One of the more obscure rules, is the ramming rule. I say obscure, because when I first read it, I quickly disregarded it as not viable and I think a lot of others might have done the same since – at first apperances – it doesn’t seem all that useful. I have after a recent talk about the rule come to re-evaluate it and I present my thoughts below.
Why I didn’t like ramming
First of all – if you need to brush up on the ramming rule it is on page 44 in the rulebook.
The ramming rule comes with three distinct drawbacks compared to the alternative – to have a round of normal shooting and then let your opponent shot your ship to bits and hope to explode spectacularly.
- When you ram, there is 1/3 chance that you will just go into oblivion without doing any damage.
- You remove a target from your opponent. That means that in the next activation where he would shoot at your ship, he will instead shoot at some other ship (if able to).
- You cannot shoot that turn.
These three combined made it both a bit risky and gave you a distinct downside. Recently, however, I have reconsidered.
What made me reconsider
I had a chat with a friend of mine, who talked about using it in a recent game. It made me re-read the rule and I got a different angle at the disadvantages.
While 1/3 chance of doing nothing sounds like a lot, again, let’s compare it against the alternative. If I am within 3″ of an enemy ship and roll for catastrophic damage, there is actually also 1/3 chance that my explosion is too small to affect the enemy. So that is pretty much just the range rule implemented in ramming.
If you then go on to compare the damage, you find that explosion lacks sorely behind. The chance of doing 2 damage or above is 50 % or lower (depending on hull size). So in short, the possibility of actually doing considerable damage with ramming is greater than if you explode, and of top of that, the damage you cause is more stable (the biggest part of the damage potential for an explosion comes from the distortion bubble which is both unlikely and very random in scope). The downside of ramming is that you only affect one ship, but I think in most cases there is one opposing ship that has top priority in any case.
I just did the math on a simple example – PHR cruiser considering to ram a a UCM cruiser. Ramming will – on average considering that the ram might miss alltogether – cause approximately 3,3 damage. Going within 3″ and explode will on average cause 0,7 damage. The explosion will of course potentially hit a few more targets if they are available, but there have to be 5 within that distance to compete with the total, average damage of the ramming – and the ramming is focused on what is probably the most juicy target. This of course have to be weighed against the potential damage you can cause with your weaponry so the comparison is not simple.
On top of that, the above example is almost the example least in favour of ramming – only hull 10 is worse. If you have hull 12+, ramming will do more damage whereas the explosion damage is the same. And if you instead have hull 9 or lower, you cannot roll the distortion bubble on the catastrophic damage chart, so average damage from explosion drops even further (down to 0,3) whereas damage from ramming only drops a little (to 2,7 for hull 9 and then by approximately 0,3 for each hull lower than that).
So in any case, average damage is considerably higher from ramming though it is focused on a single ship and you miss your round of shooting.
The second disadvantage still stand. However, it has a flipside. Though he will need to spend firepower to destroy your ship, he will also have the possibility to remove himself from it. Whether or not this is possible depend strongly on ship position and weaponry. If two ships are approaching and close to each other (a common situation, I think), he might have to pass by your ship to get out of range of the explosion in which case his weapon systems available to kill you might be limited, since most ships have focused weaponry to the front and secondary to the sides. So removing himself from explosion range might not be an option.
From here on it gets assumption-heavy and hence becomes more and more situational, but bottom line is that he still needs to spend firepower to actually destroy you, that he probably can’t remove himself too much from you and the firepower directed on your ship might prove insufficient leading you to have another turn. So by ramming you both risk taking a little more fire on your other ships and you miss out on the gamble of having your damaged ship survive for another round.
So when do I ram?
As you can see above, it is (luckily!) not a simple decision. However I think I can summarize my own thoughts to the following criteria:
- One of the enemy vessels are considerably more interesting to damage than the others.
- The damage caused by the ramming has a good chance of causing crippling or catastrophic damage on the enemy vessel.
- My vessel have a small damage potential against the enemy vessel most interesting to damage (It does not have the right weapons, the weapons are offline, the weapons are pointing the wrong direction, the damage I can cause is based on launching bombers that I probably won’t get to, etc.).
- My vessel is a heavy cruiser or heavier, so there is a lot of hull and hence damage potential.
If most of the above are fulfilled I would go for a ramming. If not, I would attempt to position myself to explode and use my regular weapons instead gambling on going out with a big bang or surviving another round.