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Re: [GZG] ground combat campaigns

From: Eric Foley <stiltman@t...>
Date: Mon, 28 Dec 2009 17:31:45 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: [GZG] ground combat campaigns

Well, the scenario I've been playing of late has been an ongoing
semi-campaign where I'm both space master and playing the bad guys, much
like a D&D dungeon master might do.  I don't keep very specific victory
conditions beyond just giving them an idea of whether they're on the
offensive or the defensive and what's at stake, and what their resource
limitations are.

(beginning brain dump, if you don't want to read four one-paragraph
after-action reports, skip onward)

In the first battle I had one friend playing the good guys, with one
large Kra'Vak weaponed dreadnought with multiple layers of armor
anchoring up a fleet of otherwise human beam armed smaller vessels,
against a set of arachnid battlecruisers throwing alpha strikes of SMLs
and SMRs with the occasional cloaked ship in there.  At this first
chapter of the story, the dreadnought was to be the first striking back
to try to push the arachnids back from eating everybody while they tried
to reverse-engineer as much of the technological discoveries as
possible.  Hence the victory conditions generally were, "stop the bugs
and don't lose this particular ship."  This was achieved, so we went on.

A second friend came in, so we came up with a carrier-based force with
an escort group of fast pulse torpedo and needle beam armed cruisers to
join in, against the same enemies with slightly upgraded forces to
indicate that the bugs are now beginning to regard this bunch as a
threat rather than just a slightly challenging meal, and now they wanted
to track down and hit a humanoid frontier-core system.	The good guys
from the first game had a few of their older ships refitted as smaller
battleships with a mixture of K'V and human tech, but still nothing on
the level of the dreadnought.  Things went rather badly for the good
guys due to some miscalcuations, the dreadnought was damaged but not
destroyed (most armor gone), all of the cruisers of the reinforcing clan
got destroyed, along with most of the carrier fighters and other
refitted ships.  The good guys managed to withdraw the carriers and the
dreadnought, so they hadn't had a terrible fleet asset loss (other than
 ngly expendable "pocket battleship" elements refitted from older light
carriers that were mainly there to hold the line while better ships were
being built and brought up), but they lost the system.

The next battle represented the good guys' efforts at retaking the
system.  This time around the bugs made a few overconfident mistakes
while the good guys brought up some MT missile cruisers to try to give
their fighters a hand, along with a pair of newer dreadnoughts (the
original one being repaired after the previous fight) along with a few
more carriers refurbished from merchant hulls rebuilt as quick-build
warships.  Te uncloaked elements of the bug force got wiped out without
really firing a shot.  However, at the same time, one of the
dreadnoughts got caught out of position and ate a missile strike that
damaged the power core and ultimately destroyed it.  The bugs then
unveiled their heavier cloaked elements and destroyed the other
dreadnought, but couldn't follow it up heavily enough that the carriers
weren't able to re-arm their fighters, and the bugs re-cloaked and
abandoned the field before they had to eat massed torpedo bombers again.

The next one after that, the good guys figured out by methods derived
from Nth generation descendants of what we're using today to find
exoplanets, figured out what probably looked like a bug home system, and
went after it with the surviving carriers, the original repaired and
refitted dreadnought, a second dreadnought built to the refit specs, and
a new set of light escort cruisers (probably remote controlled from the
dreadnoughts) whose main mission was to sit in a group of three
surrounding a dreadnought and screen it from salvo missiles while
launching MT missiles of its own.  The carrier clan adopted reverse
engineered cloaking devices for their hit-and-run tactics and sent a
pair of these, with orders to try to avoid revealing just how much new
tech was in them from not only the enemy but also their allies. 
Meanwhile, the bugs had their cloaked force from the previous game
reinforced by a couple of giant "hive fortress" ships that were loaded
to the antennae with point
  defenses, following their previous tactic of hoping to cripple the
fighters so that either the hive fortresses could wade through them and
then kill everything or at least they'd give the cloaked force another
clean shot to alpha strike.  This one started out badly, the fortress
ships wiped out all the fighters, and one of the dreadnoughts got
blasted away.  The other dreadnought made ready to escape, and then a
couple things happened.  The bug's cloaking detachment came up right on
top of the carriers, but they had just enough scatterguns to survive the
first alpha strike and FTL out... but they were close enough to the bugs
that one of the carriers exploded, taking out most of the cloaked
detachment with it.  Right about the same time, a whole pile of MT
missiles came in and took out both of the hive fortresses (which had
worn out their scattergun-like point defense missiles on the fighters). 
What had been looking like a situation where the good guys were
suspecting they
  were in a losing hit-and-run turned into one where they managed to
wipe out most of the bug force... BUT they did so as they were already
withdrawing from the battle, so they failed to hold the bug home system,
so they accomplished a vast tactical victory but strategically failed at
the same time.	This may result in the bugs being simply more pissed off
than ever rather than particularly scared, since their considerable
infrastructure is still intact even if a lot of their warships got
blasted away... but at the same time, the rate of loss in the last
couple of battles has been high enough that their resource advantage
isn't going to hold up if they don't start winning some more.  The
arachnids are also part of a larger imperium that they've been hiding
this entire war from in hopes that their masters won't notice before
they've eaten the humanoids, but now that things are starting to go
increasingly badly they may have to make a few interstellar communiques
in order to sa
 ve their home systems if things continue to go badly...

