A Third Way Analysis of the Tournament “Turtle” and the Frustration of “Non-Aggressive” Play - A Different Culprit

This post is meant as an editorial. I consider it far too speculative, premature, and controversial to be a call for real action, so I am posting it here in the open community – where there is (hopefully) no chance that any official powers that be (or those who are otherwise interested) would assume that it is a plea for immediate action (as opposed to a commentary), and thereby take it too seriously.

A reading of the several SFU forums shows that from time to time controversies over alleged “Non-Aggressive” tournament tactics have periodically arisen. Most recently, in 2006-2007 there was a controversy over the so-called Gorn “Turtle”. This lead to an official ruling banning the “aggressive attack at speed 4” . Several on this forum have pointed out earlier controversies, such as an adjudication circa 1994 involving a Romulan and a Klingon, and the related (puzzling and perhaps frustrating – if not controversial) 1994 Captain’s Final of a Fed vs. TFH that lasted 24 turns.

In each of these cases I am sympathetic to the frustrations of those who faced the tactics in question. A common denominator is that a player faced a tactic he was not expecting in the tournament, although one entirely within the regular rules. It may be it was because he thought the tactic was subjectively non aggressive, or perhaps he thought it was because the tactic was not compatible with reliably finishing a game in 3-4 hours. In the abstract, the tactic faced created an asymmetrical opening engagement, offering the choice of either accepting the engagement and taking great damage but dealing out little, or delaying the engagement and taking less damage but dealing out even less. There is a frustrating point of no return in play here, whereby if the asymmetrical opening engagement is accepted, it may allow one to play for many turns as a “walking dead man” with no hope of victory. In a single elimination tournament, one, of course, should play out a game in the slight hope of victory, but the sense of inevitable defeat that takes hours to realize, and is, understandably taxing to say the least. The SFB community hardly needs old or newer players getting turned off by such situations.

A great beauty of the SFB tournament game is that for the most part it avoids these “walking dead man” situations, and both players have some chance for victory – typically until one ship as a 40 pt internal advantage over the others. Opening moves pre-dispose victory is a small meaningful manner, but in general there is no move which is so powerful that it would warrant immediate adjudication and summary execution of the opponent. The frustration though, perhaps exaggerated, likely stems from the speculation that the situation may be close.

On the other hand, to vaguely outlaw a class of tactics as “non-aggressive” doesn’t sit right with me either, particularly when the class potentially becomes rather large and frankly required in certain situations. While outlawing 20 turns of cloaking and 8 turns of sitting speed 0 in the corner and tacing since the start of the game seems reasonable to prohibit, I wonder if this ever actually occurred after 1990, and then I suspect only by raw and obnoxious newbies who were trying to yank chain of their opponent. It is one thing to come to terms with a clear jerk, but the controversies and frustrations I’m talking about involve players who I think are thoughtful and are trying to be competitive within the rules. Furthermore, “Aggressively attacking speed 4” does not really describe the “Turtle” so I wonder if it is really “outlawed” – and if it is, it is only because we are filling in the blanks that a 7/4 plot fits the bill.

An examination of the so called Gorn “Turtle” as described in Captain’s Log “Victory at Origins” is that it involved a Big Plasma ship slowly taking the center of the board with a 4/7 or similar plots, using S torps, the threat of S-EPT and phasers to slowly strip down his opponent until a decisive engagement can be made. A simplified description of the asymmetry is that the slow ship has power for all weapons and reinforcement (or anchor), and can generally turn the desired shield to the enemy. The attacker of the turtle has to spend more power for movement (to run out torps) than power for weapons, or face getting stripped by S an S-EPT torps charging in. The tactic creates a period of “I’m not prepared for this” when damage is being dealt lopsidedly.

Now compare this to the high-speed S, S-EPT plasma ballet. The attacker of the high speed ballet has to spend more power for movement to run out the torps and catch the big plasma ship vs. power for weapons, or face getting stripped by S an S-EPT torps charging in.

Is this not a distinction without a difference in some ways? Once the opponent decides to charge in against the “Turtle” at least he gets to use power for weapons without risking that the turtle runs out of range – this would seem negate some of the value of the reinforcement. So isn't the "Turtle" really something we have all known -as legal- for a long time? Just a form of the Plasma Ballet? The "Turtle Ballet"?

It strikes me then that outlawing the “Aggressive attack at speed 4” is like finding a talking dog and telling the dog to shut up because he shouldn’t be able to talk. Now the stalking horse for the “starcastle” has always been the fed sitting and tacing with overloads held. I’ve never seen this – largely because it is obviously a non aggressive stalemate – the Fed can’t cause any meaningful damage unless the other player chooses to get to range 8. There is no talking dog here.

So aren’t we possibly missing the elephant in the room? (Or did I mean dog -as I mix my metaphors). Namely that the S, S-EPT big plasma ballet allows the dog to talk – that is these ships *can* “aggressively attack at speed 4”. The plasma tracks even if the turtle launches the WW; and most importantly, by taking the center, no place on the map is safe from the S-EPT – which will slowly and surely strip the opponent naked. The Fed can say – here’s 64 pts of Photons – and then hit with 32. Big plasma can say, here’s (not 100) but 160!! Pts of plasma and hit with say 118! Ok, you have to wait until the 4-th or 5-th launch of an S, but I'm just saying.

Now I realize that the “plasma ballet” is a long standing tactic, and that other ships do beat the ballet, and that the record in favor of big plasma is positive but not extra-ordinary extreme. But I wonder if that is because it takes patience to run 8-14 turn games and that often the big plasma player gets tired and takes a risks, or just runs out of luck vs. those aforementioned photon torpedoes.

On the other hand, I wonder if it is really coincidence that a majority of the fractious and grinding games with hard feelings involved the “Big Plasma” ship on the “non aggressive” side? Certainly, my experience with similar frustrations and what I’ve witnessed in my own games and others suggest that most if not all such games involve Big Plasma. So I wonder, if perhaps the evidence points to another culprit not “non aggression” but the one class of ships most likely to benefit from “non aggression” – “Big Plasma”?
Correcting the situation by further outlawing “non aggression” runs the risk of outlawing reasonable play that might be situationally effective on the false premise that is so universally effective as to be bad and attractive.

Don't get me wrong here, I like the Gorns and the Romulans, I really like playing them too, I'm just wondering out loud about how to make a happier tournament game in some situations.

A more focused change which narrowly hinders the long and grinding play for the one class of ships where it is most effective might have been a better approach than perhaps outlawing all slow speed play. The fingers got pointed at the players involved as doing something "wrong", but isn't it reasonable to at least consider if the situation was more a case of succumbing to an attractive nuisance?

Now the “Big Plasma” ships are all well established, and may be in some ways reasonably balanced. The “Plasma Ballet” is long established and at least popular with some. But they have been witness to some unhappiness here, which is not so good for the game. It is hard to see what could have been done, and probably nothing extreme would have been needed. Perhaps limiting big plasma to launching only 1 EPT per S launcher would have helped – it would still allow the Big plasma ship more than enough firepower to win, but would reduce some of the certainty of a long term reliance on the EPT. And hence nudge the big plasma player from trying to adopt doctrinaire “certain to win” strategies.

Now many may point out that non-aggression and turtles could theoretically happen with other ships. I grant that it might. All I am pointing out is an anecdotal correlation to a culprit that hadn’t been previously considered. I am perfectly willing to admit that upon the review of evidence for non-aggressive games involving other types of ships, that the problem of non-aggression is more evenly represented with all the tournament cruisers than I considered. Furthermore, I’m not expecting universal agreement at all, but, I am as much interested in the discussion.

Part of the problem

is defining non-aggression. You can't just outlaw low speeds and starcastling becuase they can be the only effective tactic in a given situation. I think if you have a rule it should be specific enough that judges can issue consistent rulings on it. Right now we're stuck with "we can't define it but you all know it when you see it".

You bring up a good point about the ballet. The TKR is built specifically for it. Basically you launch torpedoes then run, forcing your opponent to fly through your plasma to get at your ship. Not sure why that's legal but flying slowly is not. In one case you have power for reinforcement but in the other you stay out of overload range. Honetsly I'd rather face a slow plasma ship; I know where it will be, and its tough to reinforce against R4 overloads and phasers. Sure I might lose a shield to an s-torp but I'll do internals to the plasma checker- especially if he's going speed 4 instead of taccing.

David Wrote:

>>An examination of the so called Gorn “Turtle” as described in Captain’s Log “Victory at Origins” is that it involved a Big Plasma ship slowly taking the center of the board with a 4/7 or similar plots, using S torps, the threat of S-EPT and phasers to slowly strip down his opponent until a decisive engagement can be made.>>

That example isn't necessarily the best one, given that that particular tactic didn't work overwhlemingly (the ship lost at least one game in that tournament, and that similar tactic failed against a Fed the next year in a different issue of CL), and the final game was Gorn vs Selt (IIRC), and Selt is significantly disadvantaged vs Gorn from the get go anyway (I mean, yeah, Ken killed my Gorn on the way to the final, but I was dumb and forgot I needed to be not 31 during part of a turn when I needed to be able to HET...). It was certainly problematic to face if you weren't expecting it at all. But given knowing what it can do, it isn't as big of a deal as one might imagine, the "I spend the first 3 turns moving speed 4 most of the turn" plan.

>>So aren’t we possibly missing the elephant in the room? (Or did I mean dog -as I mix my metaphors). Namely that the S, S-EPT big plasma ballet allows the dog to talk >>

Well, to be fair, really, the issue is not so much Big Plasma as it is Romulans. If the Gorn plays shenanagins like this, it can get cornered or overrun and killed on a low plasma turn. The cloak is a huge factor here.

All this being said, I do think that there is something to be said for *something* that mandates that both players act as aggressors in a combat game. As the structure of the game generally rewards defensive play if your opponent decides to play into your defensive posture, it strikes me as reasonable to have some sort of rule that makes both players act as aggressors in good faith, as otherwise you can just park and TAC for the whole game, waiting for your opponent to foolishly impale themselves on your pikes. The game has a time limit (both structurally and practically speaking), and as the best way, generally speaking, to deal with an overly defensive opponent is to pull out and come back after they have sped up to 10 or so, rather than run into a TACing opponent braced for your attack, having some sort of rule that says "You can't just sit there and TAC the whole game" isn't at all out of the realm of reason.

Yeah, it is difficult to make such a rule. And difficult to enforce such a rule. And difficult to point to someone and say "they are being non aggressive!". But there really kind of needs to be *something* for this issue.

I'd much rather see the actual rules of the game get changed to make overly defensive play disadvantageous in a practical sense, rather than make up nebulous rules, but as that is unlikely to happen, here we are.

The two biggest rules that make defensive play super advantageous are:

A) TACing happening after movement.

and

B) The early 2K rules clarification that made unplotted mid turn speed changes cost 1:1 when you sped up to that speed for the rest of the turn.

The first makes being stopped simply too good of a deal most of the time. The second means that it is stupidly easy to plot speed 4 all turn, and if your opponent leaves, you can just use batteries to speed up to 14 for the second half of the turn, meaning that plotting speed 4 for the whole turn is not remotely disadvantageous. If unplotted mid turn speed changes always cost 2:1 (which was mostly what the rules said until this clarification), this would be much less of an issue.

A couple extra rules could get tweaked too (giving cloaks a time limit in tournament play or removing the -2 lock on modifier for moving speed 0 while cloaking out would be good as well, for my money) that would fix a lot. But again, these things are unlikely to ever happen. So a nebulous "Non Aggression Guideline" is what we have to work with.

Perhaps an alternate scoring

Perhaps an alternate scoring system would work. Something with more granularity than win/loss, which rewards certain in-game strategies.

Acceleration / Tac-ing

Peter brings up two points which illustrate the difficulty in achieving consensus.

Commenting in reverse order:

1)The cost of reserve power mid-turn accleration change I agree is mighty puzzling, since it smacks of "addenda not errata." Perhaps well accepted since it is slightly simpler to compute, but in practice the SFBOL client could calculate either just as well. Of course, everyone "benefits". But it certainly does facilitate stopping/tac-ing and the 4/14 in a way that just wasn't possible before - and the game worked just fine before. The notion somehow that the change reflects original intent is demonstrably facetious, as IIRC the Commander's Edition Addenda (where the rule first appeared) clearly limits to accelerations lasting for the remainder of the turn (that is C12.244 was a later edition). The notion that somehow you could acclerate for a part of the turn if you wanted to do the math was a Captain's Edition addition of flexibility that frankly confused the intepretation of the rule to this date. The way the rule was supposed to work was to make it so the speed column you could accelerate early in a turn and late in a turn was about the same. It takes great detective reading now to figure out this rule, which really still limits accleration to a single increase in speed for the entirety of a turn or only a portion of the turn.

2)Regarding tac-ing after movement being problematic I would not be inclined to agree although I certainly respect the opinion. Note here too an unintended consequence of the Captains edition was to make this more flexible, as IIRC in the Commander's edition you had to announce the number of tacs available in the turn. Certainly item 1 makes the ease of tac-ing more problematical as there is much less demand on reserve power when stopped. I wouldn't be too inclined to consider a change in the order of precedence in tacs, as it is long standing since day 1 almost and would affect everybody. SFB has a long history of giving someone as many 2nd chances as they are prepared for.

My suggest on the EPT torpedo was to try to find something very scenario specific correlated to the problem, a limitation like "no more than 2 type IVs traded" or SPs for Kzinti and Klingon only.

David Wrote:

>>1)The cost of reserve power mid-turn accleration change I agree is mighty puzzling, since it smacks of "addenda not errata.">>

Yah, I don't actually remember what the Commanders Edition said on the subject (and don't have one lying around), but seem to remember some sort of function involving something about "the rest of the turn", but I remember that the rule as written was so arcane that the practical end result was always paying 2:1 for unplotted mid turn speed changes, which was totally reasonable. As noted, the current rule means that as long as you plot a consistent speed for the last half of the turn, you can change your speed at pretty much will for 1:1. Which, as you note, is a wash across the board, as everyone gets to do the same thing. Except it does make the "I plot speed 4 all turn, but end up 14 for the second half of the turn if it seems like a good plan" kind of game way too easy.

>>2)Regarding tac-ing after movement being problematic I would not be inclined to agree although I certainly respect the opinion.>>

Oh, sure. The issue with TACs is that the movement precedence it gives you (i.e. you TAC after your opponent moves) makes it so that being speed 0 and TACing is *soooooooo* much better than moving slowly that if you have the choice between moving speed 1-10 or 0 and TACing, you are going to go 0 and TAC if it at all seems like it won't be disadvantageous to do that. Which means that people stop and TAC a lot more than they would if TACing happened before moving ships. If TACing happened before ships moved, there would be a tactical choice between being stopped and moving slowly. As it is, you only move slowly if TACing is a bad idea, and TACing is not often a bad idea.

What this adds up to, as you note, is a situation where stopping is way too often way too attractive. So you end up with "non aggressive" play.

>>My suggest on the EPT torpedo was to try to find something very scenario specific correlated to the problem, a limitation like "no more than 2 type IVs traded" or SPs for Kzinti and Klingon only.>>

Oh, sure--but really, still, I think the issue is far more the Cloaking Device than it is the enveloping torp. The Gorn can easily get cornered and mangled when pitching regular envelopers due to the lack of a cloak. I mean, yeah, a Gorn that is just stopped and pitching envelopers is problematic, but that is 'cause *any* ship that stops gets a leg up on an opponent that is moving.

Torn here

I tend to think of things as ... what would a real starship Captain do? Unfortunately, 99% of the time the goal in SFB is to destroy the other ship. If I was a big plasma Captain and need the other guys goal was to kill me, I'd do this exact non-aggressive tactic.

Now if I was the other guy, yes it would be frustrating, but I could argue against what the other guys is doing. Now if it was real, I'd head to my secondary target and destroy it or continue dancing around keeping big plamsa pinned down until more help arrived.

I fully believe more escort type scenarios need played. Unfortunately, each time I played the escort, I lost.

Dale Wrote:

>>I fully believe more escort type scenarios need played. Unfortunately, each time I played the escort, I lost.>>

Heh. Well, as this discussion is rooted directly in the tournament game, which is single ship on single ship combat, things like escorting convoys and whatever aren't really a viable solution.

I agree that in scenarios like that (i.e. defend a convoy/base/planet/whatever), this sort of thing is much less of an issue. But as the tournament set up is very strictly defined (which for the most part, works very well and is nicely balanced), not really a fix that can apply.

The problem with escort scenarios...

>>I fully believe more escort type scenarios need played. Unfortunately, each time I played the escort, I lost.>>

(DISCLAIMER: I haven't played SFB in a while, so I'm going based on my aging memory; feel free to correct anything I said that is incorrect)

..is that in SFB, with the exception of drones and plasmas, there is little that the escort can do to defend the target ship, other than to destroy the enemy first. And this is problematic against Feds (with those prox photons) and to a lesser extent, disruptor-armed ships (and for that matter, any ship with decent long-range weapons).

The is compounded by the fact that the escort has fewer BPV to work with, since the target ship is eating up some valuable BPV. So you have a weaker escort against a tougher raider.

Joe wrote:

>>..is that in SFB, with the exception of drones and plasmas, there is little that the escort can do to defend the target ship, other than to destroy the enemy first.>>

Yeah, that is an issue as well. Generally speaking, an "escort something" scenario is a big ship vs a slightly smaller ship and something being escorted where, in theory, the escorted ship adds guns to the fight, such that the escorted ship+defending ship probably have a bit more firepower than the attacker, but suffer from the attacker being able to pick off one or the other easier.

Having something on the map that doesn't really go anywhere that both players are interested in getting at is probably the best way to make a scenario that makes folks fight in a realistic manner, I'd imagine. Something like "There is a derelict large freighter in the middle of the map. If you can get a crew unit on board, you can turn on the engines and drive it off the map. Or you can tow it off the map. If it is destroyed, both sides lose. If you get it off your edge of the map, you win."

The two player ships can just fight until someone is dead, and then someone gets the freighter by default. If someone spends a lot of time stopped or running away, the other player gets to get guys on the freighter and start moving it off the map. If you just blow up the freighter, you lose anyway.

I don't know if this would make for a good tournament game, but I think something like this is a good way to make a scenario that encourages people to fight and doesn't reward overly defensive play without arbitrary rules.

The only reason nothing is

The only reason nothing is being done is that SVC think his guideline for judges on non-aggression is enough, and that is not neccessarily true.
Anyway what COULD be done is lots. Easy ones are a timelimit for cloak in ALL matchups,
double move cost for going reverse, and perhaps also change the tac order. This should solve most situations. Why SVC can't replace his 'guideline' with actual 'rules', that are not subject to interpretation is beyond me. It would be so easy. Maybe he is just stubborn like hell. Damn noob.

Carl wrote:

>>The only reason nothing is being done is that SVC think his guideline for judges on non-aggression is enough, and that is not neccessarily true.>>

Well, it is a very difficult situation to handle. And in the end, what they went with is "let judges judge", which isn't the most optimal solution, no.

>>Anyway what COULD be done is lots. Easy ones are a timelimit for cloak in ALL matchups,>>

I think that would be great, personally, but a lot of people disagree. And it puts a hole in Romulans and Orions.

>>double move cost for going reverse, and perhaps also change the tac order>>

Which would fix a lot of these issues, which I have discussed above, so I clearly agree with you. But it is apparent that they aren't willing to change rules that work fine in non tournament games just 'cause they make tournament games dicey. Which is a drag, but at least understandable.

FWIW

On this one I am with SVC. I prefer guidelines and judge's discretion to a hard set of rules. This is in part because I think lack of aggression is a context driven thing difficult to describe in rules and an part because I do not share SVC's view of what is non-aggressive as was made clear with Jason's V@O. Jason's tactics were not at all offensive to me and SVC said some pretty strongly worded things about them.

double reverse

I'm not in favor of this idea, simply because it negates one of the strengths of my favorite ship.
When a gorn gets his front shields shot up, all he needs to do is put it in reverse and he has a whole new set of "front" shields to play with! No other ships can do that (at least not as effectively) and it's the only gimmick we lizards have.

