Jump Drives, Mines, Swarms, Hull Costs, etc.

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Jump Drives, Mines, Swarms, Hull Costs, etc.

Postby DMarcus7 on Fri 03 May 2013 14:06

I've been reading the posts on warp points and trying to figure out where to put my thoughts on WPs, as they don't 100% align with the topics. Since this thread has been quiet for a while it seems safe to put them here. A lot of ground has been covered in this thread, hopefully I don't repeat too much of it. :)

I don't mind WP assaults per se, but I don't like the emphasis on attrition units that dominate some of the later WP scenarios. I like my space combat to be about ships and not about how many freighters worth of mines and Warp-capable attrition units you brought to the battle.

I really thought Alkelda Dawn was onto something with the attacker's ships randomly scattered across 100 tactical hexes. It certainly puts a dent in the effectiveness of mines and bouys and changes WP assaults to some degree. I think that using this system, or some variation of it, gives you the best of both worlds, minimizing the effect of attrition units on WP assaults and still giving you the strategic aspects of having movement governed by Warp Points.

The next thing that I have always wondered about is why there was no "Warp Drive" tech tree. It could look something like this:

- Warp Point Travel: The traditional method of transiting naturally-occurring warp points. Modified with the "conical" interaction rules from Alkelda Dawn if you prefer.
- Dedicated Warp Gates: massive, stationary structures that are permanently linked in pairs. They function like a naturally-occurring Warp Point pair.
- Warp Networks: Now you can have a network of Warp Gates and can travel from one to any other one in the network.
- Warp Drive: Finally, the Warp Gate generator is small enough to fit on a starship and it no longer needs a destination Gate to receive it, so a ship can jump to any destination.

You could fill-out the tree with variations on the above, but they represent the major steps in the tree.

Lastly, if you were to go to a totally no-WP mechanic, then I would have to support what others have posted here: that you can't enter or exit your jump within a certain radius of a gravity well. The larger the well, the further you have to drop out of warp. This is important because with integral Warp Drives, ships don't have to stick around if they don't want to, and that makes it difficult to do convoy raiding as the freighters can jump whenever they want. It also makes it difficult to force a fleet into combat. Any force, attacker or defender, that feels they are outclassed, can simply hit the Warp Drive button and leave the battle. By forcing ships to leave an area before jumping, then you give the attackers a few turns to blow up freighters before they escape the local gravity well, and similarly give the defenders time to run down the attackers before they can escape.
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Dawn Falcon on Fri 03 May 2013 15:44

On the tree - Mostly because you'd typically pick one for a campaign - having one better than your enemies is strategically devastating to them.
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby tmul4050 on Fri 03 May 2013 20:48

I always liked the alkeada dawn wp point ideas. I suppose now we are no longer tied to the canon history we could reexamine them for use.
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Crucis on Fri 03 May 2013 20:58

tmul4050 wrote:I always liked the alkeada dawn wp point ideas. I suppose now we are no longer tied to the canon history we could reexamine them for use.



I intend to include some sort of jump drive at some point/TL, but not immediately (i.e. at lower TL's).

Alkelda Dawn's jump drives were intentionally designed the way they were to avoid the WP stagnation issues present in 3E. Obviously, if you can jump well away from the WP, static WP defenses of any kind are almost meaningless... which is good for neutering WP stagnation, but it also removes any value that the defender has for being on the defense. Now, different people have differing opinions on whether that's a good thing or not. Arguably, one of the interesting things about Starfire is that defending players have a chance against superior odds when trying to hold a WP. But if Jump Drives are good enough, then they can remove the defender's advantage entirely, and then the inferior defender will lose any advantage for being on the defensive. (Sentence edited to make it read as intended.)

It's something to think about.
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Crucis on Sun 05 May 2013 23:11

DMarcus7 wrote:I've been reading the posts on warp points and trying to figure out where to put my thoughts on WPs, as they don't 100% align with the topics. Since this thread has been quiet for a while it seems safe to put them here. A lot of ground has been covered in this thread, hopefully I don't repeat too much of it. :)

I don't mind WP assaults per se, but I don't like the emphasis on attrition units that dominate some of the later WP scenarios. I like my space combat to be about ships and not about how many freighters worth of mines and Warp-capable attrition units you brought to the battle.


