Black Skies
Generic Star Fighter Combat Rules

Quick and simple rules intended to create a fast moving star fighter game
where out thinking your opponent is as important as out shooting him.
Games can be as small as single fighter duels all the way up to
entire squadrons being used in a multi player campaign setting.


A while back I was looking for something new to play and decided I'd like to try a star fighter combat game. I checked out a variety of rule sets and found nothing that I really liked. In fact, the most popular set seemed to be unnecessarily complex and slow, not something I expected from a set of star fighter rules. What I expected fighter combat to be was FAST. Complex and slow just didn't work. So I set out to create my own (with plenty of help from the guys at my local war gaming club). I tried and liked an unfinished set by Shaun Austin which had several good ideas, but I thought the turn sequence could be streamlined. Using the basic card movement idea, and a simple combat system I tried to make these rules feel more like the fast deadly action I imagine star fighter combat should be.



Pilots are given a single attribute, Piloting Skill. This rating determines their chances of successfully flying their fighter through any sudden violent maneuvers made necessary by the combat situation. Failure means briefly losing control of their craft. The higher this numeric rating, the better the pilot.

Marksmanship is something best left to the computer.

Piloting Skill

Level - Description

  1. green pilot - has basic training, but without much flying time
  2. trained pilot - fully trained with enough flying time to be considered competent
  3. experienced pilot - trained and experienced, a veteran flyer
  4. hotshot pilot - trained, talented, experienced, and able to pull off unlikely maneauvers


Fighters can vary greatly in construction and armament, and come in 3 sizes or weights - light, medium or heavy. They can include armour and/or shields and may be armed with a number of different weapons. Advanced fighters are equiped with maneuvering thrusters which give pilots a far greater range of flying options.



Fighters come equiped with basic thrusters to enable the craft to move, but may have additional maneuvering thrusters to allow the fighter to perform extra maneuvers otherwise not permitted. Maneuvering thrusters may be located in three locations -


All weapons have the following attributes -

The weapons a fighter is armed with are listed on its Tactical Display (and are described in the Combat section)


A fighter's armour decreases the amount of damage done by an opponent's hits


Shields weaken the damage potential of an opponent's weapons


With few exceptions, fighters are formed into Elements of two fighters each, a lead fighter and his wingman.

Tactical Displays

Click on the picture for a large blank version.

Pilot 1's piloting skill is marked on the left, Pilot 2's on the right. Both pilots are flying the same type of fighter.
The craft's Arc of Fire is shaded grey. It's weapon statistics (Laser Cannon) are marked under the large hex, RoF - Accuracy - Range - Damage

Place a d12 in the upper left circle marked 'speed' to keep track of both fighter's current speed (remember - elements stay together).
Fighter 1's current Hull Integrity (the amount of damage it can take) is marked in the circle lower left, Fighter 2's is in the lower right.
Use a d4 for light, d6 for medium and d8 for heavy fighters.


Movement is done by players alternatively moving elements until all fighters have moved (and fired) once, then continuing with this movement sequence for the remainder of the game. Fighters of the same element must at all times remain within six inches of each other. All fighters are capable of performing the 3 basic maneuvers - Straight, Break Left, or Break Right. Fighters configured with Forward, Side or Rear thrusters are also capable of performing additional maneuvers depending on which thrusters they have. All maneuvers have a difficulty rating, and sometimes a speed penalty for attempting them. Maneuver Cards (or counters) are used to identify which maneuver you intend to use in the coming turn.

We impose a maximum speed limit of 12 on all fighters so that the trade-off of complex maneuver vs speed loss becomes a resource management decision.

Maneuver Cards

A deck of ordinary playing cards (or special made counters) is required to mark the maneuvers chosen by the players each turn. Each element of two fighters uses its own suit, so if more than four elements (eight fighters) are being used in the game, additional decks are needed. Each type of maneuver is given its own card number (see below) with Basic Maneuvers being numbered 1 - 3 and the Additional Maneuvers numbered 4 - 12.

Before the game starts chose what suit belongs to which fighter element, and select from the deck all cards (of that suit) that those fighters are capable of. These will be your Maneuver Cards for that element. For example, if a player had only one element of basic fighters, he might chose Spades as its suit, and since they were only basic fighters, he would pick the 1 (ace) 2 and 3 of spades to represent the Basic Maneuvers. During the game he would be limited to those three maneuvers. If his fighters had Side Thrusters as well, he would also pick the 7, 8 and 9 of spades, giving him twice the movement options. For maneuvers 11 and 12, use the Jack and Queen cards.


First, decide on which fighters you intend to use in the game, divide them into elements and set up Tactical Displays for them.

Second, deploy your fighter elements along your table edge. Use some method of randomly choosing who begins deploying first, then you and your opponent alternately deploy your fighter elements.

Finally, choose the starting speed for each of your fighter elements and mark it on their Tactical Displays. Choose each element's first maneuver from the cards available to them and place each card face down on the table next to the fighter models. Decide the order you want your elements to move and stack these cards so that the card for the first one to move is on the top, then the next, etc. This will be your Movement Deck, and will determine not just which maneuvers the fighters will be taking, but the order in which they move as well.


Randomly determine who moves first. The first player flips over the top card in his Movement Deck, decides which option to use (if more than one is permitted), takes any Piloting Checks required (see below), and moves that element's fighters accordingly. If these fighters have any targets in range and in arc after moving, the player may fire them. Lastly, after quickly checking the table and attempting to anticipate his opponent's moves, he chooses next turn's manuever for this element and places that card on the bottom of his Movement Deck.

