Consult the Book of Armaments

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virtutis.umbra
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Consult the Book of Armaments

Postby virtutis.umbra » Thu May 31, 2012 3:50 pm

Tyrel's statements on the Guided ability and further noodling about the inclusion of a Beam counterpart got me thinking, so I'm forking off a separate thread to hopefully foster some discussion here.

Tyrel wrote:I've played Guided a few ways, but what I'm leaning towards now is to have it be a guaranteed 1 damage to a target that ignores enemy formation levels. This ability is meant to represent guided missiles, torpedoes, or drones that can home in on a target. You are correct that 1 PD cancels 1 Guided. I want the ability to be cheap but easily countered, but powerful if the enemy can't intercept the fire.

On the flip side, I really want a "Beam" weapon ability, too. I think the best way to do that is to make it a short range weapon that only gets to fire after all other weapons fire (similarly, Guided weapons may need to score damage first to make them fit the long range strike weapon role). I haven't found a good way to slot it in yet, though.

As for PD, during the Point Defense Fire Phase you determine your effective PD and then can use it to either a) fire at fighters, b) fire at Guided weapons, or c) increase formation levels. A and B are pretty straightforward. For C, the PD cost to improve a unit's formation level by 1 is equal to twice its CC. This action simulates a ship using its point defense guns to shoot down incoming fire and make a friendly unit harder to hit.


I'm impressed by the tactical richness that I can see emerging from the interplay between specialized anti-ship weaponry like Guided; Formation Level; Point Defense; flights; and boarding actions. It seems like CSCR could end up being a lot more dynamic and contain a wider set of interesting choices than in 1E.

It does seem fair that if Guided is going to become a special ability representing long-range striking capability, a commensurate short-range striking ability should fit too, granting different but comparable advantages/disadvantages over straight-up pounding on the enemy with AS factors. So let's lay them out side-by-side:

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GUIDED -- hits first; ignores FL; fixed damage; attacker assigns; PD negates
SHIP AS -- hits second; subject to FL; variable damage; defender assigns; PD relevant {affects FL}
FTR AS -- hits last; subject to FL {with advantage?}; variable damage; attacker assigns; PD relevant {affects FL AND kills fighters}


Now, how would we slot Beam special weaponry into this offensive mix to make it sufficiently interesting?
One option: emphasize that Beams are close-in, line-of-sight, lightspeed weapons that can't be shot down:

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BEAM -- hits third; ignores FL from PD; variable damage; attacker assigns

Another: emphasize that Beams are knife-fighting weapons for the frontliners:

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BEAM -- 1 point of Beam grants 1 bonus Directed Damage ONLY when shooter AND target are in FL 1

A third: emphasize that Beams are fast, precision weapons that are lighter and more versatile than standard AS armaments (which presumably might be primarily heavier beam/projectile/missile/rocket weapons):

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BEAM -- at the beginning of each round, allocate Beam points to EITHER AS or PD. {Cost might need to be 1.5MU per point, round up...}
-Patrick
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Re: Consult the Book of Armaments

Postby countercheck » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:52 am

Wait, does fighter AS still work like that?

Guided, as written, would need to be really expensive. It's got a few major enhancements, and not enough drawbacks: First strike, Attacker Assigns, Fixed Maximum Damage, Ignores Formation Level. PD blocking it directly isn't that much of a penalty, really, especially since PD is variable - it takes 1 point of PD to stop 1 Guided, but if PD is variable, on average it'll take mounts, letting missile cruisers easily saturate a defender's defences. Admittedly, with standard AS, one point of damage will always get through.

I'm a big fan of Beams as Dual Purpose strike last weapons though.

Here are my suggestions:

All weapons in space battle either strike at light speed, or are have some sort of homing system. Smart weapons, however, can strike at incredible ranges, and are large enough that they need to be directly engaged with weaponry rather than being blocked by walls of sand-caster sand. With these capabilities comes a price - the weapons are bulky and expensive.

Smart: Hits First, Ignores Formation Level, Blocked by PD, One Shot: 1 MU. 1 MU buys two reloads. All reloads replenished after combat if in supply.



Beams, while they strike at light-speed, are relatively short ranged weapons, capable of targeting both enemy fire and the enemy themselves.

Beam: Hits Last, Dual Purpose, Attacker Assigns: 1.5 MU



Some ships carry truly ridiculously heavy weaponry, so large it is necessary to aim the ship rather than just the weaponry.

Spinal: Unwieldy (Double penalties due to Readiness), Fragile (spinal weapons are unusable after ship is crippled) MU 1/2


Note: It is late, I am tired, and I may not have thought these through, entirely.

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Tyrel Lohr
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Re: Consult the Book of Armaments

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Jun 01, 2012 10:09 pm

AS is AS in the same way that PD is PD, so there's no special consideration for whether they are ship or fighter mounted at the current time. That being said, breaking the arsenals down with guided/smart and beams having special properties is something that would be nice to see.

Virtutis' breakdowns of the flow and benefits makes me think that there's quite a bit of room for variation. I'm also starting to think that Guided should maybe not get a formation level bonus, but keep the free directed damage and first strike aspects, plus the weakness to enemy PD fire. That would give it a good benefit but not be too overpowering. The first strike ability could also be removed and transferred to another weapon type to add extra variety.

I think I still prefer Beam being short ranged (to serve the purpose of graser type weapons ala Honor Harrington), but having a variety that could be used in either AS or PD role would be interesting, too. The short ranged variant should probably just half formation levels (round up) and be scored by the attacker, but not get a free directed damage bonus (the halving formations is enough of a bonus there). That way anything that survives into knife-fighting range with a Beam armed fleet would get clobbered.

