I finally got the Pursale ship deck sketches up last week but then got completely distracted by a number of other things. One of those was the decision to write up my concept for a complete “zero-to-hero” style Star Frontiers campaign that takes the characters from starting PCs to major players in the Frontier with high level spaceship skills that uses all the published modules. The first of those posts will be next week.
While working on that, I talk about the space battle around Volturnus at the end of the first 3 modules. The modules hand wave it away as, at the time, the spaceship rules weren’t published so there was no way to run it. In this post, we’ll look at my concept for that battle. What sathar ships are there, and what the UPF sends to the fight. If you read my Detailed Frontier Timeline posts, you know the answers as this has already been covered in the posts there, but I thought I’d lay out some of the rationale behind the decisions and set the game up for an epic Knight Hawks board game battle. And I’ll tell you how it played out when I ran through the scenario to generate the timeline posts.
Sathar Ship Design
In my universe, all the sathar ships of destroyer size or larger are also troop transports. While the UPF tend to have small crews and lots of allocated space, the sathar pack in lots of ground troops on to each ship.
You can see an example (and more detailed explanation) of this in my Sathar Destroyer Technical Manual (link goes to product page on DriveThruRPG – it’s a free product) that details the interior of a sathar destroyer. That ship carries over 500 ground troops packed into its bowels.
Based on the ship sizes, I’ve extrapolated that the light cruisers carry about 4,500 troops, the heavy cruisers carry over 15,000 and the assault carriers transport around 10,000 troops in addition to up to 12 fighters. While I haven’t completely fleshed out those larger vessels, this is a close enough estimate for this article.
How Many Sathar Ships Are Involved
Now that we know how many troops each ship transports, we can come up with a reasonable composition for the invasion fleet that is attacking Volturnus.
The boxed text from the adventure gives us the following clues:
All that can be done has been done to prepare the planet for defense against the hideous worms. The initial reports arriving at the Eorna complex beneath the ruins of Volkos are good; the Eorna planetary defense batteries have kept the Sathar fleet at bay, and many of the Sathar shuttles have been destroyed attempting to land ground troops on the planet
The successful landing of a large Sathar army has been detected. After scanning the planet, the Sathar advanced in the direction of Volkos. They should arrive in full battle array sometime tomorrow morning. They number at least 30,000 plus robots and other weapons!”
This tells us that there are at least 30,000 troops on the ground and that there were more to begin with as many were destroyed in the landing attempt.
So, we want a mix of ships that can transport something over 30,000 troops. Based on the mix of ships given in the Knight Hawks campaign book, I settled on the following mix of ships for the fleet:
- 2 frigates
- 6 Destroyers
- 2 Light Cruisers
- 2 Heavy Cruisers
- 1 Assault Carrier with 8 fighters
This gives me a total troop compliment of about 52,000 troops plus robots, attack creatures, and heavy weapons. We can assume that about 40% of the troops were killed by the planetary defense system leaving about 30,000 for the assault on Volkos.
The UPF Contingent
We have to remember that this is not a planned engagement in an on-going war. Rather it is a sudden call to arms that has to be filled in at short notice with no idea of what the opposing force will be. In fact, given the overwhelming number of ships that were seen at Pale 50-60 years earlier (in my history), the UPF might be loathe to commit any ships fearing that they are sending them into a deathtrap. Regardless, the ships are sent, but they are assembled on short notice.
The most obviously available ships are the Pale militia ships, consisting of a frigate and three assault scouts. They would almost certainly be pressed into service by Spacefleet as they are only one jump away. If Laco (in Dixon’s Star) had a militia, they too would probably have been involved but Laco is only an outpost.
Streel is headquartered on Pale, and it is almost certain that they have a number of military or paramilitary vessels at their disposal. They might be conscripted by Spacefleet or possibly even volunteered as Streel has a definite interest in opening (and exploiting) Volturnus. Keeping the sathar out of the system and off the planet is just good business practice. So Streel will probably send some ships along.
That leaves Spacefleet. Strike Force Nova might be around. It patrols around the Frontier constantly so there is a chance it is nearby. The nearest large group of ships with a known location is Task Force Prenglar, stationed in its namesake system. The problem is that it’s three systems away from Zebulon. Which means it’s going to take some time to get there and may not arrive in time.
If you just use the distances between the stars as travel time, it’s only 15 days. That’s they way the Alpha Dawn rules described interstellar travel. However, the Knight Hawks rules say you have to accelerate up to 1% the speed of light to make the jump and then slow down at your destination. That acceleration, at 1g takes a little over 83 hours or just over 4 days. And then 4 days to slow down. Assuming some maneuvering at the beginning and ending of the trip and checking vectors and such just before Void entry, a single interstellar hop really takes about 9 days, regardless of distance. Maybe a bit longer on long jumps due to extra astrogation calculation time.
Now we can speed this up a bit by accelerating faster but for a long transit, that has detrimental effects on crew. If you expect to be coming out of the Void into a firefight, you don’t want to have spent the last two weeks strapped into an acceleration chair at 2-3 gees.
We can also speed up the transit by not slowing down in the intermediate systems. Then we only have the astrogation time to worry about. That might work for the Dixon’s Star system, but they will have to slow down in Truane’s Star to rendezvous with the ships from that system and coordinate their jump. So assuming ships from Prenglar blow through Dixon’s Star without stopping it will take them 4.5 days to get to Void speed in Prenglar, 2.5 days in Dixon’s Star to do the astrogation calculations, 4.5 days to slow down at Pale in the Truane’s Star system. Then they need to accelerate and jump to Zebulon which will take another 9 days. All told, that’s 20.5 days of travel. Add to that any time it takes to assemble the Task Force and get the ships ready to leave.
