OTOH I do really, really like not having to bust out minis or fire up VASSAL and use a map or tabletop to resolve combat. The 'squadron level CSCR' provides a few additional options, but doesn't dramatically change things from the fundamental "roll dice, total up hits, and pound on each other until someone dies" mechanic.
I'm not sure if this is a perfect solution either, but I thought I'd bounce the idea around these forums...
I encountered this charming little abstract skirmish system and considered the possibility of adapting it to VBAM starship combat: the rules employ mapless, 'card' based approach to pitting units (treated mechanically as a bucket of 'slots' to which individual tactical priorities get assigned) against one another, where damage knocks out 'slots' and thereby limits but doesn't eliminate a unit's versatility.
My thoughts aren't fully baked yet, but here goes:
Abstract Skirmish System Rules summary (but the hyperlinked rules are way, way short):
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Each of a player's Units are given N > 0 Trait slots, to which they secretly assign at the start of a round one of 5 Traits: INIT grants a bonus to the initiative roll. ACC grants a bonus to hit. EV makes a unit harder to hit. DMG grants a bonus to damage. END makes a unit harder to damage. Once all slots are assigned, all units reveal and total up their levels of each trait, adding or subtracting them to each attack and damage roll as appropriate. (assumption: targets must also be declared at this time.) Splitting fire merely requires splitting the ACC/DMG point pools arbitrarily.
The VBAM hybrid idea:
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Maybe increase the weight of the "trait allocations" by making them into dice pools instead of a flat bonus: for INIT 3 yields 5d6 initiative rather than 2d6+3. This might skew the damage system though, so maybe not. Ships/Flight Groups get slots from their Combat Factors, from Formation Level, and from some Special Abilities. What Traits are assignable is specific to the Combat Factor or other attribute tied to the slot type: DV -- INIT | EV | END AS* -- INIT | ACC | DMG AF* -- EV | ACC | DMG CR -- INIT | ACC | EV CC -- [Ignored] F Lvl -- EV | END *: AS slots can only elect ACC | DMG against Ship or Fixed targets; ditto AF slots against Flight targets. Attrition damage eliminates slots; owning player assigns damage to ships and chooses which slot they lose. Directed Damage's FL-based cost multiplier is in effect if the attacker wants to specify which slots get hit. Example - a 10-slot unit like shown in the original game maps exactly to a basic Destroyer's 10 total Combat Factors (ignoring CC): Terran Scythe-class Destroyer, DV 3 / AS 2 / AF 2 / CR 3 / CC 1 / FL 0: DV Slot [ EV | END | INIT] = END DV Slot [ EV | END | INIT] = END DV Slot [ EV | END | INIT] = INIT AS Slot [ INIT | ACC | DMG ] = DMG AS Slot [ INIT | ACC | DMG ] = DMG AF Slot [ EV | ACC | DMG ] = EV AF Slot [ EV | ACC | DMG ] = EV CR Slot [ INIT | ACC | EV ] = INIT CR Slot [ INIT | ACC | EV ] = ACC CR Slot [ INIT | ACC | EV ] = ACC The maximally-balanced allocation for this unit (assuming no enemy Fighters are present) is 2 of everything, as shown above. Alternately, a "damn the torpedoes" behavior allocation for maximim simultaneous AS and AF effectiveness might be: DV 3 = INIT, INIT, INIT AS 2 = ACC, DMG (Sarnac-1) AF 2 = ACC, DMG (Fighter Group A) CR 3 = ACC (AF), ACC (AS), INIT ... for a total of +4 INIT, +0 EV, +2 ACC(AS), +2 ACC(AF), +1 DMG (AS), +1 DMG(AF), +0 END. The ship will probably get hurt badly, but might get a few good licks in against the enemy fighters AND ship before it goes down. Note that this penalizes forces that don't field a mix of fighters and ships, since they leave their enemies open to ignore the ACC/DMG uses of their unused guns in favor of positional advantage (INIT or EV). This is intentional! Rationale: Starships not worrying about the intricate course changes and sensor / fire-control operations necessary to bring their broadside or spinal weapons to bear against an opponent (i.e. allocating AS factors to ACC/DMG) can instead forego use of those batteries in favor of more high-velocity straight-on trajectories and utilize their fire control computers and tactical officers to better predictive analysis of enemy movements for a better INIT result. Similarly, if we assume AF comes from a combination of point defense, maneuverability and ECM, which can either be directed toward keeping enemy missile/direct-fire weapon/fighter attacks from scoring hits (EV) or else can be used actively to isolate and destroy enemy fighters (ACC/DMG). Special Stuff: Scout Functions: Defensive: grant a bonus slot for any Trait type to any friendly unit, including self. Offensive: cancel one slot of an enemy unit. Disruptor: Randomly disable one slot of a targeted enemy ship. Ballistic: ??? Direct Assault: ???