Home Forums Sci Fi General Sci-Fi Space battles the game I’ve never played

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  • #148034
    Thomaston
    Participant

    I’m sure most people don’t have the same issue with massive space wars as I do. Seems like every time I get started on planying games with massive space battles I over think it, spiraling out of suspension of disbelief. My problems are many and it starts with the basic rule, hard sci-fi.

    What got me posting this rant was my latest attempt at a game. Trying to be cleaver I began making plans for United Adminiatration of Earth to take out a major rebel base in the asteroid belt. The base is an old mining station, burrowed into an asteroid with the asteroid side facing the sun, protecting the base and ships there from solar radiation and kenetic kill weapons from near Earth orbit. In my head I had UAE drawing up several elaborate plans. One was to send an asteroid form the other side of the belt into a collision trajectory, which the rebels would have to attack (the launch site) with their fleet.

    The other plan was to have two fleets attack the rebel base simultaneously from different directions. One would be launched from Earth while the other from the asteroid belt. There’s several variations to this plan, the fleets could join up or one could act as a decoy drawing the defending fleet away so the other could attack the base. One could hit the fleet doing damage before withdrawing and the other fleet finish the rebel fleet off leaving the base vulnerable.

    I envisioned travel time from the optimal launch point around Earth to the asteroid belt to take around 3 months (it sounds like a good number to me). I can’t see UAE pulling off the elaborate pincer attack. In those 3 months the rebels would see UAE fleet coming and either gathered up enough defenders to fend them off or launch their own attack (on the other fleet or other UAE facilities in the belt). Even if UAE launched the Earth fleet towards a staging area in the belt first, the build up would be obvious. Either way the rebels would be able to somehow ruin the plan.

    The first plan of launching an asteroid at the Rebel base is the same thing but with the rebels as the attacker. Rebels would see the preparation and gather a fleet. UAE would respond. Best action would be for Rebels to build a kinetic kill weapon of its own and either launch at the construction or threaten to launch at Earth. it all ends in a stalemate for me. I even convieniently skipped the cause to war and how rebels managed to gathered up a sizable force in the first place.

    This happens absolutely every time I had the idea of playing some space war games. Everytime I got the project going, I’ll end up calculating travel time based on accel and decel rate of the slowest ship. How long the travel will take, how many supply ships would be needed to support the operations, repaire capabilities, What ships need to be move around to maintain defense elsewhere. Seeing as there’s plenty of people gaming spacebattles I don’t think they over analysed it like I do.

    Same reason I don’t play WWII games.

    Anyone else has an imposible project they could never get off the ground?

    Tired is enough.
    R-rated narcissism

    #148037
    Mr. Average
    Participant

    If you’re going to take that level of detail on and try to be realistic, you’ll talk yourself into a corner. It happened a few years ago in conversation with a game designer “of whom I know of” as they say, who argued vehemently in favor of his own rule system as the ONLY way to simulate space combat and ended up at the logical conclusion that, actually, simulating space combat of any kind is probably impossible because of giant planet-destroying hyperrelativistic weapons. Or something So this kind of speculation can really get out of hand. At some point you have to get stuck in or you’ll think yourself catatonic.

    #148038
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    For me, “realistic” space warfare would be akin to Age of Sail warfare conducted by submarines 🙂

    As described, travel will be slooooow!

    Communication would be laggy at best and impossible at worst. “I’m sorry Admiral, they’re behind a moon at the moment.” “They sent this report nine hours ago.”

    Space ships will be hugely expensive, space going warships even more so, and are therefore likely to be relatively extremely rare. Single ship and small squadron encounters not Jutland or Trafalgar.

    Missiles are the most likely weapons, unless we can get lasers or railguns working effectively. Heat dissipation is likely to be a problem with the latter two, despite the ambient temperature.

    Civilian ships, free from the constraints of Earth’s gravity and atmosphere can be any convenient shape, warships will probably need to be stealthed.

    Until the arrival of warp/ jump/ slipstrean/ transdimentional drives or ring gates, it will all be in-system warfare anyway.

    The closest I’ve seen anyone get to what I imagine it might be like is the TV series “The Expanse.” If you don’t know it and have an Amazon Prime account, series 1 to 4 are available free at the moment and series 5 is about to be released on 16th of this month. Even they needed a deus ex machina or two to keep things going!

