Saturday, January 9, 2016

Starship Combat!

Today my boys helped me test-drive my extensively house-ruled Bk2-style starship combat rules. I think it turned out rather well. We went from writing up ship descriptions to playing to finishing up the combat in only an hour or so, with some breaks to talk about rules interpretations. Some time after we began,a buddy of mine came by to pick up something and ended up playing one side with one of my sons.
Well, Traveller is from the 70's/80's!

With TTB/Bk2 rules as the foundation, I've added in/on:
  • Starter Traveller's range band system for movement (keeps it simple)
  • Turn order from Space Gamer #40, "New Space Combat System" by Steve Winter*
  • Radiation damage tables from SS3: Missiles (nuclear missiles and particle guns)
  • Structure Points for Hull hits from MgT
  • Particle Accelerators, plasma & fusion guns from High Guard, and bigger versions of standard lasers & missiles 
  • variant defensive weapons I term Countermeasures, one type for missiles and one type for lasers 
  • armor rules (mentioned, but neither side was armored)

Classic Traveller starship combat is tactics-based not maneuver-based. The winner is likely the one with the most effective weapons for the situation, and who uses his available program space to best advantage. Effective use of range is also a major consideration. I randomly assigned crew skill levels as well; skills have real effect in combat rolls.

Both Native and Intruder had an off-the-shelf Type T Patrol Cruiser, and chose their own loadout of weaponry and computer programs. I refereed, to keep things moving and to resolve arguments. Intruder "Rolling Thunder" and Native "Stormer" both accelerated towards their opponent at max power throughout the battle.

The "New Space Combat System" changes the order of game turns by putting both side's movement segment first, before the exchange of fire. This makes sense to me as now either Native or Intruder can seize the initiative and control the tempo of the engagement.

Two turns went by with no fire as they both wanted to avoid the long range -DMs to hit. Once fire opened up, both sides used Particle Accelerators and launched missiles. There were some hits scored by both sides (I occasionally forgot to include range DMs) and curiously both ship's Medics were taken out by radiation hits. Hits were scattered across the ships, including some loss of hull Structure Points (drop to 0 and the ship breaks up) but it wasn't until missiles started landing that things got serious.

Stormer took lots of structure hits and was in danger of breakup, the PA turret was damaged, the M-drive took a hit and they lost a gunner. The computer was hit but kept functioning.

Thunder fared less well. Three of Stormer's missiles hit in the same turn, producing 11 hits. The power plant suffered a critical hit, all four turrets were disabled, and the computer took multiple hits. At the end of round 4 Thunder had changed programs to initiate a Jump, but the missiles came in round 5 - and then Thunder failed the computer operation roll so he couldn't jump. Instead, Thunder struck her drive and surrendered. 

Observations and rulings:
First, if your opponent is armed with missiles, unless you have robust missile defense: lots of lasers, ECM and Anti-Missile programs, do NOT let your opponent get close to you! Keep the range open so you have time to shoot down missiles. Both sides were able to launch missile flights that intercepted targets in the same round!

Second, remember to install and employ defensive measures. Neither side utilized their CM.

Third, volume of fire works. Even at  long range, take a shot with energy weapons. There's no ammunition restriction, and you'll get a hit now and then.

Fourth, TTB includes Critical Hits in the combat damage tables. I'm not sure I want to keep them, as 4 of the 6 are insta-kill results. Instead drives can be disabled, reduced to a drive letter below the usable range, in one shot, rather than wearing down.

Fifth, power plant hits should have the effect of reducing maneuver drive rating as these two are tied to one another in the rules. Remember, power plant letter has to be at least equal to M-drive letter. A disabled plant leaves the ship with only enough power for basic life support, and core computer functions but no program use.

Sixth, subcraft can be employed as combatants. Both had Ship's Boats, but neither side used them. On both sides, multiple Hold hits resulted in all the cargo being wrecked in preference to damaging the boats. Go figure.

Lastly, Traveller starship combat will probably not end with a ship going KABLOOEY!  This is better as far as I'm concerned. There's lots more interesting stuff that can happen if the PCs capture a ship, or have to take additional jobs to pay for repairs, or conduct (or need) rescue of crewmen in space. Also it avoids the problem of TPK by ship explosion. 

The battle rolled along smoothly and quickly, and we all had a good time. Results that would have mattered if PC's ships were involved (like crew hits) were noted but I kept the focus on the immediate action instead of the long-term effects. It will be interesting to see how PCs handle getting their ships torn up.

* Back issues of Space Gamer can be found at


  1. I have had some very fun space combat sessions in my table top campaigns. Once using pure CT actually My brother and I were players and we were being extorted to pay a fee to a pirate corsair. We decided to not pay and planned a to fire a laser shot at the ship and drop back into the atmosphere of the wild planet. We shot the laser using target and gunner interact it was a hit. We rolled a 12 followed by a roll of 6 and took out the Corsair before they could even shift into mode to pursue us or a game turn even got a chance to evolve. It was quite spectacular and it was legitimate.
    I prefer to keep my game as close to Classic today and only use pulse lasers, beam lasers, basic smart missiles and sandcasters. I usually just abstract vector and distances based on ship G rating, pilot skill, surrounding obstacles and guestimate position of acceleration or deceleration.
    I did use Mongoose ships and really respect what Mongoose did wit their ships but I Hybrid both systems using the old combat sequence and hit charts but using the armor points and structure points to protect internal components. An example lets say you hit the powerplant on a roll but you have 4 armor points. the armor would have obsorbed that hit instead of the powerplant. But if you hit the M-Drive it would be a direct hit. Once armor points were depleted the first hull hit would equal decompression first before it effected the structure. It worked quite well.
    I decided to go back to classic. The reason why is because the old computers add depth to the game you have to think about what you are running and if you make a poor programing choice you are in trouble. The fact that you have to think about it and plan brings the Player intricately connected to the ship and its function bringing it more to life in their imagination.

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