Ground Units

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Tyrel Lohr
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Ground Units

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Nov 08, 2016 1:37 am

It's been quiet the last two weeks, but I'm hoping to jump back in and start working on things again as this week progresses.

Another aspect of the rules that we should discuss is how players think ground forces should be handled in Galaxies? The basic rules from 2E seem to work pretty well, but I know one of the bigger questions is how to handle different sizes of ground forces and then tie those back into the movement rules for carrying the troops back and forth from system to system.

Traditionally, ground forces have been pretty cheap. In 1E, they were about 1-3 EP, and that trend continued into 2E. Of course, they were also extremely difficult to move from one place to another, which limited how many troops you could actually bring with you.

If we change it so that a ground unit has a "transport cost" equal to its construction cost, then the 10 capacity convoy ends up being able to carry 10 EP of troops at a time. If we stay with smaller, cheaper troops that ends up being a bit untenable, just because of sheer numbers.

If we make troops about 2x cost, about in line with cheap ships, then we have less of a problem. That makes the cheapest troops 2 EP, and the largest probably around 8 EP.

However, this is a place where we start disconnecting from 1E/2E where a convoy could only carry 1 troop (or 2 if they were Marines/Compact, depending on the edition). There is something to be said for having troops be more limited in number, but at the same time there are other settings (like Battletech) where the ground forces would be the main focus of the game. In that case, having a bit more versatility would be welcomed.

One thing that gstano brought up to me is that the 2 EP ground force at 6 CP is a bit too limiting when you start trying to create some older units. There just aren't enough point leftover to do much with when you get done purchasing your d2 D Factor. This might mean that we need to increase the effectiveness of these smaller units, but at the same time it also begs the question of just what level of granularity we really want with ground forces and whether we need to standardize them more.

Even if we go with 2/4/6 as the costs for our light, medium, and heavy troops, there is still an issue with balancing exactly how many points each of those gets. Ground forces have fewer stats to put points into, and we want to keep it so that small troops still have some role in combat other than as support for larger forces.

In 1E, the cheapest 1 EP ground forces had about 8 CP of abilities (2 across the board). A 2 EP unit tended to have about 12 CP, and a 3 EP unit had 15 CP. Again, with the 2/4/6 split, that would end up being about a Cost x 2 + 4.

The 2E rules tried to moderate ground units by keeping their costs between 2-4 EP, that way we only had to worry about doubling rather than tripling in abilities for these units. Of course, this was largely related to the fact that only 1 ground unit could be carried per convoy, in much the same way that 1 flight occupies 1 CV regardless of size. This necessitated that troops be of similar capabilities to prevent light units from being a lot weaker than heavy units. Commandos at 1 EP did exist, but they were almost always a bad idea.

In some ways, it sounds like the direction we're headed here is going to be to have larger and more varied ground armies, and that might require a bit of rethinking about how the ground combat ends up working. I was trying to make it more balanced for small numbers of ground forces to fight, but if we're angling for a system where a single convoy might be carrying 2-5 ground forces, then we may have to revisit some of the concepts to keep it from getting too one-sided -- or at least make sure that the economics balances out.

Another option we have is to keep things similar to 2E and balance around that 2-4 EP cost, just assuming we have more troops to work with.

What are players' experiences with ground combat in their own campaigns up to this point?
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Re: Ground Units

Postby aelius » Tue Nov 08, 2016 3:47 am

I mostly use ground forces for garrisons. I deal with heavily defended worlds with the liberal use of Ortillery. If a government is too stupid to surrender when the fleet in orbit says "Surrender or we will bomb you into submission" why should I have to feed my soldiers into a meat grinder like planetary conquest.
I usually only take heavily fortified worlds if I need them undamaged for strategic reasons.
House rule, I assume most species are sane enough to avoid orbital extermination if they roll higher than Xenophobia minus Bombardment times 3.
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Re: Ground Units

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Nov 09, 2016 11:46 pm

I have a feeling that's probably the most common approach to ground combat: just bomb them from orbit and then land troops once the defenders are all taken care of. That makes ground combat pretty uninteresting and not very important, unfortunately.

I think the trick is going to be to balance it so that using heavy bombardment is going to score significant collateral damage. That would incentivize players to use bombardment sparingly if you want to take control of a system, but if you aren't interested in taking a system then you can just conducted unrestricted bombardment to rip the system apart.

To that end, I am also considering about increasing the number of bombardment points that units produce to compensate for having generally smaller fleets, and to give players a bit more teeth when it comes to bombardment. What I'm looking at is BP equal to 1/2 base construction Cost. That puts things like this: CT (1), DD (2), CL (3), CA (4), CB (5), BB (6). Flights would then have fractional BP, to make up for the fact that they are going to be a lot of more plentiful in most fleets.

