Copyright 1998 T. Sheil & A. Sheil  All Rights Reserved

Planetary Sand

Advanced Supplement

Optional Rules, Ideas and Suggestions for the space game


In the basic rules, we covered tracked vehicles.  Several popular science fiction movies and TV series use vehicles which differ in size, purpose, method of propulsion, etc.

Here are the classes of vehicles:

Light Tracked Vehicles: unarmored or light vehicles with tank tracks.  These can be fast, and are generally used as light supply carriers, scout vehicles and the like.  Larger light Tracked vehicles can be used as mobile station-type facilities (maintenance, housing, drilling, satellite communication, non-combat rockets, etc.).

Armored Tracked Vehicles: personnel carriers, mobile self-propelled ray cannons, rocket/missile batteries and personnel carriers.  These vehicles offer armored protection and carry some sort of offensive capability.

Light wheeled vehicles are relatively small, used mainly for scouting and transport of small items.  They include the smaller transports - about the size of a 2 1/2 ton truck.

Heavy wheeled vehicles, like the larger light tracked vehicles, serve as big transports, mobile facilities.

Hover vehicles: assorted vehicles which hover a short distance above the ground, including regular hovercraft and the land speeder style vehicles found in star wars.  Hovercraft cannot rise above R 1/3 above the ground, cannot climb hills steeper than 45 degrees, and can be toppled if they pass over object of R 1/4 height or higher.  Speed is R 1/2 faster than their tracked or wheeled counterparts.

Most hovercraft can be knocked sideways R 1/3 if within R 1/2 of a large explosion, or if they are hit on the side by enemy fire.  The only exceptions are armored hovercraft, which have special gyros to keep them in place.  If caught within a blast, hovercraft receive damage and stand a chance of being flipped.  Roll one"flip dice."  1 through 4 means the craft stays on track, 5 or 6 means it capsizes.


Spacecraft vary in several ways, from standard fighters (Tie Fighters, Hammerheads, etc) to massive intergalactic transports.  We must differentiate between the various types, because size makes a difference!

Shuttlecraft and "APCs" are smaller craft used to carry people or cargo from a starship to other ships or a planet's surface.  They have light armaments, generally, and light shields or armor.  Shuttles and APCs are not speedy, by space standards.  Their role is to provide short-range transport of personnel and equipment.

Fighters are the aerospace equivalent of the  classic fighter planes of World War 2.  These ships can operate in space and a planet's atmosphere.  They are fast, armored and/or shielded, and carry heavy weapons for strafing, dogfighting and light bombing runs.  Fighters must have the support of on-planet airfields, mother ships (starships, "Death Star", etc.) or bases on satellites / space stations.  A fighter's armament is generally lighter than a full space cannon, yet larger than a standard ray rifle.

Starships come in several classes, their designation a matter of the distances they travel.  Starships are made for interplanetary travel.  They can include lighter transports, scout ships, light attack craft (the equivalent of PT boats), smaller battle craft (equal naval destroyers or light cruisers - DS9's "Defiant"), heavy battle craft (equal to heavy cruisers, aircraft carriers - examples are the Star Trek Enterprise) and super ships (Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars heavy cruiser).  Starships must remain outside the planet's atmosphere.  Types considered capable of landing on a planet have to land slowly and cannot fight while in the atmosphere.

Generic Medium Space Craft- like the old Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers ships or the saucer in "Forbidden Planet", a standard ship that can handle interplanetary fight, carry a small crew (platoon size or less), supplies, a couple of portable light ray cannons and a small land speeder or wheeled/tracked vehicle.  Though not fighters, they are usually well-armed and defended.  GMSCs are big enough to fend off a couple of fighters and large enough to carry supplies for a small space station or on-planet outpost.  Used mainly for resupply missions, exploration and outpost crews.

Stations, Satellites and Stars

Standard Satellite - Remember Telstar?  Standard unmanned satellites that serve as explorers, TV or radio transmitters, space telescopes, etc.  Necessary for space stations to maintain contact with larger bases.

Pit Stop Station - small station, normally crewed by one to five individuals.  These small stations are used to resupply ships en route to distant destinations.

Standard Station - a station with a crew of from ten to hundreds of people, serving as refueling and resupply outposts, recreation areas, trading posts, distant medical facilities, repair yards, etc.  Normally the standard station is in a planetary or lunar orbit.  May be armored, shielded and fitted with great offensive capability.  Examples include DS9.

