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Stoobert

What if you didn't halve dice when linking?

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What if you didn't halve dice when linking?

The most common responses I get from people on the forum when I ask this question are:

  • "Because it would be bad, verrrrry bad, and: eliminate firepower degradation, break game balance, ruin mechanics, destroy my love, be like Taskforce, or perhaps doom everything"
    • To which my response is... OK, but what if it didn't?
  • "It's not a problem for me, why change?"
    • To which my response is... Hmm, how's the number of players for FSA in your area? 

The most common response when demo-ing the game to prospective (or former!) players is:

  • Oh please yes that would be awesome cause all this dice nonsense is so annoying

I've got no secrets: I think FSA needs big changes in 3.0 if it is to have a significant player base and be profitable for its new owners.   Having played so many many games of 2.0 it's my unfortunate conclusion that 2.0 was neither a solid nor modern game.  3.0 doesn't need dumbing down.... it needs less unnecessary complexity yet richer, deeper tactical depth.  So my pal @Aazonis did a little math wizardry (he's smart!) and we found a way to have your cake and eat it too: we even have charts graphs and all that crunch stuff!   To each their opinion, but having playtested it, it feels the same, just takes less time, letting players focus on new tactical choices, clever objectives, and flavorful new gameplay rather than excessive fiddling with dice.

The idea is, in short:

1. Instead of halving the linked fire pool, just simply add dice up - we called this “combining” in 2.0

2. adjust AD and DR stats of selected ships based on the number of weapon systems the squad can link

3.  reduce AD less frequently, rather than for every HP loss

We present: the Combinator

Comments (positive and negative) welcome, playtesting encouraged, bile ignored.  :-)

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TL;DR What is the mechanic you are proposing?

The general issue with the current system is the fairly complex algebra it requires in order to accomplish a general gameplay goal: reduction of Squadron firepower with every point of damage.  If you actually look at a squadron’s AD pool as it takes damage, assuming all damage is focused on one ship at a time, the AD pool only goes down 0-1 point with each point of damage, then has a dramatic drop when a ship is destroyed.  Thus, the current system has a LOT of bookkeeping for these minor AD adjustments.

The 2.0 system is only worthwhile in cases where multiple ships are getting damaged in the Squadron, which is when the Combined algebra gets the most complicated.  Throw in different initial AD values due to different firing Arcs, and have the Squadron straddle the rangeband boundary, and you can see how difficult it can be to figure out how many dice to roll.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t play games to solve math puzzles.

An easy solution is to treat the AD pool as a Squadron resource.  For every X points of damage the Squadron suffers, this AD pool drops by Y value, usually -2HP = -1AD.  Ship destruction could impose an additional AD penalty, at least -1AD.

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Good stuff again Stoobert. I was also playing around with "linking" changes before Christmas.  I played around with  all halving, no halving, adding together and halving (pointless in 2 ship sqdn!) Agreed everything would need an overhaul. 

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My preference was for a variation on the proposed 3.0 system that was in playtest. Ships have primary and linked fire values on their weapons (so can be tailored for different roles/variation if desired). Total the number of dice, remove dice equal to damage taken by all ships that are linking together. Roll.

The reason the 2.0 'single primary ship, add half other ships' was good was because it allowed individual ships to have dice pools high enough to be a threat to things even operating alone - a 6-8AD attack from a cruiser for example still had a decent chance of scoring 1HP against DR4-6 - without making the AD of a full squadron  blow straight past those DR/CR values rendering them largely irrelevant and linked ships hugely powerful.

If you tailored the DR/CR values around linked squadrons total AD then you were rendering individual ships broadly useless because they can't reliably generate enough hits to care about when firing alone.

The 2.0 1 full, plus half others system got around this by stopping the top end values getting so high.

Taskforce showed an example of just straight combining and that game rendered individual ships or badly damaged squadrons playing Yahtzee and hoping for bunches of 6s to do anything. E.g.: a Directorate frigate rolls 2-3 dice when shooting and an Aquan ship might have 5-7 or more DR so individually they were basically pointless and even 3 of them have a hard time. Bear in mind the starter boxes had 2 cruiser equivalents and around 6 smalls, losing either cruiser would render the squadron mostly irrelevant and losing 2-4 of the smalls rendered them irrelevant. Taskforce - as presented in the starter boxes anyway - started with basically guaranteed big hits as defences could not stand up to squadron firepower and then ended as Yahtzee as the only way depleted squadrons could hurt anything was with spiking 6s.

