Wednesday, July 20, 2011

5150 Space Batrep: Pushing It To The Limit

For those of you who don't know, I'm working on THW's space gaming supplement.

That makes it all the more pathetic that I'm using models from micromachines and Twilight Imperium, but, you know, just play the game and all that.

The game was initially designed with a focus on only a few ships to a side, in fact, often only one ship. The idea was to allow players to integrate it with 5150 into an overall campaign so that they could play Firefly or Star Trek esque games, with the heroes zooming around in their ship from location to locations, fighting on ground and in space for whatever it is they fight for.

A few polls and some playtesting later, and with Book 2 (formerly known as New Hope City, now New Beginnings, with New Hope City being a separate scenario book... I think) still unreleased, I got to working on the 'other' side of space combat.

See, as noted on Super Galactic Dreadnought, there are two types of campaigns/games: The Captain's Game, and the Admiral's Game.

In the Captain's Game, you control one or two ships, and are basically given free reign to interact with the universe but do not directly control the overall flow; governments, wars, etc. You might be able to change things a bit, but the focus is on your ship, its characters, and the tactics of small scale fights (although these fights are sometimes part of larger wars, especially if you work for the military).
In that kinda game, you can be a Pirate, Smuggler, Merchant, Mercenary, Military, Spy, Exploration, etc, type of ship.

In the Admiral's Game, you are given control of anything from a large fleet to the entire space forces of a nation. From there, you basically control the events of the galaxy by shooting at them, and, possibly, talking at them, if you want diplomacy to be part of the game. You might even research things, too! You might have a few characters (A few special captains, perhaps?) but overall, the focus of  any one battle is going to be large fleets slugging it out with each other. The individual tactics probably are less important, in favor of grand strategy. No more worrying about the facings of individual weapons and ships, at this point what matters is the right flank's assault on the enemy's sides, the center shooting off waves of missiles slamming into the right enemies at the right times, and the left flank's fighters sitting in the asteroid belt, waiting for any ship foolish enough to come close.

Both are very cool, but making one set of rules for both is actually quite hard, especially when you're also a fan of vector movement, missiles that you move like ships, and hit points (hull points), all of which make the really big battles a bit slower.

So, of course, I went off and did all of those things, and I'm now testing them on massive battles.

A little while ago I did a more midsized battle (A couple of frigates and corvettes against a cruiser that had some fighters on board... I think of this as a larger 'captain's battle' or a smaller 'admiral's' battle) and it went quite well took much less than 2 hours.

Today, I played the largest battle I could ever imagine being played by a sane human admiral.

The Red Fleet! I think I decided that I arbitrarily decided to call these the Earth Force side, from First Contact. But this is just a generic fleet. 

The Black Fleet! Arbitrarily called the Star Army's fleet (5150 universe).
Black has 5 Battleships and 2 Carriers (both with 12 Hull, the largest ships you can get in the game... After playing this game, I'd say that you'd probably not want to have more than one or two of these per side for most games).
Red has 2 Battleships and 4 Carriers.

Those tiny ships are the frigates, which are NOT the smallest ships in the game. Carriers, obviously, hold fighters (6 per, though you could do more or less) and absent from the game are Corvettes, which I picture as being about Millenium Falcon sized. 

The ships that look somewhat like Battlestar Galactica are cruisers.

It should be mentioned that the game has plenty of room for ships like "battlecruisers" and "destroyers" or whatever... perhaps "heavy fighters" with 2 Hull. However, this just increases the granularity of ship size, and for the most part can be represented by just having an up armored or increased hull version of some other ship (or perhaps reduced hull).

My Dining Room Table A Distant Solar System....
For such a large battle, I decided I wanted a large setting... So I took the biggest table I could get, put two planets down (made them identical in terms of gravity but opposite in terms of movement) and an asteroid belt between them.

A note on scale in this game: Some settings have space battles where distances are measured in hundreds of yards, others have battles where distances are measured in thousands of kilometers. I took the attitude that it didn't really matter; its all relative. So for this battle the scale is pretty big, but for another battle, it could be very small. Same story for ships; if you are gaming a setting where a battle between a dozen battleships with thousands of crew on each (or even more extreme, Battlefleet Gothic's tens of thousands of crew per SMALL ship), do NOT call those ships battle ships. Just say that each fighter is actually a squad, call the battleships frigates, and you are good to go. Basically, whatever is the BIGGEST thing (other than a Death Star analogue) in the game should be a Battleship, and if you need something a TINY bit bigger add a few hull and armor, but don't go and make every ship a battleship.

