Star Fleet Commander (or Federation Battles)?

(Or Federation Star Fleet Battles Commander? Commander of the Federation Star Fleet Battles? Federation Star Fleet Battle Commander?)

I agree with Capt. Kitty (who is an ass sometimes, but a nice guy the rest). He always talks about the perfect game lies somewhere between FC and SFB. As a bit of fun, what do you think would make the cut in such a game? What should come from each game, and what do you think could be invented that is in neither game but is a good idea.

I’ll have my list shortly.

My list

Game (In General):
There should be two versions of the game, a simpler version and the “advanced” version. However, unlike the situation with FC and SFB, the basic version should be a compatible subset of the advanced version. That way, you can use the same card, simply ignoring some things on the card depending on which version you are playing.

Movement:
For the advanced, I would like to see a synthesis of the two movement systems, where you can choose any speed, but then accelerate or decelerate a little by expending energy. Perhaps something where you have 32 impulses, grouped into 8 rounds. You can either accel or decal once per round. As you add or take away a move, it adjusts your overall speed (such if you are going speed 9, but on round two you accelerate, you are now at speed 10 for turn) which might change your turn mode. Where this extra move adds in or is removed from is a question. Also, your total speed could not exceed 30. For the basic game, the simplified move of FC would be slightly changed to be a subset of the advanced movement.

Or something like that.

Fire Opps:
The basic game would have 8. The advanced game would have 32, but have an option to use only 8. This would require two different rules for some weapons and for defense.

Commander’s Options:
The basic version has only a preset option for each ship. The advance version would have the basic option as a “pack,” with other packs possible for a ship, with full options also available if the players want to use it.

Energy Allocation:
This would be much more like FC, with all energy in a pool. Some weapons would still need pre-arming.

Weapons:
Weapons would mostly be “pay and fire” like in FC, for both games. Except that in the advanced, other options missing would be available (other levels of OVL for photons, EPTs, etc.).

Cost of Movement and Stuff:
All cost of movement would be in SFB amounts, so you will have funny math, but assume players are not dolts.. Some things will be changed for the basic version, such as handling TRANS as per FC, while the advanced version would have a per TRANS cost.

"Tournament" and "Casual" Play Rules:
This is needed. Ways to handle announcing fire, handle priority and so on. One for casual games, the other for "tournament" play. The casual should be "announce in turn," while the tournament should be "everything simultaneous."

Anyway, that is my thoughts at this time.

Useless energy-eaters

Get rid of the energy cost of fire control and life support. Both a waste of time and too often overlooked by new players.

Shields?

Several options for shields. Could use the FC system of moving up to 5 shield boxes to an adjacent shield, but I think this should be based on class size of the ship (DNs could move more than frigates).

And then there is reinforcement. Brick or batteries only? That's the BIG question. That's the BIG divider. Just wait and see...

Speed Limit?

I rather like the speed limit of 32 in FC as opposed to 31 in SFB. If you want mega-pulses (such as the 8 impulses of FC that are really combos of up to 4 SFB impulses), 32 divides nicely by 8.

But give plasma a speed of something SLIGHTLY more than 32. Not 40. Maybe not even 36. How much? I don't know.

Basic vs. Advanced

I don't see it as a good idea to change rules from a basic version to an advanced version. I think the advanced version should simply have more to it.

For example, just use one method for paying for TRANS.

Opportunity Fire

How about an order of "Opportunity Fire" for specific weapons?

For example, suppose two Ph-1s with the FA firing arc are given this written order for an entire turn. The range is also noted, say 2 hexes. During the turn the player's ship and the target ship are moving at high speed and they pass one another due to turn mode restrictions, etc. At the end of the mega-pulse they might be farther than 2 hexes apart or the target ship might be out of the FA arc of those phasers. During the movement of that mega-pulse the player announces the noted opportunity fire as the target ship triggers it and the shield receiving that fire is noted. At the end of the mega-pulse whatever other fire is resolved plus the opportunity fire that occurred during the mega-pulse.

There must be a downside to using opportunity fire, so if weapons are designated for it, they must abide by a couple of requirements:
1) They MUST do their opportunity fire at the first opportunity that is presented.
2) They may not be fired normally during that turn.

