29 December 2011

Revised Spaceship Solo Game

I have over 1100 hits on my downloads page.  Now I realize that probably 1000 of those are Russian and eastern European spambots, but I have to think that someone out there has read my rules.  And to those one or two people who've actually downloaded and tried them out I must apologize for constantly rewriting things.    

The past few posts allude to a totally rewritten version of my solo spaceship game, Greater Space Battles.  By following the link above you can get this newest edition which features new, and in my opinion improved, rules.

  • The most significant change is that momentum is conserved.  All ships with speed greater than 0 move every turn, ensuring a faster playing game.  Ships move like the vessels in the old Atari game Space War, having to turn their tails "forward" in order to brake.  This makes for interesting maneuvering and helps eliminate the "wet-navy in space" feel.
  • Energy allocation is revised so that smaller ships aren't trashing the big ships as they did in my first few playtests of the old rules.  More importantly, crew experience plays into energy allocation, giving seasoned crews an edge for running a more efficient ship.
  • Various stream-lining, such as the elimination of the targeting phase.
  • Original art
Enjoy, and remember this can be played on a hex mat, so don't be put off by the wonky "movement discs"... with a hex mat you don't need them (you'll still need ships' readout discs of course).

28 December 2011

New Vessel Sighted Orbiting Durham IV

Last night I fashioned another putty spaceship.  This design features engine pods created separately and then glued on.

I'm really digging this design, despite the fact that with all the globular features I got a lot more air bubbles than usual.

The picture below shows the Vector/Readout Disc for this ship class, for use in my solo game Greater Space Battles.  Note the six numbers in white circles no longer define firing arcs but instead represent the ship's velocity.  Thus by positioning the disc in a certain way the player has a way to record any speed from 1 to 6, without the use of pen & paper or markers.  This rules change allows conservation of momentum.  The current Greater Space Battles rules on the downloads page do not reflect this change; the update is coming here!

Solo Space Campaign: Opening Battle

I've played about four different battles in order to playtest my newest solo game Greater Space Battles.  I feel like the rules are pretty much set now although vastly altered from the version posted on my downloads page.  Eventually I'll get the new and improved version (featuring momentum conservation) uploaded.

I'm quite happy with the rules.  In fact, during one evening last week I found myself staying up until 2AM finishing a game.  I haven't become that enthralled in a game since my high school days, nearly two decades ago.  With the ship-to-ship combat mechanics hammered out, the next step is to run a campaign.

The campaign features two opposing factions: the Hilherndon League and the Traughbo's Cluster Vassalry.  The rest of the fluff is at the end of the post, after the star map; first let's get on with the nuts-and-bolts...

I rolled three six-sided dice for each faction, generating the X, Y, and Z coordinates of their home system group.  The star map below shows the coordinates for each system as well as their Spheres of Influence.  Spheres of Influence, labeled SOI on the map, start at 1 for each and describe each faction's ability to project "hard", i.e. military power.  The goal of the campaign is for one faction to reduce the opposing faction's SOI to 0.

Factions raise their spheres of influence by resource acquisition, whether from exploring new systems, establishing and maintaining treaties with lesser kingdoms, or espionage.  All of this is beyond the scope of the solo campaign and is distilled into a simple die roll.  The die roll may face negative modifiers however, based on losses  incurred in space battles.  Up to six (randomly determined) space battles are fought between every SOI roll.  If a faction suffers significant losses in a battle it may (another random roll) receive a -1 modifier to the next SOI roll.  Therefore a faction may incur anywhere from a 0 to a -6 modifier to its SOI roll.  A modified d6 roll which is above a faction's current SOI results in an increase of 1 to its sphere of influence.  A modified roll which fails to exceed the current SOI results in the sphere of influence remaining the same.  A modified roll resulting in a negative number however decreases the sphere of influence by 1.

