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This set of rules is based, very loosely on the Dam’d Battleships Again, a free set of rules by Phil Barker which covers naval warfare at the start of the 20th Century, before the advent of Dreadnought. These are both simple and comprehensive, down to covering the characters for Admirals. It was a period of rapid change, a ten year old ship was obsolete, indeed some vessels were obsolete before they were launched. This has decided the background for this set of rules, The “Honour Harrington” series by David Weber.
Why that particular series, well it follows some of my own ideas about space combat, and contains a manageable number of ship types. Ship power is related directly to ship size, except with fighters that are very vulnerable in the later novels. There is also a rational behind the stories, and quite detailed information on the various types of ship. I have added a few new weapon types, but these are only a matter of description, since the combat system concentrates on effect rather than technology.
- 1 Equipment
- 2 Basing
- 3 Types of Vessel
- 4 Organising Fleets
- 5 Technological Command and Crew Factors
- 6 Initiative
- 7 Game Set-up
- 8 Astronomical Features
- 9 Random Merchantmen
- 10 Game Move Sequence
- 11 Combat
- 12 National Characteristics
To play the game you require the following:
- A supply of 10 sided dice (D10)
- A metric tape.
- A large supply of models – whose is up to you.
- A supply of markers for:
Vessels need to be mounted on a stand, to give the effect of flying. This will also be used to define where the ship is; the point at which the stand enters the model is its location. These are easily made from paper clips, or can be obtained from some shops. Models should also have a base 60 mm long. For Cruisers, and Capital Ships, there should only be one model on the base. For Escorts, except Escort Carriers, there should be two models representing a section. (Single escorts can be used, mount a single model on the base.) Fast Attack Craft and other small vessels should have four models. Fighters should be based as flights of 4 to 8 models.
Merchants and Pirates are special cases. Merchants can vary in size from Escort (a private Yacht or Mail Packet) to vessels very much larger than the largest warship (bulk carriers). Normally single base these. Pirates normally operate in vessels no larger than cruisers, but should be single based.
Alternatively counters can be used, these should be 25 by 12.5 mm (1” x ½”) with a suitable picture and identification markings.
Types of Vessel
There are five classes of interstellar vessel, plus light in system craft and fixed installations.
A. Capital Ships
These are the large warships carrying heavy weapons, or several squadrons of fighters. There seven types of armed capital ships that rely on guns, beams and missiles to fight, and two classes of carrier, which rely on their fighter squadrons. These vessels are all hyper drive fitted.
- Fast Battleship (Missile)[FBB(M)]. The latest class of vessel – relying on a large number of missile pods, carried internally, which allows the firing of enough missiles to swamp enemy close defences even if fired at long range. 20 points
- Fast Battleship.[FBB] An older class with a well balanced mix of guns, beams and missiles, but its lower number of tubes means that it is very much less effective at long and extreme ranges since the number of missiles it can launch is much lower. It may tow pods which allows one attack at FFB(M) factors. 16 points
- Super Dreadnought [SBB] Succeeded by the FBB, but still around in large numbers, it carries a similar armament but has a lower speed. It may tow pods. Some are hybrids which carry one flight of fighters, these cost the same but reduce their combat factors to those of a Dreadnought 15 points
- Dreadnought [BB] The first fast class of heavily armed ships with lower levels of weaponry than the SBB but otherwise similar. Close defences are less effective. It may tow pods. 14 points
- Battleship [BS] A vessel carrying only beams and guns, with limited close defence. Few close defence systems are fitted. They also have much lower thrust. These are obsolete vessels with no pod capability. 8 points
- Battlecruiser (Missile)[BC(M)] The cruiser title is a reference to speed, these craft can outrun the battle line, but are not able to stand up to SBB or larger vessels. They are used to escort, and for reconnaissance. The BC(M) is the equivalent of an FBB(M), it may tow pods as well. Provision is made for one flight of fighters. 12 points
- Battlecruiser [BC] The comments above apply, this being an older class of vessel. They are the equivalent of the FBB. 10 points
- Attack Carrier [CVH] A very large vessel with only close defences but capable of carrying up to 10 squadrons of fighters. It may also be used to carry assault landers and marine troops to ride in them. It is not favoured by most navies, since it is inflexible in placing too many resources in one hull. 12 points + Fighters
- Fleet Carrier [CVA] A smaller vessel of FBB size capable of carrying up to six squadrons of fighters or the equivalent in assault craft. These are the most common of carrier, with a fighter group large enough to influence a battle, whilst not committing too many resources to a single hull. 9 points + Fighters
Cruisers represent the most common form of military starship being used for independent duties, as fleet scouts, convoy escorts, stealth long range reconnaissance, and as the basis for light carriers. There are six major types of cruiser.
