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Legendre

How to design spaceship missile combat?

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I have been thinking about the design of a very simple, very minimalistic spaceship vs spaceship pen & paper game.
 
I am going with the bare minimum and trying to build the game up without too much complexity. Currently, the game is only 1v1 (two players), there is no board or movement or range. Each control a fleet of ships, and they take their turns simultaneously (write down their orders and reveal together).
 
There is no shields or dice roll...yet. Ships fire guns at each other and take damage until they explode. The fleet has one "big" ship (battlecruiser/capital etc) and a few fighters. My next step is to design missiles but I am a bit stuck.
 
A lot of spaceship games have missiles that is basically another type of lasers/guns. I am going for a feel that is more like the Battlestar Galatica series remake. In the series, nuclear missiles (nukes) are deadly and kills a big ship in 1-2 hits. Big ships tries to protect themselves with fighters or anti-missile guns.
 
But how could I design this scenario into my game? If nukes can be shot down by fighters, every time a player launches a nuke, the opponent would just use his fighters or big ship to shoot it down. I can introduce dice rolls and make it so shooting down a nuke has x% of success, but the same old strategy applies: target the nuke with as many fighters and anti-missile guns as possible to maximize chances.
 
Must I introduce a board and add movement + range into my game to make missile combat interesting? I was hoping to not have movement so the game is portable playable in locations like the backseat of a car etc. Does anyone have any interesting ideas or know of interesting implementations of missile combat? Edited by Legendre

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Rather than probability, or making it, "If missile hits, damage is so catastrophic that it's ludicrous not to spent all effort to shoot down the missile", perhaps a system where if one does spend all that time trying to take out the missile(s), the player ends up ignoring other, very important things.  Like bombers and fighters.  Fighters would get free shots on other fighters if they spent all their time going for the missiles.  Flak guns and other small arms that are meant to intercept enemy fighters can't be used if they are busy trying to shoot down missiles.  So it's a trade off.  

 

You might also want some sort of timer for missiles?  They're slow, comparatively, so you could have it so that a missile will hit the target in X turns, so each player could jockey for trying to either shoot down the other fighters, the bombers or shoot the incoming missiles.

 

EDIT:  Also, one could have a limited store of missiles, and the option to launch multiple at once, or keep a steady stream up?  That way you waffle between trying to overwhelm your opponent and get a missile through, or forcing your opponent to constantly waste resources on shooting down an incoming missile every turn.

Edited by ferrous

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Mostly re-iterating on what ferrous said, I would do something like :

 

- Give each player a number of tokens/coins/bottlecaps/buttons/cookies/whatever-you-have-on-hand to represent missiles in their arsenal. Paperclips would work well, because you can keep them in your pocket, and then clip them on the edge of your opponent's sheet when they're in flight. You could also use marks on a separate sheet of paper, but tokens of some kind can be nice, and if each missile can do devastating damage, you don't need many of them.

- Create a common "in flight" area (could be on the table, in your left hand, whatever), where missiles are placed when they're launched.

- While there are missiles in flight, players have the option to allocate any number of fighters to shooting at them.

- If missiles remain at the end of the round, each one has a chance to do pretty serious, but not instantly crippling damage, so that you have the option to let the missile through instead of allocating fighters to it. You could expand on this with critical hits on various systems, etc.

- After resolving, missiles in play are removed from the game, so there is a limited supply.

 

I don't know if you have much experience with making physical games, but I would also suggest that even if the game board can be easily rendered in pencil, making up a nice set can give a game a lot of appeal, and can also be a very satisfying part of the process.

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Any space game that doesn't include ECM will be a bit flat in my view.

 

Probably the closest real world situation is submarine warfare. Modern torpedoes are expensive, complex machines. Submarines are huge beasts. So there is a nice similarity.

 

Submarines have counter measures they can deploy to try and divert an incoming weapon, noise makers etc.

 

I would have each ship have an ECM rating and each missile a guidance rating, when a missile comes within range of a target make a dice roll and apply the ratings as modifiers to see if the missile gets through.

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Thanks for all the suggestion. To sum up the advice from this thread that I will be using, and summarize the current design:

 

1) Missiles won't be devastating nukes that kills in 1-2 shots anymore. Instead, they just do a lot more damage than guns/lasers, and hit 100% of the time (no chance to dodge). Guns/lasers miss x% of the time depending on the size of the target.

 

2) The trade-off is that ammo is limited, you need to sacrifice a gun/laser mount/slot to equip a missile launcher, and the missile takes (for example) 1 turn to reach the target while guns do instant damage.

 

3) Another trade-off is that the target can equip ECM or other anti-missile technology to give it a X% chance to reduce missile damage significantly (or dodge the missile entirely).

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If you're going to go for Battlestar style approach then I'd say nukes do devastating amounts of damage and take one turn to reach their target.  A ship firing a nuke can't do any other action that turn.  Nukes can be shot down with a small percentage change using the defensive fire option, or you can redirect a fighter wing to intercept a nuke.  

 

Fighters engaged in a dog fight have to break free of the dog fight which has a high risk of casualties to change their mission.

 

So essentially you have to leave fighter wings back or on defense to protect against incoming nukes.  If all your fighters are on attack runs or engaged in dog fights then you are vulnerable to a nuke strike.

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Another angle on using cards: use them to represent resource or move allocation.

Assuming a reasonably small number of active nuclear missiles, fighters, bombers etc. for each immobile capital ship (like the engagements in Battlestar Galactica), each can be a token in a "battlefield" area and players can put face down cards next to them to represent their actions and interactions.

For example, there can be two decks per player, with different backs to sort them apart, one deck containing appropriate proportions of fighter or drone maneuvers like "quick dodge" (good against lasers), "evasive maneuver" (good against guided AA missiles and ramming), "ram enemy" (suicidal) and one deck containing attacks like "nothing", "shoot guided AA missiles", "shoot laser", "launch missile", "launch fighter", "recover fighter".

The players would draw cards depending on their assets, e.g. 1 maneuver per missile, 1 attack per AA battery of the main ship, 1 of each per fighter, and place maneuvers next to the unit that performs them and attacks next to the target.

Combat resolution can count cards to find the number of successful attacks: for example, after a missile receives 2x "quick dodge" from its owner and 1x "AA missiles"  and 3 "laser" from the enemy, the missiles and 1 laser shot hit.

 

This sort of system can be enhanced with a slightly structured battlefield: for example successive zones that fighters and missiles can occupy between the capital ships (allowing enough time to deal with missiles and making maneuvers like "go forward" and "go back" meaningful) and/or aiming missiles at different parts of the capital ship (allowing some prioritization for the defender and "switch missile target" maneuvers for the attacker).

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