Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

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Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby MongooseMatt » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:04 pm

Hearing that a few Kzinti games were going on this weekend spurred me to do this post sooner rather than later.

There have been some concerns raised about the use of Kzinti and their drones on these forums, and we would like to address them. This is the ideal time, as the Call to Arms Journal is released next month, and is the ideal place to announce any official rules, and the Kzinti fleet will be released 2-3 weeks after that.

For the past few weeks, we have been running lots of Kzinti/Drone games here at Mongoose HQ, and have come to the following conclusions;

1. In smaller games, there is no real balance issue. It is possible to take a fleet that will be completely stuffed by Kzinti but then, if you try really hard enough, you can say that about any of the empires. Using a fleet designed to fight anyone (typical tournament fleet), you should not have any issues with over-use of drones up to at least 1,000 points.

2. There is, however, a tipping point where drone use can be overwhelming. If it was around the 6,000 point range, we might be able to solve things with a bit of hand-waving (we know that, while games of this size won't be common, somebody will try!). However, the tipping point is within the 1,500-2,000 point range, which is too low for comfort.

3. Large games involving Kzinti were indeed part of the original playtesting but, for whatever reason, this tipping point did not come to light.

4. Any change must not touch the Kzinti in smaller games, not must it touch plasma torpedoes (we know some of you have had an issue with plasma, but our advice is to keep trying new tactics - plasma torpedoes, and Romulans in general, are nasty when used right).

We have looked at the various options presented on these forums, and have consulted with ADB on the matter.

1. Wild Weasel shuttles are out, by order of ADB. So endeth any discussion on this one.
2. We don't want to alter drones as a weapon in any way, as they work perfectly fine in low level games and within fleets who are not drone heavy.
3. We don't want a move-based option to try to avoid incoming drones because it is a) messy and b) kinda covered by the Take Evasive Action! Special Action anyway.
4. Altering Intensify Defensive Fire! has been proposed - this is off the table because of the potential to affect not only plasma torpedoes but drone use in low level games too.
5. Scouts will be appearing in the Journal, and so we could take the opportunity to enhance the Scout trait to do something with drones - however, this would mean everyone would always take a scout in their fleet, and we don't want that.

Talking this over with the chaps at ADB, they pointed out this never came up in SFB because of the way fleets are constructed and used in that game. They did, however, mention this;

Drone Control Channels
There are only so many frequencies. The control frequences in subspace have to be apart from each other and only work in a certain range, so more than X drones targeted on the same ship jam each other.


At first and second glance, this works on all levels. It means larger Kzinti fleets (and, it should be remembered, any fleet that goes heavy on drones) are not nerfed but instead forced to spread the drone-love about the enemy. It also means that if anyone puts together a 'drone cheese fleet' of lots of low-cost launchers, the rule will kick in for lower end games too.

Seems like a winner to us.

So, if you are playing with Kzinti right now, we would like to know the following;

How many ships should be allowed to target a single enemy vessel with drones in the same turn?

We want to make it a maximum number of ships rather than maximum number of drones as a) it is easier to track and b) gives us a chance to mess around with new Kzinti ships in the future that may have more (or less!) drones, thus getting Kzinti players to make some tough choices (I can launch X number of drones against any one enemy ship but, if I choose that kind of fleet, I will be weak in areas Y and Z, for example).
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Digger » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:16 pm

Sounds Like a Plan - I seem to remember something similar in a previous game (could be SFB) where a ship had a control number in that it could only control a certain number of drones.

The other way round it was to design an anti-drone escort ship with lots of ADD that you used to protect your big value items in your fleet, bit like picket ships nowadays - This led to a far more tactical game though!
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Da Boss » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:29 pm

Simplest answer would be that maximum would be four - same as a squadron in higher level games? has a certain synergy?
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Totenkopf » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:35 pm

Simple and elegant...
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Pavlov Grenadier » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:38 pm

Hi Matt! That’s an interesting solution. My game with Bob is not until Sunday so maybe we can get some forum consensus on what the number of ships targeting a single ship should be before then. The highest number of Kzinti drone ships you can currently get is 8 for 1,000 points (9 if you go evil Fed DWD :lol: ).

So the question I have for you (and the group), have we found 1k Kzinti fleets to be ok? If so, then maybe 8 is the magic number?

Just as an fyi the two fleets I am planning on testing out this weekend vs Feds (I think) are:

1) 7xFF and 1 CM = 8 Drone ships...and the most the Kzinti can get at 1k points (this doesn’t really appeal to me but its the most extreme I can get).