- Armoured Cruiser [AC]. The battleship era equivalent of the Battlecruiser, these vessels are obsolete. They have few if any missiles, and rely on broadside beam batteries as their primary batteries, with little or no close defence. They may not tow pods. They are also slow being no faster than BB class ships. 6 points
- Trade Cruiser [TC]. The largest of the modern cruiser types, capable of independent action, although normally grouped into squadrons. A medium level of armament that is well balanced. These vessels are used as convoy escort, raiders, anti piracy patrol and heavy screen to CV’s. They may tow pods. 9 points
- Escort Cruiser [EC]. Not an escort but rather a vessel optimised for fleet defence against fighters and fast attack craft, with enhanced electronics and a very heavy battery of rapid-fire cannon to support vessels they are escorting. 8 points
- Fleet Cruiser [FC]. The classic scout vessel operating as a distant screen to the main battle line and as an escort to CV’s. They can also be found carrying out the same duties as TC’s although they are less effective at this. 6 points
- Scout Cruiser [SC] A heavily stealth vessel primarily used for covert system surveillance as a lone wolf. They have reduced offensive weaponry to allow for the extra electronics required which increase it’s defence. 8 points
- Light Carrier [CVL] A TC hull adapted to carry fighters; it has only close defence and relies on its four fighter squadrons for its offensive. 5 points + fighters
These are the smallest classes of FTL ship, and are common in minor nations, and those that have large trade commitments. They also have variants optimised for attacks on capital ships with a large single shot missile capacity designed to overcome single capital ships. They are sometimes considered expendable, but most fleets use them for anti – piracy duties, in pairs as sections. In a fleet action, they normally mass into Flotillas, of four sections, although these may operate in divisions of two Sections.
- Lancer [DL] A class not used by all fleets, it carries a fixed pod missile armament on the hull exterior. This is a very powerful one-shot weapon, allowing attacks on Capital ships, or fortifications. There is a backup of cannon but few beams. Pods are not normally towed, but could be fitted. 5 points
- Escort Destroyer [DD] A more general purpose vessel with cannon, beam and missile weapons, intended to attack hostile Fast Attack Craft and Lancers, as well as providing cover from fighters. They also operate as scouts and convoy escorts alongside Trade and Fleet Cruisers. 5 points
- Destroyer Escort [DDE] A small-specialised vessel used to provide better cover against fighters for major craft. 4 points
- Corvette [FF] Obsolescent class of small starship also applied to armed dispatch craft, which are used to carry messages, minelayers and minesweepers. Some are used as stealthy pickets, and scouts, although this is rare in major fleets. 3 points
- Escort Carrier [CVE] The smallest class of carrier based on a DD and carrying two squadrons of fighters, with only limited close defence equipment. They are used to supply cover to merchant convoys. 3 points + Fighters.
Merchants are by far the most common type ship, but are impossible to generalise, due to the shear variation of type, the following are given as a guideline, fit other types in as needed. No points are given for merchants.
- Very Large Bulk Carrier [VBLC] The largest type of civilian vessel, carrying bulk foodstuffs, metal ores, and similar types of single bulk cargo. They tend to operate along fixed routes carrying low value cargo.
