WP Stagnation

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WP Stagnation

Postby Crucis on Fri 07 Dec 2012 08:56

I'll start this thread on WP stagnation by quoting some thoughts of mine from the WP's thread.


As for your (Vendervecken's) comment about the equivalent of the Maginot Line, we refer to that as WP Stagnation. And it is a problem. But it's also part of the Starfire Canon History. Or rather I should say that the technologies that bring about WP stagnation are a part of the canon. Minefields, armed buoys, OWP's.

A huge problem with minefields is that if you don't have to pay maintenance on them, then there's nothing to limit the size of those minefields. You can just leave them out there indefinitely and expand them over time with the only cost being the cost to buy more patterns of mines. This is an example of one of the unintended consequences of reducing certain types of paperwork in SM#2. The same would be true of armed buoys as well.

Another problem with minefields is that since SM#2 you don't have to actually build your own minelayers. You just let the CFN do it and bing-bang-boom, instant huge minefield! I'm a firm believer that you should have to build your own minelayers to lay your minefields. And if you don't happen to have any, minefields don't magically appear at WP's. And if you want to build a thick minefield really quick, then you'd better have a lot of minelayers.

Of course, WP stagnation comes to a screeching halt once SBMHAWKs arrive. But it seems to me that it takes a long time (TL-wise) for answers to minefields to show up. And I never really liked the idea that until AMBAM's came along that the only way to sweep a minefield was to toss a bunch of purpose-built ships into the field to soak up mine attacks. You'd think that engineers require 5-7 TL's before finally figuring out a better way to sweep mines than playing target dummy.

Of course, another technology that changes the nature of WP assaults is the jump drive (like that found in Alkelda Dawn). Minefields and armed buoys are a lot less potent when you can jump well beyond the WP when entering the star system. But depending on how great the range of the jump drive is affects how great an effect it can have on breaking the WP stagnation phenomena. If the jump range is only 1d10 tac hexes, you're still well within range of any OWPs and the entry region is small enough that mines and buoys can still be used with some effect, just not quite the same as when you know exactly what hex the enemy will be in. Of course, if the jump drive's range is 30 or more tac hexes, minefields and buoys are probably going to be mostly useless and the battle will almost be a deep space battle right from the start, which is going to take away most of the advantages the defender would have, particularly if the defender is the weaker empire. And if one had some sort of "super-jump drive" that had a jump range measured in interception hexes or system hexes ... well then you're going straight to deep space engagements and WP defenses would be utterly meaningless. About the best a defender could do would be to place his defense fleet between the WP and whatever needed defending at a distance where the attacker couldn't use the jump drive to jump right over the defense fleet.


Feel free to carry on on the topic of WP Stagnation...
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Re: WP Stagnation

Postby PracticalM on Fri 07 Dec 2012 14:37

It's not free minefield placement in SM#2. You have to pay to ship them as per any other cargo.
Easily resolved by making minefields only transportable in Mg instead of H.
Or increase the H required for minefield transport to reflect hazard pay.
But having to track imperial freighters to move everything gets boring quickly.

The WP problem is interesting because there are many interlocking pieces.
1. Number of ships allowed to transit.
2. Status of units defending (how quickly they can activate)
3. Availability of minefields
4. Availability of armed buoys
5. Jump drives
6. Pods
7. Size of attacking and defending fleets (dependent on economy)

I personally like the way Ultra dealt with many of these issues. Many defenders found themselves unwilling to defend a WP close in because their fleet was too small and the WP to large to ensure they would activate fast enough. Drones and Buoys happen early enough that there seems to be more player choice about where and when to defend.

Under 3rd edition rules there was rarely a good reason not to defend the WP. 3rd Edition minefields were very over powered but unless you give them a maintenance cost it doesn't stop empires from just building as many as they want.
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Re: WP Stagnation

Postby Crucis on Fri 07 Dec 2012 15:57

PracticalM wrote:It's not free minefield placement in SM#2. You have to pay to ship them as per any other cargo.
Easily resolved by making minefields only transportable in Mg instead of H.
Or increase the H required for minefield transport to reflect hazard pay.
But having to track imperial freighters to move everything gets boring quickly.


