Wednesday, May 11, 2005

FFT: 2030

As many know, I am an enthusiastic sci-fi wargamer as well as a modern wargamer. One of the things that excites me about A Fistful of TOWs 3 is that its revised armor and penetration scales accomodate everything from World War I to the far future. And as my Railgun:2100 rules showed, the FFT system is flexible enough to model science fiction as well as modern and historical wars. Railgun, by the way, will also get a facelift and be built off the FFT3 engine.

Anyhow, my first project after FFT3 will be FFT:2030, my take on warfare in the middle of the 21st century. The battlefield will be substantially different than it was in 2004 (or 1944), and the game will reflect that. For anyone who's curious, here is a somewhat rambling commentary that I posted on the FFT email list:

1. The sequence of play will be changed -- "I move while you shoot", then vice versa. It's a little more complex than that, but that's the gist of it. This will reflect the ubiquity of advanved stabilization in 2030. More primitive vehicles will be marked with a "No Fire" marker if they
move too far. To keep the game moving, the nonmoving player can fire before the enemy moves or after the enemy moves at no to hit modifier. If the nonmoving player fires during enemy movement, there's a -1 to hit. Interestingly, this results in a much cleaner sequence of play and relieves some of the intricacy in the current system. It might be interesting to play with two "low tech" armies and see if it plays better than FFT3.

2. Modern (in 2030) armies will mostly be able to ignore spotting due to the plethora of sensors. Low tech armies of course will have to obey spotting rules. Non-line-of-sight (NLOS) weapons will be common on this battlefield, but their effectiveness will be constrained by battlefield point defense systems.

3. Modern AFVs will have active point defense systems (5mm miniguns with autonomous fire control, ala the US Navy's Phalanx system), all datalinked. The current intent is to assume that most vehicles have PD and have special rules for unusually good (or bad) PD system. This will likely be a "to hit" modifier (+1 to hit vehicles with poor PD, -1 to hit vehicles with excellent PD). No separate PD roll is contemplated. There will be dedicated point defense vehicles at battalion level that use lasers instead of guns. These can engage enemy artillery barrages and will provide formidable tactical air defense capabilities. They are also very valuable targets.

4. Land based hovercraft will be just starting to replace light AFVs (I know Bob Mackenzie hates this, but the available sci-fi hovercraft models are just too cool to ignore).

5. Infantry will become a little more survivable (I assume that expensive and hi-tech body armor will stay slightly ahead of small arms). This will be reflected by a slight reduction in anti-infantry vehicle ratings (with attendant bonuses to kill unarmored infantry). The fantastic armor protection levels of tanks at that time (the latest Abrams version, the M1A5, would have an FFT2 armor rating of 30) will result in infantry portable AT weapons becoming shorter ranged (proportionately more weight will be spent on the warhead than with current ATGMs). The infantry combat system of FFT3 will be used, so infantry will be the best killer of infantry. I may have some rules for experimental infantry systems like fully powered armor, jump jets, etc.

6. In modern armies, helicopters will be largely replaced by Tiltrotor craft. They look cool, but basically work the same. Gunships will be extremely vulnerable to modern weapons -- even more than they are today. They will still be effective against low tech forces. And they can quickly get to the fight. Advanced avionics will be result in somewhat higher movement rates. In general, I think that airpower will become less important on the battlefield simply because anti-aircraft weapons will improve faster than countermeasures will. But because airpower can get there quickly, there will always be a role for them.

7. Tanks will be able to fire non-line of sight rounds, at a penalty in accuracy (they become easier to shoot down the longer they travel). Unless my science boys tell me otherwise, I am assuming that NLOS rounds will be HEAT rounds and not kinetic energy rounds. Advanced armor will be universal, so there will be no special armors or separate KE and HEAT ratings. Appropriate modifiers will exist for obsolete armors from the late 20th century.

8. Engagement ranges will increase, though not as much as some theorists believe. The M1A5's 140mm gun has an effective range of 4km for direct fire. This drives a change in the ground scale to 1" = 250m). NLOS maximum range will be 10km for most vehicle mounted systems. One result of commonplace point defense systems will be that even missile shots will be less effective as range increases (longer time for the PD network to get a firing solution on it).

