Thursday 9 April 2015

Delta Vector Space Game: Task Forces & Small Ships 2.0

I've revised my ambitions from WW2/WW1 scale battles with 12-24 or so per side to smaller forces of 4-8 per side.   I'm modelling them more on modern naval task forces.  These will typically include 1-3 large ships, and 2-6 smaller ships.

Capital Ships
Like a modern task group, the large ships will tend to be more specialised, e.g.

Fleet Carrier (cross between drone carrier and PT-boat tender)
Jumpship (creates its own jump point)
Missile Cruiser (spams powerful missiles)
Bombardment Cruiser (powerful spinal mount railcannon and lasers)
Assault Carrier (carries marines, atmospheric drones, assault boats and planetary bombardment weapons)

They will also tend to be slow - 1 or 2 thrust means they need to keep to low velocities, and have very predictable movement.  


The much maligned "escorts" will act like jack-of-all trades rather like modern destroyers and frigates.   They will be much faster - averaging 3-5 thrust. As thrust can be traded for defensive modifiers (a +4 defensive bonus vs d10 is significant) they are mobile and survivable.    They will be mobile and largely capable of avoiding contact with bigger ships/mitigating damage.  That said, if they park alongside a heavier ship and go toe-to-toe they WILL get messed up.

Escorts will have a few roles - a few idea are:

Interdictor (block warp with emp bombs/ion beams or slow with tractors)
Bomber (unguided nuke/EMP)
Destroyer (lots of light weapons for fighting light vessels, drones etc)
Hunter-Killer (massive spinal mount for taking on capital ships)
Scout (double command & sensor range; can "relay" command bonuses)
Active EW (buff friendlies, debuff enemies 'to hit')

Their high speed allows them to perform roles like interdiction and scouting, and line up unguided weapons with precision. 

It may be a bit unrealistic to make smaller ships faster, when in space all ships are governed by the same thrust/weight ratio (a Star Destroyer, with better engines/size could potentially outrun an X-Wing) but it's a gameplay choice I'm making. 

My main concern is giving small ships a "too hit" bonus encourages them to engage from further away. I'll need to make it that powerful capital ship weapons will discourage long range duels.   


  1. The fleet roles approach is definitely the way I would go. Don't forget the area defence escort to hardball the incoming enemy missiles (i.e. the Aegis Destroyer)

    The other aspect I quite liked from BFG was the grouping of escorts into squadrons made them generally more effective. Much more like WW1 and 2 Destroyers attacking together for mutual support. The thing that made them more survivable was that they were very difficult to hit with big guns, necessitating capital ships to have different sized batteries of guns.

    Perhaps then, instead of making them faster, you make them more 'nimble' (i.e. smaller mass so can junk more effectively) and thus much harder to hit.

    1. "Don't forget the area defence escort to hardball the incoming enemy missiles (i.e. the Aegis Destroyer)"

      Ah you mean the escorts equipped with grapeshot railguns that fire sprays of ball bearings? ;-)

      Small ships get two benefits - a penalty to be hit due to their size, and they can directly swap their thrust to make them harder to hit. I.e. a thrust 4 escort can use those 4 thrust to have a +4 defence bonus to incoming fire. If we assume a d10, and it was say a 60% chance to hit, that reduces it to a 20% chance - a massive bonus. It represents the ship tumbling/jinking along its mean course.

      The problem I've found is it encourages escorts to engage at longer ranges - where they may have a 30% chance to hit and a battleship has a 10% chance... which is kinda weird gameplay-wise.

    2. Jumping late on that topic.
      "The problem I've found is it encourages escorts to engage at longer ranges"
      It will all depends how you enforce difference of weaponry between a capital ship and an escort. Assuming a capital ship may have: more shots, less powerful or less shots, more powerful. With less chances to hit an escort, in the event of a hit a capital ship would wipe out the escort. Or shoot a lot more, trading damage potential with hit potential.In a bucket of dice approach, it would be: Shooting : 4d6. For each d6 out, +1 to hit.

      Also, as we are in space, a full speed escort would have less problem to keep its accuracy against a slow capital ship than the capital ship against the escort. Current warfare includes increased targeting software, like shoot and forget, target acquisition, IR targeting...

      Regarding specialization, my approach would be that:
      - Capital Ship specialization adds major bonus/dice to specialized role, but retain limited general capabilities.
      - Escort ship specialization have only 1 main role, and almost non-existent other capabilities, they are too small to carry enough energy to multi-role.
      - add another item: Generalist escort, not super good in one area, but more versatile. Trade effectiveness for flexibility.

      I agree with your rule spirit, most of mass market space battles are very "weak" when it comes to optics and targeting software game representation.
      Example:In Star Wars, it is strange to see capital ship 2 meters away from each other exchanging laser shots aimed by people like in Napoleonics.

    3. My problem is that I made the TN to hit = to the inches range, + size and thrust modifiers.

      I'm adjusting it to make a hard limit on maximum ranges (around 5-10") and simply double capship damage.

    4. Perhaps go the conventional route with evasive maneuvers and rule that, if you're giving yourself a +N defensive bonus with extra thrust, you also give yourself a -N offensive penalty?

    5. I'm deliberately giving small, fast ships an advantage. Also, your own computers would be able to compensate for your own jinking - its not unpredictable to you. (Also, it's not WW1/WW2 analogue gun laying)

  2. Since its space, ships can theoretically continue thrusting until they reach a significant fraction of the speed of light. Smaller ships have a lower thrust-to-weight ratio, so they would accelerate faster, but the necessities of combat would mean that it would be impractical to keep going until they hit that maximum speed.

    Also, what's the scale? Are battles like Star Wars, where capital ship combat takes place at insanely close ranges, or where the enemy would be totally invisible to the naked eye? Size bonuses make sense for the former, not so much for the latter.

    If it is the latter, your computer targeting system would provide a better bonus than size, because it would be able to better predict the enemy vector (and the most likely direction it would dodge).

  3. "If it is the latter, your computer targeting system would provide a better bonus than size, because it would be able to better predict the enemy vector (and the most likely direction it would dodge)."

    Yes, but the aim is to give bonuses/make smaller ships useful and survivable.

    Unlike historic games, in sci fi, I decide the gameplay effect first, then justify it with whatever handwavium I wish!