Greg Smith said:
It doesn't have ... a mass combat system that doesn't work ...
It does have a starship combat system that does not (in my opinion) work.
===== Issue #1: The Sensors, the Acquire Target bonus and Firing my weapons
For example, on page 73, it states that a character may take any of the following combinations of actions in a turn:
- a standard action
- a standard action and a move-equivalent action
- a full round action
In actuality, there are a couple of other options under the standard d20 rules:
- a move-equivalent action
- two move equivalent actions
But no matter... the actions that appear to be required for combat (in my many readings of the rules involved), seem to make combat impossible for a one-man fighter. For example, on page 73, it indicates that a ship may use its sensors to detect the enemy. The Narn Frazi Heavy Fighter has a sensor rating of +3. So... our esteemed pilot flies in, uses his standard action use the sensors to make acquiring the target (his next step) easier. Fair enough. He rolls and detects the Delta-V sitting some 60 squares away. No problem. My question: how long does this last? If it lasts only a round, he will have lost his target before he can fire, and will need to acquire again; if it is continuous, it is impossible to lose track of the ship once it is acquired. No rules cover this, that I can find.
Still, this rule seems straight forward enough -- so lets move on.
Closing with the Delta-V, the Narn Pilot now has to make an acquire target check. This is also a standard action (which as we discuss above, is limited to one per turn). OK... he closes, rolls and makes it. He has acquired his target. But, since attacking is a standard action, he cannot attack this turn. My question here: does the target need to be in the arc of a given weapon or weapons in order to be acquired, or is this no needed at this stage of the game?
So, in our next turn, the Delta-V has moved, making a turn to avoid the closing and targeting guns of the Narn. Unfortunately, this makes firing with the bonus of this targeting computer impossible for the Narn, because as soon as he turns, he will have made an action, which according to page 74, means he has lost his acquisition of his target. Now, he still has a standard action he can take after his turn maneuver... so he can fire without the bonus... but, if he wants this +2, he will need to acquire the target again... and because turns are DC 0 maneuvers, he will never be able to get this little Delta-V in line, acquired, and fired upon...
This appears to be because the actions acquire target, attack, evasive action, and targeting run are all standard actions (and thus limited to one per turn) and they end as soon as the next action is taken (meaning it is possible for me to acquire a target, and then make a turn maneuver to get into firing position -- thus losing the acquisition in the process).
Next... let us assume that the "until the operator's next action" is supposed to read "until the end of the operator's next turn" instead.
If this is the case (assuming that sensors are not needed every turn) then it appears that it would work. Allow me to illustrate:
- Pre Turn 1: I have used sensors to detect the Delta-V.
- Turn 1: I maneuver in and acquire target
- Turn 2: The Delta-V makes a turn maneuver, and so I maneuver in to match and fire. I have now lost the acquisition, and will need to re-acquire target before I fire again if I want the +2 bonus.
This seems odd, and against the grain of the show, if you assume that even the fastest and most rapid-firing fighter-based weapon in the game is limited to once per two turns (every 10 seconds) if they want the full effect, assuming that all maneuvers to keep the target in arc are successful. As I would need to repeat the sequence of events above over and over, getting to fire at the enemy with my bonus at most once every two turns.
===== Issue #2: The Sharlin War Cruiser and the Immelmann Turn
The Narn Heavy Fighter has a handling bonus of +3. This means, prior to taking any piloting bonuses into account, this little guy can perform a Sharp Turn successfully 8 times in 20, or about 40% of the time. Additionally, it can successfully perform an Extreme Turn (or a loop) 3 times in 20, or about 15% of the time. Strangely, the Immelmann turn, which may or may not be a much more drastic change of direction, has exactly the same DC as the extreme turn (even though its only purpose would be to make a 180, as all other angles are covered in Turn, Sharp Turn and Extreme Turn).
The Minbari Sharlin Class Heavy Cruiser has a handling bonus of +2 -- just ever so slightly below that of our esteemed fighter above. So, if I am reading this correctly, we are dealing with a ship that no more that 32 feet in length (by size class) and has only a +1 handling rating over a ship that is somewhere between 256-512 feet in length (by size class) . Evidently, the Sharlin is rather nimble. It can pull off Sharp Turns (before any piloting bonuses are applied) 7 times in 20, or about 35% of the time. It can make Extreme Turns 2 times in 20, or about 10% of the time. This Heavy Cruiser can even pull of a Loop or a Immelmann turn 10% of the time as well. Give the Sharlin an elite crew, and it can pull of a show that would amaze the trainers of the Lipizzaner stallions.
I would say that three things are off in these rules: the handling bonuses are far too low for the fighters and other small craft; the handling bonuses are far too high in some of the larger ships (the War Saucer has a +8!); and the DCs for the maneuvers are not consistent with what the maneuver is. For example, the extreme turn DC should be high enough that (typically) only the bonus afforded by a fighter or small craft could even hope to pull it off. If a Heavy cruiser can do it, then the handling bonus and DC combination needs to reflect the relative ease at which this is happening. Granted, there is no weight in space, but he mass remains and needs to be taken into account.
 Think about this for a second, before I go on. A cruiser has a 5% shift down in maneuverability from a fighter. And we build fighters because...??? Actually, the Sharlin is more like 1600 meters in length... but as will go with the size classes as presented.