I'm creating a game which is about starships shooting each other. For the purpose of having a coherent setting, I'm looking into how various types of weapons might perform. My scenario has no shielding at this point.

I have, at this point, 3 very general weapons (or is it damage ?) types that I would like to refine further. I will list the strengths / weaknesses (in my opinion) and would like you to offer counterpoints or correct me in my view.


With "Particle" type, i basically refer to any non-beam weapon that fires (exotic) "Energy" instead of normal matter. Examples are StarTrek Disruptors as well as StarWars Lasers/Turbolasers. They have a decent chance of hitting. On impact, they basically cause an explosion, damaging the armour of the target upon contact. It's an all-around average weapon. Particle-type projectiles can be intercepted by point defense.


This is basically your StarTrek Phaser or Babylon 5 "red Laser" thingy. They have a good chance of hitting because they travel faster than a particle / projectile. However, they are more easily stopped by armour. Instead of hitting once and doing all damage in one hit, Beams usually scour over the target for 1-3 seconds and the damage is split into chunks, which results in armour being applied more than once. So in result, strong armour greatly mitigates this type of weapon while a weak armored ship is very weak to this type of weapon, regardless of relative speed or evasive manovers. Beam type is uninterceptable whatsoever.


This is basically something like a Rail or Gauss cannon. So it's like particle-type, but instead it fires heavy matter. This type of projectile is slow and has below average hitchances and it is also further influenced if the target is moving at relatively high speed. Also, on impact, this type of weapon impacts. It does not cause an explosion, but is able to just slice through any armour. Basically, it ignores armour and can penetrate into a ships interior. Can be intercepted and more easily so than particle type can.

Do you think this description and the implicated abilities make sense ? Thank you for assisting me in trying to further polish my setting and its implications on gameplay.

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    $\begingroup$ the usual go-to ressource for realistic science-fiction: projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/spacegunintro.php $\endgroup$ – m.fuss Jan 23 '17 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ Can someone explain to me why this was downvoted twice ? $\endgroup$ – user431806 Jan 23 '17 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ It got downvoted because the question is too broad. Check out the space-combat tag that you used. The questions in that tag are all much more specific. This is just too broad for this site; for a broad-based assessment check out Atomic Rockets in the link @m.fuss provided. If you have questions or disagree with what they are saying, pose those questions here. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Jan 23 '17 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion That is not a valid reason to downvote. Downvote bad content not questions that are too broad. If the question is too broad, vote to close it ans ideally, propose a solution. If you donwvote now, will you come back later to undo it if the question gets improved? I think most people won't come back. This is another reason why downvoting such questions is a bad thing. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Oct 3 '17 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ @user431806 You should try to focus the question on only one type of weapon, even if this means asking the same question multiple times but with a different type of weapon for each one of them. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Oct 3 '17 at 18:49

You have the start of a classic "rock/paper/scissors" combat system. Beams can't beat heavy armor but heavy slow ships get clobbered by the matter-type gun. Matter guns can be dodged but then light fast ships are easy to be cut by beams, etc. This should allow you to set up some asymmetric opposing forces. The weapons should drive the tactics (stay at a distance beam ships versus heavily armored close in ships armed with matter guns, etc).

In the "real world" usually one weapon system proves to be superior and is either copied by the rest or allows one group to achieve dominance (consider how uniform main battle tanks, air superiority fighters, or infantry rifles are across all armies) but for a game then diversity is important, as are multiple modes of play.

R/P/S type weapon interactions allow for unique factions and different battle tactics if they are unevenly distributed (i.e. not all factions have access to all weapon types). It seems unlikely that these specific weapon types will occur (the typical "hard science" weapons are missiles, lasers, and rail guns), especially the cutting beam (though a pulsed laser could kinda act like one, I suppose), but they are very thematic and often used in sci-fi so why not? So long as you can balance the weapons between factions (between players of equal skill, each faction should have a 50% chance to win against each other faction), go for it.


Some notes

Delivery of energy: - matter (particles with mass >0) - subluminal (if Einstein is right) - pure energy - particles with rest mass of zero - cannot move any slower than the speed of light.


  • If it's a weapon, it is meant to deliver damage.
  • If it delivers damage, it interacts with matter.
  • If interacts with matter, can always be intercepted - e.g. spray enough water around the target and the nowadays LaWS become as ineffective as being operated in fog conditions (in space, just use nano-carbon or silica to diffuse/defocus the beam).
    The short-but-powerful pulse is harder to diffuse, you don;t know where/when's going to hit, need to maintain countermeasures at all time, which may be fatal for the defender's resource reserves.


  1. The "Particle-type" - look to me like a description of a laser (the "normal world" lasers deliver the energy through photons, but feel free to invent other "zero rest-mass particles" if so you like). What seems essential is it's "pulsed" trait - a very short burst of energy, thus extremely powerful (in terms of energy/time) - see Ultra-short pulse

  2. The "Beam-type" - can be realized by both matter and energy as a delivery mechanism. Avoidance/counter-measures may be different for the two, even if both would maintain the beam time for seconds.

  3. The "Matter-type" - sounds like "macroscopic mechanical impactor". But... what about a "plasma blob"/"ion cannon"/ball lightning - it's not a beam (the particles move as a group) and delivers damage by both impact (of many subatomic particles) and energy (the magnetic field that keeps the particle together collapses on impact and cause overload by the current it induces in the hull).


Looks like a decent standard set of space weaponry to me.

On particle type: Since your particles are so exotic, you could argue that they completely ignore gravitational effects, thus the increased hit chance.

On beam type: I do disagree with the concept of armour interaction here. The main problem in space is overheating, since there is no way to dissipate energy except radiation. If you pump a ship full of energy via a beam weapon, it would start to glow, the armour beginning to melt. A good way to soften up for ballistic weaponry. Also the affected ship would become a very bright spot on your infra-red sensors until it simply breaks apart. On the other side, firing such weaponry would most likely also produce a fair amount of waste energy, for which the same rules apply.

On matter weaponry: Note that the acceleration of matter always produces an equal force into the opposite direction (look up Newton's laws). As a result, firing a full broadside by whatever means will induce a drift in the opposite direction upon your ship. Metallic shells might stick to a metallic hull due to an effect called cold welding, instead of doing damage. However the momentum of the shells will transfer to the hit object, so even if they do not penetrate, if you concentrate fire on a specific spot you may send you opponent tumbling around.

Also note that matter and beams (since they consist of particles that have a weight) are influenced by gravity. If your ships are rather massive or there are planets, moons, stars or something nearby you will have to account for that.

  • $\begingroup$ "Note that the acceleration of matter always produces an equal force into the opposite direction (look up Newton's laws)." - it is the same with photons, the conservation of momentum is universal. This being the case, one can assume the engines/computers (supposedly still functional) of both ships can compensate for the change of attitude due to lost/gain momentum. $\endgroup$ – Adrian Colomitchi Jan 23 '17 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed. I criminally omitted this fact. Corrective steering is of course an action, but I think if you fire your supercharged turbo-laser particle beam cannon battery (TM) it might be too powerful to be countered immediately by your navigation thrusters. That might be fun... $\endgroup$ – fer-rum Jan 23 '17 at 16:16

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