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"Sci-Fi Battle Armor for Troops - Game Design" Topic

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Mako11 Inactive Member12 Feb 2017 11:36 a.m. PST

I've been thinking about this a bit, and still don't know how to handle it for skirmish games, when writing my own rules.

Of course, that applies to a lot of issues, but for now, let's limit the discussion to how to handle men in advanced, Sci-Fi battle armor, like we see in some movies, e.g. Star Wars (stormtrooper), etc., etc..

Now, I always thought that battle armor should protect troops like stormtroopers a lot better than is generally shown in the movies, e.g. providing protection from 80% – 90% of hits, in most cases, from small arms fire.

As we've seen from some episodes, battle armor is virtually useless, so not really sure why they wear it. Sure, it looks cool, but doesn't seem to soak up many, if any hits.

From a game design, and skirmish standpoint, I see it as really a double-edged sword, e.g. it is sometimes hard enough to get a hit on a trooper, hiding behind cover, or running/evading in combat, especially when at longer ranges, as it should be. If you add in battle armor saves though, then it may be virtually impossible to injure, or kill them with small arms, and/or heavier weaponry, excepting perhaps at very short ranges. Perhaps that's how it should be.

And, we're not even talking about the heavier, dreadnaught armor some troops wear – AKA, Power Armor (as opposed to head to toe battle armor).

If the troopers are hard to hit, and impervious to it when hit, then combat may close in to hand-to-hand melee range all too often, and/or result in excessively long firefights without much happening for either side, assuming both have battle armor. Anyone not having that will be in deep trouble, so they better have an alternative plan.

Seems rather silly to have two sides standing 5 feet from one another, blazing away with their weapons, and not causing injuries or death to the other side. Hits at that range will mostly be assured, I suspect, in many/most cases, but with high save rates, it could get rather silly.

Another option would be when hit, that perhaps the troops in battle armor are saved from being killed, but may possibly be injured, knocked out, or winded from taking a heavy blow, or blows to their battle armor, like we sometimes see in the movies and TV shows, when someone wearing a bullet proof vest is hit there. Works for projectile and energy blast weapons, though doesn't seem like lasers would be affected in that way (a possible "cinematic" workaround is those cause heat exhaustion from that generated by the laser beam heating up the troopers' armor).

I think this might be a decent way forward, especially in role playing games, since your men/characters may be knocked out of the skirmish for a bit (fixed number of turns, or random number, as desired), but may live to fight another day, and might even be able to rejoin the battle after a bit of recovery time, if the fight isn't decided before that, due to morale issues.

I imagine battle armor would be less effective vs. heavy, squad support weapons, and/or fire from vehicles, large caliber guns, etc., etc..

So, perhaps to kick things off, how do the rules you are using handle battle armor, and/or how do you think it should work?

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2017 11:46 a.m. PST

From a realistic perspective, I imagine the main function may end up being to save the soldier from death.

In No Stars in Sight, power armour troopers are basically mini light tanks:
Largely impervious to small arms fire but any dedicated anti tank weapon will obliterate them.
This leads to a set up where they are both very tough and very fragile at the same time, which at least leads to interesting play.

Mako11 Inactive Member12 Feb 2017 12:02 p.m. PST

Yea, I can see that for the Power Armored guys.

I was thinking perhaps less chance of a body armor save at close and point-blank ranges from armor, but that's another complication to keep track of. Probably okay for smaller skirmish games, but less so for larger battles.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2017 12:35 p.m. PST

For a skirmish game, that'd be pretty cool.
You get close enough, you can target the joints of eye pieces in the helmet or whatever.

I always sort of envisioned that power armour would have various "infantry deterrent' weapons strapped to their suits. Frag launchers, auto targeting guns, etc for close combat.

