The vector on the map or not?

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!

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