Tales from CSCR 2

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Tales from CSCR 2

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri May 01, 2009 6:06 am

We are trying to put the finishing touches on the first CSCR 2 release draft. I would love to call it a Release Candidate, but a lot of the text is still too rough for that. But I would like to get these rules out for public consumption within the week, so I have been working to iron out the larger bugs or holdovers as I find them.

In order to aid in that progress, I have started digging through my old campaign diaries looking for sample battles and unit stats that I had documented so that I could refight the battles in the new CSCR. The following is a whimsical overview of one such encounter.

The following encounter comes from my Twilight's Shadow campaign where the Cardassian Union (of STAR TREK fame) was attempting to put down a rebellion in one of its spinward territories.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of the encounter, I would like to preface it by saying that my own experiences as a solo campaigner have a major influence on how I approach VBAM 2E design work, and the CSCR is no exception. In some places I am sure I have added needless complications which will likely not survive the editing and playtesting process, but all in all this new system seems to offer a much more "story driven" experience where you can use the mechanics to piece together a functioning, exciting narrative.

Now that the aside is over, on to the battle!

Picture it: the Soukar System, November 18, 2203; not a single blue haired lady in sight (she was at Shady Pines). The Cardassian Union forces, under the command of Gul Elgan, have moved into the system to reestablish Union authority. The pirate Glincet Jumar is leading a rebellion in this system, and his mercenary fleet is known to be operating in the region.

The Union fleet is comprised of 2 CAs and 2 Gur'net CLs, while Jumar's own fleet contains 1 Dutar CA and 3 Rasilak DDs.

Galor Cruiser
SIZ 3, Defense 7, Anti-Ship 4, Anti-Fighter 4, Command 7, Engine 3

Dutar Cruiser
SIZ 3, Defense 4, Anti-Ship 4, Anti-Fighter 5, Command 5, Engine 3

Gur'net Light Cruiser
SIZ 2, Defense 4, Anti-Ship 4, Anti-Fighter 3, Command 5, Engine 4

Rasilak Destroyer
SIZ 1, Defense 2, Anti-Ship 2, Anti-Fighter 2, Command 3, Engine 3

Campaign Turn 1
On the first turn that the Cardassian Union's forces enter Soukar, Detection Checks made for both fleets suffer Major Failures. The Union had a 44% chance of detecting Jumar, while Jumar had a 60% chance of detecting the Union forces. These are effective values only; the actual values are a bit different and are relative to the degrees of success/failure present in the system. Because neither force detected the other, no Encounters can be generated on this turn.

Detection plays a fairly important role in 2E combat. Fleets with superior Stealth can get the drop on the enemy or ignore them altogether, while Fleets with superior Sensors can prevent this from happening.

Campaign Turn 2
Another month of playing cat and mouse in the Soukar system. Still, neither Fleet can detect the other as they continue to roll Major Failures on their respective Detection Checks.

Campaign Turn 3
Fate changes for both Fleets this turn when they (finally) detect each other's forces! The Detection Check results are Minor Failures, but that is enough to at least let them see each other. These detection results give the Cardassian Union a -1 Surprise modifier and the rebels a +0 Surprise modifier (the better your Detection roll, the greater your potential Surprise modifier).

An Encounter is generated in the Soukar system between these two forces with a total Scenario Intensity of 6. Scenario Intensity is a new variable in VBAM combat, and it is used by all parties in an Encounter to generate scenarios. The amount of Intensity available is based on a combination of diplomatic relations and Detection results.

Because the rebels have the highest Surprise modifier, they start with Combat Initiative. This allows them to make the first Initiative Action, after which play passes to the player with the next-highest Surprise (which would be the Union, in this case).

Glincet Jumar is a wiley bugger, and he knows that in a straight-up fight against Gul Elgan's forces he would surely lose. For this reason, he wants to do everything in his power to keep the Gul from generating a major scenario that would draw all of his forces in. You see, scenarios now come in three different Commitment Levels, Minor, Normal, and Major, and each has its own Command Limit, which is the percentage of forces (by Unit Size, or SIZ) that are to be included in the scenario. However, each scenario type has an asending cost in Scenario Intensity based on its Commitment Level.

For the above reason, Jumar takes an Engage Fleet action to target the Union forces with a Normal Deep Space Scenario. This scenario has a Command Limit of 75%, which means each force will field 75% of its forces. This slightly benefits Jumar, as it will force the Union to omit one of its cruisers. Jumar himself will have to exclude a ship, too, but there is enough difference in capabilities to even things up a bit.

Now we generate the scenario. Based on the scenario Command Limits, the Union is forced to bring in both Galors and a single Gur'net as it is the closest it can get to the Command Limit without going over (their Command Limit is 8; 1 Galor and 2 Gur'nets would have a Task Force Size of 7, while 2 Galor and 1 Gur'net is 8 on the dot). Jumar's Command Limit is 5, which means he can bring in everything but 1 Rasilak.

