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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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby BroAdso » Sat Oct 29, 2016 12:03 pm

Along with the broader discussion of technologies, what abilities are ones we consider "core" enough to keep around and which unit types should have access to them?

For example, it's clear that Assault and Supply are important. But should Flights still have access to those abilities, since it looks like Assault will include transport capacity and so will Supply?

Similarly, it's clear that the Scout family of abilities - Scout, Guardian, Disruptor, Suppression, and Targeting - are key. But should bases and/or mines have access to them still?

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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Oct 29, 2016 5:26 pm

BroAdso wrote:Along with the broader discussion of technologies, what abilities are ones we consider "core" enough to keep around and which unit types should have access to them?

For example, it's clear that Assault and Supply are important. But should Flights still have access to those abilities, since it looks like Assault will include transport capacity and so will Supply?

Similarly, it's clear that the Scout family of abilities - Scout, Guardian, Disruptor, Suppression, and Targeting - are key. But should bases and/or mines have access to them still?

These are good questions. Any abilities that seem to be too "special" should probably be moved to one of the optional rule books just to keep the core rules as clean as possible.

I think allowing flights to have Assault/Supply is still a good idea, and as long as the costs are doubled for these special abilities they shouldn't become too unbalanced. We might have to consider increasing the cost of Assault to keep Assault shuttles from being too powerful, but I think we wouldn't run into too many situations where that is overly broken. I mean, a 10 CV carrier with a bunch of Assault 1 flights could be pretty nasty, but they also wouldn't have much in the way of combat capability. If Assault cost 2 CP instead of 1 CP, it would make the ability cost 4 CP for a flight and be consistent with Supply being a 2 CP ability.

The reason I would lean towards keeping Assault and Supply for flights, too, is because you see those kinds of ships in a lot of settings. And we could even add a rule that would allow for fractional Assault/Supply for flights like we had in the old days. That would make the risk of Assault/Supply flight spam less of an issue, too.

Bases I think should be able to have all of the Scout family abilities. They probably could all be outfitted with weapons that would qualify, and it keeps our options open for certain settings where we need to replicate strange weapon effects that fit in with those abilities.

As for minefields, they are more of an edge case. I would say let them have them, but just like flights they pay double CP for special abilities. That would restrict their usage, and in a lot of ways they would be wasted points because minefields are morphing into strategic weapons in Galaxies and a player may not be able to bring very many of them into a fight unless they have some Minelayers present to deploy them, or they are fighting a Defensive scenario and have enough units in their task force to keep some mines in play.

With the way that the current playtest rules are going, we probably also need to have a Minesweeper and Hospital ship in the universal list so that players have some way of sweeping enemy minefields outside of combat or healing ground forces in combat situations, respectively. A cheap Era -1 corvette or destroyer for each role should be enough, and still leave players wanting to invest in better options later on.

# # #

Thinking more on Emiricol's point above unit upgrades, we could expand each Era out to 10 units and use 4 slots for "upgrades" from previous eras if we want to. I think that dilutes the force selections a bit, but it might turn out to be necessary to keep some of the older classes updated and not spend limited slots on replacements for old classes.

Overall, though, I would still lean towards having this be an optional rule where you make a separate payment and get to just upgrade stats for an existing class. Then we can keep unique/new units on the force lists, but have an optional rule for upgrading older classes to new tech through an EP cost. 10% x Era Difference x Base Class CP = # of extra CP (round naturally). You can't remove any points, just add them.

# # #

That being said, I think the above refit system would work better with a micro/macro split similar to the Starmada Edition where you do micro research to unlock classes and macro to raise your Tech Era. You'd then have the micro improvements just be to unlock and design whatever class you want, but then you'd need to have 6 at your current Era before you could research the next Era. I just think that is more involved than what players would want for the basic rules.
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby BroAdso » Sun Oct 30, 2016 5:49 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:These are good questions. Any abilities that seem to be too "special" should probably be moved to one of the optional rule books just to keep the core rules as clean as possible.


