Smugglers 4 ship to ship combat system

I am always trying to improve my games so I would like to get to know today what do you think could be made better in the current Smugglers 4 ship to ship combat system. I am especially curious about comparisons to Smugglers 2 + 3 combat system and what you would like to see in future sequels.

As always we consider choosing betatesters for our games from the most active and most useful suggestions.

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34 Responses to “Smugglers 4 ship to ship combat system”

  1. ASmuggler Says:

    I like the Smugglers 4 combat system, but the Smugglers 3 combat system also had it´s bright spots. Maybe you can try to combine both?

  2. Frank Cachia Says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed playing the game except the ship to ship combat system – it took too long, it is boring and it was a hit and miss affair. Skill or tactics made no difference

  3. Niels Bauer Says:

    I am thinking about returning the factor “range” to the combat system, which however will mean a re-design of the visual appearance of the combat system. Maybe this can be arranged by including a side or top-view map of the area where you can move your ship. Possibly the current side view of the ships (which I liked a lot) will either be just a minor part of the screen or would have to disappear completely.

  4. Jim Says:

    Something Masters of Orion like? This would be great.

  5. Malakhon Says:

    If you could build the old Masters of Orion 2 system of combat into your game, I would nominate you for the nobel peace prize. They had factored in things like crew, shield, armor, and different weapons had different kinds of penetration. It is worth trying if you’ve never played it.

  6. Malakhon Says:

    [Moved by admin]

    Here are my suggestions;

    Combat Related:

    I like the diablo-esque collection of ‘skills & talents’ that can be collected. However, it would be fascinating if I could also manage shield/weapon/damage control effort.

    Imagine a simple slider on the side of the interface, where the user can direct the crew’s focus towards one of these three things.

    Putting more energy into shields means better defense. Putting more energy into “damage control” means better repair/less crew damage, more weapons is more offense.

    The player can change this for the next turn! in the current turn. This allows you to perhaps initially focus on weapons, but then later on something else.

    Crew Options:

    I love the options for crew types, such as Pirates and Space Marines. What I would like to see is that the Federation player as they increase in rank can recruit more easily special Federation only “Red Shirts”, “Blue Shirts” and “Gold Shirts” to staff their ship. The other alliances can recruit three unique units as well, for instance the “Yakuza”, “Cyber-ninja” and “Enforcers”, etc

    These slightly varied units are more for vanity, and possible events. They will also be very unlikely to attack their own nations ships, but offer a bonus when fighting ships your nation is at war with.


    I could see on LARGEST ships, the option to recruit a named “NPC”. At first the player can recruit “One Officer Slot” and you open up perhaps two more Officer slots. These slots are actualy treated like special buttons in the combat interface screen where basically you are telling “Ensign Kelly” to do his thing. “Launch every Zig” and apparently Kelly is launching his fighter wing.

    You could use these Officers to periodically launch a collection of messages “Vantru asks to speak to you, he must return to his homeworld in the Coalition system of (X) where he must ritually defeat his opponent in hand to hand combat, he asks you, his Captain to be his Chadich, and stand by his side, in case he falls in combat”.

    Then you could write a series of “pick A,B or C” quests, where the outcome is determined based on certain flags in the character’s inventory, attributes or even the ship stats. I would be happy to help you write the scripts for these.

    You could also include a system where periodically certain named Officers will not work well together and have a dispute the Captain must resolve. You could even have a shipboard romance if two npc officers are aboard the ship and again the Captain can encourage it or discourage as he sees fit.


    Admittedly, I am not all the way through your game yet, however what strikes me as an opportunity for expansion is to add a new unexplored border region. In this region are many planets yet to be explored.

    Rather than land on these planets and trade, you have other options, such as “Send down away team”. The player selects his choice of Officer and up to 4 of his crew from the crew type list. “1 red shirt, 2 blue shirts” etc.

    Then the game uses a random script device will create a simple adventure. In some cases, there is pre-scripted exploration that takes place

    reports that he has discovered an alien obelisk on the planet surface with ancient iconian writing on it, he would like to take a closer look…”

    A) no, get back up here and we’ll do further research before I send you back.
    B) yes, by all means explore it.
    C) Send down a shuttle and we’ll scoop it up, don’t get close to it.

    I can help build the randomizer for this, and we can script some missions that are connected to pepper into the system.

    • Niels Bauer Says:

      Good ideas.

      If you really want to help with the randomizer I can contact you when I start working on Smugglers again (couple of weeks / few months). Mind you it will be a lot work for you. Still it would make the exploration much more interesting. I think we could use at about 50 events like that. What do you think?

  7. Niels Bauer Says:

    Well, at this point I cannot decide whether to improve the current system or drop it and add something MOO like. MOO like would mean to drop the current skill & talent system too (at least for the combat skills & talents). But that´s what this disussion is for. To give me some opinions and make it easier to decide.

