My Review of the Mass Battle Rules In S&P 90

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Solomani666
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My Review of the Mass Battle Rules In S&P 90

Postby Solomani666 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:00 pm

I just finished reading the mass combat rules in S&P 90.

What I thought started off with some very good ideas ended leaving me disapointed. The rules are so abstract that I would never use them in any situation that player characters were directly involved in, and so abstract that I would just dictate the outcome to suit the campaign if the player characters were not involved.

Nowhere is armor, defenses or weaponry taken into account except as a generic tech level. With these rules an unescorted convoy of TL14 freighters totalling 100 Ktons armed only with beam lasers, can decimate two or even three attacking Gionetti-Class light cruisers if the the convoy leader has superior tactics.

What I would like to see is a simplified (but not too simplified) combat system that reduces each ship, squadron or flight to a few basic stats: attack, defence, hitpoints etc. I am working on just such a system and will be posting updates to it in a forthcoming thread.
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Postby DFW » Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:07 pm

This type of thing is where you need to bring in War Game designers. Not an easy cross over if you're an RPG designer and haven't got a deep level of that genre of gaming under your belt.
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Postby Solomani666 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:40 pm

DFW wrote:This type of thing is where you need to bring in War Game designers. Not an easy cross over if you're an RPG designer and haven't got a deep level of that genre of gaming under your belt.
I look forward to your comments when I post the first part of my mass combat rules.
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Postby JRoss » Wed Mar 02, 2011 6:23 pm

Thanks for the response. I'll acknowledge that the rules are somewhat abstract and greatly simplify the process, perhaps to a greater degree than some would prefer.

The intent of this article was for battles featuring thousands of ships on each side, including fighters, which is easily feasible in Traveller. I did consider the rules that you are proposing (simple stats for each ship or squad), but decided that those rules would be too clunky for thousand-plus ship engagements.

The armor is taken into account in an optional rule, presented before the Battle Encounters Table.

While it may seem to place a greater degree of importance on tactics than on technology, well that's where we differ. I do maintain that a brilliant commander using superior tactics can easily defeat a better-armed poor tactician.

As to the freighter example, well that's just silly. I imagine that unless there were hidden arms on the freighters, dangerous cargo they could use against their attackers or tractor beams and asteroids (very unlikely) that the Ref would simply rule it a curb stomp. The rule set was designed for actual battles, not massacres.

All in all, I appreciate that you've given a reasonable, measured critique. I would be interested in seeing your new rules system.

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Postby DFW » Wed Mar 02, 2011 6:37 pm

Solomani666 wrote:I look forward to your comments when I post the first part of my mass combat rules.
I'll do my best. I was heavy into it in the 70's.
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Postby Solomani666 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 6:56 pm

DFW wrote:
Solomani666 wrote:I look forward to your comments when I post the first part of my mass combat rules.
I'll do my best. I was heavy into it in the 70's.
I started playing SPI, Napoleon Hill games, etc. in the 80's, so fom now on you can call me Jr. :D

.
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Postby DFW » Wed Mar 02, 2011 7:15 pm

Solomani666 wrote:
DFW wrote:
Solomani666 wrote:I look forward to your comments when I post the first part of my mass combat rules.
I'll do my best. I was heavy into it in the 70's.
I started playing SPI, Napoleon Hill games, etc. in the 80's, so fom now on you can call me Jr. :D

.
My all time favourite is still, Squad Leader. Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far was a pretty close approximation of it on computer.
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Postby Solomani666 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 8:15 pm

JRoss wrote: The intent of this article was for battles featuring thousands of ships on each side, including fighters, which is easily feasible in Traveller. I did consider the rules that you are proposing (simple stats for each ship or squad), but decided that those rules would be too clunky for thousand-plus ship engagements.
I hadn't considered thousands of ships. Maybe a few dozen per side and a few hundred fighters at most.

