2E Design Journal #5

Check here for updates and discussion about the new edition of the Victory by Any Means Campaign System.
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Charles Lewis
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Postby Charles Lewis » Tue Jun 23, 2009 4:59 pm

teinedraig wrote:It would be interseting to see how the technology items will impact upon / enhance the various elements of the CSCR


The CSCR draft show be giving you some hint of what kind of abilities will be available the design/tech system. :)

Now, to get the two to work together properly without breaking...
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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:29 pm

nys wrote:What I must confess I got frustrated with is that I was trying to spark a discussion, but I felt it kept getting snuffed out at the mention of the game not being tested yet. I don't mean to put you guys on the defensive over what you've already created. I just think discussion is important because it lends more clarity.


There are very few things that are absolutely set in stone at this point. I think the only things that definitely fall into that category are the basic rules for Colonies, Star Systems, and Planets, and the general Encounter system tied to the CSCR. Everything else is more or less firmed up, but we are not so committed to the rest that we couldn't tweak, repair or replace them. We have already done that with the tech system (James Pridemore sent us a much better option which, while we haven't adopted it in its entirety, replaced what I had already developed for that particular area of the rules).


nys wrote:For example, Tyrel, I'm actually *not* of the opinion that combat needs to resolve faster and with fewer decisions. I like the idea of having more decisions and I can't really say one thing or another about the speed as I have not played out a combat. (Just because I suggested the CSCR was more aptly named CTCR does not mean I thought that was a negative thing!) What I am specifically concerned about is the number of "decision phases" (the terminology gets a little rough here) where a CM will have to pause the resolution of the round until he gets additional feedback. I don't have to have played the game to know that if there are too many of these, it won't be easy to play over email.


I made a conscious decision when writing the CSCR 2 rules to front load as much of the decision making to the start of the Combat Round as possible. In a PBEM game using the current rules, the Command, EW, and Formations Phases would all take place in the same email. You would need to create your Squadrons first, of course, so your opponent could target things appropriately, but otherwise it should run smoothly from there.

On average, you should have three emails per Round -- one for the opening phases; one for Medium Range weapons fire, including any Directed Damage used; and then one to update damage and the forces after the player assigns any remaining Damage. If Long and Short Range fire, if retained, aren't going to be common outside of forces that specifically focus on those specialties, I wager, so they shouldn't slow down the tempo of combat too much.

Regardless, it is still going to be the case that a face to face or otherwise live via IM battle resolution is going to be much faster than trying to do it via email. The same holds true for 1E as far as PBEM play is concerned. Still, for most battles, I think that they could be resolved fairly quickly, so long as the players were able to trade emails back and forth every couple of hours. Once a day would not work at all, unfortunately, unless a highly tuned CSCR was used that reduced the number of decision points significantly. Such a system would need to have everything frontloaded so that the initial email each round provided the list of units to be damaged, the damage total, and then have the players each roll and score damage. Directed Damage could probably still be used, as the player could declare this damage immediately after generating a die roll using a dice server. The target would then receive the die roll, plus a followup stating the amount of damage, how much scored Directed, and the remainder. The opponent would then score the remaining damage and email back a status update for his forces. Ramming, Boarding, and the like would probably still be an issue in these cases, and would require extra rolls -- unless you just resolved everything simultaneously, regardless of the normal order of operations in the Combat Round. This would speed play immensely, and when combined with an elimination of the Squadron mechanics and handling everything as a complete Task Force would allow for very rapid turn around.


teinedraig wrote:Can I just say that the new combat system looks great - I am lucky enough to have a group that can play face to face so detail and tactical considerations are important.


Having a local group to play with certainly does overcome a lot of the possible time delay issues associated with PBEM play. Even playing solo (which is mostly what I do), you start to take for granted having the ability to quickly run through a battle.

