Archive for Traveller

Synthetic Intelligence playing Intercept

Posted in Computer games, Intercept, Rules with tags , on October 6, 2021 by Mr Backman

Rumor has it that SI, a Synthetic Intelligence from the Ascent group will be playing Intercept. This has gotten the investors and backers of the game anxious to get get the latest and greatest version online ahead of schedule.

Fear not dear players, this is mostly minor tweaks and don’t worry; the Floater and large scale skimming updates promised in the last post are still on schedule, over and out.

Gas giant skimming

Posted in Intercept, Rules, Traveller, Vector movement with tags , , on September 29, 2021 by Mr Backman

Dangers of skimming they say, bah!

Sure, there are dangers, plenty of ’em too. Flying inside a gas giant’s vast gravity field isn’t dangerous per se, you can orbit them forever with no danger of being sucked in, the problem is that in order to skim hydrogen we must dip into the atmosphere and have it slow us down. Speed is what keep us from falling into the gas giant and we are intentionally slowing down while being as close to its crushing atmosphere as possible.

So, we dip in as deep as we dare and let the atmosphere slow us while our scoops gulp in as much gas as possible. Then we thrust away building up speed again to avoid the huge planets cold embrace. Some make one high speed approach and hard braking, others make a series of gentler dips instead, spreading out the danger. System Defense Boats and other daredevils sometimes even slow their ships down to zero deep within the atmosphere, hovering using their grav floaters and slowly scooping gas. No matter how you go about it the risks are real and minor damage to the hull is common.

As if the skimming itself wasn’t hard enough, there is also the real risk of pirate scum picking on us when we are the most vulnerable, they are rare but they do exist.

So there should be no surprise when I tell you that we do not skim that often. The time to enter and exit the huge gravity wells of gas giants offset the cost of getting fuel for free, time is money you see, especially as you must also pay for any hull damage inflicted by the skim.

So there you go, the dangers of skimming are real but not what you think!

Gas giant maps

Gas giants are, as is evident by their very moniker, huge. They are so large so they need special maps when used where the planet take up a large chunk of the map and their gravity field cover the rest of the map. Map sheets for small and large gas giants are available in the InterceptBundle here.

There is the possibility to use the Large scale rules on pages 34-35 and use the large planet maps for large gas giants and small planet maps for the small gas giants. This won’t be covered here though, just make sure you take the scale changes into account as outlined by the rules there.


Let us say we ha a streamlined ship with 1G of thrust, a Size of 8 (100 dTon) and a Pilot skill of 2, the computer is a model 1 giving us just 1D6 dice pool. The Pilot defaults table will give us 3(Miss) for 3 steps of turning every turn and the task result will be treated as a Miss. We will use the Pilot default on our approach flight but for the aerobrake turn we’ll dare an actual Pilot task roll trying to get a better result as the damage roll depends heavily on our Pilot task result.

The ship will fly towards the gas giant ass first, brake-thrusting to keep the speed from becoming too large from gravity – maximum safe speed/drag is 4/2 for airframes and 2/1 for streamlined. Keep those numbers in mind as you approach the gas giant. Try to hit the atmosphere edge on rather than head on when entering the voluntary aerobrake squares (the light grey area bordering the planet), also make sure that your ship face in the direction it will be going to head in the next turn.

The ship in the picture is thrusting to negate gravity (each x show where it would be if it drifted that turn). In the last turn it drifted and let gravity pull it into the voluntary aerobrake zone and speed it up to a speed of 4 (4.5rounded down). The circle around the ship show that it is drifting

The next turn we’ll go through aerobrake skimming step-by-step so please pay attention. This is a good moment to tell your crew over the intercom to buckle up, things can get bumpy.

Aerobrake skimming

Aerobrake steps

We’ll follow the steps from page 25 of the rulebook in some detail here, don’t worry though as it is much easier in practice. Print out a mapsheet and doodle away.

Decide drag and determine Pilot task result

Decide drag, then roll Pilot or use Pilot default to determine the level of success and the amount of turning available this crucial turn. Rolling the Pilot task will give you a better result on the average but with the Pilot default table you know what you get. We are moving at a speed of 4 and have decided to use 2 drag to stay in the 5-6 column of the Aerobrake DAM table, more on that later.

After deciding drag we will determine our Pilot task result. Pilot default has given us 3(Miss) for all of the turns of our approach but we will try to roll the Pilot task for the aerobrake hoping to get at least a Fair result, aerobrake damage depend heavily on the Pilot task result and a Miss is just not good enough we think. Rolling may give us worse than Miss of course but we bet that fortune smiles upon us. The ship is Size 8 and our Pilot skill is 2 with 1D6 dice pool so we roll 3D6 and pick the two highest and add 2.

