Fall of Night

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

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Jan 13, 2017 4:44 am

I am playing around with a few new approaches to the rules based on some ideas that I've been bouncing off of Jay the last week. I'm attaching a PDF of the GoogleDoc that I was using to playtest the changes.

Here's an overview of some of the things I'm trying out:

Tech Advancement
Tech advancement as per my other post in this forum about the research categories. I broke out the force list into six areas of research (Escort, Cruiser, Capital Ship, Flight, Base, Troop) and assigned those tech levels. An empire then has one or more units available at each TL in these fields.

I started with TL 0 in all six fields, and picked the Earth Alliance from Babylon 5 as my test case. I designed the ships using the Galaxies ship construction rules (with a modification to maintenance costs that I am also playing with). I gave the starting empire 10 designs, as per our classic rules, and that still feels right here. It just means that some empires will start with more units of one type or another.

During the course of the year I paid into tech investment and was able to boost my Capital Ship research to TL 1. This unlocked the Avenger Heavy Carrier, which gives me a greater fighter carrier that I can use to project firepower. These ships are expensive, especially when you factor in the cost of the air wing, but they are going to be great for power projection when the time comes.

The reasoning behind this change, and why I wanted to try it, is that it combines the ISD based method where you know what is coming up with a more freeform research model where the player has more control over what is being researched. I picked to research Capital Ships first, but now I'm researching Escorts because the next ship in that queue (based on my previous conversion) looks to be a version of the Hermes Fast Transport that would give me a Fast Supply ship, which would really help as I expand.

Exploration & Surveys
I wanted to try out an alternative exploration model that might better fit the direction that the rules are going. In this game, unexplored lanes are treated as a special type of restricted lane that requires a fleet to have at least one Scout present to be able to cross it. When you move into an unexplored system for the first time you roll the base stats for the system and check to see if it is inhabited. You then name the system.

On subsequent turns, you use your Scouts to survey the system. The survey cost is equal to the base Carrying Capacity, and Scouts that start the turn in the system can apply Scout functions towards this total. Once surveyed, you roll on the Special Traits table to see what your survey has uncovered. You then roll to see how many other jump lanes are in the system and the jump lane class of the lane that brought the fleet to that system.

This exploration method eliminates the random rolls and makes exploration more controlled. The biggest limitation becomes supply and having enough Scout functions to perform the surveys once you're there. You can ping pong around and get a sense for what systems are out there on the map, where you can't in classic exploration, but in so doing you're burning turns that you could have been surveying.

Exploration rewards could easily be baked into this system so that the first player to survey the system gets to roll for some sort of one-time bonus, be it economic points (pirate cache) or an alien databank (tech investment).

The rules for peril could be added back in, possibly by requiring a specific roll while surveying to see if they encountered anything, but right now this exploration method seems to be more straightforward while still limiting the absolute rate of expansion. Having the survey costs tied to Carrying Capacity also meant that less worthwhile systems also complete faster, which is a plus.

Construction
I am playing that systems and shipyards have a construction capacity equal to 2 x Utilized Productivity. Sources of construction capacity cannot combine capacity for any purpose, so that means that you have a slower overall construction rate. Originally I was doing 1 x Utilized Productivity, but that proved too slow in this playtest and I was rapidly building up economic points. 2x seems to be working better.

I went back to having bases be built by systems, but I am also experimenting with allowing convoys to get 1 construction capacity for base construction. That makes them very slow to build bases, and I may have to allow them to boost a system's base construction capacity instead to make it more tenable. I have a convoy over in Barnard building a supply depot (20 EP) as I want to extend supply out to Eridani and Indi, and that is going to be the easiest way. It may end up being a fool's errand.

Flights
I've been working a lot with retooling flights to make them work better. To that end, I am treating flights as ships in that they cripple/destroy the same, and their costs are more consistent with those of a small ship. In the playtest battles this seems to be working out well, and I'm hopeful this removes the need for flight recovery (2E) and the flight replenishment rules.

# # #

I'm hoping to run into some aliens at some point here so that I can start fighting some battles. Pirates aren't an issue right now because I eliminated the minimum 1% raiding chance (for the sake of my sanity with the number of rolls!) and the Earth Alliance has the Laertes Patrol Corvette which is a Police ship that is excellent at eliminating raiders because it counts as 2 ships for the purposes of the raiding checks.

The Galaxies population increase rules that use Capacity instead of Census for the roll seem to be working great. I got a population increase at Centauri this year, boosting it. So it seems to be working as intended. And it means that Rigel (12 CAP) is going to be a must as that system is going to be almost guaranteed to gain population every year.

Long term plans for this game are going to be to colonize Rigel and possibly Eridani. I'm not using the outpost colonization option from Galaxies, so I'll have to choose wisely how I spread my population around. I should have started my homeworld off with an additional Census to make expansion easier, but that's what these tests are for, right?

In any event, another aspect of this particular flavor of VBAM I'm going to try out is allowing troops to be placed in any system, even those you don't have colonized. To that end, I think I might build a convoy and some extra Infantry and go establish garrison on some of the far flung systems that I want to control long term, even if I can't colonize them right now. Putting troops out there is going to make it harder for an enemy to dislodge me.

