Federation Admiral Public Update

Discussion of source material supplements for Victory by Any Means
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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Thu Jul 28, 2016 5:14 pm

Steve Cole may be making major changes to the FASCAR system for Federation Admiral as well:

"Yesterday I emailed the FedAdm combat system to the playtesters so they could start working on it. The first reports indicate that it is very luck dependent, with die rolls producing from 10 to 60 damage points by/on a 100-point fleet. In contrast, the F&E combat system varies only from 20 to 35 damage points. This may indicate that we need to rework the system, or not. I just really hate games where a lucky die roll trumps strategy and tactics. "

He really hates games with lucky die rolls. I wonder if he's played this game called Federation Commander, where a heavy weapon doing 16 damage and charged over two turns has a 33% chance of missing from 3 hexes away.

Either way, narrowing the range of combat to what 25% its potential is now? As he's suggesting doing will what, make battles 400% more predictable and about 300% longer as ships will take 1/3rd less damage.

Also note that he's only taking serious notice of how the combat system works AFTER he's emailed it out to playtesters and AFTER he's already changed all of the ship combat values. I dunno about you guys but if I'm planning to release a game in 2-4 weeks, I will have understood in depth how combat works inside and out.

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby mwaschak » Thu Jul 28, 2016 5:25 pm

It has veered quite far away from VBAM for sure. As many of you guys know there are ways and strategies involved in the CSCR to mitigate the dangers to your fleet while increasing the odds in your favor, so it was never blind luck. FA relied heavily on some nice encounter generation rules which also really controlled the encounter and the modifiers in their CSCR. Those are quickly going away in FA.

-Jay

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Thu Jul 28, 2016 5:41 pm

Haven't played Federaton and Empire, but one reviewer on BGG gave it 3/10 stars saying:

"I have the original edition with a reinforcement pack. I've tried to play it on several occasions. Hours and hours to set up. Long, tedious turns. Extremely static and boring combat. This one needs a tune up."
(emphasis mine)

And this is the same combat system that Steve now wants to make FA emulate. Great.
Here's another review of F&E from BGG:

"Comments are based on the First Edition. The Coalition has more ships, more money, and a better production schedule. With a predictable and consistent percentage based combat system, when does the miracle happen for the Allies? Never. In short, the game is solvable with the right mix of builds and repairs for the Coalition. . .
That, combined with an absurdly lengthy rulebook (I've read that the 2010 version is up to 146 pages), gobs of counters, obscene playing time, excessive record keeping and a complete lack of strategic command & control, make this game a complete turd.


Another
"Rated low because it has two choices for combat resolution: Play out a game of Star Fleet Battles, which would make it nearly impossible to complete a game. Or, use a quicker combat system that is just a grind where attrition takes out the smaller fleet."

Another
"The game flow is boring......The battle is boring......perhaps planning the production, upgrade, and modify the ships is the most fun on the game."

I wonder if Steve Cole even played Federation & Empire through to completion. My guess is no.
So if a guy is modifying a game he hasn't played, by bringing in rules and stats from another game he potentially hasn't played/finished, is that going to cause some sort of rift in the space time continuum?

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Jul 30, 2016 6:24 pm

The randomness of the CSCR can be a problem if one player rolls poorly repeatedly, but at that point you chalk it up to the fleet admiral being caught unawares or his opponent just being that good and capitalizing on a lucky break. The Star Kingdom of Manticoran fleet tends to roll a lot of 6's against the Haven Republic, who is lucky to roll above a 1, for example.

I will admit that this can lead to swingy battles, but that is mitigated by most battles taking about 4-6 rounds and with that many die rolls you should arrive at something like a bell curve. You might be down some rounds, but on others you try to make up for it.
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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Sat Jul 30, 2016 7:55 pm

Like anything, the randomness will correct itself over time.
What randomness can add is the a lesser fleet can defeat a larger one. Something which under the proposed changes is impossible. All of the reviews I'd quoted would say that the larger fleet would simply defeat the smaller as the range band is so small. Even if one rolled very poorly and the other very well, with only a 15% difference it would take what, 3-4 such rolls to mimick a single round of combat in CSCR where one rolls 1 and the other 6. And the odds of one rolling well and the other poorly over four rounds is probably astronomical.

