Wargame Wednesday – Classic Traveller Book 5: High Guard – Raiding Isseydo

Azhanti High Lightning class by Shonner at SCIFI-MESHES

High Guard – Refuelling operations for a task force are another danger point, as forces which are low on fuel and maneuvering in a gravity well are especially vulnerable. The high guard position, so named because the ship or ships involved are higher in the gravity well than their companions, is used to mount protective operations during such maneuvers. (Mongoose Traveller Book 2: High Guard, p. 3)

“Approaching Isseydo Jump Limit,” the Navigator reported.

The Captain looked around his bridge. Battle Condition Red was set aboard Acheron High Lightning, FI-6357, an Azhanti High Lightning-class Fleet Intruder of the Imperial Navy.  As befitted the Fleet Intruder mission, ACH was raiding the small world of Isseydo, to the galactic rimward of the Vegan area. After being at war with the Solomani for 10 years, the Imperial Navy was on the offensive and, though not part of the main battle fleet, raids by the ‘Flints’ were important in keeping the Soli’s off-guard as well as useful for collecting intelligence. Acheron High Lightning had been ordered to enter the Isseydo system and raid shipping. If possible, she was also to land her Marine contingent and copy -then destroy- the starport’s data bank. Opposition was projected to be light; Isseydo had no more than a dozen of the Solomani ‘standard’ 300dton System Defense Boats (SDB). Acheron was running into the planet with a 2-g velocity; not too fast so the ship could maneuver. The Captain had decided to keep the fighters aboard for now; they would be used to cover the Marines landing and deal with shipping nearer the planet.

Sensor called out, “Detecting three targets on an intercept trajectory. Maneuvering together; likely a flight of system defense boats.”

And so the battle begins….

It was still long range, but the SDB’s had changed formation into a spread echelon, a sure sign that a missile launch was to follow. “Target lead boat,” the Captain ordered, “Fire at will.”

As missiles streaked away from the boats, Acheron fired full laser and missile salvos. The spinal Particle Accelerator – PA gun – also fired. The Captain grimaced as it missed. The laser fire from both sides was equally ineffective. It was in the exchange of nuclear missiles that damage was found. Acheron rocked slightly as it was buffeted by nearby nuclear blasts.

“Lead boast has ceased firing, assess probable mission kill based on lack of weapons,” Sensors reported. The Engineering Watch Officer was conferring with Weapons, and after a moment he turned and reported, “Spinal Mount sustained minor damage from nuclear blast. Power degraded, but still operational.” The grimace stayed on the Captain’s face.

The range between Acheron and the flight of SDBs closed. “SDBs are closing to fusion gun range,” Sensors called out. “Lead boat is dropping to reserve position.” Exactly what they needed to do if they wanted to they were going to jury-rig their weapons back on line. “Target next boat,” the Captain ordered.

The exchange of fire went as before for Acheron; the lasers flashed uselessly, the few batteries of fusion guns now able to range missed, the slightly-less-powerful spinal PA gun missed again, and the nuclear missiles struck the SDB which stopped firing. This time though, the rocking of nuclear blasts was also mixed with jarring jolts as enemy fusion guns hit home. Again, the Engineer and Weapons conferred. Weapons shook his head, then turned to report, “Spinal sustained further damage from nuclear blasts. Looks like at least one battery of missiles is also out of action.”

The Captain looked at the holobowl. Ninety minutes remained until orbital insertion. They had come too far to turn back now. “Helm, continue to orbital insertion. Weapons, I want hits! Alert the Marine commander to prepare for combat landing. Remind him we don’t want to stay long. And get the fighters ready!”

Time seemed to slow to a crawl, just like Acheron was slowing to enter orbit. Another exchange of fire, this time against the third SDB as the others moved off to effect repairs. On the visual display, the Captain could see flashes of light as the boat was peppered with lasers, fusion beams, missiles and the particle accelerator. When the massive PA hit, the SDB became a flash and then a small expanding ball of matter.

“SDB 3 vaporized!,” Sensors reported. Weapons was smiling, the PA crew finally had hit and it made a difference. At last, a break in the battle in his favor, the Captain thought. “Helm, shape us a course to get near the reserve SDBs. Weapons, fire as you please!” But even as he ordered the breakthrough attack, Acheron rocked more violently than before. Weapons and Engineer rapidly exchanged information, but the Captain could see for himself on his displays that more weapons were falling off-line. Soon enough, Weapons reported, “Damage to PA gun again. We also lost another missile battery, as well as a battery of lasers, fusion guns, and sand.” What was that old Solomani saying, the Captain thought, “Death by a thousand pin-pricks?”

Acheron flashed by the two remaining SDBs, raking the first one with fire. The particle accelerator connected again; and the SDB disappeared into an expanding ball of gas. The Captain’s grimace almost turned into a smile; that is, until Sensors called out.

“Detecting six SDB reaching for orbit from the planet. Now looks like was also have three more inbound from the outer system. Total of nine additional SDBs tracked.” The Executive Officer now stood next to the Captain and said, “Looks like they are committing everything. Going to be hard to get to the data banks.”

