Saturday, June 10, 2023

Fine-tuning Fleet-level Starship Combat using Xenos Rampant

I hauled my tiny starships over to Bruce's place last week and we gave the adaptation of Xenos Rampant to fleet-level action (i.e., the player is an admiral commanding multiple ships) two good playlists. We made a couple of adjustments between tests and the result seems to give a good game. Scenario was convoy escort: Galactica versus Star Fleet. The ships are 1/10,000ish scale from the National Cheese Emporium on Shapeways.

We retained two types of units: capital ships and fighters. Capital ships:
  • always have movement as their automatic action
  • move straight forward; a turn of up to 90 degrees costs 2" of movement
  • act like vehicles, meaning they can try to shoot after moving at a -1 to their activation roll 
  • have a forward shooting arc of 180 degrees (we ignore arcs during assault)
  • have -1 to armour when shoot at from behind their front edge.
This seems to approximate momentum in movement (and reduces dice rolling around movement) while giving players tough choices about the sequence of actions you decide to take (do you move everyone or do you automatic move one ship and then risk a shooting attempt?).

By contrast, fighters:
  • have no facing, can turn freely during a move, and always turn to face an attacker
  • can neither shoot nor be shot at 
  • fly back towards their carriers when they fail a courage test and, once they touch a carrier, automatically rally during the next rally phase
  • that touch a carrier (because of a failed courage test or voluntarily) also regain 1d6 strength points
  • can launch as a part of move action simply by moving away from the carrier.  
This seems to approximate carrier operations with fighter being brittle, close-in combat units that can re-arm by returning to base. We also had asteroid fields and planets to block LOS. You can move through an asteroid field at no additional cost but take a 10d6 attack.

Our playtest pitted two battlestars, six transports, and 10 viper squadrons against two battleships, two cruisers, two light cruisers, a destroyer and two frigates. This worked out to 50ish points per side. If you wanted to split this up into two commands for each side (each of which must fail for a player to lose initiative), you could.

Our experience was that the battlestars were very tough ships but one had to be careful with the viper wings and think about whether to re-arm or attack very carefully. The battlestars were also vulnerable to being flanked and were a pain to get turned around and back in the fight if they failed a courage test. Not allowing fighters to shoot seems to mimic the role of fighters in BSG and Star Wars: get in close and try to get lucky while taking significant casualties.

The Federation fleet was also tricky to handle. The destroyer and frigate flotillas were very fast (faster than the fighters) but also brittle, so they were useful to threaten and pin down other ships more so than in combat. The larger federation ships were slow and the cruisers got beat-up quickly. But, with careful maneuvering, even the light cruiser could really put a pasting on an enemy ship.

Overall, this felt like a very fleet-level action (you were commanding multiple ships rather than fiddling with energy allocation on one ship). I have out the ship stats below. But, before turning to that, Bruce also showed off his own 1/6000-sca;e WW2 fleets that we've been using with Nimitz. The counters that the ships sit in are about two inches long. The models can we swapped into other counters as needed.

These are the SSDs we used for the Federation and Colonial Fleets. If you want these as Word files, I can email them to you.

Since the rules basically seem to work, I will point up a Klingon and Cylon fleet. Bruce also had a good idea for handling space stations so maybe we'll try that next.


Anonymous said...

I like what you have done here. An interesting take on an area that will obviously be relevant to Xenos Rampant campaigns. I will shamelessly copy your work at a future club game. Many thanks.

Kirk said...

Love this. Will have to order myself a copy of the Xenos Rampant as this is almost exactly something I have been trying to do for a while.