May 2013 Development Update

Check here for updates and discussion about the new edition of the Victory by Any Means Campaign System.
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May 2013 Development Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon May 20, 2013 4:43 am

Since I'm waiting to hear back from Jay so that we can get this playtest on the road, I thought I would take some time to share some quick thoughts based on a quick game I've been running to test out the newest version of the 2E rules. It's looking good for having a current draft copy out to players by the middle of this week, but this weekend's tests have helped to point out some issues that need to be addressed in some form (even if it's in the "yeah, its a game mechanic, deal with it" way).

For some quick background on the test game I ran, I did the classic 4X "start from scratch" scenario where you start from a single star system and expand and explore from there. You know the routine. It's how I usually use the rules, and why I'm interested in seeing how Jay's campaign turns out. I have managed to get through 19 turns in about 2-3 hours of actual game play, and have encountered a single one-system power two jumps from my homeworld (yea!).

There are a lot of things I want to comment on, most of which won't make any sense without additional context, but bear with me as I talk about some of the new rules and what my concerns have been going into this final round of testing. One common thread you'll see is that I have gone back to an earlier development fork and built back off of that, incorporating the newer rules concepts back into that earlier set of rules that are closer to 1E than several versions of 2E have been.

Exploration
Exploration is probably the one piece of the rules that I use the most. Early in 2E's development I really pushed for a more progressive approach to exploration missions, with successes building up over time and eventually leading to jump lanes being explored. This led to several major issues when it came time to actually run a campaign. First, a problem inherited from 1E is that exploring jump lanes instead of star systems led to situations where players had to try and figure out where their exploration forces really were when their systems were attacked. I know I ran into that on more than one occasion. The second major problem was with the progressive exploration. Keeping track of those exploration modifiers ended up being something of a nuisance. A great idea on paper, but more trouble than it was probably worth.

That pushed me into exploring (pun intended) the idea of having ships actually move into unexplored systems and then perform exploration from there. So far, this has seemed to have addressed the issue of trying to figure out where explorers are at during the Space Combat Phase later in the turn.

What I have ended up doing is rolling back to a very 1E style exploration table with a simple modifier based on how much Scout or Explorer value you have in the system that you're trying to explore (+1 per Explorer, +1 per 2 Scout). The Pathfinder class light scout cruisers that my Solar Union are using in this test campaign have the following stats:

Pathfinder-class Light Scout Cruiser
Cost 10, Maint 1/2, TL 0, DV 4, AS 0, AF 0, PD 3, CR 4, CC 2, FTL, Explorer (2)

This means that each Pathfinder gives me a +2 to my exploration rolls, and I successfully explore on a 12+. The end result in this campaign is that, by the end 18 turns, I have managed to explore seven star systems. I started with one Pathfinder and eventually expanded to a fleet of four of them. The rate of exploration seems to fit about what I'd like out of the game.

I am aware of the issue that a player could just load up a fleet with enough Scout or Explorer value to more or less automatically explore every system that they visit in a single turn. The trade off is that the empire is paying a lot of maintenance for that ability, and it's constraining them to a single point of exploration rather than spreading them around. Largely I don't think it will be a huge problem, as putting too many ships in a single exploration fleet is still generally a bad idea.

I made the point cost of both Scout and Explorer must more expensive than before (4 points each) to dissuade the use of throwaway scout units. The Pathfinder about is more or less my attempt to min/max the design to get myself a really good scout that could still actually survive taking a bit of damage. I could have gone -2 DV, -2 CR and got +1 Explorer, but then the ship would have been made out of tissue paper. Not a good idea for such an expensive ship.

Unit Statistics
Since I posted the stats for the Pathfinder above, I might as well touch on a few of the changes here. The biggest change is that I decided to split Anti-Fighter and Point Defense back apart into separate stats. AF is used against flights, PD is used to raise formation levels. I had hoped to keep a single PD value, but I started realizing that combining the two effects was muddying the waters in the CSCR. Splitting them makes it much easier to resolve battles because you don't have to split PD between the two functions, which is an extra decision point that can slow the game down. I'm a bit cautious about the change still, but I can see good situations where "rock-paper-scissor" effects between different units could make for interesting gameplay.