A number of good points here, Jeff. Yes, requiring MF's to be transported by Mg rather than H forces them into FT's. But so does ruling that MF's cannot be laid by the CFN.

And honestly, I do get tired of people complaining about using imperial FT's. I really, really do. This isn't directed at you. Others have said this and I give them a hard time them as well. I seriously dislike the CFN. I'd much rather track ships than track Q's and H's on a ledger. Nothing screams "AccountingFire" to me more than the CFN, particularly when it comes to things that properly belong on military ships like troopships, minelayers, and ammunition colliers. But I digress.


The WP problem is interesting because there are many interlocking pieces.
1. Number of ships allowed to transit.
2. Status of units defending (how quickly they can activate)
3. Availability of minefields
4. Availability of armed buoys
5. Jump drives
6. Pods
7. Size of attacking and defending fleets (dependent on economy)


All good points.

I don't like #1. Allowing more ships to transit per tactical pulse only encourages swarm tactics, which is something that I want to stamp out, not encourage. That said, I have considered the idea that multiple ships could safely transit a WP at 50% of the WP's capacity. That is, a 400 hs capacity WP could safely handle 200 hs of ships without risk of interpenetration. (That's similar to the Ultra 100% for the 1st ship and 200% for the 2nd and succeeding ships. I just think that biting the bullet and just saying 50% of the WP's capacity is simpler.) I won't entirely rule out this idea, since it is simple and workable.

2) Speed of activation. This works both ways. The speed with which defenders can activate. The speed with which attacking ships overcome transit effects. This is entirely adjustable within reason.

3 and 4) Availability of MF's and armed buoys. Certainly both could be made more expensive and/or their cargo storage size increased. SY hs usage requirements for both could be increased as well.

5) Yes, as I pointed out, Jump drives are huge here. And I do intend to do something with them. As I said before, Jump drives can let you jump over the fixed defenses. And the greater the range, the less relevant MF's, armed buoys, and OWP's for WP defense become.

I personally have a more aggressive (and revolutionary) attitude towards Jump Drives. Some don't want want to make Jump drives too good (jump range too great) since that would completely change the nature of WP defense. I hold that changing the nature of WP defense is an entirely attitude... a technology comes along that changes the face of the battlefield, rather than every tech just being a minute tweak, time after time after time. But I don't want to get into an argument about revolutionary vs evolutionary tech. I see jump drives as an alternative to trying to find ways to blast minefields and close-in fixed defenses. At long enough jump ranges, they're a game-changing technology.


6) If by "pods" you mean SMBHAWK in all its variants, yeah, they're a part of the equation. They're the pre-battle artillery bombardment to soften up (or utterly destroy) the enemy's defenses. They're the means by which WP stagnation is largely broken, though arguably, they ought to come a bit sooner in the TL tables so that WP Stagnation doesn't last so long. Of course, this tech is also sort of made moot by Jump Drives, since if one can just jump over the fixed defenses, one doesn't exactly need a pre-battle bombardment of those defenses.


7) Size of fleets (both sides): Yes, entirely true. But I don't intend to let economies and thus fleet sizes get out of hand as was the case in SM#2.



I personally like the way Ultra dealt with many of these issues. Many defenders found themselves unwilling to defend a WP close in because their fleet was too small and the WP to large to ensure they would activate fast enough. Drones and Buoys happen early enough that there seems to be more player choice about where and when to defend.

Under 3rd edition rules there was rarely a good reason not to defend the WP. 3rd Edition minefields were very over powered but unless you give them a maintenance cost it doesn't stop empires from just building as many as they want.


Jeff, I'm shocked .... SHOCKED :o ... to hear you say that you like how Ultra dealt with these issues. ;)

A thing to remember about 3E MF's is that they're less "weapons" than they are movement inhibitors. They're meant to bottle the attacker up on the WP and give the defender time to activate his non-activated ships and move them into combat range. IIRC, Ultra's armed buoys don't work this way. They're more like an extension of 3E's own armed buoys, which also don't really inhibit movement.

