Friday, March 25, 2016

Psi Wars: Spaceships Playtest -- Tactical Combat

We've looked at the basic combat system, seen how it works and seen its flaws, and we've taken a look at alternate combat systems.  Now let's take a look at the tactical combat system found in GURPS Spaceships 3: Warships and Space Pirates.

Our Characters

Here's Tobin Starlaw again, if you've not met him yet.  The pertinent statistics for him are these:
  • Pilot(Starship)-18
  • Gunnery (Beams)-16
  • Artillery (Guided Missile)-16
  • Lucky
  • Combat Reflexes
  • Daredevil
  • Higher Purpose (Dogfighter)
He'll be flying a Starhawk, assisted by TB-7, his repair-bot.

He'll be facing off against two Typhoon-class deep-space fighters and an Empire-class dreadnought.


We will use 100-mile hexes. Thrust rating for the Starhawk and Typhoon is 4, for the Resilient is 2. Burn points for Starhawk and Typhoon are 90. Burn points for the Empire class are infinite. We'll say the Starhawk is travelling at 50 mps (and thus Starting velocity 10). The Typhoons are milling about at no particular speed, matching the Empire class, which is moving at 10 (starting velocity 2)

Turn 1

Turn 1 ship and vector positions
Command: We'll skip this

Engineering: TB-7 powers up all of Tobin's systems

Navigation: Not relevant

Piloting: Tobin has Skill 18 + 2 handling and rolls a 12. Tie-Fighter Blue has skill 12 +2 hand and rolls a 10. Tie Fighter Red has the same and rolls the same. Arc of Dominion has a 12 and a -1 and rolls an 11 (barely succeeding!). Tobin goes last, the star destroyer goes first.

The Arc of Dominion chooses to drift.

Typhoon blue changes facing towards Tobin an accelerates towards him (he has 86 burn points left)

Typhoon red doesn't change facing, and does accelerate, but more slowly. (he has 88 burn points left)
Tobin changes facing and accelerates two hexes (He has 88 burn points left)

Turn 1 after maneuvering

Electronics: Isn't interesting for us.

Tobin fires a missile towards Blue. The missile must be a super-missle (nothing else is fast enough), giving it 10 thrust and 100 burn points. It'll accelerate 10 hexes towards blue.

Both Typhoons ha ve 3MJ lasers, which have a range of 15/50. The Arc of Dominion has 30 10GJ (70/200) lasers and 10 30 GJ lasers. (70/200). Typhoon Red fires on Tobin, who is 22 hexes away. He only deals half damage, and he is effectively skill 12 +5 SM -1 ECM -8 range or skill 9. He rolls 9 and exactly hits. Tobin has a Dodge of 12 + 1 from his evasive movement. He rolls a 13 and just barely dodges.

The Arc of Dominion brings its many turrets to bear: The 30 small turrets are at skill 12 +5 SM -8 range -1 ecm +5 RoF = 13. They roll a 15 and miss(!). For the ten larger turrets, they are skill 12 +5 SM -8 range -1 ecm + 2 RoF for 10 and miss with a 14.

Typhoon blue engages in point defense. The missile has a relative velocity of 12, so he's skill 12 + 6 (base) -4 relative velocity, and the missile is SM -1. He's skill 13 to hit the missile. He rolls a 12 and blows it away! Lucky him.


Everyone moves to their vector token.

Turn 2

Beginning positions turn 2
Yes, Tobin is moving that fast.

The same song and dance. We skip the same moves as above, and obviously Tobin will go last.

The Arc of Dominion changes facing (It begins to bank).
Typhoon blue changes facing dramatically and burns 4 movement points (82)
Typhoon red changes facing and burns 4 movement points (84)
Tobin also changes face and burns 4 movement points (82)

Turn 2, after maneuvering

Firing phase
Typhoon blue can fire at Tobin (forward turret!); Tobin is 6 hexes away: -4 (+5 SM -1 ECM) for 12. 7! He hits Tobin twice! Tobin can dodge on 13 or less (he's evading) . He rolls a 10 and dodges both blasts.

