Tales to Astound!

MAYDAY and Mysteries of Book 2 Combat Solved


Last night I began reading the rules for Mayday, GDW’s space combat game using the ships and themes from Traveller Book 2 as a hex-based board game. It looks fun! (The game is available in PDF form from DriveThruRPG for $9.99 and is included in the Classic Traveller CD-Rom/Thumbnail from Far Future Enterprises.)

A few things became clear reading the rules.

First, there is a reason Traveller’s starship movement is vector based and has templates for gravity wells around worlds. Marc Miller really likes vector based movement and gravity wells!

If you look at his game Triplanetary, you’ll see an entire game built around using vector based movement for racing and battling in space. The game came out 4 years before the original Traveller rules. Then, in the following years, Miller writes Traveller and uses the focus found in Triplanetary to create the movement and combat found in Book 2. Then, a year later, he takes the ships and details from Book 2 and basically uses the core concepts of Triplanetary to create a new board game as part of the Traveller line. Once you look at all three games at the same time you simply see the pattern!

(By the way, Steve Jackson Games is currently Kickstarting a new edition of Triplanetary. There are seven days left.)

But to more much practical details became clear when reading the Mayday rules.

For years I have been baffled by two elements of ship-to-ship combat in Traveller. First, how do missiles move? Second, how do the clouds of sand from the sandcasters move? The rules do not say (not in the 1977 edition, not in the 1981 edition, not in The Traveller Book, not in Starter Traveller). And these two components are really important to space combat!

But if you open up the rules to Mayday all becomes clear. In part because Mayday is a stripped down, simplified version of Traveller space combat. It is designed as a board game, not a miniature war game. And I believe Miller made sure that the language and explanations of the rulebook would be easy to understand for the more casual gamer.

I’m going to note these details here in case they are of help to you. (Many people have figured this stuff out by now. But I know these two points have remained a mystery and much discussed matter for decades.)

Missile movement is defined by its propulsion system. The propulsion system is defined by two numbers, commonly separated by a capital G. The first number is the maximum number of Gs which the missile is capable of in a turn; the second is the number of G-burns of fuel the missile can make at maximum G.

For example, a 1G1 propulsion system can accelerate a maximum of 1G per turn, and is capable of burning fuel to achieve 1G once. A 6G6 system can accelerate to a maximum of 6G per turn, and has enough fuel to reach 6G six times. A 3G3 system can accelerate to a maximum of 3G in one turn, and has fuel to allow reaching 3G for three turns.

Special Supplement 3: Missiles explains all this. But I have to say, reading it in Mayday finally made it click.

Of particular note: Both Mayday and Special Supplement 3: Missiles create templates for different kinds of missiles, with different sorts of propulsion, guidance, detonation systems and more.

As a general rule Special Supplement 3: Missiles states, “the standard missile in Traveller is a 5G6 continuous burn.” This mean that missiles in Traveller have a 5G thrust available per turn, that they can accelerate up to 5G six times before running out of fuel, and that they will keep moving toward their target as efficiently as possible until fuel runs out.

There are other factors one can apply from the rules based on various types of missiles and build. But that previous paragraph is enough to allow you to use the missiles in Book 2 as written.

(Note: Special Supplement 3: Missiles is part of FFE’s Classic Traveller CD-Rom collection.)

This one is easy, and what I always thought. (But, again, Book 2 does not state). From the Mayday rules:

Ships equipped with sandcasters may launch clouds of obscuring crystals (sand) which interfere with laser fire and small weapons such as missiles.

Sand may be launched in the ordnance launch phase, provided that the missiles are not launched from the ship in that phase. The launch program must be running in the computer for the sand to be hunched.

Mark the present position counter of the launching ship with a blank white counter. For as long as the ship does not change course, the counter remains in place, indicating that a cloud of sand surrounds the ship.

So, as long as the ship does not change vector the sand provides cover. If the ship changes vector, the ship ends up in one place and the sand keeps going the way it was.

Easy-peasy! But again, never defined in the Book 2 rules.