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Re: FB2... hmmmm...

From: "Oerjan Ohlson" <oerjan.ohlson@t...>
Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2000 18:48:43 +0200
Subject: Re: FB2... hmmmm... wrote:

>Okay, I finally got in good enough financial shape that I picked up
>that reserved copy of FB2 that the Military Corner had stuffed away 
>for me, and I'm sort of looking over the stuff in here.  Lots of

It's quite interesting to see how you "critique" just about everything
forces you to use different tactics when flying/fighting the alien
than you use when flying/fighting human ships... Sounds a bit odd from
someone who claims to be used to coming up with counter-tactics to
extreme designs <shrug>
>Phalons' plasma bolts.... anyone besides me see lots of abuse
>potential in a custom game?  Is this thing really intended to only be 
>three points per mass?  With a six inch radius... the thing's
>a higher-end nova cannon that you can just dilute with screens and 

A higher-end nova cannon which is easier to aim and doesn't inflict the
"can't do anything else this turn" penalties, but which has only half
range (and covers about one-fifth the area, since the PB template
doesn't move) and is quite easy to degrade with point defence. Screens
give better protection against PBs than they do against standard beams,

The important comparison is with Salvo Missiles however. You listed
quite a few ways to counter SMs; there are at least as many ways to
counter PBLs. The most important difference between SMs and PBs is that
the SMs have a high rate of fire and tend to hit a few ships hard,
while the PBs have a low rate of fire and tend to inflict
light-to-moderate damage on numerous ships.

>Number cruncher note:	A class 5 K-gun on Kra'Vak ships is actually
>more efficient than a class 6.

That's intentional. Just like the K3 is intentionally designed to be
more efficient than the K4, and the K4 more efficient than the K5...
against targets with at most single-layer armour (eg. humans or
Sa'Vasku). If you go up against Phalon capitals however, the bigger K
guns are better since they waste a smaller proportion of their damage
on the multiple shell layers.

>In just about any sort of fighter operations, Sa'Vasku are in bad
>shape. They have to consume biomass to launch fighters of their own
>or to effect any sort of area defense, and their fighters are all
>vanilla on attack.

The Sa'Vasku are able to shred just about any incoming enemy fighter
strike before it gets a shot off. Given enough time to grow drones, a
Vas'Sa'Teth Elder Broodship can launch 13 drone groups, and immediately
afterwards run away at thrust-9 or hit you with the equivalent of 4
Class-4 batteries... and it costs less than a Fragile-hulled Thrust-1
human carrier with 13 fighter squadrons embarked but *no* other
armament or defences.

>On first glance it seems like the Kra'Vak have the advantage since
>their fighters can all ignore screens without having to pay through 
>the nose for torpedo bombers, 

KV fighters never get any damage re-rolls, so they inflict considerably
less damage than human fighters against unscreened targets (including
all fighter types) and are only marginally better against targets with
level-1 screens. Their tendency to go Ro'Kah evens things out somewhat,
but it is *very* annoying to have an exhausted "victorious" KV fighter
group wiped out by a crippled enemy fighter squadron :-/

>but the Phalons probably have the ultimate advantage because
>their plasma bolts would seem to make it ridiculously easy to
>annihilate anyone who sets up an area defense phalanx, not to 
>mention fighter screens.

Plasma bolts aren't very good at killing enemy fighters, since the
can almost always use secondary movement to move away (or they can
attempt to shoot the plasma bolts down, but that's a lot more risky).

Firing plasma bolts at an ADFC phalanx means that 1) your own fighters
can't easily attack said phalanx without getting fried themselves and
2) you maximize the number of PDS or equivalent systems available to
shoot the plasma bolts down.

>Question arising from that last sentence:  plasma bolts are going to
>nuke fighters too, aren't they?

Yes - unless the fighters (or someone else) shoots the plasma bolts
down before they explode, or the fighters use a secondary move to get
away. Read the FB2 errata on the FT FAQ.

>Another comment:  at further glance, it seems a bit like Phalons'
>point defenses are kind of weak.

Um... First you complain that the Phalon PBLs are extremely effective
for killing fighters (they aren't, but they *are* very good for killing
missiles), and now you complain that their point defences are too

>Their pulsers are nowhere near as efficient as PDS, scatterguns, or 
>Sa'Vasku variants thereof,

Compare the amount of PD dice a Phalon ship can fire with the number of
PDS systems on comparable human ships (particularly from FB1), and
you'll usually find that the Phalons have more PD dice available than
the humans. OK, each individual Phalon ship won't have as much PD
firepower as an extreme human escort design with nothing but PDS and
ADFCs, but very few human fleets consist exclusively of escort designs
:-/ The Phalons don't use dedicated escort designs as such; instead
they simply slap an ADFC or two on their normal warships (eg. the
Klashh-Huulth, Keraph or Voth/E classes described in FB2).

>and their plasma blasts can be shot down by fighters (although, if the
>fighters goof a die roll on them it's lights out).

Any fighter squadron attacking the plasma bolts is not attacking the
Phalon ships. How many squadrons will you allocate to each strength
point of PB before you decide to bug out with the rest? <g>

>Granted, in the official designs nobody except the Kra'Vak
>has particularly good defense against fighters... but the Phalons'
>defenses seem to scale up the worst if you want to improve them.

During the half-year of Phalon playtest battles I fought, I never saw
enemy fighters inflict serious amounts of damage on the Phalon ships.
Only one SM salvo did more than 5 points of damage, and that was after
I rolled 5 '1's for Pulser PD fire... In my experience, the main effect
of fighters or missiles against Phalons is to draw enough Pulser
firepower away that the enemy combat ships don't get shredded. OK,
these battles were only 1500 points so there obviously weren't 40+
enemy squadrons, but OTOH there weren't 5000 points of Phalons to shoot
them down either <shrug>

>It's to a degree that, since it takes four mass worth of pulsers to
get a
>single all-around die roll of point defense, I almost wonder if
>really worth five points. 

