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Subject: Session Report: The first five turns of a Shattered Empire Game rss

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Karl Hiesterman
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I thought I would do both a Sessions report and a Designers Notes of sorts for my PnP Solitaire game Shattered Empire. In it you are controlling the fate of the Second Terran Empire, as mankind tries to re-establish control over the systems surrounding them after their first empire was destroyed. Each turn is 4 years and the map represents the star systems closest to Terran. So let’s see if we can’t restore Terra’s faded glory!

First we set up the colonies. Most of the star systems around Terra have Colonies, meaning these systems have enough infrastructure and population to be valuable. The victory points in this game are scored exclusively from controlling colonies. A Terran control marker is placed on Terra. Next we place the Political Status markers on the 6 Alien boxes, most set to Conqueror (green); only the Rimworld Pirates and the Devourers are set to Raider (blue). This political distinction is key for how that races ships will interact with other aliens ships, and for what they will do when they take over a system. Aliens ships will ignore ships of their own color, and will fight with ships of the opposite color, and Conqueror ships will leave colonies in systems, whereas Raiders will destroy colonies. We like it when aliens fight each other (because then they aren’t fighting us) and we would rather lose our colonies to Conquerors, because then we can take them back later.

Now we roll to see which Alien race changes their Politics. One race will always change their politics each turn. I roll a 5, meaning that the Tau Cetians become Raiders. We also determine where the Major Incursion will be coming from this turn. Each turn two piles of Aliens will expand out from their Alien boxes, fighting their enemies. One is larger than the other, being the Major and Minor Incursions. We get to know where the Major is coming from, but we don’t know where the Minor will come from, or what exactly will be the make-up of each force. I roll a 5 again, meaning these newly aggressive Raider Tau Cetians will be the Major Incursion this turn.

Next we draw out event card for the first turn. I draw Jingoism!, which seems appropriate for a newly-formed empire. This card allows me to place two Colonies on empty, controlled systems during my turn. If I place both colonies, I immediately get 4 Trillion Credits (TCs). Great first card! This means it’s critical we get out to systems with no colonies, and since there are no aliens around yet to contest things, this should be fairly easy.

OK, now the Terran turn. The first turn’s income is 10 TC, and the turn is fairly free form, so I can build and fight as I see fit. I start with buying a Cruiser (CA), because they are the cheapest ship I can buy, at 2 TCs, that can control systems. Carriers (CV) only cost 1 TC, but can’t control, and Battleships (BB) cost 3 TC, which is a waste for taking over systems that don’t have any Aliens ships guarding them. So I buy the Cruiser Athens (8 TC remaining). The Athens moves into Barnard’s Star. Since there are no Alien ships in this system there is no combat, but there is a Colony, so it gets to fire against all attacking ships. It destroys a ship on a 5-6. I roll a 2 and so we take over the Colony, and the system. Our first conquest! I place a Control marker on the system.

The plan is now to move on to Sirius, thus gaining access to Ross 154 and Altair, which will be the empty systems we need to use our Jingoism! benefits. So Athens moves into Sirius. A 3 is rolled and so we take that system as well. Now we use Athens to take Ross and Altair (these systems have no Aliens ships and have no colonies, so the systems are taken as soon as we move in). Thanks to Jingoism! we place Colonies on them immediately, and collect 4 more TCs (12 TCs remaining). Now I’ll use Athens to take as many other Colony systems as I can until she is destroyed by somebody’s system defenses.

Athens moves into Alpha Centauri, but I roll a 6 and she is destroyed! So I build another Cruiser (10 TCs remaining), this time the Paris, and move her into Alpha Centauri. I roll a 1 this time and take Alpha Centauri. Now I know that the Major Incursion this turn will come from the Tau Cetians at the bottom of the map, so Alpha Centauri is a good place to defend my Empire from that direction. Time to build a Battleship group. It’s important to have all three types of ships in a defensive group, if possible, as they mutually support one another. You’ll see what I mean when we get into our first combat. So I build the BB Nelson, and a CV, the Arc Royal (6 TCs remaining), and put them along with Paris in Alpha Centauri.

