Our group played Unity for the first time this past weekend. I don't think all of us had actually got together for a space game since Admiralty Edition!
First off we ended up really liking the default movement system with pre-plotting. Our group had previously been a bit lazy and had opted to use the Movement Point based system in AE, which while quick and easy to execute, doesn't necessarily give the "feel" of space movement (its more like driving a car). While it took some time to explain and get our heads wrapped around the engine requirements, it works beautifully. I'm especially impressed with out concise the rules are. There is a lot of stuff at work here (being allowed to accelerate to very high speeds even with a low engine rating, having to slow down to turn, sideslips being recognized as partial turns and of course my pet peeve - no going backwards!), would have taken me many more pages with a bunch of limitations - but in Unity its just summed up in 3 lines! The book keeping is also very minimal.
One player indicated that a limitation to plotting movement might be that it limits the number of ships you can really control - but that lead to a discussion about how running battle groups of identical ships would simplify that (you can just decide for one ship and then copy the same orders for the others and keep them in a tight formation).
In the past we'd also used sequential turn order for movement/combat - having everything go simultaneously is just the way to go. I've had to do this for other games (e.g. Squadron Strike), but I can't state how many issues this gets ride of. Nobody gets to see who moves where before you decide your own movement (which makes for more tactical thinking and less just being reactionary) and everyone gets a chance to unload their weapons before they take damage.
Really liked the seeker rules as well. This will be a great boon for the SFU Unity supplement - as seeking weapons are such a big part of the SFU. The movement is dead simple and the timing of the various phases is spot on. If you are close enough to your target they aren't going to have a chance to shoot down your seekers unless they've brought dedicated defensive weapons (i.e. anti-fighter batteries or weapons with the "defensive" trait or tractor beams), which feels about right. Another very cool thing is we were playing with a few asteroids and one of the players managed to move and get an asteroid between himself and the seeking weapon, which forced the seeking weapon to move into the asteroid. So great when you can use the environment like this!
Of course those familiar with AE will be right at home with the combat. Same to hit and impact rolls as before. Damage is ever so slightly different. Probably the biggest difference will be in learning what all the revised weapon traits do. I think we'll probably make up our own cheat sheet listing them all, as that seemed to be the thing we had to look up the most. Applying the damage was quick and easy. Getting to choose your own weapon hits speeds things up - maybe lets you take certain liberties on your first few weapons lost (like destroying a weapon you know won't be in arc for the next turn or two or to eliminate an expendable weapon already fired), but because of the limits on the right, you won't be escaping meaningful weapon damage for long.
Anyway looking forward to doing up some of our own designs and hitting the table again in a few weeks. Will try to take enough pictures and notes to do a proper AAR.
The Universal Game of Starship Combat
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