Bugs and Boarders

Airships: Conquer the Skies
17 Oct 2014, 2:17 p.m.

The release of Airships early access 5 is scheduled for Tuesday, October 21. All that reminds is some final testing and baking the releases, and you'll get to play with the new features like ramming and boarding and sails. To bridge the gap, here's an overview of the new kinds of crew you can get, as well as two stories of ridiculous bugs I discovered in the last few days.

Crew Types


  • Work Speed: 10
  • Combat Strength: 2

Operate airships and defensive buildings, fetching supplies, firing weapons, repairing, fighting fires. By far the fastest workers, and somewhat capable of defending themselves against boarders.

Air Marines

  • Work Speed: 5
  • Combat Strength: 4

Shipboard troops that man guard posts and protect vital ship modules. In times of need, they can also perform most of the duties of an air sailor, but much more slowly. They can be commanded to board enemy ships and buildings, leaping across the gap. Once an enemy structure has been boarded, they move to disrupt weapons fire and try to take control of the bridge. If they succeed, the structure comes under the control of the boarders. The remaining crew stop fighting, but will only do basic maintenance and repair work, so the task of operating weapons falls to the occupying marines.

Air Grenadiers

  • Work Speed: 7
  • Combat Strength: 6

Elite boarding troops with grappling hooks. More expensive than marines, and less interested in guard duties, they stand at the ready for the command to attack. Their grappling hooks are a far more reliable and longer-ranged way to board enemy ships and buildings - and they're better at fighting too.


  • Work Speed: 5
  • Combat Strength: 4

While airships have marines and grenadiers, buildings have guards, who are a lot cheaper to support thanks to the convenient city next door. This makes it possible to have most buildings guarded against minor boarding attempts to which they'd otherwise be very vulnerable.


Boarders fighting their friends

While testing the new boarding system on buildings, I noticed that sometimes, after a building had been captured, fighting would suddenly break out again. Was this some kind of revolt or rearguard action? No, it was the friends of the original boarders, who had not gotten the memo that the fight had already been won. All the boarders knew while crossing from one place to another was what they were supposed to board. So if some of the boarders were delayed, and the fighting was won very quickly, by the time they arrived at their target, it was already under new management. Undeterred by this, they would insert themselves as boarders and start fighting their comrades.

Secret police encourages enemy sabotage

This is a really embarrassing one if you've been playing Airships already. A while ago, I introduced a new espionage mechanic in singleplayer that lets people see enemy defences and sabotage them. When I first introduced it, feedback rapidly made it clear that it was way overpowered, so I added a Secret Police mechanism that let you passively defend against sabotage. Still, even after the introduction of that mechanic, sabotage kept on being too powerful. So I increased the amount of espionage protection given by the different levels of secret police and released.

Now it turns out that I was not very... awake when I wrote that code, because going back over it, I finally discovered the problem: I had meant to subtract the secret police value from the success chance of spy actions, but I was instead subtracting it from the failure chance. So in practice, the more money you spent on secret police, the easier enemy spy actions became. Imagine a massive secret police organization putting up posters of convenient sabotage targets everywhere and supplying free fire bombs to all visitors...

Needless to say, both of these things are fixed now, and we're on track for the release!