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Old January 15 2009, 03:20 AM   #1
Albertese
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I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

So, after playing Star Fleet Battles and the Star Trek III Starship Combat Tactical Simulator (from FASA -- I grew up on this game) as well as a few video game offerings on the Star Trek license, I've decided that none of these games really depict the sort of ship-to-ship engagements shown on the show. Now, I'm talking strictly TOS here, none of the later shows or, really, even the movies. I want to make up my own game to play (using components from those other games: the hex field map and the ship counters. Both SFB and ST3SCTS include these.) using wholly original game mechanics in order to simplify and accelerate play. I want to have a game I can play with my usual wargaming buddies in which I can sit them down and in five or ten minutes they're fighting battles like on the show.

Now I'm not asking for help on game mechanics, that much I already have a real good idea for. The reason I'm asking this in the Trek Tech Forum is that I know many of you guys have studied the minutiae of the weapons and technical aspects of Kirk's Enterprise as much or more than I have. I want to include all the details, like extending the deflector shield around Harry Mudd's ship blowing the dilithium crystals, that sort of thing.

Off the top of my head, these are the episodes I recall having relevant material:

"The Corbomite Maneuver"
"Mudd's Women"
"Balance of Terror"
"The Galileo Seven"
"Arena"
"Tomorrow is Yesterday"
"Errand of Mercy"
"Friday's Child"
"The Doomsday Machine"
"Journey to Babel"
"Obsession"
"The Immunity Syndrome"
"The Ultimate Computer"
"Elaan of Troyius"
"The Paradise Syndrome"
"The Enterprise Incident"
"The Tholian Web"
"Day of the Dove"

Can you think of any other episode that dealt with ship-to-ship action? Or ship vs. monster, I like that SFB has monster missions and I want to include them in my system too.

Plus I'm hoping to open a discussion of the ship's systems as portrayed in these episodes. I'll worry about how to reflect them in game terms.

Thanks a mint!

--Alex
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Old January 15 2009, 09:56 AM   #2
K'riq Sa
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

sounds like a good idea, i'm in.....








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Old January 15 2009, 10:02 AM   #3
Timo
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

Perhaps "The Apple" and "Who Mourns for Adonais?" for ship-to-monster action? Surface-bound monsters should count as well, after all... And the episodes tell us something about the ship's combat capabilities against surface fortifications - and of the threat presented by such fortifications. "Return of the Archons" would fall in the same category.

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Old January 15 2009, 01:17 PM   #4
Mister_Atoz
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

I've been working on a similar game, designed to be gridless and used with miniatures, I call it "Phaser Lock." The original idea was to adhere strictly to canon, but the realities of wargamming made that difficult, so the game at least stays true to the spirit of what is on screen. It is fast paced and streamlined, no micromanaging of the power systems like in the other games, and I don't have ten different races that are never mentioned in the series. We should exchnage notes as I've done extensive reseacrch over the years.
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Old January 15 2009, 04:45 PM   #5
B.J.
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

Albertese wrote: View Post
...using wholly original game mechanics in order to simplify and accelerate play. I want to have a game I can play with my usual wargaming buddies in which I can sit them down and in five or ten minutes they're fighting battles like on the show.
Mister_Atoz wrote: View Post
I've been working on a similar game, designed to be gridless and used with miniatures.....
Can't help with the technical aspects of what's been shown, but a good example of a simplified wargame system is WizKids' Pirates of the (insert name here) CSG series. (Too bad WizKids has recently closed, though.) I'd direct you to their "How to play" section, but that's apparently disappeared. In any case, it might give you some ideas.
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Old January 16 2009, 02:38 AM   #6
Albertese
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

B.J. wrote: View Post
Can't help with the technical aspects of what's been shown, but a good example of a simplified wargame system is WizKids' Pirates of the (insert name here) CSG series. (Too bad WizKids has recently closed, though.) I'd direct you to their "How to play" section, but that's apparently disappeared. In any case, it might give you some ideas.
Yeah, I've played it, and I do like it. I love the little ship models built out of the cards. Way cool. However, I am trying to have a little finer level of detail than that. Also i want to play on a larger area, Pirates is meant for a relatively small area. (I think the same company put out a similar game called Rocketmen: the Good Old Fashioned Future which featured 1930's style pulp rocket ships done in a more modernized cartoon style. Also way cool.)

