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Subject: Is Plasma Missile a must-pick technology? rss

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Sébastien Volle
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I was fortunate enough to get a pre-production copy of the game from Ystari and so I had the chance to play around a dozen games to this day. It goes without saying that I thoroughly enjoy the game, but a point of concern rose among my gaming group; it seems that Plasma Missiles are so vastly superior to any other weapons that the technology is must pick whenever it comes out.

Missiles have 2 key advantages over other weapons:
1. They fire before any other type of weapon
2. They need no energy

Plasma missiles specifically also deal a helluva lot of damage and are more flexible and less random than Antimatter because they roll 2 dice - so 2 potential targets - whereas Antimatter roll only one - so 4 damage against 1 target, which is crap against swarm of smaller vessels.

It quickly becomes clear that dreadnoughts fully armed with plasma missiles with some computer thrown in the mix are nearly unstoppable killing machine.
Sure missiles fire only once, but with - say - 4 missiles slots per dreadnoughts (maximum would be 6 if I'm not mistaken), that makes a ridiculous 8 dice worth 2 points of damage each rolled at the beginning of battle, that makes 32 potential damage over 16 potential targets with 2 dreads. More than enough to eradicate any kind of opposition without as much as a scratch, including the galactic defense station thing in the central hex.

In my opinion, Antimatter is not worth picking in any situation where missiles are available. With a hefty 4 energies requirement per slot, it's difficult to field more than a couple per ship, and such setup is easily countered with interceptors as noted above.

So, it seems there is too big a gap between fusion cannon and antimatter, and plasma missiles are just so much better. Are we missing something? Could plasma missiles really be overpowered and/or anti-matter too expensive?
At this point, I'm seriously considering ruling them out of the game, or at least adding some energy requirement to avoid the Deadly Missile Platform of Death setup mentioned earlier.

Thoughts?

PS: By the way, I understand missiles fire only once per battle. But in the case they are multiple opponents, are missiles fired once for all battles (and so for the whole battle phase) or can they be fired once against each opponent?
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Lizbeth
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Not that I'm an expert at all (I just curiously glance through the forums of this game) but surely you kinda mentioned the one drawback:

You fire them once per battle.

Surely that's kinda a big thing, if you rely on them and they come cocks up when the dice roll your kinda done for the fight aren't you?

Or is that mitigate by the sheer power of the deathy death?
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Jonathan Ramundi
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Missles are incapable of destroying population cubes also.
______

Anyway here's one potential counter:

Assuming you have two dreads with 4 Plasma Missles, 2 Gluon Computers, the default Engine and a Fusion Source to power it all.

I can more easily build two dreads with 1 Ion Cannon, 3 Phase Shields, 2 Improved Hulls, the default Engine and a Fusion Source to power it all.

So, right now your modifier is 0 (3 Phase Shields cancel out 2 Gluon Computers), so you need to roll a 6 to hit. Each ship needs three hits to be destroyed thanks to the hulls, so out of 16 dice rolled, your relying on 6 6s to come up. Not sure what the chances of that are...

(If I screwed up any calculations, my appologies.)

Also, something to keep in mind: Plasma Missile and Gluon Computer technologies are the two most expensive Military class techs. Focusing time and resources putting these ships together could be risky. For one thing, your empire will surely be lacking in other areas. Also your enemy has plenty of opportunity to see this strategy coming and prevent it.

I know we're talking about an extreme case, though, and there are many other factors to consider, but I thought I'd share my observations anyway.

Really looking forward to playing the game and testing this all out for myself.

EDITS: Clarity, spelling, and putting in this line.
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Sebastian Grawan
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Jotora wrote:
Missles are incapable of destroying population cubes also.
You could field a Plasma-Missile-Dreadnought with one slot of those neat population killin' bombs...
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Jeff A
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I really was wondering if there was going to be something like this, a weapon or tech that would give you such an advantage that the battles become barely winnable or worse, annoying and no longer fun.
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Chris Berger
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Kingsix wrote:
I really was wondering if there was going to be something like this, a weapon or tech that would give you such an advantage that the battles become barely winnable or worse, annoying and no longer fun.


