WOIN Playtest Feedback: Ship Combat

LucasC

Visitor
In our first full-evening game we did several encounters. I’ll provide feedback on person-to-person combat separately.
The Premise: The PCs (6 total) were each given a pilot and an F16 and were engaged in a dogfight with the invading aliens. The objective was to shoot down a troop carrier. The carrier had 4 starfighter escorts.​

Note
: Midway through planning this encounter I asked you some questions and you indicated the rules were really meant for larger ships. As such, I am going to limit my feedback to rules that would be applicable to large and small-ship battle.

Newtonian mechanics were used.

Here’s are some problem areas:
  • Ship movement creates a weirdness (see below)
  • Ships probably need a maximum velocity
  • Velocity was a pain to track, we had 11 ships and each had different velocities at different times

Here are a few general comments the players made:
  • We’d like to see some ‘stunts’ or other options for ship combat other than flying, crashing and shooting
  • Are any of the special combat rules meant to be in effect for ship combat (crossfire in particular)
  • Is there an intent for gravity to have any impact on ship combat?

Ship Movement
The manner by which ship movement occurs creates disjoined leap-frog effect. Everyone that played very much disliked the effect it had on the game.
Let’s assume a starting position like this and that the Yellow ship goes first. Both ships have a velocity of 5 and neither are slowing down or speeding up.

ship1.png

After the yellow ship takes its turn, it has leap-frogged past the gray ship and is now in front of it.

ship2.png

After the gray ship moves placement has returned to ‘normal’ and the yellow ship is in the back again.

ship3.png

Aside from feeling weird, the leap-frogging creates a problem tactically in that a ship with a (typically) superior position behind a second one now jumps in front of it.

What should probably happen is both ships move simultaneously then take their turns. Or take their turns and then move.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Oh, awesome (and nice graphics!)

This stuff is thoroughly unplaytested, so it's really useful (I say that, but it is based on an existing system I wrote a few years back which was playtested).

One thing to bear in mind is that that's a couple of pages of super basic starship combat rules. I can see an entire BOOK on just that subject, but I just wanted a very basic intro in the main core rulebook. I feel I could write detailed rules for this pretty much endlessly (I really enjoy it).

Re. your movement weirdness; yeah, I can see that. Most games I know of get around that with - as you suggest - a movement phase then an action phase. It's almost 100% likely I'll be doing that!

  • We’d like to see some ‘stunts’ or other options for ship combat other than flying, crashing and shooting
  • Are any of the special combat rules meant to be in effect for ship combat (crossfire in particular)
  • Is there an intent for gravity to have any impact on ship combat?


So to these questions:



  • [*=left]-Absolutely, but *maybe* not in the core book; we're at 300 pages now, and I have to start thinking about what goes in that book and what goes in its own book
    [*=left]-Nah, though if you wanted to try that and report back it's an interesting idea and if it works we could make that the default
    [*=left]-I have given some thought to environmental effects on starship combat, but again I felt maybe in its own book

My question, which was important to me - was it relatively easy? I see you had trouble tracking velocities (and 11 ships is a lot, yeah) - perhaps a dice with a number facing up next to each? I'm assuming you used the Newtonian rules from that?

I'm really glad you tried that. That section will definitely benefit from your feedback!

(Oh, re. the max velocity thing - I guess that would be "pseudo Newtonian" as a ship in space could accelerate indefinitely; what used to happen in the old game is that interesting environments of asteroids and the like interacted with turning circles enough that folks didn't dare go *too* fast as they'd hit something).
 
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LucasC

Visitor
My question, which was important to me - was it relatively easy?
Set aside the tracking of movement, and I found the ship combat relatively easy to run. Some of the rules didn't really apply as we were using very small ships with very high Agility scores. We will be trying out big-ship space combat later and the turn/move/speed stuff will play a bigger role.