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1 hour ago, Wolfgang Jannesen said:

One big thing I like about not halvin dice is that it keeps crippled squads deadly in the later areas of the game. Has anyone else had games slow right down after both sides have taken a bunch of damage?

Not really?

Individually a single cruiser seems perfectly capable of beating the DR of another cruiser to keep some damage sneaking through and even big dreadnoughts tend to only have a DR of 6 so a damaged squadron linking can still get enough dice to average a point of damage, especially if they get to the rear arc.

Plus later in the game PD is reduced, SRS tokens tend to have taken damage or be scattered around a bit more so their PD bubbles are less consistent and thus torpedoes come into some use so sneak through another 1HP here and there.

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Could you give an example of what you're considering 'crippled' squadrons shooting at each other?

I don't know every ship or every combination so i may be missing a fairly large swathe of ships and match ups so that I am not seeing an issue that really is there.

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8 hours ago, Xystophoroi said:

Could you give an example of what you're considering 'crippled' squadrons shooting at each other?

I don't know every ship or every combination so i may be missing a fairly large swathe of ships and match ups so that I am not seeing an issue that really is there.

I was commenting that at the end of some of my games, with hull damage  effecting ship stats that it felt like it could really bog down the survivors' ability to finish each other off. It's alright if people don't share that sentiment, but not halving linked dice might certainly help! I'm going to give it a shot this weekend and see how it feels on the table. 

 

8 hours ago, Zephyr Station said:

Guys, if you're wanting to discuss specific combos and/or meta, please start a new topic.  :)

These discussions aren't off topic, and are discussed as a major reason for this change in OP's linked pdf

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The problems with the Combinator is that it increases the dependency of ships on their squadron to allow a simplification of the math.

Let's take two of the core Cruisers as an example of the problem. Both the Dindrenzi and Sorylian Cruisers have 8 AD with their best weapon.

  • The Dindrenzi Cruiser is converted from 8 AD to 6 AD because it comes from a squadron of 3 ships, gaining the full squadron 2 AD to 18 while two ships still combine for 12 AD
  • The Sorylian Cruiser is converted from 8 AD to 5 AD because it comes from a squadron of 4 ship. The full squadron of ships retains 20 AD, but 3 ships lose 1 AD (15 instead f 16) and two ships lose 2 AD (10 AD instead of 12).

Furthermore, the effectiveness of a single ship is greatly impacted. Let's take the typical Cruiser with DR 4/CR 6 and 1 Shield (assuming 1 Hit reduced for the shield) as the target (go Terrans!).

Under 2.0 these two cruiser firing at this target alone  have a 70% chance of reaching DR and a 44% chance reaching CR. The Combinator removes 1 DR to give the target DR 3/CR 6 and 1 shield (assuming 1 Hit reduced). This means we get:

  • Dindrenzi Cruiser with 6 AD has a 65% chance of reaching DR and a 23% chance of reaching CR
  • Sorylian Cruiser with 5 AD has a 52% chance of reaching DR and a 15% chance of reaching CR

This represents a marked reduction in effectiveness of squadron based ships when firing alone, especially those in large squadrons.

Still, I wonder if there could be a simpler way of calculating AD that doesn't degrade single ship effectiveness.

One idea have been mulling over is to give ships of certain classes a fixed bonus to the lead ship, regardless of weapon AD  or range. What if Linking in a Large Capital ship added 4 AD, a Medium added 3 AD, and a Small added 2 AD? The pools available at various ranges would change, sometimes significantly. But that could always be compensated for either by accepting the change (4 Sorylian Cruisers do 17 AD instead of 20) or adjusting the ship's stats (remove 1 AD attacks from ships so that they can't turn 3 1 AD shots into 7 AD when linked). 

 

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@alextroy has impeccable math, but we may have a (very respectful) disagreement on: is the tradeoff worth it?   For me, and the many demos I have run where people complain at at halving dice & low player retention, yes it is worth it.    First, the goal of the Combinator is that any ship should retain a reasonable (~50%+) chance of damaging a ship of equal value in apples-to-apples combat (e.g. two 60pt cruisers vs. each other).  If that % chance is reduced compared to 2.0, then that is ok IMHO so long we don't make a Taskforce where ships are powerless without their squad.  Secondly, I think firing separately in 2.0 slowed the game down, even though sometimes it was a good idea, and I don't see it as a bad thing necessarily that separate-shooting tactic becomes slightly less common and effective.  Even the 2.0 rulebook states that linking dice is a good idea under most circumstances, so the intent is there from the beginning.

