Initiative and Boresight Redux

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Foxmeister
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Initiative and Boresight Redux

Postby Foxmeister » Tue Feb 19, 2008 12:38 pm

I should probably state first that I'm not a fan of house rules - I like the idea that the guys playing ACTA in say, Wisconsin, are playing the same game as me here in London. However, house rules are a good way of testing out tweaks to a gaming system, and so I'm throwing these into the mix for comment. I'm hoping to try these out in the next few weeks, just to see what effect they have on the game but at the moment they're just thought experiments and probably laden with hidden issues that I haven't considered! Even if they weren't, I wouldn't expect them to become permanent additions in my gaming group though for the reasons given right at the start of this paragraph! :)

First of all, I need to define the problem as I see it. I know that there are quite a few people here who don't see an issue, and that's fine - I'm basing this thread on the premise that there is an issue, the magnitude of which may or may not be significant to you!

Initiative sinks and Boresight

Whilst I have no problem with the basic mechanics of boresight, I do see a real problem when initiative sinks are used to meta-game boresighted weapons out of play. For example, let's just say an EA player has a Hyperion and an Omega, and a Narn player has a G'Quan and 4 Sho'Kovs.

The EA player has 6 Skirmish FAPs and the Narn only 5 FAPs, but the Narn have 3 ships more than the EA. This means that regardless of who wins initiative, the Narn player can always move the G'Quan last so that the EA player will never get to boresight it with either of his ships primary armaments.

Now, there is an argument that the EA ships will need to kill a few Sho'Kovs before they can get their guns to bear on the G'Quan, but this argument breaks down if the the Narn player has kept all his Sho'Kovs 72" away from the EA ships and hidden in an asteroid field. It is pretty unlikely that the EA player could even get the Sho'Kovs into range before the G'Quan has done a number on both the EA ships.

Essentially, the Sho'Kovs should have absolutely no impact on the game at all, but due to the way that boresight and the alternating ship movement mechanics interact they actually have a massive bearing on the game and this, IMHO, is clearly wrong.

I've given this a lot of thought now, and come up with two rules to try to solve the problem as I perceive it.

The first is that the side that wins initiative can always move one ship last, after all his opponents ships have moved. In the above example, this would at least give one of the EA ships a chance to boresight the G'Quan on any turn that the EA player wins initiative.

The second rule is a new special action which will give boresighted weapons a chance to stay on target - for the sake of argument, I'll call it "Stay On Target" (to distinguish it from the "Follow That Target SA expressed elsewhere) and it works thus:

A ship that currently has an enemy ship boresighted may declare that it wishes to attempt to "Stay On Target" when it is nominated to "move". Both ships make a contested Crew Quality check with the following modifiers:

• Player won initiative +1
• Ship is agile +1
• Ship has psychic crew and is within 8" of opposing ship +1
• Ship is lumbering -1
• Ship is currently suffering from the effect of a "speed" critical -1

If successful, the player attempting the SA may delay moving his ship until directly after the boresighted enemy has moved. This does not change the alternating sequence of ship moves - the ship performing the SA is considered to have moved "in sequence", the physical movement is just delayed until after the target ship has moved.

However, the "delaying" ship must move so as to bring the boresighted ship back into boresight, even if the enemy ships cannot subsequently be boresighted because the ship does not have sufficient turns or the target moves out of weapons range. In addition, if the ship cannot bring the target back into boresight, they cannot choose to boresight another ship even if an alternative target is now presented. Where this SA conflicts with the rule allowing the player who won initiative moving their ship last, this SA takes precedence.

Ships without boresighted weapons may also attempt this special action in order to keep an enemy vessel is a specific arc, though if they do so they must select which weapon they are attempting to "keep in arc" and move accordingly when it is time.

Note that this special action only helps you retain a boresight "lock" - you still have to attain the boresight in the first place!
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Postby animus » Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:51 pm

Smart. I like it.
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Postby ShopKeepJon » Tue Feb 19, 2008 6:49 pm

I've now had a chance to try out the "Follow That Target" SA and found it to be fairly balanced and workable and... I didn't like it. I've put off reviving the old thread because I haven't really worked out a way to explain what put me off of it. Basically, moving a ship out of sequence felt wrong. It seemed to change the feel of the initiative/ship movement system more than I want this sort of SA to do.

I have a feeling that your "Stay on Target" would have the same problem for me. Even if the ship has been activated in normal turn order, I just don't want to see ships being moved out of sequence. I wish I could make my reasoning clearer, but it just felt wrong when I tried it.