This leaves each Task Force is fielding a single Squadron and no Strikegroups. Each Task Force rolls on the Readiness Table, adding their Surprise modifier. The Union ends up with a Bad result at -2 Readiness, and Soukarian rebels make a miraculous roll and end up with Superb at +4 Readiness!

The base scenario length of a Normal Deep Space Scenario is 1D6+4 Combat Rounds, which results in 5 Rounds on my particular roll. The length of the scenario can be increased or decreased by Engine Rating, and both sides take advantage of this. The Cardassian Union attempts to shorten the scenario by their maximum of 3 (slowest ship in their Task Force, a Galor has an Engine Rating of 3), while the rebels do the opposite by increasing the length by 3. These modifiers cancel each other out, so the final Scenario Length is 5 Rounds.

The scenario is now all setup, so it is time to resolve it.

The Combat Round starts with the Command Phase, where players issue their orders to be carried out later in the Round. We are currently testing out a new concept called Command Actions that players use to issue orders to Squadrons and Strikegroups. A Task Force Flagship can perform a total number of Command Actions each Round equal to its Command Rating. Command Actions include Attack, Defense, Ramming, and Retreat Actions. The goal here is to make actual dedicated command ships more viable, and also provide a more organic fleet organization than was possible before. It also eliminates the Reinforcements Pool and prevents a player from keeping ships off the board even when they are supposed to be in the scenario.

Anyway, since we only have a Squadron on each side, there are more than enough Command Actions to go around. Each Squadron gives itself an Attack Action (so that it can conduct Weapons Fire) and a Defense Action (giving the Squadron a +1 Formation Level bonus). As the size of a battle increases, a player will have to be much stingier with its Command Actions than this, but luckily that isn't a problem in this particular battle.

Skipping to the Weapons Fire Phase, because the Cardassian Union has a -2 Readiness penalty, the Union has opted to hold its fire until the Short Range Fire Sub-Phase in order to maximize its firepower. The rebels, meanwhile, fire during the Medium Range Fire Sub-Phase (aka, normal weapons fire as we know it from 1E). Weapons fire is resolved simultaneously in each sub-phase, so any damage scored at Medium Range will affect ships firing at Short Range, but not vice versa. Additionally, each Squadron is conducting Dedicated Anti-Ship Fire, as there are no Flights present to shoot at, which gives them a +25% AS bonus.

On Round 1, the rebels will fire first. They have a total of 8 AS, which is increased to 10 by the dedicated mission. We take this AS total and multiply it times 1D6 + READINESS, then divide by 10 and round up. In 2E, the maximum and minimum values on this roll are 1 and 6, respectively, so they can never get better than a 6 or less than a 1; this change, though a bit "gamey", limits the extreme luck from 1E battles that could cause entire fleets to blow up without getting to fire back. That is probably more "realistic", but it was never fun for the players.

Anyway, back to the damage. The rebels ended up with 10 x 6 / 10 = 6 Hits scored against the Union vessels. In 2E, your weapons fire rolls result in Hits instead of pure Damage. The number of Hits it takes to score a point of Damage against a unit is equal to that unit's Formation Level. Our Squadrons in this example are at Formation Level 2, receiving Formation Level 1 from their Engines (total Engine Rating, divide by 10, round up) and a +1 bonus from their Defense Action. Additionally, the Command Unit in each Squadron receives a further +1 bonus, which means that while the general Squadrons are at Formation Level 2, the Command Units (Galor #1 & Dutar) are actually in Formation Level 3. So 6 Hits could score 3 Damage to a ship at Formation Level 2, or 2 Damage to a ship in Formation Level 3. Any leftover Hits must score at least 1 Damage against the opponent. The Union player opts to take 3 Damage to Galor #2.

The Cardassian Union forces then get to fire at Short Range. Firing at Short Range increases their total AS by 50% (Long Range reduces it by 50%], giving them 12 x 1.25 x 1.5 = 22.5 = 23 AS to fire. Of course, with their Readiness penalty, they end up with 23 x 1 / 10 = 3 Hits against the rebel force. The rebel player can either score these hits as 1 Damage to the Dutar (FL 3) or as 2 Damage to Rasilaks (2 Hits = 1 Damage, and remaining Hit has to be scored as 1 Damage somewhere). In this case, the player is actually better off damaging his Flagship.

Play continues from there. The Union shifted to Medium Range fire on the second Combat Round, as the penalty was low enough that I wanted to make sure to get shots in just in case a ship was Crippled at Medium Range and would lose firepower at Short Range. I won't bore you with the details (because it takes awhile to write up and I need to get to bed), but here is the final disposition of the forces at the end of the scenario:

Galor #1: 3 Damage
Galor #2: 3 Damage
Gur'net: 3 Damage

Dutar: 3 Damage
Rasilak #1: 3 Damage (Crippled + 1)
Rasilak #2: 4 Damage (Destroyed!)

