The Lesser Magellanic Cloud has been a fixture of the Star Fleet Universe for many years; since the days when the first details of Operation Unity were committed to print. However, it would not be until the development of the indigenous Magellanic empires was championed by Ken Burnside (the founder of Ad Astra Games) culminated in the publication of Star Fleet Battles Module C5 before the LMC would be formally expanded upon as a unique and vibrant setting in its own right.
(Just to be clear, the SFU goes with "Lesser" and "Greater" Magellanic Cloud, as opposed to "Small" and "Large".)
At the moment, C5 is only available in print form; if you are thinking of picking it up, the latest errata file may be handy. Alternatively, there has been talk of it being on the to-do list for an upload to e23; should that happen, both the PDF and print editions would presumably be updated to incorporate the latest errata.
The LMC is a more compact setting than either the Alpha or Omega Octants of the Milky Way, or the more distant galaxies in the SFU such as M81 and M33. On the hex map of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, the region is divided into five main areas.
The blackened region in the centre of the Cloud is the Core; a very densely-packed collection of stars, with a radiation shell surrounding it that provides a similar barrier afforded the WYN Star Cluster by their own hollow Radiation Zone.
Beyond the Core, a ring of "normal" space (with the kind of stellar density you'd expect to find in the Milky Way) can be found; this is where most of the current crop of LMC star-faring species hail from.
Attached to this area is the Yrol Nebula; the three-hex region coloured green on the LMC map, the nebula is home to a series of indigenous space-faring life forms about whom little is currently known.
Beyond this main zone lie the Fringe worlds; these areas have only a fraction of the "standard" amount of stars and planets in each hex, making them hard for sedentary empires to claim (and much easier for nomadic exiles to make themsleves harder to find).
Finally, there is the distant Chomak Cluster; only relatively recently snagged by the LMC's gravity well (in astronomical terms), not much is currently published regarding the internal composition of this area of space.
The history of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, published in Module C5, can be found here.
While much of the Cloud's recorded history is due to the efforts of the Chomak Community, based in their distant star cluster, the "modern" tale of the Cloud began in the Core region. There, the Maghadim emerged as a space-faring power; crushing at least one other Core species in their outwards expansion. However, the Maghadim eventually ran into the inner wall of the Core radiation shell; not realizing its hollow nature, this insectoid species instead turned in on itself, launching the first of a series of brutal civil wars for control of the Core's resources.
In the main region of LMC space, the current crop of empires emerged somewhat later, each in their own way. The reptilian Jumokians started founding a merchant league from Y1 owards, welcoming many less advanced species into their employ. The Baduvai (a species of massive 1200kg quadrupeds) learned in Y17 that their home star would eventually expand, consuming their home world; this discovery propelled them to develop warp drive and take to the stars. The Yrol, a species native to the nebula that shares their name, managed a way to merge their semi-mobile ships to the semi-sentient nebula-dwelling life forms; using these ships to launch raids into "normal" space, they provoked a response by the squid-like Uthiki in Y8. And in Y23, the Jumokians made a fateful first contact with the Eneen; a lemur-like species with a high radiation tolerance, who were quickly signed up as "junior partners", to do the least prestigious tasks in the Jumokian League. As later Jumokian historians might later review (to their regret), it probably seemed like a good idea at the time...
In the many decades prior to the arrival of the Andromedans, these powers would find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of trade, diplomacy, intrigue and armed conflict. The Eneen would turn on their Jumokian partners in Y30, sparking a series of wars that would lead to the fall of Jumok itself to the Eneen in Y47. The Baduvai would be next on the Eneen's hit list; things would go badly for the Imperium until the legendary battle of H'Gar, at which a new wave of modern warships decisively turned the tide against the expanding Protectorates. As the Baduvai and Eneen fortified their southern flank while jockeying for power to the north, an unexpected "awakening" of the Maghadim would lead to two wars fought over the Neutral Worlds; a pair of provinces to the north-east of LMC space, formally established as a buffer zone between the Baduvai and Eneen by treaty, and eagerly coveted by the Maghadim Hives as their primary route of escape from their confines in the Core. (While the three Magellanic powers wrestled for dominance, the Yrol Septs maintained their neutrality; the Uthiki eventually consented to a semi-autonomous status within the Baduvai Imperium; and the Chomak Community maintained a degree of splendid isolation on the far side of the Fringe.)