Quick brainstorm of what might be considered most core:

Core ground unit abilities:
One to lower enemy ATK
One to lower enemy DEF.
One to further reduce landing penalties.
One to allow unit to engage attacking flights.
One to allow unit to have a flexible bonus, like Missile.
One to make it easier to transport

Core ship/base/minefield abilities:
CR-manipulating: Carrier (additional fighter CR), Command (additional ship CR), Minelayer
Additional stats or damage: Missile, Minesweeper, Boarding, Shields, First Strike
Strategic movement: Fast, Slow, Stealth, Explorer
Scout family (manipulation of stats) : Scout, Guardian, Disruption, Suppression, Targeting, Jammer
Transport, building, and strategic help: Assault, Supply, Hospital, Atmospheric

Tyrel Lohr wrote:I think allowing flights to have Assault/Supply is still a good idea, and as long as the costs are doubled for these special abilities they shouldn't become too unbalanced. We might have to consider increasing the cost of Assault to keep Assault shuttles from being too powerful, but I think we wouldn't run into too many situations where that is overly broken. I mean, a 10 CV carrier with a bunch of Assault 1 flights could be pretty nasty, but they also wouldn't have much in the way of combat capability. If Assault cost 2 CP instead of 1 CP, it would make the ability cost 4 CP for a flight and be consistent with Supply being a 2 CP ability.

The reason I would lean towards keeping Assault and Supply for flights, too, is because you see those kinds of ships in a lot of settings. And we could even add a rule that would allow for fractional Assault/Supply for flights like we had in the old days. That would make the risk of Assault/Supply flight spam less of an issue, too.


So let's say I have two Midway Class Carriers 6 CV each, and each carriers two Assault 1 and two Supply 1 flights, and then two standard combat flights. Those two carriers plus their flight load could carry and land a Light (4EP) ground unit on their own, right?

That seems fine and WAD. But let's imagine this player designs all their flights with Strikefighter. Could the 4x Supply and 4x Assault 'strike' into an adjacent system with their ground cargo, invade, then return to their carrier? If they lose one of the flights during the Strike, which rules do we follow when asking how to damage or destroy the ground units within?

So three developments - Supply (costing 2CP) counting as 1EP of transport capacity and allowing you to operate out of supply range, Assault (costing 2CP) counting as 1EP of transport capacity for ground units only and lowering landing penalties, and allowing flights to take either for a 4EP cost per level. Creates some interesting (expensive) fleet design choices!

Tyrel Lohr wrote:Bases I think should be able to have all of the Scout family abilities. They probably could all be outfitted with weapons that would qualify, and it keeps our options open for certain settings where we need to replicate strange weapon effects that fit in with those abilities.

As for minefields, they are more of an edge case. I would say let them have them, but just like flights they pay double CP for special abilities. That would restrict their usage, and in a lot of ways they would be wasted points because minefields are morphing into strategic weapons in Galaxies and a player may not be able to bring very many of them into a fight unless they have some Minelayers present to deploy them, or they are fighting a Defensive scenario and have enough units in their task force to keep some mines in play.

With the way that the current playtest rules are going, we probably also need to have a Minesweeper and Hospital ship in the universal list so that players have some way of sweeping enemy minefields outside of combat or healing ground forces in combat situations, respectively. A cheap Era -1 corvette or destroyer for each role should be enough, and still leave players wanting to invest in better options later on.


I'm still not clear on why mines effecting movement in a special way is a plus. Having mines 'deployed' in a system could just treat them as a sort of mini-fleet that automatically engages opponents who move into the system, forcing them to leave ships behind if they want to move through. This reduces the need to have mines both act as ships with a bunch of special rules sometimes, and a terrainlike effect cleared by minesweepers other times.

Example: I want to move to Hariss, but to get there I must move through Antares. Antares has planetary defenses in the form of a station and numerous planetary flights, but I could ordinarily move through the system despite that. However, Antares, a PR 4 system, has eight minefields deployed there (its maximum). When my fleet moves through Antares, I have to leave ships behind to "fight" the minefields in a Deep Space scenario while the rest of the fleet moves on towards Hariss. In the same scenario, if I was trying to invade Antares itself, I would still have to fight a Deep Space scenario against the mines first.

I could be totally barking up the wrong tree here, but it could be a solution to a way to alter how mines work without creating too many special-case rules that activate across more than one phase.