You mean like the Laser Missile Wombat?
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Sébastien Volle
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Jotora wrote:
Missles are incapable of destroying population cubes also.
Nothing the Neutron Bomb (which is one of the 3 cheapest and most available techs) cannot fix, as noted above

Jotora wrote:

Anyway here's one potential counter:
[...]

I did not do the math, but I think if that works dread against dread, bring in some cruisers and the plasma missile maniac gets the odd in his favor again, since one slot of plasma missile can potentially beat two slots of improved hulls (if you can pull off good rolls of course).

Jotora wrote:
Focusing time and resources putting these ships together could be risky. For one thing, your empire will surely be lacking in other areas.
Hmm yes...
Quote:
Also your enemy has plenty of opportunity to see this strategy coming and prevent it.

And here's the catch. Even if they're not the militaristic kind, I noted that experienced players go for the missiles at the first occasion only to prevent other players to get it (especially Hegemonia) even if it's clearly detrimental to their strategy. There's nothing as detrimental as getting half of their empire razed in a couple turns I guess.


rashktah wrote:
You could field a Plasma-Missile-Dreadnought with one slot of those neat population killin' bombs...

Neutron Bombs is not an improvement. If you have the tech, you don't need anything more to kill off population.
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Sampo Sikiö
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Seboss wrote:
it seems that Plasma Missiles are so vastly superior to any other weapons that the technology is must pick whenever it comes out.


Here's a couple of observations. While you are absolutely right in thinking that the Plasma Missiles are very powerful weapons, I don't see them as overpowered.

First of all, with its cost of 14/7, Plasma Missile a rather expensive Technology. You'll need to gain quite a bit of Science resources before you'll be able to obtain it -- and in quite a many occasion these resources could be more beneficial somewhere else, perhaps spread over a few Techs.

Secondly, the Missiles follow the same rules of hitting as all the other weapons, which makes their usefulness very situational. If you don't have Computers on your ships, you're taking quite a risk in actually managing to roll any hits (1/6 on each die). If you do have Computers, your opponent can always counter them with Shields. And, of course, there are always Hull parts: just one Improved Hull is enough to sustain damage from one Plasma Missile hit. Sure, you might still take out a few enemy ships, but without any other weapons on your ships, you'll either have to retreat or see them blown to smithereens.

Your observation about Antimatter is also partly right. If the enemy ships do not have Hull parts, the heavy damage of the Antimatter Cannon is somewhat "lost". Then again, if the enemies are loaded with Improved Hull parts, the AM is the most effective way to get through. So this is also very situational -- as are many, many things in Eclipse..

Quote:
By the way, I understand missiles fire only once per battle. But in the case they are multiple opponents, are missiles fired once for all battles (and so for the whole battle phase) or can they be fired once against each opponent?


Once against each opponent -- the Combat Phase may consist (and of course often does) of several battles.

rashktah wrote:
You could field a Plasma-Missile-Dreadnought with one slot of those neat population killin' bombs...


Note that you don't actually have a Ship Part for Neutron Bombs. As soon as you have the Tech, all your ships are capable of wiping out the entire population without using their Cannons.
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Jonathan Ramundi
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Seboss wrote:
Jotora wrote:
Missles are incapable of destroying population cubes also.
Nothing the Neutron Bomb (which is one of the 3 cheapest and most available techs) cannot fix, as noted above
Yes, I shouldn't have even brought it up. I forgot about that technology.

Seboss wrote:
Jotora wrote:

Anyway here's one potential counter:
[...]

I did not do the math, but I think if that works dread against dread, bring in some cruisers and the plasma missile maniac gets the odd in his favor again, since one slot of plasma missile can potentially beat two slots of improved hulls (if you can pull off good rolls of course).
But again, if you launch more ships, am likely able to as well.

I still think that the PM-loaded ships in my example have the advantage in a ship-to-ship engagement (perhaps rightly so--they are one of the best offensive technologies after all), but I think they'll find themselves having to retreat more often than not after the first round of combat. They may slowly widdle away at the enemy fleet, but the game is only 9 rounds, and I doubt these guerilla tactics will pay off too much before the end of the game.

