Unofficial Rules for Boarding Actions in Silent DeathTM

Copyright © 1999 by Pete Dixon

I remember what one jaded miniatures gamer, used to herohammer-style games, asked me once. I was explaining Silent DeathTM to him and he asked me, "Can you do anything else other than blow up ships?" I then explained the various home-brewed campaign systems that people were working on. He asked if it was possible to capture enemy ships in a campaign, but at the time I didnít know of any rules that adequately covered ship capture. The now obsolete tractor beam had been an option for ship capture. Otherwise you had to just beat the tar out of a ship and hope for a lucky critical or play the Brood and employ the drive leach weapons. I'm still working on getting him to play, but it takes time to get a role-player to expand their horizons over to miniature games.

When I heard that the release of Explosive DecompressionTM was going to be delayed, I decided to see if I could work up some of my own home-brewed boarding action rules to work within the Silent DeathTM game. That was several months ago, and I have been refining the rules more and more so that the boarding rules fit into the Combat ExpressTM system. I have now gotten to the point to where I feel ready to release these rules for a Beta-test. Currently, the rules don't have as much variety of choices as the ship design rules, but they do utilize similar characteristics.

Buying Boarding Crew

Crew Types

Crew Types are a way of categorizing crew with similar ship functioning roles in combat situations. Boarding Crew is a new Crew type that may be added to any Ship type with available space. Also, passengers as cargo would fit under the Boarding Crew Type, as explained below.

Warhound crew types are:
Command Crew (pilot & Captain), Gunners, Gunner crew, ECM Crew, Damage Control Crew, Launch Bay Crew, and Boarding Crew.

Personal Attack Craft (SPACS, TPACS, & MPACS; a.k.a. fighters & gunboats) crew types are:
Pilots, Gunners, and Boarding Crew. The cost of Boarding crew is listed below:

Equipment Costs

Weapons Cost (Purchases Basic Attack Dice):

Armor cost (Purchases Defensive Value).

Other Crew Types are considered Light-Inferior Crew, unless upgraded by 1 point per crewmember for Average-armed and 2 per crewmember for Superior-armed crew. Armor costs remain the same as listed above.

If you choose to upgrade the rest of the crew, you must purchase upgrades for all crewmembers within a given crew Type. For instance, if you want to upgrade the Damage Control (DC) Crew's boarding weapons to Average and upgrade their Armor to Moderate, you have to upgrade all of the DC crew the same way, but not necessarily the other Crew.

Boarding Skills of crewmembers are bought for each Crew Type at a cost of 1 point per level, up to a max of 10. Boarding Crew members are the only crew type required to purchase a boarding skill, excluding passengers. The crew's Attack Die Bonus (ADB) is obtained from this skill the same way as the Gunnery skill dictates a gunner's or pilot's ADB with ship weaponry. Reference page 49 in the SDTNMTM rulebook for the Gunnery skill table. Other Crew types may choose to purchase a boarding skill. If they don't, they suffer a -2 penalty to their boarding roll due to their lack of regular combat training. If civilian passengers, without a boarding skill, are used in a scenario and they wind up in a Boarding combat the civilian passengers are considered to have Light-Inferior equipment and suffer a -4 penalty to their rolls due to lack of training. However, everything counts in large amounts, as you will see in the combat description later.

Transporting Troops

The maximum number of boarding crew you may purchase for a particular ship is limited to the number of cargo spaces the ship has; namely one boarding crew per cargo space. For instance, a Shryak Shuttle has four cargo spaces and it can carry up to 4 boarding crew, while the Narwhal, a Warhound class ship, has ten cargo spaces allowing it to carry up to 10 boarding crew.

