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Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Past and the Present

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Star Fleet Battles has been around for a long time. It has continued to grow in a number of ways, and this is not without problems.

Historical scenarios have been part of the game's history, not just as a game, but as part of its background. Scenarios are, however, frequently products of the time they were originally written in.

This can haunt us because things that are common knowledge now were not even thought of back then.

A scenario written in 1988 about an attack on an Andromedan Satellite Base could not ask if that base might have mobile weapons platforms, or power absorber mines available to counter the attacker's plasma torpedoes, much less the availability of the temporal elevator.

By the same token, an Andromedan preparing to defend that base might not be aware that the fighters in the attacking force are remotely controlled, making them effectively command controlled scatter packs able to release all of their drones on command (albeit the attacker had better check his control channels before overloading them with more drones than they can handle). (There is, of course, also the possibility of mega-packs.)

Thus a quick scenario about a Federation CVL with six F-18C fighters might not be an easy win over an Andromedan Satellite Base taking only a few turns. The base commander will go up the elevator, reducing the photons to only being able to fire as standard loads (proximity would be available) and greatly inhibiting the use of the ship's phaser-1s. The total direct-fire strength of the CVL (including its shuttles and fighters) would reach 46 points (assuming straight ones were rolled), but is more likely to average about 10 points on turns when the photons are fired. Because the base can sit at level 9 as long as it wants.

It is actually worse, because ECCM cannot be self-lent, but ECM can, so the base might have and edge of four points of ECM (six generated, one point to power a special sensor, and four points lent to itself), which means the maximum damage a phaser-1 can score it only one point, the phaser-3s cannot score any damage, and only proximity fuse photons can hit, reducing direct fire damage to a maximum of only 12 points (assuming both photons hit and all four phaser-1s rolled 1).

Barring reinforcement, however, the CVL will win this scenario by judicious use of drones.

By spreading out the drone launches (so that a T-bomb cannot be dropped down the shaft to get a lot of them) the CVL can destroy the Satellite Base even at the top of the shaft. Timing the base's rotation rate, the Andromedan player can fire his weapons as they come into arc at appropriate ranges. The eight phaser-2s might kill (on average) seven type-I drones. The second special sensor might be used to kill two drones (on average) but would need to be used before it was blinded. The six tractor-repulsors would kill six drones. But the Federation ship and its fighters can launch nine drones a turn for four turns (assuming they are all type-Is, if the drones in the drone racks are type-IV the rate only lasts for two turns). And the Federation ship and its fighters can start launching drones near the end of Turn #X, and continue launching drones at the start of Turn #X+1 so that during one Turn the Base must deal with 18 drones. (And as noted, it has to watch ones coming from the drone racks on the CVL as they might be type-IVs, so hit those with the special sensor and Tractor-Repulsors). Short of that carefully timed T-bomb drop, at least two drones will get through, but since F-18C fighters cannot launch type-IVs those two will only do 24 points of damage (plus another 12 points from the effects of the elevator), and the power absorbers can hold 60 at reinforced levels.

Right now, things look pretty good for the Andromedan do they not? It is going to take the Federation a few turns to start doing real damage.

But the Federation has a few tricks.

One trick is the special rails on the fighters. 10% of the initial loading can be type-III drone frames. That puts enough type-III drone frames available to fully load the six fighters special rails with them (since the carrier has 250 spaces of drones for its fighters). Under (R1.F9) the fighters can each launch both of these drones in a single turn. Better, because of their long range and special targeting the fighters (once you take the time to switch out the type-I drones on the rails and put on the type-III drones) could launch these drones near the end of Turn #X at long range. Follow them (along with the ship) to closer range and launch type-I drones to follow them near the end of Turn #X+1 but at a range where the fighters now have lock-on to the base, and then during the start of Turn #X+2 launch their second drones. And of course the CVL can be doing the same thing (having replaced one drone in each drone rack with a type-III drone). Thus on one turn the Andromedan base would have to deal with 15 type-III drones (two from each fighter and three from the ship) and 18 type-I drones (two from each fighter and six from the ship) for a total of 33 drones arranged to arrive one drone per impulse.

The base's two T-bombs might kill six of the drones (one on its level, one above its level, one below its level). The eight phaser-2s might kill eight drones (not rolling a six a single time in eight shots). The six tractor-repulsors will kill six drones. And both special sensors working in the counter drone role might kill six more drones. But that is only 26 drones out of 33 (and is a best case scenario). Seven drones minimum will hit scoring 84 points of damage to which is added another 12 from the effects of the elevator for 96 points plus the effects of direct-fire (because the base is not able to use a special sensor for ECM) which will probably get you somewhat close to 110 points.

So on Turn #X+4 the base will only have its phasers available for defense, no T-bombs, Tractor repulsors cycling, special sensors blinded by the weapons fire, and the attackers can launch nine more drones, one of which will definitely hit (meaning a minimum of 24 points of damage because of the elevator effects at level 9.

The base will take time to destroy you think.

But not if the fighters are remotely controlled. If they are, then on Turn #X+4 they face not nine drones, but 15 drones, because each remotely controlled fighter can control two drones in its own right and can launch any or all of their drones, so instead of just six drones the fighters will launch 12.

The base might manage to use (G25.4) to get an extra T-bomb or two before the end, but the CVL would probably deploy scatter packs as part of this turn as well.

For the Federation, a bloodless victory, albeit time consuming. Turn #1 the deck crews start removing type-I drones from the drone rails. Turn #2 continue. Turn #3 strike the drones below decks. Turn #4 bring the type-IIIs up from storage. Turn #5 load the type-III drones. Note that two fighters would already have the type-III drones leaving six deck crews to work on four fighters, and the CVL being a carrier it might have bought extra deck crews so that two can work on each fighter. While this is happening the drone racks are adjusted. But it will still take about 10 turns total to destroy the base. Ten long turns when something might arrive to save the base.

And this all assumes the base had no minefield of any kind, and while they would be relatively easy to kill, no mobile weapons platforms which would also need to be disposed.

Star Fleet Battles has grown and become more complex with more options, for both side.