Slightly more tactical but still mapless fleet combat idea

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Slightly more tactical but still mapless fleet combat idea

Post by virtutis.umbra »

I've been hemming and hawing around the 1E CSCR combat rules, because I find they end up coming across pretty deterministic and without much interesting decision-making to be done during the battles (instead it's all about scout assignment, squadron grouping, and force mix as decided before or during battle setup).

OTOH I do really, really like not having to bust out minis or fire up VASSAL and use a map or tabletop to resolve combat. The 'squadron level CSCR' provides a few additional options, but doesn't dramatically change things from the fundamental "roll dice, total up hits, and pound on each other until someone dies" mechanic.

I'm not sure if this is a perfect solution either, but I thought I'd bounce the idea around these forums...

I encountered this charming little abstract skirmish system and considered the possibility of adapting it to VBAM starship combat: the rules employ mapless, 'card' based approach to pitting units (treated mechanically as a bucket of 'slots' to which individual tactical priorities get assigned) against one another, where damage knocks out 'slots' and thereby limits but doesn't eliminate a unit's versatility.

My thoughts aren't fully baked yet, but here goes:

Abstract Skirmish System Rules summary (but the hyperlinked rules are way, way short):

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Each of a player's Units are given N > 0  Trait slots, to which they secretly assign at the start of a round one of 5 Traits: 
INIT  grants a bonus to the initiative roll.
ACC grants a bonus to hit.
EV  makes a unit harder to hit.
DMG grants a bonus to damage.
END  makes a unit harder to damage.
Once all slots are assigned, all units reveal and total up their levels of each trait, adding or subtracting them to each attack and damage roll as appropriate. (assumption: targets must also be declared at this time.)

Splitting fire merely requires splitting the ACC/DMG point pools arbitrarily.

The VBAM hybrid idea:

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Maybe increase the weight of the "trait allocations" by making them into dice pools instead of a flat bonus: for INIT 3 yields 5d6 initiative rather than 2d6+3. This might skew the damage system though, so maybe not.

Ships/Flight Groups get slots from their Combat Factors, from Formation Level, and from some Special Abilities. What Traits are assignable is specific to the Combat Factor or other attribute tied to the slot type:
     DV    -- INIT |  EV | END
     AS*   -- INIT | ACC | DMG
     AF*   --   EV | ACC | DMG
     CR    -- INIT | ACC | EV
     CC    -- [Ignored]
     F Lvl --  EV  | END 
*: AS slots can only elect ACC | DMG against Ship or Fixed targets; ditto AF slots against Flight targets.

Attrition damage eliminates slots; owning player assigns damage to ships and chooses which slot they lose.  Directed Damage's FL-based cost multiplier is in effect if the attacker wants to specify which slots get hit.

Example - a 10-slot unit like shown in the original game maps exactly to a basic Destroyer's 10 total Combat Factors (ignoring CC): 
   Terran Scythe-class Destroyer, DV 3 / AS 2 / AF 2 / CR 3 / CC 1  / FL 0:
     DV Slot [ EV   | END | INIT] = END
     DV Slot [ EV   | END | INIT] = END
     DV Slot [ EV   | END | INIT] = INIT
     AS Slot [ INIT | ACC | DMG ] = DMG
     AS Slot [ INIT | ACC | DMG ] = DMG
     AF Slot [ EV   | ACC | DMG ] = EV
     AF Slot [ EV   | ACC | DMG ] = EV
     CR Slot [ INIT | ACC | EV  ] = INIT
     CR Slot [ INIT | ACC | EV  ] = ACC
     CR Slot [ INIT | ACC | EV  ] = ACC

The maximally-balanced allocation for this unit (assuming no enemy Fighters are present) is 2 of everything, as shown above. Alternately, a "damn the torpedoes" behavior allocation for maximim simultaneous AS and AF effectiveness might be:
   AS 2 = ACC, DMG (Sarnac-1)
   AF 2 = ACC, DMG (Fighter Group A)
   CR 3 = ACC (AF), ACC (AS), INIT
... for a total of +4 INIT, +0 EV, +2 ACC(AS), +2 ACC(AF), +1 DMG (AS), +1 DMG(AF), +0 END. The ship will probably get hurt badly, but might get a few good licks in against the enemy fighters AND ship before it goes down.

Note that this penalizes forces that don't field a mix of fighters and ships, since they leave their enemies open to ignore the ACC/DMG uses of their unused guns in favor of positional advantage (INIT or EV). This is intentional!

Rationale: Starships not worrying about the intricate course changes and sensor / fire-control operations necessary to bring their broadside or spinal weapons to bear against an opponent (i.e. allocating AS factors to ACC/DMG) can instead forego use of those batteries in favor of more high-velocity straight-on trajectories and utilize their fire control computers and tactical officers to better predictive analysis of enemy movements for a better INIT result. Similarly, if we assume AF comes from a combination of point defense, maneuverability and ECM, which can either be directed toward keeping enemy missile/direct-fire weapon/fighter attacks from scoring hits (EV) or else can be used actively to isolate and destroy enemy fighters (ACC/DMG).
Special Stuff:
     Scout Functions: 
        Defensive: grant a bonus slot for any Trait type to any friendly unit, including self.
        Offensive: cancel one slot of an enemy unit.
     Disruptor: Randomly disable one slot of a targeted enemy ship.
     Ballistic: ???
     Direct Assault: ???
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Re: Slightly more tactical but still mapless fleet combat id

Post by MarkG88 »

Interesting concept!
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Re: Slightly more tactical but still mapless fleet combat id

Post by Tyrel Lohr »

It's an interesting concept and reminds me a bit of what the new 4x space strategy computer game Endless Space does with its combat, where combat is broken down into three rounds based on range (long, medium, melee) and each player chooses a tactics 'card' to be used during each round. Some cards cancel out other cards, nullifying their effects. The game is only in an alpha state right now, but it was a fun diversion and interesting to see where they were headed with it.

Looking at the abstract system you posted, the 2E rules combine the evasion/damage reduction into the formation levels. The concept of initiative is interesting, though. I think it would slow down larger battles, but it would be interesting to roll D6+CR for each ship and then resolve in ascending order (so that smaller ships act first). You could then roll ship-by-ship for each ability they were using (Value x [D10+Readiness] / 10, round to nearest). It would really slow down combat and would only work face-to-face or via IM, but it would make for a more tactical approach to combat. You could speed it up a bit if you said that all of your ships with the same initiative would fire as a group.
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