The Dynamics of Crewmanship

Click here to jump to part deux

Click here to jump to boarding operations

The Mandate isn’t about being a ship in space. We have worked hard to create a dynamic chain of command flowing through both metal and flesh, ultimately giving you in-depth strategy, and exciting role-play mechanics with events inspired by the themes of science fiction TV shows such as Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek.

Please be aware that the following is subject to change throughout the pre-production phase, and this space will be updated according to current and future design plans. Also, battles conducted in space will be explained in a follow-up article but for now we’re focusing on the crew management and the isometric view with which you explore the ship, and control your crew.

With the Character Prologue (which we will launch a preview of soon), you will design your own spaceship captain, pick his/her attributes and chronicle the events that lead up to your court martial.

Remember, you are at the top of the chain and get to handpick your officers who will serve below you and direct your crew. Each officer can be put in charge of a work crew that manages one system aboard the ship, like the reactor, engines, weapons or defensive systems like shields or cloaking devices. As your ship takes damage and your crew is wounded or killed, each system will work at a reduced efficiency, and if you do not issue orders to repair in time, the damage may be permanent and require a refit at a friendly starbase.

Depending on your difficulty setting, your officers can be severely wounded, or die permanently (roguelike). On the higher difficulty settings you may need a constant stream of new recruits and officers to replace your losses. However, the officers that do survive will become battle-hardened veterans and may qualify for command of a starship or a star base. Train your crew into a well drilled war machine.

As the crew is layered according to title, so too is the ship according to system. Pierce the energy shields, then the armor plating and bulkheads before puncturing the hull. Once the hull is breached, watch as the crew within that area - or subsystem - is vented into space. You’ll see the inside from the outside, and the outside from the inside.

As the captain you can move around freely inside your ship. Depending on how strict you are with discipline, your crew and officers may stop to salute you, or they may ignore you, especially if off duty. As captain you can set the crew shift roster or delegate this to your 1st officer. Via the shift roster you can manage how the crew will be deployed for different action-states: “battlestations”, “repel boarding party”, “ramming speed”, “condition clear” etc. You create templates for each action-state and customize crew deployment for later use.

To summarize, you will directly control your captain from an isometric view and can move him or her around the ship and also issue commands directly to crew members. Alternatively, you can use predefined action-states (as discussed above) which will define unit formations as in soccer, or a war game.

The formation determines how many, and where, the crew is deployed, which in turn affect the performance of your ship. This way you can effortlessly switch between different action-states as needed without having to switch between 3D space view and isometric view.

Enlisted and officers

You will begin the game with a skeleton crew aboard a single frigate. As you explore the universe and progress through the game, your relative weakness should be short lived. Larger ships require larger and more specialized crews, as well as more experienced officers to lead them on your behalf to offload you and let you focus on the important decisions. As captain you do not normally deal directly with every individual enlisted and instead you rely on your officers to manage them on your behalf.

The crew on your ship is divided as follows:

  • ‘Enlisted’ make up the bulk of your crew and are the seaman, able seaman, petty officers etc that run your ships
  • They are lead by non-commissioned officers (NCO) who report to you, the captain
  • On larger ships the non-commissioned officers may report to an intermediate level which are the commissioned officers who in turn report to you
  • Once you become a flag officer, you may commission your own flagship and pick a capable captain as your 1st officer while you yourself command and oversee your battle squadron and focus on the big picture. Of course you are free to continue managing your crew as before if you prefer this.