The Captain grunted and nodded his head. “We aren’t designed for a real combat landing. Tell the Marine commander to stand down, as well as the fighters.” Louder he called, “Helm! plot us a single orbital pass then go for the jump limit. Navigation, get that jump plotted. Weapons, as we pass the planet your target priority is merchant shipping, then the SDBs. After we was pass the planet then you need to swat those SDBs so we can jump out.” Acknowledgements came from every position.

In the next three hours, the Captain was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get to take a shot at any shipping. It looked like it had all scattered, but the system defense boats kept harassing him. He made them pay though. By the time Acheron High Lightning jumped out of the Isseydo system, two SDBs were vaporized, five completely wrecked, and another two effectively mission-killed. The spinal mount on Acheron needed some repair work, along with a few batteries and a patch here and there in the fuel tanks. As the crew stood down from Battle Stations and assumed the routine jump space watch, the Captain started composing his report to the Admiralty. Though Acheron had failed to destroy any shipping, nor grab the data bank, the defenses of Isseydo had been weakened significantly. Another raid in a few weeks, maybe by a light carrier, could clean up the shipping.

This battle was fought using the combat rules in Classic Traveller Book 5: High Guard. The ships are taken from QuikLink Interactives Traveller’s Aide #7: Fighting Ships and Traveller’s Aide #9: Fighting Ships of the Solomani Confederation. The number of defending boats was based on stats derived from the Fifth Frontier War game. I had also planned to fight a ground action but after looking at the defenses (120 battalions of troops) against the AHL reinforced company of Marines, landing only a portion of the troops in the gunboat, I elected to pass on that sub-game.

The only HG2 rules modified were I treated flights of ships as separate entities and allowed them to have different ranges. Thus, in Round 7, the planet launched SDBs engaged at short range while the boats arriving from out-system fought at long. Seems more realistic to me.

The AHL-class fleet intruder had three missions: raid shipping, seize the data bank, and weaken system defenses. The intruder started two-hours (six rounds) away from the planet. The game was originally designed for 12 rounds plus however many more over the planet were necessary for the raid. After Round 3, the AHL aborted the raid, made a (relatively) high-speed pass of the planet, and then proceeded outbound to jump. To reflect this, I shortened the game to 11 rounds total (The AHL did not fire in the last round, but jumped away).

I was pleasantly surprised to see a few tactical lessons come through here; lessons that are often discussed in Traveller supplements like Sector Fleet.. In fleet-level engagements, lasers are nearly useless as offensive weapons; better to be used as defenses. Missiles can eat away at ships but not get the “big-hit” against battle class ships. Spinal mounts are DEADLY! In ten rounds of combat, plus one breakthrough, the spinal scored seven hits (7 for 11) that resulted in five wrecked and two vaporized ships. The real damage came from the critical hits scored. The fighters were kept out of the battle because their small computers gave them a significant disadvantage when fighting the decent computer, high-agility SDBs. In hindsight the fighters should of been launched anyway to go after shipping. As it was, the SDBs kept the AHL engaged and there was only one breakthrough (Round 3). Though none of the lessons are “new,” it is good to see them actually reflected in the game results.

RPG Thursday – Traveller Dynasty

Deviantart

Traveller Supplement 12: Dynasty is very much unlike other Traveller publications. In the words of Mongoose themselves:

A complete guide on founding, growing and running your own world in Traveller, this book enables the creation of sociologically diverse solar systems or even empires. Covering a wide range of aspects involving governments, infrastructure, trade, military defences and even religion, it also allows the development of these unique polities over time; investments, conflicts and random events driving their growth – or indeed, possible collapse!

Whether you are a band of adventurers colonising or conquering their own planet, or seeking to play out a generational game of developing sector-wide dominions, Dynasty will add depth and colour to any Traveller campaign.

Dynasty is a cross between a “dynasty” chargen system and a metagame for fleshing out background. Say your favorite character is a spy. A spy for who? What does that agency want? Why does that Megacorporation oppose you at every turn? With Dynasty all those questions can be answered. Using Dynasty, a GM can create “a succession of rulers from the same family or line; also a family or group that maintains power for several generations” (p. 2).

Dynasty can be viewed as having two parts. The first part is Dynasty Generation. Dynasties are described using characteristics (Cleverness, Greed, Loyalty, Militarism, Popularity, Scheming, Tenacity and Tradition) as well as traits, aptitudes, values, boons and hindrances. Like Traveller chargen itself, a dynasty can be created using a mini-game (alternatively, a point-buy option is provided).

After creating the core characteristics, each dynasty much chose a power base which gives trait and attribute modifiers. At this point, a dynasty archtype is chosen which determines base traits and attributes. To get the dynasty started, the First Generation (actually the first 100 years) is covered, which is also where boons and hindrances are developed. The management (or leadership) of the dynasty is also created. Basic dynasty creation ends with the calculation of First Generation values as well as determining background and historic events in the first 100 years of a dynasty.

