VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby virtutis.umbra » Tue Aug 07, 2012 3:42 pm

Good luck finishing up, and enjoy your vacation!
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:02 pm

After being gone for the first half of August, I've spent most of my free time the last month working on Second Edition. I've been shooting reports back and forth to Jay and Charlie and getting some responses back from them on a few points, and as of this weekend I'd like to report that the VBAM 2E rules look to be nearing feature lock status. What this means is that the rules are close enough to final form that barring any major problems during the final rounds of playtest there aren't going to be any substantial deviations from what's already written. I can now safely move on to final testing, filling out missing rules, correctly ambiguities, and generally getting the rules ready for press. I've already scoured the two preceding drafts and collected up all of the content that will be repurposed into final form in the current draft.

Here's a brief overview of the changes that have occurred with the rules based on internal and external playtesting over the course of the summer:

Star System Generation: The detailed star system generation rules from previous drafts have been deferred to the Companion. The decision was made that these were too involved for what most players would want starting out, and it would be better to present them alongside the other advanced system generation options in the Companion. I'm still deciding for sure if any of the special encounters will remain in the core book or likewise be completely deferred to the Companion. I will make a final determination in the next two weeks.

Non-Player Empires: After much internal debate the decision was made to leave the NPE rules in the core book, space permitting. They are important enough to have available to all players that we want to make every effort to keep them available.

Military: Two new types of units (gunboats and satellites) have been added to the rules. Gunboats act as flight/starship hybrids, while satellites act kind of like gunboat/starbase hybrids. There are several advantages to each that should make them interesting additions to a campaign. Gunboats are now the type of unit that can be based from Tenders, and satellites are fixed defenses that unlike starbases can be moved from system to system. A new "system defense net" rule has been added to allow starbases to bring satellites into combat in the same way that carriers bring their based flights into combat.

Colonies: There have been some substantial changes here from previous drafts. I ultimately decided to roll back to a monolithic Infrastructure statistic, analogous to Productivity in 1E, for the 2E core rules. Rules for "diversified infrastructure" that splits it out into Economy, Industry, and Agriculture will appear in the Companion. This change was precipitated by game balance issues and the fact that the split infrastructure types were causing readability issues with some elements in the rules. Better to start simple and expand out afterwards.

The current rule draft has also shifted back to using colony ships to colonize distant systems. Colony ships cost 50 EP and are purchased at colonies using their industrial capacities. Players then move them to their destination in the normal way. This replaces the automatic, range-based colonization option in previous drafts.

Rules that were added but later discarded include paying upkeep for Infrastructure. A nice idea, but ultimately wasn't necessary after a few other changes to the rules.

Morale: Morale has also seen a few significant updates in the new draft. I have reintroduced event based Morale check triggers ala 1E, but with outcomes based on a D10 die versus a D6. If a system meets an event trigger they roll a morale check and see if their system's Morale value changes. The morale shift rules remain in effect, too, so that each colony rolls a D10 each turn and can gain Morale on '10' or lose Morale on '1'. This keeps Morale values fluid, something that was a big problem in 1E.

Facilities: The facilities rules have been redone. All facilities now cost 50 EP and require 1 EP per turn to maintain. The maximum number of facilities per system is equal to its Carrying Capacity. Right now Census is required to operate facilities, though I may remove this stipulation pending the next playtest cycle if I find that it doesn't add anything to play. My biggest concern is that it prevents players from operating facilities in uninhabited systems, which I would like to have as an option.

Commerce: The commerce rules have undergone significant revision based on rules I developed while on vacation in August. I have since tweaked them based on subsequent testing and rule editing. As it stands now, a system has a commerce range equal to 5 times the number of active Starport facilities in that system. This is the maximum distance (by jump lane movement cost - more on that later) from the system that the player can establish a trade route. Trade routes connect two systems together for the purposes of trade, and both systems are added to the player's trade network. System trade values are now equal to Census + Utilized Infrastructure. This is the amount of commerce income a player earns if the system is part of their trade network. Note that a player won't earn any commerce income from its home system unless it can create a trade network to another system, and you only earn commerce income once from any given system even if its part of multiple trade routes.

Piracy remains largely the same, except that piracy checks are only rolled for systems that have trade routes connecting to it. Commerce raiding rules still need to be finished, but their effects will negatively impact a system's trade value for all empires trading there based on the total Command Cost of raiding units. For example if you had 10 CC of ships raiding your system its trade value would be reduced by 10 EP per turn.

