Intercept movement tutorial

Posted in Intercept, Vector movement on July 29, 2017 by Mr Backman

Vector movement, a scary term to some, is the way ships and missiles move in Intercept, it is also happens to be the way real spaceships move. Movement in Intercept is done in three simple steps; Drift, Turn and Thrust. Drift can be done in any order as it is entirely automatic, Turn and Thrust are done in reverse initiative order ie the ship with the worst initiative goes first and then the second worst and so on. Untracked ships do Drift, Turn and Thrust in secret, after all tracked ships are done.

Facings closeup smaller

Directions and facings

A ship is always facing in one of 8 directions. Draw the ship as a pointed arrow in the direction of its nose, typically but not always in the direction it thrusted. The direction it is moving has no effect on the direction its nose faces.

Movement sequence

Initiative is based on higher steps of turn from the Pilot task
Turn and thrust is done one ship at a time, reverse Initiative
You may only thrust to your forward facing arc
Rolling cost 3 steps of turn
The movement sequence consist of Drift, Turn and Thrust. Do Drift for all Tracked ships and missiles before Turn and Thrust. Turn and thrust is done in reverse Initiative order, worst Initiative goes first, best goes last, declare any missile launches when your ship moves. After all ships have Turned and Thrusted its time to do missiles, in reverse Initiative order too. Missiles ignore turning as they can thrust in any direction.

aMove0
Drift
Look at your ships last move and repeat it, draw a small cross where the new position would be. This is called your Drift square and if done right your Current position should be exactly midway between your Drift and your Past (except for gravity effects, see page 16). Perform drift on all tracked ships at the same time, before any turning or thrusting, there are no choices involved so the order doesn’t matter. A stationary ship would have its drift, present and past in the same square. Take care to keep the ships facing when doing the drift as facing and movement direction are totally independent in Intercept. Aerobraking is done at the end of Drift, see page 18-19 for details.

aMove2
Turn
How many steps of turning a ship can do depends on the Pilot task result but Untracked ships can turn up to 4 steps without a Pilot roll. Turn your ship up to the number of steps, left or right, or spend 3 steps to roll the ship. Look at the firing sector diagram in the combat section to bring your weapons to bear on the enemy.

aMove3
Thrust
Each ship does its Thrust right after turning and can only thrust into squares in its forward facing arc as show in the picture above, there is no strafe thrust or reverse thrust. A ship may also elect to drift and not thrust at all. Drifting makes a ship easier to hit but also better at defending itself.

aMove complete

Completed movement
This is what your completed move will look like, the thin x marks your drift position. After moving around with a ship for a while it will become second nature to you, it’s much easier than it seems. Ships that are Untracked may assume that they always have 4 steps of turning to use ie they can turn in any direction and they don’t need to roll a Pilot task to do so.

Well, that’s all folks, fly safe.

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Traveller 40th anniversary

Posted in Intercept, Traveller on July 22, 2017 by Mr Backman

Traveller the roleplaying game is celebrating its 40th anniversary today so I took the opportunity to update rules, maps, ship design system etc to the latest version today.

Did you know that you can use Intercept with your Traveller characters with no conversion needed, at least if you use the classic system or anything similar to that? And that Intercept has premade versions of Freetrader, Fartrader, Subsidized merchant & launch, Scout courier, Survey cruiser, Patrol cruiser, Modular cutter, Mercenary cruiser, Close escort & launch, System defense boat & Jump shuttle, Fleet escort, Azhanti cruiser & Rampart fighter? Here! The rulebook, maps etc are available here.

Intercept is not Traveller but is compatible with it, at least at higher tech levels. High Guard and Striker weregreat sources of inspiration for the design system and what to focus on and what to change (GURPS Vehicles 2ed should also be mentioned here). I have been playing Traveller since 1978 with lots of different people, including my kids as they grew up. Many thanks to Marc Miller, Loren Wiseman, Frank Chadwick and of course the brothers J Andrew Keith and William H Keith Jr!

