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.
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
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:
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.
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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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.
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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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.
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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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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