Now that the core dynasty is created, the layers or GM can work through the generations. Each generation is 30 years long. For each generation, a goal must be chosen. There are ten goals given and for each there is a checklist of aptitude checks or defined checks or end-of-generation factors that must be met. Every five years the dynasty must check for Threats and Obstacles, and every 10 years there can be decade events. Finally, at the end of every generation there is an accounting step to determine how the dynasty grows – or if it fails to survive.

The generations “game” is where Dynasty begins to fall apart. For each generation, the dynasty must complete Aptitude Checks to meet goals. The Aptitude Checks in the book are not all inclusive; indeed they represent only a very limited selection meaning a GM will have to be very creative. Some checks are opposed, meaning you have to have more than one dynasty being created. This is fine with multiple players but hard to solo – a past hallmark of Traveller games.

The second part of Dynasty focuses on when dynasties clash. Five mini-games are introduced, each replacing the regular generation process. Rules are also provided for dynastic influence on Traveller chargen. The book concludes with a GM guide to role-playing with dynasties and sample dynasties.

The process of creating a dynasty works fine through the creation of the core dynasty (the first 10 years). In the generation process, the Aptitude Checks provided are limited and the GM will have to create may of their own, but very guidance on how to do this is provided. When dynasties clash is also a bit confusing, because there are prerequisites to starting each mini-game and their relationship to the regular generational Aptitude Checks seems unclear.

I don’t really want to declare that the generational development game and the clashes mini-games are broken, but in the (few) dynasties I have tried creating it seems difficult to get the requisite accumulated effects (anywhere from 50-80 or so) each generation. Odds are if you spend an entire generation on Aptitude Checks you may meet your goal, but no clashes would be possible. Indeed, clashes early in the life of a dynasty appear deadly.

Since I am still working on creating dynasties I have not had the chance to play around with heroes and villains of dynasties. I worry that the changes to chargen may upset player character balance. Will have to keep an eye on that.

In conclusion, Dynasty is interesting but not without its issues. Rules could be clearer; the format Mongoose uses for books is difficult to follow. That said, Dynasty is interesting because it allows creation of background and backstory. It is integrated with chargen, but it is not very clearly interchangable with other Traveller mini-games such as Mercenary or High Guard; nor is it intuitively obvious how to relate to Classic Traveller games like Striker or Trillion-Credit Squadron (which just screams dynasty!).

Wargame Wednesday – Sector Fleet: Traveller Third Imperium

Mongoose Publishing

GRANTED that a Traveller RPG source book is not a wargame, but this publication has so much wargaming goodness in it that it practically qualifies anyway.

From the Mongoose Publishing description of the item:

Sector Fleet is a sourcebook for all versions of Traveller. Concentrating on the Imperial Navy of the Third Imperium, it presents data on naval operations, procedures and ships for many interstellar powers including the Solomani Confederation, the Julian Protectorate, and the Two Thousand Worlds.

Sector Fleet details the role and organization of an interstellar navy as well as the specifics of shipboard protocol such as command devolution, legal and illegal orders, and how much latitude a starship captain has once underway. Sector Fleet also presents details of the exact composition of an Imperial Sector and Subsector fleet; ship strengths and types, and the vital role played by reserve and Colonial forces in backing up the main strength of the Sector Fleet. The fleets of the entire Spinward Marches are described in this book.

As far as Mongoose Traveller supplements go, this one is fairly dense, weighing in at 136 pages covering eight chapters plus the Introduction and Appendix. Being a Third Imperium setting sourcebook, it gives the reader information on the Grand Fleet of the Third Imperium.

Chapter 1, The Grand Fleet of the Third Imperium, covers the Navy’s roles and history. Chapter 2, Vessel Classes, gives generic descriptions of ship classes.

Chapter 3, The Structure and Organization of the Grand Fleet, has both a role-playing element that describes the political and military command structures – useful items for helping determine fleet command & control. This chapter also covers the structure of the fleet with useful additional information on Navy Depots and Bases.

Chapter 4, Personnel, and Chapter 5, Deployments and Procedures are almost exclusively aimed at the RPG player. Chapter 6, Weapons and Equipment, includes yet more generic weapons descriptions.

For the Wargamer, Chapter 7, The Spinward Marches Sector Fleet, is probably the most useful. The order of battle for the Spinward Marches Sector Fleet is laid out subsector by subsector. Composition of each Sector Fleet deployment, Subsector, Colonial, and even reserve/mothball ships awaiting activation is laid out. This deployment does follow the Mongoose Traveller year 1105 setting. Chapter 8, Opponents and Rivals, briefly covers other navies. The book ends with an Appendix that gives a “Typical” Sector Fleet Composition.

If I have one major complaint, it is that this book is too generic and outright contradictory at times. For instance, Dreadnoughts are noted as “[T]he best and newest (and most expensive)…” (p. 21) with examples given as the mighty Plankwell and Tigress-classes. Battleships are  “both downrated dreadnaught classes and purpose-designed second-class line-of-battle ships…” (p. 21) – yet no examples are given. This uneven approach makes it difficult to make immediate use of all this data – a GM will have to be creative and build most fleets.