It would be a mistake at this point

to change the rules in such a fundamental way. I think the unplotted speed changes rule was better before the nearly 2 decades-old change. I think that warp tacs at least, and possibly all tacs, should come before movement. I am indifferent on the 2x reverse movement cost. But at this point, with the exception of some very weak ships, the tournament is very well balanced and we would need, with the current tournament sizes (even if only counting the better players) years to re-balance it from scratch.

Paul Wrote

"It would be a mistake at this point to change the rules in such a fundamental way."

Ironically, to me limiting EPTs to only 1 per launcher in the Tournament Scenario is far less fundamental a rules change than either 1)changing TAC precedence; 2)returning to original reserve mid turn speed change costs; or 3) doubling reverse movement costs. IMO each of these are far less correlated to the actual instances of games which publically caused non-agression controversies - which hasnt been strongly refuted. A change to EPTs would not stop the Plasma Ballet, and only would affect the big plasma game plan when it wants to launch more than 2.

I am not surprised that I haven't found universal agreement on whether I've found the most strongly correlated culprit for a limited surgical change. Certainly all the other changes are hypothetically related to possible non-agression.

I agree with Paul entirely that actual non-agression is best left to the judges; and I think he would agree that banning "the aggressive attack at speed 4" got a little too specific. On the other hand, there comes a point where even the best judges are not going to be able to rule against an "attractive nuisance" too effectively. Is it really non agression, or enlightened self interest? I tried to find the attractive nuisances most narrowilly IMO, it is not surprising that others may see them elsewhere (TACs, etc.).

If and when this issue come up again, we are each better off having each other's perspective on it.

Paul Wrote:

>> I think the unplotted speed changes rule was better before the nearly 2 decades-old change.>>

Is it that long? I seem to remember the "clarification" that resulted in unplotted speed changes being 1:1 if you just plotted that speed for the rest of the turn (allowing the 4>14 for the second half of the turn with 5 batteries issue that I think is particularly problematic) in, like, '99 or so. But in any case, yeah, I was ok with unplotted speed changes being 2:1 all the time.

>>I think that warp tacs at least, and possibly all tacs, should come before movement.>>

Yep.

>> I am indifferent on the 2x reverse movement cost.>>

Yeah, I'm not convinced that this is particularly necessary. It is rare that I see anyone moving backwards at a particularly high speed for a particularly lengthy amount of time--most of the time, reverse movement comes during a late game knife fight when both ships are stopped or slow anyway.

>>But at this point, with the exception of some very weak ships, the tournament is very well balanced and we would need, with the current tournament sizes (even if only counting the better players) years to re-balance it from scratch.>>

Yeah, see that is a big problem. Which is why I don't imagine that any of these changes would ever actually happen. Although I think if TACs came before movement and unplotted mid turn speed changes were always 2:1, a whole lot of "non aggressive" play would cease to be attractive.

EPTs are essential

"A change to EPTs would not stop the Plasma Ballet, and only would affect the big plasma game plan when it wants to launch more than 2."

I do not agree with this, other than of course, that yes, a rule that limits EPTs to 1 per launcher would only effect those games where the plasma player desired to launch more than 1 per launcher.

Plasma Ballet may be a play style to which people might object or might wish to see as not available in the tournament. I don't personally agree, having defeated it many times and always within the time limit, but I can accept that persons might feel that the tactic should be limited.

The limit of EPTs to 1 per launcher per game, however, certainly eliminates that tactic. Launching a single non-enveloping heavy torp from range is pointless. Such a launch should not deter anyone, as the amount of damage that torp can do over a three turn cycle is minimal. It takes EPTs to keep up (and surpass, actually) R15 disruptor fire over many turns. With standards as the only option, plasma ships would be required to launch both heavies, or at least an S+F to turn off an opponent. This leaves them with too little remaining to effectively engage in a ballet.

If what Dave meant to say was that there are other options than the Plasma Ballet, with that I certainly agree. But I would challenge anyone to successfully pull off a ballet under these proposed restrictions.

David wrote:

>>Ironically, to me limiting EPTs to only 1 per launcher in the Tournament Scenario is far less fundamental a rules change than either 1)changing TAC precedence; 2)returning to original reserve mid turn speed change costs; or 3) doubling reverse movement costs.>>

It is. However, I think that would be far too damaging to the ability of a plasma ship to actually fight to be a good idea.

I still think that the actual culprit here is the cloaking device, and not the enveloping plasma. As Gorns that just endlessly bombard with envelopers often just get run over and killed.

>>IMO each of these are far less correlated to the actual instances of games which publically caused non-agression controversies - which hasnt been strongly refuted. A change to EPTs would not stop the Plasma Ballet, and only would affect the big plasma game plan when it wants to launch more than 2.>>

Most of the games, historically speaking, that teeter on or cross into an obvious example of "non aggressive" play end up being Romulans (see: 24 turn final...). Jason's games in the Gorn at Origins that time were only notable as he lucked out and won, so they ended up in print--if it had gone the other way, no one would have thought twice about it, and I don't think his overall victory was really the result of a non aggressive play style, but 'cause Jason is good, endlessly patient, and the final was against a ship that is really bad against the Gorn to begin with.

>>I am not surprised that I haven't found universal agreement on whether I've found the most strongly correlated culprit for a limited surgical change. Certainly all the other changes are hypothetically related to possible non-agression.>>

I think the issue with the suggested rule tweaks (TACs coming before regular movement; unplotted speed changes always costing 2:1; reverse movement costing double; etc.) isn't that they specifically address historical wrongs. It is that these tweaks would make doing things that often skirt on the edge of "non aggression" just less attractive in general. If TACing came before movement, stopping would often seem less good than moving slowly. So people would stop and TAC less. If unplotted speed changes always cost 2:1, you could just plot speed 4 all turn, and figure that if your opponent decides to not engage just speed up to 14 and pursue them at a reasonable speed, so plotting speed 4 all turn would seem less attractive and people would do it less often; etc.

If, for example, there wasn't such a huge advantage to moving speed 0 while cloaking out, it would seem a lot less necessary to go speed 0 when cloaking out, which means that the cloaking ship would be less restricted, speed wise, the next turn that it came out of cloak. But 'cause moving speed 0 when you cloak out gives you such a tremendous advantage in shaking a lock on, it is foolish to not be moving speed 0 when you cloak out. Which means cloaked ships are pretty much always going to be starting from speed 0. Which means a lot of stopping/TACing/speed 4ing when coming out of cloak. Which means a lot of teetering on the edge of "non aggression". If there wasn't so much incentive to move speed 0 when cloaking out? A lot of this goes away.

Peter wrote:

"Is it that long?"

I remember discussing teh clarification with Frank Gilson. He stopped playing SFB within a year of Mt:G coming out. It was definitely durign teh time I was in LA the first time, so in the 89-94 time frame. Any way, 12 years or 20, its a long time ago.

"But in any case, yeah, I was ok with unplotted speed changes being 2:1 all the time."

To be clear, that was never the case. There was always a cap and it was that cap that was clarified. For instance, going from 4 -> 9 never cost more than 5 RW. But, yeah, the two biggest things that the change allowed are 4->14 all off reserve and my typical Rom/Gorn plot of 28/14 with an EPT, but allowing me to use all reserve to kick that back up to 26 late in the turn. It is the 4->14 off reserve that has made defensive play so attractive. That is really probably a bigger issue than the way tacs work.

Peter wrote:

" If there wasn't so much incentive to move speed 0 when cloaking out? A lot of this goes away."

Depends on how you want to solve it. If you just remove the -2, then yes it goes away because no one would cloak at all anymore, as it would generally be suicide. Cloaking is too expensive and too restricting such that if almost any opponent keeps lock on then the cloaking ship loses. That situation has to be at or very very near 100% to make cloak useful at all.

If you plan on fixing it my just getting rid of the speed and distance component, but adjusting the formula so that retaining lock was impossible, then it probably make cloak too good.

You could import the Fed Com cloaking rules into SFB.

Paul Wrote:

>>Any way, 12 years or 20, its a long time ago.>>

Indeed. We are old.

>>To be clear, that was never the case. There was always a cap and it was that cap that was clarified.>>

Yeah, I was never clear on that cap rule before it was clarified anyway :-)

I realize that there was *some* kind of payment cap involving "as if you went that speed all turn", but it was a pretty arcane set of circumstances that it came up under (although as I no longer have a copy of the original rules, I can't for the life of me remember what the actual rule was), but the practical effect was, IIRC, you ended up paying 2:1 *most* of the time.

>> For instance, going from 4 -> 9 never cost more than 5 RW. But, yeah, the two biggest things that the change allowed are 4->14 all off reserve and my typical Rom/Gorn plot of 28/14 with an EPT, but allowing me to use all reserve to kick that back up to 26 late in the turn. It is the 4->14 off reserve that has made defensive play so attractive. That is really probably a bigger issue than the way tacs work.>>

Agreed.

>>Depends on how you want to solve it.>>

Yeah, see, I'm sure there is some way to fix this such that you could cloak out effectively while not moving speed 0 that would keep cloaking viable.

>>That situation has to be at or very very near 100% to make cloak useful at all.>>

Sure. Adjust the chart such that you still have a reasonably solid chance to cloak out while moving speed 4, for example. Maybe remove the -2 for going speed 0; make speed 0-4 a -2; make speed 5-8 a -1 modifier; scale up as appropriate (maybe adjust the distance chart in another direction to even out the odds with the increased benefits for moving speed 4 or whatever). I'm not looking at the chart here, so I might be off a bit, but I don't think the problem is the -2 to the lockon roll--I think the problem is that you only get that -2 lockon bonus by moving speed 0.

That being said, I also think that anything that makes people cloak less in tournament play would only benefit the tournament in general :-)

The Ships In Question

Two of the key ships in question, the Gorn TCC and the Romulan TFH are, IIRC, identical to the way they were in 1988. The ballet was a rarity then. And the RFH was rarely played as most were very unpracticed cloakers. Both ship have gotten better, in a way, due to the tactics being better. Although, certainly this has been true for a very long time. It is possible that opportunities for slight balancing passed them by 20 years ago or more.

I think the current speed change must be more recent, like '99. IIRC the '91 Captains Edition introduced some confusing additional language, but essentially defined the rule by example, which was still the Commander's Edition interpretation. At some point, the clarification was clarified, and the examples changed. In fact, I don't believe all of the examples in the eMRB are correct, either.

The cloak can be form of turtle ballet, and one fears of getting 3-5 to a cloaker is taking the EPT or being forced to spend a ww on it. I doubt a f11Gf cloaked Orion would demand as much respect at intermediate ranges.

Thanks everyone for talking about the topic! I like to chat about such things, I'm not really expecting to set a consensus.

The Commander's Reserve Speed Cost Cap

The Commander's Cap worked as follows:

Line 1: Compute your original cost of movment for the remainder of the turn.
Line 2: Compute your cost of movement for the remainder of the turn for your single increased speed (greater than or equal to any remaining speed in your plot. No ups or downs, just level from this point.)
Line 3: Subtract Line 1 from Line 2.
Line 4: Multiply Line 3 by 2.
Line 5: Compute the cost of movement for your original speed plot for the entire turn.
Line 6: Compute the cost of movement for a speed plot for an entire turn equal to the single increased speed used in Line 2.
Line 7: Subtract Line 5 from Line 6
Line 8: The lessor of line 7 and line 4 is the energy cost for the reserve warp unplotted speed change.

Example 1:
A movement cost 1 ship has plotted a speed of 4 for the entire turn. On impulse 18 the ship wishes to use reserve power to acclerate to speed 14 on impulse 19 for the rest of the turn.

Line 1: 2 (original remaining move cost)
Line 2: 7 (remaining move cost with speed change)
Line 3: 5 (net)
Line 4: 10 (doubled cost)
Line 5: 4 (original move cost for whole turn)
Line 6: 14 (move cost if whole turn at proposed speed)
Line 7: 10 (the cap)
Line 8: 10 (equal)

Example 2:
A movement cost 1 ship has plotted a speed of 4 for the entire turn. On impulse 3 the ship wishes to use reserve power to acclerate to speed 14 on impulse 4 for the rest of the turn.

Line 1: 4 (original remaining move cost)
Line 2: 13 (remaining move cost with speed change)
Line 3: 9 (net)
Line 4: 18 (doubled cost)
Line 5: 4 (original move cost for whole turn)
Line 6: 14 (move cost if whole turn at proposed speed)
Line 7: 10 (the cap)
Line 8: 10 (cap is lower)

Example 3 (more realistic):
A movement cost 1 ship has plotted a speed of 4 for the entire turn. On impulse 17 the ship wishes to use reserve power to acclerate to speed 9 on impulse 18 for the rest of the turn.

Line 1: 2 (original remaining move cost)
Line 2: 5 (remaining move cost with speed change)
Line 3: 3 (net)
Line 4: 6 (doubled cost)
Line 5: 4 (original move cost for whole turn)
Line 6: 9 (move cost if whole turn at proposed speed)
Line 7: 5 (the cap)
Line 8: 5 (the cap is lower)

so since you waited to change speed you only get 7 moves for the cost of 9

Example 4 (another realistic):
A movement cost 1 ship has plotted a speed of 4 for the entire turn. On impulse 17 the ship wishes to use reserve power to acclerate to speed 9 on impulse 18 for the rest of the turn.

Line 1: 4 (original remaining move cost)
Line 2: 9 (remaining move cost with speed change)
Line 3: 5 (net)
Line 4: 10 (doubled cost)
Line 5: 4 (original move cost for whole turn)
Line 6: 9 (move cost if whole turn at proposed speed)
Line 7: 5 (the cap)
Line 8: 5 (the cap is lower)

by announcing early you get 9 moves for the cost of 9

This meant that if you wanted to go a lot faster at the end of the turn cost effectively you had to anticipate it and plot it.

David wrote:

>>Two of the key ships in question, the Gorn TCC and the Romulan TFH are, IIRC, identical to the way they were in 1988.>>

Yeah, those two ships are exactly the same as they were in, what, CL#5?

General consensus is that the TFH is one of the better TCs (top 5?), although the Schirmer data doesn't necessarily support that. The Gorn tends to generally hover around high middle (i.e. like rank 8 of the basic 18) according to most folks who make opinions known (if you haven't combed through the RPS thread on the official BBS, it is worth looking at and fairly interesting, although it hasn't been updated for a few years now). I suspect that if there was a blanket restriction on Enveloping plasmas, the Romulan would become much worse and the Gorn would become a little worse (I think the Gorn is less good at enveloper games than the Romulan is, but I already said that a few times :-)

RFH

IIRC RFH won gold hat 3 times from 86-91 then never again. My reccollection fom those days that it was not popular, but clearly winnable. I never played against one, but did play vs. a dozen Gorn in same period. Perhaps the cloak has such a strong frustration factor that people really remember when they get tooled vs. a good cloak. On the other hand, maybe the odds of lock on retention or other bad things suffered under cloak are more likely than the proponents think.

The cloak is not really to an

The cloak is not really to an advantage for the Romulan. He pays for it with having fewer weapons, and using it had the opponent a nice advantager.
I have said it before; I would easily trade it for a dual shuttlebay.

David wrote:

>>IIRC RFH won gold hat 3 times from 86-91 then never again. My reccollection fom those days that it was not popular, but clearly winnable. I never played against one, but did play vs. a dozen Gorn in same period.>>

Back in the day, good plasma theory wasn't as widespread as it is now and the Gorn was highly regarded for its ability to run up to people, tractor them, and blow them up. People are a lot better at avoiding that these days than they used to be, so the Gorn has gone from being viewed as a high end killer to being viewed as a slightly better than average ship that is generally better replaced by a Romulan.

>> Perhaps the cloak has such a strong frustration factor that people really remember when they get tooled vs. a good cloak. On the other hand, maybe the odds of lock on retention or other bad things suffered under cloak are more likely than the proponents think.>>

Oh, I'm not saying that the Romulan is wildly overpowered or anything--I think the TFH is one of the top 5 ships in the tournament, but in general, like, the Kzinti and Klingon (and probably Orion) are better. The issue with the cloak is the one that goes back to the basic premise of the thread--Romulans (and as such, arguably cloaks) are the ships that more often than not tread on the thin line of non aggressive play. And the reason is that they can cloak, so they do (and without a cloak, other ships that tread on non aggressive play often just get killed, so no one notices). Which results in games that are very long and often revolve around things like the Romulan stopped/moving slowly/moving backwards, pitching envelopers at longish range, and cloaking out again. Which isn't an unbeatable strategy, but it often falls directly under the rubric of things that are considered warning flags of non aggressive play. The TKR is less good at cloaking, so less likely to cloak. The TKE is much better at cloaking, and with only 1 heavy torp, generally *needs* to cloak a lot, so it does. I rarely see games go 15+ turns, but when I do, more often than not, they involve a TKE.

Carl wrote:

>>The cloak is not really to an advantage for the Romulan. He pays for it with having fewer weapons, and using it had the opponent a nice advantager.
I have said it before; I would easily trade it for a dual shuttlebay.>>

And yet people play Romulans all the time. Likely more so than the Gorn. And the Romulan TFH is widely regarded as one of the best ships in the game where the Gorn is widely regarded as a solid middle class contender, at best.

If I had any sense at all, I'd swap my Gorn for a TFH. But I'm stubborn :-)

Carl wrote:

"The cloak is not really to an advantage for the Romulan."

I am pretty sure I could not more strongly disagree with a statement about the Rom TFH, but who knows, maybe Carl will come up with another good one. ;)

Peter

I would agree that the RFH is a lot better respected today than it was 20 years ago, and that those who liked the anchor and big plasma played the Gorn because the tripped over the cloak. I think the RFH was a decent ship back then, because it was big plasma and a few people obviously knew how to play it, as it did win some national championships.

I have a hard time rating the Kzinti over the RFH or Gorn, as the Kzinti has some big problems with big plasma. The Klingon is going to have a much easier time punching through a shield at R8, and tends to get enough meaningful internals at R4, that it tends to get a few lucky hits.

Regarding our RPS perceptions, some may be thinking ace vs. ace, and others ace. vs. newbie, or newbie vs. newbie, which clouds perceptions somewhat. Schirmer also rates ace vs. ace (although I think the rating cut off is too low, really its intermediate+ vs. intermidiate+ IMO). And with that rating, the Fed is a nearly 50% winner (!). No question that "aces" don't like playing the Fed, but they make it perform much more reasonably. One could almost argue that the Schirmer data indicates that preconceptions matter more than the cold hard facts; but while I think that the Schirmer trends are more or less correct, the error bar is too great to definitively say that conventional wisdom is wrong.

What the Schirmer ratings can't capture is whether particular matchups are frustrating too often, or just no darn fun - which is one of the questions at hand in the attractive nuisance/non aggression debate. Is it enough if the results are fair but they drive people bananas? or is it OK if bananas is just rare?

As a frequent Kzinti player, I've had as many 10 turn grind outs vs. the Gorn, the Gorn being able to handle drones pretty well not needing the cloak. All too often the trick vs. the fast Gorn is ending up at R1 or 2 at the end of the turn, so you can blast him imp 1, without getting stripped or gutted on the way in. Sometimes you can weaken 1 or more shields on the Gorn and relax the range without getting to stripped. Vs. better players, its harder to do. Far easier task in Klingon, or maybe even Lyran.

Paul

Paul, I think Carl's perception is not uncommon. Relatively few players are proficient in the cloak, and the first few experimentations are likley to go poorly. If a person doesn't feel comfortable with the cloak, he's undoubtedly better off with a ship that isn't paying the BPV penalty for it.

Regarding the unexpectedly low Schirmer ratings for the RFH, it could reflect that perhaps many players play it, not intending to cloak, getting no use out of it, or bungling it. Even without use of the cloak, the RFH is still decent enough to get an OK rating, but one lower than expected by Romunal experts.

