Wargame Wednesday – Traveller High Guard: Bomb-Pumped Laser Missiles

Courtesy KKaju on Deviant Art

One piece of space combat kit that is referenced in latter Traveller products (like QuikLink Interactive’s Traveller’s Aide #9: Fighting Ships of the Solomani Confederation) is the Bomb-Pumped Laser (BPL) missile. The BPL is a missile that detonates near its target, but uses the resulting nuclear explosion to create laser beams to attack. For a bit of background see Atomic Rocketships.

In the most simple Traveller High Guard terms, a BPL missile will “hit” and “penetrate” as a missile but “damage” as a laser. To more accurately reflect the detonation of the BPL at some distance from the target a few modified rules are in order.

Bomb-Pumped Lasers: Using the Missile Attack Table, BPL missiles must achieve the to hit number (or greater) on two dice. However, to reflect the detonation of the BPL at a distance from the target, the USP of active defenses (Sand or Beam and Repulsors) is reduced by 1 (USP-1) for purposes of determining penetration. There is no passive defense (i.e. Nuclear Dampers) against a BPL. If a hit is achieved that penetrates the active defenses, resolve damage per Lasers using the Surface Explosion Damage Table with DM-2 to reflect the greater laser energy arriving at the target.

For example; a Striker-class Solomani Destroyer (TAS9-pg. 32) attacks an Azhanti High Lighting-class Fleet Intruder (Traveller’s Aide #7 – Fighting Ships of the Imperium – pg. 33) at long range. The Striker uses Battery 2, a USP 5 missile battery to attack and declares the use of BPL. The AHL defends with Battery 1 Beam Laser ( USP 9).

  • To Hit: Checking the Missile Attack Table in High Guard, the base To Hit for USP 5 missile attack is 5. DMs allowed are relative computer size (0), target agility (0), and target size (+2) for a final DM of +2. 2d6 are rolled for a 6, DM+2 for 8 which is a Hit .
  • To Penetrate: Cross-referencing the USP 5 missile with USP 9 Beam gives a To Penetrate of 9, but because the attack uses a BPL the USP of the Beam is reduced to 8 (USP-1) giving a To Penetrate of 8. DMs to penetrate are relative computer size (0). 2d6 are rolled for 9 resulting in penetration of defenses.
  • Damage Determination: Using the Surface Explosion Damage Table, 2d6 are rolled. DMs are armor (+5), weapon inflicting hit less than USP 9 (+6), and BPL (-2) for a final DM of +9. The roll of 2d6 is 6 is modified with the DM+9 for a 15 for a Weapon-1 damage. In this case, firing player reduces the Beam Laser Battery to USP 8.

Why Even Use a BPL? Deriving rules for use of BPLs in High Guard gives rise to the question as to why BPLs are even considered. The advantage of the BPL is in the penetration (weakened active defenses and no passive defenses) and a DM-2 on the Surface Explosion Damage Table. Using a regular nuclear missile, the missile must hit (neutral advantage compared to using BPLs), penetrate active defenses (with defenses at full strength – advantage to defender compared to BPLs) and passive defenses (advantage to defender compared to BPLs). Damage Determination also occurs on both the Surface Explosion Damage Table and the Radiation Damage Table (advantage to attacker if not using BPLs). So lets run through that example again but use a standard nuclear missile….

  • To Hit: Checking the Missile Attack Table in High Guard, the base To Hit for USP 5 missile attack is 5. DMs allowed are relative computer size (0), target agility (0), and target size (+2) for a final DM of +2. 2d6 are rolled for a 6, DM+2 for 8 which is a Hit .
  • To Penetrate Active Defenses: Cross-referencing the USP 5 missile with USP 9 Beam gives a To Penetrate of 9. DMs to penetrate are relative computer size (0). 2d6 are rolled for 9 resulting in penetration of active defenses.
  • To Penetrate Passive Defenses: The AHL has a USP 5 Nuclear Damper. DMs are the same (0). To Penetrate is 11. 2d6 is 8…no penetration. However, for the sake of the example, let’s assume the roll beat the low-probability 11+….
  • Damage Determination: Using the Surface Explosion Damage Table, 2d6 are rolled. DMs are armor (+5), weapon inflicting hit less than USP 9 (+6), and nuclear missile (-6) for a final DM of +5. The roll of 2d6 is 6 is modified with the DM+5 for a result of 11 or Weapon-2. The firing player reduces the Sandcaster battery to USP 8 and the Beam Laser battery to USP 8. A second damage roll is made on the Radiation Damage Table. DMs are armor (+5) and weapon inflicting hit less than USP 9 (+6) for DM+11. The roll of 2d6 is 7 for a final of 18 or Weapon-1. The firing player reduces the Fusion Gun battery to USP 8.

Doctrinally speaking, a nuclear missile is best used against an armored target with no nuclear damper where the DM-6 can be used to offset some (or all) of the armor. This is especially true if the attacking missile USP is less than 9. A BPL is best used against large unarmored or weakly armored, low agility, near or lower computing-power targets that carry nuclear dampers. This is admittedly a very narrow target set and makes the usefulness of BPLs questionable.

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