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

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

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:13 pm

The lack of 100% completes has more to do with being honest that I can't be 100% sure something is complete until the other elements that interact with it are more or less finished. I've essentially three entirely different editions of the game trying to get 2E to fall into place. It's as maddening for me as it is for everyone waiting for it. :?

I'll post an additional progress update at the end of the weekend to let everyone know what's gotten done and what's left to be worked on. I've been doing some additional testing of the carrier warfare rules to test for any obvious issues, but so far the test battles have come back relatively clean.
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:40 pm

I'm probably just talking to myself at this point, but beyond the playtest report data that I posted in the other thread here's a summary of the VBAM development that was accomplished over the weekend:

  • Sequence of Play (5%): Adjusted the phases to match current turn progression. This is its own chapter and is located after Getting Started. I will be filling it out with a breakdown of what rolls are made when during each turn once the rest of the rules are fully locked down.
  • Star Systems (98%): Completed tweaks to the strategic resource rules and decided to keep them in the Campaign Guide. The change to their rules makes them easy enough to apply without a lot of work. The only thing left in this chapter is to decide whether or not to add any extra system terrain types to fill out the chart during random generation or leave it be until the Companion.
  • Jump Lanes (95%): Updated contested movement and added concealed movement. I'm still a bit iffy on the way I ended up doing concealed movement, but it seemed to be the cleanest of my available options.
  • Colonies (LOL%): After looking at the rules I decided that there really isn't any reason to have 2-3 page chapters for each of the other topics in the book. I've started merging those into the colonies chapter, and with some success. Commerce is now under Economy, Construction and Supply Range to Industry, Agriculture to Agriculture, Intel rules to Intel, etc. Tech I still need to take a good look at, but the tech advancement rules probably will move here, too, to remain consistent. A lot depends on if I can find a better place for the pre-interstellar tech level rules... or if they just become their own entry in the rules somewhere. In skeletal form with old content embedded Colonies is sitting at ~20 pages.
  • Facilities (100%) A few edits here but nothing substantial. Still finished. Debating going back and capitalizing all of the facility names in the rules, but I think that would get obnoxious very, very fast.

I'm also looking at resurrecting the Empires chapter and moving the rules for Capitals, Diplomacy, and NPEs there. Chapter placement would be either directly before or directly after Colonies. While I don't necessarily like merging the Diplomacy chapter with Empires, they are pretty hopelessly intertwined subjects and the entire chapter could just be called Empires & Diplomacy to represent the joint focus.

Similarly, I'm tempted to combine the Encounters, Bombardment, and CSCR into a "Warfare" chapter, but I'll probably refrain from doing that. Bombardment is such a short chapter that it makes it very appealing, but the system numbering would become an issue and I've been trying very hard to stay away from significant blocks of nested topics for that very reason.

The Taiping playtest has given me some extra notes to fill in on the Piracy chapter, too.

I'll dump out the Star Systems, Jump Lanes, Colonies, and Facilities chapters tomorrow morning so that interested parties can take a look and poke around a bit.

EDIT: Okay, I lied, here's copies of the chapters that aren't in the middle of substantial rewrites:

Star Systems
Jump Lanes & Movement
Facilities
Encounters
Bombardment
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby murtalianconfederacy » Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:05 pm

Will try and read the files tomorrow, as I should have some time to myself (hah)
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:03 am

murtalianconfederacy wrote:Will try and read the files tomorrow, as I should have some time to myself (hah)


Thanks! I know the real meat of the rules is now concentrated into a single chapter that I haven't posted yet (but getting close with that), but those files cover a lot of new material. I also made a quick addition to the Jump Lane and Encounters chapters to add a conditional for when two units meet in a jump lane, as that was something that I hadn't really covered in the new rules and that I had been trying to avoid, but it really needed to be addressed. So expect an update on that soon.
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby Iron Sky » Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:05 am

I skimmed a couple of them and found a few typos - would it be useful to point them out or are they known artifacts of your reorganization?

