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Subject: Battles rss

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Christopher Walker
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I really, really like this game.

However, I have found after awhile that the battles leave me feeling flat, and I think I have a few ideas why I feel this way.

First, as soon as a battle starts, all the ships are public. It would have been interesting to have more hidden information (apart from technology levels, which I'll discuss in a bit). Most of our battles seemed to be easy to assess what the outcome would be as soon as everyone revealed their fleets.

Let me put it this way: it feels like to me the main way you can control the battle is with elements you have decided to bring to the battle beforehand. Every battle seems like there are no room for tactics: no flanking, no surprise attacks from the rear, no reinforcements, no surges, no cleverly using the terrain... It just feels (personally, mind you) that the battles are just bludgeoning with dice. My impression is that this is just the nature of the beast when it comes to war games, but I still desperately wish there were some tactical elements that one could use in the battles to affect the outcome. Once you are in the battle, you can only roll dice; you can't feint, surge, reveal a hidden attack fleet from behind a planet/through a worm hole, etc.

In the SE:4X battles, I feel that surprise is reduced by the perfect information regarding fleet composition at the start of each battle. And since, in my limited experience, fleet composition and technology is a main mechanic that determines success or failure, as soon as you see that your opponent has a fleet full of X and you have a fleet full of Y, most of the battle is already decided. It's no longer a battle of skill; it's now just resolving the dice rolls, and there is very little you can bring to the table to affect the outcome. Even if both of the fleets are composed in such a way that the outcome is uncertain, it still then (even more so) becomes a chance dice fest. It feels like there is very little you can do once the battle has begun to affect the outcome, and I wish there were more in-battle tactics offered. (Note, choosing which group of ships to target with yours doesn't count for me as a battle tactic because, well, I don't know exactly but it just doesn't. Perhaps I'll revisit this later.)

The technology levels are nice, but they don't seem to offer enough surprise in the battle. It's true that a fleet of Scouts without Point Defense vs. Fighters is completely different from a battle without PD, but it still seems at that point that you are locked into that battle for at least one round and there is nothing you can do besides try to power ahead and pray for good die rolls or retreat and have your opponent chase your for several rounds and eventually take you out. It doesn't feel like you have enough options once the fleets and technologies have been revealed, I guess, and having no other options to try and affect the battle just, well, feels pretty bad. In one battle I decimated my opponent's Fighters with Scouts with PD, and it only felt like I had luckily outguessed him on what he was producing for ships.

I think another thing that just gets me (and this would be true of many other war games) is that the dice just mask too much. The dice can certainly simulate the outcomes of battle/war, but they don't allow you the CONTROL or FUN of getting there. The dice try to replace the fun of outmanuevering and outthinking your opponent with the stress of "oh man I hope I roll a X". These psychological states of excitement are similar in that they get blood pumping, but to my mind and preference, they are not the same. I would rather have a battle where I played well and won rather than rolled the dice well and won.

I once compared the battles to a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. I still stand by that comment; I just wish there were more to the battles than lucky die rolls (with small fleets) and having outguessed your opponent on what you thought they were investing in and the types of ships they brought.

To sum up, I'm guess I'm just not a fan of dice and I wish there was a way to introduce other elements unique to each battle to allow tactics and control rather than playing the odds against each other. An idea: introduce terrain effects, like asteroids/planets/wormholes that allow one to mask one group of ships or hide them completely until they are discovered/revealed.

I do realize there is the argument that "well, you just need to plan ahead and outthink your opponent". I recognize and respect that argument; I'm simply stating I wish there were more tactical techniques in the battle that one could control instead of realizing that you have lost the RPS battle before it's even started. Please note, this is just me voicing my opinion and it is subject to change upon reflection!

Thanks for the game, Jim, it is still really great.
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David desJardins
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Titan is a game with a lot that happens after you reveal what you brought to the battle, in the course of resolving it. That works great, except the downside is that an individual battle can take half an hour. It makes for a really long game.
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Christopher Walker
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Good point, I agree; more options = more time. I can understand and respect the design decision in order to keep game time down.
 
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Guido Gloor
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I can certainly see where you're coming from, though this has never bothered me. The tactical decisions within any particular combat are rather limited to what to target, when to screen or retreat which ships, and there is neither flanking nor surprise attacks. I can easily live with that though because the focus is on strategical maneuvering on the hex map, research, fleet building and outguessing your opponent - and in this context, battles themselves should not be too much of a game within the game to me, for two reasons: It would dilute that strategic focus, and it has the potential to make the game longer. And it also has the danger of not making sense.

A game that's great at presenting all those dangers by falling prey to all of them is the otherwise quite awesome 7 Ages...
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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Yep, time kept battles shorter - Titan is a good example.

