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Re: FB2... hmmmm...

From: stiltman@t...
Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2000 12:02:10 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: FB2... hmmmm...

> G'day again,

G'day yourself.  Much rambling involved in this letter, I digressed a
times. :)

>>No prob.  I might not have been around the on-line scene long enough
that I've
>>gotten my name in the special acknowledgments... *notes the honor
>>you and gives a respectful bow*
> I think Jon was telling me its about time I went and actually did all
> housework I'd been putting off ;)


>  >...but I've been playing the game for quite a while.  :)
> Don't doubt it!

>  >The thing that worries me is if you've got a custom game, and you
just keep
>  >a ship or two in reserve with plasma cannons to the tune of twenty
or thirty
>  >dice, and then put enough fighters behind them that enemy fighters
are not
>  >going to be a serious factor.
> I know its not the same thing exactly, but I'm curious as to whether
> ever saw this happen with SMs?

Yes.  Salvo missiles, when piled up, can also be horrifically ugly. 
even though they'll do damage a lot faster than plasma bolts, there's a
on ordnance and each salvo is only going to hit one ship, and the
ship to where the salvo lands at that.	You can either screen with
well enough to dilute their effectiveness, you can cloak to evade them
make your opposition waste them altogether, you can put up enough
to make them hit unimportant ships and waste their shots, and you can
fly your ships with fast enough thrust that they just plain don't hit
such that the ordnance gets wasted and, if they've piled on with the
too much, you then have an overwhelming gunnery advantage over the ships
firing them.

[near-digression warning]

My primary infamy among my Full Thrust circles is for my carrier forces.
brother-in-law has tried area-defense phalanxes, battleships,
me, it all never seems to work.  My tactics with these take on a few
more subtlety than it looks like on the surface.  The first element is
brute-force fighter superiority.  I throw fighter groups numbering well
the fourties at them, with the intent that I'm going to overwhelm
fighter resistance they put up, then take their ships apart one or two
at a
time.  The second element is where it gets more subtle, and that's the
ship equipment designed to deal with either especially stiff area
phalanxes or fast enough warships to slip through the fighter cover
they're annihilated.  This can be anything from fast needle cruisers to
out a few ADFC's and thereby cripple a phalanx, nova cannons to
people from taking a phalanx formation in the first place, a line
SDNs up front to engage enemy carriers at close range in case they
try to out-fighter me, or if I'm really feeling twisted cloaking devices
leave the carriers basically invulnerable while the fighters do their

However, no one just goes and stacks up the PDS too grossly against me,
my _other_ infamous tactic keeps them honest.  This is the Warbird-style
cloaking mega-battleships (complete with escorts of their own to fill
holes much like the carriers' do).  They're big, they're horribly
with torpedo armament, they've got cloaking devices to make sure that
battle happens at a time of their choosing, they've got enough point
that you pretty well have to overwhelm them for it to be worth using
or fighters at all, and their escorts usually involve either cloaking
cannons or cloaking needle beams.  PDS is completely useless against
missiles are fairly difficult to use effectively (because if they cloak
a turn you use missiles, you just wasted them), and fighters have
pinning them down before they're in position to pulverize the
Every now and then, I bring these guys off the back burner and, when my
opposition thinks too much for fighters, these guys present a candid
for keeping their tactics honest.

Now, then, the point I'm getting at in all this.  The last time I played
my brother-in-law, he had an area-defense phalanx equipped reasaonably
with needle beams, torpedoes, a smattering of missiles, all with the
plan that
he's going to have a decent shot at being able to take on either of my
more infamous tactics.	Unfortunately for him, I do what I'm sometimes
to do and went to something completely different:  I threw a pair of
"dreadstars" at him that were, between them, armed with enough salvo
to induce nuclear winter in a single broadside.  His area defense
phalanx was
simply not anticipating such punishment; about a third of his force was
destroyed and the rest seriously crippled on the first barrage and,
that phalanxes are not well suited for immediate FTL departure, he
struck his
colors on all ships before I even launched the second.

So yeah... salvo missiles can make a very fast mess, too, if you don't
them coming.  However, if you _do_ anticipate them halfway well, there
a few things you can do without over-specializing here.  Like I said, I
haven't played with them as much yet, so it could be I'm
them, but just about any ship with either speed or a cloaking device
probably not have to worry much about missiles, and I'd probably put my
money on carriers over missiles in most cases (and in _all_ cases where
carriers themselves can cloak).

>  >And with the radius on the bolts you're not likely to miss a
terrible lot.
>  >If you piled on enough plasma firepower overwhelming even a pretty
>  >area defense phalanx wouldn't necessarily be that tough, and being
>  >escort in such a phalanx would become quite a liability.

> True, though I have seen descent escort phalanxs blow away plasma bolt

> dumps completely, the area effect isn't an all one way bonus.