Any weapon could be designated for opportunity fire.

This would not work well with things like tractor beams because they would change the course of movement, but it certainly could be explored if someone wanted to do that.

I totally agree with no pay

I totally agree with no pay for shields and life support. Especially life support. Wouldn't this be so important it would have its own system and backup not dependent on other things?

Trans: The math is too f'ed up for a basic version.

Yeah, how shields you can move should be variable based on size. That's cool. As for bricks... i am in the no brick camp.

And as for EW... leave out of basic, and make it optional in advanced.

Basic SFB

This already exists doesnt it? Plenty of optional rules you can forgo. Though you would probably add to them:

Ban/remove (by example):
EW
Mid turn speed changes
T-bombs (and other commanders items)
Upkeep/Housekeeping stuff
Shield reinforcement other than batteries

Standardise:
Turn modes (maybe based on size class if you really want)
Shields
Drones (avoid all non std. explosives)

You could probably come up with a more simplified version of the game by starting with the tournament rules.

So Here Is My Feeling on Fed Com

So as previously noted, I have played Fed Com, but not a ton--I got the first set, read the rules, played a few times with non SFB players, had a laugh, and haven't been back since (I mostly play SFB tournament duels, which I still do all the time, so I figure if I'm going to play some sort of SFB game, I just play SFB still). And my general feeling was that it *almost* got it right, but kept too many of the little, arbitrary fiddly bits entrenched in the game to actually go where it was promising to go.

A) Ships still have probe launchers. The probe launcher isn't the problem in and of itself, but an indicator that something went wrong. Ship SSDs should have been simplified, and things like Probe Launchers and different types of control and unnecessarily granular weapons should have vanished. There should not have been Phaser 2's. There should not be a D6. They should have remade the SSDs specifically for Fed Com, and given them new BPVs, specifically for Fed Com. I realize that this would make moving all the ships over more of a pain, but it would have made for a better game. They could have made new SSDs for all the ships without things like probe launchers, Phaser 2's, and Plasma Gs. Simplify. Ships could have been sort of halfway between squadron size and fleet size as the only size ship. I mean, they went through all the effort to make the Feet Scale ships (which, apparently, not many people use), which are kind of half assed. They should have just thrown out the SFB SSDs, unhitched themselves from the SFB granularity, and started over, SSD wise. Keep the same basic idea, but stream line everything.

B) The turn structure wanted to be simple, what with 8 impulses and all, but it turned out to not actually be simple, as it is actually 32 impulses and each impulse has the "do I change speed or not?" decision, making it no less complicated than an SFB turn, if not more so. They should have just used 8 actual impulses with speeds 1-7 and scaled to that. And not had the complicated "pick a fixed speed, and then speed up or slow down each impulse". Or 12 impulses with speeds 1-11. Or something like that. Which would have actually simplified the turn, rather than not.

C) They simplified drones nicely (i.e. there is A Drone), but kept fighters more complicated than they needed to be (much like most of the game). Make fighters (on Hydrans or whatever) into "flights"--each fighter is actually a group of them that act as one unit. Less stuff to keep track of.

Fed Com *could* have been the nice, streamlined game it promised to be. But it got confused along the way.

Good list, Peter B.

I know I felt the same after reading the rules, particularly with the movement issues you described.

I got heavily involved in the dicussions regarding fighters at one point, but gave up after receiving quite a lot of resistance, on the grounds that it would play differently than SFB....of course, that is to be expected, and shouldn't be an issue, although we always heard the same argument in the SFB vs. F&E discussions, as if it were even possible to have two games with completely different scales and focuses play out exactly the same.

The question I ask is, given the rules as they are, can someone actually play the fleet scale and do a real fleet battle?

Mind you, I'm NOT opposed to rules changes to FC, in order to fix whatever issues there are, be it plasma, or these fiddly bits that Peter referred to.

