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OT(?): How big is an Alderson point - Reply

From: Phillip Atcliffe <P-ATCLIFFE@w...>
Date: Wed, 01 Oct 1997 10:53:04 +0000
Subject: OT(?): How big is an Alderson point - Reply

Chris asked:

Status: RO

> Phil might be the best one to answer this... <

Ah, fame... <g>

> ...but in case it has been discussed	before, I thought I would toss
it out
publicly; while it is labelled "off- topic", I think the gaming
implications for _Full
Thrust_ are pretty darn  clear. <

This isn't off-topic. If there's one thing that Jon has made clear, it's
that FT is
generic, so discussion of special rules needed to adapt the game to a
scenario is the kind of thing that this list is for.

> Just how big is an Alderson point?  
I'm asking because it has a tremendous impact on how you protect a
system. If
the points are small, then fixed defenses a la _Starfire_ can turn every
warp assault into a buzz saw. <

My impression is that Alderson points (hereafter, APs) are "small",
i.e., only big
enough for a single ship to transit at a time. Certainly, we never see
more than
one ship go through simultaneously, although the Moties get close with
formation transits in "The Gripping Hand/The Moat Around Murcheson's
But, even with ships that split into multiple parts immediately after
recovery from
Jump Shock, only one object ever goes along the "tramline" at a given
time. So
there's one limit on Alderson travel, something that is at least
partially confirmed
by the existence of a manoeuvre called "convoy escort", where a warship
(in the
book, a frigate) Jumps first, deliberately, to absorb any fire from
ships waiting on
the other side; civilian ships, or whatever's being protected, then
follow, hiding
(hopefully) in the shadow of the escort.

> _Starfire_ warp points, IIRC, are extremely small, with some being so
as to limit the size of vessels that may transit them. <

I think that APs are big enough for any size ship to use them, but only
one at a
time, so in game terms, I'd make them pretty small -- say, 2" diameter,
or even
less, with a flat statement that only one ship (or a limited number,
on how long you want to assume a game-turn is) can use it at a time.

> McCollum's foldspace points appear to be bigger, but still small
enough that
fixed defenses or a fleet can pretty much get off an immediate shot
anyone coming out of a foldspace jump.

I don't remember seeing this in the CoDo universe.  IIRC, the only
defenses we
really see are mobile, and they consist of 1) the _Defiant_ off New
Chicago, and
2) the Crazy Eddie squadron inside the supergiant. The latter is clearly
a special
case (presumably the outcoming ships are pretty disoriented by appearing
in a
sun), and the former, if memory serves, involved the captain lamenting
that the
_MacArthur_ appeared so close. <

Several points here:
i. A fleet, ready and waiting, could well get a free shot at an incoming
ship while
the crew _and_ the computers are helpless from Jump shock. What stops
system from becoming an invulnerable fortress, apart from the need for
transit for trade purposes, is two-fold:
-- first, a ship exiting a Jump point does so with a velocity carried
over from its
movement within the original system, and this can be in any direction
and, if
your computers are good, or you're a Motie, can be quite high. So the
either have to englobe the AP, and that takes a _lot_ of ships, or they
have to
stand off and see where the incoming ship is going, then intercept it.
This is
what I think the Crazy Eddie Squadron does, from what little description
of  their
operation we get; the inner squadron, ships without Jump engines, lurk
the red giant to identify and engage, if they can, Motie ships that come
into the
system. Once a target is found and identified, the squadron moves to
and destroy it. If the Moties are good enough to get past them, then
heavies are waiting near the only other exit from the system.

-- second, as Chris says, the Crazy Eddie Squadron is a special case.
APs are
located out in space, a long way from useful real estate, and, being
on a direct line of sight between the stars at each end, they don't move
relative to that line) -- and, of course, planets, asteroids, etc.,
_do_. So it's a
major effort, involving moving a lot of supplies (and people!), for a
fleet to stay on
station there. Mike or someone may correct me, but I suspect that
there'd be a
fair expenditure of fuel necessary for a ship to remain within a fixed
radius of the
AP against the natural tendency of an object in orbit around a star to
move in
that orbit. All of which means that it's probably easier to fortify
planets and
bases and intercept an invading fleet after it gets into the system. You
don't get
the "free shot", but you do have a much reduced supply line without the
need to
keep large numbers of ships tied up waiting for an attack that will come
it its
own good time. There was mention of mines around the Crazy Eddie point,
they'd have the same station-keeping problems as ships. Of course, if
you have
good intel, you can set up one hell of an ambush...

ii. In the scene in TMiGE where Rod Blaine is reporting to Admiral
he specifically states that the MacArthur was involved in fighting the
Chicago satellite defences when he decided to go in with the Marines, so
stations are used. This makes sense, because they can be bigger and
than ships, and they have a comparatively short supply line.

Hope this helps,

Phil, wondering which FT miniatures could be converted to make models of
Empire ships -- NAC? Also wishing he hadn't had to give away his model
of the
MacArthur when he moved from Oz...
"We gotta get out into Space,	     | A sentiment echoed by:
 If it's the last thing we ever do!" |	   Phil Atcliffe  
   -- Return to the Forbidden Planet |	(

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