My first experiences with the space combat rules in Classic Traveller 1977 (CT77) were great fun! The rules are based on vectors and a type of approach that is semi-realistic in nature. CT77 makes various assumptions on spacecraft type and weaponry, such as lasers and standard starship designs – like the Scout/Courier and its characteristics.

All good!

Except… that not everyone is into vector-based space. It definitely is far more of a tactical, “wargame-like” type of approach than the abstract ground combat of CT77. If you’re flowing along with the game and suddenly you’re yanking out a (very large) hex map with counters and possibly rulers or markers, that’s going to definitely be a shift in the game.

I’ve run into this issue before in my D&D games, when I’ve wanted to include mass combat into the situations that the players need to deal with. Going from an RPG game to a wargame can be difficult, and it might not be everyone’s cup of tea!

I solved that particular issue by finding a wargame rule set that was very close to the feel and flow of regular D&D combat and figuring out to get all players involved. Here’s my post from 2015 talking about the solution.

So… how to do similar with Classic Traveller?

Well, from discussion with the players, it was pretty clear that they weren’t particularly interested in a wargame approach. Several of them were familiar with CT space combat, so they were willing to roll with it, but I didn’t pick up on “ohhellyea, let’s do it!” The other players who weren’t familiar with it didn’t seem eager to pick it up.

However, all of these players had done CT77 ground combat and everyone had enjoyed it for it’s quick pace and deadliness.

So a design goal was “Make space combat feel similar to ground combat.”

A second issue was related to setting. I’m one that is firmly in the “setting is more important than rules/system” camp. If a game system breaks down because it’s tied too directly to a setting, or vice versa, then it’s probably not the game for me.

The Battlestar Galactica setting and choices I’ve made already have impacted the choices that players can make during character generation. Space combat was going to be no different in needing some changes due to setting:

  • Using the BSG 2003 approach of “projectiles/missiles” as opposed to the pulse lasers of BSG 1978. That means no CT lasers.
  • Individual small ships are not going to be able to normally make much of a difference against large capital ships – it took smuggling a nuke onto a Basestar to destroy it in lieu of the Battlestars/Basestars slugging it out.
  • Some aspects of CT don’t easily fit with the BSG setting – computers and swapping programs, sand casters, turrets, smaller craft having jump drives.
  • Not to mention that missiles are not very well defined in CT77 rules.

I also need to make some adjustments for the style of play that fits my campaign:

  • Vector movement can work on a VTT (this is an online game) but it’s not as easy as range bands.
  • The preference of my players to have a simple approach similar to ground combat.

So, with that in mind, I came up with my first rough draft of my space combat rules.

Key points:

  • Using bands for movement instead of vectors and hexes, similar to ground combat.
  • Codifying how multiple PCs can “assist” in attack/defense/repairs and exercise their expertises.
  • Projectile combat requires targets be in same place as attackers, replacing lasers.
  • Codifying how missiles work
  • A roll for each attacker/target, as opposed to a roll for each weapon.
  • Removing setting related aspects of Traveller combat.

Initial playtests were fast and fun! In one combat, a Raptor took on 2 Cylon Raiders.

Combat started with a spray of missiles from both sides that crippled a Cylon, while the Raptor defended successfully. The remaining Cylon fired another salvo while closing to engage with guns. The Raptor launched it’s own missile salvo. So, guns blazing and missiles flying all around, exactly the experience I was hoping for!

End result was two Cylon Raiders splashed and a Raptor whose hull was shot up like Swiss Cheese, but no major systems damage AND drives intact.

Next up is a fight of 4 Vipers vs 4 Cylons. That should shake things out well.

I always welcome constructive feedback and ideas! If you do look them over, let me know what you think!


Battlestar Galactica / Traveller Space Combat Rules:

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