You'll also notice that fractional maintenance costs are back. I am using a fixed set of maintenance brackets that assign maintenance based on construction cost. This ended up seeming like the easiest solution to that problem. I have an optional rule that might be able to reintroduce the concept of more advanced units having higher maintenance which will likely appear in the main book. 1E players should note that the maintenance group rules from 1E *aren't* coming back. When a unit has a maintenance cost of 1/2 it just means 0.50 EP per turn.

FTL and Atmospheric are also back to being fixed special abilities that are just purchased a single time. There are several special abilities that are like that. They only provide their benefits once. The Fast special ability is back to being the way that units can end up being able to move multiple times in a single turn.

Ground units are having their AS and AF compressed into a single Anti-Ground (AG) stat based on a few other changes that I am working on for those rules.

Movement
Movement has been reworked a bit. I was reading through some old campaign diaries and realized that I preferred the movement rules that Charlie used in one of his old EA games. It had the feel that I was aiming for, and I shamelessly stole the concept and ran with it. Under these rules a starship can move across one normal lane or two major lanes each turn is performs a movement action. FTL Drives let a starship move across a restricted lane like it was a normal lane. Flights can't perform jump lane movement unless they have FTL Drives, at which point they move like they were a starship (but they still can't cross restricted lanes). Originally I had played with non-FTL flights being able to move a single major lane per turn, but I ended up rolling that back for the moment.

FTL-capable starships can escort non-FTL ships across restricted jump lanes, too.

This makes FTL Drives important because they are the only way that starships can cross restricted lanes (or escort other units across them). Non-FTL starships can still move around, but their movement is more constrained.

Civilian Fleets
Civilian fleets are back (in pog form). The three classic fleets are all back, and each has its own purpose. Transport fleets are used to carry supplies, units, and perform base construction in a system. Trade fleets are used to establish trade routes to other system. Colony fleets are used to move Census or colonize systems.

Trade Routes
I am in the middle of overhauling a bit of the trade rules. I had really hoped to make the trading post rules work, but the more I used them the more I disliked them. Instead, the rule is focusing to creating trade routes between systems. You move a trade fleet into a system and then have it establish a trade route back to one of your systems. Starports are being removed from the rules; instead, each of your colonies can support 1 trade route for every Utilized Productivity (yes, Infrastructure is back to being Productivity - absolutely retro). A system with 6 Utilized Productivity could have 6 trade routes connecting to it, for example.

A trade route than gives its owner income equal to the system's trade value. Trade value is equal to the average of Census and Utilized Productivity, rounding up. This gives a fair bit of commerce income each turn.

The issue of domestic trade has been another problem for awhile, with a lot of debate. The solution I'm implementing in this draft is that trade routes that connect to your own systems only provide half the normal trade value (round up). This gives players an incentive to trade with other players instead of their own systems.

Population Growth & Tech Advancement
Another round of soul searching has left me rolling back some of these concepts to a version that is closer to 1E than what you've seen lately in 2E. Using food production to control population growth was an interesting experiment, but ultimately it just added another thing that had to be tracked and it was extremely difficult to properly control the rate of population expansion.

With population growth, I have ended up going back to a modified version of the 1E rules where you roll D10+Census and have a population increase on 15+. The two key differences in 2E is that 1) population increase rolls are made every 6 turns instead of every 12; and 2) Charlie's Frontier population growth rules are now standard fair, with systems that have 4 or less Census gaining a cumulative +2 bonus when they fail their population growth checks.

The end result is that population growth is more spread out and out of the player's control, but it still happens often enough to allow a player to keep expanding. More importantly, the frontier colony bonus gives players a reason to invest in new colonies as their populations will grow a bit more rapidly than normal.

Under this growth pattern, food goes back to just being an upper limit on the number of Census that an empire can support before it starts experiencing formation, kind of like how I had it back in the 1.5E interim period.