Oh, yes, when it comes to controlling a system I've changed that rule in this game so that an empire controls a system if it has military units there. Full stop. If units from two non-friendly empires are in the system, then it becomes contested. A system with no military forces present is neutral.
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Jan 13, 2017 5:23 am

When it comes to combat, I am adapting some of Jay's unpublished material to come up with something in between Galaxies and classic VBAM combat. This system hinges on two elements: detection and intensity.

You end up rolling detection rolls against each opponent in an encounter to see the degree of success in detecting them (how many, what kind, etc.).

Once you have completed detection, then you decide your commitment level for the encounter. There are five levels, ranging from Disengage (0 intensity) and Aggressive (4 intensity).

Where I'm deviating from Jay is that he had separate intensity costs for each scenario, and three different types of each scenario (2E playtesters may remember us testing this out in the 2008-2009 era). Instead of going that route, I want to achieve a similar effect by having the total intensity of the Attack and Defender in a scenario determine the number of squadrons the task force flagship has available in that scenario.

# # #

The best way to illustrate this is via an example. Using the EA ships from the Fall of Night, let's pretend that BG 1.1 and 1.2 met each other in a dark alley somewhere in the galaxy and were enemies. This triggers an encounter. We're going to call these forces Alpha and Bravo, respectively.

Alpha rolls to detect Bravo, and its result is that it finds out that this enemy empire is present and has a total of 3 ships in the system. Bravo meanwhile only knows that the opposing player has ships in the system (they'd also know about civilian forces and troops, but that's outside the scope of this example).

The Alpha player has better intel going into this battle and is confident that he can take on Bravo, but he doesn't know exactly what the enemy has. It could be 3 corvettes, it could be 3 battleship. He chooses the Steady (3 Intensity) commitment level.

The Bravo player only knows that the enemy is here, but knows nothing about the composition of the enemy force. This could be a single ship or it could be a whole armada. He's not confident of his chances here, so he chooses to Disengage (0 Intensity) and retreat from the system.

Alpha has the highest intensity, so he gets first chance to demand a scenario (and Bravo can't demand a scenario, because he's running away!). The only option here is a Pursuit scenario because Bravo is disengaging. The two opponents have a total of 3 Intensity between then, which is going to reduce their flagship CR to 50% (round up) for determining the max number of squadrons they can bring into the battle. And, as the Attack, Alpha's total is halved again because of the pursuit scenario limit.

Alpha is using the Orestes system monitor as his flagship, and it has 6 CR. This is reduced to 3 CR by the scenario intensity, and reduced by half again due to scenario limitations, for a total of 2 CR. The flag can bring in 2 squadrons into this battle. Bravo fleet is also using it's Orestes, which can combat 3 squadrons this battle (not that it matters).

Alpha builds the following two squadrons:

Alpha TF 1
1 x Orestes
2 x Epimetheus
2 x Laertes

Alpha TF 2
2 x Avenger
1 x Artemis
2 x Laertes

A keen observer will realize that this is still their entire fleet :P They have just enough CR in both squadrons to cover the command costs of all of their units. For shame.

Bravo fleet instead looks like this:

Bravo TF 1
1 x Orestes
1 x Epimetheus
1 x Artemis

Bravo fleet is obviously massively outgunned here. It's a good thing it disengaged, though, as that forced Alpha fleet to attempt a Pursuit scenario instead of a Deep Space scenario, so this will be a shorter massacre.

Rolling surprise, we end up with Alpha at Normal (+0) and Bravo at Normal (+0).

Now is where things start getting hazy for me when it comes to scenario length. I think the 1-4 per player + d6 rounds works, generally, but it's a bit long. In this case I am going to say the amount that players can add is between 0 and their intensity (0-4 for Alpha, 0 for Bravo) + d6 and the scenario modifier. I'm going to have Alpha add 4 rounds, Bravo 0 rounds, and the d6 is 2. Pursuit scenario has a -4 length according to 1E, so let's roll with it. That gives us a total length of 2 rounds. Boo.

Okay, the last few battles I've been collapsing the fire phase to a single set of simultaneous damage rolls, with the option of rolling separately for each squadron if you want more of a CSCR skirmish feel. I'm going to do the combined rolls here.

Alpha fleet has a total of 35 AS to Bravo fleet's 16 AS.

First round fire sees Alpha fleet score 35 x 2 = 7 damage. The defender scores 7 against the Epimetheus, crippling it. Bravo fleet scores 16 x 2 = 3 damage. The defender scores 3 damage against a Laertes, crippling it.

Second round fire sees Alpha fleet score 34 x 4 = 13 damage. The defender destroys the Artemis (8 damage) and then is forced to destroy the Epimetheus with the remaining damage (as it is >= 1/2 DV). Bravo fleet scores 13 x 5 = 6 damage, crippling 2 undamaged Laertes.

The battle is over, and the sole surviving Orestes has fled the system.

# # #

This was a pretty one-sided battle, and the 1E Pursuit length penalty is a tad much, but you get the picture. The CR modifiers prevented the pursuing Alpha fleet from bringing in a large number of squadrons, however if their carriers had been stocked with fighters this battle would have been over very quick!

However, let's consider if Alpha fleet had decided to come in Cautious (1 Intensity). Then they would have had a single squadron, which would have evened the odds and made it more likely that Bravo fleet could have escaped with their heavy cruiser intact.

