Issue: 29
System: Full Thrust
Publisher: Ground Zero Games

In Dockyard Hands
by David Manley

"The Frontier Force can hold the outer systems for a month at the most. After that we will be facing Kra'Vak assaults on the Core systems themselves. We need the Empreza back in service ASAP. If you fail to pull her out of dock this week YOU will be responsible for the consequences."

The dock master sighed, looking at a twenty year career on the line.Admiral Wendy Tompkins was not a woman to mince her words.

He took a deep breath and replied, "Replacing the defensive systems will take six weeks at least, although I could give you a reduced capability in two. FTL will be on line, but one of the NSD nacelles has been unshipped for replacement. Minimum installation time for that piece is one month.If you want her sooner she will be down to half power"

"Two weeks. That'll have to do", Tompkins scowled, "but I don'tlike it, the Empreza is the only carrier available this side of the Divide".

Life's a bitch, isn't it?

So there you are, with your nice new NAC fleet, all painted up and ready to go in your club's latest campaign. Two carriers, sixteen cruisers, twenty destroyers and a load of auxiliary craft. The referee outlines the situation- a sneak attack by your neighbours has caught you on the hop, but no matter,with the fleet at your disposal there should be no problem meeting the threat. But wait! The referee passes you some bad news. One of your carriers is in refit, along with three of the cruisers and four destroyers. Four of the cruisers and four destroyers are undergoing post refit training. Another four cruisers and three destroyers are undergoing maintenance, and to cap it all one of the cruisers and two destroyers have reported serious weapon or propulsion system defects, taking them out of service for repairs. Your fleet is reduced to an active force of one carrier, four cruisers and seven destroyers. Time to call the shipyard...

Most wargamers involved in campaign games exist in a utopian universe where 100% availability of their forces is the norm. Of course action damage and casualties will reduce the number of toys you have to play with, but if you have twenty ships in your fleet, twenty is how many you have on day one of the war.

Real life is not like that (although the military would dearly wish it to be so), especially in the naval world from which so many parallels with Full Thrust can be drawn. Ships will undergo long refit periods, possibly involving weapon and systems upgrades, taking the ships out of service for a year or more. In between refits there are a number of shorter maintenance periods typically lasting from four to twenty weeks where more routine but nonetheless essential maintenance is undertaken. At the end of refits and maintenance periods the ship will need to undergo trials to prove the new or repaired systems, and crew efficiency will have been eroded by the period away from operations, requiring extensive training to bring them back up to standard. Don't forget also that the crew may like to go on leave, and this will reduce availability of the ship as well. The upshot of this is that a fleet commander is only likely to have around 50% of their vessels available for immediate operations at a specified time. If a crisis develops there is usually a mad rush to pull ships out of refit and maintenance periods, upcoming maintenance is cancelled and training programmes are accelerated (does this sound familiar to anyone who was around Portsmouth or Plymouth in 1982?).

Obviously there is a definite advantage in knowing when the war is goingto begin. Refits, maintenance periods and training can be arranged so that maximum availability at a certain date can be achieved. This was typical of the way the German High Seas Fleet operated in World War One, arranging for maximum availability of their major warships when a sortie against the British was planned. In contrast the Royal Navy had to be ready for operations 365 days a year so that numbers of available battleships were usually down for the reasons already described - as a result the Germans could offset their numerical deficiencies to some degree.

The use of a system which applied these real life constraints on ship availability to campaigns set in the Full Thrust universe (or any other universe for that matter) would give the players more problems to solve and would in itself act to generate scenarios and scenario backgrounds.

Ship Life and the State of the Fleet

For the sake of argument, let us say that a warship in the FT universe is designed for a twenty year life. If you think this is too short, then feel free to tinker with the figures. That goes with anything and everything in this article. Anyway, the lifetime profile of such a ship, following builders trials, acceptance and initial crew training could look something like this:

Year Activity Number of 'Lost' Weeks Number of 'Operational' Weeks
1-4 Active service. One Maintenance Period (MP) per year, each lasting an average of 6 weeks, followed by training lasting 4 weeks. Leave periods lasting 4 weeks in total. 56 152
5 Major Maintenance Period (MMP) period, lasting 20 weeks, followed by 8 weeks trials, 8 weeks training and 4 weeks leave 40 12
6-9 Active service - as 1-4 56 152
10 Enters Refit Period (RP). 52 0
11 Refit Period completed after 15 months, then 9 months of trials, training etc. 52 0
12-15 Active service - as 1-4 56 152
16 Major Maintenance Period (MMP) - as 5 40 12
17-20 Active Service - as 1-4, but workload increases since machinery and older systems are becoming worn out and take more effort to keep on line, therefore average length of MP increases to 10 weeks (18 weeks) 72 136
21 Sold/scrapped.
Totals 424 616

Thus, for a life of 1040 weeks (the year of completion is excluded) the ship is out of action for 424 weeks, or 42% of the time. This is a bearable pain for large classes of ships, but imagine the problem if you are considering a class of one or two ships.