As your crew gain experience, they will become more efficient and candidates for promotion. As the ranking officer in your sector of space it falls on you, the captain, to promote deserving crew members. This is both a good way to improve morale and nurture talented crew members. Eventually a crew member will reach a natural plateau and cannot acquire more skills. As captain you have three options:

  • Keep the crew member in his/her current position, the crew member will continue to improve in terms of efficiency but not acquire any new skills
  • Enroll the crew member in an officer training course at your starbase provided the necessary upgrades are built
  • Assign the crew member as an instructor back at your starbase to improve the quality of raw recruits so they have more experience before you take them into battle
  • Depending on the crew member, you may need an officer school, a war college or naval academy for either some or all of these options to be available

Officer ranks

The Grand Fleet traces its origins many hundred years back and its ranking structure and hierarchy are inspired by that of the navies of old Earth. Below is an illustration that shows how the officers progress through the ranks. On the rightmost row is the final rank that any officer can achieve before he/she must be sent to the officer school, war college or naval academy to continue his or her progression.

Note that enlisted ranks are NOT covered in this overview!

The first row covers the NCO ranks while the commissioned officers are featured on the 2nd and 3rd row. Technically a captain is both a role and a rank and so could occupy any rank on the 2nd and 3rd row. The fourth row is for admiral rank officers who command larger formations of the Grand Fleet like divisions and fleets. The Grand Fleet as a whole is commanded by the Lord High Admiral who is only accountable to the Emperor or Empress or if the Sovereign is indisposed, to the council of Grand Dukes.

As you progress through the game, you will earn promotions, recruit and train officers, and research and construct bigger ships. By mid game you will be able to form a flotilla and bring along escort ships to boost your strength. Eventually you will progress to flag officer rank and may commission a flagship to direct your own battle squadron. While you control your own ship, the other ships in your flotilla or battle squadron are either controlled by NPC captains who report to you, or you can invite other players to join for a shorter or more extended period of time. Transitioning between singleplayer and cooperative mode will be effortless.

We mentioned earlier that you would start the game with a small frigate and a skeleton crew, and we thought we would give you an idea of what the mid to late game could look like if you decide to bring along more than one ship. Below is an example of a fairly powerful battle squadron.


Battle squadron Azimov - Rear Admiral Cromwell commanding [player character]

  • First flotilla
    • HMS Admiral Makarov, Battlecruiser [Flagship]
    • HMS Warspite, Heavy cruiser
    • HMS Hornet, Destroyer
  • Second flotilla
    • HMS Collinder, Heavy cruiser
      • 131st Fighter Squadron "Georges Guynemer"
      • 12th Bomber Squadron "Tiger Sharks"
      • 71st Bomber Squadron "Red Devils"
    • HMS Endeavour, Light cruiser
      • 23rd Interceptor Squadron "Richthofen"
    • HMS Endurance, Troop Transport

The player character has opted to stay loyal to the Empress which can be seen by the "HMS" prefix [Her Majesty's Ship] in front of the ship names. That being said you can rename all your ships and squadrons as you see fit. Notice that both the Warspite and the Collinder are heavy cruisers and that the latter is configured as a carrier. Of particular note is the troop transport HMS Endurance, which carries both reserve crew to replace crew losses on the other ships as well as a large complement of marines to use for boarding operations. In addition she has extensive medical facilities to hasten the recovery of wounded crew.

We hope this answers many of your questions (particularly how similar The Mandate will be to FTL). We welcome your participation and discussion on the forums. Stay tuned for more design articles soon.

The Dynamics of Crewmanship part deux

In the first update we covered crew types, progression and your role as captain. For this second update we thought we would talk more about your crew, how they work and what you as a captain need to worry about.

So first of all, where does your crew come from? Initially your crew will be a mix of veteran and green crew. Some are pulled from the ranks of the remnants of the Grand Fleet while others are adventurers or maybe ex-cons like yourself. This may create some friction on your ship and it is important that you and your officers do not let things get out of hand or there might be a stand off in the mess hall or worse...

Beyond your Grand Fleet and ex-con crew their background is also defined by which faction they belong to. The faction is important for determining initial starting skills but any crew who works hard may eventually learn any skill. From the four factions (...) we can see their starting skills are as follows:

  • Romanov: very good commissioned officers, excellent captains
  • Black Eagle: excellent marines, very good non-commissioned officers
  • Europa: excellent science officers
  • Arkwright: excellent engineers

As you progress through the game you may rescue or hire more crew to join your fledgling fleet. After you have established a base of operations, you may construct crew recruitment facilities which increase the speed of crew recruitment and increase their starting skills. You may also assign veteran crew as instructors to help boost the quality of new recruits.

