Boarding Craft

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Boarding Craft

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Tue Nov 20, 2018 5:24 am

Greetings,
As mentioned in the piracy thread I’m working on a boarding craft, being inspired by the (now sadly cancelled) Vanguard Kickstarter.

I aimed for something that would fit and be deployed from the hangar pods of the recent Element cruiser Kickstarter:
The hangar pod is designed to allow the rapid launch and recovery of small craft, typically light fighters or utility craft used for customs inspections and similar routine tasks.
Hangar pods are equipped with launch and recovery for craft up to 20 dtons and usually carry 24 light fighters and 6 launches, so I intend to replace the launches with my design. The standard launch and my boarding craft are however similar enough in external dimensions that any ship with docking space for a launch could carry this one, if needed/wanted.

Preferably, any boarding would be conducted against a target that has already surrendered or freely allows itself to be boarded (customs check). This is not always possible however, and thus the boarding craft is relatively heavily armoured and fast, and is equipped with a breaching tube and forced linkage apparatus. The breaching tube is booby-trapped to prevent counter-boarding.

Boarding craft carried aboard a ship with launch tubes (such as an Element cruiser with hangar pods) will be able to rapidly close with its target and deliver its load of up to 20 marines. A pair of craft can thus together carry and deliver an entire platoon. The trip is usually made as short as possibly, launching from close range when possible, primarily to reduce time exposed to hostile fire and to prevent a fast-moving target from running away.

The very cramped passenger section also means that passengers prefer not to travel within these craft for too long, though once the shooting starts few complain about the autodoc taking up precious leg room.

While the boarding craft is primarily intended for ship-to-ship transport of personnel, the hull is streamlined and it can be used for surface insertions when needed (or personnel transport to and from orbit). The acceleration benches can be folded away to create working space, such as for treating wounded after a hostile boarding, or to carry some cargo.

The shuttle is lightly armed with a beam laser, primarily meant for self-defense. The laser is by its nature a very accurate weapon, which is helpful for the lone pilot. Besides, a mothership and/or fighter escort should be available most of the time, so it can better focus on deliver its primary weapon, the onboard marines.

I might try to draw a deckplan some day, but for now I kinda imagine that breaching tube and forced linkage apparatus dominate the nose, with passenger and cargo space in the middle. Bridge is placed aft, with engineering at the far stern.

Anyway, here it is:

Boarding Craft, “Leech” (Temporary name)
TL15 Tons Cost
Hull 20 dt, streamlined 1,2
Armour 12, bonded SD 2 0,08
M-drive Thrust 6 1,2 2,4
Power plant (TL15, 20) 1 2
Fuel tanks 4 weeks 1
Bridge 3 dt 0,5
Computer /5 - 0,03

Weapons
Fixed mount - 0,1
Beam Laser - 0,5

Systems
Acceleration Benches x20 5 0,05
Breaching Tube 3 3
Booby-trapped (8D/round) - 1
Forced Linkage (TL15) 2 0,5
Autodoc (TL14) 0,5 1

Software Library, Man/0
Cargo 1,3

Total 20 12,36



Potential options include trying to squeeze in a slightly more powerful M-drive, a more powerful computer to run evade and/or fire control, change the weapon, add reflec, but this is what I’ve got for now!
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Bardicheart » Tue Nov 20, 2018 8:28 am

Few quick first impressions

I'd build them at TL 12 instead of 15 to cut costs on what may prove to be an "expendable" sub-craft.

I'd cut the armor down to about 8 pts. The most likely weapons firing at it will be secondary turrets mounting beam lasers or pulse lasers. A triple beam laser turret does 1D+2 damage so assume about an average roll of 4+2 and a bit from effect and 8pts should be just enough to soak all the damage. If its a pulse turret and it hits you'll take some damage but that's going to be true even at 12 pts of armor (avg 7+4 plus effect) so I guess it comes down to where you want to cut cost and weight to allow for other things. Like say adding a sandcaster to help soak that damage.

