Friday, 16 March 2012

Void And Stars - Starship Design

I have recently volunteered to help playtest Void and Stars, another game from the Songs Of Blades And Heroes stable. As the title suggests this is a game of starship combat., with the basic game being designed so that a player can run 1-2 capital ships supported by 2-6 escort vessels.

OUDF Cruiser
It uses the basic SBH mechanisms - a ship has a Combat Value (CV) which reflects its basic offensive/defensive capabilities, and a Quality (Q) which represents how efficient its crew is. Each turn you roll one to three dice for a ship, testing against its quality; this gives the ship a number of actions, which may be such things as movement, firing or launching missiles and/or fighters. A major failure on activation causes play to pass to the other player.

The playtesting and development is being run through a blog - Void and Stars

Ideally I would like to run this game as part of one of our club sessions, and a few members have starships we can use. However initially I think a solo game is in order, just to get a feel for the rules. Although the game comes with some sample ships (based on famous movies and TV programmes, naturally), I thought that it would be a useful part of the testing process to work out some of my own. This post will look at how I went about it.

I decided to do ships from two of the lesser faction in GZG's Full Thrust universe, the Oceanic Union (think Australia. In Space) and the League Of Latin American Republics (think Banana Republics. Also In Space). I saw them fighting a low intensity conflict along a common border; no big fleet actions, but a handful of ships on each side. Perfect for the scale of Void and Stars.

LLAR Cruiser
I first set myself some ground-rules. Although a basic game of Void and Stars is said to be 750pts, I initially decided to settle on 600pts for my two starting forces, as I didn't want to handle too much on my own. The aim was to design one capital ship at 200pts, and four escorts, each at 100pts. In face I ended up doing a fifth escort for each side anyway, giving me 700pts. In Void and Stars the division between capital ships and escorts is based on their points - anything over 150pts is considered a capital ship, otherwise it's an escort. There are slightly different rules for movement and permitted systems for each; for example escorts have better turning capabilities, whilst capital ships can carry heavier, and more useful, systems. I also decided to forgo characters for the first game. Although they are an interesting feature of the system, it's an extra thing to keep track of and they can, of course, be added to the forces I come up with later.

In order to keep things simple I decided to keep the ship values as constant as possible, based on the doctrines of the two forces. The doctrines would also dictate a certain number of core systems which all ships would have.

The Oceanic Union (OU) have robust ships designed to operate far from base for long periods of time. They don't carry heavy weaponry, and are built for patrol and exploration as much as for combat. Because of the need to operate far from base they tend not to use much in the way of expendable weapons which cannot be replaced. Crews are well-trained and competent.

The ships of the League Of Latin American Republics  (LLAR) are more combat orientated, with a mix of both missile and direct-fire weapons. They are designed to hit an enemy hard before he hits back at them. Less politically unified than the OU, their crews are not as efficient.

So, some basic figures:

I gave OU escorts a CV of 2, whilst their capital ships have a CV of 4. Both have a Q of 3. This gives a base cost of 40pts for an escort, and 80pts for the capital ships

LLAR escorts have a CV of 3 whilst their capital ships have a CV of 5. Both have a Q of 4. This gives a base cost of 45pts for the escort and 75pts for the capital ships.

Working the ship cost formula on page 26 of the rules book, this gives the following pool of points for additional items - extra range, movement, indirect weapons and other systems - in order to arrive at 100pts for the escorts and 200pts for the capital ships:

OU escorts - 15
OU capital - 30
LLAR escorts - 18
LLAR capital - 42

OU ships are used to dealing with space hazards, and have toughened ships, so they all have a Point Defence (2) and Hardened Armour (4). All ships start with Movement: S and Range: S. I decided to make the escorts faster (Speed: M, cost 2) whilst giving the capital ships a longer weapons range (Range: M, cost 4). This leaves the escorts 7 points for other systems, whilst the capital ships have 20 points left. We'll come back to what they can be spent on later.

