Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Episode 68: Dynamic Space Battles

I love space battles.  Seriously love them.  My college years were dominated by hours of play on TIE Fighter and X-Wing Alliance.  And it’s an unusual occurrence to go more than two sessions in my games and not have some sort of space encounter.

SAGA edition has done away with a lot of the old, tactical based combat mechanics like facing and turn radius, and allowed us to run space combat simply yet dynamically, just like ground combat.  But just like ground combat, if you’re not careful your space encounters can devolve into uninteresting sessions of dice rolling.

I noticed something when I ran my last game session.  One PC was in a Jedi Starfighter, and the rest in a Nu-class Shuttle from the Clone Wars campaign guide.  They faced off against 6 Droid Starfighters in orbit around Onderon.  There were squares filled with the wreckage of destroyed cruisers, to allow for sources of cover.   There was the atmospheric disturbance between Onderon and its moon Dxun, causing difficult terrain and some concealment for units with it.  At first, itlooked like the makings for a fun encounter.

Then combat started, and devolved into the Droid fighters flying up to point blank range on the Nu-Class Shuttle or the Jedi Starfighter.  The PC in the Jedi Fighter smartly headed for the wreckage for all the cover he could get from the Droids, but other than that no one moved.  All ships just sat there, with their players (myself included), content to just roll dice until the droid fighters were wiped out.

How droll.

GMs, my advice to you is to take a page from your days playing the X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter games and apply that to SAGA edition.  When your tiny little fragile fighter had to make attack runs on larger ships, you’d get your shields up, bomb in, make your attacks, and then fly off.  If you had buddies with you, you’d wait to let one draw the target’s fire, then all gang up on the ship and leave in different directions.  Have your ships in SAGA edition do that too.

Unless you’re running a game based around a fighter squadron, odds are your PCs have one, maybe two ships.  A light freighter they’ve turned into a gunship, and maybe a starfighter.  Possibly held in something like my custom Fighter Cradle rules.

If you fly up to point blank range on a large ship, bristling with multiple PCs in multiple turrets, any ship that survives sitting next to the PC’s gunship for one round should shoot first on their following turn then move as far and as fast as possible, preferably in different directions, forcing the PC flying the gunship to pick one fighter to go after so his gunners can make attacks with the fewest penalties possible.  It gets more action out of the map, presents a realistic tactic for the enemy, and should make the encounter more interesting and hopefully fun.

That’s all for this post.  Until next time, 20 side up, one side down.

Originally aired on The Order 66 Podcast Episode 123: "Die Meatbag Die"

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