Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Ace of Spades Campaign - Raid on Sterling part 06

Entering the Caliburnus Star System.
The journey time from Wellbefallen to Breuse was just under five days with The Ace of Spades travelling at FTL:16. Breuse was the nearest of eight planets to the star, Caliburnus. As soon as The Ace of Spades dropped out of hyperspace, it emerged in a busy system. Freighters and ore carriers plied the spacelanes between the planets, small, fast interceptors and attack ships engaged in mock dogfights, while drop ships staged practice drops against Breuse itself and two other planets, Churchill and Sarsen. Lynda Pelligrosso and Sharuna Randall, who were on sensor duty, were kept busy keeping track of all of the activity.
Kimberley was instructed to wait in a holding pattern until the system controllers could plot a course for her to follow. She invited Mearc Sterling to join her on the bridge. He gratefully accepted the invitation and arrived promptly, accompanied by his companion, Sheas Danelish. Also on the bridge were pilot Storm Galloway, gunners Celeste and Jeanette Grey and ship's security chief, Julia Frostorm.
The time spent in-system passed quickly and was enlivened by three incidents of note. Firstly, Lynda spotted two huge, bulky ore freighters bearing the markings of Hoag-Warner GmbH moving out-system. This in itself was of no interest to the young research scientist. But what did draw her attention were the two corvettes that were escorting the freighters. They also bore the markings of Hoag-Warner GmbH, but showed signs of recent combat: large patches of fresh unpainted steel where the armour was patched. Lynda remembered that these were the same type of ship that had waylaid The Walleran a couple of weeks ago. She relayed her findings to Kimberley.
"What do you think, Kimberley?" she asked. "Do you think they could have been the ones who attacked that ghost ship, The Walleran?"
"It's certainly possible," Kimberley agreed, "but we'd need more proof. Log it anyway."
"Already done."
"Aren't you going to go after them?" Mearc asked. "If they did kill those poor folks on The Walleran, they need to be brought to justice."
"Much as I'd like to, they're too far away and I am not going to go chasing after them," Kimberley replied with a shrug. "I'm sorry but getting you home is my number one priority right now."
"Yeah, I understand" Mearc said with a resigned sigh. "That makes sense."
The second incident involved a standard Class IV ore freighter, whose markings declared it to be the Jessica Lane, property of Trans-Sol Incorporated.
"Hey, you slowpokes!" its belligerent captain announced over the comms channel. "Move out of my way. I'm coming through."
"You didn't say the magic word," Kimberley replied, all sweetness and nice.
"Huh?" was the bewildered response.
"You didn't say please," Kimberley said. She was used to dealing with trouble makers and she knew straight away that this guy was a bully, used to getting his own way. He didn't intimidate her and she felt he needed a lesson in civility and good manners. "I'm not moving until you say please."
The Jessica Lane was moving very fast when it shot past The Ace of Spades missing it by the narrowest of margins. It had to swerve to avoid hitting the scout ship.
"Fuck you, bitch!" the captain snarled.
"Ooh, an intelligent response," Kimberley said sarcastically. "Did you learn that one at play school?"
"Outta my way, bitch," he grumbled. "I ain't got time to deal with you."
"Well, it's been a real pleasure chatting with you," Kimberley smiled. "Y'all have a nice day, y'hear."
He didn't reply. Communication was abruptly cut off.
"What an asshole!" Storm said as she shook her head in disgust.
"Sadly, there are a lot of them about," Kimberley noted.
The rest of the folk on the bridge chuckled and nodded in agreement.
The third incident was the one that caused the most concern.
"I'm picking up a sensor reading of a Class III freighter heading out-system," Sharuna announced. "She's an independent trader called the Savannah Byrche."
"Did you say the Savannah Byrche?" Mearc asked expectantly.
"Yes," Sharuna replied. "Do you know her?"
"Indeed I do," Mearc answered. "We use her to export some of our produce to clients out-system."
"That's interesting," Lynda interjected,"because according to my readings, she's running empty. Her cargo holds are empty."
"But that can't be," Sheas retorted. "She wouldn't leave empty."
"Unless..." Mearc said with a frown. "...something bad has happened at the colony!"
"Oh, my god, Mearc!" Sheas cried in concern. "What could possibly have happened?"
"I honestly don't know," Mearc said dejectedly. "We have to get down there. Quickly."
"We will," Kimberley said reassuringly. "We'll sort this out soon."
