I am currently writing a TBS 4x space strategy game. I am done with interfaces and graphics and i am now developing the first of the three major parts - the combat starship. The next is the combat round and finally AI.

I have currently a draft setup for space combat. The major characteristics have as follows:

Ships are firstly divided into 6 size classes. Larger ships have greater resource cost, need more time to produce, have stronger hulls and shields and can take on more weapons of smaller class, because weapons also follows their own size class. Larger ships are also slower on combat but faster at interplanetary and interstellar travel.

All ships are unmanned. The player controls them, there could be a war general leading a fleet giving bonuses, but ships themselves have no crews. Just Combat AI applying the tactics selected. Even experience is data gained through battles used by the AI.

The role of each ship is determined by its design. Besides the size, a large set of meaningful choices apply. Hull properties, optional modules, primary and secondary weapons choice, weapons modifications and more all lead to a role the designer chooses: Super tank, glass cannon, firepower for shields, firepower for mass, size x destroyer, long range attacker, short range attacker, any combination, all apply.

Furthermore, ships are organized into divisions, or simply stacks. This gives them additional options such as 5 levels of ultra defense - ultra offence stances and formations that determinate attack concentration (max x ships hit 1 enemy ship) and defense against this (max y ships can hit 1 of our ships). However each ship of the division has its own attack and defense path - it is not working as "averages of the stack".

For combat now ships will have primary and secondary weapons. Primary weapons will be energy cannons of various types, sizes and modifications. The main purpose of cannons is to bring down shields, because, in my setup, compatible kinetic weapons (rockets, missiles and torpedoes) as well as ordinary large caliber projectiles are ineffective against shields. So the cannons need to hit the shields to discharge them and open ground for secondary weapons to finish off enemy cannons - then the ship is harmless. If own shields are still active even at 5%, the enemy ship cannot effectively attack with its cannons destroyed. For tactical reasons there are few cannons that deal damage versus mass.

Secondary weapons now consists of three categories: Missiles, Guns and Repeaters. Missiles are deadly as they almost always hit the target and deliver tremendous payload. However they can be countered by repeaters. Repeaters are compatible small caliber "machine" guns of high rate of fire and can also be energy ones(no ammo but uses ship energy). Despite that, the repeaters role is to counter enemy missiles. In overall, 1 repeater cannot fully counter 1 missile attack, e.g. the rocket launcher will launch 16 rockets the turn, 14 will be countered by the repeater, 2 will hit. A Repeater is always somewhat weaker than the Missile as a secondary weapon - of the same size class and tech of course. Guns, which are huge caliber guns seem to have little use at first glance as they are much less damaging than missiles and cannot be used for countering anything(missile type weapons can be used for countering although they are less than half effective than repeaters). The advantage of guns is that they cannot be countered plus they hit at the first phase of each round, just after energy cannons but BEFORE missiles and repeaters take action. This means that a Gun can hit ( and even take out) a Repeater before the Repeater gets the chance to be used. Same for a Missile turret, despite the missiles are already launched. Next turn there would be no Missile turret. Of course, guns can also hit other guns and energy cannons.

Considering that the above is meant to be a setup for a game that needs to have game play through tactical advantage, is there anything of the above that looks weird or strange or wrong to you?

  • $\begingroup$ This just reminds me of Galactic Civilizations. Out of curiosity, how much are you willing to change based on the answer you get? Gameplay is more important in a game like that than realistic combat, seeing as no one want to play a realistic, yet unsatisfying combat experience, especially given the nature of 4X and TBS players. It might be better for you to just explain your concept for combat, and ask us to come up with a list of conditions that best explain it, rather than having us give a list of reasons why some of this couldn't work, yet you'd be forced to ignore it for gameplay reasons. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ Halfthawed you read my mind. I agree to what you say its my line too, gameplay first, realism 2nd. I just want to avoid something really unrealistic. What you propose is great - after collecting remarks here, i ask for for i better explain-excuse somewhat weird but gameplay needed elements. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ What's TBS mean in this context? $\endgroup$
    – workerjoe
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ Turn Based Strategy. Units are placed into tiles much like pieces in chess. Tiles are hexagons instead of squares. In combat, units play at some order, one unit of side A, then one unit of side B and so on. Out of combat, all units of a side play one after another. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 6:39

2 Answers 2


because weapons also follows their own size class.

In RL while it works well for naval guns, there seems to be a glitch allowing strapping big missile to a small boat. ;)

Furthermore, ships are organized into divisions, or simply stacks.

Stack? Wouldn't it sound better if you picked some name from contemporary armies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wing_(military_aviation_unit)

Even experience is data gained through battles used by the AI.

