Archive for April, 2010

Intercept design system

Posted in Design system, Intercept on April 9, 2010 by Mr Backman

I’ve decided to publish the design system for Intercept so people can start using their own ships in space combat. The design system is mostly done so one can start designing all the ships from the Traveller universe. Note however that my interpretation of tech level progression differ from the standard Traveller one, it also differs from GURPS Traveller tech level progression. The changes mostly affect the lower TLs in order to allow fission and fusion powered ships with semi-realistic capabilities and sensor signatures. If you want to play what-if scenarios from the Atomic Rocket site you can whip up some nuclear rockets with really shitty signatures and play dogfights in Earth orbit. Oh, there are no plasma or fusion guns in the design system for obvious reasons.

Once upon a time a long time ago I decided to get rid of the silly 1.5 squares used by Traveller deckplans back in the eighties. I treated them as being 1×1 m and 2.5 m high and as two deckplan squares equals one dTone my new dTon became 5 m3 which I built my original design system on. That system is long gone but in the new system you can choose if you want to build ships with dTons (displacement tons) and EP (energy points) or go with my m3 and MW ratings. The designs will perform, cost and behave the same regardless, it is just a matter of taste.

The design system consist of two excel worksheet; one for the data and one for your design. The Data.xls must be opened before the Ship.xls sheet is loaded so it can read data from Data.xls. The Ship.xls sheet can be named as you like to hold your Beowulf, Suleiman or Donosev etc. All values needed for Intercept space combat are calculated as are price, tonnage etc. The worksheets are protected so you cannot ruin anything by accident (and you can also not see how crappy I am at fiddling with Excel). The Ship.xls is already filled in with my take on how a Suleiman type S scout should be, best damned player ship if you ask me (Cassandra Monastera, Ulrika Loke and Gvoudzon concur).

If you download the Intercept bundle you get the rules, maps etc including the design system excel sheets.

Intercept rules

Posted in Boardgames, Intercept, Rules, Vector movement on April 2, 2010 by Mr Backman

I finally gotten around to posting my homebrew spacecombat system Intercept. I have been a Traveller gamemaster since around 1980 or so and as my campaigns always have player owned ships there has been quite a lot of space battles. Originally we used the boardgame Mayday for space combat but when the High Guard rules came out we switched to that, mostly for its more detailed ship design system. When GDW released Striker, a wonderful miniature ground combat system with a highly detailed design system for tanks etc, I decided to do my own design system with more depth than High Guard, more along the lines of Striker. High guard based their designs on dTons and Energy Points and but my design system would be built around cubic metres, metric tons, Megawatts and SI units, similar to Striker. I had my own tech progression and added semi-realistic fusion thrusters, semi-realistic sensors, stealth, hydroponic lifesupport, got rid of the silly plasma and fusion weaponry (these may work in an atmosphere but sure as hell not in space) etc etc. It grew over the years to incorporate aircraft, cars, robots, helicopters, submarines, motorbikes, missiles, grav belts etc and eventually became unwieldy, buggy and really hard to maintain.

In 2009 I started fiddling with a new system from scratch, new rules and new design system specifically made to be simpler to use and easier to play (my daughters use it in our Traveller campaign, aged 11 and 15, so it cannot be that hard to use). That is what Intercept 3 is, a space combat system with some simple design rules for spaceships. I may eventually publish the design system in some form, Excel or text or both, but at the moment I will only have ready-made ships and some simple rules for converting whatever ship designs from whatever rules version you have, Traveller or other, into stats for Intercept. There is a table with weapons for small ships that can be used as guides for conversion from existing designs.

Intercept

The rulebook, maps, datacard and the optional transparency are available as pdf files for download. Start out small with one ship each, maybe skipping the Sensor rules out the first times if you are unfamiliar with vector movement. There are no counters in the game as the ships are plotted directly on the map (just print more mapsheets as you need them).

Intercept 3.0 space combat is the main rulebook for the game. The last four pages contain reference tables and should be printed separately and given out to each player. They are organised so they can be printed double-sided as you will never need the information on opposite of a page at the same time.

DataCard is used to fill in gameplay values for your ship, two ships fit on each paper.

Maptemplate is the map used both for the double-blind sensor rules and the actual action when Spotted ship duke it out. Print one for each player and one for the actual combat.

TransparencyTemplate is not strictly needed but helps when plotting sensor scans or determining whether your ship is inside a scan or not. It should be printed on OH film so you can see the map beneath.

You can get the whole shebang including the design system from here.

The emptiness of space

Posted in Boardgames, Computer games, Films and TV, Science, Science fiction, Uncategorized on April 2, 2010 by Mr Backman

The Atomic rocket website deal with realistic space flight and combat in the most exhaustive manner possible. You can get tons of information on just about everything dealing with realistic spaceflight there and I consider it the best website on the net! There are however some assumptions they make which lead to the conclusion that space battles will have no ambushes, no role for stealth or sensors and little tactical decisions. The assumption is that space is empty and any approaching ship will be detected well before it come in harm’s way. There is no preferred direction in deep space so a space battles involving two ships could just as well be fought in one dimension, range only.

In air to air combat the two horizontal dimensions work the same but the vertical dimension works differently: The highest planes can dive for speed, lower planes run the risk of hitting the ground. As air pressure diminish with altitude each plane has ceilings above which they can no longer fly. Ship to ship combat in the age of sail had the weather gauge which gave the upwind ship advantages over the downwind ones and if the ships were close to shore there was also the consideration of how deep water each ship required to avoid running aground.

But space IS empty and equal in all directions so space battles WILL be predictable and leave no room for maneuver you may say, or you could grow pointy ears and say that space is filled with nebulae, dense asteroid fields, mysterious energy fields etc which give ample opportunity for ambushes, stealth and tactical maneuvering. I believe that we don’t need to go all Space Fantasy to have interesting space battles if we only change the our assumptions a little about where the battles take place.

In Traveller, the rpg I originally wrote Intercept for, ships use jump drives to travel between planets, you fly 100 planetary diameters away, jump to the next starsystem and fly the 100 planetary diameters to land or orbit. All space battles would take place near a planet or gas giant, more rarely near single asteroids or comets. Planets are huge, even as space combat ranges go and gas giants are even larger. If a ship is on the other side of a planet you have no way of knowing how it changes its vector, regardless of the amount of heat and light from its drive. When two ships moves so they have line of sight which each other again the ship that shoots first will certainly hit the other and probably take it out. The commander that is better at outguessing his opponent will spot him first and can get off the first shot, simply because surveying the sky takes time so where you start scanning is crucial. Ships in planetary shadow will be as dark as space itself and only visible on infrared. Ships near the direction of the Sun will be harder to spot, their weak signature drowning in the huge outpouring from the sun. The excellent Rocketpunk Manifesto website has an interesting article that also question the assumption that space battles will and should be fought in deep space.

All this allow us to make somewhat realistic space battles where ambushes are possible, maneuvering matter and sensors vs stealth plays a part, only if we assume that battles will take place near planets instead of in deep space. When we design space combat board games, computer games, books etc we should take planets, sun direction etc into account to make space battles more realistic while keeping the fun. Star Trek and other space fantasies are cop-outs, and there is no excuse to go there for whatever reason.