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R vs B Alliance Turn 4 in Review

James Lowry
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The carnage from the Coalition Turn 4 offensives caused several difficult choices for me. Kzinti income is down to 2/3rds normal (and down 11 just from last turn), while Hydran income dropped 25 EP to the 2/3rds mark in just one turn.

The Kzinti navy is in quite a bind, with a lot of cripples backed up at the Capital and the Barony. I had to short the repairs quite a bit, repairing my maximum in the Capital with a CC, 2xBC, 3xFF and four escorts. In the Barony, I only repaired an EFF, despite more cripples than the facilities can handle.

The other problem is that this is the Spring, a dreadnought turn. I made the hard decision to downgrade the DN to a CV. I would rather have subbed out the BC for that, and I'm worried about losing a CR-10 hull, but it did drop the cost quite a bit. I also canceled four FFs, and produced one extra MEC, which will go to a CV group without an inner escort.

The Hydrans canceled all six of their FFs and one HR, but built a PAL, RN, TR, and HR while adding two PDUs to the capital. I would have liked to build the max four, but didn't like giving up any more quality units than I had to. Also, a HN and TR were repaired in the capital. There's a few other cripples around, but most were not on repair facilities.

On the Kzinti front, this was a less intense turn that I would have liked. Part of it, is that I don't have that much experience with the game, and I'm still trying to figure out just what can be gotten away with. It is also a goal to keep cripples (and therefore damage) down this turn so that the backlog can be mostly cleared next turn, which would put the Kzinti navy on a very good footing indeed. I poked at two Klingon-held planets, but not with enough to force him off after reserves showed up.

In Hydran space, most of my effort went into moving the cut off Gold Fleet back towards the capital. I also poked at the planet the Lyrans captured, to pin his ships there as I attacked a lone DN and crippled CA in 0318. If I had been smart, I would have set up cordon to catch the fleeing DN, but then, I'm not sure I could have spared ships across three hexes, especially since some of them wouldn't get to retrograde.

From gallery of Rindis
Kzinti front

From gallery of Rindis
Hydran front

1105: Klingon: crip D5; Kzinti: crip CLE
1203: SSC - both sides retreat
1303: SSC - E4 destroyed
1202: Klingon: crip D5, E4; Kzinti: crip CL
1402: Lyran: dest crip CC; Klingon: dest F5
0301: Lyran: dest crip CA
0416: Lyran: crip 2xCW; Hydran: crip LM
0817: Klingon: crip 2E4A, dest D7C

The last fight in particular surprised me. It was a fairly massive open-space confrontation brought about by my efforts to pull the wreckage of the Gold Fleet back from the destroyed SB to the homeworld. Included in the fleet were 5 crippled HNs, which I figured would probably go up during pursuit. In the meantime, I was going to make it hurt. I put up my second best line with PAL, 5xRN, HR, and a 4UH group (best line would have had 3xHR in place of the UH), for 100 ComPot.

The real surprise was that even with a D6M on the line, there was no directing, and when I retreated, no pursuit. I had kind of thought that Belirahc had already figured out the secret of fighting the Hydrans. But now I'm going to spill it all:

The Hydrans love open space battles. They want to engage in fights where there's nothing important. They take damage on fighters, and maybe a cripple or so until the enemy retreats, or they run out of spare fighters, then they retreat. In this fight, the Klingons took two cripples and lost a D7C (not common enough to be throwing away) in return for nothing. The way to keep the Hydrans from doing this is to direct on the biggest thing that can be blown up by direct damage every round (preferably a fighter-heavy fusion-ship). DirDam is technically inefficient, but it's far more efficient than letting it all fall on fighters, and the Hydrans can absorb a lot of damage just on fighters (that line had 42 fighter factors in it, and only counted 8 of them towards the three squadron limit).

This shuts down the fighter-sponge tactic of the Hydrans quite easily. The Hydrans do not have an overly-large navy to start with, and their economy is not capable of building everything on their schedule. Therefore every ship loss hurts. Worse, cruiser losses soon become terminal, and have to be minimized by the Hydrans lest they lose the very units that can make them so scary.
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Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:57 pm
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R vs B Coalition Turn 4 in Review

James Lowry
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I'm sorry for the long delay in posting here, but things have been going on! Belirahc sent forces into both Alliance capitals, and those fights really dragged on. After 131 Vassal logs for the combat phase, things have finally wrapped up for the turn.

By this point, I don't really remember what the heck happened during the movement phase, but here's how things looked at the beginning of combat, and the run down of all the combats:

From gallery of Rindis
Kzinti front.
From gallery of Rindis
Hydran front.

