Star Fleet Universe

A blog for all subjects related to the Star Fleet Universe from ADB Inc. Talking about the games, the background, or its relationship with regular [i]Star Trek[/i].

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BATS Busting: A Simple Tactical Problem

James Lowry
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Expansive wargames like Federation & Empire often present the player with too much to do when first learning the game. This is normal, but still creates a very steep learning curve when first getting into the game. In F&E, like in most such games, the biggest burden is figuring out what you should be doing with your forces. There's a lot of ships out there, and six hexes of operational movement gives them a fairly good range. Making things worse is the fact that at the beginning of the game there are a lot of targets out there for the Coalition, who is on the strategic offensive, to hit.

The bulk of the initial targets is the line of battlestations (BATS) along the borders. These are small, but quite capable of cutting lines of supply, holding provinces for the original owner, providing limited repairs, and acting as a forward base for staging counter-raids into your territory. They do need to be taken down, and this should be done as efficiently as possible, as there is likely to be stubborn resistance over the more capable starbases, and possibly the more valuable planets, which will need the attention of as much of the fleet as possible.

Given the number of BATS, and the Alliance's need to defend more important targets, it is helpful to have a good idea of what exactly needed to take out an undefended BATS with minimum effort. I've always been disappointed that I've never seen an article discussing this subject. While it is something relatively easy to work out, the number of things that need consideration is still overwhelming for a beginning player.

A BATS has an offensive and defensive Combat Potential (ComPot) of 12, and 6 fighter factors. From worst case (50%) to best case (10%) this permits damage anywhere from 9 to 2 points. On the other hand, it takes 21 points to kill. 12 points to cripple, 3 more to force it to be killed (at least 50% of the smallest available defense factor—middle of 302.61), and the six fighter factors, which are sure to be given up in preference to actually killing the base.

Planning for the worst possible result (rolling a '1' at 0 BIR, giving 10% damage) shows that it would take 210 ComPot to ensure a one-round kill a BATS, an impossibly dense line, and a waste of resources even if available. The opposite extreme (50% damage on a '6' at 10 BIR) would only need 42, a much more realistic force. However, you can't count on getting that.

What can you count on? Well, at an undefended base, you get to control both halves of the BIR equation (304.41), leaving only the Variable BIR and the final result outside your control. Assuming you pick BIR 8, the worst result is that the VBIR goes down two, and you roll a '1'. This is 25% damage, indicating a need for 84 ComPot, which is possible, but a pretty heavy line at the beginning of the game (that would take something on the order of a DN leading an entire line of CWs).

In fact, that's too good a line to be putting on a limited secondary mission, and is completely impractical. What can be done? Well, the question becomes, why kill the BATS in one round? The reason is to give it less opportunities to fire back and cause damage to the fleet that will then need to be repaired. However, the only way to do high damage is to pick a high BIR, which allows the BATS to do more damage in return. Lowering the BIR will lower the damage done in a round for both sides, it doesn't actually help with the ratio of damage done, which is what we really want to maximize. So, given that a smaller force will need to spend more time taking damage from the BATS, what can be done?

The magic number is 8. That is the maximum amount of damage a BATS can take before it's ComPot is degraded on the next round. 8 damage or less can be taken as one or two SIDS which have no effect on the BATS' performance (308.83). The ninth point would be a plus point, which would have to be resolved on a fighter, lowering ComPot to 17 for the second round. Around about 12-14 points is best; at that point the BATS must either cripple to preserve fighters (lowering ComPot to 6+fighters), or it must lose extra fighters over what the crippled side can hold (and absorb damage with).

At max BIR, the minimum result (25%) demands ~36 ComPot to get a minimum 9 damage (say, a CA, and 4xDD). A more average result would be in the middle of BIR 8, or around 35%, and would generate 12 damage, right into our sweet spot.

Now, the BATS should be doing 5-7 damage at this point (more at higher BIR, but I'm sticking with the BIR 6 and 8 examples I've been going through). That's crippling a ship, or two if the force is mostly FFs. This could turn into a noticeable drop in ComPot if you hold the cripple off the line in hopes of not having to damage anything on the second round (thanks to a high smallest defense number). It should still be enough to take the weakened BATS in one round, however.