Taking this even on a different tangent, I really like the rock-paper-scissors effect that Endless Space has with its Missiles, Lasers, Kinetics weapons and matching Flak, Shields, Barriers defenses. I could almost see a VBAM mod where you used this system, splitting AS and PD between the different types and applying some of these modifiers like we've been batting back and forth here:

GUIDED: Fired at the start of the turn. Flak fire shoots down incoming missiles. Missiles that survive to the end of the round strike their targets as free directed damage (attacker scores).
BEAM: Beam fire is versatile and can be used as AS or PD. Enemies use Shield defenses to negate enemy beam weapons. (defender scores)
KINETIC: Short range weapon, halves formation levels (round fractional formations up) (attack scores).

The three defense types could have slightly different interactions with their associated weapon types, but I'm wondering if a straight up "efficiency" values wouldn't be better. That would eliminate formation levels, per se, replacing it with a formula where you take the Offense / (1 + Defensive ) [round nearest], with a effectiveness modifier applied to both Offense and Defense values.

Example: A task force has 24 Guided value (20 effective) and the enemy has 18 Flak (10 effective). The damage scored by Guided weapons this round is then 20 / (1 + 10) = 2 damage.

The downside to that is that you end up with stalemates quite often and the possibility of complete blowouts if the opponent's defenses are low or non-existent. That's part of the reason I went with the current formation level changes in 2E: it allows a unit to become harder to damage without making it completely invulnerable.

In regards to the defender/attacker scoring system, it might also be best all around to have the attacker always score damage, with the defender's formation level upgrade choices being his way to dissuade an enemy from attacking a specific unit. Any thoughts on that?
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Re: Consult the Book of Armaments

Postby countercheck » Sun Jun 03, 2012 11:51 am

I donno, I kind of like defender assigned damage, with either special actions or weapons that allow the attacker to assign it. I kind of see it as keeping the enemy honest. In WWI and WWII surface actions, one of the important things to do was to ensure that all enemy vessels were fired upon, even if it were with secondary weapons that couldn't penetrate, just so the enemy crews would have something exploding above, distracting and frightening them. Which is more or less what happens when the defender assigns damage. Also, the formation bonus due to focused fire makes sense. You make a concerted attempt to destroy a single ship, so the enemy is able to focus and network their point defence systems.

I'm wondering if, maybe, we could assign all these different options multiplier values, so rather than stipulating 'this is what beams are, this is what smart weapons are', players could build their own armament packages. Maybe weapon systems could be prototyped too? Say, for example, Dual Purpose weapons have a modifier of +0.5, and Strikes Last has a modifier of -.25, the total MU cost of a Duel Purpose Strikes Last system would be ASx1.25.

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Re: Consult the Book of Armaments

Postby countercheck » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:32 pm

Not sure I'm getting the point of Armour. I can't imagine any situation where it wouldn't be better to double your DV rather than increase your formation level.

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Re: Consult the Book of Armaments

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:09 pm

I think one of the traps I have fallen into during the last cycle of development is trying to be too specific with technologies when that it is something that the VBAM rules really aren't setup to handle because of their inherently broad nature. When it comes to the military hardware, distilling everything back down to the fundamentals is probably going to be for the best.

Trying to separate Defense into Shields and Armor is a good example: there are mechanisms that allow this to happen, but they really fall outside the scope of the rules. Who cares if you're dealing with a heavily-armored battlestar or the shields of the Enterprise? The real question is how much damage can the ship take, and that's a question that is answered well enough by Defense. There is still room for some differentiation with special technologies, but I'm not sure they add enough to the base game to be worth fiddling with (and I've done way too much fiddling already).
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Re: Consult the Book of Armaments

Postby virtutis.umbra » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:43 pm

I think it's great how much you listen to, engage with, and incorporate forum feedback, Tyrel; but the flip side of that is that we're all clearly detail-junkies with our Advanced Mode switch stuck in the ON position, so good job reeling your goals of abstraction and generalizability back out to center stage :-)
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Re: Consult the Book of Armaments

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Aug 07, 2012 12:03 am

virtutis.umbra wrote:I think it's great how much you listen to, engage with, and incorporate forum feedback, Tyrel; but the flip side of that is that we're all clearly detail-junkies with our Advanced Mode switch stuck in the ON position, so good job reeling your goals of abstraction and generalizability back out to center stage :-)


My problem is that I'm the same way and I yo-yo back and forth between wanting things to be approachable while also having lots of detail. Unfortunately, you can't have both and I've been forced to choose which ideas to save and which to slaughter. This has been a constant back-and-forth process for the last 2-3 years trying to strike a good balance between playability and absolute detail. There are a lot of great ideas here for detailed ship combat rules... which unfortunately deserve to be in their own set of rules and not in VBAM, as much as I'd love to incorporate them.
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Re: Consult the Book of Armaments

Postby aelius » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:40 pm

I also like the idea of keeping it generic.
I realize that is hard 8), but it allows the maximum amount of customization. As you said, it doesn't matter if it is shields or armor, just how tough the ship is.
Similarly it doesn't matter if the weapon is a beam or a plasma pulse, just that it is short ranged. The player can call his fleets armaments and defenses whatever fits his background.
In a similar vein, I think that as many ship special abilities or star system upgrades should be as flexible in explanation as possible. For instance, an upgrade to the maximum census level of a system could be a terraforming project, or just as easily a series of orbital habitats. This allows the maximum storyline customization for players in their campaigns.
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