How do crew gain experience?

All crew will gain experience over time as a function of how long they have served on the ship. In addition crew that are exposed to particularly dangerous situations like taking part in a boarding operation or defending against a hostile boarding, will gain experience quicker. There is a clear risk & reward element here and as such your marines will level up fast, but they are also the first to be put in harms way. It is important to equip them with the latest and greatest personal arms and defence to increase the likelihood of them surviving. Once they hit an experience milestone, they will “level up”. At the same time they will gain new skills which make contextually sense given where and on what type of tasks they have spent the most time.

For enlisted the level up process is automatic and not something the captain would need to concern himself with. For NCOs and commissioned officers, they gain skill points when they are ready to level, and you as captain can assign their skill points and approve their promotion to the next higher rank.

What is the difference between a raw recruit and a veteran?

Beyond the obvious skill difference and efficiency, a veteran crew will generally have higher morale and it will take more to break him or her during battle. Veteran crew may also have a positive morale effect on the crew in their close proximity who feel reassured that they have competent crew backing them up. Veteran marines will be less likely to be suppressed in combat and more deadly.

Wait... morale? How does that work? What about fatigue, eating, resting?

Morale is an important crew statistic, especially during boarding operations. If morale drops too low, a crew member may panic and no longer respond to orders. Having veteran NCOs and commissioned officers close by to rally and lead by example, can help offset low morale. However, if an NCO or even worse a commissioned officer is killed in battle, it can have a devastating effect on the crewmen in his immediate vicinity.

In addition to morale, we also have fatigue which models the level of physical exhaustion. This means that as the combat drags on, both you and your opponents will start to tire out. You can equip your crew with various utilities and consumables that help replenish fatigue, however. In addition making sure your crew gets ample rest will remove fatigue and consequently improve morale.

As for eating, we have not decided exactly how to handle this, after all you are the captain and your quartermaster will see to the provisions of the ship. You may be able to provide exotic foods that can boost the morale of the crew, however.

What other ways are there I can boost morale?

Well, first of all, your behaviour and conduct will set an example for your crew. If you are a pirate captain it makes sense that you behave like a pirate, especially if most of your crew lean in the same direction. Alternatively, acting like a pirate captain who plunders and attacks merchantmen without cause while having a crew of mostly loyalist Grand Fleet crew, may not be such a smart idea -unless you fancy yourself commanding an escape pod! [Historical reference HMS Bounty...]

Secondly, winning battles, while taking minimal losses, and taking prize ships will also improve morale. If your crew is mostly loyalist Grand Fleet, and you behave mostly in accordance with the Articles of War, your crew will respect you for this. That does not mean that you need to be a goodie two shoes all the time, but you should be able to justify your actions, especially towards civilians and merchantmen.

Thirdly, you may customize what type of facilities is installed on your ship. Facilities will be used by crew that is not on duty. For example a holo-deck or an auditorium or a café. You could add facilities that will let crew relax to improve morale and reduce fatigue more quickly.

What other types of facilities can I install and can they affect something else than morale or fatigue?

Sure, depending on the size of your ship, you may add several non-essential facilities. For example you could add additional crew rooms to house more crew, or an armoury to equip your crew with better weapons. Alternatively you could install a gym which will let crew blow off some steam and increase or maintain their physical attributes at the same time. An improved sickbay would speed the recovery of wounded or sick crewmen etc.

Beyond your crew and captain, who else can be on your ship?

Certain quests given by factions may require you to bring along or escort NPCs, like a dignitary (Grand Duke or high ranking officer). In addition if you have taken prisoners, you may hold these in the brig and you can interrogate them later. If you captured a notorious pirate, there may be a sizeable bounty on his head. Also, if you have upgraded your main base with an admiralty court, you could ship him off to face a court martial not unlike the one you faced during the prologue.