What I'm leaning toward now is an expansion of the Concentrate All Fire SA. Simply, when a ship declares CAF on a target that is currently in the boresight arc of one of its weapons, it may fire its boresight weapon at the targeted ship even if the target moves as long as the target is still within the greater arc of the boresight weapon (i.e. forward arc if forward boresight, rear arc if rear boresight).

This would, in theory, give ships a better chance to use boresight weapons at the cost of being unable to fire at more than one ship.

This could lead to some balance issues, but I really like the "we really hate that ship" feel that it gives.

I haven't tried this yet. Let me know what you think.

ShopKeepJon
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Postby GhostRecon » Tue Feb 19, 2008 6:57 pm

What about "SA: Raking Fire"? (Im sure everyone hates me about it now =P)

You declare the SA, boresight the target, and if he moves out of your boresight, but remains in the arc of the boresighted weapon (Such as the forward arc if the weapon is a forward boresight weapon) then you can fire your boresighted weapon at the targetted ship for half AD (Rounded down, though I think testing should determine when if a 1 AD beam weapon should get raking fire at all... my gut instinct is to say "No," a 1 AD beam weapon should not benefit from raking fire).

(I personally think that punishing boresight fleets further by making it an SA to "account" for the artificial constraints and problems caused by initiative sinks is a bit much, but that's another discussion).
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Postby ShopKeepJon » Tue Feb 19, 2008 7:33 pm

I tried the Raking Fire idea as well. I just like the all or nothing feel of the Boresight weapons. The Raking Fire causes the Boresight weapons to lose a little of their uniqueness.

Essentially, Raking Fire changes Boresight weapons into F Arc weapons that get double AD if firing directly ahead. It just isn't the way that I envisioned them...

Mind you, this is all a perceptual thing. I like the idea of all or nothing Boresight weapons. I think that they are justified by what we see in the show (mostly...). Other people will disagree with me. This is why the "solution" to the "Boresight problem" is so contentious...

ShopKeepJon
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Postby darklord4 » Tue Feb 19, 2008 7:35 pm

I like the battletech idea where you divide your forces based on who has fewer units, and alternate where the person with more numerous units moves a few units at a time. This way, the initiative winner always moves something last (presumed to be better...)without new special actions etc. The only real trick is figuring out how many units you have to move, as it can change from turn to turn.

For those not familiar, here is an example. Team A has 5 ships/squadrons Team B has 4. Team A wins initiative so unit counts go like this:
B AA B A B A B A.
If B wins, it is:
AA B A B A B A B
In a more outnumbering scenario, A has 16 ships squadrons and B has 5.
A wins:
B AAAA B AAA B AAA B AAA B AAA
B Wins:
AAAA B AAA B AAA B AAA B AAA B

To figure out how many pieces you move mathematically, you divide the greater number of pieces left to move by the smaller number of pieces left to move and always round up, called a ceiling function in mathland.
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Postby ShopKeepJon » Tue Feb 19, 2008 8:06 pm

darklord4 wrote:I like the battletech idea where you divide your forces based on who has fewer units, and alternate where the person with more numerous units moves a few units at a time. This way, the initiative winner always moves something last (presumed to be better...)without new special actions etc. The only real trick is figuring out how many units you have to move, as it can change from turn to turn.
The real problem lies with squadrons. Currently, the real drawback with squadrons (ignoring e-mines...) is that they severely limit the number of initiative sinks that you have. Your suggestion eliminates this problem. When playing against fleets without e-mines, it becomes far more efficient to have a few (or a couple) squadrons instead of independent ships. This is a huge change to the game.

ShopKeepJon
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Postby darklord4 » Tue Feb 19, 2008 8:20 pm

ShopKeepJon wrote:The real problem lies with squadrons. Currently, the real drawback with squadrons (ignoring e-mines...) is that they severely limit the number of initiative sinks that you have.
Squadrons gain an advantage in the firing phase as the whole squadron gets to fire at once as well, preferably before too many e-mines...IMO that trade off is fine. Going back and forth as I mentioned affects squadrons positively as the initiative is closer to the same as if the member ships were separate. For example, if I have 2 squadrons of 4 versus 2 ships, If I win I get a sequence of:
EnemyShip Squadron EnemyShip Squadron
or if initiative is lost:
Squadron EnemyShip Squadron EnemyShip
without squadrons you get the following:
EnemyShip S1 S2 S3 S4 EnemyShip S5 S6 S7 S8
or
S1 S2 S3 S4 EnemyShip S5 S6 S7 S8 EnemyShip