2) 5xFF and 2 BC = 7 Drone ships.

Either option, I think my FFs are going to pop really fast so after turn 2-3, the number of drone ships should be reduced.

Let the debate begin!
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby scoutdad » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:48 pm

Hmmm. Interesting concept.
Without playing it out various ways to see where the break-point actually is - I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest 6 ships.
Squadrons in ACTA: SF are up to 3 ships, so this would be 2 full squadrons, which can be a lot if it happens to be 2 squadrons of Federation BCs or Orions with drones.

And nearly all ships in SFB / Fed Com have 6 drone control channels, so even the number matches in a perverse sort of symmetry.
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby MongooseMatt » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:50 pm

I think three ships will be the happy medium, as it ties in with squadrons, will still knock a small ship for six, and give big ships serious food for thought without wiping them off the map by default (unless they do something really silly or ar really unlucky). Gives the Kzinti a choice, but makes them work for bigger rewards.

Which is how it should be.

Give it a whirl, let us know on Monday!
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby archon96 » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:58 pm

squadron size elements sounds good, they would be sharing frequencies anyway for inter communications already. the only way id think to increase this would be with a dedicated communications vessel like a scout to help organize the comms making the scout ship a flying bulls eye.
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Totenkopf » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:59 pm

msprange wrote:I think three ships will be the happy medium, as it ties in with squadrons, will still knock a small ship for six, and give big ships serious food for thought without wiping them off the map by default (unless they do something really silly or ar really unlucky). Gives the Kzinti a choice, but makes them work for bigger rewards.

Which is how it should be.

Give it a whirl, let us know on Monday!
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Nomad » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:05 pm

Neat idea, Matt.

I'd suggest six since this is what comprises my current 1,000 point fleet, and it's performance seems distinctly average.

EDIT - That is to say, it's generally only the last volley or two in each turn that get any actual hits against my normal targets (Klingons).
Last edited by Nomad on Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Da Boss » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:05 pm

Oh yeah forgot squadrons are now only 3 ships.......still it retains the synergy :)
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Lincolnlog » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:11 pm

SFB balanced the drone issue with the use of Limited and Full Aegis Escorts (handy against fighters and drones equally). There were limits built into the system, for instance there are very few Aegis ships in any of the fleets.

I had always assumed Aegis would come out with Phaser-G. We house ruled (just for fun, obviously can't enter into a tourny) Aegis, and it does help balance the scenarios without adding complication.
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Sassanid » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:25 pm

In terms of balance - particularly with regards to Gorn and Romulans - what about plasmas needing 2 phaser hits to knock off 1 attack dice?

In SFB phaser damage against plasmas is halved and that makes a big impact with regards to the impact of plasmas in the game - you need a heck of a lot of phaser power to knock them out as opposed to each individual drone with most standard types reliably killed by a phaser 1 / phaser 2 at close range and most of the time is downed by a phaser 3.

With "phaser damage halved against plasmas" in force you could also make Intensify Defensive Fire an automatic special order removing the risk of failing the test.

This would allow better defensive networks against drones and plasmas - but in a form that would act as a balance with the Kzinti without totally nerfing the plasma races due to the impact of the "damage halved versus plasmas" rule.

As it is the plasma races seem heavily disadvantaged versus drones by the issue of shorter range, the depletion of torpedoes when they travel distances more than half of their range and the need to recharge - while drones can cross half the board and with no issue on reloads can fire away all game without a care in world.
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Nomad » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:50 pm

Linconlog - SFU escorts were only 'supposed' to accompany carrier groups. I had several 'discussions' in the day with players who wanted to use them otherwise 'for fun' (their fun at everyone else's expense).

Comparisons with drones in SFB or FC don't really work, as ships always have one major weapon to use against them in those systems that they all lack in ACtA...

...Their engines. Even if you can't shoot them down right away, you can delay their impact until your phasers have re-cycled by turning away from them.

Different game, different issues.
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby McKinstry » Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:32 pm

I like the symmetry of leaving it at one squadron of three.

Pavlov and I will try it out twice on Sunday.

I can say that it will leave me trying out much more interesting fleets than the Fed all BCH/BCJ + mass DWD's I thought I'd have to take.
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Nomad » Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:40 pm

Three ships firing - usually 12 AD - are very unlikely to get through a cruiser's defences, less so if she has a consort or two which have successfully IDF!ed.

