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Subject: Virtual Fleets rss

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Juho Snellman
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In many cases the best and most intimidating defensive fleet is one that doesn't yet exist. As long as you have enough stockpiled resources, up to date ship blueprints, and can still take a build action, you have what we call a virtual fleet. A virtual fleet has a few major advantages over a concrete fleet:

1. When the fleet doesn't exist anywhere, the opponents will need to treat it as existing everywhere. A concrete fleet on one front can be hard to relocate to another. And sometimes even impossible, if an opponent manages to pin the fleet. Contrast that with a virtual fleet, which can be built into the right hotspot when needed. For non-Terran races the effect is even larger, since they can only move 2 ships but with nanobots they can build 3 ships in one go.
2. A virtual fleet needs to be treated as having the optimal ship and component mix against a particular enemy fleet.
3. Virtual fleets are similar to starbases in that they don't create any diplomatic tension. It's hard to attack with a virtual fleet due to the lag. In particular this means that your neighbors with real fleets are more likely to fight each other than to attack you, or to get bogged down in a stalemate of nobody daring to attack due to the fear of being stabbed in the back by another player.

Of course virtual fleets aren't a panacea:

1. You need some real ships for beating up Ancients, even if you weren't planning on attacking anyone else.
2. If you only have one neighbor, or if all access to your empire goes through one bottleneck, the advantages of a virtual fleet are much smaller.
3. A virtual fleet also can't provide a perimeter defense by pinning attacking ships at the border. This might matter if you have an empire with low value border hexes and a high value core.
4. It is hard to win the game as a pacifist. You will almost certainly need to materialize the fleet at some point, and fight some battles just for the reputation.
5. The virtual fleet will not work if you have to pass early. It's hard to build a credible defense with a single build. If your neighbors have more actions, using this strategy is risky.

The Descendants are particularly well suited for using virtual fleets:

1. They don't need to fight Ancients
2. They will usually have a good stockpile of resources thanks to the amount of advanced mining spots in hexes with Ancients.
3. Since they can expand easily towards the Center, they're more likely to have multiple neighbors and a wide border to defend.
4. They have a lot of ways of scoring points. They'll usually be happy to not fight early on.
5. Ancient ships will function as perimeter defense.

I played 6 games of Eclipse over the last weeks. In both of the games that I won, virtual fleets played a vital part. In a game as the Descendants I was able to bully the others into not attacking me despite having no ships on the map until the final turn (literally none - I'd forgotten to take the starting interceptor). In another as the Terrans I was rather overextended a turn after taking the Galactic Centre. My entire fleet was cruisers, and the design was somewhat set in stone due to some juicy Alien technology. I hadn't noticed that another player had been designing a counter to that design, and in a blitzkrieg fashion attacked three of my hexes in one turn. The only way my real fleet could defeat them would be with extreme luck, but since I had a good resource stockpile around, I was able to build a different ship design in the threatened hexes.







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Nice post. Reminds me of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleet_in_being concept.
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Geoff Speare
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There's no rule against building a fleet in a hex under attack, which helps this strategy (and seems a little odd, but perhaps necessary for balance reasons).

I would imagine / hope that there's an interesting balance between this defensive strategy and an offensive one. Getting good reputation tiles for early combat definitely seems like a factor in the favor of the offensive strategy.
 
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Jason Reid
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jsnell wrote:
As long as you have enough stockpiled resources...


I think this game is so missing 'corruption'.
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Tim Seitz
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The rules certainly allow this, and it's already common for people to use starbases that way, but I am coming to think that the rules ought to have been tweaked to prohibit building in enemy-occupied non-defended hexes (i.e., where your opponent has ships but you have none). An exception could be given for the home system so players don't get completely locked out.
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Juho Snellman
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I don't think there's any need to change the rules. In general you'd still rather be attacking than defending. This is just a tactic that makes defending a little more palatable
 
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Tim Seitz
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jsnell wrote:
I don't think there's any need to change the rules. In general you'd still rather be attacking than defending. This is just a tactic that makes defending a little more palatable

Wait till you see it getting abused more properly.
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Kenny ita
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There's a problem in virtual fleets: an attacker could wait for you to pass... and then use just a pair of move actions to siege 4 different hexes.
The defender then should use 4 build reactions, plus x upgrade reactions to effectivly defend... really not feasible.

