Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

General discussion of the Victory by Any Means campaign system
User avatar
Brennall
Lieutanant Commander
Lieutanant Commander
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:44 am
Location: London, UK

Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by Brennall »

Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

For years now I have had digital copies of all the books sitting on my "shelf", I purchased them all from "Drivethru" after spotting the Campaign Guide and being fascinated by the ideas/rules within. However I never got around / made time to organise a game and no one I play against has the "spaceship" passion.

Recently I uploaded all my game PDF's to my iPad and spotted the rules again ... and got enthused enough to come look here on the forums. Where I noticed a number of people playing Solo exploration campaigns and decided to try my hand!

So the question is, what advice can you give to someone looking to set-up a solo exploration campaign?

User avatar
Tyrel Lohr
Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
Posts: 1443
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2007 3:48 am
Location: Lusk, WY
Contact:

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by Tyrel Lohr »

Solo campaigns are my preferred game type, so I will try to give whatever guidance I can on the subject.

First off, when I am playing a solo campaign I prefer to run it as an exploration campaign where the campaign map is dynamically generated as the empire's explore. This makes it easier to setup the game, as you don't have to pre-generate a map and system statistics for each star system, and also makes the game more exciting as you don't know what you'll find in the next star system. That keeps the game fresh and interesting and prevents you from doing long-term mental scheming that can skew a game in favor of a single power, a scenario that can happen if your map is already generated and you know exactly where every resource, inhabited system, and calamity on the map is.

There are probably two different starting conditions you can use for solo exploration campaigns. The first is to start with a single empire emerging from their homeworld (or homeworld plus a few other smaller colonies, if you want them to be a bit more diversified at the start of the game). The second is to start with 3-4 empires on the map to run from the start of the game. I would recommend a one-empire start for your first games just because it gives you less variables to deal with at the start of the game, but for more balanced solo campaign scenarios it is better to start with a few player empires spread across the map at the start of the campaign so that you get more balanced exploration results and have a better chance of forming major power blocs to make the diplomatic and political aspects of the campaign more interesting once they come in contact with each other.

As you explore, you'll make empire activation checks in each new system to see if you run across a new empire. I would recommend not rolling these for the systems within 2 jumps of your starting empires' home systems, however, because that can lead to powers being too close to one another at the start of the game. But beyond that limitation it should be fair game to run into a new empire.

When adding new empires to the game, you do have to balance the results of the activation rolls against what is actually going to be fun to play. I have had a few solo campaigns die because I ended up generating huge new empires. The act of setting them up to play ended up killing the momentum in these campaigns. If you end up running into an empire that is significantly larger than any of your player empires, it is probably best to reduce their territories to a more manageable level.

One of the more glaring problems with 1E is that there isn't a tech system to use to design new units, and the game relies on a Tech Year mechanism instead. There are a few workarounds for this, some that gel better with the rules than others. The first option is to embrace the Tech Year option wholeheartedly and draw up detailed force lists with units broken out by Tech Year. Using these pre-generated lists, and having a few spares available for new empires as they appear on the map, makes it easy to jump in and setup a new power because all of their unit stats are already available.

A variant of the above tech option is to give each empire a set of starting units and then allow them to design one new unit that is slightly better than the previous one each time they achieve a tech advance. I sometimes made this a percentage chance instead of automatic in my 1E games, with a cumulative +25% chance of a new design becoming available every Tech Year. The stats for the new unit have to be pulled out of the air, but since you are the only player in a solo campaign you can tweak and fix things on the fly if you end up designing a unit that is obviously too good or needs some mechanical tweaking because of a rules mistake and no one is going to complain.

Another tech option is to use the Starmada Edition rules and spreadsheet to design units and research technologies. You don't have to have any intention of ever playing Starmada, but the rules at least give you a more strict way of conducting research and designing combat units.

