Space Combat Systems

So one of the things I like best about our ongoing space game (admittedly it’s also sometimes one of the things I like least, but mostly best) is that we’re always experimenting with new systems and ways of doing things.

The highest level of this is of course what I’ve talked about in the past where we changed up the base system for the game several times before settling on Savage Worlds. But we’ve done it with subsystems and other things a lot too.

A few systems have changed a lot as our game has gone by and I’m sure many more will change too, but today I want to talk about the space combat system. We tried out a system last night that I think is the best we’ve had yet and I’m guessing may be the one we finally stick with (I’m sure we’ll tweak it a bit but I think we’ve finally found the basis system we’ll stick with). It’s my understanding that it’s taken from the game Stars Without Number, with just a few modifications to make it work in Savage Worlds. (Edit: Turns out it’s more specifically from one of the supplements to Stars Without Number, Skyward Steel). Previous systems we’ve used have attempted to use miniatures (many of them home made and very cool!) which had some advantages but I think ultimately limited us as a group. It made things a little too literal for us and moved the focus to the ships themselves rather than the characters. As a result most of the systems we tried in the past tended to lead to a few people making most of the important decisions and others either only able to help in minor ways or not really having anything to do at all.

Previous systems also had a lot of different things to keep track of which at least some of us had trouble doing.

This new system does away with all of those problems. It’s much more abstract, there are no mini’s or even any real worry about where anything is in relation to one another. It puts the focus on the characters and what they’re doing. Everyone has interesting and important things to do and interesting trade offs to any action they might or might not take.

It feels like an episode of Star Trek where for the most part during a battle the camera will shift from one area of the ship (say the bridge) to another (say engineering) and focus on what the characters you care about are doing more than where the ships are in relation to one another. Or even much of what’s happening outside the ship directly. Stuff happens outside the ship, the characters are constantly reacting to those things and doing things to effect the things outside the ship, but the focus is on the characters more than the ships.

There are also only a very few things to keep track of, and most of them are things everyone is keeping track of together.

We tried it for the first time last night and I was really impressed with it. After the first round I think everyone basically had it down and we were all making strategic decisions about the various sections of the ship we were in charge of.

I’ve always heard a lot of great things about Stars Without Number but haven’t yet gotten around to getting and reading it. I’ll have to remedy that soon. This system for space combat is simple and evocative, but has enough depth to be exciting and engaging.

I’m very excited about this new system and I think we’ve finally found our system for space battles.

Good gaming!

-The Duke of Brandonshire 🎲

Stephen B @DrOct