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[GZG] [AAR] Aventines v Sopovar, playtesting new FT3 fighter rules (long)

From: Eric Foley <stiltman@t...>
Date: Tue, 18 May 2010 18:48:48 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: [GZG] [AAR] Aventines v Sopovar, playtesting new FT3 fighter rules (long)

Okay, caveat time.  This was just one playtest, with me up against a
player who had a lot less experience at Full Thrust than I do.	We used
the new point defense system that Indy posted to the list a couple weeks
ago and, with a few house rule tweaks, the new turn order.  The main
house rule deviations we used were as follows:

1.  Salvo missiles were fired and moved in two parts on the same turn
similar to how fighters go in the new system.  They moved their full
movement minus 6 MU in the first phase, and the final 6 MU in the second
phase.	This was an adaptation of mine, intended to help a bit with high
speed maneuvers and making banzai jammers a little less perfect a
defense, while still requiring the missile user to at least get it close
to right.

2.  Fighter overkill from one group always spills over to the next in a
close area engagement of whatever sort.  Old rule from my groups, have
always found it to be good for large numbers of fighters, kept it.

3.  Point defense weaponry has to fire at an entire swarm of fighters,
and cannot cherry-pick which groups it wants to hit first.  Another old
rule from my groups, which became necessary to make bombers something
other than useless whenever somebody was bringing over a hundred PDS
(which they always did).

4.  Fighter speeds and armor were taken as modifiers to cost, as I've
laid out in previous emails.

5.  Minimum 6 mass for lightning shield/CIDS.

With those in place, we ran a one-off 5000 NPV game.  My opponent played
as the Aventine, who were vaguely FSE-inspired with a little over twice
as much PDS as the fleet books and hull integrity swapped out for
lightning shields (a name we will probably always like better than
"CIDS").  I played as the Sopovar (pronounced "SOAP-oh-vahr", with the
intentional emphasis on "soap"), who were built around a variety of
fighter-exploiting ships.  Each of us knew the range of designs the
other could pick from, but we went in blind as to what the other side
would actually bring to the game.  The actual order of battle went
basically like this:

- Two basestars, mass 320ish, hull 48, thrust 1, armor 12, level 1
screens, 15 fighter bays, 3 SMLs, 3 SMR-ERs, magazine with 1 ER and two
normal salvoes, light B2s (all arcs) and B1s suite, 5 PDS.
- One attack cruiser, mass 160, hull 48, thrust 2, armor 10, level 1
screens, 3 SMRs, 2 B3s (3 arcs), 4-5 B2s (all arcs), 2 fighter bays, 5
- Ten twin podships, mass 23, 2 fighter bays.  (In short, optimal soap
bubble carrier.)
- One solo podship, mass 12, 1 fighter bay.  (The classic but not quite
optimal soapie that I went with because I was up against the 5000 NPV
limit instead of another twin.)
- 43 standard fighters, 10 slow heavy torpedo bombers (at 42 NPV per

(Options not taken:  cloaking mass 40ish cruisers with two SMRs and four
needle beams, thrust 6.)

- One fleet carrier, mass 270, hull 52, thrust 4, level 1 screens, level
2 lightning shield, 8 fighter bays, B2 (3-arc) and B1 suite, 8 PDS.
- Two dreadnoughts, mass 262, hull 52, thrust 4, level 1 screens, level
3 lightning shield, 3 SML (magazine 3 normal each), B3s and lots of B2s
all at 3 arcs, 11 PDS.
- Three missile-escort cruisers, mass 62, hull 14, thrust 4, level 1
lightning shield, 1 SMR, 3 B2s (3 arc), 8 PDS, 2 ADS.
- Six pure escort cruisers, mass 62, hull 14, thrust 4, level 2
lightning shield, 3 B2s, 6 PDS, 2 ADS.	(Same as missile escorts but
with missiles and a couple PDS swapped for an extra level of lightning
- Eight heavy interceptors.

(Options not taken:  either or both dreadnoughts were allowed to swap
either two or three SMLs with their magazine space for two or three
fighter bays.)