The more I think about it, the more I think resolving a battle over IM is probably the best option for most distance players. Instead of playing email tag for a week, they can sit down for 15 minutes and just resolve the battle and be done with it.


teinedraig wrote:It would be interseting to see how the technology items will impact upon / enhance the various elements of the CSCR


We've tried to keep the base tech options that will appear in the Campaign Guide pretty straightforward. Most of the existing combat techs will stay relatively unchanged (Defense, Anti-Ship, Anti-Fighter, Command). Other techs are getting renamed or otherwise moved around. For example, Basing Capacity is now Carrier, and since Flights can have variables Unit Sizes, they may require more than 1 point of Carrier Rating to base them. However, these larger Flights will also be more powerful. We also have the new Engine and Sensor technologies which provide some bonuses and penalties. High Engines means that you can better control the length of an engagement, while Sensors give you detection bonuses that can provide bonuses to Surprise and Intensity. Stealth is also more important now, as it acts as a counter to enemy Sensors.

The most interesting thing about some of the new technologies added to the game thus far is that they are all potentially useful, and they can have a major impact on fighting styles. For example, a player that develops his empire's Stealth tech to a high degree will be able to build ships that are harder to detect. If that player's opponents don't compensate in some way, usually by fielding more Sensors, they may not even be able to detect his unit's anymore. The same situation applies to ECM (Electronic Protection, I will have to get used to using the new term) -- tech can give you an advantage, especially if your opponents don't take steps to remedy the situation.

Most technologies will also end up with a counter technology of some kind, so that there will be at least one straightforward way to "beat" a rival technology. Of course, there will usually be multiple strategies that can be employed to overcome an enemy's advantage even if you can't beat them technologically. If your Sensor tech is bad and your enemy uses Stealth ships, just build as many cheap Sensor boats as possible. They are individually weak and inefficient, but if that is what it takes to combat the enemy threat then that is what you have to do.

So far in my tests, the most interesting shift from 1E to 2E as far as ship construction is concerned is that a player could build units that lack most of the new technologies (Engines are kind of necessary, unless you like Starbases), and those units would have health Defense, Anti-Ship, and Anti-Fighter values; however, if they can't project good formations (Engine, Electronic Protection), detect enemy forces (Sensors), operate away from established supply lines (Endurance), or various other sundry tasks, then they will be at a disadvantage compared to units that can do these things. The conventional "big gun" warship in 1E might be a great system monitor design for defending your colonies and internal territories, but if their opponents have specialized in a range of other technologies they will find their firepower advantage partially neutralized.

We are trying to show some restraint as far as tech proliferation is concerned, of course, and will definitely be deferring the techs we feel to be "secondary" to the Engineering Manual. Such techs are those that have enough special rules as to be a bit goofy (engine Pulsar weaponry, Cyber Warfare, etc.) or that you just wouldn't want to see fielded in every campaign.

Going back to your original statement, teinedraig, beyond combat effects, the introduction of additional "essential" technologies will make tech development a more vibrant aspect of a campaign. Sure, everyone will be researching the core unit techs out of necessity. However, there will be enough techs to allow for empires to specialize and emerge with their own peculiar battle strategies. Consider that, just looking at the core stats, you have the following:

Space: Defense, Anti-Ship, Anti-Fighter, Engines

Ground: Attrition, Anti-Ground, Anti-Air, Mobility

Both: Command, Carrier, Sensors, Stealth, Electronic Protection, Electronic Attack

That is just off the top of my head, but that gives us 14 technologies that would be fairly common, and doesn't include the various derivative or alternative technologies (Cloak from Stealth, Tender from Carrier, CIC from Command, etc.). We also have old mainstays such as Assault, Cargo, Boarding, Minelayer, and more as additional techs to be researched.
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Postby teinedraig » Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:51 pm

Thankyou for the info - the way the new components you have outlined so far are meshing is making it a game where decisions about where to focus effeort and resources are going to create a wide difference in play style while still maintaining a good balance between players.

The second edition is shaping up to be an impressive game, one which I can see myself devoting more time to playing then I probably should :D

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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Jun 24, 2009 12:13 am

The change in tech should go a long way towards making individual empires more unique, and allow players to better simulate the forces from their favorite sci-fi milieus. The tech will all be able to interact with each other, too, but if a player or player group decides that they don't like a particular technology they can just outlaw it from their campaigns.

I also have slated for playtesting a rule whereby each technology is assigned an Availability rating which modifies the cost to "unlock" that technology. This will in turn allow us to make sure that all players will have easy access to the "basic" technologies that every empire needs to build a balanced fleet, but the more outre technologies will carry a greater cost to unlock. This forces a player to decide whether he wants to spend Tech Points on opening up that field of research, or ignoring it because the points would be better spent elsewhere.