Movement: This is probably one of the larger changes in the game in this draft. I have rolled back to having jump lane classes as a mandatory part of the rules, with movement costs assigned accordingly of major (1), normal (2), minor (3), restricted (4). The movement cost is the amount of FTL value a unit must expend to move across the lane. This means that a unit would need FTL 4 to be able to cross a restricted lane in a single turn. Extended Jump rules are available to allow a unit to cross a lane that has a cost greater than its FTL value, or you can order your units to make an Emergency Jump that may or may not result in them being crippled or destroyed. You have to weigh the risk versus the reward in those cases.

The main reason for these changes to the movement rules is to correct some issues I was running into with how units were interacting during movement. I wanted to slow movement a bit and better control how commerce and supply interacted with the rules. In the old drafts it was becoming almost too easy for ships to move around the map, and move too quickly for comfort. While it's true that the current rules allow units to move very quickly over major lanes, the cost of upgrading lanes to that level is extraordinary.

Exploration: The one change to the exploration rules is that Scouts now allocate their Scout value to a lane in order to get their exploration bonuses instead of relying on the partial success result on the Exploration Table. The tempo of exploration is that you allocate your Scout value before your exploration roll and then get +1 per 5 Scout value that has been accumulated against that lane (rounding down). A fleet with 3 Scout value would get +0 on the first turn [3], +1 on the second and third turns [6, 9], +2 on the fourth turn [12], +3 on the fifth turn [15], and so on. This adds a bit more bookkeeping to exploration but it allows for a more natural progression towards exploration success.

Technology: Again, this new drift marks a major shift in the rules. Taking a cue from previous incarnations of the rules, I've decided on a system that eschews overall tech levels in return for having a separate tech level for every 'technology' in the game. This includes things like Defense, Attack Strength, Point Defense, Command Rating, and FTL plus all of the other special abilities. Each tech level reduces the cost per point of value by 5-10% (still getting a feel for which is the best for the campaign rules, but leaning towards 10% to make it better for standard vs. long term campaign play).

The next major change to research and development is that empires no longer have universal tech pools. Instead, each system allocates tech points towards its own research projects. This serves the purpose of limiting tech advancement (which was a major issue in previous drafts) and gives an empire the opportunity to research multiple technologies simultaneously. Each system has a research capacity equal to its Census, +1 per Research Lab facility. Tech advancement costs are equal to an empire's system income, and each tech advance increases the associated technology's tech level by 1.

The reason for this change is because it's frankly more interesting to play a game where each empire can specialize in a specific area of research and have ships that have better defenses, better guns, or otherwise excel in specific ways. The empire tech level concept will live on in the empire setup rules, but it's role will be restricted to telling players how many 'points' they have to use to buy their starting tech levels.

Sadly, the pre-interstellar empire rules from previous drafts have been moved out of the Campaign Guide and back to the Companion. The page length they added to the book is significant enough that they'd be better served as a full chapter in a later book. I would have preferred to keep them standard, but we're already looking at the Campaign Guide being a 200 page book once all of the other content is finished.

Intel: The new intel rules are finished (finally), and so far the people that I've had review them haven't found any glaring issues with them. These rules have probably been the hardest to pin down, and I ended up looking back at other 4X games for inspiration. The current incarnation of intel has the player purchasing "System Intel" in the same way they would buy Infrastructure. System Intel provides both offensive and defensive intel benefits. They can also use intel to place Operatives in an opponents systems to aid their offensive intelligence efforts. The outcome of an intel mission is then decided by rolling a D20 and adding your offensive intel and subtracting the enemy's defensive intel. The break points for mission success and detection are split between different results on the table. To balance intel use, any mission that is detected results in each participating system losing 1 Intel. This should dissuade players from overusing intel mission, as intel mission spam has been a problem with some of the previous versions of intel.

Diplomacy: This is the one section of the rules I'm still hashing out the most details with, but look for it to be a hybrid of the 1E and previous 2E draft rules. You'll still have culture (AIX) interactions here, but you'll also have treaty modifiers similar to those in 1E diplomacy. Each empire will have a limited pool of diplomatic points to spend on diplomatic actions each turn equal to their imperial capital's Census plus 1 per embassy they've established at foreign capitals. These points can be used to influence relations with other powers, offer or break treaties, declare war, etc. The idea is to remove some of the rules kruft that has developed in this section over the last few revisions.

Encounters: Whoa, boy, this is the big one. Encounters have been changed so that each player has a set pool of command points that it uses to perform actions during each encounter. This is similar to the old intensity mechanic except each player has his own pool of command points to spend. These points can be spent on generating space combat scenarios (the bread and butter of encounters), but they can also be spent to bring reinforcements into the system from nearby systems, retreating units, and performing emergency repairs.