On hte flipside, I'd consider making armour troopers easier to hit, both from lack of agility but also because all that gadgetry probably makes them pretty easy to track with sensors and whatnot.

kallman12 Feb 2017 1:48 p.m. PST

Still have not had a chance to give your rules No Stars in Sight a try yet Weasel. I need to just print them out as I hate reading long pdfs. I agree that I see Power Armored troops as being a way to provide some kind of heavy support for lighter armored troops and for special missions where having a small high fire power unit to punch a hole at a vital point is needed.

As to why wear armor…well as we can see with modern times body armor can save lives. Otherwise lethal hits end up being…well, less lethal. Let's use the middle ages as a comparison. Toward the end of the Hundred Years War and going into the War of the Roses, a man of arms who could afford it was extremely well protected. Swords had become next to useless against plate and therefore you needed a heavy ax, pole arm, mace, warhammer, or great sword to do damage.

Tactics and weapons are going to evolve to counter better protection. Still the reason you would see armor and things like power armor is again to make it harder to wound/kill the soldier. Plus the other consideration is that armor most likely will have advanced sensors, night vision, infra-red, targeting systems, and as has been suggested in many science fiction stories the capacity to provide initial fist aid when a soldier is hit.

In game terms I like how Tomorrow's War has quality dice for personal armor. Basically having a saving throw. I think Star Wars is a bad example to use as really in the case of storm troopers it is a way to show a faceless enemy. I would like to see the blaster bolts bounce off some of the white armored guys from time to time to demonstrate it does provide some protection.

Also the armor may be designed to defeat a particular weapons system. There was a short story for Deep Space Nine that I read a long time ago where some invaders boarded the station all dressed in black glossy power armor. Phasers just bounced off the mirror like armor and the station was rapidly being overrun. However, one of the crew who was an antique weapons enthusiast ran to a replicator, overrode the safety protocols an had the device create a sub machine gun for him. The armor of the invaders was not designed to withstand slug throwers it would seem. Pretty dumb story actually but it illustrates a point.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2017 2:05 p.m. PST

Of course, that applies to a lot of issues, but for now, let's limit the discussion to how to handle men in advanced, Sci-Fi battle armor, like we see in some movies, e.g. Star Wars (stormtrooper), etc., etc..

IF you are going by Star Wars, the armor didn't seem to help all that much. Their shooting wasn't all that hot either…

YouTube link

TheBeast Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2017 3:27 p.m. PST

A bit unfair, that. Most of the latter misses are against the as yet unrevealed nascent Force-rich twins. Make it 15-to-one… ;->=

And, Aldeberan was taken out by naval, NOT StormTrooper, fire. *sniff*

One shot, one…

Against a stationary-in-orbit, unshielded planet. Real braggin' rights there…


Rubber Suit Theatre Inactive Member12 Feb 2017 3:43 p.m. PST

If the enemy's armor bounces 80-90% of hits, you go and get a bigger gun or you don't engage.

Zephyr112 Feb 2017 3:50 p.m. PST

I'd see the armor as better protection against small caliber & shrapnel from nearby blasts, but also good enough to shrug off hits from the more common small arms (most of the time. ;-) And taking cover should be an instinct, regardless of how 'invincible' the armor is (because why tempt an RPG hit, or even heavier, plus, putting yourself out there as a shooting gallery target is just going to increase the time needed to repair/repaint your armor after the battle. "Yeah, trooper, that's your responsibility…" ;-)
For the rules in my skirmish-level game engine, cover/distance affects the chance to hit, armor affords an Armor Save when you do get hit (but can still reduce the amount of damage you take from a bad hit, like armor is supposed to, which can often reduce a "Killed" result to a Wound instead.)
In most cases, an Armor Save is about the only game mechanic you will need to handle most hits (with modifiers for heavier weapons.)

kallman12 Feb 2017 3:54 p.m. PST

McLadie that Star Wars link was wonderful. I about pissed myself laughing.

thumbs up

Tgunner12 Feb 2017 4:14 p.m. PST

I play FUBAR a lot and I like how it (and it echos Warhammer 40K) handles armor. It's a save that you roll if you're hit. Pass the save and you ignore the hit. That seems to match up nicely with what I've read about modern body armor and how it protects soldiers. You get hit, it probably knocks you down and maybe a bit silly, leaves an ugly bruse, but you can get up, dust off, and up you go. This is suppression in FUBAR.