However, it needs to be noted that we're looking at a total of about 6-12 total incoming damage. Most BATS-busting in the early game falls upon the Klingons. The early D6V/TGV and FV carrier groups are given short shrift because of their low density (because there's no large escorts) and the not-quite-a-ship-equivalent 5 fighter factors on the large carriers. The low density tends to make them ill-suited for large base battles, where damage needs to be poured out to wreck the enemy fleet as fast as the attacking force takes it. This makes them available for missions like this. A [D6V+E4A+E4A] and [FV+E4] is 25 ComPot, which, at max BIR will do 9+ damage 50% of the time, and can aborb 9 points of damage itself before taking any permanent harm.

Adding a free scout (to get rid of the EW penalty) will make it 2/3rds of the time. Making sure of 9 damage at max BIR without a scout needs another 13 ComPot—say two D5s. With the scout lowers it to 9 more ComPot; if you put a F5S on the line, this drops to 7—one D5.

This is great in theory, but there's generally not enough carriers at the beginning to cover all the targets. All that can be done is to make do with what there is. However, it does provide motivation to use the Klingon's free fighter factors filling out the carrier force until the better escorts and carriers show up.
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Wed Mar 9, 2011 7:34 pm
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Hindsight: Turn 1 Coalition Operational Movement

Erich Vereen
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Leland
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As has been mentioned, Rindis and I are currently engaged in an F&E campaign. Rindis has been very good at giving me hints and tactical advice during the game. Since the game is in turn three at this point, I figured I might go back to the previous turns in order to see what could have been done to change the tide of battle.

The picture below shows the beginning of the Coalition Turn 1, Phase 3: Operational Movement.

From gallery of belirahc


Lyran Stacks

0404 - FF, TGC, MB
0502 - CC, Cl, 2CW, 2FF, 2DD
0504 - BD, 3CA, 2CW, 2CL, FF, DD, SC
0608 - CC, CA, CW, DW, 2CL, 2DD, 2FF, SC
0705 - CA, 2CL, CW, 2FF, 2DD
0707 - CA, CW, 2CL, DD, FF

Kzinti Stacks

0701 - BATS
0703 - BATS
0803 - CVL, CLE, EFF, CL, FF BATS
0901 - CVE, FF, EFF, SB, 2nd Reserve
1004 - BATS
1304 - 1st Reserve, Duke's Fleet, SB

Kzinti Fleet Info
1st Reserve - TGC, 2BP, CC, CV, CLE, EFF, 3BD, CL, SF, DF
2nd Reserve - TGT, 2BP, CC, 3BC, FF, CV, CLE, EFF, SF, DF
Duke's Fleet - DN, CVL, CLE, EFF, CVE, EFF, 3FF

On my turn, I advanced:
0504 to 0703
0502 to 0701
0404 (FF Only) to 0701
0705 to 0803
0707 to 0803

Rindis was able to react 0901 to 0803 with three ships, then moved his reserve forces to make a major campaign against 0701 (2nd Reserve) and 0803 (1st reserve). In the end, I was only able to take the BATS at 0703 while many of my initial forces were crippled after only a single round of battle. The final result looked like this:

From gallery of belirahc


A few observations:

1. Too many ships in too few locations.

Rindis mentioned this to me, but I suppose I should have seen it myself. By not spreading out my forces, it made it easy for Rindis to come in and defend his border easily. He lost a single bats, but I lost much more by having to retreat and repair ships without making headway.

2. Aggressive is good, but don't leave the force behind.

I completely forgot the force in 0705. While it was pushed to the front during Strategic Movement, it would probably have been better for it to be used in the initial assault. It may not have been able to reach anything more than 0803, but at least it would be another force in the battle.

3. Slow and steady baits the trap.

When I initially sent this log, I sent it as one continuous movement. I did the same thing in turn two, but Rindis gave me another tip during his half of Turn 2. Spread out movement in order to see if you can get your opponent to move where you want... or not, whichever you need to happen. Give the opponent something to think about by slowing down movement and give them some choices, preferably hard ones.

Hindsight - A Replay

While the distribution of ships is not the best, this is how I started this game. So, using the formations presented, I'm hoping I can create a more interesting opening strike for my opponent.

