Federation Admiral Public Update

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

Postby Shadow Warrior » Fri Sep 16, 2016 6:02 am

Handed over to "veteran players familiar with campaigns"? Oh dear God, no. That means the Galactic Conquest people. A contender for one of the most incoherent campaign systems ever written. I actually paid hard earned cash for that back in the day and I honestly felt like asking for my money back. My children could have written something that made more sense. What they published wouldn't pass muster as a first draft. It was more like the project outline.

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Charles Lewis » Fri Sep 16, 2016 1:29 pm

That got a chuckle. ;)
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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Shadow Warrior » Fri Sep 16, 2016 5:00 pm

Charles Lewis wrote:That got a chuckle. ;)

I aim to please ;-)

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Sep 16, 2016 9:14 pm

The one conceptual question that has come up as a result of the Federation Admiral birthing pains (death throes?) is the idea of how we would handle collapsing combat down to a "single squadron" task force? That is obviously the direction that ADB is going to match F&E, and while I think they are doing it for the wrong reasons I can see a clear benefit in that it makes task force setup easier.

The obvious problem is the one that the extra steps in VBAM are designed to avoid: you don't want to encourage players to build all battleship fleets. VBAM gets around that by introducing the Command Cost (that SVC hates with a passion), so that larger, more powerful units cost more Command Rating to bring into a fight. You might have your Battleships leading squadrons, but you're rarely going to see a fleet composed of nothing but Battleships.

If you have a single squadron task force, you end up with the question of either artificially increasing Command Ratings by some multiple, or going the "simple" route and making all ships cost CC 1 (as per F&E) and then return to the all-Battleship problem. They handwave it by putting an arbitrary (read: artificial) limit on deployments which makes no sense. I do think there are a few ways to deal with this, however, and keep it workable.

The first would be to bring back Byron's old "any leftover damage must cripple or destroy a unit" rule from 1E. This is horrible in small battles, which I discovered in 1E when I had two ships fighting each other and as long as one of them scored any damage they were crippling/destroying the opponent. It wasn't particularly compelling, and was the reason that I introduced the attrition damage to ship combat.

The other way to handle things would be to adjust how formations and directed damage function so all units begin in Formation Level 0 and the opponent gets free directed damage against them. This would make bringing in those extra Battleships less appealing because you're basically giving your opponent the ability to fire on them with impunity. But that solution also shifts the initiative of damage resolution to the attacker rather than the defender. I think you could recover this a bit by allowing ships be put into "Escort" mode so that they voluntarily give up their combat factors in order to raise the Formation Level of another friendly ship. That would help keep smaller ships useful, as they would both be there to eat damage plus protect other ships in the fleet from damage.

All in all, I can see advantages to experimenting with this style of combat. It is definitely more straightforward that standard VBAM. Not necessarily better, of course, but I can see advantages when it comes to speeding up scenario setup.
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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Fri Sep 16, 2016 10:32 pm

Is that what command limits are for? I think the idea of a Battleship fleet is appealing, as a Great War concept, and could be dissuaded by long build times and disproportionately higher maintenance costs. Though don't know if it works well in practice.

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Sep 16, 2016 11:24 pm

PaulB wrote:Is that what command limits are for? I think the idea of a Battleship fleet is appealing, as a Great War concept, and could be dissuaded by long build times and disproportionately higher maintenance costs. Though don't know if it works well in practice.


That's the main reason for them. It gives an extra incentive to build frigates and destroyers to fill in where more expensive ships can't in a squadron organization. The build times were only an optional rule in 1E, and were more of a band aid to fix the "insta-build economic monster" scenario where you could just churn out replacement battleships without even thinking about it.

If there was another prominent game mechanism that removed the need for that and still made light combatants useful, then I could see a single squadron task force model working out. Off the cuff, I think if these "escorts" were responsible for improving formations, then that might do the trick. I think the trade off would have to be that any ship that was performing escort duties would either take a hit to their combat factors, or even reduce their AS/AF to zero so they couldn't fire at all.