With 6 TCs left it’s worth building another CA and grabbing as many colonies as I can. I don’t know where the Minor Incursion is coming from, but with all this empty space on the map, they probably won’t get to my core worlds this turn. So I build the New York (4 TCs remaining) and see what happens. Epislon Eridani and Wolf 359 fall, but New York is destroyed trying to take Procyon 2. I build another CA, which takes Procyon 2, Kapteyn’s Star, Luyten, and Nova Terra. I was planning on leaving 61 Cygni and Sigma Draconis to the ravages of the Tau Cetians, but since the CA, Madrid, Is doing so well, I’ll try and take them. I may not defend them, but who knows how the Incursions will pan out…

Madrid takes both systems, so I figure lets use my last 2TCs on expanding a bit. Madrid takes the Gateway system, and I build a colony there. I’ll leave Madrid there for system defense. Now, do I need to move the Nelson battlegroup? I could certainly take the Zeta Ceti system and put my best ships right on the Tau Cetian’s doorstep, and defend Cygni 61 and Sigma Draconis, but the Tau Cetian Alien box has two exits. They may go the other way and could end up sweeping behind my lone battlegroup. Probably best to stick with the original plan of defending Alpha Centauri and hoping that the Tau Cetians leave Cygni and Sigma Draconis alone.

That end my turn, as I’ve spend all my income and am happy with my ship deployments (you must spend all your income, so no sense in saving any). Now we resolve the incursions. First, determine the location of the Minor one. I roll a 2, which are the Vorculons, green Conquerors. I roll for the size of the Major and get a 4, which give the Tau Cetians 2 CAs and 3 CVs, blue ships because they are Raiders. The Minor is a 6, which is 3 green CVs.

First we resolve the Major Incursion, the Tau Cetians. I roll randomly to determine which the fleet goes, each time they finish in a system. I determine that they move to Darwin. The fleet leaves a CV in this system, and then I determine the next system. They can’t go to a system that they have already traveled to this turn, so the only choices are Last Chance, Gateway, or Luyten. They move to Luyten, which has a Colony, controlled by me. My Colony will get to fire at a ship, starting with a CV, needing a 5-6. I roll a 6, which destroys a CV! I fire at the next CV, rolling a 2, thus ending the combat. The aliens take the system, and because they are Raiders, they destroy the Colony on Luyten. They leave their last CV in the system, and the two remaining CAs move on. They can move to either Kapteyn’s Star or Alpha Centauri, and I determine that they are going to Kapteyn’s Star. Heroically, the system defenses roll a 5, destroying the first cruiser, and then roll a 6, destroying the other. So that ends the Major Incursion. On the Minor Incursion, the Vorculons take Vorculus, move into Altair, where my system defenses roll a 4 and so falls. Fortunately the green Conquerors don’t destroy the new Colony we built. The last CV moves to and takes Epsilon Indi.

Finally, we score our controlled Colonies. We control 13, so that is our first turn’s score. Next turn, our income will be based on the number of systems we control. Unfortunately, it is 17 TCs less the score I scored last turn, so our income next turn will be 4 TCs. We were so successful that the Legislature will not give us many funds during the next administration!

For turn 2, the first thing we do is see which system that Conquering Races invest in and build a Colony (another reason we like the Green aliens more than Blue ones). There are two systems with green ships and no colonies, so we randomly determine which one gets a Colony, and so Vorculus gets a Colony. The Terrain Republic changes politics, becoming Raider, and the Major Incursion is coming from The Devourers. The event is Gunboat Diplomacy, which allows us to take over an enemy system with no combat, if we’ll place a BB, CA, and CV in that system for the whole turn. I think the Terrans will be using some Gunboat Diplomacy against the Vorculons, to get back our colony on Altair. Knowing that the major Incursion is coming from the Devourers means that I can probably put a battle group in Wolf 359 and keep most of our Empire safe. With 4 TCs I can just swing it; 3 for a BB, 1 for a CV, and I add Madrid to round out the group. I just hope the Minor Incursion, wherever that is coming from, won’t hurt too bad… So the BB Yamato and the CV Wasp are constructed and moved with Madrid to Wolf 359. The Nelson battlegroup is moved to Altair, which immediately becomes our colony.

Now the incursions. The Major is a CA and four CVs, the Minor is also from the Devourers, with a BB, CA, and CV Battlegroup. Eeek. Both Incursions can come from one Alien box, and are resolved one at a time. The Yamato group may be in serious trouble. The Major moves to Cannae and Tango, leaving a CV in each, and then moves to Epsilon Indi, destroying the green CV there and leaving their own CV there. Different colored Aliens never actually fight battles; the attacker automatically wins the combat. But if they encounter ships of their own color they bypass the system, not leaving any ships, so aliens passing through other-colored aliens deplete their stacks, which helps us. Next they move into Epsilon Eridani, our system, which by the way has neatly bypassed all our defenses. The system defenses manage to destroy the last CV before falling. The remaining CA takes the system and destroys our colony there. That ends the Major Incursion, but now the Minor one roars out. They move to Cannae, but since it has a blue ship in it they move on, not leaving any ship in the system. They move to Formalhaut, leaving a CV there, then on to our colony at Sigma Draconis. Our systems defenses are no match for them, and it falls and the colony is destroyed. The CA is left behind and the BB moves to Alpha Centauri. Again, neatly bypassing our defenses. Alpha Centauri fall and is destroyed.

