Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Original Starfire Scenario #3: "The Wrath of the Khanate"

Well, played this scenario four times, forgetting the Point Defense the first time and part of the second.  Hard to remember some of the details of new weaponry!  Even harder to learn how to adapt to them.  This fight is between a Khanate CL, two DD, and three ES, v. a Terran CL, a DD and two FG.  So the numbers are with the Khanate at 6-4, but ship size edge is perhaps with the Terrans, with the CL and a DD each, plus one DD and three ES v. two FG.

However, the balance of weaponry is with the Khanate.  The squadron "broadsides" are:
Terran: 8 x W[Gun/Missile Launcher], 2 x Laser Beam
Khanate: 10 x W, 2 x Missile Launchers, 3 x Laser Beam
So at distance, the Khanate has a 12 - 8 Missile advantage.  
Closer in, the Khanate a 3 - 2 Laser advantage, and a 10 - 8 Gun advantage.  
This means that the Terrans should not stay at distance in this scenario, but rather seek to close and take out the three Escorts, the weakest link of the Khanate Squadron.

But more importantly, the weapon balance has significantly shifted.  
Again, technology is driving Naval Change here, per designer Stephen Cole's intentions.  

The dominance of Missiles and Gun / Missile mounts [W] in the first two scenarios is now virtually negated by the Point Defense system.  Simply put, for every volley of missiles fired [a volley is a launch from a single ship, unless a group of ships are using Datalink to fire together...not invented by Scenario 3] the PD stops the first missile hit on a '1-5', the second on a '1-4', the third on a '1-3', etc., on 1d6.  Since all these ships carry only 2 Missile launch systems max [mostly dual-purpose Gun/Missile launchers, but the Khanate has two of the old Missile only mounts], the missiles will be stopped most of the time, with a 5/6 and 4/6 chance respectively on two hits, rendering sequential ships firing Missiles against a PD protected ship a fruitless choice.

The Terran CL has two PD and the Khanate CL one, with each DD also having one, for a 3-2 advantage over the Terran.  Overall, the Khanate has a significant advantage at long range as their PDs are spread over three ships, while the Terran are both on the CL [granted, the Terran CL is nearly impervious to Missile fire in this scenario, but victory needs a strong squadron, not just one strong ship].  Now even more - the Terran should probably close with the Khanate where the shooting disadvantage is down to 10-8 v. 12-8 and the PD has no effect on Guns.

BUT...also introduced is the Tractor Beam, with one on the Khanate CL.  In the RAW, it automatically grabs a ship within 5 hexes and both moves it along with it and draws it one hex closer each turn.  Victory in this scenario is "last ship standing" but a decisive win to the Khanate if they can Tractor a Terran ship thru their Warp Point [and back to their home world].  Now, the Terran is in a real difficult tactical situation, as if they close they're in danger of being captured, but if they stay at distance they're at a dramatic disadvantage in offensive and defensive capabilities.  Clearly, this will play out as a tough scenario for the Terran!  If they don't take out the Khanate CL, then they risk being Tractor Beamed, and if they stay away they're significantly outgunned.

Overall, it seems likely that the Khanate will want to close with at least their bigger ships, while the Terrans will want to try and knock out the small Escort ships, each of which has equal firepower with the larger vessels at effective missile range [about 3-17 hexes], altho only about half as good close in at 0-3 hexes where the one Laser Beam on the bigger ships doubles firepower at 0-3 hexes.  The Initiative definitely lies with the Khanate in my opinion.

NOTE: if one is playing this truly blind with a referee, then of course each player is confined to the combination of technology and tactics that they have and have learned in a previous scenario.  With one side or the other having PD, a lot changes if you don't know it!  Personally, I'd find the challenge of playing blind exciting, but I know many players would find it frustrating.  Here, I tried to pursue "learned" tactics for both sides - the Terran held distance and tried to use missiles on the small escorts, while the Khanate CL and DD closed for action, and the escorts tried to keep some distance.

The scenario is in the Orphicon System, with two planets for "terrain" and two Warp Points as entry for each side, with the Khanate entering turn 1, the Terran turn 2:
Top left & bottom right, the warp points.  Center bottom and top right, the planets.  The six printed space maps from EN Publishing show their tonal differences strongly in this pic.

The question of spreading the squadron out or staying stacked in one hex is unclear here.     Trying to maneuver separately to gain positions that maximize range differentiation advantages is tempting, but seems to be a fleeting advantage.  Staying concentrated to prevent being outmaneuvered and protecting ones weaker ships seems like a better choice, but the game mechanics don't give much advantage to mutual support at this stage.  Datalink changes that a bit, but comes later in the tech timline, as previously mentioned.  I opted to push forward aggressively with the CL and 2 DDs, while holding back the ES.  For the Terrans, I tried holding off and maneuvering, holding off near the Warp Point, and aggressively closing in games 2, 3 & 4 respectively.  This resulted in some wildly different relative positions at mid-game:

2nd play.  The Khanate ES are shattered and departing to the right.  The two CL and Khanate DDs are scrambling for position in the center, the Terran DD and a FG are at the bottom at table edge, while another FG crawls to the Warp Point heavily damaged.  The end was grim, with the Terran CL destroying a friendly FG that had been Tractor-beamed.

3rd Play.  Again, shattered Escorts depart to right while the Terran FG crawl to Warp Point as the DDs and CLs melee in the center.  This was the best Terran result overall.  Sticking close to the Warp Point meant easier escapes, which the Terran sought after the first round of gunnery.

The Terrans lost one FG which was destroyed by the CL when it was clearly captured in the Khanate Tractor Beam.  I justified this as a necessary step to avoid "a fate worse than death at the hands of an alien race".  The Terrans then exited the Warp Point, ceding the field for a Khanate victory but not a decisive one.

4th play.  I thought a switch in Terran tactics would help.  It didn't.  Two crushed FG head to Warp Point at top left, the Terran CL & DD fight at center but the DD is already badly damaged.  The Khanate CL overshot the Terran fleet and had to swing back, the Khanate DDs are stacked center, while the three escorts limp to Warp Point off bottom right.  This was the worst defeat for the Terrans as the two FG escaped badly damaged, the DD was captured by the CL's Tractor Beam, and the CL was destroyed, at the price of three badly damaged Khanate ES and a lightly damaged DD.  So much for bright ideas at Fleet Intel!

Analysis.  The simple fact is that the Terrans are too heavily outgunned to win a "last ship standing" battle, IMHO.  They have an edge neither close up nor far away, and they also can't outmaneuver the Khanate, despite their handicap of four small, slow system ships - the escorts.  The Tractor Beam is just a bonus, and the game is for the Khanate to lose.  A slim hope would be for the Terrans to head away from the Khanate, using the CL as a Point Defense shield while trying to batter them in return with missile fire, but the scenario doesn't give any reason for the Khanate to mindlessly pursue at max speed and get strung out.  Personally, I think the scenario would balance just right with two - three less escorts, and assume that it is just part of the "future history" for the game that the Khanate get to punch the Terrans in the nose this time.  Certainly, could be emotionally satisfying for a Khanate player that just lost the previous scenarios over a few replays!

1 comment:

  1. you may want to check out the cool article by Shaun - he's doing the same thing you're doing!