The only other problem area I had was positioning ships on our dry-erase board. We have a 4'x6' board we play at which is usually much larger than needed. However, with the ships moving at high velocities (we started at 10 and got to 25 by the end for some ships) they quickly put a great deal of distance between different pockets of ships. I might print out little hex sheets for this so I can move them around on the board and just write a distance between each hex sheet.

re. the max velocity thing - I guess that would be "pseudo Newtonian" as a ship in space could accelerate indefinitely
Gotcha. Our battle took place inside Earth's environment so that's why no max-velocity felt strange to us.

As an aside, I would expect that, particularly small ship combat, is likely to take place in and out of planets atmospheres.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
A paragraph on atmospheres is an easy add.

Out of curiosity - what were the stats of the ships you were using?
 

LucasC

Visitor
Here are the different things from the fight.

The ships are incomplete since they are too small for your rules but they were finished enough for our purposes (shooting at each other, flying around, etc.).

Right at the start we made a few adjustments due to their size, they were:
  • cut Agility in half as the AGI numbers here produce defenses way beyond what anyone could hit
  • assigned each ship a speed of 5
  • gave each ship 1 action (plus automatic movement)

Here are the ships.

ships.png

And the pilots.

durog pilot.pngfighter pilot.png
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Cool. One thing to bear in mind is that you are trying to do things with these rules that they weren't designed to do. They're designed for naval-style starships in space in the future, rather than dogfight-style F16s in an atmosphere in present day (same for some of the career issues you struggled with). So you're bound to see some weird, unintended effects. But it's very encouraging to see that the rules seem to have *broadly* handled an unusual application with a few issues, despite it being a bit of a stretch.

I will write rules for fighters and the like at some point, but they're some way down the priority list for the moment.

I'd love to see some feedback on the two ships in the book in a fight with players all on one ship doing various tasks (piloting, shooting, repairing, and so on). I don't have any feedback on any of the combat mechanics as written yet. :)

How did you find the math? Attack rolls, damage, range increments? Was that easy to handle? And did it feel right? I see you have your pilots piloting and gunnery skills (excellent!)
 
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LucasC

Visitor
One thing to bear in mind is that you are trying to do things with these rules that they weren't designed to do. They're designed for naval-style starships in space in the future, rather than dogfight-style F16s in an atmosphere in present day
Yup, that's why I only really commented on the things that seemed pretty universal, primarily moving and shooting.

I'd love to see some feedback on the two ships in the book in a fight with players all on one ship doing various tasks (piloting, shooting, repairing, and so on). I don't have any feedback on any of the combat mechanics as written yet.
I'll run a battle between the ships you have in the book next week (Tuesday) and give you feedback following it.

How did you find the math? Attack rolls, damage, range increments? Was that easy to handle? And did it feel right? I see you have your pilots piloting and gunnery skills (excellent!)
Generally speaking, for starship combat, everything was pretty simple, quick and easy. Pretty much the only math bits were determining dice rolled for attack and damage and range increments. The ranges seemed short but I suspect that's more a biproduct of doing a dogfight rather than a battleship combat.

I don't know how useful my take on damage or attack rolls will be given my ships break most of your conventions, being tiny things with basically no superstructure and abnormally high Agility. In general though, things worked as I had expected. The small guns on the F16s didn't pose a real threat to the alien ships due to their shields and armor and the missiles were able, usually with 2 hits, to destroy the alien vessels. Both sides had a difficult time scoring those hits but that is hard to judge whether that is (1) intended or (2) just because these tiny ships have very large AGI scores and even after cutting them in half defenses were nearly 30.

As a side note, the players were unable to destroy the transport vessel in time using their weapons so they rammed it to ultimately destroy it.

I enjoyed the ship battle, barring the few oddities that I've mentioned.

This ship battle was 1 of 4 encounters. The other 3 were all person-to-person. I have a long list of feedback on that that I'll get posted tomorrow. In person-to-person combat many of the mechanics were more difficult to track and a few things didn't really 'feel' right.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
The other 3 were all person-to-person. I have a long list of feedback on that that I'll get posted tomorrow. In person-to-person combat many of the mechanics were more difficult to track and a few things didn't really 'feel' right.
Exciting! I look forward to hearing about it!

