Assault Ships

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How should Assault ships function in Galaxies?

Assault ships can carry troops
2
50%
Assault ships can carry troops, but only Marines
1
25%
Assault ships cannot carry troops, but can support troops invading from transports
1
25%
 
Total votes: 4

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Tyrel Lohr
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Assault Ships

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Oct 11, 2016 11:21 pm

In 1E, Assault ships were allowed to carry 1 ground force per maintenance group. I purposefully removed that ability in 2E because I only wanted civilian convoys (transport fleets there) to be able to move units because it simplified the rules. My workaround for 2E was to have Assault ships provide an Attack bonus instead, but I'm not sure that was really that much better long term.

However, as the topic has come up several times now in Galaxies, it's worth asking the question: would players like to see a return of Assault ships being able to carry ground forces? And if so, should they only be able to carry Marines or can they carry anything?

If we go back to the 1E model, I would say that Assault ships could carry a total size of troops equal to their Assault (to get rid of the maintenance group rule). Of course, then there is the question of what size a ground unit should be? Traditionally it was a flat 10, but it might be easier to say construction cost = size.

Marines make this worse because in 1E they got both the invasion bonus PLUS were half the size of a normal ground unit. Which led to Marine supremacy, something I'm not sure we want to return to. I think allowing Marines to have full Attack when invading from convoys is going to be a good enough bonus for them.

And if Assault ships MUST carry troops again, I am kind of split on whether it should be Marines only or if their invasion bonus should just only apply to non-Marines. But I admittedly have not seen that much ground combat combat in my campaigns. It usually ends up being mostly about the space war and bombing off the enemy defenders.

Which, speaking of that and continuing the derail, I found an early pre-1E version of Jay's rules (back from the B5W days) where the anti-troop bombardment actually reduced their DEFENSE instead of damaging Attrition directly, so that it would soften up the troops but you still need troops of your own to capitalize on it. Might that be something worth exploring again?
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Re: Assault Ships

Postby aelius » Wed Oct 12, 2016 3:54 am

Just say that Marines don't get their half size on Assault ships. After all, they are designed for marines. Keeps that assault bonus there for a reason cause you have to buy more Assault rating to carry than normal for marines. And if only marines can ride assault ships, but they could assist any unit it would make marines useful but regular troops would be useful too. And cheaper to boot.
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Re: Assault Ships

Postby murtalianconfederacy » Thu Oct 13, 2016 7:48 am

I had voted for the middle option, but when writing my opinion I started to realise that it should be an either/or situation. Either the assault ships can only support an invasion or they can carry any sort of troops. My inclination is with the former (mainly to stave off the same issues as were found in 1E), but I can easily see a situation where I might want a ship to carry a ground force (in one of my campaigns, I had the 'leaders' of the power stay in space with elite ground troops protecting them), so I'll go with 'Assault ships can carry troops'.

Eliminate the invasion bonus and say Marines are 1/2 their Construction Cost for carrying on an Assault Ship (because their equipment has been designed to fit/operate/etc. inside an assault ship, whereas normal ground forces don't have that limitation and are thus incompatible with assault ship vehicle bays, making them have to adapt them for the duration (hence full CC for non-Marine units based on Assault ships).

An idea is that Assault ships can EITHER base units OR support an invasion, but not both. So you can either maximise the number of troops in your invasion fleet, but they're not going to be supported in their invasion, or have some 'empty' Assault ships that can then aid the planetary assault.
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Re: Assault Ships

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:35 pm

Let's run with the current discussion and give an example of an Assault ship, in this case the Narn T'Loth which I remember using in this role quite a bit in my one B5 campaign:

Image

T'Loth Assault Cruiser
CA, Cost 9, Maint 2/3, ISD 2241 (TL3), DV 7, AS 4, AF 4, CV 2, CR 5, CC 2, Assault 2

This ship is an Assault cruiser that is meant to move in and deposit ground troops while retaining some decent firepower, durability, and fighter cover. It's not a great warship by any means, but it's no slouch.

With Assault 2 (representing 2 flights of assault shuttles essentially with this conversion), the ship could carry 2 EP of ground units. That's enough for a light troop. If you had a group of 3 T'Loths, however, you'd have 6 Assault, which would be enough to bring a heavy troop with you.

