Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Blue? Green? Red? Refuse? It's time to talk about rules for a new community edition of the VBAM rules!

Tech Era or Tech Level?

Tech Era
6
55%
Tech Level
5
45%
 
Total votes: 11

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BroAdso
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby BroAdso » Wed May 17, 2017 10:59 am

aelius wrote:Don't take this the wrong way, It's not snark just an honest curiosity. :?:
I have never understood the need for a limit to ship classes. Maybe its because I came up with Imperial Starfire, but if I want a new class then I design a new ship and put it in production. Especially considering how much of a pain it seems to be to make sure everything necessary is available at the right place on the charts for each empire.
I could see it as an optional rule or for a campaign where the player is the admiralty instead of the emperor. But if the emperor wants a ship why shouldn't he get one?


Honestly, I think you are in some ways right. There's not always a good reason for pre-generated ship lists and they do take a lot of effort. The main reason they can be interesting is that they represent a chance to build theme and strategy in at a very early step. One power might have a ship list that emphasizes the Disruptor special ability while another might emphasize Stealth, for example, which would add a layer of strategic challenge to the game for the players.

However, I think a lot of people want more flexibility in ship design, especially given how hard tech advances are to get in VBAM in terms of time - it can feel less than thrilling if there's no ship to advance to that actually fulfills your strategic needs at the moment.

One option is to simply abstract the system we're talking about here. So, for example, the Empire has a current TL of 1 across the board, except for having a TL 2 for its Cruisers. It can use a "cheap" tech advance equal to 1x its total EP income to design a new TL 1 corvette, destroyer, battlecruiser, battleship, or any other unit. It can also use a "cheap" advance to design a TL 2 light cruiser or cruiser.

Or, it can use an "expensive" tech advance equal to 2x its system income to advance one unit group (escorts, capitals, supercapitals, orbital bases, fighters, ground) to TL 2. It may also use a MORE expensive tech advance with a cost equal to 3x its system income to advance its cruisers to TL 3.

This would make tech advances flexible (as you said, why should the space emperor have to settle for "the next ship on the list") but also meaningfully differentiated and valuable each time you get one.

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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Jun 09, 2017 2:37 am

aelius wrote:I have never understood the need for a limit to ship classes. Maybe its because I came up with Imperial Starfire, but if I want a new class then I design a new ship and put it in production. Especially considering how much of a pain it seems to be to make sure everything necessary is available at the right place on the charts for each empire.


After a lot of playtesting over the course of 2E, I came to the realization that because VBAM doesn't have the tech granularity of a game like Imperial Starfire where you're researching individual components you end up relying on your overall selection of units to define your empire's overall character. In other games you are committing resources to developing certain technologies that your opponent may not have yet, or may never be able to replicate. In VBAM, you have DV, AS, AF, etc. A finite number of stats that describe basic capabilities but doesn't concern itself with the types of weapons, components, etc. that your fleet is using.

We encountered a particularly telling scenario during the Glorious Stars playtest where, with freeform unit prototyping allowed, one player effectively replaced all of their ships with an entirely new force list. It would be like if you had a Federation player start with the Excelsior and then scrap it on Turn 1 to replace it with an all Battlestar/Viper fleet.

A fleet's doctrine as defined by its force list gives it character. Without that sense of "self", for lack of a better term, you end up with fairly cookie cutter fleets that are limited solely by the amount of economic points you have to prototype new units.

There are ways to design around this, but they don't end up giving the player particularly interesting decisions. If you are solely advancing our Tech Level to get a boost to future prototypes, then it becomes a bit soulless grind as you work to get that extra +2% point bonus every year. You'll eventually see gains, but it's not the same as unlocking a new unit each tech year.

I do agree, however, that if you ARE using a set of tactical rules where you can design your own ships and where research can net you minor upgrades, too, then freeform prototyping is not an issue at all. I had a lot of fun with Starmada Edition and prototyping new ships as I needed them. But there I had individual weapon techs to research to unlock new abilities, so even if two ships had identical VBAM stats they were still different in Starmada.

There is also something to be said for having a consistent, dependable tech tree for each faction in a 4x game. It provides a set point of reference for what the unit is and does for when players commiserate about their campaigns. It's a great shorthand for players, and a reason why total conversions for Star Trek/Wars and other properties are so popular. You mention that you ran into a Mergen Gorgship and you scratch your head and have no clue what that means. But you say that the USS Enterprise fought an Imperial Star Destroyer and players have enough context to fill in the gaps in the mental image and get a rough idea of what might be happening.