Tyrel Lohr wrote:Thinking more on Emiricol's point above unit upgrades, we could expand each Era out to 10 units and use 4 slots for "upgrades" from previous eras if we want to. I think that dilutes the force selections a bit, but it might turn out to be necessary to keep some of the older classes updated and not spend limited slots on replacements for old classes.

Overall, though, I would still lean towards having this be an optional rule where you make a separate payment and get to just upgrade stats for an existing class. Then we can keep unique/new units on the force lists, but have an optional rule for upgrading older classes to new tech through an EP cost. 10% x Era Difference x Base Class CP = # of extra CP (round naturally). You can't remove any points, just add them.

That being said, I think the above refit system would work better with a micro/macro split similar to the Starmada Edition where you do micro research to unlock classes and macro to raise your Tech Era. You'd then have the micro improvements just be to unlock and design whatever class you want, but then you'd need to have 6 at your current Era before you could research the next Era. I just think that is more involved than what players would want for the basic rules.


This would make a great optional rule. However, in the base rules Refits (a ship may be changed into another ship of its class for a reduced cost and bulding time over building a new ship) do a good job of letting you represent extensive upgrades of existing ships if you want to do that.

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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Oct 31, 2016 1:20 am

BroAdso wrote:One to lower enemy ATK
One to lower enemy DEF.

These two are tricky, because they effectively mean +1 DEF or +1 ATK to a friendly unit. I think there might be a way for this to work if applied to a versatile support role, however, but it overlaps with the +1 ATK bonus that a supporting ground force already confers. The two components could be combined so that a supporting ground force could give either a +1 DEF or +1 ATK to a friendly unit, but this is an extra decision point that might not be very interesting for the player as +1 ATK is almost always going to be the "right" answer. But I'll have to see what happens when ground battles start popping up in my test game.

One to further reduce landing penalties.

Marines!

One to allow unit to engage attacking flights.

I think Anti-Aircraft did that in 2E.

One to allow unit to have a flexible bonus, like Missile.

Maybe repurpose Shock into this, so that you pay more for the unit but get a +1 bonus to ATK or DEF?

One to make it easier to transport

Compact will still handle this.

Core ship/base/minefield abilities:
CR-manipulating: Carrier (additional fighter CR), Command (additional ship CR), Minelayer
Additional stats or damage: Missile, Minesweeper, Boarding, Shields, First Strike
Strategic movement: Fast, Slow, Stealth, Explorer
Scout family (manipulation of stats) : Scout, Guardian, Disruption, Suppression, Targeting, Jammer
Transport, building, and strategic help: Assault, Supply, Hospital, Atmospheric

These all look good.

So let's say I have two Midway Class Carriers 6 CV each, and each carriers two Assault 1 and two Supply 1 flights, and then two standard combat flights. Those two carriers plus their flight load could carry and land a Light (4EP) ground unit on their own, right?

That seems fine and WAD. But let's imagine this player designs all their flights with Strikefighter. Could the 4x Supply and 4x Assault 'strike' into an adjacent system with their ground cargo, invade, then return to their carrier? If they lose one of the flights during the Strike, which rules do we follow when asking how to damage or destroy the ground units within?

So three developments - Supply (costing 2CP) counting as 1EP of transport capacity and allowing you to operate out of supply range, Assault (costing 2CP) counting as 1EP of transport capacity for ground units only and lowering landing penalties, and allowing flights to take either for a 4EP cost per level. Creates some interesting (expensive) fleet design choices!

This would depend on when we have the Strikefighters returns to their carriers. I was doing that in the old Update Phase (removed, now End of Turn Phase), so that would leave the Strikefighters in the system for the duration of the Ground Combat Phase, so yes the Light ground unit on the Assault strike shuttles would have a chance to land, and if they took the system than the Supply strike shuttles could land their other troops (or if they were Marines, they could invade from the Supply ships at a penalty). That would certainly all be legal moves for those units.

It would be hideously expensive hardware, and you'd be putting a lot of units in harm's way to try and pull off the strike, but I don't see anything immediately wrong with it. Even if you had each carrier filled with Assault shuttles, that would be much more expensive than having a single Assault ship and you'd be more vulnerable.

