Great Gaming Stories: Ship Go Boom!

“In those glorious golden days of the 23rd Century, when the Terrian Federation was still in its infancy, long before the Peace of the Empire, when no ship traveled the Starlanes unarmed, all that stood between the fragile glassine towers of Terra the Beautiful and the ravaging hordes of Ralni, Dreenoi and other lurkers in the darkness were the men of the Starfleet Command. It is to the marines of the Federation Navy, the STARGUARD, that this record is respectfully dedicated.”

When I was in college, my roommate ran a D&D campaign that intersected with a space miniatures game called StarGuard. It was one of the first SF space miniatures games every released, way back in the mid 1970s. One of the quirks of the space combat rules was that if the spaceship’s engines were hit, on a roll of 1–5, that many engine boxes were destroyed but on a roll of a 6, they would explode and destroy the ship. Anyone reading this should probably be thinking that is what I’m going to describe, and they’d be right, but not exactly in the way they would be thinking.

The scenario involved my (future) roommate’s current roomie, who was flying a light crusier that got jumped by a heavy cruiser. Forced to fight, he fired off what was known as a splinter missile. A splinter missile is basically a multiple warhead missile, so each warhead was treated and rolled separately for each target and damage.

Now this is where the reader expects that one of the warheads hits the engine, rolls a critical, blows up the ship and the light cruiser escapes. No, its even stranger.

One of the splinter missile warheads strikes the heavy cruiser’s shuttle craft, in the shuttle bay. The shuttle craft location table was brought out, the location checked, and lo and behold, the engine was hit. The critical was confirmed. So the heavy cruiser got hit with a nuclear hammer as the shuttle craft blew up. The question remained, since this was hardly ever considered as part of the rules, is how much damage does the heavy cruiser take? There was much thought and consideration and it was eventually decided to use the ship collision rules to determine the damage, which was still considerable.

Needless to say, the heavy cruiser now had more important things to worry about than to keep attacking the light cruiser, which pumped its hyperdrive and boosted out of there, leaving me to wonder why such a drastic rule was implemented in the first place and ponder the necessity of expecting even the most impossible (but not totally impossible) possibilities when designing a game.

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