Intelligence Rules

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Intelligence Rules

Postby wadewan » Mon Sep 26, 2016 3:12 am

Tyrel,

I was reading through the items you are considering as optional or revised rules, specifically Intelligence. I recently struggled with implementation of this rule and tried different approaches to the issue and found myself wanting to split my Intelligence resources into offensive and defensive to represent something along the lines of the CIA/HLS deployment where it takes dedicated resources to each endeavor.

Not sure how to get there but I am/was considering something like purchasing offensive and defensive assets/networks and then paying EPs to perform operations/missions. Perhaps allowing the networks to perform the opposite mission at 50% effectiveness. I also tried designing Intelligence units with ratings to reflect racial traits from The Menagerie along with Crew Quality (Green-Legendary). One approach could be something like Two-Hour Wargames 5150 rules with opposing 2d6 roll system that gives variable results.

The rules as written do work but I felt at first blush that Intelligence was pretty expensive risk versus reward and far too quick to deploy. Seems like there should be a time element to infiltrate, gather information and perform the mission.

By the way I got stumped trying to visualize how an agent would effectively operate in a very alien world.

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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Sep 26, 2016 3:32 am

Intel has been extremely hard to nail down. I'm still going back and forth between the 1E system and the one that I wrote for 2E, but striking the right sort of balance is hard. There's also the risk of creating a perfectly functional system that nonetheless seems out of place. I've run into a several 4x games where that is the case, and Intel becomes some sort of meta-game that players just don't want to deal with. "I'd rather have no Espionage system than a bad Espionage system" I read one player remark, and I think they're right.

You could track separate offensive and defensive Intel separately, but I think that would end up driving you bonkers. Another option would be to track Intel as a singular entity, but then have it only serve as the baseline defensive Intel and the POTENTIAL use of offensive missions by then paying economic points to fun the mission. The Intel assets would still be tied together, but you wouldn't be converting them back and forth like you are now.

VBAM 1E had the opposite problem of having a seesaw effect where a mission was either trivially easy to complete or impossibly hard. I tried to balance that out a bit, but I think I erred towards the "too expensive" path in 2E. The 2E Intel is a reusable resource, with just the potential for loss, but it makes it very expensive to invest in Intel as a resource. I'm going to try a middle ground between that and 1E and see what comes of it. It might backfire, but at least then I'll know what works and what doesn't.

The best Intel system that I've really ever found was the Master of Orion (MOO1) Intel rules. They have a 100 point (percentile) scale, with pass/failure split 50/50 but with different splits for detection. You then add your Computer tech level and subtract the enemy's Computer tech level (with Computer tech representing the difficulty of infiltrating data networks). I adapted a similar system to VBAM during 2E and was really tempted to use it, substituting either offensive/defensive Intel or Tech Year for the Computer tech modifier. It worked good in sandbox testing, but it was so close to MOO that I felt that sticking the classic VBAM MFP system was better for the book.

As for how the agent effectively operates on an alien world, I think it involves a Hawaiian tee shirt and a pair of Groucho Marx glasses. It's the perfect disguise!

Seriously, though, they are probably just buying off some locals that are unhappy and willing to accept some extra credits. :)
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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby wadewan » Mon Sep 26, 2016 4:19 am

Another thought is that Intelligence purchased in a friendly system represents the domestic assets and each Intelligence point purchased in another empire represents the network assets used to conduct espionage in that system.

Missions could be performed further into the other empire using the (less one) per jump rule already in place. With mission success based on your 50/50 concept modified by attacker's Intel, defender's Intel, mission difficulty and then Intelligence Operations point expenditure.

I want to clarify my statement regarding risk versus reward. What I meant is that you could end up loosing one or more Intelligence points costing 10+ EPs to cause less than 10 EPs worth of damage and works for me.

Regarding the disguise for our secret agents, don't forget the green suntan lotion!

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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Sep 26, 2016 5:51 pm

Here is a link to a wiki article that explains how MOO handled their spying:

http://strategywiki.org/wiki/Master_of_Orion/Spying

I can't say strongly enough how I feel that MOO really did this "right" from the perspective of simplicity and results when it comes to the success/failure roll. The number of spies that you have is more esoteric, which is the bridge that has to be crossed to fully convert to VBAM, but I think the offensive/defensive split is sufficient to at least make it so that an even match up will get close to 50/50.