You can also create a home brew formula or archetype model for unit design in your campaign where you have baseline models that can be advanced in a tech tree fashion, with X number of points to spend between the abilities. Some of those points might be preassigned to the archetype with only a few leftover to be spent as the player wants. For example, a Destroyer-I might have the following stat block:

Construction Cost 3, Maintenance Cost 1/4, DV 1, CC 1, +5 Points

This gives you a decent little ship with some 5 points to split between the ship's stats. At his next tech advance, you could then give an empire a Destroyer-II that might increase its available points by +10% (min 1). The player could then prototype a new DD-II class that would have 6 points to spend. This versatile method allows you to design the following two ships at the DD-I level:

DV 2, AS 2, AF 0, CR 2, BC 0

DV 2, AS 1, AF 1, CR 1, BC 1

Not spectacular, but you have a bit of room to maneuver. The higher level archetypes then would cost more to build, maintain, and command, but they would also have better starting DV and more points to spend on abilities. It would just be a case of assembling the archetypes and determining how many points per level they would receive as a bonus. The cost of the advanced models would probably need to increase over time to balance out their capabilities, but that could be accomplished by comparing the number of points the units spent on abilities to a maintenance cost lookup chart.

Sorry for the tech derail, but that is usually a major point of consideration in a solo campaign.

The other thing that I would bring up is that it is often more interesting to run all of the empires in your solo campaign as NPEs even if they are "player empires" in every other sense of the word. I've found that applying the NPE diplomacy rules to all of the powers in a solo campaign makes things a bit more interesting because you'll never quite know what your own empire is going to try to do, and you end up spending intel points to try and influence relationships with other powers and maintain the level of relations that you would prefer. There is also nothing quite like having a string of bad rolls lead to war. If you only have one starting empire then you might not want to do this, just so you can retain more control over what your empire does, but it takes some of the guess work out of what an empire's priorities are and adds excitement to the game.

If you do start a solo campaign, don't hesitate to share the fruits of your labors with the rest of us and ask any additional questions that might come up as a result of the game. Half the fun of games like this is reading through the campaign diaries to see what happened with the rules and what kinds of adventures the empires had :)
[i]"Touch not the pylons, for they are the messengers!"[/i]

User avatar
Brennall
Lieutanant Commander
Lieutanant Commander
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:44 am
Location: London, UK

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by Brennall »

Thank you very much for the helpful reply :)

I will indeed try starting with a single empire using exploration, I especially like the feel of the "Commodore" level system generation, so will use that. I also liked your idea of using the NPE system from 'The Menagerie' to create and guide my own race (almost like roleplaying in some ways).

With regard to the Tech system, after some consideration I think I would prefer to use a plugin like Starmarda. I have the book for integrating Starmarda X to VBAM, hopefully it should not be too complex to make it work with Starmarda Admiralty edition. Does anyone have any advice concerning that?

I will have a go at creating my own race and Home system and as you said, will try and report back!

User avatar
Tyrel Lohr
Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
Posts: 1443
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2007 3:48 am
Location: Lusk, WY
Contact:

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by Tyrel Lohr »

I believe that OldnGrey has been maintaining a version of the Starmada/VBAM Shipyard spreadsheet that should be compatible with Starmada Admiralty edition. Here's a link to that thread:

http://forums.vbamgames.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=291

Let us know how the home system generation goes. There are rules in the Companion for balanced home system setups, but I've personally always had the most fun rolling up a completely random system just to liven things up a bit. You can always improve the stats of one or more of the planets that you generate just to make sure that your homeworld itself isn't too shabby, although starting from a truly disadvantageous starting position is interesting if you are looking for a more difficult game (probably save that for a future campaign, though).
[i]"Touch not the pylons, for they are the messengers!"[/i]

OldnGrey
Lieutanant Commander
Lieutanant Commander
Posts: 88
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:45 pm
Location: West Sussex, UK

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by OldnGrey »

The shipyard can be found in the Starmada files on the mj12 site (don't have to log in to download).
It is for Starmada AE and gives Stats for VBAM 1st edition.
There is a guide to using the shipyard in pdf which also gives some details for Starmada AE/VBAM conversion when using the Starmada X/VBAM book.
http://www.mj12games.com/forum/viewtopi ... =41&t=1677

There is also the conversion document which helps if you wish to do the calculations by hand.
http://www.mj12games.com/forum/viewtopi ... =11&t=2385

The shipyard is always evolving, mainly due at the moment to Starmada Fleet Ops but does get updated whenever a new Armada book comes out.

Paul

User avatar
Brennall
Lieutanant Commander
Lieutanant Commander
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:44 am
Location: London, UK

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by Brennall »

Thanks for the links Paul ... they are appreciated.