0215: Hydran: crip KN; Lyran crip FF, dest CA, DD
0902: Kzinti: dest SB, crip CC, BC, CL, CLE, EFF, 2xFF, dest DD, EFF; Lyran: crip CA, 3xCW, dest 3xCA, 6xCW
1017: Hydran: dest SB, crip 5xHN, dest HN; Klingon: crip F5L, 3xF5, E4A, dest 2xD7, 2xD6, E4, 2xFV, 2xE4A (1 captured and expended)
1003: Kzinti retreat to 1104
1304: Kzinti: crip FF, retreat to 1204
1105: Kzinti: 2xPDU, planet captured; Klingon: crip D5
0915: Hydran: dest BATS; Klingon: crip D5, E4
1116: Hydran: dest BATS; Klingon: dest 2xF5
1217: Hydran: dest BATS; Klingon: dest E4
1219: Hydran: dest BATS: Klingon: dest E4
0416: Hydran: dest 2xPDU, crip SC, planet captured; Lyran: crip 4xDD, 2xFF, dest DW, FF
0318: Hydran: dest BATS, crip 3xLN; Lyran: crip CA, dest CA, 2xCW
0718: Klingon: crip F5L, 2xF5, E4
0617: Hydrax I: 2xPDU; Hydrax II: 2xPDU, devastated; Hydramax I: 4xPDU; Hydramax II: 2xPDU, devastated; Anthraxan I: 4xPDU, devastated; Anthraxan II: 2xPDU, devastated; Hydran: crip TR, dest 2xCU, 2xHN; Klingon: crip D7, F5L, E4, 2xE4A, dest 5xD7, D6, 2xF5L, 5xF5, 3xE4; D7, D6 captured (and re-captured)
1001: Kzinti: crip FF; Klingon: crip F5, dest E4
1401: Kzintai II: 2xPDU, devastated; Keevarsh I: 1xPDU; Vielsalm III: 2xPDU; Vronkett: 4xPDU; Kzinti: crip 3xBC, MEC, CL, 2xFF, EFF, DF, dest CL, FF, DF, 2xEFF; Klingon: crip D7, D6M, dest D7, 3xD6, 2xD5, F5L, F5, 7xE4; Lyran: crip BC, CC, dest CA, 2xCL, DW, 6xDD, 10xFF
1502: Kzinti: crip BC; Klingons: crip 2xF5, E4, dest 2xF5

Things went fairly well on the Kzinti front, and not so well on the Hydran front. Given attacks on the the homeworld, 0718 and 0318, as well as all three starbases, the Hydran navy was overmatched, and frankly, somewhat out of position.

I decided that the Coalition didn't have enough to do more than raid the capital, so I sent out partial reserves to save the Major at 0718 and the BATS at 0317. The latter is especially important as letting the Lyrans take it for free would cut the off-map off from the capital. I didn't send nearly enough to save it (especially in the face of his willingness to self-kill), but the retreated ships will keep the grid connected between the off-map and 0509.

Unfortunately, I underestimated just how much had gone into the capital. He didn't have what it takes to take out the actual capital planet, but everything other than that is devastated, and he did get a couple of PDUs on the capital itself. The Hydrans also managed to capture a D7 and a D6, though the D6 later got re-captured. Pity the D7H isn't in the game.

I figured that the Kzinti were looking at a capital raid, so I already had a good chunk of the Kzinti fleet in place to defend it. That battle went on longer than I expected, mostly because Belirahc was willing to bring mostly crap, and then self-kill much of it to press the attack. Three planets were devastated, and one more stripped of its defenses, but in return the Coalition lost 35 ships. I expect this will noticeably alter the pin-count calculations on that front, and I really need to total up just how much everybody has.

Also, the Lyrans do not have any forward supply posts yet, so the 5 Lyran ships left over from the capital (two of them crippled) are stuck in 1402 out of supply. The Klingons hold 1003, so they won't even be in supply next turn unless they're declared Homeless. Of course, I'd like to see to it they don't live that long....

During Strat move, pretty much all Coalition construction moved to the Hydran border. Things are only going to get tougher down there. I assume he's set to blitz the Hydrans and try to kick them out of the capital well in advance of Federation involvement. It's time, and past time, to turtle.

He's also strat moved the portions of the Klingon Northern Reserve that hadn't already moved out to 1504. Both Lyran reserves and two of the Klingon ones are on the Hydran border. The other two Klingon reserves are at 0504. The Kzinti have things to do, if they can manage to get ships on target.
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Thu Jul 28, 2011 7:39 am
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Starbase 0902 - A Tough Nut to Crack.