I'd try to get the thrust up to 8 if possible, maybe by sacrificing some of that armor. Spend less time as a target, the mission is to get the marines onboard ASAP; hell of a ride though and hope nobody ate anything greasy. Plus the extra thrust spend on maneuver may be worth more than all the armor (its always better not to get hit at all).

Streamlined is going to raise cost, are you boarding in an atmosphere or planning on using this as an emergency escape craft? If not I'd go for a spherical hull, partial streamlining and cut hull costs further.

I'd replace the laser with a sandcaster, the main ship should do the shooting, the mission of a boarding pod is to get the marines on target ASAP and in one piece, so go for defensive systems not offense.

Skip the booby trapped airlock. If they all made it on target and breached and it goes badly worrying about counter boarding is the least of their issues. Same with the autodoc, its a nice thought you care about your marines but I'd rather have 1 medic per 8 man squad instead (autodocs are immobile, marine medics aren't) and make sure the mother ship had a nice medical section with say 20 or so beds for casualties. I'd also change the benches to accommodate either 16 or 24 marines since a squad is typically 8 man (1 NCO, 1 Crpl, 1 medic, 1 grenadier, 4 rifle), unless you just wanted some extra spots for additional personnel.

Reflec wouldn't be a bad idea, again lasers are probably going to be your main threat so things that help against that will improve the odds for your marines. If you're attacking a ship that can afford to try an use bay weapons or barbettes against a small boarding pod, then your main attack ship is clearly not doing its job. Evade/1 would be a nice touch as well. You might consider some additional sensor stations on the main ship that can work on jamming the target ships sensor locks to help protect your pod as it hurtles towards its target at gut wrenching speeds.

I'd even consider changing this to a 10 dT and use more of them. Two breaches at two locations being harder to defend against than a single breach, four pods with an 8 man squad each puts a full platoon onboard in 4 locations that can be as close together or spread out as you like, the defender gets to guess where you'll breach at. But maybe not viable if you're replacing 20 dT launches.

Just my 2 bits though.
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Condottiere » Tue Nov 20, 2018 8:39 am

If you're going to sacrifice armour for speed, add a high burn thruster to close the range.

Maybe a drilling laser for those hard to reach places.
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Tue Nov 20, 2018 8:46 am

Thanks for the input!

I’ll try to provide a better/longer reply later on, but some quick stuff:

I initially built two craft, but the TL12 version didn’t have enough space for what I wanted (mostly due to the power plant). I’d have to sacrifice both armour and passenger seats.

Same goes for a smaller hull. Look at the light fighter in High Guard. Add a breaching tube to that and you’re full. Sure, downgrading sensors lets us squeeze in 8 troops, but still...

I chose 20 to be able to fit two full squads. Both the Deployment Shuttle ebook and the Element cruiser book have marine squads as two sections of four plus two attached specialists.

The autodoc is both expensive and immobile, yes. But it can ressurect fresh casualties. There’s also a budget variant at 100.000 cr, without resurrection capabilities.

Streamlining adds cost, yes. But in this case “only” 200.000 cr. I chose to add it so that it can be used for surface insertion of troops and also to give it some general personnel and cargo capability. Felt like a cheap price to pay for added utility.

A sandcaster might be a better weapon for it. I also considered a drilling laser so it could cut through hulls easier.

The boobytrapped airlock... well, it felt like a good idea, just in case. The lone crew member won’t be able to protect the ship on his own. It’s possible to make it cheaper (and less potent) though.



High burn thruster might work... it’d only need fuel for one or two rounds of burn...
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Condottiere » Tue Nov 20, 2018 8:54 am

If you're using small boarding craft, likely more than one will be deployed, and you can have two or three approaching from different angles.
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Bardicheart » Tue Nov 20, 2018 9:04 am

Condottiere wrote:
Tue Nov 20, 2018 8:39 am
If you're going to sacrifice armour for speed, add a high burn thruster to close the range.

