Classic Traveller Book 5: High Guard (HG), has starship combat rules for fighting fleet actions. One part of the rules that has always bothered me is the Unit Scale for small craft and fighters. Unit scale is defined on p. 38:
Units represented are individual ships, small craft, and fighters. (HG p. 38)
This unit scale may work in a small ship universe or when using High Guard to play out an Adventure Class Ship battle, but it can quickly break down when playing large fleet actions with many small craft or fighters. Traveller’s Aide #9: Fighting Ships of the Solomani Confederation has the large Midway-class carrier that brings 1500 fighters to a battle. By a strict interpretation of HG, this means a Midway brings 1500 units to the battle. To call that unmanageable is an understatement!
In an effort to make fighters more manageable, I have experimented with Fighter Squadrons. A fighter squadron is a group of 10 fighters (or small craft) that fight as a single unit. Thus, a Midway-class carrier would bring 150 fighter squadrons to battle; still a large number but better than the 1500!
To create a fighter squadron you need to know:
- Tech Level
- Weapon and mounting (single/double/triple)
- Reloads (Missiles and Sand)
For example, a Solomani Viper fighter (TA9, p. 44), is Tech Level 13, carries a single plasma weapon, has Computer 2, Agility 6, and 9 armor. It has no missile or sand and hence no reloads.
A fighter squadron can be represented by a group of 10 boxes (I use 2-rows of 5-boxes each). Using the Turret Weapons Table on p. 25 of High Guard, determine the USP for 10 of the given weapons and put that in the left uppermost box. Using the Turret Weapons Table, continue filling in the boxes assigning a USP code to the boxes appropriate to number of weapons from the table.
Still using the Viper, 10 Plasma Guns on the Turret Weapons Table gives a USP of 3, with a TL Mod +2 if TL is 12 or greater. Thus, the Viper starts with a USP 5 in the left uppermost box. When there are four boxes/fighters left the USP drops to 4, and the last box/fighter has a USP of 3. The fighter name, a squadron identifier, the weapon, computer, agility, and armor are added around the hit boxes as fit.
Fighter Squadrons are considered a Unit as defined in High Guard Starship Combat, Scale (p. 38).
Fighter Squadron in Combat. Fighter squadrons in combat use a slightly modified Combat Step procedure:
- DMs Allowed to Hit (HG p. 45)
- + relative computer size
- – RELATIVE target agility rating
- The Target Size DM for fighter squadrons is -1 when fired upon by ships and 0 when fired upon by other fighter squadrons (Dogfights)
- If multiple fighter squadrons combine in an attack on a single ship, +1 is added to the Target Size DM (To Hit) for every two full-strength squadrons combining in the attack (maximum DM of +3)
- DMs Allowed to Penetrate remain unchanged (HG p. 45)
Design Comment – Since we are dealing with groups of fighters the use of relative agility rating reflects the ability of fighters to cooperate to bring a target under their guns while the target size modifier is changed since an attack against a fighter squadron is against aspread-out group of fighters and not an individual craft. When attacking a ship, the more fighter squadrons used the more chances there are to “box the ship in” making it harder to evade fire.
Fighter Squadrons and Damage. When determining damage TO OR FROM a fighter squadron, all DMs for the Ship Damage Tables are used EXCEPT #2 (If the weapon inflicting the hit has a factor of 9 or less, apply a DM of +6) (HG p. 48).
The following alternate Explanation of Damage Results (HG, p. 49) is used for all damage to fighter squadrons:
- Any Critical Hit or Interior Explosion destroys one fighter (completely mark one box off); a fighter destroyed in this manner is not subject to post-battle recovery
- Any Hit-n destroys one fighter for each n; fighters destroyed in this manner are subject to post-battle recovery
- The USP used for combat is the USP found in the highest UNDESTROYED box
- For example, in the Viper squadron above, an undamaged squadron has a USP of 5; once a single fighter has been destroyed the attack USP drops to 4 and when the squadron is reduced to 3 fighters the USP drops to 3.
Design Comment – To streamline fighter combat, I want to avoid tracking individual hit results; hence no Maneuver or Weapon hits or the like. As will be seen later, a “destroyed” fighter may actually have been able to limp off but, regardless of what happens post-battle, in combat it is effectively a Mission Kill.