Erich Vereen
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Leland
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From gallery of belirahc


Starbase 0902 is the main link between the Kzinti and Lyran forces. It maintains a strategic link that the Kzinti could use to raid into Lyran territory (as shown by the range markers in the above picture). It is also a perfect position for the Lyran forces to use as their own launching point to help bolster the attack on the Kzinti Capital when the Klingons push the assault. This is one of the main reasons why it is an important base to break during the initial turns of the war. For the reasons to follow, it may also be one of the toughest to crack.

Everything that follows from this point is a look at a first turn attack on the Starbase. After Turn 1, the situation becomes even more complicated.

In Federation and Empire, Starbase battles are some of the most painful battles that can be fought. These bases offer 48 combat potential (36 from the base and 12 from fighters) to any battle force without having to occupy a battle force slot. They are also the ultimate in attrition units, requiring 8 SIDS (Starbase Incremental Damage System) steps to cripple and 4 more to destroy. Scoring a SIDS step by the Attacker requires an expenditure of 18 points of Direct Damage (9 if a Mauler class ship is present), but the Defender can soak 4.5 points of damage with a voluntary SIDS step. There is a restriction that only 1 SIDS can be inflicted during a general combat round, so it is expected to take quite a few rounds using SIDS before a base would go down.

They are monsters; even more so for the starbase in 0902 during the initial moments of the General War. There are several reasons for this.

Lyrans do not begin the game with mauler class ships. In fact, they will not gain mauler class ships until Spring Y170 (Turn 4). Also, maulers can be built only at the main shipyard in the capital hex, so they will not be able to have an effect until turn 5.

Another problem is that the Kzinti begin with carriers: the CV (10+6), CVL (8+4.5) and CVE (6+3). These ships carry more firepower than most Lyran ships right off the bat, but they are fragile and are offset by their escorts. When a carrier goes into a battle force, their escorts must be placed as well, otherwise their effective ComPot is lowered. Their fighters are the real problem though, as they add to the ComPot of the carrier and can be used to offset damage as attrition units.

This is what makes the Starbase at 0902 so difficult to crack. A wise Kzinti player will designate his carrier groups, which includes one each of the above named carriers and their escorts, in the Duke's Fleet as part of his initial reserve forces. Those ships bring a lot of extra damage soak for an initial starbase battle, especially if a tug is used as a support vehicle with a 2VP pod (bringing in more fighters to the battle as spares). If the player also kept the carrier groups in the Count's Fleet as a reserve in hex 0902 as well, there would be two of each carrier type in Hex 0902 after the reserve movement phase. With a pair of tugs carrying 2VP pods, that would be a total of 51 fighters to help soak damage during the first few rounds (this includes the fighters from the starbase). If you include a reduction of 4.5 damage points through the first 8 rounds, this is a great defensive position to take as the Kzinti. It also shows how tough 0902 can become.

If no forces from the Count's Fleet are used for reaction movement during the Lyran's initial assault, there is a force with 20 ship equivalent units (6 fighters is one ship equivalent). Add in the reserve from the Duke's Fleet, and you could increase the SE value to 30 (not including support ships such as Drone Frigates and Scouts). The Lyrans can bring to bear at most 36 SE from its fleets. This seems like an advantage, but it is a poor indicator of power. The Kzinti have an edge on Combat Potential (ComPot).

Taking the fact that most ships will come from The Red Claw Fleet, with only six ships from the Home Fleet, there would be a starting ComPot of 226 for the Lyran attack fleet. A healthy Lyran battle line runs around 90 - 100 ComPot for 10 ships. Using Command Points and Battle Groups may increase that potential to 150, but what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If the Lyran player is using these bonuses, then the Kzinti player is probably using them as well.

A fully stocked Kzinti fleet with a powerful reserve from the Duke's Fleet and the Starbase will have a starting ComPot of 238 (~50 of that in fighters). A Kzinti battle line generally runs around 100 - 110 ComPot for 10 ships if carriers are included. Adding in extras like the starbase and drone frigates, a Kzinti line can easily go above 150 without adding Battle Groups or using Command points. With those, the Kzinti player may be able to field a 200 point line before all is said and done.

So, as you can see, while the Lyran fleet may have more ships, the Kzinti can field more power. While the Lyran player is forced to destroy ships rather than cripple them to keep the ComPot up, the Kzinti can take fighters and SIDS for attrition damage without worrying too much about their ships going down. They may have to cripple one or two to keep from totally destroying their attrition units in the first couple of rounds, but it won't affect their ComPot heavily.

So, how does one crack this nut as the Lyran player?

1) Take down the fighters quickly.