To sum it up: From what I can tell, if there is an advantage, it's not too great.

Keep in mind that we also haven't even brought up the presence of a) Starbases and b) Other players yet.
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Sebastian Grawan
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rashktah wrote:
You could field a Plasma-Missile-Dreadnought with one slot of those neat population killin' bombs...

Note that you don't actually have a Ship Part for Neutron Bombs. As soon as you have the Tech, all your ships are capable of wiping out the entire population without using their Cannons.

Wow, I always thought that the bombs were a ship part. But you're right of course, how cool is that?!??
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Adam Vajcovec
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Jotora wrote:
I think they'll find themselves having to retreat more often than not after the first round of combat.

The retreat rules are actually really interesting in this scenario, because you can only retreat into a hex where you have an influence disc and there are no enemy ships! Which means if I have all your missile-laden ships pinned, I can send an interceptor through to block your retreat. Then all I need is for a single ship with a single cannon to survive, and I can take as long as I need to blast your very expensive dreadnoughts to bits one by one. Unless you have several avenues of retreat, you'll have to be careful about relying only on missiles.

Of course, if your retreat is through a higher-numbered hex, you could also get a ship there to try to cover your retreat, since that battle would happen first. It makes for some very interesting decisions, I think.
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Sébastien Volle
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In my actual experience, things don't actual turn out this way. Usually, a particular player get heavily shafted by the PM juggernaut while other players turn to technologies that can actually contribute to their victory. It takes a lot of teching and effort to counter an aggressive PM player, except if you also get PM in which case, the game turns to a battle of initiative mostly.

The real issue, and that was my actual point, is that picking PM over Antimatter is a complete no-brainer most of the time. It's not a matter of picking the right tool at the right time. PM are better than AM in any single way, period.
And that's about the only thing that really ticks me off about the game. There are not many options in the weaponry department, 3 actually, which is not necessarily bad, but one of them is really underwhelming. AM is not up to the snuff with its 4 energy requirement. You're better off sticking to fusion and using lotsa computer and lotsa cannons. You may do less damage, but at least you'll be scoring hits. AM is only useful against heavily armored dreads and cruisers, and even then, only if you can afford the computer and generator techs, whereas PM is generally a win all by itself.


So there, I think I might tinker with the energy costs of PM and AM. I may add a 2 energy requirement to PM, or lower AM to 2 energy or both, we'll see.
As it stands, PMs are seen as a problem in the game by most of my gaming group. So if I want to score more games of Eclipse - which I really do - I'll have to figure out something.
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Ari
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Seboss wrote:
Usually, a particular player gets heavily shafted by the PM juggernaut while the other players turn to technologies that can actually contribute to their victory.


I haven't played the game yet and have only casually read through the rules but have some questions and comments.

How come one player gets pounded? Is it not possible for all players to keep up militarily? I have no problems with a game that allows a player to get hammered for their poor choices or gameplay.

I hear similar complaints about TTA where the weakest player gets punished. I've played many times with 3 other experienced and aggressive players and had each player keep up militarily leaving only meager spoils for the winner of wars and aggressions. It sounds like this situation in eclipse is similar ... I would only have a problem if there isn't any way for the others to keep up.

If what Sampo says about PM's not being a game changer is true, then I'd assume it was poor play by the opponents. Typically in games like this, each player needs to help keep the others in check or one person will be allowed the little bit of freedom that they need to run away with the game.

How many players do you usually play with and are all of them aggressive players or are some passive?
 
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Adam Vajcovec
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Seboss wrote:
In my actual experience, things don't actual turn out this way. Usually, a particular player get heavily shafted by the PM juggernaut while other players turn to technologies that can actually contribute to their victory.

I mean no offense, but it sounds like your group is just stuck in a rut, strategically. Here's a question though, is the person using the PM strategy usually winning the game, or just causing grief for another player? Because if they're not winning, eventually they're going to realize that the missile strategy isn't good enough.