I agree that if the activation penalties were challenging enough, it would make the decision to defend a WP less certain, particularly if you don't think that you have a large enough fleet to defend against a heavy assault.

Anyways, that's all I have for how. Thanks for contributing, Jeff.
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Re: WP Stagnation

Postby AlexeiTimoshenko on Fri 07 Dec 2012 17:51

Crucis wrote:And honestly, I do get tired of people complaining about using imperial FT's. I really, really do. This isn't directed at you. Others have said this and I give them a hard time them as well. I seriously dislike the CFN. I'd much rather track ships than track Q's and H's on a ledger. Nothing screams "AccountingFire" to me more than the CFN, particularly when it comes to things that properly belong on military ships like troopships, minelayers, and ammunition colliers. But I digress.


I agree. The CFN is a commercial system. It shouldn't be used to lay mines, transport troops etc. In fact I'll go one step further. 3rd/ISF has (CHS) to handle cargo. Why not (MHS) as a mine laying variant. It would force players to build dedicated ships to lay mines, IDEW etc.

Crucis wrote:I don't like #1. Allowing more ships to transit per tactical pulse only encourages swarm tactics, which is something that I want to stamp out, not encourage. That said, I have considered the idea that multiple ships could safely transit a WP at 50% of the WP's capacity. That is, a 400 hs capacity WP could safely handle 200 hs of ships without risk of interpenetration. (That's similar to the Ultra 100% for the 1st ship and 200% for the 2nd and succeeding ships. I just think that biting the bullet and just saying 50% of the WP's capacity is simpler.) I won't entirely rule out this idea, since it is simple and workable.


I like the 50% HS limit. In my next campaign I may limit transits to a single 3 ship data group as long as it's within the 50%.

Crucis wrote:A thing to remember about 3E MF's is that they're less "weapons" than they are movement inhibitors. They're meant to bottle the attacker up on the WP and give the defender time to activate his non-activated ships and move them into combat range. IIRC, Ultra's armed buoys don't work this way. They're more like an extension of 3E's own armed buoys, which also don't really inhibit movement.


With smaller transit limits, a player may elect to defend with ships rather than mines/IDEW. In ISF, MF were the only reasonable way to deal with potentially 3000 HS of hostile ships transiting a turn. At a minimum those numbers have been cut in half for swarms. Worst case at extreme TL's is 1800 HS a turn assuming ships are capped at SM size. By that point in the game the stagnation should have ended due to the options available to the attacker.
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Re: WP Stagnation

Postby Cralis on Fri 07 Dec 2012 19:48

Crucis wrote: Allowing more ships to transit per tactical pulse only encourages swarm tactics


I'd like to point out that -- in ULTRA -- I've never, ever seen an attacker with swarm ships make it past an even moderately well defended WP, even with vastly superior numbers. The little buggers simply die to quickly to stabilize their penalties and become effective.
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Re: WP Stagnation

Postby PracticalM on Fri 07 Dec 2012 20:08

Crucis wrote:Jeff, I'm shocked .... SHOCKED :o ... to hear you say that you like how Ultra dealt with these issues. ;)

A thing to remember about 3E MF's is that they're less "weapons" than they are movement inhibitors. They're meant to bottle the attacker up on the WP and give the defender time to activate his non-activated ships and move them into combat range. IIRC, Ultra's armed buoys don't work this way. They're more like an extension of 3E's own armed buoys, which also don't really inhibit movement.


Well I have played a number of Ultra and GSF campaigns and my players have always come back for more. I found the number of different ways to break and defend WPs to be interesting.

What you say about movement inhibitors is true but in addition to that movement inhibitor effect they also do a heck of a lot of damage for their cost.

Perhaps if minefields could be made to do less damage. Perhaps a system that made the minefield think the ship was smaller so it attacked it less, or a system that could weaken a field without having to be in the field itself earlier than AMBAM missiles.

