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Space Empires: Close Encounters» Forums » General

Subject: The insane expected value of boarding ships rss

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alexandre Boureau
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Two of our latest games were won by BD after a huge swing in a close battle.

Even though several ships win against the same CP of BD, the effects when the BD succeed is such a huge swing CP wise that even with security 2, they are insanely good:

Here is the simplified math for their espected results:

BD vs a BC:
Assuming everyone is teched to the max:
BD2, DEF 2 for the boarding ship
Security 2, ATT 2, DEF 2 for the BC:
The boarding ship captures on 1 or 2, and the BC scores a hit on 1-5.
But the BC needs 2 hits to kill a BD, while the BD needs a single one to capture the BC.
It would take 4 shots on average to kill the BD, which would give it 3 attemptes at 2- to capture it.
So in this configuration, the BC would be favored, but a victory for the BD means the winning side is at +15 CP and the losing one at -15, so a 30CP swing(even more if you wanted to learn ATT2 and Ship size 3 from it) while a victory for the BC is only a swing of 12 CP.
One friend of mine wrote a tool to simulate the results, and the BC would have a very slight advantage, but nowhere near the difference in resulting swing.

It gets even worse if there are 2 BD vs 2 BC, because the newly acquired BC would be able to take part immediately(aka, the CP difference is immediately translated into a combat advantage).

Against a DN, it is pretty similar:
2 BD against a DN capture it on a 1(6 - 2 for security - 3 for size), and the DN hits on 7 (ATT 3 vs DEF2), so he'll need a bit less than 3 shots to kill the first BD, and
3 more for the second BD.
That is 7 attempts to roll a 1 for the BD.
Here too, the DN is slightly favored, but that the expected CP differential favors the BD a lot.

Granted, there are several mitigating factors:
BD are harder to skill up than other ships (they hit a lot less, because their point is that hitting result in a large swing).
They also are useless against defenses, colonies and carriers (but 1 BD + 3 Point Defense Scouts would beat 1 carrier + 3 fighters on average).

Also, their use result in huge variance (because so much depends on such a few rolls. Much more so than standard battles).

I don't know whether it is a big problem in itself given their issues, but they are the best you can purchase when it comes to ship to ship fighting until titans show up(they really do solve all problems!).

I don't like how sweepers and Point defenses brutally counter their respective technologies. I much prefer the subtler effect of Security forces 2, but I would rather have Boarding be a bit more specialized (ie allowing you to catch up on techs, or have BD ships be a tool you use against a smaller force, not something you should use in most fleets).

I think not letting them auto hit on 1 would somewhat help (as it would make much more experienced size 3 ships immune to them).

Giving a chance for the boarded ship to self detonated would also work (but be redundant with the relevant event of the Replicator expansion).

Do you think the drawbacks of using BD are enough to make up for their very strong average effect?
Are there more mitigating factors in the new replicator technologies (do stronger fighters more or less address this issue)?
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Niko
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Let's just say that there is a reason "We Still Carry Swords" is my favourite empire advantage

That being said, I think you overvalue the immediate impact a bit, especially when using experience.
The captured ship is at the lowest level and will not fight/retreat right away (nor will it count for fleet size for screening!), meaning it is easy prey after being captured though going after the BD might still be the smarter move. Of course that will not show in low ship evaluations, but if you manage to engage 2 BDs with a stack of DDs the odds look a lot different than against 2 BCs.
Also, anything plus 3 SCs with PD will likely beat a full carrier, so that isn't much of an argument for BDs.
In general I think you need to look at larger and more diverse fleets (I know that that is a lot harder to math out which is why many of the "is X too good?" threads don't do it) and you will see that BDs are good, but no better than a well timed carrier or raider attack.

BDs are great against big ships (similar to mines, but BDs have the advantage of being able to attack) but against larger groups of smaller ships they don't do too well in my experience. It might not feel that way since the BD fleet will lose BDs while gaining other ships, but they are still slowly being whittled down and will have less experienced ships. A group of CAs that can retreat from the fight after taking only one round of shots will usually be better to whittle down the enemy.
Take a typical alien fleet guarding a NPA planet; They may only be size 1, but I would still hesitate to send less than 3 BDs in there and ideally would want 4, just about the same number as for CAs.
Of course you are right that BDs will add something to your fleet rather than just remove from your opponent, but I think that fact is nicely balanced by them going last and having low odds.

I'm pretty sure there is a thread about a variant that disallows moving NPA ships after they have been captured, but I can't find it right now. Maybe that's something to look into if you think BDs are too strong?

EDIT: I also rarely use them "in most fleets". Their research cost is too high to just use one or two of them together with other ships I find; They simply become meat shields for your other ships and rarely survive to attack themselves.
If I use them it tends to be early and 4+ at a time. Research only BD 1&2, defence 1, and maybe some movement then unleash them on the enemy ASAP and hope that what you capture is enough to make up for the fact that you fell behind on researching capital ships.
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alexandre Boureau
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I think they are a bit too strong, but given that they hit on small results only, it makes it hard to tweak them. I really like the fact that they are still relevant after security 2.
We tried adding security 3 for 20, young their price to 15, and making so a result of 1 would destroy the ship instead of capturing it if the target number was 0 or less. We really liked the self destruct result, but I think security 3 was over the top. We'll probably play it so that security 3 make the ship explode if you roll the TN or 1(if TN<=0), but won't provide an extra malus to boarding.

Regarding falling behind on ship size, guarding allows you to catch up by scraping the ship.
That said the huge swings can also make you lose games indeed, because a few bad rolls can turn a probable victory into a crushing defeat more so than with other ships.
 
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Björn H
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Seems to me like a to-hit value of less than 1 should only hit on a roll of 1 followed by a roll of 1-5. Total immunity no, but at least <1 hits only 5% of the time. I think it should be like that for all types of attacks.
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alexandre Boureau
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You could add a rule that a roll of 1 only destroys the ship if zero or less was needed. That is how we play it now, and it is roughly similar in EV.

However, you can also build lots of scouts (seriously, scouts are the answer to most problems!) and overwhelm the BD, or build a CV + fighters and have a laugh.
Or just turtle behind bases. BD are the most inefficient against static defenses, and a BD will lose a duel against a SY on average.
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