Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Small Craft and Carriers in Five Squadron Level Space Combat Games

A Comparative Essay Regarding the Particulars of Five Popular Two Dimensional Squadron Level Space Combat Games and their Respective Ship Design Systems

Written by Tim White
Edited by Mike Atlin
Whip Cracking by Ken Burnside

Welcome to the sixth installment of Why Does That Thing Have So Many Lasers?, a multi-part investigation into how ships are designed and built in five popular space combat games: Full Thrust, Colonial Battlefleet, Starmada AE, Starmada Nova, and Squadron Strike. This week, I’ll be discussing small craft and carriers.

It wouldn’t be good ol’fashion space opera without hordes of fighters on the table. While there are arguments that say space fighters don’t make any kind of sense, they’re present in the movies and TV series we base these games on, so any rule system that allows unit design needs to account for them. All five systems let you design your own carriers and outfit them with fighters or your choice or design.

Carrier Design

Fighters need carriers, and carrier design doctrine varies from system to system, and how much detail the designers wanted to saddle the players with. Thankfully, none of them force you to do a “true WWII aircraft carrier” style ship, which is nothing but a floating airfield. As is common in a lot of sci-fi settings, you can carry a handful of fighters on a dedicated combat vessel to give it a built-in flanking buddy.

Colonial Battlefleet, with its ship role system, allows you to make a “pure carrier” and this gives benefits to the fighters that it launches, and gives the ship a much better launch rate, while flagships come with free fighters, to help guard them. Interestingly, for hybrid carriers, Colonial Battlefleet has carrier launch capabilities eat into the weapon mounts, so there’s a trade-off between carrier capability and main guns.

In Full Thrust and both editions of Starmada, you buy hangar space or carrier space, as a system which costs hull space and build points. From there you, you purchase fighters separately with specific guidance on how much space each squadron or wing of fighters takes up, but aside from hull spaces on the ship, there’s never a specific trade-off between weapons and carrier capability like there is in Colonial Battlefleet. Starmada Admiralty Edition has options for launch tubes to increase the launch rate for the fighters purchased. Pretty much this was required to make a dedicated carrier in those rules, unless you played with an optional rule, that let you start a scenario with all fighters on the map. That optional rule became the default with Starmada Nova.

Squadron Strike takes both approaches, and then some. You have to buy fighter launch catapults and landing bays, and these have to go into your weapon mount slots, and define your launch and land capabilities on the ship. Inside the ship, there’s a Starmada-esque system called “Parking” where your fighters stay, ready to launch, and then there are hangars, where fighters are refueled and re-armed. Squadron Strike also limits the number of fighter squadrons a carrier can have in space at any time to the carrier’s Bridge track, which should help prevent the “soap bubble” carriers we saw with Full Thrust. It is interesting that you can make “pulse” carriers (those that can launch a lot of fighters) and “sustained” carriers (ones that can re-arm a lot of fighters quickly) in the system.

Fighter Design

Like weapons, some game systems have stock fighters, and others allow you to design fighters, or modify fighters. The split mirrors the choices on weapons, with Full Thrust and Colonial Battlefleet using standard fighters. Full Thrust has seven types and Colonial Battlefleet has two, though the capabilities increase depending on what tech level of fighter technology is chosen. Colonial Battlefleet’s Man vs. Machine expansion adds fighters paralleling Battlestar Galactica, though they’re not in the basic design worksheet.

Starmada Admiralty Edition has 3 base fighter parameters to pick (squadron size, speed and defense) as well as 2 major weapon related choices that define its attack ability (attack accuracy and type). Accuracy and Type are separated out, as fighters are allowed to have 2 different attack modes. Type includes fighter, striker, seeker, boarding pod and breacher. Each attack line may have up to 3 traits picked from a list of 14 fighter traits (all related to attacking).

Starmada Nova has a similar structure, but simplified. All fighters are the same unless modified by traits, although there is a distinction between fighters and drones (one shot fighters). There are 6 fighter traits to pick from which affect its attack ability, defense or speed.