Though now I might have to think of a reason I could build a drone or base with a system that could slow down a starship around a WP for Ultra.
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Re: WP Stagnation

Postby PracticalM on Fri 07 Dec 2012 20:10

Cralis wrote:
Crucis wrote: Allowing more ships to transit per tactical pulse only encourages swarm tactics


I'd like to point out that -- in ULTRA -- I've never, ever seen an attacker with swarm ships make it past an even moderately well defended WP, even with vastly superior numbers. The little buggers simply die to quickly to stabilize their penalties and become effective.


Yes my experience is that the Swarm ships have generally needed a group of WP assault ships to hurt the defense before the swarm ships can come in and mop up.
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Re: WP Stagnation

Postby Crucis on Fri 07 Dec 2012 20:23

AlexeiTimoshenko wrote:
Crucis wrote:And honestly, I do get tired of people complaining about using imperial FT's. I really, really do. This isn't directed at you. Others have said this and I give them a hard time them as well. I seriously dislike the CFN. I'd much rather track ships than track Q's and H's on a ledger. Nothing screams "AccountingFire" to me more than the CFN, particularly when it comes to things that properly belong on military ships like troopships, minelayers, and ammunition colliers. But I digress.


I agree. The CFN is a commercial system. It shouldn't be used to lay mines, transport troops etc. In fact I'll go one step further. 3rd/ISF has (CHS) to handle cargo. Why not (MHS) as a mine laying variant. It would force players to build dedicated ships to lay mines, IDEW etc.


IIRC, for the most part, CHS2 was a good system for laying mines because it was smaller than CHS1 (10 hs vs 5 hs, I think). CHS (of either variety) is not 100% necessary for laying mines, but it is if you want it done in a timely manner. Without something like CHS (or tractor beams, etc.), laying mines is tedious work. I'll give it some thought.

The key thing though is that mines should be laid by minelayers. It forces the player to use up shipyard capacity to build the minelayers, and expend maintenance to keep them active or mothball them until needed, but risk not having them immediately available in a critical situation. And maintenance should be paid on MF's to prevent ridiculous levels of overuse.


Crucis wrote:I don't like #1. Allowing more ships to transit per tactical pulse only encourages swarm tactics, which is something that I want to stamp out, not encourage. That said, I have considered the idea that multiple ships could safely transit a WP at 50% of the WP's capacity. That is, a 400 hs capacity WP could safely handle 200 hs of ships without risk of interpenetration. (That's similar to the Ultra 100% for the 1st ship and 200% for the 2nd and succeeding ships. I just think that biting the bullet and just saying 50% of the WP's capacity is simpler.) I won't entirely rule out this idea, since it is simple and workable.


I like the 50% HS limit. In my next campaign I may limit transits to a single 3 ship data group as long as it's within the 50%.



As some of the ideas for WP related things go, it's not a bad one. It's very simple to use for obvious reasons.


Here's another slightly less simple way to do it... Divide the HS capacity by the number of ships you want to send thru the WP safely in a tactical pulse. You want to sent thru 3 ships? Divide the WP's capacity by 3 for the safe limit for 3 ships. Example: a 300 hs WP could handle 150 hs for 2 ships (2 75 hs BC's or perhaps 1 BC and 1 CA), 100 hs for 3 ships (3 DD's), 75 hs for 4 ships (4 CT's), 60 hs for 5 ships (5 ES's), and so on.

Actually, this seems like a good way to prevent abuse by swarms. Of course, that's not so say that you couldn't send thru 5 ES's per tactical pulse for 30 ES's in a turn, which is a tad annoying.


Crucis wrote:A thing to remember about 3E MF's is that they're less "weapons" than they are movement inhibitors. They're meant to bottle the attacker up on the WP and give the defender time to activate his non-activated ships and move them into combat range. IIRC, Ultra's armed buoys don't work this way. They're more like an extension of 3E's own armed buoys, which also don't really inhibit movement.


