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Keith Tracton's FirePower Pass
FirePower Pass


Keith Tracton
( Game Designer )

Biography of Keith Tracton

2009-05-31: interviews Keith Tracton, game designer and publisher of the military science fiction game

MilSciFi: "Welcome back. Please bring us up to date on Fire Power Pass."

Tracton: "Exciting things are happening at Vizor Publishing right now! I am in the final stages of drafting publicity for the official release of the production schedule of miniatures for FPP; the dream if not the objective of any miniatures rules designer. There are 11 ship types in the game, and two are already available for purchase at Two more will likely be available within a couple of weeks; proof copies are on the way to me right now.

The miniatures having popped to the top of my priority list, I am working diligently to ready the remaining 3D models for production, and nail down a viable buying guide to suggest a reasonable path for collecting enough miniatures to play your copy of FPP, without breaking the bank. The Buying guide will start with the smaller scenarios and then proceed to the larger ones, each purchase building on the previous to allow for a minimum of expense and a maximum of play. In the end there is in fact a 'full set' of FPP minis (I am finalizing that list) so the expense will also be capped. OTOH if there is call for additional ship types, we may expand the line for players to have even more fun designing their own scenarios! :-)"

MilSciFi: "Please tell us about your games miniatures."

Tracton: "I decided to make miniatures first and foremost to facilitate the print images I would be using in the game. The counter images provided in FPP are top views of rendered 3D models. The models facilitate consistency across game pieces and rules art in the rest of the rules and scenarios. Also I can add any sci-fi background I desire to the 3D models to create marketing material.

The miniatures as game pieces were always my intent from the start, but I needed to convert my prototype 3D files - developed using open source surface-modeling software - into production-ready 3D files. I commissioned an artist to go over my first two designs, the Terran 'Nelson' Class Battle Ship, and the Procyonese 'Revgone' Class System Reserve Ship (a very large Battle Cruiser). The two models that are available are what he submitted from the commission, I like them a great deal and they will become the official versions of those ships in the artwork later as well.

In the meantime, with production costs being what they are, I am re-working the remaining original designs used for developing print graphics into water-tight models for production by Things are going well, I have another Procyonese ship about 90% done - the cruiser-sized 'Orton' Class System Patrol Ship. I am redesigning the turret tubes; and two more Terran vessels are ready, the Battle Cruiser class Aubrey; and the Dreadnought class Victory. It's exciting!"

MilSciFi: "What was your inspiration for this new game?"

Tracton: "A friend of mine who has recently passed away (RIP) postulated a universe where there was an interstellar war between cultures of two arms of our galaxy, the Orion and the Perseus arm. The game portrays the space naval action thereof."

MilSciFi: "Are there any changes to the game's mechanics?"

Tracton: "There are no new mechanics but we do indeed have a truly unique and very fast moving 3D movement sequence, which uses graphic measures rather than calculations to portray the horizontal motion across the table of a squadron of ships traveling both horizontally and vertically in the same move. The same mechanic applies to measuring range. 3D movement becomes visual rather than mathematical, so the players do not have to leave their "tactical" mindset. The calculations for 3D movement are designed into the graphic pieces used for measuring horizontal distance."

MilSciFi: "What other upcoming works are on the horizon for you?"

Tracton: "I am developing a board game based on Firepower Pass called Ship To Ship. It is to be a standalone product, complete out of the box. It is a radical simplification of the miniatures rules to fit a board game format, but it retains all the flavor and thrills of FPP, and as such I consider it an excellent introductory game. I have a target date of late November on my calendar and the website but truth to be told the play test plans for StS are very ambitious, especially for scenarios, so that may move. I want the scenarios to offer excellent replay value  (who doesn't?). The game itself will be boxed and contain a 22x34 full-color map; 40+ double-sided spaceship and single-sided terrain tiles; 100+ circular plastic markers; charts, tables, rules, ship logs, and scenarios will complete the set, all full-color. the pre-publication price is likely to be around 65.00 or 70.00; SRP will be 80.00 though."

MilSciFi: "How would you describe your experience developing your system?"

Tracton: "Truly a humbling exercise in conceptualization and the art of less-is-more. The more detail I cut out of the (deliberately) detailed FPP rules to adapt to StS, the more I had to re-invent the feel of those rules in a simpler, boardgame oriented way. Ya' learn sumthin' new every day... :-)"

MilSciFi: "What would you say was the strength of your game, compared with what else is on the market?"

Tracton: "The 3D mechanics in Firepower Pass are implemented simply and quickly through the use of octagonal movement templates, so no math is necessary when calculating the effect of vertical movement on horizontal distance in the game. Both axes of movement integrate simply and easily, simply by adjusting where you lay the template in relation to the squadron moving.

Also, your CREWS MATTERS. In most space combat games, the crew quality is not emphasized at all, or to a very small degree. In FPP, your ship is only as good as the crew that serves it, or, a tool is only as good as the artisan using it. :-) Varying crew quality makes a big difference in every aspect of the game.

Command rules in FPP make the game truly what it is, a game of combat and Command. Ships do not fight in a vacuum; they fight as part of a squadron. they attack and defend as a group, though the affect of individual weapon batteries is important. Commanders can have good days and bad days, and each commanders capabilities for a scenario are given a tendency (better commanders tend to have more, better days) but it is not an absolute (needed for referencing game tables) until the moment it is used. This gives scenarios a great deal of replay value, as in one game the best commander may be on his  or her game; while in another playing, they may be only mediocre, though commanding the same ships."

MilSciFi: "What is your favorite aspect of the game and why?"

Tracton: "Hard to say, being the designer I like the game in toto. But if one thing stands out to me, it is the fact that since the very first play test the mechanics have immediately seconded themselves to players 'Thinking Tactically' from the very first turn of the game, as opposed to thinking 'How do I do this mechanic'. The latter takes them out of the game; the former means they are IN the game."

MilSciFi: "Is there anyone you would like to thank for helping to make Firepower Pass what it is today?"

Tracton: "The list is truly long; this game is anything but made in a vacuum. But the originator of the universe which generated the initiative to make this game - and it has been since 1985 - my great and good friend, Chris Mark, will always have my eternal gratitude for letting me share his vision. He passed away recently, too young gone, and the game is dedicated to him."

MilSciFi: "Do you have any play testing, or demonstration events scheduled?"

Tracton: "Not scheduled yet, but check the Vizor Publishing website ( as I will be play testing scenarios for the board game Ship To Ship via a ZunTzu gamebox-module ( later this year!"

Also I will be constructing a Firepower Pass Zuntzu gamebox-module to use for ongoing online demonstrations. :-)"

MilSciFi: "Do you have a website where our readers can go to fine more information about your work?"

Tracton: " Games with Realism AND Playability... ;-)"

For Firepower Pass miniatures:

MilSciFi: "Do you have any other products under development?"

Tracton: "The board game version of FPP is Ship To Ship as I mentioned above. It is next up on the block and deep into development and graphic design. Production processes are being tested and we hope to have production going by the end of the year. We will be accepting pre-orders for the first print run in a few months, watch our website!"

MilSciFi: "Thank you for joining us."

Keith Tractons's website is:

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Copyright 2009 Mike McPhail, All Rights Reserved.


The views contained in this interview are those of the author, and
do not necessarily represent the views of