Fighter Squadrons and Breaking Off. Fighter squadrons which Break Off by Acceleration (HG, p. 39) and are not pursued (HG p. 41) no longer participate in the battle. If using Adventure 5: Trillion Credit Squadron, fighter squadrons that break off by acceleration DO NOT flee to the Outer System (TCS p. 38). Fighter squadrons that flee by acceleration cannot land on a carrier/mothership or otherwise be recovered unless a suitable landing/recovery location is present in the inner system and not in the battle they just fled from.
Fighter Squadron End of Battle Procedure. Once all combat is complete, roll 1d6 for each destroyed fighter (unless destroyed by a Critical Hit or Internal Explosion). On a roll of 6 the fighter is actually recovered – the destroyed fighter may have not been able to participate in combat but still managed to limp home – and more importantly the pilot is recovered too. The following modifiers can be applied:
- +n per each level of Pilot/Small Craft Skill (if using RPG characters)
- +1 if recovering force was “last in the battle space,” or otherwise controls the area of space the battle took place in
- This step does NOT mean that if a fighter squadron is abandoned by its carrier/mothership it can miraculously be recovered. If the battle ended with the fighter squadron having no place to go, it can surrender or is destroyed.
Combat Example – Dogfight
During the Solomani Rim War, the Imperials launch a strike using fighters on a small listening station. The Imperial Fighter Strike Force is composed of a single squadron of Likuurka bombers (TL 13, Triple Missile USP 7 (100 shots), Computer 2, Agility 2, Armor 13) escorted by a single squadron of Grigot fighters (TL 14, Fusion Gun USP 7, Computer 6, Agility 6, Armor 14). The listening post is defended by two squadrons of Solomani Viper Fighters (TL 13, Plasma Gun USP 5, Computer 3, Agility 6, Armor 9).
The battle will be played in at least five rounds; rounds 1 and 2 represent the approach battle with the bombers unable to strike the listening post until round 3 at the earliest. The listening post is destroyed if 3 or more hits are scored. Once 2 withdraw rounds are fought the Imperial fighters will rendezvous with their carrier squadron.
Round 1 (Approach)
Given that the first round is always played at long range, the Imperials place the Grigot Fighter (GF) and Likuurka Bomber (LB) in the Line. The Solomani places both Viper squadrons (VF1/VF2) in the line. Initiative goes to the Solomani; range is Long (automatic).
LB vs VF1: Missile USP 7 -To Hit is 3. DMs to Hit -1 Computer, -4 Agility (Total -5). Die roll is 8 – HIT. There is no penetration roll. Nuclear missiles rolls on both the Surface Damage Explosion and Radiation Damage Tables; DMs for Ship Damage are +9 (Armor) and -6 on Surface Explosion Table. Surface Damage roll of 4 modified +3 for 9 results in Maneuver-1. Radiation Damage Table DM is +9, roll is 7 modified to 16 – Weapon-2. Total of 3 fighters destroyed in VF1 leaving an attack USP of 4.
Round 2 (Approach)
Though the Likuurka destroyed a few Solomani fighters in the first approach round, the Imperial Strike leader decides the bombers need to be protected and preserved for the strike on the listening post. The Imperial fighters go in the Line while the bombers move to Reserve. The Solomani place both VF1 and VF2 in the Line. Initiative goes to the Solomani; the range is Short. Both VF1 and VF2 attack the Grigot fighter squadron.
VF1 vs GF: Plasma Gun USP 4 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit -3 Computer, +0 Agility (Total -3). Die roll is 8 – NO HIT.
VF2 vs GF: Plasma Gun USP 5 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit -3 Computer, +0 Agility (Total -3). Die roll is 12 – HIT. No penetration roll. DMs on Surface Explosion Damage Table is +14 (Armor). Die roll is 8 modified to 22 – No Effect.
GF vs VF1: Fusion Gun USP 7 – To Hit 5. DMs to Hit +3 Computer, +0 Agility (Total +3). Die roll 6 – HIT. Surface Damage DM +9 (Armor). Die roll 4 modified to 13 – Fuel-1. One fighter destroyed. VF1 is down to six fighters with and attack USP 4.
Round 3 (Target Area)
Having arrived in the Target Area, the Imperial player places both the Grigot fighters and his bombers in the Line. VF1 and VF2 also remain in the Line. Initiative is to Imperials, and the range is Short (Comment – It would actually have been best to make the range Long and allow the Imperials to use his missiles to attack the listening post without fear of fighter attack, but that would not have used the dogfight rules, so for the purposes of this example the Listening Post is “stealthed” and must be attacked st Short range.)
