Thursday, 9 April 2015

Delta Vector Spaceship Game 2.0: Making Decisions

The game has also been plagued by my indecision.  It's time to bite the bullet and nail some things down.  In this post I listed some choices that need to be made - now I'm going to make them so I can move forward.   I think I kept it "open" to gaming generic games like Star Wars/Star Trek but they have popular games for them specifically now.  So I'm going to focus on my interests and inspirations - EvE Online and Lost Fleet - with secondary influences from Dread Empire's Fall, 2300AD, and Risen Empire.  I mean, I'm not even sure if anyone else will ever play this, so why not make it something I'm really interested in?

Fighters, Missiles & Drones
Single fighter per stand, or 4-12 per stand fleet-scale style?
Fighter/drone/missile movement - use same token system as ships, a simplified version or abstract it more?   How to make them useful without overpowering them; maybe add ace pilots/squadrons?  
Drones - how should they work - maybe a range radius limit from the mothership?  Should fighters track fuel (make a fuel roll each time they use afterburners/dogfight; a fail roll = impossible to initiative dogfight or afternburners, if attacked in dogfight, have low fuel penalty) vs record keeping.  How to missiles intercept and impact targets?
I've decided no fighters.  There may be unmanned drones which operate a distance from the carrier.   No vector tokens, nor fuel tracking.  Drones have a velocity that is capped at their thrust.  Drones would be in swarms of 4-6 and not individual.  Drone crew quality is the same as the controlling parent ship.  I'll begin work on drone rules.  Missile rules are already solid, but I'm going to tweak them to differentiate them from unguided AoE bombs.  (Allow missile markers to be placed anywhere within thrust range i.e. 6-12" away from the vector marker, instead of being centred on the vector marker).

Velocity/Thrust Caps
How fast do I want ships moving/changing direction? Very important when compared to weapon ranges.  Since thrust impacts effective velocity (speed) what is 'normal' thrust? Movement should be high compared to weapon ranges, emphasizing ship maneuver.  Should I have a maximum velocity over which engagements are impractical? How many 20" moves can you make on a table anyway?
I'm going to use "lightspeed" to put a hard limit on top speed and weapon ranges.  For the moment, I'm going to say it's 20" but I may reduce it.  No ships can go faster than 20"/move. No weapons can be fired at targets beyond 20".   This has other implications - ships who are moving towards each other at a combined speed of 20"+ (i.e. ships approaching head on, one doing 12", the other doing 9") cannot fire at each other.   Ships targeting ships moving .5 light (10") or closing at a combined speed of 10"+ suffer a penalty to hit (say +2 or +3 defence bonus).

For "usual thrust"  I'm going 1-2" thrust for capital ships and 3-4" thrust for escorts.   When playtesting I noticed ships tended to move at a velocity = to 2x thrust. I.e. a 4-thrust escort would move around 8" on average - this varied depending on terrain/asteroids (I used  fair bit.)   Weapon ranges were = to dice ranges (i.e. d12 = 12") but tended to be around half that in practice. 

This adds a layer of complexity and decisions (good) but takes time (bad)
If each unit detects individually, that is a LOT of detection rolls or simply range measuring etc
Maybe units that are far away or in cover in an asteroid field simply receive a initiative 'tactical' advantage instead; i.e they cannot be forced to move by an opponent with the initiative or a ship must be really close to force them to move  Is it possible to be stealthy in space anyway? vs cloaking devices/stealth ships are in nearly all movies

I'm going to give a qualified "no" to stealth/detection. I'd like to avoid detection rolls.  Also, it seems pretty hard to hide something in space. It's not like you need radar when you can see them twice as easily. I may add in small "stealth ships" but they will be the exception rather than the rule.  I'm going to make the assumption everyone sees everyone, but EW/relativity means it isn't easy to lock/hit them.  Ships hiding in asteroids or in the shadow of a planet may perhaps be replaced by a marker until they power up or move into line of sight.   Or perhaps they can't be forced to move when another player has the initiative.  Either way, I'd like to minimise spotting rolls.  This can be put on the backburner until I want specific stealth ships. 

Combat Mechanics
Do we go the Warmachine 2d6 route? (familiar, hard to give points cost, use d10s (easy to do costs) or multiple dice types (not everyone is a D&D nerd).  Do we have set ranges per weapon (i.e. 0-5" short range, 6-10" long range) or graduated ranges (6+ to hit at 6" range, 7+ to hit at 7" range). How can we represent different ship types whilst ditching hitboxes etc. How do you show a big but poorly armoured ship vs a small but heavily protected one?  How will damage be applied?  Will it be as a ratio attack vs defence, like General Quarters or a Skyful of Ships?  Beat a threshold (like Firestorm Armada; will your to hit die x the attack like in Heavy Gear?  Do we have simple criticals (that could be recorded with a micro d6 beside the ship) or generic ones (propulsion or weapons/systems halved)  or eschew them altogether?
This is being worked on. At the moment I favour systems damage. Weapons fire by batteries and beat a TN to score hits. At the moment I am using a range of dice (d6-d12) a la Savage Worlds/Ambush Alley. 