I'd be curious to hear what Intel options other players have tried in their campaigns? Every group is different, and I think Intel is one of the more divisive topics in the game.
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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Sep 28, 2016 3:46 am

As an update, I have added a more fleshed out concept of Intel using the MOO system to the VBAM Galaxies doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1s_D79OLARD_h3yleVnDjK1FLNsdWbjbJvqTdimk_BGo/edit?usp=sharing

Here is the table and two examples (pardon the formatting):

Code: Select all

MOO VBAM Intel Result Table (d20)
Roll   Success   Discovered   Frame
5-      No      Yes         No
6-10   No      No         No
11-15   Yes      Yes         No
16-19   Yes      No         No
20+      Yes      No         Yes


Example 1: The Kili are performing an Intel mission against a Brindaki world that has 5 Intel. The Kili have 3 Offensive Intel on the mission. The Kili player rolls a d20 and gets a 12. He adds his Offensive Intel (3) and subtracts the Brindaki’s Defensive Intel (5) to get a modified die result of 10. The Kili mission failed, but they were not discovered.

Example 2: The Senorians are trying to destroy a Loran base (CC 4). The Lorans have 5 Intel in the target system, but the Senorians have 7 Offensive Intel on the mission. The Senorians roll a 17 + 7 Offensive Intel - 9 Defensive Intel (5 Intel, 4 CC) = 15 for the mission roll. The mission was a success, but the Senorians were discovered.

This approach would get rid the MFP where you go Defensive Intel / Offensive Intel which is notoriously difficult to balance. It means, all things being equal, you have a 50/50 chance of success, and 50/50 chance of being detected. The greater your advantage the more likely you are to succeed, and the more disadvantaged you are the more likely you are to fail.

The biggest change required is that you'd have to change the mission difficulties, but that might even be fortuitous because it allows for a bit more variety and balancing. For example, on a Sabotage: Ship mission, you could have the difficulty be equal to the target's CC. That way it will be easier to target a Destroyer than a Battleship.

It all eventually comes down to a battle between my Intel vs. your Intel. If I can muster enough then I am going to win, which is something that MFP is a bit better at. However, range penalties to reduce effective Offensive Intel is going to help a lot, and I could roll back the "Intel in other systems" rule from 2E so that you can only PURCHASE Intel in your own systems, but then moving them to an enemy system would require loading them on to a convoy and physically trucking them over and dropping them off. That might open some more interesting doors when you start to think that your trading partner might be moving Intel in on transport or trade fleets as they move through your space, and dropping them off.

Alternatively, if we no longer want to deal with tracking Intel in systems we don't own (I can understand the desire), then just having a trade fleet in a system might be enough to give a small Intel bonus.

Intel would move back to being a expendable commodity like in 1E under this system, but you'd no longer have the Intel Pool and would instead be purchasing it on the system level, so you'd have to be a bit more deliberate about where you purchase it. I would increase the Intel cap to being equal to Carrying Capacity (instead of Census), and possibly have the max you can purchase each turn be equal to either Census OR Morale. Morale would make a great limiter, as it is typically lower than Census and would better reflect that it would be harder to recruit reliable operatives in systems that are more disloyal to your cause.

I could still see maybe moving Intel between your own systems via Convoys, but that's kind of on the edge of "you can do it, but should you?"
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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby aelius » Wed Sep 28, 2016 5:11 pm

I like this system. I never really like the MFP system, it always seemed overly complex.
However I do like being able to purchase intel in foreign systems, this allows for strategic placement of spy networks. Making it more expensive the further from your empire seems a good balancing method.
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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Sep 28, 2016 5:53 pm

Image

Here's a map that I threw together this morning that we can use for testing some assumptions. Here's a direct link for those that want a bigger version.

I was thinking about this more last night, and I think we can have the mission difficulty be based on existing stats, be it system values or construction costs.

For example, let's say that the difficulty of a Sabotage mission is equal to the construction cost of the unit that you're targeting. The Blue empire things that the Red empire has a Battleship (12 EP) in Golf and they want to try and kill it using Intel.

They don't have any Intel in Golf (I'm sticking to domestic Intel for now), so they have to rely on their other systems. Hotel will spend 5 Intel (+4 Offensive Intel), India 4 Intel (+2 Offensive Intel), and Delta 3 Intel (+1 Offensive Intel). Echo, Foxtrot, Bravo, and Alpha could all help, too, but we would be spending a lot of Intel just to extend the range. So we have a total of 7 Offensive Intel, at an effective cost of 12 Intel (i.e., the same as the Battleship we are trying to destroy!). The Defensive Intel is 3 (Golf) + 12 (Battleship Cost) = 15.

We roll our d20 and get a 9. We add our 7 and subtract their 15 and get a 1. Ouch. We failed miserably.