If there isn't enough randomness for a lesser fleet to win, then there's really no point in even rolling. And if one wants a game based predominantly on skill, not luck, then they'd best play chess not a wargame.

In the real world, some of the most famous battles in history, hunting the Bismark, MidWay, involved such lucky hits or happenings that most gamers wouldn't tolerate it in an actual game.

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Shadow Warrior » Tue Aug 02, 2016 4:21 pm

I'll call it out as I see it, F&E is a product of a bygone age, like pretty much most of ADB's output. It is clunky, tedious, little fun to play, and has very limited tactical variation. Everything is driven by an obsession that it must all adhere to the original inconsistent SFB model (hence the bizarre calculations we see in this thread).

SVC has always said he sees no need for any other campaign game or strategic game as he views F&E as the ultimate example of both, that could never be bettered. I postulated a long way back in this thread that FA was being turned into F&E powered by SVC's own version of something that used to be VBAM, and so it seems to be, sadly.

I see his latest post on the FC board now says he has to work on other things and that a tested version is a year away. It still remains to be neverware and, to be honest, I'm not that interested in it any more. What he has done to it sounds dreadful.

"I don't think I've got a prayer of getting this thing (tested or not) into the PDF stores by 1 August (my goal a while back). The chart and the local convention are just consuming too much time and there is too much more to do. That said, I want to get an upload during August and then let this thing "simmer" while I do another project and then CL52. If you want a "tested" product then come back next year. If you want to be part of the test, watch for the upload. Campaign ribbons for more of my loyal customers!"


Also he had another pop at VBAM and its players, which is kind of rich as he is the one that publically rubbished it in the first place.

"I'll try to answer some of the questions, but a little less antagonism would smooth things along. I have done dozens of products in a 50 year career as a game designer and publisher and this project is the ONLY one where I have seen this kind of anger and disrespect."

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Tue Aug 02, 2016 4:59 pm

Shadow Warrior wrote:I postulated a long way back in this thread that FA was being turned into F&E powered by SVC's own version of something that used to be VBAM, and so it seems to be, sadly.


Yep, you called it dude!

Shadow Warrior wrote:I see his latest post on the FC board now says he has to work on other things and that a tested version is a year away. It still remains to be neverware and, to be honest, I'm not that interested in it any more. What he has done to it sounds dreadful.



A fully tested product is still a year away, but a purchasable product is not:

Steve said on the BBS on June 28th (I emboldened the relevant portion):
"The fact of the matter is that the original manuscript was unplaytested (or the playtesting was totally ineffective, as proven by the many mistakes, unanswered questions, and other problems). The plan as previously announced is to get this thing done, put it on the PDF download stores, and see what results. Maybe nobody buys it which proves what I thought at first, nobody wanted it. Maybe a few buy it, test it, and improve it, then a new copy is uploaded, and then maybe nobody buys it or lots of people buy it. We don't go by gut feelings, but by real data. As for "huge" changes, that is a matter of degree. Most of them are not changes at all, but fixes of mistakes and completions of missing material. What actual changes are made are required by the license (as we have said in public for five years, do not pretend you never heard that) and would have to be made or the project could never be printed. This is the Star Fleet Universe, and every product starts with a common knowledgebase. Jay was told to follow the universe and said he did, but he did not. That's what's taking time to fix, but we're closing in on the end of the process, and I think we're building something neither Jay or I ever expected would be as good as it is. "

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Shadow Warrior » Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:09 pm

What a bizarre post. So he's going to release his own hacked alpha test material, charge for it, and then use the fact that people aren't prepared to shell out hard earned for the privilege of doing the testing as "proof" that nobody wanted the product in the first place?

