Monday, May 23, 2011

Thought for the Evening: Starmada as Ground Combat

Last night's game with the Searchlights really got me thinking about using Starmada to simulate ground combat.  There's been a previous attempt at this, converting OGRE to Starmada, but it was a little simplistic and was developed in the early days of the Admiralty Edition, before there were many supplements (whether this was good or bad is somewhat uncertain).  I've been having a BattleTech / giant stompy mech game with tanks itch recently, and I've been thinking about buying Wardogs, but I don't know that I really want to buy Wardogs if Starmada can do the same thing with a little conversion work.  So I think that's going to be my project in the near future, since the campaign rules are in a playtestable state (and thus are released into the wild to remain fairly static, leaving me free to create other stuff)...

Some preliminary notes:

I'm looking to make things armor-centric, whether that armor is tanks or mecha (I'm a tank guy myself, but hey, if mecha draws a larger playerbase, I'm not one to stop 'em).  Movement should probably be Basic Movement, and possibly alternating rather than pre-plotted, but pre-plot would work fine, too.  My thought is that most vehicles should be flotilla ships without normal SU caps (with hulled ships being reserved for big things - OGREs, superheavy tanks, titanic mechs, naval vessels, fortresses, and the like), but with some other restrictions...  I guess what I need to do is build 'templates' for what is legal and what isn't.  Something like the following:
Light armored vehicles: flotilla ships, max engines 6, one weapon of up to ## SU mounted in an ABCD turret, max armor 2.
Medium armored vehicles: flotilla, max engines 5, one weapon of up to ## SU mounted in an ABCD turret and a coaxial weapon of up to ## SU, also in an ABCD turret, max armor 3.
Heavy armored vehicles: flotilla, max engines 3, one weapon of up to ## SU in ABCD, one coax of up to ## SU in ABCD, up to two sponson weapons each of up to ## SU in AC and BD, respectively, max armor 4.

The purpose of these templates, naturally, is to create some degree of verisimilitude.  Land vehicle design is just different from naval ship design (which is the assumed basis for starship design).  Tanks covered in guns facing in all directions have been out of fashion since World War I, and G-arc tank destroyers haven't seen a whole lot of use since World War II.  I think the existence of templates might help facilitate a minimally-painful transition from normal ship design practices (read: as many range-15 G weapons as you can fit in your hull and CRAT limits) to some that are slightly more believable through the lens of modern armored warfare.

Mechs are going to be a little tougher, but probably arms should map to ABC and ABD.  I think shoulder-mounted weapons may be just A and just B...  GH and GI feel wrong, since they shouldn't be able to fire directly left and right.  Maybe just AB regardless of the shoulder mounted on.  Also considering mandating Overthrusters for the torso twists, or maybe just the Grumm Pivot ability (which would match the BT fluff, where the neurohelmets enable faster reaction times).

Finally, infantry is looking like fighters.  Slooow fighters and inexpensive fighters, but they do get to react, and you can carry, embark, and debark them (going to modify retrieval so that you can retrieve and then relaunch - doesn't make much sense otherwise).  Not planning on using marines, boarding, teleporters, or any of that...  likewise, I guess strikers and seekers could be used for guided missiles, but I'm not sure it's necessary.  I've also considered using them for airstrikes - you have a HQ unit near the rear of the map with strikers.  You call in an airstrike, which is launching the striker in-game, and then the enemy has a chance to shoot down the incoming aircraft before their weapons impact.  So that's a thought...  might also have to use seekers, but secretly designate a target hex instead of a target unit.  That makes sense with calling in coordinates.

This leads into artillery.  I really want to use a variant of the searchlight rules for spotting for artillery.  I want to have range 30 minimum-range artillery pieces where you basically need to have spotting units (going to need some "Indirect Fire" and "Can't fire while moving" traits for those, too), and I think that can be achieved with searchlights.  Terrain's going to effect this, too - that's the other tricky part of ground combat games, terrain.  Something to work out tomorrow / later today / in the near future.

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