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Re: Real Space Combat Help:

From: Alex Williams <thantos@d...>
Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 08:38:04 -0400
Subject: Re: Real Space Combat Help:

> > Samuel Penn wrote:
> > > Sounds good, but I don't like Renegade Legion itself too much,
> > > and getting hold of it is a real pig anyway.
> Having said that, I wandered into my local game shop this morning,
> and saw both Prefect and Leviathan for sale. I've bought them both.
> >From the quick skim read I did of the tactics section, they seem
> sensible enough.

Prefect's a pretty good buy, Leviathan's really not all that
`keen!'ness-inducing, at least in my mind.  FT with a few tweaks
(improving the amount you can carry in a side-arc or decrease the
amount in front/rear) would probably be a far superior product.  The
armour system is pretty good (Centurion-esque) but a little on the
pointless side given the weapon profiles of most of the damage-dealing
death-gurlers in Lev.

> Only ever played Interceptor, and I found the damage system
> interesting, but I didn't think it added enough to the game given
> its relative complexity. It's definitely not unplayable, but
> could do with a few tweeks.

For my RenLeg money, I'm a /big/ Centurion/Prefect fan.  Interceptor's
fun, but the damage system's funky (not like the others in the system)
but definitely captures the /flavour/ of what they were trying to
achieve.  The `Pushing the Powerplant' rules, in particular, I've
always thought keen.  A good pilot can get more Thrust, but if you
blow it, you're a'tumblin' or you've burnt your own engine.

Most of the complexity seems to be in adhering to hexes.  Throwing it
onto FT's Newtonian motion rules would alleviate a lot of that and
make things a lot more fluid.

[One of these days I'll get around to converting RenLeg's games, from
Centurion to Leviathan, to FMA-based systems.  I feel like a heretic
myself, sometimes ... :)]

> For a standard drive yes, though a big freighter could probably put
> out quite a punch. If the drive has been designed with this feature
> in mind, its use might be practical. Unfortunately, I don't know
> enough physics to do the maths. If someone is trying a boarding
> action against you though, it could be a last ditch option.

If someone's trying to board you and they haven't disabled your drive,
via one method or another, they deserve everything they get.  That's
one of the biggest nightmares I can imagine in space: trying to
grapple onto a ship that doesn't want you to.  Its worse in an orbit:
forget even attempting it, because if you /try/, you'll both be eating

[Sidreal thought: Anyone played SGII on a Space Hulk random ship
corridor map?]

> Each gauss cannon round is much less massive, and also a lot
> cheaper (and lower tech) than any single missile. Stopping a
> single missile is also a lot easier than stopping a thousand
> lumps of depleted uranium.

Taken as a whole, the technology to acquire a target at light-seconds'
range to really-darn-close, predict its motion for the intervening
flight time, then fire chunks of metal into the maneuver sphere in a
way that fills their maneuver sphere equally would seem to require as
much technology, or even a little more, than a sensor package on much
the same guidance system, strapped to an engine with a smaller mass of
submunitions (because the maneuver sphere you have to fill is much
smaller the closer you are to the target, for the same density).  Mass
may turn out to be less for ten missiles vs the mass of multiple Gauss
burst reloads plus the mass of the cannon plus the mass of the power
system to support it.

Can't argue that its easier to stop a single missile, but its also
/much/ harder to detect a single missile than it is to detect a
thousand Gauss rounds, even RAM-plated ones.  You /may/ be able to
tell I've dropped a missile (the thrust bloom might give it away, if
you don't think I'm trying to do a small course correction) but you
won't be able to tell if its operating in mine-mode, a pre-programmed
position-and-mine mode, a search pattern or just keyed on the
radiation signature of your boat.

> I don't know what the cost difference between a smart KE missile
> and a smart nuke missile would be, but it may not be worth going
> just for a KE missile, when a nuke is more effective.

Probably not significant at the scales we're talking about here.  You
might split the difference and use a nuke that impells a large amount
of material at the point of detonation.  Best of both worlds.

> I don't expect space combat to occur at this level until at least
> the late half of next century, by which time we should have decent
> enough AI (as in targetting and tactical skill, not personality)
> systems. If we don't, then yes, fighters are definitely useful.

Its hard to second-guess what AI is going to be like by then; it
depends on more factors than even someone that's done a fair amount of
work and research in the field (like me) can predict.  Certainly, if
something happens `before we're ready' with the right technology at
the right time, odds are we're going to see at the very least transat
fighters capable of orbital launch and recovery, possibly some kind of
manned fighter that's purely orbital as well.

> But if I'm protecting a planet, I can afford to have high thrust
> low efficiency drives, massive arrays of active sensors (so what
> if I give away my position? You knew I was here anyway), and well
> dug in laser and missile silos on a moon, or in a conviently
> captured asteroid. Assuming of course that I'm going for a purely
> defensive posture.

