Archive for March, 2010

Initiative in Intercept

Posted in Rules on March 31, 2010 by Mr Backman

Initiative or ‘who goes first’ is very important in Intercept so I will try to explain it in more detail than what the rules does, I will also try to explain why Initiative works the way it does. Highest initiative goes last so you will know your opponents move before you do your own, possibly putting your ship outside of your enemys firing arcs or even on his blind rear line (if he thrusted), highest Initiative shoots first and as damage effects are applied immideatelly you may very well kill or incapacitate your opponent before he gets a chance to retaliate.

The Initiative rules work in three layers that must be checked in order and for the middle layer there are three variants youcan choose to play with depending on personal preference. The first layer forces Spotted ship to do their moves on the common mapboard before the unspotted ships do their move in secrecy. If the unspotted ships decide to attack they will be Spotted but cannot be attacked this turn, the only exceptions to this is ships firing meson guns or missile attacks. The second orders movement and attacks to the advantage of smaller ships. The roleplaying variant of this adds more randomness and the deterministic version adds a tactical element to win the Initiative. The last layer handles tie breakers with skills levels of the commanders.

Unspotted ships have higher initiative

This is the first and primary Initiative rule. Regardless of other circumstances you must move first and attack last if your ship is Spotted.

Spotted ships have Initiative based on turn steps

  • In Roleplaying Initiative you roll dice to see how many turn steps you get, highest turn steps win Initiative.
  • In Size table Initiative determine turn steps from a table based on ship Size, highest turn steps win Initiative.
  • In Deterministic Initiative you read turn steps off a table based on Size and then choose to skip any number of the steps, highest skipped turn steps win Initiative.

Ties in turn steps/skipped steps are done be checking tiebreakers in order

  1. Highest Ship tactics wins initiative.
  2. Highest Fleet tactics wins Initiative.
  3. Highest crew station wins initiative (Bridge > Full > Limited)
  4. Side A wins on even turns, side B on odd turns.

Turn steps

The three ways to determine Turn steps Initiative may seem confusing at first but as Intercept can be used for very different engagements each system has its strength and weaknesses.

Roleplaying initiative let die rolls determine initiative. Each pilot rolls the ship Size or better on 2D6 + skill and the degree of success determines the number of turns allowed and this is also the initiative where higher number of turns have higher initiative (meaning the move last and attack first). This system is for those playing out roleplaying space fights where the player characters control one or more ships. To ease the burden on the referee one can use the Size table system for the NPC ships.

The Size table Initiative read the number of turn steps each turn based on the Size of the ship. It is highly recommended to use the optional table with varying turn steps for the four turns. This helps differentiate ships that only differ by 1 in Size and also give an actual result on turn steps for Hull and Crew hitlocation battle damage. This system is quick and easy for large engagements and leaves no room for chance regarding Initiative.

The final Initiative system is described in the deterministic rules but can be used regardless of how much other deterministic rules you decide to use. The rules use the Size table to get the number of turn steps but instead of directly determine initiative each ship decides the number of turn steps to skip. The number skipped cannot be used for anything besides initiative, they reduce the number of turn steps you may later use for turning or rolling. Highest number of skipped steps wins the initiative. This add a new component to initiative as ships that are already lined up right from the last turn can spend more on skipping and thus get better initiative.

The vector on the map or not?

Posted in Other vector movemet systems on March 29, 2010 by Mr Backman

You want to display the ships current position and perhaps in what direction it is facing, you also need to display the speed and direction of the ship. The basic system of having a past, a present and a future marker to depict the position, vector and acceleration is in my opinion the most elegant as it puts so much information on the gameboard. The GDW boardgames Mayday and Battlerider used this system but there other ways of depicting the vectors.

You can have one piece showing the position and facing of your ship and use other means for depicting its velocity (or vector). In grid based systems such as the tactical space combat in Battlefleet Mars you used three numbered chits to depict vector length, one for each of the three dimensions. In Brilliant lances they used a 12 point system for facing (you were either facing a hexside or a hexedge) and two counters on your status display for the direction and length of the vector. The system hardest to grasp of all vector system I’ve tried is the one used in Attack vector: All other vector systems I am aware of depict one unit of thrust as one unit of speed added, ie if you thrust one unit you move one unit and add one unit of speed. This is a simplification as the ship is thrusting during the entire turn so one unit of thrust would add one to speed but only one half to position. Attack vector does this correctly and they also consider the fact that a turning ship that thrusts will spread out the thrust from the starting direction to the ending direction. These effects are real and by taking them into account one could argue that Attack Vector is the most realistic vector movement boardgame there is. There are however other aspects of space combat that I think Attack Vector fails in namely the fact that ship commanders should know how to fly their ships and what their enemies are capable of. Playing several games of Attack vector we all felt like drunken monkeys trying to steer our ship by guesswork alone. As the game offers no features of the mapboard itself such as planetary shadows, sun directions, whiteouts from nuclear explosions etc the entire game boils down to understanding how ships move.

If the vectors aren’t displayed on the mapboard you must rely on looking at the counters and doing some head math to predict where your enemy is going, the gameplay becomes guessing how the enemy ships moves. In my opinion you should put as much information unto the map itself as possible to help with the gameplay. Why do we have mapboards at all? Showing the ships position on the map helps the players decide how to maneuver but in vector movement one could argue that the vector information is even more important to show on the map. We could have games where ship position, ship orientation and ship vector were all tracked on a status board with no map at all. We would no longer need to bother mapboard edges etc but everyone would agree that the game would be really hard to play. If we track position on the board we should track vectors there too as we want the players to win by tactical choices rather then knowledge of the rules.

Put the vector information back on the mapboard and let the players concentrate on playing the game!

Hello world!

Posted in Vector movement on March 23, 2010 by Mr Backman

Well, this is my very first post for This blog will try to deal with everything related to vector movement but first and foremost to my paper and pencil space combat system called Intercept (and yes, of course it uses vector movement). Vector movement in games has been with us a long time and my contact with it dates back to the early 1970s when I was taught car racing on graph paper by a teacher. For those who have not heard about vector movement or doesn’t quite grasp the subject let me explain it a little:

Vector movement is a way to simulate, in games and elsewhere, how objects move when they are subject to Newtonian movement and as long as we stay well below the speed of light that is true of everything, you, me, our planet and all real world space craft. The reason we lack an intuitive grasp of vector movement is because real world objects are subject to air friction, rolling resistance, muscular resistance etc as all these hide the underlying mechanisms of vector movement. Hovercraft and Curling stones have reduced ground friction to a degree where the Newtonian nature of their movement is clearly visible. Spacecraft, moving in the stark vacuum of space are subject to even less drag, so little as in fact that the Voyager probes sent out in 1977 are still travelling at about the same speed except for the speed loss caused by ‘climbing uphill’ in the gravity well of our Sun.

Doing vector movementĀ in a game goes something like this (not all games do it this way, notably the Attack Vector boardgame)

  1. Measure the speed and direction of you last move
  2. Apply it again as your future drift position.
  3. Apply acceleration from the drift position to get your true future position.
  4. The speed and direction (together we call speed and direction a ‘vector’) is your new move.

Yes, vector movement is this simple and you can do car races or space fights with just pencils and graph paper.