Stargrave Dead or Alive: pursuit of Tamix Phage

In my first ever game of Stargrave, the crew of the Errant Wanderer chased down a bounty named Tamix Phage in a solo scenario from the free Dead or Alive mini-expansion. Dead or Alive gives rules for randomly generating various bounty hunting jobs your crew can embark on, with special rules for using decision trees to guide the actions of the bounty mark and their gang.

A showdown at the starport

Through coercion and bribery, Captain Varga Driima has finally tracked Tamix Phage to a nameless planet orbiting some backwater star. Someone has tipped her off. We find our crew having chased Phage to a small starport as she attempts to board an escape craft and slip through their grasp.

A backwater starport

I chose the starport setting based on terrain I had on hand, and rolled for a random mark and gang. The scenario generator produced a team of hard-bitten combatants. Tamix herself, described as a “Mercenary and murderer” who leaves “a trail of bodies a parsec long,” wore an alien armor suit that could take free Snap Shots at models during their own activations. Her gang consisted of a hardy mix of recruits, sentries, troopers, snipers, and a grenadier.

Tamix Phage directs a pair of sentries.

My own crew was designed for campaign multiplayer games, nimble, loot-focused, and a little tricksy. To take down a mark like Tamix Phage, I would really need to play carefully.

A costly victory

Varga pauses to watch Phage gasp a chain of obscenities between bloody coughs. When “Bounty Confirmed” chimes on his wrist deck, Delsom turns to speak, but the bark of incoming fire interrupts. The officers break into a wordless run; they’ll settle accounts back on the Wanderer.

“Bounty Confirmed”

The Reclaimers brought down their quarry, but paid dearly. Tamix Phage’s Snap Shot alone took down three crewmates, and only Captain Driima, First Mate Delsom Lang, and two other crew escaped from the starport. If this were a campaign game, the bounty payment might barely cover hiring replacements afterward (though perhaps I would have played a bit differently in a campaign game).

Triumphs and tragedies

Several moments provoked cheers and groans in this game.

On the first turn several models threw smoke grenades to screen my crew’s advance. This worked, but I got too cocky moving my Captain into one of the smoke clouds. You can’t shoot into those clouds, but you can charge into them with weapons swinging! That is precisely what the closest of Phage’s sentries did, tying up Captain Driima in close combat right away. What a disaster.


Luckily my roguish captain has a power called Quick Step. At the top of the next turn I activated that power, allowing Varga Driima to waltz right out of combat into nearby cover! My pathfinders made short work of the baffled sentry.

Why stand and fight when you can skulk and ambush?

In fact, those pathfinders accounted for most of my crew’s kills and big hits, including the shotgun blast that convinced Tamix Phage to flee the scene. Many of my “hooray!” moments resulted from their ability to move right where they were needed and then aim true (plus some dice luck, of course).


On the other hand, most of my “oh no!” moments came from Phage’s Snap Shot ability. This allows a free +1 shot at every model who activates within or moves into Phage’s line of sight. What’s the big deal, it’s just a +1 shot, right?

I kept rolling critical hits. My dice were especially manic on turn 2, where my runner’s weapon jammed, Snap Shot landed a crit and killed my hacker, and Phage dodged my pathfinder’s crit by also rolling a 20.

Phage’s corridor of death

Then there was Charlie the Chiseler, whom I dub Lucky Charlie posthumously. Chiselers get a large bonus for unlocking physical loot tokens. Charlie reached the central loot crate to open it on turn 2. With Charlie’s special bonus, I needed to roll a 7 or higher on a 20-sided die, a 70% probability.

He failed on turn 2.

He failed on turn 3.

He failed on turns 4 and 5.

By the time he succeeded on turn 6, the rest of the crew were either dead or fleeing, and the bad guys swarmed. Charlie hauled his hard-earned loot into the cover of a smoke cloud…

…which promptly dissipated.

He died on turn 7.

You had one job, Charlie.

My triumph began when Captain Driima bravely hid in a smoke cloud and blind-tossed a frag grenade at Phage. This marked the first time I had managed to hit Phage with anything, and it was solid enough to stun her. Then, after barely dodging a Snap Shot, my pathfinder managed that big shotgun hit, which hurt Phage enough to switch her from Fight to Flight.

Clever and lucky? Yes. Brave? Well…

Once Phage turned and ran, I realized I had maybe one turn to bring her down before she escaped off the edge of the table. Abandoning all caution, First Mate Lang ran headlong around the corner to face Phage’s Snap Shot. He dodged! Lang was just under four inches away. He could take a shot, but success seemed unlikely.

No time for self-preservation.

Instead, he activated his Target Designation power, hindering Phage’s ability to dodge future hits. This allowed Lang to power move just close enough to lock Phage in combat if she tried to move away. Lang would be outclassed in close combat, but at least it would slow Phage down if necessary.

Next turn, Driima rounded the same corner and dodged the Snap Shot. He had a clean shot, enhanced by Lang’s targeting projector. It came down to a single die roll, and I rolled high. Phage fell on the spot, and the job was done.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

That turn, after several turns of rolling no result for Unwanted Attention, I rolled a 20, summoning a trio of the pirate fleets’ best troops. No sense hanging around anymore. Surviving crewmates scattered to meet up at a rendezvous point and count their money.

The cavalry arrives, prompting a hasty retreat.

Frostgrave to Stargrave first impressions

The Stargrave rules provided a tense, exciting game, with lots of high-stakes rolls and surprising outcomes. Compared to Frostgrave, a few changes stood out.

Generally, armor in Stargrave is lower than in Frostgrave, and health is higher. Combined with the rules for being Stunned and Wounded, this leads to a broader range of combat outcomes occurring more frequently. In both games it seems like models can take about two or three solid hits before they go down. In Frostgrave I often feel that when getting hit a model either dies or completely shrugs it off. In this game of Stargrave, models took hits and ended up Stunned quite often, which led to being faced with more frequent puzzling decisions about what to do next.

Plenty of interesting outcomes.

I just love the Bribe power, being able to simply say “nope” and have an incoming shot automatically fail. I also love the idea of all our expendable grunts being susceptible to bribery. Of course they are.

Grenadier’s turn? Nothing a little bribery won’t fix.

Power moves solve something that bugs me about Frostgrave. I tend to build fast, nimble teams focused on getting treasure and getting out quick and clean. In Frostgrave that often means my wizard falling behind my thieves and treasure hunters. Being able to activate a power and still move a little bit helped my Captain and First Mate feel more dynamic and center stage. I prefer this; they’re the stars of the show, after all.

Officers staying right in the thick of things.

I cannot wait to get a Stargrave campaign going with my friends. When we do, you can bet I’ll write about it here.

See you, space cowboy





One response to “Stargrave Dead or Alive: pursuit of Tamix Phage”

  1. […] the group’s interests had wandered elsewhere. I found myself shelving Stargrave after only a single solo game, but couldn’t resist buying and reading all its subsequent expansions over the […]

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