Archive for the Films and TV Category

Traveller day

Posted in Boardgames, Computer games, Elite Dangerous, Films and TV, Other vector movemet systems, Traveller, Vector movement on May 1, 2019 by Anders Backman

Mayday

Today is Traveller day.
Just read what’s written on the box and you’ll get it.

Traveller was the first science fiction rpg ever published, it came out the same year as Star Wars but before the movie was released, a happy coincidence. Traveller was a strong influence for the Elite computers games as well as the Firefly and Expanse TV series, Traveller has also influenced Intercept which of course is eminently usable as a space combat system for the Traveller rpg.

Oh, and Traveller used vector movement for its starships instead of some lame-ass Trek thing…

Marc Miller, the creator of the game just started a Kickstarter for his new edition of Traveller today:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/traveller5/traveller-fifth-edition/description

Han Solo aggressive docking

Posted in Films and TV, Intercept, Rules with tags , , on March 19, 2019 by Anders Backman

C3PO – “Sir, we just lost the main rear deflector shield. One more direct hit on the back quarter and we’re done for!”
Han Solo – “Turn her around!”

And then Han Solo proceed to go head to head against a Star destroyer, barely avoids crashing into the bridge and then miraculously vanishes from the Star destroyers sensors and is gone. The Star destroyer has lost them and captain Needa suffers a reprimand while Millenium Falcon has secretly docked to the enemy ship. Sure, Star Wars is space fantasy and the ships certainly doesn’t follow the laws of physics or even common sense but let’s find out if this particular daring maneuver is at all possible using the Intercept rules? We will only use the standard rules here, no house rules or Star Wars conversions, just plain ol’ Intercept.

Let’s use a Beowulf class Free trader as Millenium Falcon and an Azhanti High lightning class cruiser as the Star destroyer. Let’s break down what is going on in the scene:

Han, Leia and Chewie hastily exit the asteroid to avoid being eaten by a huge improbable worm. A nearby Star destroyer detects them and give chase. Falcon first seem to shrug of the fire from the enemy but then a hit destroys their rear deflector shield. Han reroutes all power to the forward deflector shield, turns around and fly straight at the enemy. Captain Piett order shields up as Falcon barely misses them. The Star destroyer has lost track of the Falcon and assume it has escaped, possibly through some sort of cloaking device albeit a ship that small is unlikely to have one. Falcon has in fact docked on the rear side of the Star destroyers bridge tower.

Top and bottom arcs

Intercept neither have shields nor cloaking devices, the only defense against lasers aside from armor is sandcasters so let’s assume our trader ship has a bunch of these; one laser and two sandcasters in the top turret and one laser and two sandcasters in the bottom turret. The Beowulf won’t ever fire at the Azhanti but we calculate it anyways:

  • Beowulf Pilot task 7+, +4 from Hand Solo being an excellent Pilot
  • Dice pool 1
  • Thrust 1.8 Gs unloaded
  • DAB 20, ARM 19, Surface 13/19, Power 16/19, Thrust 16
  • Effective Range 1 Single 10 MW laser: PEN 24 DAM 24
  • Beams 5+ range 1, 8+ range 2-3, 11+ range 4+, Missiles 8+
  • Two sandcasters defense roll 9+, +2 for dual

The Azhanti has lots of weaponry including the deadly meson spinal mount. Darth Vader wants to capture the ship rather than killing it as he believes Luke is on board. The Azhanti will use its two batteries of 10 MW lasers each and its two batteries of 50 MW each. The Azhanti will also use Spray fire attacks to trade damage for multiple hits hoping to cripple rather than killing, most commanders know what awaits if one displeases Darth Vader.

  • Azhanti Pilot task 12+
  • Dice pool 7
  • Thrust 2.3 Gs loaded
  • DAB 35, ARM 31, Surface 25/31, Power 25/31, Thrust 28
  • Range 1 Triple 10 MW laser: PEN 25 DAM 25
  • Range 3 Single 50 MW laser: PEN 29 DAM 29
  • Beams 0+ range 1, 3+ range 2-3, 6+ range 4+, Missiles 3+
  • No sandcasters

Top and bottom arcs 2

We will simply assume that Han Solo with his excellent piloting skills and a target number of 7 will always be able to turn at least 4 steps (which is the same as saying he will roll 3+ on his Pilot task rolls). We also assume that the cruiser will use many of its computer pool dice to get 2 steps of turning on every turn. Given the fact that when Han Solo initially escaped from Hoth and was chased into the asteroid belt his fancy flying had two cruisers nearly crashing. Surely lord Vader will have none of that so the cruiser captains make damned sure that maneuvering is a top priority.