Anyway, to test out the strategy of choosing weapons, I had the Red focus on Missiles (their fighters, frigates, and battleships) and lasers (their frigates and cruisers). Only the Carrier had conventional 'cannons,' which had a large battery of smaller guns for taking out smaller ships. The Cruisers also had PDS's for taking down enemy fighters if they get too close. 
Their fighters were also given increased armor and slower speed, though as they weren't dogfighters but more like tiny missile boats, that didn't matter that much. 

Black had more 'conventional' fighters that were designed for dogfighting (which also means they aren't bad at strafing runs, which Red fighters couldn't do) with two small cannons, and pretty much everything else was made to be 'balanced.' So Frigates had a couple of big cannons and a small laser (as well as getting Fighterlike, a special attribute that lets larger ships behave somewhat, well, fighterlike) Cruisers with a mix of PDS, cannons, lasers, and missiles, Battleships with large "BA Cannons," torpedoes, PDS, and lasers, and, as an odd opposite of the Red Carriers, Carriers with a few large lasers and nothing else.

I snapped a few photos throughout; I took more as the game came to an end (the beginning was a bit like a mixture of an artillery barrage and ancient war's skirmishing- both sides lost several ships, but neither side took serious damage... instead, it was a time for positioning and accelerating).

Here you see Black has lost half its fighters and a lot of Frigates during this "skirmishing" phase. The Capital ships make a steady advance up the center, only moving to avoid getting displaced too much by the planet, and the remaining fighters move up towards the asteroid belt to try to prevent Red's fighters using it as cover.
Here we see Red at a similar stage in the game (I think a turn later), having lost its main line of Cruisers. A few cruisers on the left flank hand moved off to go through a small gap in the asteroid belt, which are not seen. As the frigates and battleships for this side were more or less "artillery ships," they basically aren't moving up. Their missiles have been doing a ton of damage, though. The fighters are not seen either, as they were nearing the asteroid belt at this point.
Here we see the result of the fighter war: both sides have lost some to the fighting already, so Red's numbers have given them the upper hand. However, they can't dogfight at all (weird choice for fighters), and are instead more like bombers for taking out capital ships with massed missiles. Black's fighters are making a dent, but too few of them are left to stop Red from unleashing a volley of missiles.
A few turns later. You can see Red's flanking cruisers getting close to ready to open up on Black's flank in the lower left corner.  Most of Red's fighters are dead or refueling/rearming, though a few remain locked in a defensive dogfight (they can't damage, they can just evade) with Black's one remaining fighter. Red has lost half of its carriers, has only a few frigates left (who continue to shoot a ton of missiles at Black), and has only one remaining battleship, which is damaged. Black is in worse shape, with only one frigate, two cruisers, a carrier, and a battleship all moving up in a column through the center gap in the asteroid belt. Still, the battle could go either way.

As can be seen, the ships continue firing at one another, resulting in the loss of Black's last frigates and most of Red's carriers (and a frigate or two). Black seems to be gaining an advantage.  However, Red's flanking cruisers are just paying off as this picture was taken, and destroy the two cruisers and damage the carrier and battleship while only taking one or two light hits themselves.
Unfortunately for Red, Black is going pretty fast due to a lot of acceleration, and so the Red cruisers quickly get too far away (with a belt and planet between them, too) to have an effect on the fight. Black destroys Red's last carrier, meaning Red only has his 'artillery' ships left... ineffective against fighters. Black's remaining fighter attacks Red's remaining Frigates, killing one with a few well placed shots.

Unfortunately for Black, they lose the initiative the next turn, and the carrier was going much too fast towards that planet for its slow engines to be able to get out of the way.... and with a failed piloting roll, they lose their (already badly damaged) carrier. Red's frigate is able to hit black's fighter (barely! if he hadn't, it isn't that unlikely that the fighter could've survived much longer by dogfighting the frigate and then the battleship, though the cruisers would've gotten him), and the Red battleship is able to nail the black battleship at close range with another volley of missiles, winning the game. Meanwhile, the Red cruisers are having fun using the planet movement and gravity rules to have a gravity 'add,' sending them speeding back towards Red's other remaining ships.