I had a chance to do some work on my ideas during Thursday and Friday and to help with my campaign I made a web based Commodore level system generator so I could quickly generate new locations. Its a simple HTML web page with a lot of javascript programming to make it randomly generate star systems. Its here ... http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/vbamsysgen.htm ... if you wish to get a new system merely refresh the page till you find one you want. Please note on older / slower web browsers it can take a second or two to appear (as it runs).

It has a few options to help generate systems for Solo Campaigns, it uses a seeded random number generator. So by applying the ?seed=<unique number> you can recreate anything it generates time after time. For example this link will always recreate the system I am going to use for my homeworld using a unique 13 digit number.

http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/vbamsysgen ... 2533878549

At the bottom of the page is a link that reads: - [ To save this System click here and then bookmark it ] which will reload the same system with its seed.

The next useful feature is for solo players who wish to find the system but haven't yet explored it. You can add '&unexplored=true' and it will generate but not show the specifics of each planet. Here is the same system as above, with the unexplored setting enabled: -

http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/vbamsysgen ... lored=true

As you explore the system planet by planet you can reveal them using the '&reveal=1/2/4' command: -

http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/vbamsysgen ... veal=1/2/4

Notice how the 1st, 2nd and 4th planets are now visible. By simply changing the numbers you can show whichever planets you want. Notice how the first planet has 90% Climate variance from the default 5/5/5 rating. Suppose we have climate 3/4/8 we can use the '&stdclimate=3/4/8' command to show how the planets climate variance would be for us.

http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/vbamsysgen ... mate=3/4/8

A much healthier 45% ... once the exploration is complete we can remove the unexplored and reveal commands to show everything. But now I need it to be a homeworld ... time to use the '&homeworld=true' command which will make any system into a homeworld immediately.

http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/vbamsysgen ... world=true

Finally I might want to cut and paste this into my spreadsheet ... so I then turn on '&table=true' and if you scroll down you will find a table ready and waiting to be cut and pasted into excel/open office.

http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/vbamsysgen ... table=true

If you actually don't want to boxes at the top (did you notice terrestrial planets shade a nice green to spot them easily) ... you can use the '&tableonly=true' command to just show the table

http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/vbamsysgen ... eonly=true

The system has a planetary name generator based upon randomly created English-like words/names, however if anyone is interested I can make name generators based on almost any language using a similar alphabet. However is you really want to name a planet yourself the '&name=Blobby World' will do it for you: -

http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/vbamsysgen ... lobbyWorld

I think my favourite bit though is the fact its just a normal web page ... so it doesn't need to be run from a website, you could save the page locally to a computer, laptop, android/iphone or even ipad and run it even with no connection to the web anywhere you are. For the ipad,iphone and android devices you might need an app which lets you save web pages, it took me about two minutes to find one for my ipad which works.

The webpage is fairly resilient, however it comes with no guarantees for people mis-typing commands. it has been tested on Opera 9.51+, Internet Explorer 7+, Chrome 12+ (inc dev 14), Safari 5.0 and Firefox 3.66+. For the best performance I found Chrome, Safari and Firefox were instantaneous, everything else took a few seconds.

I would appreciate it if people would play with it and see if anything is wrong or broken. If there is any interest for a Captain or Admiral variant it should not be too hard to extend / modify. If you can think of anything else to add or change please post here or PM me.

User avatar
virtutis.umbra
The Critic
The Critic
Posts: 207
Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2011 1:50 am
Contact:

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by virtutis.umbra »

Wow, that's a really awesome web application!

How about adding the URL argument instructions you've put in this forum thread onto the html? Perhaps behind a "click here for help" link that redirects to

Code: Select all

[current URL]&showhelp=true
with a div full of instructions visible only when showhelp=true is included in the URL.
-Patrick
crit·ic /ˈkritik : Someone who knows the way but can't drive the car. -- Kenneth Tynan

mavikfelna
Lieutenant
Lieutenant
Posts: 30
Joined: Tue Feb 09, 2010 10:13 pm
Location: SLC, UT, USA
Contact:

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by mavikfelna »

I'd love to see Captain and Admiral level systems as well as the Commodore.

Adding a front page where you can just check boxes or fill in text boxes for the options you want and then hit a generate button would be cool too.

