Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.........

I have always enjoyed battles with spaceships and more recently, gaming them. Through my first tenative steps via Waddingtons 4,000 A.D. (I still have a copy of this from about 1974!), then Full Thrust by GZG (especially the great Star Trek variant), Battlefleet Gothic by Games Workshop and latterly Star Wars Starship Battles; the idea of great planet busting starships several kilometres in length going at it hammer and tongs is a concept I find strangely appealing. I am not concerned with gaming in 3D with such things as height considerations (although Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan featured this very idea) as at the scale I want to fight (we are talking fleets here!) it would be way too complicated to employ. So, 2D it is, which nicely opens up the first statement: "A 2D space combat game is a naval game by any other name." This is true, and however much we try to disguise the fact with pseudo-scientific techno babble when you break a space combat game down to its bare bones you have guns, torpedoes, armour and variable amounts of damage. I realise that some Sci-Fi purists will probably now be lining up to burn me at the stake but I genuinely believe that this is the case. True we have phasers, lasers, photon torpedoes, proton torpedoes and various forms of defensive shield but these are the aforementioned guns, torpedoes and armour. What is needed then, is some way of reinforcing the Sci-Fi aspect of the game as clearly the weapons will not suffice. I am happy with using naval mechanics for firing and damage (with reference to armour/shields) but certainly not for damage control (the curse of the damage record card!) and also, more significantly, for movement.

Taking the concept of space conflict using spaceships as a whole - and with reference to a host of fiction on the subject - it can be seen that whilst the actual combat has a common theme (weapons blazing away at an enemy) the way that they get to grips has some pretty major differences. I mean movement or, more specifically, how a ship moves through space. this is to my mind the key for a good space combat game. I have considered four basic ship movement types as follows:

  • Saucers

  • Rockets

  • Starships

  • Solar Sailing Vessels

Of these, the most visual is the Starship type as personified by anything from the Star Trek universe or even Star Wars. Overall they seem to be able maneuver pretty easily and within our game are probably the closest to 20th century warships as they move. Solar Sailing vessels use the solar wind or gravitational effects to 'slingshot' through space; rather like the wooden sailing vessels of Nelson's era. Saucers are fast and highly maneuverable which ties in with the reported sightings of UFOs that make the news every so often. Rockets move at a set speed in a straight line and have limited maneuverability but are able to change the ships heading whilst still travelling in the original direction. To turn the ship, or to be more accurate to head off in a new direction, requires the rocket to use thrusters to overcome the speed travelled in order to move off so, in other words, the faster the rocket is travelling, the further it needs to move before it can move in a new direction - rather like aircraft turning.

The great thing about space combat games is that like naval games, they can be done very much on the cheap as the amount of kit required is quite small (although I dare say any die hard Battlefleet Gothic players would probably disagree!). It is surprising though just what can be pressed in to use as a spaceship.................................;-)

There is a point to this post (albeit arrived at in my usual rambling fashion!) and all will be revealed in due course but I just wanted to share the germ of an idea and to see what response it generated. Suffice it to say, it will be worth it.........................;-)


Paul O'G said...

Well the seed has definately been sown, and I look forward to seeing what kind of crystal comes from it!

David Crook said...

The naval set has spawned a surprising number of ideas for the discerning sci fi gamer....;-)

Watch this space - closely!

PS - Will Man cave Lager travel?

Paul O'G said...

Probably...if there is any left! Lookign to do a Real Ale for Autumnal enjoyment!