Manned Moon - actually, a man-made "mini-moon" such as the Death Star.  This can be a large satellite or unusually massive space ship.  It would be a formidable target.  Of course, non-martial variants are likely.

Planetary Facilities

Installations found on planets range from tiny outposts to massive "mini cities."

Observer Station: ranging from a one-man exploration post to a twelve-man "forward observer" post, the Observer Station is the smallest and most Spartan of planetary installations.  There's usually a main building, some storage sheds and perhaps a telescope, communications station or weapon emplacement.  Observer stations are not heavily armored.  If the planet, asteroid or moon has no atmosphere or its air is toxic, the main building and perhaps several outbuildings will be pressurized.  A landing area for small shuttles is common.  Observer stations would be similar, in a way, to Antarctic outposts.

Permanent Installation - light: a light installation serves from 40 to 200 men, and includes mess area, barracks, a fully-equipped sick bay / infirmary with medical attendant, weapons area, observatory, communications bay, landing bays for shuttles, bays for land vehicles, and some kind of fortification or warning perimeter.  Permanent installations can serve as refuelling stops, armed fortresses, mining stations, observatories, distant outposts, communication facilities, etc.  A military installation would include 90% to 100% military personnel, the remainder being technicians or researchers.  Organization of these posts are hierarchical, with a commander, sub-commanders and rank-and-file personnel.  Civilian outposts would of necessity have a small military / police presence, from a squad of troops to a regular platoon of combat-ready soldiers with two or three fighter aircraft and armored vehicles.  A good example of an outpost like this is the small outpost fort in the movie "Starship Troopers".  In toxic or non-atmospheric planets, the main buildings would be pressurized.  Some more elaborate outposts are built within a dome that offers pressurized air to the entire outpost area.

Light military installations include armed vehicles, ray cannon emplacements, rocket batteries, hover or flying shuttles and usually a fighter component of two to five ships.  Fighter installations would naturally have more than five combat aircraft.

Medium Planetary Installation:  housing 200 to 500 people, the medium installation would be a major military post, on-the-ground space port, large mining operation with smelting or refinery, or even a small town made up of colonists.  The port would have a regular police / military contingent, observatory and science wing, small hospital, diverse housing (barracks, single, married couples, families, etc.) plus a regular administrative / bureaucratic type section.  While living areas would enjoy pressurized air on toxic or non-atmospheric planets, other buildings would have pressurized sectors at the very least.  Non-pressurized buildings would be unheard of in this size installation.  Adjunct activities and structures could include satellite repair, space ship repair yards, spacecraft landing facilities, spaceport, etc.  If the installation were purely military, it would have significant defensive and offensive weapons plus space fighters and GMSCs.

Large Planetary Installation: now we get civilized, as these massive spaceports are often domes or enclosed installations with all the amenities of Earth.  Along with living quarters and recreation, there would be a civic municipal administration.  These ports serve 500 to 10,000 people, and are evidence of serious colonization.  They would be accompanied by smaller orbiting space stations and satellites, and possibly lunar or asteroid outposts off the planet.

Large military installations would include massive weapons and defensive arrays, resupply for troops on distant stations, full starship repair and support services, large hospital, repair and maintenance sections and military administrative units.  Think big - a division or larger!  Now that's a tough installation to crack!

The Ins and Outs of Space Stations and Installations

A few rare planets have atmospheres which support human life.  The word here is RARE.  Most installations are built where the air is toxic, unsupportive or just not there!  Either way, you get caught outside without your oxygen supply and you're a goner.  

The difference between toxic or unsupportive atmospheres and non-atmospheres is a matter of pressure.  Blow open the bulkhead of a space station, and air comes whipping out, dragging with it anyone and anything in the ruptured compartment.  Most installations have doors which automatically close, isolating a compromised compartment.  As for the offended compartment...well, if you're not wearing a space suit, you're toast.  If you are, you still get sucked outside and have to deal with a swift change of place.

Airlocks allow entry and exit without the pressure problem.  It takes one turn for an airlock to change pressure so as to admit entry or permit exit.

In toxic space, the pressure problem doesn't happen.  Instead, all air in the compartment goes toxic, killing all inside who aren't wearing suits.  And in unsupportive atmospheres, those inside have one move to make it to pressurized rooms or they suffocate.  This also applies to space ship compartments, satellites, orbiting stations and planetary installations.