This seems much more fair than:
EnemyShip S1 EnemyShip S2 S3 S4 S5 S6 S7 S8
or
S1 EnemyShip S2 EnemyShip S3 S4 S5 S6 S7 S8
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Postby BuShips » Tue Feb 19, 2008 8:21 pm

Another thing to try based on Foxmeister's example might be to try something loosely based on the "command range" rule in Starship troopers. Each side has a designated flagship for command and control (where the admiral is located). Establish an "initiative range" (something like an 18"-24" radius) and base the initiative count each turn on the ships that stay within that range. This allows for a variable and flowing initiative base number that depends on how well organised the flagship "herds" his forces. It would slice off any ships that didn't stay close to the main action and might retard players from taking advantage as in Foxmeister's example.

Thus, it would allow the regular initiative advantage in the example to the player with the most ships while at the same time making sure to place those small ships in "harm's way" for the EA player to reach. It gives a reason for a flagship and if it is lost the "flag" can move to another ship. Also, ships can pursue enemy cripples but with their loss to thier own initiative count. Management of initiative then becomes a tactical and flowing condition of play. Just a thought from a very new player to the game.
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Postby alpha_construct » Tue Feb 19, 2008 8:36 pm

Our group hasn't had too much trouble with boresights, though not being able to line up on the big ship is frustrating at times. We have changed the rules slightly to help. Basically any ship whose base, not stem, is within the boresight line and range during the firing phase is a legal target. This obviously requires a standardization of base sizes, but this hasn't been an issue. This makes larger ships easier to hit and smaller ones more difficult. It also gives the boresight weapons a wider corridor which can be used to force your opponents ships out of position unless they want to take the hit. It still has difficulties in smaller games, but does seem to balance out in the long run without too much of a rules change.
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Postby GhostRecon » Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:00 pm

ShopKeepJon wrote:I tried the Raking Fire idea as well. I just like the all or nothing feel of the Boresight weapons. The Raking Fire causes the Boresight weapons to lose a little of their uniqueness.

Essentially, Raking Fire changes Boresight weapons into F Arc weapons that get double AD if firing directly ahead. It just isn't the way that I envisioned them...

Mind you, this is all a perceptual thing. I like the idea of all or nothing Boresight weapons. I think that they are justified by what we see in the show (mostly...). Other people will disagree with me. This is why the "solution" to the "Boresight problem" is so contentious...

ShopKeepJon
I really think its quite the opposite, rarely in the series do you see a boresight weapon "drilling" into the target. In "Severed Dreams" for example, the beam fire from one Omega hitting the other "rakes" the vessel, instead of drilling straight through.

Most of the time, you see beam weapons firing in broad arcs that "slice" or "rake" into a target ship, because the target ship is maneuvering too quickly to be drilled by the beam weapon. Usually when you see a "boresight" beam shot "drill" a target, its from a Whitestar... (Which opens up a wholly different discussion, and one I'd rather avoid at present).

Thats why I feel Raking Fire is, thus far, the optimum solution to the problem with initiative and boresight, because there is no mechanic anywhere else that takes into account the fact that every ship with a boresight beam shot would be trying to "rake" a target if it couldn't maintain and keep the target boresighted.

And, its not like you're getting that "F arc" beam shot for free... you still have to boresight the target before it moves, otherwise you get nothing.

For example, in the "Battle of Gorash" you see the beam fire of both Shadow and Narn vessels "raking" at a target, cutting across space until they manage to hit it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYB8RcuKbaw

In this video, in the Battle for Babylon 5 (Severed Dreams) you see a sort of mix of both, when the EAS Alexander attacks the EAS Agrippa. The beam fire is raking against the Agrippa's hull, but the shot is also fairly "boresighted." This is the rarer examples of EA ships boresighting in particular. (Curiously, I just noticed that Sheridan calls the ship the "Roanoke" repeatedly, but the name on the ship's hull is "Agrippa" and is most obvious when Ivanova nearly crashes into it).
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Postby ShopKeepJon » Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:25 pm

GhostRecon wrote:
ShopKeepJon wrote:I tried the Raking Fire idea as well. I just like the all or nothing feel of the Boresight weapons. The Raking Fire causes the Boresight weapons to lose a little of their uniqueness.

Essentially, Raking Fire changes Boresight weapons into F Arc weapons that get double AD if firing directly ahead. It just isn't the way that I envisioned them...

Mind you, this is all a perceptual thing. I like the idea of all or nothing Boresight weapons. I think that they are justified by what we see in the show (mostly...). Other people will disagree with me. This is why the "solution" to the "Boresight problem" is so contentious...

