The Axanar timeline is a dream come true for people who thrill at stories of derring do, hair breadth escapes, and heroism against overwhelming odds, all against the background of the Four Years War.
The Four Years War was first put together by FASA Corporation for their Star Trek RPG, and their Star Trek Space Combat Simulator, one of the classics of the genre. It’s also served as the basis for Stephen Fender’s excellent novels…and for the fan films we’re all eagerly anticipating.
I had the privilege of converting ships from Prelude the Axanar to Squadron Strike, and these are the things I’ve learned.
1) There is a definite doctrinal pattern involved. You’ll notice, by careful watching of the videos at 1/4 speed, that the photon torpedoes are used to ‘herd’ ships and constrain maneuver. They’re also less accurate at closer range, although a lot of that is dramatic choice by the VFX teams.
2) Ship defenses are layered. It’s clear that long ranged phaser and disruptor fire is ineffective against fresh shields. It’s also clear that they’re devastating at close range and against down shields.
This told me that the way these weapon systems are employed is to make long range photon torpedo shots to force an enemy to turn off; the best strategy is to win without fighting. When things get in close, ships can survive a short-range pass if their shields are up, and photon torpedoes are murder against shields.
This implies a more maneuver-centric fighting doctrine than can be shown in the narrow field of a 1920×1280 screen with recognizable ships. I will admit to a small amount of self-service here: Games where ships maneuver are much more fun than games where they just fire weapons from the edge of the screen in a grinding battle of attrition.
Once that framework was established, and I got permission to continue from Alec and the Axanar Team, it was time to re-watch Prelude again. I know, I know. Tough work!
My job was to catalog every time a weapon fired on screen and figure out what the weapon *was.* Prelude had at two VFX teams working on it, and they weren’t entirely consistent, but fortunately, they didn’t contradict each other. They just showed slightly different weapon fits.
My cataloging of weapons revealed the following:
For Photon Torpedoes:
* The Klingon photon torpedoes appear to do more damage than the Federation ones.
* The Federation photon torpedoes seemed to require fewer trade-offs to launch.
* Some of the really small Klingon ships used the same photon torpedoes that the bigger ships did; in theory, these smaller ships packed a punch.
For secondary weapons:
* Klingon beam weapons (called disruptors) tended to *consistently* have longer duration shots — they lingered when damaging their targets.
* There were two phaser VFX shots used from Federation ships, notable by the thickness of the beam.
* In the early part of the war, a lot of Federation ships fired an unknown weapon that put out three little specks of energy. A few of these weapons were shown in later shots, but it looks like the Federation replaced an earlier weapon with phasers.
So, to wrap up: Photon torpedoes were used to make opponents maneuver, seemed to be more effective against shields, and phasers, disruptors and whatever the mystery Federation weapon was were finishing weapons for the in-close fight.
— Ken Burnside, Designer, Squadron Strike and Squadron Strike: Axanar