Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

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

What exploration role should Scouts and Explorers have in Galaxies?

Scouts and Explorers can both perform jump lane exploration and jump lane improvements, but only Scouts can provide combat support
1
14%
Only Explorers should be able to perform jump lane exploration or jump lane improvements. Scouts are exclusively for combat support.
4
57%
Scouts can perform jump lane exploration and jump lane improvements, but they are less effective than Explorers.
2
29%
 
Total votes: 7

User avatar
Tyrel Lohr
Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
Posts: 1416
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2007 3:48 am
Location: Lusk, WY
Contact:

Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:46 pm

The more I work and test this, the better it works to not conflate Explorer and Scout, especially since Explorer is now a Maint-only trait. Fluff wise, Scouts are battlefield electronic warfare ships, Explorers have endurance crews, science labs, and what not. I would suggest sticking with this version and eliminating the use of Scouts for exploring. In this way, a fleet of four Explorer light cruisers (a full maintenance group, costing 3 EP per turn) would only need to roll a 2 or above on their D10 exploration roll to chart a jump lane. Larger ships would give near-sure Exploration successes, but players need to ask whether having them so far on the edges of the empire (or having sky high maintenance costs for every 2) would be worth it.

This has been something that I know I've gone back and forth on a lot in the past. There was a period of time in 2E's development where I had these strictly separated, then merged them back again. It's been a constant battle.

My biggest personal barrier to removing Scouts from exploration is that in some games like Babylon 5 Wars the Scout/Explorer role is pretty much one and the same, and Scouts there are also used to explore. VBAM still has enough of the B5W DNA in it that it's sometimes hard for me to separate the two.

There's also the issue that then we'd have to give each fleet a unique Explorer unit or force them to rely on a generic Explorer from the universal list rather than using their own Scouts to do the job.

This is a situation where we could have the Explorer-only rule be standard, and then include an optional rule if you want to use Scouts to explore, too.

I agree that the Explorer CC as Scout value equivalent does seem to work well. The reversion to 1E Companion style bonus calculation, while a bit more involved, does moderate the outcome better. Those 4 CL explorers (CC 2) would then get +2 from the first CL and +1 from each of the other 3 (+1 per 2 Scout equivalent) for a total of a +5. That gives them a 50% chance of exploring a lane each turn, which is pretty great odds, and much better than a comparable number of Scouts.
"Touch not the pylons, for they are the messengers!"

User avatar
aelius
Lieutanant Commander
Lieutanant Commander
Posts: 99
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2010 1:51 am

Re: Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby aelius » Wed Oct 19, 2016 7:49 pm

I voted 3, but I don't think Scouts should be able to do lane improvements.
Exploring less effectively than Explorers I like though. Their sophisticated sensors should be some use in such areas, but not as good as dedicated instruments.
As for the upgrades, I picture those as actual capital improvements to the lane (beacons, gates, whatever) that EW ships aren't really going to be able to support. Thus the need for dedicated ships capable of that.
Scout as optional of course. Nearly everything is in one form or another.
4. Killing is not too good for my enemies
Evil Overlords Survival Guide

User avatar
BroAdso
Commander
Commander
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:27 am
Location: Richmond, VA

Re: Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby BroAdso » Wed Oct 19, 2016 10:38 pm

I always figured Scout ships were ELINT, EWACS, early warning, or super-fast pickets - designed to provide immediate support in combat and patrols. In some sci fi settings, this might take the form of sophisticated sensors, but it's easy to imagine ships with sophisticated sensors who aren't suited to long-term journeys of exploration, science, and planetary and star mapping. When the two overlap, one can simply give a ship both attributes (Explorer and Scout).

From a technical point of view, the couple of games I've run for more than a few years of time left me with little real interest in buying explorers - Scouts and the occasional Supply ship could do all the same work, and with much more combat utility. If the two were more cleanly separated, there might be a clearer reason to buy Explorer vessels.

