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

From: Eric Foley <stiltman@t...>
Date: Sun, 2 May 2010 03:31:36 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: [GZG] FT:XD changes, part 1

-----Original Message----- 
>From: Tom B 
>Campaigns I often see run with an 'official designs only' perspective.
I often see them run
>with limited (very) or no intelligence about what the enemy is bringing
to the campaign or
> to the individual fight. The amount of variance in fleets between
fights varies by campaign
>from complete to very little. 

>In these scenarios, paper-scissors-rock isn't uncommon. And, although
you might not agree,
>it is quite defensible from a 'PSB' standpoint. It may be *very* hard
to gain meaningful
>intelligence about alien fleets (human fleets... there's enough
interconnectivity between
>humans at varying levels to gaurantee some leakage). Enemies can show
up with little warning
>via FTL and could conceivable arrive with anything (allowed in the

Well, my custom brew campaigns of almost a decade ago were generally run
as a series of double-blind one-offs.  The general scenario outline was
that they represented a grand conflict between opposing, highly diverse
empires that consisted of several member civilizations, and that each
one of the latter had their own "flavor" that governed their military
doctrines.  The only limitation on what you were allowed to bring to the
table was that if you brought one or more superships, you were required
to warn your opponent in advance, including the supership's (or ships')
rough size, and they were allowed to decide their own tactics based on
this knowledge.  Over time, my various major sub-factions became fairly
well known to my opponents (particularly the "core fleet" of
battlecarriers that favored torpedo bombers as their main striking
weapon from the start and eventually adopted plasma bolts as support
weapons and scatterguns for defense on the rare occasion that they got
 ightered over time), but they wouldn't know which of them would show up
to a given battle.

However, we did have a very strong admonition that you were _not_ to
treat a given battle as meaningless -- if you lost the battle in
disastrous fashion, this potentially lost you control (or survival) of
planets with as many as billions of people on them.  This was a _war_,
and a very bad loss _meant_ things.  Thus, gambling with those billions
of lives by trying to guess too much about what your opponent was going
to bring to the table and wagering your success on the result of that
guess was very, very strongly discouraged.  Our fleets evolved
considerably, but over time they had a very stiff balance to them where
they would normally be very capable of handling a wide variety of
tactics.  Once in a great while one of us would come up with something
new that threw the whole thing in flux, but counter-tactics would be
devised just as quickly.

I won the vast majority of these games, largely because I just _didn't_
let myself get sucked into a paper-rock-scissors mentality.  Regardless
of what I was bringing to the table, I never wanted to lose just because
I guessed wrong, so I'd bring stuff that had a balanced preparation for
a lot of different types of enemies.  And this brings me to your
question a couple emails back (that I never got around to answering,
sorry) as to why I'm not worried about soapies.  The answer is, as soon
as I saw soapies on the intarwebs years ago, I thought ahead, identified
scatterguns as the most efficient way to defend against them without
gutting the offensive weaponry of my own battleships and non-soapie
carriers, and made them my standard fighter defense doctrine from that
time forward.  My opponents already didn't tend to like bringing
fighters because I usually had a plan for them even before this, and
against their battleships I didn't mind because I'd just shoot all the
 ns into their ships on the first close pass if I didn't see any
fighters or indirect fire weapons coming at me, and that hurt plenty
too. ;)

>Even if you only play with official designs, if you don't know what a
foe is bringing (often
>done for entirely practical reasons related to real world miniatures
available, players
>available, or time to pre-plan available or lack of), you can get

>If you want to be able to run a low-overhead (ie little intel rules,
little logistics rules,
>using official designs) campaign, you'd still better be able to deal
with the fighter swarm.
>And there *aren't* enough ships in the game built do deal with it. ADFC
ships are rare and
>still don't pack enough PDS to overcome the gradient Oerjan mentions.
There *are* enough
>fighter bearing designs. 