Rereading the 1E invasion rules, it says in that book troops received a flat -2 Attack penalty when invading, and non Marines could only invade with the assistance of Assault ships. Marines could invade from any transports, but received their full Attack when invading from Assault ships. If we wanted to go back to that paradigm, then empires would need to have Assault ships or Marines (preferably both) to invade enemy systems. A group of 6 T'Loths (12 Assault) would be enough to bring in 6 x Light Troops, 4 x Medium Troops, or 2 x Heavy Troops to the battle all on their own.

I still don't think we want to give Marines the Compact bonus for free, because that is just asking for trouble, and was part of the balance issues in 1E where Marines were so good that you really never needed anything else. Having them get their full Attack when invading from Assault ships would be a big enough boost to their efficiency, especially considering that you're going to be able to fit more troops onto these Assault ships than was possible in 1E.

Of course, another possible issue we have to look at is that this Assault cruiser is actually pretty light on Assault. What happens if it had put all of its AS/AF points into Assault instead? That would have made it an Assault 10 ship, which meant that each cruiser could carry 5 Light Troops. That in and of itself might be a problem for game balance, as then one of these cruisers could carry an entire planetary invasion force all by itself.

This segues into another question: how expensive do you believe ground units should be in Galaxies? Related, how many troops should players be expected to field on a planet? I think I'm fine with a 2/4/6 cost split on troops, but I could see making their maintenance higher, similar to what we see on ships. The maintenance values in 2E were probably too low.

Also related to this discussion is what to do about anti-troop bombardment. Looking back at proto-1E rules, Jay at one point had anti-troop bombardment reduce their Defense and not their Attrition. This made the ground units easier to attack with other ground units, but could not eliminate them completely. Would that be a better avenue for investigation, or should we still allow troops to be killed from orbit?

Example: 3 Narn T'Loth assault cruisers are attacking a Centauri colony at Raghesh III. They are carrying a single Narn heavy armored division (Cost 6, Maint 1/2, ATR 3, DEF 3, ATK 3, DF d3). The Centauri only lightly garrisoned this system, and have 2 Medium Legions (Cost 4, Maint 1/4, ATR 3, DEF 2, ATK 2, DF d3). The Narn heavy armored division is invading and gets a -2 ATK penalty (now 1). The Centauri are defending and get a +1 DEF bonus (now 3). The Narns are going to use a combination of tactical support and the pre-1E troop bombardment to reduce DEF by 1 per 4 bombardment value. The 3 T'Loths have a bombardment strength of 6, which is only enough to drop one Legion back down to DEF 2.

The Narn armored division makes its invasion against the weakened Centauri. It rolls 3 on its D Factor and adds 1 ATK for a total of 4. The Centauri rolls a 3 for its D Factor, too, and adding its 2 DEF gets a 5. The invasion is repelled. The Centauri unit now gets to counter attack. It rolls 3 on DF again, and adding its 2 ATK gives it 5. The Narns roll 2 DF + 3 DEF = 5, which is enough to cancel out the Centauri attack and they take no damage.


The above example is a classic example of a problem that 1E had in regards to invasions. Invading with a single non-Marine troop was usually impossible because it led to a stalemate situation. However, tactical support can turn the tide and make things work, especially with the 2E improvements to the rules that made group attacks less effective (in 1E you always attacked with the max number of units because it was always better).

In the above example, the Narns needed to either have more orbital bombardment to weaken the Centauri, a Marine unit that would have retained its full ATK, or additional ground units to help support the invader (each additional ground unit, up to 3 in total, could aid for a +1 ATK). Any of those would have allowed the Narn heavy armored division to damage the Centauri and establish a beachhead to make a landing in Raghesh.
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Re: Assault Ships

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Oct 13, 2016 3:22 pm

Because I am in a procrastinating mood today, here is a Centauri equivalent of the T'Loth:

Image
Centauri Decurion Assault Cruiser
Cost 10, Maint 2/3, ISD 2213 (TL3), DV 7, AS 2, AF 4, CV 1, CR 4, CC 2, Assault 4, Guardian 2

This ship has twice the troop capacity as the T'Loth, but sacrifices firepower and is more expensive because it also has Guardian arrays for protecting the fleet. The CV is typically used to hold a flight of breaching pods to add insult to injury.

Let's say that a pair of Decurions were sent to the Narn colony at Kotok to invade. There is a single Narn heavy armored division there, and each Decurions is carrying a Centauri medium legion. One legion is invading with the other supporting (for a +1 ATK). The Decurions have just enough bombardment to reduce the DEF of the Narn ground force by 1, which effectively counteracts the +1 DEF from being dug-in.