Nowhere is the problem more apparent than in the Spinward Marches order of battle. The OOB is given in generic terms only, i.e. the Mora Sector Fleet, Flag Group Spinward Marches consists of “2 Dreadnought.” Which class? In other places, battleships are listed as First-class, second-class, third and even fourth but there is no explanation in the vessel types as to what this means. Other examples are Armored Cruisers (not listed in types) and battlecruisers in types but not in any order of battle.

These errors are all the more egregious given Sector Fleet is not a new product but a reprint of an earlier QuikLink Interactive product. Sector Fleet is yet another in a long list of examples where Mongoose lives up to its failed quality control reputation – again.

RPG Thursday – Traveller Vehicle Handbook Review

A squadron of Imperial Marine Trepida grav tanks on patrol (by A. Boulton at http://www.traveller3d.com)

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT – QUALIFIED FAILURE

The new Supplement 5-6: The Vehicle Handbook from Mongoose Publishing (MGP 3868, published 2012) has three major sections. In order they are New Vehicle Rules, the Vehicle Design System, and Vehicle Examples. My review will address each in a slightly different order.

The Vehicle Design System is more streamlined than the older Supplement 5 Civilian Vehicles (MGP 3821/2009) and Supplement 6 Military Vehicles (MGP 3822/2009) which generally makes it faster and more useful. As noted in the Introduction, the authors bought into the “design for effect” school and dropped much of the “gearhead” details. I like this – as a GM one needs to be able to quickly design vehicles to support the story. Unfortunately, the text is often hard to follow and the design process can be difficult to understand. Somebody needs to introduce Mongoose to bullet lists! The (sadly) traditional Mongoose editing/proofreading/format errors are here which means it is that much more challenging to make sense out of rules.  Even given all that I rate this section 4 out of 5.

The Vehicle Examples are a mess. Most examples have errors. Cargo and armor and weapons ranges and stacked modifiers for price are often done incorrectly. So much so that I cannot trust any example. I will admit I haven’t checked every entry, but I have looked at 20 and found only one correct.

I was happy to see Hammer’s Slammers vehicles in this book. I was hoping that Mongoose would finally live up to the back cover of Hammer’s Slammers (MGP 3817/2009) where they stated “With all vehicles created using the Traveller Vehicle Creation System, this book is guaranteed to be fully compatible with every other Traveller book, allowing you to mix and match supplements as you desire!” Alas, Mongoose has failed yet again to live up to that “guarantee” since it is still impossible to recreate the Hammer’s Slammers vehicle designs since many weapons are missing or details are poorly translated/updated between products. I am not sure the designer of the Hammer’s Slammers vehicles actually understands the source material since many design decisions are at odds with the source literature (like no Fusion powerplants and Explosive Reactive Armour vice Explosive Belt). Indeed, it looks like many vehicles don’t add the cost of the weapons, a bit understandable since none of the weapons are described in any Traveller product beyond Hammer’s Slammers which didn’t give cost.

I also tried to recreate the Sword Worlds vehicles but that too proved impossible since several weapons are not to be found in the new Vehicle Handbook, the Sword Worlds guide (MGP 3865/2011), the Central Supply Catalogue (CSC, MGP 3819/2009), and even Mercenary (MGP 3801/2008).

Given all the errors in the vehicle examples and the inability to recreate iconic vehicles, I rate the Vehicle Example section 1 out of 5.

Lastly, there are the New Vehicle Rules. The most significant new rules in my mind are vehicle movement, extended ranges for vehicle weapons, and interactions between Tech Levels. The vehicle movement rules are simplistic yet not very clear with some rules found in the construction section rather than with the new rules. Weapon ranges are messed up with many at odds with CSC or other previous publications. In contrast, the new Tech Level interactions rules are nice but there are many skill check or hit modifiers spread out through the book they are never brought  together in an easy to understand way.

Mongoose had previously published an expanded set of vehicle combat rules in Hammer’s Slammers, but it appears the new Vehicle Handbook was written without referencing that work at all. Indeed, the vehicle movement rules and expanded ranges are at odds with Hammer’s Slammers (comparing ranges in CSC and the new Vehicle Handbook is also difficult to follow – and mostly wrong as noted above). Mongoose missed the chance to bring in useful items from Hammer’s Slammers like Crew Roles, new Actions, as well as Special Considerations like Air Defense, Booster AI to explain the usefulness of computers, and Expanded Damage Rules. The net result is a further weakening of the “Hammer’s Slammers guarantee” and (IMHO) a missed chance to make vehicle combat better. It seems quite clear that Mongoose has abandoned the Hammer’s Slammers product so why bother to put the vehicle examples in?

I fully believe Mongoose could have incorporated expanded vehicle combat rules in this product. Within the Vehicle Design section there is much repetition and it is possible more space could have been used for new rules. This book also screams for an index which is not to be found.

