Power Armor

Power Armor
Khurasan power armor infantry with conversions

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rail Gun Playtest AAR

I am currently playtesting my space ship wargame Rail Gun. I used miniatures with the game for the first time today, having used counters in the past  In the game, a battleship escorted by two destroyers engaged a pair of enemy heavy cruisers and three destroyers.  The fight was quite bloody---one heavy cruiser destroyed, the second badly damaged; the battleship was barely space-worthy.  I am still working on game balance but I counted this as a successful playtest.  Pics and a blow-by-blow account of the game below. 


This was a simple engagement.  The two sides are just trying to destroy the other. 

The "table": a 28"x22" foam core board, with fleets at opposite corners.  I played the game in centimeters to accomodate the small space.

 Side A has a battleship and two escort-destroyers.   Side B has two heavy cruisers, two fleet-destroyers, and one raider-destroyer.  The battleship is a killer, with two three-gun “ship killers” (representing big-caliber gauss rifles, rail guns, or plasma cannons) and numerous heavy secondary weapons.  It is also armored and has better redundancy in its key systems. 

The heavy cruisers have strong weaponry but no ship-killers.  Some of their systems are armored.

The fleet- and escort-destroyers are comparable, though the fleet-destroyers are faster and have better firing arcs.  The raider-destroyer is lightly armed except for its missile armament: deadly ship-killer missiles, representing missiles with high-yield warheads.

Side A: Two heavy cruisers, two fleet-destroyers, and one raider-destroyer.

Side B: A battleship and two escort-destroyers.

The quick reference sheet.  Rolls are done with D6s or pairs of D6s.

The ship charts.  Each ship has a single "data card", which can fit onto a 3x5 card.  I printed them smaller so I could have everything on one sheet of paper.

Turn 1
No combat—both sides approach each other at cruising speed

Turn 2:
Side B’s fleet- and raider-destroyers accelerate to take up flanking positions.  Side A’s battleship and destroyers continued forward.

Dice indicate speed.  The triangular marker indicates the use of "hard acceleration."

Turn 3:
Continuing to move into engagement range, the forces are now in firing range with their missiles. 

Ships declare what weapons are firing at a target.  The target then takes a series of saving throws against the attack: electronic counter measures (ECMs) and defense systems (gatling guns, lasers, etc.) against missiles, and ECMs and agility against guns.

SIDE B’s fire: The battleship opened fire on one of the heavy cruisers.  With a salvo of 12 missiles, the BB hit the cruiser and dealt it three hull damage, damaged the defense systems, and inflicted casualties on the crew.

One escort destroyer fired on the fleet destroyers.  With 5 missiles, it inflicted 1 hull hit and damaged a thruster system.

SIDE A’s fire:  The heavy cruisers fired missiles on the battleship.  With 14 heavy missiles and 10 missiles, the cruisers’ fire was desultory, knocking out two of the battleship’s 6 defenses and damaging the ship’s sensors.

The battleship repaired its damaged sensors during the damage control phase.

One heavy cruiser broke right, hoping to avoid the worst of the BB’s fire, but remained square in its sights.  The raider-destroyer burned hard to stay in the fight, as did one of the escort destroyers.  (Despite knowing that I need to keep my speed down so the ships can actually handle responsively, I ended up going too fast with several ships!)

SIDE B’s fire: The battleship opened fire with everything it had.  Under the battleship’s formidable fire (10 heavy guns, 3 ship-killers, and 12 heavy missiles) one heavy cruiser suffered 8 hull hits.  Critical damage started three fires and inflicted a power failure.  Ouch!

SIDE A’s fire:  One heavy cruiser launched a full spread of ECMs, which protected it from the battleship’s remaining three ship killers but prevented it from firing this turn.

The other heavy cruiser, plus the two fleet destroyers, laid down 5 guns, 5 heavy guns, 20 missiles, and 7 heavy missiles against the battleship.  This inflicted 5 hull hits (the battleship’s armor protected it from the worst of the hull damage), but started a fire and hit two weapon batteries and the reactor.  Fortunately, the three systems were Armored, and thus the first critical hit had no effect on the system’s functionality.

The battleship put out its fire, but at the cost of a damage control team (a bad roll meant they died fighting a zero-gravity fire).  The damaged heavy cruiser put out 2 fires and fixed the power failure, meaning its sensors and communications were online this turn—the 3rd fire inflicted another hull damage.

