Monday, August 29, 2011


Decided to play a quick battle the other day. No planets, no space junk, no nothing.
The base idea was a laser battle ship (with some missiles, as well, but definitely a focus on the laser) versus a small fleet of ships- a corvette, a frigate, and some fighters, with a mixture of missiles, "cannon-missiles" (the old cannons have been replaced with somewhat more effective weapons that basically are guns with seeker bullets...), and a small laser.

So, of course, the battle ship, a Gaea Prime patrol ship, was named Ogre.

Ogre is steadily flying through a well travelled wormgate, heading towards the Fifth Ring. Its powerful laser, an expensive weapon, makes it a good weapon of domination. If Gaea Prime can get through to its colonies in the Fifth Ring, it will provide a powerful defensive and offensive weapon that can be used to influence the entire Ring.

Unfortunately, there are many independent planets within the Fifth Ring. Several of them have put together their small amount of resources to form a strike team to try to prevent Ogre from making it to its destination. In a straight up fight, Ogre would be able to outrange this small fleet, but due to the highly travelled and civilian nature of much travel through this wormgate, they can avoid being shot at until they get within range.

Ogre is traveling alone for gameplay balance because the mission was meant to be secret until the ship arrived- Ogre is trying to pass off as a regular patrol ship, not an artillery weapon. Unfortunately, rebels within Gaea Prime have contacted some of their friends...

Ogre is in the lower right hand corner,  while the strike team is in the upper left hand corner. Note my clever idea of combining the Ship Stats Card with the "stand," so that all the info (even vector) is given by a quick glance.
The ships approach each other.

Ogre's sensors note that these particular "merchant ships"  are getting oddly close....

The Strike Team, knowing that at this point they are pushing their luck, decide to engage (they could've waited even longer, but would risk losing their 'first shot' advantage).

The corvette (Y-Wing) shoots off all of its missiles in one volley (using the new missile rules that don't require you to track the missiles but still allow them to be shot down), which are quickly shot down by Ogre's main laser. In response, Ogre fires all of its missiles at the corvette, hoping to beat the frigate's (the  Bird of Prey) light laser. They do, and, due to the corvette's weak armor, easily obliterate it.

The Captain notes that it was not wise to do this, as, had they taken the time to identify the enemy's weapons and calculate the number of missiles needed (far fewer than they shot), they could've had more missiles for later. But, in the spur of the moment, the reaction (hint hint) was instinctive, as the gunners tried to take out the enemy as quick as possible without finding out the best way to do so.

Meanwhile, the remaining ships of the strike team accelerate forward a bit (using the new fuel rules) and start shooting their weapons at long range, causing nothing but a scratch in Ogre's shiny metallic paint job.

Unfortunately for the Strike Team, the laser keeps firing, incinerating a Fighter (or a fighter squadron... depends on your views on scale).

It probably would've been wise for the Strike Team to wait to engage Ogre at all, as they could've gotten very close before Ogre would open fire... but then there is a higher chance that more of them would've died without ever firing a shot as they tried to keep their cover. 

The next activation again went to the Strike Team, and Ogre decided to stay back again, conserving fuel and trying to keep the enemy distant without endangering the overall goal of getting to the destination on time (getting there on time is extra important now that people will know that Ogre is coming).
Due to relatively low fuel and a need to get back home (if they survive), the strike team doesn't accelerate, and instead continues to fire on Ogre, going forward at a steady pace.

Their fire starts causing problems for Ogre, causing more external damage to various systems (some thrusters were damaged, reducing acceleration, and a small fuel leak caused some additional movement problems). On the other hand, Ogre's main laser continues to shoot down targets, killing another fighter and the frigate, reducing the Strike Team to two fighters.

This picture makes most hard SF fans cry.
The final assault begins! having gotten close to a now slightly damaged Ogre, the remaining ships intend to avoid fire and get highly accurate shots into sensitive areas.
Of course, this is a world of (cinematic) realism, so its not going to be easy.

The dogfight initiates, though Ogre totally fails its response test and doesn't get a good shot until the close range attack begins.

The dice are added up, similar to how Melee works in most THW games, and successes are counted.

