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I've been wanting to write this for some time (according to the date stamp when I created the file on my desk-top as a reminder the 5th of February 2004), but never quite got around to it. It's been something that bugged me for some time, and the geek in me wanted to shout it out to the world, so now I've got a few spare minutes, I've decided to write it up and moan about it to the world.
The Nebulon-B class frigate is one of the few "official" vessels from the Imperial and Rebel fleets, since apart from the Corellian Corvette seen at the start of "A New Hope", Imperial Star Destroyers, and the Mon-Calimari Cruisers seen during "Return of the Jedi" is the only combat capital ship seen in the Original Trilogy of Movies. But according the stats given by West End Games is a little crap, for a capital ship designed for a time of war, its rubbish, and that may account for why so many ended up in Rebel and Pirate Fleets. According to Star Wars.com, the Nebulon-B is
Manufactured by Kuat Drive Yards -- makers of the mighty Star Destroyers -- the Nebulon-B escort frigate was designed as an affordable capital ship meant to handle the threat of Alliance starfighters. It came as response to repeated Alliance raids on Imperial convoys. Accompanied by escort frigates, the rich prizes of Imperial shipping suddenly became risky ventures to Alliance tacticians. The escort frigate's launch bays can hold two squadrons of starfighters and the ship carries specialized weaponry designed to hit small targets. In response to this new threat, the Rebels developed the heavily-armed B-wing starfighter.
Through defection of Imperials and a number of notable victories, the Alliance steadily acquired frigates throughout the course of the Galactic Civil War. Enough escort frigates were in use by the Alliance that they informally were known as Rebel cruisers. Many were refitted for other duties -- such as Rebel medical frigates. In these vessels, Alliance techs have replaced the launch bays with hospital suites. After sustaining injuries at Cloud City, Luke Skywalker was treated aboard a medical frigate.
However, for a vessel built for dealing with Starfighters, the Nebulon-B is a terrible design, according to its official stats by West End Games it has a Hull of 3D+2, Shields of 2D, 12 Capital Scale TurboLaser Batteries (6 Front, 3 Left, 3 Right) with 3D Fire Control doing 4D Damage, and for defending against Starfighter attacks it has 12 Starfighter Scale Laser Cannons (6 Front, 2 Left, 2 Right, 2 Back) with 2D Fire Control Doing 2D Damage.
Even against supposedly outdated fighters such as the Y-Wing this is pitiful, imagining a battle between 6 * 2 man Y-Wing fighters and the 854 man crew of a Nebulon-B.
Assuming both sides are commanded by a competent commander, and the Y-Wings were stupid enough to attack from the front without simply Hyperspacing in close to the Frigate.
The Frigate would have 3 rounds of attacks of attacks before the Y-Wings could attack, the Y-Wings closing from the detection range of the Nebulon-B (150 Space Units) to within their own weapons range of the Frigate (36 Space Units for their Ion Cannons, 25 for their Laser Cannons and 7 for their Proton Torpedo Launchers) at their maximum speed of 28 (All out speed of 4 * 7). They would detect the fighters in their first round and scramble crews to the turrets, but would only have 3 rounds of attacks since they are surprised in the first round.
However the only attacks they can do against the fighters are Capital Ship attacks, and using the Second Edition Revised Rules, the fighters get an additional 6D to dodge these. So the Frigates Crew are firing with a skill of 9D (4D+1 Skill, 3D Fire Control, 2D+2 Command Bonus for the 6 cannons combining fire on the same target). While this is an impressive amount of skill, especially considering the Laser cannons get a bonus 6D of damage against fighters, so will do 10D damage, a lot compared to the Y-Wing's 4D Hull and 1D+2 Shields, but unfortunately, the Y-Wings would be dodging with an impressive 12D+2 skill (4D+2 Skill, 2D Manoeuvrability, and 6D Scale bonus).
So it unlikely that the Frigate would hit, especially considering that it will only get one shot per round at this skill level, extra shots will drop the skill by 1D each, and if they fire independently instead of combining fire, although they will get 6 shots per round, it will only be with a skill of 7D+1.
