Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: south of Gundagai
Admitedly I'm referring to one particular line of EU in RPG sourcebooks, the Imperial Sourcebook (detailed info on the Imperial Fleet during the Rebellion era), the Death Star companion (generic blueprints of bridges and fleet technology systems) and Dark Empire sourcebook (specific mention of the New Republic efforts taken to successfully capture two Imperial class Star Destroyers and refit them, mostly testifying to the immense scale of every aspect of the project).
Our gaming group spent quite a bit of time on the Star Destroyers, basing many missions around them on both sides and scrounged our entire collection of RPG sourcebooks for every tidbit we could find (we had the entire collection between us, some 20 books or so), many of these were adaptations of published EU (Dark Empire, Tales of the Jedi, etc.) or just combined info from general LucasArts publications like the Star Wars Technology series, converted to gaming stats (Imperial Sourcebook, etc.).
One thing was clear, whilst Fleet strategies and some themes could be roughly associated with traditional seaborn fleet combat IRL, the engineering is nothing like sea going battleships. A Star Destroyer, or a Corellian Gunship for that matter are nothing respectively like a Bismarck or an Emden. They're not a New Jersey or an Oliver Hazard Perry either.
They're quite purpose built, using the Star Wars theme of epic and fantastic, but with elements of backstory and depth.
In spacefleet combat terms a Star Destroyer is very much like a battleship. But in boarding terms it is quite another kettle of fish, it is much more like a mobile space station, a full military base as impregnable as any major Imperial planetary/moonbased stronghold. Picture venturing with an assault force to "shut down the reactor core" of an Imperial moonbased stronghold with a population just shy of 50,000 military personnel, some 10,000 of these are hardened troops and at least 2000 of these are extremely well equipped Stormtroopers.
Every Imperial-1 class Star Destroyer carries all the equipment and manpower for the deployment of a prefabricated garrison in addition to its standard space going complement. Its vehicle shops and engineering facilities are capable of limited mass production of equipment up to and including small vessels (TIE starfighters and various landcraft). It is capable of functioning as a completely self contained starbase for 50,000 personnel for up to 6 years, without any intake of materials or supply although can be skeleton crewed by around 5000 personnel with full combat capability (at an efficiency penalty however).
Star Destroyers and most large Imperial vessels are compartmentalised rather than centralised, there are so many capacitor batteries (which turbolasers and computer banks for example require to provide steady power output), that even if by some unbelievably heroic effort an assault team of epic description managed to make their way to the very centre and most protected/impregnable part of the entire vessel and its intentional design, past every possible safeguard and security measure (including no direct paths to ship access points) to the main reactor, and switch it off like a light bulb, there are dozens of smaller reactors spread all around the ship. This is like a base, not a battleship.
In terms of boarding action it is not at all like the Yamato. It is like Guadalcanal.
In RPG terms the system used is damage scales on dice/damage. There are character scale, speeder scale, walker scale, starfighter scale, capital scale and planetary scale damage ratios. Each works exponentially to increase or reduce damage caused by other scales.
For example, let's say you have a character shooting at a speeder with his blaster pistol. The blaster does 4d6 dmg, the speeder has a 2d6 hull. Speeder is going to go boom, right? No, because of damage scales, it takes more like 10d6 (combined fire from an entire company) to start doing speeder-scale damage. Thermal detonators help with this (10d6 base damage), but armoured combat speeders have 4 or 5d6 hulls so you wind up with the same problem (you'll need a whole company all throwing thermal detonators at one).
Now imagine you're trying to sabotage the integral facilities of a capital class vessel with boarding action, like sabotaging the reactor core as you put it. It's not just going to take a grenade on a string, or even shaped charges placed on the main casing (which is part of the capital scale superstructure). You'll have to find some heat exchangers or some other vital system, which is going to be in a well defended, armoured engineering section, you'll require specific training and equipment for the job, and you'll be fighting urban warfare style against hardened military defences to get to it.
As for simply disabling Star Destroyers willy nilly with ion cannon, it's not quite that easy. Again it takes a capital scale weapon to make any impact, like the gigantic ion cannon based on Hoth. For a start the only vessels in the Republic fleet carrying that kind of weaponry around are the MonCal cruisers. Secondly ion cannon have much shorter range than turbolasers, so there's not a lot of chance of getting that close. Thirdly the secondary weapon banks of an Imperial-1 Star Destroyer are capital scale ion cannon, and where a MonCal cruiser can bring something like 15 banks to bear on any facing, a Star Destroyer can bring all 60 to bear anywhere in the upper hemisphere (it has reduced armament directly behind or in the lower hemisphere, but the entire lower hull is virtually impregnable from ship to ship damage, designed to repel things like asteroid collisions and space debris at speed).
The ion battery at hoth relied upon complacency and suprise, it counted on the arrogance of individual Star Destroyer commanders and the subsequent stupidity of sitting in close orbit unprepared for traditional fleet combat. The one disabled in ESB was a sitting duck, it's not a standard military practise particularly during fleet combat.
Had they sat at distant orbit prepared for a desperate and possibly dangerous defensive action, like Vader's flagship they would've been out of range, although ground targets would still be in range of their turbolasers when the planetary shielding became disabled by the surface assault (TIE/fc mixed in with regular TIE/In flights are used for sighting purposes although TIE bombers and scouts can do this too).
Essentially, when using full core rules and all the sourcebook material, our gaming group found existentially that one Star Destroyer virtually commanded an entire system, and required the entire Rebel fleet present at Endor to deal with in a one-on-one straight up fight. They are quite simply that powerful, and it hardly mattered varying tactics. In the end we only began gaining notable successes after getting Jedi characters high enough level to board like the Battle of Coruscant in Prequel Ep3, lightsabre our way to the bridge and take over using dialogue and roleplay.
There was no way in hell to do it using game statistics and technical mechanics, they're just too overpowered. We lost entire fleets of Corellian gunships and light cruisers until this happened, without so much as making a dent in a Star Destroyers hull, let alone recovering any boarding attempts we tried, even sending in entire battalions of powerarmoured assault troops.
They've got their own (Space Assault Stormtroopers, deadly stuff).