  8. dark Says:

    Range could be interesting, —- particularly factoring in skills, and the more useful missiles in S4 than in S3.

    The thing I’d most like to see combat wise, —- as I said in the old forum, is multiple ships. I’m not talking about you controlling a hugegreat fleat, —- less stil a huge great fleet of fleets!

    It does however always seem strange to me that when your ordered to escort a vessel of one sort or another, you never see it in combat, and the various enemies who attack you are more bent on blowing you up than on whatever ship your supposedly escorting, —- even when it’s laying mines or carrying troops to the front.

    I’d love to see multiple ships actually having combat order, —- perhaps as litle as three or four per side, — I actually think more than this could make things messy and change the game too much. This also opens the possibility of owning small, short range tactical fighters, —- with pilots you’d have to pay of course, which you could launch in combat.

    No extra cargo space (being small fighters), but they could attack the enemy, and maybe even use missiles.

    It’d also be nice to actually have the possibility of failing an escort mission by the ship your escorting being blown up in combat, —- but you stil being alive.

    Even if it was just a squadren of three or four ships, this could also make fleet battles interesting, sinse you’d not just have to decide which of your ships to send against the enemy, —- but also how many of them.

    While I don’t agree with the above poster about the combat system in S4 being dull or hit and miss, —- it is sometimes a bit easy to get into a set rythm, and just follow a set pattern every single battle once you’ve discovered something that works. This is particularly true with the abilities, —- sinse other than by multiple saves and restarts, it’s not over easy to switch out many patterns of abilities to try various tactics, —– nor, in most cases is it needed.

    Battles with different numbers of friendly and enemy ships could shake you out of that nicely, and keep you much more on your toes.

    One more suggestion I’d like to make though. There are very few abilities thus far to disturb or interfere with your opponent, —- especially at particularly low levels.

    Taunt is invaluable for this.

    More abilities with these sorts of effects might be nice indeed. How about for instance an ability such as transmitting a virus or jamming signal, which would drain your opponent’s Ap, —- thus giving them temporarily less actions per turn.

    Using this defensively, —- particularly against people like pirates and battleships with their huge range of skills could be handy indeed.

    Lastly, I always find it a bit odd that you go first in combat. how about including an ambush factor, to determine who does go first, —- perhaps with some added skills later such as “Surprise” to give you a couple of extra turns shooting from behind before your enemy has time to get themselves in order to react.

    surely pirates should be able to sneak up on their targits? —- likewise, bountyhunters, mercs, and probably combat traiders too should have abilities that counteract this, —- sinse afterall they’ll be keeping a special eye out for those skirvy pirates underhanded tricks!

    Hope some of these ideas are useful, and I’m glad to here developement on the smugglers series is stil going on despite the current focus on Tv manager.

  9. dark Says:

    Oh, and as to te combat skills thing, I’d personally be very much in favor of keeping it, —- though with the additions of more abilities, and possibly more skill point awards to earn them.

    Afterall, it’s not just the ship that does all the work, —- the experience of the captain has to count for something too, —- remember the “picard manuever” from startrek tng?

  10. Niels Bauer Says:

    But maybe the skills should be completely changed more really towards “maneuver” kind of thing?

    I think if I would really go for a MOO-like system I shouldn´t change or add too much. It´s a perfect system in itself. Still a couple of picard maneuvers…

  11. dark Says:

    I’m afraid I’m not %100 certain of how a Moo system would work.

    for skills though, my thought would be to make the combat skills actual actions which the captain could take in combat, —- not merely the ability to use hardware, or skills which the hardware has.

    Thus keep things like taunt and targiting, but swap out things like cloaking, —- which imho should be just installable on a ship (afterall the military could use them too), for extra maneuver or specific targiting skills.

    Tractor beam, Focus beam and focus shield, —- while useful, don’t really strike me as quite dependent upon the actions of an experienced captain rather than just the guns, —- ditto with speed shot, mark or emp.

    Of course, extra hardware could be added to give these effects, —- and extra stores to sell said hardware.

    Also these skills could be replaced with others, — some based on range, —- Eg, long range targiting skill, others based on the captain’s abilities as an expert pilot or marxman.

    You might slow the enemy down by specifically targiting their propultion systems, —– or attempt to disable their weapons.

    If you were planning on changing the skill system, —- this is what I’d personally go for, —- modification and adding extras while keeping the old system and putting more in the game, —- rather than a complete scrap and rewrite.

    Just my thoughts of course.

  12. Josh Says:

    I just bought the game recently and have a question: why is that I don’t always have the option to board a ship even when the enemy’s shields are low? I am using a corvette.

    • Niels Bauer Says:

      Well, it´s not that easy to maneuver an enemy ship out and come him close enough. There are however boarding shuttles available as upgrades to some ship classes, which should always allow boarding.