At the start of a campaign the referee or players should determine the state of the fleet. The best way of doing this is to produce a timeline for each ship, showing each of the periods above. The state of the fleet is easily determined by looking down the list of ships and counting whichones are in refit, those on leave etc. If the numbers involved are too great or a quicker system is required, the time spent in each Readiness State(refit, leave etc. ) are roughly as follows:

Readiness State % Roll
Refit Period (RP) 5 1-5
Maintenance Period (MP) 10 6-15
Major Maintenance Period (MMP) 5 16-20
Trials 5 21-25
Training 10 26-35
Leave 5 36-40
Active Service 60 41+

For large classes of ships allocate the ships in the class into each readiness state (e.g. 5% in refit, 10% in training etc.). For small classes or individual ships the state of the ship should be decided by rolling against the above values (e.g. on a roll of 34 your only carrier is in a training period).

The table above assumes a normal operating regime. If maintenance schedules are massaged to assure maximum operational availability (e.g. you know when the war will start and you are "stacking the deck") cancel leave and halve the other non-operational percentages. For crucial individual ships, such as assault ships or flagships, certain availability can be achieved - after all, it would be annoying to plan an invasion and then find that your only assault ship is in refit!

All Change!!

Once the balloon goes up everyone in the operations and support organisations will be desperately looking to bring non-operational ships back into service. I would suggest the following times are required for each readiness state, depending on whether timelines or the simpler percentage system are in use:

Readiness State Timeline Method Percentage Method
Refit Period (RP) Half the remaining time in hand, up to a maximum of 10 weeks 8 weeks
Major Maintenance Period (MMP) Half the remaining time in hand, up to a maximum of 6 weeks 4 weeks
Maintenance Period (MP) 1 week 1 week
Trials 1 week 1 week
Training Immediate Immediate
Leave 1d6 days 1d6 days

OK. So the crisis is upon you and you know roughly how long it will take before your ships can be brought back into service if you issue a call-up now. But should you do it? Obviously there will be a penalty if ships are brought back into service at the rush. The potential effects are as follows:

Called Back from a Repair Period: Roll for FTL, each Weapon, FireCon, and Screen. On a roll of 5 or 6 some aspect of the system could not be made available in time and the system is therefore counted as destroyed. This is the equivalent of a second threshold point. Roll again for the Normal Space Drive - on a roll of 5 or 6 the NSD rating is halved (and the drive is lost if further damage is caused by threshold point loss).

Called Back from a Major Maintenance Period: Roll for FTL, each Weapon, FireCon, Screen and the Normal Space Drive.On a roll of 6 some aspect of the system could not be made available in time and the system is therefore counted as destroyed. This is the equivalentof a first threshold point. Roll again for the Normal Space Drive - on a roll of 5 or 6 the NSD rating is halved (but the drive rating is halved again if further damage is caused by threshold point loss).

Called Back from a Maintenance Period or Trials: Roll for each Weapon of a particular type, a single FireCon, and for a single Screen. On a roll of 6 some aspect of the system could not be made available in time and the system is therefore counted as destroyed. Roll also for the Normal Space Drive. A roll of 6 means the NSD rating is reduced by 1.

Called Back from Training: Roll a d6 for the ship's combat efficiency - on a roll of 6 all ranges of the ship's weapons are reduced by 33%. For example, 'A' class batteries would normally roll three dice at 0-12, but now roll 3 dice at 0-8,two dice at 8-16 etc. The Screen rating of the ship is reduced by1 unless it has been reduced for any other reason. Also roll for mechanical efficiency - on a roll of 6 the NSD rating is reduced by 1. These effectscan be removed if the ship is pulled out of combat duty and undergoes a 4 week training period.

Called Back From Leave: The crew are seriously pissed off, otherwise no effect apart from the delay.

Note that these effects are cumulative - a ship pulled out of a Maintenance Period rolls for the effect of missing the maintenance period andthe effects of missing the post -MP training, whilst a ship pulled from an MMP or refit rolls for the effects of missing the MMP or refit, plus the effects of missing trials and training.

Cancelled Maintenance

Once the campaign begins, players will also be faced with decisions as to whether they should cancel planned Maintenance Periods, refits etc. If they do choose to cancel, players will find their ships begin to deteriorateas systems become worn out.

  1. Each time a Maintenance Period is missed roll for system failure as if the ship has been called back from an MP, and once each month until the MP is carried out.
  2. If the planned date for an MMP is passed, roll twice roll for system failure as if the ship has been called back from an MP when the MMP is missed, and once each month until the MMP is carried out.
  3. If the planned date for a Refit Period is passed, roll once for system failure as if the ship has been called back from an MMP when the RP is missed, and once each week failure as if the ship has been called back from an MP until the MMP is carried out.