Seboss wrote:
It takes a lot of teching and effort to counter an aggressive PM player, except if you also get PM in which case, the game turns to a battle of initiative mostly.

Really? Because Improved Hull is a much cheaper tech that also uses no energy. If you just mirror your opponent's missiles with Improved Hulls on your ships, they have to hit with over 50% of their shots to take you out. Doesn't cost much and doesn't seem like very good odds for the guy with the missiles. Of course, this assumes matching fleets, and ignores any other techs, differences between races, etc.

Seboss wrote:
The real issue, and that was my actual point, is that picking PM over Antimatter is a complete no-brainer most of the time. It's not a matter of picking the right tool at the right time. PM are better than AM in any single way, period.
...
AM is only useful against heavily armored dreads and cruisers, and even then, only if you can afford the computer and generator techs, whereas PM is generally a win all by itself.

Aren't heavily armored dreads and cruisers exactly when missiles aren't enough? Don't you need computers to make missiles effective also? I see your point about the energy cost, but it seems like Antimatter would be the right tool for certain jobs, and you say the same here, only that it costs more.


Seboss wrote:
So there, I think I might tinker with the energy costs of PM and AM. I may add a 2 energy requirement to PM, or lower AM to 2 energy or both, we'll see.
As it stands, PMs are seen as a problem in the game by most of my gaming group. So if I want to score more games of Eclipse - which I really do - I'll have to figure out something.

Well hey, if everyone has a problem with them, and they might stop playing because of it, then do whatever you have to do, haha!
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Sébastien Volle
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BaseTwelve wrote:
I mean no offense, but it sounds like your group is just stuck in a rut, strategically. Here's a question though, is the person using the PM strategy usually winning the game, or just causing grief for another player? Because if they're not winning, eventually they're going to realize that the missile strategy isn't good enough.

Well, I guess that's part of the problem. As I said, I played a dozen games but most of the time, at least one player at the table was a newbie and some of them made serious mistakes like attacking ancient ships with unimproved ships in the first couple turns.

But keep in mind the game has a fair amount of randomness, especially regarding exploration. There was a specific game in which the Eridani player was really unlucky with his explorations and he was stuck to 2 ore per turn for most of the game. In these conditions, he was not able to produce more than a handful interceptors, even by burning up lots of cash to make up for the lack of ore.
Needless to say, his Hegemony neighbor armed with PMs was all over him until he finally managed to stall the extermination with space stations fully armed with PMs of his own. But the damage was done and the Eridani player hardly got more than 15~20 points which is pretty bad.

I admit this is an example of an extreme situation, Eridani are tough to play and the player was out of luck, but it's only made worse by the fact that a single technology pretty much forces all of its potential victims to switch their strategy to "omgomgomg churn out defenses to stall the PM psycho".
Sure massive amount of improved hull is a decent counter to PMs, but remember hulls are not necessarily available, in which case PMs are even more dreadful. The opposite is not quite true, hulls by themselves are not particularly scary.

About your question, yes, most of the time the winner is the player who got PMs first. Since you can cause so much destruction with them, you get to draw lots of tiles, and grab a lot of land. It weighs a lot in the final scoring.

Ok, I'm making a big fuss over PMs but I personally don't mind them that much. I want to make clear that Eclipse *is not broken*! It's without doubt the best 4X game I played in a loooong time and I'm sure I'll play it again numerous times.
I rant so much about PMs, because they're the only minor annoyance with the game. I understand they're part of the game universe and I don't really mind the "oh boy! the evil Hegemony got the ultimate doomsday weapon, let's all gang up against them in their tracks" moments, even when playing as the Hegemony
Not all players see it that way though, and AM still leaves too much to be desired; the AM cannon is often ignored even when PMs are not available.