# # #

One question that came up during the Full Thrust playtesting that I found interesting is whether formations really are as intuitive as they should be, or if the "defensive" fleet option would be better served by having an effective DV increase instead? That then segued into a question of whether or not all damage should be scored by the attacker, as with a DV modifier option a player could effectively protect those units that they want and it cuts out an extra step in damage resolution. The directed damage vs. standard damage tempo has been an issue for some players to get used to, but has worked fine in the past.

If we went to a directed damage only model, then it would be a case where units would start at formation level 0 and then have a DV bonus much like they do now. For example, in the previous battle, the Orestes flagships would have receive the command ship bonus for the squadron and been in formation level 1. This would have given them a 1.5x DV boost, increasing them to 12 DV. If there had been a Scout or Guardian to improve them to formation level 3, then it would have been the 2x multiplier (16 DV).

I could see this being a good way to streamline combat, especially in PBEM games, but it would be a decided change from what we're used to up to this point.
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Fri Jan 13, 2017 5:50 am

Playing with the tech a bit more, I think I can see having multiple units per tech level unlock, like maybe 2 per field in most cases. That lets you unlock a new mainline warship plus some sort of a support ship. I'm not sure if that's really necessary for most empires, though, and I think for the VBAM empires just having one unit is probably going to be enough as long as there is a universal chart that gives you access to non-unique units.
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Jan 14, 2017 2:43 am

I have run into one hiccup with my exploration model. By moving INTO the system it becomes unclear as to which system you necessarily came from. For that reason, I think I will have to amend it that exploration keeps you in the middle of the jump lane while you're exploring.

I could also see some consternation with it taking a lot more Scout functions to explore a larger system if you already know another connection, but I think that's an acceptable situation given that the higher the base Carrying Capacity the better the system, and the more likely that the lane is going to be a major jump lane.

I've going to try and push through to the end of Year 2 tonight. If I haven't found another alien empire by then I'll go ahead and add one to the map to give me someone to fight against.

UPDATE: The other way around this is to say that the exploration is instantaneous, rolling for system importance and jump lane class right away, but then requiring a survey of the system. Any thoughts from you guys? It could even be combined with the old random exploration rolls at that point, but I'm just throwing spaghetti at the wall again to see what seems to work.
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Emiricol » Sat Jan 14, 2017 3:11 am

I'll stick with Single Squadron rules for combat, as it hits the "sweet spot" in every regard for me.

The new tech system interests me because tech advancement is one area where I like more details, more granularity. I'd be interested in seeing more on it, but I wonder whether it might be better left to the Companion rather than the core rules -- the core rules are working just fine in my playtest game, and are simple/easy.

Exploration being quicker for small systems is intuitive, and I sort of wonder why I hadn't thought of that, lol. Requiring CAP = required scout functions makes sense to me.

I think for construction I'll stick with Galaxies. It's so simple, intuitive, I just don't see a downside to it, or an upside to switching to the CAP=(2xUP) model. But, allowing systems and fleets to build bases makes much sense, and I think I'll switch to that -- my playtest game has many civilian fleets running around, which affects piracy, and since many bases are built on the frontier, jacking piracy rates up to a high percent for the civ fleets while building a base ends up being kind of a chore. (Thematically it makes sense but in practice, it's a lot of hassle.) System-built bases alleviate that problem somewhat.

I like where it's going with flights crippling etc. I've liked that idea since I first heard it :) But my gut reaction says that making all damage Directed is going to open up a whole new can of worms. Playtesting definitely is needed to see if my concerns are well founded

I think a lot of this would be great additions for the Companion, but not what I'd like to see in core Galaxies. They feel like a step back from the "boardgame-like experience" that Galaxies aimed for, and has been largely successful at achieving.

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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Jan 14, 2017 3:14 am

As I work through all of this, I am rolling with a situation where the fleet that is near Wolf just run into a group of pirates. They were scouting and noticed they hadn't seen any supply ships for awhile and came back to investigate.

The Earth Alliance fleet is comprised of the following:

3 x Oracle light scout cruisers
1 x Artemis heavy frigate
1 x Delta-V light fighter flights

Despite having three scouts, the EA fleet could barely make out the drive signatures of the opposing fleet. Could this be an alien fleet? We really don't know. They decided to adopt a Cautious (1 Intensity) commitment level.

The pirates are a fleet of renegade military ships that have turned cutthroat. Their fleet contains:

1 x Epimetheus heavy cruiser
4 x Artemis heavy frigates

Their sensors are working much better, and they manage to detect that there were 3 light cruisers and 1 destroyer in the opposing fleet. Those light cruisers could be tough or they could be scouts. There's no way for the pirates to know. They decide to go Cautious (1 Intensity), too, to play it safe.

The commitment levels are revealed and the players decide their actions. They are tied for commitment level, but the pirates have more ships so the pirate player goes first. He decides to risk a Deep Space scenario against the EA fleet and contributes his 1 Intensity to the battle. The EA is not sure they want to fight and contribute nothing. This ends up as a 1 Intensity Deep Space scenario, give it a scenario length of [d6] 6 + 1 = 7 rounds. The intensity is low enough that the max number of squadron in each task force is equal to 25% of the flagship's CR.

The EA flagship is an Oracle CL with 4 CR. The 25% limit means that it can bring in a single squadron. The pirate flagship is an Epimetheus CA with 5 CR, and it could bring in 2 squadrons.

The EA flag squadron ends up containing 2 Oracle, 1 Artemis, and 1 Delta-V. The total command cost of non command ships in the squadron is 3, but the Oracle is only 4 CR so it can't bring any more, and I would rather than the Artemis than a third Oracle.