The trader is leaving the asteroid with a speed of 2 and the Azhanti has the same speed, two squares behind and one to the right. The cruiser immediately give chase and the fight is on.

The cruiser fires its lasers at the trader and the trader defends using the two sandcasters of its belly turret. The sandcasters does not completely stop the laser attack and the cruiser inflicts Severe damage to the Surface location of the trader.

This is the moment C3PO say “Sir, we just lost the main rear deflector shield. One more direct hit on the back quarter and we’re done for!”

The cruiser know the trader is now nearly defenseless and confidently turn and thrust to close the gap.

The trader captain knows he can no longer rely on the sandcasters fending off the cruisers lasers and he cannot outrun the cruiser as the trader’s 1.8 Gs is no match against the 2.3 Gs of the cruiser. He decides to turn the ship around and go for the cruiser’s blind aft centerline. C3PO shouts in protest and Needa flinches as the trader passes the bridge of the cruiser.

The trader disappear from the cruiser’s sensors as it has moved into its blind aft centerline. The next turn the cruiser will no longer learn the trader’s move. It is crucial that the cruiser reacquires the trader or the trader might slip away. Failure is not an option when Darth Vader is your commander.

The captain uses the formidable computer power at hand to turn the cruiser 2 left and thrusts for 2G, turning the cruisers blind aft centerline away from where he thinks the trader will go. The trader decides to capitalize on the cruiser being blind by turning towards the cruiser and thrusts to get on top of it.

What is Han Solo thinking, surely the cruiser will have the common sense of scanning itself when the enemy has lost its track?

The movement phase is over and its time for the Sensor phase. Having lost the track of the trader the cruiser should perhaps go for a wide scan that is guaranteed to contain the trader, a Visual or Infrared 2×2 box Scan maybe?

Every sensor operator and every officer at the naval academy learns that Scans touching the Sunglare column are bad, akin to staring into the sun on guard duty. Sure, Hoth lies outside of the Goldilock zone of its star and the asteroid belt is even further out it will still severely degrade the Scan, what else to do?

The best option might be for the commander to put a small 3×3 square Radar scan on the ship. Radar don’t suffer Sunglare degrading and will make sure the trader cannot hide anywhere near the ship. We who have seen the movie knows this is not what happened – Leia and Han was not captured and brought to Vader’s command ship so why didn’t captain Needa use a radar scan to reacquire the trader?

Captain Needa, after losing track of the trader “I shall assume full responsibility in eluding them apologize to lord Vader – meanwhile, continue to scan the area”

The reason is simple; as Needa has left to ‘apologize’ to Vader the remaining bridge crew on the cruiser does not want to signal to Vader that they have lost track of the prey. Vader’s command ship will surely pick up the radar scan of the cruiser and inform lord Vader of their incompetence.

The cruiser decides on a Visual 1×1 box scan that doesn’t touch the Sunglare and covers the presumed location of the trader.

The cruiser sees nothing and it’s remaining bridge crew learn the fate of captain Needa, failure is not an option in tbe Imperial navy it seems. It is time for the next turn.

Finding nothing from the previous turn’s Scan the cruiser turns left and thrusts for 1G. Han Solo, still untracked, executes the final step in his clever gamble and manuvers to dock with the cruiser (same, position, vector and facing is all that is required).

The trader is now docked with the cruiser and the only way a Scan to detect it is if the scanner explicitly states that they are scanning for docked ships, with their Sense target number up to 7+ from the usual 6+. See page 26 of the rulebook for details on Landed or docked.

C3PO “Captain Solo, this time you have gone too far!”

The trader ship will remain docked until the fleet get ready to jump. Very few people have ever heard about this trick; to dock unseen with an enemy vessel to elude detection, unfortunately for Han Solo, one of these few is Boba Fett who follow them as they undock.

So, there you have it: playing out the escape from the Hoth system using only standard Intercept rules, even finding rationales as to why captain Needa does what he does.

Keep space tidy – dump in jump.

Cinematic movement

Posted in Films and TV, Intercept, Vector movement on April 1, 2017 by Mr Backman

I have recently come to the conclusion that not many people find Vector movement to be neccessary or even preferrable for a space combat system. Less and less people read actual Science Fiction, ie something not based on films, games or comics, so it gets harder and harder to sell the idea that vector movement is how spaceships move and they should therefore like it.