Pilot task is rolled against the ships Size of 8 so we roll 1, 3 and 3 and use the two 3s for a die roll of 6 with 2 added, 8 – we just barely managed to roll a Fair result! This will give us 4 steps of turning but more importantly our damage roll will be based on a Fair result instead of a Miss, more on that later.

Drift and gravity (including Floater)

Gravity will take us back into the voluntary aerobrake zone again and our speed is still 4. Let’s zoon in a bit so we can see clearer.

Turn and thrust (or Initial Split-movement)

Typically you’ll only turn here, to face in your drift direction but nothing stops you from thrusting too, you may even do the first half of Split-movement here, go crazy but don’t forget that if you hit the planet you are dead. Our facing and vector are actually perfect so we’ll leave the ship as is here.

Pop-in and Forced facing

Now the ship pop in its surface fixtures which means that Visual, IR and Radar cannot Scan later in the turn, you do get to keep your Tracked targets and any launched missiles. We’ll pop in and hope that no coward pirate sneak up on us, for new targets we’ll be completely blind this turn.

Our ship is facing in the direction of our vector so there will be no Forced facing. Try to avoid this forced facing adjustment as it will increase the risk of damage quite a lot (your ships hull will be treated as one degree worse if adjusted here.

Aerobrake (first drag and then maneuver)

We decided on a drag of 2 two so let’s do them. We will simply move the drift two squares, one at a time. In our case there are no choices but sometimes there will be two options (zag-zig or zig-zag) and the Pilot can decide which one that is preferable as long as each step moves the drift closer (and thus reducing speed).

The ship has no wings and we didn’t adjust facing so there is no Maneuver to do. If we had some maneuver to use it would still be limited by the drag used (in this case 2), so maneuver could move the drift after aerobrake up to 2 in any direction. We have zero maneuver but if not we could maneuver to any square that wasn’t greyed out in the picture. Note that brake Gs are determined by counting the squares from our position before the aerobrake to the position after drag and maneuver.

Adjust facing

Our ship is still facing in the direction of our vector so no final facing adjustment is needed, this is mostly happening when a ship also uses Maneuver. This final adjustment of facing does not affect damage, it simply turns the ship to face the direction of travel.

Roll aerobrake damage

Aerobrake damage

We came in with a speed of 4 and our aerobrake took us 2 squares from that so our brake is 2. We’ll use the 5-6 column as 4 + 2 = 6. Our ship was Streamlined so our aerobrake DAM is 3. Now it’s time to roll the actual damage.

Aerobrake damage roll

Our Pilot task roll was Fair from the Decide drag and Pilot task step and the table tell us a Fair result will be rolled using 2D6 and picking the lowest and that the location of any damage is Hull.

We roll a 2 and a 5 and use the lowest one so 2 it is. Add 2 to the 3 we got from the aerobrake DAM table, 5 on the damage table is (Scratch), one point shy of Light damage. Some scorched paint and scratches is all we got from the aerobrake, let’s get out of here!

Skimming fuel

  • Skimming will net speed x brake x 5% of its hull per 15 min
  • Hovering will net 1.25% of its hull volume per 15 min

The ship did an aerobrake of  speed 4 and drag 2 which give us 4 x 2 x 5% = 40% of the ships hull volume skimmed. This is probably far more than the actual tankage we got so we leave the gas giant with full tanks and some scratches on the hull for our efforts.

Hover skimming

Hover skimming using Floater will be dealt with in a future post, stay tuned!

Large scale maps

Skimming can also be done using the 100 000 km per square, 1 hour per turn scale. In this scale large gas giants use the large planet maps and small gas giants use small planet maps. This will also be dealt with in a future post so stay tuned for that too!

So, to finish off my diatribe about the dangers of skimming by saying that the subs, the subsidized merchant crews are the bravest and here’s why:
A fully loaded sub has enough fuel for 4 hours of continuous 1G thrust! You normally use less than half of that to get to the jump point, which means that you have a bit more than half to maneuver towards the gas giant. What is even worse is that when fully loaded a sub’s Floater is only capable of negating about 60% of gravity, yeah, that is why they have those wings; to assist in takeoff when the Floater alone cannot do the job, and these guys sure need to turn every dime as their sponsors take half of what they earn.

I dare you to find a single subs skipper that has ever skimmed a gas giant fully loaded!