The only way to prevent this using virtual fleets would be waiting to be the last to pass every turn... again not really a winning strategy.
 
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Geoff Speare
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Kenny3006 wrote:
There's a problem in virtual fleets: an attacker could wait for you to pass... and then use just a pair of move actions to siege 4 different hexes.
The defender then should use 4 build reactions, plus x upgrade reactions to effectivly defend... really not feasible.

The only way to prevent this using virtual fleets would be waiting to be the last to pass every turn... again not really a winning strategy.


Mentioned under #5 in second list in the original post. Exploiting this, I suppose, would involve seeking out extra actions, either through shrinking one's empire or researching techs that give you extra disks. This will be easier if a "virtual fleet" player is expanding rapidly (likely, since they are not getting VPs through combat, but not guaranteed).
 
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jasonwocky wrote:
jsnell wrote:
As long as you have enough stockpiled resources...


I think this game is so missing 'corruption'.

After playing Civilization III, I have seen enough corruption for a lifetime. gulp
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Eugenio -
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Completely agree with the OP.
Virtual fleets are the best way to go in most cases, unless you're going for an offensive strategy.
I think changing the rules would make defending even harder, so I'm not sure it would be the right thing to do, even if, as of now, it is pretty unthematic (and also a bit counterintuitive).
 
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Jason Reid
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out4blood wrote:
jsnell wrote:
I don't think there's any need to change the rules. In general you'd still rather be attacking than defending. This is just a tactic that makes defending a little more palatable

Wait till you see it getting abused more properly.


Haven't seen it yet, but unfortunately this does sound like a dynamic that I'm not going to like.

I tend to like games that force one to commit to strategies while there's still some uncertainty. "Virtual fleets" sounds like it runs pretty drastically counter to that preference.

out4blood wrote:
I am coming to think that the rules ought to have been tweaked to prohibit building in enemy-occupied non-defended hexes


Other possible tweaks:
Corruption - every turn, lose 1/3 of your unspent materials (or some pct)
Untested fleet - Newly built ships come into play with 1pt of dmg (excepting anything that only has 1hp total)
 
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mfl134
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I was not pleased when I made a quick move into another players undefended area and had to wait for him to spawn troops before attacking.


Next time I will train pilots that don't care about the code of war or fair fights.
 
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Ken Marley
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The trick is to wait until they have passed. Then attack, if you were the last to pass they will only be able to build 1 ship.
 
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Good point on the virtual fleet concept, but it certainly is counterable. One could swarm multiple hexes in one turn, thereby forcing the virtual fleet to materialize and having a decent chance of breaking up the virtual fleet's empire. It also costs more money to put down all ships at once than over time (although the benefit of mustering anywhere is quite...beneficial indeed). I would worry that heavy use of this tactic would be suboptimal in the long run, that is unless it is permitted by the other players.
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CW Lumm
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youperguy wrote:
The trick is to wait until they have passed. Then attack, if you were the last to pass they will only be able to build 1 ship.


They may be able to build more if they have Nanobots, right?

A sudden 2-Dreadnought build could be terrifying, depending on how thoroughly they've been upgraded...
 
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Mikael Ölmestig
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No. The nanobots technology doesn't work on reaction (p.14 in the rule book).
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CW Lumm
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Oh, interesting! We've been playing THAT wrong...
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Interesting thread. I am not sure I like the idea thematically. Historically, invasions have often succeeded not because the attacker was stronger but because the defender was caught off guard and struggled to mobilise in time to stave off the attack.

The game simplifies production by saying it requires resources alone, when in reality it requires resources plus time. I know a game turn is supposed to be 100 years long or something but an invasion fleet would have no trouble conquering a sector if the other side hadn't even built a defending force yet. 100 years of time makes little difference if you are attacked and your industry is trashed by the invaders in the first year!

Not sure how best this can be house-ruled but it is definitely something I might consider.

 
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I like the veteran/experience idea.
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As stated in my previous post, I see Virtual Fleets as an exploit of a loophole in the turn sequence rather than a legitimate tactic. In my opinion, this needs a house rule to prevent it becoming the defensive tactic par excellence.

