Sunday 13 May 2012

Galactic Campaign Rules Part I: Delta Vector the Game

 Empire Economics
I am going to abstract minerals, trade and production into "Resource Points" which includes internal empire trade, natural resources etc. Having multiple resources to manage (vespene, unobtanium, rocket fuel, radium etc) simply complicates matters.  This isn't a trading game, and we don't have a PC program to manage the math.

Why are you trying to make friends? Do you NOT want to test-drive that shiny Star Destroyer? There are no formal rules for this but if you want to do some old-fashioned schoolyard ganging up, be my guest. Trade rules offer raiding opportunities but I am omitting them as I want no reason to be discouraged from hassling my neighbours.  Mutual economic benefits? Sounds like an excuse to avoid a fight to me...

 Master of Orion - one of a dying breed of 4X PC games...

Researching & Exploring
Nope. The time span of campaign turns (weeks/days rather than months/years) means significant research "oh wow I discovered a blue +1 plasma laser" is unlikely.We are here to fight battles not win by out-teching our foes, Civilisation-style...

Encouraging Fights
We want to avoid "turtling" (i.e. hiding from a fight whilst building up an overwhelming force) and encourage raiding, particularly small skirmishes with small ships, which follows historical example. Small, expendable ships are always more active than their larger counterparts.

Level Up
Players earn experience and level up their ships each fight they participate in. Perhaps each system comes with a small random defence force that would avoid larger fleets but would come out to fight a few frigates.  This would guarantee 'level up' opportunities as well as economic advantages (see below).

Fight or Lose $$$
Each turn a player does not engage in offensive missions (i.e. incursions into enemy space) they lose 10% of total RP due to population unrest.

Small Cheap Raiders - Attack to make $$$
Fleets earn RPs if they are blockading enemy systems (or at least deny those RPs to the enemy) ; perhaps of they have enough ships to block each jumpgate they deny their foes 100% of the system revenue. If they blocked 1 of 3 jumpgates they would block 33% of revenue....

If they are 'raiding' they can make 10% of the system revenue each ship in system to a maximum of 50%.

This would encourage small raiding parties of 3-5 small ships as the most cost effective way to raid/blockade an enemy system.  Thus small, regular battles should become the norm.

Ok enough rationale, now for some specific ideas:

---------------------------------------Nitty Gritty---------------------------------------------------------
Solar System Generation
I'm going to base solar system probabilities on the only example I know - our solar system
1. Homeworld - Earth - perfect for humans
2. Arid World - Mars - inhospitable but can be terraformed to sustain life
3,4. Harsh World - Mercury, Venus - temperature and atmosphere are extremely lethal
5, 6, 7, 8. Gas/Ice Giant - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune - can only support life on moon habitats orbiting them
9 Planetoid - Pluto - basically a large, glorified moon
10  11  12  Asteroid belt

Roll d12 for number of features in solar system; then roll d12 each time for what the features might be

Galaxy Map
I'm likely opting for a node system beloved by so many 4X PC games.

Hidden Movement?
You move counters with code names on the map (i.e.  Task Force 3, Task Force 8, etc) . You do not need to show your opponent the composition of the task force until it enters his territory or a location containing a task force of his own.  So your opponent can see forces being moved around in your territory, but you have no idea if it is a single escort on a raiding mission or a battlefleet marshalled to crush his homeworld. 

You can swap ships between tasks forces if they are in the same solar system, somewhat like a shell game.

Resource Points
These are in powers of two i.e.   800  400  200  100  50

Homeworld = 800
Arid World = 400
Gas Giant = 100pt for first mining base, 50 for each subsequent one
Harsh World = 100
Asteroid Belt = 100pt for first mining base, 50 for each subsequent one
Planetoid = 50

Mining bases on gas giants and asteroids are very lucrative due to mineral wealth but easily destroyed or captured. 

RP of ships should be balanced against planet RP - as it gives you a rough guide of how many ships you can afford to lose defending it. Perhaps a single cruiser in RP cost for a homeworld, per turn?

Repairing should be much cheaper than building new (i.e. to repair 50% hull would not cost 50% of the total of a new ship, but less than 25%) to encourage players to retreat to fight another day when damaged. 

Ships maybe take a random die roll to see when they are completed as projects are seldom finished on time...

Solar System Travel
There are a few ways of doing this. The more abstracted methods are naturally simpler.  Jumpgates linking systems will be the most common.  Ship jumps take turns = low d6 (roll 2 x d6 and choose the lowest). Momentum is conserved - i.e. a ship travelling 10" velocity into a jumpgate will exit it at 10" as well. 

Ships with jump drives can jump directly to a system where there is a friendly beacon.  The beacon must be located a specific distance from a gravity well.  Ships that have just jumped and used a beacon are "shaken" and at -1 to all rolls that turn.  They can only fire in reaction and are at velocity 0.

To be continued....


  1. I love where this is going! You and I think much alike :-)

  2. In line with your commment I also have a 'fight generator' which eschews the campaign together. I.e. you simply roll for random scenarios and fight a series of linked scenarios where your losses in one affects your actions in the other...

  3. Great work here. I'm developing my own system that mirrors much of what you've done.

    I was very surpprised to see that you included ship building in your design. If there is no time for exploration or research then how can starship construction be considered?

    What is the time scale for your game? How long does one strategic turn take? How fast can the ships move?

    In my game I've deemed each turn to take 1 day. Each hex on my starmap is roughly 2.5 light years across. Typically ships can move 1, 2 or 3 hexes per turn. If a starshp captain pushes his ships drive system then he can get from earth to the enemy territory in 5 days (8 days to the enemy captial).

    So an entire campaign in my game would most likely be concluded in a few weeks. Certainly not much time to construct, crew and work up new operational starships.

  4. James

    Ship construction is vital to
    (a) allow you to "create" your own starships or imitate your favourite movies - absolutely vital for any spaceship game as 90% of your success hinges on this (most popular games Full Thrust, Starmada aren't lauded for their tactics but for their open ended design rules). It doesn't have to take place during your campaign but I think being able to replace combat losses is important for gameplay's sake simply to give value to planets and avoid later fights getting one-sided. You can simply say handwavium robots can autoconstruct a starship in a period of days if resources are available.

    We want to beat opponents through tactics and resource management, not by superior tech, which is why I "wrote out" tech design rules.

    I am working on a "scenario generator" which allows random scenarios to be linked with randomly sized portions of your overall force

    My main point is to eschew diplomacy, tech and trade which encourages "turtling" which encourages no fights until one apocalyptic battle at the end

    (b) timescale is pretty much irrelevant. We aren't playing a historic game where each turn is 2.5 minutes and ground scale is 100m per inch or whatever. Scale should never get in the way of gameplay. "Historical accuracy" in a sci fi game is an oxymoron so why bother? Heck, you determine how powerful/what sort of engine you have - a jump drive could take you anywhere in space instantly, with "spooling up" jump engines the only time taken; so points A (100 light years away) or point B (3000 light years away) could take the same travel time - if you decide. How do you want it to effect gameplay?

    TL:DR - My design choices reflect and justify my gameplay choices, not "historical accuracy"

  5. Remember, you create the universe, you justify what you want.

    A 12,000 ton Liberty ship was once handwelded together and completed in 4 days - in World War II! I'm sure a robotic spaceyard can build a 12,000 ton spacecruiser in at least half this time.

    Whereas jet engines (new tech) were being explored in 1938 but working models only reached the frontline in late 1944 in the Me262 - a period of years...

    See? You can bend the world to fit your gameplay easily, ESPECIALLY if it is sci fi.