User avatar
Tyrel Lohr
Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
Posts: 1416
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2007 3:48 am
Location: Lusk, WY
Contact:

Re: Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Oct 19, 2016 11:03 pm

BroAdso wrote:From a technical point of view, the couple of games I've run for more than a few years of time left me with little real interest in buying explorers - Scouts and the occasional Supply ship could do all the same work, and with much more combat utility. If the two were more cleanly separated, there might be a clearer reason to buy Explorer vessels.

That is partly an artifact of me trying to shoehorn the ability into the game, but still making exploration backwards compatible with the existing empires that only had Scouts. The only time you really ended up seeing dedicated Explorers is when an empire was too poor or weak to afford a "true" Scout.

If we push all exploration and jump lane upgrades off to Explorer then that ability would be much better defined, and it fits your Star Trek ships where you have most of the Federation ships being Explorers while keeping stats that are good enough to leave them still combat capable, whereas Scouts end up paying so much for their abilities that they end up being comparatively weak -- which is good, because they are supposed to be combat force multipliers.

If we reconsider the sample empire forces along with the approach to tech, that is going to give us the opportunity to give each empire an Explorer unit, or make sure there is a basic "hyperspace probe" available to every empire at the start of the game.

I can just include the "Scouts as Explorers" optional rule in the Companion or elsewhere to cover settings where dedicated Explorers are uncommon.
"Touch not the pylons, for they are the messengers!"

User avatar
aelius
Lieutanant Commander
Lieutanant Commander
Posts: 99
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2010 1:51 am

Re: Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby aelius » Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:09 pm

If you wanted a cross you could also say you need an Explorer to do the job, but Scouts can support it while it is exploring. So you could have an Explorer working with a couple of Scouts to get the job done faster.
Or Scouts being just EW works too. It does have the virtue of keeping everything in its place.
4. Killing is not too good for my enemies

Evil Overlords Survival Guide

User avatar
BroAdso
Commander
Commander
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:27 am
Location: Richmond, VA

Re: Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby BroAdso » Sat Oct 22, 2016 2:37 pm

Does it seem like the rule to playtest is Explorers are the only units capable of exploration, and Scouts are combat support?

This seems good combined with CC-based exploration bonuses in a 1E style (highest counts for full, every 2 after counts for 1 or so). That way you don't end up with sure-thing exploration rolls without massive investment, but a group of explorer DD or CT can still explore well.

Similarly, with the new single-squadron combat system with fewer ships, the Scout combat bonuses have become more useful, so not having them participate in exploration leaves them plenty valuable and more cleanly separates combat abilities which you need to pay attention to during scenarios and non-combat abilities you need to pay attention to during the movement and/or supply phases.

User avatar
Tyrel Lohr
Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
Posts: 1416
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2007 3:48 am
Location: Lusk, WY
Contact:

Re: Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Oct 22, 2016 3:55 pm

BroAdso wrote:Does it seem like the rule to playtest is Explorers are the only units capable of exploration, and Scouts are combat support?

I think this is the way to go. I'll have to rewrite the rule to omit Scouts, and probably change "scout fleet" to "explorer fleet" to get rid of the crossover between the abilities. But if we playtest it that way, then we can see how it works out and I can move the "classic" Scout exploration to the optional rules somewhere for settings where Explorers might not exist or where Scouts pull double duty.

This seems good combined with CC-based exploration bonuses in a 1E style (highest counts for full, every 2 after counts for 1 or so). That way you don't end up with sure-thing exploration rolls without massive investment, but a group of explorer DD or CT can still explore well.[/quote]
That does seem to be the sweet spot for the rolls. And going back to the pre-1E d10 vs. 2d6 on that roll means that we have linear rather than bell curve results, which help moderate our exploration rolls further. The CC-based exploration bonus also encourages the use of larger Explorer ships.

The only worry I do have is that because they don't spend any points on the Explorer ability, our Explorer ships might end up being more heavily armed or otherwise deadly than I'd like. But for ships like the EA Explorer class that probably just means downgrading them from Superdreadnoughts to Battleships and spending the leftover points on Supply so that they can operate solo out on the rim.

