Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

A Lunar Class Cruiser in Squadron Strike (2D)

We’ll be re-building the good ol’ Lunar Class Cruiserin Squadron Strike by Ad Astra Games. While we’re going to design the ship for 2D, there are parts of SS that work for 3D; in fact, the ship will be designed in 3D and automatically converted to a 2D sheet when we print it out.

Squadron Strike

For play in 2D, I wanted to stay as faithful to Battle Fleet Gothic as possible. In SS ablative shields come in groups of 6 – so I started with weapons doing 6 damage and turned off Penetration, which is variable additional damage. This made Lances and Batteries 6 damage weapons. Scaling by 6 means that most ships need to take 48 points of damage to blow up. SS’s damage allocation system is more variable (and more detailed) than the other games here, which makes pre-determining how much damage it takes to kill a ship more like picking the center of a statistical range, rather than a hard-and-fast number. To me, this is a feature, but people’s preferences may vary.

SS’s damage model has ships taking hull damage, damage to internal systems, and finally damage to structural integrity, which, when it runs out, causes the ship to explode. Ships can get hit repeatedly on the same hit location track and have damage fall through to structural integrity more frequently, and die fast. Sometimes, ships will take damage to multiple hit locations and spread the damage out. I picked an structural integrity rating of 16, and bought 16 hull boxes as a matching value. While Squadron Strike uses Cargo to set a ship’s cruise endurance, it’s not part of the Battlefleet Gothic design space, so I skipped that. I set the number of non-Hull/non structural integrity internal boxes at a cap between 32 and about 40 total.

Structural integrity also sets your ship’s budget for space points to allocate to the design; it also sets the ship’s “surface area”, which show up as points you can allocate to length, width and height.

Defenses

Converting the shielding over was easy – two shields on the base Lunar convert to 12 shield bubbles on each facing. Defensive facings are the first place where 3D shows up in the design process, and to play it fair, I put the same defenses on the Top and Bottom of the ship as I did on Nose, Aft, Left and Right.

Inside the shields, there’s armor. I decided that 4+ armor in Gothic would be “no armor”, 5+ an armor rating of 2, and 6+ a rating of 4. For armor I decided that the 4+ from Gothic would equal no armor, 5+ would represent an armor rating of 2, and 6+ a rating of 4. You can see on the SSD below that the ship has 2 shield-shapes in the side and aft facings, and 4 shields on the prow. I decided that the top and bottom facings would have 2 armor as well, since Gothic didn’t specify. This was the only system that allowed us to have different armour ratings on different facings. It would’ve let us set different shield bubble values on different facings as well, of course.

While there was no way to replicate the omni-shield of BFG, one of the things shields in BFG does is regenerate. I put in a general shield regenerator system that’s rated at 12 bubbles per turn, which hit the shield strength and regeneration capabilities quite well, and, like armor, was a closer match than any of the other systems.

The length, width and height I allocated when I set up the ship determined the cost of the ship’s shields and armor on each facing. It also set up a “Profile” number, which is a die roll modifier for weapons hitting the hip. When designing ships for campaigns, you have a set of universe toggles which can turn this to “all ships have the same size modifier” or “flat size modifier” or “size modifier varies based on facing as set by the ship’s dimensions.” For the Battlefleet Gothic setting, I kept it as a flat size modifier. In particular, for the Lunar-class, it turned into a modifier of 0, which nicely reflects how things work in BFG.

Maneuver

To more closely match BFG, I set the ships to Mode 0, which has no turn-to-turn momentum tracking. Movement, and the ability to change heading (pivoting in SS terminology) are tracks of internal boxes on the SSD, in fixed locations. Movement is in row 10, and Pivot is in Row 6. Bridge boxes generate an in-game resource called Action Points, and I set the bridge to 4 APs, and I used AP costs on systems to match the BFG “orders” system, sort of upping the granularity.

I’ve roughly divided the BFG movement of 20cm by 5 to derive the engine power, and assumed average dice for the “all ahead full” roll to arrive at a max speed of 7. I set the ship’s maximum move to 7, and gave it an AP cost of 3. I also set the “1” box to AP 3. This simulates the “all ahead full” and “burn retros” special orders from BFG (i.e. if they want to go fast or very slow they will not have many AP available for other things – like weapons, turning etc.). I set the maximum pivot rating to 3, since the ship could cover 90 degrees in BFG in a single turn. I assigned AP costs as follows: Pivot 1 (light gray) is 1 AP to use the box. Pivot 2 and costs 2 APs, and pivot 3 costs 3 APs, meaning that this ship has make interesting maneuver decisions about where it spends its APs. This reflects the range in special orders from “lock on weapons” (no turning) to “come to new heading” (makes two 45 degree turns).

