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Future FA rules

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I’m highly interested what flavour the future rules set for Firestorm Armada is going to be.

And I’m not talking details here, I would just like to know what the general design goal is.

The reason I would like to know this is because I don’t want to waste time on something that’s not going to be my cup of tea anyway, and be a general nuisance to those of other faiths in the process.

 

What I want to know is if Warcradle will be aiming for a hard-scifi game, like Spartan originally promised many moons ago, or if it is going to continue in the direction Spartan was actually going.

So is the new Firestorm Armada going to be Star Trek style scifi or Star Wars style fantasy?

Is it going to be ruled by the rules of science or the rules of cool?

Is it going to be a space combat game or is it going to be Uncharted Seas with space ships?

 

I could be wrong, but based on those comments by Warcraddle staff I’ve seen up to now it looks like the answer is going to be “the latter” to all three the above questions.

Which is fine by me, I just would like to know… :)

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As long as the rules of the narrative don't get in the way of the game being enjoyable for a wide audience, I'm keen on it embracing a harder sci-fi theme.

The game needs a distinctive setting, just being Star Wars/40k with new names is not the right way to go (in my opinion). That said, there is a risk that game mechanics adhering too closely to delivering an accurate representation of 'hard' science can translate into an exercise of resource management and power distribution for each ship which then limits the appeal of the game to a very specialised niche. 

Firestorm should be fast, furious and fun and yet thematically still represent a hard science fiction narrative. The trick would be in making such a setting as appealing and accessible as possible.  

My two pennyworth, anyway.

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While I am not a Warcradle spokesperson, hard sci-fi is always hard to sell for a tabletop game.  There is a huge difference between playing Battlespace (Battletech's space game) and X-Wing/Star Wars Armada.  Even forgetting the 3rd dimension (which both of those do), just keeping track of the newtonian aspects can be a trial.  If you start including the 3rd dimension, it gets really crazy from there.

One of the best parts of soft sci-fi is that you can do a little hand-wavium of getting out of what we consider hard laws of physics by saying that they've discovered tech which allows them to get around it.  In Star Trek, they get around going the speed of light by creating a pocked of different space, while Star Wars hops in to a different space all together.  Star Wars uses Repulsor technology to get around things like inertia so they can dogfight, while I believe Star Trek uses inertial dampeners for that.   Most good authors will either use the knowledge we think we have (we are discovering new things all the time that put old theories in to the dust bin, see Asimov's Lucky Starr series), or just provide sufficient to the needs of the story (while avoiding the need to explain them at all, see Hienlien's Starship Troopers).

The 3rd dimensions is an interesting point.  I am only aware of two tabletop games that acknowledge them, and only one has any note of popularity.  Dropfleet simplifies it to 3 bands, while the board/TT game based on David Weber's Honorverse gets a lot more complicated.  Homeworld was mentioned as allowing it, but never uses it.  It actually does use it, it is just players don't often take advantage of it.   There are numerous times in a mission where something is above or below the mothership and that has to be taken in to account ("above" and "below" being according to the orientation of the mothership).  There is also the capacity to avoid another fleet by going above or below them just as easily as you go left or right.  Interestingly enough, David Weber explains why his ships tend to stay on the ecliptic plane in the Honorverse, it is easier on the jump drives to arrive and leave on the ecliptic plane of the star system, which means most traffic stays within that relative 2D space (with the 3rd dimension being the star's own "height").

I guess, in short, so long as they stay "hard" to themselves, I'll largely be fine with it, so long as the ruleset is manageable.

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I just have to say I don't think Star Wars or Star Trek are hard sci-fi . We all know Star Wars has space wizards, but Star Trek has plenty of aliens with god like powers (Q to name just 1). Hard Sci-fi for me would be more like Blade Runner or The Expanse. 

 

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While a 3D movement system would be realistic it wouldn’t add much tactically, and so it isn’t really worth the huge added complexity that comes with it.

Real Newtonian movement would be nice to have, but that too comes with unacceptable complexity for a tabletop miniatures game.

That doesn’t mean, however, that a movement system basically simulating the movement of submarines in the ocean is acceptable for a space combat game.

 

A realistic movement system may be impractical, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go for something that at least feels a bit like Newtonian movement.

And the same goes for all those other factors that make up a space combat game.

Most existing space combat games, however, are really naval combat games.

They simulate Actium, and Trafalgar, and Jutland, and Midway, but nothing even close to space combat, unfortunately.

 

Star Trek indeed isn’t the best example of hard sci-fi (any more), Star Wars is a rather good example of fantasy in sci-fi sauce though.

There exists a lot of sci-fi literature incorporating loads of hard sci-fi space combat, Weber’s HH series, for instance, or Campbell’s The Lost Fleet series, or Dandridge’s Empires at War.

And while each of them creates a rather different space combat environment, they all deliver a believable one.

And that’s what I want in a space combat game too; something believable, something enabling me to suspense disbelief, and not yet another historical or fantasy naval combat game with space ships.