Are there other ways to obtain quests as well?

Yes, sometimes there might be an opportunity to accept a quest from one of your crew members. This could involve helping them somehow with a problem they might have, resolving a conflict or similar.

Beyond actual quests what else can happen on the ship?

From time to time, and depending on the state of your ship, we may have certain events. Events are not quests but more situations where you as captain must respond. For example, if during a boarding operation one of your crew disobeyed orders, perhaps due to panic, this is a breach of the Articles of War and may prompt a response one way or the other. Of course if you are a pirate you are free to ignore the Articles of War completely. This also comes down to what type of captain your crew see you as; are you a by-the-book captain or more pragmatic and prefer to improvise? Other examples of events could be saboteurs, stove aways etc. The Articles of War may give further hints as to what we plan on putting in, and we are also listening to the community!

This concludes our investigation into your crew and should hopefully leave you with more questions answered. We will do a follow-up on crew morale, reputation variables and your captain’s image in a future design update.

Feel free to use to ask additional questions.

Boarding Operations

This update focuses specifically on board operations and how these will work in The Mandate. We get a bit sidetracked along the way but hope that is ok! This is probably the longest design update so far.

Boarding operations may be initiated by either one or more players or the computer. If you are playing The Mandate in cooperative mode it may be possible to coordinate a boarding operation with the other player(s) which could be especially useful if taking on large and heavily armed enemy ships. For the purpose of this update we assume that the player is alone and the one who is initiating the boarding.

First of all when preparing a boarding operation you will want to assess the relative strength of the enemy ship(s) that you have selected as your target. Usually a larger ship will have a larger crew complement and marines which will give you a rough idea of your chances. In addition you can scan the enemy ship to reveal intelligence which may help plan your boarding operation. You also need to decide what exactly the goal of your boarding operation should be: are you attempting to take a prize ship, quick sabotage mission to disable enemy ship weapons that are raining death on your fleet/allies or are you rescuing a space princess?

Once you have decided on your objective and are confident you have the strength to pull off the boarding operation you can equip your marines with the weapons, body armour and tools which you think will help ensure success. [Research, design and manufacture of infantry weapons is worthy of its own design article and outside the scope of what we are discussing today] That being said you will be able to save out templates to effortlessly switch between different loadouts. Also, you may have NCOs and officers assigned to lead your boarding parties who can boost morale and increase the combat efficiency of your marines. This is analogous to the human chain of command that exists aboard your ship and extends from the captain and downwards.

One note about "marines" which in our context is a generic term for the portion of your crew that you currently have assigned to perform or repel boarding operations. It is perfectly possible to assign the ship's cook or secretary to boarding operations but do not expect them to be terribly efficient. While you can specialize a portion of your regular crew for boarding operations it is also possible to train specialized infantry at your main star base provided you have the necessary upgrades. Also, you may obtain elite infantry which you cannot train yourself but instead you will need to acquire these. One example: Remain loyal to Empress Anastasia and you may eventually be allowed to recruit elite infantry of the Preobrazhensky Lifeguard regiment (History 101: one of the oldest and elite regiments of the Imperial Russian Army. Personal body-guard of Empress Catherine the Great).

Assuming you decide to risk boarding you will want to clear a path to the enemy ship and disable or destroy any enemy light craft as well as point defence weapons. Your assault shuttles are armoured and you may develop upgraded versions of these to increase survivability but they are not designed to dogfight enemy fighters or go up against enemy capital ship defences. In addition you could try to locate and knock out the artificial gravity well or (if you are less concerned with taking prisoners) the life support systems. Just remember to equip your own marines with mag boots or they could end up floating around inside the enemy ship as well.