In mass battles I have overseen in the past I conducted them as follows:
1. Break up the fleets into battle groups and pair them off against each other. Some might be 2 to 1 or even 3 to 1 (A gang-bang)
2. Give each battle group an overall strength rating of 1-10. With the most powerful groups being a 10 and the other battle groups being some number relative to 10. Fighter flights can be considered their own battle groups if desired.
3. Add tactics score to each group.
4. The side with initiative gets a +1.
5. First side rolls 2d6-2 + Strength - Enemy Strength = Casualties x 10%
6. Second side rolls as above.
7. Each side reduces Strength by the enemy roll % rounding up.
8. Repeat until one side is killed or withdraws.
9. Battle groups that have defeated their opposing group(s) are then free to persue, engage a free battle group, or start a gang-bang with a battle already in progress.

Do the above with each battle group pair or gang-bang until the battle or BGF (Big Giant Furball - A second 'F' is optional) is resolved.

The battle with the characters ship(s) I roll out, but only against the ships they are directly engaging. How they fair will effect the overall outcome of their battlegroup. If a PC is the commander of a battlegroup, then how his battle group fairs will have an overall effect on the entire battle. This is reflected as a -1, 0, or +1 roll in the overall battle group or entire battle. In very exceptional cases this may be a -2 or a +2. This is in addition to tactics.

Example: PC Duran Hunter just shot down 4 incomming enemy missles in a single turn from his triple beam turret. He has figured out the enemy missles evasion pattern and he comms this to all the ships gunners and also the bridge (+1). The Commander is also a PC and he forwards this information to the rest of the battle group and fleet.

If the characters are in no way involved in the battle, then I either give them a brief description of each turn as I see fit, if they are observing, or they can just read about it in the news like everyone else.

Quick and dirty.


.
Last edited by Solomani666 on Wed Mar 02, 2011 8:43 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Postby JRoss » Wed Mar 02, 2011 8:17 pm

Solomani666 wrote:
Quick and dirty.
Indeed. I like.
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Postby kristof65 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:49 pm

I haven't read S&P90 yet, so I can't comment on the rules specifically.

However, there are plenty of really good mass battle wargame and miniature rule sets out there already, and a few of them could integrate with Traveller characters quite easily, with little to no re-write.

FREX, the 6mm miniatures battle game Future War Commander uses a system where characters can quite easily lead a ground battle with characters taking the place of the systems HQ units. Since the HQ units don't really have that much in the way of important in game stats beyond their command value, it's easy to drop a PC from any RP system in. All you would have to do for the conversion of a PC to the game is come up with a consistent way to generate their command value. Which would be easy to do in most editions of Traveller - a simple addition of relevant stat modifiers added together with skills like Tactics, Leadership, etc would create a command value that would be workable and relevent in FWC.

For space ship battles, it could be a little more work, or ready made, depending on your preferences. There is the decent Power Projection, which is a Traveller specific version of the popular Full Thrust space combat rules. Or there is GOBS, a much more generic system that handles lots of ships very well. Personally, if/when I get there, I will probably go the route of doing a little more work, and creating a space specific home brewed version of Future War Commander, since that's what I'd use for large ground battles.
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Postby JRoss » Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:19 am

I suppose that I should clarify, I didn't write these rules to be wargame rules, but rather for groups that don't want that sort of experience.

My background in RPG writing started at another company, and their motto was "Game Line X, your way," meaning they focused on providing options for every play and GM style.

That's what I wanted here, a specific set of rules that is cinematic, simple and short, for play groups that want battles that make the Battle of Endor look like a playground scuffle but hesitate because of the time and effort of running something that large.