Power management does seem to be a part of canonical starship battles, and I feel it ought to play apart in my game. That said, other games are very ponderous and time consuming with their way of handling it (read: not fun or fast paced). I intend to handle it almost like FASA did, except in more a components-based manner rather than a math and record-keeping manner. I plan to make it where the ships are powered at the start of the game and there's enough power to keep up all the systems, but as you take damage, the power lessens and you need to decide where you are going to sacrifice in order to keep in the fight.

But yeah, Mister Atoz I'd love to see what you have. Post some of you work. I hope to more or less develop this here in this thread and whatever finished game results of this I plan on posting as a .pdf for whoever wants to try it out. All you'll need is a hex map and ship counters. And a crap-ton of six sided dice!

Later
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Old January 16 2009, 08:35 AM   #7
Timo
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

...Although for quick and visual playing, you could consider also having a set of simple markers, say, pawns or beads, that you place on a grid you outlined on cross-ruled paper. For a big starship, you outline a big square, for a smaller and weaker one, a small one. The pawns represent your power level in a very visual way... They can move from one part of your grid to another, or disappear from the grids altogether. You can play with your grid visible to the other players (as sensors generally can read power levels), or hidden.

Most of the stuff can be done with pencils and erasers, yeah. But this reallocation business just yells for something visual and movable instead.

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Old January 16 2009, 11:47 PM   #8
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

I agree power management is important in star trek combat, but in my game I wanted to only give the player decisions that captain would have to make, when Kirk orders auxiliary power, it usually goes like this;

Kirk: Auxiliary power
Chekov: switching over, shields firming up!”


He doesn't jump out of his seat and start micromanaging the power systems, that's for his chief engineer to worry about


My game was designed to be fast paced, and streamlined with a respect for canon but I did have to take some creative license, for example I just couldn't give the Enterprise the six photon torpedo tubes she is supposed to have, in play testing it made the weapons far too powerful and the battles lasted all of two turns. There are a few other places I had to casually ignore what was on screen in a particular episode and go with what is generally accepted for the series as a whole, the Enterprise's shields absorbing the equivalent of 90 photon torpedoes in one episode for example.

Phaser Lock uses cards to facilitate simultaneous movement, players secretly select both a movement and a combat card for each of their starship; all starships reveal their cards and move, then conduct combat according to the cards they selected. There are no charts of tables in my game, players roll one dice for each phaser bank and must roll greater than the shield strength to weaken the shields, photon torpedoes move across the boards and have their own damage system. Deflector shields are color coded by strength a starship's panel, when they are weakened a counter indicating the reduced shield strength is placed over top of the one printed on the panel, when a shield collapses the counter is black and all damage from there on hits the hull. There's more to my game obviously, but that was just a quick overview.

I took the game to a convention last year and it went over really well, though there are some issues that still need tweaking.

Here are a bunch of images, trust me they look a lot better in high res:






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Old January 17 2009, 02:38 AM   #9
Albertese
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

Mister Atoz, that's super cool. I like what you've done here. I too was planning to use cards to handle some of the simultaneous action stuff.

Timo, I do plan on using a visual, hands on method of tracking power. Essentially, for every point of power your ship generates, you get one die to use to activate a system.

Each system gets a fraction of your total pool of power dice. Dice committed to movement allow you to move more or less spaces on the map. Dice committed to phasers allow more or less powerful shots. Same goes for shields and so on. As your ship is damaged, you lose dice to work with. In combat, the dice are rolled opposing. In other words, assuming a phaser shot hits an enemy ship's shield: the attacker rolls his, say, five dice from a phaser shot and the target ship rolls his dice for that shield, lets say he only put in 4. Once they roll the dice, both sets of dice are matched up, highest with highest, all the way down the line. Say the Phaser rolled 6, 3, 3, 2, 2 and the Shield rolled 6, 5, 1, 1. After paired off, the 6's would go to the defender (ties go to defender), the 5/3 would go the defender, the 3/1 would go to the attacker, as would the 2/1. Any more dice rolled by one side than the other count as opposed to rolls of zero, so the last phaser roll would be 2/0 and would go to the attacker. So the end is three hits for the attackers dice which would eat three points of shield. As there were 4 points to begin with, the target still has one point of shields left and no damage done. Had there been more phaser hits than shield points then whatever the shield couldn't have absorbed are points of damage taken to the target.

