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Mongoose Traveller Adventure 3: Trillion Credit Squadron

This review originally appeared on RPG.Net in June 2013, and is reprinted with permission here and in the October 2013 issue.

Adventure 3: Trillion Credit Squadron. Barnes Thomas
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
123pp., softcover

The Good

Trillion Credit Squadron is very much like the Classic Traveller adventure/supplement of the same name, in which, players take on the role of squadron commanders and preside over large fleet engagements in an isolated powder keg region of space (a subsector of Reft) filled with small powers trying to be top dog. The rules are simple enough and when combined with Sector Fleet (aka Grand Fleet) there are opportunities for role playing but if battle simulations are your thing, and then this product will suit your needs. I am rather surprised it got labeled as an adventure (perhaps because Classic Traveller had the same nomenclature), as there is very little in that can be classed as an adventure. The previous offerings of Mongoose updated old Classic Traveller adventures with a twist… however, I couldn’t find a twist here.

The fleets of this sector of space are a tad underpowered when compared to the Third Imperium (at its height) or the Zhodani consulate, so those wanting a book on high tech (e.g. TL 15+ (F+)) will be disappointed that many of the fun features of naval engagements in the Third Imperium are shifted toward smaller units. There are rules that cover that advancement of technology, but only as a war-game or a simulation would, e.g., a percentile bonus, rather than discussing the actual effects that, say, a Black Globe being used in combat might have. The highest TL is C (12) and as someone who does not have a good grasp of tactics, I would have liked to see more examples. However, on the positive side, this is very much sandbox play. Smaller units allow for more realistic simulations as opposed to the destruction of an entire fleet would likely be the End Game scenario – although, I do think that is what many Traveller players would clamor for since MegaTraveller denied them the rules for massive fleet engagements. The best way to describe this product would be as an update of the CT product and T4’s buggy Imperial Squadrons.

There are some new enhancements to weaponry and explanations of naval terms, as well, as commonly used ships. The New Equipment section offers a number of innovative systems and weapons, only available to squadrons to fleets, some of are more suitable to smaller ships which functions in the events that shape the conflicts fleets take part in. Additional fuel tanks, plasma guns and medical bays all play a part in space warfare that was never fully spelled out in High Guard. Game play tends to revolve around defeating the protecting fleet/squadron around a particular planet in miniature skirmishes, once, that is accomplished then a proper miniatures game could be played for players to capture key installations such as the Starport or Key Cities or Resources (including shipyards) – which hopefully will be detailed in an upcoming product outlining the rules for Planetary Invasions (perhaps, even Mercenary Mk II).

For those who do not have Reft Sector, the subsector is reproduced. Sadly, the worlds are predominately markers. There is no reason why particular worlds are important, it would have been nice if the subsector could be integrated to some sort of larger narrative – other than the Reft Sector i.e. bringing the Third Imperium in. In addition, there is a detailed the 5th fleet which is a combat fleet and all its assets, as well as how it operates on the move. Finally there is the Islands Clusters Campaign, a full pre-generated campaign for the ambitious referee without enough time to create their own subsectors or adapt others from other Traveller products.

Traveller has long shown its roots as a war-game – and this continues this trend. One day, I would hope that Traveller makes the leap and becomes a strictly narrativist product – but, if T5 is any judge that day is quite a ways in the future. The secret for this adventure is to use it as a supplement rather than as an adventure. The rules are solid enough, although, my players are role players – so the opportunity to test them on a live group will have to be postponed and if needed, just as it was for T4’s Imperial Squadrons one can always jury-rig a solution.

The Bad

Mongoose has been criticized in the past for its inclusion of way too many deck plans and this product is no exception to that trend. I am uncertain if it is a valid criticism, as much of the Traveller community has been urging different publishers to produce quality ship art and deck plans since the time of the giant FASA boxed sets (only Seeker Gaming Systems ever came close). The good thing is the quality of the deck plans are up to Traveller standard (so no 3D renderings) and the art of the ships is great. In this book of 123 pages there are 86 pages of deck plans and ship descriptions – that is 72% of the book! The remainder of the book is rather dry with many Tables and Charts—not role playing opportunities, just rolling the dice in which melees are commissioned. Naturally, a good Referee can get players to role out the results but the tables are rather dry because of the scale of the battle. Players would be limited to Mon Calamari crying out, “It’s a Trap” rather than being the pilot of Millennium Falcon.

The Meh (Ugly)

My biggest disappointment is that I had hoped that Mongoose would be doing something more than reproducing rules that had already been produced before in CT and T4. As indicated before, as I cut my teeth on MegaTraveller and always read descriptions of large fleet engagements and found the original CT Trillion Credit Squadron ok, for some elements but too much grounded in a war gaming ethos. I found the same thing with this adventure. And, not being able to visualize tactics – maybe, because, I do not play war games – I cannot see that I will have much use for this product. However, I do know that many grognards are fond of war games – and this may be something right up their alley. It will be interesting to see how future products might try to integrate these dry rules into game play and thusly truly transform these rules into an adventure.

So, at the end of this adventure, I am not sure what to rate this adventure. As an adventure, it would rate fairly low; as a supplement, mid range; and as a book of deck plans like the other Mongoose Traveller products, good. It is really a product that defies easy characterization. So, if you are looking for a replacement of the CT Trillion Credit Squadron but with more accessible rules (streamlining and formulating rules that make sense is the hallmark of Mongoose Traveller), you should certainly pick up this product. However, if you and your group are not into massive space combat simulations, you would be wise to pass this one by. That said, I can see how in the future, this adventure could easily be part of a larger campaign.