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Subject: Balance issues? rss

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fishhaid
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Okay, first off, this is not a Klingon vs. Federation issue. I've won and lost with the Klingons equally. Where I'm wondering about the balance issue is fleet size. In our games, a smaller fleet with a larger ship seems to have a decided advantage. This seems to be caused by two effects, the system tests and the Command decks, and the way actions are allocated.

First off, the systems test. An encounter requiring a test of 20 versus combat, for example, can be accomplished with the Negh'Var by itself using only one action since it can have a combat rating of 17. The Ch'Tang, however with a combat of 5 would have to do a combined test with at least 2 other ships of the same size. And if it does that, the Klingons have used all 3 actions and are done.

Secondly, the command decks for the Klingons include the Battleship Deck and I'm sure the Federation decks have a similar one as well. They have multiple cards benefitting ships of 5+ and allowing multiple actions if successful. In my last game which took only took 4 turns, two cards from the Battleship deck granted me the opportunity to pick up an additional 1 VP each time. Extra actions means extra VP's. Not to mention, that the destruction of the Ch'Tang is easier for the Federation than my beloved Negh'Var, but still only nets 1 VP.

I'm wondering (and I never, never, never tweak rules until a game has been played to death and much more experienced players have playtested it) if the allocation of actions needs to be tweaked. A 6 ship fleet with nothing but 1's and 2's still has only 3 actions, while a fleet with only 3 ships, still has the same 3 actions. I thought about mathematically working up some formula, but have decided to try a more streamlined option and see if it evens the odds. Any time a combined test is attempted with multiple ships, whether it's a sensor or combat test, counts as 1 action only. This is opposed to 1 action per participating ship. I would not allow the participating ships to perform another action, but my fleet would still have two actions left. This would allow for more cooperative actions by the smaller ships to accomplish the difficult missions without hamstringing it versus the smaller fleet with the bigger guns. Thematically, this would be like giving the task force it's own action.

Have I not played enough to see the inherent strategies of the "hive" fleet? Or is the ability to move all 6 ships, thereby having a chance at 6 encounters, even this out versus fewer opportunities to move and encounter? Or after all of this, have I missed an obscure rule (making this whole discussion moot - it is 3:30 in the morning so anything's possible)?

Any thoughts?



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Jeff Dunford
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I've found the same issue. Usually the game is won by the faction with a small group of large ships. This seems especially true with the Klingons, as a large Klingon ship can almost certainly make successful attacks (and complete missions this way) against any smaller ship (unless the Fed player has an opportunity to play "The Picard Maneuver", etc).

At first, one might assume a large fleet of small ships would have an advantage, as they can explore more territory (you can move all 5 or 6 ships, even if you only have 3 actions between them). This might trigger several encounters, which could rack up the VP's quickly. Unfortunately, small ships are generally worse at completing encounter requirements, and are also susceptible to getting stuck in black holes, etc.

One way to mitigate this to some degree is to move your smaller ships as a "Task Force" (see pages 12-13 of the rule book). This way, your small ships can combine their weapons and sensors to achieve encounters, and can combine systems stats to complete missions. In a way, your small ships can behave like one big ship. Unfortunately, they can't combine engines stats when moving, so they act like one SLOW ship. On top of that, they can't combine defenses, so they're still easily picked off by larger enemy ships (but do have a stronger combined weapons if they get an opportunity to counterattack). Also, if a task force performs a non-encounter systems test (e.g. performs a combined systems test to scan a star in order to complete a mission), it uses 2 actions (vs 1 for a single large ship). Result: One big ship is still faster and stronger in battle than 2 small ships traveling as a task force, and uses fewer actions to perform non-encounter systems tests.

In short, I've found that moving small ships as a "task force" helps a little... but a big ship still has an advantage.

*edit* I have had some success moving 3 Klingon Bird of Preys as a task force (quite thematic; makes me hum the Klingon theme from ST:TMP). It takes all 3 actions, but when they attack together, they can be devastating! For example, you can use them to hit a size 4 or 5 Fed ship, knocking it from undamaged to red alert, while strategically saving a good combat card in hand. On your next turn, attack with just one Bird of Prey + that good card... to complete the mission requiring you to destroy a ship with "only one smaller ship" (which is otherwise quite difficult to pull off). And if the first doesn't succeed, you've got two more BoP's ready to attack.
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fishhaid
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I like the strategy in general, but as you said, it still uses all 3 actions. As a matter of fact, I'm struggling with the concept of task force, since each ship could move independently and would accomplish the same thing, right? That is assuming they just take the same route and end up in the same space, what is the best use of a "task force" anyway?
 
