Running High Energy Scuffles In Space Aces: VOY
Space Aces: VOY is not a game focused on combat and violence. That being said, blowing up robot drones, squashing space bugs, and fighting off space pirates is admittedly a whole lot of fun. In Space Aces: VOY, very little of the rules are dedicated to combat, but what is there is very effective at creating high stakes, high energy scuffles that run very fast.
Low Hit Protection = Less Combat
Each character starts the game with just 3 points of Gumption. Gumption is the only stat that players need to track in the game. Gumption is the Space Ace equivalent to Hit Protection and represents a character’s will to continue, NOT their health points. The game is designed to play like a Saturday morning cartoon where a hero can take a surprising amount of punishment and keep going, but if you break their spirit it’s officially Game Over.
In Space Aces, a character can lose Gumption from being the brunt of a well timed insult just as easily as from being on the pointy end of a laser saber. And since they only have 3 points of Gumption at the beginning, every point counts.
This scarcity of hit protection leads to players doing everything they can to talk their way out of fights and coming up with creative solutions to avoid dangerous circumstances as much as possible rather than just tanking their way through a bad situation.
Running A Scuffle
However, there are times when the players can’t fast-talk their way out of a bad situation. Sometimes that Ravenous Bugblatter beast just isn’t going to listen to reason. When that happens, it’s time to initiate a Scuffle.
Running a Scuffle is quite simple. The Scuffle procedure takes care of everything for you and ensures that the players are always engaged. Here’s the rules for scuffling in their entirety:
- Each Round, the Referee just has to decide how the situation is looking for the team as a whole versus their opponents. Are they In A Bad Spot (players roll 2D6 and take lowest result), Evenly Matched (players roll 1D6 and take the result), or do they have the High Ground (players roll 2D6 and take the highest result)?
- This informs the players how they should roll their initiative dice, the results of which will dictate if their character is In The Clear to act (on a 5 or 6 result), Trading Blows with their opponent (on a 3 or 4 result), or Pinned Down and desperately defending themselves (on a 1 or 2 result).
- Starting with the lowest rolled result and working up, the Referee details a player’s situation, and the players respond.
- When all have resolved their situation, the Referee will start the next Round again by deciding How’s It Lookin’ now for the team versus their opponents. Players roll their initiative dice, and the scuffle continues.
What this results in is a fight that feels quite desperate and somewhat out of your control. Just like a fight should feel. Players will constantly be trying to figure out ways to get the High Ground in a scuffle, and every single hit they take to their Gumption changes the game significantly.
It also takes the pressure off the Ref to remember initiative orders and to decide which baddy attacks which player and when. The dice do the heavy lifting entirely, simulate the ebb and flow of confrontations, and reflects the chaotic and unpredictable nature of combat.
How Does This Work In Practice?
Round 1: Assessing “How’s It Lookin”
- Referee: The asteroid caves echo with the fearsome growls of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast, a Shredded and Scary opponent with 6 Gumption and claws that have the ability to deal 3 Harm per attack. It is Scary, so it is Hard to defend against its attacks and to attack it. Quinn, Sandy, and Jimmy find themselves in this treacherous cave, with unstable conditions and dwindling oxygen in their suits adding to the tension. Between the formidable Bugblatter Beast and the hazardous environment, you guys are definitely ‘In A Tight Spot’. Each of you needs to roll 2D6 and take the lower result.
Players Roll for Situation
- Quinn’s Roll: 3 and 1 (Takes 1 – Pinned Down)
- Sandy’s Roll: 5 and 2 (Takes 2 – Pinned Down)
- Jimmy’s Roll: 6 and 4 (Takes 4 – Trading Blows)
Resolving Player Situations For Round 1
- Ref outlines Quinn’s Situation: Quinn since you rolled the lowest you go first. You are Pinned Down which means the beast turns its attention to you first and leaps in a slobbering fury to attack with its retractable claws fulls extended.
- Quinn states her response: With her Plasma Pruning Shears in hand, Quinn decides to fortify her position, using the shears to cut some boulders from the cave walls in an attempt to put a barrier between herself and the beast.