I rate the new rules 2 out of 5. Too many missed opportunities!

At the end of the day I am torn on what to recommend my fellow Traveller players and GMs. The Design System is useful, but the actual vehicle designs are riddled with errors and the new rules are a mixed bag. Don’t buy the hardcover! At $40 it is not worth it. Wait for the softcover? Maybe. Buy the .pdf? Probably your best bet but be ready to do a lot of (re)work on your own.

Oh, I know that if the Mongoose forums see this I will get crucified by the Mongoose Traveller Fanboys for being too nit-picky. After all, I bought the product, eh? Actually, I took advantage of the forum offer where buying the new book gets two free books to replace the older vehicle supplements. Well, shame on me for being greedy. It doesn’t change the fact that Mongoose has quality control issues. Burying one’s head in the sand doesn’t help fix the Mongoose’s problems.

 

I am (cautiously) looking forward to Prime Directive: Traveller but have to admit that after this disaster with the new Vehicle Handbook I am not optimistic.

Wargame Wednesday – New First Interstellar War 2114-2118 (Imperium)

The war started out in 2114 with a Terran occupation of Procyon. As the Vilani have a world at Nusku, the Terrans went to the galactic east. The landings were without any opposition and administrative in nature. The 5th Rifles Division settled down for occupation duty. Then an Imperial Task Force arrived in system having used a tanker in the Sirius System to pass through that tertiary star. Later intelligence would reveal that the Imperials appealed to the Emperor for additional funding in an effort to quickly end Terra’s expansionist plans. The invading Vilani quickly destroyed the Terran fleet in system, including two valuable transports, and landed two regular troop divisions and another of Jump Troops. The 5th Rifles put up a valiant fight but was overwhelmed by the Imperial ground forces and surrendered. By the end of 2115, the situation looked bleak for the Terrans seeing as they were being hemmed in by the Vilani.

The defeat at Procyon, coupled with the presence of Vilani at Nusku, led to a unification of effort in the Terran forces. Production of Missile Boats was begun, as well as raising defensive forces. The new Terran Confederation was readying for a defensive war of the homeworlds. That is until the Imperials overstretched themselves.

Intelligence agencies disagree if it was just poor planning or hubris that led to the Imperial invasion of Midway. The planet had no Terran outpost or other forces in system. Maybe the Imperials thought they could seize a forward staging area. Regardless, the Terran Fleet put an end to those plans by pulling together a scratch force and ended the Imperial eastern invasion threat. First, they defeated the Imperial Task Force above Midway, leaving two divisions of Imperial troops stranded on the planets surface. Additionally, a Scout squadron passed through the Procyon system (bypassing a lone Imperial Transport squadron) and jumped to Sirius. There the scouts engaged the Imperial tanker squadron in the system and destroyed it before it could escape. Though a one-way mission (the scout squadron had no way to get home) by controlling the Sirius system, even for just a short time, the Terrans isolated the eastern invasion fleets. Left stranded in Procyon and beyond were two Imperial transport squadrons and three divisions of troops, including the 60th Proxima Centauri Jump Division. By the end of 2117 the transports had been run down and eliminated.

The Vilani Provincial Governor was shocked. In four years of combat on the trailing side of Terran space, the Imperials had lost 2xCL, 4xDD, 2xSC, 3xTR, a tanker, and had three divisions of troops trapped behind enemy lines. Looking over his ledger, the governor was aghast at the 27 RU of losses – as much as the province produced in two years. Production was quickly reorganized with additional transports being built and more troops raised. Acting on intelligence reports the Terrans were building new missile boat attrition units, the governor approved the Navy request to build a carrier with fighters. The Navy also adopted a forward defense posture for Nusku and the spinward side of Terra, gambling the Terrans did not have a tanker in production that would allow them passage through Sirius just yet.

Full Thrust Imperium – Battle of Procyon

FROM TERCONFLT TRAINCOM

TO ALL FLEET

SUBJ BATTLE OF PROCYON TRAINING – EXERCISE FULL THRUST

Following Battle of Procyon, all task force commanders directed to exercise simulated tactical situation in order to discern lessons learned for use in future fleet engagements.

HISTORICAL OOB: Terran Confederation Fleet (TCF) one light cruiser (CL), destroyer (DD), and two scouts (SC) vs Vilani Imperial Fleet (VIF) Task Force of two CL, four DD, and two SC. Meeting engagement.

EXERCISE SIMULATION FT120304 BEGINS

TCF Task Force deployed with CL and DD line astern; 3xSC offset to starboard; speed 4.

VIF Task Force deployed with 2xCL center, 2x SC line astern aft of CLs, 2xDD deployed left/right flanks of CLs; speed 4.

TCF and VIF advance to range of 24+. TCF CL uses Class-2 beams to hit VIF DD3. Minor damage to armor. As forces continue to close VIF CL uses SALVO MSLS to strike CL/DD group. Due to maneuvering TCF DD takes full force of two salvos. Point Defense used but unable to defeat all missiles. TCF DD DESTROYED.