Similarly, with the new single-squadron combat system with fewer ships, the Scout combat bonuses have become more useful, so not having them participate in exploration leaves them plenty valuable and more cleanly separates combat abilities which you need to pay attention to during scenarios and non-combat abilities you need to pay attention to during the movement and/or supply phases.

The one element of Scouts that I still need to finish fleshing out is the Scout use in scenario setup. I'm going to use a system similar to 1E there, except that you MUST spend Intel to activate the abilities. That way you are paying an effective "tax" in the form of Intel and Intel maintenance to be able to pull off includes/excludes, improve surprise rolls, or modify scenario length. I think that will make those rules more balanced and keep Scouts more for combat support.
"Touch not the pylons, for they are the messengers!"

User avatar
aelius
Lieutanant Commander
Lieutanant Commander
Posts: 99
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2010 1:51 am

Re: Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby aelius » Sat Oct 22, 2016 4:57 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:The only worry I do have is that because they don't spend any points on the Explorer ability, our Explorer ships might end up being more heavily armed or otherwise deadly than I'd like. But for ships like the EA Explorer class that probably just means downgrading them from Superdreadnoughts to Battleships and spending the leftover points on Supply so that they can operate solo out on the rim.


That works for the EA Explorer. It also works for Starfleet where half the ships in the fleet are Explorers that kick serious ass.
4. Killing is not too good for my enemies

Evil Overlords Survival Guide

User avatar
BroAdso
Commander
Commander
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:27 am
Location: Richmond, VA

Re: Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby BroAdso » Sat Oct 22, 2016 6:24 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:The only worry I do have is that because they don't spend any points on the Explorer ability, our Explorer ships might end up being more heavily armed or otherwise deadly than I'd like. But for ships like the EA Explorer class that probably just means downgrading them from Superdreadnoughts to Battleships and spending the leftover points on Supply so that they can operate solo out on the rim.

Heavily armed ships alone on the frontier is a high-maintenance situation. The logic of Galaxies, which makes CR more crucial than ever for commanding large battles, means that players who design most of their exploration vessels as huge ships won't be making the most effective use possible of those kinds of ships. If a player commits to it and has several big-ship classes - one for frontier use and one for battle command - they might be OK. Ultimately, though, it seems like the new Explorer does allow one to design very powerful Explorer ships, but you have to design at CB or higher -and ships with high CRs like that are much more productively used, usually, to lead fleets.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:The one element of Scouts that I still need to finish fleshing out is the Scout use in scenario setup. I'm going to use a system similar to 1E there, except that you MUST spend Intel to activate the abilities. That way you are paying an effective "tax" in the form of Intel and Intel maintenance to be able to pull off includes/excludes, improve surprise rolls, or modify scenario length. I think that will make those rules more balanced and keep Scouts more for combat support.


If that's the case, would includes/excludes be permanent through the whole scenario rather than round by round? I can see the advantage of that solution, since it knocks out the awkward possibility of both players spending most of their Scout functions each round to exclude the other's Scouts and prevent them from using their abilities in the assignments phase. This occurred to me during a couple of my practice scenarios with Oberths and Raptors, where most of their scouting went unused every round except to exclude each other.

User avatar
BroAdso
Commander
Commander
Posts: 167
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:27 am
Location: Richmond, VA

Re: Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby BroAdso » Sat Oct 22, 2016 6:28 pm

aelius wrote:That works for the EA Explorer. It also works for Starfleet where half the ships in the fleet are Explorers that kick serious ass.


Agreed. Galaxy class ships were always made out to be formidable as hell in a fight, despite spending most of their time charting nebulas and negotiating with new varieties of bumpy-headed aliens.

One of my "oh wow" moments in Deep Space Nine was when you saw several Galaxy ships all go in together during a frontal assault and just dwarf everything around them.