But I guess that's the plan. :|
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby gord314 » Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:57 pm

I really like this solution. It makes drones a nuisance, but not totally lethal, at long range and serious problem at shorter ranges when phasers start having other targets. Nomad, to address your concern if you consider a 6 on 6 scenario, firing your first 3 ships at a ship that used IDF should drain the defensive fire from it, and probably one other ship that passed the check, leaving the last one open to attack from your remaining 3 ships. This is assuming of course that your opponent declares IDF with all his ships foregoing other special actions. It also drains the offensive phasers fire from these ships, something they may not be able to afford once the range closes.

I look forward to trying out these changes this afternoon.

EDIT: federation ADD from drones will need to be addressed though. The implication (though there was no official ruling) previously had been that if the ADD does not run out, its level resets to the number of AD of the drone weapon on the next turn. Since some federation ships have 4 AD of drones, this would make them completely immune to drones if they did not fire theirs. Requiring a reload special action to switch back to drones from anti-drones (and reset the ADD score to the drone score) might work.
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Captain Jonah » Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:05 pm

msprange wrote:
There have been some concerns raised about the use of Kzinti and their drones on these forums, and we would like to address them. This is the ideal time, as the Call to Arms Journal is released next month, and is the ideal place to announce any official rules, and the Kzinti fleet will be released 2-3 weeks after that.

Drone Control Channels
There are only so many frequencies. The control frequencies in subspace have to be apart from each other and only work in a certain range, so more than X drones targeted on the same ship jam each other.
Thus getting Kzinti players to make some tough choices (I can launch X number of drones against any one enemy ship but, if I choose that kind of fleet, I will be weak in areas Y and Z, for example).
Firstly thank you for listening. 8)

I would have put the tipping point at the level where 24+ Drones were in the fleet rather than 1500+ but either way there is a tipping point and it’s great that it is being dealt with.
Drone control channels sounds good. I’ll cover it in more details below but it Covers Drones and Drone like weapons (there will be more later on) and doesn’t cover Plasmas.

Any Kzinti fleet is going to be throwing a lot of drones anyway but you are now faced with needing some heavies to actually fight rather than the FF swarm.

Sounding good so far.
msprange wrote:I think three ships will be the happy medium, as it ties in with squadrons, will still knock a small ship for six, and give big ships serious food for thought without wiping them off the map by default (unless they do something really silly or ar really unlucky). Gives the Kzinti a choice, but makes them work for bigger rewards.

Which is how it should be.

Give it a whirl, let us know on Monday!
Three ships, a squadron data net. Sounds good but let’s look at the numbers.

In smaller games or with Low drone fleets we are looking at 4-6 Drones. An FF/DD sized ship can stop 3-4 a turn, a Cruiser size can stop 6-7. So in low Drone fleets they are reduced to secondary weapons good for a bit of shield damage, finishing off cripples and forcing ships to keep some Phasers in reserve. A ship that unwisely uses every Phaser to attack is going to get hurt by 4-6 Drones when it has nothing but tractors left. This is going to be a normal Klingon or Federation fleet

In Kzinti Fleets or with Fed DWD squadrons the number is 12 Drones. This is enough to utterly crush a DD sized ship which is fair. Against Cruiser sized targets half of the Drones will be shot down leaving roughly 6 hits doing 21 Damage. A heavy knock on a ships shields or enough to finish off a ship with down shields and some damage but it’s no longer enough to destroy a cruiser a turn. It does mean you can use a Kzinti fleet to engage two targets taking the shields down on one turn and taking them out on the second. It then takes two turns to kill two ships rather than killing one a turn.

However over two turns you get to shield boost and you also know which ships are being targeted giving you a turn to respond, run away etc. The firepower is still there but it’s not as overwhelming as it was.

Now the top end, high point games with Drone super heavy squadrons. 18 – 20 Drones. Yes it can be done with three ships, and it will be a lot easier when Drone Bombardment ships and BBs arrive. 18 -20 Drones will smash a Cruiser sized ship, the better ones will be damaged, the weaker ones crippled or dead. In 1000 point battle a fleet will be giving up half its points for a squadron that can still do this but will lack many heavy weapons. The Klingon’s can still use Agile Turn 4 D6Ds with double front shields, the other Drone races get less mobile and less tough ships but still retain the ability to stand off and smash a ship a turn.

Now this is actually a considerable improvement on the ability to kill a BCH in one go.

Ships with ADDs can basically burn the ADD and survive a turns attack all but undamaged.
Fed ships with Drone 2 or better and G-Racks become problematic in some ways. Being able to use one lot of ammo a turn and still fire next turn means the war era Fed ships with Drone 2 can survive 12 Drones a turn for a long time taking a hit or two each turn. Still this uses much of their Phaser fire power.