Travceller 40th anniversary

Traveller, Intercept and the banner of the Third Imperum on my balcony July 22 1017

Cinematic movement

Posted in Films and TV, Intercept, Vector movement on April 1, 2017 by Mr Backman

I have recently come to the conclusion that not many people find Vector movement to be neccessary or even preferrable for a space combat system. Less and less people read actual Science Fiction, ie something not based on films, games or comics, so it gets harder and harder to sell the idea that vector movement is how spaceships move and they should therefore like it.

So, today I have decided to go with the flow and embrace the more cinematic style of space combat. Battles from SciFi universes such as Star Wars and Star Trek could run battles using the Intercept rules with double blind hidden movement, fully deterministic, logarithmic values etc without foregoing their popular cinematic movement style.

What then IS a proper cinematic movement system? I have decided to break down the two most popular settings, Star wars and Star Trek and see how we could emulate that in our game:

Star Trek
I have complained about the various scientific inaccuracies of Star Trek but failed to mention its strengths; Star Trek shows us a positive and humanistic view of the future. Enterprise and its brave crew aren’t on a mission to subjugate planets and aliens, they are there to explore and help and always keeping in mind the prime directive, never interfere destructively. Star Trek also gave us the female perspective with Lt Uhura as a near equal on the bridge yet still able to express her female side with her short hemlines and sensuality. Star Trek also stress how important emotions are to us humans, always trumping cold logic. Kirk wins by persevering over staggering odds despite Spocks logic telling him his efforts are futile. We can learn something from this as politics is often too much ruled by logic and hard facts ignoring the very thing that makes us unique in the world; our emtions.

Star Trek ships use subspace warpdrives to quickly move from system to system. There are cases when they have battled during warp but this is too different to regular combat and will be covered in a future post. Star Trek ships always move with the nose in their forward direction. Some kind of drag seems to be in effect as ships with damaged impulse drives tend to slow down and ultimately stop. Top speed vary little between capital ships as is eveident from their inability to outrun each other. The Wrath of Kahn end battle has Kirk using thick clouds of a Nebula to turn the tides on Kahn instead of merely outrun him. The ability to turn seem more or less the same, regardless of speed and ship size.

Star Wars
I have often critizesed Star Wars for being a fantasy story disguised as Science Fiction. This may or may not be true as all Science Fiction is really nothing but some other literary genre in disguise (Blade runner is crime fiction, Barbarella and Zardoz is soft-porn etc). What Star Wars did to Science Fiction is to put religion as center stage. Many know me as a fervent atheist but what is atheism exactly, if nothing but a different faith? All humans need to believe in something and to hold something higher than himself, to serve and strive for. Star Wars also show us that not everything can be settled by a majority vote; there are issues and questions that must be handled by wise and spiritual elites, far better at judging changes in tradition and culture. Jedi knights show us a solution to the problems facing todays democracies; the lack of spirituality and disregard for tradition.

Star Wars ship jump between solar systems very much like the Traveller jump drives but no combat seems to occur while in jump space. Star Wars ship seems to have vastly different top speeds depending on size where smaller ships outrun bigger ones. Star Wars ships turn slower the faster they go as is evident if one analyze the dogfights in Star Wars Episove IV.

Star Trek cinematic movement rules
Use as much of the Deterministic optional rules as possible to get the feeling of Kirk and Klingon in a battle of the minds. It is especially important to use the deterministic ruls of Initiative where the Initiative goes to the ship which ‘skipped’ more steps, see the Deterministic combat rules for details on this.

Ships should note their speed and can move to any square in their forward arc. Turning is done anywhere during movement.

All ships can turn 4 steps each turn regardless of size, -1 step if Hull or Crew has Light damage, -3 if Hull or Crew has Severe damage. No turning if Hull or Crew has Critical damage.

Ships can increase or decrease speed by Acc, top speed is 6 regardless of Size, Acc etc. Ships lacking thrust reduce speed by 1 each turn until stopped.

