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Comments on latest playtest

Posted: Mon May 06, 2019 6:28 pm
by darbycmcd
I see you have decided to move the discussion away from the game company message board to your personal patreon account. But I hope it is still ok to discuss here the posts you make there.

A couple observations worth what you pay for them....

The critical hit mechanic is a cool idea, but it is way too powerful on a natural 10, because that is also normally a 100% damage output. You essentially double the damage potential of a TF 10% of the time. This is way too much effect for a random roll. Find a way to tone it down a bit, like make it on a natural 6 or something. Or give free directed damage against one target. But given two equal fleets, the first one to roll a 10 will win, and that is not great.

I think you should go back to having the preparedness (or surprise or whatever you are calling it) regress toward 0 each turn. It is the same principle as above. If you have a single die roll that will have such a huge impact on the outcome of the combat, it makes strategy less important than luck. That is fine for some games but I think not what you are going for.

A last thing, I don't think you should make combat tooo abstract. I get where you are going, you are basically recreating F&E combat. But I am just not totally sure that is the best direction. As a strategic game, VBAM is quite simple. If combat is also quite simple... what is there?

Anyway, glad to see there is progress being made!

Re: Comments on latest playtest

Posted: Mon May 06, 2019 7:09 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
Conversation here is fine -- I'm doing the Patreon thing more for my own benefit to make it easier to aggregate and deliver updates and get better analytics on posts. Which is why the core game/playtest stuff will be free content over there.

Critical Hits: I agree that free directed damage against a single target in combination with being able to damage units when otherwise incapable due to number of hits generated is probably the better direction to go here. The CRT is adapted from Empire of the Sun where where isn't a 75% result (only 25/50/100) and that is why the critical hits work better in that system since. I was running into problems with combat being a bit too lethal without the extra 75% step, however.

Readiness: With a d10 vs. d6 die the readiness DRM seems to be less of a deciding factor in practice, but this is probably a case where we could experiment with using the existing regress towards Normal rule or keep it static. I haven't run into too many cases where keeping it static has been a problem -- but some of that testing was with the 75/100% damage bands combined, at which point a -2 DRM didn't swing things quite as much. Combat length is shorter due to the higher potential damage totals, however.

Combat Abstraction: This is something that we've been struggling with. The biggest problem we've identified is that the AS/AF split creates issues on the AF side because fighters either have to be strong enough to take substantial punishment to make that statistic matter (at which point fighters become extremely potent) or AF has to be penalized so that you can't have as much of it. After playing with more of a F&E style combat where fighters can absorb spare hits it seemed like that might be an improvement.

To put it a different way, our problem has been one of extremes with fighters. You either don't field enough of them and they can't do anything (they get blown up before they ever fire), or you have too many of them and they completely overwhelm the enemy and destroy them without much of anything they could do to defend themselves.

We could still handle AF separately if we made it more "expensive" (say twice the cost as AS), but there was some internal friction about having extremely low AF values, so I went back to the drawing board.

Thanks for the feedback, Darby!

Re: Comments on latest playtest

Posted: Tue May 07, 2019 10:08 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
Another quick note on the combat: this draft was made intentionally more basic to allow us to play with a simplified version of the combat rules in order to make sure that the basic flow and results of the combat are what we want them to be.

If our ship designs are like those in Stars Divided, then having AF as a separate stat won't be a big concern. Or if it turns out that giving ships too much AF is a bad idea. The breakeven point seems to be giving fighters 2 Defense, as at that point even if your enemy has 10 AF it will be harder for them to kill you wall. We also have an economic solution in making the fighters extremely cheap again, or even free as they did in F&E (although they could only do that because they were so weak and homogeneous from what I've been able to tell).

# # #

I've realized that part of our design problems in the past has been trying to layer on too much complexity at the start rather than stripping back to bare bones and making sure that the content we're adding actually adds to the quality of the game rather than subtracting from the experience.