I'm also thinking that we should be consistent and have collateral damage for each mission, including the anti-troop. That way heavy bombardment will always take out more than planned. I also want Carrying Capacity to be threatened by bombardment. What do people think about having it be -1 Capacity for every 48 BP used against a system each turn? That puts an upper limit on just how much BP you can use each turn without causing permanent damage to a system. If you want to eliminate a lot of units or infrastructure, you're going to end up doing enough damage to permanently damage the environment and make the system less useful.
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Re: Ground Units

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Nov 10, 2016 5:32 am

Let's take a look at a setting where ground combat is a pretty big deal.

Image

The Imperial fleet has moved in to Hoth and are going to bombard the system and then launch an invasion of this Rebel-controlled system.

Light troops were given 6 points, medium troops 9 points, and heavy troops 12 points.

The Imperials have one of each size of troops, for a total of 12 Cost of troops. The AT-ST is the light (2), the Snowtroopers medium (4), and the AT-AT heavy (6). What this means is that this is a selection of troops that is slightly larger than what a single convoy (10 capacity) could carry, but it does fit onto 3 x Assault 4 ships.

The Rebels are at a bigger disadvantage, as they have a single Snowspeeder (light) and two Rebel Troopers (medium). But they are dug-in on the planet, so they'll actually get +2 DEF in this battle (more on this in a bit).

Now, first thing's first, and the three Imperial star destroyers (BB) are going to rain down death against the planet in the Orbital Bombardment Phase prior to the Ground Combat Phase. As per the note above, I'm thinking that the ships could use a BP boost, and that means that each of these BB generates 6 BP per turn. That gives the Imperials 18 BP total to spend this turn. They choose to spend all 18 BP on Anti-Troop Bombardment, scoring a total of 3 Attrition damage to the Rebel troops. The defender chooses where to allocate them, and decides it's best to score 2 damage to 1 Trooper and 1 damage to the other Trooper.

It's now time to invade. None of the Imperial troops are Marines, but they are invading from Assault ships. For now I'm going to assume that the old Attack penalty from invading is gone and just add it into the DEF bonus for being dug-in. This is because they are mechanically doing the same thing, and it's easier to have one modifier rather than two. Marines can therefore just ignore the dug-in bonus when attacking. Alternatively, we can eliminate the dug-in bonus for defenders and make this a fixed -2 ATK for normal troops and full value for Marines if that makes more sense, but it's effectively the same modifier in either case.

Okay, the Imperial player decides that the best course of action here is going to be to use the AT-AT to attack the weakest Rebel Trooper (1 ATR). Both the AT-ST and Snowtroopers are going to be supporting the attack, for a +2 ATK bonus.

The Imperial AT-AT rolls its D Factor (d3) and gets a 3. This gives it 3 ATK + 3 DF + 2 ATK (support) = 8 ATK

The Rebel Trooper rolls its D Factor (d2) and gets a 1. This gives it 2 DEF + 1 DF + 2 DEF (dug-in) = 5 DEF.

The Imperials scored 3 Attrition damage to the Rebel Trooper, destroying it! The AT-AT has now landed in the system, securing a beachhead for the remaining troops to land this turn.

The Rebel Troopers get to make a counter-attack against the AT-AT. They roll D Factor (d2) and get a 2. This gives them 2 ATK + 2 DF = 4 ATK. The Imperials roll 3 + 3 DEF = 6 DEF. No damage to the AT-AT.

# # #

The above situation does illustrate one of the issues with deal with the counter-attack rules. If I can only counter-attack 1:1 then I'm rarely going to do any damage. If the invader had a DEF penalty, then my chances would improve, but it would be fairer to let the defender have other units provide a support bonus and make a full attack rather than a weak counter attack. In that case, the Rebels would have been able to have their Snowspeeder and the Rebel Trooper support the attack, giving them a +2 ATK. This would not have been enough to punch through the AT-AT's defenses because it rolled so well on its own D Factor, but that's to be expected with heavy troops like that.

Another option we could explore is letting any troop that is not attacking or being attacked provide +1 support to either Attack OR Defense. That would let troops that wanted to really dig in and protect themselves have a better chance, but it could also make it very difficult for either side to gain advantage.

The reason why there is an ability to support at all is because you don't want a situation where a weaker enemy has no chance to do damage to an enemy unless the situation is really lopsided. In 1E, the ground combat rules were pretty broken in that up to 4 troops could attack the same target, and each attacker provided a cumulative +Attack, +D Factor bonus. This made combat wholly one-sided and always 100% lethal, which wasn't fun at all. 2E tried to fix that by keeping the max 4 unit attack, but each unit after the first only gives you +1 Attack.

Something that might help the situation is if we could incentivize spreading out your attacks between ground forces, but I can't think of a good way to create "battle lines" that would not get incredibly gamey or require a separate battle board to resolve, which is something we really don't want to worry about.

The problem here is that if you have lots of weak units you still want them to have a chance. For example, against the AT-AT the Rebels are probably going to have pool all of their extra forces to get that +2 ATK in order to have a chance of breaking through its DEF. The AT-AT could still roll low on its DF, making it easy for a group of Rebel troops to get in there and take them down. But it's going to be a tough fight.

