Considering House Rules for Star Trek: STCS

23 Sep

Following up on yesterday’s post, I’ve been thinking about some house rules for Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator.

First, I did find the excessive damage rules. It’s specifically for sub-systems that get hit, like shield generators and sensors. These systems have damage tracks, from one to five, with each point on the track being harder to make repair rolls on. The excessive damage means that for every full five points of damage done to the system, another box on the track is marked off. Thus a four point phaser hit counts as one on the track, while a 12 point hit would mark two boxes off.

There is no corresponding rule for weapons. Those have a different track with the statuses Operational, Damaged, Repaired, and Inoperable. Repaired weapons are limited to half power. I am considering something similar for excessive damage, maybe making damage of 10 or more points automatically destroying the weapons.

Regarding my dissatisfaction with shields I’ve been considering two options:

  • Double the amount of shield points you get per power point. For example, instead of a 1-to-4 ratio, make it 1-to-8. My concern with this solution is that part of the tactical aspect of the game is trying to get the firing angle on your opponent where they have light or no shields. However, in our previous games we’ve never been able to maintain very strong shields. Even in my Excelsior, I never had a single shield facing up to maximum strength. I only had all my shields powered up on the first turn, and then at a minimal level. Combined with how often we’ve dropped shields completely to power weapons and movement, and how quickly a salvo can strip off a ship’s shields, I don’t think this would unbalance the game or reduce the tactical aspects. I’m leaning towards this solution.
  • The other idea I was thinking about was reducing how much damage weapons do to shields, say 1/2 rounded down. A five point shield would still stop five points of damage, but the shield level would only be reduced to three instead of being completely stripped off. This has more of a Star Trek feel, but adds one more step of math to the game, and while not a complex equation by itself it will still slow the game down. It also doesn’t address the power allocation issues that often lead players to run with few or no shields at all.

Combining the two is also a possibility, but that would be a significant change. I think trying one at a time would be better. I also don’t want to increase the length of the game too much and by improving the shields I run the risk of doing that, so caution is best.




Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Gaming, Science Fiction


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2 responses to “Considering House Rules for Star Trek: STCS

  1. Matt

    September 23, 2015 at 5:02 PM

    I think you’re jumping the gun here in trying to come up with an optional rule for something that might not be broken.

    If you had chosen a defensive mode in Sunday’s game, I know you had enough power to fire five of those shields to 20 points and have points left over for weapons and speed. You might have had enough for all six, but I forget what your starting point total was.

    Meanwhile, the total firing power of one of my Painbringers was 24 points (not counting +2 bonuses for close range). That means to pierce a 20 point shield, I had to sink 20 to 24 of my 40 energy points into offense which didn’t leave me too much for shields or speed. I gambled on you going defensive to lure me out which is why I had two ships at weapon power of 20 and two at weapon power 24.

    If your shields had each been at power level 20, only one ship would have been able to get past the shields at normal range (since you took out a weapon system on the other lowering it to 18). At close range, only four of my fleet would have been able to drop a shield and do light damage.

    However I lucked out because 1) I gambled on their being 15 to 20 point shields while you kept yours at 5, 2) you didn’t put much points into speed which allowed me to take initiative, see your move, and then avoid firing arcs until I swarmed you, and 3) you stayed out in the open for all of the game. If you had poured more points into your shields or had poured points in a few and took a position against a planet or asteroid that covered your unshielded flanks, most of my firepower would have been deflected and I would have been brought out into the open where I could have been picked off. As it was, I still barely won.

    Your proposed game options favor only the bigger ships, making the game we played Sunday nearly impossible for the smaller ships to win. Option 1 lets you do less of a balancing act with a bigger ship since you get to power up your defenses and have more points left over for offense and/or speed. That’s quite an advantage when your shield (max 20 points) might deflect all the firepower an opponent’s ship has. Smaller ships however can have their shields at full power (mine were max 8 points) and get those dropped to nothing and take heavy damage if hit with a couple powerful attacks (as my bait ship found out) while the bigger ship still has fire power to spare.

    Option 2 also favors the bigger ships since they will be at more of an advantage as they have hire shields. If a shield on your Excelsior at power 20 had been attacked by 2 of my D-7As attacking at full 24 weapon power at normal range, one might get 4 points of damage past the shield and the second would get only 14 past the shield. Two ships’ full payloads are exhausted and the bigger ship takes 14 points of damage.

    Meanwhile if the D-7A fully powered 8 point shield is hit by two 24 point attacks, the first drops the shield and does 16 points. The second drops the shield and does 20 points. The bigger ship probably has more attacks in reserve and the little ship is probably dead at this point.

    The bigger ship also gets more of an advantage since smaller opponents will need to get close to one another to hit a lowered/damaged shield, making them more susceptible to all being destroyed in a chain explosion when one of their number goes up.

    • Fractalbat

      September 23, 2015 at 7:14 PM

      That’s a good point. If I’d half powered my phasers and dumped that energy into the shields, it might have changed things. Or if I’d relied more on my torpedoes. Though your numbers would still have been telling. You regularly had at least two ships that could bear on a single shield side. It might have played out more in my favor, but not overwhelmingly so.

      Which, I suppose, means it’s still balanced.

      But balance isn’t really my problem. The rules are balanced fine, but the value of shields in a Star Trek setting is what feels off. In the show you’d expect a fleet of obsolete D-7A’s to have trouble piercing the shields of a first rate Star Fleet battleship. You would not expect to have starship captains dropping several shields and having those that are running bouncing up and down as much as they do in the game. It’s not that I want to make the ships stronger, it’s that I want to make this aspect of the fight feel more like the show.

      If this wasn’t a Star Trek game, I don’t think I’d question the rules as they are written.


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