Maybe an optional, detailed combat system can be included in an expansion at some point.
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Loris Pagnotta
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A splendid idea, can you give us some details of what you have in mind, a game like "Starfire" or "Silent Death"? Maybe not as complex as "Star Fleet Battles.
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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I have a detailed Space Tactical game currently under consideration by GMT. It plays fleet sized battles (5-10 a side) in about 1-1.5 hours.

However, I was thinking of something simpler for Space Empires to keep the battles down in the 20-30 minute range.
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Joe
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Jim Krohn wrote:
I have a detailed Space Tactical game currently under consideration by GMT. It plays fleet sized battles (5-10 a side) in about 1-1.5 hours.



Hope that works out. I'd preorder it for sure.
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Scipio O.
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loris_pagnotta wrote:
a game like "Starfire" or "Silent Death"? Maybe not as complex as "Star Fleet Battles.


I don't know those games, but can't help thinking about the Tactical Display from Starforce: Alpha Centauri.

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Jack Smith
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I'm happy the way they are but would love to see other battle options too. I think this game has such a solid base a variety of systems could work.
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Adam Hickey
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Jim Krohn wrote:
I have a detailed Space Tactical game currently under consideration by GMT. It plays fleet sized battles (5-10 a side) in about 1-1.5 hours.


It would be outstanding if this had the option of mating with Space Empires. My group tends towards monster games, so extending the playtime is not a problem at all. I know it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but just having the option would be very nice.
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Jan Ozimek
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Napoleon in Europe is another strategic game with tactical battle resolution. I think they found a pretty good balance between time and number meaningful decisions. In the center if the picture is the battle board; the main strategic board is what you can just see the corner of.



There is "screening" in the sense that some units can be kept in "reserve", but I'm not sure the idea of flanks would make sense in the same way in a 3D battle with FAST moving units.

Edit: Actually I'm not missing tactical battles in SE4X, I just wanted to mention another example.
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Plaid Dragon
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loris_pagnotta wrote:
Maybe not as complex as "Star Fleet Battles.


"Maybe" ??!



I played a lot of SFB years ago. We did some fleet on fleet engagements but found that those sessions lasted WAY too long. I couldn't imagine doing that (or even half as complex as SFB) for each and every SE battle.
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alexandre Boureau
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Jim Krohn wrote:
Yep, time kept battles shorter - Titan is a good example.

Maybe an optional, detailed combat system can be included in an expansion at some point.


Not sure it is still under consideration, but Starcraft: The Board Game, did that nicely, by pairing each unit against another one, and having a hand of battle cards to play on units (the hands does not refresh after battle, you have to manage it and use some actions to refill it).
That said, this would be a bit too puzzly and gamey here, and Starcraft worked because the battles were pretty small (2-4 units a side).
 
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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No, it really hasn't been. I like the current combat system. It is tense and efficient.

However, I did end up slaking my thirst for a more detailed combat system with Talon. It did get published and (IMHO) is awesome.
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Niko
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Jim Krohn wrote:
No, it really hasn't been. I like the current combat system. It is tense and efficient.

However, I did end up slaking my thirst for a more detailed combat system with Talon. It did get published and (IMHO) is awesome.
And you made sure that anybody who wants more detailed combat in SE4X can use Talon do accomplish it!
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alexandre Boureau
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Jim Krohn wrote:
No, it really hasn't been. I like the current combat system. It is tense and efficient.

However, I did end up slaking my thirst for a more detailed combat system with Talon. It did get published and (IMHO) is awesome.


Indeed, I don't think it really needs to be any more complex. Actually, some special effects like what we already have with second salvo and heavy warheads("AOE" attacks, bonus to help allies) would probably work better than revamping the combat.
 
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Geoff C
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Well Im struggling a bit with the combat.

What was the idea behind making defenders fire first? Why not simultaneous?

Why the letter system of fire? Is this supposed to represent something (like bigger longer ranged guns?) or just something cribbed from columbia games block system?

The need to constantly do math and remember who has what in attk/def drives me buggy. I suppose it gets better the more one plays but it seems awkward to me. Im working on some alternate ideas.
 
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alexandre Boureau
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First shot seems like a reasonable defender bonus to me.
The letter does indeed represents range for most ships (but also evasion for fighters, and stealth for raiders).
Regarding the math and remembering ATT/DEF, I agree it can bog things down, but what we usually do is roll the dice first (after deciding the target), then ask questions later.
Most of the time, the rolls are high or low enough that you don't really need to do the math.
 
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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Yes, the order of fire is related to range. For example, a BB in WW2 would fire way before a DD. I get that space is something different, but I modeled that in game play for several reasons:

- Battles are a lot more tense. Your ships might not get their shots off.

- The increased range (firing first) of the bigger ships is one of the things that makes them most worthwhile. Without the range, swarms of small ships are too powerful.

- Tactics became a thing. Being able to surprise a defender with your better tactics rating makes a huge difference.

- The defense needed the advantage (firing first on ties). It is very hard to mount an effective defense in this game.

- Nebulae and asteroids now have a very interesting terrain effect.

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