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Subject: Tactics for dealing with plasma missiles - my suggestion rss

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Alexander Kentorp
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First a disclaimer: I don’t own the game (as I only learned about it existence after it sold out), so I cannot really playtest any of this. Take these tactics for the theoretical exercise they are.

I have been following the discussion about the possible OP-ness of plasma missiles (PM from now on), and it seems to me that actual ways to deal with an invading fleet of PM-equipped ships has a tendency to get lost beneath discussions about whether or not PMs really are OP, possible variant rules and a bunch of other things.
So I wanted to create a thread specifically for discussing how best to deal with them, using the official rules.

Note that the reason why I call this “tactics”, and not strategies, is that it seems most people agree that it’s quite possible to win against an enemy using PMs without getting that tech yourself.
The problem seems that it’s difficult to come up with a reasonably effective counter to a PM-fleet (all other things being equal), which could be frustrating if they were steamrolling your empire, with you being totally unable to stop it, simply because you didn't draw the PM tech you self.

Note: I personally don’t have anything against PMs being a “game changer”. I think it adds flavour to the game, and it’s actually rather realistic for a new type of technology to completely change the way you wage war (just look at the effect the invention of the machine gun had on ground warfare, and guided air-to-air missiles had in the air).

Therefore, I would like to discuss what you would do under the following conditions:
•Your enemy has access to PMs (and any other relevant technology)
•You do not have access to PMs, but, for the sake of the argument, do have access to whatever other tech you might need.
•Your enemy has roughly the same amount of resources that you do.
•You have to deal with the enemy fleet now (for whatever reason), although you don’t necessarily need to totally eradicate it.

Aside from this, there are a few things you can make up for yourself:
•The number and type of enemy ships (and the exact configuration of those)
•Whether you are attacking into the enemy territory or defending your own.
•What race they are

Now on to my stab at it. I will sum up my thoughts at the beginning and then explain them further down (in another post I think), for those who care to read it (long and rambling as is may be). Since I can’t test all this, it’s mostly based on calculations on the likely outcome of a given course of action.
Also note that a lot of the time I’m simply saying what Dave Chandler
Dave Chandler
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and others have already said.
Here it goes:

SUMMARY
Generally, your goal should be to keep your own ships alive, as otherwise you run the risk of “dying by a thousand cuts”. This means using dreadnoughts and starbases where possible.
Interceptors are better used for something other than going against PMs, except in the cases where you don’t care about losses, but just need to pin the enemy.

Another general rule is that PMs are much more dangerous when used in large numbers, as they can concentrate their kills. For example; if your dreadnoughts are in separate engagements with an enemy PM-dread each. Let’s say that both survive, with one hull left, which means that both enemy dreadnoughts have to retreat, and you get two chances to hit them back. If all the dice-rolls were the same, but all four ships had been in the same hex, you would have lost one of the dreads, and while the PM-dreads would still have to retreat, you’d only get a single shot against them.

Against enemy interceptors with a single gluon computer and PMs, cruisers (with two -2 shields, one +2 hull and whatever cannon you want) are at a distinct advantage.
To maximise your chances of actually killing something, group all four cruisers together (for a “staggering” 1/3 chance of killing something, when going up against seven interceptors), but even if you don’t hit anything, you should be able to push the interceptors all around the galaxy, giving you a clear strategic advantage.
Cruisers are, however, not very useful against any other type of PM-equipped ships.

As has been said in other threads, starbases eat PMs for breakfast, and in fact the guy with the PMs would need to bring [EDIT 2- a lot of] ships, just to have an even chance of actually conquering a hex with four starbases on it.
Naturally, this only helps you on the defence.
EDIT 2 - It has been pointed out that starbases have some problems against enemy fleets in mixed configuration (some PM and some cannons). They are still a good value, but probably won't win you the game alone.
NOTE: I originally stated that four starbases with 3 x shields and 2 x imp. hull could basically withstand an opponent's entire fleet (If everything is armed only with PMs), for at least one round.
While this is technically true, the counter (arm one type of ships with cannons), is so easy to do, that it hardly seems relevant to count on your opponent not thinking of it.


As long as the ships with PMs travel in relatively small numbers, dreadnoughts (with 3 x shields and extra hull) can go toe-to-toe with them. The chances of actually killing anything is relatively small (for both sides), but remember that most of the time you can push the PM-ships back from where they were before, possibly gaining a strategic advantage.