First attack would be to move 0608 onto the front lines. At 0704, this force would split a CA, CL, DD, and FF from the group and send it into 0703, while the rest of the fleet would move into 0803 to act as a pinning force against the Kzinti fleet there.

Next, move 0707 through 0803 and into 1004. At this point I would stop to see if any shifting moves would be made by my opponent, to see if he might send his one carrier group in to support any of the BATS near it or maybe attempt to pin some of the force moving to 1004.

Without knowing my opponents moves, I continue to attack his Defensive line. Hex 0502 would split off a CW and DD to move to 0703 to help bolster that assault. The rest of the fleet would head to 0701 to make an attack there.

0705 would make an assault towards a pair of minor planets at 1001 (CA, CL, DD, FF) and 1105 (CW, CL, DD, FF). I did not attack the planet at 1202 due to the fact that the Kzinti Home fleet is active at the start of the game. Hex 1202 is within the extended reaction zone of the home fleet. Moving to 1202 would draw out some ships, and while I am making these raids I don't want to give my opponent any more traction at this time,

Finally, the ships in 0504 and FF in 0404 would make an assault on the starbase in order to give them one more choice to make. If I understand pinning correctly, this is also going to have an added effect of pinning some portion of the 2nd Reserve. This forces the 2nd Reserve to react to another location with less ships.

Assuming no reaction movement and not accounting for Reserve movement, this is what the map would look like at the end of the Coalition's ops move.

From gallery of belirahc


This would give my opponent many choices, and would give me a chance to do some damage. Also, this setup would allow me to disrupt several provinces during the retrograde movement portion of the game. even if I don't take everything, there is a good chance to get something other than the single BATS I took in the real game. Now, I just wish I had realized this when we started.
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Sun Mar 6, 2011 3:57 am
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R vs B Alliance Turn 2 in Review

James Lowry
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When on the strategic defense in games, I can be quite passive. Pull in, perfect that line, don't make waves.

Give me a superb offensive weapon however, and I will start counter-punching. For evidence, I submit the number of times I've gotten the German panzers in trouble in A Victory Lost: Crisis in Ukraine 1942-1943, even while the rest of the line is retiring with unseemly speed.

The Kzinti navy, with its reliance on deep carrier lines, is a great weapon indeed. However, if not used cautiously, it is a bit fragile, especially now that out of sequence repairs and conversions are gone with CEDS. Carrier-based lines can absorb a lot of damage without taking a permanent loss, but once they run out of fighters, they're as vulnerable as anything else.

From gallery of Rindis

Situation at the beginning of combat. Both fights against his province raiders went well.

I noted early on, that with Coalition forces retiring back across the border at the end of their turn 2, there wasn't much in range of the Kzinti Capital. That allows me to stay centered on the outer defenses with some confidence, and that puts me in range of Coalition defenses with most of the navy. There was one BATS in the line with no forces on it. The problem was that it wouldn't be hard for nearby forces to react onto it. I determined to see if I could block them, or prevent them from reacting.

First, I went along the Lyran side of the station. I nearly stopped the force in 0805, but then realized if he didn't react, I'd be stuck well out of position, since without combat, I can't retrograde back to my defenses. So I plotted a move onto the target BATS just in case. Moving on to the Lyran BATS was out, since then he could react in forces from the next one over, freeing up the force there to react later. I then repeated the process on the other side, but he didn't react at all, letting me onto the BATS unopposed.

I still expected to see the two Reserves (one Lyran, one Klingon) come in and contest it with me. It moves them closer, and he could make killing the BATS quite expensive to me if he wanted. I figured I'd be forced to quit without accomplishing it. I'd cripple some of his forces in the process, but it was a rare chance to fight me not only without dealing with my defenses, but with aid from his defenses. Short of a knock-down drag-out fight over a SB (which is no fun for the attacker), it may be the best chance he'll see to hurt the Kzintis for some time. Or I could have just pulled out, and he'd keep the BATS.