ShopKeepJon
I really think its quite the opposite, rarely in the series do you see a boresight weapon "drilling" into the target. In "Severed Dreams" for example, the beam fire from one Omega hitting the other "rakes" the vessel, instead of drilling straight through.

Most of the time, you see beam weapons firing in broad arcs that "slice" or "rake" into a target ship, because the target ship is maneuvering too quickly to be drilled by the beam weapon. Usually when you see a "boresight" beam shot "drill" a target, its from a Whitestar... (Which opens up a wholly different discussion, and one I'd rather avoid at present).

Thats why I feel Raking Fire is, thus far, the optimum solution to the problem with initiative and boresight, because there is no mechanic anywhere else that takes into account the fact that every ship with a boresight beam shot would be trying to "rake" a target if it couldn't maintain and keep the target boresighted.

For example, in the "Battle of Gorash" you see the beam fire of both Shadow and Narn vessels "raking" at a target, cutting across space until they manage to hit it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYB8RcuKbaw

In this video, in the Battle for Babylon 5 (Severed Dreams) you see a sort of mix of both, when the EAS Alexander attacks the EAS Agrippa. The beam fire is raking against the Agrippa's hull, but the shot is also fairly "boresighted." This is the rarer examples of EA ships boresighting in particular. (Curiously, I just noticed that Sheridan calls the ship the "Roanoke" repeatedly, but the name on the ship's hull is "Agrippa" and is most obvious when Ivanova nearly crashes into it).
No, no, you misunderstood me (or I didn't say it very well :? ).

I meant that firing the Borsight weapons in the show seemed to require more maneuvering on the part of the firing ships (because the beam fired more or less straight ahead) than firing other weapons. Most (i.e. non-boresight) ship weapons seem to track and fire upon enemy targets without worrying much about the bearing of the ship carrying them.

This leads me to expect a "we lined up the shot or we didn't" kind of mechanic. I didn't mean to imply that the shot would impact the target in any boring through kind of way. The enemy ship is, of course, going to be maneuvering to avoid the shot. I would expect this to lead to the impact being more of a raking hit.

It's a question of how restricted the firing should be rather than the style of impact...

(Hmm... I'm just not being very clear today. Stupid flu :( ...)

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Postby GhostRecon » Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:58 pm

Ah, my bad. Yes, I see your point now...

I still believe my point remains valid, though... in terms of perception, you would imagine that in some point between my ship turning, and your ship turning, and my ship firing its boresight beam, it would "tag" your ship. In "reality" both our ships would be turning and moving simultaneously, and I could have my ship fire its beam weapon and “tag” or hit your ship as you crossed in front of my boresighted weapon.

Representing this extremely accurately in game terms would require an overwatch system, where if your ship moved “through” my boresight weapon’s arc, I could then fire it at you with some sort of penalty to my AD… “Raking Fire” as proposed accomplishes much the same thing; however, it removes the complicated features that an “overwatch” system would require. Ultimately, we’re down to two solutions… One is some sort of complicated “overwatch” system where a boresight shot can hit a enemy ship as it crosses boresight, or we can provide a simpler solution by “metagaming” or “proxying” this more dynamic feature of fleet combat, which is what both “Follow That Target” and “Raking Fire” accomplish… while I can seem biased as “Raking Fire” is my idea, I support it as the better solution because I feel it keeps things as “dynamic” as possible without upsetting, drastically, the initiative system or boresight.

In the end, you have to boresight the target ship in order to attack it using “Raking Fire,” so it’s not like you’re getting a bonus. You still have to maneuver your ships around to get boresighted shots, your opponent just can’t rely on his dozen or so initiative sinks hiding in a corner to prevent you from boresighting his capital ships, instead he’ll have to use maneuver and tactics (As, ideally, it should be).

To use my oft-phrased example, if the initiative system was “ideal,” as in, it worked perfectly you’d be able to get boresights without being affected by initiative sinks. Raking Fire lets you do this in the context of our existing initiative system, with a penalty to your firepower (Along with being an SA, though ideally it wouldn’t be one).
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Postby nekomata fuyu » Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:23 pm

Another idea may be for each ship to have an initiative modifier instead of the fleet as a whole. Each player would still roll for initiative once each turn, but each ship would have their own initiative of the roll plus their modifier. You then move the ships in order from the lowest scoring to the highest, and fire in order from the highest scoring to the lowest. In the event of more than one ship having the same score, the owning player may decide in which order to move them, and if both players have ships with the same score, then they alternate movement, with the lowest rolling player moving first.