David Wrote:

>>I have a hard time rating the Kzinti over the RFH or Gorn, as the Kzinti has some big problems with big plasma.>>

To be clear, when I say something like "The Kzinti is probably better than the TFH", I mean in a global sense rather than in a specific matchup sense--in, say, Kzinti vs TFH, I think the TFH has an edge. But I think vs the whole field of ships, Kzinti is probably better than the TFH, if only marginally.

The Kzinti is, for my money, reasonably good against the Gorn, as it can outrun the first enveloper, eat the next pile of plasma, and park on top of it and kill it in a corner somewhere. I mean, yeah, not always, but it is a viable game. It is much less good vs the Romulan due to the cloak (and as such, can't do to the Romulan what it can do to the Gorn).

I think across the board, the top 5 ships int he tournament are probably (in no particular order) the Kzinti, TFH, Klingon, Orion, and the ATC. I think the Kzinti is a bit better than the TFH, globally speaking, but that might just be me.

I'd have to find a way to fit

the ISC and WAX in my top five. Not sure which of yours I would drop - probably the Klink then either the ATC or TFH, not sure which.

NK vs Single Elimination RPS

When ranking a ship, I tend to evaluate whether a ship has an Achille' Heel, in particular a really bad RPS situation. In the case of the Kzinti, suppose for a moment it has a severe RPS disadvantages vs. the TFH, but otherwise is pretty good against all other ships. The TFH, for discussion purposes, might be a slightly bit worse than the Kzinti vs. everyone else, but has no RPS weakness - just the RPS strength vs. Kzinti. So I would think if I took a Kzinti in a single elimination tournament, I'd sail along until I hit my RPS nemisis, the RFH, and then likely lose once and be out of the tournament. On the other hand, if I took the RFH I'd struggle just a little bit harder vs. my other opponents, then sail past the Kzinti. So the ship with no glaring RPS disasters is better in the single elmination tournament. On the other hand, maybe in a net-kill tournament, one might only rarely face a RFH, and the Kzinti would get a better overall record.

Regarding the Kziniti, its Schirmer RPS predicted win percentage is 0.41 vs GRN, and 0.45 vs RKR which would seem to establish that it is weaker vs. big plasma BUT is 0.58 vs. the RFH which would tend to suggest that for most players having a good phaser defense vs. drones is better than the cloak. Another interesting thing to note in the Schirmer rating is that the raw win% and the predicted win% are about equal for the ZIN vs. GRN and RKR indicating that alll ranks of players played this matchup about the same frequency. However, the RFH raw win% is only 0.51, (still worse than the straight phaser big plasma) BUT this does suggest that while aces preferred the RFH they are underperforming with the RFH vs. phaser big plasma. This is a pretty counter intuitive situation, since one might think that the cloak would be very bad for drones. Theoretically, a GRN could handle 8 type I drones with only 4 pts of power; said RFH might have to tractor, SS, WW or cloak which is much costlier. The Schirmer ranking conclusions tend to fit my own personal observations; which is among the reasons why I think the non-aggression issue more enabled by the plasma ballet, as it is the cloak.

In any case, it is an interesting questin about what is "better"? All around no glaring weakness or very strong vs. a plurality of opponents?

Paul Wrote:

>>the ISC and WAX in my top five. Not sure which of yours I would drop - probably the Klink then either the ATC or TFH, not sure which.>>

Yeah, the ISC is very strong (I'd probably make it 6?) as is the WAX. I tend to not rate the WAX super high (or as least as high as I probably should) due to it having a few really hopeless fights (Orion and ATC?). But yeah, it is also really good.

I tend to rank the ATC very high based on it being incredibly good if you never make any mistakes at all, but as it is really hard to not make any mistakes, it tends not to do that well across the board. But I think under perfect play conditions it is one of the best ships. The Klingon just always strikes me as one of the most versatile ships. When played mediocre-ly, it tends to die a lot. But in the hands of someone really good, it does very well.

David Wrote:

>>In any case, it is an interesting questin about what is "better"? All around no glaring weakness or very strong vs. a plurality of opponents?>>

I tend to side on "no glaring weaknesses". But then, I think, say, the Kzinti (for example) has no glaring weaknesses--back in the day, the biggest nightmare RPS for the Kzinti was the Andro (which was, for my money, one of the most hopeless games in the tournament--you just play and play to make them roll a 6, and if they never roll a 6, you never win). Now that the Andro is busted, I don't think the Kzinti has any truly horrible matchups (I think the TFH has an edge over the Kzinti, probably a 6-4 game, but then so does the Klingon--neither of these fights, however, are as brutal as, like, Romulan-Fed or Orion-Gorn or Orion-WAX). And it has a lot of advantaged fights.

Conversely, the other ship I have played a lot is the Gorn, which I think has not a lot of particularly advantaged fights, not a lot of particularly disadvantaged fights, but a few really horrible ones (see: Orion and ATC). So I tend to think the Kzinti is all around better than the Gorn.

The ships that I envision as the best in the tournament (top 5?) are the ones that have a lot of advantaged fights, not a lot of disadvantaged fights, and few, if any, really hopeless fights.

Captain's Vs. Commander's EPT Rules

Many may not recall, but in the Commander's Edition, the damage to shields after dividing by 6 was round *down*. I am not sure this was changed in the errata or a the time of Captains publication.

Thus for an S-EPT:

60 = 10 pts (true 60)
44 = 7 pts (only 42, 2 less)
30 = 5 pts (true 30)
20 = 3 pts (only 18, 3 less)
10 = 1 pts (only 6, 4 less)

Imagine scoring with 2P3 -3 damage then...

57 = 9 pts (only 54 or 6 pts from 60)
41 = 6 pts (only 36, or 8 pts from 44)
27 = 4 pts (only 24, or 6 pts from 30)
17 = 2 pts (only 12, 8 pts from 20)
7 = 1 pts (only 6, 4 less than 10)

This is like an extra 2-3 P3s firing at the torp.

In a recent game, I dealt with 8 S-EPT, and only 3 of those with ww. The Captain's rules meant that I acculated something like 10-15 more shield damage points, which may be a critical difference, if it comes time to eat S-EPT #9 (which I didn't have to).

The points is that this change made the S-EPT ballet more effective (slightly), and may be one of the reasons I don't recall it be a doctrinaire tactic in Commander's Edition days.

Andro Busted?

Haven't played in a long time or seen Captain's rules yet. How is the Andro busted?

Andro:

>>Haven't played in a long time or seen Captain's rules yet. How is the Andro busted?>>

For a long time, it was misunderstood, and so it didn't do so hot.

Then one day, someone figured out how to play it, and it became game dominatingly overpowered. It won most games without taking significant internals (if you read the older Captain's Logs, there are two, if not three "Victory At Origins" articles where the Andro wins, and pretty much every game is "I do an initial strike, do 25 internals, take none back, run away, empty my panels, return for a second strike, I take a leak point, my opponent concedes..."). So it got downgraded, won the national championship again, got downgraded again, won the national championship a third time, and got nerfed so that currently, it is woefully undergunned for most fights (it is armed with 2xTRL and 6-8 P2s, depending on the playtest model you see). It still can fight Big Plasma, but generally gets killed by anyone who can reliably shoot it.

The general consensus is that the Andro rules set just doesn't work well in a tournament duel setting. There are a few suggestions for ships that are almost historically Andro but might not be broken (I think Paul advocates the version that has 2xTRH/6xP2, but only 2 batteries), but generally speaking, the want to put the effort into fixing the ship has waned.

Dave wrote:

>>The points is that this change made the S-EPT ballet more effective (slightly), and may be one of the reasons I don't recall it be a doctrinaire tactic in Commander's Edition days.>>

Nah. I don't think this is what did that.

I think, like most important aspects of tournament play, Ballet became powerful when a lot of people understood it. And what it took for a lot of people to understand it was the internet. SFBOL and tactical discussion on the BBS, when those two things busted open (i.e. GENIE and then rec.games.board and then the Schirmer List were narrow in focus enough that not a ton of people were reading them; when the BBS started, everyone was in the same place at the same time. Then SFBOL started).

Plasma Ballet is hard to make work and isn't immediately obvious as to how you win with it like, say, the (once) popular Gorn Anchor was--Gorn Anchor was something you could explain in one sentence, and most of the secret to making it work was in that sentence. Ballet is all about long term strategy, momentum, and map dynamic. And it is really easy to do badly and just get killed. And hard to do well.

Until all the best players were analyzing and explaining what to do to make it work on a regular basis on the internet, it wasn't that workable for most folks.

During the days of Commander's Edition, a small number of people had access to info on GENIE or compuserve or whatever (this was before I had the interwebs) which may or may not have had significant tactical discussion on it. And then everyone else just had Nexus/Captain's Log which had tactical discussions, but with limited space and a lack of established *ways* to discuss tactics, things like Plasma Ballet were hard to grasp while, again, Gorn Anchor was a single sentence of "do X, Y happens". So until the modern age of the interwebs, things like Plasma Ballet (and how to fly the Andro; see above) lie dormant.

Peter/Evolution of Tournament Ballet

I agree with everything you say in your reply 100%.

I had just noticed what might have been a contributing factor, perhaps minor, but a change none the less.

Although I played Kzinti in all of my Fleet Captains tournaments to date, my friend Matt Leuthold (and I) switched off between the Gorn and Kzinti quite a bit during practice.

We were pretty creative, so I speculate the largest factor why we didn't try it in a doctrinaire manner was the fear that it would result in an inclusive game during a 3-4 hour time limit, and that it would result in a negative adjudication. I think this fear was unjustified, in that history suggests that games were not usually adjudicated on a rigid time limit.

We can look at historical evidence for the evolution of the game by reading the early CL tactics and "victory at" articles.

CL#7, 1989 first published the "Plasma Ballet", James Butler III. While providing the name for the doctrinaire approach described in the later KR tournament tactics article, it would take a few more steps to become the ballet we know today.

In 1988 Sandy Hemenway won FC in 7 rounds in a total of 27 turns, or an average of 3.9 turns per game (CL9). He played 6 more patrol games for a total of 13. I estimate that Thurs-Sun approx 40 hours were available for play, so Sandy averaged approx 3 hours per game, which I think is reasonably just under an hour per turn. Sandy won a few of his game quickly on technicalities and/or quickly overwhelming his opponent. But my recollection is that his experience wasn't at all uncommon and he wasn't necessarily more fortunate than others in this regard (plenty of not knowing the rules in those days).

In 1990 Tom Carrol won his first FC in 6 rounds in a total of 27 turns, or an average of 4.5 turns per game (CL8). At an average of 50 minutes per turn, on average most of his games would have concluded in less than 4 hours. Tom does not follow a doctrinaire ballet approach at all, and plays more of the flexible game my friend Matt Leuthold would have used. It certainly possible that the EPT ballet was known at this time, but you wouldn't have adpoted it by reading Tom's article. The take home, though, is that Tom won in a reasonable amount of time, and none of his games would have been a grinding nightmare.

In 1991 Paul Paella wone FC in 7 rounds (here is where it gets amazing) in a total of 80! turns (CL10). His first game is clearly described as an EPT ballet, although he does not describe it in "prescriptive" detail - that is, plot a 28/14/26 plot with 22 moves, try to center, launch at R14, turn off, then turn back to chase into corner....He assumes you know what he means...maybe he didn't do it exactly as I wrote, but maybe he did. Never the less, he had games of 12,14,16,9,20, 6 and 3 turns. At a rate of 50 minutes per turn, this would have taken 66 hours -- which isn't feasible-- so he had to play fast. Even at 30 min per turn..
Day 1 6hrs+7hrs; Day 2 8hrs+5hrs; Day 3 5hrs+10hrs; Day 4 3 hrs + 2hrs. Ouch - my head hurts. Now Paul does mention in the article (or perhaps it is an editorial insert) that in 1991 the time limits had been relaxed would be rigidly enforced in the future. I can say from first hand experience that in 1994 they were not. So it seems the cat got out of the bag right about 1991.

Dave wrote:

>>I agree with everything you say in your reply 100%.

I had just noticed what might have been a contributing factor, perhaps minor, but a change none the less.>>

Oh, it certainly didn't hurt. But I suspect that the number of people who are playing tournament SFB today who were also playing tournament SFB under the Commander's Rules is pretty small. Not to make you (us?) feel old, but when I was playing SFB under Commander's Edition, I was, like, 15-16 and not going to tournaments and playing goofy games most of the time. Captain's came out when I was in college ('91?) and wasn't playing much, but I got it anyway. I didn't start playing serious tournament SFB until, like, '93+. Which all adds up to I'm someone who has been playing since Commander's and have been playing all the way through, but never noticed the difference. I suspect the number of people who spanned the tournament environment between the two rules sets is pretty small. It is certainly possible that people who were playing seriously when the change came about pushed the envelope at that point.

>>We were pretty creative, so I speculate the largest factor why we didn't try it in a doctrinaire manner was the fear that it would result in an inclusive game during a 3-4 hour time limit, and that it would result in a negative adjudication. I think this fear was unjustified, in that history suggests that games were not usually adjudicated on a rigid time limit.>>

Well, that, and a plasma ballet against a non plasma opponent generally doesn't take *that* long. It has more turns than average, but a lot of them are very fast (in terms of actual play time) turns. Plasma vs plasma ballet can take frikken forever. But say, a Romulan vs a random DF ship, where the Rom is playing a ballet isn't generally going to go over a 3 hour time limit. Even with a ballet, the game tends to get decisive one way or the other by the time the 4th enveloper comes out. I mean, yeah, there was that ridiculous final game that Bill won in the Fed, but that sort of thing is certainly the exception rather than the rule. I mean, it is certainly possible that games like that that get decisive around T6 or T7 is the result of the non plasma ship deciding to do something risky in the name of decisive action, and so the game ends based on someone deciding to get lucky (and when they do, they win, and when they don't, they lose) as opposed to both sides playing conservatively the whole game.

>>So it seems the cat got out of the bag right about 1991.>>

That is certainly possible. I suspect that most folks didn't have reliable/regular internet access till, say, '93 or '94, at which point Plasma Ballet was already an established concept, but still required analysis to understand well.

Andro fixing

Damn them for breaking the Andro. Of course they were uber-powered, they took over their whole galaxy and came here to do the same to ours. I read ADB's history. It took all of the Alpha quadrant to destroy what was basically a large expiditionary force. If this was real, I'm sure the order would have been to disengage unless you had 3 to 1 odds. Like the Brit's did with our frigates in the War of 1812. Imagine the Pope back then telling us, "Your frigates are too powerful for the Brit frigates. I need you to remove half your cannons and cut down one of the masts."

If you don't want them winning tournaments, don't allow them. Don't ruin them.

If anything, the Andro were about right and the Tholians are way too wimpy. They conquered a galaxy?

Now to go with the thread subject - sounds like people want aggressive play. But when a race wins too much with good aggressive play, I guess you must break them.

Another problem with Andro.....

...is that due to all the nerfing, the F&E factors are hardly justifiable anymore, and the current rules concerning the number of motherships allowed in a battle make it IMPOSSIBLE for the Andro to stand up to late-war fleets...Two Dominators or Intruders, even with Sat ships, are a complete joke against a late-war fleet.

Continuing the Analysis

In 1992, Guy Chaney won FC in the ZIN in a total of 52 turns. While this is less than Paul Paela's 80 turns of the previous year, it is still nearly double Tom Carol and Sandy Hemenway's base line of 27 turns in 88 and 90. Tellingly, Guy had 3 games vs. BP, and one lasted 16 turns, and the overall average per BP game was 11 turns, nearly the same as Paul Paela's RFH in 91. As in interesting aside, Guy is styled as a "Fleet Admiral" in the byline of his article, although elsewhere he is referred to as a "Fleet Captain", so a presumption is that the "Fleet Admiral" is a typo.

In 1993, Hohn Cho won FC in the ZIN in total of 32 turns, slightly more than Tom Caroll or Sandy Hemenway, his average of 4.57 turns per game is nearly identical to Tom Caroll (who played fewer rounds) in 1990. As the execption that is still consistent with the trend, amazingly Hohn faced *no* BP in 7 games - 3 AND, 2 ORI, WAX, ZIN. The AND and ORI had been over popular in 87, had been whacked back a bit, but found a resurgance as tactics improved. The Pundys and others popularized the WAX. As further evidence that Hohn's experience was more relaxed, Hohn mentions playing several patrol games - wheras neither Paul Paella or Guy describe playing patrol.

I don't have CL's with 94 results (and while I have more modern ones I haven't yet tabulated the trends), as Peter mentioned the finals of Bill Schoeller (FED) and Paul Kramer (RFH) lasted 25 turns. Annecdotally I can say that I played 2 games vs. BP that year, one lasting 8 turns and the other 12. Both went over 4 hours.

Dale wrote:

>>If you don't want them winning tournaments, don't allow them. Don't ruin them.>>

Well, the regular SFB Andros are still just fine. I mean, yeah, they are rough to play in large fleet actions where concentration of firepower makes them a lot easier to blow up than in small or individual ship actions, but they are totally reasonable still (and, uh, apparently have non conjectural Weasel technology now...)

The current Tournament Andro is playable, just not particularly good. Bill Schoelller played some version of it (I don't remember if it was 6xP2 or 8xP2) in the Gold Hat a few years back and didn't do that bad. I mean, it is certainly weak, but not impossible, certainly if you are playing one of the slightly more upgunned playtest versions (either the 2xTRL/8xP2 or 3xTRL/6xP2). The issues with the ship are fundamental to their basic design (i.e. the ability to empty panels quickly and efficiently and the Displacement Device) such that it is really hard to make a ship that is both balanced and recognizably Andromedan.

Joe wrote:

>>is that due to all the nerfing, the F&E factors are hardly justifiable anymore, and the current rules concerning the number of motherships allowed in a battle make it IMPOSSIBLE for the Andro to stand up to late-war fleets...Two Dominators or Intruders, even with Sat ships, are a complete joke against a late-war fleet.>>

Well, they haven't nerfed the regular SFB Andros--they are still the same as they were in the original Captain's C3 (?) module, and are even better off than they were originally, as they have Temporal Elevators (protecting bases) and Wild Weasel type satellite ships that they didn't have in Commander's or basic flavor Captain's. I mean, yeah, in SFB, they can't stand up to fleets either--a dozen CA's firing heavy weapons at a Dominator will blow it up.

Historically speaking, the Andros attacked when the various empires were economically exhausted and at the end of a long devastating war, and attacked at random behind the front lines, and as such, weren't really expected to stand up to giant late war super battle lines. When the Galactic Powers got organized, figured out their logistic network, and sent super battle lines to deal with them, they were defeated.

So while I haven't read all the most up to date F+E rules for Andros, if they are designed so that they get to attack at random in deep areas where they aren't going to run into 100 Klingons in one hex, but will have trouble in a giant standup fight, then they mostly match the "historical" design of the Andros.

Dave wrote:

>>Continuing the Analysis>>

So it looks as if plasma ships started playing longer games than usual in the early 90's. I'm not sure what that means :-)

Still, though, playing a plasma vs non plasma ship ballet tends to not take considerably longer than a complicated non plasma game, in my experience; yeah, more total turns, but a lot of those turns are reasonably quick.

Peter/Length of Games/Eureka

Peter commented that BP vs. non-BP doesn't take "that long" but does take more turns. In the 5 years of FC winners from 88,90-93 I've analyzed, 12 of 34 games took 8 or more turns and in that class of long games the average length of game was 12 turns. Five sixths of these were vs. BP. Furthermore, in 92, a year were there was supposed to be "strict time limits" there was a 16 turn non-adjudicated game. In such a long game, it seems impossible that there were not at least 4 turns that took 30 min each; leaving 12 turns for the remaining 2 hours; with no more than 5 min per energy allocation and 5 min for movement and fire per turn. IMHO, and this is admittedly conjectural, most of the time any game that lasts 8 turns will take at least 4 hours; and only the most rarest 12 turn game takes 4 hours or less.

Even so, we can agree that BP vs. BP can take an inordinate amount of time, and suppose BP vs. BP does in fact take >4 hours, we can make some interesting conjectures about how Origins played out after 1991, where no (the eureka moment)...