As it is, he lost the BATS in 0906 for free, and I crippled two CLs for the cost of fighters in the open space battle.
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Sat Mar 5, 2011 3:55 am
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F&E Vassal Module 1.2.1

James Lowry
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Well, about four months after I initially thought it would be done, the new version of the Vassal Module for F&E is available at starfleetgames.com.

http://www.starfleetgames.com/documents/F&E_1.2.1.zip

Creating the Vassal module has always been an adventure, and this update is no less so than before.

Did you know that the Windows 7 version of Paint doesn't recognize palette information in older gifs correctly? I sure found out when it did some crazy dithering to some Hydran counters. Of course it looked fine in Paint, it was only after I loaded the graphic somewhere else that the trouble became apparent. Most of the 'art' on the counters is done by me twiddling pixels. Paint is brain-dead enough that it's relatively easy there, but now I've learned how to get Photoshop to behave in that mode.

F&E was my first Vassal module, and I've poured a lot of time into it over the years. It also turned into a 'stress test' for Vassal, as it wasn't really able to handle that many counters being on the board and active at one time. Thankfully, Vassal 3.1 fixed the resulting load times, and I've seen the module go from a curiosity to actually having a decent number of users.
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Fri Mar 4, 2011 11:50 pm
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Q: What does it take to have a great campaign?

James Lowry
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A: Two (or more) dedicated players.

For many people, tactical games eventually conjure the dream of a campaign game. A kind of "super" tactical game where the consequences of one fight are seen in further fights. ASL has long had a good answer to this dream in it's various HASL modules.

Star Fleet Battles has a number of small campaign games. I have yet to try any of them, though some are certainly interesting. But, to the point of this post, there are some very good campaigns that have extensive AARs posted over on the ADB forums, that I recommend looking at, if you have a good amount of time to spare.

The first is "The Day of the Eagle comes early", it's a modified version of the Admiral's Game from Advanced Missions played between two good players, and obviously good friends, Jeremy Gray and Dale McKee. At first they were farming battles out to other people, but now they fly every one themselves—when they have time, which has been short lately. There's still a lot of good fighting reported in those archives.

Much of the reason they're busy is the other campaign game: "The Farthest Stars Campaign", Dale is running this campaign, and Jeremy is playing the Tholians. This one has several 'admirals', each running one empire, and battles are farmed out with the expectation that players will report in as to what's happening. Lots of interesting reading in that one too.

Both campaigns use a concept from the SFB Campaign Designer's Handbook: Flexible command rating. The idea is similar to the 'command rating' introduced in F&E and used in the normal SFB S8.0 rules: You declare one ship the flagship, and the rest of your fleet is limited to what it can command. However the 'flexible' system tries to encourage the use of smaller ships by making them 'cost' less. In addition, both of these campaigns use lower flagship values, so that a 'full fleet' is around 5-6 ships instead of 10-12, making the fights much more manageable.

And while I'm on the subject, I'll point out there's a long tradition of posting reports on F&E games at the ADB forum. Some of them don't get a lot of reporting, but just stick to the higher post counts in the Active Scenarios folder, and you'll find some war stories worth reading.

(Note that all these links don't give the normal view of the forum, you're missing a left panel where all the login controls are kept, but you can't direct link anywhere and keep that window. )
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Thu Mar 3, 2011 7:32 pm
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SH124: Kroal's Illegitimate War - Part 1

James Lowry
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A little under a year ago, I played this 'historical' SFB scenario with my two main gaming buddies. I was playing the Klingon force, and Mark and Patch had the defending forces. It didn't go so well for them.

In the aftermath of that, I actually started a solo play of the scenario based off of my thoughts about the defense, and adding some suggestions in the thread, to see just how differently things would go. I never finished it, but this seems like a good opportunity to pick it up again.

[For the rest of this post, I'm assuming you've read the AAR of the original play, or are otherwise familiar with the scenario.]

The main points were for all the defending LDR ships to buy as many T-bombs as possible, and construct an 'instant minefield' around the planet. The ships themselves would stay parked near the planet, offering a stubborn close-in defense. The base would activate some impulse as APR on all three Orions, so that they were no longer sucking down power just to get the shields up, and then start concentrating on the first LR.

The Klingon tactics were the same as before, but with an actual pre-plotted bombardment in place, and programming for if the target is not immediately found.