It sounds complicated to read, but Rocketmen which i mentioned above, uses a system much like this to represent boarding actions and it actually goes pretty quickly and smoothly.

Well, more later.

--Alex

Last edited by Albertese; January 17 2009 at 02:38 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old January 19 2009, 04:38 AM   #10
Albertese
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

Okay, so here's a first pass at a control sheet for the Enterprise. The reason the boxes are so big (12mm) is that, rather than being check boxes like other games, they are actually spaces for holding dice, which are used simultaneously to track power and to conduct opposed die rolls. I made this sheet to use Chessex 12mm dice. Many table-top gamers and role-players have lots of these lying around. If you don't, they can be had at almost any games store or you can order them from the Chessex website. They usually come in blocks of 36 dice.

Here's the sheet:



Important crew members will have skills that effect die rolls. The positions I'm thinking about representing are the Captian, Engineer, Science Officer, Helm and Tactical (though in federation ships Helm and Tactical is the same guy) possibly also Communications and maybe a general score for the whole crew. The ranks would be from one to five:

1- Untrained
2- Trained
3- Experienced
4- Veteran
5- Legendary

A typical die roll would be rolling one die and adding the appropriate skill level. For some rolls, like to hit with a weapon for instance, there might be further modifiers to add like the +4 from the targeting computer. If shooting at a cloaked ship you wouldn't get this bonus. Et cetera.

I'm taking the evidence from "Obsession" (Reactor no. 3) to come up with 3 reactors. Since the episode's action is in the ship itself, I assume that this is in the habitable volume of the ship and reactors 1 and 2 are in the nacelles. I'm taking 3rd season references that seem to indicate a central reactor to mean that one of the three is the main reactor which somehow is vital to the operation of the other two. Since it doesn't follow that the central reactor would be in either nacelle, Reactor 3 is the Main Reactor. This will have important game consequences, but I haven't totally worked them out yet.

It is possible to nurse extra power from the reactors but it is potentially dangerous. You pick a reactor to overwork and roll a die. Compare it to the engineer's skill level. Let's say the level is 4. If you roll 1, 2, 3, or 4, you can get that many more power dice to use for this turn only. If you roll a 5 or a 6, then you haven't been delicate enough with the temperamental beasties and you suffer a dilithium burnout rendering that particular reactor useless for the rest of the game.

The ship has both auxiliary and battery power. Switching to auxiliary means shutting down one of the primary reactors and substituting it with the auxiliary reactor. It then operates exactly as the other would have except it can not be over worked for more energy. Battery power works differently. you start with 10 points, and as you use those power dice you can't reuse them again like you would ordinary reactor dice. Once used, they are out of the game. However, if you have less than 10 dice in the battery pool, you can use regular power dice to store up more energy to bring it up back as far as 10. naturally, this will make you have less power to use during that turn, but if your reactors are knocked out, the battery power is still good.

Torpedoes are armed with only one die per shot but roll damage as if it was 7 dice. They normally do benefit from the targeting computer bonus. The TORPEDO ACCURACY track shows how high you need to roll in order to hit a target at a given range. For example, at a range of 11, 12, or 13, you need to roll 14 or higher on the dice to hit. 14 spaces and more are out of range for the torpedo. But you can still try a "wildest stroke of luck" roll ("Balance of Terror"). Roll two dice. If the result is 12 then you hit no matter the range or any other factors.

Phasers hit with however much power you put to them. The Main Phasers can shoot a more powerful shot than the the ship's other phasers. Both main and secondary phasers have the same accuracy and range and also use the targeting computer. The range limit is 20 spaces, but you may still try a "wildest stroke of luck" roll just as with torpedoes. There is a way to get more power from a phaser shot: if full powered, you may "exhaust" the phaser and thereby roll double the dice for damage if it hits. However, the phaser bank is subsequently out of juice and can't be used for the remainder of the battle. (This was never really shown on the show, but in "The Doomsday Machine" Scotty says the [i]Constellation[/]'s phasers were exhausted, so this is what I came up with to explain that.)