Which is that flying a BP plasma ship has some potential drawbacks as far as winning the ftf Origins tournament, particularly if you try the ballet; namely the risk that you would have a series of 4+ hour games vs. non BP and a series of >4 hour games vs BP...
* just qualifying in BP over 2 days and 3 games might take longer than the time alloted (if games ran to full length)
*therefore ensuring exhaustion
*increasing likelihood of adjudication
*making it less likely for you to qualify in patrol
*and you face certain ships (andro, atc) which can kill you anyway

If you do not fly BP you do not want to get caught fighting BP and get stuck in a >4 hour game for all the same reasons, so you want to choose a ship that is not going to mired by a fight with big plasma :
AND, ORI, ATC, FED...

Which, except for the FED, were very popular ships and consitent winners.

Dave wrote:

>>IMHO, and this is admittedly conjectural, most of the time any game that lasts 8 turns will take at least 4 hours; and only the most rarest 12 turn game takes 4 hours or less.>>

I dunno--I have been playing Gorn in all FTF tournaments I have played in the last, like, 8-10 years (Council of 5 every year; Origins until last year; we have a local round robin tournament day, the Ithaca Cup, every summer), and while games regularly go upwards of 7-8 turns, they rarely last more than 3 hours in my experience. I mean, granted, I don't generally play strict plasma ballet (as I don't think the Gorn is good at it; I play the kind of game that Ken Lin just detailed in the most recent Captain's Log; it's as if all his tactical analysis is specifically disputing the tactics I advocate :-), but playing a 7-8 turn game in 3 hours is in no way out of the realm of reason when both players are reasonably efficient.

>>Even so, we can agree that BP vs. BP can take an inordinate amount of time, and suppose BP vs. BP does in fact take >4 hours, we can make some interesting conjectures about how Origins played out after 1991, where no (the eureka moment)...>>

That I'll certainly grant you :-)

I think the only games I have ever had adjudicated at Origins were BP vs BP. Those long games are, for my money, completely the fault of the Romulan having a cloaking device.

>>Which is that flying a BP plasma ship has some potential drawbacks as far as winning the ftf Origins tournament, particularly if you try the ballet; namely the risk that you would have a series of 4+ hour games vs. non BP and a series of >4 hour games vs BP...
* just qualifying in BP over 2 days and 3 games might take longer than the time alloted (if games ran to full length)
*therefore ensuring exhaustion
*increasing likelihood of adjudication
*making it less likely for you to qualify in patrol
*and you face certain ships (andro, atc) which can kill you anyway>>

All of this is completely true. But flying a Gorn and not relying on pure ballet mitigates a *lot* of this. And I don't think pure ballet is optimal for the Gorn anyway (due to the lack of a cloaking device). But then, in flying a Gorn, you have the opportunity to run into an Orion or ATC which will probably outright kill you, or a Romulan which results in an overly long, adjudicated game (the ISC is no picnic either, but isn't going to result in instant death or overly long games).

Peter

I certainly grant you that you may be able to play a 7-8 turn game in a Gorn in under three hours - in my favorite ship, the Kzinti, I can't. I think a lot, I want to win. In the last 3 BP vs. ZIN games I've played, *every* S torp fired at me was an enveloper - over 20. It just takes a while to figure out how to handle each one of those torps - indiscrimately wading through 60 will cost you the game (but maybe as a walking dead man over the next 4 turns). Taking my time may be my fault up to a point, but I still think the trend, if measured, is that BP takes longer than if BP is not in the equation.

Now it certainly may be that as the player base has shrunk to core group of very experienced experts, that the game has sped up (and, as an aside, which may tend to rush the intermediate players some).

You did mention that after 6-7 turns one player or the other tends to dive in and do something risky - and for ships with bigger crunch power at R4-8 than the ZIN (almost everything), BP doesn't always come out victorious. Ken Lin's Gorn tactics is really on track, in that if you follow the ballet to turn 8 you better have something up your sleeve so you can finish the game - so maybe don't even go there and try something else more flexible. I think Ken's article would have been more infulential and beneficial, had he published in 1993 rather than 18 years later (vs. the T2000 KR article - "ballet of inevitable doom").

Another consequence of longer BP games, is that it is less likely that a player would have been able to re-seed into the Captain's tournament.

My thesis is that for most ships the tournament game takes 2-4 hours per match, for specific class it takes 3-4+. I also think that the 2-4 hour per match was acceptable for the tournament; the 3-4+ hour per match had bad consequences (preventing intermediate players from participating in patrol finals, where they would have had experience and validation) -it seems reasonable to conclude "it is going to take too much time to figure out how to win this kind of game" for anyone who got knocked out by one (to some extent I recall thinking that in '94). This kind of experience is a cousin to the experience that Saaur described.

Now you (Peter) say that the cloaking device is the problem. Certainly, the cloaking device exacerbates the issue. However, Paul Paella, in all of his 80 turns, probably cloaked less than 10. We are arguing about a matter of degree (EPT ballet can get bad, or EPT ballet requires cloak to get bad).

Looping back to the very first post in this thread, I think it was wrong to blame the "long games" 4 to 4+ hours on the players, or non agression, or not enforcing the time limit. Players had real reasons for wanting to play this long. BUT playing that long in a ftf tournament was probably destructive for the tournament - certainly contributing to the erosion by degrees.

It might have been useful - and this is all water under the bridge, I know - to alter the scenario or ships just slightly so that games almost never hit 4 hours. Flying the Andro was a unilateral way a player did this vs. big plasma. Somebody would have internals at th 4 hour mark.

Is a 4+ hour game as *big* a deal on SFBOL? Probably not. You can save, take a break, etc. Is it going to attract anybody but hardcore guys? Not so much.

Peter B wrote

"Well, they haven't nerfed the regular SFB Andros--they are still the same as they were in the original Captain's C3 (?) module, and are even better off than they were originally"

I was mostly comparing to Commander's edition.

"So while I haven't read all the most up to date F+E rules for Andros, if they are designed so that they get to attack at random in deep areas where they aren't going to run into 100 Klingons in one hex, but will have trouble in a giant standup fight, then they mostly match the "historical" design of the Andros"

Well, their best F&E line under the playtest rules from P5 (I think it was P5) would give them about 100 compot, tops. Late-war GW fleets are going to be in the 130-180 range, depending on how many PFs and X-ships there are.

Long Games

Its the player, not the ship or tactics. I play fast in any ship. When I play either in or against BP and the games take a long time, it is because my opponent is slow. I am very patient and don't mind long games at all, so don't take this as a complaint, but the ship and tactics have little to do with it. If I was playing against myself, I could finish BP v BP in 2-3 hours.

Paul

I respect your opinion, however I think we may be looking at this in an apples vs. oranges manner.

I am trying to consider evidence that negative issues, like "non-agression", "grindingly long games", "the shark tank", etc. were in fact *on the average* a result of structural issues with tournament format, rules, and ships etc. -albeit subtley -that degraded the experience of tournament participants or harmed the tournament in some manner which could have been avoided. I am considering what could have been done to encourage maximum participation while at the same time preserving the maximal strategic intrigue which attracted players like yourself. I think games trending longer *on the average* as the tournament evovled is a demonstrable fact. In 1991, relaxing the time limits resulted in brutally long games. Not always mind you - but 20-25% of the time - which IMHO clouded the response. Trying to rectify the situation by "enforcing the time limits" is understandable if it really was due to bad apples and outliers, but the evidence suggests that *on the average* the bad apples and outliers were just trying win using the rules at hand.

I realize that I can't go back in time to change any of this so we can go back to 200 players. That's a fantasy. SFBOL is different now. Furthermore, nor am I blaming anybody. I like curious theoretical problems sometimes.

I think you would understand it is hard for me generalize Paul Scott to *on the average* since a) Paul Scott is a 5 time Fleet Captain - and is decidedly not average in that regard; and b) performing the experiment of having Paul Scott play Paul Scott (not solitaire mind you, true clones with independent thought) is sadly not feasible - although certainly very intriguing.

Having played you, I can verify that you do tend to make decisions rapidly - as long as you have the initiative. However, when you lose the initiative, you do slow down until you recover it. Maybe this is, in poker terms, a "tell", maybe not and you fake it well. Considering a hypothetical Scott v. Scott game, maybe it would take longer than you think: only 1 Scott can have initiative at a time, the other would have to think longer and harder to get it back.

My friend Matt used to say you should play SFB like "walking in Dune". Don't have a pattern to how quickly or how much time you take per impulse to move, don't have a pattern to how long you consider taking to fire. He said when someone thinks they are going to get in a good shot - they tend to speed up: if they are wrong, speed even faster and blow them up; if they are right, tie your shoes, take a drink of coffee, play with the dice - just maybe they'll forget.

Dave wrote:

>>I certainly grant you that you may be able to play a 7-8 turn game in a Gorn in under three hours - in my favorite ship, the Kzinti, I can't. I think a lot, I want to win. In the last 3 BP vs. ZIN games I've played, *every* S torp fired at me was an enveloper - over 20.>>

Heh. If Romulan, I can imagine that that would happen. If a Gorn, I can only imagine that that would get him killed right quick (mind you, I have, what, 11 Ace cards in the Kzinti, so I have a pretty good sense of when it is a good plan to eat an enveloper. And when the opponent is a Gorn, the answer is "when it is the second torp they launch..." :-)

And again, if a Romulan is launch enveloper after enveloper at someone, the only reason they can get away with that is 'cause of the cloak. The Gorn, IME, can't really get away with that vs someone who is willing to take some hits to corner him (as a Kzinti, my anti-Gorn plan was pretty much always to run from the first enveloper, eat the second, eat the F's, and corner/mug him to death. Which worked, generally speaking, vs a Gorn that launched two envelopers very successfully; lots of ships can do that just as well). Which really only goes back to me pointing at the Cloak as the #1 culprit in any situation that borders on "non aggression" rules.

>>but I still think the trend, if measured, is that BP takes longer than if BP is not in the equation.>>

That is certainly possible--I'm not at all dismissing this idea outright. Plasma ships of any type do benefit from a longer number of turns in a game than other ships (due to the 3 turn arming of the plasmas--a D+D ship gets to fire all of its guns 4 times in a 4 turn game; a BP ship usually only gets to fire them all once but for one of them in a 4 turn game). As a result, the plasma ship often wants to play longer games (turn wise) than other ships, to fire plasmas more. In the Gorn, one of my most important adages is "if I can just run away for a turn without getting killed, do that." As an extra turn means I'm that much closer to having more plasma to launch. That being said, those turns where I can just run away without getting killed are very fast turns, generally speaking--if it takes more than 15 minutes to run a turn where I just flee across the map with an opponent pursuing me, including EA, (in real life play, mind you), then something wacky happened. But again, a lot of those extra turns with a plasma ship are exactly that--you do EA in 5 minutes, and you spend the whole turn outside of R8 just moving. Maybe a torp gets launched. Maybe someone decels and weasels. But in general, a lot of the extra turns in a game involving BP are going to be quick.

>>You did mention that after 6-7 turns one player or the other tends to dive in and do something risky - and for ships with bigger crunch power at R4-8 than the ZIN (almost everything), BP doesn't always come out victorious.>>

Oh, sure--a lot of tactics vs BP often boil down to "I do something to get lucky, and if it works, I win, rather than just flying around running from envelopers for 15 turns". Again, against the Gorn (i.e. the one without the cloak), this is often a good plan. And often works fine. Against the Romulan (i.e. the one with the cloak) this is often a bad plan. And often works horribly.

Again, all my pointing towards games being too long and non aggression and whatever inevitably is in the direction of the cloaking device :-)

>>Now you (Peter) say that the cloaking device is the problem.>>

I always do. At least in this context :-)

>> Certainly, the cloaking device exacerbates the issue. However, Paul Paella, in all of his 80 turns, probably cloaked less than 10. We are arguing about a matter of degree (EPT ballet can get bad, or EPT ballet requires cloak to get bad).>>

Much like that discussion about Decelling that I had with Paul a while back, the issue with the cloak is not the actual cloaking. It is the possibility of cloaking.

Again, looking at the Gorn, if I'm a Kzinti, I can run from the first enveloper, eat the second, eat the F's, and corner him and mug him. Which works fine a lot of the time. Against the Romulan? That is *considerably* riskier. As it can cloak by the time you eat all that plasma and corner him, meaning you lose a lot and he gets to reload mostly scott free. So doing these things (i.e. eating the plasma to corner him) isn't something that you will start the process of, even if the cloak isn't on. 'Cause the cloak *could* turn on later.

So the existence of the cloak doesn't mean that games will be slower and longer 'cause the Romulan spends an inordinate amount of time under cloak. It is 'cause its opponent needs to play differently (i.e. slower and more conservatively) simply 'cause the Romulan *can* cloak.

It's the cloaking device. Most of the time. That is what is at fault. (This is clearly somewhat hyperbolic--non aggression can also come from inordinate amounts of speed 0-4/weaseling and/or retrograding or whatever. But in games that are long and involve BP, when this issue comes up, 90% of the time, it is 'cause one of the ships is a Romulan. Which is 'cause it has a cloak. Even if it never comes on.)

Peter / Kzinti Vs. Gorn Strategy Details Request

Your Kzinti vs. Gorn strategy sounds reasonable, but the devil is in the details. Just as you mentioned that the original description of the ballet was too general for most to get a precise picture of how to implement it, I get the gist but I am hungry for the details on how to implement it in a doctrinaire fashion. As you know, timing is really important. You have to guarantee a R4 shot prior to turn 4 if you eat that 60 pt S torp. Probably, you want to guarantee 2R4 shots on consecutive turns. Driving the Gorn into the corner implies that, but as I say, I am eager for the formula. It would seem to me if the the Gorn opening is doctrinaire, then your "sense" of when to eat the SEPT should not be a sense, exactly, but a precise formula.

What I'm hoping is that you can fill in the details to a battle plan/question like these:

Turn 1, Gorn Plots 28/14/26, Kzinti Plots, typical Range of non aggressive Gorn fire (R14?), what impulse can you expect this? what hex for both ships? Drive FCL or oblique as Kzinti? SP and drone usage? Presumably turn away, what range? Full run out? Where do Gorn and Kzinti end turn 1? Range?
Turn 2 Gorn Plots, Kzinti plots: How do you engage in a way that you are certain you corner the gorn prior turn 3? What is speed? HET? Drone fire. Any disr fire? Are you just eating the torps? Or trying to cause any damage to the Gorn?
Turn 3 Does turn 2 force the Gorn to the wall already? Is this the R1 blast turn? How can you fire overloads so the reduction of speed doesn't let gorn get away?
Turn 4 Is this the 1st or second overload shot? What range? It seems to me if you cant force something definitively positive prior to imp 4.8, eating the 2nd EPT will put you on the death spiral, and if you've stopped, you better get something out stopping? Whats the best advice to forcing it?

As you know, the Kzinti has had a "Victory at" article (I don't think) since Hohn Cho in '92. And he didn't fight BP at all!

Bump.

There's an issue in Master's. Let's discuss.

One of the reasons I like this board

That discussion over there will go no where. Anyway, on the issue at hand, I think I see frustration at dealing with a defense that the WAX is not good at dealing with. I see no agression issues, and particularly nothing by turn two when it was brought up.

Dave is ok so far.

Kerry's warning was reasonable though for various reasons.

Given the Way the Detailed Non Aggression Rules Work

As soon as your opponent does something that is under the rubric of "Non Aggression" (i.e. cloaking, parking, retrograding), you alert them that the "Non-Aggression" clock is starting. As long as they stop doing what they are doing before four (three?) turns are up, nothing will ever come of it. If someone proceeds with Non Aggressive tactics for four (three? I don't remember currently) full turns, they get DQed.

If that rule is used as written, every single time a Romulan turns on a cloaking device, the Romulan's opponent should start the Non Aggression clock. But given that it is highly unlikely that a Romulan will stay cloaked for four full turns, it is just formality.

Is that really the rule?

If so, are the three things Peter listed all of the "non-agression" acts? The whole thing seams stupid to me. It all goes back, in my mind, to one game where the judges were just too incompetent to make a very easy call. Otherwise the only non-agression rule I think we need is "a player's significant lack of agression will be a factor during adjudication."

The problem seems to be

That the game was written from a lawyerly point of view. Lawyers want the laws (rules, in this case) written so that the judge needs neither discretion nor judgment. They want all the bases covered and every interaction spelled out in black and white so there's no wiggle-room.
The problem is, justice (in law) and fun (in a game) are not black and white issues. Discretion is necessary to keep things moving in a fair way. We're people playing a game to have fun, not computers enacting a simulation.

Not to derail this too much

But it seems your opinion of what lawyers want comes from listening to Tea Party lawyers and judicial constructionists.

In any event, I will go back to my claim that the problem was caused by the judging staff generally lacking the skill to play the game near the level of those they were judging. As a result, adjudications at Origins were commonly poor. We had many rules we could generally rely upon during adjudication, including things like "the Romulan wins", but we generally referred to it as the "adjudication slot machine."

I think at this point the community has, sadly, shrunk sufficiently that the judges for most tournaments are now able to understand the game they are judging much better than at the time these rules were made. I think returning to a simple rule, as I stated above, would be in the best interest of the current game.

Paul Wrote:

>>If so, are the three things Peter listed all of the "non-agression" acts? The whole thing seams stupid to me.>>

Well, the original Non Aggression rule, as designed and printed in some CL in the late 20's (27 maybe?) that involved the "Non Aggression Clock" rule is, essentially, what I described--if your opponent does something that is deemed, by the rule, as "Non Aggressive" (cloaking, stopping, moving in reverse), you alert them that the "Non Aggression" clock is starting, and if they are still doing whatever it was that they were doing 3 full turns later (i.e. 4 turns total, IIRC), they get DQed. In practice, if this rule is followed, it will only ever result in a DQ if someone is being really, excessively passive (i.e. cloaking for 4 full turns, retrograding for 4 full turns, sitting and TACing for 4 full turns). What it does is indicate that these things are a bad idea to do for an extended period of time, and starting the "Non Aggression" clock just is a codified way of saying "Hey--don't sit and TAC or Cloak for the next 4 turns..."

I don't think it was a horrible rule and mostly just a very broad kind of reminder rule, and was very good at preventing the "Start going backwards and never go forward for the rest of the game ISC" kinda shenanagins and the "I run into the corner and park and wait for you to attack me for the whole game" kinda shenanagins, which, really, are the only incredibly easy to identify "non aggression" situations.

I don't think that this particular rule is actually functional any more, since a second "Non Aggression" rule was developed and printed a couple years later, which was essentially "Don't be a dink, and if you are a dink, you will get DQed", which is a lot more vague and a lot more likely to cause problems, for my money, than the older, cut and dry but mostly broad rule (i.e. the one with the clock).

>>Otherwise the only non-agression rule I think we need is "a player's significant lack of agression will be a factor during adjudication.">>

Currently, I think that is actually what the rule mostly is.

Then why

Did Jeremy Gray's Gold Hat win almost get taken away? He was moving forward the whole time, albeit slowly, and continued to advance toward his opponent. Why is that non-agression by any standard?

Not sure his HAT was ever in real jeopardy

but I was certainly one of the people in full support of Jason (not Jeremy - that is a different person) on that issue. I saw nothing about what he did as being unsportsmanlike or "non-aggressive."

I've played Jeremy Gray

dozens of times. He is one of the most cautious, patient, competetive players ever. At no point in any of the games we played was he non aggressive, even by the don't-be-a-dink standard.

Paul, that is also the way I understand the rule. Non aggrssion is only a factor in adjudication. Of course, that pretends that there are still ftf tournies being played with strict 3 hr time limits where games actually get adjudicated. SFBOL very rarely goes to adjudication. So in reality, its the don't-be-a-dink non aggression, which is wide open to interpretation, that players end up using. An it really means nothing, but does make for some occasional sweet flamewars.

I think that Dave is ok according to the rules, but I can see why Kerry would warn him, because Dave is using some old school rom cloak tactics, which are uncommon nowadays.