Like it or not, WP's are choke points. And historically, defenders will always seek to use choke points to their advantage defensively to make up for their numerical deficiencies. It's the way of things.

And doing away with mines and armed buoys and such is only an advantage to the attacker. After all, the attacker isn't stopped from using missile pods as some sort of pre-battle artillery bombardment, which is exactly what old 3E SBMHAWK bombardments were ... artillery bombardments.

Now, I could make things like minefields and armed buoys go away with a wave of my hand... I have a logical pseudo-science reason for why they couldn't work as WP defenses. However that reason does nothing to stop the attacker from using missile pods offensively. The reason would be that holding station on a WP in a system having a star isn't easy, because WP's do not orbit the star. And any thing trying to hold station on a WP is functionally going to have to be moving at about 1 system hex per month just to stay on the WP. That's not exactly screaming thru space, but it's also not an insignificant speed either. OWP's are defined as having that much speed. But mines and buoys???

Furthermore, missiles pods being used offensively don't have to hold station on a WP. They're just dumped out of their freighter before the attack, and away they go. Missile pods being used defensively DO have to hold station on the WP, and thus would not be able to do so, if mines or buoys couldn't.

However, such a change would have a DRASTIC impact on the ability of a defender to hold a WP as TL's rise.... Now, if one doesn't care about giving defenders a decent chance at holding a WP, then perhaps one doesn't mind the impact of removing automated defenses. However, if one does like having defenders having a decent chance of holding WP's, then removing automated defenses is a catastrophe in the making.

I should also note that without buoys being able to hold station on WP's, the ICN in any empire would by definition need to consist of bases (or ships) on WP's rather than buoys, which would increase the cost of building one's ICN.

Anyways, I thought that I'd respond to this particular point about automated defenses. They could be removed, but the effect on defenders would be DRASTIC. Of course, some players might like it that way.... so ... :?
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby PracticalM on Mon 06 May 2013 11:56

DMarcus7 wrote:I don't mind WP assaults per se, but I don't like the emphasis on attrition units that dominate some of the later WP scenarios. I like my space combat to be about ships and not about how many freighters worth of mines and Warp-capable attrition units you brought to the battle.


I find WPs helpful from a gamist perspective because they help empires that are smaller hold on. A smaller empire can survive just by being too tough of a nut to crack. It can force the attacker to negotiate or to keep a force to bottle up the defender.

I can sympathize with wanting a different approach though.
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby DMarcus7 on Fri 10 May 2013 10:36

And doing away with mines and armed buoys and such is only an advantage to the attacker. After all, the attacker isn't stopped from using missile pods as some sort of pre-battle artillery bombardment, which is exactly what old 3E SBMHAWK bombardments were ... artillery bombardments.


A valid point. I neglected to mention in my initial post that because you remove mines and bouys, then you could also get rid of the bombardment missiles as well. My thought would be to make the old Alkelda Dawn warp transit rules the standard. With a wide enough random dispersal pattern, my hope is that it would make mines, bouys and missile pods useless or at least reduce their effectiveness enough to shift the emphasis in Assaults back to starships and away from attrition units. Bear in mind I haven't tested any of this - I am theorizing here and am curious if anyone has tried this under actual game conditions.

I find WPs helpful from a gamist perspective because they help empires that are smaller hold on. A smaller empire can survive just by being too tough of a nut to crack. It can force the attacker to negotiate or to keep a force to bottle up the defender.


Again, my hope was that (with the changes I was contemplating) the focus of warp assaults would simply shift away from attrition units to starships, the net result being you could still block a warp point, but it would be with starships and bases and not attrition units.
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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Crucis on Fri 10 May 2013 16:17

DMarcus7 wrote:
And doing away with mines and armed buoys and such is only an advantage to the attacker. After all, the attacker isn't stopped from using missile pods as some sort of pre-battle artillery bombardment, which is exactly what old 3E SBMHAWK bombardments were ... artillery bombardments.