My ruling on what to do if you don't have enough transport capacity left is that you just have to destroy the unit. That is the simplest way of handling it, and much better than trying to do the half-and-half solution in 1E where the unit was still there, but just couldn't auto-heal anymore. The auto-healing ground forces in 1E were a major part of the ground combat balance issues that led to one-sided combat situations.

We may need to revisit the cargo transport rules entirely, however, with Galaxies. That's part of the reason I haven't finished those and left them in limbo; I think we need to decide if we need to go back to the 1E verbiage of Supply as cargo capacity, with Assault as a special case and convoys having a limited cargo-only application of it, or find some other solution.

I'm still not clear on why mines effecting movement in a special way is a plus. Having mines 'deployed' in a system could just treat them as a sort of mini-fleet that automatically engages opponents who move into the system, forcing them to leave ships behind if they want to move through. This reduces the need to have mines both act as ships with a bunch of special rules sometimes, and a terrainlike effect cleared by minesweepers other times.


Mines are individually weak in combat (much like flights) and if you allow an enemy force to directly attack them then it becomes trivial to clear them and makes Minesweepers unnecessary. As for the tactical application of mines, there are some settings where mines are a component of space combat, so that demands that there be some way of handling that. I don't mind mines showing up a damage sponges in Defensive scenarios or when Minelayers are present.

I will admit some of that bias is because Babylon 5 Wars included such weapons and there were a few defensive races (Abbai in particular) that made heavy use of minefields as a significant component of their tiered defenses.

Example: I want to move to Hariss, but to get there I must move through Antares. Antares has planetary defenses in the form of a station and numerous planetary flights, but I could ordinarily move through the system despite that. However, Antares, a PR 4 system, has eight minefields deployed there (its maximum). When my fleet moves through Antares, I have to leave ships behind to "fight" the minefields in a Deep Space scenario while the rest of the fleet moves on towards Hariss. In the same scenario, if I was trying to invade Antares itself, I would still have to fight a Deep Space scenario against the mines first.

There is no maximum to the amount of minefields that you could place in a single system, beyond the realistic economic limitations to build and maintain them. If you want to throw 100 light minefields up in a system, go for it! They aren't going to have much impact on combat, but they are going to take the enemy forever to sweep, which will make the system difficult to move through the system.

If the fleet in Antares could actually "fight" the minefields directly, there again you would have no use for specialized Minesweepers because any old ship could sweep the minefield. I think it is more interesting to require Minesweepers to perform this task, in much the same way that Towing ships help keep a ship moving at speed even when units are crippled.

If any simplification for minefields is necessary, I would say it would be to add a note in task force setup that in a Defensive scenario a player may add a number of minefields equal to the flagship CR before the battle, but that is the limit of how many can be included. Each Minelayer can deploy all the mines it is carrying, too. That would remove some confusion and make it clearer what should be happening.

As an aside, and going back to the direct ships vs. minefields contest, during 2E I experimented with trying to have minefields attack ships as they entered the system, but that just derailed the order of operations in movement and caused problems. That's why with the contested movement it becomes easier to have each minefield count as a ship and "pin" ships in the system.

This would make a great optional rule. However, in the base rules Refits (a ship may be changed into another ship of its class for a reduced cost and bulding time over building a new ship) do a good job of letting you represent extensive upgrades of existing ships if you want to do that.

Yeah, we have the Refit rules already, it just becomes a question of whether you want generational versions of every ship that you unlocked, or require you to have the upgraded ship on your force list.

A related question at this point, too, might be if the +10% tech bonus is too much, or if it would be better to have a +5% instead? That would lead to much shallower/slower tech advancement with less meaningful advances, but it would better accommodate the addition of incremental class updates.

Right now in 2E, a Heavy Cruiser costs 6 EP and at 3012 it would be gaining +3 CP in abilities. In Galaxies, this same ship costs 8 EP and has 20 CP. 12 years would probably be just on the edge of Era II (+20%), which would be +4 CP. So already the ships are gaining points a bit faster. If it was only +5% per Era, then we'd be at +2 CP, which isn't really very fast at all for most units.