The star stuff and system generation is pretty cool - I got through quite a bit of that chapter. Not much else to report from the rest.

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

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:54 am

Typos in the sections that I uploaded the last two days you can report and I'll get changed. Those chapters are more or less final form minus editing and any minor additions that'll be added to them later, and I was waiting to do my own editing pass for grammar and spelling once I start doing layout.

There's also the issue of consistency with how terms are used. I originally was keeping Command Rating and Command Cost lower case, but because Defense, Attack Strength, and Point Defense are capitalized I decided it would be most consistent to capitalize Command Rating and Command Cost, too. Construction Cost and Maintenance Cost may also end up capitalized, but those depend more on readability concerns because they are used more frequently.

The Star System rules are basically the culmination of two years of trying to reconcile the advanced "celestial" star system generation concept that I had written for Star Charts with the direction that 2E has been heading. I've tried several different approaches up to this point, but none really felt right. Even the one that I had more or less finished in 2008 when I thought Star Charts was getting close to being done (pre-2E announcement) was just too overwrought to be really usable. The test systems I have created with the new rules seem to give a pretty good spread of values and seems to be successful in giving each system a bit of character. It also ensures that all of the star data is there for use with future advanced star system rules.

On that topic, what you're likely to see with the 2E take on the multi-planet system rules is going to be an extension of this same basic system. I've been readapting notes as I go, but right now it looks like the process will be that you use the system's normal Carrying Capacity to determine how many planets are in the system. Next you determine the orbital zone that the planet's in, which then influences its planet type. At that point things get a bit hazier, but I'd expect that each planet would roll for planet size (to determine Carrying Capacity). At that juncture one of two approaches might apply. The first is to roll for a system's overall RAW and BIO as normal and then use that as the starting point for each of the individual planet's statistics with planet type modifiers added to them for variance. That ensures maximum stat compatibility between the original system stats and those of the individual planets in the system but leads to a bit too much homogeneity for my tastes. Alternatively, the range of stats will be based on the planet type, and the system's spectral and luminosity classes will just influence the chance of each planet type being encountered in a particular system. For example, a class G yellow dwarf might have the best chance of having Water Worlds in its inner zone while Barren Worlds are more common around M class red stars.

The latter option is probably the more likely route for those rules to take just because they offer the most interesting set of system statistics for players to interact with. The downside is that it becomes harder to transition between the base system statistics and the multi-planetary system statistics, but that's one windmill that we could joust at for years and not make any appreciable headway.
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby SLea » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:17 pm

I have had a quick pass through the documents you've posted. Certainly at the level of clarity and consistency they look fine, with no amiguities/contradictions that I could spot.

There are elements of the rules as posted so far where the overall drive towards simplification and streamling of the system has maybe been pushed a bit too far, but the difficult/interesting thing about trying to form any sort of judgement about this is the knowledge that the CG only really represents the 'entry level' to the system, to be expanded/modified to taste by the future supplements. On that note, can we press you for even a tentative idea of when the other books might appear after the CG has been published? Probably something you don't even want to think about. It certainly looks like the CG at least is inching towards completion. That's very good news, for your sake as much as anything else. Will you will be sticking with the cover art you posted in another thread last year? I hope so - I thought all of the images were great.

A few specific points relating to what you've posted so far:

Star Systems - I'm not sure about the Strategic Resources as presented. They seem to have a slightly wooly 'super science' feel to them which is somehow out of step with the rest of the system. For one thing, it's hard to see why at least some quantity of whatever the resource represents can't be transported for use elsewhere. Confining use to the system where they are found seems like an abstratction too far. I thing this is a concept that needs fleshing out, and it might be best held over to one of the later books. Of the options you mentioned in your last post for more detailed star system generation, I prefer the second. Anything that adds more differentiation and 'character' to systems is a good thing. You might consider, as per 1E, including options for different levels of detail. I can see myself using a less detailed option for when systems need to be generated in a hurry, and more detailed ones for certain key locations, like the home bases for the key protagonists in a campaign.