Altogether, a fun game. 
A cool thing about space games (especially ones that try to be somewhat physically accurate, like this one, and don't just copy WW2 naval battles) is that the strategy is something entirely new. There is no "suppress the enemy and flank him" in these games. Every tactic, every strategy, every fleet load out is an innovative new idea being put to the test. 

Another thing to remember is that fuel is a crucial element to space combat, especially in a campaign game. Red was dangerously close to running out of fuel altogether with some of its ships by the end of the game, and even though they didn't, it means that in a campaign game they'd practically be immobilized by this battle. 

Surprisingly close game, actually. For awhile I really though Black was going to be totally massacred. That was my fault: I did a slow advance, when I should have charged all of the small ships forward as fast as possible (actually, the big ships too); Red was more of the "some really close range, some really long range" fleet. Black only got into its element- Cannon range, essentially- at the end of the game, and at that point they were just too weak to win.

Now, given that this game is for Two Hour Wargames, I'd say it took too long. It was more like a Three and a Half Hour Wargame. Still pretty good for time, especially because I had to tweak some rules here and there where issues popped up and I was taking pictures and a few notes, but still, a bit long.

Here are the reasons for that:

Missiles. They are very effective (possibly a bit too effective, though they also just got pretty lucky at the beginning. and they have some disadvantages that make them VERY bad in some situations), and they don't take up that much space on the ship. I'm thinking I should either make them take more space, increase their cost in some other way, or make them slightly easier to avoid. 
The real issue is that they are each flown with velocity vectors and all as if they were (rather fast) ships. This is time consuming. In a smaller game its fun and works pretty fast, as you only have a few missiles flying around at any one time. I ended up just putting missiles in groups, just like ships, which did fudge the exact positions of missiles shot from different ships, but overall was a time saver. 

Possible Fixes: Increase their cost (probably by making them take more space) to slightly reduce effectiveness and also decrease number. Alternatively, I've been thinking that instead of having missiles flown by players, instead they could just be targeted at ships (like any other weapon) and they'd take a certain number of activations to get to their target based upon distance. Alternatively, the relative slowness of missiles could just be represented by them shooting only on activations, as they do currently, but letting them reach their target in one turn automatically.

Why I Might Not Do That: The number of missiles really had to do with having lots of big ships to put all the (fairly large) missile launchers and torpedo launchers on to. I think the problem might also have to do with how fuel checks currently work. Also, all of those solutions are okay, but they aren't as good for a smaller scale game, where the use of missiles is an important part of the game... being able to outrun (or outmanuevre) them adds a whole new element that is lost if I change the rules.

Hull Points: Each ship's hull points need to be tracked as they are lost. It is also possible to repair them, sometimes. These means you have to keep records of hull points (either on a 'ship card' or just a bit of paper next to the ship) which isn't THAT time consuming but can be a bit of a pain when you have a lot of ships taking lots of little hits. 

Possible Fixes: At one point I thought about the possibility of getting rid of Hull points altogether and instead giving bigger ships very large Armor values, and slightly changing how damage is taken. That would certainly speed games up, and make it more in line with CR3, where you are either dead, hurt, or alive- none of those "3/8 of me is dead" business. 

Why I Wouldn't Do That: Makes it very hard to do anything at all to a really big ship, and also ends up losing a lot of good that hull points brings for the smaller games. I actually do think the above idea might be good, though.... though I'm not sure. I'll need to playtest it, probably. Still, it gets rid of the difference between a small, well armored ship and a big, badly armored ship. Also means I'd have to change the way cargo and weapon slots work.

Fuel Checks. Great idea for smaller scale games. The idea is that you have a set amount of fuel, but doing things (accelerating in any way, turning the ship, shooting certain types of weapons, some other things) can cost fuel, but that your 'Engineer' (the game will be integrated with New Beginnings' stats when it comes out, but for the Admiral's Game, instead of individual characters with stats, you instead get overall Crew stats- Fly, Fix, and Fight- which represent the overall crew's ability to do things like, well, Fly, Fix, and Fight), or your Fix stat, has a chance to prevent fuel from being wasted. This is a Fuel Check. Fail and you can lose a lot of fuel for small things, do well and you can keep going for a loooong time.