There are different ways of deciding how much "escort" ability a ship would generate, but to provide any meaningful simplification to the rules it would have to be something straightforward that didn't require a lot of extra math. I ran into that problem in early 2E combat builds where you were paying points to boost formations in a very awkward manner that worked, but slowed down the game a lot.

So taking a step back, let's say each task force had a flagship, and the number of ships that the task force could field was equal to 6 + Flagship CR. That would provide a decent floor, while keeping the number of ships to a reasonable number. A CA (CR 6) could command a task force of 12 ships.

Okay, now the question becomes what kinds of interactions we'd have to see to balance out the combat on a 12 vs 12 fleet battle? Why pick a BB over a FF when assembling the task force?

The first answer would be as a damage sink if, again, you were forced to spend leftover points to cripple or destroy the weakest unit in a task force. This alone would make all BB fleets a horrible idea, but it also leads to a logical gap of why a single FF can destroy a BB in a 1-on-1 fight. You could assume that this is akin to torpedo boats or destroyers and without a screen the BB is not able to properly defend itself. That argument can be made, but players would be rather unhappy about that.

The next idea is the formation bonus boost mentioned previously. You'd have to restrict the Escort ability to smaller units and make it an innate quality for that to work, however. Then you'd be adding the smaller ships in to give the larger ones formation bonuses. The easiest way to approach this would be a set ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. If the escorts couldn't participate in combat or otherwise took a penalty then it would become a conscious decision to sacrifice firepower in return for protecting a friendly ship against enemy attack.

An even wilder idea, which I did mess with during 2E, is to remove AF and replace it with PD (Point Defense), and have that end up being an "attack" roll used each turn to determine the effectiveness of your formations. You'd have to boil it down to a simpler formation boost because originally I think I was having PD give DV bonuses that you had to apportion out, and that was frustratingly slow to take care of at the start of each combat round to say the least.

Another consequence of a single squadron task force is that the pre-scenario scout use would become a continuing facet of combat. The include/exclude rules would become MUCH more active at that point, as you could then use your Scouts to directly manipulate enemy task force composition. The Escort concept could be combined here, with anything of DD or smaller providing something like 1/2 scout function. That would give us a single mechanism (the scout rules) for handling includes/excludes, formation modification, etc. that could be used each round.

One failing of the single squadron task force model is that in larger battles you would never have the impression that a major fleet action was occurring. Each combat round could see a wildly different composition as a player swapped forces in and out. The carriers might be here this round, but then be spirited away next round after their fighters are all destroyed. Scout use would then be the only way to force these units to remain in the battle, unless the enemy fleet simply has nothing left in the reserves. This could make for some interesting tactical decisions, however, and would make it easier for a player to protect crippled ships and let more of their units survive a battle.

The only reason I'm really toying with all of this is because, based on the confusion with scenario resolution that we've had recently, if we do end up having to revise that element of the combat rules, that would be the perfect time to address any other outstanding quibbles, and if a single squadron task force does appeal to more players then it is something that we may want to take a serious look at. I'm not sold on the idea beyond it being an optional rule, but throwing ideas around to see what sticks can't hurt.
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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Sat Sep 17, 2016 8:42 pm

Don't forget that the confusion regarding scenario generation in the general discussion forum is based on 1st edition rules, not 2nd edition.

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Sep 17, 2016 9:17 pm

PaulB wrote:Don't forget that the confusion regarding scenario generation in the general discussion forum is based on 1st edition rules, not 2nd edition.


The two scenario generation rules are close enough that I think there is enough overlap between them that this could be an issue between both editions. Stefan has sent me some background on some of the issues and his attempts to flowchart the problem. That alone has been illustrative of the fact that maybe it needs to be looked at to see if any more significant changes are required to speed play while at the same time making scenario generation clearer.
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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby MarkG88 » Sun Sep 18, 2016 6:57 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:The obvious problem is the one that the extra steps in VBAM are designed to avoid: you don't want to encourage players to build all battleship fleets. VBAM gets around that by introducing the Command Cost (that SVC hates with a passion), so that larger, more powerful units cost more Command Rating to bring into a fight. You might have your Battleships leading squadrons, but you're rarely going to see a fleet composed of nothing but Battleships.


