO’s? Are the troops led by a marine LT? The background of the brig specifically calls out the typical level of command for the ship itself. Since it’s considered a junior command (and also was in the days of sail), that would mean there would also be more junior officers, such as 2nd Lt, or ensigns still working on their skills as an officer.
Artwork and Extras
One of the things I really enjoy about the GKG ship supplement is the artwork. I’ve said it before and it really bears repeating – you can’t put in enough great art in a sci-fi book or gaming supplement. The game itself requires imagination, and it’s far easier to visualize things when you have something to start with. The credits call out Ian Stead, and two other artists (Bradley Warnes who did the people portraits, and Michael Johnson who did ship deck plans). It’s (almost) like you are getting a Jane’s style explanation of a warship with the different views of the ship outside of the normal imagery of them being in space. Being able to see a ship from different views really helps to sell the fantasy.
The last few pages are taken up with some illustrations of a ships’ commander, Benjamin Waters, and a d6 chart of possible missions/encounters for a game master to use when wanting to incorporate a Strikemaster into their gaming session. This is a nice touch and an added bonus in my opinion.
I was (and am) pleasantly surprised with the details for the ship itself and descriptions on the interior of the compartments. Always helpful if you need something to help describe the interior to players that happen to be onboard one of the ships, for whatever reason. It also really helps in selling the image. There’s an entire page dedicated to a commander of one of the ships, but sadly absolutely nothing about a crew. Not even a breakdown of the typical crew positions. A few more pages, even just two, could have done a lot to provide more details and background for the ship, it’s crew and it’s operations.
Do keep in mind that what I consider to be shortcomings may not be universally agreed to. Every designer has to make their own choices, and ultimately it’s going to be up to the individual player and purchaser to agree or not. For some what they are getting may exceed their expectations. Others, such as myself, like to see things fully fleshed out.
Should you pick it up?
That’s an easy one. Ab-so-lutely! The price point (a very inexpensive $4.99) makes it a literal steal for what you are getting. Plus you know you have the satisfaction of supporting one of the few independent gaming houses out there that support Traveller in a consistently high-quality way. None of the “shortcomings” that I’ve mentioned take away from the quality of the work, the great art, or the enjoyment. For the price of cheap burger I can support my gaming community and get something of value – as opposed to an expanded waistline!