This is one of those moments where using Directed Damage can come in handy. It may take two or three rounds, but once you get to a point where you can decimate the fighter screen use Directed Damage to force the fighters out of the picture. Once the fighters are down, the ability to soak more than 4.5 damage per turn disappears. Ships will begin to fall at this point and the Kzinti player may turn tail and run.

2) Sacrifice

As the Lyran player, you are going to lose ships, there is no doubt about that. Instead of crippling endless supplies of ships, thus reducing your ComPot permanently, destroy ships to lessen the blow to your fleet. Also, when you bring crippled ships back into a battle line, you are inviting a quick end due the possibility of the damage being one equal to half the crippled ships value. It is better to determine for yourself when to destroy something rather than letting the numbers get to you.

3) Persevere

Following the suggestion above, you have to outlast the Kzinti player. If you cannot take this base in the first battle, you are going to have a long road ahead of you. While it is a battle of attrition, the Kzinti hold the upper hand. Once you can outlast the fighter screen, the battle shifts towards the Lyran player. The Lyran player can afford to lose ships while the Kzinti player cannot. Carriers are much more expensive than a CA or BC, and carriers are limited in their production amounts. Hold the line through the fight and the Kzinti will probably abandon his starbase with this in mind.

If the Lyran player can take down the starbase at hex 0902 on the first turn, they will have it a little easier on this front, making the hydran fight to come a little easier to handle. The Klingons will have an entire turn to build forces on the Kzinti line, and will have an easier time at destroying the fighter screen offered by the Kzinti because of their mauler class ships.

Remember, take that starbase out early, otherwise you'll focus too much on it later.
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Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:36 pm
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R vs B Alliance Turn 3 in Review

James Lowry
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The Coalition turn left Kzinti space in a real mess. There were plenty of lightly-defended targets, but at the same time, the Hegemony Navy was not in the best of shape itself. I resolved to limit myself to a few important goals and concentrate on them.

Sadly, I didn't take proper stock of the situation on the Hydran border. I ended up wasting any opportunities by spreading the fleet out too much, and not concentrating enough to actually achieve anything. Complicating matters was the fact that the reserves were almost universally in range of the Hydran border.

One error that thankfully only had minor consequences: Belirahc has been towing around some unassembled Mobile Bases for the past couple turns. He asked me about the timing of setting them up late in his turn. It was pretty obvious he wanted to set something up, but then nothing happened, but I forgot to double-check with him until a decent chunk of my movement was done. It turned out the Klingons were setting up a MB in 1304.

My goals on the Kzinti Front were clear: Keep the MB from setting up, kick the Coalition off of as many planets as possible, evacuate my cripples off the map, and hunker down to defend the remaining SB and the homeworlds. The Hydran front never got a clear goal, other than trying to raid a few BATS, and good maneuvering kept me from getting any freebies.

From gallery of Rindis
Activity on the Kzinti front.
From gallery of Rindis
Activity on the Hydran front.

All this led to a few fights where I'd had to pin him away from the real action, but neither of us really wanted to take casualties.

1503: Klingon unopposed withdrawal to 1504
1203: Klingon unopposed withdrawal to 1303
1304: Klingon: crip D5, F5, 5xE4; dest D6D, MB abandoned
1004: Lyran unopposed withdrawal to 0905
1202: Kzinti: capture planet; Klingon: dest E4
1001: Kzinti: capture planet; Lyran: dest 2xCW
0413: Hydran: dest 2xCU; Lyran: crip 2xCA, FF
1112: Hydran: retreat to 1012
1013: Hydran: dest LM; Klingon: crip D6M, D6
1214: Klingon: crip D7
1014: Hydran: crip HN, Klingon: crip D5, F5

Things went well on the Kzinti front. After a couple rounds, he was forced to abandon the MB, though I was unable to generate enough damage to actually Direct Damage kill the tug responsible. I also forced him off of 1001 and 1202, pushing the Coalition further away from the capital.

The Hydran front did not go as well. Again, I was too spread out, keeping the Hydrans from getting good lines up, and not allowing any fighter reserves. Worse, I got forgetful, and forgot to put the command ship in formation in 1013, allowing the Klingons to kill a Lord Marshal command cruiser.

Everything retrograded back to defensive positions after combat. I used field repair on a couple of Kzinti escorts that had been damaged during the Coalition half of the turn and stranded away from repair facilities. This was part of the plan, but the Kzinti budget is stretched really thin right now. I'm likely to be canceling builds as it is, and this will make it harder. But I wanted the extra operational carrier group. Meanwhile, the Hydrans are setting up a MB in the capital, and have hauled one FRD to safety in the off-map area.
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Wed Apr 6, 2011 5:51 am
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How to turn a monster into something bigger.