- Break Bulk Carrier [BBC] The most common general-purpose cargo hull, operating with containerised generalised cargo in standard sized containers. They can be adapted to take vehicles, and some carry their own cargo landers. This makes them useful for military assault operations.
- Large Bulk Carrier [LBC] A smaller and handier version of the VBLC, often used as part of a fleet train.
- Passenger Liners [PL] Varying in size and power these move people and light cargo across the star lanes. They may be as large as the BBC, but most are somewhat smaller. They often carry some light weaponry.
- Others. Simply everything else, small cargo tramps, local in system craft, private yachts and dispatch boats.
E. Q Ships, Armed Merchant Cruisers and Pirates
These are a variation on the merchant hull normally, although some fleets have specially built and protected “Q” Ships, and some pirates may have military vessels although these tend to be obsolete. Most however use a modified merchant hull with its limited protection and lower fire control. They are generally much less than effective than specialist Vessels.
F. System Craft
These represent small craft lacking interstellar capability; they may be shuttles, pinnaces, fast attack craft or fighters.
- Shuttle (S) A small craft for use between ships within a system. They are incapable of landing on planets. The are free, with at least 1 per starship.
- Pinnaces (P) Slightly larger, with light armament, often armoured. They are used to board hostile vessels, or carry out planetary landings, in which case they may be called Assault Landers. They vary in size, with a capacity of up to 200 men. They are carried in pairs, the first two are free, thereafter add 1 point per 10 or part thereof.
- Fast Attack Craft (FAC). Small vessels carrying a single missile pod and point defence systems giving them a very heavy attack single against lighter warships. En masse, they are capable of tackling capital ships. They often operate from either mother ships, or system installations. They can be known as system defence boats. 1 Point per pair.
- Strike Fighters (FA) Small extremely fast spacecraft optimised to attack larger starships, operating in squadrons of eight. 2 points per squadron
- Interceptor Fighters (FI) Similar to strike fighters but optimised to attack other small craft, carrying light missiles and beams or guns. They can also be used to intercept the larger anti-ship missiles. 2 points per squadron
These are the base stations, docks, cargo transfer points, and most important defence bases found in systems. They may be either entirely artificial or constructed on small moons or asteroids. Armed installations may make more than one attack if more than one battery is carried, and are pointed by the battery. They may also base FAC’s and or fighters. Unarmed structures are assumed to carry some point defence primarily to prevent meteor strikes but these do allow so defence against missiles. Most installations are important for campaigns, due to their nature. Only armed installations are important in tactical games, defending junction points and strategic systems. Fortifications are the only units that are allowed to make more than one attack in a turn. Points depend on the number and size of batteries, each of which costs 3 points less than the ship equivalent. When attacked batteries may be engaged individually be the firing ships.
There are two major types of expendable, missile pods and mines.
- Missile Pods (PD). In the ship descriptions, some types are noted as being able to tow or fit pods to launch a much larger number missiles in a single attack, at a small cost in vulnerability. These allow older vessels some chance against the latest types if they can gain the imitative. Pod attacks are shown as a bracketed number on the combat table. The cost is one point.
- Mines (M) Mine laying systems are carried on corvette sized hulls, and may be laid during a game. Obviously, they may also be laid as part of game set up. A minelayer can lay an area 3 units long by ½ unit wide at one point per ½ unit square or 6 points total.
To operate effectively fleets need to be organised. These rules are not designed to be used for single ship actions, and the use of formations is important. All classes of ship except CV’s and Scout Cruisers are organised in a similar way, although the terminology differs between escorts and the larger types. Ranks are Royal Navy equivalents.