Again, the effects here are cumulative - if a ship misses an MP and then goes on to miss an MMP it rolls twice per month for system failure.

One thing that should be noted is that 'damage' accumulating from system failure due to missed maintenance, and also from being pulled out of MMPs, refits etc. can be repaired using the normal campaign repair rules. However, doing so will tie up valuable repair resources which may be needed elsewhereto clear up action damage.

Examples

Both examples use the Corvette on page 14 of Full Thrust as their basis ship.

Example 1: The 'Lesak' is in an RP when she is recalled to duty. The owning playeris using the percentage system and so she is available in eight weeks. When she re-enters service the system rolls are made. Rolls are made for the FTL, NSD, PDAF, FireCon and both 'C' batteries. Rolls are 5, 2, 4, 6, 1 and 3. The rolls for FTL and FireCon are failed, so these are inoperative. Because the Trials programme is not completed, further rolls are required. In this case a 6 is needed for failure and only the NSD fails. The Thrust Rating is reduced by 1 from 8 to 7. Finally the Training Period is also missed, and both rolls are failed. The maximum range of the 'C' class batteries is reduced to 8 and the Thrust Rating is reduced by 1 again to 6. Disappointed by the resulting condition of the ship, the owning player sends the 'Lesak' to a Fleet Repair Facility to have the FTL fixed.

Example 2: The 'Sorcha' is due to begin an MMP, but is the only vessel available for convoy escort duty, so the MMP is cancelled. System failure rolls are made on the start date. Rolls are made for the FTL, NSD, PDAF, FireCon and both 'C' batteries. Rolls are 2, 6, 3, 2, 5 and 1. The roll for NSD is failed and the Thrust Rating is reduced to 7. One month later the system rolls are repeated. This time the scores are 4, 3, 6, 3, 1 and 4. The PDAF has now failed. The owning player decides to pull the Sorcha out of operations after the next convoy to fix the PDAF and NSD.

To Scrap or Not To Scrap....

One aspect which I have not yet touched on is the economics of ship operation. I do not intend to go into any great detail since such considerations are not really relevant to the majority of campaigns, but they may become so if a campaign lasts for many years of game time. As a guide, assume the annual running costs of a starship are 10% of the build cost up to the Refit Period, 15% between the RP and the next MMP, 20% between the MMP and the planned disposal date, and 25% per year rising by 5% per annum if the disposal date is passed and the ship is run on. Again looking at the Corvette as an example, we see that in the first 9 years of her life she costs 4.3 points to operate. From year 10 to year 15 she costs 6.45 points, from year 16 to year 20 she costs 8.6 points, and from year 21 onwards 10.75 points. Using such a system you will pretty soon find that your navies can't afford to keep old warships going.

Conclusion

You may feel that the above is a nause which is only going to slow down your particular campaign. If so then fair enough, but if you decide to adopt the system of something similar your campaigns will gain in 'realism' (if such a thing is possible in an F/SF game) and your players will find another massive headache, particularly if they are careless enough to allow the enemy to attack their repair facilities. I have not covered aspects suchas repair yards or naval bases - see page 35 of the Full Thrust rules for these. However, the need to provide defensive cover for facilities such as these will be important under these rules (and now that you know whether ships are being refitted you are also faced with new scenario possibilities,such as raids on dockyards to destroy and/or capture enemy vessels whilst they are at their most vulnerable.

Summary of Ship Life Plan

Year 1-4
Operations - 38 weeks
MP - 4 weeks
Training - 4 weeks
Leave - 4 weeks
RC - 10% of PC
Year 5
Operations - 12 weeks
MMP - 20 weeks
Trials - 8 weeks
Training - 8 Weeks
Leave - 4 weeks
RC - 10% of PC
Year 6-9
Operations - 38 weeks
MP - 4 weeks
Training - 4 weeks
Leave - 4 weeks
RC - 10% of PC

Year 10-11
RP - 64 weeks
Trials - 20 weeks
Training - 20 weeks
RC - 15% of PC

Year 12-15
Operations - 38 weeks
MP - 4 weeks
Training - 4 weeks
Leave - 4 weeks
RC - 15% of PC
Year 16
Operations - 12 weeks
MMP - 20 weeks
Trials - 8 weeks
Training - 8 Weeks
Leave - 4 weeks
RC - 20% of PC
Year 17-20
Operations - 34 weeks
MP - 10 weeks
Training - 4 weeks
Leave - 4 weeks
RC - 25% of PC

Ed Note: Full Thrust is a simple, flexible and highly popular game of starship combat which must rate as one of the all time Classic games. Full Thrust has won the Best SF Rules category every time the SFSFW Awards have been held. For further details regarding price and availability, send an SSAE to Ground Zero Games PO Box 337, Needham Market, Suffolk, IPA 8LN.