When assigning boxes to the movement and pivot tracks, you can freely decide how many copies of each box are on the track – I turned off the display of the “5” and “6” boxes on the move track. You can assign AP costs to each box with the same value, and while the values in the boxes and the AP costs need to be in descending order (I kind of cheated for the 3 AP costs on the “1” box of the Movement track). I also cheated another way – I didn’t fill in the Roll track, which works the same way, because not only is this ship going to mostly fly in 2D, but I didn’t want the boxes there both eating precious hull points for construction, and acting as “free hits.”

Weapons

Now the exciting part – Weapons! One of the early decisions I made was that my atomic unit of damage was about 6 points. I set a base range of 12 hexes as the conversion factor for the 30 cm range weapons (it’s about a foot, my hex map has 1″ hexes, so it even “looked right” with the models.)

Setting accuracy took a little more calculation. I took the relative ratio of firepower versus the number of dice rolled versus a target moving away (median values), and modified by the basic 50% hit chance. In Squadron Strike, accuracy is expressed as N+, for a d10, so lower Accuracy numbers are more accurate. This got me an Accuracy target of 6+ at long range and 7+ at short range. To match BFG, batteries had a rate of fire of 3.

I used the same process to make Lances. Lance accuracy doesn’t change with range, so that was easy – I needed a 6+ (50% hit chance, same thing as a 4+ in BFG). Squadron Strike doesn’t have “ultimate” counters on defenses, so I needed to come up with something different than just “ignores armor.” There are two options available, Ignores Armor N+ (usually 8+, 9+ or 10+) which, if your raw Accuracy roll exceeds the threshold, means that weapon ignores the armor of the target. I went with “Halves Armor”, which halves the armor rating, rounding down. Mostly this was to reduce the “which weapon got the special effect?” chatter at the table.

Interestingly, the Lance and the Batteries came out at about the same hull point costs – the size of what I need to put on the ship. This matches how BFG has them, which was a nice coincidence.

To simulate BFG’s exploding die re-rolls, I had two choices – I could use the Continuous Trait, which like Ignores Armor, is a “if your Accuracy die exceeds a threshold, the weapon fires again, immediately.” It matches the mechanics pretty well, but experience tells me that these ships are a little more fragile inside than their BFG baseline. I went with “High Impact 1:1” to make it fit the “lock on weapons” fire order. With High Impact, I get a bonus point of damage for every point that I exceed the Accuracy target by on the die roll – for example, if I roll an 8 on a d10, with an Accuracy 6+ weapon, I get two points of damage added to the result. High Impact can never add more damage than the base damage of the weapon, but I wasn’t going to hit that mark in any case. While this isn’t mechanically the same as BFG’s rerolls, I believe it achieves the same idea (i.e. pour power into weapons to net more pain against the enemy ship).

I added an AP cost to the High Impact trait to simulate the “lock on fire” order in BFG. It’s paid individually per firing of the weapon – with an RoF of 3 on the Batteries, this is going to get expensive, and fast; a single broadside is going to use all the APs generated by the ship. My experience with Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander made it really tempting to add more APs and more uses for them on the ship, but my goal this time around is to make something that brings BFG to Squadron Strike’s rules to show the game off to my friends.

That same reasoning applied to firing arcs. Both weapons have side arcs of 3 windows (each window is 30 degrees, so this is a 90 degree firing arc). This exactly matches what they have in BFG. SS lets you really pick exactly what arcs you want, both horizontally and vertically. That size equivalence I mentioned earlier made it easy to retain consistency with BFG, where 3 points of battery firepower equals a lance

I designed “torps” to use the “missile” rules in SS. This means they are launched on one turn, and impact (or miss) on the next turn, up to their maximum range. SS also has “torpedo” rules, which involves a counter on the table which accelerates and pivots from turn to turn – and in general are harder to destroy. I felt the missile rules of SS depict the low-tech torps from BFG pretty well. They work well in another way too: I simulated the BFG “reload” order by requiring an expenditure at the start of each turn, per launcher — this is the grey box before the rate of fire on the weapon table. SS also has rules for tracking specific amounts of ammunition and reloading procedures, but I felt this was a bit truer to BFG. These “torps” have a Profle number of 3, making them hard to hit with lances and batteries. I also gave them “Ignores Shields” as discussed earlier. For the defense against torps, I recreated the BFG turret weapon: it has very high accuracy, and a 360 degree arc, but can only damage small targets (i.e. anything that is not a ship). I’ve given them superior accuracy so they hit regular “torps” on a 6+.