There will always be at least one battle between SOI rolls.  For the first battle of this campaign period I rolled the coordinates of Beta Murronus VI, the location of the encounter.  The coordinates(X: 4, Y: 3, Z: 3) mean the system is distance 5 (4.690) from the Hilherndon League and distance 4 (3.742) from The Traughbo's Cluster Vassalry.  Next I rolled three six sided dice and chose the lowest one to determine the Strategic Significance of the system.  The result was a 4 (a fairly important resource-laden system).  Despite this lucky roll (a 4, 4, and 6), I'm purposely trying to skew the results toward smaller values since it's the opening phase of the war.  At the middle phase I will roll three dice and choose the middle value to determine strategic significance.  At the end of the war I'll choose the highest of the three dice rolled.  Thus the battles should grow in size.  So what is the strategic significance score?  It simply shows the number of d6's summed to determine the size of a faction's task force/squadron.

Since the strategic significance is 4, normally I would roll 4d6 and add them together to get the total size of a faction's strike force.  First however, I had to modify the rolls to account for each faction's ability to project power that far away.  The Hilherndon League's sphere of influence of 1 minus the distance of 5 to the target system resulted in a (1 - 5 = -4) four dice penalty to the force size roll.  I therefore rolled 8d6 and discarded the four highest dice, only adding the scores of the four remaining dice.  The Traughbo's Cluster Vassalry's distance of 4 with a Sphere of Influence of only 1 resulted in 3 penalty dice; I rolled 7d6 and discarded the three highest dice, summing the remaining four.  Coincidentally both rolls summed to 8, so the two opposing spaceship forces are identical in size.  Due to the system's strategic significance (4), four dice will always be summed, yielding a fleet size of 4 to 24.  The meager spheres of influence of the opposing factions greatly skews the result to the low end of the spectrum.

My rules set groups ships into size classes, with 1 being the smallest hull and 5 the largest.  The dice roll described in the paragraph above indicates the total size of all the ships in the squadron.  In this case both forces have ships whose combined size totals 8.  I rolled a d6 for the Hilherndon League and got a 4, followed by another roll and other 4.  The League's force therefore consists of two size class 4 ships.  For the Vassalry's forces I rolled a 4, then a 6.  There are no size 6 ships so I rerolled and got a 1.  Since I had only enough size left for a class 1, 2, or 3 ship, I randomly determined between the three and got a 3.  So the Vassalry's fields a three ship force consisting of a size 4 heavy cruiser, a size 3 light cruiser, and a size 1 frigate.

That's it; the stage is set for the first battle of the campaign.  As you can see, this whole method is just an exercise in dice rolling.  I tried however, to create some kind of framework to the dice rolls, a framework that will change based upon the successes and failures of the opposing factions.  I think it will work.  If I remember correctly, Star Fleet Battles, and its successor Federation Commander, use five ascending size classes; this system could therefore support a solo campaign if you're using those rules to fight your battles.

Space Campaign, Period 1, Battle 1
The setting uses the feudalism-in-space trope as in Dune, and the role-playing game settings Traveller and SpaceMaster among others.  Faster-than-light travel exists, but starships require days if not weeks in order to make "probability jumps" to other systems.  More importantly superluminal communication does not exist.  Feudalism therefore makes the most sense to me.  I've taken it one step further: in my setting spaceships are hereditary, controlled by lords and manned by vassals.  These lords in turn pledge their support to even greater lords, who control the resources to make interstellar travel possible.  A typical greater lord would be one whose family has acquired a large fleet of sublight spaceships over the centuries, allowing the bloodline to monopolize a system's resources.  The "kingdom" of the typical greater lord consists not only of baronies on the habitable worlds of a system, but more importantly of the interstellar ships pledging their allegiance to him or her.  Alien intelligences have never been discovered in the thousand plus years of human exploration, however remains of civilizations have been.  People still report "lights in the sky" and the major religion revolves around the concept of unseen extraterrestrial benefactors.  Disagreements on key points fracture the religion; the major argument lies in the nature of the benefactors: simply highly evolved aliens, divine beings, machine intelligences, etc.  A sizable portion of the interstellar human population scoffs at the notion of any "benefactors".                   

23 December 2011

The Airing of Grievences

Happy Festivus all!