The mood on board had changed suddenly from excited anticipation to worrisome concern.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Starship Combat in N.E.W. - a Tutorial

 What follows is a detailed account of the encounter that I played recently for my The Ace of Spades Campaign featuring a short battle between The Ace of Spades scout ship and The Polecat pirate patrol ship. I'm posting this to show how starship combat works in the N.E.W. RPG... and because I was asked to. 😊 There are two ways of conducting starship combat in N.E.W., just as there are two ways of running ground-based combat. They are Theatre of the Mind or Tactical Combat. Whilst starship combat can be played out on a hex map with positions and movements carefully plotted, Theatre of the Mind can result in faster, more cinematic, albeit less tactical, starship combats. Theatre of the Mind and Tactical Combat are fundamentally very similar, with one major difference; movement and positioning are described narratively in the former rather than being based on the position of a miniature on a hex map. What I'll be describing here is Tactical Combat. Tactical Combat is especially useful if there are many ships involved, as their relative positions can be clearly seen.
A hex on a star map represents 1 kilometre. The movement phase has the pilot move the vessel a number of hexes up to its SPEED (as indicated in its stat block) on the map. Ships can accelerate or decelerate a number of hexes up to to the ship's SPEED stat. Turning one hex side  counts as one hex of movement. However, for a more realistic approach, you can use the optional Newtonian Movement rules, which is what I did. At first glance they look complicated but actually they're pretty simple to use. I'll explain it fully when it crops in the gameplay example.
The round structure for Newtonian Movement differs slightly to that of regular movement in that all movement occurs simultaneously, followed by all actions. The Newtonian round looks like this -
  1. All ships make INITIATIVE checks.
  2. All ships move in reverse INITIATIVE order (from lowest to highest starting with the ship that lost). 
  3. All ships take actions in forward INITIATIVE order (from highest to lowest starting with the ship that won)
  4. Return to Step 1.
The sequence creates more realistic movement, but allows ships which win INITIATIVE to make tactical movement decisions based on what they see their opponents doing. The movement takes place simultaneously but is resolved in reverse order to give an informational advantage to faster ships.
TURN 1
This turn was essentially a free turn for the pirates on The Polecat. I was working on the assumption that the crew of The Ace of Spades thought the unknown ship was not a threat when Lynda picked it up on her sensor scan, even though it was approaching them.
So, Mors Katajak, the captain of The Polecat had his gunner fire a Flamespear Photonic Torpedo at The Ace of Spades. The range was 16 hexes, which was not good for the pirates as a Flamespear only has a range increment of 4 hexes. For each range increment beyond the first it suffered a -1d6 to hit penalty and so it would incur a -3d6 penalty. The gunner had a combined Logic and Gunnery skill score of 4d6. To this he added +1d6 because of the weapon's stat bonus and a further +1d6 because he was firing a forward arc facing weapon. He also added a further +1d6 from his LUCK pool to give him a total of 7d6. However, this was reduced to 4d6 because of the -3d6 range penalty. The Ace of Spades had a Defence score of 22, so he needed to roll 22 or better on 4d6. It was possible but he only rolled a 14 so he missed. Missiles and Torpedoes move 10 hexes per turn and if they fail to reach their target in two turns they automatically miss. This missile couldn't have hit The Ace of Spades this turn because of the range, but it could have hit next turn if he'd rolled better.
As soon as the Photonic Torpedo was fired at The Ace of Spades, the crew knew they were dealing with a hostile ship and so reacted accordingly next turn.
TURN 2
Both pilots rolled for INITIATIVE. Mors rolled a 19 on 5d6 but Storm Galloway rolled a 32 on 8d6. The Polecat would move first. It maintained its SPEED of 6 and closed the range to 10 hexes.
This is where I made my one mistake of the combat. I should have moved The Ace of Spades next but instead I made the actions for the The Polecat. I forgot that both ships moved simultaneously. To be fair, it made no difference to the overall outcome. Seeing as this was my very first starship combat I think I did well to just make this one slip up.
A starship can have as many actions as its CLASS or the number of player characters on board, whichever is highest. The Polecat was a Class III patrol ship with no PCs on board so was limited to 3 actions. Mors and one crew member attempted to spot where The Ace of Spades was in order to give their gunner a better chance to hit. A spotter makes a Perception check against the Defence of the target ship and if successful, all allies on board gain a +1d6 bonus to hit that target until the start of the spotter's next turn. Both men had Perception scores of 4d6 and both failed to score a 22 or better. They rolled 14 and 16.