Star Wars cinematic movement rules
Do not use the deterministic rules as Star Wars portray battles as individual skill rolls. Give your hero characters lots of skill bonus.

Ships should note their speed and can move to any square in their forward arc. Turning is done anywhere during movement.

Ships roll Pilot tasks vs Size as usual noting the steps of turning. Reduce turning steps by one for each full multiple of Acc in speed. Ships moving at top speed cannot turn at all.

Ships can increase or decrease speed by Acc, top speed is Acc * 4. Ships lacking thrust reduce speed by 1 each turn until stopped.

Well, that is all folks, get out and enjoy this beautiful April fools day!

Version 3.4.3 update

Posted in Boardgames, Design system, Intercept, Other vector movemet systems, Traveller on December 11, 2016 by Mr Backman

Board and counters

Vesta acquisition. In response to the verbal from the autopilot, Dieter Ulans flipped his datavisor in front of his eyes and prepared to take direct command of the massive ring of lasers and reaction engines that was Hercules. He hit the juicer button and felt the rush as the drugs began to wash into his veins. “Com’monn jockey juice!” he whispered and then began to croon: “All my thoughts of you, you, you — all that I’ve sought is you, you, you.” The tiny green symbols on the datavisor began to zip past his eyes at an increasing speed.

From the rulebook to Battlefleet Mars 1977 – Essentially the Expanse setting but 39 years before it aired.

Rules

There are lots of changes all over the rules, too many to mention. Sections have also been rewritten, gotten new or updated illustrations or have been rearranged, to clarify and simplify without actually changing too much.

As always, read the front page to get a feel how the game works. Then, read pages 2-3 which cover tasks and initiative, very important to grasp. From then on, simply start playing a turn and read as the turn progresses, the rules are written in turn sequence order.

You can download it all here, as usual, with the updated designs, maps etc.

Tasks

The task system has gotten a facelift and a slight change to what Miss margins give what result. All tasks are now highlighted in red in the table columns to make them easier to find, they are also duplicated on the four reference pages at the back. All degrees of success or failure are now three points wide:

  • Very Good You rolled at least 6 points above the target number.
  • Good You rolled 3-5 above the target number
  • Fair You rolled 0-2 above the target number
  • Miss You missed by 1-3
  • Bad You missed by 4-6
  • Very Bad You missed by 6 or more 

Movement

The movement rules are basically the same as before but rewritten and clarified with step by step illustrations on how movement is performed. The section on plotting has also been clarified and with a detailed example illustration showing all aspects of plotting.

fractional-thrust

Fractional thrust Ships don’t come with Thrust in increments of whole Gs, fractions in increments of 0.25 Gs allow the ship an extra G on certain turns of every group of four turns. The mapsheet holds helpers for this and there is also check-boxes for fractional thrust, loaded and unloaded, on the ship Datacard too. All ready-made designs have these already filled in for you. A ship with 1.25 Gs of thrust would thrust 2 G on turn 1 and 1 G on turns 2-4, 2.5 Gs of thrust would thrust 3 G on turn 1 and 3 and 2 G on turns 2 and 4. A ship with 0.75 Gs of thrust would thrust 1 G on turns 1, 2 and 3 but cannot thrust on turn 4 of every group of 4 turns.

Free traderDatacard fractional thrusts

As damage to Thrust and Power affected how many Gs a ship could thrust this has been changed too, so you don’t have to recalculate what fractions to use as you get damage. Now Thrust and Power damage affects how many turns in a row you are allowed to thrust. All, 2 turns , 1 turn or not at all for No damage, Light, Severe or Critical damage. Plotting rules teach you to draw a circle around your ship whenever it drifts and thus reset the clock on thrust.

Sensors

The fundamentals of the sensor rules remain the same, just clarifications and better examples. The only changes I can think of is that you no longer can use your Visual/IR and Radar sensors when popped in. On the other hand, ships may now pop in at any time during a turn as long as they haven’t used their weapons yet. Ships lose any tracked enemies and any launched missiles when popping in but as you know the vector and position on your targets when they were tracked reacquiring them should be fairly easy.