User avatar
Tyrel Lohr
Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
Posts: 1416
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2007 3:48 am
Location: Lusk, WY
Contact:

Re: Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Oct 22, 2016 6:51 pm

BroAdso wrote:Heavily armed ships alone on the frontier is a high-maintenance situation. The logic of Galaxies, which makes CR more crucial than ever for commanding large battles, means that players who design most of their exploration vessels as huge ships won't be making the most effective use possible of those kinds of ships. If a player commits to it and has several big-ship classes - one for frontier use and one for battle command - they might be OK. Ultimately, though, it seems like the new Explorer does allow one to design very powerful Explorer ships, but you have to design at CB or higher -and ships with high CRs like that are much more productively used, usually, to lead fleets.

The overall reduction in command costs limits "runaway exploration" abuse by the Explorers, too, as even a Battleship Explorer (like the Galaxy, and probably about where the EA Explorer would end up) is only going to have a 3 Explorer value, and the cost to operate it will still be about 4/2 maint. That is a sizeable expense for a ship that has a 30% chance per turn of exploring a jump lane. And you would logically send them out on their own instead of in groups because you'd need two more of them to get an appreciable bonus.

I do like that this implementation makes the Galaxy and some of the other Federation ships makes a bit more sense as far as the VBAM rules are concerned. The Galaxy is now a big battleship, but it is also an Explorer that can be sent out to the frontier to explore strange new worlds. It also explains why a ship like the Odyssey might have been dispatched to the Gamma Quadrant to go try to explore out there (not that it turned out well for them).

If that's the case, would includes/excludes be permanent through the whole scenario rather than round by round? I can see the advantage of that solution, since it knocks out the awkward possibility of both players spending most of their Scout functions each round to exclude the other's Scouts and prevent them from using their abilities in the assignments phase. This occurred to me during a couple of my practice scenarios with Oberths and Raptors, where most of their scouting went unused every round except to exclude each other.

That's what I'm leaning towards, yeah. Otherwise it was going to be a game of dueling banjos to see who got to include/exclude something each turn. And by forcing an Intel cost on the action players must pay for the privilege of forcing a player to include a unit in their task force. I am still torn on whether the included unit should count again the command limit or not. I'm included to say "yes" at that point, if only because now that CR-to-ships is 1:1 instead of CR:CC it doesn't hurt quite as much. And in the case that the same unit is included/excluded, I'd just have a simple 50/50 chance of it being included.

Another side effect of this is that we would then have the option of using Fast ships as Scouts pre-battle, ala the Stars Divided rules, if desired to also influence scenario setup. It could be as simple as each Fast ship providing 1 Scout function for those purposes. That way Fast ships could be used as advanced recon units if they're available to hunt down enemy fleets or try to influence battle conditions, but they just wouldn't have any scouting bonuses in combat itself.

Completely unrelated, but I think the ability that I have for Q-Ships in the document right now will be a suitable replacement for the effects of Trade; I just have to rename it to Trade and make the description more general. The effect then is that you can include one Trade ship for "free" in your task force for each convoy that is also included. This makes Trade ships the best for escorting convoys, as they effectively acting as embedded escorts. Your Oberths would then be pretty effective in protecting the convoys from attack.
"Touch not the pylons, for they are the messengers!"

User avatar
Emiricol
Captain
Captain
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2007 2:09 am
Location: Near Seattle
Contact:

Re: Scouts & Explorers for Exploration

Postby Emiricol » Mon Nov 28, 2016 5:19 pm

In my Rising Tide solo campaign, I've separated Explorer and Scout functions & abilities. Explorers explore, scouts are more like electronic warfare specialists providing squadon support functions. As expected, it is working out without any major shifts in game play, except that I have used up two ship slots instead of one.

I made Explorer(X) raise MNT but not EP cost, and it has just made sense to make small, lightly armed/armored ships in the beginning due to funding limits. As economy grows with the size of the empire, I definitely feel I'll be using fewer but larger ships for the task, with some teeth and other Special Abilities, much like the Constitution-class ships from the original Star Trek.

I also gave my Explorer class a level of Supply, so they can operate on the frontier longer before needing to stock up back home, and it hasn't broken the game (yet).


Return to “VBAM Galaxies”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest