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Toxic_Rat

Squadron Activation

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So, let's talk about squadron activations.  This has been brought up briefly in the Future Rules thread, but I figure there would be enough discussion to split this into a separate thread.   Just off the top of my head, here are some different activation methods to consider:

IGOUGO (I go, You go) Alternating Activations Decided by the winner of an initiative roll, each player takes turns activating squadrons.  Winning that initiative roll can be pretty crucial, since it determines who shoots first (and often, who dies first).  This is our current FSA-2 method for dealing with activations.

IGOUGO (I go, You go) One side activates all of their units, then the other side goes.  Apparently a warhammer thing (I don't play, so I"m unfamiliar with how players like/dislike this method)

Random Draw.  A number of tokens equal to the number of squadrons each player has is placed into a bag.  A random token is drawn, and that player activates any one squadron.  Keep drawing until all the tokens are out of the bag, then repeat.  This is the method used by Bolt Action, and maybe others.  It has the effect of making it possible that a player gets to activate everything before the other side, although this is increasingly unlikely as tokens are drawn.

Resource Payment.  This method involves paying some limited resource in order to activate a squadron.  A player can activate as many squadrons as he wants on a turn, as long as there are resources to pay for it.  Often, the cost increases the more you activate.  First could cost one, next costs three, then six, etc.

Command Rolls.  This was mentioned by @Skyhawk in the other thread.  From his description, for every unit you wish to activate on your turn you roll a pair of die. If your roll is successful you get to activate said unit and then roll for the next unit. Your turn ends when you fail an activation roll.  Introduces quite a bit of uncertainty since you won't know how many you (or your opponent) will get to activate.

Speed Factors.  Each ship/squadron has a speed factor.  Faster ships activate before slower ships.

Predetermined Initiative Order.  This method was used in the Heroscape game, if any of you remember that system.  You had four markers that you assign to units.  In heroscape, they were numbered 1,2,3,X.  The X marker was a decoy, so you wouldn't know exactly who was going to act.  In turn, each player reveals the '1' marker, then '2' and so on.  For each phase, the units act simultaneously, but a '1' unit could destroy a '2' unit before it got to do anything.

Are there other methods out there worth looking at?  Each of these has it's own benefits/drawbacks.  What do you think?

Edited by Toxic_Rat
Changes to descriptions.

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Battletech's system is a bit different.  It uses a single Command Roll to determine the Initiative for the turn.  The person who wins Initiative determines who moves first, then each player takes turn moving their models, usually one a time (no squadrons in this game, so it would be by squadron here), but sometimes two at a time if the numbers are off. 

Once all models have been moved (or declared to be not moving), then it goes in to Shooting.  Each player takes turn activating a model (or squadron in Armada's case), declaring, and resolving its shots.  Here's the kicker, though, the damage from that shooting doesn't take affect until the last model's (squadron's) activation is completed.  That means a squadron's capacity would not be affected by anything that happened in that phase, whether first or last.  It sucks when you are one who likes to rely on that Alpha Strike, but it provides for a more balanced game in which a bad initial dice roll didn't totally fork you over.

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Alternating activation: With the way we use these in firestorm right now I see at least one problem. Fleet tactics value. The Dindrenzi almost alway get initiative because of their bonus. The Sorylians struggle to win initiative with their poor bonus. They have to pretty much react to the enemy.

I go you go: This one I think would only compound the issues of the Alternating activations. You would be forced to sit there and watch your opponent take your fleet apart before you could do anything about it. Not to mention its not very realistic.

Random Draw: This one sounds the most interesting to me. you have to think about what unit you will move since you don't know when you can activate another one, but you are guaranteed to be able to use all of your units eventually.  And this one seems to be the best representation of actual combat. 

Resource Payment: I am not real sure what to think of this one. Do have a set points for the whole game? And do you have to purchase them with your force building points?

Command Rolls: This one sounds interesting as well, but I doubt that the tournament players will go for it. It adds a large amount of randomness that they try to avoid. And you have no guarantee  that you will get to use all your forces.

Speed Factor: It does make a certain amount of sense that faster ships would get to go first. But it might tip the scales towards faster races such as the Aquans. 

Predetermined initiative: Like Random Draw this one would do a good job of mixing things up, but you have no control over your units activation order.

Battletech system: The fact that the damage doesn't take effect until the turn is over does make sense. Everyone is shooting at the same time, so the shots would take effect after the target fired. This one may also make gameplay a bit faster.

What about a combination of the Random draw and the Delayed damage from Battletech? 

We should do some play testing to figure out which ones work the best.