This is my absolute FAVORITE part of VBAM, I loathed the artificial F&E limit on fleet sizes. The CR-CC dynamic is elegant and realistic rule for showing Command and Control in a battle. I am also a big fan of the scout rules (Electronic warfare) and the detection rules (all 1E versions, not had time to buy and learn 2E but it's on my Christmas "wish list").

And I do agree that without it the min-maxers would build battleships and more battleships, which if you can afford it fine, but the balanced fleets are more enjoyable to me to design (and defeat).

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby mwaschak » Fri Sep 23, 2016 6:37 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote: For example, I think there was a mission that have you 1 VP per enemy ship killed. This works fine when everyone is more or less balanced and fleet sizes are small, but it falls apart the minute you have hordes of gunboats flying around. I had to work with Jay to get those fixed for WAP before it released.


Yep, and like everything in FA it was designed with FC in mind. At the time I wrote that mission there were times when a "major" encounter might be an old Fed CL with two escorts against a single D7. It took an hour to play the FC game out and yielded a VP for the campaign. It all worked nicely together and meshed. So when the missions went to 2e it needed a lot of help.

Campaign books are just hard to rip pieces out of and expect the game to play. Of all those people commenting on their forums Tony and I are still the only people there who have played it. The guys telling Cole that the FACSR is wrong are setting up games without the Encounter System (which was not shared). For those few of you who have seen FA, that is HUGE. That is where you build out scenarios based on decisions, Intel, and squadrons before the battle(s). The scenario system was built to give meaningful encounters between unique fleets in a variety of scenario types, not the stack of ships that seems to plague so many campaign systems.

So you start changing ship stats, removing squadron limits, and straight up changing things there are going to be serious issues. But, I digress. And eagerly await the SFU lurker who passes this along to ADB so they can comment about it on their forum and thus creating a viscous cycle.

-Jay

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Sep 23, 2016 7:11 pm

Image

That image really encapsulates the entirety of the Federation Admiral debate. Credit to the BGG poster that posted that to that thread. It really is apt.

As for rule changes, yes in a system like this some changes send out a ripple effect through the rest of the rules that you have to account for. Just in the discussions that the single squadron task force has had on our end, it requires a lot of assumptions to be challenged and rules to be updated because a fairly basic element has now changed. Then you have to start questioning how to deal with every element along the chain that the change touches. Do you do a minimal patch, or do you gut and replace?

Luckily VBAM is modular enough that a lot of rules can be removed and replaced without things falling apart, but something as basic as encounter resolution has significant effects on other areas of the rules.
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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Fri Sep 23, 2016 8:33 pm

What's the point of sharing FASCARs without the encounter system? If the players don't even have scenario length how can they "playtest" the system? Tony isn't even involved in the discussion for that matter and claimed no memory of playing it, so really none of the people discussing it have played it. And in the case of BGG, a few of the people talking had no interest in playing it either or at least they were certainly not contributing ideas beyond "you're wrong".

Pretty silly all around. Steve's last word on the combat system was the intention to ask Jay and other random guys to design a total new system!

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Sep 23, 2016 8:44 pm

There's a reason why the VBAM name is nowhere to be found on FA, and that's because there's not enough of the game left to even have but a passing resemblance. By the time the combat rule revision is done, I have a feeling that it will be completely alien.
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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby PaulB » Fri Sep 23, 2016 9:55 pm

Well cool that you're building a single squadron game rules to provide an option for those who want it. It's a bit too much for me to digests at the moment, but hopefully the exercise garners some interest and bears fruit. Single squadrons don't really appeal to me but I'm sure they do to others.

Also now that fed admiral development seems to be on hiatus at ADB, will be interested to hear more about War Fleet now that Jay probably has more time (as Jean had stated he was quite involved in development of FA)

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Re: Federation Admiral Public Update

Postby Shadow Warrior » Fri Sep 23, 2016 11:15 pm

I've certainly lost interest in FA, which is a shame as at one point it was (for me) the most eagerly anticipated SFU product for a decade. Trying to replicate the dull as ditchwater F&E is just nuts.


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