Oh, one more thing. Intercept now allow 2×2 scans, 2×2 square scans are +2 (+4 for radar), 2×2 boxes are -2 (-4 for radar). I didn’t allow them before because they didn’t have a clear center but showing where your scan is located should pose no problem anyway.

Map coordinate legend

The plotting rules now teached how to refer to boxes and sqaures on the map, using the legends on the map. To efer to the top left box of the map, say “Ay-one”, to refer to the bottom left square of the box where the latrge planet is in say “Dee-six one-five”. Always use column-then-row for the boxes followed by column-then-row for the individual squares.

Combat

The combat section has been rewritten and lots of die modifiers have been removed or baked into other rules. How much a ship thrusts no longer affect how hard they are to hit, we simply give a +2 DM on attacks, and defense when  drifting.

Underpower When a ship didn’t have enough power to use all their weapons when thrusting or drifting we previously used two DMs, peculiarly placed low on the Datacard and was often forgotten (I admit to cobbling it in wherever there was room).

Freetrader underpower ratings

Now, Underpower is one of All+, All, 2 turns, 1 turn, No fire, ships have separate Underpower ratings for Thrusting, Drifting or Jump prepping (more on that in the optional hyperspace rules). When a ship has Severe damage in its power location its Underpower rating is one level worse, All+ becomes All, All becomes 2 turns and so on.

Damage

Damage has changed considerably in this version. Ships now have only one DAB (Damage ABsorption) rating for the entire ship instead of one per location, ARM (for ARMour) is still per location and sometime even have two values, popped out / popped in for Surface damage, full power / silent running for high powered power locations representing their vulnerable heat radiators.

Penetration and Damage tables

How do we handle different damage at different locations then? We have three separate columns on the damage table, one for Hull, one for Crew, Core and Power and one column for Surface and Thrust.

Aerobraking & landing

I seem to rewrite the aerobraking and landing rules once every two weeks or so but now I have something that I feel I’m done with as it is fairly simple yet contains everything I want it to do. Docking and ramming has been moved to the optional rules as they tend to be used more rarely. I have increased the safe speeds for aerobraking somewhat so they become more useful. New illustrations and two examples help clarify things. there is even a little section dealing with your ships signatures when landed and how your sensors work through and atmosphere. Yeah, landing on the day side of a planet with atmosphere will make you harder to scan but your Visual/IR sensors will be blind from the bright atmosphere.

Optional rules

Campaign rules If you want to play a series of Intercept scenarios and have your crews and/or entire navy improving is skill from experience this is for you. The rules merely deal with how to track skill improvements but also skill loss from crew damage. There are also some bare bone outlines of scenarios to help you with ideas. This system is what we use at work when playing and interconnected series of space fights.

Redlining Have you ever wanted to pull all the safeties as captain Phillips did when Somali pirates tried to intercept him, or yell at your engineer ordering him to once again do the impossible? In other words, have you ever wanted to redline your engines?

You decide if you want a 50% boost to your thrust this turn or doubling it for a turn, the latter is of course more dangerous. There is a considerable likelihood that your thrust location will get a CD (Continuing Damage) ie ‘fire in the engine room!’ and you may even risk damaging your engine. Redlining, as well as powering up from silent running and the usual jury-rigging of battle damage is done by your trusty Repair Crew.

Jump distances for planets and asteroids

Hyperspace The rpg Traveller has a faster than light system that works by travelling far away from any planet, jumping into hyperspace, spending about a week there and exiting somewhere else parsecs away from where you started. I have shrunk how far one must travel to safely jump to fit planet and safe jump onto an Intercept mapsheet. There are some fairly detailed rules about how to jump, fuel use, astrogation, misjumps etc and where you will end up. In my system, all jumps have you end up somewhere, near a gas giant, planet or asteroid, even when you misjumped into an ’empty’ parsec hex in the original Traveller.

