What Makes a Sci-fi game?

Came across several things recently that cause me to question...

"What makes a game a sci-fi game rather than a fantasy game?"

As we all know, certain well selling games have sci-fi games that are essentially Sword and Sorcery type Fantasy Games with an overcoat. They say "Psionics" instead of "Magic", laser instead of bow, Alien creature instead of monster and you travel to planets rather than distant lands, but all these things essentially work the same.

What attributes make a game science fiction rather than repackaged S&S?

Thoughts?

Taxonomy upgrade extras:

I've played and watched and read across the whole spectrum of fantasy and sci-fi and I think that it is mostly a matter of background and interpretation of that background, rather than any specific set of attributes, and there is certainly an expanse of grey area in between the two - not to mention the other sub-genres that hover around these areas, such as horror and pulp and superheros, for example.

Most of the differences I've seen in games amount to differences in approach to what is being simulated as well as the level of abstraction that is chosen to re-create the simulation - this kind of difference is obvious if you think of the differences between games that allow you to control whole corps of troops en masse against games which youp play man against man or squad against squad.

I would strongly recommended getting a hold of and reading this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hobby-Games-James-ed-Lowder/dp/1932442960/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1223977596&sr=1-4 A series (101 in fact!) of short articles (about 2 pages each!) by game designers, discussing their favourite games. It gives a very interesting insight into what decisions professional game designers make and why when they're chosing the mechanisms they use in their games!

One of the things that provoked this philosophical thread was a comment I came across

"In creating Tabula Rasa, I was determined to break away from our roots in medieval fantasy and develop a solid science fiction universe."

In a sci-fi game (be it tabletop, video or pen and paper RPG) you have more powerful individual weapons and the big beastie attacking you might be a machine rather than a dragon, but are there that many real differences?

Before Jervis Johnson mucked around with the rules WH40K and WHFB were very similar, other than the former was more orientated to smaller units -but if you played Mordheim and Rogue Trader would there be any real differences?

The only real one I can think of it that a sci-fi battle offers more variety in enviromental factors

p

occured to me that a lot of the sci-fi movies I'd seen and video games I've played seem to involve lots of action in corridors!

phil

I doubt that is a defining characteristic of sci-fi. A lot of the fantasy RPGs and computer games I've played also have this attribute! ;)

Corridors are common, not defining..

A mate said in Scifi n'ames have a'pos'troph'es :)

More useful we discussed the firepower a modern or scifi soldier faces, and to reflect this drafted the following rule:-

[i] While games are generally played on flat tabletops in real life most flat terrain has small undulations. In military circles such dips and rises are termed "microterrain". When under fire infantry movement is often a mixture of hugging microterrain and sprinting across open spaces.
Infantry on foot can use a mode of movement known as "Tactical movement". Beasts with a sufficient level of inteligence may also be allowed to use Tactical movement. Sufficient level of inteligence would mean a creature that understands firearms, not a simple animal. A Hornagaunt can use tactical movement. A Zoat could not since its body is not suited to crawling. Tactical movement can only be used by Infantry and inteligent beasts on foot and capable of crawling.
Moving tactically makes a figure -1 to target until their next movement phase.
Irrespective of normal move allowance tactical movement is D6" rolled for each unit. The rolled distance is subject to usual penalties for difficult and very difficult terrain.
Because the fighter has to pay more attention to where they are moving all shots or throws they make in the rest of the turn are at -1 penalty.
A unit can begin or end a tactical move either standing or prone.
The GM can rule that terrain such as undamaged highways or landing pads are too flat to allow tactical movement.
Models carrying Standards, Ladders, Battering rams, other models or similar very bulky items or helping carry them cannot use tactical movement.[/i]

Corridors are common, not defining..

A mate said in Scifi n'ames have a'pos'troph'es :)

More useful we discussed the firepower a modern or scifi soldier faces, and to reflect this drafted the following rule:-

[i] While games are generally played on flat tabletops in real life most flat terrain has small undulations. In military circles such dips and rises are termed "microterrain". When under fire infantry movement is often a mixture of hugging microterrain and sprinting across open spaces.
Infantry on foot can use a mode of movement known as "Tactical movement". Beasts with a sufficient level of inteligence may also be allowed to use Tactical movement. Sufficient level of inteligence would mean a creature that understands firearms, not a simple animal. A Hornagaunt can use tactical movement. A Zoat could not since its body is not suited to crawling. Tactical movement can only be used by Infantry and inteligent beasts on foot and capable of crawling.
Moving tactically makes a figure -1 to target until their next movement phase.
Irrespective of normal move allowance tactical movement is D6" rolled for each unit. The rolled distance is subject to usual penalties for difficult and very difficult terrain.
Because the fighter has to pay more attention to where they are moving all shots or throws they make in the rest of the turn are at -1 penalty.
A unit can begin or end a tactical move either standing or prone.
The GM can rule that terrain such as undamaged highways or landing pads are too flat to allow tactical movement.
Models carrying Standards, Ladders, Battering rams, other models or similar very bulky items or helping carry them cannot use tactical movement.[/i]

I've been playing some 15mm WWII recently with a ruleset called CrossFire, which uses neither rulers, nor fixed game turns. These rules talk exactly about this - the fact that an trained infantryman looks at apparantly flat gound and sees it very differently to most people, because all of those little humps and bumps, rises and falls can means the difference between life and death in a battle.

The rule you describe covers this nicely, I think, for the scale you're rules are at - in that it should really only be regular infantry on foot (or appropraite creatures) that should be able to do this. You might also want to exclude certain bulkier armours from being able to do this.

Actually military writers like Poole bemoan the fact that German, Russian and oriental troops make great use of microterrain while US troops don't.

To simplify things I'll add it as a general rule, although there is always the option that certain primative, inexperianced or poorly trained units cannot use tactical movement if the GM rules it so. I can see certain macho units not using this

(Sorry about the double post CM -was using a very slow PDA that seems to have wanted to overcompensate!)

So Keeper, I'm guessing you're thinking Terminators don't get tactical movement since they don't get to pursue either?

phil

Exactly. You're hardly going to crawl and dash from bump to hump, half on your belly, across a battlefield if you're wearing TTDA. More to the point, you're not going to be able to. Same if you're wearing full-plate or your army just doesn't fight that way (like any Napolionic Infantry, for example!).