Such a shame and wasted opportunity that such a solid license was left in the hands of control freak 70s gaming dinosaurs. If you read the company blog you will know that he has surrounded himself with a coterie of weirdos as well. All nice and well meaning people I'm sure, but definite social misfits.

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:55 pm

Shadow Warrior wrote:What a bizarre post. So he's going to release his own hacked alpha test material, charge for it, and then use the fact that people aren't prepared to shell out hard earned for the privilege of doing the testing as "proof" that nobody wanted the product in the first place?


That also doesn't include the fact that the product has been delayed 7+ years, and that it's being released at a time when other releases for Federation Commander have dwindled to a trickle. The last time new laminated ship yards came out was 4 years ago with Reinforcements Attack. A tactics and scenario guide have come out since that but that's about it (besides releases/repackaging of ship cards into PDFs).

These are all potential variables in why the product may fail.

Shadow Warrior wrote:Such a shame and wasted opportunity that such a solid license was left in the hands of control freak 70s gaming dinosaurs. If you read the company blog you will know that he has surrounded himself with a coterie of weirdos as well. All nice and well meaning people I'm sure, but definite social misfits.


Yeah, in case you missed it, when I stated to Steve in a BBS discussion that Federation Admiral was in fact playtested and that his claims to the contrary weren't accurate, I pointed out that some of ADB's most decorated volunteers had been involved and then suddenly one such volunteer, Scoutdad aka Tony L Thomas, came out of the blue and denied having playtested it:

Also from the BBS:
We read (as a group..) read through the rules... liked what we saw... and attempted to set-up a campaign using said rules. Then the ACTASF 1.0/1.2 melt-down occurred.

Battlegroup Murfreesboro respectfully requested that we be removed from the play test list. We felt that in order to concentrate on ACTASF 1.2, we could bot give Fed Ad the attention I needed.

So yes... we play tested it... if you call proof reading draft 1 (and finding a couple of typos) and discussing how to use the system to set up a campaign game for Federation Commander play testing.

I apologize if my early comments gave anyone the impression that we were working with a complete system. What we had looked to have potential (and I think it still does(, we were just unable to get into it as deeply as it deserved and required.

In fact... I just went back and looked at the draft of the rules I have and the file name is FederationAdmiral_EarlyRoughDraft.

If you read through it... some of it is still in outline form with no actual rules in place yet.


Which you know, differs significantly from history. Here Tony's describing the game in detail:
http://www.starfleetgames.com/federatio ... c&start=17

Here he's volunteering his group, and second Charles Lewis is describing how that group handled the rules
http://www.starfleetgames.com/federatio ... sc&start=1
viewtopic.php?f=37&t=245&start=92

Note also that Federation Admiral was playtested in 2009 before ACTA:SF was even announced (ACTA came out in 2011 I believe)

I could understand someone forgetting that they played something, but remembering that they didn't and the reasons why sounds a big bogus to me. This is also the same Tony Thomas who developed the revision for ACTA Star Fleet, version 1.2, and afterwards scored his own product a perfect 10 on BGG:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/107 ... ?comment=1

So why would SVC be saying it wasn't tested and having his playtester saying they didn't test it either?


A while ago as well, when another guy asked questions about FA on the main forum, Steve (or Jean) locked the thread. http://www.starfleetgames.com/federatio ... php?t=5696 Which maybe is understandable if FA had its own forum, but when it only has some thread hidden on another board it's a bit unreasonable I think to punish a guy for asking a question. Maybe it were more visible, people wouldn't be asking questions in the wrong place. Altogether it's a very odd way to encourage customer interest in a product.


But overall, seems like they discourage discussion except in the place and time of their choosing and don't respond well to criticism, even going so far as to make claims which are arguably inaccurate in order to justify whatever approach they're taking at the time, like the claim that it wasn't playtested.