Most basic troopers in FUBAR save on 5+. That is a 1 in 3 chance of shrugging off a hit. Not great, but better than nothing and it makes wearing armor worth while.

I can tell you from personal experience, body armor is a pain. It's awkward, heavy, annoying, hot, and a pain in the butt to wear. We use to ditch it as soon as we could and it took some cajoling by our NCOs to get soldiers to wear it. But once rounds started to fly everyone was happy to have it!

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Feb 2017 4:49 p.m. PST

In my rules I balance armor as a save value (so nekkid and hit with a blaster? Save on a 10. Kevlar? Save on 8+. Body armor made of Mithril? Save on a 6+ etc.)

But it has a cost in speed, is subject to EW, etc.

Lion in the Stars12 Feb 2017 6:23 p.m. PST

For non-powered armor, the better your protection, the slower you move.

gamershs12 Feb 2017 9:59 p.m. PST

Is it battle armor? These guys are fighting in space, planets with non earth atmospheres and it could be a vacuum/environmental suit.

Lion in the Stars13 Feb 2017 12:01 a.m. PST

For the examples of Stormtroopers, yeah, the white plates are armor. The black undersuit isn't even gas-proof. Spacetroopers have different armor than your standard Stormtrooper, but the most obvious difference is the rebreather pack on their back:

If you use a compression-type space suit, you can simply adjust existing gear to be worn over it, like wearing body armor over a wetsuit.

Personal logo Coyotepunc and Hatshepsuut Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2017 12:25 a.m. PST

1) Stormtroopers wear a uniform, not armor.

2) I prefer two separate systems, one for targetting ("to hit") and one for damage assessment ("to wound.") Things such as cover, camoflage, size of power armor shell, skill, scopes, etc all figure into targetting. Likewise, tough skin, armor (powered or otherwise,) onboard medical systems, etc all figure into damage assessment.

Just my opinion, of course.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Feb 2017 6:33 a.m. PST

I like being able to have a lot of different response surfaces for different types of armour in scifi. In QILS, I use an abstract capability opposed roll system in a bounded performance space, so at the same allocation levels, you can get lots of different types of performance like low, but consistent protection; more powerful protection that is less reliable; dreadnaught protection that severely slows you in combat; massive protection and firepower that degrades geometrically (not exponentially, since we roll dice that create discrete, not continuous distributions) in power; etc.

The two important things for rule design that are extremely important when working with this type of capability are:

1) Never make anything unkillable
2) When you gain in one area, you pay in aother

RTJEBADIA15 Feb 2017 11:46 p.m. PST

I always liked 5150's way of handling it (at least in older rules-sets?) which had weapons have a different damage profile for different armor classes (and in a few cases, types of armor, like reflec in Traveller). The basic full body suit (think Stomrtrooper, Kasrkin, Mass Effect body armor) was generally just a "-1," so that a hit would still knock you down, but against most small arms you would get back up. Light power armor and heavy power armor was basically impervious to coventional small arms, but slightly heavier/slower Scifi weapons (like laser rifles), could make those power armor troops feel like infantry again, while not really being much more effective against conventional infantry (more deadly but slower and so on). The number of weapon and armor types was few enough that the slight clunkiness in unique weapon profiles wasn't an issue, power armor troops felt distinct from vehicles while also sometimes feeling distiinct from infantry (except on an even playing field, once rapid fire laser rifles mounted on power suits fight each other), and squad tactics felt actually somewhat science fictional-- bringing a laser "DMR" or two to assist your SAW in deterring enemy power armor made sense even though your conventional assault rifles were more efficient for most enemy troops.

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