To illustrate why the 1E method doesn't work, consider that if all three of the Rebel troops attacked the AT-AT they would be getting 5 ATK + 1d3 + 2d2 which would be between 8-12 ATK. That is easily enough to blow through its DEF and kill it, no questions asked.

The issue that I've run into with just using one stat as a bonus (ATK or DF) is that it ends up creating a meta-game situation where you build a unit that is great in one thing but dump stats everything else to use as a support unit. That ends up breaking ground combat, too, because now there is an optimal and largely unbeatable strategy for taking out enemy troops.

The +1 ATK per supporting troop has worked in 2E, and it especially gives lighter troops an important role as support elements.

It would be nice if there was some incentive for players to spread their attacks around. Right now the incentive is that you only get the full combat strength from the first attacking unit. Therefore in the Hoth example, the Imperials could have chosen to spread out their forces in hopes of taking out two of the defenders instead of dogpiling one of them.

# # #

A consequence of doubling bombardment value is that it is going to make taking out troops much easier that it is right now. Anti-Troop bombardment might need adjusted accordingly, but losing 3 Attrition isn't that bad, and if troops in friendly systems always repaired Attrition then it wouldn't be quite as disastrous as you might think. Of course, the Imperials would be almost guaranteed to wipe out the light intervention forces.

This could be helped if we made the decision to have a minimum standing Militia presence equal to Census that is always there, and then have 1 Militia regenerate per turn if it is destroyed. These would be light troops that would not be very good, but would just automatically spawn. I'm not sure we really want to go back to something like this, as I think it would be hard to balance. However, I can see some merit to having a 1 Militia per Census basic army presence to help protect systems that get caught unawares otherwise. This would free players up from having to worry as much about garrisoning their systems with troops.

In our example, If Hoth is a 2 Census system, then there would be 2 Militia present to be attacked or help fight alongside the Rebels. This would give them a bit of extra support, maybe aiding them sufficiently to hold out for a few more turns and soak up extra orbital bombardment that would otherwise have been meant for the stronger troops.

The presence of those Militia garrisons, if combined with the defender scoring Anti-Troop damage, would probably mean that the Militias would need to be 1 Attrition units so that you couldn't just damage them once and then auto-regen a point of Attrition to bring them back up to full strength. This is where we end up with a lot of different systems interacting with each other.

# # #

The number of design points given to each of the troops is less than for comparable ships because there is a fine balance to the ability of ground forces to damage each other. We could move to being analogous to ships, however, and vastly increase the values. At that point, supporting units would about have to give their full Attack/Defense stat to the other unit to compensate. For example, this would be a difference of 4 points on the AT-AT, and that would be enough for a player to slap that onto DEF, ATK, or DF and really imbalance the unit, making it impossible to damage or impossible to survive an attack from it.

These are just some beginning thoughts to throw out there as we pursue balance for bombardment and ground combat. What do you guys think?
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Re: Ground Units

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Nov 11, 2016 3:09 am

Continuing this thread, I was looking back at a few old campaign diaries to see how this would end up working out how these rules would back port.

For our next example, let's take this fleet:

2 Battleship (12)
4 Heavy Cruisers (16)
8 Corvettes (8)
6 Heavy Fighters (3)

The numbers in parenthesis are the bombardment point totals for these units.

That gives the fleet a total of 39 BP in the Galaxies playtest rules, compared to just 20 BP under the 2E rules. As was intended, that makes this almost double the original BP.

Part of the reason I'm considering increasing bombardment value like this is because historically it has been very hard for a fleet to actually carry out bombardment unless you have a large fleet, or you're prepared to perform bombardment over multiple turns. Which is fair, but taking 2 turns to perform a single mission is a bit harsh.

Take this fleet for example. Normally it wouldn't be able to destroy a Productivity or Census every turn because it doesn't have enough BP. It would need to have significantly more ships to be able to pull it off, despite being a pretty decent-sized fleet.

With our 39 BP, we could do some major damage to enemy ground forces. We could spend 36 BP on Anti-Troop Bombardment and score 6 Attrition damage against the defenders. That is enough to wipe out a lot of ground forces. That might be a bit too effective, of course, which is easy to fix; just make it 12 BP, just like with Anti-Productivity Bombardment. Destroying 3 Attrition a turn is probably fairer in this case, as then it would take many turns to completely destroy all of the ground forces. Note that ground forces that are on a blockaded colony world aren't going to repair Attrition damage on their own, so the lower BP-to-Attrition conversion makes even more sense.

Now if you did Anti-Productivity Bombardment, the system would lose 3 Utilized Productivity next turn, 1 Productivity, 1 Census, 1 Morale, and 1 Intel. Whoa, that's a lot of loss? I would be tempted at that point to actually move the collateral damage out to a separate roll, probably one roll for every 36 points spent on bombardment this turn. You would then roll randomly to see what other stat was lost: Carrying Capacity, Census, Morale, Productivity, Intel. Sixth slot would probably be an additional Attrition loss, or it could be a Morale bonus if we wanted to keep the chance of the population showing resolve against the attackers.