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While I am a HUGE fan of Weber's Honorverse (just started reading The Honor of the Queen for the umpteenth time) , it is no more "hard sci-fi" than Star Trek is.  It involves a lot of tech that is beyond theoretical to the point of made up technology and concepts.  That is not hard sci-fi, but what the author is fantasizing will happen.  However, as I said earlier, the Honorverse usually stays true to its own rules (with the occasional correction), and that is the hope I have for Firestorm.  If they stay "hard" to themselves, great and awesome, and that's all that is really important.

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After having played Dropfleet, I have absolutely no problem with Firestorm being naval warfare in space. What a pain in the neck working in 3 dimensions on a 2D plane.

Let me throw out a devil's advocate question but are any of Firestorm's rules supported or made more complicated by 3D movement?  We don't do armour by facing, belly-up allows you to change arcs already, I don't see the effects other than adding more inches to my effective rangeband

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I've played one PC space game that tried for harder sci-fi rules and closer to newtonian motion. One big thing that stood out was that the ships were visually designed for it; they had thrusters on every angle, yet the designs were very well done by and large and still had a star-wars style structure (big engines at the back) appearance. Plus several of the alien ships used methods of movement that didn't require engines everywhere. Nexus the Jupiter Incident was the name - very well made overall and yet never spawned a sequel nor did record sales (I put it part down to the games demo having no tutorial mode and losing a potential block of customers). 

 

IF FA wanted to go hard-sci fi the entire ship lines would mostly have to be remade to reflect that. A redesign that would be huge and, I think, would honestly break the visual designs; the games general appeal and market and the games overall aesthetic. At that point it wouldn't really be FA except for the faction names and lore; and honestly whilst Spartan did well with their Lore its nothing near as widely known, nor deeply presented as say Starwars, Warhammer or any other major franchise. Ergo, in my view, it wouldn't be FA any more. 

I think the best thing FA can do is embrace its Star-Wars style and go full on with that approach to space sim in a game. It's easy to visualise for new and old players; its got a known theme and, in the end, it works on a 2D table (actually Star Trek would work on that too - notice how in nearly every TV episode most ships line up flat to each other; they very rarely actually use alternate above/blow angles). 

 

And that point on above and below I think also highlights why "ships in space" works better; mechanically and visually they are ships in space. We let the lore; the sci-fi designs and the imagination of the player fill in the gaps. 

 

That said I think there are tricks that could be used to give some false impression of fighting in space. These could include:

1) Weapons that have a shunting aspect to them. Guns so strong that they push ships when they hit (or critical or suchlike). Pushing a ship to the side or even backwards (possibly with a modifier if the ship is stationary or moving). 

2) Scenarios with moving terrain features. This could be a moon moving in orbit  across the map. Smart use of this could be done via custom play mats/boards with an arc line drawn on one side of the map to show the movement direction of the celestial body. 

3) Stories and artwork that depict the space battles and draw out the players imaginations*

4) Dodging ram manoeuvres. If a ship (enemy or ally) aims to ram another and has enough movement from its ram manoeuvre to move fully past the other ship; then let the ship being rammed have a roll to see if if can dodge; representing the crew pushing the ship up or down for a moment to avoid the ram. Something that you wouldn't get in a sea faring game and which would mechanically be interesting as it would encourage longer distance ramming rather than short distance ramming. 

 

*I'd even say go wild with the, classic, style of space fantasy adventures and artwork and take inspiration from those earlier generations of artwork and style from around the Starwars era. 

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We can’t have realistic 3D Newtonian movement, so lets go for the moving through water model instead.

I don’t get why scratching realistic and 3D must automatically end with something simulating the effects of screws and rudders on a fluid.

And then, before you know it, we are fitting rams to our bows and swinging towards the enemy on the end of a rope again too.

Now that’s the sort of space combat I have no interest whatsoever in.

 

And I don’t think the design of the current FA ships contradicts with a 2D Newtonian style movement system.

They all have something resembling main thrusters, and manoeuvring thrusters may be visible, but don’t need to be.

So I don’t see why the current miniatures would be incompatible with 2D Newtonian style movement.

 

Charistoph brings up a good point by the way; the importance of staying true to a settings rules.

I think it is important for a scifi setting to have a clearly defined scientific background, because having one helps suspending disbelief, and it also enables players to reason their way out of situations the rules didn’t foresee.

 

Anyway, a Star Wars style FA game is about the last thing I would like to see, and a game including ramming IS the last thing I would like to see.

That’s why I started this topic, if FA is going that way I have no interest in it any more, so I wanted to know what it was going to be.

 

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Hi. I am confused by the premise of the OP.   If there have been no official announcements what FSA “will be” then likely it isn’t yet decided.   Why not just wait and see what happens?

(Joking)  Are you working a deadline for your boss?   Do you need to know right now whether to put a line item for FSA on your fiscal year gaming budget? 

 

 

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13 minutes ago, Stoobert said:

Hi. I am confused by the premise of the OP.   If there have been no official announcements what FSA “will be” then likely it isn’t yet decided.   Why not just wait and see what happens?