(end of after action reports, stop skipping)

So in a nutshell, we've played four games in various degrees of scale --
the first game was about 4k NPV per side, then went to about 8-9k, then
about 12-13k, then about 17-18k, which represented one side mobilizing
while the other side increasingly came to devote more resources out of
the realization that they had a real threat on their hands.  In each
case, the victory conditions were more dire for the humanoids than the
arachnids -- the humanoids were more or less fielding their first and
only line of defense to try to push the bugs back while they fully
mobilize their economies to defend themselves, while the arachnids have
considerably greater reserves of ships and more industrial resources to
rebuild them, plus a lot of allies they can call upon.	At any given
point, the humanoids could potentially lose the whole war if they lost
too much of their fleet, while the arachnids are hurling ships at the
problem in hopes that it'll eventually break under the sheer weight but 
 are eventually likely to run out.  The good guys have been winning by
two-to-one NPV margins, and the bulk of their losses have been in
fighters (which I figure are fairly easily replaced) with the occasional
dreadnought or smaller battleship (which aren't).  Both sides are
gradually adapting their doctrines and tactics to stop what the other is
doing (the good guys have escort ships screening their dreadnoughts from
salvo missiles, while the arachnids are starting to make enough use of
interceptors to at least weaken fighter strikes on the way in, in hopes
of turning it into more of a ship-to-ship battle), and while each battle
is roughly evenly matched (following somewhat of the "turning point"
idea) each one does affect how the victory conditions and scenarios
change for the next one.  I'm also making a few deliberate tactical
errors on the bugs' part where they may get overconfident and/or where
they aren't anticipating things the good guys will do, and using a few
 cs that they would use from a role play standpoint that I wouldn't
necessarily want to use normally (e.g. keeping large cloaked detachments
that won't be there to support the uncloaked parts for large periods of

Anyway... long-winded stuff, hope it's at least semi-interesting to


-----Original Message-----
>From: Richard Bell <>
>I suspect that the most realistic FT campaign would have a space
>master who knows everything, all of the time, two strategic commanders
>that make decisions based on what information gets forwarded to them,
>and a pool of players that make the local decisions write the reports
>that get sent up the decision chain.  It is possible for strategic
>commanders to also take part in tactical combat, if the time and place
>of the battle can be concealed from them.  Adding to the uncertainty
>of the strategic commanders is the delay in an order's arrival.  If
>things are really chaotic, units intended to act on an order may not
>be capable of completing the order when it arrives, or even still
>Those of us on the list with active FT players local to us should
>volunteer to be local commanders and resolve combat.  Those of us
>without local opponents, but with time on hour hands should volunteer
>to be space master, strategic commanders, or commanders not at the
>sharp end figuring out what orers to cut for local reserves based on
>standing orders from above and the paltry information coming in battle
>I am not sure that the result would be fun, but the complete after
>action report, including a comparison of what was true when a decision
>was made versus what was known when a decision was made would be
>informative and possibly good for a laugh.
>A more limited undertaking (but much more work for the space master to
>set up) would be a negotiated cease-fire to happen after both sides
>can be sure that every unit will know about it, and commanders at the
>sharp end trying to improve things as best they can, by the time they
>must stop fighting, with units they can request within the deadline.
>Gzg-l mailing list

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