Friday, March 23, 2012

Colonial Battlefleet - Oversized Ships:Part 2

After the formulas for the ship designs had been decoded it was time to start actually start making the ships. Since I only wanted to make larger ships than were possible in the game system and not actually change the rules (yes, I know making really large ships does change the rules, but I mean "really" change the rules), I stayed with a few key points.

First I would limit armor to a factor of 10. The weapons in the game are not designed to work against armor higher than that so going above 10 would make for unbeatable ships. Second, the number of hard points would remain limited to six. This is a key game design and would really harm play. Of course the number of weapons possible at a hard point would still increase as the ship size increases.

So here are my first two designs for over sized ships: the Kronos Titanstar, and the Pandemonium Super Heavy Battlestar.

Kronos: Role = Defender, Size = 7, Mass = 1769, Hull = 146, Delta = 1, FC = 3, P Def = 5, Armor = 10, Sec Frc = 14, Flak Batteries = 7, HP1: Heavy Railguns (6) F/P/S, HP2: Bombardment Missiles (6) Ammo=12, HP3: Railgun (4) F/P/A, HP4: Leopard MK3 (7), HP5: Railgun (4) F/S/A, HP6: Leopard MK3 (7)

Pandemonium: Role = Battlecarrier, Size = 6, Mass = 1277, Hull = 113, Delta = 1, FC = 4, P Def = 3, Sec Frc = 12, Flak Batteries = 6, HP1: Railgun (6) F, HP2: Mag Cannon (4) S, HP3: Mag Cannon (4) P, HP4: Leopard MK3 (6), HP5: Leopard MK3 (6), HP6: Tiger Gunship (6)

Thanks to Hanger 18 for making such fun minis.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Colonial Battlefleet - Oversized Ships: Part 1

As you can see from some of my previous posts I really enjoy the Colonial Battlefleet rules by Steel Dreadnought Games; especially the Man Versus Machine expansion. The only problem I have with it is the ceiling on ship designs.

It isn't really a problem. The game is designed to prevent unbalance designs and play, as well as the power creep that happens in many game systems. The difficulty is purely one of aesthetics - as I have been collecting ships for my fleet I have been purchasing larger and large models. The Titanstars and super heavy battlestars look really cool. Now I could simply stay within the game rules and design my ships to fit the system, but it just doesn't look right.

The design for the Galactica has a game mass of 723/1000, a hull size of 85/100 and is size 4. The design for the Pegasus has a game mass of 884/1000, a hull size of 94/100 and is a size 5. These work perfectly fine. They are great designs. But look at the image of Hanger 18's Titanstar Kronus in comparison; the Galactica is only slightly longer than the Kronus' hanger bay. If I stay withing the design limits of the game it can have a maximum mass of 1000, a hull of 100 and a size 5.

True, these large ships are certainly not cannon to the Battlestar Galactica universe, and might even break the spirit of that universe. But science fiction gamers have never been able to resist really big ships - and just look at what is out there in fan fiction and the minis being made by Ravenstar and Hanger 18 to name a few.
When I began collecting my fleet I wanted the ships to use designs that matched their size in comparison to each other. So I weighed each one on my scientific balance (the advantages of being a physicist with a home lab - useful equipment), and then set up a graph with where their mass fell in comparison to game mass. (I used the Parthenon/Pegasus and the Acropolis/Galactica to set my baseline.) As I purchased new minis I was able to find their game size by weighing them and checking the graph.

Of course the weight of a resin miniature isn't a real comparison - in reality a smaller ship could out weigh a larger vessel - hanger bays would probably take up less mass than engines for instance. But it seems to work - the designs match how the minis look in comparison to each other.

Until I purchased Hanger 18's Pandamonium and Kronus. These minis are huge in relation to the rest of my fleet; falling well outside the ranges in the rules.

So I took the data from the ship design rules, determined the formulas that were used for the different design aspects and built my ships to match the rest of the fleet. Do these designs break the system? Probably not. The critical formulas for Delta/Points and Armor/Points are both quadratic so as the size of the ships go up the expense really climbs. Smaller ships which work with the system as given are more cost effective, and can actually bring more fighters and weapons to the table at a lower cost. Plus most scenarios won't work well with really large ships. But it's fun for field these.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Colonial Battlefleet Ship Data Cards

I am a big fan of starship combat games; since first playing Star Fleet Battle Manual since its first edition over 30 years ago. Star Fleet Battles, Star Trek Combat Simulator, Full Thrust, Renegade Legion: Interceptor & Leviathan; plus more other ones than I can count or remember.