With smaller transit limits, a player may elect to defend with ships rather than mines/IDEW. In ISF, MF were the only reasonable way to deal with potentially 3000 HS of hostile ships transiting a turn. At a minimum those numbers have been cut in half for swarms. Worst case at extreme TL's is 1800 HS a turn assuming ships are capped at SM size. By that point in the game the stagnation should have ended due to the options available to the attacker.


Actually, it wouldn't be 1800 HS. You're forgetting that those SMT's probably aren't moving at speed 6. Or perhaps they may be at those higher TL's... ;)

As for TL's, even without jump drives or any other mitigating tech or rules changes, WP Stagnation is ended long before SMT's arrive on the scene due to SBMHAWK and its variants.
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Re: WP Stagnation

Postby Crucis on Fri 07 Dec 2012 20:44

PracticalM wrote:
Crucis wrote:Jeff, I'm shocked .... SHOCKED :o ... to hear you say that you like how Ultra dealt with these issues. ;)

A thing to remember about 3E MF's is that they're less "weapons" than they are movement inhibitors. They're meant to bottle the attacker up on the WP and give the defender time to activate his non-activated ships and move them into combat range. IIRC, Ultra's armed buoys don't work this way. They're more like an extension of 3E's own armed buoys, which also don't really inhibit movement.


Well I have played a number of Ultra and GSF campaigns and my players have always come back for more. I found the number of different ways to break and defend WPs to be interesting.

What you say about movement inhibitors is true but in addition to that movement inhibitor effect they also do a heck of a lot of damage for their cost.

Perhaps if minefields could be made to do less damage.


Well, their movement inhibiting effect isn't anything magical. It's the fear of the damage they can do. If they caused less damage, the movement inhibition would be reduced.

Perhaps a system that made the minefield think the ship was smaller so it attacked it less,


IIRC, one of old ECM-3's modes was to change the ship's apparent size. Of course, at short ranges, this wouldn't fool starship sensors, but I imagine that MF sensors are probably pretty weak and might be fooled. OTOH, if the MF is being controlled by (Mcs) (minefield control system), and the ship mounting MCS wasn't fooled, the target ship is in a world of hurt.

A nasty trick might be a big drone (a variant of the ADM?) that could temporarily spoof sensors into thinking that it was a ship of a pre-programmed size might be able to trick the MF's into attacking the drone and expending some MF patterns. But at what range would ship board sensors see thru the ruse, and (if mounting MCS) be able to stop the MF's from being wasted?


or a system that could weaken a field without having to be in the field itself earlier than AMBAM missiles.


IMO, there's no reason that a less effective nuclear version of AMBAM couldn't be created at an earlier TL. I could see a W/Wa launcher firing a nuke version. Also, any gun launcher probably could as well, though one doesn't really need a sprint missile's speed to travel a mere 1 tac hex into a MF. I suppose that there could also be a larger XO version, something that's the size of an ADM, though it would seem to have to do more on a per XO point basis than the SM-sized variant to make its existence and use worthwhile.

There are definitely options when it comes to tech.

Heck, I'm not entirely sure why one couldn't just use a ship's normal weapons in their anti-fighter mode at a range of 1 to sweep. Oh, sure it'd be slow work since most non-point defense weapons don't have good to-hit numbers on the fighter kill table, but enough weapons thrown at the task would get the job done given a little time (which isn't always the case in a WP assault, of course). (Obviously, point defense type systems would be far superior in this role...)



Though now I might have to think of a reason I could build a drone or base with a system that could slow down a starship around a WP for Ultra.


IMO, there's no reason that a less effective nuclear version couldn't be created at an earlier TL.
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Re: WP Stagnation

Postby AlexeiTimoshenko on Fri 07 Dec 2012 22:53

You're right. I'm not used to playing with ships as large and slow as a SM.

ECM-3 did have deception mode, which could fool opposing ships at long range. I'm not sure how effective it would be on MF at a wp due to the short range. Beyond point blank range though it should be effective.

One reason I'm thinking of limiting simultaneous transits to a single data group per pulse is that the groups electronics are synchronized to a degree by the datalink. That should make it somewhat easier for those ships to coordinate their movement compared to a random assemblage of ships.
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