And yet, the shadow of the Andromedan Invaders would eventually see this cycle shattered forever. The first Motherships started to arrive in the Fringe from Y138; as they worked to build their first Desecrator starbase (in order to establish the inter-galactic Rapid Transit Network's "trunk line" of back to M31) while the Second Neutral Worlds War kept the three Magellanic Powers occupied. By the time that conflict wound down, it was too late to stop the first wave of invasion; a wave which would see the Uthiki practically exterminated as a species, and both the Baduvai and Eneen forced to re-locate their governments to hastily-founded colonies in the Core as the tide of Andromedans crashed against their home worlds. The Triple Pact (the new alliance between the three powers) did manage to destroy the first Desecrator in Y154; but once again it was too late to change the outcome, as the Andromedans had already established a second starbase two years earlier.
With the Baduvai and Eneen governments-in-exile trapped along with the Maghadim in the Core, and scattered survivors from all three fleets fleeing to the Fringe, the Andromedans used their newly-won plunder to feed their war machine; using the Cloud as a jump-off points for their later invasions of both the Alpha and Omega Octants. There were a few loose ends to tie up before the Milky Way would feel the full wrath of the Invasion, however; the first recorded use of the Dominator dreadnoughts saw the Andromedans finally manage to "crack" the Core in Y183, while the Chomak cluster, the last surviving holdouts in the LMC, fell in turn by Y185.
It would not be until the success of Operation Unity in Y202 before the surviving Magellanic partisans could even begin to look towards liberating their still-occupied home worlds; yet, with so much damage caused by the invaders' brutal occupations, it would take a long time for any of the LMC's native species to get back on their feet once more.
(As it happened, the post-Unity era also saw the first efforts at exploration by the Alpha Octant powers themselves; seeking to help flush out the lingering Andromedan presence in the Cloud, but also to explore these "strange, new worlds" in their own right. Indeed, one such vessel, the Star Fleet advanced technology survey cruiser NCC-1821 USS Sakharov, would discover one of the RTN links that the invaders had originally used to take it to another region of the Milky Way; following it would allwo the Sakharov to make the formal "first contact" with the wild and warlike Omega Octant.)
In game terms, the LMC is, like the island galaxy itself, pretty self-contained. C5 itself has pretty much all you'd need to run a campaign using the Baduvai, Eneen or Maghadim through Operation Unity; while both the Uthiki and Jumokians have enough units for these minor powers to get by. (The Yrol and Chomak have yet to be published; there are also a handful of Jindarian Caravans in the Cloud, that use the rules published for them in SFB Module F1.)
Tactically, the five currently-published factions have a few things in common. Most importantly, they each have a multi-layered shield system; with a set of outer shields (enjoying the benefit of a Volley Reduction Factor that reduces outer shield damage per volley) and a pair of hemispheric inner shields protecting the juicy hulls within. Also, each empire uses warp-tuned lasers in place of phasers; not massively different than phasers, their main disadvantage is their weakness against plasma. (This was not a problem in their home environment, but can be a factor once Alpha Octant Big Plasma shows up.)
On a larger tactical scale, the smaller economies of the Magellanic fleets manifests itself in terms of fleet selection. SFB has explicit squadron rules requiring a force to take, in addition to the flagship, no more than one cruiser for every three frigates or desttroyers fielded. This makes the destroyer the backbone of an LMC fleet; if you like these smaller ships, you're in luck. (Now, ACtA:SF tends not to like explicit fleet limits; but it should at least be recommended that players try to stick with the historical ratios.)
In all, I personally believe that the LMC is a great choice for future consideration; and, indeed, could be a good one-stop-shop for an expansion. Unlike in the Omega Octant, you could have a fairly good shot at all of the relevant units from Module C5 in a single ACtA:SF volume; enough to flesh out the three big players, while still potentially leaving the door open for the Yrol and Chomak later. Plus, thanks to Operation Unity, the Cloud would be a good choice as the first "known" alternate setting from an Alpha Octant perspective; one which, if it proves to be successful enough, could act as a natural gateway for later exploration of settings like Omega. (In essence, the path taken by the Sakharov from the Alpha Octant to the Cloud, and then on to the Omega Octant, could make sense here... if the latter two proved popular enough.)
Of course, there is no guarantee that Mongoose may ever choose to go in any such direction; only time will tell if these avenues of expansion would ever be taken. That said, I figured it would be as well to at least try to raise awareness of the LMC as a setting; as well as to try my hand at seeing what unoffical rules I might be able to come up with, for what little they may be worth.
So, does the Lesser Magellanic Cloud seem like it could be of interest; and if so, would you consider it to be more, less, or equal to Omega in terms of wanting to explore it further?
As with the Omega thread, I was going to create a separate post for each of the five playtest empires; that should make it easier to edit in any fixes, changes etc. Plus it will hopefully make things a little neater, too.