The Tech Availability scale I have currently have is: Common (1x), Uncommon (1.5x), Rare (2x), Very Rate (3x), and Unique (4x). These modifiers apply to unlocking only, and normal tech costs apply thereafter. Common through Very Rare are straightforward enough, but Unique technologies can only be unlocked by a single empire. Once they are unlocked, they are unavailable to anyone else in the campaign -- those other players can only develop them through reverse engineering or tech trades. I have a feeling all Unique technologies (if any) will appear in the Engineering Manual, as I can't think of any that would make sense in the Campaign Guide. Most would probably also have some high Prerequisites on them in order to prevent a small empire from just researching Uniques just to lock all of the other players out.
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Postby teinedraig » Wed Jun 24, 2009 12:50 am

Hmm - I like the concept of unlocking Unique technologies.

I also like the scaling. This could also be extended to racial types as - so certain racial traits change the cost to unlock things, or even what is core or special technology.

A thought that ocurs to me is to have racial archetypes like builder, expander, warrior, hive, etc. which then changes which techs are base, which are unlock and the cost to unlock, hmmm, I may be coming up with some house rules here .... :D

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Postby MarkNorfolk » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:09 am

Tyrel Lohr wrote:The change in tech should go a long way towards making individual empires more unique, and allow players to better simulate the forces from their favorite sci-fi milieus.


Just out of curiosity, is your thought processes along the lines of 'how do I keep options without ruining the game?' or more like 'what do I include so we can represent Klingons/Narn/Eldar/Cylons/Rebel Alliance/TOG/Daleks/etc?'?

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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Jun 24, 2009 3:03 pm

MarkNorfolk wrote:Just out of curiosity, is your thought processes along the lines of 'how do I keep options without ruining the game?' or more like 'what do I include so we can represent Klingons/Narn/Eldar/Cylons/Rebel Alliance/TOG/Daleks/etc?'?


That is it in a nut shell. Where ever possible, the various tech effects are going to be made as easy to slot into the existing system as possible. Some of the strange techs will require some extra rules or, in the case of combat technology, extra "mini-phases" to resolve, but for the most part they should end up providing modifiers to existing areas of play.

A good example is the BSG-inspired Cyber Warfare rules. They function a lot like Boarding does, except instead of Boarding/Security techs you are instead dealing with Hacking/Firewall techs in their place. The mechanics for "infiltrating" enemy computer systems will be the same as depositing marine boarding parties, but the effects will be different. If an empire decides to unlock and use this technology, then it will become an issue for their opponents to deal with. If not, then the rules will never come up.

On the other hand, you will have technologies like the Narn energy mines (Area of Effect weapons technology). I haven't nailed down the effects quite yet, but it will likely just provide a modifier to Directed Damage (say, allow the reduction of Directed Damage costs by 1 Hit per point of AoE Rating). Thus that technology will only come up when scoring damage, and will otherwise not affect (or slow down) game play.

As for the Daleks and Time Lords... well, at some point I think I might try my hand at writing a Time War mini-supplement to cover some of those eventualities, including such wackiness as Temporal Weapons, Temporal Shields, etc. Those kinds of technologies, while not balanced, could make for an interesting campaign plot hook.
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Postby Chyll » Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:19 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:As for the Daleks and Time Lords... well, at some point I think I might try my hand at writing a Time War mini-supplement to cover some of those eventualities, including such wackiness as Temporal Weapons, Temporal Shields, etc. Those kinds of technologies, while not balanced, could make for an interesting campaign plot hook.


Is that before or after the Probability Effects Supplement? :lol:


(Anyone who has read some of the weirdness scattered in David Brin's Uplift books can imagine the kind of mess this would make.)
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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Jun 28, 2009 9:31 pm

Chyll wrote:(Anyone who has read some of the weirdness scattered in David Brin's Uplift books can imagine the kind of mess this would make.)


The Tandu and their Episiarch clients definitely embody some of those characteristics! The Episiarchs in particular are pretty horrifying -- creatures that can alter the fabric of reality through shear force of will. Just imagine in the Tandu hadn't uplifted them as fully-sentient creatures, as an alien species with a more complete cognitive sense would wield almost limitless power.
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