Lately I have really been enjoying Colonial Battlefleet and Colonial Battlefleet: Man Versus Machine by Steel Dreadnought Games. It isn't perfect (no game is), but it is an excellent set of generic rules for small to medium space fleet battles - especially in the Battlestar Galactica universe.

As can be seen in some of my past posts I have been enjoying adding accessories to the game. One of the ways I've add some color to it has been with the ship data cards. Mine are a little fancier and larger than what are supplied with the game (most of mine are double sided), but I like the colors and theme. I've also provided black & white and low graphic versions to save on ink. 

The LCAR forms are in the style of the computer screens seen on Star Trek and work with the core Colonial Battlefeet rules; while the DRADID forms are from Battlestar Galactica and are to use with Colonial Battlefleet:Man VS Machine.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fighter & Missile Basing

As I said in my last post I would explain the bases I use for my fighters and missiles. Having played space combat games for over 30 years now I've had a lot of experience in using different systems - everything from cardboard chits, paper records, individual minis for each fighter, and the current popular method of using a die to represent a squadron of fighters. Each has its advantage and disadvantage.

My group has been using the die method, but it does have its draw backs. One is that unless the stand has a place to hold the die, then often when you move the stand the die gets left behind in large fleet actions. Or if the die is on the stand a careless bump can cause it to tumble off to a different number. Then there is the time involved in changing the die to a new face after damage is taken. And even though we are all experienced gamers, and use different dice for rolling in the game, it is amazing how many times someone rolls the fighter die.

Yes, there are professionally made fighter stands with holders for the die that solves many of the problems. Still they don't solve the need to change the die face, and then there is the expense.

I wanted three things for my bases: Simple, visual, and cheap (more money for minis). Removing pegs to show damage is easier and less fiddly than picking up a 6mm die, changing its face, and putting it back down on the base. Bright colored pegs make it very clear how many fighters or missiles are in a stand from across the table. And as for the expense, each stand with base, pegs, and post cost less than a $1.00. Of course I have the advantage of being a physicist and a woodworker so I have access to a full shop - your expenses may be higher.

I play on 2" hexes so my bases are 1 3/4" across, laser cut from 1/8" plywood; though my next batch will probably be Masonite or MDF. The holes are 1/8" diameter for the pegs and post.

For the fighters I use two minis to represent a squadron - it's just a visual choice. They are mounted on paperclips (easy to bend), and set in a 1/8" plastic tube. The missiles are mounted on 1/8" dowels.

Another advantage to this design is that I can easily store the minis since the posts just set in the base and can be removed; and changed out for different squadrons or missiles.

I am very happy with how they work. Especially for Colonial Battlefleet.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Space Battle Accecories

My gaming group really enjoys Colonial Battlefleet by Steel Dreadnought Games. In fact we just finished playtesting the rules for the upcoming Empire Space expansion. Man VS Machine is our favorite rules expansion though.

I have been adding to my Colonial Fleet for the past few months with ships from Hangar 18 FASA and Ravenstar Studios, plus fighter from Studio Bergstrom. One of my favorite parts of miniature wargaming is accessorizing. Not content to just paint the ship minis I have also made ship record cards based on the LCAR screens from Star Trek, paper base covers, minis for missiles and grapeshot , condition markers, and fighter stands.

The photo shows a few of the capital ships with their base covers, fighters on their stands, missiles and cluster missiles, and grapeshot.

The missiles are made from chenille (pipe cleaners), the ends melted over a flame and painted. I've seen these on a number of sites, but never the cluster missiles which a made by twisting five together. I use different colored exhausted for the different teams.

Grapeshot are made from metallic pompoms (1") available from most craft stores. Mounted on a flight stand with a red mark to show their direction of travel.

The fighters are mounted on my new bases with I just switched to. The missiles are also. I'll go into more depth on how and why of these in a later post.

I also have Helpless and Activated stands. Colonial Battlefleet comes with helpless markers you can print out, but I prefer an upright marker for ease of picking up from the board. The activated markers are to put next to fighters and missiles during their move phases. In large battles we've often found we lose track of which fighter or missile stand has been moved, so we place a marker next to one that has been moved until we finish moving our units and then take them up. It really helps.