Not necessarily; I know you're there, you know I'm coming, but not
necessarily where in orbit I'll do so.	Plus, with your high-thrust
low-efficency drives you're going to have /much/ more limited dV than
I am, particularly if I take up an attack position higher in the
gravity well.  You'll be fighting the well to get up to me, further
cutting your dV and /far/ cutting your endurance.  I can drop things
down the well at you.  If you invest in low-thrust low-efficency
ships, that becomes even worse.  It becomes easier to hit you.

Spy sats /probably/ wouldn't last long enough in a high-orbit conflict
to be meaningful, except for single-pass disposables you lob out as
`recon' just before a thrust.  Any attacker worth the name will
concentrate on wiping your sats from the sky on contact.  The missile
and laser defenses based planetary have one /major/ flaw: once they
fire, they're revealed.  Orbital bombardment will be swift and sure.

> If I'm attacking a planet, then I'm going to that planet. I don't
> _need_ to manouevre a great deal. So you send out half your forces
> to outflank me, so what? In space, if my armour and point defence
> systems are as good on my rear (and top, bottom and sides) as they
> are in my front, it doesn't grant you that much of an advantage.

See below.  Keeping that maneuver sphere open to as many targets as
possible as long as possible keeps you guessing.  In orbital battles,
this is just as true, just on a far contracted scale; the larger my
maneuver sphere, the larger area you need to fill with submunitions to
have a chance of hitting me.  If you can't /fill/ my maneuver sphere,
the larger it is (the higher my thrust possible) the more likely I'll
be able to evade your attack.

Odds are every space vessel for the forseeable future will have at
least /one/ vulnerable arc: the rear.  Anywhere you vent thrust from
is going to be a very weak spot.

> Where manouevrability does come into it (as described in Prefect),
> is that you can move your defences from other outposts to the
> one I'm attacking in time to help defend it. Also I don't have
> the delta-vee to keep options open for many targets to force you
> to split your defences between all of them.

Precisely.  The defenses /might/ be this squadron of fighters vs
/that/ squadron of fighters at shorter ranges, but the principals' the
same.  Who do you reinforce and when?

> If you have the guts to continue fighting a guerilla war, hitting
> soft targets, performing terrorist actions within cities etc, then
> there's not much that orbital superiority can do (unless it's
> _really_ good).

One doesn't do that and still hold territory, though.  Once you're
reduced to guerilla fighting, for the most part, if your opponant
knows how to deal with it, you're not going to hold together as a
governmental entity long.  Under planetary siege/interdiction, your
populace is probably going to capitulate before they suffer too long
unless they're /all/ fanatical.  Your guerillas are going to be
hurting since their logistics can't be done at /all/ on the open road
(part of civillian control/siege would be to take theirs out, too).
If terrorist actions in cities result in the attacker pulling their
forces out ... and then bombarding the city to rubble and ash, you're
probably going to lose support before too long (or get your planet
turned into fanatics like N Ireland).  If your opponant is willing to
go toe-to-toe with you with guerillas and terrorism, the problem
resolves to two opposed countries on a single planet ... its just one
will have neither orbital nor air superiority (since airstrips will be
one of the first orbital strike points).

> The only way you're only ever going to kick them off your planet,
> is to keep on nibbling at them until they get fed up and go home,
> or you get extremely lucky. Don't ever think of building big bases,
> moving large amounts of equipment and supplies, or performing any
> long (where 'long' could be as short as a few seconds) engagements
> though, because you'll loose.

You'll only be able to win by making it logistically unfeasible to
retain the planet.  This might be because your planet isn't considered
too important and the attacking force is undersupplied for the fight
you put up, or you just get lucky and kick serious booty early in the

> Or build Archangel Michael (if you don't understand that reference,
> then why haven't you read _Footfall_ (Niven and Pournelle) yet? :) ).

I've always liked the TALONS of Heaven (geo-sync sats over the poles
poised to fire nukes into the polar icecaps and flood us out).
They're the /manly/ doom-weapon.

> Guess what I'm going to be reading this afternoon? :)

You'll be hooked by night.  :)

> The rock may be an improvement. Chuck a big ice asteroid at Mars,
> you wipe out it's unwanted colonists, and give Mars a bit of
> surface water and atmosphere as well, ready for _your_ colonists.
>  :) :)

You also knock out all their nice techie toys /and/ you have to wait
for the dust to settle.  Messy.  :)

> The burn has to be for a period of time greater than zero though.
> If it's long enough, I can plot the ships course. How long
> 'long enough' is depends on available sensor systems. You want
> to make a high-thrust short burn to reduce my information as much
> as possible. If the ship is crewed, then you've got a limitation
> on how high a thrust you can safely achieve.

If you're close enough that a fast burst burn is more than a few
angstroms wide, then you're probably far enough into my maneuver
sphere that you know what my most probable target is and can either
phone ahead or intercept.  Crewed or not, out at ranges enough that my
burn vector would matter, you won't have it.  In close combat, it'll
be a lot like slow-motion fighter jockying in an infinite plain, you
may can see my burn vector, but there may just not be enough time to
do anything about it unless your maneuver sphere is much larger than

> Looking is easy if you know where to look. If you don't know
> where the enemy is, or even if they're there, then looking is
> hard.

If you know where to look, you don't /need/ to look.  :)

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