In my first Sword of Terra post, I mentioned that the game focuses on the big ships rather than star fighters. In fact, this was one of the game’s two basic goals. That doesn’t mean that fighters and bombers don’t have a role in the game though. After all, carriers, fighters, and bombers are featured prominently in the games and movies that inspired me to design a space ship game in the first place.
In Sword of Terra, fighters, bombers, and shuttles are all handled by the small craft rules. Because the game is scaled to focus on larger warships, small craft are grouped into wings of up to 5 craft that act as a single unit during the engagement. My hope is that this approach will allow for a much larger number of fighters and bombers to participate in a battle without bogging it down.
Small craft have many of the same statistics as ships. They have a Target Rating that determines how difficult they are to hit and an Armor Rating that represents the effectiveness of their armor. A small craft’s Thrust determines how quickly it can move.
Despite those similarities, there are a few differences in the set of statistics. Small craft do not track Hull Points for damage. Instead, each wing has a number of small craft with each craft effectively having a single Hull Point. The maximum number of craft in a wing depends on the craft’s Class: Light craft are deployed in wings of up to 5, and Heavy craft are limited to wings of 3. Wings of small craft also do not track facing during combat, so they do not have Turning Costs or Turning Distances listed.
The two roll combat system in Sword of Terra allowed me to aim to make small craft a distinctly different threat in combat than warships. Small craft often have high Target Numbers making them difficult to hit with warship-scale weaponry, but at the same time their Armor Rating makes them vulnerable to weapons that a warship’s armor easily negates.
For example, a wing of Dauntless Heavy Fighters has a Target Number of 10 and an Armor Rating of 12. That means that a warship-scale light naval cannon has only a 10% hit chance, but if it does hit it has a 100% chance to destroy a fighter. On the other end of the weapon scale, a light assault cannon, a common fighter weapon, has a 60% hit chance but only a 40% chance to destroy when it does hit. Against an average warship though the light assault cannon doesn’t have any chance of causing damage.
Small craft are generally deployed within the hanger bays of a warship. Each carrier has a Hanger Capacity statistic that determines the number of wings that can be deployed with it. In addition, a Hanger Doors statistic determines how many wings can be launched each round of the engagements and the firing arcs in which those wings launch.
From the play testing that I’ve done, I’m pretty happy with how these rules have meshed with the rest of Sword of Terra and allowed for fighters and bombers to have a role in battles while keeping the spotlight on the big warships.