There is still 3 Scenario Intensity left in this Encounter, and the Union player now has Initiative. He can decide what Initiative Action to take, which will likely be to engage the rebels in another scenario. However, a Major Deep Space Scenario (Command Limit 100%) has an Intensity Cost of 4, so it is off the table for this Campaign Turn. Another Normal Deep Space Scenario is the most likely chose for Gul Elgan to make -- though he could also elect to burn most of the remaining Intensity on a Major Interception Scenario. That scenario has a Cost of 2 and Command Limit of 30%. That would set the Union's Task Force Size to 4, while the rebels (which only have 5 SIZ of Starships remaining) could only field a SIZ 2 Task Force. The only way for Jumar's Fleet to meet this criteria would be to deploy its two remaining Rasilak destroyers. The Union itself, however, would have to commit both of its Gur'net CLs, one of which is very nearly Crippled. It is a tough decision.

Of course, the Union player could just as easily choose to Pass Initiative, and throw the ball back in his opponent's court to see what he wants to do. If both players Pass Initiative consecutively, then the Encounter is over for the turn.

I hope any of this makes sense, or is somewhat appealing. It is likely to drive some of you completely mad, but we are in need of feedback at this point, so any surface responses you might have will ultimately be beneficial to us.

My dog is whining at me to go to bed, so I had better oblige her.

-Tyrel
"Touch not the pylons, for they are the messengers!"

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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri May 01, 2009 7:16 pm

My Great Wall of Text has scared everyone away! :?

I had a sleepless night last night, but I didn't get to thinking some more on this and realized that the Cardassian Union would want to generate a Major Interception Scenario against the Soukar rebels because by doing so they would gain a +2 Surprise bonus (this bonus is conferred to the player initiating an Interception Scenario). That would increase the chances that their 2 Gur'nets would be able to get the drop on the enemy destroyers.

Let's say this happened. Scenario Length would be 1D3+3 Round [5 Round rolled]. The rebel force has an effective Engine Rating of 2, because one of the 3 Engine Rasilak DDs is Crippled (3/2 RU = 2). They decrease scenario length by this much, while the Cardassian Union increases it by 4. Final Scenario Length is 7 Rounds (ouch!).

Readiness rolls give the Union Normal (+0) readiness, and the rebels also roll Normal (+0).

The Union has a total AS of 8, while the rebels only have 3 AS. The Union will be conducting Long Range fire, while the rebels will wait for Short Range.

Long Range fire for the Union (with dedicated AS mission) comes to 8 x .5 x 1.25 x 6 / 10 = 3 Hits. The enemy is in Formation Level 2, with its Flagship in Formation Level 3, so the Soukar rebels take 1 Damage to its Flagship (Rasilak #1).

There is no Medium Range fire, so we move on to Short Range Fire. The Rebels have 3 x 1.5 x 1.25 x 2 / 10 = 2 Hits (barely). The Union could score these hits on Gur'net #2, but that would Cripple the unit. Instead, they score 1 Damage to Gur'net #1.

The next Round begins, and looks a lot like the first. The Union performs Long Range fire and rolls 8 x .5 x 1.25 x 1 / 10 = 1 Hit. No matter which Rasilak the damage is scored against the rebels will have to Cripple or Destroy a unit, so the Soukar rebels apply 1 Damage to Rasilak #2 (which destroys it). Because it was destroyed during Long Range Fire, Rasilak #2 is gone and cannot fire later in this phase. The rebels then perform Short Range fire and roll 2 x 1.5 x 1.25 x 3 / 10 = 2 Hits (again, barely). Again, the Union scores 1 Damage to Gur'net #1.

Now that the Soukar Squadron is down to a single unit, its Command Unit loses its +1 Formation Level bonus.

On Combat Round 3, the Soukar rebels decide that it is time to head for the hills. While the Union continues to Attack/Defend with its Squadron, the rebels order their surviving Squadron to Attack/Defend/Retreat. This lets the Squadron continue to receive the +1 Formation Level bonus conferred by a Defend action and fire using the Attack action, but also allows them to attempt to retreat in the Retreat Phase. This is possible because the Rasilak has a Command Rating of 3, which allows it to issue a maximum of 3 Command Actions each Round. Meanwhile, the Union decides to fire at Medium Range.

During weapons fire, the Union rolls 8 x 1.25 x 5 / 10 = 5 Hits; the current Formation Level of the opposing Rasilak is 2, so this scores 3 Damage to the Rasilak... destroying it!

The scenario is now over, and the rebel forces have been completely eliminated.

Had the Rasilak DD survived to the Retreat Phase, it would have rolled 1D6 + Current Round Number and would have retreated on a result greater than 7 (Total Scenario Length). This was Round 3, so a roll of 5 or higher would have been a success. The ship also technically has FTL 1, though it isn't noted, which would have added +1 to its die roll.

Final fleet dispositions are as follows:

Union:
Gur'net #1: 2 Damage
Gur'net #3: 3 Damage

Soukar Rebels:
Rasilak #1 & 2: Destroyed!

With this scenario over, there is no Scenario Intensity left in the Encounter, and the only scenario that can be generated is a Minor Interception that has an Intensity Cost of 0 and a 10% Command Limit. The two forces could resolve these scenarios until they were blue in the face the way things are currently written, but I am inclined to say that once Intensity hits 0 that is the end of it.