Countersheet done

Posted in Boardgames, Intercept, Vector movement with tags , , , , on April 13, 2019 by Anders Backman

The Intercept countersheet with all 176 double sided counters has been sent to the printer (the Comic sans use is POD and not mine, cross my heart and hope to die).

The counters and map tiles may or may not be available for purchase with a printed rulebook and some plotting pages, we’ll see. Intercept is of course completely playable without these.

Subsidized merchant DataCard

Posted in Design system, Intercept, Rules with tags , , , , on December 1, 2013 by Mr Backman
Image courtesy of mr Ian Stead

Image courtesy of mr Ian Stead

“What a piece of junk!” – Luke Skywalker
“You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.” – Leia to Han 
“Would it help if I got out and pushed?” – Leia to Han
“It might!” – Han to Leia
“She’s the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.” – Lando Calrissian

Subsidized merchant DataCard

I have updated the DataCard and Intercept rulebook, get ’em while they’re hot, at the downloads page 2013-12-01

The design system holds everything there is to know about your ship but to use it for an Intercept space battle you need to fill in its DataCard. The DataCard holds all data crucial to space battles where the Ship.xls hold everything there is to know about the design. Print out DataCard.pdf and fill in your designs. We will use the Subsidized merchant as worked examples on how to fill in the DataCard. There is a ready-made Subsidized merchant and Launch document in the and eventually I’ll fill out the rest of my designs. OK, let’s get on with the worked example shall we. The little thumbnail above is the entire DataCard but I will break it down into pieces a comment on each part s it gets filled in. As always, go to the downloads page to look for the latest version of everything – the rules, the design system and sometimes also the DataCard may all get updates now and then.


First we write the ships name at the top left of the DataCard. To the right of the name we see some rows of checkboxes. The one labeled Turns can be ignored as it is used by the Deterministic optional rules indicating how many steps of turn the ship has for each of the four turns. The row labeled AB Initiative side A check the odd boxes and side B check the even boxes. These are used for tie breaking Initiative. The lowest row of boxes labeled Frac thrust is where you check the turns where your fractional thrust gives you an extra G. Look up Fractional thrust in the rule book for details, our Subsidized merchant happens to have  no decimal thrust when loaded or unloaded so we leave them unchecked.


To the right is a box for Size; +8 for our example. This is the target number for all Pilot rolls (and a Tactician rolls too, however unlikely in a Subsidized merchant).The Comp# box should hold your computers model number. Make sure there is room for the computer dice pool. These can can be used to improve all Pilot, Tactician, Attack, Defense, Sensors or Repair roll by rolling one or more dice from the pool and picking the two highest D6, every four turns the computer dice pool is replenished by the current Model #. We write 1: for our Model-1 computer. To the right of that are four boxes were we write the beam to-hit numbers for 1, 3 and 10 squares range and the missile to-hit value, all taking our ships Size into account. Look up the numbers and subtract Size to get your ships target numbers. These are the base numbers your enemy roll against to hit your ship. We write 4+, 7+, 10+ and 6+ respectively.

Write your ships Thrust Gs (Loaded/Unloaded)  in the Thrust box.  The last box in the top row, the Fuel box, holds how many GTurns worth of fuel the ship has, loaded/unloaded. The box is large enough for you to tick off fuel use when playing. Only ships with Fission or Fusion thrusters have this value, Impulse drives expend no fuel when thrusting and neither does a Floater, our ship write 10/20: here. Yes, the sub is known for its extremely low delta-V, that old-timer who belittled the sub crews has obviously never flown one as their low delta-V requires careful planning and experience.


The next row should hold the ships Streamlining type; Open frame, Normal, Streamlined or Airframe, also add the areobrake damage modifier for speed here. The name of the streamlining should be entered but also the damage modifier for speed which is important when doing areobrakes or landing. The damage per speed modifiers is from the areobrake table in the rulebook, in the section on planets.

  • Open frame The ISS or other irregular structures. +6/1 speed but you shouldn’t really do any areobraking with these. If you areobrake facing is off by two or more your first speed brake will be treated as Open frame. Hulls with Critical damage are always treated as Open frame.
  • Normal A car or a subsonic aircraft. +3/1 speed. If you areobrake facing is off by one your first speed brake will be trated as Normal unless it is Open frame. Hulls with Severe damage are always treated as Normal or worse.
  • Streamlined A jetfighter or the space shuttle. +1/1 speed. This is the minimum streamlining for reasonably safe areobrakes and atmosphere landings. Hulls with Light damage are always treated as Streamlined or worse.
  • Airframe The SR-71 or other extremely streamlined hypersonic designs. +1/3 speed. Areobrakes and atmosphere landings are safe unless your facing is off or brake more than your frame can handle.