Fleets continue to close. TCF CL focuses fire on VIF CL2 which is severely damaged. Due to acceleration to higher speeds VIF DDs are unable to maximum firepower to bear; launch SUBMUNITION PACKS from less-than-optimal ranges resulting in minor damage to TCF CL. TCF CL and VIF CL2 engage in close range battle with VIF CL2 DESTROYED. VIF CL1 engages TCF CL and scores major damage. TCF CL DESTROYED. TCF SCs attempt to escape but VIF SCs pursue (VIF DDs out of position to pursue). In last exchange of fire, all four SCs mutually destroy each other (2x VIF, 2x TCF SCs DESTROYED).

LOSSES: TCF CL, DD, 2xSC (equals historical); VIF CL, 2x SC (same historical number of ships but different classes).

Courtesy BGG

Comment: Battle was fought using Full Thrust Fleet Book 1 rules. Somewhere along the line I picked up a set of images for the ships in Imperium (sorry, don’t know where I got them!). The TCF CL has 3x Class-2 Beams, 2x Class-1 Beams, and a single Submunition Pack. The TCF DD has a Class-2 beam, 2x Class-1 beam, and a single submunition pack. The VIF CLs have a two-salvo, Salvo Missile Launcher and 2x Class-1 beams. The VIF DD have 2x Class-1 beams, 2x submunition packs, and the only armor of any ship. The TCF scouts have 2x Class-1 beams versus the VIF scouts with a Class-1 beam and submunition pack. In Full Thrust terms, the Vilani Fleet totaled 188 TMF and 650 NPV against a Terran Fleet of 88 TMF and 308 NPV.

The range closed too quickly for the Vilani to get both salvos off from the CLs. This hurt the Vilani since their CLs are not optimized for close-in fighting. The TCF CL was able to dish out more damage thanks to Class-2 beams and its lone submunition pack. Unfortunately, it could not deal damage out fast enough against two opponents and was destroyed, but only after taking one VIF CL out first. The four VIF DD with their submunition packs succeeded where the VIF CL up close could not. The TCF scouts made a slashing attack that added  damage to the second VIF CL but little else.

 

 

Wargame Wednesday – Imperium Take Two

In preparation for my Second Interstellar War using GDW’s Imperium, I was doing my customary rules review when I noticed a few rule nuances concerning Maintenance, Planetary Defensive Fire, and Surface Combat that I missed in my first go-around last year. The rules are important enough that I decided not to go to the Second Interstellar War but restart from the beginning.

Maintenance

This time I really paid attention to the Economic Rules, given my somewhat recent attention to the IMTU Arden background I am developing. Specifically, I was trying to see what lessons/inspiration I could draw from the RU (Resource Unit) approach to economics that is used here in Imperium as latter in T5. The budget system in Imperium with RUs is different than Traveller Adventure 5: Trillion Credit Squadron and Power Projection: Fleet which uses Credits as their currency.

I discovered I played Maintenance totally wrong. Maintenance represents “expenditures…necessary on a recurring basis to ensure that ships remain functional and in fighting trim” (Rule Book, 12). Basically, Maintenance is paid by turn (each turn representing two years) in one of two ways:

  • Civilized Maintenance is paid if a ship is in a primary system with a friendly world marker; the player expends RUs equal to the maintenance number for the ship
  • Frontier Maintenance applies in all other situations; the player rolls 1d6 and must be equal to or higher than the maintenance number to be successful – unless there is no friendly outpost present in which case a +1 modifier is added to the die roll; missing the maintenance roll results in a disrupted ship.

Players really want to avoid disrupted ships. A disrupted ship must roll its maintenance number or higher to move and it subtracts one from any attack die rolls or when defending against planetary defenses. To become undisrupted, at a friendly world the players pays RUs equal to the maintenance number plus 1 or in all other conditions the player must roll higher than the maintenance number.

Maintenance has a tremendous impact on fleet budgets and deployments. If a player keeps all his ships in a primary system world, he pays directly from his budget for maintenance. Far better to keep your ships at outposts and pay nothing, right? The catch here is that ships using Frontier Maintenance have a better chance of breaking down .

Take for instance the lowly Scout. With a maintenance number of 1, it is always ready if at a friendly outpost and even if in unfriendly space it only has a 1 in 6 chance of disruption. A Heavy Cruiser (CR) with a maintenance number of 4 has a 50% chance (3 in 6) of being ready if at a friendly outpost, but only a 1 in 3 chance if in unfriendly space. The worst is the Dreadnought (Imperial B1/Terran B) with a maintenance number of 6! If at a friendly outpost there is only a 1 in 6 chance to avoid disruption, and if in unfriendly space there is no way at all to avoid being disrupted. Remember that to undisrupt a Dreadnought it will take 7 RU at a friendly world; there is no way to undisrupt it elsewhere since you have to roll higher than the maintenance number of 6 – impossible on 1d6. If you really need this ship, better to station it at a Primary System World, but that means paying 6 RU per turn (Civilized Maintenance) to have it standing by.

