Friday, June 18, 2021

Right Name, Wrong Game

I've written hundreds of posts about Star Smuggler. One thing I glossed over is the combat system for spaceships. I was hoping that you, the reader would download it and try it for yourself. It really is an ingenious system. 

And not entirely appropriate for this game. As the title of the posts says, right name, wrong game. There is a flaw in this system which could be a typo or perhaps something intentional. 

I have mentioned several times that this game seems to have some aspects of Traveller, a very simplified version of Traveller. In some respects that is true. The plots, the technology types, even the Antelope starship itself. But that is where the similarities end. 

In studying this game, I have come to the conclusion that it might have been a stand alone game used by the author for a science fiction setting. Some sort of super campaign. 

One of the hints at this possibility is the combat system. It is really designed well for ship to ship combat where smuggling and piracy are critical.   

The game system has tech levels, from 1 to 6. For spaceship combat, you are able to roll one die for each tech level of the ship's guns. For tech level 6, you can roll a maximum of six dice. 

Roll a 1 or 2 and you have hit. 
Simple, eh? 

Well, yes. There there are the other modifiers and statistics that come into play. If you are shooting at a stationary target, you can roll up to 7 dice. Theoretically, that should allow you to hit at least twice, maybe three times. 

The vast majority of ships in the game absorb 10 hits of damage. With the stock Antelope with the tech level 1 guns, you need to go through 10 lucky combat rounds to destroy another ship. 

However with upgraded guns the modifiers come into play. If you roll two 1's or two 2's, you do a critical plus one hit for each pair 1's or 2's. A critical will damage the radios, the engines, shields, life support, ECM or breech a compartment killing everyone inside. There are six compartment areas. 

On a roll of a 1 and 2, you do two criticals plus hits. 
This random roll of seven dice from Random.org shows the problem. 

This is three hits tech level 6 guns against a stationary ship. But how many criticals? I don't know, which is why I suspect there is a flaw in the rules. 

My personal interpretation is that it is 3 hits plus 2 criticals. The first one and two are combined for the first two hits and the first two criticals. Then the second two is the next hit. If the order had been different, this would have been one critical and three hits. 

There is a third possibility. Perhaps the author intended the player to roll one die at a time so they get a sequence of numbers that can be evaluated in order. 

The upshot of this is, if you rolled a just the first 3 dice, that would be two hits and two criticals. Now when combined with the critical table, a ship can experience hull breaches which kill the crew and disable that area. 

This particular sequence of rolls, 3, 2, 1, 6, 6, 2 would result in 2 criticals, two hits and breach of the cargo hold and destroy the ECM system, if any. 

Repeat that a couple of times and you are on your way to disabling a ship. In the next sequence, I rolled 1, 3, 1, which is another two hits and critical. The critical took out the engines, which gives my next roll an extra die. 
Two more criticals. One took out life support and the other took out the crew quarters. The enemy can still shoot back, but they can't move and can only take two more hits. Anyone not in a suit is dead. 

It sounds like boarding time to me.

The problem with this is scenario is, this can give the player the opportunity to board and take a ship by wiping out the whole crew. That cannot be intentional, at least for Star Smuggler. Having two ships is very game breaking as I have proved a couple of times. 

The author seemed to realize this. Anytime there is a programed space combat event, the enemy ship will surrender at 8 hits and two to go. They rig the ship to explode if you try to take it. So you can plunder but not capture. However, there are random combat events that don't have this rule in play.  

As a homebrewed game about pirates and smugglers, it rocks! 

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