We write Streamlined +1/1 and 7% 1 for the percentage of wings an extra areobrake (1 for every full 5%). Wings is only used for aerobraking in Intercept but may be more important in roleplaying situations, especially for the Subsidized merchant.


Below this there’s a large box where all the ships Signatures should be entered. If your battle takes place where the Sun factor is not +6 you should enter the actual value to get properly modified Signatures. Remember that if the Sun factor is, say +5 you should subtract 5 from Visual(Hull) when the ship is in the Shadow column, instead of the usual 6. Note the Sun factor at the top of your map sheet as a reminder.


The box with the ship status check boxes can be ignored as they are only used in-game to indicate status changes, I’ll show you their picture anyway.


Below that there are some boxes for the Sensitivity of your sensors. We enter -1 for our Optical (Visual/IR) and -5 for our small radar. Note that radar Scans are the only ones using any significant amounts of power.


To the right of this we have the crew box where the numbers and special notes of our crew are entered. We write 1 Pilot, 1 Astrogator, (2) Sensor ops, 3 Gunners and 2 Techs. The parenthesis around the Sensor ops value indicate that Gunners and Sensor ops serve dual roles; if any attacks or defense-rolls were made in a turn we get -2 on our Scan factor as the same crew members were doing both tasks.


To the right of this there’s the hit location box where damage, continuing damage, jury rig repairs and frozen watch revival is tracked. There are also check boxes for the current location of the repair crew. Enter the ARM and DAB values for you design here. The Subsidized merchant has these values: Hull +20 ARM +25 DAB Surface +15/+17 ARM +19 DAB Crew +20 ARM +22 DAB Payload +20 ARM +22 DAB Power +20 ARM +22 DAB Thrust +17 ARM +19 DAB The Surface part has 4 check box rows for Top/Front, Left, Right and Bottom/Rear and should be applied damage based on what facing the attk came from. The Power part may have two values; the left for full power and the left when Silent running, only ships with vulnerable radiators have two values there.

The column of check boxes labeled RC tells the current location of your Repair Crew. Check its location whenever it moves to a new location,Repair Crew takes the same damage when that location is hit. To the right of the RC column there is one labeled JR which stands for Jury Rig. Jury Rigged locations are treated as having one level less damage for damage effects purposes.

The check boxes labeled L, S, C and D are used for the damage level of a location and they stand for Light, Severe, Critical and Destroyed. Damage to an already damaged location work like this:

  • New damage level is higher Replace the old damage with the new, uncheck JR but CD remains.
  • New damage level is equal Add one damage level, uncheck JR but CD remains.
  • New damage level is lower Keep the old damage level, uncheck JR but CD remains.

The CD column stands for Continuing Damage which is damage that may get worse over time, like fires and the like. A hit gets Continuing Damage if the Damage roll turned up as a 6. Each turn, after repairs and if repairs failed, roll a D6 per CD; 1 and the CD is removed of itself, 2-4 has no effect and 5-6 increases damage one level. If a non-Hull location gets Destroyed from CD remove the CD there and add a CD to the Hull location, even if the Hull is completely undamaged. A Destroyed Hull, as you can imagine, destroys the ship. Yes, a tiny hit in the Surface location can, with lots of sheer luck, eventually destroy the entire ship.


The three boxes labeled Volley A – C are used to note endurance expenditure for missiles with longer endurance than one turn. If more than 3 volleys are in flight at the same time simply note this on a separate piece of paper. Below all is the area for weapons and mounts.


The right part holds the number and types of various weapon. Sand casters, Meson screen and Nuclear dampers write their ARM values in the PEN column and missiles treat the Range column as the controller range. Our Subsidized merchant has two sand-casters, two lasers and two missile launchers, one for each of the two large turrets mounted  Left and Right.

The right part holds the mounts of the ship and their respective locations. Our ship has 2 Large Turrets mounted on the left and right, each with one Sand-caster, one 10 MW laser and one Small missile launcher.

It should be self-evident how this work for your own designs. Note that different missiles can have different parameters and a ship may carry more than one kind so all variants should be noted so somewhere and each volley clearly noted what type it holds. A single volley can only hold one type of missiles but the launcher can choose which type it launches, even from a magazine.

Well, that is all folks. Look at the Lauch values and see if you understand how that design is put together. Note that the Small turret mounted on top is NOT standard issue but a modification done for my daughters Launch and can be a pretty nasty surprise to anyone believening that the Launch of a Subsidized merchant is harmless.