So, today I have decided to go with the flow and embrace the more cinematic style of space combat. Battles from SciFi universes such as Star Wars and Star Trek could run battles using the Intercept rules with double blind hidden movement, fully deterministic, logarithmic values etc without foregoing their popular cinematic movement style.

What then IS a proper cinematic movement system? I have decided to break down the two most popular settings, Star wars and Star Trek and see how we could emulate that in our game:

Star Trek
I have complained about the various scientific inaccuracies of Star Trek but failed to mention its strengths; Star Trek shows us a positive and humanistic view of the future. Enterprise and its brave crew aren’t on a mission to subjugate planets and aliens, they are there to explore and help and always keeping in mind the prime directive, never interfere destructively. Star Trek also gave us the female perspective with Lt Uhura as a near equal on the bridge yet still able to express her female side with her short hemlines and sensuality. Star Trek also stress how important emotions are to us humans, always trumping cold logic. Kirk wins by persevering over staggering odds despite Spocks logic telling him his efforts are futile. We can learn something from this as politics is often too much ruled by logic and hard facts ignoring the very thing that makes us unique in the world; our emtions.

Star Trek ships use subspace warpdrives to quickly move from system to system. There are cases when they have battled during warp but this is too different to regular combat and will be covered in a future post. Star Trek ships always move with the nose in their forward direction. Some kind of drag seems to be in effect as ships with damaged impulse drives tend to slow down and ultimately stop. Top speed vary little between capital ships as is eveident from their inability to outrun each other. The Wrath of Kahn end battle has Kirk using thick clouds of a Nebula to turn the tides on Kahn instead of merely outrun him. The ability to turn seem more or less the same, regardless of speed and ship size.

Star Wars
I have often critizesed Star Wars for being a fantasy story disguised as Science Fiction. This may or may not be true as all Science Fiction is really nothing but some other literary genre in disguise (Blade runner is crime fiction, Barbarella and Zardoz is soft-porn etc). What Star Wars did to Science Fiction is to put religion as center stage. Many know me as a fervent atheist but what is atheism exactly, if nothing but a different faith? All humans need to believe in something and to hold something higher than himself, to serve and strive for. Star Wars also show us that not everything can be settled by a majority vote; there are issues and questions that must be handled by wise and spiritual elites, far better at judging changes in tradition and culture. Jedi knights show us a solution to the problems facing todays democracies; the lack of spirituality and disregard for tradition.

Star Wars ship jump between solar systems very much like the Traveller jump drives but no combat seems to occur while in jump space. Star Wars ship seems to have vastly different top speeds depending on size where smaller ships outrun bigger ones. Star Wars ships turn slower the faster they go as is evident if one analyze the dogfights in Star Wars Episove IV.

Star Trek cinematic movement rules
Use as much of the Deterministic optional rules as possible to get the feeling of Kirk and Klingon in a battle of the minds. It is especially important to use the deterministic ruls of Initiative where the Initiative goes to the ship which ‘skipped’ more steps, see the Deterministic combat rules for details on this.

Ships should note their speed and can move to any square in their forward arc. Turning is done anywhere during movement.

All ships can turn 4 steps each turn regardless of size, -1 step if Hull or Crew has Light damage, -3 if Hull or Crew has Severe damage. No turning if Hull or Crew has Critical damage.

Ships can increase or decrease speed by Acc, top speed is 6 regardless of Size, Acc etc. Ships lacking thrust reduce speed by 1 each turn until stopped.

Star Wars cinematic movement rules
Do not use the deterministic rules as Star Wars portray battles as individual skill rolls. Give your hero characters lots of skill bonus.

Ships should note their speed and can move to any square in their forward arc. Turning is done anywhere during movement.

Ships roll Pilot tasks vs Size as usual noting the steps of turning. Reduce turning steps by one for each full multiple of Acc in speed. Ships moving at top speed cannot turn at all.

Ships can increase or decrease speed by Acc, top speed is Acc * 4. Ships lacking thrust reduce speed by 1 each turn until stopped.

Well, that is all folks, get out and enjoy this beautiful April fools day!

Goodbye Vectors, hello April fools!