The Centauri roll 2 on D Factor, +2 ATK, -2 ATK invasion penalty, +1 ATK from the supporting unit = 3. This can't penetrate the Narn's base DEF 3, and even with the Narns only rolling a +1 on D Factor there is just no chance of the Centauri breaking through. The ATK penalty from invading is just too severe.

The Narns counter attack both attacking units. The first attack is 2 DF + 3 ATK = 5. The Centauri defend with 3 DF + 2 DEF = 5. Stalemate, no damage. The second attack is 3 DF + 3 ATK = 6. The Centauri defend with 2 DF + 2 DEF = 4. The Narns score 2 ATR damage to the second Legion, dropping them to 1 ATR!

The above illustrates why I tried to get rid of the -2 ATK penalty, as it is really too severe. These troops are invading from Assault ships and still have little to no chance of establishing a beachhead in the system. Part of this is a combination of the -2 ATK for the attacker and +1 DEF for the defender which is effectively a -3 ATK for the attacker. If we eliminate the dug-in bonus then that would equalize things a bit. In the above example it would have dropped the Narns DEF to 2, and then the Legions would have at least had a chance of breaking through with a max DF roll.

Dropping down to just -1 ATK would be even better for making it easier for troops to invade, but then Marines would lose a lot of their luster because they would no longer be getting a substantial bonus for invading from Assault ships. They would still be the only units that could invade from convoys, which would still be a feather in their cap.

The post 2E combat environment is a pretty finely tuned machine all in all, with stalemates being the goal. It will just be a case of folding some more 1E elements back in, but overall it all still works. :)
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Re: Assault Ships

Postby BroAdso » Sat Oct 15, 2016 2:00 am

I like the idea of Assault ships being able to carry one EP worth of ground units per Assault rating.

In such a case, the primary advantage of an Assault ship is in being able to carry troops in a less vulnerable way than Convoys. We could also have them reduce the attack-from-orbit penalty by one, if they needed more of a boost.

In such a case, Marines would have no attack-from-orbit penalty, and the standard attack-from-orbit penalty would be -2. It sets up a nice scale: attacking from convoy -2, attacking from assault ships -1, Marine attacking from convoy -0, Marine attacking from assault ship +1.

This means that an attack from orbit with no assault ships and no Marines would need ludicrous amounts of support to have much hope of establishing a beach head, which seems appropriate. Marines attacking from assault ships would be exactly even with dug-in defenders, which also seems appropriate.

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Re: Assault Ships

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Oct 15, 2016 11:52 pm

I've started trying to reconcile 1E to 2E ground combat and figure out where we have to make changes to accommodate the reintroduction of Assault ships as troop haulers.

One issue we do have with the Marines ability is that if all it amounts to is an Attack bonus, most players will just opt to go with a bigger troop that has more points. That means it still has to have some sort of a special ability.

The biggest problem in 1E was that ONLY Marines could invade from transport fleets. That made it so that an empire had to have either an Assault ship or a Marine ground unit in order to actually invade another system, and there were some empires that had neither. Pretty big oversight. Marines also got to take up half the normal amount of space, which exacerbated the problem of Marines being the absolute best choice.

So if Marines don't get a size bonus, and if a straight Attack bonus won't work for them, that leaves them with the "only Marines can invade from convoys" option. Are there any other that would work better? I'm fine with Marines having that ability, BTW, as long as the universal list makes sure to give every player a crappy Assault ship (troop lander) and a crappy Marines ground force (mercenaries). That patches the biggest hole, and makes Marines very useful but not completely necessary. It does return us to the 1E dynamic where Assault ships are almost absolutely necessary to invade and gain a beachhead, but then you can unload the rest of the troops from the transports.
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Re: Assault Ships

Postby BroAdso » Sun Oct 16, 2016 12:23 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:One issue we do have with the Marines ability is that if all it amounts to is an Attack bonus, most players will just opt to go with a bigger troop that has more points. That means it still has to have some sort of a special ability.


This depends. The jump in cost from Light Ground to Medium Ground is 2 EP and 1/6 Maint. I can imagine a player wanting a middle ground - paying slightly more (either 1/6 extra Maint or only 1 EP) to have an ATK bonus from orbit - rather than paying more (the full price to go from Light to Medium or Medium to Heavy).

That's just quibbling, thuogh. I think you're right ultimately that Marines need something slightly more than just an immunity to the ATK malus when attacking from orbit. The question is, what...will brainstorm on it today.

Initial germ of an idea: rather than an ATK malus when attacking from orbit, attackers halve their ATK and DEF values when attacking from orbit unless they have the Marines trait.


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