Erich Vereen
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Federation and empire can be classically labeled a monster game. Seven races (plus various minor races and neutral states), hundreds of ships (sometimes thousands), and record keeping that would make a CPA blush at times; this game is a definite monster. However, it can always get bigger.

The main way for this to happen is to add the Operation Expansions to the mix. There are currently five (Advanced, Combined, Fighter, Planetary, and Strategic). These add rules from the Star Fleet Battles series and incorporates them into the far reaching war of F&E. Trying to find a good balance of these rules is important, because some are good and some I really can't see in the game (SFGs are a good example - I've never really cared for them). I'm planning on working through a few blogs about what might be good from each of those expansions later on.

The other option for creating something extremely big outside of this game is taking the fleet battles into the world of either Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander.

Fleet battles in F&E are based the total Combat Potential given the the various ships and a die roll. This, along with a number that shows how aggressive you choose to be, determines the amount of damage you do to the other fleet. Then you simply remove the damage inflicted by your opponent by crippling and destroying your ships. The main tactic in the game is trying to figure out how much to bring to any given fight and when to be aggressive or when to hold back. By moving this to one of the tactical battle systems, you may be able to create better situations for yourself you could not account for in F&E.

I cut my teeth on SFB back in the early 90's. I loved it. I bought everything I could lay my hands on and I still have most everything today. The number of choices in this game were amazing, and the detail in running the battles, making tactical choices, and the pure number of ships was amazing. The only downside to it was the amount of record keeping that needed to be done for each ship. The round would be well organized, but the record keeping portion could slow down things for quite a while, especially with multiple ships per fleet. This would be the main detractor from using it as a combat replacement. It would be as slow as a round of F&E, with some battles taking probably 5 to 6 hours of play time just to resolve. However, it would be more spectacular and with good tactics, a fleet at a slight disadvantage might have a better chance of winning the battle. This option would definitely be for those who have years to play a single campaign of F&E. However, it would also be good for those ship to ship battles, and even two on three ships battles that would be reconciled using the Small Scale system in F&E.

Federation Commander is much lighter on the record keeping, since all the information can be tracked on the individual ship cards. It also gives two options of play, the squadron level and the fleet level. Squadron level ships give more options, mainly because the hulls are stronger and there are generally more weapons. Fleet scale reduces these items, but gives a faster game play because of these reduction. A ship to ship battle at Squadron level would probably take half an hour to an hour to complete, while it would probably take half that time to complete a ship to ship Fleet level battle. The main thing to consider here is the tactical situation of each level.

Ships fall faster at the Fleet level, but it is designed to really work well with large fleets (thus the name). If you don't mind paper ships, this would be a good way to see if you could make a difference in a tactical level battle rather than rely on the strategic level ratios. Something like a Starbase battle with 30 + ships on either side would be best for this level

Squadron level is probably best at tactics for three to five ships on a side, because of all the extras you are given on the ship sheet. However, for large fleets, this may get too unwieldy as you try to wear down ships with larger damage absorption. Some of the initial Lyran/Kzinti BATS battles would probably have worked well at this scale.

This is something I want to try one day, but since VASSAL modules for SFB and FC are unavailable, I suppose SFB Online would be the best way to go. Unfortunately, I don't know if those games can be paused or not in mid battle, but since the game is a turn based game to begin with, I suppose it is probable.
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Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:53 pm
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R vs B Coalition Turn 3 in Review

James Lowry
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I started Turn 3 with a fair amount of confidence. Both halves of Turn 2 went well for me, and short of Belirahc slipping a large force into the capital, I was pretty sure I could hold what I wanted.

After some fencing with his initial attempts to reach targets, I started getting worried. He was getting much more aggressive on what he was targeting, and I was looking at losing interior planets. 1001 and 1504 were unsurprising; those are common Turn 2 targets for me. However, he hit 1202; first he moved some Lyrans towards it, which I intercepted, and then a force of Klingons, which I couldn't stop. He also moved in a force against the major planet in 1502.

I had only one Reserve force available, as I had established one in 1604. I didn't have enough ships eligible to form Reserves otherwise after my heavy raids last turn, and figured they'd do the job of distracting ships from other targets to pin them. That worked, and because he neglected to send a high enough command rating ship, I was still able to send out a CV to the starbase fight in 1304. The other one was forced to save 1502 instead of helping with an SB fight.

The biggest mistake was forgetting to reinforce 1105 after a FF was pinned there by the defense fighters. So, that's one planet he had no chance at this turn.