The pirate squadron includes all of its units.

Surprise: EA rolls Normal (+0) while the Pirates roll Superb (+2). This is quickly looking even worse for the EA.

Round 1
The EA fleet has 8 AS. The Pirate fleet has 21 AS and 11 AF. This battle is a bit one sided.

EA AS: 8 x 6 = 4 damage. Artemis #3 is crippled.
Pirate AS: 21 x 4 = 8 damage. Oracle #2 is destroyed.
Pirate AF: 11 x 5 = 5 damage. Delta-V #1 is destroyed.

Round 2
The EA fleet has 5 AS. The Pirate fleet has 19 AS.

EA AS: 5 x 2 = 1 damage. No effect.
Pirate AS: 19 x 5 = 9 damage. Artemis is destroyed.

...

At this point I'm going to just call it. This was a massacre! The EA scout fleet was caught off guard and blown to pieces before any reinforcements could arrive. Not that they would have WANTED to arrive.

The pirate fleet has a single crippled Artemis while they eliminated the entire enemy fleet. That's kind of what happens when you run into a largely non-combatant fleet with minimal defenses.

The surviving Oracle is withdrawing from the system and moving back to Sol. Looks like I'll have to get myself prepared to dislodge some pirates from Wolf...
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Jan 14, 2017 3:18 am

Emiricol wrote:I think a lot of this would be great additions for the Companion, but not what I'd like to see in core Galaxies. They feel like a step back from the "boardgame-like experience" that Galaxies aimed for, and has been largely successful at achieving.

A lot of this ends up being playing around the edges to see what works and what doesn't. That's part of the reason that I haven't touched Galaxies with these additions -- I would prefer to keep it as-is so that we can continue developing it down its own path while this other design fork succeeds or fails on its own.

The Fall of Night rules are definitely a backslide to 1E with trappings of everything else tacked on for good measure, like a gaudy Charlie Brown tree that you stare at in fascinated horror :D
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Jan 14, 2017 3:58 am

The raider war continues! I realized as I was doing my turn that increasing the raiding chances meant that Centauri really had a 5% raiding chance now. So of course I rolled a 1%! ARGH!

The raiders have moved 3 Laertes corvettes and 9 Delta-V flights into the system. Because of course they did.

The EA has 1 Orestes battleship, 1 Epimetheus heavy cruiser, 1 Artemis destroyer, and 1 convoy (and a 2/3 completed Orion starbase that really isn't going to help out !).

The EA is just as blind as it was in Wolf. It has no clue what is going on here. They are really on edge after the report of the loss of the scout fleet, but they don't have much to work with. Disengaging from the system isn't an option, so they go Cautious (1 Intensity).

The pirates scan the EA fleet and know that there's 3 ships and a convoy, but that's it. They feel the odds are in their favor and go Aggressive (4 Intensity). Oh boy.

The pirates have high Intensity and get first chance to demand scenarios. They demand a Deep Space scenario against the EA and toss in all 4 Intensity. The EA doesn't contribute anything. Scenario length is [d6] 2 + 4 = 6 rounds. At 4 intensity, the squadron limit is 50% CR. Luckily, this limits the pirates to a single squadron

The task forces look like this:

EA Squadron: 1 Orestes, 1 Epimetheus, 1 Artemis, 1 Convoy

Pirate Squadron: 1 Laertes, 2 Delta-V

Surprise: EA is at Bad (-1) and the Pirates are at Superb (+2). This looks to be a repeat of the debacle at Wolf, alright. Some EA captains need to be sacked and replaced.

Round 1
The EA has 16 AS and 7 AF. The Pirates have 6 AS.

EA AS: 16 x 2 = 3 damage. Laertes is crippled.
EA AF: 7 x 0 = no damage.
Pirate AS: 6 x 7 = 4 damage. Artemis is crippled.

Round 2
The EA has 14 AS and 6 AF. The Pirates have 5 AS.

EA AS: 14 x 2 = 2 damage. Laertes destroyed.
EA AF: 7 x 5 = 3 damage. 2 Delta-V crippled.
Pirate AS: 5 x 7 = 3 damage. Artemis destroyed.

Pirate Reinforcements: Another squadron of 1 Laertes and 2 Delta-V arrive as reinforcements.

Round 3
The EA has 12 AS and 5 AF. The Pirates have 8 AS.

EA AS: 12 x 1 = 1 damage. No effect.
EA AF: 5 x 1 = no damage.
Pirate AS: 8 x 3 = 2 damage. No effect.

Round 4
The EA has 12 AS and 5 AF. The Pirates have 8 AS.

EA AS: 12 x 2 = 2 damage. Laertes crippled.
EA AF: 5 x 3 = 1 damage. Delta V crippled.
Pirate AS: 8 x 2 = 1 damage. No effect.

Round 5
The EA has 12 AS and 5 AF. The Pirates have 7 AS.

EA AS: 12 x 2 = 2 damage. Laertes destroyed.
EA AF: 5 x 6 = 3 damage. 2 Delta V destroyed.
Pirate AS: 7 x 1 = no damage.

Pirate Reinforcements: Another squadron of 1 Laertes and 2 Delta-V arrive as reinforcements.

Round 6
The EA has 12 AS and 5 AF. The Pirates have 11 AS.