The other option for bombardment is to make it more explicit where you are spending BP for a specific goal (-1 Productivity, or -1 Utilized Productivity) and just pick and choose how you're spending your BP. Then the collateral damage chance would cascade from there. I kind of like the more specific missions myself, as they seem to work fine, but I think the collateral damage effects would work better separated out.

One of the key things I do want the bombardment to do, however, is have a chance of leaving a system uninhabitable if it is bombarded too heavily too fast. That way there is a natural brake on how much bombardment you use, unless you don't care about the environmental damage and just want to destroy the planet. If you have a large enough fleet, sure you can wade in and spend 72 BP and destroy a whole bunch of things. But you could also end up damaging things you didn't want to, or damaging the system to the point no one can live there anymore. I think it's "neat" to have burnt out husks of planets that are left completely desolate and devastated after a total war. They serve as a no man's land to remind people of the cost of the war.

# # #

Back to the ground combat. In the original campaign battle that the fleet was participating in, there were 3 Regulars guarding the planet and 2 Marines in orbit waiting to invade. The first turn's bombardment was actually used as Anti-Population bombardment to take out some population and suppress industry. It wasn't until the second turn that the attacker turned its orbital guns on the troops. In that case, it managed to destroy two of them and damage a third. That's pretty blatant overkill, but then it was a 1E campaign so that was typical. :D With 12 BP per Attrition lost, we end up spending 36 BP to do 3 Attrition damage (defender's choice) and then can carry the remaining 3 BP over to the next turn.

The defender is smart and decides to assign 1 Attrition damage to each ground force. The Regulars from that game only had 2 Attrition, so they're not significantly weakened. Their full stats are ATR 2, DEF 2, ATK 2, DF d2. Note that with the tweak from earlier they are actually short a point, would could have made them more survivable. But oh well!

The attacker's Marines had these stats: ATR 3, DEF 2, ATK 3, DF d2, Marines. These guys actually have one point too many! But then 1E ground forces were always a bit eclectic. Again, we'll just leave it and assume they are more advanced (they probably were).

The Marines don't have any penalty to invading because those Heavy Cruisers were Assault ships. Given the way Galaxies is going, they were each probably Assault 2 and were carrying 2 x 4 Cost Marines.

The Marines have a decided advantage in this fight, so each one is going to select a different Regular to attack. This leaves one Regular sitting on its own doing nothing.

The first Marine rolls 2 + 3 ATK = 5. The defender rolls 1 + 2 DEF = 3. The defender takes 2 damage and is annihilated.
The counter-attack roll is 2 + 2 ATK = 4. The Marines roll 2 + 2 DEF = 4. Stalemate, no damage.

The second Marine rolls 1 + 3 ATK = 4. The defender rolls 1 + 2 DEF = 3. The defender takes 1 damage, and this is enough to kill it since it's already been weakened by bombardment.
The counter-attack roll is 2 + 2 ATK = 4. The Marines roll 2 + 2 DEF = 4. Stalemate again.

The attackers have succeeded in making their landing without so much as a scratch!

This does demonstrate where that extra point on both sides made a significant difference. If the defender had +1 ATR or DEF, they would have been able to hold on to one Regular and had a better chance against the Marines next turn. The Marines meanwhile would have not had the success they did if their ATK had been a point lower. Granted, They would have still had a great ATR and not taken any damage, but it wouldn't have been quite so one sided.

Now, this also demonstrates why the counter-attack mechanic really doesn't work. The better option would have been for the defender to have all THREE Regulars attack the same Marines. That would have changed the situation to be a total 6 ATK (+1 ATK per aiding troop), and that would have at least been enough to score 2 damage to a Marine. That would have left one of them fairly hurt and easier to kill next turn, or if the Marines had lower ATR (from removing the extra point of ability) it would have actually died.

# # #

I think the ground combat system set up this way in conjunction with bombardment seems to work, but I'd like your reactions and feedback before I go in and make any major changes. Mainly because making those changes is time consuming and I'd rather talk it through with everyone first. :)
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Re: Ground Units

Postby gstano » Sat Nov 12, 2016 10:18 am

Tyrel,

Thanks for the updates here. There appears to be some interesting changes, such as with the ground unit cost and construction points. I am reading through this and plan to get a response to everything later tonight.
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Re: Ground Units

Postby aelius » Sat Nov 12, 2016 11:30 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:It would be nice if there was some incentive for players to spread their attacks around. Right now the incentive is that you only get the full combat strength from the first attacking unit. Therefore in the Hoth example, the Imperials could have chosen to spread out their forces in hopes of taking out two of the defenders instead of dogpiling one of them.


Just say that units have to pair off until only one side has units not engaged then add up to two to each pair to represent maneuvers. That way there is a front line and extra units are like the reserves sweeping in from the flanks or concentrating for a thrust.
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Re: Ground Units

Postby gstano » Sun Nov 13, 2016 4:44 am

Unit costs and construction points
I do not see any issues with the costs that you are listing. As you said, having the costs work as they are here keeps them from being too easy to haul around. As an alternative, we could keep the smaller costs, but state that the require 2x their cost to move. That may be a little gimmicky though.