--Mav

User avatar
Tyrel Lohr
Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
Posts: 1443
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2007 3:48 am
Location: Lusk, WY
Contact:

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by Tyrel Lohr »

Very nice, Brennall! I love the functionality and the presentation style. That kind of tool definitely makes generating new systems extremely fast. When the 2E equivalents of the Commodore/Admiral get finalized I will shoot you a copy and see if we can't work something out to make a handy self-contained web app like this for those :)

The only issue I ran into while testing it is that the gas giants never seem to have RAW or Carrying Capacity values, even when they have a fair number of good moon results rolled up for them. Also, all of the planets should have minimum RAW and Carrying Capacity values of 1 (I think?) so that they can all be inhabited, even if that those levels they aren't going to very appealing candidates for colonization.
[i]"Touch not the pylons, for they are the messengers!"[/i]

User avatar
Brennall
Lieutanant Commander
Lieutanant Commander
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:44 am
Location: London, UK

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by Brennall »

@ virtutis.umbra : That is a good idea and should be easy enough to do ... I will add it to the to "Todo" list.

@ mavikfelna : The captain version should be easy enough, its just a simpler sub-set. The Admiral version will take a little longer. The other point you raised about an "Entry page" is actually a lot harder to do with a "single page" web application. However the prospect of visible and easy to use settings is appealing, I will possibly put them at the bottom of the page.

@ Tyrel Lohr : With regard to the 2E, that would be very interesting :)

I found the rules for Gas Giants in the Admiral level rules, however they seemed general enough to use with the Commodore level rules so I added them and changed the application. The minimum RAW / Capacity was already enforced for the other planet types, I extended it to apply to Gas Giants also.

User avatar
Brennall
Lieutanant Commander
Lieutanant Commander
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:44 am
Location: London, UK

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by Brennall »

I found some time this evening to finish the Captain level system generator

http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/captainsysgen.htm

All of the settings above work with the captain sysgen.

User avatar
Vandervecken
Lieutanant Commander
Lieutanant Commander
Posts: 58
Joined: Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:33 am
Location: Minnesnowta

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by Vandervecken »

Looking forward to the Admiral version (And of course the 2E stuff later !!). Thanks for your hard work.
I weary of the Chase. Wait for me. I shall be merciful and Quick.

User avatar
virtutis.umbra
The Critic
The Critic
Posts: 207
Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2011 1:50 am
Contact:

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by virtutis.umbra »

I'd love to be able to specify stats on the URL, so that as systems get colonized and developed I can encode that information into the display through your web app.

e.g. say I want to specify that a particular system is an empire's homeworld, but that empire has subsequently moved 1 Census off to another world and had a Morale drop:
EDIT: It'd also be neat to be able to similarly specify my own special qualities for certain systems, such as the interesting new stuff I've added for my campaign:
http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/captainsys ... name=Alpha Centauri&seed=1111111111111&homeworld=true&trait=Something Terrible Happened Here&productivity=4&census=0&morale=0
-Patrick
crit·ic /ˈkritik : Someone who knows the way but can't drive the car. -- Kenneth Tynan

User avatar
virtutis.umbra
The Critic
The Critic
Posts: 207
Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2011 1:50 am
Contact:

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by virtutis.umbra »

Also, I noticed there's no hard requirement that the seed be exactly 13 characters:


http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/captainsys ... 9999999999
(25 digits)
http://vbam.spellbound.co.uk/captainsysgen.htm?seed=1
(1 digit)

Do these do something unexpected in your code, or are they basically valid?
-Patrick
crit·ic /ˈkritik : Someone who knows the way but can't drive the car. -- Kenneth Tynan

User avatar
Brennall
Lieutanant Commander
Lieutanant Commander
Posts: 70
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:44 am
Location: London, UK

Re: Hello, Can I ask for some advice ..

Post by Brennall »

The Random Seed is generated by feeding a low entropy number (current date/time) into an ARC4 cipher which then generates a pseudorandom stream of bits. This pseudorandomness enables me to recreate any system from its "Seed" by ensuring all the random dice rolls "repeat" when given the same seed. When you use a seed which has a different size you alter the scope of the random number generator which could in theory cause issues.

My advice is to stick with the "scope" generated which is a 13 digit number, as designed. However it will "most probably" work if you don't :wink:

With regard to setting "variables" from the URL, I have already done something similar for the commodore level version which is not released yet. It takes all the information from my Master System sheet in google spreadsheets and feeds the changes back via the url. I can do something simpler for the captain generator as it only has a single system "object" to change.

I will go and play for a little while and see if I can come up with what you want.

Post Reply