Tech advancement is also going back to being a percentage check like in 1E, but with checks made every 6 turns instead of every 12. This is working out well in my current test game, mainly because I am keeping a version of the research capacity concept from 2E that limits the maximum number of tech points that an empire can purchase each turn to its total Utilized Productivity. Tech advancement costs are then based on the empire's total Census. This system keeps empires from teching too fast (max +2 TL per year, if you're lucky) and prevents a player from dropping all of their points into tech on the last turn of the cycle.

In the first 18 turns of my current game, the Solar Union has only managed to get one tech advance.
It got close on one other check, but it didn't quite make it. By contrast, the interplanetary empire that they made contact with *did* manage to luck out and advance to TL 0 on Turn 18 and will be able to start prototyping their first FTL-capable starship.

Fleet Sizes
I've been mindful of the size of military forces in 2E, as I wanted to keep them large enough to be interesting. Right now, the Solar Union is spending about 50% of its per turn income on maintenance (35 income, 17 maintenance). That is letting is maintain 4 light scout cruisers, 2 small freighters, 21 frigates, 6 heavy cruisers, 1 battleship, 1 large starbase, 1 infantry, 1 shipyard, and 1 supply depot. All of the units are in active status, not reserves of mothballs.

Meanwhile, the Alashai Federation (the interplanetary power that just researched FTL) only has 16 income and is paying 6 per turn in maintenance. It has 2 battlecruisers, 4 light cruisers, 4 frigates, 4 small starbases, 2 infantry, and 1 shipyard. I think that's a pretty respectable military for that small of an empire. It might only be about 3 squadrons in total, but it's a pretty concentrated fighting force.

Diplomacy
I'm in the process of revising the diplomacy rules so that the basic diplomacy rules that govern player interactions are stripped back to roughly 1E levels of detail. However, at the same time I'm also making some start revisions to the NPE rules that are intended to make them easier for players to run. The AIX components are also likely to become optional components of those rules, although I'm still testing the implications of doing that. I need to run some more turns in this game to verify those changes before I commit them to the page.

System Generation
I've relented and moved the more detailed spectral and luminosity class elements of system generation back to the optional rules and replaced them with a middle ground option that is a bit closer to the generic sysgen from 1E. The end result is that I was able to simplify a few rules that had gotten more gnarled than they ever needed to be (system importance and colony size) and have found a few new tricks that I want to try out in the more detailed rules.


Anyway, I thought I would throw these thoughts out there. It's remarkable how fast some of the revised rules are falling together once I can actually get all of the notes together and hammer through everything after testing. The playtesting from the last two days has been invaluable in figuring out which rules seem to be holding up and which seem to still be giving me problems.

Once Jay has the system stats done for his game, I'm going to get the force lists drawn up for every one and we can start getting those initial purchases taken care of.
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon May 20, 2013 5:00 am

One other thing that I meant to make a note about:

Supplies
It's a bit dodgy, but the best solution I have found to the "use supply ships to actually carry supplies" issue is to have each point of Supply rating let a ship carry 10 supplies. Then, each turn, a unit consumes a number of supplies equal to its CC to remain in supply. The end result is that military supply ships actually become useful because you can send one or two of them out with your scouts to keep them in supply! Shock! Horror!

I have two small freighters that have been following one of my scouts around keeping it in supply in my current game. I really need to build some more of them, but I've spent most of my ship building resources on prototyping a fancy new TL 1 battleship. It took me 3 turns to pay for the stupid battleship, and it's still being prototyped (8 turns... ugh). Still, once it's finished I'll be able to build one every turn if I really needed to, which is great I guess.


Oh, and the bombardment rules have been updated. And the new version makes it very easy for a player to end up destroying a system's resource values if he ends up performing too much bombardment too quick (collateral damage for every 30 bombardment points used each turn). Or you could just use WMD to saturate the system and gain a quick system kill. Should be fun (here House Raptor, I have a present for you!)
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby OneMadOgre » Mon May 20, 2013 3:35 pm

The supply question is one that is near and dear to my heart at the moment. I've been trying to figure out how to write the data call that understands into which systems a player might be able to trace supply. It's a piece of logic that is going to try my mental facilities.