If you are playing a Traveller campaign I suggest you not only replace the space combat and starship movement rules with Intercept, replace the hyperspace rule too.

Design system

There are tons of changes to the design system too. Most importantly I think you get all the important design spec data in one place. As shown by this part from the Free trader design spreadsheet available in both InterceptBundle and Designs.

Ship stats for the Freetrader

Three little orange dots appeared on the screen. Look at him — blowing out decoys even though he knows we’re out of maneuver — that Kolnichok, grinned Dieter. So which one is you, Joey, and which are the aluminum balloons? (Seven dots grew on the screen, all had slightly different vectors.) Now you know my heater can take you in one flash and you also know that one zap is all I’m going to get. And if I take it you’ve got a perfect excuse to blow me up for the honor of the company rather than recapture valuable property for the accountants. So what’s it going to be? I think you shot off too many balloons too early Joey — cause the other ones aren’t making the course correction you just did. Ain’t that you, Joe?

Ulans squinted and tapped his foot.

From the rulebook to Battlefleet Mars 1977 – notice the green grid tactical maps where one could play out space battles with vector movement, in 3D no less, in 1977!

battlefleet-mars

The contents of SPIs Battlefleet Mars boardgame from 1977.

G-Loc update

Posted in Intercept on June 3, 2016 by Mr Backman

Falling off the hull

G-force induced loss of consciousness (abbreviated as G-LOC, pronounced ‘GEE-lock’) is a term generally used in aerospace physiology to describe a loss of consciousness occurring from excessive and sustained g-forces draining blood away from the brain causing cerebral hypoxia. The condition is most likely to affect pilots of high performance fighter and aerobatic aircraft or astronauts but is possible on some extreme amusement park rides. G-LOC incidents have caused fatal accidents in high performance aircraft capable of sustaining high g for extended periods. High-G training for pilots of high performance aircraft or spacecraft often includes ground training for G-LOC in special centrifuges, with some profiles exposing pilots to 9 gs for a sustained period.

Wikipedia

G-Load optional

The rules for G-load as well as mission and action Fatigue can be found on page 25 of the rulebook. G-Load is optional but quite fun, especially if you use Intercept to play out Traveller or other roleplaying situations. Don’t forget that aerobraking also cause Gs, simply count the number of squares from your gravity adjusted Drift and use that as GS below, regardless if the thrust come from actual thrusting or aerobrakes. Try making a space fighters with really high Gs by adding high strength Floorfield or a cheaper and less powrhungry alternativeis to use the Limited tank workstatios; submerged crew breathing oxegynated liquids can take 5 Gs without as much as flinch.

At the end of each ships’s movement phase calculate the G-Load and if 1+ roll for G-Loc and damage, calculate and roll separately for Crew and Repair
Crew. Sum up all Gs the ship is subjected to, basically the number of squares from the Drift after gravity position. Subtract 1 if the ship neither turned nor rolled, it is far easier to take a linear acceleration than the bucking-bronco variety.

G-Load is then reduced by crew stations and floorfield if applicable. We need to do separate calculations for Crew and Repair Crew as the Repair Crew don’t have stations and sometimes don’t even have a floorfield to protect them (when doing repairs on the outside of the ship, on the Hull or Surface locations).

Number of Gs thrusted or aerobraked

  • -1 if neither turning nor rolling
  • -2 for Limited, Full or Bridge station
  • -5 for Limited tank station
  • -Number of floorfield Gs if indoors*

*The Hull and Surface locations are considered outdoors and not helped by floorfield

G-Loc & damage roll
Roll for G-Loc and damage if G-Load is 1+
Roll separately for Crew and Repair Crew
Reduce Gs felt by 1 if ship neither turned nor rolled
If the modified G-Load is 1+ for Crew or Repair Crew roll 1D6 + G-Load on the table below. A result of a Scratch+ results in G-Loc, higher results also result in damage or even death, this is also true for robot only Repair Crew.
Crew cannot perform Scans, attacks, defense or control missiles. All launched
missiles are lost as are all Tracks.
Repair Crew cannot move from their current location, perform repairs or
power up powerplants. Note that Repair Crew on Hull or Surface suffer one level worse damage if the result was 7+, from falling off the hull under thrust. See the picture on top if you don’t understand why.