Posted in Boardgames, Films and TV, Intercept, Rules, Science fiction, Vector movement on April 1, 2013 by Mr Backman

I have recently come to the conclusion that not many people find Vector movement to be neccessary or even preferrable for a space combat system. Less and less people read actual Science Fiction, ie something not based on films, games or comics, so it gets harder and harder to sell the idea that vector movement is how spaceships move and they should therefore like it.

So, today I have decided to go with the flow and embrace the more cinematic style of space combat. Battles from SciFi universes such as Star Wars and Star Trek could run battles using the Intercept rules with double blind hidden movement, fully deterministic, logarithmic values etc without foregoing their popular cinematic movement style.

What then IS a proper cinematic movement system? I have decided to break down the two most popular settings, Star wars and Star Trek and see how we could emulate that in our game:

Star Trek

I have complained about the various scientific inaccuracies of Star Trek but failed to mention its strengths; Star Trek shows us a positive and humanistic view of the future. Enterprise and its brave crew aren’t on a mission to subjugate planets and aliens, they are there to explore and help and always keeping in mind the prime directive, never interfere destructively. Star Trek also gave us the female perspective with Lt Uhura as a near equal on the bridge yet still able to express her female side with her short hemlines and sensuality. Star Trek also stress how important emotions are to us humans, always trumping cold logic. Kirk wins by persevering over staggering odds despite Spocks logic telling him his efforts are futile. We can learn something from this as politics is often too much ruled by logic and hard facts ignoring the very thing that makes us unique in the world; our emtions.

Star Trek ships use subspace warpdrives to quickly move from system to system. There are cases when they have battled during warp but this is too different to regular combat and will be covered in a future post. Star Trek ships always move with the nose in their forward direction. Some kind of drag seems to be in effect as ships with damaged impulse drives tend to slow down and ultimately stop. Top speed vary little between capital ships as is eveident from their inability to outrun each other. The Wrath of Kahn end battle has Kirk using thick clouds of a Nebula to turn the tides on Kahn instead of merely outrun him. The ability to turn seem more or less the same, regardless of speed and ship size.

Star Wars

I have often critizesed Star Wars for being a fantasy story disguised as Science Fiction. This may or may not be true as all Science Fiction is really nothing but some other literary genre in disguise (Blade runner is crime fiction, Barbarella and Zardoz is soft-porn etc). What Star Wars did to Science Fiction is to put religion as center stage. Many know me as a fervent atheist but what is atheism exactly, if nothing but a different faith? All humans need to believe in something and to hold something higher than himself, to serve and strive for. Star Wars also show us that not everything can be settled by a majority vote; there are issues and questions that must be handled by wise and spiritual elites, far better at judging changes in tradition and culture. Jedi knights show us a solution to the problems facing todays democracies; the lack of spirituality and disregard for tradition.

Star Wars ship jump between solar systems very much like the Traveller jump drives but no combat seems to occur while in jump space. Star Wars ship seems to have vastly different top speeds depending on size where smaller ships outrun bigger ones. Star Wars ships turn slower the faster they go as is evident if one analyze the dogfights in Star Wars Episove IV.

Star Trek cinematic movement rules

Use as much of the Deterministic optional rules as possible to get the feeling of Kirk and Klingon in a battle of the minds. It is especially important to use the deterministic ruls of Initiative where the Initiative goes to the ship which ‘skipped’ more steps, see the Deterministic combat rules for details on this.

Ships should note their speed and can move to any square in their forward arc. Turning is done anywhere during movement.

All ships can turn 4 steps each turn regardless of size, -1 step if Hull or Crew has Light damage, -3 if Hull or Crew has Severe damage. No turning if Hull or Crew has Critical damage.

Ships can increase or decrease speed by Acc, top speed is 6 regardless of Size, Acc etc. Ships lacking thrust reduce speed by 1 each turn until stopped.

Star Wars cinematic movement rules

Do not use the deterministic rules as Star Wars portray battles as individual skill rolls. Give your hero characters lots of skill bonus.

Ships should note their speed and can move to any square in their forward arc. Turning is done anywhere during movement.

Ships roll Pilot tasks vs Size as usual noting the steps of turning. Reduce turning steps by one for each full multiple of Acc in speed. Ships moving at top speed cannot turn at all.

Ships can increase or decrease speed by Acc, top speed is Acc * 4. Ships lacking thrust reduce speed by 1 each turn until stopped.

Well, that is all folks, get out and enjoy this beautiful April fools day!

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.