While my goal for this series of articles was to port the Lunar-class to each of the five systems, Squadron Strike’s ship design engine was the definite outlier. It’s the one where I had to make the fewest compromises to get the BFG ship to work. Indeed, my temptation while doing the conversion was to go deeper into Squadron Strike than the conversion called for. In this section, I say “hello” to temptation. As long as I’m doing a deeper dive, I also decided to make the ship fight in 3D.
While this ship is based on the 2D design of the Lunar, I wanted to make something that wasn’t as constrained by BFG, but would fly like a Lunar ported to a more detailed system, and that could be competitive against “native” SS ships. You’ll notice a lot more internal systems. Some of these include: Cargo (free hits in the game but very important in campaigns), ECM and ECCM, auxiliary reactors, shuttles, missile reloads, roll thrusters to let the ship spin on its long axis in a fight, and infantry platoons to defend against enemy boarders.
I added two defenses (and a counter to one of those defenses) as ship’s systems for the revised Lunar-class. I added ECM (which will be a happy find for anyone playing the Eldar), and I added component armor. ECM is a straightforward die roll modifier; a ship’s uncountered ECM is added to the Accuracy numbers of any weapons fired at the ship. ECCM is the number of dice you roll; each die that equals or exceeds your ship’s Crew Rate cancels one point of ECM on all targets. I like how Squadron Strike ties ECM to Crew Rate. The default Crew Rate is 6+.
Component armor is shown by the “double dagger” symbols after some system names, like ‡1‡. When damage hits a system with component armor, the box absorbs a number of additional hits equal to the component armor rating. So, damaging a group of boxes with 1 component armor takes two damage points, rather than one.
And then there’s 3D defenses. Perhaps the most significant differences with the 2D sheet are the side view showing top and bottom defenses. I used the Top and Bottom defenses I put into the sheet on the 2D version.
Weapons Arcs and Weapons
Where 2D arcs are shown as a 12-point ring, in 3D, we rotate the arcs by 90 degrees and make them into squashed out spheres. The white spaces are arcs you can fire through, and the black spaces are obscured. The tool that lets you select those arcs allows you to position the center of the firing arc, and select a span (Span 1, span 2, span 3) that automatically opens up parts of the arc that are within that distance from the location chosen. You can also select “Custom” which sets it to Span 3, and you can turn off windows individually, which is what I did here.
Because I designed this in the same worksheet that I did the 2D version in, the weapons I’d made were available. However, I wanted to use weapons that were more in line with what Squadron Strike allows, so I made new ones to do the same basic roles.
I replaced the Lances with a Volcano Cannon to do the same basic job. It shoots out the same 2D arc the lances have, but extends up by 60 degrees to give some coverage when firing at targets above the ship. The Batteries got replaced with the Plasma Destructors, which cover the 2D arcs I chose earlier, but have a 30 degree traverse below the ship. The turret weapons were particularly tricky; getting the full coverage arc is easy – I just select “Top” or “Bottom” – what’s tricky is deciding whether to follow the miniature (which puts them both on the top of the ship) or to split them up to give full coverage. In the end, I decided to put them on the top, like the mini. It’s a weakness that fighter pilots should definitely exploit!
In re-imagining the weapons, I also let myself play with the deeper toolbox in Squadron Strike. I loved designing weapons in Starmada: Admiralty Edition. In Squadron Strike, I’ve got a weapon design system with an even deeper toolbox, and some ground rules. One of them seems to be that doubling a weapon’s range triples its cost. Another is that doubling a weapon’s average damage seems to triple its cost, and doing both (!) gets really expensive, in a hurry. While I’ve not played with them, there appear to be toggles on the Universe Settings tab that change these ratios…but it was illustrative, just to see what was under the hood and playing with things.
When I re-imagined the Lances into Volcano Cannons, I kept Halves Armor from the Lances, and replaced the damage 6/High Impact 1:1 combo with Damage 4, and Penetration 4. With Penetration, you use a die roll called 2d10- – roll two ten sided dice, subtract the smaller result from the larger, and that’s your result. With a Penetration roll of 4, any die roll of 5 or higher is treated as a 4. Finally, I added 2xHits SI, which means that when the weapon gets to the SI track of a ship, every point of damage it does removes two boxes; this can turn it into a ruthless shipkiller pretty quicky! I changed the AP costs on the Volcano Cannon, so that they take 1 AP to fire (this is shown by the shading of their range bands.)
I did extensive modification on the Deathstrike Missile – the replacement for the BFG Torpedo. It’s still using the SS Missile rules, but it now has the Bursting trait. With normal damage allocation in SS, every group of boxes absorbs enough damage to mark off one box. With Bursting, each group of boxes absorbs enough damage to mark off two boxes. This makes the missiles more likely to shred something important as they chew their way through the ship.
The Plasma Destructors lost their High Impact trait, and got changed to a weapon with a fairly high Penetration value, and Multi-Pen (choose 2) – this means when I roll the weapon, I roll four dice and take the two of my choice to determine the penetration damage, which makes it much less likely I’ll get a low value.
The Nova Cannon remains unchanged from the 2D version, except it has Double Penetration which allows you to Roll Penetration twice and add the results together.
This brings us to the end to what I hope you found to be a comprehensive review of the options available to recreate some of your favorite space ships. Each of them has their strong suits and weaknesses and some work better for specific genres than others. It’s probably not much surprise to all that my personal favorite is Squadron Strike. The wealth of options and support from the designer are simply the best in my opinion. Heck, the way they manage how to build ships in a competitive campaign is better than anything I’ve seen out there, just because they try to let players decide what the dimensions of the box are through a bid-and-reveal process.
I know some people might not have checked out SS’s design system, because they think a 3D game is going to be too difficult to play, or too hard to get onto the table. I hope this article has shined some light on its capabilities. I also hope that this article has shown that Squadron Strike can be played in 2D and, depending on ship design, can dial down to the same level of complexity as the other systems presented here, or played in 3D with additional interesting, crunchy detail and flavor.
Regardless of which system is your favorite, may you have many happy ours of ship tweaking and may your dice always roll high!
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.