I think we're in a good spot right now, with units gaining just enough to be interesting.
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby gstano » Sun Nov 13, 2016 4:07 am

Emericol, sorry for the long delay in my response. It certainly looks like there has been a lot of discussions going on so far in the thread. I don't have a lot extra to add just yet with respect to the ongoing Tech Era and available unit discussions. I think it does make sense to have the universal list on their own page to free up space on the two-sided page for the empire specific units. I also like the direction of the discussion requiring a number of ships to be "researched" per era before being able to move to the next era. A sidebar item could discuss how having either more units and/or requiring more units to be unlocked before moving to the next tech era can be used to represent a slower technology progression. Also, if the check box could be added to show what units are available, I think that is a simple, but useful approach.

The thread also had another question that I did not see a response to just yet. That was regarding ground units and system control. I may be splitting hairs a little, but you could consider a base to indicate a claim on a system whereas you need troops/census on the ground to control and utilize a system. However, the concern of the outpost development is a valid one.
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Emiricol » Mon Nov 14, 2016 7:38 am

Tyrel Lohr wrote:
If unlocking only preset units is too limiting, you could allow players to design a new unit at their tech level when they get an unlock, but they still have to finish ALL the preset unlocks before they can move to the next level, thus making them pay a price for the flexibility of getting just the right unit for their strategic situation.

You could also make this contingent on getting that second tech advance through overpayment at the end of the year. At that point I would get rid of the overpayment penalty (allow a full 100% chance for the second class) but have the second tech advance give you a new original design, but it doesn't count against your other unlocks.


I like this. It's inspired what I think I'll end up using for my campaign.

  • I may just continue to use Tech Years, where X Tech Years advanced equals a new Era.
  • Play begins with only a small number of ship classes on force list.
  • You can Refit any ship on a successful tech roll. Ships can be refit to the current Era only if they were also refit in the prior Era, or were a new class in the prior era.
  • Design a new ship class at the current Era if you have a second tech advance.
  • Refits are slightly inferior to a NEW class by making the first Refit provide less advantage than other future refits. Even if updated every Era, it will always be one step behind a cutting edge new ship design.
  • Variants can be designed with a successful tech advance roll, but must have a different high stat than the original, or a different Special Ability. Variants can not be Refit in future Eras.

I think in practice this will create a variable Era progression depending on how much the player focuses on variants and refits versus Tech Year advances.

Ship classes will come and go over time, depending on whether they have been refit in the prior Era. At some point, the player will have more classes than he cares to refit in lieu of another tech year advance, and then a class dies out as it's increasingly outmatched by newer classes, refits, and variants (and would be a great option to sell to NPEs/NAEs).

One could design a large number of classes, variants, and refits within a single Era if one focused on that instead of tech year advances! But in the long game, that may be a very poor choice. In practice, it's the difference between spending money on improving what you have now (the military industrial complex) versus "weapons research" for a revolutionary design (better than the refit...) later.

This system, inspired by a lot of the conversation I've read in here (thanks!!), is simpler and would replace entirely the other tech systems being discussed, but has some limitations that a more robust system would not.

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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Emiricol » Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:12 am

BroAdso wrote:I kinda like the idea of letting players start with 4 or 6 "Era -1" units chosen from the Universal list, in addition to their 6 to 8 faction unique units starting at Era 0. That gives them a large number of classes to choose from, but some of them are going to be the inferior "universal" ones.

I've always played my campaigns either with players or as solo with two or three sides pitted against each other. That means I've never generated new empires by encountering them. That caveat from lack of experience aside, that dice roll to determine a new empire's tech era seems appropriate.

Here's a version of the universal lists. The "expansive" version of universal military list stays a little closer to the version already in VBAM 2E - giving players some basic options and help to start with, but cut down a little so the player doesn't get access to neat goodies like Boarding Pods without using an empire design slot.


For my campaign, I'm leaning toward not having any Universal ships available at TL+0, and then all Universal ships available at a given era are constructed using the values for the era prior. Thus, at TL+1, your universal ships list would be Era TL+1, but DESIGNED as TL+0 ships. This lets them tie in to my above rules idea, makes them a little less useful than a Refit of the same Era, and represents privately owned military contractors. No private company is available to supply the military at Era +0, but by TL +1 private companies like Lockheed are getting into the game. These ships aren't researched; they're just available as Defense Department sends RFPs and RFQs out to the private sector.

