Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fleet dispositions

Just mulling, again: ship detection, ship speeds and fleet tactics.

I've always thought that jump flash happened IMTU. Now, whereas when individual ships are concerned, detection distances are 2 light seconds and tracking distances are 3, a reasonably hightech world should be able to spot the flashes of an incoming fleet, and so the intrusion of a fleet should be a noticed thing. The fleet sent out to intercept will know where the flashes were, and should be able to get there quickly enough to contact the attacking fleet, should this be desirable.

Or, the defending fleet can wait for the intruder to come in.

Now, whether they do, or not, is another thing entirely.

Contact, as I think I've put elsewhere, would probably happen with each side's fighter patrols. I imagine these would all be very high velocity encounters, with opposing fighters approaching each other having built extremely long vectors: two or three turns of contact at the most! In any case, the goal with these encounters would to circumvent the the other side's patrols and acquire the main enemy fleet on scan, transmitting that information to a central command.

Setting aside this stage of the engagement, assuming that at least one side has acquired the other, I'm wondering (as I think I have done before) how speed might affect fleet tactics, and hence starship design.

One aside: I'm leaning a little towards a melange of Book 2 and Mayday combat. I haven't smoketested it out, but I think that using Mayday's scale and damage rules might be the best thing I can do here. Also, I'm thinking I'd be using Mayday's simplified computer rules rather than the Book 2 style of programming: there's no reason that military computers wouldn't be completely maxed out, so the differences in computer power would be more important than programming minutiae. In terms of missiles, Assuming military fleets, there is no reason why they would be anything less than the best: so all missiles would be discretionary intelligently guided missiles with nuclear warheads. Rather than using Mayday's limitations on missiles, I'd assume each counter to represent a flight of missiles, and allow as many as the ship can chunk out. Generally speaking, missiles launched should be fast enough at 6G6 to make contact no matter how fast the ships are - UNLESS the ships are turning tail and moving away at 6Gs themselves.

One thought - I need to see how Mayday works when used for ships mounting 20-50 turrets! I think it may have the effect of extending laser range to a possibly absurd degree. Mayday's rules already break the Book 2 range rules into tiny pieces...

So, speed can be relevant in terms of evading missiles, IF a the target ship is willing to essentially withdraw from the field of combat.

If both fleets wish to engage, then speed is also relevant in being able to choose a favorable range from which to fight.

If both fleets are located, but fleet wishes to engage and the other does not, the faster fleet should always be able to make this choice.

The question, then, is whether the firepower of a ship of 3-5000 tons is worth the sacrifice in speed.

If a fast fleet contacts a slow fleet, then both can exchange fire while they're in range of each other. Using Mayday, the slow fleet using large numbers of lasers will have a huge range advantage over fast ships using fewer lasers: that alone might make the bigger ships worthwhile.


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