Where Do All Those Lasers Go? — Ship Design Comparisons for 2D Squadron Level Space Combat Games
Written by Tim White
Edited by Mike Atlin
Press Ganging by Ken Burnside
Welcome back, fellow Admirals, to the second series of articles comparing ship design processes across five popular space combat games: Full Thrust Cross Dimensions, Colonial Battlefleet, Starmada Admiral’s Edition, Starmada Nova Edition, and Squadron Strike. Now that we’ve discussed their differences and similarities, we’re going to dive in and explore how a Battlefleet Gothic (BFG) Imperial Lunar Class Cruiser from the Warhammer 40K universe would be represented in each game.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Full Thrust Cross Dimensions
Part III: Colonial Battlefleet
Part IV: Starmada Admiralty Edition
Part V: Starmada Nova Edition
Part VI: Squadron Strike – 2D
Part VII: Squadron Strike – 3D
As our baseline, we’re going to look at the Lunar Class Cruiser in its native game system, and cover how that game system’s mechanics generate the “feel” for the setting and define, to some extent, the tactics used by the unit.
Lunar Class Cruiser by Games Workshop
The Lunar class Cruiser is an immense ship, 5km long, with a crew of 95,000, but that makes it only a middling sized combatant in the grandiose 40k setting. Rather than try to fit its in-universe dimensions into any of these game systems, we’re going to look at it from the purpose-of-construction perspective. (This also gets us out of the question of “why build something so big?” and “what the heck is it made of?”) The Lunar is a medium-sized multi-role combatant in its own universe. She can fight as a front-line warship. She has powerful, if somewhat short-ranged broadside macro-cannon batteries and lance emplacements, and bow torpedo launchers to break up hostile formations. She’s neither terribly fast nor handy, but has heavy armor. Doctrinally, the Empire deployed Lunars in pairs, where overlapping firing arcs can compensate for the maneuverability limitations.
In BFG most weapons do 1 point of damage per hit. Each level of shields can absorb a point of damage, and shields typically regenerate at the end of each turn. Armor is represented by a target number using a d6. 4+ armor succeeds on a 4 or better, 5+ armor on a 5 or better, and so on. The higher the target number, the greater the likelihood that a shot will inflict damage. Lances ignore many of these factors, but are stopped by shields like batteries. Torpedoes are dumb-fire rockets that follow a straight trajectory for several turns. They ignore shields, but can be shot down by turrets and fighters, and have trouble getting through strong armor. Once fired, torpedoes cannot be fired again until the ship is given a Reload Ordinance order.
One novel feature of BFG is the ability to issue “orders” to your ships. Orders permit the ship to perform one activity more efficiently at the expense of others. “Lock on” makes batteries and lances more effective, but prevents the ship from turning. “Come to new Heading” doubles the turn rate, but reduces firepower. “All ahead full” increase speed at the expense of firepower and maneuverability. “Reload Ordnance” prepares small craft and torpedoes for launching. This can be seen as a very high granularity “power management” system.
Defensively, the Lunar Class cruiser has 8 Hull points, Armor 5+ on the sides, armor 5+ on the aft, and 6+ on the prow. The ship has two shields, and a pair of turrets (point defense weapons) that cover all sides of the ship.
Maneuver-wise, It has a top speed of speed of 20cm per turn (about 8″), and can, without using any special abilities, make a single 45 degree heading change on each turn. By the standards of the setting, it’s not terribly maneuverable, but is average for the faction it’s part of.
The batteries and lances are broadside mounts and have a maximum range of 30cm, half again as far as the maximum move of the ship. Normally, the Lunar has a six-tube torpedo launcher on the prow, with torpedoes able to pursue at a speed of 30 cm per turn. A variant replaces the torpedo tubes with a powerful, if unreliable, Nova Canon.
Bearing all this in mind, let us try to make a Lunar class cruiser in the five game systems we covered in the prior series, staying as close to the source material as possible.