I've just finished reading the first book in The Lost Fleet series, Dauntless by Jack Campbell. The Lost Fleet is a spaceship warfare series with a depleted fleet trying to get back home after being soundly defeated by enemy. I won't go into the plot but just to say it was hugely enjoyable and I'm waiting for the postman to deliver the next three books with five and six on pre-order at Amazon!
What I was especially taken with were the space combat sequences which for a change did not ape wet navy battles but took into account the potential problems of space combat such as the time delay in imagery caused by the huge distances involved.
Light may travel at 186,000 miles per second but that one second can be crucial and the issue multiplies the further away targets are. If we recorded an enemy fleet entering the solar system near Pluto what we would see, when we see it, happened five hours ago. Even when they get to Mars what we see would have happened anything between 3 and 21 minutes ago.
Obviously the nearer you are the less the problem is but with missile range theoretically unlimited due there being no friction, he who gets his shot in first gains a big potential advantage, especially if he can take into account the time lag issue.
This got me to thinking how we just ignore this in our space combat games (well, at least the ones I've played). Full Thrust is the daddy of all spaceship combat rules and one of my favourite games of all time but thinking about it, it really doesn't differ that much from a wet navy wargame (indeed having tried to play Harpoon once I'd say it is much simpler!). Indeed many space games seem to have their genesis in naval rules. Call to Arms is based on War At Sea and Colonial Battlefleet on Naval Thunder.
So is it a case that the problems that Jack Campbell has his starship commanders address in The Lost Fleet series are ungameable without making things too complicated? I don't know, I'm not convinced they are and I have the germ of an idea that I want to try out. It might turn out that this idea is flawed, I somewhat suspect that it will make the starship gaming experience somewhat different and it might be unpopular as it takes people out of their comfort zone. I guess there will be some cardboard counter cutting out going on in the immediate future to give it a go.