Immersing myself in the wargame space the last six months has given me something of a fresh perspective on what these games can be like, and has helped me identify many areas for improvement (even in things as simple as verbiage or communicating concepts in a more standardized fashion). It has also shown that even the players that aren't afraid of heavier wargames still find rules that are longer than 20 pages to be noteworthy.

For that reason I'm working to trim the fat on the rules and get the core rules back down to a more manageable state without sacrificing the most essential elements of the game experience / flow. I'm still battling my inner complexity demons that want to add extraneous features and greebles for the sole purpose of them existing. Or spending too much time worrying about unit balance when ultimately that doesn't matter a whole lot at this stage.

Re: Comments on latest playtest

Posted: Sat May 11, 2019 7:47 am
by aelius
In F&E the fighters weren't free. You bought them once and that represented setting up assembly lines and such to deliver replacements for the expected life time of the carrier.
Oracles on the timing I guess. And don't ask me why you have to rebuild the lines if the carrier is destroyed... 8)

Re: Comments on latest playtest

Posted: Sat May 11, 2019 2:31 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
Thanks for the clarification, Aelius! The way I was reading things made it sound like the fighters magically replenished aboard the carrier after each battle but I didn't see the upfront cost for them.

As you say, it doesn't make a lot of sense for the factory lines to disappear when the carrier blows up :lol:

As a quick update, I am reconciling rules changes into the draft and got bombardment and troop combat notes integrated last night, and today I am going to be going back over intel and combat to finish getting those two sections into a playtest-ready state.

Diplomacy I'm still working on, but I may leave it for a later playtest draft because if the rest of the rules are in a playable state then empires can be locked into a state of war for playtest purposes for the first few rounds of external testing.

Re: Comments on latest playtest

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 2:16 am
by aelius
Yeah, at the beginning of each turn the fighters were replenished. But only if the carrier was In Supply.
If you like the idea of the expensive part of fighters is building them and their support structure, and Maint covers replacements there is a way.
Just keep track of the total flights in the empire. When you build more just add them to the total. They can be deployed wherever during appropriate game phases and if lost they are replaced during the Supply phase.
If you want a penalty for rebasing a flight after its base is destroyed then pay a 1 or 2 points for replacement of all the lost equipment.
Effectively it turns flights into an empire wide infrastructure supporting a total number of flights.
I mean, there is a reason a flight can cost as much as a light cruiser, cause your paying for more than the flight!

Also, I like the idea of getting rid of AF. Make AF a Special Ability.

Re: Comments on latest playtest

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 4:23 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
VBAM 1E had the fighter replenishment rule like that where you could move fighters to a carrier as long as they were in supply. I am thinking about implementing a revised version of that rule that active fighters in a supply source system can be redeployed automatically, but those in other non-supply source systems can't. But that is probably just extra busywork and exceptions and won't survive actual testing (as just typing it out here has me thinking it's an added complication for its own sake).

The AF question is one that is going to have be solved in playtesting. I can understand why people like AF, and it does help make ships more unique, but at the same time it makes fighters harder to balance because you have an entirely separate pool of attack factors that are used to engage them, and fighters then have to be tougher to keep from being annihilated before they can do anything.

If we don't have AF as a separate stat, then what I have cooked up for an Anti-Fighter special ability is that the points that you put into it end up as guaranteed hits that can only be scored against fighters. So it's like a guaranteed 100% return on those points. It makes anti-fighter ships very powerful, but their utility is also limited.

I'm still on the fence with that, though, and am considering some other possibilities. I want to do another combat test with a modified version of the Stars Divided ships (as they are a good model for ship stats) to help illustrate the differences to the two approaches. I had to work this last weekend so that didn't get done, but it's on the docket for this week.

Re: Comments on latest playtest

Posted: Thu May 16, 2019 7:37 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
As an update, I have been working some more on the space combat side of things and am integrating notes from my playtesting (as well as your feedback!) and will work on that some more after work tonight.

