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Re: [GZG] FT:XD changes, part 1

From: Eric Foley <stiltman@t...>
Date: Sat, 1 May 2010 16:00:16 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: [GZG] FT:XD changes, part 1

-----Original Message-----
>From: Oerjan Ariander <>
>Eric Foley wrote:
>>[...] I accept that FB1 ships have very 
>>poor defenses against amassed fighters, and I'm perfectly willing to 
>>hand-wave it away if I want to play with them -- with the idea that 
>>GZGverse powers don't have enough carriers (and, if you prefer, 
>>superdreadnoughts) to put enough of them in one place that it 
>>overwhelms the balance or fun value of the game.

>To me, that kind of hand-waving is pretty much the same as saying 
>that "all GZGverse admirals are complete idiots" - because if you can 
>get as a big advantage as the current rules allow by prying loose 
>just *one* extra fleet carrier (or pair of light carriers) to 
>reinforce your strike fleet, anyone but a complete idiot would do his 
>utmost to arrange just that.

Well... let's be real here.  If these admirals are operating in a world
where that extra fleet carrier or pair of light carriers can be
concentrated in one area without exposing another one to a response in
kind, and they have not ordered every ship in their fleet refitted with
better point defenses to deal with that possibility... then yeah,
they're idiots.  The implicit conclusion is that, if you accept that the
FB1 ships make sense, then there must be some other factor that's
restraining them.  I would propose that it may be some loose combination
of the following...

1.  The admirals are effectively all in a World War I school of thought,
and the traditional inertia of this is sufficient (and maybe even be
sustained by some form of corruption, e.g. the guys building
dreadnoughts are politically more powerful and don't want this lucrative
well to dry up) that it has not changed.

2.  The GZGverse powers do not possess the logistical capability to
replace their fighter losses quickly on the front lines.  Thus, even if
they didn't have the traditions locked up against mass carrier
operations, the carriers would be useless for too great a time
afterwards for it to be worth it if they ever lost their fighters, hence
the admirals are reluctant to deploy them very far from their home

3.  Perhaps compounding the problem, the GZGverse powers may have never
developed the long range communications technology and/or command and
control doctrines for mass carrier operations.	The sort of things that
Cylons do routinely on TV simply are unimaginable to a GZGverse admiral
in Full Thrust as a result.

4.  There's enough bureaucratic, traditional, or political inertia
against changing any of this that any revolutionary admiral who's tried
to buck this system has been stomped down up to this point.

These aren't terribly arbitrary, and we've seen parallels to them in our
own history.  If you don't like these, something like it can easily be
dreamed up.  Something _like_ it answers pretty succinctly why the
admirals in the GZGverse haven't done this and why they're not idiots
for having failed to do so.

I _do_, however, agree that if none of these factors is the case, and
those are the ships they've got, then the admirals _are_ idiots, on a
great many levels.

>>The game system, as it already sits, is actually quite good at 
>>dealing with a variety of these situations
> one-off custom games where you can change your entire fleet mix 
>from one battle to the next. Agreed. The problem really comes to the 
>fore when someone tries to use the game as the tactical engine of a 
>full-blown campaign (which is effectively what the GZGverse 
>background is supposed to be), because then you need all sorts of 
>arbitrary limitations on ship/fleet design to avoid having a "rock" 
>fleet tear up an entire sector simply because the opponents started 
>out with a "scissors" fleet mix and couldn't switch to "papers" fast

See, this idea has frankly thrown me into whispering rants at the walls
for years, because it's a complete straw man.  If your campaign is
genuinely modelling a real (and sufficiently contested to make an
interesting game) war, and _not_ a series of one-offs where you don't
care at all about one individual result, then somewhere along the line
this argument has to be discarded as nonsense.	No non-idiotic,
non-suicidal species is going to intentionally use a military doctrine
that fundamentally involves wagering their entire civilization or any
significant subset of it on a completely blind guess.  Supposing that
they _would_ is a complete failure of gamethink to remember what the
game is supposed to _represent_.  When your planets get glassed if you
lose, you're not going to adopt tactics that boil down to any form of
rock-paper-scissors.  You're going to find out as much as you can about
what your enemy's up to.  You're going to build a fleet doctrine that
you think gives a
  reasonable chance of succeeding against those threats.  You're not
going to build that doctrine with glaring holes in it if you expect to
survive, and neither will your enemy.  And a campaign that succeeds
_at_all_ at representing two opposing forces that have any brains at all
is not going to be predicated upon doing so.

In this sense, a completely blind series of one-offs isn't a very good
representation of a real campaign.  I _did_ play one rather like that a
decade ago, but even then we had a great deal of discouragement for
treating any of the battles as though their results didn't matter,
because we _did_ see instances of overreaching on tactics with holes in
them.  (In fact, until I came up with the plasma-and-fighters tactics, I
started to actually not use carriers as much because they were too risky
against the amount of point defenses my opposition was using.)
>>(Not fond of the CPV system either. Hate it, in fact.)