Setting the limit at more than 3 fails to solve the problem. 4 ships means 16Drones, a Cruiser stops 6 or so, that leaves 35 damage to take down the shield and half the hull on many cruisers, The larger and tougher ones can just lose the shields but you are still taking massive damage to a ship without the ability to respond. More than this and you are not changing the problem at all.


In conclusion.

A 3 ship Drone Control limit can change the Dynamic of Drone heavy fleets like the Kzinti since while they can continue to use standoff Drone fleets they are less effective and the people being attacked have several turns to respond and defend the targets. Or the Kzinti can adopt a more combat based fleet using Drones in concern with Disruptors and Phasers.

Federation and Klingon Drone squadrons are viable but not overpowering. Though the DWD needs a cost bump since 3 costing a third of your fleet can take down a cruisers shields or smash an unshielded one every turn from a long way away.

A 3 ship Drone data net allows tactics to be used to defend the target of massed Drones rather than simply watching helpless as the ship disintegrates under wave after wave of 4 Drones. With suitable tactics the Drone fleets retain the ability to stand off and smash the enemy but then that is the whole point of Drones. However they are going to need two or more turns to smash an intact cruiser allowing defensive measures and the designated target can also evade or run behind cover.

In terms of the balance between the fleets, Fed ships become all but immune to the Drone salvos until the super Drone squadrons arrive IF they sacrifice Phasers to do so but they retain Photons. The Kzinti become much less effective against the Federation as long as the Fed player is careful. Klingon’s are fine till the ADDs click empty. The Hydran and Lyran fleets will be much like the Feds, all but immune to Drones as long as they focus Phaser-Gs and ESGs to defence and not attack.

The Romulans can cloak without suffering such massive damage. A 12 Drone attack against stealth 4+ is going to put 6 Drones on target which is going to do damage but not enough to kill any ship that tries to cloak. Un-cloaked the Rom have plenty of Phasers on the later ships but the early eagle types are very vulnerable due to a lack of Phasers, still that is correct since the early ships are ambush vessels not designed for stand up fights.

The Gorn ships will generally be taking 6 Drone hits each time from a 12AD attack, enough to take a big chunk out of a shield but it will take three turns on average to take out a cruiser that uses shield boost to grab 2-3D6 shields every turn while under attack.

Overall this sounds like a good solution.

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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby Pavlov Grenadier » Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:21 pm

Good analysis Captain Jonah!

Now to the test games we have this weekend. Should I still plan on testing out the FF heavy Kzinti fleet ( mentioned in the Kzinti Test Games thread)? The pre-change strategy was to kill a ship or two before the FFs started blowing up. With the 3 ship firing limit, would a player really bring that many fragile FFs knowing that (as you indicated above), it would probably take 2 turns to actually kill a ship?

I’d love to play several games with change and pre-change rules in place but not sure how much time Mckinstry can commit (spend the night party at the Clubhouse?? :wink: )

Also, to be clear, I like the proposed change idea a lot. I just wanted to make sure we have an appropriate test this weekend.

Either way, Im excited to get more games in.

Thanks!
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Re: Kzinti & Drones - Input Welcomed

Postby TJHairball » Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:24 pm

If drones aren't broken at 1000 points - I'm not sure they aren't, what with the 9xDWD of doom option - then the limit should be 6 ships, really, since a 1000 point fleet can deliver as many drones as any 6 ships currently can. 3 ships might be an overreaction.

Total number of drones on target might be a little more robust in the long run; or maybe even a hybrid rule saying something like "If 10 [12? 15? 20?] AD or more of drones have been fired at a ship, no new Drone attacks may be made on it." Your super-droner would still be useful, since you'd be able to overrrun the limit with exactly one volley, people wouldn't feel overwhelmed by massive numbers of drones as the battle size hits 1500+, et cetera.

Currently, the ships that carry large numbers of drones get much more mileage out of them already; the ships that only carry 1 would find their drones close to useless as offensive weapons now that they can't even chip in with three of their buddies to come up with a single DWD's worth of offensive drone-fire on a target. I understand you want some cool Kzinti ships down the line, but the poor ol' Constitution needs her some love, too.

I see gord314 has beaten me to the punch by editing his post - limited to 3 volleys, you have the problem that the Federation can WTFPWN the Kzinti by just taking Kirovs (which is never a bad idea anyway), and even the regenerative 2 AD-of-drones ships, RAW, have remarkably strong resistance to drones at a 3 volley limit.

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