The real problems appear when ships with PM show up in greater numbers. Even if you match them in ships, the "concentration of hits" will cause you to sustain an unacceptably high number of casualties.
The only real "hard counter" I can think of requires a bit more setup, only works on the defence and might not be possible at all, depending on the layout of the board. You will need two hexes, where the enemy has to travel through the lower-numbered one first (hex A from now on). Also, you (or a third player) have to either control or have a ship in all other hexes that can be reached from the second hex (hex B).
Put a single interceptor in hex A, and enough ships that you are sure they can't all be killed in hex B.
The enemy ships could bypass your lone ship and attack your main force, but because you always resolve combat in the highest-numbered hexes first; if he doesn't kill every single one of your ships, he has to retreat, which he can't because of your ships in/control of all the adjacent hexes.
If he simply swarms your lone ship in hex A, he will probably kill it, but next turn you simply send a new interceptor into hex A. This way you can hold off any force off indefinitely - until the enemy respecs, but that is another problem entirely.
This is totally theoretical BTW. Am I overlooking something?

Well, that's my two cents. What do you think?

EDIT - Changed the title. "Phase missiles" sounds cool though, doesn't it?
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Arttu Pulli
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Re: Tactics for dealing with phase missiles - my suggestion
Pretty good thoughts from a person not having the game.

I agree with your points against PMs. Defence is easy with starbases, given that you have such a Space around you that at least some choke points can form.

Also the fact that PM fleets do have to retreat quite often is often overlooked, in my opinion. Again, with a well buil galaxy and a few smaller ships (maybe from more than one player, like you said) can make retreating a real pain in the ass.

Of course, all that relies mostly on the fact that you have Improved Hulls available. Without them it's insanely hard to beat a good player with PMs. Probably not impossible, just pretty damn hard anyway
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Peter O
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Re: Tactics for dealing with phase missiles - my suggestion
Thanks for the thoughts.

Starting with your last scenario first, sending a lone interceptor into Hex A, or even the enemies system is certainly a valid strategy in certain situations.

Most PM players will keep their fleets concentrated due to the effects of splitting you outlined. So you should always assume they will. If you have the space, you can do a variation on your last situation by having your main fleet several hexes back, ready to move forward into whichever engagement you choose. If you can get several "even" battles this way its easier for the dice gods to smile on you.

Don't be too afraid of attrition depending upon the turn. The 9 turn hardcap makes the PM offensive fleet strategy of attack then retreat costly in tempo, even if they win in exachange of materials. Plus, assuming multiplayer, the longer you drag out the match, the easier for others to sneak in their back door.
 
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Jim Richardson

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Croaker13 wrote:
starbases eat PMs for breakfast, and in fact the guy with the PMs would need to bring every single ship he can build (except for his own starbases and a single interceptor, and using a build with two computers on each ship), just to have an even chance of actually conquering a hex with four starbases on it.


Care to demonstrate the setups and math on that? Cause I'm not really buying it, at least not if the attacking PM player has gluon computers and a source to power them.
 
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Brian Gee
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ParticleMan wrote:
Croaker13 wrote:
starbases eat PMs for breakfast, and in fact the guy with the PMs would need to bring every single ship he can build (except for his own starbases and a single interceptor, and using a build with two computers on each ship), just to have an even chance of actually conquering a hex with four starbases on it.


Care to demonstrate the setups and math on that? Cause I'm not really buying it, at least not if the attacking PM player has gluon computers and a source to power them.


Also, one additional thought about this part... Starbases can't move, so building all 4 in one hex is really putting all your eggs in one basket. It's a heavy investment (both of materials plus the upgrade actions to setup the starbases), and even if you win, they can just rebuild their ships and attack somewhere else. Don't get me wrong though, starbases can be a useful part of a defense against PM ships.
 
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Alexander Kentorp
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ParticleMan wrote:
Croaker13 wrote:
starbases eat PMs for breakfast, and in fact the guy with the PMs would need to bring every single ship he can build (except for his own starbases and a single interceptor, and using a build with two computers on each ship), just to have an even chance of actually conquering a hex with four starbases on it.


