Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Void and Stars - An Alternative Activation System

'Void and Stars' was a playtest game of starship combat which used a version of the 'Ganesha Games' 'Songs of Blades and Heroes' system. Development activity on it fizzled out a couple of years ago, but from time to time I give it some thought, wondering if there's still a viable game to be teased out of it. After all, this is the size of starship game I want - five to eight ships a side - but with a low level of bookkeeping and technical detail, and no pre-plotted moves.

One of the problems with it was the activation system. Whilst the idea of some of your figures not doing anything during a turn kind of works for individual beings in a skirmish setting, it didn't sit quite right to an environment where your playing pieces - spaceships - are in constant motion. The problem Void and Stars had was that an entire fleet could spend a lot of the game flying around in straight lines not shooting because of a few unlucky activation rolls. Add in terrain and you had ships flying headlong into planets because one of their fellows had a bad roll when activating.

The principle was sound, but a number of games showed that it didn't quite work so well in practice.

For a while I've been mulling over a variation in the activation system, which allows all ships to act in some form of controlled manner, whilst still rewarding those ships with quality - or luck. I'm certain there's holes in it a mile wide, and I haven't crafted the wording into something consistent and logical, but for what it's worth, here it is - untried and untested.

Alternative Void and Stars Activation System

Both sides roll for initiative. The highest roll decides who activates first. In the event of a tie, reroll.

The player with initiative chooses a ship that has not attempted to activate this turn, and may attempt to activate it with 1, 2 or 3 dice. Each successful roll against Quality gives an action. A ship automatically has one action, plus however many it rolls. However at least one action must be spent to move the ship (including a turn)

If a ship fails to activate with two or more dice, the initiative passes to the other player.

Otherwise the player with initiative chooses another ship to activate.

If a player has attempted to activate all of their ship, initiative automatically passes to the other player. They may attempt to activate each of their remaining ships one after the other, with 1,2, or 3 dice as normal. However if a ship fails to activate with 2 or more dice, then subsequent ships cannot activate with more than 2 dice. If a subsequent ship fails to activate with 2 dice, then all further ships may only attempt to activate with 1 dice.

Once every ship has attempted to activate, a new turn begins.

Indirect fire markers move twice during the turn, immediately after a player activates their final ship.

Example. The Red Player and the Blue Player each have three ships, Red One to Red Three against Blue One to Blue Three.

The players roll initiative and Red wins. He chooses to go first.

He activates Red One with 3 dice, but fails two activations. Red One gets two actions, one of which must be a move.

Because Red failed two or more activations, initiative passes to Blue.

Blue actives Blue One with two dice, and both rolls succeed. Blue One gets three actions – one compulsory move and two other actions. Blue can now attempt to activate another ship, and attempts to activate Blue Two with one dice. The roll fails, so Blue Two merely gets one action, which must be a move. However because it was only a single activation roll which failed, Blue keeps the initiative. Blue has one ship left; Blue Three. He activates it with three dice, because there is no reason not to.

Blue has now attempted to activate all of his ships, so all indirect fire markers move and resolve attacks. The initiative passes to Red. Red has already attempted to activate Red One, so just has Red Two and Red Three this turn. He attempts to activate Red Two with two dice, and fails with both of them, just getting the compulsory movement action. Red Three is the only ship that has yet to activate in this turn. But because on his previous activation Red failed with two or more rolls, Red Three cannot attempt to activate with more than two dice. Once Red Three has been activated the indirect fire markers move again, and then the turn ends.

I hope that makes some sense. Comments and criticism welcome.

The other major effort I think is needed is on the damage system which, whilst workable, needs a little streamlining in my view. But I'm not sure where to start on that.


  1. Have you ever tried the U.S.E.M.E. ruleset? You can get it by www.15mm.co.uk for a few pounds. It is a very light and easy ruleset. You can build your own ships with a point system. Initativ is related to the qualtity of the troops.

  2. Nice. It's a very simple tweak that still manages to fix the problem. I have a different, more abstract approach in mind - http://warwellwg.blogspot.com/2014/11/engage.html

    1. Yes, for all the waffle it's a simple change. Before the author of 'Void and Stars' dropped off the radar we'd been discussing the compulsory movement, and I'd argued that ships should be able to turn or do something, rater than move at full speed in a straight line. At that stage I think I'd proposed that an undamaged ship (at least) should have the option of either moving full speed with e turn, or moving less than full speed but with no turn, so at least they had some control. But I think this approach - of allowing all ships a chance to activate in a turn - makes more sense.


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