Maybe a drilling laser for those hard to reach places.
+1 both ideas
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby AnotherDilbert » Tue Nov 20, 2018 3:15 pm

It's nicely balanced, but that also means that it's neither fish nor fowl...

I would start with a role: Is it a Customs Inspection craft or a Military Boarding craft? With that I mean: Is it intended to interface with civilians, or board enemy warships under power?

If we are to board enemy warships that evades and shot back the craft should, in my opinion, be faster and tougher.

Survivability
The enemy will be trying to kill us before we arrive, and we have few Hull points, so are vulnerable to crit ripple. We have to try to be as survivable as possible.

I would go with a reinforced close structure hull for another Hull point, every little bit helps. It's not much more expensive and trained marines in battledress are expensive. We can still enter atmosphere and we definitely have thrust enough to stay aloft.

Max out the Armour, and add Reflec and Radiation Shielding. Pulse laser turrets and Particle barbettes are our natural enemies and we don't have many Hull points to waste. Pulse laser turrets fired by a good gunner are surprisingly good at penetrating armour.

Alternatively add Stealth and Emissions Absorption Grid to deny the enemy sensor locks, and hence make the pesky lucky hits by lasers much more unlikely. If we are fighting lower TL enemies (as the Imperium usually does) this might be an attractive choice. But sensor locks are unlikely if we swarm an enemy ship with many attacking craft, so maybe not...

Every hit point we take is also a Critical Hit, we should consider a few strategic Armoured Bulkheads, but we are unlikely to be able to have space for much. The most vulnerable systems are M-Drive, Cargo(Marines?), and Weapons.

Perhaps:
Image


Speed
Every turn spent chasing the enemy is a turn they shoot at us. We need a hefty Thrust advantage to chase them down and dodge attacks.

I would start with an M-drive 9 and probably add a reaction drive, but we will run out of space... Since we are very space constrained I will go all in with space saving tech advantages.


Payload
Marines, the very point of the craft.

By jettisoning everything we can possibly omit, but adding a big, fat reaction drive, we are down to 6 Dt payload, of which the Breaching Tube and Forced Linkage necessarily takes 5 Dt. That leaves 1 Dt for 4 Marines, unsatisfactory...

Every 2 thrust that we reduce the reaction drive frees up 1 Dt for another 4 Marines.



This is quite difficult... A few more Dt would make it much easier, but that is out of the question.

I get something like this:
Image
M-9 + R-9. Note the reaction fuel is in Collapsible tanks in the cargo hold, so competes with space for Marines. Each Dt reaction fuel is 5 turns of max accel, then we can borrow some power plant fuel for a few turns more. Normal load is perhaps 2 Dt fuel plus 8 Marines.


We might make the breaching tube modular and replace it with a cargo net for S&R?
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Old School » Tue Nov 20, 2018 8:36 pm

I like AnotherDilbert’s design. Would back off the reaction drive a bit to get more Marines on board.
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Tue Nov 20, 2018 9:09 pm

I’ve got a whole bunch of clarifications, comments, questions and stuff, but sadly not the time or energy to post them tonight - desperately need some sleep...

I did however take a quick peek at my initial design, and I think I can get it to thrust 9 without too much trouble. It would cost 0,85 dt and 1,7 Mcr (m-drive and power plant expanded) leaving the design with just 0,45 dt cargo space (that could in turn be used for armour).

The bridge could also be swapped for a cockpit, saving money and space.

I did consider stealth, and might throw it in. Expensive though.
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby AnotherDilbert » Tue Nov 20, 2018 10:17 pm

Let me explain why I obsess over speed.

Let's say we start by launching the boats at Very Long range. The enemy does not want to be boarded, so starts to retreat as the boats close in.

