We got together for more Starmada this afternoon / evening as a break from D&D. Participants included me, Jared, Matt Britton (of the Royal Brittonic Navy), and Matt Glisson. Glisson hadn't played before, and we were curious to try a 'vanilla' game with pre-built ships and a lack of craziness, so our first game used the OGRE Starmada conversion. Matt ran an Ogre MkIII, with Jared, Glisson, and I trying to stop him from attacking our command post. We gave Glisson howitzer command (looong range, but immobile and terrible accuracy), while Jared ran a trio of missile tanks (slow as infantry, but longish range and excellent accuracy) and I got stuck with GEVs (fast fast fast, but weak weapons and terrible durability). Terrain was rolled as asteroid belt, so we ended up with a size 4 asteroid field, a size 5 asteroid field, and 11 asteroids. I like to think of them as irradiated zones within the Ogre setting; they affect targeting by interfering with sensors, and deal damage to units by owning electronics and killing folks. We placed the big asteroid field in a corner of our spawn area to keep Matt from using it, but he used the other to good effect as cover. I engaged with the GEVs, but suffered pretty horrible losses. One of Glisson's howitzers took a flight of seekers, as did one of Jared's tanks, but we dealt enough damage that the Ogre was rendered toothless about halfway across the map. Matt played well, though; he used terrain properly to hide from the howitzers, got us to split our force, and generally did a decent job. I think the large map combined with the low speeds was what did him in. I'm curious to play more 'vanilla' games on a more standard scale; I think by playing vanilla, we could take the focus off of ship design and put it more heavily on tactics. Remains to be seen.
The second game we decided to go all-out with personal ship designs, with Glisson using the Nations of Earth ships from the Grumm sourcebook. We rolled Breakout, which we hadn't played before, with Matt and I attacking, Jared and Glisson defending. Matt ran RBN carriers, I ran my most recent (and untried until today) version of Eldar, and Jared ran... something? He fielded a couple of 14-point ships, a small flotilla with some strikers, and a cruiser with repeating increased-hits weapons. Terrain was a planet and three moons. They hid behind the planet, but Matt's fighters likewise used the planet as cover to close and laid some hurt down on Turn 2 (as well as trading fighters for Jared's strikers). Turn 3 they tried to move out around the planet, bur I decloaked and hit them from the side. One of my cruisers took a pounding from their guns, but remained alive and recloaked and ran for it next turn, while my heavy cruiser (based off the Eldar Shadow Hunter line cruiser) obliterated one of Glisson's cruisers at long range, and my light cruiser took out Jared's carrier flotilla. Turn 4, most of my stuff recloaked, and Matt's bombers finished off Jared's flotillas. The only VP they scored was escaping Jared's cruiser off the map, while we destroyed everything else of theirs with no losses for us except for carried fighters. A solid win (though there was a close moment with that cruiser of mine that got mauled - they dealt 10 damage to a hull 6, and we weren't sure it was going to make it. Would've given them the win at end of Turn 3).
I left then, but apparently a third game was played with Matt and Jared vs. Glisson and Tim, who arrived late. From what I've heard, Jared fielded his cruiser again, but this time decided to shoot with it rather than running off the map, and dealt something like 40 hits from a 250-point ship in very little time, causing Glisson and Tim to cede. Regrettable...
It's been a while since I updated the standings... sadly, I've missed too many games to keep an accurate count, and the ones played without me haven't necessarily been properly reported (names, sides, scenario, terrain, results). Campaign games with terribly unbalanced forces only muck things up further. Meh. If it becomes a regular thing, might start keeping track again, possibly restarting the counts. As it stands, it seems like who wins depends mostly on amount of time spent out-of-game designing fleets, as well as how much cheese (be it small craft, flotillas, G-arc only weapons, super-repeaters, turbo engines, &c) one is willing to use. Kind of a sad state of the metagame. Calls for banning Rules Annex material are currently being fielded... I approve, actually. The shield-breaking traits in Annex (Piercing +2 and +3, Halves and Ignores Shields) have made high shields quite inviable as a defense; Alex and I both tried fielding Shields 5 ships for a game or two, and extremely effective anti-shield weapons were just too common for them to be even close to cost-effective. Likewise, the group is divided on flotillas... I think at this point only Jared uses them. They were kinda fun for a while, and I think an all-flotilla game would greatly simplify things by removing the 'rolling and applying damage' step (and removing damage ratings from weapons), but as far as the rest of the game goes, being able to pack an arbitrary number of guns in a small arc into a very fast package is quite deadly, and speed and defenses don't deteriorate with damage like on a normal ship. Such a ban would mean a serious re-design for Jared... and given the success of his repeater, I'm not sure we want to force such a re-design, lest he find more Things of Intense Effectiveness in Core. I'd also like to ban strikers, but leave seekers in, as seekers produce significantly more interesting gameplay. They can be countered more readily than strikers by terrain or interposing disposable ships, and require more forethought in target selection than strikers (you can't just dump 20 flights of seekers on the table and expect to win; you have to choose your targets carefully to make sure you get it right). Meaningful choices and planning, basically.
Basically, there is dissatisfaction with the current state of the metagame, and I'm not sure how to fix it. Until we figure that out, it will continue to be less fun than it could be for all involved.