Sensors, Scans, Signature and Signal

Posted in Intercept, Rules on May 17, 2016 by Mr Backman

Planetary shadowWe don’t experience the world directly. Our senses react to certain physical phenomenon and our brains interpret the data and paints us a picture that feels both real and coherent, the world is a fantasy of our creation. The sensors of your ship is just one more redirection from the universe and your mind.

3 worked Scan examples

The rulebook tell us how a Scan is performed. The scanner adds his sensors Sensitivity to the Scan size modifier to get a Scan strength. The Scan strength together with type of sensor, position and size is presented to the opponent. The opponent then, ask three questions and the answers determine if the Scan strength should be reduced or if there are areas of the Scan that cannot be seen by the scanner and should therefore be ignored.

If the opponent has target(s) inside the legit area he will add the relevant Signature(s) to the Scan strength and if the result, the Signal, is 0+ he must tell the scanner each relevant Signal that was 0+. The Scanner finally decides whether to perform a Sensor task and that task will give him an Indication, a Contact or the much coveted Tracked result. Read pages 6-7 for the basics and page 18 for planets and page 22 for asteroids and there respective effects on scans. End  of story, right? Below follow three scan examples, with pictures and all, enjoy.

Scan 1

The player A, the scanner, decides to try a 1×1 box towards the sun to see if the sneaky player B is maybe approaching from the sun. The ship is where number 1 is located and the green area is the Scan. The ship has a +2 Sensitivity Visual/IR sensor, and the modifier for a 1×1 box is -1 so Scan strength is +1.

Scan 1

Scan 1 – Visual 1×1 box, strength +1 in B3

Player A “I will do a Visual Scan, 1×1 box,  with a strength of +1, in B4”

Player B “Does the Scan touch your ships Sunglare column?”

Player B starts asking the three questions, this one is from page 6 in the rulebook, the other two are from page 18. The Sunglare question must always be asked, even if there are no planets or asteroids on the map.

Player A “Yes, my Scan touches my Sunglare goddamit!”

Player B “Does your Scan touch a blocked sun or shadow column?”

This question need only be asked if the map has planets or asteroids on it.

Player A “No, and you can clearly see that I don’t, but I know, you have to ask”

As the Scan didn’t touch the sun or shadow columns of the planet this question is not strictly needed but it can be good practice to ask all three questions regardless. The Sun column is the three squares wide light grey column above the planet and the Shadow column is the three squares wide darker grey column below the planet. Large planets have three squares wide Sun and Shadow columns, small planets and asteroids have one square wide, planets have columns infinitely long while asteroids have columns limited in length, see page 18 and 22 for details.

Player B “Finally, does the planet block parts of your Scan?”

Player A “Eh, wait a minute, checking…, ah nope”

The Scan is neither from nor to the planets gravity-well so player A can can swiftly answer this with a resolute ‘no’ but sometimes taking longer to check can fool the opponent into believing you are somewhere else.

Scan 1b

Scan 1 – Sunglare always affect none or the whole Scan, never parts

The one square wide column extending up from the scanners ship, not including the square of the ship itself, in grey, is its Sunglare column. Any Scan touching the Sunglare column will have its Strength reduced by the Sun factor (from now on called simply Sun). The Sun factor is normally 6 so in this case the Scan strength goes from +1 to -5.

If player B has any ships inside the B4 box he must now add the Scan strength of -5 to all his ship’s or missile’s Visual signatures, always Visual(Hull) and Visual(Thrust) too but only if thrusting. If the Signal (the Scan strength plus Signature) is 0+ he must tell player A that he got an Indication at least, and tell him the actual Signal(s). Player A may now rolls a Sensor task to determine if the Signal was high enough to also give him a Contact or the coveted Tracked result.