The Aventines deployed with the two dreadnoughts and six pure escort
cruisers in front, the fleet carrier and missile cruisers slightly
behind, all still close enough for mutual defense.  The heavy
interceptors were in a fighter screen around the carrier, where they
could easily deploy to assist point defenses in the area against
anything that attacked the other ships.

The Sopovar had the attack cruiser in front with the intent that by the
time if/when a direct firefight broke out its firepower would draw fire
away from the basestars and podships, the basestars forming the other
two points of a triangle behind it as the core formation, with the
podships arrayed around them as missile soaks.	I had their fighters out
immediately but held the heavy bombers in reserve to start the game.

The two fleets started out roughly 100 MU apart.  They came in at 12 MU,
I started at 4.

I started out offering the fighters in a line ahead, seeking to confront
the interceptors away from the rest of the ships while my heavy bombers
(launching in turn 2 or so) came in behind them to strike, but the
Aventines were having none of it.  Realizing that they weren't going to
come out and play, I held back the fighters for these early turns to
keep them out of the range of the Aventine main guns until I was ready. 
I kept it slow at 5-6 MU per turn, the Aventines stayed at 12.

By about turn 3 or 4, I had come to the conclusion that I was going to
want to not commit my fighters unless they had a missile strike going in
to support them, it was probably going to have to be all ER missiles
from the basestars, and I probably didn't want those interceptors to
still be there when I sent in the bombers.  So I detached 16 of my
fighters and sent them into a dogfight with the interceptors so that the
rest of the fleet around him couldn't help them, and they accepted the
engagement.  I lost almost 10 groups while killing all the interceptors,
and estimated that the big hit was going to have to come on the next

I sent in the 10 heavy bombers along with the remaining 33+ fighter
groups as point defense soaks, together with the basestars' ER alpha
strike of 12 salvoes.  I hoped to get the missiles into the dreadnoughts
at the heart of the Aventines' front part of the formation, but he
decided to accelerate the fleet carrier and its escorts forward to
compact the formation while leaving the dreadnoughts and theirs at 12
MU, and I didn't have _quite_ enough range to hit the dreadnoughts.  So
with my secondary move I committed the missiles four salvoes each to the
front three escort cruisers, which (without further adjustments) would
leave the dreadnoughts uncovered in front from follow-up strikes.  The
attack cruiser didn't commit its missiles in this part, it was out of
range.	I had contemplated sending it ahead so that it could add to this
big first strike, but decided that it wasn't going to be a good idea to
send it against the larger dreadnoughts and their escorts by itself and
  was going to be more valuable staying behind to draw fire away from
the basestars.	I knew that whatever was going to happen, I was going to
lose a _lot_ of fighters to get it, so I put the whole swarm of them on
the two dreadnoughts, because they were the only things in there that
were worth losing the bulk of my fighters for.

I had 199 fighters and 60 heavy bombers coming in on them (splitting
roughly 50-50) along with 12 salvoes of ER missiles on the front three
escort cruisers (none of them being missile guys).  The Aventine player
had 109 total PDS/ADS to defend plus the level 3 lightning shields on
both ships.  Partly from unlucky rolling on his part and partly because
the fighters drew most of the PDS fire, 37 of the 60 bombers made it
through both PDS and lightning shields, which was enough to destroy both
dreadnoughts outright by themselves, which basically wasted the
fighters' strike.  However, the fighters seriously paid to get those
things into play, as only 55 of the 199 survived the amassed point
defense and the lightning shields.  One dreadnought was barely in B3
range of my attack cruiser, but missed with both dice before it died.