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Command Roll: how about the first of you activation is automatic. You can then try to immediately activate a second squadron with a dice roll. If  successful you may then try to activate another squadron on a more difficult roll. Maximum number of sequential activations based on some faction value but I would cap it at 3 or 4.  If you fail to activate an additional squadron initiative automatically passes to the other player who then get to do the above. When you regain initiative you must start with the last squadron you tried to activate but failed to do so.

can be combined with a resource model where you can spend a resource point to reroll a failed activation roll, or force the opposing player to reroll a successful activation roll. 

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7 hours ago, fracas said:

Command Roll: how about the first of you activation is automatic. You can then try to immediately activate a second squadron with a dice roll. If  successful you may then try to activate another squadron on a more difficult roll. Maximum number of sequential activations based on some faction value but I would cap it at 3 or 4.  If you fail to activate an additional squadron initiative automatically passes to the other player who then get to do the above. When you regain initiative you must start with the last squadron you tried to activate but failed to do so.

can be combined with a resource model where you can spend a resource point to reroll a failed activation roll, or force the opposing player to reroll a successful activation roll. 

Not a fan of that vet any particular system. I don't know if there a chance a squad could just not activate on a turn, in which case these are heavily restrictive rules. 

 

Whats wrong with with firestorms model? Coming from Battletech I don't mind trading activations but I am fond of doing your attacks within the same activation rather than as a batch at the end of the turn. The only thing I could consider as a downside to this is that compared to Battletech all your targets positions change as the turn goes on, but I also feel like this gives agency to picking which squad to activate first. Example, my dreadnought doesn't need to move but he could be flanked. If that happens I'll save the activation on these cruisers for immediately afterwards. Thus, I activate my dreadnought and see if my opponent is going to make saving the activation on my cruiser worthwhile.

 

i am certainly in favour of trimming firestorm games down in terms of length

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@Wolfgang Jannesen...It's not so much that there is something wrong, just interested to see if there is a better system out there.  One of the downsides to the current system is it places a lot of weight on the initiative roll.  That third turn initiative roll is pretty crucial...more than I'd like it to be, at least for me.  

12 hours ago, Skyhawk said:

What about a combination of the Random draw and the Delayed damage from Battletech? 

We should do some play testing to figure out which ones work the best.

I liked this system when I tried out Bolt Action.  It gave a nice feel of the uncertainty of combat operations.  I'm not sure I would like it in Firestorm, but I'm willing to subject my game group to it.  :)  The delayed damage might be extra bookkeeping (keeping track of what was not done this turn) but since we've done away with counting hits to reduce dice, it may not be as much of a deal.  However, one big effect it would have is on attacks that take out the PD network in hopes of really scoring with torpedoes.  We could potentially do simultaneous direct and simultaneous indirect.  One challenge with doing simultaneous damage effects is that we effectively have four different 'speeds' of attack:

  • Direct weapons (beams, kinetics, etc)
  • Indirect (torpedoes)
  • SRS attacks
  • Boarding assaults

If we split each of these up into their own phase, then we could apply the damage so that the next phase was affected by what happened before.

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Let's please stick to the alternative activations. It's the most tactical and less random of the options.

As for initiative bonus, I'm fine with modifying it. Maybe give bonuses to the smaller fleet because it's easier for them to co-ordinate, or give bonuses to the person with less Victory Points to show desperation, etc... (Not sold on this, just giving examples that pop in mind).

You could even have different bonuses based on your ships. Like dreadnoughts have +3, battleships +2, etc... And you take the highest value in your fleet. Would give some tactical consideration for what ships to target.

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3 hours ago, Toxic_Rat said:

 since we've done away with counting hits to reduce dice, it may not be as much of a deal.

What did you replace it with?

1 hour ago, steve_990 said:

You could even have different bonuses based on your ships. Like dreadnoughts have +3, battleships +2, etc... And you take the highest value in your fleet. Would give some tactical consideration for what ships to target.

I think this will only make players want to go Tier one heavy to keep control of the initiative throughout the game.

1 hour ago, steve_990 said:

It's the most tactical 

How so? I am genuinely curious.

 

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I’m fine with Alternating Activations, although the Random Draw could be interesting. 

I’ve never been much of a fan of Fleet Tactics on the Initiative Roll. I just don’t see how it is actually balanced in the rules. Easiest option is to just eliminate it from the rules. Another option is to expand options for bonuses to Initiative. For example, the Fleet with most Tier 3 models gets +1. Increases to +2 if they also have more Tier 2 models than the opponent. 

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1 hour ago, Toxic_Rat said:

A ship is at full strength until it gets to half HP.  At lower than half, it gets half AD and half PD.  A 5 HP ship rounds to 2 when it gets to this "compromised" status.

We've been using this on our table and it doesn't sound like we're going back.

Is there a preference from players here between rolling initiative each turn or rolling initiative for each squadron? Now that I think more about the latter, I'd like to give it a shot and see what can be done with it. Maybe all your shooting calculations are done in that activation as well, and having a higher initiative is a huge bonus. Maybe it comes down to an initiative roll per turn to give players a strategic advantage only, rather than a timing advantage as well. I'd be in favour of doing initiative by command checks, but I might just be saying that because I play RSN

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50 minutes ago, Wolfgang Jannesen said:

We've been using this on our table and it doesn't sound like we're going back

I wish I could take credit for the idea, but it was @Stoobert in our group that came up with it.  Sounds like others have come to the same conclusion, which is a good sign.

 

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Fair enough! Right now our games of firestorm look like a mad blend of 2.0, your house rules and Stoobert's as well. I'm finding that the firestorm game system holds up remarkably well to changing rules and testing ideas, almost like a fleet GURPS (not taking into account peoples personal take on that particular base system.)

At some point I think the best thing we can do is try to conglomerate all current rules discussed on the forums, then open a general thread for open playtesting of houserules and tweaks. Obviously our community has a lot of experience in tabletop gaming from all eras, it would be cool to see a thread with battle reports. Fir example: "We used these rules for movement, these activation rules, and these damage rules. We found that compared to the last game the movement wasnt quite as smooth as we were hoping but it is a step in the right direction. We kept the activation rules from last time and they still served us well" 

That way, as these individual threads find their common grounds and favorite solutions, we can spend a lot of 2018 creating a package of preferred rules, as it were. Or just a detailed analysis of the rules we as a community feel should change, and the results of our experiments

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For certain! In the Exploding Dice Podcast interview with Warcradle Stuart it was pretty clear that 2018 will be spent a lot on dystopian wars, for firestorm we've got a lengthy year before we can expect to hear anything, much less any discussion on a 3.0!

In the meantime however it gives the mechanic-crafters in our community a chance to know how their home rules hold up on other tables, and lets us as players really explore a lot of options as to what could happen with this game. Understanding fully that the final decisions on rules and direction of firestorm lies within the company, it would be cool if they did ask for input and we could say "Here's at least some of the things we know dont work!"

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4 minutes ago, Wolfgang Jannesen said:

Understanding fully that the final decisions on rules and direction of firestorm lies within the company, it would be cool if they did ask for input and we could say "Here's at least some of the things we know dont work!"

If they did do that I think it would really earn them a lot of support from the fans. The fate of the game rests on the company's decisions, but that doesn't keep us from seeing if anything can be done to improve the game we love and make suggestions based on it.

6 hours ago, Toxic_Rat said:

A ship is at full strength until it gets to half HP.  At lower than half, it gets half AD and half PD.  A 5 HP ship rounds to 2 when it gets to this "compromised" status.

I will be trying this out. It sounds a whole lot faster than the current method.

1 hour ago, Wolfgang Jannesen said:

That way, as these individual threads find their common grounds and favorite solutions, we can spend a lot of 2018 creating a package of preferred rules, as it were. Or just a detailed analysis of the rules we as a community feel should change, and the results of our experiments

I would be up for that.

I will do some play testing on command rolls and the random draw activations. See how well they work in comparison to the alternating activations. But I have to warn you, they will be solo tests because my regular opponent hasn't been able to play at all for quite some time now.

I am also interested in hearing everyone else's results.

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As reported by @Ruckdog here: http://www.manbattlestations.com/blog/2018/02/23/the-spartan-game-engine/

 

the spartan games engine was the same in both DW and FsA (as well as Pf and US)

so unless WC plans differently, the activation mechanic will be the same in 3.0 for both FsA and DW. Hence my suggestion to get some input from WC.

doesnt mean there couldn’t be a rule set by the community but rules by committee or by consensus have obvious drawbacks.

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Wrath of Kings has a different activation system, related to the 'Alternating Activations' style.

You have a number of models, they can activate as individuals. You also have 'command' figures who can activate multiple models as a single activation.

Both players trade activating a model/group if a 'commander' orders it like 'Alternating Activations'.

Once one player has run out of activations their opponent gets to make ONE more activation, then the turn ends.

You are rewarded for being as efficient with your models and 'commanders' as possible and it removes the 'activation advantage' issue that can occur in some 'Alternating Activation' games. 