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Thu Aug 04, 2016 12:38 am

Steve posted another update:

http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/me ... POST759604

Including a snippet of Jay's mission rules from Federation Admiral:

http://www.starfleetgames.com/documents ... -56-59.pdf

ADB edits are in blue & red (there are a lot of them).

On the first link, one interesting thing is that one player requested that this mission system be added to Federation & Empire. Steve's response was:

In effect it is F&E (with different size hexes) but more than that and focused on peacetime not wartime. You will be use F&E as a combat system to resolve battles.


So two things:
1. Claiming that the VBAM rules are "in effect" Federation & Empire is mind boggling. For one thing F&E's gameplay is all scenarios with set starting & end conditions, not the accumulation of victory points in a fluctuating set of randomly-assigned objectives. That's not even looking at the the fundamental differences of F&E being purely a wargame with no diplomacy between players, set teams, a 1000+ counters and so forth. All in all, just a ludicrous evasion of a player request that F&E adopted ideas or systems from FA.
2. Fairly solid confirmation that F&E's combat system is going to replace VBAM's in F&E.


As to the edit themselves, never saw the original Federation Admiral but going by With a Purpose I notice some differences:

In With a Purpose, you're assigned objectives. Complete them within a year and get double VP. Complete them afterwards and get only normal.

Steve's edited FA to have it such that now, in the first year you get 2x VP, in the second year you get 1x VP and in the third year you get 1/2 VP and after that none.

More depth? More complication?

In Worth a Purpose, I believe also all objectives are treated equally. Going from memory. Each of them can be scored for double in the first year or carried over into subsequent years. In this edit, different objectives have different rules. Some can't be carried over. Some specifically mentioned double VP while others don't. Etcetera

Definitely more complication. Leaning more towards the "for everything a rule" rather than "a rule for everything"

Some additions are simply stupid as well in my opinion. One objection calls on the player to build new ships of a given size. SVC added the clause that if you lose ships of that size, the new builds don't count. So #1 that's an additional thing to track, because now instead of just building ships you need to keep track of your total number of ships. #2, the reason it's dumb is because so many other objectives are combat orientated. If you have an objective to attack bases, and objective that says you need to build new ships without losing existing ones, then how you gonna attack the base? Are you going to keep your Heavy Cruisers and home at send in the light brigade? That doesn't make sense. Whereas originally you could think of it from a player perspective that I have an objective, asking for offensive action, and an objective asking for replacements.

Also noticed some obvious mistakes. At one point, in Jay's rules it says

You may forfeit any amount of that funding and will receive VPs equal to the number of EPs for-
feited divided by 10, rounding up"


And then Steve or Jean added a note saying "if you have 5 EP or 14 EP you will get 1 VP"
I guess they don't know the difference between "rounding up" and "rounding normally".

In general though, ADB has added a bunch of crap to a bunch of rules including player advice, often redundant, or over-explanation. My favourite however has to be in the very first section, where Jay writes about strategic goals that must be completed within a certain time frame and ADB decided to add

In many cases, either will involving moving ships to specific places and then performing various die rolls and tasks, and/or keeping your ships in those locations for defined amounts of time


Yeah ADB. Thanks for reminding me that I'm playing a game. And that, when my ship goes "exploring" or "transporting a diplomat", what I'm actually doing is "moving a ship to a place and performing various die rolls". Another section tells the players to min-max their game play and instructs them on the "obvious" thing to do.