If one player has more elements than his opponent, he needs to double up the movement of some elements. For example, if player 1 has four elements and player 2 has only three, then player 1 needs to move two elements together or else player 2's fighters will end up moving more often than player 1's. In this case player 1 might declare that the 'diamonds' and 'hearts' elements will always move together. During the game, you might need to change the elements moving together whenever a player loses an entire element.

Piloting Check

A piloting check must be taken for each maneuver attempted. A 10 sided die (d10) is rolled and the pilot's Piloting Skill Level is added to the score. This total must be equal to or greater than the maneuver's Difficulty Rating for the maneuver to succeed. Most maneuvers do not require an actual roll since their difficulty is low enough that most pilots pass automatically.

Light Fighters are easier to pilot and receive a +1 to their Piloting Checks, while Heavy Fighters are harder to pilot, and receive a -1 penalty to theirs.

Failing a Piloting Check means that fighter control has gotten away from the pilot. The chosen maneuver is ignored and the easiest of the basic maneuvers in the same direction is substituted instead. For example, a pilot attempting and failing an Sideslip Left performs a basic Smooth Left instead. His wingman REMAINS WITH HIM. A fighter out of control this way may not fire this turn.

There are two situations that may modifiy this test. A pilot in a crippled fighter (one that has taken half damage - see combat) has the difficulty rating of all maneuvers doubled. Also, if a pilot fails a Piloting Check, then any further tests he is required to take on the same turn also have their difficulty ratings doubled. This is a rare occurance, but if a pilot fails his pilot check, then needs to dodge an asteroid, the results may be unfortunate.


All maneuvers have a Difficulty Rating (used during Piloting Checks) and a Movement Penalty. The Movement Penalty is subtracted from the fighters current speed immediately that the maneuver is attempted, and is applied whether the maneuver succeeds or not. For example, a fighter moving 8 inches per turn attempts a Hard Left. Its current speed for this turn becomes 6 inches per turn instead of 8. Mark this new speed on the fighter elements Tactical Display.

Basic Maneuvers

1. Straight - a fighter performing a Straight maneuver may take any one of the following 3 actions

2. Break Left - a fighter performing a Break Left maneuver may take any one of the following 3 actions

3. Break Right - a fighter performing a Break Right maneuver may take any one of the following 3 actions

Additional Maneuvers

Rear Thrusters

4. Afterburner - difficulty 2 - penalty 0 - a fighter performing the Afterburner maneuver will

5. Hard Left - difficulty 3 - penalty 2 - a fighter performing the Hard Left maneuver will

6. Hard Right - difficulty 3 - penalty 2 - a fighter performing the Hard Right maneuver will

Side Thrusters

7. Zigzag - difficulty 3 - penalty 0 - a fighter performing the Zigzag maneuver may take any one of the following 2 actions

8. Sideslip Left - difficulty 2 - penalty 0 - a fighter performing the Sideslip Left maneuver will

9. Sideslip Right - difficulty 2 - penalty 0 - a fighter performing the Sideslip Right maneuver will

Forward Thrusters

10. Retros - difficulty 2 - penalty 0 - a fighter performing the Retros maneuver will

11. S Turn Left - difficulty 3 - penalty 2 - a fighter performing the S Turn Left maneuver will

12. S Turn Right - difficulty 3 - penalty 2 - a fighter performing the S Turn Right maneuver will


After moving an element, if the fighters have targets in arc and in range of their weapons, the controlling player may then choose to fire them. Roll the number of d10s determined by the number of weapons and the weapon's statistics. Each roll equal to or less than the weapon's accuracy (after applying modifiers) represents a hit. Roll damage for each hit, modify for shields and armour, and subtract from the target's Hull Integrity.

Accuracy is modified by a +1 at close range, and a -1 at long range.

Accuracy is modified by the speed of the target, a +1 while moving slower than 4, a -1 while moving faster than 8.

A fighter becomes 'Cripled' when its Hull Integrity drops to half or less. A cripled fighter is harder to maneuver, and may only fire half (round down) of its weapons during firing. When a fighter's Hull Integrity drops to 0, it is destroyed.


Arc of Fire - the 60 arc(s) that the weapon can fire into

Rate of Fire - the number of times the weapon fires per turn, giving the number of 10's rolled per shot

Accuracy - the number (or lower) needed to get a hit on the target at medium range

Range - maximum range, close range is 1/3 of this maximum, medium is 2/3

Damage - the die type used to roll for damage


A fighter can have three levels of armour; none (0), light (-1) and heavy (-2). A light fighter may not have heavy armour. The level of Armour on a fighter subtracts from the damage done by each hit. For example, if a fighter with light armour (-1) was hit twice and the damage rolled was 2 and 3, then the actual damage applied would be (2-1) + (3-1) or 3.


Shields decrease the damage die type of your opponent's weapons by one. For example, if a fighter with shields was hit by a Laser Cannon (damage = d6) the die your opponent actually rolled would be a d4 instead.


rules to come

Laser Cannon

Arc of Fire - forward arc only

Rate of Fire - 1

Accuracy - 2

Range - 6/12/18

Damage - d6

Black Tiger

Weight - Medium

Thrusters - Rear

Weapons - Laser Cannons (3)

Armour - Light (-1)

Shields - Yes

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