Last week Ed and I tried out a new rules system ( new to us anyway) called Sunder the Stars. It is a free to download fleet scale starship rules system, available from http://home.dejazzd.com/broadsword/Sunder_the_Stars/StS_Downloads_Page.html , where the rules are posted, along with several fleets for different factions.
I found this to be a very good system with some nice ideas. There is a nice initiative system which gives very limited control over which of you ships/squadrons you activate first, so everyone goes every turn, but your key unit may not go when you want it too, and it could be glittering chaff by the time its time to activate comes around. It is die roll based but each ship/squadron gets a modifier based on size so the smaller ships tend to go first, but not always. You roll 2D6 for each sqadron, larger ships can be on their own or grouped with their escort ships. The initiative score is easily marked with a D20, which is removed upon activation so it is clear who has and who has not yet gone.
The damage system is well done, each ship has a different stat profile for how much damage it has sustained, so no marking off hull boxes, just a D6 next to each ship which has taken damage. The ships degrade quite quickly so a damaged ship can go whoomph very easily. Combat is based upon opposed D6 rolls with various bonuses. A 6 is rerolled and added, so a string of 6s can result in a scary attack total. If the firer bets the defenders total, 1 point of damage is caused, if they double the defenders total, 2 points is scored etc. As the defence score of a ship is reduced as damage is sustained, it can be a very steep slope and a low roll can be disasterous. The weapons systems are quite limited, but in a fleet based game, the nitty gritty detail would slow a game down to much . There are beam weapons (phaser/lasers/disruptors) , Rack (missiles and torpedoes, long range and scary but countered with point defence),Drones (missiles with skip drives, they are shorter ranged than standard missiles but only countered by point defence at the point of target, not along their flight path like normal missiles ) and Fusion (a short range weapon listed as a tiny artificial star which causes damage over several rounds. Some weapons can spread their atacks against multiple opponents, but lessening power and sometimes range. There are multiple shield settings ( all forward/ all aft/ double strength etc) bu twe haven't tried those yet.
Ships are listed by standard naval classification (frigate/cruiser etc) as much because this is what many gamers are used to thinking in. There are carriers and fighter rules, although we haven't had a chance to try them out yet. The fighters come in 3 flavours, interceptors, bombers and landers. Interceptors are dogfighters, best against other fighters but also can screen a ship providing long range point defence.They are capable of attacking ships but not as good as bombers. Bombers are much more effective against ships but can fight other fighters. I thought landers would be shuttle craft for scenario missions but are more like armed boarding pods, and can capture enemy ships very quickly if they don't all die horribly under the point defence. Point defence weakens rapidly as damage is sustained, so a damaged capital ship is vulnerable to boarding and is worth a heap of victory points if captured.
There are several pregenerated fleets available from the same website as the rules, each with a different feel to them. There are full design rules and blank ship templates to create your own fleet. Ed has a series of scifi books published ( http://www.amazon.com/The-Nameless-War-Trilogy-Volume/dp/1477645977 ) and the design rules would suit the style of ships in his books, so we might do up the primary fleets and have a bash.
Due to the firepower/defence balance in this game, ships can die very quickly ( which suits fleet actions) and even big ships are at risk from a pack of smaller ships. Fleet deployment gives protection against missile attacks with overlapping point defence but can be funny is a ship takes a bad hit and goes boom.
For our first try of the rules, we used two existing fleets ( space Vikings vs space Spartans), and each had a battleship, 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers and 3 frigates. This turned out to be small for the scale of the game and probably was unfair to the rules as it left limited options for manouver and a good chunk of your fleet could vanish in quick succession. It would be akin to playing an ancients game with only one flank rather than a whole army, but you have to get a feel for the rules first, I suppose. I definately want to give these rules another go, but with bigger fleets. We might have to use counters rather than miniatures as what we have is based around a Full thrust battlegroup rather than a big fleet.
I will post an after game report shortly.