The pirate gunner fired a second Flamespear Photonic Torpedo, this time at range 10 hexes, which gave him a -2d6 penalty for the range increments. As before, he added +1d6 for the weapon stat, +1d6 for the forward firing arc and +1d6 from his LUCK pool, which gave him 5d6 to score 22 or better. He rolled a 17, so he missed again.
The Ace of Spades had a SPEED score of 9 but was only moving at SPEED 5, so could move 5 hexes this turn. However, Storm wanted to position the ship so that she was facing The Polecat. This would mean turning two hex sides so she was pointing in the right direction. This brings us to how Newtonian Movement works. Instead of each hex side turned counting as one hex of movement, the turning circle is calculated using the following formula - SPEED x CLASS divided by 10 (you just multiply the two and then use the first digit, in other words, ignore any fractions). The Ace of Spades was moving at SPEED 5 and was a CLASS IV ship so 5 times 4 equals 20, divided by 10 equals 2. It had to move 2 hexes before turning one hex side. So it moved 2 hexes forward, turned to the right one hex side, moved forward 2 hexes, turned to the right one hex side again and then moved forward 1 hex. Note that in Newtonian Movement the actual turning is free. Also note that a ship at SPEED 0 can still rotate one hex side for free.
Now the crew of The Ace of Spades got to make one action each in order of INITIATIVE from highest to lowest. With a crew of 10, I could take 10 separate actions. Yes, that is a lot! Although it had a crew of 13, only 10 could be actively on duty at any one time. I decided that Danica, Katja and Rebecca would be off duty at this time. They were more suited to ground-based actions. These were the results of the INITIATIVE rolls I made listed from highest to lowest - Storm on 32, Kimberley on 21, Julia on 20, Sharuna on 19, Celeste and Jeanette on 18, Kyran on 15, Lynda on 13, Gwendoline on 12 and Judith on 10. Any character can do anything on their INITIATIVE turn. They can fire a weapon, use sensors, do some engineering, perform medical aid, etc. The only restriction is that any given system (such as a weapon) can only be used once.
Storm used her Evasive Flying exploit, which granted her a Defence bonus equal to her AGI attribute dice pool to The Ace of Spades. This was 3d6, so she increased the ship's Defence from 22 to 25. Note that ship movement is essentially free - it does not constitute the pilot's action for that turn. So using her exploit in that way was an excellent choice.
Kimberley decide to use her action as a spotter for her two gunners, Celeste and Jeanette. She had a Perception score of 4d6 but decided to add +2d6 from her LUCK pool so that she was rolling 6d6 against The Polecat's Defence score of 22. She rolled a 22, exactly what was needed! Celeste and Jeanette would receive a +1d6 bonus to hit the pirate vessel this turn.
Julia should have gone next but there was nothing I could think of for her to do, so she did nothing. If Kimberley had failed on her spotter roll, I'd have had Julia make an attempt to spot The Polecat.
Sharuna used her action to make an electronic attack against the pirates and she targetted their forward shields, hoping to reduce them to make it easier to damage them. She had to make a LOG check against the target's Electronic Defence, which was only 16. Compare that to The Ace of Spades which had an Electronic Defence of 32. Sharuna had a LOG score of 4d6. To this she added +1d6 for the Luxury rating of The Ace of Spades plus +1d6 for her White Hat exploit to give her 6d6. She rolled a 27. This easily beat the score of 16 required to hit but was not a critical hit. I ruled that she did enough damage to reduce The Polecat's shields by 1d6 (I rolled a 3), dropping it from SOAK:7 to SOAK:4. This would prove to be decisive when Jeanette went next.
Celeste and Jeanette both rolled an 18 for their INITIATIVE. Technically, Celeste should have acted before Jeanette because in a tie, the person with the highest AGI attribute goes first. Celeste had an AGI attribute of 10, whereas Jeanette's was only 6. However, Kimberley ordered that Jeanette fire first. Guns use the INT dice pool plus Gunnery skill to hit, whereas missiles use the LOG dice pool plus Gunnery skill. Jeanette had dice pools of 3d6 in both, so started with 6d6. To this she added +1d6 for the Redsword Phaser Beam stats, +1d6 for firing a forward arc weapon, +1d6 for the ship's Luxury rating and +1d6 for the spotter bonus from Kimberley. The range to The Polecat was 7 hexes, which put it at short range for this weapon. So there was no penalty for the range increment. She rolled 10d6 against The Polecat's Defence of 22 and scored a 36 - a critical hit with three sixes. The Redsword did 5d6 heat damage and I rolled a 22. From this, The Polecat was able to SOAK 4 for its forward shields but the 18 that penetrated was exactly enough to reduce its Superstructure score of 18 to 0. That would have dire consequences, as we will see. In addition, it also suffered 1d6 casualties. I rolled a 5 and split them as 2 crew dead and 3 troopers dead. Plus, I rolled a critical hit. Using the rules from the Starship Combat FAQ document, I rolled 3d6 to determine the effect of the critical hit. I rolled a 10, which resulted in a Helm hit, meaning that The Polecat could not turn any more.