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Jeff Dunford
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If they trigger an encounter, a task force of small ships is much more likely to achieve the conditions than, say, a single ship with minimal sensors/weapons/shields/engines. The alternative is to send out a single ship to trigger any encounters, then follow it with another, then another... and while that will trigger the most encounters, I've found that those little ships will rarely succeed in scoring VP's as individuals.

Once they stop, you can use their actions individually - e.g. to scan unexplored regions, place control markers (and even establish an outpost on the same turn, if conditions are right), etc.
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fishhaid
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Excellent, I hadn't thought that through.

Any thoughts regarding a task force's action counting as one action?
 
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Jeff Dunford
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"Task force" really only applies to movement (and breakaway/evasion rolls). Actions that involve systems tests will end up being one action per ship (e.g. a combined sensors scan is 1 action per ship involved in the test, unless it was required by an encounter card or otherwise says it doesn't cost an action).

I just double-checked the rule book and I may have been cheating.

Rule book wrote:
If a Task Force explores a new location, you may choose which ships are involved in any Encounter Card you draw, unless the Encounter Card says that all ships are affected. However, if you draw an Encounter Card, all ships in the Task Force must stop moving, even if they are not involved in the encounter.

Note: If the Encounter Card has a benefit, it is not duplicated and can be assigned to only one ship. However, if the Encounter Card has a negative effect, it is duplicated and affects all ships in the Task Force.


Since the first paragraph uses plural "ships", you should be able to use all of them to perform a systems test. But I think I might have assigned tribbles to just one ship in the past...
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Justin
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iNano78 wrote:

Since the first paragraph uses plural "ships", you should be able to use all of them to perform a systems test. But I think I might have assigned tribbles to just one ship in the past...


Since there's only one tribbles card, tribbles would probably be the exception to that rule. Can you imagine 3 ships with tribbles? That would cause an all out teleport war!

As far as the balancing issue, there are 2 ways to play, even though the instructions say there's only one: the first is to randomly draw your ships, if you get smaller ships, you better be ready to create some pretty tricky strategies. The second is to just build your own fleet based on your fleet size. I've done it this way a few times, and the game turned out to be pretty fun! I like having the option of making an all cloaking team, or a Goliath team, and you can't blame your loss on the luck of the draw! Besides, doesn't it make more sense that the IKS and Feds would send out a specific task force instead of closing their eyes and picking ships randomly?
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Paul DeStefano
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On the other hand, lots of ships give a distinct advantage in the 'explore X adjacent tiles' and 'get half the board' missions.
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Jeff Dunford
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I actually like the ship drafting method. Sure, it can lead to some balance issues... but I'm not convinced it's the most luck-filled factor that decides the outcome; triggering several good encounters or getting easy missions is at least as effective in (randomly) deciding the victor.

I read somewhere (written by a designer?) that the drafting mechanism simulates the concept that you have to work with what ships were in this sector of space. Sure, you'd always prefer to use your best ships, but that isn't realistic as they might be needed elsewhere in the galaxy on other missions ("Dammit! Where's the Enterprise?" "Sir, it's 8 days away at maximum warp. We only have the Equinox, Excelsior, and Yeager in this sector while we await reinforcements."). Also, if you always choose the best ships, you'll also tend to choose the same decks ... which some people probably do anyway (e.g. Picard and Kirk decks are pretty powerful), but I like to change it up based on what ships and mission types I drafted.
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Justin
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iNano78 wrote:
I read somewhere (written by a designer?) that the drafting mechanism simulates the concept that you have to work with what ships were in this sector of space. Sure, you'd always prefer to use your best ships, but that isn't realistic as they might be needed elsewhere in the galaxy on other missions ("Dammit! Where's the Enterprise?" "Sir, it's 8 days away at maximum warp. We only have the Equinox, Excelsior, and Yeager in this sector while we await reinforcements."). Also, if you always choose the best ships, you'll also tend to choose the same decks ... which some people probably do anyway (e.g. Picard and Kirk decks are pretty powerful), but I like to change it up based on what ships and mission types I drafted.


I completely agree with you. Although you may be picking the same decks and same ships if you were to choose your ships yourself, there is an upside: in 20-30 games as the IKS, I have never gotten the 3 really great IKS cloaking ships, Maht-h'a, Klothos and Ch'tang, doing the random ship draw, so picking my ships I get to really specialize my strategy, and so does your opponent! Though both ways are enjoyable, the random ship draw is really just there to mix things up, so people don't do exactly as you said, and stick with the same setup every time.