Energy eaters

I agree whole-heartedly. In B5Wars, there was an assumption that as long as the reactor was running, there was enough power for the basics. In fact, there was an assumption with most ships that there was enough power to do the weapons as well. So all you had to do was turn weapons OFF if you needed to conserve power, for things like more EW or more thrust/speed. Now, SFB/FC work differently, so I wouldnt' go THT far, but removing the housekeeping power would be a good thing.

If one REALLY felt the need to include the ability to fly with reduced shields, then just make it so that this just gives a tiny bonus (1/2 power?) that can be spent. Otherwise, it is ignored....although IMO it isn't really needed at all. Not for a game that is supposed to be about sqns and fleets...or at least a simplified, faster game than SFB.

Simplifying drones

Hoju,

"Drones (avoid all non std. explosives)"

I concur. And I'd go further.

My FC rules are packed away at the moment, as we move things into our newly finished basement, so this may already be part of the rules (I forget). But if not, I suggest borrowing from B5Wars:

Drones move last at the end of a given "megapulse". If they are going to hit the target, the shield is determined based on the bearing to the hex being moved from (at the start of the megapulse) and the target's hex.

So, if the drone starts the megapulse in hex XXYY and the target ENDS movement for the megapulse in hex AABB, you figure out what shield would have been hit for a direct-fire weapon fired from XXYY towards AABB. Do whatever defensive fire is allowed (Ph3, ADD, etc.), and apply results.

I seem to recall the FC rules being somewhat more fiddly, but I could be wrong.

Fleets Scale play

Joe asked: "The question I ask is, given the rules as they are, can someone actually play the fleet scale and do a real fleet battle?"

In short, yes, but it will probably take longer than you would really like.

Some parts of fleet scale get everything right - ships cut in half, weapons cut in half (though a full, 10-ship Kzinti fleet or Hydran fleet will still have more drones/fighters than you would probably like to deal with).

Damage control is better because there is less of it. Only BBs (which few people would actually use) can repair a weapon in one turn and only BCH/DNs can repair a power in one turn. Things also blow-up faster. Playing a squadron scale encounter with fleet scale ships does not speed things up much, if at all, but fleet at fleet scale certainly does.

Some parts get worse - namely movement. It is the one thing that stays a constant, regardless of scale. Making all those choices and energy adjustments for 10 ships really slows things down.

I actually thought a good choice for fleet scale would have been a fleet scale rule that allowed base 32, but disallowed accelerations/breaking during the turn.

It is this one aspect - the sub-pulse by sub-pulse decision making and energy adjustment across so many ships - that grinds true fleet scale fights to a slow crawl.

Everything else I felt gave a robust, but manageable, fleet scale game you could play in a couple hour session.

I don't get it.

You're insisting that acceleration/deceleration is horrifically complicated and slows the game down due to decision overload.

Then you say that you want everyone to have fighters.

"It is this one aspect - the sub-pulse by sub-pulse decision making and energy adjustment across so many ships - that grinds true fleet scale fights to a slow crawl."

I honestly don't know how you can stand to play with people so stupid that it takes them a significant time to decide whether or not they want to use acceleration or deceleration.

Only decision of significance

Acel/Decel is the only decision of significance that takes place during a well played game. It is also the one made most frequently.

Slow and fast play happen in SFB and FC. I don't think people that are slow are stupid. They just have a different way of understanding the game. I am fast because I have a large store of patterns such that I don't have to think much and thus I play on instinct. Some people need to plot everything out. That doesn't make them stupid.

Patrick Doyle, for example, is one of the slower Fed Com players. He is also good at the game.

"Back in the day" Doc Pundy was pretty much the slowest SFB player I knew, but he was also very good at it.

There are plenty of good players that are also slow. None of them are stupid.

RobotBastard wrote:

>>I honestly don't know how you can stand to play with people so stupid that it takes them a significant time to decide whether or not they want to use acceleration or deceleration.>>

It has nothing to do with stupid. The decision to speed up or slow down is one that you have to consider all the time, and it can have a significant effect all the time. The more ships that are on the map, the more you have to look at and consider. I look at all my ships, look at all of your ships, and say "Huh. If I speed some of these up and slow some of these down, I'll get on your down shield the next time I get to fire...", and then have to check all my ships and see where they are and where they will be. And so on.

Movement is one of the most important/significant parts of SFB and FedCom. In SFB, however, you spend actually *less* time considering movement during the turn, as you can't speed up and slow down every impulse. You can mid turn speed change off batteries once and a while, but you are extremely limited in your ability to do this, and for large portions of the turn, you generally aren't allowed to (due to having changed speed recently) anyway. And when you do use an unplotted mid turn speed change, you generally only do 1 per turn. In FedCom, you essentially have the ability to do an unplotted mid turn speed change every impulse of the game. And that involves a lot of looking and checking to see what doing X or Y will get you every time it comes up. Which takes time.

It DOES compute, Will Robinson

"You're insisting that acceleration/deceleration is horrifically complicated and slows the game down due to decision overload.

Then you say that you want everyone to have fighters.
"

These things aren't mutually exclusive. HOW one implements fighters would be a cause to support or oppose fighters. You are the one with the "no rules, regardless of whether or not they make sense" position (you claim otherwise, but to date, your other statements belie this position). Saying that declaring that the movement system as it exists is too complicated negates the desire to have fighters in the game; this is a non-sequitur.

Fighters can be done poorly, or they can be done well (and everything in between). You dismiss fighters out of hand because you don't want rules creep, and yet you are against changing rules that add unnecessary delays and complication. THAT is not consistant.

"I honestly don't know how you can stand to play with people so stupid that it takes them a significant time to decide whether or not they want to use acceleration or deceleration."

That's just obnoxious and insulting. And the real answer is just the opposite. Often times SMART people take a lot of time, because they are weighing all the possible permutations and consequences of each.

Actually, I've *never* claimed otherwise

"You are the one with the "no rules, regardless of whether or not they make sense" position (you claim otherwise, but to date, your other statements belie this position). "

...actually I've *never* claimed otherwise. Changing rules to fix broken ones is okay. Inventing new rules to fix broken rules is not okay. Inventing new rules to satisfy some player's yearning for a particular feature is *very* not okay.

******

"Slow and fast play happen in SFB and FC. I don't think people that are slow are stupid. They just have a different way of understanding the game. I am fast because I have a large store of patterns such that I don't have to think much and thus I play on instinct. Some people need to plot everything out. That doesn't make them stupid."

I agree! But then, *I'm* not the one complaining about slow players.

What's the distinction?

"Changing rules to fix broken ones is okay. Inventing new rules to fix broken rules is not okay. "

1) explain how this is significantly different
2) explain how it's not incredibly stupid.

if a rule is broken, it needs to be fixed, one way or another. So it's OK to change the wording of a rule, but not OK to add something to it to fix it? That makes ZERO sense. Changing the rule STILL ADDS SOMETHING NEW(or deletes something old). Adding something new is MAKING A CHANGE. I feel like I'm trying to explain evolution to a Creationist.

What's so holy about playing with rules that are KNOWN to be broken, just for the sake of not changing them. That's JUST AS BAD and changing them for no good reason.

"Inventing new rules to satisfy some player's yearning for a particular feature is *very* not okay."

Explain why you find no irony at all in this statement' you want the game to be static to match your own view of the game, and dogmatic obsession with the initial edition of a game. I still want to know if you play the original versions of Risk, Monopoly, etc.

And tell me....have you EVER bought an expansion? If so, explain how that wasn't hypocritical

"But then, *I'm* not the one complaining about slow players."

Uh yes, you are:
"I honestly don't know how you can stand to play with people so stupid that it takes them a significant time to decide whether or not they want to use acceleration or deceleration."

What I was suggesting, is

What I was suggesting, is what a "new edition" would look like. Look at how much D&D changed from ver 2 to 3.

Different movement system

Back to the main purpose of this thread...

A long time ago before FC, our local group had to find a way to speed up SFB. We always played squadron encounters and decided to not use a bunch of rules that seemed to slow things down. We did not use EW, fighters, etc. We even wrote a BASIC program that did the weapons hits and DAC for us. The DAC part of the program was the best thing we ever did and sped up the game tremendously.