Celeste did not act this turn. Celeste would have fired a missile at The Polecat if Kimberley hadn't ordered her to hold fire.
Kyran increased the power of the forward shields of The Ace of Spades from 9 to 11 by using her Reinforce Shield exploit.
Lynda made a sensor scan to determine the effects of the damage The Polecat suffered. This was a LOG check plus Computers skill, which gave her 6d6, plus +1d6 for the sensors stats, plus +1d6 for the Luxury rating of The Ace of Spades for a total of 8d6. I rolled a 27 for her, which succeeded. She relayed the damage report to Kimberley.
Gwendoline and Judith stood by, ready to treat any casualties The Ace of Spades may have suffered. Fortunately their services were not required.
A ship reduced to 0 Superstructure must start a fast (4-6) countdown from a dice pool equal to its CLASS, after which it explodes, killing everybody on board. The time taken by the countdown period can be used to evacuate the ship. The Polecat, being a Class III patrol ship had a dice pool of 3d6. For every 4, 5 or 6 rolled, it would lose 1d6 from its dice pool. Once the dice pool reached 0, the ship would explode. On this turn I rolled 5, 4 and 1. That was bad news for the pirates! On the next turn, its dice pool would only be 1d6.
TURN 3.
I didn't bother rolling INITIATIVE this turn as there was nothing The Polecat could do. It was dead. It came to a full stop and so did The Ace of Spades. I gave the remaining crew of the pirate vessel a chance to get away via the ship's escape pods. I had each person make a LUCK Routine (10) roll on 3d6 to see if they reached an escape pod this turn. Two crew members and four troopers succeeded. Mors Katajak, the pirate captain, was one of the five people who failed to reach an escape pod. For the countdown check I rolled a 6, which reduced the dice pool down to zero. The Polecat exploded doing damage equal to the power of all of its engines. This was 18 for its subluminal Ion engine and 16 for its hyperdrive engine for a total of 34. The damage was reduced by 50% for each hex of distance from the centre of the explosion - thus 17 at 1 hex range, 8 at 2 hexes range, 4 at 3 hexes range, 2 at 4 hexes range and 1 at 5 hexes range. The Ace of Spades was 7 hexes away so suffered no damage from the explosion.
That ended the combat. For me, this was very much a learning experience. I don't know why, but I have always avoided starship combat in previous sci-fi role-playing games. This time, however, I knew I wanted to include it as part of my campaign. The rules really appealed to me as soon as I'd read them and so I was keen to try them out as soon as possible. Yes, this was a very one-sided fight as The Polecat was totally outclassed by The Ace of Spades. I accept that, but that was how it was written in the scenario. The PCs were supposed to win, otherwise it would have been a very short scenario. But for an introduction to starship combat it served its purpose extremely well and above all, it whetted my appetite for more.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Ace of Spades Campaign - Raid on Sterling part 05

The Polecat Pounces
"That's a Flamespear Photonic Torpedo they've launched," Storm announced. "It does not have a lock on us. I repeat, it does not have a lock on us. If we maintain this course it will miss."
"That's a relief," Kimberley gratefully said as she sat alongside Storm in the co-pilot's seat. Kimberley was the captain of  The Ace of Spades Class IV scout ship but Storm was a much better pilot than her. Storm was an ex-UFP ace pilot with considerable flight and combat experience.
"Kimberley to all crew," Kimberley said as she opened a ship-wide communications, "Battle stations, battle stations! We are under attack by a hostile ship. Prepare for combat."
"Are we going to engage them?" Jeanette asked from her gunnery console.
"Hell, yeah!" Kimberley replied grimly. "We'll teach those bastards not to mess with us."
"Good," Jeanette acknowledged with a wry smile. She was looking forward to a bit of action.