It's probably not offering much to FSA as spamming tiny squadrons for activation advantage is not currently a good idea for other reasons so most fleets are usually within +/-1 squadron of each other.

====

Another activation system I have seen is one where the player rolls a handful of dice (about 4 I think) and can spend the results to do things. Lower results let them move smaller/weaker stuff and you can spend higher results to be lower results.

E.g.:

1 = move a T3 squadron

2 = move a T2 squadron

3 = Move a non-Dreadnought T1 Squadron

4 = Move a Dreadnought Squadron

5 = Something special

6 = End the turn

Once you have rolled and spent your dice your opponent rolls and spends theirs. You could repeatedly activate the same squadron if you wanted to (with probably some degrading effect if you do so too many times).

The 5 does something special which could be worked out later. The 6 ends the turn. Only by one player spending a 6 do any of the 'end of turn' effects like repairs, returning SRS to base, etc. occur.

The idea is to simulate a kind of ebb and flow of periods of intense activity followed by a lull period.

====

not saying any are necessarily good for FSA, just that there are more 'turn systems' out there to maybe steal ideas from.

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Alternativing activation should stay, IMHO.

But, back to back activations are the main balance problem for any alternating activation game, says my buddy Scott who's played a few, and I've seen this happen enough in FSA to know it feels unfair, especially when you win because of it.

Definition of back-to-back:   “I move and shoot my Dreadnaugt twice in a row before you do anything”.

His Idea:

1. Roll for initiative at beginning of game only, from then on alternate first activation on a turn by turn basis.  

2. Combined this with  either or both

  a. Toxic_Rats “a disordered unit can’t take first activation” (unless all are disordered) and/or "activate disorders only after all non-disorders have activated"

  b. my idea “the unit you activated last on last turn you cannot activate first on this turn”  (unless it's your only unit)

This restores some control/fairness and reduces somewhat cheesy back-to-back.    Note: Fleet Tactics is still relevant for first Initiative and can be changed to perhaps also affect: the number of fleet TAC/orders you get.   For instance if Fleet Tactics were raised across the board so as to not only be a bonus but also the number of TAC you got.

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I think we will be using the half strength, half AD/PD rule going forward - It feels nice and simple. 

I really like the 'random draw' suggestion and see it as the only viable alternative to the current 2.0 system. Though I'm also going to give Stoobert's buddy's ideas a try in our next games.

18 hours ago, Stoobert said:

His Idea:

1. Roll for initiative at beginning of game only, from then on alternate first activation on a turn by turn basis.  

2. Combined this with  either or both

  a. Toxic_Rats “a disordered unit can’t take first activation” (unless all are disordered) and/or "activate disorders only after all non-disorders have activated"

  b. my idea “the unit you activated last on last turn you cannot activate first on this turn”  (unless it's your only unit)

 

-Battletech's system is realistic, but can be a bit hard to get your head around for a newby - and might complicate the bookkeeping side of things in larger games - Lining up your big broadside only to have your target activate after you and appear in your aft arc will really upset some people (It can essentially devolve into whoever moves last is shooting you in the rear).

-Lion/Dragon Rampant's System is great in a medieval skirmish - and kind of fits thematically if often with hilarious results - I've played games where a unit of  Mounted Knights intended to ride round a flank, but simply sat where they started, each failed command roll ending their general's turn prematurely (presumably they were discussing poetry or hawking) while the rest of their army was shredded in the center... That will also put people off as mentioned upthread - a disaster for competetive players.

All the other options seem to require some bookkeeping which will serve only to slow the game down (Not a major issue for me, but I can see it is a major issue for the majority of players on the forum) or are hideous IMHO (IGOUGO).

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2 hours ago, Spenetrator said:

-Battletech's system is realistic, but can be a bit hard to get your head around for a newby - and might complicate the bookkeeping side of things in larger games - Lining up your big broadside only to have your target activate after you and appear in your aft arc will really upset some people (It can essentially devolve into whoever moves last is shooting you in the rear).

That is partly why movement and shooting are separated in to phases.  You know if you're going to be shot in the aft before anyone can fire.  Bookkeeping really isn't that hard, as the same bookkeeping is needed for the next turn anyway, and no more than what 40K had to deal with for their Morale Checks.

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For sure! Thinking about it, I really like having an entire turn split into three phases, rather than by activation. You can even calculate danage as the combat phase goes on, to give targeting priority and initiative a lot of weight.

 

Ive been thinking about initiative and how to decide it, im thinking taking command distance as your dice pool and deciding initiative on successes, to reflect initiative as organisation rather than hitting a button faster

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