VF1 vs LB: Plasma Gun USP 4 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit +1 Computer, +4 Agility (Total +5). Die roll is 6 – HIT. Surface Damage DM of +13 (Armor). Die roll is 6 modified to 19 – Fuel-1. One bomber is destroyed.
VF2 vs LB: Plasma Gun USP 5 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit +1 Computer, +4 Agility (Total +5). Die roll 10 – HIT. Surface Damage DM of +13 (Armor). Die roll is 7 modified to 20 – Weapon-1. LB loses a second bomber.
GF vs VF1: Fusion Gun USP 7 – To Hit 5. DMs to Hit +3 Computer, +0 Agility (Total +3). Die roll 12 – HIT. Surface Damage DM +9 (Armor). Die roll 4 modified to 13 – Fuel-1. VF1 loses another fighter and has five remaining; attack USP remains at 4.
LB vs Listening Post: The bombers score enough hits to destroy the Listening Post; the Imperials can withdraw.
Round 4 (Withdraw)
VF1 and VF2 pursue the now withdrawing Imperials. VF1 and 2 are in the Line while while the Grigot fighters are placed in the Line while the bombers are placed in the Reserve. Imperials get the initiative and declare the range as Long. The Imperial fighters and bombers also declare break off by acceleration with the bombers declaring Emergency Agility. No combat is possible since the fighters all use Energy Weapons and the bombers cannot attack from the Reserve. In the Pursuit Step, the bombers break off (effective agility 8 using Emergency Agility 6 raised by 2 in reserve) while the Vipers pursue the Grigot fighters successfully.
Round 5 (Withdraw)
This will be the last round fought unless the Solomani wants to continue pursuit and come under the guns of a squadron of Imperial ships. Both sides place all their fighter squadrons in the Line. The Imperials gain the Initiative and chose Long range. Seeing the futility of further pursuit, knowing they are outclassed by the Grigots, and unwilling to come under the guns of the approaching Imperial carrier squadron, the Solomani fighters declare Break Off by Acceleration using Emergency Agility. The Imperial fighters decline to pursue and let the Viper squadrons go as the bombers are protected and they need to make their rendezvous.
Post Battle Recovery
After post-battle recovery actions, individual squadron status is:
- Grigot Fighters – All fighters return to their carrier. No recovery rolls necessary
- Likuurka Bombers – The Imperial player rolls to determine the final fate of the two lost bombers; no DMs are used and the rolls are 3 and 4 meaning both bombers are permanently lost
- Viper Squadron 1 – The fate of the five lost fighters are determined; there is a DM of +1 since the recovery takes place in Solomani space after the Imperials have left; die rolls are 1, 6, 4, 4, 3 meaning even after modifiers only a single fighter is recovered returning VF1 to an effective strength of six fighters with an attack USP of 4.
Combat Example – Fighter Squadrons vs Ship
Following a major battle during the Solomani Rim War, a group of four Imperial Drayd-class fighters (TA7, p. 46) ambush a lone Solomani Standard System Defense Boat (TA9, p. 41) as it flees the main world for the system gas giant. The SDB will reach the gas giant in one hour (three combat rounds) at which time the SDB can plunge into the gas giant where the fighters cannot pursue.
Standard SDB Key Factors: Size 3, Computer 5, Agility 6, Fusion Gun USP 5, Missile Battery USP 3, Armor 13.
Drayd Fighter: TL12, Pulse Laser USP 5, Computer 1, Agility 6, Armor 0.
DF1-4 and SDB in Line. Initiative to Solomani. Range is Long (Automatic). DF1-4 combine in attack.
DF1-4 vs SDB: Pulse Laser USP 5 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit -4 computer, -1 lasers at long range, +1 size (four squadrons combining attack causes two shifts from -1 to +1) (Total -4). Die rolls are 7, 10, 6, 6 – 1 HIT. No penetration roll (SDB has no Sand). DMs for Surface Damage are +13 armor, -2 Pulse Laser for a total of +11. Die roll is 9 modified to 20 – Weapon-1. The firing player elects to reduce the Missile Battery USP to 2.