The Klingons entered from the bottom right corner, just as in the previous game, with the F5 squadron going 16, and the E4s at 15. This puts them near the planet at the end of the turn, ready to charge fully loaded for a overrun. The LDR freighters and POL sit and TAC. The CivBS blows the majority of its batteries to help generate 21 repair points, activating 4 impulse as APR (2 on the CR, 1 each on the LRs—they will all power their own shields on turn 2), and starting activation of a Damage Control Box on LR-1 (taking a chance on the only '4' box; 12 points needed). If that can be activated (with a maximum of 5 repair per on a box per turn, that's three turns) then the LR can start activating its own systems, however slowly. The first wave of drones started on the south edge, moving up directly towards where the base would be after orbiting at the end of the turn (though at speed-12, they'd still be three hexes short of that point), and programmed to look for the armed freighters.

The defenders dropped various shields on the first impulse and put up an arc of transporter bombs halfway around the planet at range 3-4 (out of explosion range of ships and base in orbit). The problem here is that there's just not enough TBs to go around. Some decoys need to be put into the mix.

During the mid-turn the Klingons start side-slipping around. The E4s are going slower, but it's been decided to put the E4J in front to clear the minefield—the hard way. On impulse 30, the drones reach the mines, and are immediately lost in a detonation. The F-AL transports a replacement mine out, and TACs the down shield away from the approaching Klingons.

From gallery of Rindis

Situation at the end of turn 1. The F-AL is in the same hex as the CivBS, underneath all the Orion ships.

For turn 2, the LDR stayed parked, the CivBS turned on the ECM, and trickling power back into the batteries, and only powering 5 repair to continue work on the LR's DamCon. The Klingons announced speed 14 for the F5s, 15 for the E4Is, and 18 for the E4J. The second wave of drones enters at the same spot as the first, but is programmed for the CivBS.

With transporters available again, the ground base starts transporting Orion crew units up to the CivBS for transfer to the ships, and more transporter bombs are put out—directly in the Klingon's path. This causes a change in plans, and on impulse 3, the Klingons start turning to direction A, away from the direct path to where the CivBS's orbit is taking it, and trying to get to the upper flank of the minefield.

On impulse 8 the E4J makes contact with the minefield, but the TB does not detonate. (And the annoyance of solo play is that I knew perfectly well why, even as the Klingons wondered, I wondered if I'd subconsciously set this up.) On impulse 9, the F-AL transported another TB in the path of the the Klingons. On impulse 10, the Klingons, not wanting to take an even longer road around,turned in with the F5P and moved the F5Is adjacent on a different facing. M1 still refused to detonate (it could have done a lot of damage right there). On impulse 11 the E4J moved further into the minefield, but the new M10 did not detonate either.

From gallery of Rindis

No boom today?

The E4J launches a drone (due to move on the next impulse). On impulse 12 the F5P and one F5I move onto M1 while the other F5I continues north, and the drone moves forward. Neither M1 or M10 detonate. F-AS-2 fires on the drone at range one and destroys it. On impulse 13 the E4s move. On impulse 14 F5I-1 continues north, skirting the minefield with the two E4Is. The other F5I and the F5P move forward.

And M10, reaching its count of 2 Size Class 4 (frigate) objects, detonates.

To be continued...
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Wed Mar 2, 2011 7:30 am
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Welcome!

James Lowry
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Yes, it's another new blog using the new blog feature of BGG/Geekdo. The idea for this one was actually spawned by the excellent OCS blog that started up a couple weeks ago.

Right now, I'm (at long last) involved in an active PBeM game of Federation & Empire, so that is one of the things that occurred to me as blog subject. But even as expansive as that game is, it seemed a little limiting. So this blog is about the Star Fleet Universe background as a whole, with all the games that share this background in whole or in part being fair game as subjects for this blog.

That's a lot of games; four board games, a couple card games that I don't know much about, supplements in multiple RPG systems (as well as the original system developed for it), and a line of computer games, as well as an on-line client for the main two board games. And then there's the background data itself to talk about.

I can't do it all alone, and wouldn't want to if I could: if you're interested in contributing to the blog, get in touch, and I'll get you set up. I just ask for enthusiasm and love of the subject(s).

"We come in peace; shoot to kill."
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Mon Feb 28, 2011 9:04 pm
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