And, thus, the Encounter ends. The rebels have been effectively wiped out. All they have left is a heavily-damaged Dutar cruiser, and the Union still have all of their ships available. However, none of the Union vessels escaped the Encounter without damage of some kind. They could have elected to Cripple or Destroy some units during the fight, but opted to spread the Damage around to maximize their unit's survivability. This demonstrates that, in CSCR 2, ships will tend to have longer service records and will less prone to being vaporized in a single engagement.

In the original CSCR 1 battle, the Cardassian Union ended the battle with two damaged Gur'net CLs (Crippled +2 & Crippled) while the entire Soukarian force was eliminated. The CSCR 2 resolution instead left the rebels with a lone survivor, but also score much more damage to the Union forces.

-Tyrel
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Postby HairyHeretic » Fri May 01, 2009 7:38 pm

I'd like to offer some insight comments, but having only picked up the 1st ed rules this week, and not even got a test game in with them yet, I don't think I can :)

One thing I'm finding quite interesting in these is the combat range bands. I'd envisioned that combat would take place at one range (like the battles in the Honour Harrington books, to some degree), but the way you have it here it sounds more like an episode of, well, Star Trek, with ships flying past each other exchanging fire, before coming around for another pass.

Is the release draft you're working on going to be generally available, or just to your playtesters?

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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri May 01, 2009 7:45 pm

In this continuing drama of testing the rules to see what breaks, we fast forward to October 22, 2204 when the Cardassians make their move against the Pak'ma'ra colony at Formosa.

The Cardassian Fleet containing 1 Hutet BB, 2 Galor CA, 1 Gur'net II CL, 4 Lankal-II ACV, and 2 Alor GB jumped into the Formosa system, which is defended by 2 Sim'tor'ka ECA and 6 Sho'bog'na FF. The Cardassian Fleet is SIZ 20, and the Pak'ma'ra Fleet is SIZ 10.

Detection Checks result in the Pak'ma'ra having a Minor Success (+0 Surprise) against the Cardassians, and the Cardassians having a Minor Failure (-1 Surprise) against the Pak'ma'ra. The Pak'ma'ra have the higher Surprise modifier, so they begin the Encounter with the Initiative.

The Intensity for this Encounter is 2, as both players provide +1 Intensity for being in a state of Normal Relations.

As I see it, the Pak'ma'ra have two real options here. First, the Pak'ma'ra could use a Withdraw action to order their Fleet back to their colony in Formosa and allow themselves to be Blockaded (full rules for blockades still need to be written). Doing so would make it so that only a Defensive Scenario could be generated against them, and there is not enough Intensity available for the Cardassians to generate such a scenario. Secondly, the Pak'ma'ra could order a Retreat action, after which the Cardassians could only generate Pursuit Scenarios against them.

Now, determining which is the better strategy is a matter of opinion. For their immediate safety, withdrawing to the colony will prevent the Cardassians from doing anything to them; however, it also puts them under a Blockade. If they Retreat, however, they will probably be able to escape with most of their ships intact.

In this instance, and trying to remember back to the actual campaign itself, I think Retreat is the most logical solution, so the Pak'ma'ra decide to do that. After issuing the Retreat order and choosing a jump lane to escape by, Initiative passes to the Cardassians, who then generated a Normal Pursuit Scenario (2 Intensity, 20% Command Limit). The Cardassians will field a SIZ 4 Task Force, and the Pak'ma'ra will field a SIZ 2 Task Force. To fill these Command Limits, the Cardassians will deploy its Hutet (along with its Strikegroup of 2 Alor GBs) while the Pak'ma'ra commit 2 Sho'bog'na FFs.

I am not going to bother resolving this scenario here, because it is pretty obvious that the big nasty battleship is going to kill two lowly police frigates. The Cardassians will probably lose its gunboats, but that isn't much of a loss. However, it does mean that the remaining Pak'ma'ra ships will escape the system!

-Tyrel
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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri May 01, 2009 7:58 pm

HairyHeretic wrote:I'd like to offer some insight comments, but having only picked up the 1st ed rules this week, and not even got a test game in with them yet, I don't think I can :)


In some ways you might be better suited to offer comments than the rest of us, as all of this is new to you, and you might be able to pick out inconsistencies or idiocies that the rest of us take for granted. :)

HairyHeretic wrote:One thing I'm finding quite interesting in these is the combat range bands. I'd envisioned that combat would take place at one range (like the battles in the Honour Harrington books, to some degree), but the way you have it here it sounds more like an episode of, well, Star Trek, with ships flying past each other exchanging fire, before coming around for another pass.


An optional set of range-based combat rules were included in the 1E Companion, but this new set of rules are integrated into CSCR 2 so that players can build ships that specialize in engaging the enemy at specific ranges. The Starfire universe is the best example of this, I think, where you have long-range missile ships that excel at bombarding the enemy with missiles, or plasma-armed Arachnid units that can be brutal at short range.