Finally the Nova Cannon. First, if you take this weapon it is keel mounted. It fires only through the single nose window (so 30 degree wide arc instead of the 90 degree arcs of most of the other weapon on the Lunar). It has a one-hex radius area of effect. I’ve also given it some random damage – as it has in BFG. This weapon can do anywhere from 6 to 18 damage if it hits.

The SSD was created using the Excel design sheet provided, and well maintained, by Ad Astra Games. Ken Burnside is constantly updating this sheet to improve its functionality and to make tweaks as exploits pop up. Like both CB and Starmada, if you have question you just need to go to the Ad Astra forums and ask. Either Ken or helpful minion will be along to provide answers quickly. The spreadsheet is huge and allows you to design weapons used in common for all ships, plus fighter design, fifteen ships, and now, five fortress designs. The SSDs here are from an Adobe AIR program. You copy XML from the Excel export tabs and paste it into the Adobe AIR app, and it generates a nice JPEG or PDF SSD – actually, it’ll generate a multi-page file in PDF format. The art you see – the top down image of the Lunar-class – is something you set in the ship design tab.

One thing that really separates the SS ships sheets from the others is a post-processor called SSPDF. This is installed on your computer using Adobe AIR and that takes the Excel XML from the design sheet and outputs the beautiful SSD you see here. Ship images of the top and side can be used (you can see the top image of the Lunar in this one), to really add a nice touch to the sheet.

Below is a 2D SSD:

For links to all the posts in Tim White’s first series comparing five popular 2D squadron level space combat games, see here.

For links to all the posts in Tim White’s second series working through a complete ship design in each of those games, see here.

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10 responses to “A Lunar Class Cruiser in Squadron Strike (2D)

  1. Pingback: Ship Design Comparisons in Five Squadron Level Space Combat Games | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

  2. Robert Eaglestone January 7, 2014 at 10:57 am

    That is a very slick ship sheet. But it brings up the number one problem for me with ship design: they’re either far too detailed, or far too abstract. Is there a happy medium?

    • jeffro January 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

      Yes. It’s called Car Wars. ;)

    • Jason Packer January 7, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      “…far too detailed…”

      I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever encountered such a thing. :)

    • Ken Burnside January 7, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      Less flippantly – what abstractions are you willing to live with?

      You can generally get by with “offense, defense, movement” – Squadron Strike adds “Endurance” and “Command & Control” to that, as well as the more traditional “extra stuff on the ship for peacetime missions.”

      For offense, I really prefer mathematically modelable weapons. For defense, there needs to be more than “ablative armor/SFB shields” or “armor saves.” For movement, we identified three ways movement gets handled in spaceship media.

      Combine just the “big options” in SS into a grid, and you get:

      Three “families” of weapons times five major defense types (ECM, Deflector shields, Ablative shields, Armor-as-DR, Component Armor) times three movement modes, and there’s 45 single variable permutations to consider…

      Much like GURPS, part of Squadron Strike’s campaign setup is turning options OFF.

      One of the big things in Squadron Strike was looking at the “high detail” systems out and about circa 2008-2009, or that had recently left the market (Bab5Wars, Fed Commander/SFB) and asking two questions:

      1) Is there a feature unique to one of these games that adds fun? For example, Bab5War’s mix of structure hits and “DR on components” influenced how we did component armor in Squadron Strike, because nothing else had it. (We balked at doing component armor 3 in SS)

      2) Is there a way to process their damage allocation or movement in less time? Simultaneous pre-plot speeds up the game, while using future position markers eliminates the analysis paralysis aspect of it. SS’s damage allocation combines the table-lookup and “hunt through the checkboxes” steps into one, because humans aren’t great at “random seek times.”

      Rather than “fast playing OR high detail”, we tried to get “fast playing AND high detail” and seemed to hit the mark.

  3. Ken Burnside January 7, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Robert: Yes, it’s called Squadron Strike. :)

    A lot of the decision-making you’re seeing is “upstream” stuff as well as ship design stuff. EG, a lot of these decisions are made once per campaign and everything lives within those bounds.

    • jeffro January 7, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      I was going to say that Squadron Strike was the spiritual heir to Car Wars… just as the Amiga was the spiritual heir to the Atari 800. I didn’t think many people would get the reference, though…!

  4. Ethan McKinney February 2, 2014 at 2:00 am

    I don’t think the turrets work out exactly right. In BF:G, they get to roll against each attacking bomber squadron, or against each attacking torpedo spread. I don’t know how you’d expect to represent fighter and bomber squadrons, but unless a single SqSt fighter represents a complete squadron, an RoF of one a Turret point is ridiculous. I’ve yet to work out how to accomplish it, though.

  5. Ethan McKinney February 2, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Tim, is the spreadsheet for the Lunar available? I could recreate it, but it would be nice to have a starting point to work on other ships.

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