  13. Josh Says:

    I think this may be a bug – when I try to use the special ability of the neptun class ship (which is antiphase-something) – it says it can only be used once per combat. However the last time I used it was in a previous seperate combat.

    Also is there is a way to recharge shields on a planet? If I click have a drink in the bar only one day goes by. Is there a way to make several days go by to completely recharge.

    • Rob Says:

      I had this same bug, and it’s making my early cruiser battles very difficult to survive since I can’t depend on the only real advantage this ship has right now in order to get me away from the instakill missiles.

      Other than that, I’m very happy with the existing scheme of combat: simplicity is its greatest strength, and I think that while it takes a long time to open up (and a lot of risk involved in committing to different powers) it has some elegant subtleties.

      I would like to see redundancies taken out (why do I need EMP 1 if I have EMP 2) or set up like the EMP devices: less effective but less AP until you get to the top models. I’d also love to see some Keyboard shortcuts, ideally where I can assign powers to each number key or something like that. That would also help with streamlining menus: the window telling you that you’ve already activated a power should pop up and disappear on its own, or be able to be “enter” key passed or something.

      Finally: Ship to ship combat does not really make sense right now. I lose droids when I’m not supposed to be risking them according to the choice I made between attack and commando; I get missions to abduct people who will have 30 marines in the bridge when my ship can’t clear 20 even if I un-crew it completely. There’s no tactical subtlety there, no powers to help me past that imbalance. The moment I have a bigger crew, I’m normally engaged with ships the next tier up. Boarding becomes a brutal exercise in attrition as opposed to viable space swashbuckling or a means for weaker ships to bypass space fights and to reliably take superior troops into the enemy ships. Instead, it’s a massive risk where I hope for positive die rolls when VIPs make it financially worthwhile, but I’d like to see more strategy involved or have the existing strategy explained to me.

      I don’t understand why I have to select the next area when there’s only one area for me to advance to.


  14. Michael Jons Says:

    This is an example of why it is still worth reading forums and posts, the internet becomes so clogged up these days its nice to read a news worthy post once in a while. Regards,

  15. Hemanth Says:

    Well, more interesting stuff can be added to the existing combat system, like more abilites and skills to choose from.
    I just wanted to know if any new factions or occupations would be added.

    – Hemanth

    • Niels Bauer Says:

      Yes, I have at least one new alien faction in production.

      I am not sure about the skills though. I first introduced skills in Smugglers 4 and I am tending towards taking them out again and rather giving their abilities to equipment parts.

      Regarding the combat system I am still voting for a MOO like system. So it would be a switch to a tactical advanced system.

  16. Peter K. Says:

    One thing I don’t like about the Smugglers 4 combat system is that the game engine only displays one message per combatant at a time. Once it has a new message for me, like telling me how much damage the current attack did, the previous message, about how much damage the prevos attack did, is overwritten,

    I’d much prefer some kind of scrolling system where I can see the last 3 or 4 messages for me plus the last 3 or 4 messages for the enemy ship.


    • Niels Bauer Says:

      Yes, this is exactly one of the features I am going to add soon. Actually I am going for a complete combat log to be displayed in an additional window (which you can turn on, off or move at your wish). The plan is to make a lot more of the windows moveable, so you can e.g. always have your mission screen open during the game.

      • Peter K. Says:


        On the other hand, this promised new feature makes me change my mind, with regards to buying the game real soon. I’m much more likely to wait until you actually publish the expansion, because I WANT that combat scroll function BADLY.

        Can’t you include it in the original game code, so that people who haven’t bought the expansion can benefit from it too?

        I am keenly aware that you want as much good stuff as possible in the expansion, so that people will buy it, but this is not a game content improvement, but rather a game interface mprovement. As such, one can argue that people who only own the original game, not the expansion, deserve to benfit from it.

        Secondly, one can also argue that if you do upgrade the original game with this one feature, you’ll in the end get more people to buy your expansion, than if you didn’t.

        Peter K.

  17. Hemanth Says:

    Can you please give us an estimation in when Smugglers 5 will release, i am so excited and cant wait 🙂

    – Hemanth

    • Niels Bauer Says:

      No, unfortunately not. I first have to get a couple of more sales for TV Manager 2 to get some budget for the next Smugglers title. I am not sure yet whether it’ll be an expansion for Smugglers 4 or Smugglers 5 (more likely an expansion).

  18. Peter K. Says:

    One more thing: The ability to do two things in combat with one mouse click.

    For instance, ther’s the skill that improves my chance to hit. Discipline. It must be activated per shot. Discpline. Shoot.Discipline. Shoot.

    Many fights are boring, because they are easy, I know I’m going to win, but I still have to click a lot.

    To reduce such boring clicks, change the interface so that beneath each gun-enhancing skill button there is another button that first activates that skill then fires the gun, with one mouse click.