This is pretty darn simple, and lets me design whatever Universal ships as I want, as many designs as I want, while being pretty sure they won't be widely used. If I had no Carriers and encountered a race that focused on Carriers, it would be worth buying from the private sector until I could research and design my own (by getting 2 successful Tech Rolls and then designing a new Carrier-enabled ship class). Very thematic.

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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Nov 14, 2016 3:42 pm

Emiricol, once you have the rules written up for that variant be sure to post it so that we can add it to the Engineering Manual. It sounds like a system that other players may like to make use of!

Does the empire get one Refit per tech advancement?

Gating the new classes behind the second tech advancement should moderate the rate of tech progression considerably. If you need 6 classes to advance to the next Era, you're looking at a good year of improvement, with upgrades/refits of existing classes being more likely.
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Emiricol » Mon Nov 14, 2016 4:10 pm

They'd get one refit or variant per advancement, yes. Universal List ships don't need to be researched and are just available at whatever Era you're in. And while Refits are effectively 1/2 step behind new classes in terms of stats, Universal List ships are a *full* step behind.

Using Unlock = X new designs is workable! I was going to have it be solely based on your Tech Year, so X new Tech Years = Unlock, but that gets wonky if you're trying to build a universe's backstory, or if a player only bought Universal List ships to pump their Era instead.

While they'd have significantly weaker ships throughout the early and mid-game, they could potentially jump in the late game with units that are abruptly the best in the game. This, despite having no history of building/advancing ships, which is unrealistic enough to be a game breaker for me.

So I'm changing my mind and going with X New Designs = Era Advance. You've suggested 6, and that seems good to me. Then if you want slower tech advancement, just increase the number. Or vice versa.

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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Nov 14, 2016 4:15 pm

Emiricol wrote:So I'm changing my mind and going with X New Designs = Era Advance. You've suggested 6, and that seems good to me. Then if you want slower tech advancement, just increase the number. Or vice versa.

6 Units per Era seems to work pretty good when drawing up lists. There are some sci-fi settings where that works better than others, and in those cases you about have to just use ISD tech progression instead or else have a full list but then let players choose which units are unlocked, and after 6 they can move forward. Like the Star Trek fleets, even restricting to canon designs, you're sitting around 8-10 units per Era in a lot of cases. Babylon 5 is even more severe with the number of unique designs and variants. But overall it's all doable, and in a casual "just making it look right" game you can shuffle units around to get to the 6-per-Era without a lot of difficulty.

But having the Refit/Variant be the most likely result should keep things interesting and fleets thematic. It will certainly make new classes much rare animals!
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Emiricol » Mon Nov 14, 2016 4:34 pm

Duly noted :) I just realized that this method, with the Universal List being Era -1 in terms of effectiveness, lets players quickly fill any gaps in their lineup. They're crappy designs, though. Like when the US took bids on a new light armored vehicle design and ultimately got... the M2 Bradley. (There's a hilarious documentary on the M2 Bradley debacle, btw.)

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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Nov 14, 2016 4:48 pm

Emiricol wrote:Duly noted :) I just realized that this method, with the Universal List being Era -1 in terms of effectiveness, lets players quickly fill any gaps in their lineup. They're crappy designs, though. Like when the US took bids on a new light armored vehicle design and ultimately got... the M2 Bradley. (There's a hilarious documentary on the M2 Bradley debacle, btw.)

Having the option of an expanded Universal List like you're envisioning would be a good optional rule, too, because it would fill in the blanks a bit, and also give us an outlet to give players a few extra designs that might not be very "sexy" or worth filling a prime Tech Era slot. I could see a lot of ground units falling into that category, just because they are usually not terribly interesting unless you're in a setting like Star Wars that has unique ground units coming out your ears.

Do you think you'd end up with too many holes in your order of battle being filled by Universal List units, though? Or would they always be just bad enough that it wouldn't be a major concern?

I think I'm going to repurpose the Era-1 unit set (at the same tech level as the Universal List) as Interplanetary Era for the advanced optional rules, as that is going to be the easiest way to say "hey, if this empire is really low tech then this is all they've got!" Then we don't worry about any empires with tech lower than Interplanetary, and special rules to make sure that any Interplanetary power has at least some of the Universal List available.