So the player has to chose between having ships at the ready, but paying directly from the budget, or paying less maintenance but risking disrupted ships. The practical impact is that larger ships will tend to be based at at primary worlds to be “at the ready” whereas smaller ships will depend on Frontier Maintenance at friendly outposts.

HALO ODST Drop Pod (Megabloks)

Planetary Defensive Fire

I totally missed the difference between Jump Troops and Regular Troops when it comes to Planetary Defensive Fire (Rule Book, 8). Since a Jump Troop can be inserted from space, the Jump Troop is subject to planetary defensive fire but the transport is not! The obvious impact is that the useful Transport can be protected.

Surface Combat

Two aspects of Surface Combat (Rule Book, 8-9) also caught my eye. First, I totally missed that starships can participate in Surface Combat! This is because when terminating space combat (Rule Book, 7) there are some ships that could be left behind:

“Ships which cannot perform hyperspace jumps (monitors, fighters, reaction forces which have already jumped three times, and disrupted starships unable to make the required die roll) are left behind to carry on the battle alone.”

The attacker then gets to conduct Planetary Bombardment using World, Outpost, and Planetary Defense markers for Planetary Defensive Fire. This is followed by Surface Combat.

I guess I got caught up in thinking of Surface Combat as just that; troops versus troops. But in reality it goes beyond that simple view. As stated in the rules, “If the defender has fewer troops than the attacker, the defender must now move forward non-troop counters (planetary defense markers, ship counters, and lastly world or outpost markers), each to be matched by an attacking troop counter.” There is an implied priority here; first used to defend are planetary defense markers or ships (monitors, fighters, and disrupted ships) and secondly outpost or world markers. The rules even specify that planetary defenses defend at a factor of 2 but all others (including starships) defend with a factor of 1.

The second nuance I missed is Defensive Fire (Rule Book, 9). Given that Jump Troops are “lightly equipped,” they are at a disadvantage against Regular Troops which include heavy artillery (Rule Book, 11). Regular Troops get a defensive firing that could destroy the Jump Troop before it even gets a chance to fight! Really makes for an interesting budget and strategy decision; pay 3 RU for Regular Troops (1-4 combat factors and Transport risked) or 2 RU for Jump Troops (4-6 combat factors but less risk to transport yet vulnerable to defensive fire).

Conclusions

Every time I play Imperium I get a greater appreciation of the depth of economics as well as strategy and tactics that are in this seemingly simple game. Simple it that the rules are really uncomplicated (I just have to read them better) but represent a very complex set of interactions making for a fun and thoughtful gaming experience.

“The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright 1977 – 2012 Far Future
Enterprises.”

Newsflash Earth (Imperium)

Earth, 2114

Forces of the Terran Navy have moved in force to occupy Agidda and Procyon. Confederation Navy spokesmen talk about preemptive moves to forestall Imperial aggression.

Procyon, 2115

Refugees from Procyon tell of a terrible campaign and defeat. Imperial forces invaded the Procyon system and defeated a Terran Confederation task force. Losses are said to include a light cruiser, destroyer, several scouts and transports. The Procyon outpost and 5th Rifles Division were also defeated. Inside the Navy, anonymous sources are calling the strategic situation “grave.”

RPG Thursday – Broadsword Mercs in Tomorrow’s War

Broadsword and ATV (biomassart)

Looking to create a small unit in Tomorrow’s War, I drew inspiration from Classic Traveller Adventure 7 -Broadsword. The Broadsword-class mercenary cruiser is an 800 dton spherical-hull ship (an obvious nod to Nemesis from H. Beam Piper’s Space Viking novel). The ship carries a 28-troop mercenary contingent along with a pair of modular cutters and an air raft and ATV for the ground force.

The Vargr require special rules. Treat the Vargr squad (Third Squad) as an Irregular Unit. Vargr attributes are Augmented Senses (see exception) and Natural Weapons. Generally speaking, a Vargr unit has higher morale but lower confidence than a human unit. Vargr units use the Morale of the Leader for all Morale Checks. If the Leader dies the next-highest leader assumes command. If there are multiple leaders of the same rank the unit takes on the Animosity Attribute, though Vargrs will only snipe amongst themselves. Vargr have Augmented Senses except for at night where the Night Fighting rules (TW p. 80) apply unless using night vision equipment. Twice per game, a Vargr may use Special Rapid Movement which is 2x the usual Rapid Movement distance. Once both Special Rapid Moves have been used, the unit can only use Tactical Movement (no more Rapid Movement allowed) for the remainder of the scenario.