The other major thing we did was to get away from the 32 impulse movement system and go to what we called "mega-impulses." Sometimes we played with 8 mega-impulses (like FC) and sometimes we played with only 4. There were two main things these mega-impulses did for us:
1) They reduced the number of firing opportunities in a game turn, and
2) They allowed us to carry out movement much faster.

During EA players would see how many hexes their ship would move during the game turn and then divide that number by 8 (if we were using 8 mega-impulses). They would then round off the result to the nearest whole number. That whole number would be their "target speed" for each mega-impulse for that turn. For each mega-impulse players could adjust their actual speed 1 hex greater or 1 hex less than their target speed, but they had to make sure their ship went the correct total number of hexes for the entire game turn that they had allocated energy for during EA. If they did not, they would receive 10 random internal hits. Players would announce how many hexes their ships were moving at the start of each mega-impulse. We had some kind of "initiative" that determined whose ship(s) moved first and whose moved last. Sometimes we did it by speed and turn mode; other times we did it by who finished their EA first. Sometimes we did by individual players and sometimes by teams. The long and short of it was that ships without initiative had to move first and moved their entire number of hexes for that mega-impulse, then the ships with the initiative moved.

These ideas were written up and submitted to SVC back in the late 80's or early 90's (can't remember which) and were summarily rejected as totally unworkable, ideas that would change the game too much, and things that no one else wanted.

Quite a bit later came FC.

By the way, I noticed that NOW they are talking on the SFU forum and on Facebook about using computer aids for SFB.

Anyway, this movement system basically did what the FC movement system would do IF all the sub-pulses were eliminated and ships moved their entire movement for each FC impulse.

Movement

I think the FedCom movement system is, as noted, wildly more complicated than it needs to be, given the stated purpose of the game (i.e. by a faster, more streamlined type of SFB). And I suspect that any situation where ships move multiple hexes per impulse (assuming that there is some sort of movement precedence system) is still going to bog things down, as there is a lot of information to be analyzed during each move.

I'm still a big fan of simply making turns shorter and slowing everything down. Make a turn 12 impulses. Make ships move speeds 1-11. Make turns work the same way they do in SFB (more or less). There will be less total decision making each turn to be considered. There will be more shooting more often (meaning things blow up more often).

Damage allocation can easily be simplified into a "just give yourself damage" system--something along the lines of "Apply your own internal damage however you want. Every 3rd hit must be a power system. Every 5th hit must be a weapon system." so if you take 10 internals, you mark off, like, 2 hull, 1 warp, 1 hull, 1 P3, 2 hull, 1 impulse, 1 bridge, 1 drone rack. Takes seconds, no dice are rolled, and it all kinda works out in the end.

SamKirk

It's unfortunate that Cole didn't pay heed to your suggestions. It looks like you guys had good ideas.

Diceless damage

Doesn't Starmada use something like a track system for damage like Bakija mentioned above?

The alpha-strike system in one of the CL Supplements that could be used as an option to the DAC in FC used a system that took the total hits in a volley and applied them in a set sequence. It was based on a statistical analysis of the FC DAC.

Don't Get Me Wrong

I like the way SFB damage allocation works. I also like the way that SFB energy allocation works and how the turn runs and whatever. I think SFB is a *great* game for single ship fights, and almost as great a game for squadron fights (i.e. 3 or 4 ships at a time--say, 500 BPV worth of forces). Once you get over this level, SFB starts to bog down quickly and become rapidly unplayable.

I would have liked for Fed Com to have been a great game for larger fights/fleet battles, but I don't think that it works for that significantly better than SFB does. If Fed Com had truly embraced it's initial premise, it would have been a great game for 5-10 ship fleet fights. But as it clung too tenaciously to the complicated aspects of SFB that make it bog down with large numbers of units on the map, it failed, for my money.

What we have now is SFB, which is great with single ships, reasonably great with 3-4 ship groups, and increasingly less playable as the ship numbers increase. And then Fed Com, which isn't so hot with single ships (but certainly playable), great with 3-4 ship groups, and increasingly less playable as the ship numbers increase. If Fed Com had embraced simplification, it *could* have been the excellent game for fleet sized actions that folks had been hoping for.