EA AS: 12 x 1 = 1 damage. No effect.
EA AF: 5 x 6 = 3 damage. 1 Delta V destroyed.
Pirate AS: 11 x 1 = 1 damage. No effect.

Here's the disposition of their forces after the fight if I'm tracking things right:

EA Fleet
1 Orestes (undamaged)
1 Epimetheus (undamaged)
1 Artemis (destroyed)
1 Convoy (undamaged)

Pirate Fleet
1 Laertes (undamaged)
2 Laertes (destroyed)
4 Delta-V (undamaged)
1 Delta-V (crippled)
4 Delta-V (destroyed)

The EA fleet really didn't have a horrible showing for itself. They held their ground and kept the pirates away from the Orion so they couldn't destroy it. The loss of the Artemis is unfortunate, but the EA have managed to destroy most of the pirate fleet. They just need to get a fleet in there to take care of the problem.

The bigger issue is that because Centauri is now contested (hostile fleet present), supply has been cut to Rigel. I have a full fleet carrier out there and it's now out of supply! :cry:

In fact, because Rigel is out of supply, I have to do a morale condition check there. And it failed. Great. Morale drops, Rigel is now in rebellion! And I failed the check, and there's now a rebel Militia in the system and the system has declared independence! (flips table)

I'm sure I'll have more to report later, but it's looking more like my poor empire has just managed to head into a full death spiral here. I know it's not that bad. I can come back from this, but it's certainly taxing my resources.
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Jan 14, 2017 4:35 am

I took out the raiders at Centauri using my carrier group that was in Rigel. The ships were out of supply and hurting, which made their escorts weaker than expected and easier to kill. The EA ended up confronting the pirates in deep space and their Aggressive (4 Intensity) commitment let them encircle the raiders and kill them. Losses were relatively high. The EA lost an Artemis and then crippled 2 Laertes and 4 Aries starfuries.

Centauri is now free of the pirate threat!

Unfortunately, as seems to be our lot in life, a raider fleet (5 Artemis heavy frigates) moved into Rigel as soon as we left. Their commander, Captain Javier Montoya, has proclaimed the Republic of Rigel with himself as its provisional military governor. This only gets better. Now we're going to have try and dislodge that fleet and then retake the system.

There are some in the EA government that are tempted to just let Rigel hang in the wind for awhile, but I can't see doing that. The system is too important. But we do need to take care of the raider fleet in Wolf first, then we can worry about Rigel.

My change to exploration rules let me explore the lane from Barnard to Indi. The system still needs to be surveyed, but I went ahead and rolled for jump lane number and there are a total of 5 lanes connecting to the system. I have a feeling it is going to be a major hub in the future -- if we have a future. I'm going to have the fleet start surveying next turn.

# # #

It's almost the end of the game year. I'll give a year end report once that is done.
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Jan 14, 2017 5:01 am

The year is now over, and the Earth Alliance is kind of in a sad state of affairs. Our economy is not doing well because of our military investments, and the recent raider problems has put us in a position where we really can't project power effectively. I concentrated too much on escorts to the detriment of ships that could actually do any real damage. I need to rectify that and start thinking about having two strong battle fleets that I can use to patrol and protect the Alliance.

Population increased at all three human colonies. That gives me the resources I need to get Centauri built up, and send the extra Census from Sol out to colonize another good system. But that all takes money, and I'm not sure where I'm going to get it.

The Capacity vs. Census change to population increases is simple and incredibly effective. It is working exceptionally well, and after 24 turns I have a pretty decent empire going. It encourages colonizing and allows for worlds to actually build up. Centauri is up to 3 Census now, which is pretty good.

The Rigellian Republic is more or less an effective concern at this point. Their population increase gave them 1 Census and 1 Morale, and at this point I don't see how they couldn't end up effectively operating independently. In pure mechanical terms it's still my system, but the system is contested and blockaded. Some day I'll get back over there and clear out the riff raff.

I did get my next tech advance, securing Escorts-1. That unlocked the Hermes Supply Ship (I remember when I was worried about needing supply! LOL) and the Laertes Gamma assault corvette. I'd statted and slotted that in before any of this craziness came up, so it's fortuitous that I'll have a unit that I can use to load up some infantry and go retake my colony. I choice Cruisers-1 as my next research goal because I feel like I'm really weak in that area and need some more firepower.

The plan for the coming campaign year is going to have to be to eliminate these external threats and consolidate, build up our resources, and get another colony online. If I were to run into a hostile alien empire right now I don't think I could survive. It would mean turtling and running back to Sol and abandoning a lot of projects.

One silver lining is that I should just about have the Orion starbase in Centauri up and operational in the next month or two. That is going to secure that system and let me do some field repairs of injured ships, too boot. I sent an Oracle over to Centauri to try and do some of those, because they need done.

# # #

I've feeling very good about this version of the rules. It feels like VBAM1E+, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The turns are flowing, and the newer rules all seem to be working. I just need to get more of the Galaxies concepts folded in. But I also need to get an adversary to deal with, but I keep dodging them despite having 20% chances. I need to start using the "Alien Explorers" option, and tie it to the number of unexplored lanes on the map. I count 11 lanes right now, so that could be 6-11% depending on how I wanted to work it. 6% per turn sounds closer to right in this instance. I just need to get another empire to show up so I can test diplomacy (and more combat!).
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Jan 14, 2017 8:54 pm

Year 3, Turn 1
EarthForce has taken stock of its situation and has ordered the construction of an additional Orestes system monitor. This is the heaviest ship in the fleet, and our shipyard at Sol can just build one per turn. That fills out that particular maintenance group and gives us a heavy hitter that we can use against the pirates.