From gallery of Rindis
Situation at end of movement, showing major moves, reactions, reserves, and retreats.

All of this led to a large number of battles, as well as the two large fights for the SBs.

Combats:
0802 - no casualties - Kzinti retreat to 0903
0906 - Kzinti: crip FF
1004 - Kzinti: dest BATS; Lyran: crip DD, dest FF
1805 - Kzinti: dest BATS; Klingon: crip F5
1105 - Lyran: crip FF, retreat to 1004
1504 - Kzinti: 2xPDU; Klingon: crip F5, E4, capture planet
1506 - Neutral: 2xPDU; Klingon: crip F5, capture planet
1202 - Kzinti: 2xPDU; Klingon: crip 2xF5, capture planet
1604 - Klingon: crip 3xF5
1502 - Kzinti: crip CC, MEC, EFF; Klingon: crip CVT, D6V, F5, 4xE4A
1103 - Kzinti: crip DD; Lyran: crip DD
1001 - Kzinti: 2xPDU; Lyran: crip DW, FF, dest DW, capture planet
0902 - Kzinti: 4 SIDS, crip CC, BC, CVL, CLE, 3xDD, 2xEFF, dest CLE, EFF, FF; Lyran: crip 2xCA, 6xCW, 3xCL, 2xDW, dest BC, 3xCL, 3xDD
1304 - Kzinti: dest SB, crip CC, 2xBC, CL, CLE, FF, EFF, dest DD, 2xFF, SF; Klingon: crip 2xD7C, D6M, D5, 2xF5 dest D7, 2xD6, 6xD5, F5L, 4xF5, FV, E4A, D5 captured

Belirahc went pretty methodically from the small battles to the big ones. The order of resolution can be important, but it worked out well for him. I was able to retreat my force on 1001 intact to the SB, so he had to face it twice, but he avoided a worse trap. I was considering giving up the SB in 0902 and retreating onto 1001 so that he couldn't take it. But once he had taken it, there was little point, since it still wouldn't produce income for me.

Surprisingly, everything stayed in supply after combat, other than the FF that had been province raiding in Klingon space, and managed to retreat into 1005 after merely being crippled by a CA.

The first SB battle, on the Lyran border, went well. I crippled more than I liked, but forcing him to fight the SB again with my fighters replenished will still cause a good amount of hurt.

The Duke's SB (Klingon border) turned into a long, bloody affair, with both of us refusing to blink. Three rounds in, he used directed damage. In a close battle, this is often a mistake, as the inefficiency of directed damage puts you behind the curve on wrecking the enemy's ability to resist. However, here, it was a good choice. He killed all my fighters on the line, and I had already burned through all my spares. This lowered my ComPot substantially and allowed him to stick it out much longer. Later I returned the favor by direct destroying an FV group. But that wasn't done to lower his ComPot, but to permanently kill a carrier and its free fighter reloads.

It certainly hurt my chances to keep the SB. It came very close, with the Klingons only with about an extra six uncrippled ships left in reserve (small ones at that). But I had already wrecked too much of my fleet, and left a couple of rounds past when I should have.

My biggest disappointment was actually in the fight for 1502. It wasn't to hard to drive him off. But, when he retreated, I had a choice: retreat myself, pulling back to the repair facilities of the capital, and allowing all the damage to be made good, or pursue and try to take out a few ships permanently. With two crippled Klingon carrier groups retreating, I chose pursuit. I, naturally, rolled another '6' for pursuit, giving me neither option.

So, both sides forces are a mess. The carriers are generally intact, but the escorts took a pounding, and the Kzinti treasury is drained by all the drone bombardment I paid for. Another turn of this will see the end of Kzinti resistance outside the capital and the Marquis region (if he enters that area, the Federation will intervene). Belirahc did a very good job this turn, especially in having the fortitude to stick out the second SB assault, never an easy task. The main problem is that he left the supply grid intact, so there's no partial grids splitting up the money, and making ship construction more difficult.

So, will he continue against the Kzinti, or turn his main attention to the Hydrans?
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Thu Mar 24, 2011 4:24 am
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Scenario 603 The Hurricane - Initial Analysis Update

James Lowry
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As I mentioned earlier, I got the new 16-page updated version of Scenario 603 (keep in mind the original is three pages). I had actually been well aware of it, and had done some work with an early draft version of it. Over the last weekend, I updated my Vassal setup file for the draft version to the published version. The main thing I noticed is that a fair number of Klingon D5s in the draft seem to have been promoted to D7s and D6s in the final version. Also, the draft was done before SO came out, so the new stuff from there is integrated in, and the PO materials are better integrated now. (In fact, this, and "Maelstrom" in SO are probably the only two scenarios that fully integrate the tactical transports and other units from SO.)