The enemy vessel was called The Polecat, a Class III patrol ship crewed by a small group of pirates led by Mors Katajak. He was under instructions to stop Mearc Sterling from returning to Breuse. Although much smaller than The Ace of Spades, he was confident The Polecat could do enough damage to cripple her and allow his team to board and capture Mearc and his two colleagues. Mors was in command of a crew of six and he had a section of ten pirate troopers ready for boarding actions.
He closed the distance to The Ace of Spades and ordered his gunner to launch a second Photonic Torpedo at it. Unfortunately for him, it also failed to achieve a lock on and it narrowly shot past its target.
"Damn and blast!" he cursed. "Next time you won't be so lucky!"
Storm maintained the speed of The Ace of Spades at 5,000km, whilst turning the ship to face The Polecat, jinking all the way to make her a harder target to hit.
Kimberley left the manoeuvring to her more skilled colleague and acted as a spotter for Jeanette and Celeste who were manning the ship's Redsword Phaser Beam and Stingbird Cluster Missile Launcher respectively.
"I have target acquisition data for you, Jeanette and Celeste," she said. "I'm sending it to your controls now."
"Don't fire just yet," Sharuna warned. "Let me try and weaken their shields first."
Her computer hacking skills were the main reason that Kimberley had hired her. Her nimble fingers danced across her keyboard as she made an electronic attack against The Polecat. Seconds later she let out a triumphant cry. "YES! That's going to hurt him a lot. I've reduced his forward shield output by half. Now fry that son-of-a-bitch!"
"Way to go, girl," Jeanette complimented the young hacker. "Now let's show those scum just what we can do."
By now the two ships were at short range for The Ace of Spades' twin weapon systems. Jeanette made sure that her target was in the centre of her cross-hairs before pressing the firing button. The Redsword Phaser Beam shot out with devastating accuracy and power. It punched right through The Polecat's forward bulkhead, melting metal and crippling the bridge as it pierced the pirate vessel, causing further catastrophic damage. Two crew members and three troopers were killed instantly. Mors Katajak had no choice but to issue the order that every captain dreaded, "Abandon ship! Abandon ship!"
"Do you want me to finish them off, Kimberley?" Celeste asked. Her finger hovered expectantly over the firing button of the missile control system.
"No, there's no need, Celeste," Kimberley replied. "They're well and truly screwed. Look, they're launching escape pods."
Moments later The Polecat was engulfed in a massive explosion as its power plant reached critical mass. Only six escape pods were launched. Two crew members, neither of whom was Mors Katajak, and four troopers were the sole survivors.
"What do you want to do about those escape pods?" Storm asked.
"We leave 'em," Kimberley answered, "We don't have the capacity to rescue them all. Besides which, this is one of the major entry points into the Saga star sector. Someone will be along soon enough. They can deal with them."
"Fair enough," Storm said, not bothered either way.
"Aren't you at all curious to know who they were?" Mearc asked, "Or why they attacked us?"
"Given what happened to The Walleran, I strongly suspect they were from the same group who attacked her," Kimberley replied. "More than likely they were mercenaries or pirates looking to stop you from returning home."
"Oh!" was all Mearc could say. He had the look of a very worried man as he headed back to his quarters.

(Note. As I mentioned before this was the first ever starship combat I have played in my life! I read and re-read the rules until I was sure I was familiar with them before playing this brief encounter. The outcome was never in any doubt - The Ace of Spades was much better than The Polecat in almost every respect. But, the game went well and it certainly was a lot of fun to play. Now that I have tried starship combat once it won't be the last time. There was much I liked about the rules. They are very much geared towards role-playing, with all of the crew being allowed to get in on the action, if they wanted to. I did wonder about including any rules references in my narrative but in the end decided to leave them all out. The story is more important than the dice rolls or games mechanics. If anyone is interested in how starship combat works in N.E.W. I could certainly do a tutorial. I made extensive notes of this encounter including every dice roll I made. Let me know if it's something you'd want to read. My feeling is that it would have little appeal unless you're a newcomer to the rules system.)

Thursday, 5 October 2017

The Raid on Sterling NPCs

I'm taking a short break from my The Ace of Spades Campaign, whilst I sort out the narrative and photos for my first ever starship combat. However, I'm still sticking with the Raid on Sterling scenario by showcasing the main NPCs that feature in it. Three of them have been seen already and the other two have been mentioned in the text.