What you do here is to compare a Phalon ship with a dedicated human
escort design with no offensive weapons at all. Not a very meaningful
comparison IMO <shrug>

>Sure, against other _ships_ they're probably worth it, but if you
>just piled enough fighters and missiles on them they'd get blown 
>away fairly easily.  

Missiles can't dodge, so they die *very* easily to plasma bolts -
you're prepared to let your fighters (or PDS-armed ships) risk suicide
shoot the plasma bolts down first. It is quite difficult to use massed
missiles effectively against a well-handled Phalon force.

Massed fighters work somewhat better than massed missiles, but again
you need *lots* of fighters if you want them to do the actually killing
- enough that you won't have any supporting combat ships to speak of.

>It's probably I'm missing something... 

You don't seem to have actually played the Phalons yet, so you may
missing reality :-/

>but are these things really all-around effective enough to be worth 
>five points per mass?

Pulsers may be a bit underpriced if you use them in Long-range
configuration, but costing them at 6xMass would be too much.

>Just a few screwy thoughts from the custom-gamer (who sees a lot of
>number crunching, not that he does a terrible amount of it himself, 

It shows that you haven't done a terrible amount of number-crunching
yourself on the FB2 weapons, yes :-/

>>>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.

...and here you're back to worrying that Phalon anti-fighter weapons
are too *strong* rather than too *weak*.

But what exactly do you mean with "just keep a ship or two..."?

20-30 dice worth of plasma bolts is 100-150 Mass of PBLs, or 1-2
superdreadnoughts with no secondary weapons. 20-30 PDS dice worth of
Pulsers is 60-120 Mass depending on how many arcs you want for each
(you don't want single-arc pulsers for area defence, but 3-arc ones
work OK); that's 2-3 battleships or 1 superdreadnought instead. Add in
a fleet carrier or two to get "enough fighters" to back them up, and
you're talking about roughly half of your 5000-point fleet.

But yes, if the enemy is as fighter-heavy as your carrier fleets, the
tactics you describe above works quite well.

>My primary infamy among my Full Thrust circles is for my carrier

<chuckle> Now I suddenly understand why you seem to dislike FB2 so
intensely :-/

>I'm envisioning a giant "Death Star" like varmint to neatly fill out
>the full 5000 points of one of my custom games.  The present version
>from FB1-only 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 make 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)

Rounds out at Mass 1232, 5109 points including fighters.

>Now then... what you'll have coming at you is 32 dice of plasma bolts
>and 41 fighter groups.

The Dreadstar is virtually immobile, so assuming a reasonably large
gaming table the only weapons able to reach the enemy are its fighters
- unless the enemy either screws up, or allows you to shoot him for
some reason. You can play on a small table with fixed edges in Vector,
of course; that'll make your above design quite effective.


>Even so, who are we kidding?  With that much plasma, 
>how hard is it to cover pretty much the entire fighting field in 
>overlapping saturation 

It's only eight bolts. Are you seriously suggesting that your entire
playing table is only 8-10 square feet in size? And do you really want
to fire all those eight bolts at your dreadstar to chase the enemy
fighters off?

>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 it.
On a fixed-edge table, the easiest options are to take a Kra'Vak fleet
(kiss your fighters goodbye and watch your PBs miss <g>), or a Phalon
fleet with decent Interceptor support (8-12 squadrons is enough to
break up your squadrons enough for the Pulsers and PBLs to deal with
the rest) and all Pulsers set to C configuration.

On a floating-edge table, any ship with a single Class-4 or bigger beam
and a thrust rating of 2 or more will eventually pick the dreadplanet
apart once your fighters have been swatted - unless it hypers out first
of course, but in that case it has conceded defeat anyway.

>>>If we opened the door to mixing alien tech in here, my worry is
>>>that the 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 ever tested on the table, thus the cautionary note Jon 
>>included in FB2. 

To tell the truth I'm a lot more worried about the Sa'Vasku than about
Phalons or Kra'Vak. Plasma Bolts are no harder to counter than Salvo
Missiles - different counter-tactics, certainly, but I doubt it'll take
longer to figure out than the couple of months the SMs were thought to
be invincible after FB1 was published :-/

>>>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

When you use the fighter morale rules, a smattering of Interceptors is
quite useful for breaking up enemy fighter squadrons (or for
intercepting missiles). Killing half the fighters in a squadron reduces
its combat effectiveness to less than a quarter :-/

[On Sa'Vasku]

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

The main problem with using fighters against the Sa'Vasku is that the
enemy fighters need to get past both SV Drones, Interceptor Pods and
Spicule fire, *and* hurt the Sa'Vasku enough that they can neither run
away nor outrange the enemy fleet's non-fighter weapons.

Remember, the Vas'Sa'Teth Elder Broodship can churn out 13 Drone
groups, and *then* go on to run at thrust-9 - or to hit you with the
equivalent of 5 all-arc Class-4 beam batteries (or 2 all-arc Class-5
batteries or 1 all-arc Class-6 battery). Can your combat ships match
that speed or range?

>The mess I see is that, the more spare hull you reserve for fighters,
>the slower your ships are going to be and the more expensive 
>everything else will get to move the things.

Thrust 9 with 13 squadron-equivalents and some serious long-range
firepower isn't fast enough for you...?


Oerjan Ohlson

"Life is like a sewer.
  What you get out of it, depends on what you put into it."
- Hen3ry

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