I have to say I am a massive fan of the Solar Starfire rules for spaceship combat. I really like the ability to customize a ship’s statline, and being able to store the entire statline as literally a lone line of text. It led me to wondering if a similar approach could be used for wargaming, and thus was born the idea of Focal Length (Named because of the ability to quickly and easily scale models up or down in terms of size and power without extensive rule reworkings)
The idea is to use a similar system of “points” in the statline, so models can fill out their own statline however they like. I’ve got an initial system with a couple of options for these Nodes, as I’ve decided to name them for this game:
- Targeting: Weapon gets a bonus to-hit (All of the Weapon upgrades effect whichever weapon they are to the left of)
- Piercing: Weapon gets bonus damage
- Distance: Increase Weapon range (They start at melee range)
- Weapon: Model gets a separate attack (All models are treated as automatically having a free one of these)
- Armor: Allows models to reduce damage suffered
- Speed: Increases model’s movement speed
- Fly: Model ignores everything when moving, but must Move their full distance each turn
- Hover: Model ignores terrain when moving
- Flesh: Model needs either this and/or Mechanisms to be playable, and it always takes up the rightmost slots. Models with only Flesh use Organic rules for movement (Easier to turn and attack)
- Mechanism: Same as Flesh, but also has effect of Armor as well. Models with any Mechanism Nodes use the Machine rules for movement (Limited fire arcs and more restrictive movement)
Each model is made up of one or more Segments, with each segment having 6 Nodes. This is so that you can track damage with dice, and just need to look at their statline sheet to determine what Nodes are still active or not (Tracking statline damage like in Starfire seemed prohibitively cumbersome for a tabletop wargame).
The Big Idea: Scale
So the key, big, pivotal idea I wanted for this was scalability. To do this, I wanted to use the system of Scale.
Basically, figure out what the smallest model that will be used is (For tournaments and pickup games, assume 1″). This, and anything smaller than an L2, is an L1 scale. Anything twice this (2″) or more tall (Or wide, whichever dimension is greater) is L2. Anything more than twice an L2 (4″, so 4x the L1 size) is an L3, and so on following a base 2 scale (L4 = 8x L1, L5 = 16x L1, etc).
If a larger model attacks a smaller model, they multiply their damage by 2 to the power of the difference in their L values (So L2 attacking L1 would be 2^1 = 2x damage, L5 attacking L3 would be 2^2=4x damage, etc). Reversely, smaller models attacking bigger models essentially divide their damage by 2 to the power of the difference in L values (So L1 needs 2 damage to actually hurt an L2, 4 damage to hurt an L3, etc). If there’s not enough damage dealt to actually hurt the target model, the leftover damage is still noted as other attacks might deal enough to hurt the model.
A key thing with this is that it means if you and your opponent want to play a battle using armies of tanks or 40K-style titans, you won’t be bogged down with incredibly extensive rules or huge damage charts simply because the game scales in complexity to compensate for your game size.
This is the basic ruleset I whipped up. I’m still considering adding other types of Nodes and possible supplemental rules to add.
Possible Future Additions:
Some ideas I’ve had are adding Healing/Regeneration/Repair Nodes (I want to keep this relatively setting-nonspecific, so it can be used for fantasy, modern, scifi, or whatever), abilities that area-buff or area-debuff folks, area-of-effect weapon-upgrade Nodes, and some sort of Shielding option as well (Possible ignores a damage on a d6 roll, but is ignored by a specific countermeasure weapon-upgrade node). I can’t really use the Shields method that Starfire uses because the damage isn’t being tracked on individual statcards, but I do like the idea of having some sort of shield option that certain weapons can punch right through.
I’m also considering capping the number of Segments a model can have as well, although I think the damage bonus/reduction a larger model gets will offset the slight advantage in attacking 2 of the smaller-L-value segment would get (Due to rolls of 6 always hitting and 1 always missing).
I’d like to mention specific rules for fighting on larger models. Basically, allow you to play a game of L1-L3 models, but on something even more massive. Imagine boarding actions and such, where one half of the table is a game between spaceships, while the other table is of skirmishes between crew and security teams on the ships. The possibilities for this are twofold:
A) Multiple Battles: You have two simultaneous games occurring, such as spaceship battle around a planet, and a fight on the planet’s surface. Models could target enemies of the larger scale or something (Not exactly sure of the rules of this at the moment), like using ground-based AA guns to fire on orbiting ships, or calling down orbital bombardments on land positions. Key thing would be the gameplay would be simultaneous, so calling down a bombardment or airstrike might mean you sacrifice your turn on the ground.
B) Fractal Battles: This is really where the system can shine. Basically, when something occurs that would trigger a Fractal battle (Probably a melee attack), you pause the large game and run a quick smaller game round based on the larger-scale game. This would require figuring out ahead of time how deep of a fractal battle you want, and you would need to include army list options for the fractal units that would be placed, but you could have a result like this:
Player A rams an enemy battlecruiser in the middle of an asteroid field. This initiates a Fractal Battle for the ensuing boarding. They get X points to use on Assault Team models for the fractal battle, where X is the number of melee/ramming-related Nodes the ship had (Let’s say it’s a piercing Node, in addition to the base node). The target then gets 6 points to use on Defense Team models for the fractal battle. Play the battle for 1 turn, and the # of dead Defense Team models becomes the damage to the rammed ship, or something to that effect.
For further insanity, this battle between ship fleets was as a result of a Melee action between starfleet-sized “units” on an even larger scale, which started their own fractal battle.
One Last Thought:
I want to play this alongside a game of Microscope.