At the far left is Mearc Sterling. Mearc is an unflappable human farmer who loves animals. He was tasked by his father to seek out a group of mercenaries to help defend his colony against bandit raiders. It was he who hired Kimberley and the crew of The Ace of Spades. This figure, which I bought many years ago, is a Spacelords Civilian and is currently available from Moonraker Miniatures, (see here - http://moonrakerminiatures.com/personalities.htm )
Next up is Royce Tavahi. Royce is a brawny human scout who distrusts outsiders almost to the point of paranoia. Royce got into trouble right from the start when he pointed a gun at Julia - bad move! He means well but too often he acts before he thinks. His figure is one of four Male Crazies and Cultists produced by Acheson Creations (see here - https://www.achesoncreations.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&view=productdetails&virtuemart_product_id=646&virtuemart_category_id=55 )
The third person who travelled with Mearc and Royce to find aid was Sheas Danelish. She is a brilliant human craftswoman who often mistakes simple courtesy for chauvinism.The figure I used for Sheas is really old, bought in the 1980's, and was made by Asgard Miniatures, sadly now long out of production.
The two figures to the right of the group have been mentioned but not met yet. Second from the right is Alfred Sterling, the leader of the Sterling Agricultural Colony and the father of Mearc. He is an inspiring human farmer who cleans his nails with his pocket knife when he is bored. Alfred is a good man who just wants to make an honest living and to be left in peace. His figure was one of the old West End Games Star Wars miniatures, also long out of production. The figure was a senator or an ambassador. I added his beard and moustache to make him look more like the illustration of Alfred Sterling in the scenario book.
Finally, is Pablo Kinte, who is expecting a delivery of silver sheets. Pablo is a massive human bar owner who is always looking for a profit. Pablo is an important person on Breuse and although nominally, a woman called Diana Lewis is the official governor of Breuse, most folk know that it is Pablo who is the true ruler. He could prove to be a useful ally to the party or a dangerous enemy. The figure of Pablo is one of my unique sculpts, made many years ago. He fit the bill perfectly for what I was looking for to represent Pablo.
I'm hoping to get back to the narrative campaign in my next post.

Monday, 2 October 2017

The Ace of Spades Campaign - Raid on Sterling part 04

Outward Bound
The Ace of Spades was a 38,350 tons Class IV Scout Ship. It had a crew of 13, of which only 10 were required to operate it. It could carry 6 passengers in standard quarters and 1 in luxury quarters. Of its 400 cargo units, 44 were available, giving it a cargo capacity of 2,200 tons. It was built for speed with twin Stellar Group EH-2 Hyperdrives giving it FTL speed 15 and twin Oshiro Shipping MI-2 Ion engines, giving it Subluminal speed of 9.5, and had a healthy operational range of 70 parsecs. Its powerful Chemerkin-Liang Products LM-5S Command Computer ran to 64 CPU Cycles and allowed for a maximum FTL speed of 16. It carried the Interstellar Enterprises MS-1H Sensor Suite.
Defensively, it was excellent, with Superstructure 40, Defence 22, and Electronic Defence 32. It was fitted with a Sato-Litvak Syndicate MSN-2 Navigational Deflector Shield, which provided SOAK:2 and a more formidable Overcorp-Pan Prime LSM-2 Combat Shield Generator, which provided SOAK:9. In addition, it was fitted with a NorthCo GYN3 Starship Stealth System Cloaking Device and Omniwide Productions YPO57 Electronic Countermeasures.
Its main armaments were a North Prime Weapons LHB-1H Redsword Phaser Beam and a Galaxy Society LCCI-1 Stingbird Cluster Missile Launcher. For point defence, it mounted a Stornes and Warner Ultrashield Dual Gauss Gun.
Its facilities consisted of 1 brig, 2 luxury cabins, 12 standard cabins, 3 double cabins, 20 escape capsules, a gymnasium, hidden storage compartments for 10 cargo units, 1 laboratory, 1 library, a lounge for 8 crew, a mess hall for 8 crew, 1 replicator, a sickbay for 4 patients, and 1 stellar cartography room. In addition it had a Borian Engineering Guild BA1 Repair Bay, a Borian Engineering BFS1 Fuel Scoop, planetary landing capability and two small hangars for 1 shuttle and 1 ground vehicle. It's luxury rating was classed as 195% comfortable. The Ace of Spades had a market value of 6,862.7 MegaCredits.