Using the data and personnel presented in the adventure, the unit  in Tomorrow’s War terms could looks like this:

Basic Force Attributes
Initiative Level: D8
Confidence Level: High
Supply Level: Normal
Body Armor: Combat Armor (TL2/2D)
Fusion Gunners wear TL2 Standard Power Armor (3D)
Troop Quality/Morale: D10
Overall TL: 2 On Grid: Normally, No.
Attributes: Medic, Old School
(Vargr use special rule; see Third Squad)

Broadsword Mercenary Contingent
Command Element

Troop Commander w/Auto Pistols (Gauss Rifle Available) (Leader +2)
Leading Sergeant w/ Gauss Rifle
Runner (Vargr) w/Gauss Rifle

First Squad
Squad Leader w/Gauss Rifle
Fire Team Leader w/Gauss Rifle
3x Trooper w/Gauss Rifle
ATV Driver w/Auto Pistol
Medic (Unarmed)
Fusion Gunner w/FGMP-14 (TL3, Hvy. AP: 4/AT:4 (H)

Second Squad
Squad Leader w/Gauss Rifle (Leader +1)
Fire Team Leader w/Gauss Rifle (Leader +1)
3x Trooper w/Gauss Rifle
ATV Driver w/Auto Pistol
Medic (Unarmed)
Fusion Gunner w/FGMP-14 (TL3, Hvy. AP: 4/AT:4 (H)

Third Squad
Squad Leader w/Gauss Rifle (Leader +2)
Fire Team Leader w/Gauss Rifle
3x Trooper w/Gauss Rifle
Demolitions Specialist (Carries Breaching Charges, Sticky Bombs, Satchel Charges/Limpet Mines)
Medic (Unarmed)
Fusion Gunner w/FGMP-14 (TL3, Hvy. AP: 4/AT:4 (H)

Available Assets
[Asset/Operational Momentum Points Expended]
ATV/4
Man-Portable Tac Missiles/2 (Different versions available: Anti-Air – treat as Light AD Environment; Anti-Armor – treat as TL2 ATGM; Anti-Personnel – TL 2 ABW Lt AP:2; each soldier can carry a single round; can be fired in lieu of regular weapon)
Modular Cutter in Interface Strike Mode/12
Modular Cutter with Assault Boat Module/10
Modular Cutter with ATV Module/10
Modular Cutter with Weapons Module/8

Vehicles/Landers
ATV
TL:2, Wheeled
Armament: Gatling Laser (TL 1 EWS, Lt. AP: 2/AT:1 (L)
Front/Side/Rear/Deck Armor: each 3D8

Crew: 1+15
Attributes: TL2 Armor, Amphibious
Note: The ATV does not carry a dedicated gunner; gunner must come from carried passengers

Air Raft
TL 2, AGV (but treat as DTV for movement)
Armament: Light MG (TL2 ABW, Lt AP: 2)
Armor: Soft-Skinned 1D6
Crew: 1+3
Attributes: Open-topped

Modular Cutter
As Interface Strike (6x Medium PGM)
As Dropship – Combat Modules Carried:
– ATV Module (1xATV)
– Assault Boat Module (16x troops in 2x sections; upon landing power spades scoop out entrenchments and troops drop through bottom doors; troops in entrenchments are in Improved Cover (+2D))
Other Combat Modules Available:
Weapons Module (Triple Laser Turret, TL2 EWS, Hvy AP: 4/AT:2(H); can only fire when Cutter is grounded)

Gauss Rifle

I originally made the design decision to ignore the 4cm RAM GL but now am thinking twice. Some of the color commentary from Central Supply Catalogue (CSC p. 81) is needed to understand a few of my (new) design decisions:

“Rifle, Gauss 4mm…The round itself consists of a dense armour piercing core…excellent stopping power and good armour penetration…A single-shot RAM grenade launcher is fitted…takes two full combat rounds to load a new grenade…either the rifle or the grenade launcher may be fired in a given round….”

Comparative damage in Traveller terms is 4d6 AP for the Gauss Rifle and 6d6 for a 40mm grenade (CSC p. 81/p. 109).

With all that in mind, I propose:

Gauss Rifle w/4cm RAM GL, TL2 (Lt. AP:0*/AT:1(L) *Note: Armor Piercing – When used in Infantry Combat target reduced by 1D of armor/cover; Grenade Launcher can be used as Support Weapon (Lt. AP:1) in lieu of Gauss Rifle in ONE Round of Fire or Close Assault per turn (no armor piercing bonus)

The Lt. AP:0 looks funny but this is to avoid making the Gauss Rifle a super weapon. With Lt. AP:0 each figure has a Firepower of 1D when firing the Gauss Rifle; whereas if I call it Lt. AP:1 each figure gets 2D Firepower (Number of Figures + Special Weapon Dice – see Firepower Table on P. 62 of Tomorrow’s War). Also, by making it Lt. AP:1 (representing the 4cm GL) the weapon gets the advantages of a Support Weapon – making it worth 2D FP in combat (TW p. 60-61) – but not so much that it counts as an Advanced Support Weapon (TW p. 74-76).

Sources Used: Adventure 7 Broadsword (Classic Traveller), Alien Module 3 Vargr (Classic Traveller), Mongoose Traveller Pocket Rulebook, Mongoose Traveller Supplement 4: Central Supply Catalogue

The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright 1977 – 2008 Far FutureEnterprises.