Thursday, July 14, 2011

A closer look at Galactic Knights (part 2)

We kicked off our in-depth examination of Galactic Knights with a look at the background and turn sequence, going into detail about movement (drift and maneuver).  Now, we look at the fun stuff--things that make you go boom.

After the maneuver phase comes the combat phase (in the standard rules; the command rules have a separate fighter & missile phase that comes before ship-to-ship combat, but that's for a future post).  To begin combat, the player that won initiative for the turn picks one of his ships, declares all fire for that vessel, and resolves hits.  The other player then chooses one of his craft and does the same thing.  Players take turns shooting with all their ships; when they're done, the turn's over and you start over with drift.

But let's get back to the shooting.  To resolve fire, players roll a 10-sided die for each weapon.  If the roll is equal to or less than the target's profile, the shot hits.  All ships, fighters, and missiles have a profile number ranging from 2 to 8.  The lower the number, the smaller and more nimble the craft.  Likewise, higher profile numbers reflect lumbering behemoths that have a hard time avoiding enemy fire.  A ship's systems can alter its profile in one of two ways.  Shields generate a great deal of electromagnetic hash that lights up a ship on enemy scanners, meaning any vessel with active shields adds 1 to its profile.  On the other hand, electronic countermeasures help defeat target locks, letting a ship that carries ECM subtract 1 from its profile.

Speaking of ship systems, players keep track of a ship's shields, armor, weapons, engines, and so forth on a ship stat sheet, like the one pictured above.  In addition to the fighty bits (shown as rows of boxes for armor and colums with weapons batteries, electronics, missiles, fighters, and engines), each ship has a row of atom symbols denoting critical hits.  This statistic abstracts characteristics like hull integrity, life support, and power generation.  Once a ship loses all its criticals, it's destroyed.

Weapons do a fixed about of damage that attenuates with range.  Powerful beam weapons pack a mean punch at short range (4 hexes), do serious damage at medium range (12 hexes), and can still reach out and touch someone at long range (24 hexes), while the lightest beams are only effective at short range.  Most gun batteries have firing arcs, making facing and maneuver important in the game. 

There are also projectile weapons.  Plasma torpedoes inflict 4 points of damage up to 4 hexes away, and they are fired in salvoes of five; they can be deadly to all but the largest ships.  However, they're dangerous for their own ships as well--if they get take a hit, they explode for one critical hit per torp, enough to destroy anything smaller than a battlecruiser.  Missiles do less damage (3 per missile), but they have several advantages: they have a much longer range (12 hexes), twice as many fit into one systems box, and--most important--they don't detonate when hit by enemy fire.

All this firepower means ships need protection, and they have it.  Shields reduce damage from all incoming fire (but shots bypass shields on a roll of 1 or 2), while armor is ablative--a one-time reduction that gets chewed up by enemy fire. 

Despite a player's efforts and desire, some shots will eventually get through, and this is indicated on the ship stat sheet.  Damage in GK is allocated vertically, not horizontally.  This means each layer of shielding absorbs one point of damage, and each layer of armor absorbs one point of damage.  So for example, if a ship with two layers of shields and two layers of armor was hit by a shot doing 4 points damage, each layer of shielding would soak up a point of damage, and each layer of armor would subtract a point of damage.  Whiile shields can absorb an unlimited amount of damage, each layer of armor is finite, so the player checks off a point from each row of armor for each hit.  If a shot does enough damage to get through shields and armor, it goes to the systems boxes.

As stated above, all the weapons, electronics, and so on are listed in rows of systems boxes.  For each shot that gets past shields and through armor, roll a d10 and look on the stat sheet to see what system is destroyed, starting with the topmost box.  This means ammo magazines are lost, weapons can't fire, and shields no longer work.  If you lose an engine, you no longer can use it during the manuever phase (better hope it's not your only engine!).  If that system box is already gone, or if there is additional damage, mark off the box underneath it.  Once you've gone through an entire column, additional damage that hits that column carries through to the ship's critical hits.  Again, once those critical hits are all gone, kiss your ship good-bye. 

As you can see, combat is pretty straightforward between starships.  However, we haven't looked at fighter and missile rules yet.  Galactic Knights also has two sets of fighter/missile rules, which makes things interesting, and which also means I'll be doing another post on the game at a later date.

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