If you want to beam something to or from the ship, you have to power the appropriate transporter. To operate any transporter, it must be fully powered. You may only use one transporter per turn. The emergency transporter may only be used to evacuate personnel off the ship, not to beam up.

Communications and Scanners both can operate using only one die each but you may need to use more power to pierce local subspace interference or to jam an enemy transmission, et cetera.

For the Tractor Beam to effect objects it must have enough power. 1 die to tow a shuttlecraft but four to tow another starship. I haven't yet worked out the details.

To move the ship requires dice per space moved. A big ship like the Enterprise will need 3 power dice to move one space. Smaller ships will have lower ratios, and larger ships like the Dreadnought (if I make one) or even more so the Fesarius, will need to use more power to move per space.

Looking over this sheet, I can see that I missed firing arcs for the weapons. The torpedoes should be 4 forward and two aft. The Main phaser is turret mounted around the lower sensor dome (the only one we ever actually saw fire during all of TOS) and the other three secondary phasers (mentioned but not seen on the show) are amidship, one port and one starboard and one aft.

I also seem to have not included any area to mark off damage to ship's hull. So far it's just system, but I think hull damage is an important part of this. After all, something has got to blow ships up!

Opinions? Anything else you think i missed?

Once i make the above mentioned changes, and I work up a damage chart, I'll be ready to run the first playtest!

Cheers

--Alex
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Old January 25 2009, 09:14 PM   #11
Albertese
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

OK. So here's the revised Control Sheet:




The changes are that I've added an area for crew losses and hull damage. Each crew box represents 20 to 25 guys. The numbers over the line are the maximum of order cards you can use with that many crew. (assuming your captain's skill level allows so many also.)

I've also added firing arc information to the weapons. Each arc number corresponds to the same numbers as the shield arcs. I've changed the torpedos a bit too. Since we only ever see the ship fire two at a time (IIRC) then I've made it so it's possible to arm only half the tubes at once. The result is that you can take some damage to the torpedo tubes and still be able to use them.

This afternoon I plan to make up some qhick and dirty order cards and than I'll post them tonight. If all goes well, I might be able to run a solitaire playtest tonight or in the next few days.

--Alex
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Old January 26 2009, 05:56 PM   #12
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

This is pretty much the coolest idea I've ever seen for a ship to ship tabletop game. At first glance I was skeptical at all of the rules, but after I explained them to a friend and then re-read them later, it's actually a very simple, easy to use system that I could definitely get used to. I look forward to actually playing this!

A few questions though: How is movement done? Is it going to be Warmachine style, using an actual ruler to calculate distance or will it be grid based? What will the conditions of victory be? To simply destroy the other ship or to incapacitate it? Is it possible to send out a scout ship and board another ship?
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Old January 27 2009, 02:29 AM   #13
Albertese
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

that1guy wrote: View Post
This is pretty much the coolest idea I've ever seen for a ship to ship tabletop game. At first glance I was skeptical at all of the rules, but after I explained them to a friend and then re-read them later, it's actually a very simple, easy to use system that I could definitely get used to. I look forward to actually playing this!
Thanks! It's nice to get some feedback! I haven't actually playtested it yet, but I hope to have a chance to get everything together for a game possibly this weekend if my wife hasn't got any other plans for me.

A few questions though: How is movement done? Is it going to be Warmachine style, using an actual ruler to calculate distance or will it be grid based?
This is meant to be played on a hex grid. It could be played with a ruler and a turning compass like Battlefleet Gothic does, but I prefer a grid for this sort of thing simply to avoid arguments about whether or not that ship is 1mm in or out of range. That irritates me to no end. So power dice to movement buy you spaces to move on the hex map.

What will the conditions of victory be? To simply destroy the other ship or to incapacitate it?
Well, my intention is to build a game that plays like episodes of Star Trek. Therefore the victory conditions will be scenario driven. It may well be to destroy the other ship. Or that could be one side's goal while the other is trying to retrieve some important artifact of whatever. Or there could be solitaire missions to achieve various victory conditions. It all depends on what you want to play. Once this is ready for general release, maybe I'll include some sort of random scenario generator (kinda like was in the 3rd Edition rulebook for Warhammer 40,000). I haven't given that much thought yet.

