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).
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).
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!