Another house rule I use is to remake your mission deck if you cycle through it all, as I've seen some people say you can just draw from whichever pile you want.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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MrSumOne wrote:
I've seen some people say you can just draw from whichever pile you want.


They probably say that because that's what's written in the rulebook.
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Justin
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Geosphere wrote:
MrSumOne wrote:
I've seen some people say you can just draw from whichever pile you want.


They probably say that because that's what's written in the rulebook.


Right, a really bad rule. Remaking your mission deck seems to give a little more balance cool
 
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Eric B.
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MrSumOne wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
MrSumOne wrote:
I've seen some people say you can just draw from whichever pile you want.


They probably say that because that's what's written in the rulebook.


Right, a really bad rule. Remaking your mission deck seems to give a little more balance cool


Agreed, the only change we've used is that once you need to refill a mission and your mission deck is empty, you just make up a new once (based on your current ships) and then refill. One perk of this is it keeps the game more balanced and adds a little more strategy in the sense that deciding which of your opponent's ships to destroy or what to bring in as a reinforcement can have an effect on what your next mission deck may look like.


As for ship size and balance, I'm yet convinced that either a small fleet of big ships or a big fleet of small ships has a distinct advantage. As has been noted, each arrangement has its advantages. The OP is right that some of the decks (eg Flagship Fleet and Battleship deck) are of diminishing use to a fleet that lacks a size 5+ ship or has more than two ships. Though, the whole point of those decks is that you should really be only taking them IF you've gotten a Size 5 or 6 ship and especially if you've got only two ships in your starting fleet, as they're meant to mitigate the disadvantage of only having two ships. Another important note is that it sounds like the OP was playing the +1 Action on a big ship cards as if it just gave you a free action -- recall that a player ALWAYS has only 3 Actions in a turn. If a ship may spend an additional action, it just means it can spend two of your three actions that turn, for instance.
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fishhaid
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Rogue's right, the cards for the 5+ ships say "it may take an additional action" and I played it that an additional action allows 4 versus 3 actions. I'll be playing that differently from now on.

I think that this is one reason why a small sample size is dangerous for me to make changes. As I said at the beginning, I don't like tweaking games and I've gotten some real good feedback that I hadn't thought of.

Thanks for the input.



 
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Alex Tee
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One of the reasons Size has an inbalance effect in combat may be due to the fact that size and the relevant rating are not in proportion.

For the chart below, it shows the average Weapons and Shields rating for a Klingon/Federation ship in its 'best' combat configuration, divided by size:

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Size | Weapons or Shields | (Weapons or Shields)/Size
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Size 1 | 04.0 | 4.00
Size 2 | 04.5 | 2.25
Size 3 | 07.0 | 2.33
Size 4 | 09.5 | 2.38
Size 5 | 13.0 | 2.60
Size 6 | 16.0 | 2.67

The question is, how do the several smaller ships stack up in attacking a larger ship?

From the chart, it means that, excluding Size 1 ships, the Weapons and Shields rating from sizes 2 to 6 are getting progressively faster than it should (or conversely, the weapons and shields rating from sizes 6 to 2 are deteriorating faster than it should).

For example:

For 2 ships adding up to a total of Size 6 attacking a size 6 ships:

Size 1 + Size 5 vs Size 6 -> Weapons 4 + Weapons 13 (total 17) vs Shields 16
Size 2 + Size 4 vs Size 6 -> Weapons 4.5 + Weapons 9.5 (total 14) vs Shields 16
Size 3 + Size 3 vs Size 6 -> Weapons 7 + Weapons 7 (total 14) vs Shields 16

This means that, excluding Size 1 ships, any combination of ships adding up to Size 6 will have a Weapons total less than a single Size 6 ship's Shields.

This can be done for other sizes as well, excluding Size 1 ships. For example, Two Size 2 ships are inferior to a single Size 4 ship (Weapons 9 total vs Shields 9.5).

Smaller ships require more actions in total for a combined single attack in one round, while a larger ship will only be able to attack one of the smaller ships each round.

Size 1 ships are actually the most powerful, Weapons and Shields rating-wise, relatively to their Size value. Six Size 1 ships will have a total of 24 Weapons, but the problem in this case is that it requires 6 actions.


Also, ideally for an average ship, a Size 6 ship who is in Yellow Alert should be like a Size 4 ship stat-wise, and a Size 2 ship if it falls to Red Alert, for the ships to be 'in proportion' with the smaller ships.
 
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