The smallest unit is the Section, which consists of two vessels; this is normally the largest level for CV’s. Note that Escorts always operate at this level. It is commanded by the senior ships captain The next level is the Division – of two or three sections. Two is the norm, but three is possible. It is commanded by a flag officer – Commodore or junior Admiral is cruisers or capital ships. [Normally Rear Admiral] The last formal level is the Squadron or Flotilla normally consisting of two to four Divisions. Two is the norm, but circumstances may add more. This is commanded by a Vice Admiral for capital ships, Rear Admiral if cruisers, and captains for Escorts.
Above Squadron/Flotilla level fleets are commanded by the senior Admiral present, or the Admiral appointed to command. Cruiser Squadrons and Escort Flotillas may be attached to capital ship squadrons or carriers to escort them. They may also be used to escort merchant convoys.
These operate either singly or in pairs to allow the freedom of manoeuvre needed to carry out fighter operations. They normally have an escort of cruisers and escorts for local protection. They come under direct command of the Fleet commander, who may be the Carrier Group Commander
These operate singly and are directly under the orders of the Fleet commander.
These consist of a group of merchant ships with a military escort of at least one section of warships. The size and type of the escort depends on the number of and importance of the convoy. The senior naval officer commands the escort, and an honorary Commodore has charge of the merchantmen, but defers to the senior military officer.
Technological Command and Crew Factors
Some Star nations have in theory better technology than others do. Similarly, some senior officers are better than others, and thus able to use their fleets better. Finally, a fleet may have better crews due to either higher morale, or superior training. To reflect this technological factors have been included. These affect both initiative and combat, by introducing die roll modifiers for the higher levels of technology allowing master strokes to superior commanders, and rating ships crews as S, or I.
These factors can either be allocated as part of a scenario, to aid this see the appendices, or randomly rolled for. If starting a campaign the Technology should be allocated, but officer ability and crew status should not be checked until the officer or ship goes into action. [This may seem harsh, but is designed to reflect the overconfidence that a very successful force can generate, i.e. the Royal Navy in the War of 1812 or the Japanese in 1942].
The relative technological advantage should always be rolled for; the allocation gives die roll modifiers rather than absolute values, to allow for surprises.
|Plus/Minus||Nationality/race modifier (see below)|
|Minus 1||Fleet contains a majority of BS or AC types|
|Plus 1||Fleet contains a majority of (M) types or has CV’s.|
|Twice as much:||Plus 1 Tech. Advantage|
|Three times as much:||Plus 2 Tech. Advantage|
For a single game or at the start of the first action in a campaign roll a D10 for each commander (Captain commanding an escort flotilla and any Flag Officer), and modify it with the nationality/race modifier, if the score is:
|1 or 2||Officer is incompetent|
|3 to 8||Officer is capable|
|9 or 0||Officer is superior.|
The effects of these gradings are covered later. For a single game or at the start of the first action in a campaign roll a D10 for each starship or installation, and modify it with the nationality/race modifier, if the score is:
|1 or 2||Crew is inferior|
|3 to 8||Crew is capable|
|9 or 0||Crew is superior|
These factors give combat advantages.
To decide which side has initiative both roll a D10. Add any technology advantage, +1 if the senior officer is superior, - 1 if inferior, – 1 for the larger fleet, and +1 if a fleet is designated the attacker.
The higher scorer has the initiative.
At the start of the game, having decided their forces, players need to carry out the following actions:
- Determine technological advantage, crew and officer quality
- Determine initiative.
- Determine and place any astronomical features
- Deploy fleets, one squadron/flotilla at a time – player with initiative placing second. Players start on one of the short edges of the table, and 30 cm up and along from the corner.
- Determine if there are any random merchantmen present.
Most games take place in solar systems so that there is a chance that there will be some astronomical features present in the battle area. In general, fleet actions take place away from planets or larger satellites due to the chance of damage and gravity effects. Therefore there are three types of feature considered –
1. Rock fields – and area of small pieces of debris. It makes movement dangerous and reduces attack factors by half. It measures up to 30cm square, with a minimum size of 10 x 15 cm.
