After an extended period away from Traveller stuff due to real-world commitments (far too long to be honest), I’m going to get back into the swing of things with a review of Gypsy Knights Games latest publication, the Hub Federation Navy Sourcebook which John Watts has kindly sent me a copy to take a look at.
The book is available from Drivethru RPG as a PDF for $8.99 and as a softcover book for $19.99, written by Michael Johnson. The book is broken down into the first few pages covering the background and how the Federation Navy came into being, following the collapse of the conduit between the Clement Sector and Earth. The structure and organisation of the navy along with uniform descriptions are covered next, with the following ten pages describing characters and how a Federation Navy career fits into the Traveller game context.
The bulk of the book (around fifty pages) is made up with descriptions of the various career tracks starting from General Duty, Engineering and other support ranks, through to Naval Inteligence and Senior Command ranks. Overall, eleven careers are extensively covered with full Mongoose Traveller descriptions and events tables. The book has 96 pages which are rounded off with five appendices detailling fleet organisation, German and Royal Navy ship listings and hull and command lists. English to German ship classification translations are provided and the book is extensively illustrated with colour images. Bradley Warnes has proved most of the images, being computer generated scenes featuring scenes of people (uniform, battledress, combat, pilots etc) which are of the highest quality. Ian Stead has also provided a number of spacecraft scenes of naval craft (of Ian’s usual high standards) though most of these (if I recall correctly) have been used in other books.
The books premise is based on the merging of the German and Royal Navies, to form a unifed Federation Navy. This was thought-provoking for me on how ‘realistic’ this would be; of course this is science-fiction, but considering some high profile media discussions (including some in the past couple of weeks) about potential navy defence cuts and the UK’s ability to meet future threats and commitments, I did wonder on the viability of the premise. My thoughts were based on the German and Royal Navies long traditions and history, including when they were both at conflict in the last two World Wars and when in joint exercises as part of NATO commitments. There was a lot of debate a few years ago when the British Army lost a lot of high profile regiments, due to defence cuts and mergers, so is it realistic to expect that both navies would simply forego all that history and become a unified force in another part of the galaxy? The author does mention (briefly, in a couple of paragraphs) that the Royal Navy still resists the change as they could be considered the ‘minor partner’, but it would have been nice to have this undercurrent expanded a bit more.
The flipside is that ‘the need to’, would be the driver for change; the Army implemented the changes because they had to and we have newly-named regiments. Back in the Clement Sector, the integraton is stll ongoing having only just started; only five to years have elapsed so far. However, it is already demonstrated that joint operations do successfully take place with current NATO exercises, so considering the Hub Federation Navy is set three hundred years into the future, this ‘realistically’ shouldn’t be a problem.
Perhaps it would have been interesting to cover in more detail how the integration process went and what resistance there would have been (which is only human nature) and expanding the background material a little more.
The book is mainly geared towards players who want to create characters who will follow the naval career path, which it does extensively. Though the book does this very well, you wont find a huge amount of other reference material and I felt it was the kind of book you would use at the start of a character’s career generation process and only refer to it as and when you needed a career event. I think it would have been good to cover information on naval tactics, how the navy conducts operations, weapons and equipment and ‘general life’ aboard ship, which would have made it a more ’rounded’ product about the Hub Federation Navy.
Overall, I think the Hub Federation Navy is a good book bearing in mind its ‘specialist’ use, it easily matches the quality of other Gypsy Knights Games products and if you are looking to create naval characters using the Clement Sector background, this is a must-purchase. I’d also like to thank John Watts for forwarding me a copy to review.
Oh, and by the way – early purchasers of the book should check for emails from Drivethru RPG as an amended version is available for download, with some corrections and edits.