In Development: Space Combat

This is an incomplete mechanic that is still in development, but I wanted to start capturing this kind of thing here because its neat and it might take some time before it's polished enough to either become its own game or a Tech Manual entry.  It's kind of a mix of game design and notes about what gaps need to be filled. Enjoy!

Working Title: Project Tachyon Rodeo


This is a design for space combat modeled after the dogfights in Star Wars. The combat should be fast, and encourage chatter between pilots. Opponents should be typically mass-produced and faceless with the occasional exception. It should feel tactical, but constantly pressuring you to keep moving forward instead of stopping to think. Overall we want to layer a Fast and Furious energy over a Star Wars dogfight.

So how does this work?

Our player characters have scrambled into their rad, custom spaceships to meet an attacking force of galactic fascist types who all pilot boring, expensive ships.  Each enemy ship ("Bogey") is represented by a d12, so we can imagine a half-dozen twelve sided dice in the middle of the table. Each of our four PCs is assigned a random number of bogeys.

Play is conducted in real time, and turns can occur asynchronously. Each player's turn has 4 steps:

  1. Clock
  2. React
  3. Act
  4. Resolve


The player rolls each bogey. Depending on their roll, each bogey is placed according to the clock  to indicate the bogey's relative position. A bogey that rolls an 11, 12, or 1 would be in front of the PC while a bogey that rolls 5, 6, or 7 would be behind them.

[Future Dan: Put a drawing here to explain this]

Act & React

The position of a bogey determines which actions are available to the player. Bogeys in front of you can be attacked, bogeys behind you can attack you. Bogeys to either side create opportunities to stabilize your ship or help your allies.

Some considerations: I'm not 100% sure how I want ships to work. I definitely want different ships to feel different in their offensive and defensive options. I also like the idea of tracking things like your Z-axis position and speed to use as resources to assist in attacks or defense, without getting too in the weeds about actual space flight. Broadly, getting into a favorable attack position requires you to slow down for some reason, and vice versa. Also, a stress mechanic that captures what you are putting your ship and pilot through and allows you to spend stress to gain speed or position.

This is also where comms chatter can come into play. There will be times that you are dancing with an enemy ship but can't get lined up. Also you may have finished off your final bogey and might have an ally who is being hounded by 3 of them. I like the idea that there are designated call-and-responses to initiate combo moves and affect the battlefield.

React: This is your immediate response to the enemies you've clocked, and gives you a chance to angle for a better attacking or defensive position. The idea is that your position carries over, so if you have been going fully defensive then you have to build back up to a good attack position.

Act: Every ship has a short list of basic actions. Attacking, calling out a bogey for one of your allies to reroll the die, trying to peel a bogey off of an ally, that sort of thing. Customization to your pilot or ship allows for advanced moves that allow you to break the rules in certain situations.


Every bogey in your rear arc gets to fire on you. Credit to Rob Hebert for the following: damage is captured on the same track as your stress, lowering your maximum stress cap with each hit. If your stress and damage meet in the middle, you suffer some kind of ship malfunction. Broadly I think the tone should be fairly romantic, so probably the worst outcome would be the choice to flee combat or risk it all in a daring sacrifice to help your friends.

And Repeat

So, the idea is that everyone is doing this all at the same time and its total chaos, with as much mechanical encouragement as possible to say cool pilot stuff to each other. If the sortie has an explicit mission goal then that dictates the terms of victory, otherwise its a question of who bugs out first.

Some other ideas

I like the idea of each side having an aircraft carrier ship to attack or defend, as that would give a GM something to control and open up opportunities for players to conduct bombing runs and balance the overall shared goal of damaging the carrier vs their individual goal of handling bogeys. It also potentially creates a player role to personally oversee the carrier and focus on supporting their allies at the cost of one more ship on the field.

I also like the idea of the PCs having a dedicated base to operate out of, and fuel being a resource that determines how long they can stay in combat before they have to bug out. This would add some horrible (incredible) tension and build out a logistical metagame.

I think this could go well on top of other game systems. It'd make a good standalone game on top of Neutron Axe's mechanics or could be a module for other spacefaring games as a dedicated minigame.

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