Is it possible to send out a scout ship and board another ship?
I haven't worked out the rules for this sort of thing yet, but yes, in the end I do want to include both possibilities. Launching shuttles happened plenty of times in TOS. And "The Day of the Dove" showed us combat in the corridors of the ship.... not really a boarding action per se, but it's a possibility I certainly want to include in the game even though it wasn't actually seen. (But I can recall Kirk making orders that refer to boarding parties...)

I didn't have a chance to work up the order cards last night (we had a dinner engagement I hadn't remembered) but Hopefully I'll be able to knock them out tonight and maybe post something.

--Alex
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Old January 27 2009, 04:26 AM   #14
Albertese
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

As promised, here is the first pass of some very quick order cards. The idea is that a Ship plays 1, 2, or 3 order cards depending on his captain's skill level.




Fire cards. Should be obvious.

Sensors. If the scenario calls for any science type stuff, rolling sensors to collect information is required. In pure combat missions, it is less critical (unless there are cloaked ships, when the enemy needs sensors to find the cloaked ship's position). I'm debating whether to have the power allocation be open knowledge or not. It seems that the other ships know whether weapons are powered and have a good idea of the status of their opponents generally. FASA had both players keep their sheets secret until after the game when the other player could review it if they wanted to see that no cheating took place. But this system of dice tracking doesn't really leave a record. Part of me would like to be able to keep it secret and just be on the honor system. I suppose you could play it both ways. If you were playing it secret, then a successful sensors roll would allow you to ask one question about the other ship's status; power dice in a certain system, whether a system has been knocked out or not, that sort of thing.

Reallocate power would let you replenish spent power dice from weapons as well as just move things around generally. This card is the only way to recharge systems.

Shields! This obviously toggles your shields on or off. Just because they are powered doesn't mean they are raised. Naturally they can only be powered up to the amount of power dice you've put into them.

Tractor Beam. This is something I'm still working out the details for. I expect that it would require more power to tow bigger objects or objects at greater distances. On the other hand, I'm not sure how complicated I want to make this. Plus I want to simulate the destructive effects of Tractor Beams on more delicate craft like Col. Christopher's 1960's era fighter plane (F-104...?) Needless to say, I don't have rules laid out for this yet, but I included the card on this sheet since I know it'll be needed eventually. (Maybe on Tuesday)

Beam Them Up! This is the order to use your transporter. A ship with multiple transporters may still only use one at a time. I've printed here a range of 4 meaning 4 hexes on the mapsheet. I intend to print similar little rule reminders on cards where appropriate, but this is it so far.

Hail Them! Rather then "crossboarding" communications, this card is used to send brief messages to other players. In a multi-player game, where there is more than one player per side, it might be fun to use written messages and pass notes when using communications. Since this is meant to simulate short messages, that would be a good way to keep conversations to the proper length. In some scenarios, this may take on more importance. I suppose it may be used to jam communications as well, but I might make a separate card for that. We'll see.

Launch Craft! This allows you to launch a shuttle/probe/marker, only one. I don't have rules really for any of these yet, but I intend to make them after I've playtested what I have so far.

If anyone has any other ideas for actions a starship commander might order, I'd love to entertain suggestions. I've been trying to figure out if I want to handle movement with cards too or not. I see advantages: it would make simultaneous movement easy to resolve, and it would be nice for cloaked ships since it would make them use essentially the same system as everyone. The only real disadvantage is that it would make for a lot of cards for players to deal with. Maybe I'll see what I can come up with. If it's too awkward, I can always not use them in favor of just moving the counter around...

Oh yeah, a Damage Chart:

Roll 2D6 and consult the chart:

2) Reactor/Generator
3) Hull
4) Crew
5) Missile Weapon
6) Beam Weapon
7) Shield Generator
8) Transporters (All transporters, not a single system)
9) Communications
10) Scanners
11) Tractor Beam
12) Movement

Enjoy!

--Alex
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Old January 29 2009, 12:05 AM   #15
K'riq Sa
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Re: I'm Making a Starship Combat Game

wow alex, that looks awesome and well thoughtout. you thinking of maybe taking it to market?



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