Board and counter Wargame (1979). Task Force Games (TFG). Designed by Stephen Cole.
The first edition of Starfire is a tactical space combat Wargame played on a two-dimensional map, based on a game of the same name released in 1976 by J P Publications / Eagle Games which received very limited distribution. Both the first Task Force Games version and its 1976 predecessor use an intuitive rather than a Newtonian approach to the Physics of movement in space. Many of the mechanics are shared with the same designer's Star Fleet Battles (1979), but Starfire allows players to design their own spacecraft within an original Space Opera universe. The 1979 edition has two supplements, Starfire II: Strikefighter (1980 TFG) designed by Barry Jacobs, Stephen Cole, which includes rules for single pilot starfighters, and Starfire III: Empires (1982 TFG) designed by David Weber. Empires adds a strategic game to the design; players can conduct a large-scale galactic war, resolving individual engagements using the main rules. It is this element which has become Starfire's defining feature.
The second edition, Starfire (1984 TFG) designed by David Crump, David Weber is a revised version of the rules from the first release and the Strikefighter expansion, with the strategic rules published in the supplement Starfire: New Empires (1985 TFG) designed by David Crump. For the third edition, the strategic and tactical mechanics were combined into a single integrated system, operating on a range of discrete spatial and temporal scales. The resulting game approaches a complete simulation of the expansion of an interstellar empire; planetary assaults are largely abstracted but exploration, scientific research, trade, economic development and large and small scale space battles are all modelled in varying degrees of detail. Unsurprisingly, the full game can take a considerable length of time to play. The most important components of the third edition are the tactical Starfire (1992 TFG) designed by David Weber, the strategic Imperial Starfire (1993 TFG) designed by David Weber, and The Stars At War (1993 TFG) designed by David Weber, which contains the core of the game's optional Future History. In 1997 the rights to Starfire were sold to the Starfire Design Studio (SDS), who have produced all subsequent versions. The fourth edition, Galactic Starfire (2000 SDS) designed by Marvin Lamb, emphasizes gameplay balance over the consistency of the fictional universe established in the 1992 edition, while ULTRA Starfire (2004 SDS) designed by Marvin Lamb is a further revision which integrates all the various rules modules into a single Ebook, with the intention of making future updates online.
Starfire is also notable for the depth and consistency of its Future History, which combines a Military SF sensibility with a sympathetic portrayal of a pluralist future for humanity. Various races of intelligent Aliens inhabit the Starfire universe, ranging in temperament from semi pacifist through militaristic to (frequently) xenocidal; they are generally convincingly nonhuman in their psychology if somewhat monolithic in their sociology. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the setting is its justification of various game necessities in Hard SF terms (see Worlds in Balance). Notably, while Faster Than Light journeys are made possible by naturally occurring "warp points" resembling the "Alderson Points" used in Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium sequence, Sublight travel is achieved with a "reactionless drive", the characteristics of which explain all the apparently physically unrealistic aspects of Starfire's movement system other than its lack of a third dimension.
Related works: Admiral's Challenge (2000 SDS) designed by Matthew Olson is a supplement for any edition of Starfire which contains rules for a relatively fast combat-oriented version of the strategic game. A number of Ties have been written for Starfire, largely coauthored by David Weber, the main designer of its Future History. All of them are set in the third edition continuity, ignoring changes made for later versions. Four books were written by Weber and Steve White: Insurrection (1990), describing a rebellion in the future Terran Federation; Crusade (1992), which pits humanity against its own unasked for allies; and In Death Ground (1997) and The Shiva Option (2002), which follow a war between various species and genocidal Aliens incapable of communication with other species. A fifth volume, Exodus (2006), by Steve White and Shirley Meier, confronts humanity with a new, but equally relentless, enemy. [NT]
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