I was not the only one to notice the deficiency of the Klingon carrier force; the introduction to the update mentions the missing Klingon carriers and missing Klingon cruisers. An interesting note is that the update keeps the original number of Lyran carriers. I had noted that they seemed to have a decent carrier force in the original, but my attention had been stolen by the lack of Klingon carriers. It turns out there's more Lyran carriers than is normally possible. The 'construction override' rule (not part of the base F&E set; it was introduced in PO) makes it possible to produce more of a limited class by paying a price. Considering the Lyrans come late to the carrier game, and generally have more money than scheduled builds, this actually makes sense, and is something that I should consider doing the next time I play with the PO rules (I had just ignored it).

By my quick count, it looks like the D6V and CVT carriers missing from the starting OoB are back, but no more, indicating that the Klingons built no new carriers from the start of the war to the introduction of the D7V and D5V. Also, there's still only 3xFVs. This is much better, but nowhere near the carrier force usually built, nor needed against the fighter-heavy lines of the Kzinti, Federation and Hydrans. Oh, and if you have FO, there's two E4Vs available. The tug situation seems to have improved by one TGA, still putting the Klingons in quite a crunch under the original rules (though CO and SO improve that).

An interesting note is that the Lyran infrastructure is better developed. In the original version, they have MBs set up in 1406 and 1103, which I consider slightly unusual locations, and only barely gets them into range of the Federation border. The update has a better developed grid with MB nodes in 1105 (Kzinti planet), 1807 (Klingon BATS on the Federation/Kzinti border), 1411 (Klingon capital) and 1013 (Klingon BATS on the Hydran border).

Another interesting point is that the 'artificial' situation of no fleet damage has been taken care of. One of the scenario rules stipulates a certain amount of damage must be taken on ships in each sector before play begins.

I'm currently looking at giving this a solo try across all sectors with just the base rules, and see how it goes. If I can get deep into it, I might repeat a couple sectors with rules additions.
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Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:02 pm
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Offensive Theory

James Lowry
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One of the basic principles of Federation & Empire is the 'supply grid'. This is a network of bases that provide supply to all friendly units in range. In the General War era of most scenarios, this range is six hexes. Two friendly bases out of range of each other, with no intermediate stops in between will form two 'partial grids' (or, more likely, a partial grid, and a 'main grid', which will include the capital or off-map area).

When invading, you need to eliminate his bases to restrict supplies and operational range. Also, you will need to extend your supply range, as most powers are larger than the area existing bases can reach.

Convoys and Tugs can work as limited supply points, extending supply range six hexes from their location, as long as they are in supply. However, they are not a part of the supply grid, so you cannot simply chain them together for further reach, nor can you join two partial grids together with them.

New bases are not that hard to set up and integrate into the grid. However, the beginning bases are not that hard for the enemy to kill, unless you have such overwhelming superiority that you can prevent the enemy from even reaching the location of the new base for at least two turns. (The first turn, while the Mobile Base is being set up, the enemy just needs to get past the approach battle, and use direct damage on the Tug. The second turn—if the MB is immediately upgraded—it just requires passing the approach battle, and using direct damage on the MB, which is no tougher than an average cruiser.) And even once upgraded to a BATS, it is still fairly vulnerable.

Planets are another matter entirely. The planets notable enough to be on the F&E map are worth taking for three reasons: 1) They produce a fair amount of the enemy's economy. 2) With a little time, they will produce some economy for you. 3) Again, with a slight delay, they can act as a part of your supply grid (or the enemy's, if they take it back). Since it is impossible to destroy a planet in F&E, planets are harder to deal with. It is possible for the side on the strategic defensive to gain a local superiority and force you to retreat off the planet, losing control of it, but that requires a lot more effort than is needed to just kill a new base. Therefore, strategic reach depends in large part on controlling planets.

From gallery of Rindis

The above image is a map showing the supply grid connections available just from planetary sources. The Orion Enclave is left out because it is generally easy to force it neutral when it matters, and cannot be counted on. Likewise the permanent neutral of the LDR is excluded. Shorter connections are lighter, and longer ones are darker.

A few things should be fairly obvious: Most of Romulan space is dependent on bases for a supply grid. There is no easy way to hook Hydran space into an external supply grid. There is no easy way to hook the Klingon and Romulan supply grids together through Federation space.

Examination of this grid can also reveal where critical bases are.