Care to demonstrate the setups and math on that? Cause I'm not really buying it, at least not if the attacking PM player has gluon computers and a source to power them.


Sure.
"Eats PMs for breakfast" may have been a strong wording , but they seem to be a very economical way of stopping pure PM-ships.
Give them 3 x shields and 2 x hull (no power for a cannon), and a PM-cruser will, statistically, have 2% chance of killing one, while a PM-dread will have a 13% chance. Not bad for 3 material (plus research). Or you could trade a gluon shield for a cannon, which will give you a 2/3 chance of surviving a cruiser, and still have a chance of shooting back. Not recomended against dreads though

Edit - Actually, you might simply load up with four imp. hulls and a cannon to be totally invulnerable against a single cruiser (armed with 2 x PM).

Against a dread, I might just give two (or even three) bases three improved hulls, a gluon computer and a cannon each. It is very unlikely that he can kill both in one go, and you get to shoot back with 50% chance of hitting. The difference in price means that your opponent would have to think really hard about attacking.

Edit - IMO this build is probably the best allround build, as it even has a decent chance to work against cruisers, even though the possible trade-off isn't quite as apealing, because of the lower price of cruisers.

I realise that you run out of starbases fast, but I guess that the same goes for the enemy's dreadnoughts.
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Tatzelbelm
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Croaker13 wrote:

"Eats PMs for breakfast" may have been a strong wording , but they seem to be a very economical way of stopping pure PM-ships.
Give them 3 x shields and 2 x hull (no power for a cannon), and a PM-cruser will, statistically, have 2% chance of killing one, while a PM-dread will have a 13% chance.


Don't forget that the PM-ships also have the option of switching out a Plasma Missile for a Gluon Computer when they see that you use three shields.
 
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Alexander Kentorp
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Tatzelbelm wrote:

Don't forget that the PM-ships also have the option of switching out a Plasma Missile for a Gluon Computer when they see that you use three shields.

Actually, a cruiser woulden't be able to kill a starbase with 2 x imp. hull, as it would only be able to carry a single PM besides the three computers.

Dreads are more of a problem, but against them I'd go with a hull/comp setup for the starbases anyway.

The way I see it, PM-ships are mainly a problem when used "en masse" (and in different configurations), and I don't claim to have a perfect solution against the six-ship PM fleet two hexes away from your homeworld. The answer may simply be that you just lost the game, and just don't know it yet

But that's exactly why I made this thread - to discuss what you could potentially do about it, and not whether or not it's OP.

Cheers
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Jim Richardson

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Croaker13 wrote:
Give them 3 x shields and 2 x hull (no power for a cannon)


No cannon means no threat. On starbases without guns, the PM player can simply send in as little as 1 ship with a single gun on its blueprint, and focus all missiles on the ships which do have guns. Once all the ships with guns are destroyed, he takes the sector (though missile ships will probably have to retreat - big deal.) Thus in most scenarios, the SB only has 4 slots for defense. Not saying they aren't great for the material cost, but they aren't going to singlehandedly stop a full 13 or 14-ship missile fleet as you claimed. 4 SB can hold the hex against 2 missile dreads and a bit more, with heavy losses, but that's about it.

Croaker13 wrote:
Against a dread, I might just give two (or even three) bases three improved hulls, a gluon computer and a cannon each.


Not sure if you are implying different ships of a type can be differently equipped, but if you are - they can't. One blueprint determines the fitting of all ships of that type. This is especially problematic when facing 2 opponents with very different loadouts.
 
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Eugenio -
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In Eclipse you usually win wars because of:

-technological supremacy

-economical supermacy (i.e. number of actions you can perform)


Thus the best strategy against an opponent who has out-teched you (PM + Computer) is having a lot of materials, a lot of actions, Improved Hull , Fusion Drive and Neutron Bombs.
If you play it well you can even block their retreat.
Maybe you'll lose a hex or two, but you should usually be able to gain some, thus you will be effectively trading hexes.
I'm not saying it's easy or cost-effective, but when you're facing PM it's pretty much the only thing you can do, other than getting PMs yourself.
And when the PM player realises his onslaught is going to be met with fierce resistance, he'll usually turn his attention elsewhere.
PMs are very powerful, but it is economic(in the wider sense) power that wins you the game.
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Alexander Kentorp
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ParticleMan wrote:

No cannon means no threat. On starbases without guns, the PM player can simply send in as little as 1 ship with a single gun on its blueprint, and focus all missiles on the ships which do have guns. Once all the ships with guns are destroyed, he takes the sector (though missile ships will probably have to retreat - big deal.) Thus in most scenarios, the SB only has 4 slots for defense. Not saying they aren't great for the material cost, but they aren't going to singlehandedly stop a full 13 or 14-ship missile fleet as you claimed. 4 SB can hold the hex against 2 missile dreads and a bit more, with heavy losses, but that's about it.