For the most part, I would expect most combat to take place at Medium Range (normal range, and essentially the equivalent of standard weapons fire in the 1E CSCR). Long Range Fire just gives you the opportunity to knock units out before they could fire otherwise, while Short Range Fire gambles that units will be around long enough to get in close and do more damage to the opponent.

I will admit that the orders you end up giving ships could end up giving combat a very Star Trek or Star Wars feeling if you continually shifted their firing arrangements. In CSCR 2, weapons fire orders are issued at the Squadron or Strikegroup level, so you could have a Squadron of ships that has been told to stand off and provide supporting fire (Long Range), a few others told to engage normally (Medium Range), and then have your fighters dive into the enemy formations to rip them apart (Short Range). The Sub-Phase your units fire in can change from Combat Round to Combat Round, so a Squadron can perform Long Range Fire this Round and then Short Range Fire on the next, if you so choose.

Referring to the Honor Harrington setting, I would say that most of the ships are equipped with specialized Long Range weaponry that give them a bonus to Long Range Fire. That means that ships created for that setting would be optimized for performing fire at Long Range, but would lose some of their punch at close ranges. Meanwhile, Graser range might be at Medium or Short Range, and if you closed to that point you could do more damage... but you would have to survive to get to that range.

HairyHeretic wrote:Is the release draft you're working on going to be generally available, or just to your playtesters?


It is going to be a general release, because we want to get the most feedback and playtesting we can to make sure we "get it right". The current working draft is still very rough, but at this point I would prefer to get it out there and into players hands sooner rather than later so that we can work through the bugs, isolate problems, and fix them.

Thus far I am personally very happy with where the CSCR 2 has gone. While it can take a bit of extra foot work initially to setup an Encounter (rolling Detection Checks and the like), there is no longer the confusion of which scenario can or should be generated when, and everything just rolls very smoothly. I also think we have a suitable framework in place for multi-Fleet engagements.

A lot of things still need spelled out and fleshed out, but I think it will get to where it needs to be.

-Tyrel
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Postby HairyHeretic » Fri May 01, 2009 10:03 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:In some ways you might be better suited to offer comments than the rest of us, as all of this is new to you, and you might be able to pick out inconsistencies or idiocies that the rest of us take for granted. :)


Also true.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:An optional set of range-based combat rules were included in the 1E Companion, but this new set of rules are integrated into CSCR 2 so that players can build ships that specialize in engaging the enemy at specific ranges. The Starfire universe is the best example of this, I think, where you have long-range missile ships that excel at bombarding the enemy with missiles, or plasma-armed Arachnid units that can be brutal at short range.


*nods* I have those books, and enjoy reading them. The combat in those is how I was envisioning things working here.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:For the most part, I would expect most combat to take place at Medium Range (normal range, and essentially the equivalent of standard weapons fire in the 1E CSCR). Long Range Fire just gives you the opportunity to knock units out before they could fire otherwise, while Short Range Fire gambles that units will be around long enough to get in close and do more damage to the opponent.


I had been playing around with a few ideas of my own, and one was range bands for weapons. Long range fire would be weaker than medium, which would be weaker than short, but if you can hit your opponent without them hitting you back, thats something of an advantage ;)

Of course, ships can attempt to open and close distances, and whoever has the faster and more maneuverable ships has the advantage there.

Zipping through all 3 range bands, as I said, has a more Star Trek feel.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:I will admit that the orders you end up giving ships could end up giving combat a very Star Trek or Star Wars feeling if you continually shifted their firing arrangements. In CSCR 2, weapons fire orders are issued at the Squadron or Strikegroup level, so you could have a Squadron of ships that has been told to stand off and provide supporting fire (Long Range), a few others told to engage normally (Medium Range), and then have your fighters dive into the enemy formations to rip them apart (Short Range). The Sub-Phase your units fire in can change from Combat Round to Combat Round, so a Squadron can perform Long Range Fire this Round and then Short Range Fire on the next, if you so choose.

Referring to the Honor Harrington setting, I would say that most of the ships are equipped with specialized Long Range weaponry that give them a bonus to Long Range Fire. That means that ships created for that setting would be optimized for performing fire at Long Range, but would lose some of their punch at close ranges. Meanwhile, Graser range might be at Medium or Short Range, and if you closed to that point you could do more damage... but you would have to survive to get to that range.


Aye. Pod superdreadnoughts can make that a bit tricky mind you :)

Tyrel Lohr wrote:It is going to be a general release, because we want to get the most feedback and playtesting we can to make sure we "get it right". The current working draft is still very rough, but at this point I would prefer to get it out there and into players hands sooner rather than later so that we can work through the bugs, isolate problems, and fix them.

Thus far I am personally very happy with where the CSCR 2 has gone. While it can take a bit of extra foot work initially to setup an Encounter (rolling Detection Checks and the like), there is no longer the confusion of which scenario can or should be generated when, and everything just rolls very smoothly. I also think we have a suitable framework in place for multi-Fleet engagements.