There are two Klingon and three Lyran at-start bases that are in supply range of Hydran planets. One of the Lyran bases is a SB, but it is not nearly as hard to keep the Klingons from having easy access to the Hydran capital. On the other hand, once the Hydran base network is taken down, their range is limited, and some Coalition players do not even worry much about containing them.

The 'historical' route the Klingons took in invading the Federation, was the 'southern' route, which leads directly from the Klingon capital to the Federation capital. As you can see above, this is a difficult route, as the Klingons are at the end of their supply ability by the time any further supply points are reached, meaning that it relies on the ability to set up and protect new bases within the Federation.

The 'northern' route is the one that always catches my eye. The initial planets are in easy reach of pre-war bases, and the density of the potential supply grid is high. To say nothing of taking a larger bite out of the Federation economy. The Klingon border BATS in that corner are often popular for upgrading to a starbase.

At the same time, the only Federation planet south of the Orion Enclave is in range of the Romulan border, and with the Enclave itself to hold the flanks of the Klingons and Romulans, it is a very important location for holding the Coalition together, instead of allowing the Romulans to become isolated.
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Mon Mar 14, 2011 2:50 am
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Scenario 603 The Hurricane - Initial Analysis

James Lowry
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I've been contemplating soloing my way as far as I can through the third General War scenario in the F&E rulebook. It would give me experience with the mid-war, which I really don't have, and see how the various navies evolve in that period. If I can make it through the full 10 turns, I can see what happens as PFs hit in the base rules, without any of the complications of X-ships and more advanced ship and carrier types (the late war is largely covered in Advanced Operations).

The idea is also to stick with purely base rules and ships, and 603 is the last scenario that gets its own set up, instead of just extending a previous scenario. However, the setups for 602 and 603 haven't really been modified since the original 1986 incarnation. I believe the modernized version of the scenario has recently been published in Captain's Log, but I'm years behind on those, and part of the idea is to stick with something that everyone who owns the base game has.

It starts in Spring Y173 with the Coalition at its height: The Hydran capital has fallen, and the fleet is falling back to the Old Colonies; the Kzinti capital is doing well, but the rest of Kzinti space has been abandoned to the Coalition; the Klingons have taken out the Federation border, including the 7th Fleet starbase near the Tholians, and the Romulans are about to join in.

By my accounting, the Coalition economy is currently 425.2. This should pick up a little over the next couple turns from further gains, and as the Romulans claim an extra 16 EP worth of unexplored territory. The Alliance economy is 290.8; due for a 87 EP pickup in two turns as the Gorns join the Alliance. As F&E is in large respect an economic game, a 135 EP (~50 EP post-Gorn) lead is pretty serious.

And the Coalition has 6 turns to make it count. As of the seventh turn (Turn 16 overall), the Kzinti, Hydran, and all three Coalition economies go down 25% due to economic exhaustion. Ten turns after that (Turn 26), they all go down 50%. Because they join the war late, the Gorn economy doesn't shrink until Turns 27 and 37 respectively. The Federation gets the benefit of a late start and a more robust economy, and only hits exhaustion on Turns 28 and 38.

Just setting up the scenario has been an interesting exercise. I've never really set up the Romulans in earnest before, and I'm suddenly finding myself in unfamiliar territory looking at their builds. I'm mostly familiar with them, but the knowledge lacks the well-worn grooves of the Lyran or Kzinti navies.

My initial look at the status of Klingon forces is alarming however:

Carriers: 2xD7V, 2xD5V, 1xD6V, 3xFV
Tugs: 3xTGA, TGB

Compared to the opening OoB, the Klingons have gained four modern carriers (with good escorts), but have lost five of the beginning medium carriers, and four F5Vs. This puts them well behind where they need to be in establishing good fighter reserves (compared to at start, they are down 17 fighter factors). They are also down two TGAs and a TGB, seriously compromising the ability to establish bases and other infrastructure, which will be needed as the economy shrinks.

The good news is that the Kzinti carrier force has not done too well either, having lost a CV and CVE compared to the starting forces. The Federation is similarly near its Turn 7 forces.

This isn't so much of a surprise, as F&E play typically emphasizes carriers much more than the history does, especially the history as written in 1986. The only truly alarming part is the loss of most of the Klingon at start carriers.

So, I'm nearly ready to begin play (still undecided about how serious I am about it), and am starting play around with build options. Which points up a certain artificiality of the situation: there's no cripples from previous turns, so there's plenty of extra room in the initial budget.

UPDATE: the revised 603 has been published. It was contained in CL#41, CL#42 and the CL#41 supplemental file. ADB just collected it all together and released it on e23 today for $5.



I suppose I'll have to go get it and re-work from there. whistle
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Fri Mar 11, 2011 7:49 pm
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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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