The problem is taking all the tests individually for each ship and tracking fuel for each ship.
It can take time, and its another layer of note taking.

Fix: The only good way of fixing it I can see would be to just get rid of it altogether, at least for big fights. It is also possible to just roll once for all your ships, figure out which ships fail, do okay, and do well, and then have the ships just lose fuel as they do things (or not) based on those results. That might be the best solution, but it still means notekeeping. I guess this is a game where having cards with your ship's hull and fuel on it would be very useful (instead of 'templates' for all ships of the same type, as I did this time).

Some Other Things I Need to Clarify:
Movement can get a bit complicated with gravity, or accelerating while turning the ship, and stuff like that. I know how its SUPPOSED to work, I just need to make sure I write it in a way that is easy to understand.

Critical Hits: I have three competing systems right now: no critical hits (means game is a bit more like a wary of attrition, takes more hits to take out ships, and means there are no 'special' types of damage), a simple critical hit system that just allows you to keep rolling for damage whenever you roll a 6 (means the power of any given weapon is sometimes less important than having lots of dice to roll to increase chances of rolling a 6), and a 'special effects table' that is a bit slower and requires a bit more notekeeping, while not actually doing that much damage most of the time. I think I might end up including all three options (adjusted, most likely) as they are better for different styles of games.

Anyway, any thoughts on all this commentary would be great, and also very helpful to me as a writer... also, if you ever plan on getting this game, its a chance for you to influence the way it goes!


  1. Oh, of course, the other thing is that nobody in their right minds should ever do a battle this large. I'm thinking that the game should be advertised with the 'limit' for battle size to be something less like 20 ships per side (this battle) and a much higher proportion of smaller ships- especially frigates and corvettes- to big ships. If this battle had been done with corvettes replacing frigates, frigates replacing cruisers, cruisers replacing most of the battle ships and carriers, and maybe one or two capital ships a side, then the battle would have been even faster.

    Then again, 3 hours (estimated without pictures and writing and such) isn't THAT bad for a battle that is meant to be around as big as any one could logically do, so....

  2. I have to be honest, in a THW wargame, I'm really, _really_ not a big fan of introducing Hull Points. That's not to say I wouldn't like to see some other effects beyond Fine / Damaged / Dead, but I think we can add those in without going to a sheer integer count-down.

    Maybe we should borrow a little idea from Heavy Gear: On a non-outright-destroying shot, roll a d6 on Yet Another Table(tm) and reduce the effectiveness of the target ship in some way. -1 to Thrust, remove a weapon system, stun/kill the crew, etc. Its very easy to put together a 6-option table that covers the bulk of interesting outcomes. It does mean there's some record-keeping, but you can do that with tokens that move along with the ship or which lie on a 3x5 card for that particular ship. As long as things get kept simple and constrained, you can keep the records to no more than moving tokens on or off, which is way, way better than having to keep up with complicated subsystems or blow-through flowcharts as seen in some other games. (Still more records than the hull count-down, admittedly, but a lot more interesting, too. Aiming could be a Rep check with a pass letting you adjust the result of the damage table by 0/1/2 slots.)

    Missiles (and, by extension, drones and mines -- which are just missiles with longer loiter times) work _really_ well with vectors in Captain level games, but definitely should get chopped down to just Xin/turn at the Admiral level. You don't really care about out-maneuvering them at that scale; a single missile probably represents a single massive wave of the buggers, anyway.

    Shifting from rolling individually to rolling once "per group" at larger scales is already near-canon in THW and, in particular, 5150. It would make perfect sense to make that be one of the big divisors in mechanics between the two scales. That also puts a little more emphasis on managing command radii and grouping at the Admiral scale, which is dead on sensible. With a handfull of ships, they can be really individual but when you get multiple battle groups on the table you need to really encapsulate action at that level. (Which neatly helps with missiles, too, since its an obvious and easy way to consider missile-assaults on the table: one "missile token" per type of missile per firing command group, starting from the rough middle of the group, moving Xin/turn toward their targets. Missiles probably also need a rating for maximum lifespan in turns rather than fuel burn at Admiral vs Captain.)