2. Dust clouds – Sizes are the same as a rock field but it has no effect on movement but reduces attack factors by half.
3. Very small asteroids – these are solid lumps of rock or ice, which are the same size as the other features. (They are not spherical but may be rotating in strange ways.) Ships that touch their base are destroyed, and they block combat.
To decide if there are any features roll a positive and negative die, if the score is negative players must place one piece each, and may place two.(The logic behind this is that commanders will try to avoid combat in their vicinity.)
This does not include any ships being convoyed. At the start of the game, each player may place one random merchant vessel. It may be of any type and may be anywhere on the playing area, moving on any course.
These vessels may not be fired on, and block fire within one base length fore and aft of the model, to avoid causing an interstellar incident. They may however be boarded from small craft, and inspected. Once this has been done it may be directed away from the fighting.
Game Move Sequence
The game is played in a series of turns during which both players move sequentially and combat simultaneously. The player with initiative has the choice to move first or second in each turn. The sequence is as follows:
1. Player moving first makes a command roll with a D10 for each flag officer.
2. These points are allocated for manoeuvring. Then move the vessels. Unused points may be allocated to damage control rolls.
3. Both sides now carry out combat rolls. The moving player chooses which vessel is to fire first; it need not be his vessel. The non-moving player now nominates a vessel to fire. This continues either all ships have fired or both players have passed.
4. Carry out damage control.
The sequence is then repeated by the player moving second.
Ships may be moved individually or in formation. Ships moving individually must be allocated their own Command Points, from those of their nominated senior commander. There are four basic formations allowed:
1. LINE AHEAD – each vessel in the squadron is in full front or rear base contact with at least one other vessel in the squadron. This is the normal combat formation.
2. LINE ABREST – each vessel in the squadron is in full broadside contact at least one other vessel in the squadron. This is the normal formation for fighters, and is often used by escorts.
3. COLUMN OF DIVISIONS – Each Division in the Squadron forms in line ahead with one base length between the columns. This is the normal cruising formation.
4. SCREEN – An order issued Cruisers and Escorts operating in support of a fleet. Ships form to left, right, forward or astern of the capital ships. They may change their position if the capital ships manoeuvre so long as they maintain a relative position. Screens may be up to two base lengths from the main body, and operate in dispersed sections so long a one section is within two base lengths of another section.
Ships moving one of these formations accelerate at the speed of the slowest, although screens may use more acceleration to maintain their relative positions.
Vessels manoeuvre in formations, as outlined above.
- A formation that has not been allocated a manoeuvre point from the senior admiral must maintain its course and speed and may not turn.
- Independent vessels follow the same restrictions.
- Formations may accelerate or decelerate by 1 unit for each allocated manoeuvre point
- Formations may turn by up to 300 per manoeuvre point.
- No vessel may travel at more than 15 units. (This is arbitrary, assume that the G compensator can’t cope with any more)
- Vessels moving through a rock field are attacked with a factor equal to their current speed.
- Vessels may not use more manoeuvring points than their current thrust rating.
The distance moved depends on table and model size. The simplest system uses the base size in use as one unit, so if using models one unit is 6 cm, and if using counters it is 2.5 cm. These mean that most games can be accommodated on a 6’ by 4’ table.
The table below gives the thrust ratings for the various types of vessel in the all the states they can be in. No vessel may use more manoeuvre points than it’s current thrust rating. Vessels that are damaged or crippled may be dropped out of formation, those that are towing pods may not. Towed pods are jettisoned after firing, and the ship reverts to it’s normal thrust rating. Towing pods does not affect damaged or crippled ships
Rearming FAC's and Fighter Squadrons (Optional)
Roll a d10, +/- tech level + 5 for number of turns to rearm.
Combat is decided with the roll of a D10 by both the firer and the target. In theory it is simultaneous, but is resolved sequentially one vessel at a time. The table below gives the attack and defence factors of the various types. The factors listed in the Expendables column represent one-use weapons such as missiles. The defence factor is the amount of armour, electronics, and point defence weapons carried. Both attack and defence die rolls are modified by various tactical factors.