Now, looking at the chart, at a -8 modifier we only had a 10% chance of success, so it shouldn't be surprising that we did so poorly. If we'd thrown the extra 14 Intel in Echo, Foxtrot, and Bravo at it, we would have been able to get another +5 to our roll, and then the success chance would have increased to 35%. Still not great, but much better than before.

However, if we are using Carrying Capacity as our max Intel (which I'm proposing as a change), then Hotel could house 11 Intel (there was only 5 Intel there in this example). That would have made a big difference, as then we could have concentrated our Intel assets there without paying the horrendous range costs from our other systems.

Reliably sabotaging a unit at that point is still fairly expensive, which it should be because we're not endangering our own ships. If it proves too difficult, we could always use CC instead of cost. If we had done that in our previous example, the Defensive Intel would only have been 3 + 5 = 8 (instead of 15). Then we would have been only at a -1 to our roll, and we would have had a modified 8 on our roll. That's still a failure, but we weren't detected.

1/2 Construction Cost would be another option, and would be better for civilian units that don't have CC. That would be only slightly different, but is more compatible.

Along similar lines, let's say the Red player wants to run an Insurgency mission against Echo using Kilo (+2 Offensive Intel) and Papa (+4 Offensive Intel). The difficulty of the mission would be based on the Census, and based on our previous example it would probably be 1/2 Census, rounding down (Difficulty 1). That gives the Reds a +6 and the Blues a -4 (1 Difficulty + 3 Intel). The Reds roll and get a 14 + 6 - 4 = 16. The mission was successful and Echo loses 1 Morale, and the Red were NOT discovered! Woohoo!

This mission cost the Reds 9 Intel (effectively 9 economic points).

The Blues now want to try and do a Counter-Insurgency on Echo to raise the Morale by 1. They want to be fairly sure of success, so they are going to use Echo (+3 Intel), Foxtrot (+3 Intel), and Juliet (+2 Intel) for a total of +8 Offensive Intel. The Difficulty should be higher for this mission because it is always going to be used against friendly systems where Defensive Intel doesn't apply, so we'll use full Census for 2 difficulty and thus 2 Defensive Intel. The roll is 19 + 8 -1 = 26. An unmitigated success!
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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Sep 28, 2016 6:04 pm

Building on all of this, if we wanted players to still be able to have Intel in foreign systems (I didn't like that addition to the rules!), I think we have a few options for getting there.

The first is to use a similar system to how 2E does it, where you pay a range penalty for purchasing Intel, so that the cost is 1 plus the distance from your nearest colony. If Blue wanted to put some Intel at Golf, they'd be spending 2 EP for 1 Intel there, or to get Intel at Quebec would be costing 4 EP per Intel.

A second option would be to rip a page from the 1E Underworld Empire rules and allow convoys to load and move Intel. That would turn civilian ships into possible spies and make players a little more suspicious of each other when they start trading together.
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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby aelius » Wed Sep 28, 2016 6:52 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:Building on all of this, if we wanted players to still be able to have Intel in foreign systems (I didn't like that addition to the rules!), I think we have a few options for getting there.

The first is to use a similar system to how 2E does it, where you pay a range penalty for purchasing Intel, so that the cost is 1 plus the distance from your nearest colony. If Blue wanted to put some Intel at Golf, they'd be spending 2 EP for 1 Intel there, or to get Intel at Quebec would be costing 4 EP per Intel.

A second option would be to rip a page from the 1E Underworld Empire rules and allow convoys to load and move Intel. That would turn civilian ships into possible spies and make players a little more suspicious of each other when they start trading together.


I like this, especially the sending in spies with your trade fleets. Trade is a great way to boost your economy, but it opens you up to espionage. And whats funny is it doesn't even have to be against the owner of the system. I might set up shop in a trade partners system just to get closer to an enemy system.
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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Sep 28, 2016 7:58 pm

aelius wrote:I like this, especially the sending in spies with your trade fleets. Trade is a great way to boost your economy, but it opens you up to espionage. And whats funny is it doesn't even have to be against the owner of the system. I might set up shop in a trade partners system just to get closer to an enemy system.

It would make it even easier if we restricted it to trade fleets. That way the rule would be "...you can purchase Intel in systems you control or that contain one of your trade fleets..." so that you wouldn't pay a surcharge for purchasing Intel in systems where you have a trade fleet.

As you said, that would let you build up some Intel in a friendly system so that you can start spying on another enemy :twisted:

Establishing meaningful Intel in an enemy's systems would remain fairly difficult to do, and after declaring war on a former trading partner you might have to actually worry about doing Counter-Intel missions to try and root out the spies that they left behind.
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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby aelius » Thu Sep 29, 2016 6:44 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:
aelius wrote:I like this, especially the sending in spies with your trade fleets. Trade is a great way to boost your economy, but it opens you up to espionage. And whats funny is it doesn't even have to be against the owner of the system. I might set up shop in a trade partners system just to get closer to an enemy system.

