Looking forward to a long weekend and hoping to get in a few games.
The first few turns have been slow as both sides seem to be feeling out the opponent and the game system. Most alien intruder ships (Worldkillers) have a good jump range (3) and good combat reach (3) but lack firepower (3) though they have good defense (6). The most numerous Human ship, the V-Duster Patrol Frigate, has low firepower (2) with a very short reach (range 1) but a fair defense and speed (2 each). So far, the intruder Worldkiller Assault Ships have been dancing around the planet dodging the human Outrider Orbital Fortresses but still sniping away at the planetary defenses. The humans noticed that the two Dominator Assault Ships were preparing for a Stretch (a longer jump that requires no movement as you prepare) and sent two K-Wagon Light Cruisers and three V-Dusters to strike. The attack was the first time the humans used the Pop maneuver which allows move and shoot at the cost of some self-inflicted damage. It generally worked; one Dominator was destroyed and the other crippled.
The very short reach of the human V-Duster and the Spacetrain Cruisers (again with a reach of 1) makes them hard to employ in a mobile battle; an intruder can simply “fly around” the ship. It certainly looks like the best human defense is a static one around the planet taking advantage of orbital fortresses and other planetary defenses (there are certain “forbidden” squares for the intruder due to “powerful, short-ranged planet-based defenses”). As the Human defense collapses back on the planet the Worldkillers continue to snipe away. At this point the question appears to be who will be attrited first; the planet or the intruder ships as they do hit-and-run attacks.
Worldkiller is an old SPI/Ares Magazine game published in 1980. I have the boxed version shown here. The game simulates a planetary invasion in the far future.
The game itself is very simple; a double-page size map, four pages of rules, a one-page handout and 100 counters. The map is interesting, being a 3-D representation of space. Each “cube” actually has 7 levels; three above and three below the 0-level plane. In effect, the map represents are area 8x12x7 cubes in size. Located on the map are a single planet and four fortresses protecting it.
One player is the Alien Intruder and the other is the Human Planetary Defender. Ships are rated by attack (range) – defense- and jump range. Combat is a simple 1d6+(Attack-Defense). Ships with damage equal to defense are crippled and must be repaired. If damage is double the defense value the ship is destroyed. Each turn, a ship can take one of four actions; Jump (move), Attack, Pop (a combination move+attack that causes damage to ship) or Repair. For the Intruder there is also Stretch which is a delayed jump but with a longer range. To counter the Intruder special Stretch ability the Human defender can place his ships adjacent to each other for a defensive benefit.
The game is actually very simple; counter density is low and tactics are not all that innovative. The Intruder has longer range weapons and can Stretch but the Human is more numerous and if he uses his ships together he has a defensive benefit. The “gimmick” in Worldkiller is obviously the map; a 2-D representation of a 3-D battle. In many ways the game feels like an experiment in how to make a 3-D space battle game. I say experiment because the game is very rules “lite.” Without the map gimmick the game is unremarkable and unmemorable.
All that said, the gimmick works. The game is simple enough that players concentrate on maneuver; in three dimensions. The very simplicity of the game allows players to enjoy the maneuvering around the cubes. This game should belong in the collection of every serious space-gamer as an example of 3-D movement on a 2-D map.
On the table this week is Shooting Stars, a 1980 Yaquinto game that I have had since first published. Given my recent plays with another space combat vector movement game (Mayday) and that cinematic re-creation masterpiece (Star Warriors) this one should prove interesting.
After a rules review, I have chosen to play the Advanced Rules with additional Optional Rules thrown in. My scenario will be a homebrew Period I battle with two American SF-9’s going against a pair of Soviet MiG-57’s. Let the Cold War get hot in the frozen vastness of space!
Brian Weeden over at The Space Review has an interesting article on the on-orbit maneuvers of two Chinese satellites and the potential ASAT implications.
His money shot:
The rendezvous of two Chinese satellites demonstrates that China is broadening its space capabilities, but also touches on the greater issue of perceptions, trust, and safety in space activities that could impact the long-term sustainability of the space regime.
Back in 2007, this official Chinese photograph made a splash –
It should come as no surprise that the Chinese have a spaceplane program, and the US can only blame ourselves. The father of the Chinese space program, Tsien Hsue-shen, worked in the US until he was exiled in the Red Scares of the 1950’s.
In 2000, the Chinese showed this model. It looks to be a Chinese version of the European Hermes manned spaceplane. In the years since 2000 the world has made significant advances in UAV-technology. Is it possible that the original manned model has been replaced by a UAV version? Or did the Chinese just steal the X-37B design given how closely the new spaceplane looks like an X-37B?
Either way, the time may be closer than we think when there are battles in space. The real question may be will it be manned or unmanned craft?