Issue: 3

Space-Fighter Combat Rules
by Jon Tuffley

Tacship is a simplified fast-play rules system for simulating combat between manned space fighters. The game may be played on a hex grid map or on a plain table area by substituting inches for hexes and measuring turns in 60 degree increments (the same as a one hexside facing change). Fighter models should be mounted on stands, preferably with a one inch hex base, if a grid is being used.


Each player chooses one or more fighters (or designs their own) and the?type of engagement is agreed on. Players take Record Charts as necessary and fill in all the relevant details ordnance load etc... Starting velocities and vectors are announced and the models set up on the playing area.

Turn Sequences

Ships move in order of their pilot's initiative ratings, which range from one to six these can be determined randomly either by a D6 roll, or set by the scenario. The highest number moves first, then in order down to the lowest. In each ships turn, it may carry out a number of actions in the following order:

  1. Arm ordnance (prepare missiles, mines or decoys for use at the end of its movement);
  2. Accelerate or decelerate according to its available thrust;
  3. Move the FULL DISTANCE indicated by its current velocity (after applying any changes made in Step 2, including any turns it it has sufficient thrust in reserve; the ship may also fire lasers ONCE at ANY point in its movement;
  4. Fire or release any desired ordnance from those armed in Step 1; this may ONLY be done at the END of movement.


Each fighter has a certain number of thrust points available per turn, which may be used to change velocity and/or course heading. The record chart has a row of boxes for recording velocity each turn; write the speed in the next box after application of any thrust in Step 2. One thrust point will alter the speed of the fighter by one hex (or one inch) either up or down (e.g. a fighter travelling as speed 6and applying 2 thrust points could accelerate to 8, or decelerate to 4). NOTE that a ship must ALWAYS move its full velocity in any given turn - if you accelerate to 8, then you MUST move 8 hexes.

Any thrust points left over from Step 2, may be used during the actual movement (Step 3) to later course. The amount of thrust needed to change course by one hex side (60 degrees) is equal to ONE QUARTER OF THE PRESENT VELOCITY of the fighter. Thus at a speed of 4 or lower each hexside facing change costs one thrust point, but at a speed of 12, each turn costs three points. In addition, only one hexside may be turned at one time, and the ship must move straight for at least the number of hexes at the thrust cost per course change, then move straight at least the number of hexes at the thrust cost per course change. Eg. at speed 12, one hexside turn must be followed by at least three hexes of straight flight before another one hexside turn can be made. The ship might for instance, move two hexes ahead, make a one hexside left turn, move a further three hexes on its new heading, turn a further hexside to the left and finally move the seven remaining hexes, now facing back at 120 degrees to its starting course. This example assumes, of course, that the fighter has the required six thrust points available to make the turns.

Spare thrust points may NOT be saved from move to move. It will be obvious that while there is no effective maximum speed, there is a practical limit enforced by available thrust - a ship, with, say five thrust points cannot manoeuvre at over speed 20 and will just fly off the board if it cannot decelerate in time!

Laser Weapons Fire

Most ships will carry pulse lasers as direct fire armament; these may be either fixed forward firing (the most common) or turret mounted to cover either the fore or aft arcs. Fixed lasers may only engage a target directly in a straight line with the ship's heading; turreted lasers may fire at any target within their respective fire arc (see diagram). At any one point of its movement, a fighter may fire its fixed lasers, all guns firing together at one target. Two-Man fighters with turrets may fire the turret weapon(s) once also, at the same or a different time in the move.

For each shot, count the range to the target in hexes (or inches); this figure is the score that must be equalled or exceeded by a D20 roll to score a hit. Roll once for EACH weapon firing. E.g. a fighter with two fixed forward firing lasers, fires them at a target 14 hexes distant; the roll to hit is therefore 14+. rolling for each laser the player rolls a 6 and 17, giving one miss and one hit.


Each weapon has a specific Damage Code; Lasers for example, are available in three powers: Laser-1, Laser-2 and Laser-3. A hit from Laser-1 inflicts one point of damage on the target, a Laser-2 hit two points and so on... Each fighter's Record Chart has a line of number Damage Boxes; for each hit a D20 is rolled and the points of damage inflicted are marked off from the box shown by the roll. Any rolls higher than the highest numbered box for a particular fighter means that the damage starts in that highest box eg. if a fighter has 11 damage boxes and is hit by a Laser-3, a roll of 8 would mean that boxes 8,7 and 6 are marked off, any roll of 11 or higher would mean damage would be marked from the 11 box, thus crossing out boxes 11, 10 and 9.

NOTE: each damage box can only be marked ONCE: if damage is indicated to already hit boxes, simply carry it on to the next lower undamaged box, eg. in the example above, if the fighter had already been hit in boxes 7 and 6, then the roll of 8 would mark boxes 8, 5 and 4.

WHEN ANY DAMAGE REACHES 0, THE FIGHTER HAS SUSTAINED CRITICAL DAMAGE AND IS DESTROYED! NOTE that it is NOT necessary to have already hit any or all other damage boxes, thus a very lucky shot with a roll of say 1 with a Laser-2 would destroy a previously undamaged fighter.


Some fighters are naturally, more resistant to damage than others, through armour, multiple redundant systems, etc... This factor is represented by the survivability modifier. Ranging form 0 to +4, the modifier is ADDED to all die rolls used to determine damage location, and thus has the result of shifting damage further up the track of damage boxes. Note that rolls higher than the highest damage box still start at that box, the survivability just reduces the probability of serious early damage from lucky hits.