Here is another "great" addition by ADB. I emboldened some portions for emphasis:

You could customize your campaign by selecting six of the ten categories below (eliminating any you find boring or tedious) and just roll a d6 to select from those


A rulebook that describes itself as possibly "boring or tedious". That really gets me excited! :roll:

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Charles Lewis » Thu Aug 04, 2016 4:18 pm

:shock: :roll:
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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Thu Aug 04, 2016 11:03 pm

Steve cole demonstrated today that he doesn't understand the VBAM combat system:

Here's the thing. The original manuscript included a "fast" combat system named FASCRs. It was never playtested adequately, and when we ran some tests on it this week, it crashed and burned, and not simply because we replaced the universe-violating command-cost system. It just had some major problems. (For one thing, it was possible for one player to destroy 10% of the enemy fleet while losing 60% of his own, something unaffected by the command cost change. (This makes FASCRs extremely dependent on good luck. Your tactics and strategy won't decide the game; die rolls will.) For another, the higher of the two player die rolls controlled all of the damage, meaning if you scored 60% you killed the enemy DN but lost only a DW.) So that system is going to take some ... tweeks.

Now, that system was written by somebody not familiar with F&E, so it left out command points, admirals, free scouts, 6 for 5 battlegroups, and a lot of other factors that would allow you to push your fleet past 11. We're faced with a paradox in that if we add all of the F&E stuff left out and fix everything that violates F&E, we just turned FASCRs into F&E-300. Now, that may be a way to go in the end, but the point was to have something not F&E but with the same results.

We're still trying to figure out if FASCRs was intended to be simpler than F&E or more complex. For example, it handles fighters separately (F&E just lumps them into the total combat strength) so that would seem to indicate FASCRS should be more complex, meaning include everyting from F&E but also some other stuff. But the playtesting has shown that the FASCR fighter rules are broken (and not by anything ADB did; they never worked).

For that matter, was FA supposed to be simpler than F&E? Or more complex? It includes maintenance cost, which argues for more complex. (This is a rule that involves a lot of work that no player thinks is fun and diverts money you wanted to buy ships with to pay for fuel for ships you already have.)


Here's a question:
If a guy never playtested a combat system before he made changes to it, can he claim that the changes he made didn't break it? There are people in the world, called scientists, who perform experiments and when they do so they run the experiment twice, once with a control group, once with the test group. Such as a group of people who take a drug, and a group of people who don't, then if the results of the drug-taking test group differ from the control you analyze those results and determine the effect of the drug.

Professional gamer designers do the same thing. Except the "control group" is the previous iteration of the game and the test group is simply the new iteration of the game. Thus understanding the play testing of the new iteration requires understanding previous iteration of the game because you need to actually compare the test group to the control. In other words "what effect did this change I made have on the game the game's balance". And most of the time, what's changed is only a few variables, so that a person knows what is the cause of any changes. This as opposed to FA, where, the ship stats and squadron rules were changed wholesale or thrown out.

Unless FASCRs differs from every other edition of VBAM (that I know of), damage is assigned by the controlling player. So for example his example of a DN being taken out in exchange for a DW is simply plain wrong, unless the player controlling the DN wants to lose his DN. Most people are going to cripple multiple, less important ships.

He's also trying to change history by suggesting that FASCR's short comings were a lack of understanding of F&E. FA was meant to be a campaign book for Federation Commander, it was presumably made the way it was because Jay or Charles weren't required to even look at F&E. It wasn't in the picture.

Hey Steve, if you're reading, do everyone a favour and understand the game you're modifying before you ruin it any further. No one wants another F&E. They only ever wanted a VBAM companion to FedCom. That's why VBAM is rated a full 1.6 points higher on BGG and even beats F&E in the top wargames:

https://boardgamegeek.com/wargames/brow ... =1206#1206

The more this project goes on, the less it seems like it's going to be a companion for any game and will instead just be some broken standalone product.

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Aug 05, 2016 10:26 pm

The continued public denigration of VBAM Games and its products by ADB is rote behavior at this point. I'm honestly surprised they even want to continue with this considering how horrible the VBAM rules seemingly are.

The CSCR had issues in 1E with fighters being too strong, but those issues were largely addressed in 2E to make it easier to deal with concentrated fighter swarms. The playtesting leading up to 2E's release showed that some of the more abusive fighter tactics from 1E were no longer viable.