This troop maximum is set for one-off games. It is assumed that the troops riding in the cargo space have enough air and supplies to last though the game and the trip home. The boarding crew's barracks are considered off-table. For those who wish to use Boarding rules for Campaign games or multiple scenarios with extended time between fights, you will want to buy Extra Crew slots for the ship at a cost of 5 points and 5 slots instead of Cargo slots which cost 1 point and 5 slots. Ships transporting troops fitted with Extra Crew slots act as Barracks for the troops during long campaigns. The point difference between the Cargo slots and the Extra Crew slots are due to the presence of longer term life support systems and living quarters on the ship. The Extra Crew slots are only available for Warhounds, Space Stations, freighters, and shuttles with Translight capability. The other ships' power systems are not powerful enough to sustain crew for long-term interstellar travel without aid and therefore will require living space available off-ship for longer missions.

Boarding Phase

The Boarding Phase is an additional phase in the normal turn sequence. It occurs after the Missile Results phase at the end of each turn.

Ship crews have a few options in this phase:

  1. Docking
  2. Boarding
    1. Boarding Combat
    2. Breaking Off
    3. Looting
    4. Scuttling Combat


To dock, the attacker must be able to match the target's speed (drive), then you have a piloting skill roll-off between the boarding ship and the defending ship, just like the optional ramming rules on pg. 71 of the main rulebook. If the pilot of the boarding ship rolls higher than the pilot of the defending ship, the attacker has docked successfully. Any other results in a failure. If both players roll 1's, then they have crashed into each other, and take damage as per the ramming rules.


Boarding Combat

Once docked, the docking mechanism cuts a sealed breach in the target ship's hull for the boarders to get through to the cargo hold. As an important note, No significant damage is done to the defenderís ship when the hull is breached boarding action. This docking mechanism just allows the boarding crews access to each other. The number of personnel that the attacker can allocate to a Boarding action will be based on the number of cargo spaces in the defending ship. Taking the Shryak shuttle as an example, it has 4 cargo spaces and can have a boarding crew of 4. The Shryak shuttle initiates a boarding action against a Borax freighter. The Borax freighter has 14 cargo spaces, therefore all 4 of the shuttles boarders may participate in the attack. *

If you are using the expanded cargo rules from the Kashmere Commonwealth supplement, the maximum on each side in combat is the number of cargo spaces in a particular cargo hold being attacked.

When multiple boarding crewmembers are in combat at the same time add +1 to the die roll for each crewmember beyond the first crewmember. This rule mimics the rules governing multi-barrel weapons mounted on a ship. Remember that inexperienced or untrained combatants still count their penalty in combat.

* Note: For ships that were created before the Kashmere Commonwealth supplement, or if you choose to use more basic rules, see page 10 of the Warhounds supplement for set cargo capacities of shuttles and freighters. If a ship's template shows it's cargo space amount, then use the ship template.

The more individuals that are in combat the easier it is for them to overwhelm the opposition through sheer numbers alone. Since it is Rare for existing SDTM ships to have Cargo holds larger than 10 spaces, this shouldn't be overbalancing.

Once both sides have determined which of their crew is in combat, both sides roll their dice versus the opponent's Defensive Value. If the roll is higher than the opponent's Defensive Value, and then the opponent takes one casualty from among those crew in combat that round, and any other result is a miss. The total dice roll plus modifiers determines whether a side has inflicted a casualty on their opponent. The choice of the casualty is switched between the owning player and the opposing player, just like weapon or torp criticals. Every odd numbered casualty a side takes, that side chooses where the loss will come from their crew in combat that round. Every even casualty a side takes, their opponent chooses from the side's crew that participated in combat. This continues until one side is wiped out, surrenders, or breaks off the combat by sealing the breach.

For purposes of determining which side is winning the combat, the modified high die from each side is compared. The side with the higher adjusted roll on the High die is winning. The High die is determined the same way as fighter combat (highest die roll + modifiers). Doubles add together just like with damage determination in ship combat. The highest dice are compared even if no damage was inflicted that round, as the higher rolling side is considered to have pushed the combat forward into the opponent's cargo hold. If the cargo hold size is different than before, then the maximum number of crew in combat is adjusted accordingly.