Yes, but the nightmare lies in something like this:

I'm envisioning a giant "Death Star" like varmint to neatly fill out the
5000 points of one of my custom games.	The present version from
tech is at mass 1200 and fills out a nasty fighter complement.	As I was
driving to work in the morning I was pondering how plasma bolts might
it even nastier, and arrived at something like this:

1200 mass
Structure:  360 (Avg)
Thrust: 1

FireCons (13)
Armor (30 or so)

Plasma Bolts (8 x 4 dice each)
Fighter Bays (41 or so, all normal fighters)
Class 3 batteries (10 x 3 arcs)
Needle beams (15)
PDS (about 30)

I'd have to do some more exacting math based on my older version on
paper, but
the final numbers I came up with in my head were about like that.

Now then... what you'll have coming at you is 32 dice of plasma bolts
41 fighter groups.  The ways I see this going are about like this:

1.  If you try to take it head-on with an area defense phalanx, it won't
terribly tricky to space out fighters and plasma to be able to attack
with both at the same time.  Put the fighters a short distance behind
the plasma a short distance ahead of you, make sure their radii overlap
that I can hit all at once, and you have to take a choice between
letting the
fighters have a free shot every other turn or letting the plasma
large portions of your force all at once.  You're going to need 192 PDS
to play the odds against the plasma alone; I've never seen even half
that many
ever used in a game for fear that torpedo battleships will take you
apart for
trying it if you guess wrong.  The plasma and the fighters together...
bad.  Even if a few stragglers get through the hellstorm, the thing
still has
a decent beam armament of its own and will probably be firing its
needles at
fire controls.	With 15 needle beams, that can disable even a
capital ship in a turn or two of fire.

2.  If you try to out-fighter the thing, its fighters will dilute yours
enough that you won't likely have enough left to take the thing down
the plasma bolts annihilate your carriers.  It's slow, but it's not
slow, and the only feasible way to throw enough fighters at it to shut
down is with ships that don't have much drive space to outmaneuver the
Even so, who are we kidding?  With that much plasma, how hard is it to
pretty much the entire fighting field in overlapping saturation and make
prohibitively unlikely that anything's going to avoid getting hit?

3.  If you go salvo-overload, its fighters attack you while you're still
of range, softening your firepower badly, and then scoot back to screen
mothership from your missiles once you are in range and its plasma and
return fire.  A bit less one-sided, but still probably advantage to the

It wouldn't necessarily be invincible... but off the top of my head
right now,
_I_ sure can't think of too many (broadly sound) tactics that would stop

> Plasma bolts 
> can be a bit of a two edged sword, this is even more the case if you
> judge your placement and end up in the middle of your own bolts. In
> case you propose I'd probably actually run towards the enemy and put
> self right in amongst them (and dogfight all fighters were possible),
> can bolt to their hearts content then.... OK may sound to kamikaze for

> most, but it puts the sweats on the plasma bolt player if he has to
> between letting you mix it up with him beam-wise or risking his own 
> ships/fighters in a plasma bolt drop. Others will probably think of
> options than this, I'm not know for my tactical subtlety ;)

Heh... it could work.  This is the usual tactic one has to use against
forces in any case... whether it works tends to depend on what you bring
the table and what the carriers bring for help.

>>This is, mind you, thought out from the standpoint of my 5000-point
>>all-custom, no-warning-on-enemy-composition-other-than-supership task
>>force battles.

> When you say supership what are we actually talking, SDN (250 - 300
> or bigger?

Back in FT2, it was a pretty easy cut-off:  if it was a "supership" as
defined in MT, you had to warn the other side about the approximate size
of what you're flying.	The tactics for fighting superships effectively
get pretty specialized, and if you didn't use them you usually got your
head handed to you, which is why we established this courtesy rule.  The
PSB for it is that ships the size of small moons are going to be very
to pick up on long-range scanners if they don't have cloaking devices
no one ever put them on ships that size from sheer expense), with the
shifting gravitational forces and the sheer amount of energy that the
give off when you move them at FTL speeds.

In the fleet books, we haven't really arrived at a real cut-off yet and,
than the dreadstars mentioned above we haven't actually played with
much yet.  I would say for the sake of discussion that anything much
than 300 mass would probably give a warning, anything below that,

>>If we opened the door to mixing alien tech in here, my worry is that
>>plasma bolts could pretty quickly make a mess of things.

> It could, Oerjan and others put many hours in to costing the various 
> weapons so as mixing shouldn't be a problem, but it wasn't actually
> tested on the table, thus the cautionary note Jon included in FB2. At
> value I don't have a problem with trying mixed tech, if it really
> work then you can hammer out some design caveats at that point. I'd
suck it 
> and see first.