A valid point. I neglected to mention in my initial post that because you remove mines and bouys, then you could also get rid of the bombardment missiles as well. My thought would be to make the old Alkelda Dawn warp transit rules the standard. With a wide enough random dispersal pattern, my hope is that it would make mines, bouys and missile pods useless or at least reduce their effectiveness enough to shift the emphasis in Assaults back to starships and away from attrition units. Bear in mind I haven't tested any of this - I am theorizing here and am curious if anyone has tried this under actual game conditions.


A couple of points.

1. I hate the Alkelda Dawn warp jump rules. Specifically, I hate the idea of having my ships randomly dispersed over what amounts to about a circle of space that's about 3 interception hexes across. Oh, it's one thing for that to happen if one hasn't surveyed the gravitic stresses of the WP, but to have it be the normal result of a warp jump? That's unacceptable to me. It's begging to have one's fleet destroyed in detail. If I'm warp jumping into a system, I want to be able to fully control the distance and bearing of my exit.


2. I've discussed the idea of having long warp jumps be the standard model well before you brought it up, and the comments usually end up being the same. If an invading fleet is able to warp jump into the system far from the WP, you effectively turned all battles into deep space battles with the net result that LRW's (long range weapons) will totally dominate the game and SRW's (short range weapons) will become far less important.

Furthermore, what this does is remove the ability of a weaker defender to use the natural terrain (i.e. the WP) to his defensive advantage. WP's are are a natural choke point, not unlike a very narrow mountain pass on land or a narrow strait on the water. And at such choke points, on land, water, or in space, those are places where a defender can use the terrain to his advantage by placing (land, sea, or space) mines in that narrow area to increase his advantage against the attacker, and perhaps even the odds and give the defender a better chance of victory.


3. If there were no automated weapons, this would just cause desperate defenders into building lots of "single month build" ships, which would be every bit as much of an "attrition unit" as automated weapons, and a lot more annoying. From my POV, "one month build" "swarm" ships are the bane of Starfire, because you end up with many dozens, if not hundreds, of such units on a map, which are a massive pain in the butt to track. It's been one of my goals for Cosmic to try to skew the various rules in favor of larger ships to try to dissuade the construction of swarm ships. So, I'm not entirely thrilled with the idea of something that would turn around and create a tremendous pressure to build lots of swarm ships, because personally, I'd rather put up with automated weapons than hundreds of swarm ships, every day of the week.



I find WPs helpful from a gamist perspective because they help empires that are smaller hold on. A smaller empire can survive just by being too tough of a nut to crack. It can force the attacker to negotiate or to keep a force to bottle up the defender.


Again, my hope was that (with the changes I was contemplating) the focus of warp assaults would simply shift away from attrition units to starships, the net result being you could still block a warp point, but it would be with starships and bases and not attrition units.


If invaders are entering a system with jump drives and are jumping clear over any concentrated WP defenses, the defender simply isn't going to "block" a WP. Every battle becomes a deep space battle, where LRW's dominate and where the stronger side will almost always win. And this really isn't a situation that the designers of Starfire want to exist. It's felt that it's preferential for the defender to have a good chance of success, and that usually means fighting on top of the WP where the defensive advantages will be at their greatest ... and it also usually means the inclusion of automated weapons.




Now ... having said all of the above .... I know that there will be some people that will not care about the above arguments, particularly #2, and would like to dump automated weapons and just be fighting ship vs ships, with all of our arguments be damned. I can sympathize to a degree. However, I'm not so sure that the no automated weapons alternative is as rosy as you may think it is.
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Jump Drives, Mines, Swarms, etc.