SDB vs DF1: Missile USP 3 – To Hit 5 (damage takes place after combat). DMs to Hit +4 computer, -1 size (Total +3). Die roll 7 – HIT. No penetration roll. Using nuclear missiles the DMs for Ship Damage are +6 armor, -6 on Surface Explosion Damage. Surface Damage die roll of 7 modified to 7 is Fuel-3. Radiation Damage roll is 5 modified to 11 – Computer-2. DF1 loses five fighters and is reduced to an attack USP of 3.
All units in the Line. Initiative to Imperials. Range is Short. DF1-4 combine in attack.
DF2-4 vs SDB: Pulse Laser USP 5 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit -4 computer, +0 size (three full-strength squadrons combining attack causes one shifts from -1 to o) (Total -4). Die rolls are 7, 2, 4 – ALL MISS.
DF1 vs SDB: Pulse Laser USP 3 – To Hit 7. DMs to Hit -4 computer, +0 size (DF 1 -understrength- is still combining in an attack with three full-strength squadrons causing one shift from -1 to 0) (Total -4). Die roll 4 – MISS.
SDB vs DF1: Missile USP 2 – To Hit 7. DMs to Hit +4 computer,-1 missiles at short range, -1 size (Total +2). Die roll 8 – HIT. No penetration roll. Using nuclear missiles the DMs for Ship Damage are +6 armor, -6 on Surface Explosion Damage. Surface Damage die roll of 5 modified to 5 is Interior Explosion. Radiation Damage roll is 6 modified to 12 – Weapon-3. DF1 loses four more fighters (one of which will be unrecoverable) and is reduced to a single fighter with an attack USP of 2.
SDB vs DF2: Fusion Gun USP 5 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit +4 computer, -1 size (Total +3). Die roll 9 – HIT. No penetration roll. Surface Explosion Damage DMs +6 armor. Die roll 11 modified to 17 – Weapon-1. DF2 loses one fighter and attack USP is reduced to 4.
DF2-3 are in the Line, DF1 goes to Reserve. The SDB is in the Line. Initiative goes to the Imperials. Range is Short.
DF3 & 4 vs SDB: Pulse Laser USP 5 – To Hit 6/USP 4 – to Hit 6. DMs to Hit -4 computer, +0 size (two squadrons combining attack causes one shift from -1 to 0) (Total -4). Die rolls are 12, 8, 11 – 2 HITS. No penetration roll (SDB has no Sand). DMs for Surface Damage are +13 armor, -2 Pulse Laser for a total of +11. Die roll is 4, 7 modified to 15, 17 – Weapon-1, Weapon-1. The firing player reduces the Fusion Gun USP to 4 and the Missile USP to 1.
SDB vs DF2: Missile USP 2 – To Hit 7 (damage effects are latter). DMs to Hit +4 computer,-1 missiles at short range, -1 size (Total +2). Die roll 11 – HIT. No penetration roll. Using nuclear missiles the DMs for Ship Damage are +6 armor, -6 on Surface Explosion Damage. Surface Damage die roll of 4 modified to 4 is Interior Explosion. Radiation Damage roll is 8 modified to 14 – Weapon-2. DF2 loses three more fighters (one of which will be unrecoverable) and is reduced to six fighters with an attack USP of 4.
SDB vs DF2: Fusion Gun USP 5 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit +4 computer, -1 size (Total +3). Die roll 5 – HIT. No penetration roll. Surface Explosion Damage DMs +6 armor. Die roll 7 modified to 11 – Weapon-2. DF2 loses two more fighters leaving only 4 and an attack USP of 3.
There is no combat in Round 4 – the SDB reaches the gas giant and plunges in where the fighters cannot pursue. However, the SDB is damaged with a Fusion Gun USP of 4 and a Missile Battery USP of 1. In the post-battle recovery actions:
- DF1: 1x fighter unrecoverable; roll for remaining eight at +1DM (Imperial-controlled space); results is 3x fighters/pilots recovered restoring DF1 to four fighters
- DF2: 1x fighter unrecoverable; roll for remaining five at +1DM (Imperial-controlled space) resulting in 2x fighters/pilots recovered restoring DF2 to six fighters
- DF1 and DF2 are disestablished and combined into a new full-strength DF5 with 10 fighters
- Given enough time, the SDB could use jury-rig repairs (see Damage Control and Repair, HG p. 44) to restore the Fusion Gun and Missile battery to full function, though as pointed out in the HG rules “these emergency repairs are jury-rigged and may not survive long under hard usage.”