The distance The Ace of Spades needed to travel from Achamandra to Breuse was 61.1 parsecs, which in theory could be managed in one jump but for safety reasons, Kimberley split into three separate jumps - Achamandra to Sheol (at the edge of the Phoenix star sector) was 16.6 parsecs. Sheol to Wellbefallen (on the edge of the Saga star sector) was 25.7 parsecs. And finally, Wellbefallen to Breuse was 18.8 parsecs. However, Kimberley knew a few short cuts she could take and was able to reduce the total distance to 55.44 parsecs.
(Kimberley has the Secret Routes exploit, which allows her to reduce journey distances in parsecs by 2d6%. I rolled a 10 for her, which was a very good result, knocking 10% off the journey distance.)
As mentioned above, The Ace of Spades had an FTL speed of 15. Kyran Calaveri, the ship's engineer worked her magic and was able to boost the engines to FTL:16. 
(Kyran used her Engine Tuner exploit to increase the maximum Faster Than Light speed by one factor.) 
This meant that the journey would take 388.08 hours or 16.17 days.
This gave the crew plenty of time to get to know their three employers, Mearc Sterling, Royce Tavahi and Sheas Danelish a lot better and for them to get to know the crew and allow them to explore The Ace of Spades.
Mearc was the only son of Alfred, the founder of the Sterling Agricultural Colony (SAC). His mother was named Radula Barr before she married Alfred. He spent most of his life following his parents from one agricultural site to another. He spent four years studying agricultural engineering at the University of Achamandra. He married and sired a son. He now lived alongside his parents and family as a valued member of the SAC. Due to his upbringing, he was very polite, well-mannered and calm.
Royce was born and raised by his parents, Carral and Ruth, on Breuse (Caliburnus 1) in a small village. He grew up as a moisture farmer, a job he intensely disliked. He would have loved to have been a soldier, so he enrolled in a military academy on Breuse and underwent basic training. However, his bad temper, impulsiveness, overconfidence and stubbornness meant he was not accepted for further training. He quickly grew disillusioned with life and joined a local street gang. His life changed for the better when he met Linda Marrow. She helped him turn his life around and they married within a year. He found a job as a freelance scout for the SAC, where Linda originated from. He took on the role of the colony's protector. A changed man from his youth, he was thoroughly devoted to his wife and the colony.
Sheas was also born on Breuse. She had a good education in farming and she continued her academic career by learning ecology, zoology and engineering, a subject she qualified with a Bachelors degree. She would have liked to have studied further, but her plans were dashed when her father, a soldier serving in the Planetary Defence Force, was killed by mercenaries in a border skirmish. She returned to the SAC on Breuse to take a full time job as a bartender, then as a baker and recently, as a mechanic, to support her two younger brothers and her mother. This has given her a very negative opinion of anyone who makes a living by fighting. She was a very stubborn woman and hated chauvinism and soldiers in equal measure.

The Ghost Ship 
When The Ace of Spades dropped out of hyperspace at Sheol, Lynda Pelligrosso, who was on the bridge running a sensor sweep, noted that everything was clear apart from a large metal object at the extreme edge of her scanner range. As the distance between them closed, she was able to further identify the mystery object.
"Kimberley, I've ascertained what that object is," she said with a look of concern on her face. "It appears to be a small-sized spaceship, probably a Class IV trader."
Kimberley Wells was seated in the command chair. Also present on the bridge were pilot Storm Galloway, android Celeste, gunner Jeanette Grey and computer hacker Sharuna Randall.
"I've tried contacting them," Lynda continued, "but they're not responding. Also, I'm not picking up any life form readings from them."
"Okay, we'll go in closer and investigate," Kimberley announced. "Let's take it steady and be on the lookout for any sign of trouble."
Storm manoeuvred The Ace of Spades alongside the ghost ship, whose hull markings indicated it was called the Walleran.
"Still nothing on comms," Lynda said. "It's just floating in space."
"No power readings either?" Kimberley asked.
"Not a thing," Sharuna replied. "It's like a ghost ship, Kimberley."
"Well, now that we're here, we may as well check it out," Kimberley decided. She switched on an open channel and said, "Gwendoline and Katja, get suited up for an EVA trip. We've got a ghost ship to explore. Celeste, you're going with them. Take point."
Kimberley knew her crew well and these three were eminently suited for this task.
Gwendoline Papillion was one of the smartest people that Kimberley knew and although her insatiable curiosity had got her into trouble before it also meant that she was more likely to spot something that others might miss.