So, where to start? I suppose the first thing is to approach this from a thematic point of view. As we know from the designer's notes, each sector is a vast area of space, and although it depicts planets, the sector's population is scattered across many more colonised worlds and outposts than depicted on the sector tile. The designer has also stated that the ships in the game are colossal, so each model ship may very well represent just that - a single huge vessel - or maybe a "battle-group" consisting of one large capital ship and a flotilla of smaller supporting vessels.

Given the above, a good analogy is US carrier operations in the Pacific during WWII. The campaign took place across a vast ocean dotted with small enemy outposts and airfields, and was characterised by long periods of manoeuvre followed by brief periods of intense battle as each outpost was fought for.

I can see now why the designer has allowed players to build ships in an invaded sector, and why battles are only resolved at the end of a turn once each side has had the opportunity to build new forces in the sector and/or reinforce the sector with ships from outside. However, from a game point of view, it still seems too powerful an advantage to just magic up entire fleets of ships in a sector under enemy attack.

Here is a proposed house rule. If the ships of one or more players are in a sector where you have influence and you have fewer ships in that sector than those of other players, you may only place one ship or structure in that sector per Build Action (i.e all Build Actions are Reaction Build Actions until you achieve parity in ships with the other players).

This, to my mind, would be in keeping with the theme of the game whilst also making the Virtual Fleet tactic less of a game breaker.



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Geoff Speare
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NappyPlayer wrote:
As stated in my previous post, I see Virtual Fleets as an exploit of a loophole in the turn sequence rather than a legitimate tactic. In my opinion, this needs a house rule to prevent it becoming the defensive tactic par excellence.

So, where to start? I suppose the first thing is to approach this from a thematic point of view. As we know from the designer's notes, each sector is a vast area of space, and although it depicts planets, the sector's population is scattered across many more colonised worlds and outposts than depicted on the sector tile. The designer has also stated that the ships in the game are colossal, so each model ship may very well represent just that - a single huge vessel - or maybe a "battle-group" consisting of one large capital ship and a flotilla of smaller supporting vessels.

Given the above, a good analogy is US carrier operations in the Pacific during WWII. The campaign took place across a vast ocean dotted with small enemy outposts and airfields, and was characterised by long periods of manoeuvre followed by brief periods of intense battle as each outpost was fought for.

I can see now why the designer has allowed players to build ships in an invaded sector, and why battles are only resolved at the end of a turn once each side has had the opportunity to build new forces in the sector and/or reinforce the sector with ships from outside. However, from a game point of view, it still seems too powerful an advantage to just magic up entire fleets of ships in a sector under enemy attack.

Here is a proposed house rule. If the ships of one or more players are in a sector where you have influence and you have fewer ships in that sector than those of other players, you may only place one ship or structure in that sector per Build Action.

This, to my mind, would be in keeping with the theme of the game whilst also making the Virtual Fleet tactic less of a game breaker.



I would recommend "half the normal number rounded up", so that races which can build more than 2 ships still have a benefit.
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galfridus wrote:
I would recommend "half the normal number rounded up", so that races which can build more than 2 ships still have a benefit.


I like this. It does indeed seem a bit unfair on races such as Mechanema, or races that have acquired the "Nanobots" technology. I am therefore rewording this proposed house rule as follows:

"CONTESTED SECTOR: When using the Build Action to place ships and/or structures in a sector where there are ships of other players, and you have fewer ships in that sector than all other players combined, the number of ships and/or structures you may place there is halved (rounding up)"

This would allow Mechanema and any race with the "Nanobots" technology to place an extra ship or structure (they can mobilise faster).

 
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Volker S.
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I would rule that building one ship in a sector with enemy ships cost one extra resource per amount enemy ships more than own in the sector.

This way you have something like a build pinning rule. If someone moved 3 ships in your sector, the first ship build will cost 3 resources extra, the second 2 resources etc.
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Dan Williams
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From a gaming perspective, this seems to be a legitimate point. However, it sounds like fighting the last war. Production and mobilization may be more instantaneous, as is represented in Eclipse. Some kind of cyber warfare, that we cannot even comprehend right now, could be going on here.

I will try this "virtual" strategy and see if it warrants an adjustment.
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