Saturday, April 20, 2013

SciFi Saturday – Minelayer Map

In the Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks tactical rules, the Advanced Game section adds the Minelayer to the list of military vessels. The minelayer can drop mines and seeker missiles in any hex that it passes through, which is documented secretly by the controlling player. Furthermore, any scenarios in which the minelayer appears assert that the mines can be similarly placed in advance of the play session (see boardgame rules p. 16, and campaign rules p. 59).

The thing is, the record of where mines are placed is done secretly by the controlling player, and only become known to the enemy when a ship passes through a mined hex. I'm pretty sure this is uniquely the only hidden-information rule in all of the SFKH boardgame text: "The player controlling the minelayer writes down the hex number on a sheet of paper" (boardgame rules, p. 14); "The locations of mines and seekers must be recorded on paper, to be revealed to the attacker when a ship enters one of those hexes" (campaign rules, p. 59). 

In practice, I found that a list of written hex-identifiers (2316, 2225, 2926, etc.) made it rather difficult to determine exactly which mined hexes an enemy ship had passed through in order to explode upon them; you have to search and cross-index the identifiers for all the hexes a ship passed through, versus all the mined hexes in the list, and actually do this simultaneously for all the ships being moved in a turn. That's really quite a computational feat (like O(n^3)). What would really make a lot more sense is to keep a secret visual map of what hexes were mined, which would make it much easier to compare path-of-movement to what regions had been mined.

So I present the below; if a minelayer is in use by one side, I recommend that you print out one of these Minelayer Maps and use that to document where mines have been placed (probably by writing "M" for mines and "S" for seeker missiles in pencil, obviously). Using this one-page map does effectively limit mines to the central area of the boardgame map, but in practice that's the only place I'd ever use them, anyway. Hex identifiers match those on the SFKH map, and the dot in hex 2720 marks the exact center-point of the map (the place where I always set up a planet or other key feature). See the image below, or click here for a PDF.

Side note: Did you know? The U.S. only ever constructed a single dedicated minelayer ship, which was designated CM-5/MM-5, the USS Terror.


  1. What I read was

    USS Terror (CM-5) was a fleet minelayer of the United States Navy, the only minelayer of the fleet built specifically for minelaying during World War II.

    I think we have built dedicated vessels since then, not sure about before.

    1. says this -- "Terror (CM-5) was and still is the Navy's only 'built for purpose' minelayer. A primary reason for the lack of surface minelayers in the U.S. Navy was the invention of radar and other search devices, which rendered the surface minelayer exceedingly vulnerable to air, surface and submarine attack."

  2. I stand corrected.
    I found it kind of hard to believe, I knew a guy that was on a mine sweeper, I know they talked about changing to fiberglass hulls etc etc, then I realized you are saying dedicated mine layer.

    1. It surprised me too when I first ran into it. Apparently earlier there were all these refit passenger ships, and afterwards mixed-used destroyers and such. Not what I expected.