I am still a little concerned with the light ground units. Right off the bat, 4 of their construction points are used up: ATR 1, ATK 1, DEF 1, DF d1. I agree that there is a fine line to make them useful versus over powering them. You do make a good point that with the support rules, light units offer more for their support than necessarily leading the fight directly.

Free attrition repair
I like this feature for units at a friendly system. I would extend this to be only units that are fighting in a friendly system and are not acting as guerrillas. Also, I recommend the Hospital trait being allowed for ground units. It gives a player another option to help heal friendly troops and it can be used to support a ground campaign that may take a while and the threat of loosing space superiority is a possibility. Essentially, you are landing a field hospital.

Free militia
I would argue against the free spawning militia. i would rather see them as a universal unit that is available to be called up like any other. They could even be a cheap 1 EP (and represent a civil defense force), but maybe add an exception that they can only be used in they system they are built.

Bombardment
I do like the more specific bombardment missions and I completely agree with bombardment causing random collateral damage. It is a valid tactic that a player may simply bomb their opponents into submission. It does not require a costly ground battle and effectively eliminates the enemy system. However, if you are actually trying to capture territory and use it, then the ground units are needed in order to capture a system intact. Also, making anti-troop require 12 BP does not look like a bad option.
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Re: Ground Units

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Nov 13, 2016 5:19 am

gstano wrote:Unit costs and construction points
I do not see any issues with the costs that you are listing. As you said, having the costs work as they are here keeps them from being too easy to haul around. As an alternative, we could keep the smaller costs, but state that the require 2x their cost to move. That may be a little gimmicky though.

We could make them cheaper and just take more space. It depends on just how cheap we want troops to be. In 1E they were pretty cheap, and we didn't have that many of them. I scaled them up mainly to make them a bit more expensive to run around with, and to keep it in line with the cost of our cheapest ships.

I am still a little concerned with the light ground units. Right off the bat, 4 of their construction points are used up: ATR 1, ATK 1, DEF 1, DF d1. I agree that there is a fine line to make them useful versus over powering them. You do make a good point that with the support rules, light units offer more for their support than necessarily leading the fight directly.

I agree, and it is actually worse than that because the minimum DF is d2, so you actually have 5 points spoken for. Which also means that my Snowspeeder is actually over-pointed. Oops! But, yes, I could see improving the light ground units to 8 points, which puts heavies at 16, and the mediums would be in the middle at 12. That has the downside of maybe making the heavies too powerful, however, as then they could walk all over other units by virtue of having about 4's in each stat (instead of 3's).

This is a similar problem we run into with flights. Something I have considered doing there, if it does become a problem, would be to increase the CP given to flights and then get rid of their crippling again. This would lead to tougher flights, but then you don't worry about whether or not they're crippled. So instead of 4 points for a Light Fighter, it might jump to 6 points. The Heavy Fighter would then be 12, and the Medium would become 9. Superheavy... probably a 15?

Free attrition repair
I like this feature for units at a friendly system. I would extend this to be only units that are fighting in a friendly system and are not acting as guerrillas. Also, I recommend the Hospital trait being allowed for ground units. It gives a player another option to help heal friendly troops and it can be used to support a ground campaign that may take a while and the threat of loosing space superiority is a possibility. Essentially, you are landing a field hospital.

Right, probably create the Medic ability and just say it does the same as Hospital, but for ground forces that are at the same location (in orbit in the same system, or on the ground in the same system). Or maybe that distinction isn't important? But I definitely could see that being an important part of keeping them operational.

Free militia
I would argue against the free spawning militia. i would rather see them as a universal unit that is available to be called up like any other. They could even be a cheap 1 EP (and represent a civil defense force), but maybe add an exception that they can only be used in they system they are built.

The special Militia conditions and rules were a bear in 1E, which is part of the reason I'm really not keen on seeing a lot of special rules for them, but wanted to throw those options out for discussion nonetheless. I think 2 EP for a cheap troop is still pretty reasonable. Sure, it will take your 1 Census system 2 turns to build a Militia, but given enough forewarning you could still get a few of them online to protect your system.

Bombardment
I do like the more specific bombardment missions and I completely agree with bombardment causing random collateral damage. It is a valid tactic that a player may simply bomb their opponents into submission. It does not require a costly ground battle and effectively eliminates the enemy system. However, if you are actually trying to capture territory and use it, then the ground units are needed in order to capture a system intact. Also, making anti-troop require 12 BP does not look like a bad option.

So we have Anti-Troop, Anti-Productivity, and Anti-Population Bombardment. The Anti-Troop is going to remove Attrition for every 12. The Anti-Productivity could do -1 Utilized Productivity for every 12, and -1 Productivity for every 24. Anti-Population could do -1 Census for every 24, with the special Morale roll that can go either way.