Again, awesome game. Go buy/play it. It's 3 hours of epicness with 4 players with almost zero downtime, it reconciles players disappointed by 4X since Twilight Imperium and I'm really looking forward to future projects from Touko. I have the secret hope Eclipse will get an expansion and/or new set of technologies, systems etc

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Petri Savola
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Plasma missile is very strong, because it can be used alone or with a computer without getting any other technologies. AM-cannon requires you to invest in better source and its usefulness depends on the opponents: AM cannon is not worth it if your opponents don't build ships with hull, but more often than not, ships are armed with 1 improved hull part, which is when AM-cannon really shines. If better sources are not available, it's an useless component, though.

Myself I would've liked to add 1 power requirement to missiles, but even now there are ways to fight missile armadas: Most effective way to do it is to build a pile of cheap starbases armed with hull (and shields if opponent invests in computers). Missile fleets simply cannot beat this kind of defense with average luck.
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Sébastien Volle
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Starbases yes. That's a good (and cheap!) counter to PM armadas. I experienced that first hand in my last game
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Jonathan Ramundi
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Yes, some technologies are more like counter-technologies.

If your opponent is being very defensive with Hulls, you use AM Cannons.

If your opponent is being very offensive with Computers, you use Shields.

I kind of like it actually. It would be a problem if customizing ships was a more expensive and time consuming process, but it's not. A single blueprint can go through several iterations throughout a game.
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Antti Autio
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I don't consider it a "must-pick" tech, though I do consider the Plasma Missiles as the most powerful offensive Ship Part.

I suppose this really depends on your gaming group and their play style too.. if people are really aggressive, going for a military conquest whenever they see an opening, it definitely becomes important to keep up in the arms race.

You are correct that the best way to counter missiles is often to get missiles too, if able to do so.. which again leads to an Initiative arms race.. so if someone is going for a heavy military strategy the neighbours have to adapt to that. But that's the nature of the game!

Starbases with missiles and computers (or hulls and shields if you can't get/afford those) are a great stopper for a missile-dreadnought invasion.

I think there's alot of focus on the Dreadnought blueprints in general but the truth is, you can only field two of those beasts (and you have to invest a LOT to get those). I'd be much more worried about a swarm of eight Interceptors with an AM cannon and a good computer (and a cost of 3 Materials apiece!).

As pointed out before, Antimatter cannons are needed against heavily armoured ships and they become even more useful if you can only fit so many parts (like on a Interceptor blueprint). The energy requirement of Antimatter cannons is steep at 4 per unit, but then again, nobody wants to see ships full of those!

I guess a small energy requirement of 1 for missiles might help to balance things a bit and make those 6-missile dreadnought designs a bit harder to implement, but the bottom line is, I don't feel the need to change the rules, since I've never had any problems with missiles in any of the 15 or so games I've played thus far - but that might of course be because the people I've playing with have been playing differently from your group.. who knows?
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Timo Hohkala
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It's not that PMs are overpowered, it's just that AM is just bit weak and situational IMO. I'd think that energy cost of 3 on the AM would make it more viable.

The energy cost of 1 on PMs is intrieguing, although I'd like to see some real playtesting before implemeting it.
 
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Hrvoje Roncevic
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BaseTwelve wrote:

Seboss wrote:
It takes a lot of teching and effort to counter an aggressive PM player, except if you also get PM in which case, the game turns to a battle of initiative mostly.

Really? Because Improved Hull is a much cheaper tech that also uses no energy. If you just mirror your opponent's missiles with Improved Hulls on your ships, they have to hit with over 50% of their shots to take you out. Doesn't cost much and doesn't seem like very good odds for the guy with the missiles. Of course, this assumes matching fleets, and ignores any other techs, differences between races, etc.


I didn't find it that easy.
PM cruiser (usually) has 3 missiles and +3 targeter.
Tank cruiser should then have 2 imp. hulls, -2 shileds and a cannon.

In 3 vs 3 the PM player wont win the battle (kills 2 tanks), but will get more kills (possible VPs) and has less casualties (easier rebuild)

Now if both players add some units to battle (of equal worth)
2 PM cruisers + Dread vs 2 Tank cruisers + 3 fighters/1 dread
(8x 2dmg to non shielded ships)
(6x 2dmg to -1 shielded ships)
(4x 2dmg to -2 shielded ships)

PM Cruisers will destroy everything except tanks leaving the battle to
Dread vs 2 tanks.
If it's default dread, it might be a losing battle, but with any upgrade it's a sure win.
So, to win against PMs you need tanks. And in a mixed fleet PMs will target damage dealers, leaving tanks to be destroyed by something else.