Player A have hopefully learned that Scans containing your scanning ships Sunglare column are stupid, the space combat equivalent of staring straight into the sun.

Scan 2

Player A now has his ship in position 2 and is about to declare his second Scan. This time he tries a larger 3×3 box one well away from his Sunglare. Note that parts of the Scan is outside of the map, which is perfectly fine as long as the center is still inside. Ships and missiles outside of the map are lost but Scans partly outside are simply a bit wasteful.

Scan 2

Scan 2 – A Visual 3×3 boxes Scan with Strength -1 in E1

Player A “This time I do a Visual Scan, 3×3 boxes, with a strength of +1, in E1”

Player B “Does the Scan touch your ships Sunglare column? You do know that parts of your Scan is off the map right?”

Player A “Yes I know and no, this time my Scan does not touch the Sunglare column of my ship”

The grey one square column stretching up above position 2 is the ship’s new position and we can clearly see that the new Scan doesn’t touch it, no Sunglare reduction this time.

Player B “Does your Scan touch a blocked sun or shadow column?”

Player B can clearly see that the planet’s Sun column is touched by the Scan but even if it didn’t it might be a good idea to ask this question, just to get into the habit.

Player A “Yes,the Scan touches the Sun column, but no, my ship is not in the Shadow column”

If the Scan touches the Sun or Shadow column the scanner must tell his opponent whether his scanning ship is in the opposite column or not. Whenever a Scan has the potential of having areas blocked they will also tell the target something about the scanners location.

Player B “Does the planet block parts of your Scan?”

Only omit this question if there is no planet on the map. If the Scan is from within he gravity well of a planet or if th Scan touches the gravity well of a planet, parts may be blocked. Planets have 8 sectors around them, near sectors inside the gravity well and far sectors extending infinitely far out. Pictures on page 18 show you the sectors of small and large planets. If your Scan doesn’t touch any blocked sectors you must still tell your opponents this, that nothing of the Scan is blocked.

Scans from a Near sector blocks the opposite near and far sectors.

Scan from Far sector blocks opposite near sector only.

Player A “Yes, my Scan is blocked in the planet’s North-East near and far sectors”

If player B has any ships or missiles in the North-East near or far sectors they should be ignored, any targets in the boxes D1 and D2 are still valid of course. Player B also now knows that player A has his scanning ship inside the South-West near sector. This is why the order of Scans are important, players take turns scanning first or last using the A/B turn order rule as explained on page 2 of the rulebook.

Scan 2b

Scan 2 – Parts of the Scan blocked by the North-East near and far sectors.

Scan 3

Turn 3 has player A’s ship just outside of the gravity well of the planet, and well inside the planets Shadow column. Being inside the Shadow column not only block scanned targets in the Sun column it also reduces the Visual(Hull) Signature. Normally, in sunlight, the Visual(Hull) uses the number written +Sun but when the ship is inside the Shadow column the Sun factor is 0 making the ship much harder to detect.

This time player A decides to Scan near the planet, thinking player B is maybe lurking there, inside the gravity well. A 3×3 Visual with a Scan strength of -1, centered in E5, as shown by the grey area.

Scan 3

Scan 3 – Visual 3×3 boxes, strength -1 in E5

Player A “OK, another Visual Scan, 3×3 boxes, with a strength of +1, this time in E5”

Player A once again ask the only question one must always ask, the one about scanning the Sunglare. If you look at the figure it might look like the S´can really is touching the shops Sunglare, it is – but – if a ship is in the Shadow column they are unaffected by Sunglare! Go outside in the middle of the night, stare straight down – do you feel blinded by the sun? No, didn’t think so, the Earth was in the way, you were technically in Earth’s Shadow column and thus unaffected by Sunglare, and if´you were away from streetlights and such, I bet your body was harder to see too.

Ships in the Shadow column are unaffected by Sunglare

Player B “Does the Scan touch your ships Sunglare column?”

