Stars & Lasers!! Simple Spaceship Combat Rules

Something I have always wanted to do is write my own wargaming rule set, I think that most wargamers over the years have probably felt like adjusting at least one of the rule sets that they use, maybe something in the shooting or the melee or the morale just does not work the way they want it to, well I wanted to go just a little further and write the whole set from scratch…. And well I have finally done that.

Stars & Lasers is my first attempt at producing a complete wargame rule set, it is a spaceship combat game, a very simple rule set that gives a cinematic feel to the miniatures on the tabletop.

Damn it was much harder than I had ever imagined, I really have had a small glimpse into how hard some of these other rules writers must have worked to get their rule sets out into print, I doff my cap to them.

Why did I decide that the wargaming world needed yet another set of rules, and why spaceship combat, surely there are plenty of good sets out there already covering this genre.

I have loved space combat since the first time I saw the star ship Enterprise in a firefight with a Klingon bird of prey, then I saw spaceships fighting in many sci-fi films and I was hooked, space combat has always looked exciting… but after playing several space combat games I realised that it just didn’t feel the same on a table top with miniatures.

I was looking for that moment when the hero in the small spaceship suddenly swoops in for an attack and manages to turn the whole battle around, well that can happen in Stars & Lasers, on occasions the lowly corvette can really hurt that big battleship or the lone fighter can really make a difference in the game, that’s the game I wanted.

Yeah, I know fighting in space would not be like it is portrayed in the films, but I don’t care I didn’t want “real” I wanted a game that had that cinematic feel to the way that it played, even if it was only a little.

Over the years I have played many different spaceship games, some good and some not so good, but none have been what I had expected from a space combat game, there was always something that just never felt right or was just too complicated, or the rules slowed the gameplay down too much to be enjoyable, so it was time for me to start thinking about a rule set of my own.

First thing I did was make a list of the things that I wanted or didn’t want in my rule set, things like –

No to complicated rules, yes to fast game play, and ship data cards for easy weapons / speed / damage management, a simple movement system ( with no hexes ) and with no to written orders, yes to random ship activation so you just don’t know when your ships will be able to do something during a turn, and yes to simple mechanics for shooting / range / damage, and to be able to use any spaceships from any range.

These were some of the main things that I wanted to have in my rules, a few others crept in while writing and play testing but that I am guessing is the same while producing any rules system.

It only took a couple of weeks to get the first draft of the basic rules written, but after the first game or two I realised that they needed a lot more work, the basics were there but there were many things that didn’t feel right or work as I had first imagined they would.

Some of the ship stats were not right either so I spent a few nights with some ships on the table and rolled lots and lots of dice, this I found very boring and time consuming so I got my son to write a small program on his website that allowed me to run fake battles between things like three or four frigates and a battleship over and over again, just to give me some idea if the points values / weapons / damage points etc. were about right or not, if the battleship always won then maybe they were to strong, or if the frigates always won then maybe they were to strong etc. etc. ok this was not perfect but it did give me some stats to work with and a way of determining points values for the ships in the game, and it also saved me rolling hundreds and hundreds of dice over and over again on my own on the table top.

From this small simple program, I ended up with a reasonable points list for my ships, and in the final version of the rules there are twelve ship types, plus space stations and alien ships, plus two types of fighters, once I had that lot I then needed datasheets for them all so I had to start designing them which was a huge job all on its own.

As well as these I then added ten different weapons systems, plus point defense systems, mines and missiles, also a couple of different armour types, most of these are found in the “advanced rules section” people can add as many of these extras as they like to make their games play the way they want.

Then I decided that I wanted to add some scenarios to the rules… these were fun to write, also they gave me a good excuse to get my spaceships on the table to play games.

I finally managed to put together ten different scenarios including ones like “Supply Run” where you have to escort your supply ships across the table, “Hunt the Queen” where you have to destroy the ship that a queen is making her escape in, and “Hit them while they are down” a raid on a repair station, all of these and the others allow people a chance to play something other than just a straight forward meeting type battle ( although that is included as well )

I think that these rules have taken just over a year to get from an idea to the finished product, this has been a lot of work and at the same time a lot of fun.

What do you need to play?

Other than a few ships and some dice and a tape measure everything you need is in the rule book including all the ships datasheets, turn templates and things like missiles / mines / fighters, all are there to be printed out and used in your games.

The basic game can be played with a couple of ships a side and can be played on a dining room table in less than an hour, and can still produce a fun fast and deadly game.

Move over to a large gaming table and add a few more ships, one of the scenarios from the rules, and some of the advanced weapons and you have a game that can last a few hours.

Also, you can use any spaceship models you want as long as your opponent knows what each one is meant to be, and the models and bases are of a similar size in both fleets.

I use three or four different companies ships in my games, and I have also made some of my own, they all work well together and against other people’s ships.

I didn’t do this all on my own though, I had help from a few people, help with things like play testing to help with rules problems, and ideas for extra things in the game, so a big thank you goes out to all who helped.

Would I do it all again….. You bet.

What now?

Well now I am writing the first supplement to go with the main rules, this will include a few more scenarios, new ships and their datasheets, also a couple of different types of scenery and the rules for using them in your games.

For anyone interested in seeing what the rules are like, they are on sale here ––Lasers?src=latest_rule_sets

I also have a Facebook page where you can post pictures of your ships and your games –