I have also found players that just hate to create their own ships, no matter how simple the construction system is :lol:
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby aelius » Mon Jun 26, 2017 6:16 am

I see where your coming from with that. And it makes sense.
Having said that, I love designing ships and always do for myself.
I can't help it, if the option is there I have to do it myself. That's one of things I like about VBAM. It actively helps the gamer run the game the way they want instead of being stuffy about the specifics.
That's how I came up with my fun mine laying fleet doctrine. Of course Galaxies seems like its going to trash that one (grumble something grumble) 8)
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby BroAdso » Tue Jun 27, 2017 1:34 am

I'm enjoying thinking about the options presented by the new, more organized Galaxies system.

Here's what the Federation might look like in this system, where each player has six tech levels, and each tech level has one slot each for Escort (CT/DD), Cruiser (CL/CA), Capital (BC/BB), Superheavy (DN/SDN), Defense (Base/Mine), Flight (FL) and Troops.

Image

There's certainly an opening for creative fleets and doctrines, as far as I can tell, though Starfleet doesn't exemplify that.
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:16 pm

Revisiting this breakdown, it looks like right now the rules have settled into 5 tech levels instead with the following tech year subdivisions:

TL-1: 3000-3004
TL-2: 3005-3009
TL-3: 3010-3014
TL-4: 3015-3019
TL-5: 3020-3024

This breaks the game timeline into 5 year chunks, and right now I have penciled that you get 10 cost of new units every tech year. This allows you to introduce a number of new units at the end of each year (making tech advancement more useful overall).

A slate of generic starting units are going to be standard to go with your empire-specific year 3000 units. Right now this looks to be a selection of basic campaign units everyone needs, with better or more specialized varieties being restricted to specific empires.

Looking at what you have for your Trek conversion, you'd probably start with the Oberth and Enterprise as pre-3000 starting units, while the Excelsior is unlocked at year 3000. The Axanar BB would probably show up alongside another support unit in the first few years, too.

The reason for this relatively rapid development cycle is that realistically most campaigns are going to last about 120 turns (10 years), which means maybe 10 years of tech development on average. Spacing tech years out every 5 game years means that you can advance 2 tech levels in a single campaign. Again, going back to your Star Trek conversion, it means you'd go from Movie Era ships to pre-TNG or early-TNG era by the end of the game.

This progression could easily be changed by reducing extending that timeline out for a given setting. For example, you could have TL-1 last from 3000-3009 and only get 5 points of new units every tech year if you'd prefer a slower tech progression.
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby BroAdso » Fri Feb 16, 2018 7:58 pm

This sounds like a pretty good idea to simplify things. To clarify, though:

A player's initial units would be 5-6 'Universal' units plus 1-2 'TL+1' units, right?

And then, each turn, the player would collect tech advancement points. The rate of collection aims to create an average of one unlock per year, but sometimes players could unlock more than one unit per year. Each tech level consists of five 'unlocks,' after which the player can proceed to the next tech level.

We don't expect that the players will unlock all 25 potential units in a given game. Instead, players accumulate tech points each turn. With average game length of 10 years (120 turns), they should accumulate enough tech points to unlock between 10-15 new units across all 120 turns.

By assuming a longer game timeframe, decreasing the number of tech points required to unlock a unit, or increasing the rate of gain for tech points, you allow players more unlocks if you want to use more units over the course of a game.

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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:06 pm

The initial spread of units is currently covering everything that you'll need as a baseline to play the game. That means ships through CA size (have being been doing through CL, but that seems limiting), including support craft, starbases, and troops. Unique versions could be created for each empire, but there would not likely be enough variation to really warrant this. This approach ensures that you will have enough units available that you can field a balanced fleet while also having things like a Scout, Supply, or Assault vessel available, albeit a pretty basic model.

The tech progression is currently up to 10 cost of ships per year. This may prove to be too quick, and it could be scaled back by half, but realistically most games are over within 10 years and we need there to be a reason for players to invest in research. Otherwise, with tech advancement being evaluated every 12 turns, you need to have enough of a carrot on the end of the stick to make it appealing to spend resources on new units rather than just building more of the ones that you've got.

The problem with having too few (or incredibly low cost) units available at each tech year is that then you feel a bit shafted when you spend an entire year developing a new fighter but your neighbor does the same and gets a dreadnought.

A middleground between the fast and slow tech advancement may be to reduce to 5 cost of units per turn (but at least one unit) and double the length of the tech level "windows" to 10 turns. Then the default would be a slower tech advancement rate, but then it would be easy to have an optional rule that says that each tech advancement increases your tech year by 2 instead of 1, in effect speeding the tech gain back up.

The net effect would be that I could end up getting a 6-pt Heavy Cruiser this tech year, but next year I could get a 1-pt Flight and a 4-pt Frigate.
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