With the movement system in the Core Book it takes 25+10+5+2+1+1+1 = 45 points of thrust to close to dock. If the enemy retreats under full M-drive it basically negates our M-drive, so we must achieve the 45 thrust with the R-drive alone.

As the enemy shoots at us we need to reserve a few thrust each turn for dodging (Evasive Action) slowing us down. If we dedicate three thrust to dodging we close in at 9 - 3 = 6 thrust each turn, so it will take 45 / 6 = 8 turns to close in to dock. This does not matter much except that it leaves the enemy 8 opportunities to shoot at us.

If we instead had a R-6 drive we would close in at 6 - 3 = 3 thrust, and it would take 45 / 3 = 15 rounds to dock, giving the enemy almost twice as many shots.

With the maximum R-16 drive we could close in at 16 - 3 = 13 thrust, taking 45 / 13 = 4 turns to dock, giving the enemy half as many shots.

Since our losses will be almost proportional to the number of shots the enemy can get off, the same proportion govern our expected losses.

Fast small craft take less losses!

Note that fast craft needs reaction fuel for fewer turns, so does not actually need more fuel in total.
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby AnotherDilbert » Tue Nov 20, 2018 10:31 pm

Old School wrote: Would back off the reaction drive a bit to get more Marines on board.
Unfortunately I would say that both speed and transport capacity is compromised, but that is the best I can achieve in a single craft.
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Old School » Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:12 pm

Your math is correct, of course, but your assumption that the enemy ship is also going to have 9G via its MDrive would be a rare case indeed.

A ship built with that capability is a fighting ship, almost certainly military, and your odds of a successful boarding action against it with only 4 marines are slim no matter how fast you get there.

Getting there is only half the battle.
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby AnotherDilbert » Wed Nov 21, 2018 12:54 am

We can save some space by remote controlling the boarding craft. Unfortunately that leaves them with a reduced Pilot skill when far from the controlling craft, i.e. when docking with the enemy, i.e. when they need the skill the most.

To mitigate that we need to keep the controllers close to the drones, e.g. in an identical craft. Without the need for Breaching Tubes and Forced Linkage we can fit several controllers in a single craft even with a bigger R-drive.

Also noting that the Breaching Tube is the biggest space thief we can make two types of boarding craft, a breaching craft, and a transport craft without a breaching tube but larger transport capacity. (We can even make the Breaching Tube a module, so we can use the same basic airframe with two different modules.)

The idea is that one or several transport craft dock to the enemy hull close to a breaching craft. The breaching craft creates a breach that the Marines from the nearby transport craft use to board the enemy ship.


That leaves us with three types of craft, all based on the same hull but with a different mission module:


Hull:
Image
Hull 9, Armour-15 + Reflec, and M-9 + R-16, one 7 Dt module
Note that normally an additional 1Dt reaction fuel is carried in the module.


Command Module:
Image
With two sub-command centres we should have room for four or five Pilots, we even get a DM+1 on the remote control. So this craft can lead a group of five craft (including this). Note that the Pilot is actually remote-controlling the boat from the module, there is no bridge.


Breaching Module:
Image
This module carries a Breaching Tube, some fuel, and a small breaching team, 4 Marines.


Marine Module:
Image
This module carries 16 Marines. As with my previous boat the reaction fuel is actually carried in collapsible tanks in the cargo hold, so we can carry more fuel and less marines (or vice versa) for longer range.


A squadron might be a Command Boat, a Breaching Boat, and three Marine Boats carrying a total of 52 Marines.


With identical hull and drives the enemy should not be able to identify the different types, but have to shoot at random boats preventing premature loss of all Command or Breaching Boats.

Worst case the mothership can take over control of the boats and the Marine Boats can, eventually, effect a breach with their laser drill.