It would make it even easier if we restricted it to trade fleets. That way the rule would be "...you can purchase Intel in systems you control or that contain one of your trade fleets..." so that you wouldn't pay a surcharge for purchasing Intel in systems where you have a trade fleet.


True, but if you do it both ways the extra cost would represent the difficulty of building a network without support or cover. And if Intel only costs one EP then +1 per system distant is a significant penalty.
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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Oct 10, 2016 8:14 pm

I think I've overcome a bit of the mental block that I had with how to handle the mission difficulty levels in Galaxies if we move to the d20 based Intel mission result table.

The first thing I did was take difficulty level 1 (the base in VBAM) and then set that as our 50% (+0) baseline chance of success for Galaxies. I then took 1 divided by each subsequent difficulty level and multiplied it by 50% to find the relative chance of success. This led to the following:

1: 50%
2: 25%
3: 17%
4: 12%
5: 10%

As you can see, the VBAM system leads to diminishing returns over time, which is not possible with a linear table like we're looking at for Galaxies. However, the progression is such from 1-5 that we can easily extrapolate difficulties from there. A difficulty level 5 mission would be the equivalent of 8 Defensive Intel, for a difficulty level of 8 in the new system.

What this comes down to, then, is translating about where we think certain missions should fall on the scale. We won't have a smooth 1-4 range like in the base rules, but we do have a greater range of values to work with for Sabotage missions now, especially when it come to sabotaging military units.

Alternatively, if keeping the existing difficulties was more important, we could shift to a d10 instead of d20, but this would make each point of Intel be a +-10% swing in chance (vs +-5%) and the even 25/25/25/25 split on success/detection would be lost. For that reason I think the d20 offers the better level of granularity. It also seems to balance the cost better.

For example, let's say that the difficulty level of a Sabotage: Ship mission was equal to 1/2 Construction Cost (round down). Using that mission to target an enemy heavy cruiser (CA) would then be a difficulty 4 mission. I have put 6 Intel offensively on the mission, and the defender has 3 Intel defensive in the system. I get a total 6 Offensive Intel vs. 7 Defensive Intel (Defensive + Difficulty), which gives me a 45% chance of success.

In the above example, if the defender hadn't had any Intel in the system to defend then the mission's chance of success would have increased to 65%, or about 2/3.

Thus we create a dynamic at least for ships of being about guaranteed success on a 1:1 ratio of Intel to unit cost. That makes sabotaging units a reasonable strategy, especially as it would destroy rather than just damage them.

Things like Insurgency missions could be made variable, too, but I think it's still better there to keep the mission flat. Insurgency was difficulty 2 in 1E, so in that would difficulty 5 in a pure translation. I would probably reduce this, though, as I don't think it needs to be quite that difficult. I think 3 might be fine, with a Coup at 6. But we'd have to really test to see if these work as intended, or if it becomes too easy for players to combine Intel from friendly systems. I don't think so, but sometimes these concepts don't survive "battle with the enemy" as far as playtesting goes.
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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby aelius » Tue Oct 11, 2016 8:51 pm

That seems reasonable. I am not attached to the old difficulty numbers and if this keeps the same rough percentages while eliminating the MFP calculations then that makes it a bonus.
I have to admit I have always preferred tables to calculation formula when practical.
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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby BroAdso » Sun Oct 23, 2016 12:19 pm

Finally had a chance this morning while procrastinating to play around with the Intelligence rules a bit. I really do like the way they work right now with the D20 model.

I left these comments on the Doc, but here are my thoughts:

1) is using the Census value of the originating system a relic? The Intel game can be made more dynamic by using just the jump distance as a modifier and then letting players invest as many intel points as they want in a mission. This allows players to gamble hard and go all-in on a single mission, at risk of not spending enough on Defensive intel elsewhere. If you wanted to make missions a little harder and costlier, you could use the jump distance from the player's homeworld or nearest supply depot or something based on that.

Example: it is five jumps from my homeworld to the nearest enemy border world. I know little about this world, so I invest 10 Military Intel in a System Info mission. The enemy has 2 Defensive Intel there and it is a difficulty 1 mission. My modifier to the D20 becomes 10-(5 + 2 + 1) = +3.