I cannot invite you all to my house for the Festivus dinner, but due to the miracle of the internet I can list the ways you've disappointed me this year:

Just kidding.  Happy Holidays to all, thanks for reading my dumb ideas and thinks especially to the other gaming bloggers for your inspiring work.

18 December 2011

New from the Orbital Shipyard

I primed up the water-putty ship miniature design I introduced two posts ago.  I also added a few details to the ship to give it some pep: an antennae cluster (made from angel hair pasta) and a little radiator fin.

The cold temperature of my garage made the gray primer come out thick, so I decided to make the coat very light to avoid obscuring any detail.  The miniature therefore has a few bare spots peeking through as the pictures show.

I have one of those annoying holiday-season work "fun" functions tomorrow, but hopefully I'll get a few hours of free time to paint this big bruiser up.

I also knocked out a new design for a smaller ship.  I like this one a lot, but I'm waiting until tomorrow to prime, after the garage warms up.

04 December 2011

Painted Scratchbuild Spaceship

Continuing a productive night, I painted a scratchbuild ship from my collection.  I made three metal casts of this ship back in the spring, but never got around to painting it.  I finally finished it and I realized paint makes all the difference.  I wasn't a big fan of this ship design when I first sculpted it, but after seeing it with just this mediocre paint job I'm loving it.

I like using the "magic wash" technique with illustration ink, but the last time I tried it on a ship it ended up leaving the vessel quite dark.  This time I therefore primed the ship with white instead of gray and then added lots and lots of white to my base color scheme (a purplish gray).  I painted the lower areas dark and added even more white and painted the higher areas.  I drybrushed with pure white and then added the insignia and orange markings.  I gave it all a light coat of Future and then added the wash when that coat of acrylic floor cleaner dried.  The wash was 4mL water, 1mL Future, 0.2mL violet illustration ink, and 0.2 mL nut brown ink.  The ink was brushed on and then most of it brushed off.  Even though I tried for the subtle approach by mopping most of the ink up with my brush, the ink still makes bold lines.

I find painting frustrating and thus rarely practice, keeping my skills mediocre.  At my skill level, I'm very pleased with this mini.  I'll slap some more black paint on the stand and base and hopefully get in a game of Greater Space Battles tomorrow.

03 December 2011

My Latest Scratchbuild Spaceship Design

Alright!  Last night I finished my final so except for clean-up on one lab, this semester is over.  I can get back to gaming and posts about gaming without feeling guilty.

All week long I slowly built up a master for a new spaceship miniature design.  I glued various sizes of spaghetti to some plastic coffee stirrers that were stuffed with Sculpey.  In the future I will use plastic sprue versus the coffee stirrers.

Last night I pressed this master into two blocks of Sculpey, making the top and bottom hull impressions.  I then detailed the impressions and poured in the water putty.  I then removed the bottom hull from the polymer clay and joined it to the top hull.  This morning I pulled the completed putty master out of the clay and trimmed it up.  The pictures below show the top looking to the stern, looking to the bow, and also the bottom looking to the bow.
Top, ship bow close-up
Top, ship stern close-up
The bottom: just as detailed

I tried something new this time, as shown in the second picture above.  I put a piece of looped wire into the putty when I poured the bottom hull.  This allowed me to suspend the completed putty master vertically inside a LEGO mold box, thus allowing me to pour the silicone rubber mold as one piece.  I will cut the rubber in half when it cures; this will still be a traditional two-piece mold, but in half the curing time.  I did screw up one thing though... I decided to leave the bottom of the mold box open and then I just set it on a piece of plastic.  I sealed the edges with sulfur-free clay, but it has since leaked a bit.  The picture below shows the mold box right after the rubber was poured in; the reader can see the rubber is about 5mm from the top.  As I'm writing this, rubber has leaked out all around the base and the top of the silicone is now about 15mm from the top of the box.  The putty master is not exposed however.  I will simply let the rubber cure and in a few hours pour enough in to top it back up.  In the future however I will just use more LEGOs to build a bottom to the box.  Why I didn't think of that this time I don't know.
Interstellar shipyard