Then, for every 36 points, we could have another collateral damage roll that goes like this:

1: -1 Carrying Capacity
2: -1 Census
3: -1 Morale
4: -1 Productivity
5: -1 Intel
6: 3 Attrition damage (defender chooses, may target attacking units)

Example: I have 48 BP and am going to spend 24 on Anti-Troop and 24 on Anti-Productivity. The target system takes -2 Attrition, -2 Utilized Productivity next turn, and -1 Productivity permanently. I then roll for collateral damage, and get a "2". 1 Census was also killed in the attack.

That 48 BP could be 48 CT, or 24 DD, or 16 CL, or 12 CA, or even 8 BB. That is still a significant number of ships. The bombardment value threshold on the collateral damage also remains high enough that you have to effectively do enough to get "3" partial effects to cause any collateral damage, and you could always choose to withhold the bombardment to keep from getting to that point.

This also highlights that the BP costs for missions could in theory be reduced considerably, but then we get back into the partial bombardment point values for ships which I think is a mistake. It's always worked before, but I think it's easier dealing with whole numbers here for everything about flights.

Another thing worth throwing out there is that I'm considering changing the Gunship ability to be rated, with each CP spent on Gunship giving it +1 BP. For example, a CT with Gunship 2 would generate 3 BP per turn (1 + 2 from Gunship). This would let us more easily represent bombers or ships with mass drivers using a single stat. Mass Driver could still exist separately as a trait that doubles BP generation, if we wanted to go that route, too. But I think this becomes an easier way to combine all of the bombardment effects together.

If we do go with only the three core missions, that will mean not having the Suppression mission from 1E that allowed for hyper effective Utilized Productivity reduction (6 BP per point, with no real change of damage), nor the Tactical Support (that reduced defender Defense instead of damaging Attrition). I'm okay with that for a few reasons. First, Suppression was always the "best answer" in almost every case because you didn't damage anything and it prevented your opponent from doing anything. Second, Tactical Support and Anti-Troopare close enough to each other that the former seems redundant. Both of these missions made more sense in 1E where most orbital bombardment took an entire turn, except for these missions which could be done ad hoc.
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Re: Ground Units

Postby Emiricol » Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:29 pm

I'd love to have more ground combat. Thinking BattleTech, Dune, etc. So, I think units should stay inexpensive and moving them should get easier.
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I think Galaxy bombardment points work out just about right, for me - a month of continuous bombardment *ought* to be effective, and it's easier to raise BV than to tweak everything else.

I think there should be enough collateral damage that you really don't want to bombard a planet that you intend to keep if you have any other choice. Damange to Census and Ut. Prod. and possibly facilities, in addition to CAP, would be better. At least, that's how my thinking goes at the moment :)
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Another option we could explore is letting any troop that is not attacking or being attacked provide +1 support to either Attack OR Defense.


I love the consequence of this, making ground combat take longer. I don't have time to playtest it, but it seems like it would be much more in line with my expectation of ground combat. Zerging should be a viable strategy with a chance at success, which is ONLY possible if, as above, we improve the ability to transport troop units.

If this were combined with a max active army size (perhaps ATT <= CR), then the other units would be reserves. Adding a simple +1 regardless of unit size is then a problem. I'd total the ATT or DV of all support units and then divide in half (may need to tweak that), assign as you wish to active units. Similar, then, to Single Squadron combat.
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One of the key things I do want the bombardment to do, however, is have a chance of leaving a system uninhabitable if it is bombarded too heavily too fast.


Absolutely. I'd like anything more than a little support bombardment to have good chance of breaking things. Burnt out husks, yup! But unless CAP is reduced to the very lowest level above 0, I will houserule that they regain CAP at a rate of 1 per year - roll 2d6 higher than current CAP. Nature will moderately recover "quickly" if there is any nature left after bombardment, but getting back to Gaea status would take a lot longer.
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So we have Anti-Troop, Anti-Productivity, and Anti-Population Bombardment. The Anti-Troop is going to remove Attrition for every 12. The Anti-Productivity could do -1 Utilized Productivity for every 12, and -1 Productivity for every 24. Anti-Population could do -1 Census for every 24, with the special Morale roll that can go either way.

Then, for every 36 points, we could have another collateral damage roll that goes like this:


This seems to fit well with what I discussed above. I like it!

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Re: Ground Units

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Nov 15, 2016 1:28 am

Emiricol wrote:I'd love to have more ground combat. Thinking BattleTech, Dune, etc. So, I think units should stay inexpensive and moving them should get easier.

VBAM up to this point has had issues with getting a lot of ground combat going, but the change to carrying units as cargo (reduce their size equal to construction cost in most cases) should help quite a bit. And having the costs at 2/4/6 for light/medium/heavy troops lets you "Tetris" units into a 10 capacity convoy pretty easy. You're going to have odd ball units with cost modifiers that won't fit in as well, but you can still achieve some interesting combinations.

I think Galaxy bombardment points work out just about right, for me - a month of continuous bombardment *ought* to be effective, and it's easier to raise BV than to tweak everything else.