Postby Vandervecken on Sat 11 May 2013 02:28

Let the defender buy his swarm ships, get rid of automated weapons and make big ships more desirable by making them even more cost effect per HS by making the bigger classes slightly cheaper per HS. I get my cereal cheaper when I buy the big box, well cheaper per Ounce. I'd have liked to keep the HS at one fixed cost but it there is a slight reduction in HS cost as you get the bigger and bigger classes I promise you that you'll see a heck of a lot more of them. And although that won't get rid of the swarms, it becomes more and more prohibitively expensive the farther in the campaign you go. And getting rid of Automated weapons is removing pages of rules vs a simple HS cost chart. (I dislike mines so if there are rules to be kicked out, AP or mines are always my prime choice. Although I don't hate em enough to not play a campaign because they are in it. It makes sense that someone would try to make them, but I can think of a 'Deux Ex Machina' clause or two to say they aren't workable for one reason or another. For me personally and what I want to accomplish with Starfire in the next few years, keeping them is just a lot of extra notes/designs/rules/paperwork to try to foster on my potential new Emperors, Queens, and Grand Vizors. And their GM, heheheee)

Hopefully you'll see the HS cost going down very slightly each size up as a way to get to some of that goodness for what you want to accomplish, Crucis. You've got a lot of fun yet tough choices to make for Cosmic.



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Re: Starfire without WP's?

Postby Crucis on Sat 11 May 2013 02:57

Vandervecken wrote:Let the defender buy his swarm ships, get rid of automated weapons and make big ships more desirable by making them even more cost effect per HS by making the bigger classes slightly cheaper per HS. I get my cereal cheaper when I buy the big box, well cheaper per Ounce. I'd have liked to keep the HS at one fixed cost but it there is a slight reduction in HS cost as you get the bigger and bigger classes I promise you that you'll see a heck of a lot more of them. And although that won't get rid of the swarms, it becomes more and more prohibitively expensive the farther in the campaign you go. And getting rid of Automated weapons is removing pages of rules vs a simple HS cost chart. (I dislike mines so if there are rules to be kicked out, AP or mines are always my prime choice. Although I don't hate em enough to not play a campaign because they are in it. It makes sense that someone would try to make them, but I can think of a 'Deux Ex Machina' clause or two to say they aren't workable for one reason or another. For me personally and what I want to accomplish with Starfire in the next few years, keeping them is just a lot of extra notes/designs/rules/paperwork to try to foster on my potential new Emperors, Queens, and Grand Vizors. And their GM, heheheee)

Hopefully you'll see the HS cost going down very slightly each size up as a way to get to some of that goodness for what you want to accomplish, Crucis. You've got a lot of fun yet tough choices to make for Cosmic.


Thanks for the reply, Van.

I guess that it's a matter of taste. As I said above, my dislike for swarm ships is so extreme that I find automated weapons less objectionable than those swarms. Also, I've tended to look for small ways here and there to insinuate things into the rules that favor large ships over small ones, though hopefully not in overly contrived ways.

As for hull costs, right now, it's my intention to have a flat per-HS cost for warships, which will probably be 4 HS. However, I've heard (I wish I remember who and where) that in reality, the "hull cost" is warships on a per-tonne basis actually decreases as warships get larger, rather than the reverse which has been the case in Starfire for ages.

In a way, I wouldn't mind using a decreasing hull cost as you suggest to encourage larger units. OTOH, there's something to be said for the pure simplicity of having a single fixed per-HS hull cost.

As for those "fun yet tough" choices for Cosmic, I've been making a few of late. At times I'm torn in 2 or more directions on some things, but often I tend to return to taking the simpler path.


Oh, and as for the "Deus Ex Machina" clause for why static automated weapons wouldn't work, I already have it. I just am not likely to use it. But here it is... WP's in all STAR systems (which of course, doesn't include STARLESS nexuses) do not orbit their stars, like any planets around the stars. Therefore, anything trying to hold station on a WP must be able to move at a rate defined within the game as about 1 system hex per month. Thus, if mines and other AW's cannot move at a rate of 1 sH/month, they can hardly hold station on a WP. They could orbit planets. They could orbit stars. They could not stay in place at a WP, except in a starless nexus where there is no star to worry about. And the solution there would be to just dump starless nexuses. No starless nexuses, no problem to deal with.
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