Encounters - in the iteration of the rules that you published back in December, there were modifiers included for the decection table, which seem to have disappeared again. Please reinstate them. As they now stand, the rules seem to portray a really odd situation whereby opposing forces blunder into each other without making any use of any capability for reconnaissance/evasion at the broad strategic level as represented by the detection roll, but then at the tactical level as represented by individual scenarios within the encounter, they suddenly start to make use of such capabilities.

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

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:05 pm

SLea wrote:There are elements of the rules as posted so far where the overall drive towards simplification and streamling of the system has maybe been pushed a bit too far, but the difficult/interesting thing about trying to form any sort of judgement about this is the knowledge that the CG only really represents the 'entry level' to the system, to be expanded/modified to taste by the future supplements.


I will admit that some of the rule changes have probably cut sections of the rules to the bone from a complexity standpoint, but I've tried to only do this in situations where the extra complexity wasn't really a benefit to game play and just amounted to busy work for the player. As you said, these rules are acting as the foundation from which the system's expansions can build by adding additional rules and options that get into more detail.

SLea wrote:On that note, can we press you for even a tentative idea of when the other books might appear after the CG has been published? Probably something you don't even want to think about. It certainly looks like the CG at least is inching towards completion. That's very good news, for your sake as much as anything else. Will you will be sticking with the cover art you posted in another thread last year? I hope so - I thought all of the images were great.


I've been breaking out advanced rules as I've cut away at the core rules, storing them in various documents as I go. Once the CG is finished I can go back over those cut rules and adapt them back to work with the current build of the rules and they should be largely ready to go, minus any rewriting of text that might be required to fit in the rules. The artwork all stays the same, though the covers may get tweaked slightly on presentation to make the titles easier to read. Once that's set in stone with the CG the same convention will be used on all future covers.

SLea wrote:Star Systems - I'm not sure about the Strategic Resources as presented. They seem to have a slightly wooly 'super science' feel to them which is somehow out of step with the rest of the system. For one thing, it's hard to see why at least some quantity of whatever the resource represents can't be transported for use elsewhere. Confining use to the system where they are found seems like an abstratction too far. I thing this is a concept that needs fleshing out, and it might be best held over to one of the later books.


This was my biggest concern with the strategic resources. Many sci-fi universes make use of strategic resources of one type or another, but creating rules to transport them back and forth ends up being not really worth the effort (as witnessed in 1E where I don't think I ever saw anyone actually transport the resources anywhere). Strategic resources could easily get moved to the Companion, and that is a point I've been going back and forth about for awhile.

Of the options you mentioned in your last post for more detailed star system generation, I prefer the second. Anything that adds more differentiation and 'character' to systems is a good thing. You might consider, as per 1E, including options for different levels of detail. I can see myself using a less detailed option for when systems need to be generated in a hurry, and more detailed ones for certain key locations, like the home bases for the key protagonists in a campaign.


I think it gives us the most room to maneuver, and the most room for players to add in their own special world types that they want to see in their campaigns. The breakdown of planets end up being about six terrestrial types (Water/Garden, Adaptable, Barren for those with atmosphere, Inferno, Dead, Frozen for those without) and three giant types (Gas Giant, Hot Giant, Ice Giant). I might throw in another "Dead World" variant that replicates Cerean dwarfs that are always part of an asteroid belt, too, to increase the frequency of asteroid belt terrain.

I foresee three levels of system generation: 1) the default rules; 2) one detailed planet per system; 3) multiplanetary star systems with multiple detailed planets possible in each system. Balancing those options is going to be the biggest problem, but one that shouldn't be insurmountable based on the notes I have mapped out thus far.

Encounters - in the iteration of the rules that you published back in December, there were modifiers included for the decection table, which seem to have disappeared again. Please reinstate them. As they now stand, the rules seem to portray a really odd situation whereby opposing forces blunder into each other without making any use of any capability for reconnaissance/evasion at the broad strategic level as represented by the detection roll, but then at the tactical level as represented by individual scenarios within the encounter, they suddenly start to make use of such capabilities.