LLAR ships are faster and have longer weapon ranges than those of the OU. They also use indirect fire weapons as standard. I gave their escorts Speed: M (2) and Range: M (6), as well as Indirect Fire 2 (6). Their capital ships also have Speed: M (2) but Range L (7) and Indirect Fire 4 (12). This leaves their escorts with 6 points to spend, and their capital ships with 21 points.

Each force would have two types of escort.

The first OUDF escort type is a simple frigate. On the assumption that exploratory vessels have good sensors, I gave it Full Spectrum Sensors, and also gave it a Damage Control Centre.

The second OUDF escort type breaks my own rules, as I decided to give it external weaponry. I envisaged it as a exploration shuttle carrier, but with shuttles that can be pressed into service as combat craft in a military situation. It gets Light Fighter Bays with a CV of 2 and Point Defence Fire Support.

The OUDF capital ship is still built around being robust and self-sufficient. It gets Full Spectrum Sensors to boost its gunnery, as well as a Positronic Jammer. In addition I fitted it with a Damage Control Centre and a Shield Generator.

The first LLAR escort type would be a gun-frigate, based around concentrated firepower. I purchased Spinal Mount, an Energy Disrupter and 2CV worth of External Ordinance.

The second LLAR escort type would be a missile frigate. I increased its Indirect Weapons to 3, gave it a Point Defence Disrupter and added 1CV worth of External Ordinance.

The capital ship was based around coordinating the efforts of the escorts, whilst still adding a decent firepower of its own. I gave it a Fleet Command Centre, Doctrine: Assault, Shields and 1CV of External Ordinance.

So, leaving aside names and proper class designations I have two forces:


One Cruiser (200pts) - CV: 4 Q: 3 Speed: S Range: M
Point Defence, Hardened Armour, Shield Generator, Positronic Jammer, Full Spectrum Sensors, Damage Control Centre

Three Frigates (100pts ) - CV: 2 Q: 3 Speed: M Range: S
Point Defence, Hardened Armour, Full Spectrum Sensors, Damage Control Centre

Two Escort Carriers (100pts) - CV: 2 Q: 3 Speed: M Range: S
Point Defence, Hardened Armour, Point Defence Support: M, Light Fighter Bays: 2


One Cruiser (201pts) - CV: 5 Q: 4 Speed: M Range: L Indirect: 4
Fleet Command Centre, Doctrine: Assault, Shields, External Ordinance: 1

Three Gun Frigates (99pts) - CV: 3 Q: 4 Speed: M Range: M Indirect: 2
Spinal Mount, Energy Disrupter, External Ordinance: 2

Two Missile Frigates (99pts) - CV: 3 Q: 4 Speed: M Range: M Indirect: 3
Point Defence Disrupter, External Ordinance: 1

The design rules were relatively straightforward to use, even doing it with pencil and paper. A spreadsheet would make it quicker, but I'm a traditionalist. I wouldn't want to do it as part of a game session though; there are a lot of special options to consider. Indeed I found this the hardest part; many of the special abilities seem similar, and it strikes me that running too many in a given game could slow things down. This was part of the reason I 'standardised' my ship designs as far as possible; I was reducing the number of  special rules I would have to track during the course of the game.

One thing that did strike me about the designs is the distinction between capital ships and escorts. Anything costing 150pts or more is a capital ship. Anything less is an escort. However part of the cost of a ship is based on its Quality (Q) value. Now whilst some elements of a ship's Q can be down to its systems and infrastructure, a lot of it is down to crew training and morale, something that shouldn't effect whether a ship is considered a capital ship or an escort. Without going into the precise formula for calculating points values, a ship with a CV of 3 and 25 points of other systems would cost 120pts if it was Quality 4, but 160pts if it was Quality 3. So by having a better crew it ceases to be an escort and becomes a capital ship, despite it having exactly the same systems. I don't know if this is a problem or not, but I thought it worth mentioning.

Anyway, that was the ships designed. But there was an issue with the models. I'll cover that in the next post ...


  1. Oo! Count me intrigued. I only came across this game last week.

    Let me guess, the ships got broke in the move...

    1. No, the ships are exactly as I made then, ten years ago. It's more of a logistical issue, but one with which the system can cope :)


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