But let's make the fire crews of the Frigate lucky, or one of the Y-Wing's Pilots unlucky, depending on how you look at it, and they hit and destroy a Y-Wing before the fighters close to weapon range. So the 5 remaining Y-Wings can now open fire on the Frigate, getting their bonus for Scale, they stand little change of missing with their skill of 12D+1 with the Laser Cannons or 13D+1 with the Ion Cannons, however this round they cannot open fire with their Proton Torpedoes as they are still out of range, since they are still 24 Space Units from the Nebulon-B (firing after their full speed move this round (double their normal speed)). The Nebulon-B's dodge is a feeble 5D+1 against these skills, so unless the fighter pilots are seriously out of luck, the Frigate is going to take multiple hits.
The Fighters now suffer from the Scale modifiers though, since the Frigate gains 6D to its hull against their attacks, and by combining fire against the capital ship, they can only muster 6D+1 for their Laser Cannons against the Frigates adjusted toughness of 11D+2 (3D+2 Hull, 2D Shields, 6D scale), or 5D+1 against the Frigates hull of 9D+2 (since it doesn't get shields) for Ion Damage. Very unlikely that they're going to do anything much against the massive vessel, however equally unlikely is whether its going to manage to get any more of them, since its Turbolasers are still hampered by the scale modifier, and its Laser Cannons are puny even when combined they only manage to do 3D+2 damage against the Y-Wings toughness of 5D+2, even if they manage to hit the fighters since their gunners skill is only 6D+1 against the fighter pilots skills of 6D+2. While this may be a slim difference, it does leave the gunners relying on luck to hit rather than skill, since they will only hit less than 50% of the time.
Since the Y-Wing gunners have such a massive bonus to hit the Capital Ship, they can fire their weapons multiple times, firing 4 or 5 times before it even becomes a risk that they might miss, and with the fighters 2 man crew, this doesn't even lower their dodge. While this still leaves it a remote chance that the Y-Wing's will damage the Nebulon-B, while the Nebulon has to rely on luck to stand any chance whatsoever of hitting and damaging the Y-Wing's.
The next round, the Y-Wings can open up with their Proton Torpedoes, hammering the Nebulon-B with 10D+1 hits against its 11D+2 hull and shields, with twin launchers and a massive 7D difference in the Attack and Defence rolls for the fighters against the frigate (13D+1 Proton Torpedo Skill vs. 5D+1 Capital Ship Dodge), it is unlikely that the Nebulon-B will not suffer damage, and from now on the fighters can manoeuvre around the frigate staying to its sides and rear, so that not as many weapons can be co-ordinated against them.
With 12 Torpedoes in their magazines it is likely that they will leave the capital ship in flames, if not totally destroyed, especially since one of the most minor effects a vessel can take on being damaged is to lose its shields (50% chance on a damage roll that beats the targets resistance roll by 0-3), dropping its defence down to lower than the Y-Wing's damaging capability.
And that's just 6 fighters, imagine how quickly the battle would go against 12 or more rebel fighters, especially if they were faster or more heavily armed such as the X-Wing or B-Wing Starfighters.
But then again, perhaps the true awfulness of this design was on purpose, after all, in "Return of the Jedi" you never saw the Empire fielding any of these vessels, only the Rebellion using captured Nebulon-B's. In sourcebooks, the Nebulon-B is a considered a real prize by any Pirate Captain who manages to get his hands on one. But if you were an Imperial Captain facing off against an enemy, wouldn't you feel a lot better if they were using a stolen vessel which was riddled with flaws, after all, the Nebulon-B has a space speed which stock light freighters can match, every other combat vessel in the basic rules manages at least 150% of its top speed.
So there you go, my theory is that the Nebulon-B is rubbish on purpose, the Emperor's fiendish plan was to create a vessel that he knew his enemies would steal, since they were so short of capital ships, but that was so weak, slow and badly designed (it hasn't got any rear mounted Turbolasers, so if it turns to run it can be pounded into vapour), that his enemies would be easy to beat. Not much of a theory, but please feel free to comment in the forum if you feel different.
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