- Ref Determines The Difficulty and explains the risk: Normally that would be Hard, but since you have your Shears and the cave is already unstable it’ll just be a Tricky task, roll your dice. But bear in mind, failing might result in getting attacked and causing a rock slide…
- Quinn rolls: Bring it on. D20 – 12 (Success), D6 – 5 (Benefit)
- Ref narrates the outcome: Your gambit works! You successfully create a barrier, dropping some large boulders between your team and the beast, and in doing so you discover that some of the minerals in these boulders seem to be toxic to the beast.
- Ref outlines Sandy’s Situation: Ok Sandy, you rolled next lowest and are also Pinned Down, so the beast turns its attention to you, leaping over the newly fallen boulders aiming to take a bite out of your space suit. How do you defend yourself?
- Sandy states her response: Sandy uses her muscles to create a diversion, throwing some of those toxic rocks to dissuade the Beast.
- Ref Determines The Difficulty and explains the risk: Brave move. This is Hard given the Scary Beast’s focus on you, but it really hates those rocks so we will make it Tricky. Remember though, you are risking taking the full hit. Roll your dice.”
- Sandy rolls: I believe in the power of my muscles. D20 – 9 (Fail), D6 – 2 (Snag)
- Ref narrates the outcome: Oof failure with a snag… You fail to ward off the beast’s attack and take a Devastating blow as it chomps down on you for 3 Harm to your Gumption. You go down and your suit is leaking oxygen. If your friends don’t help you soon, you could perish… Also the Heat level for this mission is increased by one, meaning that Snags will be even more severe going forwards. Sorry team!
- Ref outlines Jimmy’s Situation: Jimmy, you are up last and are Trading Blows with the beast as it rounds on you, scraps of Sandy’s space suit hanging from its drooling jaws. It swings at you next! You have a choice to make here… defend, take the hit and counterattack, or try to do both for an increased Difficulty.
- Jimmy states his response: Jimmy, with his fast reflexes, will try to do both dodge the attack and pull Sandy to safety behind the boulders Quinn dropped so they can patch up her suit.
- Ref Determines The Difficulty and explains the risk: Ok, let’s say that means you are trying to both defend and counterattack. So that raises the Base Difficulty to Epic. You’ll have to roll 20 or higher to succeed, but if you fail you’ll probably end up in the same situation as Sandy…
- Jimmy queries: What about my lightning fast reflexes Knack?
- Ref answers and adjusts: Good point, with that Knack you just might be able to do this… so let’s say it’s a Hard roll instead of an Epic one, but the risk remains the same: Doooooom! Roll em, if you dare.
- Jimmy rolls: Desperate times call for desperate measures. D20 – 16 (Success), D6 – 5 (Benefit)
- Ref narrates the outcome: Success with a Benefit! Time slows down as you expertly dodge under the beast’s claws and pull Sandy to safety behind the boulders Quinn dropped. As a Benefit let’s say the beast slams into those boulders and gets temporarily blinded from those toxic minerals. That ends Round 1!
Round 2: Assessing “How’s It Lookin”
- Referee: As the dust settles, you find yourselves behind a protective barrier of boulders and the raging Bugblatter Beast temporarily disoriented by the toxic minerals. Let’s say that with those two benefits on your side you are actually ‘Evenly Matched’ for this round. Jimmy and Quinn, roll 1D6 to determine your Situation. Sandy, since you’re Taken Out and leaking oxygen… just focus on staying conscious!
And play continues…
As you can see, combat in Space Aces is simple and snappy. Snags and Benefits help keep the situation fresh. They can be used to modify the Harm dealt or received to Gumption, or whatever feels appropriate in the situation. The Ref may even give the player’s their choice of which consequence to take or which Benefit to receive.
A flexible Referee is a good Referee. Notice how Jimmy chose to use his Counterattack to help a teammate rather than attack the beast, and the Ref allowed for it and adjusted accordingly.
Also notice how the Referee created a situation where there were multiple threats at once: The Bugblatter Beast, the unstable cave, and low oxygen. When it comes to Scuffles, having more than one threat vector will keep the encounter feeling dynamic, tense, and most importantly: interesting to everybody playing.
Happy Scuffles Space Aces!