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    #148048
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Same reason I don’t play WWII games.

    It was all making perfect sense to me until this remark came up. You baffle me strangely. What aspect of gaming WW2 stops you doing it?

    Even real SF (as distinct from sci-fi using the classical definitions) usually has to either permit FTL travel by some means (teleshift, adeledicnander, warp drive, hyperspace) or else use generation ships or cryosuspension. Having said which, most supposedly science-fictional wargames are mere space opera. As I’ve mentioned previously, I reckon the reason space opera always has space navies (often with dreadnoughts, cruisers and destroyers) is that so many classic SF authors (Asimov, Heinlein, Doc Smith, and others) played Fletcher Pratt’s naval wargames in the 1930s.

    The best SF back story I’ve ever seen to get around relativity problems is the one for SPI’s “StarForce: Alpha Centauri”. Although it is as far as I know the only wargame ever to be the source of a pop group’s name (The Human League), it isn’t a very good game, despite the gorgeous map and well-conceived back story.

    All the best,

    John.

    #148049
    Thuseld
    Participant

    The Expanse is a very good example of what future space combat might look like without interstellar travel. I had to stop watching the show, as it was going beyond the books I had read, and have been furiously catching up on the books.

    Another semi-realistic example is Crimson Worlds. A book series where the method of interstellar travel is naturally occurring warp holes that allow for instantaneous travel between systems. However, in-system travel can still take weeks, so if you are jumping through six systems, it can take a while. The space battles are interesting, because you have these huge capital ships and smaller cruisers, and then two seater bombers. Two fleets will burn towards each other and there is a long time where they know who is coming, what they are armed with. Then missiles fire, some designed to kill ships, some designed to explode and take out enemy missiles. This means there are hours where you basically know your ship is lost, because your counter measures won’t take out all the missiles. Bombers launch, and again, they are gone for long periods, do one attack run, then take a long time turning around and returning/going for a second run. Then, whatever is left ends up in laser/rail gun range and ravages each each other. The battle can last days, with those brief moments of actual interaction.

    #148057
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    The WW2 Pacific model of space warfare seems unlikely to me (but what do I know? 🙂  ). I think the Death Star/ Planet Killer and the Star Destroyer/ Titan type ships are up there with the Maus and Ratte in terms of practicality and feasibility. Space Battleship Yamato is likely to be as much of a white elephant as her historical counterpart.

    Spaceships may burn towards each other but, since you only need main engines to accelerate/ decelerate, I’d expect ships on final  approach to meet each other with engines cut, electronics damped to a minimum and passive detection only. Countermeasures to create false images and decoy incoming munitions seem more likely than flights of Avenger class three-man torpedo shuttles being met by squadrons of CAP-Zero fighters. Much more “Run silent, run deep!” and much less “Tora!, Tora!, Tora!”

    The Expanse’s PDCs seem more likely to me than missiles detonating to neutralise incoming ordnance. Though it sucks to be the guy quietly going about his business on an orbital installation only to be killed by a few stray rounds fired in a distant battle 400 years ago! Space battles really can go on forever. 🙂

    All that said, my sci-fi RPG, when it was possible to run it, featured micro-warp drives, grav plating, alien races, reliable parcel couriers and other unlikely inventions.

     

     

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    #148059
    Darkest Star Games
    Participant

    If you’re looking to do space battles realistically, give the Atomic Rocket website a good read, it’ll really put you off.

    http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/

    In my mind, the only real way to do space battles is to use a lot of handwaveum, even if you’re using Ad Astra’s “Attack Vector” realistic rules.  Minovsky Particles, heatless reactors, stealth coatings, or whatever is better than breaking down and not playing.  I play(ed) a lot of the various Traveller space boardgames, as well as some other, and try to not worry about reality, it’s sci-fi, heavy on the “fi”.

     

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    #148064
    Logain
    Participant

    I read an interesting article a few years back about just how hard it would be for two fleets to even FIND each other in the solar system, think about the resources used to scan for space objects approaching Earth.  The Solar System is a BIG place….