Does this mean that I can simplify supply to basically mean any system you have a settlement gives supply, otherwise you're chewing up supply from a supply ship, or running out of supplies? Because, if so, my local drug store is going to be very angry for ruining the market on migraine pain medication for them.

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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon May 20, 2013 4:18 pm

Supply is ultimately going to be tethered to supply depots. You build supply depots using the base construction rules, and then the supply depot is going to feed supply out 3 jumps from its system location (but not across restricted lanes). I have variable supply ranges currently in the rules, but I'm going to move them back to being optional and just have a fixed 3 jump range because it's easier to process while you're playing. Units that are beyond that range then either consume supplies (if available) or take out of supply levels.

For example, let's say that we have 1 x Pathfinder explorers and 2 x Mercury freighters out on patrol on the other side of a restricted lane. Here are the ship stats:

Pathfinder-class Light Scout Cruiser
Cost 10, Maint 1/2, TL 0, DV 4, AS 0, AF 0, PD 3, CR 4, CC 2, FTL, Explorer (2)

Mercury-class freighter
Cost 5, Maint 1/4, TL 0, DV 3, AS 0, AF 0, PD 2, CR 2, CC 1, Supply (1)

Each of the Mercuries are Supply (1), which means that they can carry 10 supplies. This gives the exploration fleet 20 supplies in total.

On the first turn that they are out of supply, the fleet consumes a total of 4 supplies (2 from the Pathfinder, and 1 each from the Mercuries). This leaves them with 16 supplies remaining. The next turn they get down to 12 supplies, then to 8 supplies, then to 4 supplies, and finally to 0 supplies. After those five turns, the fleet is now out of supplies. On the sixth turn of being out of supply they'll finally take their first out of supply level (2 OSL). If they're out of supply a second turn they'll each have 2 OSL. Endurance is equal to 2 x CC, so at this level the Mercury freighters would be effectively crippled.

As you can see with the above, having the freighters around dramatically extends the range of your fleets, but its largely based on just how many (and how large) of ships you have there. If I had 3 x Pathfinders in that fleet, then it would be consuming 8 supplies per turn instead of just 4.

It should also be pointed out that if a Supply unit is transporting cargo it won't have any room for the supplies. Only empty Supply units get to carry supplies, effectively.

It's a bit of extra record keeping to track the supplies, but it's easier than some of the other options I've tried, and it gives the right sense of longevity to a fleet that is out on patrol.
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby virtutis.umbra » Mon May 20, 2013 4:41 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:It should also be pointed out that if a Supply unit is transporting cargo it won't have any room for the supplies. Only empty Supply units get to carry supplies, effectively.


Is there a distinction between Supply units carrying Supply and Cargo units carrying Supply? Or is there no ability called Cargo anymore?
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon May 20, 2013 5:08 pm

virtutis.umbra wrote:
Tyrel Lohr wrote:It should also be pointed out that if a Supply unit is transporting cargo it won't have any room for the supplies. Only empty Supply units get to carry supplies, effectively.


Is there a distinction between Supply units carrying Supply and Cargo units carrying Supply? Or is there no ability called Cargo anymore?


Cargo was very sick, but he's fine now. He's living out on a nice farm where he can run and jump and play all day long. :cry:

But, yeah, based on the changes I made from the forked development version I ended up removing Cargo completely and replacing it with Supply again. The basing abilities that we end up with are as follows:

Assault: 2 point cost, carries 1 CC of ground forces, invasion bonus
Carrier: 2 point cost, carries 1 CC of flights, can include them for free in combat
Supply: 2 point cost, carries 1 CC of units, or can carry supplies to keep units in supply
Tender: 2 point cost (tentative), carries 1 CC of starships, can include them for free in combat

I think that covers all of them. Tender may be increased to 3 points, or else changed so that only 1 CC starships can be deployed on one. Then again, the downside to basing right now is that all of the units that a unit is basing are destroyed when it is destroyed, unless there are other units available that can base them. Another option I'm toying with is to create Gunboats as a "thing" and tie them to tender. Gunboats would then be a middleground between flights and starships. They could be attacked by both AS and AF, and they could move across major lanes but need FTL to do more than that. It's really a small niche and I'm not sure it's worth the hassle, though.