    Crits become easy if you go to the "damage table;" they simple invoke more rolls on it. Now you can also scale Crits with that system. Aimed Crits could be very, very bad for you. "Admiral, they just stripped every weapon on the hull!"

    Ideally, I see this settling in at the Admiral level somewhere within the mechanical complexity of *Starships!* or *Full Thrust*, maybe in the *Starmada* area, with the Captain level being beneath *Attack Vector* in detail but not quite as fiddly as some of the worst bits of *Silent Death*.

  3. Replacing hull points does raise some issues, though replacing hull points and making the damage a bit more complex is a good idea (not necessarily better, but good). One issue is that is changes the way ship design works. Also, when I really think about it, no matter which way I go with this, its as complex. So its not a matter of complexity- the difference in complexity and note taking between 'variety of damage types' and 'hull points' is minimal- its a matter of personal preference.

    One idea I kinda like is to keep Hull as an attribute (separate from Armor) but instead of using it like hitpoints, have a table showing of different effects from getting hit based upon weapon power, random die rolls, and armor, but have the actual result have hull included in some way. Perhaps, for example, if you get a bad hit to your armor, if you have a high enough hull it just results in some of your armor being gone, but if you are a smaller ship, it tears your ship in half. But really, that sort of system ends up being more complicated, not less.

    I also think that you are right that you need some mechanical separation between Admiral and Captain. Different ways for missiles to work, rolling by group vs individual ship, stuff like that.

    One thing that should definitely hold for is fuel. I'm thinking for an admiral's game, all you track is a fighter's fuel (probably just track the number of turns its been away from its ship), and then just have fuel be a campaign thing. But in a captain's game, having fuel be part of battles at a tactical level is very, very fun.

  4. One more note: The difference between an HP and a non HP based system won't be whether there'll be more effects (the critical hits table, basically) as that can be used (or not, if a player prefers it) in either.

    The key is you need to represent that its harder to fully take out a bigger ship than a smaller ship. If you get rid of Hull, then you basically add armor instead (though you might have two different factors, as I mentioned as a possibility above), reducing the chance of anything happening.

    So basically, you have two options: A system where you are either dead or alive (with perhaps a little grey area where you are damaged) and a system where you have more granularity between being dead and alive.

    Can you say as to why you prefer the system with less granularity? I can: its simpler. but once you start adding in more charts and special damage effects, its all the same anyway... so I really cant' see why HP is worse (though from a 'gut instinct' sort of way I understand, as it goes against standard THW conventions).

  5. In my mind, its not so much a complexity issue as it is an _interestingness_ issue. Which is more interesting, in terms of the decisions you'll need to make next turn, "Your ship is down to half of its Hull points!" or "You've taken -3 to Thrust and -1 to Armour!" Were it in my hands, I'd keep hull conditions in line with Fine / Damaged / Dead like the rest of CR and use the Damaged bit to "add on" negative descriptors, as it were. I'm not sure exactly where the advantage of having a countdown-ticker in a THW design really lies beyond the sheer simplicity of tracking it. There are a number of precedents for having tagged descriptors ("Duck Back" and "Leaving the Battlefield" already hang there, as do "Stunned" and Knocked Down"), but not too many for countdown values.

    I suppose you could simplify possible damage results by only tagging with "Halve VALUE" and allowing multiple instances to keep cutting it by half with every tag. That's a little more tolerant of original values in terms of scaling where integer reductions can be kind of meaningless on some values.

    Conceptually, I think it might be beneficial to nail down what the use of a Hull rating (as opposed to only Armour) gains in light of such an option.

    Two ships, each with 5 Armour (I'm assuming 5 is medium-high), one with 2 Hull, the other with 5 Hull, giving us a heavily armoured cargo ship versus a heavily armoured battleship. Two bolts strike out of the blue, impaling both ships! What happens differently? The armoured cargo takes ... extra internal systems hits? Is it useless, is the crew still coherent? Does what happen to the cargo differ in any real sense from what the same ship with just more armour being carried'd resulted in?