What other options are there? In the description of Spacefleet, it describes the two Task Forces and Strike Force Nova and then says that there are other smaller units as well. I decided to take advantage of this.
At the same time as the events are unfolding on Volturnus, Streel and Pan Galactic are locked into what will be known as Laco’s War, the first corporate war. In my games, this war is just starting to heat up. Because of that, Spacefleet had recently dispatched a medium sized Patrol Group to the system to attempt put a damper on the rising hostilities. Patrol Group Virgo, consisting of 2 light cruisers, 2 destroyers, 2 assault scouts, and an assault carrier with 8 fighters, has just recently arrived in Dixon’s Star. That puts them marginally closer only requiring 18 days to get to Volturnus with the advantage that since they are already out on patrol, they can depart immediately.
So once the call comes in from the PCs, Spacefleet takes a day or two to make the decision and then dispatches Patrol Group Virgo from Dixon’s Star. In Truane’s Star they pick up the Pale militia as well as a frigate, 4 corvettes, and 3 assault scouts that Streel sends along on the expedition. With that, the ships arriving at Volturnus from the UPF are:
- 8 Assault Scouts
- 4 Corvettes
- 2 Frigates
- 2 Destroyers
- 2 Light cruisers
- 1 Assault Carrier with 8 fighters
From a campaign perspective, I have the UPF fleet arrive just as the battle on the ground is ending, driving off the sathar ships.
The Knight Hawks Scenario
We now have the order of battle. The sides are fairly evenly matched. The UPF fleet has more ships, but the sathar have slightly more hull points. The UPF’s forces are concentrated into its smaller vessels, lots of little assault scouts and corvettes that can potentially be picked off fairly easily.
This scenario can be played by any number of people. Simply divide into teams and each team takes a side. The UPF forces divide fairly easily into three groups, one playing the UPF ships, one the Pale militia, and one the Streel ships. Although the number of ships and their strength isn’t evenly distributed between those groups. The sathar ships can be divided up any way that team sees fit.
A planet counter representing Volturnus is placed in the center of the map.
The sathar are the defenders in this scenario. Sathar ships, with the exception of the frigates, are all placed in orbit around Volturnus with a speed of zero. They have just recently finished dropping off all their troops. Since the frigates are not troop carriers, they can start in any hex within 5 hexes of the planet with a speed of up to 5 hexes/turn.
The UPF are the attackers. They all start along one of the short sides of the map. The individual ships can be anywhere on that side, but all the ships have to be on the same side. They must start within 3 hexes of the map edge and be moving at any speed up to 15 hexes/turn. All the UPF ships have to start at the same speed.
Escaping the Battle
A ship is considered to have escaped from battle if it moves off any edge of the map with a) no ships in pursuit, or b) is out of weapon range and has a higher ADF of any pursuing ships.
Preserve the Fleet
Heavy cruisers and assault carriers are important vessels in the sathar navy. If the tide of battle seems to be going against the sathar, they will try to pull back to preserve these larger vessels, sacrificing the smaller ones if necessary (even if it means ramming) to delay the UPF ships and allow the larger vessels to escape.
The sathar claim victory if they can destroy all the UPF vessels.
The UPF claim a complete victory if all the sathar vessels are destroyed. If any of the sathar vessels escape, it is only a partial victory.
When I Played
I played this out once using the full Advanced Combat rules of the Knight Hawks boardgame. I wanted to test the plausibility of this mix of ships in the scenario. Basically I was playing to make sure it was possible for the UPF to win. I definitely thought the sathar would have the advantage. It turned into quite the slugfest. However, the UPF got in some lucky early blows with the assault scouts living up to their hype and taking out nearly half of the sathar fleet by round 3 of the game after losing only a single assault scout.
In the end, the sathar fleet was routed, escaping with only 1 frigate, 2 destroyers, and a heavy cruiser. The other heavy cruiser and assault carrier were lost on that fateful round 3. The UPF only lost a Pale militia assault scout, and a light cruiser and assault scout from the Spacefleet contingent, but almost no ship escaped unscathed. The die rolls favored the UPF and it ended up being a very lopsided game. I suspect if played through several more times, it could go either way.
Do you like these Knight Hawks game scenarios? Would you like to see more of them? Should I include the statistics for the ships? If you play this scenario out, let me know which rule set you used (Basic or Advanced) and how it turned out.
6 thoughts on “Battle of Zebulon”
This might be a scenario when a Rim Coalition scout ship or two shows up and hangs back from the fight to observe what is going on. After all, until the Zebulon route is opened up, there is no way for the Frontier to have contact with the Rimmers.
That’s a good take on it. I haven’t really thought too much about the contact between the Rim and the Frontier but I’ve always assumed it occurred first after the first sathar war but was fairly sparse. Maybe this is what opens it up more. That’s a good topic to explore in a future article.
I like the writeup, but see no reason to slow down in Pale. You can rendezvous at speed and just do the calculations. That is why the pilots get paid the big bucks! (And have egos the size of starships). I love the Knight Hawks scenarios and will play this one when my group gets together (fall at the latest).
I have been thinking about your concept of having the Sathar Warship also double as troop carriers as well. That is a very interesting idea. If so, then most of the Sathar Warships would only leave their home systems when they are ready to go to battle since they would have very limited supplies. They would probably not patrol too much and would have the troops in suspended animation to save on the limited supplies they do have. For a UPF warship, they have at least 6 months of supplies, allowing them to patrol the Frontier for a much more extended period of time. It would also explain why the Sathar are always attacking planets, they are always short of supplies. They would need a lot of shuttles however. Interesting concept, I like it.
I just recently pulled out my Knight Hawks box from storage to start playing some KH with my teenage son. We will add this scenario to the ones we play. It will make a nice complement to the Alpha Dawn campaign.