Nerfing Squadrons to reasonable levels

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What kind of small craft combat rules do you use?

I use SOLAR rules as they are.
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I use SOLAR rules with my own modifications.
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I use an older set of rules instead of SOLAR rules.
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I use my own set of rules for small craft.
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I don't use armed small craft.
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I don't have experience with small craft under SOLAR.
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Total votes : 5

Nerfing Squadrons to reasonable levels

Postby Whitecold on Tue 26 Jan 2016 07:53

All the tests I did so far show that GB are nigh invincible to shipboard weapons, and deal horrible damage in return. I'm trying to tweak the rules so that large units still remain viable against GB threat.

At the core of the issue I think is that GBs cannot be out ranged. Given their speed and turn mode, they only ever have to enter the range of hostiles to fire off their external ordnance, and then can immediately retreat to rearm. Balancing this means either GBs don't deal any significant damage, or they must die immediately in that single turn. Currently they do neither.

This makes gunboats into a unit that is capable of defeating fleets without any other type of unit. FQ can somehow mitigate this, but then it is also a squadron unit, making a game about designing interesting fleets about only two unit types.

The role I would like GBs to occupy are as scout, raider against commerce or the enemy fleet train, mobile rear area defense unit, for hunting down retreating units.
What I very much don't want is a unit that can take on battle fleets. It should remain a supporting unit that survives only in a full battle because other units are occupying the opponents point defense and are more important targets.

My first iteration of changes:
- +1 to intercept on all inbounds from squadrons.
- LRW damage is divided by 2.
- SRW damage is divided by 4.
- Squadron DP are halved.
- (Bg), (Bf) size is doubled.

The BASV system is replaced by weapons dealing regular damage with -1 to hit.
Capital weapons also have -1 to damage, heavy weapons -2 against smcft.
K doesn't get the -1 to-hit as better anti-smcft weapon.
D/Dc deal damage against smcft like L/Lc of equivalent generation for now.

The range of smcft weapons is significantly reduced. The range brackets are replaced by a damage modifier to each range (0,1,2,3) and weapon. For a start beams will get around range 2, while LRW will get around range 4.
Higher generations will have more range. Also individual modifiers for each range and weapon will allow different damage profiles for different weapons, making the choice more interesting than a linear modifier.
Last edited by Whitecold on Mon 08 Feb 2016 05:10, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nerfing Squadrons to reasonable levels

Postby Cralis on Tue 26 Jan 2016 15:07

I'd still like to see the details of your tests.
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Re: Nerfing Squadrons to reasonable levels

Postby Whitecold on Tue 26 Jan 2016 16:21

Cralis wrote:I'd still like to see the details of your tests.


DD
[3] SS AA Ht Qa (Ia) (Ia) Fb (Ia) Qa Fb (Ia) Fb (Ia) Fb [5/2]
CA 1
[3] SSSSSS AAAAAA Qa Mgt Ya Qb (IaIa) Db Db Db (IaIa) Ptb Db Db Db (IaIa) Qb Ptb Ptb Db Db (IaIa) Ptb [4/2]
CA 2
[3] SSSSSS AAAAAA Qa Mg Mg Ya Fb Qb (IaIa) (IaIa) Ptb Ptb Db Db (IaIa) Qb Ptb Ptb Db (IaIa) Fb [4/2]
BB
[4] SSSSSSSSSS AAAAAAAAAAA Zb Qa Qb Qb Qb Mg Mg Mg Ya Db Ptb Db Ptb Ptb (IaIaIa) Ptb Ptb Qb Ptb Ptb Db (IaIaIa) Ptb Ptb Ptb Db (IaIaIa) Fb [3/1]

I played with these 4 designs, as well as GBa loaded with R and F. The DD is roughly 500, the CAs 1k MCr and the BB 2k. I priced the GBs at 500, calculating from a CL carrier costing 2k fully loaded with 4 squadrons.

The first tests were to shield one BB with 2 D heavy CAs against 6 GBs. The GBs would gut the cruisers with external salvo and beams on the first round in range.
Another one I did was simply two squadrons against one Escort CA, without reloading. The GBs still won, taking out the cruiser with beams, even though one squadron didn't survive.

I don't recall all the configurations, but in no one the large units succeeded.

EDIT: These are the vanilla tests, using Solar Starfire Rules.
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Re: Nerfing Squadrons to reasonable levels

Postby Morpheus on Wed 27 Jan 2016 02:03

I agree that the gunboats do appear to be overpowered in the context of the scenarios you ran with GB vs. DD/CA/BB.

The outcome of the battle would change if you replaced one of the ships with a CV/CVL with 4-6 FQ squadrons. Have the FQ engage the GB at long range before the GB enter the range of the strike group.