    It just seems the Hull points just end up being some kind of a buffer to burn out before "bad things" happen ... which might be better coupled and unified with Armour as the count-down control. (You could think of it, distantly, like Hull + Armour == Real Armour Value.) On receiving non-dead-making and non-ignorable shots, you roll for Armour resisting and then allocate the results.

    I prefer the system with more granularity between shades of dead because I like interesting decisions. Especially in space, where there should be a rather large gap on either side where it resolves real quick that I'm either going to shrug this shot off entirely with nothing, or I'm dying the dead kind of way. Without some kind of tagged change for those situations, decisions get really same-y after the first few. Decisions get shallow.

  6. I agree that a hull points system was not what I was expecting from a THW game. I played only a few space combat games (with Starmada AE being my current choice for larger scale battles, probably not admiral level though) and if I want hull points, using stat sheets to keep track of stats and damage - I can easily use that game.

    I hoped that a THW space combat game would approach the subject in a bit different manner:
    - more emphasis on crew than machines
    - less book keeping

    So I think the suggested option of gradual crippling damaged ships would be the way to go.
    I'd rather have several counters placed next to my ships than stat sheets for them. As I said - if I want stat sheets - I can use Starmada.

    This would allow for more dramatic and faster resolution, progressive decrease of combat efficiency as one gun is blown off after another, one shield goes down after another, and engines go out... And if you want to make it even worse - kill some crew, reducing the number of dice used for tests, or blow the command bridge away :->

    At some point such a ship becomes a wreck that you have to defend (and it still can drift in the space, which makes it even more difficult) and instead of being useful becomes a real pain in... whatever ;)

    And another thing - regarding missiles - is that you have to make a choice what you want the game to be. You want detail - go for captain's level. You can fly your missiles there, you can try to evade them. You want large numbers - say bye to detailed gameplay. It's supposed to be a two hour wargame, not a twenty hour one. Although THW could easily stand for Twenty Hour Wargames as well ;)

    Keep working on the thing as I am very curious what the space combat THW will eventually look like.

    Good luck!

  7. Ah - one more thing came to my mind.
    A little bookkeeping is not a bad thing. As long as you can keep it limited to the justified minimum. Maybe use it for large/important objects only - like the Death Star or a command ship?

  8. Do you have (I guess I am thinking about captain's level) a system for NPC enemy actions? I had started to work on plane / space fighter rules based on CR 3 some months ago (Yes, I know planes and space fighters are behave differently and exist in different environments. I was still tinkering with the basic rules and not that deep into the parts that are different).
    The part about NPC actions / reactions made me stop this project. My head still hurts from all those thoughts about logical movement in a 3-dimensional space. I really like same-side-gaming, but I don't like making decisions for the NPC side. That's what action / reaction tables are for.

    I agree with SquidLord. Stay as true to THW as possible. Not counting hit points, but just noting a status.
    Shaken (Stunned)-> damaged (integrated into to-hit and maneuver tables)-> severely damaged (OOF) -> obviously destroyed (a.k.a. Boom!)

    Whiteface / Oliver

  9. I'm looking forward Captain's games, and I just hope it would be possible to recreate fighters missions against capital ships like the the PC game "Wingcommander"
    I'd prefer damage charts to hull points.
    I'd get rid off fuel
    I'd set two clearly distinct levels for Captain and Admirals.

  10. I like the idea of two levels of play. I can also really get into the stats of Fly, Fix, and Fire. I have to chime in and say I am not a big fan of hull point tracking or fuel points.

    The passing dice concept could work well. consider the difference between a missile or torpedo weapon that tracks a target on its own versus a direct fire weapon like a turbolaser. The missile weapon could have its own fight value different from the crew. Cannons would use the crews fight value.

    Gunnery rolls could be based on Fight value dice + Fly auto successes +/- situational modifiers. Mods would be for additional units attacking, range, and other situational modifiers.

    The Number of Successes influences the Impact Table where the Fight dice +/- modifiers are compared to Fix dice +/- modifiers to give bonuses on damage table.

    Hit location on 2d6 Hull, Gunnery, Engines, Bridge, Hangar etc.