I think there should be enough collateral damage that you really don't want to bombard a planet that you intend to keep if you have any other choice. Damange to Census and Ut. Prod. and possibly facilities, in addition to CAP, would be better. At least, that's how my thinking goes at the moment :)

Increasing BP also gets rid of almost all of the fractional bombardment issues that we've had in the past, which seems like it would make it easier to calculate how much BP you have to actually use. You're right that the missions themselves seem to be working fine, it's just the per-unit contributions that could be increased to make them more deadly.

I'm still a bit skittish with the Anti-Troop bombardment rate, as I want it to be a useful tactic, but not so overpowered that you're always better off bombing off all of the troops before landing. That has been a perennial problem, too, and I'd like to encourage more ground combat in the game.


I love the consequence of this, making ground combat take longer. I don't have time to playtest it, but it seems like it would be much more in line with my expectation of ground combat. Zerging should be a viable strategy with a chance at success, which is ONLY possible if, as above, we improve the ability to transport troop units.

If we kept Compact around, you could conceivably create a Medium troop that would be size 2, and would therefore fit 5 per convoy. That would let a force just explode with a huge number of troops. Kind of like a swarm or droid army. The support element is where things start getting a bit fuzzy. The innate support bonus feels right in a lot of ways, but at the same time it would also be interesting if you had separate abilities that did that for you, like Recon (+1 DEF) and Artillery (+1 ATK). Then you end up with a bit of back and forth customizing ground forces for different empires. Or maybe the support is normal, but Recon and Artillery units are twice as effective? Or can support additional units per combat?

If this were combined with a max active army size (perhaps ATT <= CR), then the other units would be reserves. Adding a simple +1 regardless of unit size is then a problem. I'd total the ATT or DV of all support units and then divide in half (may need to tweak that), assign as you wish to active units. Similar, then, to Single Squadron combat.

The 1E rules had a blanket limit of 4 units being able to attack any one unit. 2E went along the same path, but changed the mechanics a bit. During 2E's development, however, I did monkey with a CR stat for troops that determined the number of support units that could be attached to a unit. The higher the Command, the more troops they could jump in with.

Now, the direction I think you're heading in here is to have a CR stat for troops, and have them form into an army like fleets form into task forces. Then you'd have a strict battle line for the engagement. I'm not sure that works with the contested roll system for ATK vs. DEF, but it might. As long as DEF could be worn down, but you always got D Factor... but then D Factor becomes too important in its current form. But maybe we need to walk down that path and see where it leads?

Absolutely. I'd like anything more than a little support bombardment to have good chance of breaking things. Burnt out husks, yup! But unless CAP is reduced to the very lowest level above 0, I will houserule that they regain CAP at a rate of 1 per year - roll 2d6 higher than current CAP. Nature will moderately recover "quickly" if there is any nature left after bombardment, but getting back to Gaea status would take a lot longer.

Depending on how playtesting going, terraforming may revert to being a CAP increase along the lines of Productivity increases. I was using traits to make it more interesting, but I'm now thinking about collapsing that to make Homeworld a fixed bonus, which then gets rid of some of the hooks for having terraforming apply a second trait. It could still be a roll to see if you gain CAP or RAW, though, which would keep it interesting. Like 1-4 CAP, 5-6 RAW. Then reclaiming a bombed out system would be possible, but probably not all that useful. And there would have to be a limit on just how much you could terraform still. As you can tell, I'm still a little bit on the fence about how to handle that.
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Re: Ground Units

Postby Emiricol » Tue Nov 15, 2016 1:53 am

Thanks for the answer! I see how some of the ideas aren't very practical, but some might be interesting to keep working at. I'm too fried to really get into it right now, hopefully some other people chime in:) But:

The 1E rules had a blanket limit of 4 units being able to attack any one unit. 2E went along the same path, but changed the mechanics a bit.


I recall a discussion about the 4-on-1 being essentially too lopsided, and the solutions had consequences that were even more extreme? Anyway, I thought about this: what if the max attackers-on-defender is changed from 4:1 to 2:1? Then, the Compact units (Zergs) could fit +2 zergs on any single defender (total 4, as per original rules). That way, zergs are a real threat, while simultaneously resolving the issue that was under discussion somewhere else, about the 4:1 standard being too much.

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Re: Ground Units

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Nov 23, 2016 5:36 pm

I have been thinking more about the ground combat question, and I'm leaning towards playing around with some sort of ground CR that would limit army size in the same way that we would limit task force size. I still don't want multiple rounds or anything, as I think we want ground warfare to remain a slow process, but the ground CR would still serve the same benefits as space CR in that it limits the absolute number of troops that could be fielded at once.

That still leaves the balance issue of how to handle the contest between enemy units. 1E made dogpiling too easy, 2E leans towards stalemates with light support from other combatants. I think what we need is a solution that is going to create defined roles for the ground forces so that we can have a more interesting variety of units.

The Recon/Artillery support concept I outlined before is a good example of this. Having more units that provide small bonuses one way or another seems like it would be a good way of giving ground combat a bit more nuance than it has right now.