    There are three ways to implement this:

    1. If the player does not have enough APs for the combined cost, the game does nothing and gives an error message.

    2. If the player does have enough APs for the first action but not the second, the game lets him perform the first, then forgets the second.

    3. If the player does not have enough APs for both actions, the game performs the first then queues up the 2nd action so that the player automatically performs it at the start of the next turn,

    Oh, there’s a fourth too:

    4. If the player has already performed the first action, e.g. Discipline, but clicks on the combo button again, the game does not give an error message but simply skips right to the 2nd action.

    This #4 option is by far the most convenient,from the point of view of wanting to spam my way through easy fights as quickly as possible,

    Peter K.

    • Niels Bauer Says:

      Thanks, but finally I could also just add a “automatic battle resolve” button. Still I got the point. In the next update / expansion / whatever I am going to use different skill combinations, so you cannot always use the same two skills.

  19. culsu Says:

    The Moo combat system is probably the best I have ever seen in a space game to this day.

    That would be a good change ( =

  20. Jeff Says:

    There is something enjoyable about the turn-based combat system that you have. My suggestion is to continue with the current “feel” of combat and avoid moving towards any kind of real-time or speed-based resolution. I like the simplicity of Smugglers IV. Some specific feedback:

    1. Backup support (your allies arriving in several turns to help you) doesn’t seem effective. The allies do almost no damage to the opponent. Suggest making backup forces more effective but with a longer average time required to arrive. Perhaps make these forces so strong that the AI ship or the player must withdraw to avoid destruction. This would create a timer effect on combat and perhaps open the door to new strategies allowing the disabling/destruction of the target within a certain number of combat turns.

    2. Make the arithmetic more transparent: Allow modifiers to be seen, either by clicking on ship details or that appears when hovering the mouse over an attack option, to let you know the chance before firing. For example, the skill “Maneuvers” doesn’t even say what the effect is for friendly/enemy hit chances.

    3. There is a lot of room for crew composition to influence combat. The standard 5 AP per turn should apply when there is the standard minimum number of crewmen available. Additional crewmen could add AP to your pool or, for example, reduce the reload time on missiles.

    4. Missiles act as a defensive system currently — their job is to soak up enemy AP to give you an action-point advantage. This is a perfectly valid strategy but leaves the missiles seeming weak. They very rarely connect with their target. Suggest ECM ability should cost 3 or 4 AP to activate, then it remains “on” for 2 or 3 turns, providing a small chance of destroying an incoming missile each turn. Players in addition could engage in defensive maneuvering and point-defense fire to add some chance of negating the missile. Possibly missiles should have limited shots in between each starport visit, based on a missile capacity for each ship type, but at the same time be highly effective. This would allow a player to make an economic decision as to whether it’s worth it to fire a $100k missile in order to save his life/cargo.

    5. Mines: Mines should not be subject to ECM. This violates the notion of a mine being a witless, floating hunk of metal and explosives. The ship wishing to tractor can attempt to shoot the mine or perhaps launch a missile at it, or else use Maneuvers to reposition itself away from the mine (effectively destroying it). The safest way to capture a ship armed with mines is to use a boarding shuttle.

    6. Provide an option to eject cargo containers in exchange for escape: Some pirates really are only after the cargo, and this is a lesser offense than actually destroying a ship and crew.

    7. Currently you have an option to start a new around automatically when zero AP is reached. This could be modified to “start new round automatically when there is nothing left for me to do”. In other words, I might have 1 or 2 AP left but no valid options for using them, and I want the game to continue without me having to click.

    8. Perhaps the strongest feature of this game is the skill system, both on a tactical and galactic-map level. I hope you will continue with the ingenious skills that go where other games’ skills never do.

  21. Jeff Says:

    I would be very happy to. I’ve had some more thoughts while playing. Please feel free to e-mail me. Right now I only have the no-reply e-mail for you.

    – Jeff

  22. Richard Freeman Says:

    I would like to see a change in future versions of Smugglers. I read where you used to play MOO & Privateer, so I suggest that you make it possible to get “special missions” in the Spaceport bar as in Privateer. These could be useful for smugglers (illegal goods). bounty hunters (kidnappings or “offing”) someone for hire.

  23. Steve G Says:

    It would be cool if larger ships, cruiser and battleships, could carry fighters. They could take up a weapon slot. They’d act like missiles but could attack over a couple of rounds before having to return to ship to reload/refuel. They would not be affected by ECM but could be defended against by point defense (another module).

    It would also be interesting to have range as a component. Maybe I go for heavy short range weapons, trading range for power. So engines would be important as a swifter opponent might be able to keep out of range. Or maybe there’s a skill called “Closing range” which allows me to get close with my heavy weapons. Or another called “Stand Off” which helps me keep out of enemy range if his weapons are shorter range than mine.

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