I'd like to see full-on Traveller wargame rules made up for MGT.
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Postby Beastttt » Thu Mar 03, 2011 4:03 am

you want as close to Squad Leader on the computer
check out the old Combat Mission series from Battlefront.com
DFW wrote:
My all time favourite is still, Squad Leader. Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far was a pretty close approximation of it on computer.
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Postby DFW » Thu Mar 03, 2011 4:22 am

Beastttt wrote:you want as close to Squad Leader on the computer
check out the old Combat Mission series from Battlefront.com
DFW wrote:
My all time favourite is still, Squad Leader. Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far was a pretty close approximation of it on computer.
They were both designed to mimic Squad Leader. "Combat Mission" came out ~5 years later. Very similar games.
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Postby AKAmra » Thu Mar 03, 2011 6:55 am

JRoss wrote:I suppose that I should clarify, I didn't write these rules to be wargame rules, but rather for groups that don't want that sort of experience.

My background in RPG writing started at another company, and their motto was "Game Line X, your way," meaning they focused on providing options for every play and GM style.

That's what I wanted here, a specific set of rules that is cinematic, simple and short, for play groups that want battles that make the Battle of Endor look like a playground scuffle but hesitate because of the time and effort of running something that large.

I'd like to see full-on Traveller wargame rules made up for MGT.
And I appreciate the rules for the intended purpose. I'd like similar rules to use as an option for the standard ship vs ship combat.
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Postby locarno24 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:46 am

I just finished reading the mass combat rules in S&P 90.

What I thought started off with some very good ideas ended leaving me disapointed. The rules are so abstract that I would never use them in any situation that player characters were directly involved in, and so abstract that I would just dictate the outcome to suit the campaign if the player characters were not involved.

Nowhere is armor, defenses or weaponry taken into account except as a generic tech level. With these rules an unescorted convoy of TL14 freighters totalling 100 Ktons armed only with beam lasers, can decimate two or even three attacking Gionetti-Class light cruisers if the the convoy leader has superior tactics.

What I would like to see is a simplified (but not too simplified) combat system that reduces each ship, squadron or flight to a few basic stats: attack, defence, hitpoints etc. I am working on just such a system and will be posting updates to it in a forthcoming thread.
This type of thing is where you need to bring in War Game designers. Not an easy cross over if you're an RPG designer and haven't got a deep level of that genre of gaming under your belt.
The thing is, people may well not want a wargame - they want something fairly consistant but (a) not too clunky and (b) where people feel they have a direct effect on the battle's outcome.

These rules are okay - the overall admiral commanding things, and individual encounters. The problems, as noted, is that there's no specific effect of different classes of ship other than their structural capacity - which, for example, leaves overgunned ships with multiple capital weapons underperforming against ships with lighter guns but reinforced structure.

I don't mind it for figuring out a 'background' battle result. I actually think it's quite a nice scenario generator in that way - pair it up with the mission rules in high guard, and you have location, objectives, and a sort of rough step-by-step of how the battle that the players are stuck in will go.

It's a very easy rules system to game, but that's not the point of it, I think; after all, one advantage of an RPG over a wargame is that you've got the GM sitting there to tweak any rules that don't make sense on the fly; if players have a good reason to argue that their force effectiveness should be multiplied due to force composition (e.g. universally higher thrust than the enemy combined with long range weapons), or tactics (Q-ships suddenly raising pop-up turrets), then the GM should throw in a few points of force effectivenesss to represent that.


How to make a big engagement seem more manageable, but still see the different classes and styles of ship - now that's more difficult.

I can see a couple of easy options - pulling them out of two other companies attempts to do this:

Advanced Fighting Fantasy - A generic 'force strength' track (much like this system), but with 'duels' every few rounds, where two specific combatants fight to the death - the winner of the duel giving their army significant benefits for the next phase (either by punching a hole in the enemy line, inspiring his peers, or just being representative of the army as a whole doing better than the enemy).

This could be represented in a fleet engagement by forcing two random combatants to engage for a round, and the side that comes off better (least damage inflicted?) adds its bonus (difference in damage rolls inflicted). Essentially it's just the encounters table, but with the player's ship thrown in. Obviously add the ability for the more manouvrable ship to control who it fights a bit - a 10 dTon light fighter vs a dreadnought isn't terribly fair.