Other modules:
Image


Of course this is way to complex to survive contact with the enemy, but it shows that we can, at least theoretically, achieve decent armour, decent speed, and decent capacity in aggregate with such a small hull.
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby AnotherDilbert » Wed Nov 21, 2018 1:03 am

Old School wrote: A ship built with that capability is a fighting ship, almost certainly military, and your odds of a successful boarding action against it with only 4 marines are slim no matter how fast you get there.
Agreed.

Obviously we have to send much more than a single boat to board even a small warship. A single boat would just be shot down anyway...

(My first attempt carried 8 Marines by default.)
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Wed Nov 21, 2018 5:39 pm

I was aiming for a balanced design, with multi-role functionality. While I’m impressed by the creativity used to design an optimal breaching pod, that wasn’t what I was aiming for. I wanted something simple, not requiring creative use of components. Something that would fit right in with the official ships in High Guard, not necessarily something to “win the game”.

As for role, my intent was to have a couple of them aboard a hangar pod on an Element cruiser, where the objective of the campaign is to, well, cruise around. This is a ship that’ll be deployed for months at a time, spending most of its time visiting ports, waving flag, doing diplomacy work, blowing up the occasional pirate...

Naval adventure 1: shakedown cruise is a perfect example of what I’m thinking, and realistically speaking full-blown cruiser on cruiser combat is unlikely, at least until the fifth frontier war starts :)

The boarding craft will spend most of its time boarding civilian ships for customs checks, or semi-civilian pirate vessels, but preferably it would be reasonably capable of disabling an enemy warship too. A small warship. With only six craft aboard the cruiser, I could never hope to defeat an enemy capital ship with these alone, especially one that’s not been bombed to submission before.

During a 100 day cruise, personnel transport will probably be more common than opposed boardings, and streamlining the craft lets it both transfer crew to and from the surface as well as deploy marines for ground ops.

Any ships it does perform opposed boardings on are likely to be adventure scale and likely semi-civilian in nature.



So, to round off, it’s not the best boarding craft that can be built, but being somewhat of a compromise was part of the plan. A super-optimized and specialized craft that spends 99,9 % of its time in the hangar or a decent design that’s useable every day? This time I chose decent.

That said, even within the limits I’ve imposed on the design, it’s stupid not to listen to suggestions, and as I understand it the “low” thrust might be an issue so I’ll raise it to 9. I doubt it will ever face a “thrust 9 supership” it would need to board, but being able to fly fast and still evade is good.

I do want to try to keep the price-tag down where possible, that’s why I didn’t choose a more powerful computer or stealth, but perhaps those two are too good to pass?

I do like the idea of making it modular! I had an idea to make the passenger section modular, with option for a drop pod deck for surface insertions... But how about making the nose section modular, breaching tube and FLA? Possibly even the passenger section...? That would make 5 (or 10) dtons swappable for various roles... cargo, sensors, mobile flight control...

Oh, and the beam laser was chosen since it’s cheap and comes with a builtin bonus to hit, so no need for fire control software. But Laser drills do hit harder... :)
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby AnotherDilbert » Wed Nov 21, 2018 10:43 pm

Ah, you want what would call a Utility Craft.

I would still use fairly heavy armour and acceleration, since it is reasonably cheap and the Navy is supposed to get into trouble.

If we take your basic design, apply some tech advantages (sorry, can't help it), and add a mission module:
Image
Armour 15, 9 g, 11 Dt payload (including the 5 Dt module).

I wouldn't bother with Stealth or Reflec in a token effort to keep cost under control. We could free up another Dt payload but at a cost of noticeably lower performance.

Some modules might be:
Image

Note that I allow Acc. Benches to fold away, giving space for cargo. That cargo can be filled with collapsible tanks. So the same Dt payload can be used for passengers, cargo, or fuel as needed.

I included the weapon in the module, so we can use either a Laser Drill or Pulse Laser. A Pulse Laser is considerably better than a Beam Laser against armoured targets, and this is for the Navy after all.