@Wolfgang Jannesen I agree that near the end of the game not only it is frustrating to have a hard time finishing opponents, it can make games less conclusive as to who is winning.  That's why 1/2 damage = 1/2 AD does not affect Torpedoes.  In general, I think that torpedoes should be slightly more effective, which makes the game fun in early-game and conclusive late-game.

@Xystophoroi  I think that a AD stat of 8(4) works, but it may be unnecessary and is a little intimidating and confusing for new players IMHO.'

Thanks @all for your comments and feedback, by the way, to this idea.

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@Stoobert It's just about the type of game that is trying to be constructed. Should single ships matter or is it all about the Squadron? Beyond that, I totally agree that it is a workable solution to that problem. I bring up the counterpoint for discussion.

@fracas It would have to be double the first ship's numbers, otherwise two ships would have the same AD value as one. Not unworkable, but what about the ships designed to operate alone (like BBs)? Do they have to double their values when firing alone also? I think that would be a bit confusing.

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I think single ships do and should continue to matter.  A single capital class (T2 or T1) ship should IMHO have at least a 50% chance of damaging an equal-pt ship in 1on1 combat, that’s what the Combinator does.  

It is equally fun watch a group of cruisers combine fire as it is to watch the last surviving cruisers duke it out 1:1 in the late-game to determine the last cruiser standing, isn’t it?  That’s the type of game I’d like to see constructed.  

Note there are some circumstances in 2.0 where T3 ships have a hard time damaging each other 1on1.   A Sorylian Reaper w/AD4 vs Terran Missionary w/DR4/5SH1  or two Elusive Corvettes, Sappers for example.  I’d like to see T3 hit hard enough to singly to hurt each other too.  

@fracas rules that halve and rules that double are equally confusing IMHO.  Both may be unnecessary.  

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Honestly, the Linking mechanic does a lot of interesting things to the math of the game, and I love that math. What does less for it is the removal of AD from damage. I think this is what messes people up- the mental shorthand of "X + 1/2X for each other ship" is not so bad at all, but the loss of AD before the halving happens makes things... not so obvious. I did some math a while back and figured out that aside from a few hedge cases, mostly the System Wars ships that sport lower AD because of their System Wars objective-scoring roles, ship AD at their worst ranges, and a few frigates, that with the current spread of stats you should never lose AD on an attack from linking in a damaged ship if you moved the AD loss to after the linking is done. If there were a different method for how damage impacts ship AD, which is what I think the somewhat obtuse Power Core or whatever it was called idea was meant to do, it would be even easier, ergo better.

 

What if a version of the powercore rules could be made that was easy to understand? I mean, it's going to become a matter of decision-making rather than math taking time with any similar solution, but in a hypothetical sense narrowing down the number of attacks a ship can make once it's damaged could also arbitrarily speed up movement, as there's usually -one- goal a ship has for firing solutions, and a whole bunch of "what if I can swing this too"s.

 

What if only the damage on the lead ship mattered? I don't think many ships in the game lose less AD by linking they can by taking damage. So for a linked attack you are down on AD already, plus you can always BS some fluff about using the lead ship's sensor and targeting data if you want to justify why a  linking ship isn't "losing" AD.

 

THAT BEING SAID, @Stoobert, I do see the merit of what you're doing here, as well as the mathematical basis. IF we were to see an abandonment of Linking, I trust this solution for adjusting stats- I do note that one of Linking and Linking-related AD pools detriments is that other than preserving points there's no real reason for going under-strength under the current paradigm, and this would hypothetically fix that somewhat to the detriment of single ships. I still believe that there must be some way of preserving it, though. I do take some displeasure at the hyperbolic representation of pro-linking arguments. I don't think anyone has dithered about with arguing its favor, nor do I think any of the reasons given aren't valid to an extent either way, if only as considerations.

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Another thing to consider is that AD doesn't have to be adjusted by switching from Linking to Combinator.  The DR and CR of ship classes can change in response to it, instead.  In a way, this would seem more like a buff all around rather than a nerf to compensate for a buff.

But as has been said, Cruisers vs Cruisers, Frigates vs Frigates, etc, should be a close run thing of barely avoiding mutual annihilation.  Where things get goofy in the Tiers, especially the very flexible Tier 2s, is that some Squadrons come in 2s, while some come in 3s, and others are not meant to be direct combat ships in the first place.