So now I had killed most of their ship-to-ship firepower but had lost
the bulk of my fighter wing to do it.  They still had 63 PDS against my
less than 63 surviving fighters (and 37 surviving but now depleted
bombers), and their remaining ships continued undaunted straight into my
formation.  They were still at extreme ER missile range at a mix of 12
and 16 MU, so I knew if they slowed down my next missile strike (which
would have to be normal range) might miss altogether, so I held off
firing it.  Without the missile support, I also didn't want to have the
fighters in there, and with them coming right at me this also meant I
couldn't yet recover the torpedo bombers either without exposing them to
enemy fire.  So I flew them out wide, held my missile fire and gritted
my teeth for a beam exchange.  They accelerated to 16 MU across their
whole force and plunged straight in to do so.  The basestars and attack
cruiser picked out the front two missile cruisers to shoot at, while t
 he two in question fired their missiles at me (somewhat ill-advised,
all they got was a podship and I had enough PDS to kill just two salvoes
and preserve it).  My attack cruiser took one threshold from beams,
losing two SMRs and half drives.  I destroyed one missile cruiser and
did two points of damage to the other.

Due to their speed and that they were close enough that they'd likely
overshoot me if they sped up further, my missiles were now no longer in
play at all, as what I could put out through side arcs wasn't enough
that it would get through their defenses, so I held my fire to wait for
a shot where I might actually do some damage.  I turned towards the
fighters to recover the bombers, while they sped up in order to
overshoot me outright -- as it turned out, to intentionally get off the
board at high speed.  Most of their beams were 3 arcs while mine were
all 6's, so this actually gave me the beam firepower advantage.  The two
basestars both fired at point blank and destroyed the undamaged missile
cruiser, while my attack cruiser miraculously managed to roll six 6's
out of 8 dice to kill off the damaged missile cruiser before rerolls. 
Their fleet carrier was the only thing with back-arc firepower, and
popped one podship for spite out of intent to at least kill _one_ of my
  The bombers were still out but I was in position to recover them the
next turn if the Aventine changed their mind; they didn't, and flew off
the board at 24 MU to withdraw with their fleet carrier and three
escorts still alive.

The total losses for the Aventine were two dreadnoughts and six escort
cruisers (three missile, three pure) along with the eight heavy
interceptors for a total of 3392 NPV of materiel.  The total losses for
the Sopovar were one podship, 23 heavy bombers, and 203 fighters for a
total of 857 NPV destroyed, plus the armor and single threshold on the
attack cruiser; neither basestar took any fire in the game (i.e. the
attack cruiser did its job of presenting a better target once it got to
close range).

On paper, it was a pretty disastrous defeat for the Aventines.	Off
paper, it _felt_ a lot closer than the bean counters would have called
it.  The Sopovar fighter fleet was all but annihilated and was a
complete non-factor after the first strike -- with a lot of cleverness
they were still able to get their first hit in, but didn't have enough
left to make a second or even to hang around afterwards.  If the
Aventines had had just a _little_ bit more ship-to-ship firepower that
would've survived, or if they'd come with just a few more heavy
interceptors (either by taking a battlecarrier option on the
dreadnoughts or maybe having a second fleet carrier) they could've
dampened my fighters a lot more.

For my part... if I'm playing for keeps with fighters, I don't think I
ever want any non-heavy fighters trying to attack ships with the new PDS
and especially not the lightning shields.  If I hadn't had the bombers,
or if I hadn't made them heavies (even if I cheaped out on them by
making them slow with Sopovar assurance of fighter superiority to cover
them), I would've lost this game, and badly.  We're pondering continuing
this campaign partly to explore this and partly to see how the tactics
evolve (and whether or not further refinement on the Aventines' part
would utterly annihilate the Sopovar eventually or not).  The Sopovar
might be forced to depart from the doctrine I'd envisioned for them of
cheaping out on every fighter they can get while still giving enemies a
_little_ reason not to just rush down their basestars, maybe with either
fast needle battlecruisers to blast away some lightning shields in
advance or going to a doctrine of three fighter lines -- cheaper (and
  maybe fast) fighters in front to force dogfights with interceptors,
heavy fighters in the middle to support the first line if needed and
survive a ship strike better, and the slow-heavy bombers in back to be
the main antiship hammer.

Anyways... thoughts can be sent on or off list.  I'm interested in what
people think of this so far.

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