Provided you have pierced a hole in the enemy shields, your assault shuttle(s) will make their way inside the shields and you will be able to chose from a number of different locations to dock. Rather dock is a bit too civilized since in fact your assault shuttle attaches itself to the capital ship and fires up a drill to pierce the outer hull of the enemy ship, like a mosquito. How much time the drilling will take depends on several factors like what type of drill is employed as well as the thickness and material used for the armour plates on the enemy ship. Yes, if you use a drill that is not suited for piercing a strong armour plate it may take ages to pierce the hull -if at all. It goes without saying that during the drilling phase your assault shuttle is very much a sitting duck. Once the drill has done its work, however, the fun can begin!

Once inside you will notice that you have limited visibility and there is fog of war obstructing parts of the ship. You may or may not encounter enemy troops right away and there may be other surprises like automated turrets, force fields, blast doors, alarms, jammers, hazards or explosive material etc. Your first concern should be to secure the immediate vicinity. This will allow you to more easily bring in reinforcements. You can order your marines around as well as set how autonomously they should behave in case they are shot at.

So you are onboard the enemy ship and you have a staging area setup. What now? Depending on the size of the enemy ship it may have between one and three decks. Typically a frigate would only have one deck whereas a heavy cruiser could have two decks. Each ship section is connected both horizontally with the adjacent ship section(s) and vertically with the deck above/below. Do you try to secure a ship section by section or deck by deck? Again, this will depend on what your objectives are as well as how well you know the specific ship layout and what type of resistance you expect to be facing.

While it is perfectly possible to launch a frontal assault you may actually stop and think things through as well. Especially in singleplayer where you can pause the game and issue orders to your ship(s) and boarding party it would be advisable to plan a bit ahead. If you decide on a frontal assault then where are the best spots for cover? For you and for the enemy? What kind of support weapons have you brought along? Can you lay suppressive fire while your assault troops advance or will you rely on their heavy armour to withstand enemy fire instead? An alternative to a frontal assault could also be to use hacking tools and gather more intelligence about the ship. Perhaps you can unlock sealed doors or take control of defensive turrets? If you have a motion scanner you can scan to get a better idea of where the enemy forces are located -provided you are not being jammed that is.

Not all crew on the enemy ship will try to resist you. Some may be civilians or unarmed and may surrender without a fight. How you treat them is up to you but consider your overall style of play (pirate, rebel, Corsair, reinstated Grand Fleet officer etc). This brings us to "rules of engagement" which affect the default behaviour for your boarding party. As captain you define these and you may modify them depending on what type of ship you are boarding. For example can your marines open fire first and ask questions later? Or only return fire? What about seizing property or detention of civilians? Should they even take prisoners? It goes without saying that a pirate captain would probably issue different rules of engagement than a player who is working his/her way back into the fold of the Grand Fleet. What if some of your boarding party members violate these rules of engagement due to stress or personal traits? How would your crew expect you to react given your style of play?

Specifically during boarding operations taking or inflicting casualties will affect the morale of your crew and the morale of the enemy. More experienced crew will generally take less of a morale hit due to friendly casualties than green crew. At the same time if one of your NCOs or even worse commissioned officer goes down during combat, this could have a huge impact on the morale of your crew and their chances of achieving their original objective. Likewise if you hunt down and capture or take out an enemy NCO, officer or even captain then that may have a detrimental effect on their morale. Capturing the enemy captain alive and forcing him/her to surrender the ship could be a less bloody option but a portion of the crew may decide to fight on still.

Casualties are inevitable on both sides. One of our goals with The Mandate is to properly represent attrition and make this a natural part of the game. You will lose ships and you will lose crew. Losing a capital ship is a big deal and we do not want this to happen too often, especially on the lower difficulty settings. Instead we plan on letting you lose less but more often: marines and light craft are ideal candidates here since they are easier to replace. Then again, as seen in the recent "Ghosts" gameplay trailer there will be a roll of honour on each ship. At your main base there will be a roll of honour for each ship lost. Will you end up like the captain in "Ghosts" or shrug it off?