Yeah.  In the original FT2 rules we pretty quickly saw that Kra'Vak tech
was going to utterly throw the game for a loop so we didn't ever allow
in our custom games.  Depending on how badly it gets abused, we might
eventually arrive at that same point on FB2.

>>The main mess that I see is, if you can't establish fighter
superiority, it's
>>usually not worth it to bother with fighters at all....

> True, in that sense you do treat Sa'Vasku like human fleets, you
> bring 'carriers' or you don't to those kind of match ups.

Yup.  It never seems to much pay to go half-way... dreadnoughts
can do all right against carriers, but not often.

>  >Now, it _is_ true that Sa'Vasku could pile on the biomass and
>  >establish about as much fighter superiority as they want... except
that in
>  >their case, it literally comes out of their hides, such that their
>  >become far more fragile when they do so....
> Not necessarily anymore so than any human carrier, you've literally
got to 
> build their fighters into their hides before hand. It may look 
> disconcerting to see all those little boxes crossed off for fighters,
> just go and draw the equivalent number if extra hull boxes, to cover
> the fighters in the bays, on a human carrier and see what you lose
> maybe it'll make you feel sorrier for all those fighter jocks you
dispatch ;)

[rambling coming up]

Heh.  We've actually had various running jokes that the most cruel
for any sort of misdeed committed with a task force is to be assigned as
interceptor pilot.  Some of our various "custom races" in our games are
to lobotomize some of their crewmen and wire them into the interceptors
that they'll have no more sentience than is needed to pilot their craft
they won't care about the futility of self-preservation), and others
plain consider it an ethical breach to use living pilots in their
in the first place, since the survival rate on the things is usually
of 15% in our games.  :)

In fact, I think the highest survival rate I've ever seen for
was when we were at a convention.  My experience with convention-goers
to be that the ones we play against there usually aren't as good as we
To be fair, neither my brother-in-law nor myself are the dumbest guys in
world, and we've been playing this game for years and constantly
our tactics against one another, so in that dynamic we've probably
quite an insight for the game that other folks might not catch on.  At
rate (tm), this was a convention about two years ago, and we were
a game where we were provided custom ships to fight a single enemy

We were given a pretty substantial point advantage, but he gave himself
fighter advantage to the tune of 12-8.	Seeing we were going to be
outfightered I exchanged a nod with my brother-in-law and other
and immediately asked for interceptors, reasoning that if he played his
fighter advantage well we'd be best off diluting it as much as possible.
However, he _didn't_ play it very well; he took twice as many torpedo
as heavy fighters for his mix, even though he knew we were going to fly
interceptors, and I don't think even the heavy fighters bothered taking
single shot at our interceptors in the whole game.  He flew in at a
speed of
about 16 on a 2-thrust supership (bad move) and the moment he overshot
we took a set of thrust-8 torpedo cruisers, latched them onto his rear
and stayed there tenaciously enough that he realized he wasn't going to
shake them and tried to FTL.  We didn't mind trading the itty bitty
for a supership dumping core. ;)

>  >but if the enemy just piles on the fighters enough and keeps enough
>  >ship weapons in reserve, they essentially can damage their enemies
>  >well even if their fighters just do a kamikaze run in the inevitable
>  >if they're outnumbered and then pick off the crippled enemies once
>  >diluted their hulls so badly.

> Isn't this true vs humans too (thinking of how weak my fighter
> can be)? I still think its partly a visual illusion, you're physically

> crossing off the boxes so the cost springs into your face, obviously
> only partly an illusion because if you then decide to send off more
> then you pre-built in you are eating into your 'dedicated hull' (then
> really hurts). In the long run maybe the Sa'Vasku will turn out not to
be a 
> fighter intensive race (we haven't had any large fighter brawls
> them yet to be honest), they can ping from such long distance and are
> fast they can conceivably out run fighters for long enough to knock
> endurance way down (we use fighter morale rules) so maybe they don't
> to get lots of fighters out to counter Chinese walls and such (just a 
> thought haven't really tried that one much yet).

Yeah.  Sa'Vasku might be able to get away with fighters after all if
just piled on the extra hull... will have to do some tinkering and see
well this works.  Could be that they might wind up being one of the
fighter-intensive sides in there... and it could be that they'll suck,
The mess I see is that, the more spare hull you reserve for fighters,
slower your ships are going to be and the more expensive everything else
will get to move the things.  So in the end, it might cost you more for
the Sa'Vasku than it would for the others.

Will have to study this closer.

>  >Will have to see how it goes.  I haven't had a real chance to
playtest this
>  >as much

> Well I hope you have fun and I'm keen to hear how it goes.

I'll keep ya posted. ;)
 The Stilt Man
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   < surrender your money.  Antitrust law is irrelevant.	>
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