OK, that didn’t go so well. We still score 11, which is pretty good (61 Cygni is still counted as belonging to us, even though it is now cut off from the rest of the empire. Ships can be built there, but there can be no movement back and forth unless a path of owned systems can be completed). Our income will be low again, but we have two untouched battlegroups, so that is mighty useful.

On turn three the Vorculons change politics, becoming Raider (almost everyone is Raider now. A very dangerous universe…). The Major is coming from the Terran Republic, and the Event is Austerity Measures. Ugh, what a bad time to get that! Don’t these bureaucrats understand? All the races are angry with us, our empire is cut in half, and NOW they cut funding? So we get a free CA, but can build no BBs. With an income of 6 TCs. OK, first to take back Alpha Centauri. There is a BB there, so we buy a CV and send it in there. Glorious is built and attacks the BB, destroying it but is destroyed as well. The system is ours, and we build a Colony there. With my remaining 3 TCs I build CVs, to build up my two Battlegroups. I add 2 CVs to Nelson’s group and the CV and CA to Yamato’s. Now, where to put the groups. I think I have to put a group in Nova Terra, to try and blunt the main Terran republic offensive. But where to put the other group? I put it in Alpha Centauri, because there are two paths of blue ships leading right to it. So Yamato gets Alpha Centauri, and Nelson gets Nova Terra. And I’ll peel the CA Cairo out of Yamato’s group to give me a little bit of coverage at Ross 154.

The Major is a BB, CA, and 2 CV, the Minor is from the devourers again, and is a BB, CA, and CV. So the Terran Republic’s fleet plows into the Nelson Battlegroup. I have a BB, CA, and 3 CVs, against an enemy BB, CA, and 2 CVs. Ships in this system have a kind of rock, paper, and scissors relationship. Carriers are good at killing Battleships, Cruisers are good at killing Carriers, and Battleships are good at killing Cruisers. But the order of targets that ships can fire at shows some of the doctrine involved; CVs must fire at CVs. Only if the CV screen is eliminated can the carriers go after the BBs. So the CAs spend their time trying to clear the enemy CVs from the screen, while the BBs are pounding the CAs.

So, first my CVs begin to fire. All fire is simultaneous, in that every ship will get to fire even if they are destroyed, but who they fire on is in a particular order. CVs need a 6 to hit CVs. My three CVs miss their opposites, and the enemy CVs miss as well. Now my CA fires and destroys a CV, and his does the same. Next the BBs fire at the CAs, and they both destroy both CAs. After the first round of combat I have a BB and 2 CVs, the aliens have a BB and CV. I can retreat now if I would like (aliens never retreat) but I decide to stay and finish this battle. The CVs fire at each other and both miss. The BBs now fire at each other needing 4-6. They both hit, destroying one another! Now it’s down to who can roll 6s first, with me having 2 CVs to his one. However in the ensuing dicefest. His last CV destroys both of mine. Now that all starships are cleared, my system defenses try to blow up the last CV. I roll a 5, and they do! So the Nelson’s entire Battlegroup was destroyed, but they saved Nova Terra from invasion. Now let’s see what the Devourers do. They move through 36 Ophiuchi, leaving a CV, and then down to Sigma Draconis and off to 61 Cygni. The BB and CA waltz through Cygni’s defenses and destroy the colony. They leave the CA and advance into Alpha Centauri with just one BB. The fighters from Wasp and Foch blow through the lone BB, but not before she blows up the venerable Cruiser Madrid.

So this turn we score 11 points, but have only a BB, CA, and 2 CVs in the entire fleet.

Turn 4 sees the Tau Cetians turning to Conqueror, the Major coming from the Rigileans (who are Conqueror), and the event being Reunification. This is all much better! The Rigileans will wade through a mass of blue ships and probably won’t reach my borders, and with Reunification if I control Nova Terra anytime during this turn (which I do now) we reunify with the Terran Republic, which nets a a BB, CA, CV, and turns off the Terran republic as an enemy. No more incursions from them! I guess the horrible battle at Nova Terra made the Moderates in their government push for reunification!