    Damage Table, # of successes compared to location equals effect. i.e. 2 successes in Engines reduce Fly dice 1d6 etc...
    Additionally ships could have the status of Damaged -1d6 to rolls and Crippled -2d6 to rolls

    The different classed of ships could have value ranges:
    • Fighters- higher Fly values representing manuverablity, speed etc. but lower Fix and Fight
    • Corvettes and Frigates a little less Fly and better Fix, representing Hull and Shields, damage control teams etc. A better Fight value to indicate more and heavier guns.
    • Cruisers and Dreadnaughts still lower Fly, slightly higher Fix, but even better Fight. Big flying guns
    • Battleships and Carriers Big time Fix values, big Fight value and carrier ability. Low Fly values.

    Quick summary: Smaller ships avoid damage by Fly but gang up for mod bonuses. Medium ships go toe to toe with each other and fend off fighters, and the big boys stay alive with better Fix and bigger Fight values. The only tracking is Damaged and Crippled status, and reductions in Fly, Fix and Fight. Easily done on unit roster, no individual cards needed.
    Missiles have good Fly, and decent Fight, torpedoes have decent Fly and better Fight. Represented as a salvo of fired weapons.

    I know that is a bunch kinda thrown out there, but it sticks real close to established THW mechanics.


  11. Ken- Some of that is how it already is, but not entirely, as Fly, Fix, and Fight are crew stats, as opposed to ship stats (armor, hull, etc). So while those stats are used in those ways, they are sort of 'defined' by the ship stats... arguably the crew's stats are more important than the ship in that a really big ship with lots of guns but a terrible pilot, engineer, and gunners is going to have trouble against the corvette with a good pilot, engineer, and gunner.

    Also, I think I'm keeping fuel, though I'm going to streamline the way it works. I feel the reason you wouldn't want it is the same as why you wouldn't want hull points, which is legitimate, its just also an important part of special damage effects (blowing up the flying bits stops the enemy from accelerating, but if you can actually knock out their power, then they can't even shoot a lot of their weapons!)

    Hm, with such overwhelmingly poor reaction (har har...) to a hull point system, I guess it was good I rewrote that last night. I didn't necessarily replace it, as I want to playtest the new system, but I think the new system is actually a bit more in line with what I was trying to represent with an HP system in the first place.

    The system also keeps Hull as a statistic, meaning I don't have to rewrite the ship design rules... =D

    The basic idea is that your weapon's impact is reduced by armor. Then you roll a die and add it to the reduced (possibly negative) impact. You compare this number to Hull. Based on its relationship (2x Hull, half of Hull, inbetween areas) different things happen:

    - Special damage effects (which can stack); reduces thrust, reduces fuel, gets rid of maneuver thrusters, reduced armor, possibly hits to the crew itself (causing reduced crew stats), stuff like that.

    Some of these effects can be lessened by a good Fix.

    - In addition to special damage effects, the ships can be "Damaged" in a more structural way as well. This causes all sorts of problems special damage doesn't, as it is basically like being Destroyed, just less permanent.

    -Finally, you can be outright destroyed.

    There are also grey areas where you CAN be destroyed but if you pass a Fix test then you are instead damaged with 1 special effect.

    Missiles: I'm thinking I'll keep velocity movement for the captain's game, but for big battles people will want to use the system where they fire and hit in the same turn, with range not being a factor (other problems on the to hit chart are), but have a lower chance of hitting than anything else due to having to make a couple of other roles and the possibility of the enemy defending against them. Ends up being about as good as velocity movement with less little things to keep track of.

    Fuel: by reorganizing the actions (things you can do while active) rules, I realized fuel could be simplified by instead having it be that you took action 'packages' which expend fuel (usually), but then you don't need to take fuel checks for everything within that package. This means the most you'll ever take would be 2 per ship per turn, and because you do actions in groups at this scale, you roll the 2 dice for all the ships and then just apply the results. Makes it VERY fast.


  12. If the relative value of Hull is changed, you may have to redo the design rules, anyway. ;) (My rule of thumb has always been to write design last, since its only then you know the relative value of your descriptors and the weights thereof.)