A lot of things still need spelled out and fleshed out, but I think it will get to where it needs to be.

-Tyrel


Well, I'm in the process of hacking up the 1st ed rules (tech tree research, ship customisation, stuff like that) and sorting out a campaign with some of the local gamers.

I will be interested in seeing the 2nd ed stuff though, and depending how our 1st ed hybrid goes, I may be able to talk them into a pure 2nd ed trial.

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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri May 01, 2009 10:34 pm

HairyHeretic wrote:*nods* I have those books, and enjoy reading them. The combat in those is how I was envisioning things working here.


I have to admit that a lot of the notes that I have been generating for 2E the last few years come from some of the events that happen in the David Weber novels. It is fairly easy to mimic settings like Star Trek or Star Wars where combat really isn't that "dynamic", but replicating experiences from books or other settings can be a bit more difficult.

My ultimate intent, from a design standpoint, is to allow as many settings as possible to be simulated under the campaign rules when we get done, with all of the tools available for players to use in their campaigns.

I personally enjoy "crossover" campaigns where factions from different sci-fi universes exist side by side, so I am always fiddling with things to see how I can get the likes of the Druuge to work in the same setting as the InterGalactic Banking Clan or the Goa'uld while still having a unique flavor or style.

HairyHeretic wrote:Of course, ships can attempt to open and close distances, and whoever has the faster and more maneuverable ships has the advantage there.


I think the stab I took at range-based fire rules in the 1E Companion followed this template, with ships having to declare their current range (though I can't remember, and it might have been an option that was axed along the way).

One thing worth mentioning is that Formation Levels in CSCR 2 are heavily dependent on Engine Rating, so the faster or more maneuverable units in a Squadron and Strikegroup are, the higher their Formation Level. Thus faster Squadrons can better position themselves to avoid enemy fire, while slower Squadrons have a harder time avoiding or evading enemy strikes.

HairyHeretic wrote:Zipping through all 3 range bands, as I said, has a more Star Trek feel.


An optional rule could be included in the 2E Companion that would establish Engine Rating costs for moving between these range bands, or you could even throw the Squadrons/Strikegroups onto a hex grid and allow them to move up to their lowest Engine Rating each Combat Round. Then you can define hex distances for Short Range, Medium Range, and Long Range fire. For example, Short Range might be 0-2, Medium Range 3-5, and Long Range 6-8.

Doing that would add a slight tactical element to strategic scenario resolution, and help prevent the Trek-like "swoosh" movement effect.

HairyHeretic wrote:I will be interested in seeing the 2nd ed stuff though, and depending how our 1st ed hybrid goes, I may be able to talk them into a pure 2nd ed trial.


Both CSCR 2 and the basic unit design system should be available for a general release so that they can get some heavy testing. We have discussed where we want to go with most of the other rules, and it will just be a case of putting it "to paper" and getting that ready to go.

If your group does end up being interested in doing some playtesting work, we would welcome the help. I was hoping to have a playtest pack ready by the end of May, but taxes and Real Life (TM) have delayed that. Still, by the end of June we should be ready for some full-scale playtesting of the core rules.
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Postby HairyHeretic » Fri May 01, 2009 10:52 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:I have to admit that a lot of the notes that I have been generating for 2E the last few years come from some of the events that happen in the David Weber novels. It is fairly easy to mimic settings like Star Trek or Star Wars where combat really isn't that "dynamic", but replicating experiences from books or other settings can be a bit more difficult.

My ultimate intent, from a design standpoint, is to allow as many settings as possible to be simulated under the campaign rules when we get done, with all of the tools available for players to use in their campaigns.

I personally enjoy "crossover" campaigns where factions from different sci-fi universes exist side by side, so I am always fiddling with things to see how I can get the likes of the Druuge to work in the same setting as the InterGalactic Banking Clan or the Goa'uld while still having a unique flavor or style.


*nods* Always fun. We'd debated using the race rules in our first game, but decided to cut down and keep it simpler, at least til we'd gotten some familiarity with the rules.

As it was, we were looking at the Transformers (or possibly Macross), Klingons and one of the Battletech Clans. I had an idea of working up Clan omnifighters using the tech tree I was playing with. Basically they can be configured to act as any fighter in their weight class, paying for it with increased build and maintenance costs.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:I think the stab I took at range-based fire rules in the 1E Companion followed this template, with ships having to declare their current range (though I can't remember, and it might have been an option that was axed along the way).

One thing worth mentioning is that Formation Levels in CSCR 2 are heavily dependent on Engine Rating, so the faster or more maneuverable units in a Squadron and Strikegroup are, the higher their Formation Level. Thus faster Squadrons can better position themselves to avoid enemy fire, while slower Squadrons have a harder time avoiding or evading enemy strikes.


That makes sense.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:An optional rule could be included in the 2E Companion that would establish Engine Rating costs for moving between these range bands, or you could even throw the Squadrons/Strikegroups onto a hex grid and allow them to move up to their lowest Engine Rating each Combat Round. Then you can define hex distances for Short Range, Medium Range, and Long Range fire. For example, Short Range might be 0-2, Medium Range 3-5, and Long Range 6-8.

