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"Best Hard / Medium Science Space rules?" Topic

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1,511 hits since 23 Mar 2020
©1994-2022 Bill Armintrout
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Stalkey and Co23 Mar 2020 12:27 p.m. PST

Inspired by the Triplanetary release by SJG [wish I'd found about it sooner!] I thought I'd check and see what games the community knows of that are great "realistic" science rules.

When I say realistic, I mean that the science is at least plausible, if not immediately obtainable, or respects the laws of physics as we know them. yes, it may depend on an invention – propulsion breakthru – or discovery, e.g. a stargate – but it shouldn't be space opera "it's necessary for the plotline, so it exists and it is just like watching "Midway" but with a death star instead of the IJN fleet.

Basically, Star Wars is out. Star Trek – well, I'll let you make a case for it!

They can be board / hex / table games, doesn't matter.

A few games that come to mind are:
- Starfire – not Vector movement, but the weapons are old school and would take to vector kindly.
- Attack Vector [and lots of ad astra games]
- Triplanetary [free rules! at SJG]
- Dark Stars
- Phil Eklund's "High Frontier" by Sierra Madre
- Full Thrust
- Hard Vacuum

What else am I missing?

dragon6 Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2020 1:28 p.m. PST

I loved Triplanetary. It came in a big box with the acetate rolled (no mailing tubes at GDW?) sheet rolled. We played the heck out of it. And then the bigger maps, and planetary movement, well inner planetary a little bit. Great game. I haven't seen what Steve Jackson did with it but it wasn't a tactical game back then.

I like Full Thrust but it's not a Hard/Medium science game unless there is a different Full Thrust than the Ground Zero one.

Have you looked here? link great stuff

williamb23 Mar 2020 2:41 p.m. PST

Starcruiser 2300AD from Game Designers workshop. available from wargames vault
you can use the ships in the game or design your own. Issue 36 of challenge magazine has additional rules for designing missiles

Starwar 2250 not quite as hard science as starcruiser, but does use 3d vector movement and is free

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2020 2:45 p.m. PST

The great quest for the great but playable space combat game! Please keep us updated!

Oh, you wanted our ideas and stuff? Right.

GDW's Triplanetary is cool. It's not primarily a combat game. Combat in Triplanetary makes me think of the America's Cup, but with every yacht armed with an RPG -- which might actually be kind of a fun game.

Ad Astra games (Attack Vector Tactical, Squadron Strike) require some commitment to understanding how they work, but once you get into it, they play pretty well, at least in the very small engagements I've played in.

Full Thrust leans more toward playability than physics accuracy, although it does have vector movement. You can develop your own propulsion and weapons systems if you want.

Dynaman878923 Mar 2020 4:08 p.m. PST

Different Traveller rules sets. Brilliant Lances, Mayday and Battle Rider.

The latest GURPS starships rules which allow for anything from near total realism to way way out fantasy. Those require knowing GURPS in order to use however.

KarlBergman23 Mar 2020 8:42 p.m. PST

I had the original Triplanetary game years ago and loved it. As I had access to a computer with a very large plotter at work back then I made an even larger map that included more of the solar system. I also have and like very much the new version by Steve Jackson Games. Instead of a roll-up map they include a large hard cardboard fold-up map that is laminated. I also like Starcruiser 2300AD very much. So much so that I am the one that wrote the missile designing rules referenced by williamb above, as well as a couple of other 2300AD articles that were also published in Challenge magazine. For the most part Starcruiser was one of the "hardest" Si-Fi games I have ever played as long as you are willing to accept the Stutter-Warp drive for FTL travel.

Stalkey and Co24 Mar 2020 6:22 a.m. PST

@william b
The link to starwar 2250 is dead. The parent website is still active, however. I couldn't find the rules in their sci fi section either, however.

DyeHard24 Mar 2020 9:45 a.m. PST

An old SPI board game called "Battlefleet Mars"

Fromm 1977 if I recall.
Has true 3-D tactical movement and tracks movement of inner planets. True momentum. The need to apply reverse thrust at the min point of a trip to slow at destination.


Not for the faint of heart as there is a lot of actual calculation. But you don't need a slide-rule any more as calculators are so available.

Free rules:
PDF link

zircher24 Mar 2020 10:10 a.m. PST

Starwar 2250 on the…


haywire25 Mar 2020 7:42 a.m. PST

Babylon 5 Wars
Jovian Chronicles Lightning Strike

zircher25 Mar 2020 10:20 a.m. PST

B5Wars are only realistic if your starships are steam powered. :-D

Stalkey and Co25 Mar 2020 5:02 p.m. PST

FYI, Decision Games is working on a new edition for Battlefleet Mars – called "Free Mars!"

nvdoyle25 Mar 2020 6:47 p.m. PST

Voidstriker, by Charles Oines, free here:

Best combination of playability and 'realism' I've found. Keep the tech level low for best 'realistic' results. Fuel burns, displacement, a decent design system. He even has a blurb somewhere with rules for radiators.

Stalkey and Co26 Mar 2020 9:23 a.m. PST

@ nvdoyle

Super! I really like how they look!

emckinney29 Apr 2020 7:15 p.m. PST

"For the most part Starcruiser was one of the "hardest" Si-Fi games I have ever played as long as you are willing to accept the Stutter-Warp drive for FTL travel."

I love 2300AD, but Starcruiser was so far from hard SF that's it's not visible with a 1000" telescope.

Frank Chadwick was in love with "submarines in space," but that's not the way things work. 2300AD ships would be easily visible to each other in IR from immense distances.

And the use of stutterwarp in tactical combat means that spaceships don't move anything like actual objects in space.

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