Random Notes on an Unfinished Space Game
The game was conceived to be a starship combat game,
with a tactical emphasis. Players would control only a few ships in great
detail, rather than a fleet in sparse detail.
Balancing Ship Designs
See Ship Point System.
Power allocation is a good spot to give the players some options.
The idea I was toying with was a system where it was difficult to change
power allocation quickly, so the players could try to out-fox each other.
Now, look at the red triangular graph in the lower left.
This is a standard "percentage of three elements" graph often found in
metalurgy and chemistry. Every point corresponds to a different percentage
of three elements. The circled point, for instance, is 25% A, 50% B, and
25% C, which totals to 100%.
I suppose you see where this is leading. The light
bulb went on when I realized that there are three elements in the Attack
power, Defense Power, and Movement Power equation.
For game purposes, I made the graph so each point
totals to 150% instead of 100%. I just pulled this figure out of the air,
feel free to experiment with other values.
I then chose a limited number of points to become
the allowable power allocation options. They are the circles in the upper
graph. The ship starts a game at the center (333) at 50% Attack, 50% Defense,
and 50% Move.
The real fun comes with the paths. I drew a series
of arrows from node to node. They show nodes one can move to from one's
current node. Note that some of the arrows are one way, for instance one
can move from node 422 to node 440, but not vice versa.
The theory behind the arrows was that the further
one moves out of balance to favor one system over the others, the harder
it is to get back into balance. Also note that one can move from
node 044 to node 700, inverting the allocation.
Each ship can change its node by one arrow per turn.
If you mis-read what your opponent is trying to do, you can paint yourself
into a corner.
Other networks of paths are possible, see what you
can come up with.
Vector movement is the king of space movement systems.
The trouble is trying to find a way to make it easy enough to use by the
players. My personal favorite is GDW's Triplanetary (also used in Steve
Jackson Game's STAR FIST). But that involved drawing vectors on the map
with grease pencil.
Failing that, I used a simple system where on the
ship record sheet one records the ship's current vector as the delta X,
delta Y (and delta Z if doing three dimensions). These are the values added
(algebraically) to the ship's current x,y,z co-ordinates in order to calculate
the new location. (e.g., if the good ship Sky Trash is at 3,6,10
and has a vector of -1, 0,+10, next turn it will be at 2,6,20)
This is using a rectangular grid for the map. If
you wish to adapt this to a hex grid, be my guest.
An assumption was made that a ship can only thrust
in the direction it is currently facing (which has nothing to do with which
direction it is travelling in). So the ship would used the facing chart
to see which deltas got the benefits of any acceleration this turn.
So say Sky Trash is facing in direction #4. It accelerates
for 6 units. Since #4 has two deltas in it (-x,+y) each delta gets 3 units.
Its delta of -1,0,+10 becomes -4,+3,+10.
Ships may only change facing by following the arrows.
So a ship that could change its facing by 2 square a turn, if it started
in #4, it could move to #14, but could not move to #15.
Tractor beams, once they have sucessfully latched
onto an enemy ship, can change the deltas of the enemy ship. The limits
Grapple Beams are different. While a Tractor beam is
like an elastic band, Grapple beams are like iron rods. When your ship
nails another with a Grapple beam, they first undergo a "completely inelastic
collision" whereupon their vectors are identical. Then until the grapple
is broken, the two ship accelerate and move as one.
 Whatever changes are made to the enemy ship's deltas have to be made
to your ship's deltas in the opposite direction. This is due to Newton's
third law. For example, Sky Trash pegs a Blortch Battleship and changes
it's current vector from +2,-10 to +1,-15. Poor Sky Trash's vector changes
from -4,+3 to -3,+8. Its just too bad that this puts Sky Trash into a decaying
orbit around an antimatter neutron star.
 There is a limit on how many vector points a given tractor beam array
Again their is a limit to how much a given grapple
array can transmit, so the grapple can be broken during the inelastic collision
if the limit is exceeded. And afterwards a grappled ship can frantically
accelerate in an effort to break the grapple.
To do an inelastic collision simplistically, merely
add the two ship's deltas together and use the results. If Sky Trash grappled
the Blortch, both would get the vector -2, -7.
This highlights a limitation. The above tractor and
grapple rules work fine, as long as the two ships have the same mass. Differing
masses can be accommodated, but things get much messier.
The basic idea is to keep track of a ship's vector
x,y,z. You divide these by the ship mass to get the actual deltas used
to move the ship.
So if Sky Trash had a mass of 5, it could have vector
energy of -20, +15, and a vector of -4,+3. Say the Blorch Battleship has
a mass of 15, vector energy of +20,-150, and a vector of +2,-10. Sky Trash
tractors it, and gives the Blorch a -5,-75. Now the Blorch has a vector
energy of +15, -225, and a vector of -1, -15. Unfortunately Sky Trash receives
a +5, +75, resulting in a vector energy of -15, +90, and a vector of -3,+18.
This actually might be a good way to make a fast getaway.
Things really get ugly with grapple beams.
Example: Sky Trash, mass 5, vector energy 105,-21. Blorch Battleship,
mass 15, vector energy -454, -164.
 Add the vector energies together
 Add the ship masses together
 Determine each ship's vector share. Do this by dividing the ship's
mass by the total mass.
 Divvy up the vector energies between the ships by vector share.
Total vector energy = -349, -185
Total mass = 20
Sky Trash vector share = 5 / 20 = 0.25
Blorch vector share = 15 / 20 = 0.75
Sky Trash new vector energy:
x = -349 * 0.25 = -88
y = -185 * 0.25 = -47
Blorch new vector energy:
x = -349 * 0.75 = -262
y = -185 * 0.75 = -139
As a check the ships should now have the same vectors:
vector x = -88 / 5 = -18
vector y = -47 / 5 = -9
vector x = -262 / 15 = -18
vector y = -139 / 15 = -9
The crew of the Sky Trash fly bone-crushingly into the nose of the ship
as it comes to a screeching halt and starts going backwards.
If either ship accelerates, the acceleration units are divided between
the two grappled ships by vector share.
Task Force Game's STARFIRE has a simple damage allocation
system. All ship systems are represented by letters. A string of letters
represents the ship. As damage is done, systems are checked off from left
to right. Naturally if a given system is checked off, it can no longer
be used. Generally the systems on the extreme left are force fields and
Nice system, but a bit one-dimensional.
So I attempted to make it two dimensional.
The idea is that one designs one's ship by placing ship
systems into the white squares. Since we are playing on a rectangular grid,
enemy weapons fire can come in from eight different directions. Each direction
has a damage table. So if the above ship was under fire from the left,
it would use the yellow table. Roll 2d6 to see which arrow to use ( two
dice added in order to generate a bell curve with a bias to the center).
Move in the direction of the arrow until an undamage ship system is encountered.
Destroy that system, and reduce the strength of the weapon fire. Continue
until one runs out of weapon strength or penetrates the ship.
An idea is to count remaining weapons strength that
penetrates the ship as causing general structural damage. Once this is
gone, the ship falls part.
Another idea is to use different
damage allocation for different weapons types. The allocation already described
is the "pin beam". Rod beam is like pin beam, except it damages systems
in a 2 wide swath. Cone Beam or Shaped Charge does it in a cone. Blast
has one rolling on the table for every separate weapon strength point,
this peels the surface of the ship. Fan Beam is like blast, but more systematic.
Here is a small cutter's damage chart.
Here is a damage allocation chart based on hexes.
Here are some prototype symbols for ship systems.