Doing that would add a slight tactical element to strategic scenario resolution, and help prevent the Trek-like "swoosh" movement effect.


I was taking a simpler approach, and just having 3 range bands. A squadron could attempt to move one range band closer or further each turn. If both sides are closing, you go from long range to short in a single turn. If one is trying to open the range and the other to close it, thats when maneuverability / speed / crew quality checks come in.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:Both CSCR 2 and the basic unit design system should be available for a general release so that they can get some heavy testing. We have discussed where we want to go with most of the other rules, and it will just be a case of putting it "to paper" and getting that ready to go.

If your group does end up being interested in doing some playtesting work, we would welcome the help. I was hoping to have a playtest pack ready by the end of May, but taxes and Real Life (TM) have delayed that. Still, by the end of June we should be ready for some full-scale playtesting of the core rules.


I'll have a talk to them and see if they're interested. The two of us that are doing the main ammount of planning for our campaign both have some playtesting experience already, for a couple of different companies.

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Sounds good

Postby morbug » Sat May 02, 2009 7:27 am

The new combat system sounds interesting and more intiuitive than the one in the 1E so that's really good :)

At the same time it makes my head ache as I try to figure out some way to implement this in my ongoing campaign (or the next one). Right now we are four players and me (the CM). I'm handling half a dozen NPC faction (they are mostly passive until the players do something bad to them). We're playing a modified exploration campaign in your Empire Rising setting (which has worked very well!).

The problem is that since we try to do two or three turns a week and each turn already takes a couple of hours for me to resolve when there are no combats at all it's been really painful when there are several combats at once.

Since I can't get the involved players online at the same time I'm doing all the combats myself and tries to follow the player's standing orders and directives. I've tried running a few combats manually with the normal och skirmish rules but it takes several hours per battle for me each time so I've been using the VBAM battle resolver as often as possible (which is good but forces me to "simulate" several tactical choices with general bonuses/penalties).

The problem for me is that I have to make all those decisions during combat and try to come up with optimal tactics for both sides. This takes a lot of time.

Right now we've set a limit to one battle per fleet per turn to make my life easier. I would love to be able to use a detailed combat system like the one you describe here but my head would problably explode. My players would also like it but I can't really see how it would happen. Perhaps if I got them on IM at the same time and did fewer turns per week....

Anyway, what I'm trying to say here is that it would be great if you also could supply a simplified battlesystem that could be resolved with a couple of dice-rolls. I know it isn't easy (i've been trying for 44 campaign turns) but you're clever, I know that ;)

If that isn't possible I'll either have to 1) make a little application that runs through the battle, makes the decisions and outputs a log (which would be great). Or 2) create a simplified version of the rules. Or 3) run each battle over IM (which would be very, very difficult since some of my players are extremely busy).

Oh, and I want to clarify that I really like this game and I think everything you've posted about the second edition sounds terrific. It's just that it's complicated to run with my current setup.

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Postby terryoc » Sat May 02, 2009 9:35 am

As a Federation Commander fan, I have no problem at all with the Star Trek feel. :)

@Hairyheretic: Klingons vs Transformers?? :shock: Please don't make me sneeze soda. It's messy and uncomfortable. :D

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Postby HairyHeretic » Sat May 02, 2009 11:09 am

Well, Klingons were sort of my second choice. I was aiming for Chaos Space Marines, but it was proving too difficult to replicate.

I might have been able to use living ships to represent the deamonic aspects of the ships, but how do I do ground troops that include swarms of cultist fodder, elite CSMs and deamons popping in out of nowhere? :)

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Re: Sounds good

Postby mriddle » Sat May 02, 2009 1:35 pm

morbug wrote:The new combat system sounds interesting and more intiuitive than the one in the 1E so that's really good :)

If that isn't possible I'll either have to 1) make a little application that runs through the battle, makes the decisions and outputs a log (which would be great). Or 2) create a simplified version of the rules. Or 3) run each battle over IM (which would be very, very difficult since some of my players are extremely busy).



FWIW I will be starting on a resolver for 2E as well fairly soon (I hope).

But the multiple decision points Tyrel is talking about is going to make it very involved. It will probably have to be a round by round type resolver, rather than the setup + tactics the current one has.

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Re: Sounds good

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat May 02, 2009 5:21 pm

morbug wrote:The new combat system sounds interesting and more intiuitive than the one in the 1E so that's really good :)


The original scenario generation rules from 1E are a bit obtuse, and I have to admit to being confused myself at times. I usually just ended up running most everything as Deep Space Scenarios and ignoring the rest :)

morbug wrote:At the same time it makes my head ache as I try to figure out some way to implement this in my ongoing campaign (or the next one). Right now we are four players and me (the CM). I'm handling half a dozen NPC faction (they are mostly passive until the players do something bad to them).


Trying to adapt this to an existing campaign is probably going to be a bit difficult, although all that a unit really needs is an Engine Rating statistic applied to be able to be converted over to work with the new CSCR.