(Joking)  Are you working a deadline for your boss?   Do you need to know right now whether to put a line item for FSA on your fiscal year gaming budget? 

 

I get that people are passionate about the game and keen to know what's going on. As soon as we have something substantive to show and talk about, you can bet we will! 

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A very simple question is, how far are you willing to allow technology to bend what we currently know as physics?

We are learning new things about the universe all the time, and we are hoping some of those new things will allow us to do what was previously impossible, such as breaking the sound barrier used to be.  One of those may allow for braking a ship with the drive still in the rear.  There may be a way to set up the ship so that it can drive much like a ship in water.  Heck, for all we know the drives are set up to move through sparse dark matter the way aircraft move through air or a submarine in the sea, and one of the affects of that drive is that dark matter acts on the ship in the same manner as air on a plane or water on the sub.  That's just pulling some random sci-fantasy theory out of my butt, of course.

More importantly, without wanting to track extra information like one does in Battlespace to handle Newtonian flight, how do you propose it be different from Dystopian Wars or Uncharted Seas?

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Only thing I read that  I would consider anywhere close to hard science would be the Destroyermen series, but thats about boats not space ships. Personally I don't mind the sci-fi fantasy, but I am a Star wars Legends fan. 

Like anything else you are going to have to find a balance. You go too realistic, the game isn't going to be any fun to most people. On the other hand you have to have a certain amount of realism, or a good reason why 

something works a certain way.

 

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@Frans How do you forsee combat in space as being different from 'Naval' space combat games? How does a ships/squadron's movement differ between the two systems?

I really like the thematic stuff like being able to go belly up, or perhaps front over back to face directly behind you (then continue moving in the original direction of movement at half speed as you decelerate that way and then go back where you came from).

Maybe boarding has to be done with short range teleporters rather than trying to explain away the speed boarding craft would slam into the enemy hull.

Bombers dropping stuff is probably not a thing and instead 'bombers' are firing high payload torpedoes at short ranges.

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 Ramming cars or boats lack the raw energy that a space ship will have. A ship ramming a ship will be destroyed. The same is true for the target. 

Add in the low maneuverability of ships in FSA. How the heck do you expect a ship to successfully plan an intercept course with a target that can also move?

Finally, Space ship crews are not suicidal. They want to go home to their families and loved ones. 

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Yeah but what if the captain is seriously overconfident? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXq3dytL6ZA

Also don't forget the epic hyperspeed ram in the recent Starwars Film - just the kind of visual inspiration that will draw people into games like Firestorm. 

 

Ramming and collisions should be part of the rules. It puts flavour and stress on the game and means that factions which favour close range band weapons are not going to get to just charge in and move around however they want without risk. It is also a useful last-ditch effort - a frigate that perhaps is already heavily damaged or seriously out-classed charging into the side of a battleship; a heroic moment as the crew risk life and limb to achieve victory or at least avert loss.

 

Sure ramming/collisions should come with risk to both ships. In addition it opens up the chance for specific ramming class ships - something that we might see if the living ships (teased in the failed KS from the Spartan Games era)  return to  the dark depths of space. 

 

I think the key is that ramming/collision rules would be high risk and not too high reward (we don't want to make the best way to take out a larger ship to be to simply pepper it with frigates). Declaring a charge could even take into account the crews loyalty - a command check before allowing a charge, possibly modified by ship health/status. Whilst collissions would be there for mistakes in movement. 

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49 minutes ago, alextroy said:

 Ramming cars or boats lack the raw energy that a space ship will have. A ship ramming a ship will be destroyed. The same is true for the target. 

Add in the low maneuverability of ships in FSA. How the heck do you expect a ship to successfully plan an intercept course with a target that can also move?

Finally, Space ship crews are not suicidal. They want to go home to their families and loved ones. 

Heh, if you almost no crew left, and they already feel like they're dead, going out like that to protect their squadron-mates would actually be something to cheer over.  That's assuming that they have any pride as a crew, of course.

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If your ship is in ‘good’ enough shape to ram, you have options to survive the battle. That make ramming a matter of conspicuous bravery (or insanity) rather than the best course of action. 

Its cool in a story, rare in history, and hard to balance in a game. 

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Oh dear heavens, this hasn’t turned into the infinitely tired and cross-universe “can ships ram in space” argument has it?  :huh::):P 

Just like the imagined act itself, regardless of your position there can be no positive outcome.  

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Hey fair enough, didn't expect to stir the beehive here. I was more trying to figure out if ramming was a rule people didn't want in firestorm for firestorm's sake, or if that was just too close to naval wargaming for some folks. It feels like boarding actions were kind of meant to take their place, but talking about a high risk vs reward mechanic for ramming hits a little too close to home for all the anti-boarding defenses you have to do already. 

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4 hours ago, Stoobert said:

Oh dear heavens, this hasn’t turned into the infinitely tired and cross-universe “can ships ram in space” argument has it?  :huh::):P 

Just like the imagined act itself, regardless of your position there can be no positive outcome.  

It seems more of a "should" or "why" rather than "can", argument.

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