I have suspected that some elements might be a pain to track (especially the pinning down) so I'm definitely very attentive to experiences with those.
 

balard

Explorer
Maybe ship-to-ship combat, should be done in a more abstract way, like 13th age combat? Some basic distances and special maneuvers to change it.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Maybe ship-to-ship combat, should be done in a more abstract way, like 13th age combat? Some basic distances and special maneuvers to change it.
Hmm? Why? It works OK; needs a few tweaks. It's a tactical game; that would result in a very different game!

Sounds like the sort of thing a third-party publisher might be interested in doing for it. That would be cool!
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
So the next playtest document will contain this version of the initiative/movement rules. Those using starship combat now might want to use these.

- INITIATIVE is equal to the pilot's INITIATIVE and is re-rolled every round (starship tactics is a skill which works like tactics does on the ground - i.e. gives a +1d6 to INITIATIVE)

- Each round is divided into two phases – a movement phase, followed by an action phase. First, in the movement phase, all ships move in reverse INITIATIVE order (so those who won INITIATIVE move LAST); then all ships take actions in regular INITIATIVE order (so those who won INITIATIVE act FIRST). It's important to note that movement technically takes place simultaneously, but those who won initiative get to make their decisions about movement after seeing what their opponents have chosen to do.
 

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
That sounds like a great idea for 'any' chase scenario. :) I might use that for our Savage Worlds - SIFRPG Hybrid game.

Another good idea I read somewhere, was getting the craft/vehicle/person being chased to determine the DC's/TN's.

So they could choose to enter an asteroid field or canyon etc and when in there try and make things even more difficult with tight turns, purposely going close to asteroids/outcroppings etc.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
That sounds like a great idea for 'any' chase scenario. :) I might use that for our Savage Worlds - SIFRPG Hybrid game.

Another good idea I read somewhere, was getting the craft/vehicle/person being chased to determine the DC's/TN's.

So they could choose to enter an asteroid field or canyon etc and when in there try and make things even more difficult with tight turns, purposely going close to asteroids/outcroppings etc.
Yeah, that's a great feature of player-narrative focused games! This isn't one of those, but it's still an wardrobe feature!
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
As a side note, the nest playtest document has a section on planetary atmospheric aerial combat. It's surprisingly short, but I think it covers everything needed in a concise way.

(I do still have to do do something with smaller than Class I ships, though).
 

Celebrim

Legend
Maybe ship-to-ship combat, should be done in a more abstract way, like 13th age combat? Some basic distances and special maneuvers to change it.
Abstract combat works better IMO if and only if you are approaching the campaign from a ruler/director perspective. If your character is managing some sort of empire, then managing mass combat on a tactical level is usually going to be too burdensome and doing all of it at that level grinds the campaign to a halt and prevents you achieving the larger goals of the narrative.

But if the scale of combat is personal, then tactical combat is better than abstract combat. If you are emulating something like Luke Skywalker flying an X-Wing, or the crew of the Starship Enterprise fighting some foe, then you want to have a very concrete very personal feel to it. Ideally, you create the sense that the ship is the player's character, and that his actions in control of the ship are therefore very meaningful.

The play testing I've been seeing are lending themselves to this later scale.

I'm seeing some interesting ideas in the starship combat rules. I'm still not fully convinced that the rules are offering enough opportunity for character and player skill to shine, but I'm inclined to agree with what seems to be Morrus's stance, that such rules are better left to an advanced supplement focused on Starship Combat for those that actually care enough to want such a thing. There is no sense adding that burden of complexity to the base rules.

Likewise, the empire management focus and consequent abstract mass combat rules is a rules extension that you probably should leave to an advanced campaign supplement of some sort IMO.
 

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