We have a lively thread going on over at the Dakka discussion forums. In it, weeble1000 wrote the following:
What might be nice would be some pointers on balanced ship construction/scenario design, if people are interested in doing their own scenarios. It is the kind of thing you can figure out playing the game a bunch, but what I like about the system is the wide open nature of ship design. It would be interesting to see some designers’ notes, rules of thumb, etc. regarding designing ships from scratch.
In my last post I mentioned that we were planning on creating a new scenario for our next convention. In light of weeble’s post, I’m going to make a series of posts (starting with this one) describing how we go about it.
The Idea and Inspiration
Every scenario starts as a very general concept. As far back as our last convention, I wanted to have a small ship battle – we’ve only ever had one scenario like that back in early playtesting, but it was very enjoyable and I want to see how the game handles it now, so I wanted to design a scenario mainly involving smaller ships.
One of the challenges in Silent Fury scenario design is that it is very hard to destroy an entire side in Silent Fury – this is not a game where you should expect a bitter fight to the death. Mechanically, this is something I really enjoy about the system, as it tends to produce results that feel more realistic for most periods of military history – some ships are destroyed, some escape with varying levels of damage.
Because that is the case, I’ve never designed a scenario where the intent is to fight to the death. The closest I’ve come is There Will Be Blood, which instead imposes a turn limit and awards victory for surviving ships at the end of a certain turn. Instead I am constantly looking for alternative ways that a scenario might end.
I was inspired by a Check your 6! game where the scenario was to bomb a base. I realized that the fact that bombers could only drop their bomb load once is what effectively limited the scenario – the attacking force would fly in, drop their ordinance, and then they’d be motivated to leave as there was nothing to be gained by staying further.
Similarly, if I have some ships with weapons that can only be fired once at a target that can’t be hurt by lesser weapons, I’d have the same sort of situation – the attackers go in, strike, and leave. This scenario will be an assault by escorted bombers against a Starbase.
Choosing Sides and their nature.
Some scenarios can involve multiple sides, but in this case two sides feels like the obvious choice – an attacker consisting of bombers and fighter, and a defender that has bomber targets and defenses against the attacking forces. As to why this attack is taking place, it can be because this station is one of many that’s defending a more important target, and this engagement is the preliminary strike to clear a path for larger capital ships to safely get through. If it works out, we could even make some follow-on scenarios and turn it into a mini campaign.
The Ships – choosing Roles
Idea in hand, I discussed what ships to include with Nathan this morning. Deciding what ships to include is a matter of determining what role they are going to play in the scenario, and their capabilities should reflect that role. We came up with some generalized ideas that I’m going to flesh out later, but here’s what we’ve got so far:
Attacking Force – 8 Ships
2 Fireflies – When possible I’ll re-use existing ships. Every new ship we design takes time and effort, so when we already have a ship that looks like it can fill a role, it’s worth trying. The Firefly comes with unusual weapons – Microwave beams – that are devastating against unshielded targets and useless against shielded ones. They are nice tactical options to have, and if I give the defenders some unshielded defensive ships, then they’ll be prime targets for these.
2 Fighters – I don’t want some shields to shut down all the Attacker’s escorts, so the other two escorts will be a new small ship design that uses more conventional anti-fighter weapons (low power, high accuracy). All the fighters are very fast and I’ll probably give them the Maneuverable trait so they can turn as they move.
4 Bombers – Also a new design, these will be a bit more sluggish and larger than the fighters, but also a bit tougher, possibly including a shield. I’d like to throw on a defensive turret so they can threaten smaller ships that attack them, and of course we’ll be adding the one-shot powerful weapons that are essential to the scenario. Silent Fury has never had a single-shot weapon before, but I can make it a ship trait.
Defending Forces – 9 Ships
2 Anti-Fighter Interceptors – Similar to the Attacking fighters, these will be small ships built to engage other small, fast ships. Low power, high accuracy weapons. They’ll be able to hit bombers, but the low power of their weapons will mean they may not be able to do all that much damage.
2 Anti-Bomber Interceptors – These will be heavy fighters, mounting more powerful weaponry capable of hurting the bombers, but perhaps with not quite as good accuracy. Maneuverability will probably be somewhere between a fighter and a bomber.
4 Gun Platforms – Mostly static arrays of weaponry that the defender can use against the oncoming forces. I’m contemplating giving them a single engine so that repositioning them is an option for the defender, but they won’t be catching anything that’s running away. These will have some serious firepower and serve both as a gauntlet of fire and also as a kind of terrain for when the attacker is planning the route that their strike is going to take – if they can go around the platforms or face only one of them, that will work to their benefit. These should be moderately tough and able to shrug off hits from the basic fighters, but I’m thinking that if they only have one or no shields, they’ll be a tempting target for the Fireflies.
1 Battlestation – This is the target of the strike. It’ll be big and easy to hit, but have plenty of shields and armor – pretty much the only thing that will hurt it will be the weapons carried by the bombers. It won’t be without teeth either – though it’s main armament will be focused on hitting large vessels (low accuracy, high damage), it will carry some secondary armaments that make approaching it a dangerous prospect.
My chief concern at this point is that this may involve too many ships – it’s more than you’d generally see in a Silent Fury scenario. My hope is that because they’re small and fast, and the scenario has a very clear endpoint, that playtime still won’t be too long. At this point I’m going to remain ambitious – I’ll just go with these numbers for now and see how it does in playtesting.
That’s all for now – the next step is to actually give stats and weapons to the ships.