Check. Jason Gray

He is Jason. Not Jeremy.
I think Jason frustated some people who promptly whined to SVC, which meant that Jason couldn't do anything right from there on out. He is the only person to date to be summarily booted from an SFBOL tourney due to non aggression, which was not due to what he was doing in the game, but rather the whining at Origins and Cole's preconcieved idea of Jason.

He got booted from and SFBOL tourney?

1. Which one?
2. That totally sucks and is probably why I don't see him around anymore. That is too bad, because he was a great player.

Saaur wrote:

>>Did Jeremy Gray's Gold Hat win almost get taken away? >>

(Jason Gray)

That never actually happened, as far as I am aware.

Jason won at Origins a few years back. His games are detailed in an issue of CL--he had a Gorn that spent most of the time moving speed 4/7 with weasels armed and reinforcement until he had someone cornered. After the fact, some folks complained about this on the BBS, and the Powers That Be reacted with "Huh. That seems lame. If someone had complained about this at the time, we would have ruled against that going on."

No one ever was going to take anything away from anyone.

The point about Jason's game in that tournament is that it was wildly inconsistent and benefitted from a small tournament--he lost, like, 2 of 5 or 6 games he played, and won in the final 'cause his opponent (Ken Lin) was in a Seltorian, which is significantly disadvantaged against the Gorn to begin with. Yeah, he played a speed 4/7 game in the final, but the outcome was far more the result of it being a Gorn vs Selt game than anything else.

Jason still plays, but apparently not as often as he used to. He was in the Platinum Hat tournament.

Paul wrote:

>>1. Which one?>>

He wasn't booted, so much as got adjudicated against in a RAT a year or two ago--it was a Fed vs Orion game (Jason being the Fed), and whenever the Orion doubled engines to attack, the Fed parked or ran away. After 7 or 8 turns (IIRC) of no one firing any significant weapons, the Orion called in the judge and the game was adjudicated.

Full Disclosure:

I have, in the past, complained about Non Aggression, but usually after the fact (i.e. after I was killed) and not to get my opponent penalized. The examples I can think of tend to be the result of Gorn vs Romulan games, and the Romulan (at least one stand out example was a TKE) spent excessive time cloaked and/or being stopped or going backwards slowly. And after 20+ turns of this, I got irritated, did something rash, and lost. And then complained about Non Aggression (generally the concept rather than the player) on the BBS.

Now that I think about it, the only games I have ever felt treading on breaching Non Aggression standards have involved excessively cloaking Romulans (although at least in one of the standout games I can remember, I was a Kzinti vs the Romulan).

Well, that's what I meant. Adjudicated against

His opponent was just as guilty IMO, and he started complaining immediately for the express purpose of winning via adjudication. That's the way I saw it anyway.

Well

as someone who won a Hat with an Orion, and one or two RATs to boot with the same ship, an opponent parking on you is just something you have to deal with. It sounds like his opponent was complaining that he didn't like it that someone defended against his engine doubling. The Orion (with the right packages) is pretty advantaged against a lot of opponents. With the FFg11 package, it is even or advantaged against the Fed, even. Did not see the game, but parked opponents are to be expected. It is one thing if the opponent does nothing but park, but if he is able to time his parking to coincide well with the Orion's engine doubling, then good on him.

Giving notice of non-aggression is a required action

A few years ago, when the topic of non-aggression was heavily discussed, and I was the Council tournament judge, I posted this page as a link off the SFB tournament page:

http://www.swa-gaming.org/SFBNonAggression

(It used to be longer. It had Cole's full non-aggression text, Vancil's text, and my stance on the subject. In later years I edited the document to be shorter, since the concern about non-aggression seemed to have died down.)

Anyway, one point I was sure to make is that notifying your opponent, and the judge, about your invoking the non-aggression four-turn clock is a required step in the process. It should not be taken as in insult or 'whining'. It's just an announcement, so both players understand the situation. This gives the non-aggressor fair warning to watch his play behavior and potentially not risk losing the game over it.

If you never announce "one turn of non-aggression"; "two turns of non-aggression", then you'll never get to "four turns - game over".

The non-aggressee is not allowed to be silent all game and then say "OK, you were playing in a non-aggressive way for four turns this game - I win".

I agree with Paul; the 'rule' SHOULD be simply "a player's significant lack of aggression will be a factor during adjudication", but we know that the Powers That Be find it difficult to have rules that depend upon subjective interpretation of fairness. That is why they came up with the four-turn clock edict.

-DC

The official edict

Can be downloaded in PDF format here:

http://www.swa-gaming.org/files/SFBNonAggression.pdf

I would post a link to the document on the ADB site, but I can no longer find it. I think they've reorganized things since the last time I was there. I know it used to be there, somewhere...

Silly question regarding "non-aggression"

OK, you're flying in ship X, shields heavily reinforced, traveling slowly, not really diving in at me.

I don't want to charge in an have you smash me in the face. Understandable

But if I don't come in after you, aren't >I< also being "non-aggressive"? Imean, on a close map, other than cloaking and staying cloaked for N turns, is it really that difficult to come in to make shots at someone?

Now, I could see if you're RUNNING at high speed away from me, although it still seems that if I take the center of the map, you can't get TOO far from me that I can't do a little charging in myself to get some shots off and whittle you down.

Am I missing something? I know I haven't played SFB in a while, so it's entirely possible there is some element that I'm not thinking of or just aren't aware of. But it just seems to me that it takes two to tango, even in the "non-aggression" arena (with exceptions noted above)

Here Is The Thing

The concept of "Non Aggression" is not, for my money, a completely non-existent concept. It is certainly a gray area that is open to a lot of debate, but it is something that is worth debating.

The game basically assumes that it is incumbent upon both players to bring the fight to their opponent, and aggressively engage. What this *exactly* means is difficult to define.

There is a lot of advantage to be gained by not putting power into movement when your opponent is putting power into movement and a lot of advantage to be gained by TACing when your opponent is not TACing. All (well, most) games inevitably devolve into a close range, stopped/TACing/slow moving knife fight, where both players are gaining these advantages. And there plenty of situations where one player is moving fast, the other player stops and catches his opponent flat footed and gains a significant advantage by doing so. These are all just part of the game.

There are, however, situations (and this is a very extreme one for purposes of illustration) where one player's whole game plan is simply "I'm going to sit here TACing with overloads and weasels and reinforcement and tractor and just wait for you to fly up to me when you have foolishly paid 20 power for the audacious plan of moving..." from the get go. It is often an incredibly foolish plan to just drive into that sort of thing. At which point the moving attacker moves off and waits for his stopped opponent to speed up and engage. If his opponent never speeds up to engage, and just sits and waits, the game never goes anywhere.

Yes, one could certainly look at the situation and say "Well, the moving guy isn't attacking either", but in this sort of situation, the spirit of the game (as previously defined by the Powers that Be) give the benefit of the doubt to the player who is moving rather than stopped and TACing, due to the assumption that both players should be aggressively attacking, and a ship that is stopped is certainly not bringing the fight to his opponent where a moving ship is capable of doing so, if not actually willing (due to not wanting to impale himself upon his opponent's metaphorical "braced pike").

Yes. Sometimes just running into the corner of the map on T1 and then stopping for the rest of the game is a horrible idea anyway (you are a Fed. I am a Gorn. T1, you just run into the corner of the map and stop and TAC and never move again. Eventually, I'll kill you from range 10 with envelopers, 'cause you'll run out of weasels). Sometimes, however, it is a fantastic plan that will gain you a lot of advantage. And doing so (again, this is extreme, but just a matter of degree) is gaining a significant advantage by virtue of intentionally working against the spirit of the fight (that both players are aggressively bringing the fight to their opponent).

As mentioned before by me, really, the main contributing factor to most arguably "non aggressive" strategies is the cloaking device, as the Romulan can move slowly (or not at all), launch plasmas that will seriously injure an opponent who tries to aggressively close, and then cloak out to avoid any significant reprisal. And once the ship is stopped/slowed and cloaked, it is likely going to stay that way for the rest of the game, as the advantages to being speed 0 while cloaking out are huge relative to cloaking out while moving, cloaking takes a lot of power, and then trying to speed up after this puts the ship in a seriously bad position (moving speed 10 while uncloaked is infinitely more disadvantageous to moving 0-4 and cloaking). So once the cloak game starts, it often just stays that way for the rest of the game, which is essentially one player saying "Come impale yourself on my braced pike, and then when you do that, you can't hurt me anyway" while the other is flying around trying to avoid being killed by plasma and not doing anything at all in return.

So the short answer is "Yes. The moving player needs to engage too, but the rules generally fall on the side of the moving player over the stopped one, in the name of the spirit of the game."

Because It Was an Ongoing Game I Refrained from Posting

Because it was an ongoing game, I decided to refrain from posting until after the game was completed.

DC refered to Andy Vancil's comments on non aggression, which I think are a more reasonable clarification that any of ADB's clarification. Using Andy Vancils guidelines, I do not believe I was playing non-aggresively on any turns.

I think Peter mentioned, but if he didn't, there is another newer procedure posted on the ADB BBS dated 6/27/2007 which creates a multiple two turn procedure, rather than the 4 turn procedure referenced by Peter, DC and others. It is not clear to me if the 2 turn procedure supercedes the 4 turn method, or is supposed to be used under different or more severe circumstances.

IMHO I think the intent of both procedures is to involve the judges to determine if a non aggression warning/clock is warranted.

I have become highly dubious about non agression and believe that the way the game is played on SFBOL outmodes many (but not all) of the concerns. I am not unsympathehtic to the feelings generated, but have become concerned that the cure is as bad or worse than the disease.

I am critical of both ADB procedures for many reasons, but chief among those is that neither are worded to emphasize that the non aggression is only "suspected" or "possible" and isn't a more serious matter up until the judge agrees with the warning; and I am concerned that that the guidelines can be interpreted to have rather simplistic "tripwires" which effectively encourage warnings to be issued on spec. Specious warnings on such a highly charged topic (after all, non agression is not by the rules, and not playing by the rules is "cheating") seems like a dubious way prone to cranky debates.

I don't think ADB was ever trying to set unthinking tripwires, but rather expected that warnings would only be given by a player if in fact said player would think if the play continued there would be a high probability of getting a judge to agree the following turn. The two turn approach dispenses with the player warning, which has its merits but is really only workable if there is an extremely high bar to get a judge to rule for non agression. In practice, because we are talking about tactics which are well within the rulebook, it is hard to stomache a draconian rule that can result in a DQ and certainly a kerfuffle that rests, in the end, on subjective guidelines.

Please keep in mind while I wouldn't have given a warning in this case, I'm cricticizing the guidelines far more strongly than I'm criticizing Kerry (please Kerry, no worries). The rules regarding non-aggression are a mess.

I have obsevered reading this and several archived threads that not only is the definition of non-agression controversal, there is no consensus exactly on what it is avoiding - that is, what is it supposed to avoid or do. The very groundrules for the discussion are murky.

An insight that I made that helped me contextualize the thoughts on this subject is that there is a difference between an unsportsmanlike situation, and unfair situation, and a situation which is both unsportsmanlike and unfair. Some classification of non agression might say that if a certain situation is unsportsmanlike enough but not unfair (for example, stalling with neither side taking damage is not unfair, just annoying) is in and of itself sufficient to be non agression. Other classification suggests that some situations are more unfair than unsportsmanlike (see my concerns about the Plasma Ballet). Or, others would suggest that non agression is unsportsmanlike and unfairl (the throwing yourself on the spear situations).

Non-Aggression

I, by my own admission, am a barely competent player. Since playing SFBOL I have developed, this minimum standard. (Please feel free to disagree with my assessment of competency, just don't post it online. I have a rather delicate ego,considering the present NK standings) So perhaps, my level of tactical acumen and knowledge is lax in relation to critical factors I am overlooking.

In terms of non-aggression, I think the only real issue would be flying backwards away from combat, particularly if they lob plasma. If someone chooses to use the "aggressive turtle" method, you can do the same. It becomes two ships travelling slowly probably just on or about OL range with tonnes of reinforcement, ww, OL and tracs. You both can still engage and just because the other guy is not playing by current standard accepted doctrine, does not mean he is engaging in gamesmanship or "cheating".

If I am off-base with this assessment, please illustrate how.

The one tweak I would make to the suggestion of Peter B et al, is that warp tac happens before move and imp tac happens after. That would give the one imp tac a significant advantage and help limit the present disparity of all tactical maneuvers being post-move. It would also add some tactical complexity when two ships are at the knife fight stage of combat.

Penalty Clock for Insufficient Maneuver

I have given some thought on how to add special rules which discourage the negative effects associated with "non-aggression" while allowing 99.9 of ordinary tactics to be played without any effect. Hypothetically, if such special rules could be crafted, "no holds barred" SFB could be played without the need for any concept of non-aggression while still eliminating the worst offences. I have found the most simplistic proposals which I have seen to date that outlaw certain actions seem to me to negatively impact valid tactics which I think ought to be legal. Another key aspect is that I don't want to outlaw anything outright, but just provide a risk for long term stalemating tactics. Below I've listed a set of rules which I think strongly discourage starcastling and discourages the turtle which is closet to a starcastle. Cloaking and retrograding are not as directly affected, but still made less easy to accomplish. I haven't playtested these, and admittedly, it adds some complexity but it is not impossible to imagine a game played with it. I am posting it more for comment than in the certainty I'm advocating the idea.

Penalty Clock for Insufficient Maneuver

In order to encourage engagement with the enemy, the tournament cruiser engines have been made unstable when operated at lower speeds for an extend period of time.

1) If, at the end of any turn, a player ship has spent any impulses at speed 4 or slower during that turn, that player ship is put on a “clock” for a future penalty. The player ship must meet certain conditions in the subsequent turns in order to cancel the “clock” and avoid the penalty.
2) If, by the end of the fourth subsequent turn X+4 the “clock” set on turn X has not been cancelled, the player ship must suffer a penalty on the following turn (X+5): All breakdown bonuses are permanently lost; and the player ship rolls for breakdown during movement of impulse 1 of the turn (X+5). The player may allocate during EA knowing that a roll must be made, but not the result. If the player ship breaks down, the player ship suffers all effects associated with breakdown. If the player ship breaks down, roll to determine if the ship tumbles.
3) The penalty associated with turn X may be avoided on turn X + 5 (that is the clock is cancelled) if any of following conditions are met on turns X+1, X+2, X+3, and/or X+4:
a) The player ship has moved at least 20 hexes cumulatively (in the same direction) by the end of turn X+4 AND at least two of those turns were at speed 5 or greater for the entire turn;
b) OR The player ship has moved a speed 11 or greater for an entire turn by the end of turn X+4.
4) A player ship is “on a new clock” for a penalty 5 turns in the future for each and every new turn spent with any impulses at speed 4 or slower. Each of these clocks may result in a penalty being enforced and each must be cancelled to avoid the corresponding penalty. Note that the conditions of cancellation may result in more than one clock being cancelled at the same time.
5) Both player ships may be put on penalty clocks for the same or different turns. Both player ships may suffer penalties on the same turn.
6) If the player ship is in a web or tractor beam, the player ship is considered to be accumulating moves at his originally plotted rate. Movement cancelled by emergency deceleration or voluntary collision with the tournament barrier is not counted.
7) If a player ship is crippled, all penalty clocks are cancelled and the ship need not start a penalty clock in the future.
8) Both players must keep track of penalty clocks and cancellations for their own ships. Players must reveal the status of penalty clock and cancellation status when asked. It is not considered unsportsmanlike to remind a player that he has triggered a clock, however it is not required.
9) No player ship will suffer a penalty prior to turn 5.
10) The fact that a player ship must suffer a penalty in a future turn has no bearing to the victory conditions, if the victory conditions are met on a prior turn.

Or...

we could just play and not be weenies!

Droid is suitably vague....

Hmm...I would say I'm much more of a blowhard who likes to hear himself talk than a weenie, per se...

I don't think

he was saying you're a weenie for proposing the rule.
I think he was saying non-aggressive tacticians are weenies.

Yeah Dave...

I wasn't saying you were a weenie! There was a definition of non aggression upstream that could be distilled to "don't be a weenie". I was saying let's (all of us) not be that.

Yah, I was 99% sure of what you meant :)

Yah, I was 99% sure of what you meant. I was trying to be tongue in cheek in the service of the point that the whole damn topic quickly jumps off the rails due to the emotionally charged nature. The inherent ambiguity can lead to persons getting "up in arms" over tone. Of course, there is a fine line between me being "tongue in cheek" and me being a "snarky bastard". :) The whole flamewar phenomena. No worries! :)

But seriously, on a technical basis, what say ye about the special rules?

Non-aggression

I have a fairly simple view: 'non-aggression' is simply name-calling by insecure bullies who can't win a fair fight.

I mean, seriously ... the 250 lb linebacker calling the 98 lb class nerd out, and challenging him to 'fight like a man with his bare fists'.

I thought the rules on the various option mounts, particularly the WYN Aux, were questionable, but I can see that from a game balance perspective. But non-aggression? "You're a loser because you won't come up and trade blows, mano-a-mano!" says the Hydran to the ISC.

I will tell you what I find offensive: Kerry 'rolling out the clock on non-aggression' on T2. After the Rom launched an EPT T1. And used cloak on T2 to get rid of drones. (And subsequently smacked him on T3. )
The mere fact that he's bandying the term about because his opponent did something tactically sound - which he didn't like - for one turn - is an indication of a much deeper problem.
Is there some brain-damaged parallel to the 250 lb linebacker here, where the Rom must use (and lose) a weasel to get rid of the drones? Or must use phasers or tractors? Where the f!@# does the rulebook say you can tell your opponent which tactical options he can and can't use?
"I'm sorry, now I've launched my EPT, you *cannot* run away from it! It's in the 'Banned moves that drag a game out' errata from ADB"

I've played a couple of games against some of the ADB staff, decades back, at Gencon. For the people that designed the game, they were very second tier players. I remember the introduction of the Wild Weasel, because a certain individual kept getting his a$$ handed to him by plasma. And, after a year or so of plasma dieing like dogs, and drastic BPV adjustments, pseudo-plasma was introduced. Followed later by a sorta apology to the effect that Weasels and Pseudos should never have been introduced.

The game is failing to attract new players because it is too complex. Miserable f!@#-ups like the Weasels and Pseudos are a perfect example. r2 ESGs and DF hitting different shields. The non-aggression 'rules' are another ... especially because they aren't particularly well written, and fall into the "I know it when I see it!"

Yeah, I have a bit trouble explicitly defining "Bullies who don't like it when they can't think their way out of a problem", but I know it when I see it.

"I've played a couple of

"I've played a couple of games against some of the ADB staff, decades back, at Gencon. For the people that designed the game, they were very second tier players. I remember the introduction of the Wild Weasel, because a certain individual kept getting his a$$ handed to him by plasma. And, after a year or so of plasma dieing like dogs, and drastic BPV adjustments, pseudo-plasma was introduced. Followed later by a sorta apology to the effect that Weasels and Pseudos should never have been introduced."

That was a tidbit that I was unaware of before. I had no idea that was the reason those rules were implemented.

My other car is a D7 Battlecruiser

Don't Hate the Player/Hate the Game

I'd like to clarify that while I think Kerry's warning was mistaken, I can understand that he believed he was following the letter of the rules in issuing it. There is quite a conundrum here. There are quite a few people who believe that certain tactics are unsportsmanlike and unfair. Likewise, a tripwire warning defined by a rule seems a bit unsportsmanlike too. SFB is not like basketball, with referees independently watching both sides for personal fouls. In SFB the warning is issued by a non-neutral party. And unlike basketball, where just a single player fouls out, one side can get completely DQ'd. But that's the system. And Kerry followed the system. So, I'm not going to get up in arms about Kerry personally at all. I've been faulting the system. The game would be better off with rules that make the system work fairly.