Whitecold wrote:This makes gunboats into a unit that is capable of defeating fleets without any other type of unit. FQ can somehow mitigate this, but then it is also a squadron unit, making a game about designing interesting fleets about only two unit types.


This is exactly what happened historically in ISW4 (In Death Ground and The Shiva Option). The Arachnids would throw hundreds, and in some cases thousands of GB up against strike groups of SD and MT and the only way that the Grand Alliance could defend against the GB was to engage the GB at long range. Even then the GB did end up taking out quite a few of the capital ships.

The other option would be to equip the strike group with LRW that are capable of engaging the GB outside of their engagement envelope.
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Re: Nerfing Squadrons to reasonable levels

Postby Whitecold on Wed 27 Jan 2016 06:27

Morpheus wrote:I agree that the gunboats do appear to be overpowered in the context of the scenarios you ran with GB vs. DD/CA/BB.

The outcome of the battle would change if you replaced one of the ships with a CV/CVL with 4-6 FQ squadrons. Have the FQ engage the GB at long range before the GB enter the range of the strike group.

A CL can carry 4 FQ instead of 4 GB, and prices at 1.5k a bit cheaper than the 2k for a GB carrier (all prices including the sqrns), but still more than a regular CA. This puts a FQ squadron at some 400 MCr, so you can field 5 in place of two CA's. With 5 FQs and a battleship against 8 GB squadrons the BB is still screwed, and the GB may well decide to fight the FQ again and win due to superior numbers and way more DP.
Also FQ is only available at higher tech levels than GB, what I am looking for is a capability of large units to defeat smcft.
FQ can of course help, but they should not be the only viable counter. Large units can't run down GBs, so for this you will need FQs in any case.

Morpheus wrote:The other option would be to equip the strike group with LRW that are capable of engaging the GB outside of their engagement envelope.


There currently are none, which is exactly what I want to change.
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Re: Nerfing Squadrons to reasonable levels

Postby Cralis on Wed 27 Jan 2016 09:17

I'm going to reply on the test myself here, hopefully tonight. I just haven't had a chance to run the numbers. I already know that we are going to have widely differing results (which is why a test being reproducible is important). My apologies for it taking so long.
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Re: Nerfing Squadrons to reasonable levels

Postby Morpheus on Wed 27 Jan 2016 11:13

Whitecold wrote:
Morpheus wrote:The other option would be to equip the strike group with LRW that are capable of engaging the GB outside of their engagement envelope.


There currently are none, which is exactly what I want to change.


I went back and double checked and you are correct. Ultra/Solar has no equivalent of 3rd Edition's AFM or AFMc. The AFMc has a range of 30 tactical hexes and maintains a 40% chance of hitting out to 21 tactical hexes. (I've been playing mostly 3rd Edition lately plying through the ISW1-3 scenarios in The Stars at War.)

I only have the Ultra rules and not the Solar rules handy right now, but unless I am mistaken, starship weapons only have a range of out to 9 tactical hexes in Ultra and Solar against small craft. Add to that that even if all of your CA1 ship weapons fire at an FQ squadron, they can do a maximum damage after BASV adjustments of ~10 DP which is only 1/3 of the GB DP capacity. But, each GB squadron can fire their R external ordinance at the CA1 which will do ~5-15 damage per squadron against the CA1. Then they can close the range and enter the blind spot of your ships and tear them apart with beams.

Based on this I think Ultra/Solar needs something like AFM/AFMc to deal with GB (or a good house rule that makes missiles have a longer range against FQ/GB.

Cralis wrote:I'm going to reply on the test myself here, hopefully tonight. I just haven't had a chance to run the numbers. I already know that we are going to have widely differing results (which is why a test being reproducible is important). My apologies for it taking so long.


I'm very curious to see if your results are close to Whitecold's.
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Re: Nerfing Squadrons to reasonable levels

Postby Cralis on Wed 27 Jan 2016 13:07

Morpheus wrote:I only have the Ultra rules and not the Solar rules handy right now, but unless I am mistaken, starship weapons only have a range of out to 9 tactical hexes in Ultra and Solar against small craft.


That is currently correct: squadrons and large craft are BOTH limited to a 9 tH range against each other. Marvin eliminated the rolling "i win / you win" effect of asymmetric weapons where one side can inflict damage where the other cannot. By eliminating the "who outranges who" yo-yo and equalizing the range that squadrons and large craft can engage each other, it was much easier to balance.

My issue is that the range envelope doesn't change as technology advances. I've already said that I am changing it so the ranges increase as the tech advances.