Fighters may only be engaged by fighters, Escort Cruisers (EC) and Destroyer Escorts (DDE). Other vessels may only defend against them.
Damaged vessels fire at half effect, crippled vessels may not fire, and defend at ½ strength.
Escort cruisers and Destroyer Escorts may add their defence factor to ships they are in formation with, but only once per move.
|Type||Close Up to 5 Units||Medium 5 to 15 Units||Long 15 to 30 units||Extreme Over 30 units||Expendables At any range||Defence|
1. This applies per squadron of fighters or section of FAC’s. These may be combined, two bases of FAC’s, and the full load of a CV may attack the same target.
2. This factor may only be used against other fighters; again all FI from a CV may attack the same target. This may also be used in defence against anti-ship missiles; add the 8 factor once, and allow FAC's to do the same, but not if loaded to attack major ships, similar with Strike fighters. So Interceptors may always defend against missiles, but other types of small combatant must be declared either way, loaded for defence or attack.
Bracketed factors in the expendables column may only be used once, and represent the use of missile pods
Modify the attackers die roll as follows:
+ The Technical Advantage (this may be a negative if the firer has lower technical level) + 1 for (M) and expendables firing (Not FAC or FA) into bow arc. - 1 for all others firing into bow arc. - 1 for (M) firing into side arcs. - 3 Firing PD weapons into the stern arc. - 1 Capital ships engaging Cruisers - 2 Capital ships engaging Escorts - 3 Capital ships engaging System Craft. - 1 Cruisers engaging Escorts - 2 Cruisers engaging System Craft + 1 Firing into Targets bow arc + 3 Firing into Targets stern arc
Now modify both die rolls for crew quality:
For Inferior crews -1 For Capable crews 0 For Superior crews +1
If the attackers score is less than 1/3 higher. There is no effect; the missile volleys and beams have been deflected by the defences. If the attackers score is 1/3 to 2/3 higher and at least 6. Fighters and FAC’s abort their attacks before firing. Escorts, cruisers and carriers are damaged.
If the attackers score is 2/3 higher to twice defenders and at least 6. Fighters and FAC’s are destroyed; Escorts, cruisers and carriers are crippled. Other capital ships are damaged.
If the attackers score is more than twice defenders score and at least 6. Fighters and FAC’s are destroyed; Escorts, cruisers and carriers are destroyed. Other capital ships are crippled.
If the attackers score is more than twice defenders score and at least 10. The results above apply, and capital ships are destroyed.
Any vessel that has been damaged and takes another damage result becomes crippled; any crippled vessel that takes further damage is destroyed. Damaged vessels fire and defend at ½ effect, crippled vessels may not attack and defend at half rate.
Arcs of Fire
No ship may fire into its stern arc. Fighters ignore the arcs; they are considered manoeuvrable enough to keep the weapons on target.
Starships have large crews with skilled engineering section. Therefore, it is possible that damaged ships will be able to repair their damage. Roll a D10, add any Command points allocated, and the following modifiers
|For Inferior Crews||-1||For Incompetent Officers||-2|
|For Capable Crews||0||For Capable Officers||0|
|For Superior Crews||+1||For Superior Officers||+2|
On a 9+ - Tech Level, damaged ships return to normal.
Victory is decided by totaling the points lost by each side. Cripples count ½ points. In a campaign, players should not try to engage to the death.
These are based on the novels of David Weber, the Honour Harrington series. If players wish to use another background then adapt the following rules to fit. There are two basic modifiers for technology, and ability, for both crews and officers.
|Nationality||Technology Modifier||Officer Modifier||Crew Modifier|
Points of ships may be adjusted at players discretion. The modifiers are based on the novels, which detail the amount of practice officers and crews have, and the stated technical base.