Is this another thing to track? Having directional shields is good (increases tactics, maneuver), but how to do it without book keeping? Maybe BFG blast markers? Would they recharge in a turn or over the course of the battle?
Yes - but still investigating. Are the tradeoffs worth it? Can it be kept simple?

Maybe some sort of suppression effect that represents crew being thrown around by explosions.
Yes. BFG-esque blast markers will add terrain in a pleasing manner and enhance gameplay.  These work whether I use shields or not.

Ammunition/Heat Buildup
Heat management was cool in Battletech. This could also discourage spam of ammo-based weapons.  Do we track this, and how? Is it more trouble than it's worth?
Ammo will be a simple yes/no on the ship data card.  No heat management as we already will have a form of energy management elsewhere and it seems like a bit of a double-up. 

Power Allocation
SFB was a nightmare but a simple Homeworld system where you can slightly boost offence, or defence or speed would be workable I think i.e.  Double thrust or fire energy weapons twice in an activation or overloard/recharge shields.
Qualified yes I'll work this into other rules.  Already you can trade thrust for defensive bonuses.  I'll look at ways to allow swapping between shields (once I finalise how they work) and thrust. Not sure if I'll include beam weapons in that.

How much in a turn?  How damaged is a ship before it is beyond the on-board crew's ability to fix it?
With the system-focussed damage system, a crew check to repair 1 system per turn seems reasonable. An additional penalty to repair systems who have take a second hit (and they can never be then repaired back to pristine condition as it'd be beyond the abilities of shipboard damage parties.)

Jumpgates and Jumpdrives
 Jumpgates focus combat and give exit/entry to battlefield.  Jumpdrives are needed cos they appear in so much sci fi on TV. Jumpdrives will need to be regulated, within a min-max range from a gravity well or beacon (i.e. ships arrive stationary, between 10-120" from gravity well, facing the gravity well; and can only reaction fire in the first turn?); they need time to spool up/pass CQ checks?  Jumpdrives could be abused easily as a tactical combat aid...
Ships cannot warp in and out at will.  Ships will jump in or out of space near jump beacons/jumpgates which will focus combat. Some special ships will be fitted with their own jumpdrive (aka mobile jumpgate) but these will be lumbering slow behemoths who will need to be protected and may provide a focal point for task forces.

Generic vs Specific
Do I want to keep my generic 'works with any TV show' rules in favour of more specific ones?
I'm going to cease to bother to regard TV shows and movies.  There's official games for them anyway - if you want to play them, go play those rules. 

Weapon Variety
Enough to be interesting and simulate all TV shows, few enough to be remembered by everyone without consulting charts.
Since I've decided to ignore the two big elephants in the room, I'm reducing it to missiles, kinetics and lasers.  No weird graviton beams or improbably slowly moving plasma balls.

The BFG order system gave great flavour and a new level of tactical choice.  Maybe something similar (6 choices shown on microdice) here, or merge this with power allocation?  Maybe excess thrust can be spent on "Evasive Action" - penalties to incoming fire caused by zigzagging/thrust adjustments along general course. 
No.  This is already being incorporated elsewhere - you perform crews checks to react in various ways. I may add some "orders"  but I don't think a specific system is needed to be added.  The BFG orders system is suited to its Gothic WW1-in-space background but is less applicable to normal space games where computers abound. 

Ship Types
Most space games have small ships with a lifespan of the first 1-2 turns as they act as ablative armour for the larger ships.  Although ships in the future may be similar, for gameplay sake giving ships defined roles (and all ships survivability) is important. A good example is EvE Online (the MMORPG) where small ships are almost impossible to hit by bigger ships and can jam enemies jump drives to stop them escaping.    Non battleship types must have useful roles and decent survivability.
This is being addressed but also needs to be tackled through ship creation/ship building.


  1. Putting light speed at 20"/turn is a somewhat strange way of limiting movement from getting out of hand (thinking of 'ground scale' and relativistic effects, here). Particularly if moving towards each other at any speed makes it harder to fight…

    One one hand it is a good way of making a 'vector movement' game not require a huge table and still allow a fair variety in acceleration rates and so on.

    On the other hand I feel the particular numbers you have chosen will make it very viable for fast ships to charge at the enemy to avoid being shot until they get close… which isn't necessarily what you want in relatively hard space combat rules.

    1. The idea is from "Lost Fleet" and yes it serves two purposes; to cap speed, and to make maneuver important i.e. it IS possible for a small fast ship to accelerate to a speed and angle from another ship as to be mutually unhittable. Big ships could not easily use the tactic. It's another one of my "make escorts useful" ideas mixed with the idea from Lost Fleet.

    2. I'm not particularly striving for hard sci fi at all, rather than "not WW2 in space." Real space combat would be extremely boring. I'm just being different - only I do insist on vector movement as it is a key aspect defining space as space.