Bases & Defenses

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

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Dec 04, 2016 4:48 pm

Bases are kind of our last remaining major question mark in Galaxies. I've been consciously avoiding them until we have ship combat sorted out, but I think now is a good time to start hashing out the final details of how bases should be presented in the rules.

I think a good starting point is to ask what role you feel starbases would best fulfill in the rules? Are they massive defense bastions that are much more combat capable than a ship, or do they have some special significance on the strategic layer? What have other games done that you feel is a good implementation of starbases in a 4X strategy game?

Myself, I go back and forth on what they should do. The easiest option, and the one that VBAM has leaned towards for its history, is to make bases a bit more powerful than a similarly-sized ship so that the fact that these are immobile units is balanced against them having some heavy firepower when they are drawn into a fight.

In most other games that I can think of, starbases are usually just combat manifestations of existing infrastructure. For example, in MOO2 your starbases are just the facilities that you're building to improve command limits (IIRC?) and build ships. The fact that they appear in combat is almost secondary. That same process is repeated in Stellaris, with the exception that you can build small defense platforms here and there to improve defense in a system.

One of the specific issues that we run into is also how to determine the number of bases that are included in combat, and how those are added to the task force. The simplest way of handling this is to treat bases like any other unit for purposes of adding it to the task force, but that does lead to some "task force dilution" that doesn't feel quite right in a Defensive scenario.

Another option is to have a second string of defensive works added to a task force. Which this is a faux CR from the largest non-civilian base present or the system's Productivity, this would be a number of additional defense units that are added to the task force in addition to your normal command limits. For example, let's say we had a 10 EP base (effective CR 10, let's say). That base would then bring in 10 other defenders with it.

The balancing act that we run into here is that a defending player is not going to want to voluntarily expose his supply depot or shipyards in a fight, while an attacker is going to want to be able to attack these units. This creates a fine line we have to walk between the two extreme positions. Having a high base CR and bringing in more defenses could accidentally force the player to include the civilian infrastructure that he'd rather protect. That would make the high CR base a liability in this instance.

The 1/3 rule from classic VBAM works in situations like this, but it is kind of clunky and not terribly intuitive. The idea I think was originally supposed to be something similar to Starfire, where you're simulating that the defenses are spread across the system or in different areas in orbit of the same planet.


Actually, what if we took a look at that again. Break the orbit of the planet into either 3 or 6 different "zones" and the defender assigns fixed defenses to each of these zones. The attacker than chooses which zone they are are attacking each turn. That sidesteps the issue of commanding defenses entirely, and gives the attacker a choice of what he's targeting while also giving the defender some choice over what is clustered together.

Let's say 3 zones to follow the 1/3 split rule. Would it be better to do the split by # of units or cost of units? The high cost of supply depots and shipyards makes me think # of units is still preferable. In that case, if we have the following:

1 x Battlestation
4 x Defense Platform
10 x Defsat
1 x Supply Depot
2 x Shipyards

We end up with a total of 18 units. That is fortuitous, because now we have an even split of 6 units per zone. The defender then arrays the units like this:

Zone 1: 1 Battlestation, 1 Supply Depot, 4 Defsat
Zone 2: 2 Defense Platforms, 3 Defsat, 1 Shipyard
Zone 3: 2 Defense Platforms, 3 Defsat, 1 Shipyard

At the start of each round, the attacker then chooses which set of defenses he is engaging.

Perhaps a simpler solution yet would be to have a single "defensive squadron" attached to the task force, with the number of defenses included being equal to 1/3 the number of bases (round up). Thus a task force in a Defensive scenario that has 18 bases would include 6 of them at a time. This would be just like classic VBAM, but worded in such a way that it's a bonus inclusion to the task force. With this fixed "engagement window," you would then have to lose most of your military bases before your civilian bases would be exposed.
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Re: Bases & Defenses

Postby Emiricol » Sun Dec 04, 2016 6:00 pm

The 1/3 (or even 1/2) rule is fast, simple, and intuitive. Going by #units ilets defense-in-depth with defsats/mines/def bases allow players to exclude infrastructure like SY from the scenario, or at worst put it in the reserves.

A possible way to address the balancing act that you mention might be this: limit mandatory additional involved units to the # of units in the attacking squadron. The attackerAttackers could eventually wear enemies down to the point where they finally get to their vulnerable underbelly, but it would take determination. Kind of like some of the battle descriptions in Ender's Game, using Scenario Length (forcing more or fewer losses) to represent commanders jockeying for tactical positioning.

Do you all think that having enough defsats and defensive bases to keep the civilian stuff in reserves or excluded until after the #turns is up, is good enough? It would make the attacker have to do some serious invading to wade through those defenders in one battle, or they'd have to win by attrition over several turns (like the fiction).

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