The reason for the change is that it became obvious that players could, especially at high tech levels, completely game the detection roll modifiers for Scout and Stealth to the point that it was largely impossible to have a health spread of detection results. As it stands, you have at most ~9% chance of not detecting an enemy force, and this chance drops to ~3% if you have a point of Defensive Intel in the system. More than 1 Defensive Intel and the chance of No Detection drops to zero. The effects of Scout/Stealth were split between the new concealed movement rules and Surprise for two reasons. First, the concealed movement option allowed more versatility than a table modifier roll could provide. Second, the size of task forces in a scenario is a bit easier to control from the perspectives of game balance.

That being said, the one shift I could see is having a flat modifier on the table for a situational Scout/Stealth bonus, but the problem there is that it betrays some information about the enemy fleet. The two conditionals I can see is that you would get a -1 to detection if the enemy fleet's Stealth was greater than its own Command Cost; and you would get a +1 to detection if your fleet's Scout was greater than the enemy's Command Cost. The other big OR is to force square roots on people and have the modifiers be based on -SQRT(Enemy Stealth) and +SQRT(Friendly Scout). That works, too, but I've found math really, really scares people for some reason. You also end up with a similar problem as before where extreme amounts of Scout/Stealth end up really breaking the rules, unless you change the modifiers to be more akin to -(Enemy Stealth / Enemy Command Cost) and +(Friendly Scout / Friendly Command Cost) [round up in both cases]. Then at least a fleet with 18 CC of units that has 24 Stealth and 8 Scout would provide a -2 to enemy detection and +1 to friendly detection. On a more extreme angle, a 1 CC fleet with 3 Stealth would give the opponent -3 to detection.

Does that sound viable, or can people see ways for that to break, too?
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby countercheck » Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:24 pm

I think the Strategic Resources are fine. You could argue that it should be possible to transport them from one place to another... but I think the effects will disseminate out for most of them. It's not like space travel is trivial. It takes months! And it's hard to transport a beautifully calming blue sky.


Re stealth, my big problem with your suggestion is that stealth shouldn't average out... a whole bunch of tiny stealthy ships shouldn't help hide a monitor, unless we're including EW packages under stealth. Further, your detection capabilities shouldn't decrease relative to your number of ships... a large number of sensor platforms should at worst leave your sensor capabilities even, but more likely improve them.

I know even with a result of No Detection this will give some information about the enemy's strength, simply due to the modifier, but it shouldn't be a problem in refereed games, and even in non-refereed games, it only gives you an approximation of unstealthed command cost

My counter-proposal:
Positive modifiers
For every 10 command cost of hostile units or fraction thereof = +1
For every 5 command cost of friendly units or fraction thereof = +1
For every level of detection you had vs the target above Normal Detection last combat phase = +1
For every 10 levels of Scout or fraction thereof = +1
You chose Active detection = +1
Hostiles chose Active detection =+2

Negative Modifiers
Stealth halves the command cost of all equipped hostile units for the purposes of detection
Advanced stealth eliminates the command cost of all equipped hostile units for the purposes of detection
You chose Silent Running =-2
Hostiles chose Silent Running = -1
For every 20 command cost of hostile units that were not present last combat phase = -1

A system along these lines makes large fleets harder to hide, and makes it easier for them to find targets. Stealth reduces the effective size of a fleet for the purposes of detection, making it impossible to screen dreadnoughts with super stealthy ships that are utterly useless in combat - if you want a stealthy dreadnought, spend the mass. It also gives some player choice... do you want to improve your chances of detecting the enemy at the cost of dramatically improving your opponent's chances, or would you prefer to lie quiet and almost certainly fail detection, with the benefit of making your fleet harder to detect. It makes it harder to detect fleets that have just jumped in (you haven't yet sorted out which is which). This, plus positive modifiers for having locked down hostile targets previously, means that detection levels are likely to rise.

Edit: I just realized, while this provides more options, it doesn't really solve the problem. Simple answer is to make ECM anti-scout. The more Scout your enemy packs in his fleet, the more ECM you bring to counter it.