Example 2: It is 10 jumps between my homeworld and the enemy homeworld, but I've saved up intel for many months to make a daring attempt to strike the convoys I am sure, sight unseen, are present there. I invest 30 intel points (ugh, the cost of a whole Productivity increase) in a Sabotage (Civilian) mission. It's their homeworld, so they have 7 defensive intel. Sabotage (Civilian) missions are Difficulty 2. So my modifier to my dice roll is 30-(7+10+2)=+12. It will be nearly impossible for me to fail (except that natural 1), but was it really worth it? That was a lot of EP invested in my Military Intel pool.

2) Some of the missions might need a bit of adjustment in the new Galaxies rules. I noted these on the doc.

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Re: Intelligence Rules

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Oct 23, 2016 5:24 pm

Census is a relic from 1E. I moved to Carrying Capacity and entirely localized Intel in 2E, but that still didn't end up feeling quite right.

Using supply depots or your homeworld as Intel hubs and the range from there as the penalty could work. I would still worry about the max Intel on the mission, although I guess if you're willing to sink more than the cost of the target in then that's your choice.

Let me go find an old map that we could use as a theorycraft basis... here's the old B5 campaign that I did ages ago:

b5 atsfos map 2225.pdf
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In this case, let's say that the Narn want to do a Sabotage: Population mission (-5) against the Centauri homeworld of Centauri Prime. If we are going homeworld to target, that would be 4 jumps (-4). The Centauri have 6 Defensive Intel (-6), not that the Narns know that. I still don't think we can go completely unrestricted, as that break the framing system. Let's instead say that the max we can spend is still equal to Census for our first pass, so that's going to be 10 Intel.

Our chance is then 10 - 5 (difficulty) - 4 (range) - 6 (defensive) = -5. We roll a "6" and get a "1". We failed pretty spectacularly.

Which is what I would expect for that difficult of a mission over that distance, but four jumps isn't really that far away. But the defensive Intel was more of the problem here. If I had been able to do twice as much Intel, then I would have had a +5 giving me an "11". The mission would have succeeded, but I'd have been discovered.

Using the higher Intel limit made it possible to reach out and have some chance of performing a mission, which is good, but let's see what happens if we applied the same logic to supply depots.

The Narns have the equivalent of a supply depot at Dar'kar (3 Productivity in the old rules). There are also 3 Census there. If we had wanted to use this system instead, then it would have reduced our range to Centauri Prime by 2 jumps, but our max Intel would have been 6 instead of Homeworld's 22. Obviously in that case a player would never use the colony, they would just use their homeworld.

However, I don't think we want unrestricted Intel because it breaks the Intel rules too much. You'd be pretty much guaranteed to both succeed and frame someone else every time. Instead, we need to have a "matched" battle between the two systems.

Another option we have is to break apart the limits on the system level so that Census is the max Intel (offensive or defensive) and Productivity is the max range. Then we wouldn't have a range penalty, just a max operational range, and we could keep things in balance for game purposes.

In that case, Narn has 11 Census and Centauri Prime has 10 Census. Let's say we're still doing Sabotage: Population (-5) and that our Intel (offense/defense) are maxed. That leaves us with a -4 modifier.

One of my biggest problems with the 1E Intel model is that it is so ephemeral. You're basically just converting EP into Intel and spending them from there. That's part of the reason I moved to the system focused Intel in 2E, making it more expensive and therefore more useful.

That is always a possibility here I guess, too. Make Intel another stat just like Census, Morale, and Productivity, and improve it using the same rules for Productivity (10 x new level). That would make losing Intel hurt, and it would be self limiting. Then the Intel could act defensively for free, but the offensive use would take an application of EP based on the distance involved and maybe the amount of Intel being used. That ensures there is an opportunity cost to use the ability.

Example: The Narn Homeworld has 5 Intel and is going to target Centauri Prime with a Sabotage: Population (-5) mission. The range is 4 jumps, and the Narn are using all 5 Intel, for a total mission cost of 9 EP. The Centauri have 6 Intel in Centauri Prime. The modifier is then 5 - 5 (Difficulty) - 6 (Defensive) = -6.

The above example highlights that maybe the mission difficulty shouldn't be a modifier to the success/failure, but instead be the base cost for the mission? Get rid of difficulty entirely, and instead have that be called Mission Cost. Then Sabotage: Population might be a Cost 10 mission, which means it costs 10 EP + Intel + Range to attempt it.

The reason for paying to activate Intel in that model is that it would still let a system split its Intel between multiple missions if the player wanted to say use 3 Intel on one mission and 2 Intel on another.

Just throwing some concepts out there. The above would make Intel into more of a static resources that you invest into, like in 2E, but with an economic cost to perform missions so as to prevent players from just spamming Intel missions constantly.
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