Chess and bridge enthusiasts enjoy taking moments of their games and studying them to help them learn how to play better. Using only the information given them about their position in the game, they try to find the best moves to help them to win. F&E has a lot of similarities to both Chess and Bridge as it is a game of strategy and bluff. Knowing this, we can create situations and study them in order to better understand the game.
Here is the opening for a solo game I prepared. Please note, only Basic F&E units are being used for this example.
Fleets are as follows (Only those actually able to participate in the initial invasion are depicted)
Gold Fang (0502) - BC, 2CW, 3CL, FF
Black Stripe (0504) - CA, 3CW, 2CK, FF, SC
Pelt Hunter (0705) - CC, 3CA, 2DD, FF
Red Claw (0404) - SC, TGC w/MB (Mission C)
Foremost (0707) - DN, CC, 3DW, SC
Silver Moon (0608) - 2CA, 3CW, 2CL, 2DD, FF
Apex (0608) - 2CA, 3CW, 2CL, 2DD, FF
Constable (0701) - [CV+CLE+CF], 3BC, DF
Count (0902) - [CVE+EFF], FF, SF, TGT w/2VP (Mission B)
2nd Reserve (0902) - [CVL+CLE+EFF], CC, CL
Duke (1003)- [CVE+EFF], CL, FF, SF, TGC w/2VP (Mission B)
Earl (1004) - [CV+CLE+CF], 3BC, DF
1st Reserve (1304) - [CVL+CLE+EFF], DN, CC
With the information above, how do you think the Lyrans should open aggressions against the Kzinti. Should the Kzinti have played their initial defenses differently? How could the addition of units from expansions help in the opening drive?
Feel free to discuss. I will post the outcome as played in a week.
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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.
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.
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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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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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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