I really see Tenders as more of a "gunboat tender" style unit, anyway, at which point basing a bunch of cheap starships seems like a more likely role for it. Especially when you could build a Tender (3) unit and base 6 x 1 EP starships from it. Those starships would be more or less worthless (3 points to spend on abilities at TL 0, which means omitting CR and just going DV 1, AS 1, AF 1), but they would fulfill the role of cheap gunboats.

Similarly, most of your fighter flights probably aren't going to have any CR, either, to maximize their combat capabilities. Having CR would be useful if they were forced to fight on their own, however.
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby OneMadOgre » Mon May 20, 2013 5:47 pm

Awesome. Writing that piece of code to fan out supply for an empire three jump lanes where the jump lane cost is less than "restricted" is a piece of SQL or Linq that is much, much easier to write. Not that I want that to at all influence how you design, but it is a lot less work for me.

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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby virtutis.umbra » Mon May 20, 2013 5:52 pm

Thanks for elaborating on the "carry" type abilities, especially Tender. You know how I likes my gunboats :twisted:

Tyrel Lohr wrote:Tender: 2 point cost (tentative), carries 1 CC of starships, can include them for free in combat
...
Tender may be increased to 3 points, or else changed so that only 1 CC starships can be deployed on one.
...
I really see Tenders as more of a "gunboat tender" style unit, anyway, at which point basing a bunch of cheap starships seems like a more likely role for it. Especially when you could build a Tender (3) unit and base 6 x 1 EP starships from it. Those starships would be more or less worthless (3 points to spend on abilities at TL 0, which means omitting CR and just going DV 1, AS 1, AF 1), but they would fulfill the role of cheap gunboats... Having CR would be useful if they were forced to fight on their own, however.


Yeah, I certainly like the sound of that. I could go either way on the cost difference. The restriction on CC might be more worthwhile to keep the cost down and keep the idea that FTL-less ships with CC ≦ 1 are "gunboats" and anything bigger gets towed, not tended.

Also I like the idea of usually having a pack of CR:0 gunboats based on a mothership, with an alternate "temporary garrison" deployment containing a few CR:1 AS:0 variants mixed in to provide independent operations. That would let a limited number of expensive Tender starships shuttle around little pirate-suppression wolfpacks with a command gunboat for independent operations within an empire's supply radius, which might just be a viable low-cost/low-maintenance commerce security and picketing strategy.

Not to tip my hand or anything. :)
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon May 20, 2013 6:44 pm

Your love of the gunboats is part of the reason I've been struggling to find ways to make sure that they remain in the rules in some form. :)

I do think limiting the size of starships that a Tender can base should do the trick there. Then you could use a Tender to bring in something as large as a destroyer (5 EP, 1 CC), but that's as big as you get. And just as with Carriers, you don't want to leave them undefended because their based units are destroyed with them.

It just leave Towing as the clear solution for moving larger starships, plus some version of the old combat towing rules that let you move units back to the reinforcements pool. That's enough differentiation to make both abilities work, and it could even be extended to allowing Towing to be used to move starbases in a pinch (if such was desirable). And towed units aren't destroyed when their tug is destroyed, which is a plus :)

UPDATE: I went looking through notes and found the solution that I'll be applying equally to Assault, Carrier, and Tender abilities. They can only base units that have CC values that are half or less than their own. This creates a situation where a 1 CC Carrier/Tender could only base 1/2 CC flights (1 EP units), a 2-3 CC Carrier/Tender could base 1/2 CC or 1 CC flights, and so on. It also restricts the deployment of Wing Commander style bombers (Broadsword, Longbow, etc.) to 4+ CC units. That means you'd need the Tiger's Claw or Concordia around to base those kinds of units.
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue May 21, 2013 6:20 am

On an unrelated topic, upon further playtesting I have also settled on having all non-crippled units start in a level 1 formation, and crippled ships at a level 0 formation. The task force flagship receives a +1 formation bonus, and point defense fire can be used to improve formations from there. The amount of AS/AF needed to damage a unit is then equal to 1 plus the target's formation level.