When there are crewmembers involved in the boarding combat and they have mixed equipment the modifiers for multiple boarding crew change. For every similarly equipped combatant past the first combatant add +1 to the die roll. The rest of the combatants on your side confer only +1 for every 2 crew beyond the first, rounding down.

Breaking off

After each resolution of boarding combat, the winner of that round of boarding combat may attempt to seal off the breach caused by the boarders and break away from the ship. The winning ship must have Damage Control to repair the breach. To seal the breach, one of the crew on the winning side that did not fight in combat may attempt to seal the breach by making a Damage Control roll, only for the purposes of sealing the breach. If successful, both the attacking and defending ship's hulls are re-sealed and break away form each other, ending the boarding combat. When the Damage control is used in this way, it may be rolled any round without the usual limitations. But remember it is only used to seal the breach, and does not repair any damage boxes.

If there are no opposing crewmembers to fight, then the attackers may either automatically seal the breach, or perform looting or scuttling combat.


Looting is possible only when cargo is within the hold that the boarding ship has docked into. For every two boarding crew, one unit of cargo may be transferred between ships per Boarding Phase. A single boarding crewmember may transfer one unit of cargo for every three consecutive boarding phases spent looting.

Weapons left behind by fallen boarding crew may be scavenged from the fallen crew instead of moving cargo. Remember no matter how well armed the crew or passengers may be, they will still suffer the same non-combatant penalties thoughout the battle. If there is no cargo, or the attackers choose not to loot, they may only seal the breach or perform scuttling combat

Scuttling Combat

This type of combat is where the boarding crew attacks the ship itself. They automatically do one point of damage that ignores Damage Reduction. Also, the boarding crew will roll their boarding dice versus the ship's Defensive Value. If they roll above the ship's Defensive Value, then they have caused a critical hit to the ship. This critical is in addition to the effects caused by the point of damage that they automatically do every round while scuttling the ship. If their roll is successful, the scuttling boarders may seal the breach and return to the other ship. The boarding crew must make the decision to return to the ship prior to rolling the critical. If they choose to stay on the ship and the target ship's reactor detonates, then both ships are destroyed, if the ships are the same size. If a Personal Assault Craft detonates while docked to a Warhound, then the Attack Craft is destroyed, and the Warhound takes maximum ramming damage, ignoring Damage Reduction, to the section in which the ship had once been docked. Naturally, any boarding crews involved in this situation are vaporized in the explosion.

Combat Example

Skill abbreviations: P=Piloting, G=Gunnery, B=Boarding


Shryak Shuttle II, Luches Utopia system patrol ship

Drive 12, Dam. Red. 5, Def. Val. 10

1 Pilot w/ P 5 G 5, considered Inferior-Light for boarding purposes (no upgrade) 10 pts

1 Gunner w/ G 6, considered Inferior-Light for boarding purposes (no upgrade) 6 pts

4 Riot police w B 7, Average-Moderate equipment (2d8 + 1d8 for attack dice) 19 pts

BPV-34 TPV-69


Shryak Shuttle, stolen Luches medical shuttle w/ refugees

Drive 8, Dam. Red. 5, Def. Val. 10

1 pilot w/ P 3, G 3, considered Inferior-Light for boarding purposes (no upgrade) 6 pts

1 Gunner w/ G 5, B 5, Average-Light equipment (2d8 + 1d6 for attack dice) 11 pts

4 passengers w/ Inferior-Light equipment (2d6 + 1d4-4) 4 pts

BPV 34 TPV- 55

Turn 1; The Patrol ship can attempt to dock with the medical shuttle because it has enough movement to end in the same hex as the medical shuttle, and can move at least as fast as the medical shuttle. Both pilots roll off. The patrol ship pilot rolls a 7 and adds her piloting skill for a total of 12. The medical shuttle's pilot rolls an 8 and adds his piloting skill for a total of 11. Since the patrol ship got a higher score, it has successfully docked with the medical shuttle, much to the refugees' chagrin.

