VBAM Galaxies

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

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Sep 30, 2016 12:02 pm

What is VBAM Galaxies?
VBAM Galaxies is the working title for a "community edition" of the VBAM rules that was born from a discussion of potential changes and updates to the encounter and strategic combat resolution rules that came up on the forums.

The goal of Galaxies is to let the entire community get together to hash out the best of the 1E, 2E, and optional rules and put together a working copy of what those rules might look like. This is a sandbox for testing new concepts, seeing what works, and what should be adopted back into the main VBAM product.

VBAM Galaxies GoogleDoc
To make collaboration easier, I've shared a GoogleDoc for us to use in developing the rules. Public users have comment rights on the document at present, which means you can go in, comment, and even add text to the book. Check it out!

VBAM Galaxies

Galactic Companion

Lost in a Sea of Stars

Engineering Manual

Carrier Wars


How will this affect other VBAM products?
That is largely up in the air right now. This is meant to run in parallel, however if we end up really catching fire in a bottle with improvements to the rules, then many of those updates could find themselves folded back into the main VBAM rules. This is more of a "skunkworks" to see what works and what doesn't and provide a public environment for playtest and discussion.

There's a chance that Galaxies could end up evolving into a revised version of VBAM 2E, but there's also a chance that it might just be a "here's another approach to the rules" parallel edition that will feed more into a Third Edition several years down the road.
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Oct 08, 2016 2:33 pm

For those that can't or don't want to visit the GoogleDoc, here is a PDF export from this morning of the current content. I've also increased the forum attachment size limit to accommodate some of these larger files.

VBAMGalaxies 20161007.pdf
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby murtalianconfederacy » Sun Oct 09, 2016 9:18 am

Thanks. I've only used GoogleDocs once, and wasn't that keen...
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Oct 09, 2016 3:44 pm

murtalianconfederacy wrote:Thanks. I've only used GoogleDocs once, and wasn't that keen...


It works great for collaboration, but when the document gets this long it does start stuttering a bit. I'll try to get better about uploading newer copies here, at least once every couple of days or as major sections are completed.
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Oct 10, 2016 10:55 pm

What section of the rules do you guys want to see through to completion first? The new single squadron task force rules? Or something else? I feel like I have enough plates in the air right now that it would be good for us to concentrate on one thing and finish it and then test it before the anvil cools down too much.

And everyone that came to check things out after the announcement, don't be afraid to post anything and everything that you want. This forum is wide open to your thoughts, suggestions, what you like or don't like about VBAM, things that you'd like to see or rules that you'd like to talk about.
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby aelius » Tue Oct 11, 2016 9:01 pm

Single Squadron rules for my part. But they depend on a number of other rules for completion. Primarily the ship construction, and especially important, special ability rules. they at least would have to be nearly complete before the combat rules could be finalized.
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Oct 11, 2016 9:57 pm

aelius wrote:Single Squadron rules for my part. But they depend on a number of other rules for completion. Primarily the ship construction, and especially important, special ability rules. they at least would have to be nearly complete before the combat rules could be finalized.

Then that's where I'll concentrate my energies tonight. I will get the special abilities moved over and then slot in their rules to the document where appropriate (at least in note form), and then I'll get back to the Encounter Phase and see what other rules need rearranged.

Some aspects of the single squadron combat rules that BroAdso and I have been working on are probably not going to survive contact with the enemy (the enemy being me, I am the enemy), but I'll try not to cut too deep. But I have had some changes percolating the last week that I think might make the combat round order of operations flow a bit more smoothly. Whether or not it will is another question entirely.

I'll be posting more random threads here as I run into questions that I think we should discuss as a group. I know from experience that we all play the game differently, and getting outside input on some issues really helps discover new avenues for exploring the rules.
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Oct 13, 2016 4:59 am

Here is another PDF export of the Galaxies draft. I have rearranged some of the content, but most of the changes are in the Space Combat Phase (was Encounters Phase) section. I am trying to reorganize that chapter to make sense and include all of the necessary rules for playtesting the single squadron task force rules.

One thing I have done is move the Special Missions to their own phase, limited by flagship CR. I then moved the Scout missions to an Electronic Warfare step and split the existing Scout missions that affected unit AS/AF into new special abilities (Suppression and Fire Control). Now Scout functions are just applied into one of four categories (Guardian, Disruptor, Suppression, Fire Control) which align with the specific unit abilities. This makes Scouts very versatile, but they pay for this via the +1 Maint cost increase. Jammers reduce Scout functions but don't affect the other points, although we may choose to change that aspect of Jammers after some more playtesting.