Squadrons are back in the current draft (in pog form!), as they fixed a problem I was having with getting the new task force generation rules working. Under the new system, when number of command points you spend on a scenario tells you the maximum Command Cost of squadron command units you can add to your task force. If you spent 6 CP on this scenario then you could add 2 x 3 CC squadron command units, or you could add 6 x 1 CC squadron command units if your preferred wolf pack tactics. You then fill out your squadrons with units up to the command unit's own Command Rating.

CSCR Combat: This is where those encounter changes come home to roost. The flow of combat has been streamlined, and in most cases a player is only going to be making two die rolls per combat round (one for PD and one for AS). Combat rolls have changed, too. The basic concept remains the same in that you're multiplying a value times your stat total and then dividing by 10, rounding to the nearest whole number. What's different is that you roll a D6 for each squadron in the battle and use the highest number rolled. In the case of multiples, you get a +1 bonus per die that matches your highest roll. This means a task force with three squadrons would roll 3D6, and if all three were '6's it would end up with a 8x multiplier to its combat roll. This makes having large number of squadrons a good thing, as it moderates your die rolls and keeps you from rolling really lousy. It also adds an extra layer of tactics in that an opponent really wants to take your squadron out to deprive you of those extra dice.

The way damage is scored has also changed. The attacker now scores all damage against targets. The defender does get a chance to intervene in the process however based on how he spends his PD to purchase formation bonuses earlier in the combat round. Don't want an enemy to target your wounded flagship? Improve its formation value to a level that your opponent is going to be sacrificing a lot of damage to get those hits in. Practical testing shows that this should speed up CSCR resolution a lot, especially during PBEM or IM play.

Ground Warfare: Ground combat follows the same path as encounters and the CSCR. There are a few other special options that are unique to ground combat, like ordering your troops to "go guerilla" as a command action, but otherwise it's largely the same as the encounter rules.

Supply: I have to finish making some changes to out of supply level rules, but otherwise supply follows the same ideas from commerce in that a system's supply range is equal to 5 times the number of active Supply Depots in the system. A system with 2 Supply Depots could trace supply over 10 cost of jump lanes. That's a substantial distance over major or normal lanes, but still pretty limited over minor or restricted lanes.

Construction: This section is requiring some fine tuning to adjust to changes I've made in the past month, but essentially the total number of purchases that a system can make each turn is equal to its industrial capacity (Utilized Infrastructure x RAW). I really would have loved to have enough resource govern that, but the overwhelming reaction to that idea was negative so I've dropped the idea for now. Players can increase a system's industrial capacity (IC) using Orbital Factory facilities, each of which provides +5 industrial capacity to their system. You can apportion IC and EP to units over multiple turns using extended construction, which allows a system to build units that are greater than their IC.

I've also reintroduced the dock space concept. Dock spaces are required to build starships, and the number of dock spaces a unit requires during construction is equal to its Command Cost. You start with a number of dock spaces at your planetary construction sites equal to Utilized Infrastructure that can only be used to build atmospheric starships. Orbital Shipyards each add an extra 10 dock spaces. There are also Repair Yard facilities that can only be used to perform repairs, but they provide 20 dock spaces per facility, or twice that of a conventional Shipyard.

Construction time have been shortened to being equal to a unit's Command Cost. This seems to be a good balance between playability and resource scarcity. While longer construction times can be fun, they can also be counter productive in traditional games that might only run 30-40 turns.


The next public playtest draft will be released on or before October 8, 2012. I'm going to use the next two weeks to run some more internal tests, finish up as much of the rules text as possible to get it to a playable format, and generally get the rules into a presentable state. There are a few spot rules that are still in need of revision to bring them back in line with the recent changes.
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby virtutis.umbra » Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:56 pm

Wow.

Really excited. That sounds like a lot of drift, mostly of the "ruthlessly simplify, streamline and generalize" variety that seemed necessary given the last flurry of forum discussion around the rules development.

Good luck with the feature-lock, and I for one look forward to prying myself away from X-COM long enough to read them over. :)

EDIT: oh, and when/if the next forum playtest rolls out, I'd love to revive the Phoenix Republic. Count me in.

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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby OneMadOgre » Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:08 pm

I'd love to be in a playtest as well. As you finish up the stellar construction rules, I'd love to get a shot at building a web interface for that again.

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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:27 pm

virtutis.umbra wrote:Wow.

Really excited. That sounds like a lot of drift, mostly of the "ruthlessly simplify, streamline and generalize" variety that seemed necessary given the last flurry of forum discussion around the rules development.