SVC doesn't play SFB (not since he created the designer edition). He freely admits, ever since then, people play better than he does. It is not surprising in tennis, for example, that the top tennis players play a lot better than those on the tennis rules committee. He does listen the best players, and from time to time not the best players, and has taken the advice of the crowd, often to good effect, and with the occaisonal veto. Maybe not so much anymore - I think he thinks SFB is largely complete. Quite honestly, for years he listened to the non aggression complaints and did nothing. I really think he would agree with droid - "don't play like a weenie". I'm pretty sure non aggression guidelines came about due to repeated flareups of complaints over decade. A lot of people wanted it. Just about everything that has been changed in SFB over the years has been because a meaningful number of smart people suggested the same thing. Sometimes the crowd is wrong though.

Listening

Yeah, how long has it taken to get the Andro back into playtest mode? Worse, the version being flown is essentially what Paul suggested back when it got nerfed (with TRLs).

And then there was the Lyran TC ... two 360 P3s weren't even being suggested by anyone on the boards ... that was pulled from SVCs Management Information Access Software System.

There's a great line I've kept close:
"Terrorist is what the big army calls the little army."

I used to like flying Roms ... the positioning was the important thing, rather than which shield/phaser arcs, and I did well. I had one tourney where my opponent (Kat) flew threw my T1 EPT and F, T2 I tac'd, lobbed another EPT and F (he ate both), all bearing phasers at R9, and cloaked. While keeping my speed up, my reload - under cloak, took 5 turns. And my opponent whined, cried foul, complained to judges. Strictly speaking, if the adjudication was to be on damage, I was so far ahead that it would be tactically unsound for me to surface. I finally did, just to shut him up, which was a very bad thing, tactically speaking. On the plus side, he did major internals at r3, then pulled a HET, from reserve, to get the rear P3s in. Which was just enough such that my obscene tractor exceeded his allocated amount, followed by 100 pts of plasma.

Name calling because someone isn't fighting the way YOU want them to fight - i.e. a losing proposition for them - is unsportsmanlike. Couching it in slightly less offensive terms - "Non-aggression" - doesn't disguise the fact IT'S STILL UNSPORTSMANLIKE.

There's another line, from one of the Chinese MA styles I've taken, roughly
"Don't enter someone else's universe, for there, they are a god."

These effin 'Non-aggression' rules are a pathetic attempt to force players to use tactics that put them at a disadvantage. Not quite as bad as requiring the Gorn to charge a Fed T1, but close. (Maybe charging a Hydran ;)

Leslie wrote:

>>And then there was the Lyran TC ... two 360 P3s weren't even being suggested by anyone on the boards ... that was pulled from SVCs Management Information Access Software System.>>

Uh, no?

That was directly the result of a bunch of players sitting in a room at Origins one year (I was one of them) in a public SFB seminar and discussing balance issues with the TCs with the designers, and that specific fix for the Lyran was directly the result of the discussion. There were a few different suggestions, but that was certainly one of them, and the easiest to implement with the least collateral damage, so it won out.

>>These effin 'Non-aggression' rules are a pathetic attempt to force players to use tactics that put them at a disadvantage.>>

Uh, no?

They are a flawed but well intentioned attempt to place the onus of engagement on the shoulders of both players and to prevent tactics like running into the corner and TACing for the whole game or spending every turn cloaked at speed 4 and uncloaking once and a while for a few impulses to pitch a plasma out. Which are both the kinds of tactics that:

A) Place the onus of engagement fully on the shoulders of one player.

and

B) Are really bad for a game that has to have a reasonable time limit.

Argh

Re the Lyran.

The number #1 suggestion on the boards was to add another P-3 on each side, bringing the total to 4. The suggestion of a pair of 360 P3s wasn't even made on the board. And there was a large amount of discussion on the board at the time.
As the Lyran is still batting well below the magical 50% win ratio, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the powers-that-be listened to the wrong people. ;)

Re: non-aggression

How many times have you actually seen someone run into a corner and taccing? It isn't going to work against BP (Beyond four weasels). It isn't going to work if you are BP, Fed, or Hydran. It seriously hurts your chances if you're a drone using ship. So now you're proposing that it's fine to implement a rule specifically designed to target certain races?
I understand your argument, and I do agree with the sentiment ... but I tend to play for the win, regardless of what the other player wants. Getting my Fs rearmed under cloak one turn before the big plasma really lessens the energy crunch, and means that one comes out of cloak with six more points of energy available. Oh, wait, these rules mean that what appears to be a perfectly intelligent strategy are illegal.

Take a look at the Snipe-B. It physically can't rearm everything under cloak in three turns. While it's not a tourney cruiser, the 'non-aggression' rules, as written, prevent it from its normal tactics.

If the game has a three hour limit, then the judges need to make a ruling at the three hour limit. If someone has inflicted more damage than his opponent, then avoided conflict for the remainder, that seems like a viable strategy. Make the rules regarding adjudication strictly on damage ... and let's drop this nebulous 'non-aggression' concept in the garbage where it belongs. No "I have a weasel ready for his reaming plasma." No "I'm in position to make a i1 alpha next turn." Just make the decision on the simplest of basis - damage. It avoids different judges giving different values to different things.
I have seen one adjudication which still makes my blood boil. The refs asked both players what their strategy was for the following turn. The Gorn was near gutted, but had two S torps coming up. The Orion was in much, much better shape, with one down shield, and a bare handful of internals, but HBs had just been fired. He'd already filled in his EA. The Gorn player, in his conversation with the judge, talked about how he was going to throw eighteen pts in tractor to nab the Orion i1 at r3. The Orion, in his conversation with the judges, didn't mention the tractor, although he'd allocated five points, and had all his batteries. The judge (whose first name begins with 'S') ruled in favor of the Gorn. The Orion player, a newbie who had picked the game up remarkably well, dropped the game after that. The Gorn, a long time player, is still around. It's BS decisions based on nebulous crap - and apparently how well 'S' liked one of the players - that turn people off the game.

Longer Games, Better Odds

Peter, one of the things I remember starkly as being different from Origins 87 in Origins 94 was that most or all of the very best players would always choose a X+1 turn strategy that better odds of victory over an X turn strategy with slightly worse odds. Make that X+2, X+3 etc. etc. Every time. It isn't just a matter of wall clock time; its the turns and the pace of the game. Patience, patience, patience. Paul Scott has mentioned that the patient man can play quickly. Absolutely, but I think most aces, with the gold hat on the line, wouldn't give a rat's ass about the wall clock. And by the way, *progress* is being made in these patient games. Mr. The_Geek mentioned it took 5 turns to reload. Patience indeed. Can patience exasperate? Absolutely. Maybe 10 turns of the same zero effect is a much better indication of the stalemate. FWIW, I lost badly because in Origins '94 because I wasn't prepared for an opponent who chose a strategy that might take 12 or more turns to show results. The time limit, and the concept of non agression at the time (no starcastle, no stalling) falsely led me to believe my opponent would play a different way - the way people played in 85-87. None of these long tactics I'm thinking about really fit non agression. Exasperating? Yes. As a player you need to steel yourself against exasperation. FWIW, I don't know if we have a lot of playtest material to show that 5 or 6 turns of starcastling or cloaking really is unfair or impossible to make progress against. Now with SFBOL we can save and play as long as we want. So again, the time limit aspect hardly gets any respect.

I don't think the judges like adjudicating either

...Because deep down they know they aren't perfect and players hate it. Which is why I think, for the most part, if the players wanted to play 'till dawn they let the games go on. Historically, enforcing the time limit appears to be very inconsistent. For some years, Captains Log mention they made a point of it. In other years, there are odd comments about games going long. And for that matter, for more important games, they tend to let those play out. This has a downside, thought, trying to justify "non agression" as somehow related to a time limit, becomes a moving target. Tactics which are not going to resolve in10 turns may resolve in 20 turns.

Leslie wrote:

Re: non-aggression
>>The number #1 suggestion on the boards was to add another P-3 on each side, bringing the total to 4.>>

Which would have probably been too good of an improvement, which is why they went with the 360 P3s.

>>As the Lyran is still batting well below the magical 50% win ratio, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the powers-that-be listened to the wrong people. ;)>>

I don't know that it is doing that badly. It is very average, but does ok.

>>How many times have you actually seen someone run into a corner and taccing?>>

Very rarely. But I have seen things that are only different by a very narrow matter of degree. Just stopping when your opponent is nowhere near you and staying stopped for an extended period of time (as speeding up is disadvantageous and TACing is stupidly good). Stopping and cloaking and then staying cloaked for an extended period of time when it is completely unnecessary to do so, and it just turns the game into a completely one sided slog. These are things are are generally best discouraged, again, in the name of both players having the responsibility for engaging and helping the game move along at a reasonable rate.

>>Take a look at the Snipe-B. It physically can't rearm everything under cloak in three turns. While it's not a tourney cruiser, the 'non-aggression' rules, as written, prevent it from its normal tactics.>>

Luckily, the Snipe-B isn't something that this rule concerns.

>>I have seen one adjudication which still makes my blood boil.>>

Adjudications are rough. And they are best avoided when possible. And everyone has been involved in or been witness to one that makes limited sense. But you can't simply make them cut and dry ("I had done more damage when the clock ran out, so I win!" "Uh, but that full strength enveloper is going to hit you on impulse 1, and you have no shields and only 20 internal boxes left..."), as the game doesn't work that way. The current state of affairs, IIRC, is more or less that "non aggression" is something that will be taken into account in an adjudication.

Lyran with 4 p-3s

Would likely be the best tournament ship. It would have been unbalanced. The PtB got the Andro wrong, but they got the Lyran right. You can learn very little from it "batting well below the magical 50% win ratio."

1. 50% win ratio cannot be a reasonable goal, since it is a closed universe in a zero sum game. Even if everything was perfectly balanced and all players had identical skill, most ships would be above or below 50% just based on chance.

2. On balance, against equally skilled opponents, the Lyran RPS ranges from 2.6 (WAX) to 6.2 (LDR) and of the 17 other ships, it is advantaged against 7 and disadvantaged against 10. This is reasonable. Compare it to the TFH (a ship most view as on the above average side of things): TFH ranges from 1.8 (LDR) to 7.3 (NTC) and of the 17 other ships, it is advantaged against 5 and disadvantaged against 12. This is based on real data collected over several thousand games. The illusion that the Lyran is a poor ship and that the TFH is one of the best is just that an illusion.

3. If you really want to see what the Lyran with 4 p-3s would look like - check out the GBS: RPS ranging from 4.8 (WAX) to 8.1 (LDR and TFH). Of the 17 other ships, it is disadvantaged against 1 (and barely disadvantaged) and advantaged against 15 (it comes out dead even against the KZN).

Huh?

Paul, normally I agree with what you say, because you speak the precise language of math, but the following line: "50% win ratio cannot be a reasonable goal, since it is a closed universe in a zero sum game." just doesn't seem to make sense. A 50% win ratio is a reasonable goal. Especially since it's a zero sum game. There's going to be variation, just like coin tossing. And, just like coin tossing, the percentage variance from the mean will (should) diminish the more games played.
Could you elaborate on what you meant ... I may be just being clueless here.

The GBS comparison is questionable. The proposed Lyran would have 2 LS and 2 RS P3s, not quite the same as 3 FX and 2 RX P3s. It's not the same, since 4/6 facings provide great overlap. in offense, nor as padding. The Lyran gets all 4 in the same situation in the front and rear hex rows. And, quite simply, the GBS is advantaged in most match-ups, compared to the Lyran, due to superior DF firepower (with even 1 P1 option) and has drones to both suck back the opponents DF, and, can also provide much the same threat as ESGs in an overrun situation. The only area in which the Lyran is clearly superior is against drones, and using the ESGs as part of a coherent drone defense.

The goal of a 50% win ratio *should* be strived for. The RPS range ... that's a different story.

Prior to its nerfing the Andro had an utterly insane range, from near certain death vs Klinks and Orions, to near certain victory against the Plasma crowd. I would quite happily see it stay out of tournaments until that lopsided nature was fixed.

"But you can't simply make them cut and dry .... as the game doesn't work that way."
Say what? Why not? Way back, when SVC used to pontificate in person before the tourneys, I very distinctly remember him talking about a hard, three hour limit, and then judging based on damage ... and only if there was going to be a decisive blow landed in the next few impulses did he want any 'adjudication'. Many other games have a set time limit, and the game is scored at that point. One doesn't fight in a Judo tournament based on wearing the other guy down over a few hours, the game is played hard, and the first to get the required number of points wins. Chess games ares regularly judged based on points. Making something cut and dried - in this case, shield damage (/10) plus internals makes the tournament game a lot easier to judge.
"... as the game doesn't work that way." And, is that why the Steves have added the non-aggression rules? Because the game did work that way, and they didn't like it, so, to hell with the players who liked ships that did better in long-term games.

Lyran

Ya know, some people claim that the 4 P3 Lyran would be too tough. I don't see that. When the ISC had 6 P3s, yep, I thought that was too much. When the TKR was introduced I took one look, and said "Wow, they've altered the RFH arcs, which will require a different style of play, and then added a point of power and more P3s!" ... and I was unsurprised when it was downgraded.

But the Lyran ... here's a ship that, theoretically, wants to run someone over. That would imply a certain 'toughness' in its design, specifically, its ability to take internals to get that overrun. Instead, we have a a ship with the lowest number of P3s in the game. And, look at the CA ... 4 P1s and 6 P3s, the CC has 6 P1s and 4 P3s. So ... where did this bright idea come from to take the progression one step further, changing another 2 P3s into P1s?

I mean, if they wanted 8 p1s, I'd be more than happy to take the CAL, even with a pt less power. I would rate the CCH as overpowered with 8 p1s, 4 P3s, but 2 of the P1s are 360.

We can also go by rough BPVs .. the CCH (170) is more than a bit above the theoretical Tourney BPV, the CAL (153) is nearly spot on, the CC (150) is a bit under.

So, I don't like that the ship was 'altered' from square one, in a way inherently counter to the required design philosophy. I don't like the fact it's consistently under the 50% win ratio. And I really dislike the fact that the upgrade was done despite the majority opinion on the board ... and that the consensus on the board after the change was implemented was that the change was not going to be enough ... and that the general opinion has been proved correct. (Minor, but I also dislike the change itself ... Lyrans don't get 360 P3s)
I also don't think we're going to see it fixed for a long, long time. The problem is not serious enough, and, more importantly, to make the change is to admit that their first 'fix' was wrong.

I think what Paul Scott was

I think what Paul Scott was saying is that the standard deviation in any finite set of measurements is non-zero. Even if the expectation value is exactly 0.5, any finite set of measurements will have an average value above or below 0.5.

Regarding the LYR, I believe he is effectively saying that the data (presumably Schirmer) are within the error bars of being 0.5. Schirmer's MPE adjusted overall win percentage for the LYR is 0.43; its actual win percentage is 0.48. ACE vs. ACE MPE is 0.43 and actual 0.44. Such numbers suggest that victories of expert LYR players vs. newbies is overweighted compared to even player skills. But these are combined rankings.

As Paul points out, there are 17 (?) RPS matchups. It is unreasonable to imagine that a single configuration would yield a 0.5 expectation value for all RPS matchups.

Leslie wrote:

>>Say what? Why not? >>

'Cause ships don't do damage at the same rates. How much damage is scored at any particularly arbitrary point is the result of multiple factors, and scoring more damage now ('cause time is running out, say) is often at the expense of taking even more damage later (when "later" might be "right after time expires"). Giving folks a hard and fast system to game like that is not necessarily going to fix anything.

>>Many other games have a set time limit, and the game is scored at that point. One doesn't fight in a Judo tournament based on wearing the other guy down over a few hours, the game is played hard, and the first to get the required number of points wins. Chess games ares regularly judged based on points.>>

Both of these games are significantly less complicated, in terms of what happens, how it happens, and when it happens.

>> Making something cut and dried - in this case, shield damage (/10) plus internals makes the tournament game a lot easier to judge.>>

And possibly a lot more arbitrary. I know no one likes adjudication. Most games don't end in adjudication. The adjudication system is often seemingly random, but it also doesn't happen much. In, like, almost 15 years of playing at Origins, I can specifically remember being adjudicated due to time running out, like, twice. And both times, the adjudication went in the most logical direction. Yes, everyone knows of some incredibly random and insane seeming adjudication happening this one time, but in reality, it doesn't happen much and likely makes sense more often than not.

>>"... as the game doesn't work that way." And, is that why the Steves have added the non-aggression rules? Because the game did work that way, and they didn't like it, so, to hell with the players who liked ships that did better in long-term games.>>

Uh, what are you talking about here? Nothing is in place to disadvantage long term games. Most long term games move at a reasonable pace and generally come to a natural conclusion.

Back to the "non aggression" rules, they exist to provide disincentive for people stopping or cloaking or retrograding for extended periods of time. Even the most strict reading of the "4 Turn Clock" version of the "non-aggression" rules don't prevent you from cloaking for a couple turns or stopping and TACing for a couple turns or driving around backwards as needed. They prevent you from doing this for 4+ turns in a row when your opponent isn't doing the same thing. And as there are few situations where you'd ever actually need to do this, and as one could certainly argue that doing so for extended periods of time when your opponent isn't doing this is circumventing the intended spirit of the game (i.e. bringing the fight to your opponent), there is certainly a logic to this rule. The vaguer "non-aggression" published later generally come down to "if you are consistently non aggressive, you might get adjudicated against". Which is certainly vaguer. But still, doesn't come up much.

Les

I may have misread your intent when you wrote "magical 50% win ratio." I took that to mean that win ratios of less than 50% indicated a problem. If all you meant was to state an aspirational goal of 50% for all ships, and you also understood that aspiration, even perfect balance was obtained, that many ships would still be below a win% of 50% because we are dealing with finite numbers, then that is fine. I do certainly suggest the actual numbers of the Lyran (Schirmer data) indicate it is well balanced.

As to the comparison between the 4 p-3 Lyran and the GBS, I would certainly agree that, even ignoring arcs, 5 p-3 on the GBS is still better. However, the GBS will also have either two fewer p-1s or be at a serious mismatch when comparing the drone systems. 4 drones is roughly equivalent to 2 ESGs - with drones or ESGs being better depending on opponent. That leaves the GBS down 2 p-1s. The one difference comes in skill. Both ESGs and drones dramatically increase their effectiveness with player skill. Drones, though, are pretty much good no matter skill level, where as ESGs require some degree of skill to employ at all. So, maybe, the numbers would not be as bad as the GBS, but I would guess them to be close.

Peter

" Even the most strict reading of the "4 Turn Clock" version of the "non-aggression" rules don't prevent you from cloaking for a couple turns or stopping and TACing for a couple turns or driving around backwards as needed."

Yes, but I think Les' point, and it is certainly one with which I agree, is that this method requires the opponents, who are playing a game, to be, to put it in other words, bitchy or unfriendly, with each other. The four step turn rule, even if not intended, uses charged terminology and requires one opponent to say to the other "I don't like the kind of game you are playing, so I am going to tell you so and ask that you stop." Sure, the actual "requirement" to stop does not come for another four turns, but it is just not a friendly way to play.

I'd much rather just play the game and if I felt my opponent was "being a weenie," I'd bring that up with the judges during adjudication and let them deal with it. Whatever value is gained in clarity with the 4-turn rule, more value is lost by putting players in a position where they have to be a dick to their opponent.

Paul Wrote:

>>Yes, but I think Les' point, and it is certainly one with which I agree, is that this method requires the opponents, who are playing a game, to be, to put it in other words, bitchy or unfriendly, with each other.>>

Oh, I know. I totally agree that this is a drag. Which is why I referred to it as a flawed plan.

>>I'd much rather just play the game and if I felt my opponent was "being a weenie," I'd bring that up with the judges during adjudication and let them deal with it. Whatever value is gained in clarity with the 4-turn rule, more value is lost by putting players in a position where they have to be a dick to their opponent.>>

Yes. This is definitely a problem. Such that I have never actually engaged this particular rule specifically 'cause I didn't want to be a dick. But then, I ended up playing a game where I spent the whole time feeling that my opponent was skirting the edge of (or flying wildly over) that which I figured these rules exist to prevent. And inevitably, I got irritated, did something rash, and got killed.

CL#17, Bill Schoeler's Victory at Origins '94

For those who are interested, ADB has posted Captain's Log #17 on e23. This article includes Bill Schoeler's Victory at Origins '94.