You are probably right, as long as the PM player uses a mixed fleet.
I guess it wasn't such a good idea after all.

ParticleMan wrote:

Croaker13 wrote:
Against a dread, I might just give two (or even three) bases three improved hulls, a gluon computer and a cannon each.


Not sure if you are implying different ships of a type can be differently equipped, but if you are - they can't. One blueprint determines the fitting of all ships of that type. This is especially problematic when facing 2 opponents with very different loadouts.

No, I just meant that the optimal(IMO) loadout of the bases depends on what kind of opposition they face. I realise that in "the real world" (or game... whatever) you'd expect a mixed fleet. But if you see a single dread coming your way, you might want to respec. (if possible).
This wont help you against a big fleet, but it means that he cannot simply raid your territory with a single ship.
 
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Irwin Dolobowsky
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I literally just finished a 5p game where one player managed to get a full on PM cruiser by turn 3 (lucky discovery tiles + PM in first round of tech). We called it after turn 8 and he was up by >10 points on the next player. 1 person left after they were virtually wiped out in turn 4.

My problem with PMs is this - they take away the game. They take away my ability to make choices and experience the game as I want to. I suddenly have to change everything and focus on defending against that specific person. If I'm even a little behind at that point? Well, they run over me. MAYBE if there are enough other experienced players who can combine forces they can work together, but that didn't happen.

I've seen a lot of discussion on theories of defeating PM's - but has anyone actually seen it done? I haven't. There is a lot I love about this game but 3 games in a row now PM armada has just killed it completely for me.
 
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Daniel Hammond
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irwando wrote:

I've seen a lot of discussion on theories of defeating PM's - but has anyone actually seen it done? I haven't. There is a lot I love about this game but 3 games in a row now PM armada has just killed it completely for me.


I think the three best defenses for PM are having a well built area, keeping your ships upgraded and having extra actions.

If you build your system so it doesn't connect into other people's areas then at most (assuming you have materials) you will lose is 1 hex per turn.

Improved hulls are pretty important or at least shields (I had a -8 dreadnought once) and you have to upgrade as you go, because they won't help if you all of a sudden need 4 upgrade actions to defend yourself.

Having extra actions let you make tweaks after your opponent is committed. As you lose territory you gain actions. Not wasting influence on single planet hexes unless critical is good.

I can't think of a single game where it was dominated by PM, usually the person that gets them wastes too many actions (in my opinion) upgrading/moving and each system they gain is one less action they can take for every additional round (unless they are trading them off for worse hexes in their own backfield). If someone (besides Mechana) buys PM then do what you can to stop them from getting better computers for as long as possible. I usually buy PM as a deterrent or to deny them for someone else. Last game I bought them I used 1 upgrade action to place 2 of them on my Dreadnoughts which I then put enough computers on to make sure they fired before a player that had fully invested in PM. He went after GC on the last turn and would have easily killed Orion there, but my fast firing missile dreads killed his ships before they could fire (and then got destroyed by Orion) helping to maintain status quo.

In my experience (41 games) a PM player (that goes full out) rarely wins. When someone goes hard PM missile then one defender should go hard hulls and another should go hard shields and they should both be creating difficult choices for the PM guy.

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stu ma
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As for shields, in my experience it seemed more effective to simply load your ships with imp. hull. Then is doesn't matter if your opponent makes adjustments on his ship. Shields are vounerable if your opponent has more orders than you have (to adjust his ships accordingly). What I've seen regularely in 4+ Player games is an arms race between two players having PM - Then fighting for higher initiative, kicking out hull entirely. That's always cool to watch! As for normal situations, if your opponent with missles can't come in masses, you should definately go for imp. hull stuff. Usually someone with a lot of brown ressources won't have a lot of purple ressource, which mean that mass + PM is not too likely. If he made it to have both, well then try to take PM's away, taking them before they can. If not, you lost. Maybe because your opponent had luck or you made critical mistakes for two turns.