Cralis wrote:I'm going to reply on the test myself here, hopefully tonight. I just haven't had a chance to run the numbers. I already know that we are going to have widely differing results (which is why a test being reproducible is important). My apologies for it taking so long.


I'm very curious to see if your results are close to Whitecold's.


Much like with Procyon's results, I already suspect certain issues. For example, I'm guessing that he didn't follow the sequence of events, where ALL large craft fire at squadrons (and in fact squadrons fire at each other) before squadrons fire at large craft. The damage inflicted on the GB will reduce the damage they can inflict in return.

Large craft vs. squadron combat was balanced for this. An equal value of GB and properly equipped large craft should just about reduce each other to cinders, with a slight advantage to the large craft.

Procyon's issue -- and I believe that he is correct -- is that squadrons are so much easier, cheaper, and quicker to repair that they can kill much larger values in large craft over extended periods of time. That is definitely something that we are still working to balance.
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Re: Nerfing Squadrons to reasonable levels

Postby Whitecold on Wed 27 Jan 2016 13:48

Cralis wrote:Much like with Procyon's results, I already suspect certain issues. For example, I'm guessing that he didn't follow the sequence of events, where ALL large craft fire at squadrons (and in fact squadrons fire at each other) before squadrons fire at large craft. The damage inflicted on the GB will reduce the damage they can inflict in return.

Large craft vs. squadron combat was balanced for this. An equal value of GB and properly equipped large craft should just about reduce each other to cinders, with a slight advantage to the large craft.


I did exactly that, two CAs against 4 Squadrons. The two CA's reduce one Squadron to about half health, before the other three blow up one CA, leaving them free afterwards to disengage, rearm and repeat.

Also, these cruisers I used are escort cruisers, with excessively heavy PD for anti-smallcraft work, thus they should not break even with GBs. They should utterly annihilate them, given the damage smcft deal to everything else.

My goals are specifically that pure gunboat strikes against a proper equipped fleet should be a suicidal proposition. GBs should be part of a fleet mix, not a replacement. They should need heavy ships to cover their approach, or they are simply dead.

What I also want to be rid off is the multiple phases, with ships being able to shoot multiple times or not, as it makes no sense to me and encourages pure smcft tactics.
Further I want to get rid of the whole bracketing of ranges, as it feels like dumbing down the combat system. Linear modifiers are boring.
And I don't see any way of balancing smcft with symmetric ranges as long as they have external ordnance. Being able to deliver a very large first strike can only be balanced if the unit is forced to return several rounds of return fire, either before or afterwards.
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Re: Nerfing Squadrons to reasonable levels

Postby Cralis on Wed 27 Jan 2016 14:22

Whitecold wrote:I did exactly that, two CAs against 4 Squadrons. The two CA's reduce one Squadron to about half health, before the other three blow up one CA, leaving them free afterwards to disengage, rearm and repeat.


I want to run the test before I comment on this. I don't personally use Pt a lot so I want to make sure I'm right before saying anything specific.

Also, these cruisers I used are escort cruisers, with excessively heavy PD for anti-smallcraft work, thus they should not break even with GBs. They should utterly annihilate them, given the damage smcft deal to everything else.

My goals are specifically that pure gunboat strikes against a proper equipped fleet should be a suicidal proposition. GBs should be part of a fleet mix, not a replacement. They should need heavy ships to cover their approach, or they are simply dead.


That's what I suspected. A lot if people say "squadrons need balance!" when the truth is that they want squadrons to be inferior on their own. Not the same thing. That is NOT the goal of the SDS. That reduces options and makes a race like the Rigellians an impossibility.

That said, we also don't want squadrons to have equal footing forever. But we aren't there yet in the tech progression.

What I also want to be rid off is the multiple phases, with ships being able to shoot multiple times or not, as it makes no sense to me and encourages pure smcft tactics.


There are two game reasons for this:

First, it simplifies play and makes it faster. We found that handling all large units together, small craft together, and then AP together makes combat go much, much faster.

Second, it does give large units an advantage since they fire first.

Further I want to get rid of the whole bracketing of ranges, as it feels like dumbing down the combat system. Linear modifiers are boring.


But they are significantly (as in multiple decimal places) easier to balance.

And I don't see any way of balancing smcft with symmetric ranges as long as they have external ordnance. Being able to deliver a very large first strike can only be balanced if the unit is forced to return several rounds of return fire, either before or afterwards.


Large units do the same thing :)

But honestly, if you want to build your games with your goals in mind I think that's great. It will give your game a different flavor. I hope you write stories so we can read about how it turns out! I just wanted to make sure you weren't accidentally going somewhere you really didn't mean to go.
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