I was able to read this article for the first time. This was of special interest to me for several reasons:

*It was the last large SFB tournament I attended.
*Origins '94, and in particular the finals game of Schoeller vs. Kramer (but also of Carol vs. Kramer) have been identified as the genesis of Non Agression.
*I was a former staff member, and I lived in the SF Bay area. The finals game lasted into Sunday afternoon, IIRC, and was moved to a room that overlooked the convention floor that SVC nicknamed "the Eagles" nest. Because nearly all of the tournament judges had left, SVC had started to convene the highest ranking staff he had left to advise and support whatever decision need be made in case the final game could not conclude prior to us being removed from the convention area.

After reading Bill's article, I have several thoughts...

*I do not think Bill or Paul meet the current criteria for non-aggression.
*I would have been in no position to properly adjudicate a winner, nor do I think any of the staff present would have been.
*Everyone present, especially SVC, was very glad non adjudication was necessary. SVC was very much didn't want the Fleet Captain's game to end in an adjudication. He knew it would make lots of people happy, and he didn't want that to happen.

----------------

Paul Scott has said that the judges don't know as much as the best players. In this case, this was probably correct. In hindsight, I certainly didn't know enough; and I'm very glad I didn't have to get involved any further than the opportunity to see the last turn in that cool room.

What was the problem? I think most of the onlookers, including myself had not seen the whole game. Those judges present were mystified how a game could have lasted 25 turns *without continuous cloaking by the Romulan*. The predisposition was that without continous cloaking, the cloaking device should be beatable in a shorter period of time than 25 turns. That is, the conventional wisdom (maybe better called conventional inexperience) was that the Rom should have presented to his opponent an even odds opportunity far sooner. What was being understimated by the peanut gallery at the time IMHO was the power of the enveloping plasma torpedo. It just takes time for the Fed to run away and turn around. Which he has to do. The logic I recall expressed, if you can call it, was the following. Somebody had to be a weenie if a game lasted 25 turns. The Romulan had not continously cloaked therefore he was not non-aggressive; so maybe he wasn't the weenie. But...the Fed had fired and done some shield damage and a few internals so maybe he wasn't the weenie either. Paradox. FWIW IIRC Kramer had advanced on an adjudication prior that probably followed the logic - no cloaking so he's not the weenie; but looked like nothing really happened and the judges couldn't figure out how the other guy (I think Carol) was not being a weenie - bad logic.

Now, no one thinks that 25 turn games, if common, are really the best idea for the game. The legacy was that it was all too easy to imagine that there was significant stalling and/or bad sportsmanship involved in the game and take the crutch and blame that. In hindsight, I don't think that was the case at all.

I haven't read that article in an awfully long time.

But, yes, if I recall correctly, that particular style of play on the Romulan's part is one of the very things that the non aggression rules were meant to avoid.

Heh.

Played a couple of games recently. One involved the classic ISC battle pass, with my opponent chasing me down T2. T3, I stopped, tac'd, weaseled of a stack of drones, and kicked it into high speed reverse (-10) to bring an O/L PPD into play.

My opponent then threw the 'non-aggression' rule at me. I looked it up ... wow, who would have thought that
"Parking at moving in retrograde are non-aggressive even if that ship is firing weapons at the enemy."

Needless to say, I didn't have to worry too much about continuing the 'non-aggressive' style, since there wasn't much left of his ship.

Non-aggression, like limiting option mounts, is a pitiful attempt to force ships into tactics the Steve's approve, and preventing people from using tactics that, logically, they should. Perhaps if TPTB simply dropped the whole 'non-aggression' BS, especially in light of how many games are played online i.e. without time limits, it would be a better game.

When a salesman asks "Are you on a budget", he's trying to get you to spend more than you intended. When an opponent shrieks "Non-aggression!", he's trying to get you to fight in a way that gives him the advantage.

Unfortunately, given that the

Unfortunately, given that the heyday of face-to-face tournaments is more than a decade passed, I doubt that we will see a more enlightened official revision to the several versions of (conflicting) non-agression guidelines. I agree, for the most part, playing online with the ability to save has chipped away at part or most of the rational behind non-agression.

SFB tournament players are a very competitive group, and prone to disappointment at any loss. While most players most of the time take defeat in stride, I think it is human nature that even the most congenial players from time to time may react witha a bit of abrubt testiness in defeat. The non-agression concept, unfoturnately, has created a framework of "unsportsmanlike" tactics, which in practice - are subjective in evaluation - and disappointment can crystalize around this framework. And as I have discussed before elsewhere - the accusation of non-aggression is like a reverse disruption - a metagaming disruption of the game (and an opponents mindset) on the speculation that something may happen or may have been intended a few turns down the road. Unfortunately, we as players will just have to live with this and learn to shrug it off.

I don't think SVC or SPP can really be blamed for the concept of non-aggression to any greater extant than the player community. I think for the most part, the nonaggression guidelines arose from incidents from time to time brought to their attention by a vocal subgroup. Futhermore, I must personally admit that I have changed my mind regarding non-agression. At one point I really was annoyed at getting dragged into very long games at conventions. Playing on SFBOL (with saving) has led me not to mind it so much.

What I might crticize is that I don't think any real playtesting has ever occured where one player has purposely taken a so called non-aggressive stance, and the second has tried to defeat it (without concern to the clock). And then tally the results to see if, in fact, any unfair advantage was actually represented in the win/loss statistics. Or for that matter, just how long such games take to playout.

In a another thread, I pointed out a rational that the SFB tournament game really should have the concept of a draw - or an inclusive result. The concept of deciding who would win if you were to play forever is simply too often a matter of odds. The single elimination tournament format, however, doesn't lend itself to draws.

The Geek wrote:

>>When a salesman asks "Are you on a budget", he's trying to get you to spend more than you intended. When an opponent shrieks "Non-aggression!", he's trying to get you to fight in a way that gives him the advantage.>>

Well, no.

As I posted up above, and will continue to post as it comes up, "Non Aggression" isn't a completely invalid concept in this game. Yes. The "Non Aggression" rules (in whatever version one happens to look at) are not necessarily the most optimal way to deal with things. But the concept is still something that is worth addressing on some level.

As noted, it is assumed that *both* players are responsible for bringing the fight to their opponent. There are situations where one player is being incredibly defensive and the best option for the other player is to just avoid engaging the incredibly defensive position until the incredibly defensive player does something to change the dynamic. So you end up with nothing happening for long periods of time. Player A is dug in and TACing and unwilling to speed up and engage. Player B is flying around at long range refusing to run headlong into a dug in player. So the game doesn't go anywhere. Yes. Determining "fault" in a situation like this is difficult. But the "Non Aggression" rules lay out that (at least in one version) that the "non aggressive" player (i.e. the one cloaking, TACing, or retrograding) is, by default, the one who is not brining the fight to their opponent. I realize that things are rarely ever cut and dry. But there has to be a baseline for dealing with situations that devolve into one player sitting and dug in and another player moving but unwilling to impale themselves on their opponent's dug in position.

The most extreme example possible is a stopped Romulan TKE. It is fighting a Fed. The Romulan never moves. It just cloaks and uncloaks long enough to launch a pair of plasma F's when the Fed looks like it might get inside R8, and then cloaks again. The Fed can run into 40 points of plasma to try and shoot an cloaked opponent, or it can run away from the plasma Fs. So it runs away from the plasma Fs. The next turn, the Fed comes back. The Romulan uncloaks long enough to launch an enveloped plasma R and then cloak again when the Fed might get to Range 8. The Fed, rather than eating the enveloped Plasma R to shoot a cloaked opponent, runs from the R torp. As the R torp is so long lasting, it takes another turn for the Fed to come back for another attempted firing pass. At which point the Romulan uncloaks just long enough to fire a pair of Plasma Fs again and recloak before the Fed gets inside R8. And continue ad-infinitum. This is a game that will never end with neither side ever doing any significant damage. The Fed will lose if it just runs into plasma to take a disadvantageous shot at a cloaked opponent. The Romulan is never going to move as long as it can keep doing what it is doing. This is an extreme example, but what "Non Aggression" rules exist to attempt to prevent.

Is that the only choice?

Is there TRULY nothing else for the Fed to do?

Joe wrote:

>>Is there TRULY nothing else for the Fed to do?>>

The Fed can do other things, sure. They are all going to be risky and disadvantageous, however.

You could ask the same thing about the Romulan--is there TRULY nothing else for the Romulan to do?

In both cases, the answer is "no"--either of them could do something different that would not result in a potential stalemate. The Romulan can stop cloaking and start moving. The Fed can eat some plasma or try and close under weasels. Both are alternate paths that either player could follow, but both are disadvantageous, given what the other player is doing. So you end up in an endless stalemate loop until someone does something different, and both sides are disincentivized from doing something different.

The "Non Aggression" rules, as they are presented, indicate that some things (cloaking, stopping, retrograding) are more "at fault" than anything else for purposes of causing a stalemate situation. Yes. I realize that this isn't necessarily the best way to do things. But it is *a* way of doing things. Which is better than no way of doing things.

Some things are inherently more "defensive" or "non aggressive" than others. Stopping and TACing, is, clearly, not bringing the fight to your opponent. Cloaking is not bringing the fight to your opponent. Retrograding (i.e. going backwards away from your opponent while pointing your guns at them) is not bringing the fight to your opponent. And they all provide an advantage at the time. And are understandable in a tactical sense in may situations. Which is why all of the "non aggression" rules accept that doing *some* of this is reasonable (a couple turns). Doing nothing but this, however, is crossing the line into dubious play.

As I commented in a previous

As I commented in a previous post; from what I can tell, there has been little or no official playtesting to confirm the type of scenario Peter layed out does, in fact, result in an imbalanced winning percentage in favor of the non-aggressor. I am presuming, of course, that such playtesting occurs knowing that "no holds are barred." A large value of so called "non-aggression" is the "ju-jitsu" effect - using an opponents agression against him. If this is expected, it looses some or all of its value. A great deal of advanced SFB strategy is knowing when you can wait another turn for better odds (and knowing when you can't). As ju jitsu seam to lie at the core of the game, the "non agression"complaint rings somewhat specious and arbitrary. In the particular example, as long as the Fed can pursue some strategy with 50/50 odds, the match is fair. I dont think you can argue that an opponent must always allow you a path to better than 50 / 50 odds if you are clever enough to take it (flip perspectives to see that its absurd). The complaint then is more that the strategy is unsportsmanlike because it may take a few more turns (but is this really true compared to a more moving ballet?) or because it is "boring".

Now, playtesting may reveal that the match is unfairly favored for the RKE, but Im not so certain.

Dave wrote:

>>A large value of so called "non-aggression" is the "ju-jitsu" effect - using an opponents agression against him. If this is expected, it looses some or all of its value. A great deal of advanced SFB strategy is knowing when you can wait another turn for better odds (and knowing when you can't).>>

Sure. All of this is true. But as I point out, being "non aggressive" sometimes is fine. It is only a problem when it is done constantly. And the rules, as they are, reflect this.

Stopping and TACing for a couple turns or cloaking for a couple turns, or retrograding for a couple turns, is accepted and fine as a tactic. As long as whatever "non aggressive" thing you are doing happens for a reasonable period of time (which, in at least one version of the rules, is three turns. Which is a really long time in most games of SFB.), there is no complaint coming from either direction. That is ju-jitsu. Stopping and TACing for a turn when your opponent thinks you are going to run, for example.

This is just all part of solid tactics. Where it becomes questionable is when it is the entirety of someone's (remaining) game. There is a difference between stopping and TACing for a turn or two or cloaking for a turn or two and stopping and TACing for the vast majority of a game. One is a sound tactical plan. The other is taking arguably unfair advantage of the advantage that comes from stopping and placing all of the impetus of engagement on your opponent.

Dave also wrote:

>>The complaint then is more that the strategy is unsportsmanlike because it may take a few more turns (but is this really true compared to a more moving ballet?) or because it is "boring".>>

The complaint is that one player (the Romulan) is arguably unfairly placing the full impetus of engagement on his opponent, when both players are required to bring the engagement to their opponent.

Maybe there is a way, in the extreme example presented, for the Fed to have a roughly 50-50 chance at winning. Maybe not. But that isn't really the issue--the Romulan is giving up any chance of winning *himself* if the Fed refuses to throw himself on the Romulan's entrenched position. The Fed might be able to find a way to pull a 50-50 win chance out of that game, but if the Romulan just keeps doing what it is doing, it can't. So the whole game revolves around "Does the Fed want to do something risky and disadvantageous in a hope of a coin toss of winning?", and the Romulan's game plan is the reason for this. So the most likely outcome is the Fed not engaging, the Romulan continuing to do what it is doing, and the game never ending. The rules need *something* to disincentivize games like this.

Using the standard victory

Using the standard victory condition (assuming 150 BPV for the tourney ships), cloaked ships give 1 victory point for every 4 impulse it is cloaked. This way, a full turn cloaked is 8 victory points.

Maybe that too much, or not enough, but it may be a way to balance it. Or not.

Maybe.

Sadly,

Tournament rules don't use victory conditions either than "Win" or "Lose". VPs don't factor in.

A lot of ideas have been put forth in regards to how to limit the cloaking device in tournament play (given that likely the majority of all instances of arguable "non aggression" revolve around a cloaked ship), such as a blanket impulse limit or whatever, but most of those arguments end with "but then the Romulan's opponent can just wait out the clock and force you to uncloak", which is true. And "there are perfectly legitimate, non excessively non aggressive strategies that will result in the cloak being used more than that X number of impulses", which is also true. So as a result, it is generally accepted that a strict limit on cloaking isn't workable. But a judgemental set of guidelines for judges is, at least in some sense, something that *can* work.

Bakija said: "Sadly,

Bakija said: "Sadly, Tournament rules don't use victory conditions either than "Win" or "Lose". VPs don't factor in."

SVC will never change the tourney rules will never change, so why not dream big. Also, if you are making your own unofficial tourney, you can do whatever you want.

repeated post browser problem

deleted

Boobies

First, the problem with a strict set of judgement rules is that they are still subjective. That will always lead to someone feeling cheated. Like in baseball- calls are always made by umpires from a rulebook with very specific ways to make calls. They are still subjective. When your team loses because of a botched call, it sucks.

Now, the problem with cloaks is that they can be boring, making a game way too long. Games are suppose to be fun, and playing against Roms usually is more annoying, but then again, that is the way SFB is built.

Eric wrote:

>>First, the problem with a strict set of judgement rules is that they are still subjective. That will always lead to someone feeling cheated. Like in baseball- calls are always made by umpires from a rulebook with very specific ways to make calls. They are still subjective. When your team loses because of a botched call, it sucks.>>

This is true. But it is also simply a fact of life--games often require judgment. That is why there are judges. And rules that require subjective judgment. All sports and competitive activities have rules that require subjective judgment and can result in someone being penalized as a result. That is just how things go once and a while. Luckily in *this* game, subjective judgment comes up very rarely--in, like, almost 20 years of competitive SFB playing, I have been involved in, maybe, 3 or 4 adjudications that were the result of time running out, and no other situations involving a judge having to make a subjective call on anything.

Peter wrote: >>So the most

Peter wrote: >>So the most likely outcome is the Fed not engaging, the Romulan continuing to do what it is doing, and the game never ending. The rules need *something* to disincentivize games like this.

It takes some experience for a player not to engage in the face of "non-aggressive" opponent. Not engaging does not seem to be in the spirit of the tournament requirement to engage. Perversely, permission *not* to engage was first given in the "non agression" guidelines, some 15 years into tournament history. Of course, those "in the know" would have realized that they could talk there way out of having not engaged a starcastling cloaker.

Imagine for a moment a tournament format *with* no requirement to engage. (see my post on another thread about no fault/at fault stalemates). Even if one dropped the concept of an at fault loss; a patrol type tournament could award 3pts for a win, 1 pt for a stalemate, and 0 pts for a loss. (one could play with those pt values). Getting caught in one stalemate wouldnt be fatal, but consistently bing non aggressive ould hurt your chances for advancement.

Kneecaps

I like Warmachine's rules:

1)THOU SHALT NOT WHINE
2) COME HEAVY, OR DON'T COME AT ALL
3) GIVE AS GOOD AS YOU GET
4) WIN GRACIOUSLY AND LOSE VALIANTLY

and

PLAY LIKE YOU'VE GOT A PAIR!

Of course, all of Warmachine factions are MUCHO Aggressive.

Dave wrote:

>>It takes some experience for a player not to engage in the face of "non-aggressive" opponent.>>

It does, but not that much, really. My first year at Origins ('95? When it was in Philly), I showed up, played the Kzinti, and reliably got my ass kicked by people who just stopped and TACed and weaseled on T2 after I put 10 drones in one hex on T1. By the end of that tournament, I said "Huh. Perhaps I shouldn't run into that sort of thing...", and I progressively got better and better as I figured out how to *not* engage someone who is stopped and TACing.

>>Not engaging does not seem to be in the spirit of the tournament requirement to engage.>>

That's true. But the same can be said for just sitting and TACing and cloaking or whatever. It also does not seem to be in the spirit of the tournament requirement to engage. I mean, yeah, sometimes it is necessary. And sometimes it is the best tactical option at any given moment. But so is just running away from someone sitting there and then coming back when they are moving speed 10.

>> Perversely, permission *not* to engage was first given in the "non agression" guidelines, some 15 years into tournament history. Of course, those "in the know" would have realized that they could talk there way out of having not engaged a starcastling cloaker.>>

I don't know that it was something that needed to be talked their way out of--as a Kzinti, if my opponent stops and TACs on T2? The best thing to do is just to leave and come back later when they don't have 15 extra power in tractors and reinforcement than I do. This wasn't something I realized as a result of trying to get around "non-engagement", or whatever. It was simply the result of figuring out what to do in a specific tactical situation; my opponent parks on T2? I take the best shot I can and get out of R8 before their AFC comes back up. Come back later when they are moving slowly. If they never move again? That becomes a "non aggression" issue, sure, but most of the time, that doesn't happen.

>>Imagine for a moment a tournament format *with* no requirement to engage. (see my post on another thread about no fault/at fault stalemates). Even if one dropped the concept of an at fault loss; a patrol type tournament could award 3pts for a win, 1 pt for a stalemate, and 0 pts for a loss. (one could play with those pt values). Getting caught in one stalemate wouldnt be fatal, but consistently bing non aggressive ould hurt your chances for advancement.>>

Sure. That would certainly be a reasonable plan in many ways. Having the ability to declare the game a tie/draw/stalemate/whatever would encourage folks to be more aggressive rather than passive and hoping that someone will impale themselves on your entrenched position. This won't really work, however, in a single elimination tournament, which is mostly what SFB is built around.

"Problem"

"Sure. All of this is true. But as I point out, being "non aggressive" sometimes is fine. It is only a problem when it is done constantly. And the rules, as they are, reflect this. "

I guess to me, it seems like one guy is using his ship to the utmost, and in the other, the player doesn't like this fact.

To me, the Fed that doesn't want to do anything but run away is just as "non-aggressive"; he's just moving faster

I mean, the whole design of Romulan ships is BASED on hiding, waiting for the enemy to make a mistake.

Joe wrote:

>>I guess to me, it seems like one guy is using his ship to the utmost, and in the other, the player doesn't like this fact.>>

In the instance I presented, *both* players are doing that--the Romulan is sitting cloaked and pitching out plasma torps; the Fed is moving fast and looking for an opportunity to close and fire. Both players are doing what their ship is designed to do. Neither is willing to do something risky to push the issue. That is a problem, in regards to a game that needs to have a decisive end at some point.

>>To me, the Fed that doesn't want to do anything but run away is just as "non-aggressive"; he's just moving faster>>

Sure. Really, the Fed *wants* to get in close and shoot. But he doesn't want to do so in a risky, disadvantageous way (i.e. eat a bunch of plasma to take a shot at a cloaked opponent). Any more than the Romulan wants to not be able to cloak when the Fed gets to R8.

