STARFIRE is a game of starship combat that was originally created by Steve Cole in 1976 and published in a revised version by Task Force Games in 1979. STARFIRE was designed as a fast-paced game of fleet-level starship combat with an easy-to-use starship design system and a progression of technological development. The first edition was followed by two supplements: the first added fighters and the second included a campaign system. Over the years the game has been expanded but it remains essentially the same quick-playing tactical starship combat game that it begin as.
STARFIRE began as a purely tactical fleet-level table-top starship combat game. It had an incredibly simple system for building and handling starships and it lent itself well to campaign play. But what made STARFIRE unique was the concept of Warp Points for interstellar travel. Rather than assuming "Faster Then Light" (FTL) travel was necessary for interstellar travel, STARFIRE-space presumes that natural "wormholes" exist all over space and allow for sublight ships to travel between star systems. In fact, no "strictly" FTL technologies exist in STARFIRE at all
STARFIRE includes not only tactical and strategic (campaign) levels of play, but the combat system uses an operational scale as well. Battles are always resolved at a tactical scale on a hex-grid map, but just above the tactical level there is the system scale. Here, at the scale of an entire star system, starships maneuver to detect enemy ships and bases and then attempt to move where they will have combat to their advantage. This added "Fog Of War" makes operational level maneuver hugely important to how tactical battles play out – and often who wins
The official history of the Third Edition of STARFIRE is based on the writings of David Weber and Steve White: Crusade, In Death Ground, Shiva Option, Insurrection, and Exodus. STARFIRE novels are published by Baen Books.
EXTREMIS is the newest novel in the STARFIRE novel series, and is written by Steve White and Dr. Charles Gannon. The release date for EXREMIS was on May 3rd, 2011. Published by Baen Books, EXTREMIS continues the story from EXODUS of the Terran struggle against the Arduan invaders in the Beaumont Cluster of Terran Republic Space. We have a 'Question and Answer' interview with Steve and Charles on our forum.
Update Feb 2013: It was recently announced that Steve and Charles have at least TWO more books planned in this series. You can read more at the news announcement on our forum, here.
Steve White is a long-time author of STARFIRE novels, having written Crusade, In Death Ground, Shiva Option, and Insurrection with David Weber. He has an extensive list of works including The Disinherited, Debt of Ages, and Prince of the Sunset.
Dr. Charles Gannon is a new author to the STARFIRE universe, but has an extensive writing background and has written for Traveler, 2300 AD, and other gaming systems. A professor of American Literature at St. Bonaventure University, he has also written several academic publications. You can find out more about Dr. Gannon at his website, www.charlesegannon.com, and about his involvement in the Starfire universe at his Starfire World Page.
Collectively the first and second editions of STARFIRE are known as ORIGINAL STARFIRE.
The first edition of STARFIRE was published as a pocket game by Task Force Games in 1976 and 1979. It was contained in a plastic bag with a counter sheet, hex grid map, and a small rulebook. This edition was purely a tactical combat game but it did have ship design rules, repair rules, and was easily used for a simple campaign game by players willing to setup rules for it. In this edition the three interstellar empires of David Weber's STARFIRE history were introduced:
Two supplements were published for first edition:
Two additional supplements were announced by never completed: GROUNDFIRE and CHAMELEONS.
In 1984 Task Force Games decided to revive the STARFIRE series by republishing it in a boxed version and combining the STARFIRE and STARFIRE II rules into a single product with improvements. Dave Crump and David Weber collaborated on this revision and on NEW EMPIRES, the campaign supplement that followed.
The new campaign rules greatly improved over its predecessor and included the concept of variable scale – the idea that units moved on system scale with the whole star system present, then moved into an interception scale for pre-combat manuevering, and then finally onto a tactical scale during the actual battles. Other changes in the second edition included dropping half points of damage, including variable hull sizes, and reducing the capability of fighters.
Another supplement was made for Second Edition STARFIRE: the GORM-KHANATE WAR. This supplement added a new race, the Empire of Gormus, a relatively peaceful democratic state of intelligent beings that made first contact with the Khanate shortly after the Khanate's demoralizing second loss to the Terrans. The Gorm determined that they had to make a quick and decisive attack on the Khanate in order to make it too expensive for the much larger Khanate to conquer them. In this new supplement several new rules were introduced, including crew grade and drive rooms.
It was also during this time that the NEXUS magazine was published (through 1986) with 18 issues. NEXUS included many articles on the STARFIRE game system. After it was discontinued there was no new STARFIRE material released until the next edition.
STARFIRE miniatures were also produced by Task Force Games during the second edition. They were of small size and intended for use on a regular hex-grid map. Most of the ship types in the game were represented. However, there were no empire-specific ship designs in the line and only painting determined the difference between races.
Older editions of STARFIRE have been out of print for decades and can be difficult to find. They can sometimes be found at gaming conventions or through privates sales at websites like ebay. Good condition copies can cost more than their original value.
In 1992 Task Force Games released the third edition of STARFIRE, designed by David Weber. Many new changes were made, most notably changing the dice to a 1d10 system rather than the older 2d6 system. The rules were redesigned to integrate the strategic rules directly into the tactical system. In 1993 the campaign system IMPERIAL STARFIRE was released. Over the next few years nearly all of the third edition products were released: FIRST CONTACT (1993), STARS AT WAR (1993), CRUSADE (1993), ALKEDA DAWN (1994), and SKY MARSHAL #1 (1995).