Yeah... and yeah, if I were gearing up for FB1-only games, I'd always be
building around a fleet carrier force of whichever faction I was
assigned to if I had a choice.	If I did, there's not really a lot of
room to get 'rock'ed out there, so I wouldn't be too worried about it --
I'd just accept that if I'm playing for blood and nobody's putting
limits on me, that's what I'd have to do.  (Indeed, my first custom
brews before they started to diverge from their fleet book inspired
origins so much were built around a battlecarrier design that could've
almost passed for a slightly oversized NSL fighter carrier...)	Even if
there were some sort of ship-weapons-can-shoot-at-fighters rule in
effect, I'd probably still start from there, although I'd probably lean
more towards the FSE, since the ship weapons rules wouldn't help much
against the missiles and a good hit with those is just as deadly if not
more so, and they'd still be there if the fighters couldn't swarm up as

If we were playing for fun or if I were setting up a FB1-based scenario,
I'd probably tone it back a bit.  If we had to come up with a reason why
I'm not deploying more carriers, see my email to Oerjan for a
story-based reason that makes a decent amount of sense.

All told... I'm okay with a somewhat effective but not seriously
game-changing version of "ship weapons can shoot at fighters", and I've
been tinkering around with it in my own games.	It doesn't tend to
matter in my campaign anyway because everybody's got enough scatterguns
that nobody gets fighter swarmed unless I'm deliberately designing the
scenario to _let_ them (and when I do, it's because I'm playing the bad
guys in a story-based game where I'm deliberately letting newer players
playing the good guys have a better shot of winning).  However, in a
FB1-based campaign, _something_ could stand to be done, as long as it's
treated as optional and even using it doesn't wreck fighters to a point
where they're not useful in my sorts of games any more.  i.e. I'd like
to be able to still play custom games and not have to ignore half the
rules to still use fighters in them.

However, I'm also a bit of a realist:  I know, on some level, that the
FB1 ships have serious weaknesses against absolutely anything that can
exploit their jaw-dropping lack of point defense.  Even if you take
fighters away from me, if I can put enough salvo missiles or plasma
bolts on the FB1 ships, they're still toast.  A salvo missile alpha
strike based force (i.e. mixed SMRs for heavier first strikes and SMLs
for sustained fire) can put even more salvoes into space than fighters
on similar ships, and even with escorts and extra anti-fighter rules FB1
ships are still going to have a serious problem with it.  Against
similarly amassed plasma with backup firepower from pulse torpedoes or
beams, there's not much they can do at all.

However, these aren't realities that FB1 ships have to commonly face
against other FB1 ships, not even the Phalons or the FSE.  So something
like the 5+ ship fire rule would probably work out okay without ruining

>Given I believe this to be the case, I would like to see rules that
make the existing
>designs make sense in those sorts of games. [...] the default ruleset
in the game is
>not really aimed at you. You're going to build your own custom game no
matter what, both
>at the tactical and campaign levels. 

Yes, but I'd like the default rules set to not be something I have to
completely ignore.  The custom game that I play now is only marginally
removed from conventional Full Thrust.	The only major rule that I use
that deviates from the basic game (with a few things borrowed from XD
and tweaked) is my streamlined fighter organization and overkill rules,
which most likely nobody who played with me at a convention would worry
about very much.  If I've got to start ignoring half the rulebook, or
very major elements of it, in order to play, then I'd rather stop the
rules from changing to that degree.

As a guy who works at engineering and (sometimes) designing games
myself, and plays the game with full-time pro designers, it simply
bothers me to see a reactionary response change the rules because of
flaws in a particular set of ships that don't use them very well.  I'd
rather just change the ships so they're less vulnerable and maybe change
the rules _slightly_ in order to make that easier.  IMO, even with a
slight tweak for fighters in particular the existing SSDs need serious
help against missiles and plasma anyway (the maneuverability helps, but
not enough), and there's not much of a coherent way to do that without
simply giving them better PDS.	If they're going to be writing a new
book representing a new generation of the game anyway, why not?

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