The first draft of the rules that would become Sword of Terra, written nearly a decade ago, included the following rules for boarding actions:
Boarding An Enemy Ship
In order to board an enemy ship you must be within 1” of the target. You then decide how many of your marine points you wish to allocate to the attack. Then, compare the number of marine points attacking with the number of marine points on the enemy ship to get the ratio of attackers to defenders. This ratio will determine the modifier on your boarding roll. Once you have your modifier, you roll 1d6 and add the modifier from the ratio, and then you consult the boarding results table to see the effect.
Ratio (Attackers:Defenders) Modifier to Boarding Roll 5:1 or higher +4 4:1 +2 3:1 +1 2:1 +0 1:1 -1 1:2 -3 1:3 -5 1:4 or lower -7
Boarding Roll Result Effect 0 or lower Massacre Attacker loses 100% of forces. Defender loses 10% of what attacker lost. 1 Total Defeat Attacker loses 80% of forces. Defender loses 20% of what attacker lost. 2 Defeat Attacker loses 60% of forces. Defender loses 40% of what attacker lost. 3 Minor Defeat Attacker loses 50% of forces. Defender loses 75% of what attacker lost. 4 Draw Attacker loses 40% of forces. Defender loses the same number as attacker. 5 Minor Victory Attacker loses 20% of forces. Defender loses 150% of what attacker lost. 6 Victory Attacker loses 20% of forces. Defender loses 200% of what attacker lost and the ship takes 1 point of damage. 7 or higher Major Victory Attacker loses 10% of forces and gains control of the ship. Defender loses 100% of forces.
Looking back at these rules, I think they are pretty flawed and don’t accomplish what I want out of the boarding action mechanics for the game. Not only do they involve players to do more math work than I’d like to calculate first the ratio of attackers to defenders then the casualties for each side, but in order to have any effect other than killing a few defending marines, the attackers needed to outnumber the defending marines by at least 2 to 1. That definitely doesn’t capture the feeling that I’d like boarding actions to have.
That dissatisfaction with the existing rules is why I left boarding actions out of the playtest version of Sword of Terra that I posted in October. I had tweaked the rules since the original draft, but they were for the most part the same because I had been focused on refining other parts of the game instead.
Recently, I’ve been working on a new version of the rules for boarding actions in hopes of including them in a second playtest version. I’ve been trying to simplify the math involved and also focus on capturing the ability for a small ship to launch a boarding action against a larger ship and have some possibility of success.
The first major change that I’ve made is that there are now a few different types of boarding actions: raid, sabotage, and capture. A raid mission focuses on killing defending marines and possibly mission-specific objectives like kidnapping a passenger or seizing a piece of cargo. A sabotage mission is aimed at damaging the target ship. Finally, a capture mission’s objective is seizing control of the entire enemy ship. Breaking the rules up by mission type allowed me to adjust difficulties based on the objective which I feel has helped capture the right feeling in the rules.
A second change that I’ve been considering is replacing the result table with a simpler success-or-failure result. If the boarding action is successful, then X happens. Otherwise, Y happens. This gets rid of degrees of success, but it also makes the mechanic much simpler and allows for faster game play which I think is important.
What do you think? Have you played a game with a good boarding action mechanic that you think I should check out?