As for the pinning the opponents with cheap ships, this is only an option for the last turn. Otherwise you loose a lot of brown ressources for nothing. Better give them the hex to come back later. Then you have more time to adjust your ships+ maybe get PM yourself, which always makes an interesting fight. Or you can ally with other players if the PM-Player now looks very strong, threatening everyone meanwhile (that diplomatic strategy is too ofter overseen). Depending on board you could invade his hex behind his strong fleet (maybe wormwhole generator is needed). In games where your opponent has just two dreads, pinning might be an option. As soon as he can build additional ships, that is not too good in my ex.

The problem with starbases is, that they stick to one field. Thats fine for a bottleneck, but bad for threats of counter invasion. I made that mistake too often. Just thinking of survival. I'd mix starbases into the fleet, but not going for them alone. Specially since bottlenecks are hard to have - specially with wormwholes arround or experienced players which will always try to make connections (just as in starcraft the boardgame). Exceptions as Planta excluded.

Anyway, just my two cents...

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Tery McAlister

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I've won every single game I've played. Granted that only been 6 games but still.

My strategy varies a lot from game to game; but my preferred method is to expand out find a good choke point; PUSH out to it; plop down 4 maxed out missile & initiative star bases (Orion is best for this) and then sit back and hold; with some sort of push on the final turn to conquer a home world or 2.

Last game we ended on turn 7 as everyone conceded to me ... I was a sad panda as I didn't think my position was that strong - and now the play group is more or less demanding that we institute some sort of missile nerf. Most popular is the thought that they cost +1 energy. I'm not really a fan of that as (1) I think the designers have put more thought into it than we have; and (2) I've won w/o plasma missiles; finally (3) I don't think +1 energy cost on missiles would actually change my preferred strategy.
 
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Jim Richardson

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Maeltne wrote:
I've won every single game I've played. ...plop down 4 maxed out missile & initiative star bases (Orion is best for this)


- How many of those times did you use missiles
- How many of those times were you Orion
 
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Tery McAlister

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I've been Orion twice, and used missiles 4 times; One time I was Planta and the initiative penalties just didn't make sense to use missiles (since someone else also had them) and the other time they never came up.
 
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Mr. Octavius
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Maeltne wrote:
I've won every single game I've played. Granted that only been 6 games but still.

My strategy varies a lot from game to game; but my preferred method is to expand out find a good choke point; PUSH out to it; plop down 4 maxed out missile & initiative star bases (Orion is best for this) and then sit back and hold; with some sort of push on the final turn to conquer a home world or 2.

Last game we ended on turn 7 as everyone conceded to me ... I was a sad panda as I didn't think my position was that strong - and now the play group is more or less demanding that we institute some sort of missile nerf. Most popular is the thought that they cost +1 energy. I'm not really a fan of that as (1) I think the designers have put more thought into it than we have; and (2) I've won w/o plasma missiles; finally (3) I don't think +1 energy cost on missiles would actually change my preferred strategy.


Your play group has yet to learn the wonders of the wormhole generator.
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stephen biggs
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Maeltne wrote:
Most popular is the thought that they cost +1 energy. I'm not really a fan of that as (1) I think the designers have put more thought into it than we have; and (2) I've won w/o plasma missiles;

I agree, the games overall well balenced.
Missiles win battles.
But that's not the only way to win the game.
Maeltne wrote:

finally (3) I don't think +1 energy cost on missiles would actually change my preferred strategy.

Orions ships have enough spare energy that it should actually help your strategy. By making it harder for anyone else to compete with Orion.
 
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Jason Cawley
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Um, a suggesting to fight single enemy PM interceptors with a united fleet of 4 crusiers specialized to deal with them is a non starter.

PMs are broken in the rules as written. They have to be fixed by a house rule revision. Period.

The broken subsystem is not the PMs themselves, through they are already strong. Instead it is the way PMs and first fire interact with net computing power. With a secondary influence from the ability to modify designs on the fly with an upgrade action, even after ships have piled into the battle location, before the fight is finally resolved. (The last matters because a PM fleet has its enemy on the horns of an unanswerable dilemma, to go for shielding or to just go for hull, for its defense).