    I often start impossible projects that include creating maps, detailed backgrounds, converting models, clever pre and post-mechanics etc. and inevitably end up playing some quick and easy pickup game instead. Usually a board game or some miniature game that I’ve had forever like Space Hulk.

    #148067
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    My experience in EVE Online suggests finding people in space is easy if you camp warp gates and space stations 🙂

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    #148095
    Logain
    Participant

    Good point Mike, by “find” I mean detect. It would probably be fairly easy for a group of ships trying to avoid detection to leave Earth and get very close to their target before being detected.
    There are also lots of possibilities like cloaking/countermeasures, sabotage, human leverage, desire to avoid overt warfare etc. that might work in the narrative. But at some point you have to turn off your brain and push around some tiny spaceships. 🙂

    #148096
    Thomaston
    Participant

    I only saw the first season of the Expanse, I liked it donkey balls. Using ballistic weapons in space seemed counter intuitive though. One thing about space communites I try not to think about and is a killer is something I got from Heavy Gear. Communites living in siolation like on space stations would be very vulnerable to diseases and require some serious quaranteens or strict segregation. This little bit of realism kills any kind of dream of space colonisation and having things to fight over.

    The human reach books does some heard science space battles, including heat dissipation, but still have faster than light travel via wormholes.

    @Mr Average
    Yeah, I revisit this little corner every few years. Long enough apart to forget about my previous attempt.


    @John
    D Salt
    The WWII thing was because I think above my paygrade when playing naval games, too focused on grand strategy than the little battle I’m supposed to fight. Ground combat is similar. I keep thinking whose covering my flank and how did their fighting went. Eventually I’ll want to roll to see if thsoe flanks collapse and I get enemies rolling into my rear.


    @Logain

    I actually thought about that. Earth wouldn’t have to look all around for atackers, no fleet can catch up to planetary orbit without a good run up and those months long burn will give a fleet away. Earth in my case, fight agaisnt rebels in around the belt, only has to look forward of its orbit for any fleet trying to lead intercept the planet.

    @DSG
    I think I read a few pages on that site a long time ago, didn’t remember it being that comprehensive though I only read about things related to wargaming realistic battles. I remember what I read made Jovian Chronicles look like fantasy.

    @Mike Headden
    I hate getting ganked in EVE Online.

    Tired is enough.
    R-rated narcissism

    #148098
    Mr. Average
    Participant

    As they say, “The wars of the future will not be fought on land sea or air, they will be fought in space, or possibly on top of very tall mountains. In any case, most of the actual fighting will be done by tiny robots, and as you go forward, your duty is clear: to build and maintain those robots.”

    #148101
    Mr. Average
    Participant

    One interesting thing as I understand it is that humans are highly unlikely to get diseases from other planets we visit, simply because our native biota have been co-evolving with us for millions of years, and on other planets, if they exist, they have not. So there would be practically no way for an alien species of bacterium or virus to attack us because the human microbiome would be an entirely hostile environment to them, and vice versa. This is just something I read in a few places, I’m no biologist. But it is an interesting thought. We could share an affinity for oxygen and nitrogen rich atmospheres, and even have similar body chemistries, and could even have DNA, but even small changes in their genome, or what’s more likely, a genome based on different chemical base pairs, would render the biology totally incompatible even if we shared similar environments. Unless DNA in terrestrial form is a universal chemical which we don’t know to be true simply because it’s universal on Earth. And even then it would have to be chemically compatible in a way that would require continuously evolving contact with humans for hugely long times.

    #148136
    Phil Dutré
    Participant

    Don’t overthink it.

    In my gaming group we have a saying whenever someone utters a reason why some ploy or move or battleplan wouldn’t work or is totally illogical; whether it’s magic in a fantasy setting, tech in a scifi setting or the scenario setup in a historical battle: “Insert Your Own Favourite Explanation”.

    After all, the Eagles simply didn’t drop the Ring in Mount Doom, otherwise there wouldn’t be a story to read.

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/

    #148138
    Mr. Average
    Participant

    Seriously, dropping the ring in the volcano shouldn’t have been any problem at all. I could have done it. It’s only the most desirable object in the universe, and I can’t even give up drinking whiskey. Cinch!

    #148142
    Noel
    Participant

    I’m sure you’ve read somewhere that space is very big.

