Not a whole lot of news on Starmada development; the devs have gotten kind of quiet in hopes of having some things in the book be surprises when it's released. They're doing final playtesting now, and it should still release in January, but we're not sure just when in January. The only interesting thing I've learned recently is that the Escort trait turns the ship possessing it into a line-of-sight blocker, meaning that escorts can screen more important vessels from enemy fire. At present, escorts also block friendly fire, however. They should still be useful under alternating movement, though, since you could move a capital ship, have an enemy move to attack it from out of its firing arcs (ie, somewhere where it cannot retaliate well), and then interpose an escort on a later move. They would be a clusterf*ck with pre-plotted movement, though.
This introduces an interesting subversion of the standard alternating movement protocol. In previous games my family played with alternating, the optimal strategy was to delay moving your heavy hitters until absolute last, with light ships serving as a pad so that your enemy would have to position their big ships before you did. This puts your heavy ships into the best places both to survive and to deal damage to the enemy, which saves you points and costs them. From what I understand, this is also the standard strategy in BattleTech, where alternating movement is also the rule. However, with Escort, there is now an incentive to move heavies earlier-than-last and to delay moving light ships, which is a neat twist.
Alex has also launched an Obsidian Portal site for his Traveller game next semester, so I've been doing Trav work again. Helped Drew roll up a character last night, and debugged a trade spreadsheet that I pulled down from the Mongoose Traveller Aids yahoo group. There was a bug which used the wrong indices for lookups of purchase and sale modifiers for speculative cargo. Fixed version is available here, and is also up on the MgTAids page. I also put together a (kinda ugly) spreadsheet to filter illegal items by government type, available here.
I've also been thinking about weapons. First, I'd really like to see a weapon modification system for Mongoose Traveller, which would allow you to take a base weapon (gauss rifle, say) and then alter it in more-or-less balance-preserving ways, where each gain has commensurate loss. For example, +ammo capacity, +weight (large, heavy assault drum magazines), or +damage, -ammo (larger than standard calibre, but fewer shots per cartridge - this is actually the tradeoff between the Gauss Rifle and the MagRail Rifle in Mercenary). It'd be an interesting project, but a bit more work than I'm up for presently.
My other primary weapon thought is on shotguns, namely that Gun Combat (Shotgun) is... not fantastic. All other gun combat skills have at least two weapons available to them (more if you count TL variants of the same weapon), and most of those have some variation in law levels (except Energy Rifle; Energy Pistol has stunners vs. laser pistols, Slug Rifle has Accelerator Rifle vs Gauss Rifle, and Slug Pistol has pretty much everything vs Gauss Pistol, which is banned earlier due to auto). Shotgun has exactly one weapon. Not really OK. Since the base shotgun is legal up to law level 6, it looks like the shotguns category needs an early banned version. I present for your consideration the Assault Shotgun, based on the AA-12 and the Pancor Jackhammer.
Assault Shotgun: TL7, Range Class: Shotgun. Damage 4d6, Auto 4, Recoil 2. Mass 6 kg or 7kg with extended magazine. Magazine 12 or 24. Cost 1000 Cr, Ammo 20 or 40 Cr.
Recoil's really going to hurt on full auto... but it's a nice capability to have, and also renders the weapon illegal at LL4 as a light assault weapon. And another just for kicks:
Double-Barrel Shotgun: TL4, Range Class: Shotgun. Damage 4d6, Auto 2, Recoil 2. Mass 3kg. Magazine 2. Cost 100 Cr, Ammo 3 Cr.
That's right folks - Auto 2. No use for firing on full auto, but it does let you burst for +2 damage and +1 recoil. It might be realistic for the double-barrel to take two minor actions to reload... but let's be fair here. It's a pretty awful weapon, and you're going to be reloading a lot if you decide to use it. It really doesn't need the extra handicap.