The ships moved slowly, with every ship in Side A’s fleet except for the raider firing on the battleship. 

SIDE B’s fire:  The battleship hit the raider with a broadside, but the raider launched a full spread of ECMs (ships can do that once per game) and the better ECM protection limited the damage to 3 hull points and a hit on the raider’s small gun battery.  The BB also damaged one of the fleet destroyers with a barrage of missiles.  Its real target, however, was a heavy cruiser, which it attacked with all 6 of its ship killer guns.  The attack obliterated the heavy cruiser.

The escort destroyers had no successes in their fire.

SIDE A’s fire:  The entire Side A force returned fire on the battleship.  The heavy cruisers and fleet destroyers attacked the battleship with 14 heavy missiles, 20 missiles, 15 guns, and 5 heavy guns.  Together, that barrage took out 10 hull points.  Critical hits damaged the battleship’s communications, knocked out another defense system, destroyed one full ship killer gun (leaving it to 3 attacks, rather than 6), and inflicted heavy casualties on the crew.

But the real attack came from the raider-destroyer, who loosed a pair of deadly ship-killer missiles.  The battleship’s defense system failed to shoot down the missiles and the devastating took out 13 hull points, wrecking the battleship.  The BB was still in the fight but seriously hurting.  The critical hits knocked out the BB’s reactor and maneuvering jets.

No more heavy cruiser.  The game's campaign system will have rules to determine what happens to the crew of a destroyed ship.

The battleship was able to get the reactor back online, but with only enough power to allow minor acceleration and reduced gunnery.  The damage control crews focused on the reactor so had nothing left to get the maneuvering jets operational, so the BB couldn’t change its facing.

SIDE A’s fire: In the final turn, the raider hit the battleship with another ship killer missile, but this one only inflicted 4 hull points.  A critical hit did destroy the BB’s inertial dampener, preventing it from using hard acceleration for the rest of the game.

SIDE B’s fire:  The BB wrecked the raider, leaving it combat ineffective (of course, it was out of ammo already for its ship killers—leaving it mostly useless).  One escort destroyer had actually maneuvered behind the remaining heavy cruiser, and inflicted a very respectable hit with its 5-missile spread: 3 hull damage, and criticals including a fire and thruster damage.

Other ships’ fire was ineffective.

I called the game at this point.  Both sides were badly shot up.  The BB couldn’t take another ship killer hit or full attack from Side A’s combined forces.  However, the raider destroyer was out of ship killers and had suffered crippling crew casualties, the fleet destroyers lacked the raw firepower to decide anything on their own, and the surviving heavy cruiser was shot up (all of its weapon systems damaged or destroyed) and was badly out of position.

The sorry state of the ships at the end of the game, and my scrawled notes at the bottom.


The game played well and pretty quickly—about 75 minutes for this engagement.  8 ships duked it out on a small game space (the game space was a foam-core board measuring  28” by 22”, and I played in centimeters), with ample room to maneuver. This means that players can run a small or medium sized game on a dining room table or even a card table.

Damage felt right.  I want players to feel a bit like they’re on a ship in a TV show, with red emergency lights, alarms blaring, and that one character who repeats everything the computer says telling you, “Weapons are down!”  Ships got plenty of critical hits once they were in close combat.  Damage control also felt suitably desperate, but not so hard that a player can’t achieve anything.

The battleship's armor and armored systems let it fight for a turn longer than it might have otherwise, which felt right to me. I want the game to emphasize the use of ECMs, defense systems, and agility to avoid being hit---not armor to suck up hits.  Numerous ships suffered crew casualties (which penalizes the ship's quality) and lost damage control crews.  

Ship killers were too powerful.  I will adjust the damage table to tone them down a bit.  I also want ship killer guns to damage differently than ship killer missiles.  This can be done easily enough, also by adjusting the damage table.

I want a little bit more maneuver in the game.  I need to percolate on how to do that.  Perhaps by making head-on attacks less effective but tailing attacks more effective—this will encourage players to maneuver for those kind of attacks.  I might also eliminate the restriction on using Hard Acceleration only every other turn.

Thanks for looking and taking the time to read.

If you are interested in buying the playtest version, it is available at the Wargame Vault.  You’ll get all the updates and the final version of the game when it’s done.

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