My additional problem is that at the start of the game, buying just one tech will give you 3 missile cruisers with +1 targeter (default one), and that is the best way to destroy ancient ones. That also allows you to build good defensive stations and make players looking for war looks somewhere else.

We are trying the "missiles use 1 power" house rule, and it's a bit better, but that doesn't feel like the solution.
 
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Terry
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A Plasma Missile technology is available.

You have three choices:

1. Pick it up, allowing you to either (a) build a fleet of overpowered, power-free ships allowing you to target one or more weaker players just by sticking tons of the same tile in the same ship and ignoring hulls, power sources, initiative and shields entirely, or (b) threaten the above, without actually ever having to do it. Contrary to claims above, PMs are not expensive. 14 resources can be had by anyone who has saved up a little bit from the start of the game, and 7 is nothing for someone who is working on the track.

2. Let someone else pick it, forcing you to spend tons of actions and resources buying advanced hulls, shield, energy technologies, and spending a boatload of turns on outfitting all of your ships with these when they start to do (1) above.

This hull and shield stuff immediately weakens the firepower of your force. You also have to worry about all sorts of unrelated stuff like "blocking fleeable hexes" against enemy fleets of missile mules. This all takes actions. Lots and lots of actions, and weakens your fleet.

3. Lose the game as your highly-advanced and creative ship setups (an advertised feature of the game) get blown to smithereens before you even get a chance to use a single ability in combat.


Seems a pretty easy choice to me.
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Jeremy Diachuk
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Or you could already have Improved Hull and Gauss Shield from earlier in the game and spend just one action sticking a couple extra Hulls on your Cruiser/Starbase designs and not worry about the player who grabbed the Missiles.

Or just laugh when you go on a defensive offensive since if the missile-laden ships fail to destroy your entire fleet, you can steal a hex every round due to Neutron Bombs. This puts him at a disadvantage, and with good Materials production, you can rebuild any lost ships in the frontzone due to having claimed that territory.

Or you can sometimes get Plasma Missiles as well, and just build a ship type with better initiative than theirs to destroy them before they destroy you.

If they build missile interceptors, use the fact that they have to spend an action to move every two interceptors, making managing such a large fleet size problematic. This lets you wait to strike until after they're forced to pass, and then they're stuck letting you take things from them or lose hexes anyway as a result of expensive reactions.

If they build missile dreadnoughts, use the fact that they have only two ships and pin them early, especially if you can pin them in their own territory with some cheap interceptors and then move past them with your own cruisers.

The fact that they only fire once is actually a pretty nasty disadvantage. I think it's a bit powerful that they fire first in combat (and I think a fine houserule would be that they fire at the usual initiative, making glass missile ships less interesting), but they're counterable with tactical play that's unrelated to ship design directly.
Antimatter cannons on the other hand are very scary against most ship designs (wasting two slots on Improved Hulls to just allow one more hit is a bit wasteful when the opponent could then just add one computer or another Antimatter cannon to negate this, power allowing) with the exception of heavy-initiative ships.
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Riku Riekkinen
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Plasma Missiles do not fit my top 5 (at least 5) tech list. I in fact think they are rather mediocre and situational tech. Since there has been a lot of talk about Plasma Missiles, Improved Hull & Wormhole Generator as must have techs, I'll raise the pot and say that the Quantum Grid is the best tech in the game
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Dave Chandler
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carlsbad wrote:
A Plasma Missile technology is available.

You have three choices...


And that's just it: They are powerful enough FORCE you to respond specifically to what they can do. If you DO you have the advantage over that one player who went for the missiles, but if you don't you're dead.

Also techs are far more scarce in a 2P game. If say -2 shields don't ever hit the table, or hit very late, you can be at the mercy of the person who happened to be going first when PMs hit.
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