The detection chart could have more levels too. You identify half the ships. You determine the command cost of half the ships. You know how many ships there are, +/- 10%. You determine the command cost of the enemy fleet, +/- 10%. You get an approximation of the AS or PD values of the enemy fleets/ships. You identify if there are any carriers. You get a an approximation of hostile EW and Scout capabilities.

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

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Feb 27, 2012 6:42 pm

The final decision on strategic resources is that they're going to get left in the Campaign Guide but as an optional rule, and I'm using the option from first edition where if you aren't using strategic resources and you roll one on the random system generation tables the system just gets +3 RAW instead.

Countercheck, I'm going to test out some of your additions to the detection rules and see what I can come up with. One distinct possibility is to move the No Detection effects entirely to concealed movement with the more realistic assumption that two forces will always be able to detect each others presence due to their heat signatures giving themselves away.

As for the Scout/Stealth interaction at detection, it might be a case of taking the total friendly Scout minus the total enemy Stealth, then using the resulting value as the baseline for the detection bonus. That would make Stealth cancel out Scout, and any remaining Scout would confer a bonus.
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby SLea » Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:19 am

With regard to the ability to transport strategic resources between systems, the 1E rules weren't that complicated. Granted the representation of internal trade fleets that they used has now gone, but perhaps allowing transport within a system's supply radius wouldn't complicate things too much. At least then the rules would be there for those people (perhaps not many, like me) who wanted them.

The basic idea of a detection modifier based on a comparison of Scout and Stealth had occured to me too. My own version went something like friendly Scout exceeds enemy stealth by at least 50% = +1 to the roll, by at least double +2, etc, but the subtraction you suggest is more straightforward. Presumably there would be penalties for when your Scout was less than enemy Stealth too. Some of the additional modifiers suggested by Countercheck also sound interesting. I certainly think there should be a modifier based on fleet size.

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

Postby countercheck » Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:09 pm

Are we reading Stealth as EW capabilities that can cover an entire force, or is it a more local effect that protects individual ships? A fleet of cloaked assault transports shouldn't make their unsteadily cruiser escorts harder to find, but if they can extend their cloak like an umbrella (which is kind of a nice image, a cloak turning into an umbrella), then a direct subtraction or comparison of some sort is probably the easiest way to handle it.

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

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:52 pm

SLea wrote:With regard to the ability to transport strategic resources between systems, the 1E rules weren't that complicated. Granted the representation of internal trade fleets that they used has now gone, but perhaps allowing transport within a system's supply radius wouldn't complicate things too much. At least then the rules would be there for those people (perhaps not many, like me) who wanted them.


Having the player be able to transport the strategic resource to a system within its own supply range would be easy enough to handle, and wouldn't require a lot of extra rules to make it work.

RE: Scout, Stealth, Detection: One problem I see with using force size to provide a modifier is that one of the main advantages of good detection rolls is finding out how large the enemy force is. Logically, however, a larger force should be in a better position to patrol a system and find the enemy force and figure out how big they are. For that reason I'm tempted to say that the size modifier needs to be a few fixed breakpoints or else high enough to limit the size of the modifier. +1 per 25 CC (round down) sounds about right, as that would work out to being about +1 per 2 squadrons in a fleet.

I also think one change that does need to be integrated is to move the chance of no detection so that it is completely limited to concealed movement. Detection rolls would then always have some chance of detecting the enemy, just possibly without must information about them. There are several ways to do it, but it needs to be simple enough to not bog down the rules unnecessarily and keep the game flowing. (Friendly Scout - Enemy Stealth) / X would work, it's just finding the right X. I'm leaning towards an X of 10. If I have 6 @ 3 Scout ships and you have 10 @ 1 Stealth ships, that would be (18 - 10) / 10 = 0.8, which would round to +1. Without the Stealth it would be (18 - 0) / 10 = 1.8 = +2.