The dogfight system was adjusted slightly before this game to balance it a bit (make it less powerful while still being different than regular combat). With some skillful maneuvering, avoiding the singular main weapon of Ogre, one of the fighters gets a shot off (with bonus Impact!) at the Ogre... and pushes it into Light Damage! In addition, special damage effects (2 at once, in fact) causes some of Ogre's armor to be chipped away (making future attacks more likely to damage) and causes a violent shake that kills one of the chief gunnery officers! (reducing Fight statistic).

The winners of a dogfight get to adjust position and vector, to an extent.
Things are starting to look bad for Ogre, but the Strike Team is almost out of fuel.
The next turn sees another dogfight while ogre continues to try to shoot down the remaining fighters. Luckily for Ogre, it takes out one of the fighters. However, the remaining fighter once again succeeds in the dogfight and gets another Light Damage on Ogre... bumping it up to Heavy Damage and causing more special damage effects, including the knocking out of Ogre's main thrusters! its immobilized (and can only turn very slowly).

Ah, and then the realism hits. The remaining fighter is making its final attack run, causing more and more damage by nailing the vulnerable parts of Ogre.... and the pilot notices its almost out of fuel. The pilot starts changing vector, knowing that going back towards base at a slow speed will allow the ship to still have the fuel necessary to come to a stop... but it has to leave Ogre unkilled (its a sitting duck, now, so it could've possibly done it). 

Instead of a heroic sacrifice, the fighter accepts the slight victory (at least Ogre is greatly slowed down, though most of the damage is of the field repairable sort) and gets ready for the slightly long trip home.

The crew of Ogre gets to work on fixing up those engines....

The game only took 30 minutes to play, though it wasn't a very complex battle (did use most of the more specialized rules in one go, however). 

I think this game is going well. Its got a sort of 'cinematic realism.' Its not how space combat is actually going to be, most likely, at least not for most eras, but it combines a sort of realism (vector movement, vaguely realistic weapons and ships, etc) with a cinematic feel (daring combat, fleets of ships slugging it out in space, small ships have a balance with big ships, and so on), and I think that fits THW's style.

On one hand, THW has fairly realistic rules, where characters act realistically due to reactions, and tactics are realistic due to 'real time' simulated by Reactions. On the other hand, the fights are cinematic, with Stars being the most obvious example. 

I think this game takes a similar idea- it has room for the 'realistic' tactics that most hard SF fans think will come up, but it also has room for the space heroes zoom around in ships and have fun.

In more literary terms, I think its a sort of reconstruction of 'fun' space combat. It says, yes, ships don't move like boats or airplanes, and the tactics are all different from those, and war is cold, but, with the right balance of technologies and powers, it still results in an exciting, fast paced combat game where tactics and decisions matter, there is a human element, and ships and weapons are balanced in interesting ways.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I appreciate your battle report, as it gives a simple overview of how the game plays. I'm looking forward to trying this out myself.

    I also like your scenario. I've often thought of putting on such an asymmetrical game (a whole bunch of little ships against one huge vessel) using one of the space combate rulesets I own; the trick is in getting the balance right. Sounds like you figured out the right mix of forces in this case.

  2. Its a nice point in the rules: The way ship design works is fairly simple, being based around "Hull."

    Hull isn't exactly mass (at least, it probably doesn't scale properly for a lot of settings), but its an approximation. With it, ships 'buy' most of their attributes, weapons, and so on. They also have base statistics for things like speed, which can be modified to be higher, or even be lower if you want more weapons. The end result is that if you have equal hull amounts, total, a game will be approximately equal.... though thats not really true, as it depends a lot on the specific weapons chosen, the engagement distance, and more.

    In any case, both 'fleets' in this game were 12 Hull, in total.

  3. Nice game! I also your analysis at the end. I have the feeling that a Hard SF space battle would be a pretty boring exercise in calculus, I prefer cinematic realism for my gaming. :)

  4. Rather than write down the velocity on the ship card, I suggest you place a drift marker a distance in front of the ship equal to its velocity - kinda showing where it will be next turn if no thrust is applied.