The cost for Electronic Warfare missions is equal to the target's CC. Therefore it is cheaper to affect an escort, but more expensive to affect a heavy capital ship. With the proposed change of CC to being Cost / 4 (round up), we end up with escorts (CT/DD) at CC 1, cruisers (CL/CA) at CC 2, and capital ships (CB/BB) at CC 3. The DN goes up to CC 4. The SD and TN will need to be balanced around these changes. It may also be worth bumping the DN up to 16 EP / CC 4, SD to 20 EP / CC 5, and TN to 24 EP / CC 6. I think raising the DN to that cost might be a bit much, as that would increase the number of construction points it has available to a possibly unfavorable level, but that's something we'll have to playtest. I kind of liked it where it was at right now.

The SD and TN are really our outliers, and those are probably not going to be used very often. In my own conversion tests I have rarely had ships bigger than a BB, and in those instances the jump from BB to DN was more to show a vessel that was marginally more powerful. Which probably speaks to the DN staying more or less where it's at and being a special case, or splitting the difference and going to 15 EP with only a modest boost in construction points.

Anyway, going back to the Scout missions, it will means that a CC 3 BB is going to require 3 Guardian functions to gain its +1 formation bonus. The reason for this scaling is because larger units benefit from or are harmed more than smaller units.

A Scouting mission is still in the special mission actions for the task force, and fleets that don't have any Scouts can always use escorts to fulfill that role for them. It burns up a few ships that would otherwise have been firing at the enemy, but if you have a good enough command ship that might not be a big deal.

Speaking of command, I can see that CR is going to be a very crucial stat to "get right" since you can't have a multitude of squadrons to bring ships in anymore. I originally erred on the low side with this, but I think it's going to be common to see CC x 3 in most cases as a baseline for CR. That way a decent CA would be CR 6 and be able to bring in itself plus 6 other ships. That creates a pretty solid task force, and about the equivalent of 2 squadrons in the old rules. The task force command limits of course don't care about CC, as the command costs are now *actual* command costs that tell you how much it costs to assign a command to the unit. That CR 6 heavy cruiser of ours could give special mission commands to up to 6 CC of units. That is going to give it a lot of options for helping fill in the gaps and defend units that need protecting or dispatch ships on dedicated AS/AF missions.

As my previous battle reports demonstrated (unexpectedly, in the case of the Narn/Klingon battle), having an all battlecruiser/battleship fleet is going to be great for concentrating firepower but horrible for survivability. The leftover damage rule makes it imperative that you keep some escorts around to soak up hits if at all possible, and the special mission command limits mean that you're going to have less ability to issue special orders to those larger ships compared to a fleet of smaller, more versatile vessels.

I am still concerned with CR that we could end up with some pretty one-sided fighters where one side might have many smaller units but the enemy has a better command ship and can field more units at once. For example, I have 20 CT with a high CR of 3 (4 ship task force), while my enemy only has 10 ships but has a 9 CR and can include all 10 ships in his task force from the start of the battle. What should be a successful swarm attack will come into a battle of attrition with the corvette fleet being destroyed in waves. We might be able to get around this with a "command multiplier" that kicks in if you outnumber your opponent sufficiently, but we'd have to explore those options. A very simple spot rule would be that if have >= 2 times as many units as your opponent than your task force command limit is doubled. That would allow the CR 3 corvette to become an effective CR 6 for the purposes of including ships only.

Speaking of includes, in this draft I moved the include/exclude back to a scenario setup factor. I think the Intel costs should be tied to CC now, but I didn't make that update and instead copied over the 1E rules as a baseline to start with. After reading Charlie's NEA diary I realized that one important use of those rules is to keep ships out of harm's way so that they can be guaranteed to disengage. The original rules used Intel, but I think Scouts or Scout functions should be sufficient, with a rule that allows Intel to be substituted on a 1:1 basis if you happen to have Intel in the system to burn.

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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:58 pm

As we continue to advance on Galaxies and get to the point of playtesting, I thought it would be good to throw out a document for us to start working on the "Galactic Companion" that will have advanced rules for Galaxies. That way we can push content over that we decide doesn't fit in the basic rules and start brainstorming what we want to see in that book.

Galactic Companion


The document is mostly blank for now and is waiting for us to start mapping out what you liked from the 1E Companion and what we already had slated for the 2E Companion. What do you want to see in this book?

What the hell, here's a blank doc for starting to map out the Lost in a Sea of Stars book, too:

Lost in a Sea of Stars

Lost is more interesting for me as it is going to focus on solo play, and for Galaxies I think it would be better to move a lot of the solo content over there. The Companion could then shift to being more a potpourri. But that is something that we can all discuss and debate!

What the hell, why not throw out a collaborative scenario pack where we can discuss what you might want to see in larger scenario supplements? Jay's always talked about doing a "Carrier Wars" book for VBAM, maybe this would be a good opportunity to discuss what players would actually like to see in that?

Carrier Wars

And I haven't created a blank document for it yet, but I have been toying with the idea of doing a "War Logs" series that we could put out with our VBAM products that would include rules discussions, playing advice, new rules that might not fit anywhere else, etc. I'm not sure what interest there would be in that. If we put a lot of resources into it we'd have to charge to recoup art costs, but otherwise it could be a freebie that we just do quarterly or something to keep new content coming out.