9. Tactical speeds will only be a little higher than the fastest tanks today -- there's a limit to human ability to be banged around inside a vehicle.

10. The first fully capable robot tanks will be coming online in 2030. They will be relatively scarce, but will have special rules. By contrast, modern engineering units will be lavishly equipped with robotic equipment and will be more capable than their 2005 equivalents.

11. No special artillery phase will be in the game. By 2030, communications systems will be able to provide near instantaneous fire support. So artillery fires like any other weapon. There will be 2 types of artillery strikes -- the normal unguided barrage (much like today) and the guided AT round (a much smarter version of today's Copperhead). Dedicated PD vehicles can try to shoot down artillery barrages.

12. Some army organizations will reflect advanced C3I capabilities. For instance, battalions will average 5 companies, plus supporting elements. Companies will usually consist of 5 platoons. The Pentomic Division will return!

13. I am toying with a special "strategic" turn at the start of a game. Basically, each side would get to fire missiles at each other's stands before the game starts. The to hit chance is lower than on the battlefield, but you can degrade the enemy forces before the game (at the expense of some capability on the battlefield). You can also fire at enemy reinforcements during the game in the same way. Of course, primitive armies would not have this capability.

14. The armor and penetration systems will be directly compatible with FFT3. Ranges and movement ratings will need to be adjusted of course.

15. I'm *thinking* about Ogres. Er, sorry, that is a trademark of Steve Jackson Games. I meant Continental Siege Units... If they appear, they will of course be highly optional.

16. Most FFT3 systems will remain basically the same, though some adjustments will occur to reflect the new sequence of play.

17. There will be relatively fewer special purpose vehicles, as the ubiquity of sensors will make it much easier to identify and attack them. I assume that the improved ability to pick off commanders will be offset by an improved ability for replacements to take command (better and more secure communications, battlefield networks).

18. I am still cogitating on what kinds of vehicles should appear on the FFT:2030 battlefield, but here's what I have so far.

-Most of the weapons systems below will be available in "Expensive", "Average" and "Cheap" variants. Average models will be the most common choice of industrialized nations. Expensive models will have better sensors, better point defense, better mobility and better all around protection. Cheap models are for the export market -- they will usually have the same types of main weapons as the Average and Expensive models; but they will have less capable sensors, inferior point defense systems, and will especially scrimp on flank armor protection.

-MBT: A heavily armed, heavily armored and mobile tank. Comparable to today's M1A2 Abrams.

-HIFV: An infantry fighting vehicle built on an MBT chassis and having MBT levels of protection. The ultimate in infantry protection, but extremely costly. Usually limited to the mechanized infantry units in armoredbattalions.

-IFV: A heavily armed, but lightly armored infantry carrier. Common in armies that can't afford the HIFV.

-APC: The popular "battlefield taxi" of the last 80 years. By 2030, these will almost universally be wheeled vehicles. Popular in lower tech armies and light forces.

-HAPC: A hovercraft capable of carrying infantry. Relatively popular as its high speed give s infantry even more mobility than armor. It's light armor makes it highly vulnerable though.

-Hovertruck: A cargo carrying hovercraft used to transport infantry. Very lightly armored and unarmed.

-Tank Destroyer/Assault Gun: Light vehicles (usually wheeled) carrying MBT guns and very little armored protection. Some mount heavy AT missiles.

-Obsolete tanks, APCs, IFVs, etc., from the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

FFT:2030 will not have "generic" vehicles. Each nation will get its own vehicles.

Despite all this technological crunchiness, the rules should be at least as simple as FFT2 or 3. This is due to the fact that I try to design systems that *assume* the existence of common technology and situations. Special rules are for uncommon systems and situations. Thus (for instance) the base to hit number will assume the target is modern tank with typical PD capabilities. Tanks without such systems or with cut rate systems will be easier to hit. There is therefore no separate PD engagement system to slow the game down.