Dropping the tech advantages would only cost 0.5 Dt, but give you more power to play with.
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Thu Nov 22, 2018 8:03 pm

AnotherDilbert, that’s.... That’s perfect!
Here I was thinking I wanted a boarding craft, turns out I was looking for a military spec modular launch :)

I see I was utterly alone in thinking an autodoc might be a good idea, but you did keep the booby-trapped airlock!

I also allow acceleration benches to fold away completely so the space can be used for cargo, hadn’t thought of fuel bladders though, thanks for the tip!

Making the nose section modular really adds to the value of the craft, making it a better cargo carrier as well as giving it groundscale weapons for planetary landings (something I couldn’t manage to squeeze in on my design...)

Coincidence or not, but this little craft looks like it’ll fit in good with the other pure military small craft like the heavy fighter and the deployment shuttle, thrust 9 and lots of armour! Oddly, the troop transport is very lightly armoured, but otherwise fits...

I’d be tempted so swap all regular launches for these little cuties, and with modules like the VIP transport I won’t really need a gig either... I’ll probably impose some form of budget reason for not going all-in on these in my own games, but I do like the end result!

Now, perhaps I should look at making an advanced military version of the 10 dt light fighter, so it won’t fall so far behind the shuttles its supposed to protect... But that’s for another thread, another day...

Thanks for the help!
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby AnotherDilbert » Thu Nov 22, 2018 9:02 pm

Annatar Giftbringer wrote: I see I was utterly alone in thinking an autodoc might be a good idea, ...
An autodoc is a good idea for combat missions, but it steals space... It would not be very useful on routine transport runs.

To make the craft more practical we could add a hospitality module at the end of the cargo hold with a fresher, a snack bar, and the autodoc, let's call it one Dt together. If we make it modular we can even remove it when we need maximum cargo space.

And we can have a more lavish fresher/bar module (w/o autodoc) to combine with the VIP module.

Annatar Giftbringer wrote: ... but you did keep the booby-trapped airlock!
I can listen, sometimes, despite appearances...

Annatar Giftbringer wrote: I’d be tempted so swap all regular launches for these little cuties, and with modules like the VIP transport I won’t really need a gig either... I’ll probably impose some form of budget reason for not going all-in on these in my own games, but I do like the end result!
It's difficult to blame the budget, when we have already spent over a billion on the Pod.
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Sun Nov 25, 2018 5:20 pm

Does the autodoc even need to be a fixed installation, or can it just be wheeled in from sick bay and placed in the cargo hold when needed..? But yeah, a bit of common area sounds like a good idea, 0,5-1 dt perhaps. Keeps the pilot happy on long flights, and provides snack for passengers at need.

I see you added computer/10 plus backup/5, but unless I read the sheet wrong there's no additional software?

Perhaps not budget as in pure credits, more like every naval base is gonna have a finite number of each type of craft, and since some of the launches aboard a cruiser will be primarily meant for cargo and personnel transport while not being shot at it's likely that a request for "military launches only" will be denied. Of course there are advantages with having only one type of small craft aboard a ship. The pilot pool won't need to cross-train, the spares supply can focus on a single type of machinery, and best of all if every launch is military spec then they can all be used even during conflicts...


Heh, since the modular part and the main cargo/passenger area are the same size, eack launch could carry an extra module when shipping out for deployment... Of course there needs to be space to store the modules aboard the ship they transfer to, but they're small so it shouldn't be much of a problem.

The VIP module should definitely have a 'fancy snack corner'/common area. If we install a fixed common area in the back of the cargo hold it might not need a separate dedicated space, just need to make sure someone stocks it with better stuff when important people are carried :)


I'd say this little combat launch is shaping up to become something very nice looking, useful and perhaps worthy of being a little bit proud of, thanks for all the help!
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Re: Boarding Craft

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Sun Nov 25, 2018 6:05 pm

Of course, being the master of my own private Traveller universe, I can simply rule that this *is* the standard version of the launch, naval issue... :)

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