AI gets experience? As individual unit or as your side? (BTW: it would be an interesting plot twist if unit has to return its back up to feed to some central computer to modify behaviour of whole group)

  • $\begingroup$ Force to fire a size class 5 or 6 missile against a size class 1 ship is exactly waste of accuracy and firepower. Accuracy because penalties involved (a size class 1 missile has much greater chance to hit a size class 1 ship) and damage because even a class 1 missile can seriously damage a size class 1 ship, while obviously the size class 5-6 missile was suited for same or close size class ships. However a size class 6 ship may have 64 size class 1 missile turrets, or 2 size class 6 missile turrets as secondary armament. Or a valid combination. It is tactical, and damage waste is intended! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, stack is a stupid yet commonly known name to describe a numerous unit at TBS worlds... I will use more realistic naming - thanks for the source!! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:51
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, combat AI gets experience from combat in form of data TB (terabytes). This is transmitted back to closest hub instantly. After X turns (actual info travel time needed) based on how far the hub is and then the central hub (home planet), info is collected, proceeded by central super computers, and actual results (improved algorithms) are transmitted back to the hubs. A fleet may visit the closest hub or request 'Upgrade" at a specified future path to its current plot destination. Once done, that fleet gets the permanent experience. Roughly, each 'level' will provide +1% to most attributes. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 8:00
  • $\begingroup$ However, that data also remains on ships. This may trigger temporary effects, like +5% evade against missiles for 3 turns against enemy division X or +15% cannon damage for 2 turns against enemy division Y. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 8:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Logistics. Starships are meant to be autonomous. They can replace their fuel reserves at stars and repair their damages if not critical. They can even manufacture ammunition. Fleets may also have auxiliary non combat starships like cargo ships, repair ships and extraction-mining ships which greatly assist far beyond combat fleet capabilities. Need to salvage debris instantly? Use the cargos. Need to repair fast or repair critical damage? Use the repair ship(s). Need some rare class 4 resource that happen to be close? Sent the miners. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 11:36

This looks wrong. Maybe a typo?

in my setup, compatible kinetic weapons (rockets, missiles and torpedoes) as well as ordinary large caliber projectiles are ineffective against shields. So the cannons need to hit the shields to discharge them and open ground for secondary weapons to finish off enemy cannons - then the ship is harmless. If own shields are still active even at 5%, the enemy ship cannot effectively attack with its cannons destroyed. For tactical reasons there are few cannons that deal damage versus mass.

1.A ship without shields still has all its damage-vs-mass weapons so not harmless.

  1. If own shields active, ship cannot attack with cannons destroyed. I don’t get that. Cannons don’t deal damage vs mass so would seem a specialized anti shield attack. Maybe some ships don’t even have shields but count on nimbleness and repeater guns.
  • $\begingroup$ 1 is correct, and that ship may damage non-shielded enemy ships (with shields down-discharged), if such target are available. But for that targets to be available, means some cannons do the job - that is why cannons are primary weapons. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:07
  • $\begingroup$ 2. Ship A vs ship B. Both use their cannons because shields are on and missiles/guns are useless vs shields(tactical exception choice do exist, but think them as exceptions). If A manage to discharge B shields first, then missiles and guns can strike B ship cannons. This happens at the 2nd phase of any turn, if applicable. More likely the cannons will be destroyed so at the next turn ship B will have no means to discharge ship A shields, while ship A may fire all his secondary weapons to priority order of targets defined by the player choice e.g. after cannons the thrusters. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ If it is a cannon duel until one ship has no shield and that ship is destroyed next round, why not just have destruction of the shield mean destruction of this ship? Gamewise It would be simpler than having an array of weapons that only come into play during the occasional rare circumstance of a ship without shields. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ Your proposition is not out of question or judgment. Willk. That you describe is much easier implemented, simple and straightforward. However costs depth and that means costs game-play. Practically however, this is a possible case. If few ships of a division loose shields, all enemy division ships secondary weapons, by default, will fire on those few targets. Of course Repeaters (point defense) of shields-on ships will try to protect the not shielded ship(s), plus use concealment on them (get into line of fire as their shields will negate secondary weapons at near zero cost). $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 7:01
  • $\begingroup$ One of the key elements of my game-play vision is damage waste. The side that distributes damage more efficiently gets the upper hand, and to do that you need better tactics than your opponent: To utilize your fleet strengths and conceal your weaknesses better than the enemy. How much firepower will you spent at non shielded ships, especially larger ones, is a tactical choice. Stop on weapons destruction where it is offensively harmless? Proceed to thrusters to forbid retreat? Proceed to total destruction to make sure the ship cannot act at any way? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 7:10

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