Katja Sondquist was one of the ship's two scouts and as the eldest and thus more experienced of the pair, she was the preferred choice for doing an exploratory mission on an unknown vessel.
Celeste was an assassin android of unknown origin and Kimberley's personal bodyguard. She didn't breathe, drink, eat or sleep, so wouldn't require to suit up. If this was some kind of ambush, Celeste was more than capable of dealing with it.
Within a few minutes, Celeste, Gwendoline and Katja were ready to board the Walleran. They first had to open the manual release on the pressure hatch, a task that Celeste easily accomplished. Inside, there was no atmosphere, no gravity, no lighting, no power and absolutely no sign of life. Celeste had inbuilt infrared sensors, which gave her superior vision in the dark. Gwendoline and Katja had to rely on the lights fitted to their helmets to help them navigate around the ghost ship.
 A long corridor running the length of the ship led them towards the bridge.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to find out what happened if we can access the main computer," Gwendoline said.
"Providing it's still operational," Katja added cautiously.
As they got closer to the bridge, they were able to see that the paint on the bulkhead facing them was discoloured and blistered. The door hatch to the bridge should have opened easily but it took Celeste and Katja working together to force it open.
Inside, was a scene of utter horror. A thick yellow-white powder blanketed everything. The command console was scorched black, the paint peeling and blistered. Every surface had been burnt by an intense heat. The reason why the entry hatch had been so difficult to open was because it had warped under the intense heat. It seemed unlikely that it would ever close properly again.
The scattered remains of the ship's captain and three crew members were severely burned. One quick look was enough for Gwendoline to realise that they were beyond help.
"What is this powder that's everywhere?" Katja asked.
"It is a common fire-fighting agent," Gwendoline replied. "Many ships use it as an automatic fire-fighting defence."
Celeste led them onto the bridge. Gwendoline knelt down and closely examined the bodies to confirm cause of death, even though it was obvious how they had died. Katja was slightly overwhelmed by it all and stood watch by the entry hatch. Celeste moved to the main control panel and to everyone's amazement was able to access an automatic computer log holo-recording of what happened.
"Check this out," she said as the recording began. "This should provide us with the answers as to what happened here."
The Walleran was a small independent trading vessel, carrying silver from Achamandra to a client called Pablo Kinte on Breuse. They had left Achamandra on the day before The Ace of Spades had left. When they dropped out of hyperspace at Sheol, they were halted and boarded by a large, unmarked corvette, heavily armed.
Confused and not a little frightened, Joasa Klin, the captain and pilot of the Walleran tried his best to accommodative the mysterious intruders. They, however, kept repeating, "Where's Sterling? We know you're aiding that weasely farm boy. Now WHERE IS HE?"
After thoroughly searching the ship, causing quite a bit of damage, the intruders left. But, unknown to Klin and his crew, they had placed an incendiary bomb under the navigation desk. It went off five minutes after the fighter ship left, causing a quick, hot fire that, despite the efforts of the ship's fire protection, killed everyone on board. The intruders had obviously mistaken the Walleran for The Ace of Spades.
After relaying this information to The Ace of Spades, the three crew members fully explored the rest of the ghost ship. Nothing of further interest was found until they came to the cargo bay. Inside were five undamaged crates. Each of these contained several dozen thin metal sheets, about 15" by 8" by 0.5", individually wrapped in oiled paper. The sheets were made of silver and in total were worth over 15,000 credits. Kimberley requested that they be transferred across to the cargo bay of The Ace of Spades. Her reasoning being that seeing as they were supposed to be delivered to a client on Breuse, she ought to make sure the delivery took place... and make a profit at the same time.
With everyone back on board, The Ace of Spades made its second hyperjump of the journey. Mearc Sterling was greatly concerned that someone wanted to stop him and his colleagues from returning to Breuse. This was much bigger than local bandits causing trouble for his colony. The question was who was behind it? 
About a week later, The Ace of Spades dropped out of hyperspace in the Wellbefallen star system. As the ship slowed down to allow Kimberley and Storm to make the necessary course corrections for their jump to Breuse, Lynda warned them of an imminent arrival.
"Heads up, folks," she said abruptly. "I've got a sensor lock on a fast approaching ship heading our way."
"Open up a hailing frequency," Kimberley ordered. "I want to know who they are."
"On it," Lynda replied, followed soon after with, "they're not responding. I'll... holy shit! They've just fired a missile at us!"