As for the time commitment to generate through these encounters, I find that it takes about 5 minutes to set up an encounter, and then another 5 minutes to setup any scenarios that get generated. Granted, this means that a large engagement could take 20 minutes to setup and play through -- however, there are a few tricks that we have started using that speed up play a bit.

First off, when it comes to Detection Checks, you can make sure that players give you their total Fleet Size (basically equivalent to the total Command Cost of all Starships and Starbases at the location) on their turn records so that you don't have to calculate them manually. For 2E, you will also want them to provide their total Stealth, Cloak, and Sensor Ratings, too, to help speed your CM'ing duties. If the players provide all of this information, you can probably get the Detection Checks completed in about a minute per empire present.

The introduction of Scenario Intensity also limits the amount of battles that can be fought in each Encounter, so you won't have an endless number of battles to resolve each turn. Generally speaking, you will end up with one or two battles per encounter before all of the Intensity is used up.

Once you get into the actual CSCR, I have been cutting back on decision points as much as possible. A few special technologies still require them, but otherwise everything is being shifted to the Squadron/Strikegroup level, so that you don't necessarily have to worry about individual units when you are resolving battles.

The biggest added workload on the CSCR side is that Task Forces and Squadrons don't really exist outside of combat, so you will have to take the available forces and assemble them into Squadrons prior to a battle, but that shouldn't take very long to do, and in a PBEM game that is something that the players themselves can be responsible for.

morbug wrote:We're playing a modified exploration campaign in your Empire Rising setting (which has worked very well!).


I would love to hear about your campaign, and your take on the Empire Rising setting. Once 2E is in the can, I plan on getting back to work on other supplements that have been sitting around moldering since that release. I think I have about 300 pages of background material that I haven't even touched in the last two years that is awaiting editing and publication.

morbug wrote:The problem is that since we try to do two or three turns a week and each turn already takes a couple of hours for me to resolve when there are no combats at all it's been really painful when there are several combats at once.


Been there, done that! My Starlight PBEM campaign was that way, and the large fleet battles became painful to resolve towards the end. Of course I was trying to use the Skirmish rules from the CG, and that just took too long to resolve.

The new CSCR is something of a hybrid of Skirmish and Standard 1E CSCR, in that you make separate combat rolls for each range-based fire step, but all friendly units in that range-band combine AS/AF for their rolls, so at most you will have 6 weapons fire rolls per Combat Round. And, speaking of places where the system could be simplified, you could use a home rule saying that units can only fire at Medium Range in order to speed gameplay up a bit.

morbug wrote:I've tried running a few combats manually with the normal och skirmish rules but it takes several hours per battle for me each time so I've been using the VBAM battle resolver as often as possible (which is good but forces me to "simulate" several tactical choices with general bonuses/penalties).


I would be interested in seeing some examples of your bonus/penalty system for representing player tactical choices. That sounds intriguing, and might be a useful component to have available for other CMs.


morbug wrote:The problem for me is that I have to make all those decisions during combat and try to come up with optimal tactics for both sides. This takes a lot of time.


I have been tempted to try and create rules for combat operations based on AIX values, so that you would roll on a chart to see what actions the side would take, both during encounter generation and scenario resolution. I am not sure how well that would work out, but it is something that I have thought about creating to see if it works. That way the CM would at least have a quick way of maybe determining what a fleet wants to do based on its empire's AIX stats.

morbug wrote:Anyway, what I'm trying to say here is that it would be great if you also could supply a simplified battlesystem that could be resolved with a couple of dice-rolls. I know it isn't easy (i've been trying for 44 campaign turns) but you're clever, I know that ;)


I will have to keep this in mind and see if there is a way to really strip down the system to the bone and still get it to work. My gut instinct is that if you did away with Squadrons/Strikegroups and just had Task Forces, the other rules could be adapted so that the Command Actions of the Task Force Flagship would be used to allow other functions. There would be no granularity at that stage, of course, but the result would be that combat would be resolved much faster, and it would probably also end up being much bloodier. Time compression on all scenarios would need to be done to allow this, but that would play to your benefit -- instead of resolving 5 Combat Rounds, it may just be 2-3 Combat Rounds.

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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat May 02, 2009 5:24 pm

terryoc wrote:@Hairyheretic: Klingons vs Transformers?? :shock: Please don't make me sneeze soda. It's messy and uncomfortable. :D


Klingons vs. Transformers doesn't sound too outlandish. After all, in my Starlight campaign, the Ixians from the Dune universe sent a Spacing Guild Heighliner to Third Earth and conquered the Thundercats. :) :P
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Re: Sounds good

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat May 02, 2009 5:30 pm

mriddle wrote:But the multiple decision points Tyrel is talking about is going to make it very involved. It will probably have to be a round by round type resolver, rather than the setup + tactics the current one has.


In theory, a battle resolver could be setup to randomly resolve most of the Combat Round decisions. If the players issued Command Action at the top of the round, the rest of the actions in the round can be performed randomly in the interests of speeding up gameplay.
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