The issue here is that the dynamic that gets set up when one player digs in and is incredibly defensive and another player doesn't want to throw themselves on that dug in position results in, often enough, an endless game. In a game situation that requires a cut and dry winner--SFB tournament play doesn't really acknowledge "ties" or "draws"; if it did, you could just have a draw as a result of this sort of game. But it doesn't. So you can't. So there needs to be *something* that creates disincentive to play in a manner that results in essentially, a draw of a game.

So there are rules, judgemental ones, that indicate that certain activities (cloaking, stopping, retrograding) are "more" at fault in situations like this. As, in reality, they are--given the situation I set up above (TKE vs Fed), if the TKE was, for example, a Gorn, the Fed wouldn't have much problem--it can eat some plasma and get to R1. Even against a weaseling ship, a R1 Fed is going to blow someone's doors off (which goes back to my theory that the #1 cause of the vast majority of "non aggression" issues is the cloaking device...). Yes. This can be viewed as an arbitrary solution (i.e. pointing the finger at cloaking/TACing/Retrograding), but given the assumption that both players are responsible for bringing the fight to their opponent, and that doing any of the above is the opposite of bringing the fight to your opponent, it makes some sense.

Yes. Doing these things occasionally is always going to be a good idea for everyone--cloaking/TACing/Retrograding for a turn or two is something that every ship in every game does. The issue is that when done excessively, it arguably unfairly places all the impetus on engagement on your opponent, so if your opponent is smart, they'll avoid you. Which can result in a "draw" situation until something changes.

>>I mean, the whole design of Romulan ships is BASED on hiding, waiting for the enemy to make a mistake.>>

Well, yes. That is a whole other issue (i.e. I think, for example, the TKE is probably the worst ship to have in the tournament environment. For that very reason. And should be eradicated.) But even then, the stated assumption of the tournament is that *both* players are responsible for bringing the fight to their opponent--you can't just start T1 at speed 0, TACing, and wait for your opponent to come and try and overrun you, regardless of the design of your ship.

The poster who revived this

The poster who revived this thread on 03/02 complained about the specious warning of "non-agression."

I don't think there is any disagreement that certain games may evolve into stalemates. The complaint more is that the procedure(s) for "non-aggression" is/are flawed and ambigous. The process of warning may cause as much potential for meta-gaming influence, if not a rancorous debate, than the act of non-agression of itself (which usually will never proceed to meet the final requirements).

Now when a warning is given it may be either a)legitimate (but still hypothetical as several turns may still be required of continuing tactics); b) ambiguous as to whether it is legitimate; or c) clearly illegitimate (but mistakenly given, not necessarilly done in bad faith-although this is always a possibility).

Now it is one thing to hypthosize that it would be easy to brush off a warning if received. It is anotherthing in practice to be warned for a couple of turns; and it takes a certain balls to choose to risk to be warned if it is in your best interest to skate to turn 4 and pull back. There is a risk. You may be wrong. And in case b) b or c) it is even worse, as you now have the choice to a) stop the game and confirm with a judge; or b) proceed on and take the warnings and risk being DQ'd. Either choice is an interlude of controversy. Now all of this kerfuffle for what ultimately is intended to be and most certainly is perfectly acceptable gameplay.

A big problem is lack of quick access to a judge for most games these days. Are players going to involve a judge for a netkill game? Probably not, so there will never be any rulings if the warning was valid, and not much chance of a DQ either. In the case of a NK game, wouldn't it be better just to proceed to the point that "non-aggression" is obvious and unambiguous - truly 4 or (preferably more) turns of it - in arguable - not hypothetical- and then politely refuse to complete the game?

It seems to me that the "wrong" of so-called unsportsmanlike non-aggressive play is is being righted but a far more warnings for yet-to-be confirmed "non-aggressive" play which certainly feel "unsportsmanlike".

Now, I understand what Peter is essentially saying, an I said it too. "We have what we have". As I think another poster said, this forum we can dream a little; and talk it out. Maybe it goes nowhere.

Dave wrote:

>>It seems to me that the "wrong" of so-called unsportsmanlike non-aggressive play is is being righted but a far more warnings for yet-to-be confirmed "non-aggressive" play which certainly feel "unsportsmanlike">>

Oh, absolutely. Like, the big problem with the "Non Aggression Clock" rule is that, well, you need to start the "Non Aggression" clock. Which is usually viewed as a dick move. And as such, almost never happens. And when it does, people complain about it on the internet.

As the "Non Aggression Clock" rule was written, you could spend a full three turns TACing/Retrograding/Cloaking with no ill effect, but if you were still doing it on the 4th turn, you got DQed. But for this to happen, your opponent needed to start the clock the first turn that you did X, Y, or Z. And in a technical sense, all that was *supposed* to be happening was:

-Player A starts turn at speed 0.

-Player B alerts player A of clock starting with an announcement of "Non aggression clock starting".

End of transaction, until the 4th consecutive turn of this.

As envisioned, I'd imagine, this would just be a matter of fact announcement similar to "My fire control is off" or "I'm activating my cloaking device", and would simply exist to indicate that the 4 turn countdown would be started and to remind your opponent that there was a 4 turn limit on doing what they were doing.

In practice, as:

A) Not everyone knows this rule exists.

B) Of the people who know the rule exists, many of them think it is total bullshit.

C) People get cranky when they feel like they are being accused of dubious play, even when they aren't.

It never took off. And now whenever it actually comes up, which isn't that often in the first place, things tend to go badly. Couple this with the fact that we aren't allowed to have discussions about this subject, even in a completely civil manner, on the official BBS, and we have a situation that will never be fixed or solved.

On the upside, that the "Non Aggression Clock" rule existed at all, even if it was never actually used, let players know that some things were considered sketchy (not cloaking/stopping/retrograding at all; just cloaking/stopping/retrograding for more than 3 full turns in a row) and that they should be avoided. Which is something. Even if it is attached to a well intentioned yet flawed rule.

Thread Necromancy

I'm going to resurrect this thread, because of (another) kerfluffle on this subject over in the other BBS. (Here)

The short of it this time, is that both players went through two turns where one corner-dove in the face of an Orion that doubled his engines and then the non-Orion starcastled. Both players took a break and the Tournament Moderator (not trying to be a jerk, but simply noting a possibly impending error) noted that they had effectively "started the clock". The non-Orion conceded at that point.

At the time of this posting, Dave Zimdars has made an excellent post (which I wish he would post on this forum, for posterity sake) roughly about how the non-aggression announcement puts the accusee in the hole simply by making the announcement. Either the accusee has a couple of turns to completely change his tactics into what is considered proper (which, with the way acceleration works, may take a couple of turns to set right even if immediate action is taken), or conceeds immediately because of how completely such an accusation throws off his tactical concentration (with what amounts to being called a cheater and a coward in the middle of a poker game.)

I would add a third option, which Dave lightly touched on. In order to make this right, the accusee must change his tactics to conform to a known pattern in such a way as to render a strong advantage to the accuser . The accuser now knows (within a few points of speed and a few hexes) where the accusee will be for the next turn and a half. The benefits of this in SFB cannot be overstated.

I, personally, would like to neuter the whole non-aggression thing by the simple expedience of rescinding the rule for those games that occur in a non-face-to-face manner (e.g. on SFBOL and in PBEM). There are established tactics for defeating a person who starcastles, retrogrades, or cloaks for extended periods of time. We can even go through them (over in the tactics area). But in those situations where games can be saved and visited a week later, there is no good reason to force a player to do something which may not be tactically sound at the time and which outright outlaws certain classes of reasonable tactics.

Non Aggression

>>But in those situations where games can be saved and visited a week later, there is no good reason to force a player to do something which may not be tactically sound at the time and which outright outlaws certain classes of reasonable tactics.>>

Yeah, I dunno--there certainly *are* examples of "non aggressive" play that give the "non aggressive" player a significant advantage by virtue of situation, and dealing with such plays tactically are incredibly time consuming and difficult. And that you *can* play a game on SFBOL for 100 years doesn't mean you *should* play a game on SFBOL for 100 years.

Like, with the 3 turns in a row aspect of the "non aggression" rules, you can easily stop and tac, and *remain* stopped and TACing for two full turns, and then speed up on T3 and be just fine--I think Dave is vastly overstating the difficulty here in his post on the other BBS. Especially given that a great deal of the time that one player stops to TAC, their opponent will also be stopped and TACing within a turn, completely nullifying the whole issue.

What the non-aggression rules exist to prevent are things like me running into the corner on T1, stopping and TACing on T2, and me never speeding up again, waiting for you to come and get me. Or the ISC starting the game at speed 0, going into reverse, and just flying around backwards, away from the opponent, the whole game. The vast majority of the time, things like this are very cut and dry, in terms of identifying them. Where things become dicey is with, like, the Orion, where a great deal of the time, you are basically forced to stop and TAC to have any chance of survival at all. But even in that particular situation, you can stop and TAC for two full turns, and then speed up and be fine (in terms of "non-aggression" rules).

(Heh. Going back over this thread, I made, essentially, this exact same post in 2011...)

There is a strange element in

There is a strange element in this most recent case where it was claimed that it was the judge that gave the first warning to the accused non-aggressor. If so, the judge's warning was contrary to the established procedure.

If I understand correctly, the first warning (turn 1 on the clock) is given by the opponent of the non-aggressor. On turn 2 the opponent asks the judge for a review. If and only if the judge concurs, a second warning is given (turn 2 on the clock). If the judge does not concur, it is implied that all warnings up to that point in time are vacated.

If the judge issued the warning on his own initiative as described, then I think that such an action telegraphs a very low bar in the judge's mind regarding the validity of the non-aggression.

I think in this case, the accused really didn't have any options that were going to make him feel good or would even work. Appeal to Petrick? Maybe. There is a tradition that judges have total discretion. Otherwise he'd have to negotiate with the judge a clear strategy to clear the non-aggression. Whether he'd be guaranteed to successfully clear the non-agression warning does not seem guaranteed.

Judges intervention

I do agree that it is unusual for the Judge to insert himself in that manner. I have full confidence in the moderator of that RAT to remain impartial, but such actions could open someone up to being considered biased. Again, I'm not trying to impune anyone, just pointing out a possible trap by stepping in proactively in that manner.

Judges

Dave wrote:
>>If I understand correctly, the first warning (turn 1 on the clock) is given by the opponent of the non-aggressor. On turn 2 the opponent asks the judge for a review. If and only if the judge concurs, a second warning is given (turn 2 on the clock). If the judge does not concur, it is implied that all warnings up to that point in time are vacated.>>

I think one of the issues here is that the current "non aggression" guidelines are vastly more vague than the original "non aggression" guidelines (that may or may not exist on the web anywhere at this point).

The original rules were very specific (they might be in the most recent Module T, still). And involved a multi turn timeline. The current guidelines on the BBS are very vague, and very much "the judge can call it as he sees it as needed". I think in this instance, the judge was sort of fusing the two, and basically was just "Hey. This is an indication of possible non aggression. But just a first notice".

I suspect that in reality, if the game had just gone on at that point as it was going to go anyway, no one would have run afoul of any guidelines, and the game would have resolved itself normally.

The official guidelines I am

The official guidelines I am aware of are at:

http://starfleetgames.com/sfb/tournament/Non-Agression.pdf

Andy Vancil has written a guide to interpreting the official guidelines in- line with what I think is closer to the player community consensus at:

http://www.swa-gaming.org/SFBNonAggression

Paraphrasing what I believe Mr. Bakija has discussed over the years, is that he would argue that cloak and threat of cloak is where he believes that non-aggression does not have a clear counter strategy. I would agree that this hypothesis has not been convincingly disproven, but I am not convinced the anecdotal evidence proves the odds must be >50% in favor of the cloaker yet. The tedium argument is hard for me to embrace because there are several examples of 12+ turn strategies that are for some reason not considered tedious enough to be non aggressive. Though I won't begrudge a consensus that people think the other 12+ turn strategies have fair odds whereas they are not willing to put up with tedium if the outcome is considered by conventional wisdom as unfair. My reservation is that the cloak issue is dominated by a few bad outcomes but with a comparitively small sample size that was shut down when cloaking was limited as non aggressive. I'm not asking anyone to start licking the tootsie pop to find out.

My anecdotal impression is that the various non aggression kerfuffles over the life of this thread have in no way been dominated by the cloak. Rather there have been a number of slow mover and retrograde sourced kerfuffles. Here I think that all evidence suggests there are 50:50 counter strategies. In particular the case against retrograde on a fixed map is weak. So we are back to a vague justification on tedium.

To close down my ramble: I would be more than happy to restrict non aggression to just cloakers threatening or using cloak such that 4 consecutive turns where more than 16 impulses were spent at 8 or less AND it was obvious that the cloaker had sufficient power to both cloa had at the ready at least 1 S or larger torpedo for the entire 4 turns).

Tedium v Cloak

I agree, Dave, that the Non-Aggression rules seem to have been born out of tedium. Destroying a sub, while keeping enough weapons hot to penalize surfacing, is tedious. Sandpapering a starcastler's shields while staying out of overload range is also tedious. And retrograding on a fixed map is a pretty short-term tactic.

The way the tournament rules are written, I believe a cloaker only faces issues with the cloak if they both have one: then you can only be cloaked for 128 impulses before the thing shorts out for the rest of the game. Against non-cloakers, they have a free reign. Hearing some of the players during a game, they seem to think that the 128-impulse thing is in force across every game. Maybe it aught to? I dunno. But your suggestion about "not cloaking more than X turns, where Y impulses were spent yada yada" seems overly complicated.

Oh, and thank you for digging the "official" rules and the official interpretation of those rules. It helps.

Dave wrote:

>>The official guidelines I am aware of are at:

http://starfleetgames.com/sfb/tournament/Non-Agression.pdf

Andy Vancil has written a guide to interpreting the official guidelines in- line with what I think is closer to the player community consensus at:

http://www.swa-gaming.org/SFBNonAggression >>

Ah, thank you. I was having trouble finding those. The thing that is posted in the discussion area of the BBS (tournament zone>tournament rulings; the framed website is being a hassle in chrome, and it is a pain to find the actual URL of that page...) is the one that is super vague and comes down to "Judges, use your judgement".

>>Paraphrasing what I believe Mr. Bakija has discussed over the years, is that he would argue that cloak and threat of cloak is where he believes that non-aggression does not have a clear counter strategy.>>

It isn't that there is not a clear counter strategy. There are viable counter strategies to excessive cloaking. It is just that doing so takes a stupidly long time to play out. And just 'cause a tournament game on SFBOL *can* be played out for 40 turns, in theory, doesn't mean it *should* be played out in 40 turns.

One of the main reasons for the non aggression rules is that they help keep the game moving at a reasonable speed. When games drag out to 20+ turns, and take 12+ hours to play, most folks tend to want to kill themselves. Not all of them. But likely most of them. Even most of the most hard core SFB players out there.

I'm willing to suggest that the mindset of "I'm willing to play this game as slowly and methodically as possible, and will never grow irritated by the length of the game, and will just keep following my plan, even if it requires playing the game over 5+ three hour sessions to complete it, especially is doing so is likely to make my opponent lose their mind, get frustrated, and make a mistake..." is as much of a thing that the tournament rules should be discouraging as anything else. I suspect that a whole lot of what the non aggression rules are doing is also limiting this.

Like, against cloaks, especially in a plasma vs plasma game, excessive cloaking tends to make games take a very long time (as for many, many turns, not much happens). Which means that the cloaking player is excessively forcing the game to be longer than it would be otherwise. There are points at which "judicious, tactical play, using the advantages of the technology your ship has" crosses over into "playing the longest game possible, as that is the corner I have painted myself into, and hopefully my opponent will get frustrated and do something stupid".

>>The tedium argument is hard for me to embrace because there are several examples of 12+ turn strategies that are for some reason not considered tedious enough to be non aggressive.>>

I think most of the strategies that are tedious and judged to be non aggressive involve the ship using that strategy not doing much and revolve around their opponent throwing themselves onto an essentially entrenched position.

I suspect you are referring to EPT games as 12+ turn strategies that are not considered tedious enough to be non aggressive, and I'll counter with that the ones of those that are truly potentially tedious are the ones that involve Romulans, and as such, cloaks, as against a Romulan EPT, you can't judiciously run through a bunch of torps to corner and kill the Romulan like you can the Gorn, as the Romulan can then cloak out of the bad situation. So the opponent is pretty much compelled to be willing to accept the tedious 12+ turn strategy. Not 'cause of the EPTs, but 'cause of the cloak. As a Gorn, I have been killed many, many times by an opponent who judiciously ran through a bunch of torps at the right time to corner and kill me, where if I had a cloak, I'd have likely avoided that particular end result (or at least the same kind of end result). Which, again, points me back at the cloak.

More on Long Games

So as illustration to my point on long games--I have played many games vs a particular opponent who shall remain nameless. He's a good guy who I have met in real life, and find him very entertaining. One of his greatest strengths as an SFB player, however, seems to be infinite patience. He'll play as long as it takes to make the strategy he is working work. I have played short games with him. Middle length games with him. Long games with him. And absurdly long games with him. At least one game we played went literally, like, 25+ turns (IIRC, it was my Gorn vs his Klingon). It wasn't a tournament game--just a NetKill or pick up game that we just played and played and played for probably 12+ hours over 4-5 sessions. That game went that long specifically 'cause of the tactics of my opponent--he was trying out very cautious, very conservative play. Every time I was like "Ok, this is the turn I'm going to rush him and try and mug him", he'd see that possibility and stop/starcastle. I'd turn off to not run into that (due to likely overloads and more tractor than I had and weasels), and it'd take another couple turns to find another opportunity to go in and try again. And the same thing would happen, etc. Eventually, after, like, 25 turns of this, I was like "Ok, whatever, I'll try and end this" and got killed running into exactly that. If I hadn't gone with the "rash, let's get'em!" plan in the end, the game could have gone on for 5 or more turns (at which point, my lack of shields would have resulted in me getting killed at long range with sniping disruptors and phasers).

I think if you charted out the games we played over the years, there is a probably a 1:1 correlation between the length of the game and the likelihood of me losing that game. As I inevitably became weary of the length of the game, and did something rash to try and come to a conclusion (to be fair, that is generally the end result of most absurdly long games I have played, vs any number of opponents).

I played that whole game, 'cause, well, I was interested in seeing how long it could go at that point. And the answer turned out "as long as possible, till I got tired of it and did something rash".

I think, even on SFBOL where you can save games and continue them, there is still incentive and advantage to ensuring that games go a *reasonable* length, as opposed to "as long as it takes". 'Cause I suspect that most folks playing this game have a tolerance of about 4-6 hours for a given match up. Once you go significantly past that point, I suspect that most folks fall into the "Let's just get this darned thing over with already..." And I don't know that it is good for the game overall to structure the game to advantage people who have infinite patience vs people who have patience up to a reasonable point.

As the things tagged by the non-aggression rules are the things that tend to make games go longer than average, it, at least to me, makes some sense to have such rules to disincentivize such tactics.

Long wait time...

I've had some long games, both FTF and SFBOL. Longest was 11 hours split over two nights. Best game I ever had on SFBOL! The problem I had once was a 5 week wait between turns. It was a NK semi-final. We played for a couple of hours and then my opponent asked to save and take it up the next weekend. Okay, that's not uncommon. Next weekend turned into five weeks later. IMO he should have conceded the game long before that since the person in the finals was waiting for an opponent. Sure, things come up from time to time for everyone. But if you can't return to the game, particularly a tournament semi-final or final then concede so play continues.

That would speed up a lot of tournaments right there. If a game can't be played in X amount of time you forfeit so others can continue playing.

My other car is a D7 Battlecruiser

David wrote:

>>That would speed up a lot of tournaments right there. If a game can't be played in X amount of time you forfeit so others can continue playing.>>

This strikes me as a completely reasonable plan.

That being said, a whole lot of time, it is difficult to determine who is "responsible" for a game not being played out. I mean, yeah, once and a while, it is very cut and dry, but a lot of times it is just two people with difficult to match up schedules, at which point, it becomes very difficult to place specific blame. But in theory, I totally agree with you.