After the successful docking, the Luches riot marines barrel into the medical shuttle's cargo hold. Since the medical shuttle's cargo hold is four cargo spaces in size, all four of the riot marines may enter combat. The refugees cry for help brings the Gunner from his post and he trades places with one of the refugees. At this point the Gunner is involved in boarding combat and he cannot fire his ship weapon. This leaves the gunner and three refugees to deal with the rebel scum. Since all four riot marines have the same equipment and boarding skill, they have attack dice of 2d8 + 1d8 + 3. The +3 is the modifier for multiple combat units. Since the medical shuttle's gunner has the best dice, the refugees will use his attack dice and add 1 for having at least 2 supporting crew with lesser equipment and boarding skill, for total attack dice of 2d8 + 1d6 +1. Both sides roll their dice. The riot marines need to roll an 8 or better with their modified total dice roll to inflict one casualty while the refugees need to roll an 11 or better on their modified attack dice. The riot Marines roll a 3, a 5, and a 1, +3, for a total of 12, scoring a hit. The refugees roll a 7, a 4, and a 1, +1, for a total of 13, also scoring a hit. Since all the riot marines are the same, one fall in glorious combat. Since this is the first casualty for the refugees, the refugees' controller has one of the refugees is silenced by the Luches Utopia henchmen. To determine the winning side, the riot marines rolled a 5 + 3 for their high die while the refugees rolled a 7 + 1, both of which equal 8, so neither side is relinquishing a single inch to the other.

On the second turn of the combat, the riot marines have one less member on their side while the refugee without room to be in combat moves up to take the place of a fallen comrade. The riot marines now have attack dice of 2d8 + 1d8 + 2 while the refugees remain the same. This time, the marines roll a 7, a 4, and a 3, +2, for a total of 16, felling another victim of tyranny. The refugees roll two 2's and a 1, +1, for a total of 6, missing their oppressors. Since this will be the second casualty for the refugees, the patrol team chooses the casualty, and the valiant gunner falls to their blows. The riot marines' highest die was a 7 + 2, for a total of 9 while the refugees rolled two 2's for their highest die + 1, for a total of 6. The refugees are pushed back into their own hold by the advancing marines.

On the third turn, the riot marines are unchanged for attack dice while the refugees have lost their veteran leader, forcing them to resort to their own desperate, untrained retaliation, providing them with attack dice of 2d6 + 1d4-2 (due to their numbers and lack of combat training). The riot marines roll a 5, a 6, and a 1, +2, for a total of 14, scoring yet another hit. The refugees roll a 6, a 4, and a 2, -2, for a total of 10, just barely missing the marines. As another refugee falls, the others decide to give up and pray for mercy in the Utopia's Courts. Sadly, for the refugees, the Luches Utopia is not known for leniency against those who try to escape. They are publicly executed as spies trying to smuggle information to the Utopia's enemies; a common excuse for removing known rebels from the populace in such a way as to provide an example to citizens who may consider a similar escape route.

End Notes

These rules are MUCH more complicated than many suggested methods of resolving boarding combat, but is my attempt to find a mesh with the existing Combat ExpressTM rules to make boarding actions a reality for Silent Death. It makes for a new ship-scavenging method for major and minor houses, now that the tractor beams have been rendered useless due to tractor beam-proof hulls (new tech released Hostile Takeover that quickly spread into public domain and costs nothing to upgrade). I have no idea If these rules conflict with rules in the to-be-released supplement, Explosive DecompressionTM, or not, because I don't have access to the manuscript. I made these unofficial rules as a constructive release of my eagerness (negative people would call it impatience) to see boarding actions become a part of Silent Death. I really hope that this is something that people will find useful, and provide constructive criticism/personal opinions about them on the Silent DeathTM newsgroup,