I'm still torn on the best way to accomplish this. I think the 2E solution is "good enough" for the most part, and it was an improvement over 1E, but it isn't perfect. I find the counter-attack rules to be pretty non-intuitive, for example. I've considered changing a failed attack so that it scores Attrition damage on the attacker if they can't overcome the defender's Defense. That would demonstrate a costly attack, but it also makes it impossible for an attacker to take losses from a successful attack (ignoring any attacks the defender made this turn).

I think one of our bigger issues with ground combat is that we have a direct Attack vs. Defense system with D Factor thrown in as the wild card. It works 1:1 in some cases, but doesn't scale well for massed assaults. Allowing units to combine Attack/Defense causes huge problems, because massed Attack makes it easy to cut through a target's Defense while massed Defense makes it impossible for an enemy to damage a unit.

D Factor makes things a bit murkier still, as it becomes the only random element in ground combat. In 2E I made it apply to both Attack and Defense (instead of just Attack) to make it a more uniform trait. I think that works, but it can get annoying if you have too many ground units in the mix and have to keep rolling dice.

In the end, what might need to happen is to see about adding the ground CR and find out if that is a useful change or not (it might not be) and otherwise try to get the right balance on ground support. It may also be a case of having the CR be the number of units that can be supporting the current unit. For example, if I have CR 2 then I can have 2 troops assigned to support me. The support could then be either a +1 Attack or +1 Defense. That could end up exacerbating existing problems, however, as larger units could then have higher CR and then have more support units and higher stats which makes them increasingly harder to kill or defend against.

Restricting support to special units is also an option, but at that point we've have to make the stat gain between classes much shallower, as it will be that much harder to get enough stats to overcome the enemy's defenses. Recon/Artillery units would then become very important, as most light combatants would be focused on those roles.
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Re: Ground Units

Postby aelius » Thu Nov 24, 2016 5:24 pm

Why make ground units have different stats anyway?
I have always wondered why you didn't just give ground units the same kind of stats as space units and have them fight their battles in a similar way. They would have special abilities for ground combat, like artillery or anti aircraft, instead of space abilities.
It would eliminate all of this tricky balancing. All you would really have to do is calculate the proper penalty for the invasion round. Other than that you could run ground combat with the CSCR and that would take care of the balance issues.
I think the single squadron rules would work pretty well.
I understand you probably wanted to give ground combat a different system to differentiate it from the space combat, but is the added complexity worth it?
Just a thought.
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Re: Ground Units

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Nov 26, 2016 5:35 pm

I tested a ground combat version of the CSCR early on in 2E, and it didn't get traction -- largely because I think most people ignore ground combat in this game and just didn't have much interest in that aspect of the rules, and thought that the 1E rules were "good enough".

If we shifted to a CSCR-style combat resolution, I could see the base rules giving ground forces the following stats: Attrition, Defense, Attack, Command. Attrition would be the total "health" of the unit and would act like it does now. Defense would be the damage surcharge that you'd have to pay before you start taking Attrition damage. Attack would be the stat used to deal damage against the enemy. Command would be the number of additional troops that you could add to your army (same as the Galaxies CSCR task force rules). This would maintain compatibility with the existing VBAM rules, but allow for a CSCR style experience.

Rather than the d6 x Stat / 10 system from the CSCR, I think ground combat would be better served with something similar to what I saw in Empire of the Sun where you roll a die and have breakpoints for full, half, and quarter damage. That would seem to give more controlled results, although possibly not the best results. Another alternative is to do 2d6 x Stat / 10, as then you would be getting a bell curve that would be representative of about 2 rounds of CSCR combat. I'll use that in the example below.

All damage would be scored as directed damage by the attacker to make damage resolution easier (and fairer).

Note: The Snowspeeder now should have ATR 1, DEF 2, ATK 1, CMD 2.

Example: Using the units posted previously, and converting D Factor to Command, the Imperials have 5 Attack. They roll [2d6] 6 x 5 / 10 = 3 damage. The Imperials choose to apply all 3 damage to the Snowspeeder. 2 damage breaks through its DEF and the remaining point of damage reduces its ATR to 0.

The Rebels have a total of 5 Attack, too. They roll [2d6] 9 x 5 / 10 = 4 damage. They use this damage to destroy the Imperial Snowtroopers.


Under this system, you would end up needing more stats (we'd probably go to matching the ships, I think). Special abilities like Recon/Artillery would then affect enemy DEF, as that acts like a formation for ground forces. For example, Artillery would weaken the DEF of an enemy target, while Recon increases the DEF of a friendly target. Invading from transports would halve the Attack, but Marines would get their full Attack.

This also makes it easier to add the Hard/Soft/Air split into the advanced rules, so that you'd designate ground units as being one of the three types, and then Attack would be split between the three. Converting existing ground units would require taking Attack x 3 and splitting that between the 3 different types, more than likely. That way you could convert the VBAM ground rules to support settings that have a strong differentiation between those different types of troops. Or is there a desire to have that split be the default?
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