An Oracle light scout cruiser in Centauri (the survivor of the Wolf ambush) is being used to perform field repairs using its Supply ability, repairing a crippled Laertes police corvette.

No pirate attacks this turn, but a security review by the head of EarthForce Intelligence has us worried that we might start to see raider attacks out along the frontier in the systems that we have explored but don't have permanent patrols present. That means that we'll have to think about getting more Laertes built and sent out to those systems ASAP.

The reinforcement of Battegroup 1.1 in Sol is a priority. We have decided that it is going to be best to prioritize reclaiming Rigel before we move against Wolf. The Orestes monitors are slow, so it will take them awhile to get out there. But we need to strike with overwhelming firepower and take them out.

Once the supply depot in Barnard is completed (it has been under construction for 14 months so far), we're going to send that convoy back to Sol to pick up a Census and then move out to colonize one of the new systems on the frontier.


Year 3, Turn 2
LOCATION: RIGEL SYSTEM

Battlegroup 1.3, consisting of 1 Avenger, 2 Epimetheus, 3 Artemis, and 8 Aries jumps into the Rigel system. Their sensors are blinded by the hyperspace transit and they can't get a bead on the raiders, but they know they are out there somewhere. The fleet commander demands an Aggressive push into the system, damn the consequences.

The Rigellian Republic has 5 Artemis in the system, and there is a rebel Militia on the ground. These are raiders, so they are defaulting to Cautious (rule change).

EarthForce demands a 4 intensity Deep Space Scenario against the raiders. The raiders choose not to increase intensity. The scenario length is 8 rounds, with EarthForce having Bad (-2) readiness and the raiders at Disastrous (-3). Squadron limit is 50% flagship CR, allowing the EarthForce 3 squadrons and the Raiders 2 squadrons.

EarthForce Flag Squadron: 1 x Avenger, 1 x Epimetheus, 2 Artemis, 8 Aries
Earth Force Squadron 2: 1 x Epimetheus, 1 Artemis

Raider Flag Squadron: 5 x Artemis

Round 1:
EarthForce has 41 AS. The Pirates have 20 AS and 10 AF.

EF AS: 41 x 0 = 0. No damage.
Pirate AS: 20 x 1 = 2 damage. Artemis crippled.
Pirate AF: 10 x 0 = 0. No damage.

Round 2:
EarthForce has 39 AS. The Pirates have 20 AS and 10 AF.

EF AS: 41 x 5 = 20 damage. 5 Artemis crippled.
Pirate AS: 20 x 2 = 4 damage. 1 Artemis crippled.
Priate AF: 10 x 1 = 1 damage. No effect.

Round 3:
EarthForce has 37 AS. Pirates have 10 AS and 5 AF.

EF AS: 37 x 1 = 3 damage. 1 Artemis destroyed.
Pirate AS: 10 x 3 = 3 damage. 1 Artemis crippled.
Pirate AF: no damage.

Round 4:
EarthForce has 35 AS. Pirates have 8 AS and 4 AF.

EF AS: 35 x 4 = 14 damage. 4 Artemis destroyed.
Pirate AS: 8 x 2 = 1 damage. No effect.
Pirate AF: 4 x 4 = 1 damage. No effect.

Once the plasma cleared and the railguns were silenced, the raider fleet was gone; blown to so much orbital debris. The Earth Alliance task force has three crippled Artemis heavy frigates, but it otherwise took no other losses. This is a testament to the raider's miserable readiness more than anything else, though their own lack of fighters also contributed to the rout.

The EA destroyed 20 EP of ships in this battle, and I'm going to start tracking XP. They are going to earn 25% x 20 = 5 XP from this battle. Not enough for a new leader, but enough to bank for later.

With the orbit secured, the fleet commences bombardment of the lone rebel Militia on the planet's surface. The ships in the fleet generate a total of 19 AS, which translates into 19 bombardment points. 12 points are used as Anti-Troop bombardment, scoring 1 Attrition damage to the Militia (it has 2 remaining). The 7 leftover points are carried over to next turn as sustained bombardment.

The battle in Rigel has buoyed public opinion in Rigel, increasing Morale by 1 (now at 2) as the colonial population turns against the failed coup.

While this was happening in Rigel, our sole surviving scout fleet started exploring a jump lane from Indi. The attempt was unsuccessful, but we'll keep on trying until we get somewhere.

This turn of good luck looks like it might finally be a turning point in this particular campaign. I was worried that it might lead to a death spiral or all out civil war, but it seems like it was just a bit of excitement that slowed down our expansion and taught us a lesson about how serious the raider threat can be, especially when you're not quite ready for it.
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sat Jan 14, 2017 11:13 pm

Year 3, Turn 3
The Orion station completed in Centauri last turn, and that system is now much more secure that it was before. This turn, we used its 2 Supply with the 1 Supply from the Oracle to continue repairing units, this time fixing up the Aries starfuries that were damaged in the battle.