I'm half tempted to move the basic ground units to that list, and have at least Militia and Regulars available there, and maybe even some basic Marines. That way everyone has some available, but they are going to suck compared to those that other empires get on their own force lists.
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Emiricol » Mon Nov 14, 2016 5:13 pm

I don't think it's even a problem if a player has too heavy a reliance on Universal Ships, as it will self-correct when they start taking massive system losses against a better equipped Empire. I see it more as a way to get niche ships that you don't want to waste a slot on, especially if they can't be refit or variant like a Force List slot could. That makes them essentially a stop-gap measure.

Ground Units would be a perfect use for the Universal List. Maybe you want top of the line assault troops and tough, professional units to defend key locations (i.e., on your Force List), but the rest can be inferior in terms of gear and training, and this models that well. Like conscripts, German ally units in WWII, penal units, national guard, etc.

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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Nov 14, 2016 5:40 pm

In that interpretation, then, the Universal List could be a "living" list that opens up new units every Era but lags one Era behind for the purposes of effectiveness. One Era isn't a big shift, but it does catch up with you over time.

I think I need to play with the units some more to see how that ends up working. Most games don't last long enough for significant tech advancement, but there are ways to accelerate tech via optional rules to accomplish that. One way would be to make tech advancement happen immediately when you meet your requirement, and then each subsequent tech advance that year would cost more (1x for first, 2x for second, 3x for third, etc.). Another would be to take a page from MOO1 where your % chance of getting a tech is checked each turn and is equal to the % you've exceeded your requirement. For example, if I have a tech advancement requirement of 48 and I have 54 tech investment then I have a (54-48) / 48 = 12% chance per turn of getting my advance. I could choose to just sit and wait for it, or keep paying in until I get it.

I think the slow tech growth in VBAM isn't a bad thing, though, as it forces players to use the tools at their disposal rather than just creating new units willy-nilly. I know in some tactical conversions you're allowed or even encouraged to do that, but it gets messy. In Starmada Edition was fun to be able to design new classes whenever you felt like it, but then you were at least hemmed in a bit by what weapon enhancements or systems you'd researched, plus your overall tech level. The micro/macro system doesn't work as well in VBAM by comparison.
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Re: Tech, Special Abilities, and Unit Design

Postby Emiricol » Mon Nov 14, 2016 10:00 pm

In addition to everything discussed about the Universal List, I may adjust my Refits idea slightly. In this, the first refit nets half the bonus CP just like before. However, I may change it so that all refits are hindered like this - there's decreasing ROI for investing in upgrading units as they get older and older.

So, original ship: Current for Era it was built in. At Era II/Refit A, they're 1/2 an Era behind (Era 1.5) while the Universal ship is Era 1. At Era III/Refit B, they're a full Era behind (Era 2), equivalent to a new Universal List ship (Era2). After Era IV/Refit C, however, they're 1.5 Eras behind (Era 2.5), while an Era IV Universal ship is functionally equivalent to a new Era 3 ship. At Era V/Refit D they're 2 Eras behind (Era III) while a Universal ship is Era IV.

Or is there an alternative way to make new classes better and better than old classes w/refits? Maybe new ships get (Era -1) free Special Abilities, but since Refits can't *add* Special Abilities, only swap them, even if their other stats are the same they get farther and farther behind. Which method sounds better?

I'm not sure this falls behind quickly enough. If we use the reduced CP gain for Refits, do you think they become obsolete too slowly compared to Universal List ships? It takes 2 Eras to lag as much as new Universal ships, and 3 Eras to become the worse investment for a ship that is actually on your list (as opposed to using Universal ships to fill minor roles you haven't built for yourself).

Variants will work the same as before - swap two stats' CP values, or swap one special ability, and can't receive refits. Functionally, you'd probably only make a Variant of a ship design from your current era or after one refit, because at the 2nd refit a Universal List ship would be a better investment.

EDIT: I'd also rule that instead of making a new design, when receiving a second Tech Advance, one could Upgrade an existing class up to current era standards, resetting the Refit clock. These would receive a II name. (Constitution D gets an Upgrade and becomes a Constitution II-A)


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