This breaks down a bit in larger encounters. If you had five times the number of ships, you end up with (90 - 50) / 10 = +4. This still isn't bad, though, and does reflect that you've got a lot of Scout value available to detect the enemy force, making Scout a bit more important for its intended role of recon and detection.

I'm also considering bringing civilian fleets back into the rules. This came up when I was considering the current colonization rules and some issues I've had with them up to this point. They're very simple, quick, and easy, but it would be nice for colony missions to also be vulnerable to attack. Therefore I'm considering bringing civilian fleets back as special units that players can purchase to fill specific holes in their orders of battle. They can be included in battles as before, but can also be captured or destroyed if found unescorted. Current ideas on the drawing board are to have colony fleets for colonization, but then have a variety of other civilian fleets that each provide their own special ability effect such as transport fleets (Cargo), troop fleets (Assault), scout fleets (Scout), construction fleets (Construction), etc. These units would be generally more expensive than building a military unit to do the job, but they can be quickly recruited from an empire's civilian fleet network to supplement an empire's existing forces.

The other reason I have for reintroducing this concept and seeing if it's worth reviving is that I think it would really help out with smaller powers that don't field dedicated military craft in these roles. An empire that doesn't have a military freighter design could then just raise some civilian ships to do the moving for it rather than be forced to prototype one to get the job done. Ditto for things like the other more specialized fleet types. They would still be very costly to purchase, however, with colony fleets at 50 EP and transport fleets at 20 EP.
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby aelius » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:38 am

I like the idea of using the civilian fleets in that fashion. It grants flexibility at the cost of... well, Cost. :)
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Re: VBAM 2E Playtest Files (Was: Any Updates?)

Postby countercheck » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:50 pm

Re Stealth and Detection

Breakpoints for the size of both sides are reasonable.

For the detection roll itself, you could either switch to 3D6, giving a larger range of results with a tighter cluster in the middle. No Detection could be changed to No Contact - you know an enemy fleet is in-system, but you haven't got enough information to generate an intercept. I also really think that a positive modifier for having detected units last time is a good idea, otherwise you end up in situations where you found the enemy fleet last time, and have no idea what units they have this time. It's... weird. They should have to jump out and back in for that.

Making stealth the opposite of scout works, but is open to the same kind of exploitation as scout is - there's no reason not to make hordes of 1C$ or 2C$ stealth ships without any weapons or armour, and fill your fleets with them. Spending 10C$ to degrade the enemy's detection is a no-brainer, especially since it won't tie up shipyard capacity for long, and since they will rarely be included in an encounter. The fellow with the stealthy ships is hardly going to bring them in, except perhaps as meatshields, and her opponent isn't going to spend an advantage just to include some crappy little corvette. If, conversely, Stealth reduces the effective size of a unit for the purposes of detection, and, and cost scales with CC, then there's a reason to include stealth in combat capable ships, rather than dumping it into escorts. Sure, they won't be able to see all the tiny ships flitting around, but they'll be able to pick up the dreadnought, and chances are, the dreadnought is what's important.

Re Civilian fleets

I like the idea of having civilian fleets, but I would argue they shouldn't be terribly expensive initially. The ships have already been built, the crews assigned, etc. What you're doing is nationalizing extant ships temporarily. Maintenance costs should be through the roof, though, and you might include a moral penalty, especially if they are destroyed. When you're done with them, you end the contract, and they disband. You don't get any resources back, because they aren't being scrapped, they're just going back to civilian contracts. Possibly, you could build a facility that reduces the cost of hiring civilian contractors... a hiring guild, or something. What you're basically doing is hiring mercenaries without guns.

I disagree about Assault fleets - there's no reason for civilians to have dropships equipped for hot insertions - if you're using civilian freighters or liners, you need to invade using cargo. Assault ships only should be available if you're hiring mercs. Scout fleets could probably get folded into Intel, with a new Intel mission for scouting jumplines by covertly supporting wildcat explorers, or into Tech, representing funding for scientific investigation.

Which brings me to another thought. Is there a way to suborn pirates? Use an intel mission to bribe them to join your faction?


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