I think I'm happy enough with the flow of combat now to begin rolling those notes into actual rules text. Once that is completed I will post it for review and additional testing.

The current state of space combat is that it is simplified from previous versions to improve flow and provide more interesting decision making. Squadrons are gone in favor of the single task force, for one. Simplifying the rules will make it easier to pick and choose how we want to make the rules more complex in the future, mostly with special abilities that break the rules in various interesting ways.

I am going to write the rules assuming a split attack factor for ships (anti-ship and anti-fighter) but I encourage testing with a single attack factor to see if that ends up being better or worse.

Re: Comments on latest playtest

Posted: Fri May 17, 2019 4:35 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
As an update, I did add a small commentary on fighters in VBAM and a poll for preference on attack factors over at the patreon page:

Tonight after work I am going to continue working on the combat rule updates and then roll over to some other rules tweaks. But still concentrating mostly on combat to get that working.

Takeaways from tests so far is that combat is still potentially deadly, but it seems like if you have 20 ships per side you're going to be able to move in reinforcements quickly enough to mitigate that. The first round of combat can be really decisive, as that is when you will be done the max damage you can expect for the battle in most cases (before everything gets crippled and you drop to half strength attacks).

My evenly matched squadrons are good for balancing basic combat, but I can tell that having reinforcements is going to be key to maintaining combat capability. And destroying some ships may be preferable for the defender so that they can bring in fresh reinforcements more easily. Crippled ships are a bit "sticky" on the battle line and harder to get out of combat, which is working out to be an interesting back and forth.

Re: Comments on latest playtest

Posted: Sun May 26, 2019 5:42 pm
by aelius
Hey Tyrell, I saw over at the Patreon that there was talk about making fighters a stat for the carriers. I understand why that could be attractive, but I think I agree with you that it is not the best way to go with them.
However there is a way to do it that would have a similar effect but still keep the fighters distinct. I think it might help with the AF/AS question as well.
How about if fighters were treated like mines in battles. You know I liked the mine rules (I still mourn the loss of the rules for my glorious minelaying fleet), and I think the way mines work in battle could work for fighters. I mean, if you keep track of them as individual units and assign them in battle to increase the stats of friendly ships as you do with mines, it would keep the flavor and crunch while solving some of the problems.
Anyway, just an idea.

Re: Comments on latest playtest

Posted: Sun May 26, 2019 7:14 pm
by Tyrel Lohr
I think it was A Sky Full of Ships that did the fighters-as-a-weapon rather explicitly, but it's been awhile.

I prefer for fighters to be more discrete, though, so that they can be built and take damage separately. It does complicate matters when it comes to damage assignment, of course.

In some ways the current fighters are effectively increasing the AS/AF of their respective carriers with the side effect of having a reserve of DV to protect themselves with. I have played around with a few options where the fighters were a straight +Stat bonus like that, but it led to some strange interactions and made the fighters act very similar to the missile packages from previous versions of the rules.

And don't lament, the mine warfare stuff is going to come back in some form, but I'm still working through the particulars. I think they function better as purely strategic weapons, but that creates some problems for trying to figure out the right order of operations. Right now I am thinking that mines would make an attack on ships that moves into the system in the Movement Phase, but we'd have to add a minesweeping step beforehand so that ships would have some way to clear the mines before they plowed into them. The actual minelaying would then happen after the Combat Phase is completed.

For minesweeping, I am considering making the escort classes (CT/DD) have inherent minesweeping capabilities, with dedicated minesweepers being more effective. For example, if you have 6 CT in your fleet then you could sweep 6 points of mines. But if you had 3 DD with Minesweeper (3) then they could sweep up to 9 points of mines.

But like I said I think the trick is going to be to decide when in the order of operations the mines are going to be given the opportunity to impact. Or if they end up applying some other penalty to enemy fleets when they are present, such as halving their attack factors until the minefields are cleared (with the option of scoring hits against your own fleet to break through the mines).