Repairing flights is something that is strange to be doing, and I think that I'm going to have to do some adjustments here. Right now I'm following the default rules of 50% x cost for field repairs, but that is going to make the cost to repair a light fighter the same as building a new one, which doesn't make sense. Two options I have on the table is to have each EP repair two flights, or else bump the construction costs of the flights up so that it is 2 EP for a light fighter, 3 EP for a medium, and 4 EP for a heavy. I'm already a bit worried that the current cost scheme might make fighters too expensive, though, so I'd prefer to stay where I am for now.

I built 3 Laertes police corvettes in Sol with the intention of sending them out to the explored rim of space to eliminate pirate chances and try to bring some security to the area. Ultimately I think I need to have at least 2 Laertes per system to deal with the pirates, and I would feel better if I had something like 1 Artemis + 3 Laertes in each patrol fleet to give them a bit of a bite.

The fleet at Rigel turns its guns on the troops once more. The 19 bombardment this turn plus 7 carried over from last turn is enough to finish off the Militia.

This brought up the interesting question of whether this bombardment should make the planet potentially unhappy? I'm going to say yes. Sure, we're bombing the rebels, but we're still bombing the colony! Luckily I failed that check.

Unbeknownst to the Earth Alliance, a small group of pirates (1 Artemis, 3 Laertes) have moved into the Durani system and setup shop.

# # #

There are a few different research systems I'm playing with here as I try to get the feel right. One that fits better with freeform play is to have the tech advancement unlock new designs (like I've been doing) but then require prototyping. That way even if you unlock 4 designs at this tech level, you'll still have to pay to prototype each one, so it could take awhile for them all to come into service -- or you might not even end up using some of them if you have no need. This model works great for source conversions because then you can slot ships in where they should go on the timeline without worrying about tinkering with the stats to ensure they fit into one tech level or another.

The reason I mention this is because the EA has the Porcupine and Shepherd starfury transports that AOG statted up but never actually released (I think they came from The Babylon Project RPG?). Each of these are effectively destroyer-sized escort carriers, and the Shepherd has the advantage of also being atmospheric. I am very tempted to handwave and say they are available and then prototype one of them, as they are TL-0 Escorts and I would have started the game with the ability to prototype them.

The prototyping rules are a version of Jay's originals from 1E through a new filter that scales them a bit better for where the ship classes are now. But it still would be expensive, and one of the Galaxies innovations that I'm still using here (and that you should be seeing) is that the economies are considerably shrunk compared to vanilla VBAM. That makes the cost of prototyping new units significantly higher than it would be in a traditional campaign.

Getting a cheap escort carrier would let me build more flights, and a lot of these ships I'm playing with now are weak on anti-fighter defenses. I'm definitely seeing where a fleet is not going to be able to fall into the 1E trap of sacrificing AF for AS, which is a hard lesson to unlearn when I'm doing my conversions.
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Jan 15, 2017 1:08 am

Year 3, Turn 6
Skipping a few turns, but I've had a pretty disastrous event again. 5% chance of pirates in Barnard, and although the force was small and disorganized it managed to cut off supply to the already out of supply scout fleet that was coming back from Luyten to Indi. The result: 2 dead Artemis frigates from lack of supply :(

UPDATE: Wait, I actually generated the Supply Phase twice somehow! I am still just at 3 Out of Supply that turn, so I'm good for this turn. That leaves me with ALMOST dead Artemis instead of dead. I have a chance to get them home before they die.

Image

The battle ended up being between (EA) 1 Artemis, 2 Laertes, 1 Convoy and (Pirate) 1 Artemis and 3 Laertes. The scenario length was 2 rounds (minimum!) and the EA had Superb (+2) to the raider's Bad (-2). In the end the EA rolled poorly and only managed to cripple a Laertes before the battle was over.

I am starting to wonder if maybe the Galaxies ships are tuned a bit weak on the low end. It seems to work out find once you get them into fleet engagements, but these little battles between small squadrons mostly seem to end in an undecided result because neither side can put out enough firepower to make an appreciable dent in the other's defenses. It probably doesn't help that I'm dealing with the EA here, though, and their ships are hunks of armor with engines attached, and even their corvettes are DV 3. A DV 2 corvette would have taken damage in this battle, but the 1 damage isn't enough to force a cripple/destroy against a Laertes at DV 3.

I also have to remind myself that this is starter tech, pretty early in the timeline. The only thing worse would be interplanetary craft. A few tech levels growth and you'd have ships with literally 20% more combat potential rolling around.

If this is a problem, then I guess I have to concede that maybe the "any leftover damage auto cripples/destroys the weakest unit in the enemy fleet" rule from 1E was for the best in making those that at least some damage gets done. Then again, maybe we don't want small skirmishes like this to be decisive battles, and making them wars of attrition until reinforcements show up is for the best?

I'm not making any decisions at this point.

# # #

If you look at the map, you'll notice that I explored two new systems: Struve and Luyten. I'm still surveying Struve, but Luyten is garbage (5 Cap, 1 RAW). I don't see any reason to colonize that unless I'm really hard pressed. You have to roll 16+ on a d10+Cap to get population growth, so it's going to take awhile for any new Census to pop up at Luyten. And the 1 RAW just isn't inviting. These low RAW systems have always been a case of the player having to decide just how badly they needed the land, and if the system is in a strategic location they may be forced to develop it anyway.