The Arc of Dominion gets to fire once more. The 30 small turrets are at skill 12 +5 SM -5 range -1 ecm +5 RoF = 16. They roll a 15 and hit twice. For the ten larger turrets, they are skill 12 +5 SM -5 range -1 ecm + 2 RoF for 12 and miss with a 16. Tobin needs to dodge twice or he's scrap: Luck is with him: he rolls a 9.

Neither Tobin nor Red can fire on anyone else.

Turn 3

Start of turn 3
Tobin is really screaming past everyone.

Blue burn 3: 79 points left.
Red burns 2: 82
Tobin flips back towards everyone else and burns 4: 78
The Arc of Dominion continues its slow, slow bank.

Turn 3 after manuver

Everyone can fire at everyone else!

Tobin fires his lasers AND his missile (That's legal, right?)! Tobins missile is able to accelerate straight at Blue, and he'll fire his lasers at red. Skill 16 vs SM +4 Range 5 (-4) +2 fixed -2 ECM: Skill 16! He rolls a 9 and hits with all 4. Red has a dodge of 9 and rolls a 13: Complete hit! The four lasers deal 11, 15, 16 and 15 damage vs an effective DR of 5: the first shot will disable armor, the second shot destroys a turret (5), the third shot destroys the tactical array, and the last shot destroys more armor (location 2). It takes a total of 37 damage. It needs to roll a 12 to survive, and rolls a 14. Kaboom!

These happen simultaneously, so Red still gets to fire back: Skill 12 vs SM +5 Range 5(-4) and -1 ECM for skill 12. He misses on a 14. No revenge shot!

Blue goes for point defense again: SM -1 speed 11 (-5) ballistic +6, so skill 12. Oh, 16, bad luck.
The Arc of Dominion brings its many turrets to bear: The 30 small turrets are at skill 12 +5 SM -5 range -1 ecm +5 RoF = 16. They roll a 8 and hit 9 times. For the ten larger turrets, they are skill 12 +5 SM -5 range -1 ecm + 2 RoF for 11 and hit twice with a 9. Tobin has a dodge of 13 and tries to evade the wave of fire and outright fails, taking 90, 110, 130, 170, 180, 160, 120 and 200 damage. He's obviously really dead.

But the missile is still in play: Tobin's skill (was) 16 +4 size +6 acc -4 relative velocity, -6 turn length, -2 ecm, for 14 or less. He hits with a 6! Red needs to dodge (9 or less) and critically fails with a 17. Scratch one more typhoon.


I've made a few mistakes here, and this was my first time even trying the tactical system and it's obvious that I'm not very good at thinking in terms of vectors, but I must say I quite enjoyed this playtest.

First of all, this feels more like that I want my combat to feel like.  You get a sense of how very quick and agile the fighters are, and how slow the star destroyer is.  I'd like it to be even slower, but this at least begins to look like a Star Wars fight.  Fighters zip in and out, swoop around, blast each other, while stately ships struggle to keep up with them.

This tracked missiles independently.  It never actually came up, but a missile would keep trying to hit someone until it was shot down.  Of course, this time the missile wasn't the killer app because I've learned and actually used point defense. They still deal too much damage: if I had fired one at the Arc of Dominion early on, I probably would have killed it (one or two shots anyway).

This let ships get close and stay close.  You get a sense of ships chasing each other. That's more what I'm looking for.  I can see why the basic system works the way it does: Really getting on someone's tail in this system is quite difficult, actually, but I rarely had a range higher than -8, while the standard system often had a range of -12.

Of course, this was space combat.  Tobin had no problem flipping around and just firing his thrusters to slow down.  That's how space combat would actually work, not "psuedo-air combat" which is a little unfortunate, but I can live with it, if I'm honest.  I suppose we'd be better off with boost drives if we wanted to be "true to the movies," but we don't need to be.

And, naturally, the Arc of Dominion won the day.  I told a friend of mine that the headline of this playtest was: "250 billion dollar ship defeats 10 million dollar ship!" But still, the Arc of Dominion should need fighters to protect it, but the Typhoons weren't nearly the threat that the Arc of Dominion itself was.  We need it to be the other way around: The Starhawk should present some kind of threat to the Arc of Dominion that the Arc of Dominion needs Typhoon-class fighters to protect against

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