>Could be because you're so fond of big superdreadnoughts ;)

Well, that and I think it's another pretty serious overreach that
oversimplifies and overlooks a lot of weaknesses of giant dreadnoughts. 
In my campaigns we've found a lot of different uses for smaller ships in
fleet actions, although our smaller ships don't resemble fleet book
doctrines at all.  It _is_ true that smaller vessels that are armed like
smaller versions of the fleet's capital ships are not usually very
useful (at least not in my experience), but as area defenders, missile
soaks, fast missile cruisers, fast needle beam assassins (better yet,
fast _cloaking_ ones), or some combination of all of the above, there's
still a lot of valid missions for a cheap, relatively expendible ship in
a larger fleet action, both offensively and defensively.

Also, the main argument for it -- that larger ships are more resilient
and are more effective as a result -- doesn't always bear out.	You ran
that one game years ago with one of my dreadplanet designs that was a
little bit too poorly prepared for ridiculously fast cruisers and got
buzzed at fraction-C speeds, I had a game shortly after that one where
faster battlecruisers did similar things to one of my opponents'
dreadplanets, I've run several other games where needle assassins have
fatally crippled dreadplanets in the first few turns, and I had one game
more recently where a mass 320 ship with advanced screens and drives,
but fairly weak hull ran circles around a pair of NSL SDNs even though
they _individually_ had almost twice as much hull integrity as the
larger ship had _total_.... all of which kind of turn the whole argument
of why CPV is a good idea on its head.

>"Hits-fighters-on-6-only" gives about the same number of fighter 
>casualties as the beta-test rules with 2-3 CEF spent on evasive 
>manoeuvres; "hits-on-5+" corresponds roughly to 1 CEF spent on 
>evasion. IME the former makes the fighters a bit too survivable 
>(which is why the beta-test rules made them pay a lot of CEF for it); 
>the latter should work OK without any additional CEF cost. The 
>important things for the fighter-vs-ship game balance are

>1) To allow all that Mass spent on anti-ship weapons to be of at 
>least *some* use against a fighter strike, instead of sitting 
>completely idle as they do in the FT2/FB rules. The purpose is to 
>reduce the current rather extreme gradient in PD firepower as a ship 
>goes from low PDS/lots of anti-ship weapons to lots of PDS/light 
>anti-ship armament. (Relying on improved PDSs only, as in the "each 
>PDS fires at every incoming fighter" concept, is NOT a solution since 
>as you noted it makes it pretty easy to make a ship completely 
>invulnerable to fighter attacks - IOW, improving the PD systems only 
>will increase the PD gradient even further, when the very root of the 
>problem is that it is already too steep.)

Yeah.  On the one hand, I've always used my long-time rule of all
fighter kills spilling over to other groups in the same attack, both to
ease bookkeeping and to make amassed point defense subtly better against
amassed fighters by avoiding lots surviving stragglers.  This, in turn,
makes soapies pretty easy to deal with by simply piling up scatterguns;
with that rule in force, it actually doesn't take more than about 50%
more scatterguns than the rough ratio a K'V escort cruiser already has
out of the book to render soapies completely ineffective.

However, I've also adopted various limited abilities of ships to hit
fighters with anti-ship weapons.  By the same token, though, the CEF
doesn't matter a whole lot to us because our fighters almost never
survive long enough to run out.

>2) To allow ships to *gradually* attrit enemy fighters from a range 
>instead of being able to shoot at them only when the fighters deign 
>to attack (enabling escort screening formations etc. to work, and 
>reducing the need for massive PD batteries that can stop the fighters 
>cold with a single salvo).

We've generally found this part unnecessary, because we tend to either
use enough scatterguns that we can indeed stop them cold (which is far
less mass-expensive than using PDS), or we use a similar amount or
slightly more PDS to not necessarily stop them cold in one shot but at
least wear them down at some point short of complete fleet destruction. 
It was good enough that naked fighter strikes simply stopped being a
viable tactic without support from various indirect fire weapons.

>The original beta-test rules were the first "semi-official" attempt 
>to do both of these things at once, and I quite agree that they 
>did  them in too complex a way. (They also attempted to clean up a 
>number of other features such as the badly messed-up FT2/FB dogfight 
>rules, and to top it off spent roughly three times the verbiage 
>they'd've needed if a native English-speaker had written them which 
>reinforced the *impression* of complexity way beyond the *actual* 
>complexity level <g>) The XD "hit-on-a-6-only" is IME too weak; 
>"hit-on-a-5" should be pretty much OK.

To some degree, I'd _prefer_ them to stay weak for the previous reasons.
 I'm okay with it still being there in order to give fighters a reason
not to loiter indefinitely, but I'm very leery of making it good enough
that, when combined with a powerful point defense, fighters are
significantly weakened or rendered altogether useless... and in my
games, there's always going to be powerful point defense.  However, 5+
with a single CEF needed to evade it seems okay to me with one fighter
hit per impact.

>(Oh, and you're by no means the only one to go on at length at times

It's all right.  Deep down, I like these kinds of long discussions. ;)

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