    If ships wanted to not be seen it would likely be easy, unless some new technologies allow for better detection.

    We are still continually being surprised by objects that come close to Earth that were not detected beforehand.

    #148151
    Benjamin Cato
    Participant

    I agree that trying to create a “realistic” wargame in space is very difficult.  To get around the logistical nightmares of moving and supplying large ships full of humans I am thinking of a war between different von Neumann fleets – so machines vs machines.

    One scenario is an alien probe being detected coming into the solar system and heading for the asteroid belt where it starts to build a base.

    Earth then responds by building and sending out its own fleet to attack the base.

    Alternative scenarios  are two alien  probes from different builder civilisations entering the same solar system and building bases with a race to build up their defences and/or attack forces or competing corporations mining in the asteroid belt.

    I can still have ships, fortresses, marines, etc. they will just all be machines.

    I can even have capital ships, cruisers and destroyers – just that a dreadnaught class ship may only be 1 or 2 metres long. 🙂 and robot marines may only be 6-10mm high.

    #148152
    Mr. Average
    Participant

    You might look at The Eylau Sequence, which involves “fleets” of microscopic machines seeking each other out as a prelude to, subsequent to, or in place of, other battles.

    #148153

    The new or the old version of The Eylau Sequence? The new version seems much more fiddly and less fleet oriented.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #148154

    I think the thing you need to do with science fiction fleet actions is decide what kind of battles you want to play and then make up the technology fluff that supports that.

     

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #148155
    Benjamin Cato
    Participant

    Thank you.  I had not heard of The Eylau Sequence. It looks very interesting.

    #148158
    Thomaston
    Participant

    @Mr Average
    It’s the spacestations and its populaton living in isolation and having their own unique strain od viruses. They’ll be immune to it but every ship that comes in from elsewhere will bring a new cocktail of viruses from other stations. I don’t do aliens in my setings.


    @Phil

    I hate that story. If it were me I’d help Sauron and have the Pan Middle Earth Union. Elves are racist.

    @Noel
    Yeah, space is big but those objects aren’t radiating heat and moving in formation. Remember I’m talking fleet of ships.

    @Benjamin
    I did it similar to your suggestion. I limited my setting to Sol and the conflict to the asteroid belt. In another setting automated mining ships got out to Saturn like ring and fight for resource. Still get distracted by the logistics though 😀

    6-10mm high marines, but that’ll just make space even bigger. Also is it still miniature wargames if it’s 1:1 scale?

    @Thaddeus
    I don’t even remember how the old version played. Applying damage looks too complicated for me. I need ultra simple rules so I can over think logistics and hard sci-fi stuff.

    Tired is enough.
    R-rated narcissism

    #148249
    Noel
    Participant

    How much heat does a spaceship radiate? Mostly, they would be quiet lumps producing no detectable thrust (only needed if some course correction was required) with light absorbing coats of paint, angled hulls to confuse sensors, little in the way of signals, encased reactors. They’d appear as lifeless blobs or shadows, probably moving in a way that mimics natural objects or junk.

     

    You would most likely be hit by their missiles from very long range and they would be gone before you could trace the missiles back to the point of origin. If they had no intention of capturing your base, they wouldn’t even have to get close at all.

     

    Of course, your base would also have to be detected. If it’s precise location isn’t known, it would need to be found.

     

    The board game Stellar Horizons, designed by a Space X engineer, has players trying to find each other, even bases, before they could fight. It’s not easy.

     

    In The Expanse, ships avoid detection without a lot of effort. They can disappear quickly once they break contact.

    Like the navies in WWII sending scouts to even attempt to locate the enemy, only much harder.

    #148250
    Thomaston
    Participant

    “How much heat does a spaceship radiate? Mostly, they would be quiet lumps producing no detectable thrust (only needed if some course correction was required) with light absorbing coats of paint, angled hulls to confuse sensors, little in the way of signals, encased reactors. They’d appear as lifeless blobs or shadows, probably moving in a way that mimics natural objects or junk.”