6s always hit and 1s always miss. Vs high net shielded, PMs just pile on extra PM launchers and ignore computers entirely. This "blanks" the enemy shield slots and leaves the PM at default effectiveness, with about twice as many firing slots dedicated to missiles substituting for doubled effectiveness from net computing power.

Meanwhile if the enemy uses no shielding, then +4 computing power raises the default effectiveness of PMs by a factor of 5 per slot.

Extra PMs require no power, so the design doesn't need elaborate retailoring for these changes. It can be done as the last action of the turn.

Instead of the computing war either enhancing PMs modestly, or hurting them modestly, what actually happens as a result is they are either enhanced in numbers fighting an enemy ship with half or more of its slots wasted (on shields that do nothing), or enhanced hugely by net computing. It is all upside, it just varies between 1.5-2x vs an enemy with half its slots wasted or 4-5x vs an enemy with full slots available. Either one is a backbreaking edge, when coupled to first fire and safe retreat after one firing round.

The fix is to limit the impact of net computing on PMs, and to let there be some downside to facing net shielding. As follows -

net computing +1 or better - 5-6 to hit, 2 dice, 2 damage per hit
net computing 0 - 6 to hit, 2 dice, 2 damage per hit
net computing -1 or worse - 6 to hit, *1 die only*, 2 damage per hit.

This limits the swing on net computing to 0.5x to 2x, instead of ranging up to 5x favor the PMs for +4 computing, and 1x (no impact) for even the strongest shielding.
 
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Mathue Faulkner
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JasonC wrote:

PMs are broken in the rules as written. They have to be fixed by a house rule revision. Period.

I think you made an argument why PMs may be overpowered, but not necessarily broken...
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Daniel Hammond
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mfaulk80 wrote:
JasonC wrote:

PMs are broken in the rules as written. They have to be fixed by a house rule revision. Period.

I think you made an argument why PMs may be overpowered, but not necessarily broken...


I have played 42 games and can't remember a single game decided by plasma missiles. They are a useful tool, but no more so than building 9 monoliths or managing to get 3 extra disks early.
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Mathue Faulkner
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dlhammond wrote:
mfaulk80 wrote:
JasonC wrote:

PMs are broken in the rules as written. They have to be fixed by a house rule revision. Period.

I think you made an argument why PMs may be overpowered, but not necessarily broken...


I have played 42 games and can't remember a single game decided by plasma missiles. They are a useful tool, but no more so than building 9 monoliths or managing to get 3 extra disks early.

I don't disagree. I haven't played near that many games, and many have involved some playtest material which switches up some the of PM balance, but I don't recall any games that were completely decided by plasma missiles either.

I was just pointing out that Jason noted several reasons why he views PMs to be overpowered, but zero reasons why they could be considered broken....despite his initial claim that "PMs are broken in the rules as written"
 
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stephen biggs
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mfaulk80 wrote:
but zero reasons why they could be considered broken....despite his initial claim that "PMs are broken in the rules as written"

Any (I'd bet every) seperate part of this game you choose to look at in issolation, is "broken" as written, e.g:
1) It's totally broken that the research tiles average only one Improved hull tile drawn in setup, so only the first player to act can research improved hull on turn-1.
2) It's totally broken that Draco can colonise ancient systems turn-1 (which include the majority of the high production systems) without spending the 3/4 extra actions that other races need to {build,upgrade&move} a fleet to kill that ancient.
3) It's totally broken that Hydran have a gurenteed 10-15VP's at game.
end from research. Most other races have difficulty exceeding half that.
4,etc..) It's totally broken that (insert you favorite here) There are lots to choose from.

----

Somehow the game as a whole is balenced
Fixing only one of those "totally broken" rules would probably wreck the game as a whole.shake
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Jeffrey Speer
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One of my friends recently discovered this game. He's only played one game. He already wants to house rule missiles despite them being used in the last game only once. Simply because of these forums. I love eclipse but I think that the designers playtested this game more than I have, and definitely more than he.
I dislike house rules as a rule. The only one I can think of to satisfy his insatiable need to house rule this game is to not let the full ability of computers apply to Plasma missiles. Thoughts?
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