Example: The Jains has 24 AS. They multiply this times a D6 roll [5] and divided by 10, giving them an effective AS of 12 AS this round. Their opponent has a non-crippled carrier (+1 formation) that is serving as its task force flagship (+1). This carrier is receiving +1 formation from point defense fire earlier this round, giving it a final formation level of 3. The Jains would have to spend 4 AS for each point of damage scored against the carrier.

This system seems to work towards the intended goal of making military units more survivable overall in 2E combat. I had to revert back to the D6/10 combat roll model because it is frankly easier than a % based model, and helps to keep the number of points you have to assign each round low enough to keep combat resolution moving at a decent speed.

Unit survivability is a pretty big concern for me overall, as I prefer combat where ships can take a pounding but still survive through to another turn. That makes military actions less of a one-shot attempt to hold or take a system and more about a war of slow attrition between enemy forces. This gives players an opportunity to move reinforcements into the system to replace casualties and move damaged units out to get repaired. That's frankly more interesting to me than throwing two stacks of ships at each other and seeing which one survives.
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby nimrodd » Fri May 24, 2013 9:00 pm

I have been looking for it again, but I can't find it.

Did you say that a starship with Supply (1) would be able to supply 10 CC of starships? If this is so, I would SERIOUSLY consider changing the starship special ability back to Cargo to avoid confusion. This way, we could write out Cargo (2) carrying Supply (20) and easily tell what we are talking about.

Also, are the only 2 facilities (not in the Optional section) the Shipyard and Supply Depot?
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri May 24, 2013 9:16 pm

You're correct that your Supply ships are going to carry 10 supplies per point when they're not being used to carry any other cargo. A Supply (3) unit could carry 30 supplies. Each unit then "eats" 1 supply per point of command cost when it is out of supply.

The name of the ability could be changed back to Cargo, or "supplies" could be called "consumables", although "supplies" is more to the point. What does everyone think? Any strong preference?

The facilities list has been dropped down to Shipyards and Supply Depots. There are some other facilities that are likely to exist at some point in the future, but for right now I've distilled it down to just the two. Planetary defenses (guns and shields) still might be included if I can find the right balance for them, and if I do find the right mix we'll introduce them into this game after it starts.
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby nimrodd » Fri May 24, 2013 10:18 pm

The other questions I meant to ask are:
How long does it take to construct bases and facilities?

What is the DV for the Shipyard and Supply Depot?
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri May 24, 2013 10:39 pm

nimrodd wrote:The other questions I meant to ask are:
How long does it take to construct bases and facilities?

What is the DV for the Shipyard and Supply Depot?


All units are going to have construction times equal to their command costs. Right now assume Shipyards to be a 2 CC, while Supply Depot are going to be 3 CC. I'm still working to address final costs of those two facilities, and should have them firmed up after the weekend.

DV values are then going to be equal to half the facility's construction cost, modified by tech level. I'll retrofit that same system to civilian fleets, too. Thus if a Shipyard costs 20 EP, then it would have 10 DV at TL 0, but a TL 5 empire would be 13 DV (125% x 10), while a Shipyard owned by an interplanetary empire would only have 8 DV.
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Re: May 2013 Development Update

Postby OneMadOgre » Mon May 27, 2013 2:00 pm

I'm building out the shipyard functionality this morning while I get ready to queue up Battle360 on Netflix.

Curious on how to compute some costs. Here's what I'm looking at. Police is listed as 1xcost. Is this 1x the police value, or 1x the cost of something else? I'm guessing something else as Armor is just listed as 2 and I'm under the understanding that it means it costs 2 points for every armor point value.


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