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@Hive fair enough about the hyperbole, I was trying to be humorous about the negative comments I've heard but I perhaps failed, and I'll stop.  Halving/linking does create enjoyable math for some and you're not the only one who feels this way.  AD + 1/2AD isn't so bad, as you said, but when mixing in AD-reduction for damage, not to mention "halving again" for terrain, etc, it all becomes a negative experience for many noobs and a tedious one for some veterans.   I'll admit I didn't pay much attention to "power core" but I'm open to other ideas.  I think in general, if the basic mechanics of FSA were less fiddly and/or obtuse, but maintain "the feel" it brings in more players, speeds up the game, and frees up room to grow in other exciting directions.  FSA has developed "tactical ruts" and is lagging behind other games in: scenarios, fluff, faction flavor, objectives and other mechanics that provide a richer game experience.

@Charistoph thanks, adjusting DR/CR first is something we considered, but here's the twist to that.  Combining instead of linking has a direct effect on just one thing: the AD dice pool, and it is a disproportional based on the number of ships and/or weapons you are linking (as the document illustrates).    If we to raise DR/CR 'across the board' first, then we would be forced to subsequently raise the AD of ships that can't link (e.g. battleships).  So we'd be looking at cruisers with a (rough estimates) DR 6 CR 9 rolling pools of 20-32 dice and a battleships of DR 9 CR 15 rolling 20 dice, and that can work but it' a LOT of dice.  Already people are busy fiddling with exploding 6s enough as it is, so we elected to go less dice option, reducing AD and DR instead.

@Wolfgang Jannesen  I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "scale" in this case but we propose a status called "Compromised", where direct fire AD and PD is halved when your ship reaches 1/2 HP or less.  I can't claim credit it came from another player (who has since quit) and at first I was skeptical.  But then after playing it a bit I found it to be intuitive and in the document the "damage track" of a squadron is very similar to AD-per_HP model, just faster and less math.  A bonus is that I noticed is that in battleship duels victory often goes to whomever crits first - with Compromised the duel is more prolonged and exciting.

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10 minutes ago, Stoobert said:

@Charistoph thanks, adjusting DR/CR first is something we considered, but here's the twist to that.  Combining instead of linking has a direct effect on just one thing: the AD dice pool, and it is a disproportional based on the number of ships and/or weapons you are linking (as the document illustrates).    If we to raise DR/CR 'across the board' first, then we would be forced to subsequently raise the AD of ships that can't link (e.g. battleships).  So we'd be looking at cruisers with a DR 6 CR 9 and a battleship rolling 20 dice, and that can work but it' a LOT of dice.  Already people are busy fiddling with exploding 6s enough as it is, so we elected to go less dice option, reducing AD and DR instead.

And it doesn't have to be an absolute one or the other, either.  -1 AD here and +1 DR/CR there can make a huge difference in balance almost as much as -2AD there.  Because of Exploding dice, increasing DR and CR actually has less of a mathematical impact than altering the AD.  Hull Points would also be a factor in to this as well, as they determine just how effective surpassing the DR and CR is.

The whole idea of being able to Link/Combine fire should be about allowing for weaker ships a chance to do damage against tougher targets than their own level should provide.  Such as Frigates being able to plink away at a Battleship or increasing a Cruiser Squadron's chance at causing a nasty critical on the same Battleship.  It should also allow for a Cruiser Squadron a chance (and it should only be a chance) of crippling another Cruiser in one turn.  Nothing is worse when one of your mainstays are gone without a chance to reply.

But I can understand your desire to avoid going with a dice haul.  It's one reason I never started 40K Guard or Tyranids.

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I have read the combinator, and i do like it but as has been said, it will require tweaking DR/DR as well as AD pools across the board. A hefty undertaking.

Me and my main opponent have tried a solution; Add up AD pools as standard (Focus in full + 1/2 Linking in). Once compiled,  apply AD deductions, then half for Impeded. All the same rules in a slightly different order.

It's a faster method, but you do get less dice, which in turn means things become a bit harder to kill, making the game take that little bit longer. Not by a massive amount, but it all adds up. 

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one reason I never started 40K Guard

@Charistoph Hah!  :) Oh tell me about it, I once played a 40K Guard army, rolled over 100 dice of lasgun fire.  Even after my rerolls my opponent removed just 3 models.   Speaking of which, since you mention 40K...   While I'm not interested in "getting back into 40k" GW managed to condense the core rules down to only 8 pages!  I gave it a test drive and, surprisingly, the game feels just like it always has, just way less annoying to play and faster.   While 40k is still deeply flawed IMHO and horrifically expensive, 8th edition is really admirable in this respect: it *is* possible to condense rules to their essence without dumbing it down or losing the flavor of the game.

@Bessemer that is interesting and quite a bit easier, I agree.  Ending up with slightly less dice and a longer game isn't great but the idea is worth consideration.  What do you do, however, if only one of the ships contributing to the attack is impeded?  Do you halve the entire pool?

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