So I get the Terran Republic battlegroup (with the Bismark as flagship) and build a second group with all my income, centered on Warspite. I put one in Kaptayn’s Star, Alpha Centauri, and Ross 154. Let’s hope that gets me some breathing space. The Rigileans make a straight line towards my group at Ross 154. We lose the CA London, but destroy their lone BB (they left most of their fleet behind garrisoning systems taken from blue ships). The Minor comes from the Devourers yet again. They move in and destroy our colony on Wolf 359 and then move up to Epislon Eridani and again attack Ross 154 with a single BB. We destroy their BB, but since there was no Cruiser to cover the BB Bismark, she was destroyed as well, but the single carrier still holds Ross 154. I score 10 points.

Turns 5 sees an alien colony on Epsilon Indi, the Devourers change politics to Conqueror, the Major again coming from the Rigileans, and my event is Advanced Technology: Ship Screens, meaning my ships will be harder to hit. So I decide to go on a colonizing binge and clear out Luytan, Darwin, and Last Chance, and put colonies on each. Let’s see how that works… I put a battle group on Ross 154 and Alpha Centauri. The Rigileans means business with a BB, CA, and 3 CVs, and they are the Minor as well, with 2 CAs and 2 CVs. Looks like the Rigilean War is upon us. They capture the space around them and then head to Altair, losing a CV before taking the system and moving their last remaining ship, the BB, into Ross 154. But Yamato’s group destroys it without a loss (they missed hitting the CA before being buried in fighters). The second wave headed towards Epsilon Eridani and tried to hit Ross 154 from that direction. This fight was uglier, with their 2 CAs and a CV against my BB, CA, and 2 CVs. My BB was the sole survivor, but manage to fend off two assaults on Ross 154. The score this turn was 12.

So far the new Terran Empire has weathered hordes of raiders and Devourers, an assault from the secessionist Republic that eventually lead to reunification with the Terran Republic, forming a stronger Terran presence, and fought in the first Rigilean War and has come out fairly well. I’ll post the next few turns of this game later.
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Scott Steffan
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Karl,
Nice synopsis on the game example.

First let me say I am reviewing Shattered Empire and impressed that it contains a sizable amount of content in a small package. Also the graphics are nice and appealing to me! I am interested in solitaire gaming and as my evaluation gets deeper into your game I will ask more questions.

My first question is what is the rationale regarding your Combat Results Table. I expected ships of similar types to yield an approximately a 50% probability of destruction against each other. If the thought is a particular ship type, for example, a CV, has better than average offensive ability, then I would expect it to do better than average chance of it destroying all other ship types.

Here is my rationale.

CV has better than average offensive strength against CA and BB. [Historical accounts.]
CV has average offensive strength against another CV. [Combat Air Patrol, etc.]
CV -> CV has 1/6 chance of destruction. [Expect 3/6] median.
CV -> BB has 5/6 chance of destruction. {Expect 4/6] better than median.
CV -> CA has 1/6 chance of destruction. [Expect 4/6] better than median.

CA has better than average offensive strength against a CV. [Surface ships do significant damage to CVs]
CA has average offensive strength against another CA.
CA has worse than average offensive strength against BB.
CA -> CV has 5/6 chance of destruction. [Expect 4/6] better than median.
CA -> CA has 2/6 chance of destruction. {Expect 3/6] median.
CA -> BB has 1/6 chance of destruction. [Agree] worse than median.

BB has better than average offensive strength against CA.
BB has average offensive strength against BB.
BB has better than average offensive strength against CV. [Battleship would obliterate CV if got in range]
BB -> CA has 5/6 chance of destruction. [Expect 4/6] better than median.
BB -> BB has 3/6 chance of destruction. {Agree] median.
BB -> CV has 2/6 chance of destruction. [Expect 5/6] better than median.

What are your thoughts? Very interested in a reply.
Scott
 
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Karl Hiesterman
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An analysis of the ships individually against each other is somewhat meaningless, as is using a 20th century naval model with the ship types, in Shattered Empire. Let me give you some background on what my design philosophy was…

I wanted a system where there were a small number of ship types, were each ship type had a doctrinal role that was vital to the combat, and the whole combat system was relatively quick and painless yet still had some drama. Also I wanted you to have to make difficult fleet make-up build choices, with an uncertainty factor as to what you might face so combats wouldn’t become rote. All of this is handled by the Combat Chart.

I decided to use the model of Naval theory of the pre-Dreadnought days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as the starting point. There developed an interesting rock/scissors/paper kind of arrangement: Battleships were the all-mighty kings of the sea, and could sink any ship but other BBs with ease, but were so slow that most ships could escape them. So they are used to deny access to places and sink the enemy fleet. Cruisers were faster and better armed and protected than any enemy merchantman and any pirate, and so became the non-war workhorses of the fleet, fighting pirates and in war time commerce raiding. (this by the way was pretty much the same arrangement through the age of sail as well, with Frigates and Ships of the Line).

