Thursday, 9 April 2015

Delta Vector Space Game: The Shield Conundrum 2.0

I'd like to have shields.  Directional, preferably.  It would add an aspect of resource management and also reward positioning/facing your spaceship.  However, if it adds too much complexity, the trade isn't worth it.

These "shield arcs" show when shields are hit/down.  I could use different colours, but I'll probably only use arcs when shields are DOWN.  I.e. you presume shields are up until shown otherwise, and only add the shield markers IF they are down.  That way you don't use shield markers as much.

Pics taken on my phone:

I made the marker with transparent plastic from a folder.  I traced the shape using a 50mm base and a starship hex base (the usual EM4 ones).

You could use different colours of shields to show shields full / failing / down.... but that's a bit complex for my tastes...

I'm going to use a simple shields are up/ down I think.  I only add the marker if the shield is DOWN - otherwise you can assume the shield is functioning normally.  This reduces the number of shield markers in play.

How might this work in practice?  Here's a few examples:

The "Battlefleet Gothic" Method
The shield absorbs a set amount of hits from each volley - say 3 hits. Any amount less than that means there is no effect - the shield shrugs off the hits and remains at full strength.  If it takes 3+ hits in a single attack, the shield is down for the rest of the turn and all later shots though that arc impact directly on the ship.  Has the benefit of simplicity, although I might as well use blast markers like the original game.

The More Convoluted Method i.e. Some go through, some don't.   
From the damage rules in the last post, a attack dice (say d8) is compared to a defence target number based on the hull/armour of the ship (let's say 4).  The shields (if up) add a defensive bonus - let's say +2.

So the ship has a basic defence of 4, but 6 counting the shields.

Now, any rolls of 7 or 8 will go straight through and damage the ship - they exceed the hull and shields combined.   Any rolls of 4 or less have no effect - the hull would resist them anyway.  But rolls of 5 to 6 WOULD have damaged the ship if it wasn't for the shield bonus.  If the amount of 5 & 6 rolls equals the shield bonus (2) then the shields are down.  Any further shots would hit on 4+ as the shield bonus is now gone.

Example:  A ship has a defence of 4, with 2 shields - 6 defence total.    An attack is rolled and 3 damage rolls are made - for 7, 5 and 3.  The '7' exceeds the total defence and hits anyway.  The '5' hits the shields - which remain up for the next attack.  The '3' has no effect.  

If the rolls had been 6, 5, 3 for example - no shots would have gone through, but the 6 and 5 would have collapsed the shields.

That's just one example. I don't really mind how the shields work, but I don't want any record keeping except shields up/down.  No shield boxes to cross out a la Starfleet Battles/Colonial Battlefleet - ugh!

Why shields?
Besides being a sci fi staple, they add more resource management and decisions to gameplay.  I.e. you can attack the side of the enemy ship with shields down - or manoeuvre to position your own damaged shields away from the enemy. Perhaps passing a crew skill roll would enable you to channel power to shields - i.e. a ship with rear shields down but full frontal shields could pass a crew check, and swap them so the frontal arc was down but the rear was up.  Or shields could be restored on a crew roll, at the expense of no thrust/energy beams next turn.    You can focus attacks to overwhelm shields, and you may use a fully shielded ship to block fire aimed at an unshielded one.  Shields add lots of decision making options. However.....

Shields - Counting the Cost
The problem is how much complexity is desirable or acceptable?  Although desirable, I originally avoided shields altogether as I thought the complexity/recording would be too high.

However one thing I DON'T want is having to tick off then rub out shield boxes.  I don't want any record keeping except maybe a marker like I've shown. That's a price I'm not willing to pay - I'll forgo shields completely rather than add more recording.


  1. In my system, Pax Stellarum, shields are a number of D6 you can roll to try and cancel hits. So a Shields value of 5 means you get to roll 5D6 each time you are attacked. In order to cancel a hit with a shield roll, the result must at least equal the weapon's strength.

    Shields drop little by little, according to the total strength of all hits on that ship: If the combined strength of all hits equal the current Shields Value, it drops by 1, if it equals or exceeds double, it drops by 2.

    Folks here at my group find this mechanic to be quite engaging, and the only marker needed is a die next to the ship to keep track of current level of shields.

    1. That's a pretty nifty mechanic, but perhaps a bit more granular than what I need. Pretty much shields yes/no is all I need to know.

      If I was using a simpler hull system (i.e. damaged/heavy damaged/crippled) without specific hit locations, a more involved shield system would be good and your idea would be very useful for that.

  2. What about if the markers shows where the shields ARE, and as a player you can reinforce them in one direction at the cost of another. "All ahead flank speed - Reinforce the forward shields!" This would add a nice command decision point, but opens up some risk/opportunity for the enemy.

    1. You can do this already by passing a crew check and simply swapping what side the "Shields Down" marker is on.

    2. That's what I originally thought he meant when he suggested directional shields with markers.

      So something like each shield emitter allows you to place a shield through something like 1/6th or 1/3rd of the ship's arc (since you're using hex bases), and you can reposition it either any time you like or with a crew skill check.

      Given that you want more terrain you could treat shields as a type of terrain. Say something like a pipe-cleaner or straw that you can place anywhere within a shortish distance of the ship using the shield. It would have a certain chance to block and beams or kinetic weapons, but wouldn't be able to block ships. (I'm not sure about missiles or drones)

      It may be difficult to make it work with your vector and turn order systems though.

    3. I'm real curious how directional shields are going to work with the vector movement system, particularly the kinetic weapons.

    4. So am I! Shields may have to be abandoned if they add too much complexity, but they'd add a desirable element of tactics.

      That said, kinetic weapons are no different than pew pew lasers - a ship pivots at the start of its move, and maintains that facing throughout the move. So the shield side that was impacted would be the same. They shoot in/out of shields like anything else.

      Remember, people see the vector movement and think I'm aiming for hard sci fi. I'm not. I'm simply aiming for "NOT another WW2 in space game." Vector movement is what makes space, space. Otherwise you might as well just rename your WW2 naval rules like most companies do.

      Real hard sci fi battles would be rather boring. The biggest ship with the biggest laser would win - absolutely at odds with my design philosophy.

    5. In response to the shield arcs, I doubt they will be more complex than two hemispheres (like those pictured) if directional.