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A friend and I have been alternating mastering a game of Star Wars D6 by WEG. It's not really a full blown campaign, more like a series of one-shots loosely linked together. And we came across a major snag: starship combat, especially when ships of different scales are involved.

Basically, unless our understanding of the rules is completely off, we realized that a starfighter scale ship, which also includes space transports like the YT-1300, has virtually no chance of doing anything against a capital scale ship, knowing that capital scale includes ship as varied as a Customs corvette up to a Star Destroyer. Which seems a bit strange given that a corvette is about 100m long while a Star Destroyer goes up to 1km, with exponentially more weapons than the corvette.

The various editions of the rules basically all boils down to this: smaller ship will be harder to hit but will take more damage when hit, bigger ship will be easier to hit will be more resistant to damage.

But, in practice, the capital ship gets barely a scratch despite being hit at repeatedly every round, while the starfighter scale ship gets almost blown out of the sky at the first hit, which makes combat very boring and unheroic as soon as ships from two different classes are involved.

On the rules I use, the starfighter scale ship gets +6D when evading and firing on the Capital ship, while the Capital ship gets +6D to resist damage inflicted by the starfighter scale ship and also to inflict damage to the starfighter scale ship. Which is a lot.

So, what can we do to make space combat more interesting, and give our players a chance when facing bigger ships?

We're looking for a way to modify the rule while trying to keep it simple. Or maybe just scrap it and use another rule instead, we're open to all suggestions.

We're not going to allow them to take on a Star Destroyer with their YT-1300, but a Customs Corvette or something that is the same size should be a hard challenge but doable. They should at least be able to damage it as they escape to make it an heroic and stressful feat and a good end to a game.

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Capital ships are a real threat

The rules are set that way for a reason. After all, in a simple ship-against-ship space battle, you are almost guaranteed that the larger capital ship will win. It's what you would expect really.

As to how to play around this, that is a different question. To make for interesting (and solvable) challenges you have to approach capital ship encounters in a different way. Think of the original movies: was there ever a capital ship destroyed by some fighter-class ship just simply flying up to it and blowing it up? No. All the victories of fighter-vs-capital-ship-battles were due to numerical advantage, clever tactics, abusing weak spots, sabotage, infiltration, ...

Make it a challenge

So present the problem of overcoming a captial ship in a way that opens the above kinds of solutions to the players:

  • Escape is always an option (featured frequently in the original trilogy).
  • Maybe some single subsystem of the capital ship can be targeted directly to take it out (think of the shield generators on the Star Destroyers, the tractor beam generators on the Death Star I, the shields of Death Star II), which then opens up other options.
    • To enable this you could easily define that some subsystem XYZ is actually 'star fighter scale', giving you realistic chances of taking it down.
  • Use camouflage or other trickery to hide - e.g. to escape unnoticed, or to sneak up on them and attack a weak spot.
  • Gang up on bigger ships to take them out - maybe some ships distract their attention, while others target their weapon systems?
  • Bigger ships could be boarded to sabotage them from the inside.

All in all I would treat these encounters always as a series of different problems to overcome. Think of the old school video game bosses, which you had to defeat by going through stage after stage of one long, drawn-out battle. For example:

  1. First you need to fight off accompanying fighter craft.
  2. Then bring yourself in a good position to attack.
  3. Take out the "shield grid circuit coupler" (insert some tech babble here) to disable "somesystem".
  4. This limits the defence on their primary weapon systems and allows to attack these.
  5. Etc, etc.

Failure is an option

Capital ships are serious business. I don't think your players should be defeating them left-and-right - so I think that being defeated by one should always be an option. And this option can open up many interesting storylines:

  • Being drawn into a hangar via tractor beam
  • Being boarded by troops from a transport
  • Escape the bigger craft by clever manoeuvring and tactics
  • Hide from the bigger craft (e.g in Asteroid fields, or among their ejected waste)
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