Having construction capacity tied to Utilized Productivity instead of system output makes this more viable in this build, so you could move in 2 Census and build up the initial infrastructure and be able to build 4 EP of bases, flights, or atmospheric ships every turn. That's enough to lay down a wall of defsats to deny the enemy.

# # #

If I don't find any aliens by the end of the year I'm going to have to step in and just toss a single system power in and see how things go. I dodged so many proverbial bullets with the string of Colony level systems that I found (20% activation chance each), and now I'm not really exploring because I have been embroiled in an extended war with the raiders.
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Jan 15, 2017 7:01 pm

As always seems to happen in my games, just as I was trying to wrap up the campaign year and go to bed I ended up finding an inhabited major system off of Struve and activated my first non-player empires of the campaign. I ended up spending an hour tossing around different ideas and settled on the rule set I was going to use to generate them.

The first order of business was to determine their tech level, because we don't need to do pre-contact exploration and expansion if the aliens are pre-interstellar (TL < 0). I rolled and they ended up being TL-1. That starts them with TL-1 across the board in all of their technologies, which puts them more advanced than me, if only a little bit. We'll have some catching up to do.

The major system that is the contact system with this empire has three jump lanes. One goes to Struve and one goes to Rigel, so we know they couldn't have explored either of those before. This leaves the single jump lane heading "south". The procedure that I have found works best here is to roll a d6 for each unexplored lane in the system, adding the empire's TL, and then subtract 1 for each jump it is away from the contact system. On 4+, the NPE has explored that lane already.

The roll was a success (barely), so they pushed south and explored that system. It had two more lanes, but now I had a +1 from tech and a -1 from distance modifier. I rolled a "2" and a "3" for these lanes, which was insufficient to have them be explored.

For colonization, I ruled that the NPE starts with +1 colony per 2 systems explored (round down). This prevents the empire from having fully utilized all of the systems it explored during the pre-contact exploration phase. This leaves the NPE with a single system.

It's homeworld is the highest Census system it controls after placing colonies, so the contact system is the alien's homeworld! Right on the front door of the Alliance's most valuable colony. Great.

Next, I decide the diplomatic strategy for the empire. I am really fond of the original Master of Orion and feel like it did a lot of things right that haven't been rivaled since. As such, I am unabashedly "borrowing" the diplomatic terms from there for the direction I'm headed. With Tension replacing the diplomatic modifiers from 1E, and because how involved the AIX system could be, I really don't see a reason to keep using AIX. It had a good run, but I can make things run smoother here.

To that end, I ended up with the Narn Regime (Aggressive Expansionists) on my front door. The political focus (Aggressive) means that when Tension increases with the Narn we gain an extra Tension. All hostile actions are therefore going to be more provocative. The strategic focus (Expansionists) gives a bonus in the form of +1 Census for each new colony and convoy costs are reduced by 25%.

These two elements (political focus, strategic focus) effectively replace the governments from the Menagerie and are used to define a combination of diplomatic posture and base effectiveness boost. I am going to have to work to balance these, and right now I think Expansionist might be overpowered compared to the others, but that's what this testing is for.

At the end of the year I am going to make the Earth Alliance into Honorable Diplomats. Honorable subtracts 1 from all diplomatic condition rolls (more extreme diplomacy both positive and negative) while Diplomats gives a +50% commerce income boost and a +1 Intel bonus to all Intel missions and diplomatic actions.

I've also gone ahead and given the Narns alien traits to finish out their Menagerie-style collection. In looking at them, I came up with these two traits:

Steadfast (+1): When a system loses Morale, roll d6; on a 4+ the Morale loss is reduced by 1.
Resilient (+1): Troops gain +1 Attrition.

These seemed to be the most applicable traits for the Narns as we saw them on the show. This makes them very hard to beat down into submission, and their troops are going to be able to hold out longer.

The combination of these traits with their diplomatic characteristics is that the Narn are going to be extremely volatile neighbors. We are starting with 3 Tension (on a 0-10 scale), so things aren't going to be too bad early on, but it could spiral out of control if we end up attacking each other needlessly. The Narn's Aggressive increases Tensions faster, while my Honorable is going to ensure that I'm going to take umbrage at any hostile actions they might make against us and force Tension up, creating a nasty cycle of tit for tat.

The Expansionist policy of the Narns also gives them a reason to get out there and start colonizing systems as fast as possible for the bonus Census, and they have slightly cheaper convoys to get that done faster. As an aside, I am tempted to extend the -25% cost to all civilian units, not just convoys, but I think that would make them even more stupidly powerful than they might already be.

I'm still trying to figure out what makes sense for traits for Humans. Bandit's old set from the 1E Menagerie gave them Expansionist, and that sounds reasonable. However, due to the name conflict, it would have to have a different name. I am going to call it Rapid Expansion (+2), and it is going to reduce the costs of all civilian forces by 25%.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is that I need to make sure that the alien traits work in conjunction with the empire focuses, too. In this case, as I have outlined right now, an Expansionist empire that has the Rapid Expansion trait would reduce convoy costs by 50% and shipyard/supply depot costs by 25%. The cumulative effect isn't game breaking, but it's definitely going to be an advantage.

# # #

I just thought I'd toss these ideas out there for those that are interested in what I'm testing in this game.
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Re: Fall of Night

Postby OneMadOgre » Sun Jan 15, 2017 7:32 pm

You just made me realize that I'm going to paint empires that are neither ally nor active combatants yellow.

Need stats on the systems. :)


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