    Lets assume its the same as a modern NBC sealed warship, whithout the benefit of abundance of water and air to use as coolant. The light absorbing paint will need to convert that energy to something other than heat. The ship can either store the heat or radiate it. Mimicking movement of space debris will also limit your maneuver options. You might not be moving suspiciously but if all the junk around you are moving away or orbitting your objective then its not going to be any use if you need to get closer. Multiply that by the number of ships in the fleet and what might be miniscue becomes significant radiation.

    Angled hulls like F-22 and F-35 are optimized to deflect waves away from the emitter in the frontal aspect, its not as effective from other directions. I could be wrong but if the emitter is strong enough people around the sides of the aircraft might have a chance of getting a blip on passive sensor because of waves defleted their way. Its might be why China focused on land based radar to defeat sealth.

    “You would most likely be hit by their missiles from very long range and they would be gone before you could trace the missiles back to the point of origin. If they had no intention of capturing your base, they wouldn’t even have to get close at all.”

    Remember all those movies with nuclear missiles being launches. They usaully detect the launch and have to wait to find out what the destination is. If the stealthed spaceship launched a missile from long range using passive sensors only, the missile still has to burn to accelerate to target. Take the attacks on USS Mason, no idea where the launchers were but the threat vector was clear and the missiles were detected and countered, a net loss of two missiles expended for no result. The missiles did use active radars and those were destroyed in retaliation, with passive sensors the missiles would be even less accurate. You can make up for it by launching a larger salvo of missiles but it’ll be so much easier to detect.

    The missiles could be set to coast for a few days so the launching ship could get away but that only increases the margin of error.

    “Like the navies in WWII sending scouts to even attempt to locate the enemy, only much harder.”

    Surface search radar is limited to the horizon (around 25NM), air search radar can detect out to multiple hundren NM depending on target altitude (to clear the horizon). Even mid war, USN could detect IJN air attacks on their radar pretty reliably. At Midway once the Japanese knew which direction to search, they found the Yorktown.

    Tired is enough.
    R-rated narcissism

    #148251
    Logain
    Participant

    Well it seems like you have a well thought out idea of what assumptions you want to make about scientific advances in your setting. How about a different take using something like society/culture/manufacturing  to give you  a plausible explanation for conflict where science fails?  Eg. maybe the resources needed to build and maintain spaceships and other extra planetary infrastructure are so costly that both sides have adopted a “no kill” mindset where it is imperative to capture resources, not destroy resources.  Crews expect to be captured and ransomed. Think skirmishes during the Age of Sail where capturing a ship was incredibly lucrative to the victorious Captain providing huge motivation not to completely destroy his opponent. Instead of avoiding detection fleets disguise warships as civilian ships with escorts etc.  Perhaps civilian ship traffic is common, and outfitting one for war is simple. Just some idea!  I like how instead of answering your question in the OP we are all just trying to do the “impossible”.

    #148254
    Thomaston
    Participant

    It’s not just detection, any handwaving eventually gets a deep thinking about the tech behind it. FTL, artificial gravity, how they’re built, what resources, industries are needed and then those ideas goes into war strategy. Taking your ideas about infrastructures being high value I have the opposite conclusion. I think weapons would lean towards killing the crew without damaging technology too much, once captured technology can be put to use much easier than people with ideologies. Killing off enemy crew in the process of capturing a ship/station would be favorable if maximising resource is the goal. Battles would be maneuvers for the most advantage position and corner the opposing fleet into surrendering. Ultimately it might be the cold war and mutually assured destruction, as noone wants to risk their people and so no battles much like modern naval combat.
    Like I said, hard sci-fi and something I keep coming back to. I think it’s hardwired into me.

    Tired is enough.
    R-rated narcissism

    #148276
    Darkest Star Games
    Participant

    So weapons would then be like neutron or gamma beams, designed to kill the crew and leave everything else (mostly) intact.  Maybe bomb-pumped laser missiles and Autonomous Attack Vehicles?  Or, maybe even killer attack nanites delivered via missile/torpedo?  Boarding actions might also be the way to go, using sabers and shotguns.

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    #148279
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    Swinging on a mag-grapnel, vibro-dagger in their teeth, monomolecular cutlass in one hand and duck’s-foot laser pistol in the other?

    “Aye, aye, Cap’n Harlock! Engage the Dark Matter Engines you lubbers!” 🙂

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

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