Most fighters will carry some variety of ordnance on their hardpoints. this may be a mix of missiles, mines and decoys, as chosen by the player or dictated by the scenario. During Step 1 of any turn, a player may "aim" up to TWO items of his remaining ordnance, indicating this on his record chart by crossing the ordnance off the "Hardpoint Box" and marking it in the "Armed Box". Once armed, the Ordnance may be released during Step 4 of that turn, or kept aimed for a future move; however only TWO pieces of ordnance may be kept armed at any one time, so it, say, one is not used then only a further one piece may be armed next turn. ONCE ARMED, ORDNANCE CANNOT BE DISARMED AND RETURNED TO STORE!


When an armed missile is released in Step 4, it receives a velocity of six, PLUS the current speed of the launching fighter eg if a missile is fired by a fighter moving at velocity eight, the missile's speed will be fourteen (8+6), On the turn of the launch, the missile counter is placed six hexes (or inches) directly ahead of the firing ship; in this turn the missile may not manoeuvre and may not detonate, as its weapons systems do not fuse the warhead until it is safely away from the parent ship. Write the missile's total speed in the "Running Box" on the Record Chart. AT the point of launch, the player must announce which enemy fighter is being targeted by the missile. The missile counter is then moved immediately AFTER the targeted fighter makes its move; the missile moves at its total velocity that move, and may not change speed; it may however make up to TWO one-hexside turns during its movement, but must move at least THREE hexes straight between the turns. If at ANY TIME during its movement, the missile is within two hexes of its designated target ship, the firing player may detonate the missile. Should the missile fail to reach the target in this turn, the missile counter is removed from play at the end of its movement.


Mines are basically "dormant missiles", which are discharged to the REAR of the firing ship. Their only power system is a retro-thrust until that deploys them THREE hexes to the rear of the launching fighter, then stops them dead in space. Place the mine counter three hexes straight behind the ship in Step 4: the mine then remains in this hex for the remainder of the game, unless detonated. The mine will detonate if any ENEMY fighter comes within two hexes of it at any time (it is assumed that the fighter can recognise the IFF signals of friendly fighters).

Effects of Detonation (Mines and Missiles)

Both missiles and mines have similar small nuclear warheads with proximity fusing. Because there are no real "blast" effects in vacuum, the damage is caused by the burst of radiation and the Electromagnetic Plus (EMP), which scrambles the systems and avionics of the target. A space fighter with messed-up electronics is as dead as one physically blown to bits!

If a warhead detonates TWO hexes from the target, it inflicts ONE point of damage; if it is ONE hex away (ie in the adjacent hex) roll a D6 and halve the result - rounding up - to give one to three points of damage. If the warhead goes off in the SAME hex as the target ship, it does a FULL D6 ROLL of damage (ie one to six points).

NOTE that the warhead is not forced to detonate at the two hex range - if it has the ability to get closer before going off it may do so!

All damage is marked off the damage box track in exactly the same way as for damage from laser hits, using the same D20 method to determine where the damage starts.


The third type of ordnance available is the Decoy, this is used to lure missile away from their intended targets; if a decoy is deployed during Step 4, its counter is immediately placed ANYWHERE within SIX hexes of the launching ship, in any direction. Before any missile targeted on the ship is then moved, both the targeted ship's player AND the missile-owning player roll a D20. If the missile-owning player roll is equal to less that the targeted-ship's player, the missile has been confused and it will home in on the decoy instead of the ship. If the missile roll is higher than the target's, the missile has discriminated successfully and will ignore the decoy. In either case, the decoy counter is removed at the end of the turn.

Ship Specifications & Design

Each fighter has a total of 30 points available, which may be "spent" on the following systems:

  1. DAMAGE BOXES @ 1 point per box.
  2. SURVIVABILITY MODIFIER @ 1 point per +1.
  3. THRUST POINTS @ 1 cost point per thrust point.
  4. FIXED LASERS @ 1 point per factor, eg 1 x Laser-2 costs 2 points.
  5. TURRET LASERS (2-man ships only) @ cost of fixed lasers PLUS one point per gun.
  6. HARDPOINTS for ordnance @ 2 points each (actual ordnance mix chosen later).

Example: VALKYRIE class Tacship

  1. DAMAGE; 10 boxes @ 1 point per box 10
  2. SURVIVABILITY: +2 @ 1 point per +1 2
  3. THRUST: 8 points @ 1 per thrust point 8
  4. FIXED LASERS: 2 x Laser-2 @ 2 points 4
  6. HARDPOINTS: 3 @ 2 points each 6


As an example of filling out the record chart, the Valkyrie shown above would be noted as follows:

Cross out all Damage boxes above the "10" box, indicating 10 damage points available. Write Survivability and Thrust factors in relevant boxes; note laser boxes on diagram. Finally choose ordnance for the particular mission; any combination of Missiles, Mines and Decoys may be chosen, one item per hardpoint. Eg the load for a Valkyrie might be two missiles and one decoy, three mines, two decoys and one mines, etc...

Pilot Initiative

As mentioned earlier, Initiative determines the move sequence in each game turn. It may be either set by the scenario, or chosen randomly by D6 roll (re-roll any duplicated numbers so there is a clear sequence).

The sequence of move may only altered by one thing: if a pilot manages to get "in the slot" behind an enemy (directly behind and in line with the target, and 12 hexes or less away) then the "tailing" ship ALWAYS moves AFTER the ship it is following, regardless of normal turn sequence.

Sample Ship Types