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Old September 14th, 2014, 09:27 PM
Carlobrand Carlobrand is offline
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Default Mesons and the ground combat picture

Not 100% sure where to put this, but it's about a technology, so this is as good as any.

Jewell: A777999-C, Naval Base, Scout Base
Local army: 1200 battalions strength, equipped to TL12 standards.
TL12 standards means the best available meson screen is a Factor-1, at least for ship-mounted systems. There might be better for cities - I hope - but one presumes they're too big or too power-hungry to be carried on even the bigger ships, if they exist. However, if they're big and power hungry, they're of little use to the troop in the field. Meanwhile, the best available meson spinal for Jewell's planetary defense force is a Factor K, which is nice but ... well, let's move forward.

Canon has it that Jewel came under attack during the opening days of the Fifth Frontier War, with the Zhodani 3rd Assault Fleet engaging the Imperial 125th. We will leave aside the orbital combat and look at what's happening on the ground.

If we go by Striker, the Zho type M meson gun - we'll go with the type M as a reasonably powerful gun, not too overwhelming - has a burst radius of 21 cm, or 210 meters. Whump, everything in a radius of 210 meters is dead: soldiers, vehicles, pigeons, trees, all dead. Buildings crumble, lions lay down with lambs, teeny little angels appear and blow a teeny little 210-meter range horn of the apocalypse, general nastiness. That's one ship, one shot, radius big enough to put 4 platoons and all their equipment on the casualty list. Up in orbit, those guns are on ships that travel in squadrons, six to eight ships, and there's a fleet of them up there.

So what do we have? He sends down his drop troops, they probe gently forward until they find the local defenses, they say, "Shoot here" - and a battalion of local troops is dead in the first exchange. And then another. And then another.

We can hope in the case of Jewell that the planetary defense batteries are shooting back (though they're likely having to penetrate a factor-6 meson screen and have a -2 to do that) and that the 125th is doing its best to persuade the Zho heavies to not get close. However, here's the thing: once the mesons are securely in orbit, it's over. If you do not have the tech and the planetary defenses to hurt them in orbit, they will turn entire square miles of your defensive line into sterile zones of death. They'll do that even if you DO have the tech to hurt them, but at least you can make them pay for it.

The only defense I can see is speed and concealment. Your troops can't allow themselves to be seen from orbit, and when the enemy encounters them or they encounter the enemy, they have to move fast to survive. They have to get in close and tight with the attacker to keep the attacker from going to his big guns, and when they withdraw they have to do it fast and far to keep from being targeted on the disengagement. The army units in effect need to behave like jet aircraft.

This changes the nature of the ground combat. Digging in is suicide unless you're so well camouflaged that even the enemy ground forces can't see you. The local infantry can dig in, camouflage themselves, and then play eyes and ears for the faster forces, but they can't draw attention to themselves unless they're ready to close in tight or move away quickly immediately afterward.

And if you're TL11 or lower, your army bases have to be abandoned - they're fixed targets, easily destroyed. Your power stations are sitting ducks. The enemy in orbit can destroy what he wishes, when he wishes.

Am I missing something? Am I getting something wrong? How does one form a defensive line when forward observers can eat whole companies with meson fire called down from orbit? Given this and the problem with dreadnoughts, I think sometimes the game would be better if meson weaponry didn't exist.
Comments made are for the purpose of offering alternative campaign settings for consideration. The writer acknowledges that Traveller is intended to emulate certain common science fiction tropes and that, in the course of emulating those tropes and providing a better playing experience, some liberties must be taken with science. No statement by the writer should be interpreted as constituting a criticism of the game on that basis ... except for that bit about Virus. Dude, really?!
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