This should mean that in the case of the 2 Omegas vs the G'Quan and countless Sho'Kos, the Sho'Kos don't have any effect on if the Omegas get to move before or after the G'Quan.
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Postby darklord4 » Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:31 pm

From the basic mechanics of the current initiative system, the problem lies in that horde fleets have a bunch of ships left over after the one-ship-at-a-time movement. The simplest way I see to remedy that hole is to remove the one-ship-at-a-time movement and use the proportional system that I mentioned earlier. There are other issues to consider with these other solutions. First, all ships should be able to use the Follow that Target SA, not just ships with boresight as now you have made them more limber. Does the play balance still fit for all the fleets if they can all use the different SAs, especially since some get crew quality bonuses? Also, if you add an initiative stat, you now have to recheck the play balance of all the ships. I'm failing to see where changing the ship movement grouping I presented above requires any stat rebalance. Further it rebalances squadrons with just running thier constituents since there is really no initiative bonus to running them separately.
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Postby wpngjstr » Wed Feb 20, 2008 12:11 am

I agree with the proportional mechanic, especially as more units should be less coordinated than fewer.
I'd favor simply saying each "initiative point" requires moving one FAP of ships. (presumably divided up "as you bought them")
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Postby darklord4 » Wed Feb 20, 2008 12:24 am

wpngjstr wrote:I agree with the proportional mechanic, especially as more units should be less coordinated than fewer.
I'd favor simply saying each "initiative point" requires moving one FAP of ships. (presumably divided up "as you bought them")
I originally thought about that, and it is more math simple and works well at first, but then you run into problems further into a game when you start losing ships. Maybe noone else loses ships, but I do :P Also, I'm not sure all fleets or play styles break down into taking an FAP as an action group. Squadrons further complicate this type of grouping as well.
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Postby Ripple » Wed Feb 20, 2008 12:45 am

The issue with all proportional movement (and the reserve a ship) systems is that the Drazi exist.

If boresights were limited to large ships primary weapons, you could argue more easily for proportional movement. As is you are basically saying that if the drazi lose initiative they have x number of ships which will not fire.

So you need a system that allows ships to select targets during movement, so that no matter whether they move first or last ships that remain in reasonable target positions can be fired on. You also have to do this without upsetting the current balance.

I'm the big proponent of 'Follow that Target' and thought it met the design goals fairly well... but like ShopKeepJon I still found it somewhat unsatisfying. Sadly I find Raking Fire worse (though the SA version was better as I felt more like I 'paid' for my additional shots).

I'm not sure what the right solution is, but I know it has to work for fleets that have a single big ship that matters and a horde, a mix of medium ships with boresight and a fleet of nothing but boresighted ships, and do so in a way that is not just giving the bore sighted ships bigger arcs or more effective AD.

The original post idea was a decent mix idea... but i don't feel it was better than either Raking Fire or Follow That Target... so I'm still looking.

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Postby darklord4 » Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:33 am

Ripple wrote:The issue with all proportional movement (and the reserve a ship) systems is that the Drazi exist.
Compounded with the fact that if you paint your fleet half green/half purple you gain a significant advantage against the Drazi

Ripple wrote:If boresights were limited to large ships primary weapons, you could argue more easily for proportional movement. As is you are basically saying that if the drazi lose initiative they have x number of ships which will not fire.
...or maybe your fleet should include some of those Drazi ships that are not 100% limited to BS(boresight ;)) arc. If you are going for the outnumbering method, then yes, you will have a segment of ships that will have a disadvantage. But I think you are rewarded later with the weapon capabilities of those boresighted weapons when you win initiative. Further, you can position for next turn, close the blast doors and preserve your firepower for when you deliver that BS wallop.

Yes, the Drazi have the worst BS issues. You are right, the proportional system would need Drazi testing to see if it hampers or helps them.
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Postby Ripple » Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:28 am

Sadly the drazi only really have one ship that is not boresighted, the Darkhawk, a slow loading skirmish hull. Otherwise you end up at battle and above hoping for range 8. Well the fireraptor has the same missiles nowdays... so maybe you could go for that...

Only reason I comment is that many games are decided in the first few turns... 'positioning' for a turn usually means you lost, it will just take you a few turns to realized it. But that could just be our group...

Since second ed many drazi fleets will have ships that can be used as sinks every other turn or so... Solarhawk is too tempting... but it still really cramps fleet choice... and I thought part of this was to get away from swarms as the answer...

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