I look forward to getting some feedback on these. I know Galaxies has a ways to go to get to a stable format itself, but I want to make sure that any future content we do is presented in a manner that is accessible and usable by you guys. It also helps to get some extra eyes on content that is going to be released one way or the other :)
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Oct 15, 2016 11:54 pm

I got side tracked last night with an unexpected visit by family, but I managed to jump back in and make some headway on converting 1E rules into the Galaxies doc for moving cargo, ground combat, and Intel.

After I cook supper I'll be back to play some more of my test campaign and see how some of these changes pan out there. I may hold off doing any major updates until I've got more feedback from you guys and have tested the current changes to see how they hold up.

If I do jump into the rules again, it will probably be to write some "fun" rules for the supplements or else start mapping out the Galaxies equivalents of First Contact and the Bintari/K'Thonn supplement that I have some art for and really need to just finish.
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Oct 19, 2016 1:21 pm

As an update, last night I filled in the space combat scenarios with the rules that we have nailed down so far. I think those are about finished, barring any last minute changes or updates when I finish the Scout use in scenario setup section.

Speaking of that, I am going to change the Scout use so that you have to spend Intel to pull those off. Now that we're back to cheap 1E-style Intel it makes sense to have to spend Intel from the Military Intel Pool to pull off those kinds of things. That where there is an opportunity cost to the Scout use.

I also changed the special traits table around a bit to make Homeworlds and Anomalies more likely. I am thinking about making the Homeworld trait a bit different, but I haven't decided that yet. I think the player homeworlds might be the ones that get the two traits by default and not everyone, but I'm still on the fence on that one. I need to run through some sample cases and finish writing the Homeworlds section rule for sysgen to figure that out. I just decided that we would want the chance of an inhabited system to be better.

The Intel rules should be more or less complete and ready for review/testing, too.

I think Movement is going to be my next major focus for the coming week. I haven't heard any real objections to that so far, and I can start writing up the notes and redoing the examples.
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Oct 24, 2016 5:00 am

Here's another PDF copy of the Galaxies draft for those that have issues with the GoogleDocs version. We're still filling in rules and making clarifications to existing rules, but things are firming up bit by bit. Once Chapter 3 is done then we can concentrate more on the unit design and game setup chapters to make sure everything is explained there.
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Oct 25, 2016 2:47 pm

Just a short update to let everyone know the recent updates from yesterday in the Google Doc:

  • I filled in text in the Economic Phase, combining 1E/2E verbiage where appropriate.
  • Filled in the first part of the Tech Phase text. I am unsure if the Tech Trading, Operating Alien Units, and Reverse Engineering should stay in the core rules or be moved to the optional rules. I'll need feedback on that.
  • Started on the supply depot rule entry in the Supply Phase.
  • I updated the Colony Phase to make outposts simpler and integrate some ideas for Rebellion.

I think I'm at a point that I'll need to get more feedback from everyone here before proceeding much farther with the rest of the rules. I can work on the unit design rules a bit and continue playtesting, but we are nearing a point on Galaxies where most of the major content is there with the exception of the Intel changes that would represent a pretty major update -- but one that shouldn't take too long to integrate into the rules.

I have to move the cargo rules around and finish working on blockades.

Otherwise, we're very nearly to the point of filling in notes based on playtesting and questions and then seeing if everything holds together in testing.
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby murtalianconfederacy » Wed Oct 26, 2016 9:10 am

I think I should explain something--namely, my objection to the new combat rules. I've always been of what I've termed the Grand Fleet school--namely, a fleet that in Starmada would cost 10-20k points (!), and the 'new' rules with only one 'squadron' now makes it much more unlikely that I'll be able to do that. Another objection I've had is that with the initial conversation, it seemed more like a VBAM 3rd edition than something that could be slotted into the 2nd edition, and the current wider situation has led me to start thinking of reducing even further my budget for gaming acquisitions. I'm just looking at getting the 2nd edition CC and various other 2nd edition books then retiring to the sidelines and hope that everything stabilises in time for me to consider buying other things.

Sorry for the rambling, but I've had that building up and just needed to let it out.
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Re: VBAM Galaxies

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Oct 26, 2016 1:13 pm

It's good to get those kinds of objections out there in the open so that we can discuss them and figure out what we can do to address them.

Do you have any examples from past VBAM/Starmada campaigns of the size of fleet battles that you commonly resolve? Right off the top of my head I think there are a few easy optional rules rules that address the issue, but I need to see the size of fleets that you're normally dealing with to get a better sense for if those will be tenable solutions or not.

It still remains to be seen if Galaxies hangs together well enough to become the basis for a revised 2E book or what it eventually becomes, honestly. I think it shows promise, but the devil is in the details and some or all of the new rules may end up not working out in the end. Like the new combat system: when everything is said and done we might decide that it won't work in all circumstances and it will have to be spun off as its own optional rule.
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