Rogue Trader - essentially forming units of like vessels - so that a unit of twenty men behaves like a single man with twenty wounds and a proportionate damage increase.

It'd not be too hard to just form ships up into big masses and make them into squadrons - use the barrage rules, etc, and just assume that the squadron are all essentially at adjacent range with one another. Just expand out the rules for fighter swarms to include starship swarms (or even capital ship swarms!) and, for the sake of simplicity, assume that a ship which has taken internal damage is fully combat effective until it takes internal damage, at which point it is no longer able to shoot.
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Postby rust » Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:11 am

The last time we had fleet battles in a Traveller-like universe we used a
modification of the rules Avalanche Press designed for their naval war-
games (Great War at Sea, Eastern Fleet, SOPAC, etc.), which went quite
well. However, this kind of wargame approach is not necessarily what
roleplayers look for (it takes at least a map and counters, data sets for
all ship classes, and a lot of time), so a comparatively "quick and dirty"
system like the one from S&P 90 is certainly most welcome - and any
more elaborate system would go far beyond an article in S&P anyway.

So, congratulations, well done. :D
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Postby Tigleth Pilisar » Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:18 am

When the scale of battle is too big, it doesn't seem like the player or skills have much of a bearing. There is overlap between RPG and a wargame, but I think they are two different things.

Like to hear there are still "Squad Leader" fans out there, although it is typically just called ASL (Advanced Squad Leader). I still am able to play ASL every week. Played it 20 years ago, and for the last 2 years, I was able to get back into it. It is the granddaddy of detailed wargames that likely will never be beaten. Combat Mission, you are right, is an attempt at computerizing ASL, but you miss out on knowing the details of what the computer is calculating behind the scenes. A 2 dimensional shadow of a 3 dimensional object at best. Personally, I liked Battlefront's Strategic Command series better which was Army/corps level computer combat. Great global opponents! Sunk thousands of hours into SC & SC2 games over the years. Good wargame, no RPG content.

Also if you had 1000+ ship combat, using Traveller rules, you would need a computer to keep track of the battle. If you change the Traveller rules, then why not just simplify and roll 2 dice: 2 = crushing defeat, 3-4 = defeat, 5-9 = stalemate with losses on both sides, 10-11 = victory and 12 = crushing victory. Modify it by net 1 point one way or the other based on the side you think has the better tactics/leadership/experience/technology. Ultimately, the player characters won't matter in a huge battle anyway so why not make it real simple?
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Postby locarno24 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 10:52 am

As noted, it's a question of what's wanted - a wargame, and an RPG mass combat rules set are not necessarily the same thing; the latter is as often an aid to story-telling as it is necessarily concerned with being 'fair'.
Understand that I'm not advocating violence.
I'm just saying that it's highly effective and I strongly recommend using it.
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Postby kristof65 » Mon Mar 07, 2011 11:15 pm

For me it would really depend on the kind of story I was running.

If it's the players caught up in the middle of a truly massive battle, one that's truly beyond the influence of a single individual, I'd simply decide the general course of the entire battle before hand. I wouldn't use any type of rule to do so - I might look up a historical or movie battle and use it as inspiration - but it wouldn't really be part of the game. Within that battle, I'd come up with several smaller PC scale scenarios/situations that could possibly sway the direction of the battle, and run the PCs through those, while describing the general chaos and destruction around them.

If I really want the PCs to have a direct hand in the battle, I'd go with a more wargame approach, as I mentioned above. Things like the PCs controlling their own units or squadrons of ships in battle.

If I didn't want to take it to the wargame table, I'd go with more of the approach the original FASA Star Trek used for ship battles. In that system, every PC on the bridge was important for things like allocation of resources, targeting rolls, etc. MgT's task based system is ideal for creating such scenarios.

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