But new technology added a new wrinkle: The torpedo. This relatively small weapon packed enough punch that a few could sink a Battleship (in fact, when war finally came, the sinking of HMS Audacious and the large Battleship losses in the Dardanelles showed that just one could sink them). So the new theory was that a swarm of torpedo boats, at a tenth the cost of a Battleship, could overwhelm a BB and sink her. This in turn lead to the creation of Destroyers (Originally called Torpedo Boat Destroyers) that would screen the Battleship and keep the Torpedo Boats away. Eventually the Destroyers were armed with Torpedoes and took over the “swarm the BB” role of the Torpedo Boat.

So, you have a swarm of small ships that can overwhelm and destroy a Battleship, but Cruisers are fast enough and have small enough guns that they can eat the small ships like popcorn, and Battleships can destroy Cruisers without even blinking. So how does one design and organize a fleet in this situation? The swarm ships operate as a screen in the front, keeping the other swarm ships busy until the Cruisers can kill them. And then your BBs sit in the back and pound the Cruisers to pieces, thus protecting the swarm ships that are screening you from the enemy swarm. For my game I decided to use Carriers instead of Destroyers as my swarm ship, since I thought that evoked the cheap and expendable doctrine.

And so the Combat Chart reflects this doctrine, by not only telling you what you need to hit but also who you can target when. Take a look at the CV part of the chart. First they must fire at enemy CVs. And they are not very good at it (needing a 6). So the fighters tussle and fight, but don’t do much to each other. Only if all the enemy CVs are gone do the CVs get to fire at BBs. But when they do, they are devastating (needing a 2-6). If there are no BBs left, they have to fight Cruisers who are designed to smash them, and so they have very little chance of scoring (needing a 6).

But look at the CA chart. They get to fire at CVs first, and are very good at hitting these (2-6). So while your fighter screen is ineffectually fighting the CAs are slowing killing off the CVs. Looking at the Battleship part of the chart, they get to shoot at CAs first, also hitting on a 2-6. But BBs cost 3 TCs to build, and CAs only cost 2, and CVs are cheap at 1. You need all of them, but you need a good screen of CVs to keep the expensive BB from getting killed, and more CAs are useful to kill CVs faster and let your CVs get to the enemy BB.
So a balanced fleet is vital. What each ship can do individually isn’t nearly as important as what it does when working with the whole fleet. Add to that the fact that due to the fairly large swing in the Incursion chart from balanced fleet to wildly imbalanced fleet, you have some hard choices to make when building and deploying fleets, since you don’t know exactly what you’ll be facing.
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Scott Steffan
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Karl,
Excellent reply! I enjoyed the historical narrative. I agree with the combat speed aspect to keep game play quick and I like the idea of the rock, paper and scissors (triangular) approach. Each type always has an inherit advantage or disadvantage depending on how it lines up. I didn't notice or reflect on the importance of the order in the CRT, but you are correct in the way it was leveraged and it adds another dimension I missed. I will go back and review.

I am now reviewing the game map board also.
Thanks,
Scott
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Just getting this to the table, and this was very helpful. It saved me making a new post! It's not really explained (or I just missed it) that an unclaimed colony fights you, but it does make sense.
 
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I do have one question though. Are the Terran ships that are destroyed "permanently retired?" Meaning I can't bring back another cruiser named "Madrid?"
 
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Karl Hiesterman
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davekuhns wrote:
Just getting this to the table, and this was very helpful. It saved me making a new post! It's not really explained (or I just missed it) that an unclaimed colony fights you, but it does make sense.


The rule is under Terran Turns: "If after combat an enemy Colony is present, roll a die for each ship remaining."

It's true that it is not explicitly spelled out that unclaimed colonies are Enemy Colonies, but since a Colony is either Terran Controlled or not, I thought it was implied. I'll make a change to make that more explicit.
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Karl Hiesterman
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davekuhns wrote:
I do have one question though. Are the Terran ships that are destroyed "permanently retired?" Meaning I can't bring back another cruiser named "Madrid?"


Ships are not permanently retired. But I do give you enough named Terran ships to probably last you the whole game without a repeat. Except for maybe the BBs. There are only six of those, and in my games I seem to lose a lot of them. Now that I think about it, you run through Carriers pretty fast too... I'll have to ask the other playtesters and see how they fared...

Please let me know what you think of the game, once you get it on the table.
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