One of the best things about going to a game convention is getting to try new games, which explains how I found myself piloting a Hellbender space fighter in one of Red Shirt Games' AstroSmash events at this weekend's Origins Game Fair. It was a blast: My brightly-colored ship (apparently camouflage is not an issue in space) was an easy target for the more experienced aces, but AstroSmash is designed to be quick, simple and fun for new players.
The goal of the game is to fire enough lasers, torpedoes and missiles to damage your opponents' ships. If you do enough damage, you can warp off the map and return with...a bigger ship! With more weapons! It's actually a scaled-up version of the out-of-print game Silent Death by Iron Crown Enterprises (I managed to track down a copy).
Silent Death is usually played as a two-player game, with each player commanding a squadron of small ships. The Red Shirt crew throws down old-school every now and then, but the larger-scale AstroSmash game (Up to 12 can play at one time) is a convention highlight for anyone who plays. ICE offers the large scale ships as resin models for $15 each, just in case you wanted to host your own AstroSmash party.
Red Shirt Games really brings the sci-fi to these events; In addition to all the space combat of AstroSmash, they also run Injurious Games, a 'Mech vs. 'Mech battle game (with a rather odd name, to be honest) that can also involve alien spiders and mutant space marines. One of their most popular events is the "Keep What You Kill" battle: You show up, the Red Shirts show you how to play, you and an opponent duke it out, and any 'Mechs you destroy during the game, you take home with you. That's pretty freakin' awesome.