In 1997 Task Force Games worked with the Starfire Design Studio to produce several electronically published STARFIRE products. This allowed the publication of the long-delayed SKY MARSHAL #2 (1997) and ISW-4 ARACHNIDS (1997). The release of ISW-4 introduced three more major races: the Arachnid Omnivoracity, a hive race of insectoids who treat all other being as food animals to be gathered into pens and slaughtered. The Star Union, a federation of races that includes the Crucians, Telikans, and Br'stoll'ee. And the Star Union's ally the Zarkolyan Empire. They have been hiding and preparing after losing the first war against the arachnids a century ago.
In November of 1997 Task Force Games sold the STARFIRE gaming system to Marvin Lamb (Starfire Design Studio).
The SDS immediately decided to go the route of electronic publishing and worked over the Internet to generate and sustain interest. The Electronic Communique (EC) was born in 1997 and continued until 2000 with more than 40 issues. Andy Blazel updated and modified Marvin's own ship designer program so it could be released as SHIPYARD.
In 1998 the SDS released INSURRECTION, a supplement based on David Weber's novel of the same name, and STARFIRE 3RD EDITION REVISED.
In 2002 the SDS and 3rdR Design Group released an additional product called the UNIFIED TECH MANUAL. It combined all the technologies from all the 3rd edition supplements and added a few new technologies. This was the last third edition product for STARFIRE.
Between 1995 and 1997 there were two additional supplements published by Task Force Games that were not officially part of David Weber's Starfire history. These were FIRST CONTACT and ALKEDA DAWN.
ALKEDA DAWN was a totally new history created by Mark Costello and Bryant Wu. It detailed the flight of the Vestrii from their homeworld, feeling from the Hre'Daak, an ancient empire that believed everyone must join them or be eliminated. The Vestrii flew across the stars for centuries, meeting a race of religious fanatics (the Kess), and a race of mind-controlled robot fleets that wander the galaxy harvesting organic and inorgranic resources from whomever they meet (the J'Rill).
FIRST CONTACT was to be a bridge between the ALKEDA DAWN history and the Weber history, briefly detailing when the Vestrii found the Grand Alliance and fought briefly against the Tangri raiders. It is generally regarded as a novelty item and not officially part of any STARFIRE history.
During the production of STAFIRE 3RD EDITION REVISED it became obvious that there were several problems with the rules – particularly in weapons balance and campaign play. The SDS committed to a long-term focus on campaign gaming and the "4TH Edition" project was started immediately after. Throughout the rest of 1998 and all through 1999 the next version of the rules was worked on. Countless emails between the seven original SDS members were traded as every rules section and game concept was re-evaluated. By the late spring of 1999 two playtest campaigns were started. By the end of 1999 it was clear that there was far too much work for only one person to edit. Matthew Olson was sub-contracted in December 1999 to help coordinate the volunteer effort and work as a pre-publication editor. By April 2000 the edition had been named GALACTIC STARFIRE and was nearly ready for the printers.
While Marvin focused on getting GALACTIC STARFIRE to printing, Matthew was tasked with taking an idea of Marvin's and turning it into a product. The result was ADMIRAL'S CHALLENGE, which became available in May 2000. Finally, an interested STARFIRE players (beta testers) invested the money needed for final production and by Origins and GenCon in 2000 the SDS was proud to have GALACTIC STAFIRE available for sale.
By late 2000 the work was complete and Matthew's contract was up. While he continued to work as a player volunteer, STARFIRE continued to sell well despite the limited visibility and the inevitable slow down in the progress of future products. In 2002 the SDS released the ELITE STARFIRE supplement to GALACTIC STARFIRE, which added optional rules and a few re-worked rules sections that were all considered too big to be included with the original release. In particular, the Small Craft and Automated Weapons rules were significantly re-worked.
In 2004 the SDS worked out a deal with CorbyNova to make the CorbyNova website the official GALACTIC STARFIRE gaming support module. Corbynova created an online browser-based assistant program to help players with their games and run campaign turns.
In November 2004 the SDS released ULTRA STARFIRE. Updated over the next 5 years, the goal of ULTRA STARFIRE was to produce a set of rules that were streamlined, had reduced paperwork, and had fully balanced technologies to provide the best player-versus-player competitive gameplay possible. Designed without a background history, the ULTRA rules were designed for the player who wants to fully create his own path.
In ULTRA all rulebooks and documents have been fully integrated into a cross-linked set of electronic documents (PDF). Occasional errata, updates, and other corrections will be made but with an electronic document the rules can be sent again to the players who purchased ULTRA STARFIRE.
Since ULTRA STARFIRE was the first fully electronic product from the SDS, no cover art was created for it.
On February 1st, 2012, the SDS released the newest version of STARFIRE. Based on the ULTRA ruleset, these rules have been designed to work best with the SDS's new background history... the History of the Terran Solar Union. With changes to numerous rules sections, much of the technology, and plans for continued updates and revisions based on the events in the history, SOLAR STARFIRE is being built for the player who wants to play scenarios and campaigns in the universe of the background history.
...is under intense debate. The board game industry has become limited as computer gaming expands. With this in mind, there are several projects underway to transition STARFIRE into the future. In the next few years there are plans ranging from the new history to a complete overhaul of the web site to provide more online functionality for STARFIRE players.