Adding the flight combat stats to the ships is always an option, and one that I entertained during 2E's development. The problem however becomes that they then end up melting into the rest of the fleet and just becoming another special type of ship that just happens to be based/damaged differently. That works, but it's boring for players that would rather get a feeling for how effective their fighter strike was this turn by making a separate roll, or trying to outguess their opponent by assigning flights to different squadrons in the enemy fleet (or their own fleet for defense).

I am still not 100% happy with how fighters ended up, and think they may still be a bit CP starved, but they are incredibly cheap combat units and you have to pay a heavy surcharge in the form of carriers to bring them into a battle.

As for complaining about logistics in a campaign game... :roll:

If you don't have a strategic penalty for building the biggest, most powerful unit in the game, then no one will build anything else. Maintenance costs and construction times are the tools that are used to do that in VBAM. There are alternative mechanics, ranging from command point limits (where the overall size of your fleet is limited by the amount of territory you control, and each type of ship you build has an ever-increasing command point cost) to arbitrary build limits (ex: you can only build X DN, no more, regardless of how much territory you control).

As you've mentioned before, Paul, VBAM's fractional system makes those maintenance calculations quite easy, and part of the reason I didn't go with decimal values for 2E. You made that point quite clearly during the Glorious Stars playtest, IIRC, when I was flirting with decimal values.
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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Sun Aug 07, 2016 5:49 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:The continued public denigration of VBAM Games and its products by ADB is rote behavior at this point. I'm honestly surprised they even want to continue with this considering how horrible the VBAM rules seemingly are.


Well, my theory is that he's going ahead with it because it's a product he can get done cheaply and quickly and throw on the store for a quick buck. The book was pretty much already written, it's had some work done on it, his plan was to sell it what 1 month after starting it. And when it came time for ship stats, rather than re-working what he thought was incorrect he simply copy&pasted F&E stats. It's about speed, not about doing it right.

The public denigration is just to give himself a fall guy. If the book is released and fails, he will say it's because it was fatally flawed in concept and no amount of fixing would have saved it, if the book succeeds he'll take the credit and say it was because of his changes that it did.

Denigrating the rules also serves another purpose in that he is trying to appear blameless with regards to any drastic changes he makes_ Originally for example he stated he was changing ship combat because he did not like the fact that it was so random_ Now he is saying that the combat rules were fundamentally broken_ If someone were to challenge him on both of those claims he would probably say that he needs to make the changes because of his license requirements_ Basically he has a long list of excuses to justify whatever he does

Tyrel Lohr wrote:As for complaining about logistics in a campaign game... :roll:

If you don't have a strategic penalty for building the biggest, most powerful unit in the game, then no one will build anything else. Maintenance costs and construction times are the tools that are used to do that in VBAM. There are alternative mechanics, ranging from command point limits (where the overall size of your fleet is limited by the amount of territory you control, and each type of ship you build has an ever-increasing command point cost) to arbitrary build limits (ex: you can only build X DN, no more, regardless of how much territory you control).


Yeah his "solution" to preventing people from building battleships seems to be making them disproportionately inexpensive in terms of their strategic cost relative to their actual point value. A Fed Battleship for example has a cost of 36 in his system, but a point value of only about 350-400? Meanwhile a Battlecruiser with a point value of 200 only costs 10 points.

On the other hand, he has this artificial concept of a task force which limits the amount of ships that can fight in any one battle to about 12 or so. And in order to get more ships you need to get bigger ships. I wouldn't be surprised if there's an additional limitation on how many task forces you can operate. Which would make it much the boardgame Titan with its limited number of armies, limited units in each army and the desire to get the best units in each stack.

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Wed Aug 10, 2016 1:39 am

Out of curiosity, is there any truth to the claim that there is a list of playtesters, submitted to ADB, from which Battlegroup Murfreesboro asked to be removed? Assuming such information could be made public


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