    I'm not sure the fuel mechanics at the Admiral level (hereafter refered to as Admiraal, as opposed to Captain) are really _necessary_ as a moment-to-moment tracked statistic for an individual ship. Damage to fuel supplies/availability is probably better modelled through the simple damage chart, narratively describing why there's a -1 to Engines or Weapons or Fly or whatnot. Leaving the mechanics open to be described gives them a lot more flexibility to cover more things and designs that otherwise might require just heaped detail. For example, organic ships vs hard metal ships. -1 Fight might mean damage to the neural pathways on the organic while its literal crew death on the hardtech ship, but as far as the rules are concerned its -1 Fight. At Admiral, you have a lot more on your plate than worrying about stuff too far down. Action packages might be a fine way to simplify it, but I'm still mildly troubled by _2_ Fuel Tests per turn per group, though a lot of that depends on how often it becomes 2 versus 1.

    I think this is where we start needing some harder examples of how you expect it to look in actual play. (Example breakdowns are an underused game design method in my experience. They show a lot more direction than the abstracts.)

    What does an average ship with an average weapon in an average group look like? How do they maneuver? What does a two group on two group battle at Admiral look like with these mechanics?

    Missiles having a number of ways to interdict them is pretty solid stuff. Though I admit one of the hacks I really want to make is to have missiles that, when destroyed, create a lingering fireball/area of damage that doesn't go away for a few turns and block/reduce LoS (borrowed from *Starships!*/*Mecha!*).

    But, yeah, maybe a series of posts where the Average Expected Things actually get on the table and dance around, along with step by step mechanical breakout, might be a good thing to have.

  13. I wouldn't worry about fuel. Because activations are split in two (a move part where the loser goes first, and an 'action' part where the winner goes first) its really not that big a deal to roll once at the beginning of each segment for all your ships that are taking an action.

    As these rules are intended to be generic enough to be applicable to most settings (though a setting with 'cinematic movement' would need to look the other way for the way the ships are moving) none of the special damage effects have anything but '-1 Fight,' because, as you mentioned, that can mean different things for different races, settings, even ship sizes.

    Well, I'm planning on doing another battle tonight, a bit smaller this time, playing with some of the new ideas.... I'll do a step by step break down of a few of the turns, perhaps.

  14. This discussion is making me wish that Google Wave was still a seriously going concern. I miss cascading comments and live docu editing. ;)

    Hmmm, I'm not sure about two-phase move/action, though I've definitely seen it done elsewhere. The way move/action is integrated into the WeGo CR core has always seemed like one of the big things about how it flows. In the case of vehicles in general where the vehicle is considered the operative element (instead of most of CR where infantry are the default element and vehicles are added in), I'd think you'd want to keep with that.

    I'm trying to think of an easy way to manage that with vector motion and I keep ending up with a system that puts a chit down during the move phase of where the ship will end up with no thrust added and things during an activation only move the chit around, then when it all resolves the ship moves to the chit and the chit moves off in the original vector as far as the ship caught up.

    Frankly, cinematic systems are easier to design -- but less fun. :)

    I'm curious as to how the new pass will end up looking.

  15. I guess I could go either way, but the nonHP way seems more THW than with...good discussion so far but I have so many ideas going thru my head hard to keep them straight, lol, most people have already said what I wanted to:-)

    Fuel-I agree it should stay,I remember playing the original Aerotech for battletech and running my fighter out of fuel, good times. Haveing some type of fuel system (at least at the captain level) would add that extra bit I think. And having some for the campaign movement and whatnot maybe, but that is outside of the battle screen.

    missles- even at the admiral level I think having them with a velocity and counter (by group probably work the best, not each ship) so they have an ETA round so you could really pound something and give the targets something to avoid and or counter with missles or ecm or whatnot, just a thought...

    cant wait to see and read more, hard to judge based on guessing what you are doing, so some meat and potatoes from a rules point might help people give better feedback ;-P hehe...keep up the good work

  16. SquidLord, you just described the vector movement system for Galactic Knights :)

    Joe, thanks for the link to my blog. As you can tell from my posts, I'm interested in space gaming, so I'm looking forward to see what rules you come up with (and willing to playtest). By the way, what mechanism are you using to simulate fuel usage? I've thought about putting that into a game, but it seems like too much paperwork.

    I have more thoughts on your game report, but it's late and I'm tired. I'll try to come back tomorrow and post some additional comments.