If you, the attacker, are standing within R 1/3 outside a compartment that gets compromised, you get knocked back R 1/3 and must remain in place one turn.

Most fighter pilots and armored vehicles crews have the good sense to wear space suits, in case their ship gets penetrated.  Pity those who don't.

So now, what kind of troops are around a space station or installation?  Full security and combat are provided by troops in space suits.  Internal security is handed over to troops without space suits and breathing gear.  Internal security troops can even use conventional firearms: assault rifles, submachine guns, pistols.  BUT the outer space fighters MUST use blasters, ray guns and the like.  Bullets can't fire in an atmosphere devoid of oxygen.

Most larger space stations have redundant life support systems, and these are well-defended and armored.  Small stations don't have this luxury, so if you an take out life support or the air supply, you've forced the defenders to wear space suits or else.  AND without backup from a space ship, they won't be able to remain since their oxygen and temperature control will be used up.

In other words, factor in the air problem when fighting in space.


It used to be that aliens were odd colored men, some sporting antennae.  Not any more!  There are "grays" and lizard men and cat people and froggos and bird folks and bugs.  The BEM (Bug Eyed Monster) has gone zoological!

Most man-sized BEMs can be treated as human troops, except perhaps they can breathe a toxic atmosphere and/or find oxygen poisonous.  When they get bigger than humans, a problem occurs.  How do we fight them?  Does it take multiple shots to kill?  This one you'll have to work out yourself for now.  For instance, it might take multiple shots to drop a giant bug with a ray rifle, but one shot from a rocket launcher will do the trick.


In space, communications are important.  We assume that individual communications gear is included in space suits and most other kinds of helmets.  We have an optional rule that for every 20 men, there must be a larger communications device, such as an individually-manned satellite dish.  These satellite communicators are expected on armored and other large vehicles.  A unit that loses communications must remain in place until contact is re-established.  If the dish is not destroyed entirely, roll a die.  That is how many turns it takes to replace it.  This is an optional rule that might add something to the game.

A robot can be the communicator, if so desired.


Organizing troops has its merits.  An optional rule is the use of commanders.  There must be one commander for each 10 men, plus another commander for every 40 troops.  Each tank and personnel carrier will have a commander, and a higher-ranking leader is needed for every five vehicles.  Leadership adds realism and makes thing interesting. If a leader is killed, a unit remains in place until another leader makes contact.  The unit can retreat in the direction of the nearest commander.  Naturally, you will want to have an extra officer or two in place to step in when other commanders get eliminated.  Officers are usually armed with lighter weapons than the regular troops - say, a ray pistol instead of a zap rifle.

Installations and stations will have whole command units, usually comprised of a base commander, his executive officer and an adjutant, plus a small corps of functionaries to oversee such departments as communications, security, supply and transport, etc.  If any of these departments is hit during a battle, it may begin "damage control" repairs so long as there is a leader / department head.  If the department head is not in place, repairs cannot commence.

Get the Troops!

We intended these rules for use with the large plastic spacemen sold by Glencoe. For ten bucks, you get a dozen troops, about 10 of whom are "combat ready."  They go well with the MPC recast armored personnel carriers and tank destroyers / self-propelled guns.  Our in-house wars have pitted Glencoe spacemen in these vehicles against each other in small, squad and platoon actions.

Because of the proliferation of 3" to 4" action figures, a variety of good spacemen can be found at the nearest toy stores.  We especially like the Star Wars Imperial troops because they offer various distinct troop types compatible in size with Glencoe figures.  Star Trek figures also work well, as do the smaller 3 1/4" GI Joes and various "off-brand" poseable spacemen.  It should be relatively easy to adapt these rules to specific vehicles found in the repertoire of current science fiction.  Things like the Star Wars "AT-AT" attack walker and GI Joe Cobra Tank are super for Planetary Sand.

Star Wars Imperial Stormtroopers are great as troops in space suits, while other Imperial and Rebel troops are great for in-station security and planets that have Earth-compatible atmospheres.  The three-inch GI joe figures, especially Cobra troops in blue uniforms, are excellent as vehicle and heavy weapons crewmen.  A recent find of green plastic 3 1/2" "Rambo" style army men was great for a space installation's inside security team.

Use your imagination!  Be ready to adapt, too.  After all, an AT-AT might be compared to a heavily-armored APC, but its walking motion might impose new capabilities and restrictions on movement.  Use common sense and creative thought to adapt our rules to the unusual weaponry.

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