This project has been in development in one form or another for about four years. Over that period of time there's been a substantial amount of rules that have been tried out, tweaked, discarded, and then re-purposed only to be thrown back into the garbage bin. It's infuriatingly difficult to get all of these different cogs and sprockets to fit together within the game system, and in the end I had to make the decision to roll back to a more straightforward approach that didn't bog down the player with too much detail.

My litmus test for the game has always been "can I remember what the player is supposed to do in this situation without having to reread a chapter of the book?" If the answer is 'no' then I know something is wrong. Players will have to reference tables when they're rolling on them, that's to be expected, but basic rules and actions should flow fairly naturally within the rules and not require constant rule referencing once the player gets the feel for the campaign system.

Good luck with the feature-lock, and I for one look forward to prying myself away from X-COM long enough to read them over. :)


There is a very valid reason why I set myself an October 9 deadline for getting the next playtest draft released :) Once X-COM comes out I'm probably going to disappear for at least a week as I get lost in that game.

EDIT: oh, and when/if the next forum playtest rolls out, I'd love to revive the Phoenix Republic. Count me in.


I'll probably look to get another forum playtest going mid-October. This time around I'll give everyone preset unit stats and let them go at it from ground zero, though, just to get the game going. I'll also give everyone some colonies and enough units to jump straight into the "mid-game" campaign environment.

OneMadOgre wrote:I'd love to be in a playtest as well. As you finish up the stellar construction rules, I'd love to get a shot at building a web interface for that again.


I'll be sure to do that, I'm looking forward to seeing how the new sysgen rules interface with the web view that you previously built. The sysgen rules from the previous 2E draft will probably be more or less the same in the 2E Companion with maybe a few changes to the generation tables, but otherwise left intact. They worked and worked well, but are really overkill for most players. I love the detailed star systems, but they don't fit the tone of the Campaign Guide because they do go into too much specifics that a lot of players won't care one iota about.
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby Emiricol » Tue Sep 25, 2012 8:46 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:Diplomacy: This is the one section of the rules I'm still hashing out the most details with, but look for it to be a hybrid of the 1E and previous 2E draft rules. You'll still have culture (AIX) interactions here, but you'll also have treaty modifiers similar to those in 1E diplomacy. Each empire will have a limited pool of diplomatic points to spend on diplomatic actions each turn equal to their imperial capital's Census plus 1 per embassy they've established at foreign capitals. These points can be used to influence relations with other powers, offer or break treaties, declare war, etc. The idea is to remove some of the rules kruft that has developed in this section over the last few revisions.


This sounds really interesting! Will it do away with the automatic hostilities/breack chance checks each round, or is this an addition? How will NPEs etc handle this?

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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:18 pm

Emiricol wrote:This sounds really interesting! Will it do away with the automatic hostilities/breack chance checks each round, or is this an addition? How will NPEs etc handle this?


It will get rid of the automatic chances for player empires. NPEs will still roll to see if they're interested in offering, breaking, or declaring each turn, and then the maximum number of those diplomatic actions that they can perform is limited by their diplomatic points.

The modifiers will work like those from 1E in that you get a modifier on the turn after the event occurs, and this decreases by 5% (i.e., 5 percentiles) per turn thereafter. There are separate treaty modifiers and declaration modifiers that a player can receive, and there will be a few modifiers that are persistent and don't go down over time. Those will be modifiers relating to current diplomatic relations. To pull numbers off the top of my head, you might get a +10% declaration modifier for a power that has signed a non-aggression treaty with an enemy.

It's also worth noting that "hostilities" is now not something you declare but just a pseudo-political state that exists between two powers that are essentially fighting an undeclared war. You can engage in hostilities with any empire that you don't have a non-aggression treaty with. If you have a border treaty you aren't allowed to attack their colonies, but everything else is fair game. Without a border treaty you can attack their smaller colony systems, but it's still a very limited war. A declaration of war completely removes these limitations and allows for all out combat.
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Re: Any Updates?

Postby japridemor » Thu Nov 08, 2012 11:03 pm

japridemor wrote:I am curious as well. Anything new on the 2E front? I'm desperate to see anything from any space related 4X game at this point.

3 months shy of two years later...are we going to see 2E released? I've about given up.

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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby Emiricol » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:06 am

Hope I'm not stepping on any toes by answering this, but yes, it is still going to be published. It's rather close to content completion.

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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby OneMadOgre » Sat Nov 17, 2012 2:36 pm

Sadly, I get excited to see this thread update, even when it turns out to be spambots. :lol:


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