Player A “No”

Player A doesn’t have to tell player B that the reason Sunglare isn’t in effect is because he is in the Shadow column. Don’t reveal what you don’t have to.

Player B “Does your Scan touch a blocked sun or shadow column?”

As the Scan touches both the Sun column and the Shadow column of the planet player A must reveal if he is any of them or outside both.

Player A “Sigh, my ship is in the Shadow column, the Sun column is blocked”

Player B “Aha! That explains why Sunglare didn’t affect you. I think I know where you are now!”

Player B “Does the planet block parts of your Scan?”

Player A “Yeah, my Scan is blocked in the North near sector, and the Sun column too as you already know”

Boxes D4 and D5 have small parts that are not blocked but most are, but still, big chunks of the SCan are still valid, don’t be afraid to do Scans including the planet, trick players tend to stay close to the planet thinking they’ll be blocked but as you can see that is far from the truth.

Scan 3b

Scan 3 – Sun column and North near sector are blocked, shown in red here.

Page 16 to 22 of the rulebook covers everything you need to  know about planets and asteroids, not only how they affect Scans but how you land on them, how their gravity affect your movement, how you can use their atmosphere for aerobrake maneuvers, and even how your Scans and Signatres are affected by being landed on a planet or asteroid.

Smugglers do it in the shadows – faded text on a dead captains T-shirt.

 

Missiles 102

Posted in Intercept on April 12, 2016 by Mr Backman

“William Turner: You didn’t beat me. You ignored the rules of engagement! In a fair fight, I’d kill you!
Jack Sparrow: Well, that’s not much incentive for me to fight fair then, is it?”

Missiles are for cowards? True, you can kill an opponent in his sleep, but isn’t that the ideal space combat scenario?
You: Not a scratch
Them: An unaware expanding cloud of slowly cooling junk.

My last article on missiles dealt with protecting against them. This time we’ll cover how to use them effectively. Missiles can be broadly be divided into Regular, Coldstart and Miscellaneous. As always, grab the latest rules, designs and design system here.

Regular
Regular missiles, small 15 min endurance ones, are not really that stealthy. The trick is to make your launching ships Drift as close as possible to where you think the enemy will be, and to make sure your vectors will differ by at least 2. This is fairly easy if you are untracked but really hard when battling for Initiative. If you manage to place your launching ships Drift on top of the enemy position every thrust G become a +1 DM thanks to the often overlooked Remaining thrust Gs modifier. Remember to roll or turn so your launcher can see the enemy, otherwise you’ll automatically miss. If your volley holds 3 or more missiles use the Spray fire option.

Cold start
This is another beast altogether. Launch them drifting from far away, you only need to be within launcher range when attacking. Keep in mind that each launcher battery can only hold control one volley at a time. If your current volley seem impossible to impact, give it up and launch a new, but remember that your launcher only carries 3 volleys (unless your ship has a magazine, don’t you just love those SDBs). If the enemy happen to Detect or Track your volley things get much harder as you may only have a G or two acceleration advantage over your enemy, if that.

Miscellaneous
Decoys and sensor missiles aren’t strictly weapons but can be really useful in stealthy situations such as blockade running, agent injection, smuggling, space piracy etc.
Decoys
Concentrate on the Visual signature as IR Scans are rarely used. Match your ships Visual(Hull) if you can as the enemy will probably know what class of vessels to expect. Launch the decoys early and remember that even thrustless decoy volleys must be handled by a launcher battery (to simplify gameplay), ditch your decoys whenever you wish to launch regular missiles. Missiles are cheap, ships are not.
Sensors
Sensor missiles are mostly used to closely monitor a planet. Put a sensor in orbit and have it Scan a 3×3 sq area on the planet (maybe an entire box for large planets). Why do that? The sensing ship must be within 5 times the Scan size or less, with sensor missiles you can scan small areas without running the risk of being found yourself. Just remember that sensor missiles must be in Line of Sight with the controlling ship, this requirement holds for all missiles by the way.