Squadron Strike, as you’re probably growing to expect, provides a bucket load of options. Fighters have four basic parameters (size, thrust, endurance and pivot), and you can mix and match fighters into a squadron; squadrons are capped at 12 fighters each. Mecha are available as a fighter type. Fighters are designed sort of like very small ships in the old game Starfire, with systems associated with hit boxes, which are damaged from left to right. You can place systems in boxes to improve those four parameters, plus weapons and defensive systems, plus a few other non-weapon systems, like ECCM and a system that alters how their movement precedence is handled. The same system is used for building boarding shuttles, and the weapon designs for fighters use the same system that ship weapon designs to, only with much smaller size limits. How many actions is limited by fighter crew; the pilot gets one action beyond flying the fighter, each additional crewman adds two actions per turn. Oh, you can even specify fighter weapon arcs in designing things.

Full Thrust and Starmada Admiralty Edition allow fighters to have their own FTL drives. Full Thrust and Squadron Strike allow rider ships (a big ship carries smaller ships into combat) to recreate Traveller Battleriders, or SFB PFs. Related to fighters are shuttles, as seen in Star Trek. Starmada Admiralty Edition added them for the SFU conversion, Starmada Nova ported them over in the streamlined rules, and Squadron Strike has some built, including ones that fit the “basic shuttle” “boarding shuttle” and “heavy cargo lifter” roles; you can design other shuttles with the fighter design tools.

Full Thrust:

  • Design your own Fighters: No
  • # of Different Fighter Designs: 7
  • Types of Fighters: N/A
  • Fighter Parameters: N/A
  • # Fighter Traits/Systems: N/A
  • Design your own fighter weapons: N/A
  • Independent/FTL Fighters: Yes
  • Motherships: Yes
  • Other Small Craft: No

Colonial Battlefleet:

  • Design your own Fighters: No
  • # of Different Fighter Designs: 2
  • Types of Fighters: N/A
  • Fighter Parameters: N/A
  • # Fighter Traits/Systems: N/A
  • Design your own fighter weapons: N/A
  • Independent/FTL Fighters: No
  • Motherships: No
  • Other Small Craft: No

Starmada Admiralty Edition:

  • Design your own Fighters: Yes
  • # of Different Fighter Designs: N/A
  • Types of Fighters: Fighter, Striker, Seeker, Boarding Pod, Breacher
  • Fighter Parameters: Flight size, Speed, Defense
  • # Fighter Traits/Systems: 14 (all related to weapons)
  • Design your own fighter weapons: No
  • Independent/FTL Fighters: Yes
  • Motherships: No
  • Other Small Craft: No

Starmada Nova:

  • Design your own Fighters: Yes
  • # of Different Fighter Designs: N/A
  • Types of Fighters: Fighter, Drone
  • Fighter Parameters: None (all related to Traits)
  • # Fighter Traits/Systems: 6 (2 related to weapons)
  • Design your own fighter weapons: No
  • Independent/FTL Fighters: No
  • Motherships: No
  • Other Small Craft: Shuttles (one type)

Squadron Strike:

  • Design your own Fighters: Yes
  • # of Different Fighter Designs: N/A
  • Types of Fighters: Mecha, Fighter
  • Fighter Parameters: Thrust, Pivot, Endurance, Fighter Size
  • # Fighter Traits/Systems: 11 (independent of weapon)
  • Design your own fighter weapons: Yes
  • Independent/FTL Fighters: No
  • Motherships: Yes
  • Other Small Craft: Shuttles (3 default designs + design your own)
Advertisements

6 responses to “Small Craft and Carriers in Five Squadron Level Space Combat Games

  1. Pingback: New Guest Series: Why Does That Thing Have So Many Lasers? | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

  2. Robert Eaglestone September 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks for this. This series in general is giving me a good idea about what sorts of choices are handled, and how, in squadron design.

    • jeffro September 18, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      I’m happy to be able to run it, especially since there are no magazines that cover this and the game publishers’ websites don’t tend to have breakdowns and comparisons like this. (Thanks, Tim!!)

  3. Doug (The_Beast) September 24, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Something Ken’s experienced once or twice.

    Would still like to see the FT specified as FT:XD.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: