Unity design thoughts

The Universal Game of Starship Combat
mj12games
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Unity design thoughts

Postby mj12games » Thu Mar 16, 2017 3:28 pm

MOVEMENT

Now the cat is out of the proverbial bag (and I've fielded a few "Why?" questions), many will be wondering "What?" As in, what will be new in the Unity edition? What will remain the same?

First up is the movement system, which is simple enough to talk about because not much is changing. Starship movement in Unity is identical to Nova, which itself was a minor refinement of the system first introduced in Admiralty. The only real difference is that sideslips and pivots have been upgraded from options to part of the standard rules. It just made more sense that way.

Some new movement options are being introduced, like Etheric Drag and Graded Turns. However, the big change is with fighter movement.

It never sat well with me that starships had to concern themselves with momentum and vectors and whatnot, while fighters could move willy-nilly. This makes sense in a wet-navy setting, where ships and aircraft have entirely distinct methods of propulsion; in space, presumably everything moves in the same way.

At the same time, I didn't want to burden the game by tracking speeds and/or headings for individual fighter flights.

The solution? Assume fighter flights have a specific available thrust (10 hexes/turn^2), but cap their actual speed at some fraction of this (say, 8 hexes/turn) to ensure they can maneuver effectively.

So, translate this to the starship movement rules:

* If a fighter doesn't turn at all during its movement, its thrust requirement is equal to the difference between its previous speed and its current speed. Previous speed is never >8, so a flight that doesn't turn can move anywhere from 0 to 8 hexes and still be within engine limits.

* If a fighter turns once during its movement, its thrust requirement is equal to the greater of its previous speed and its current speed. Again, speed is capped at 8, so a flight that turns once can move anywhere from 0 to 8 hexes and still be within engine limits.

* If a fighter turns two or three times during its movement, its thrust requirement is equal to the sum of its previous speed and its current speed. Previous speed is never >8, so a flight that turns three hexsides can move from 0 to 2 hexes and be assured of not exceeding its available thrust.

In the end, how this works in practice is that a fighter flight declares how many turns it will perform during its activation, which then indicates how much of its movement allowance (MA) is needed to move one hex: if a flight doesn't turn or only turns once, it pays 1 MA/hex; if a flight turns twice, it pays 2 MA/hex; if it turns three times, it pays 3 MA/hex.
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Re: Unity design thoughts

Postby mj12games » Fri Mar 17, 2017 7:35 pm

COMBAT

Yesterday, I discussed how starships (and fighter flights) will move in the upcoming Unity edition. One thing I failed to mention is that plotted starship movement is being put back in the main rules, after having been relegated to an optional rule in Nova. Fighters will activate alternately, as always.

Anyway, with movement becoming simultaneous once again, that meant it makes sense for combat to also be simultaneous. Players alternate declaring and resolving attacks, but damage is not applied until the Combat Phase has ended.

Obviously, combat resolution was the area in which Nova most diverged from traditional Starmada; ever since version 3.0, there had been a direct correlation between the number of weapons firing and the number of dice rolled. For example, a ROF-2 weapon always rolled two dice; variability was accounted for by modifiers to each die roll. In Nova, this changed. There was still a correlation between the number of weapons and the POTENTIAL number of dice rolled; however, modifiers did not apply to individual die results. Instead, each die was always successful on a 5 or 6; increased/decreased accuracy was reflected by altering the number of dice. This works exceptionally well in MJ12's Grand Fleets game -- and the ability to smooth out the effectiveness curve appealed to the math geek in me (in Nova, a +1 modifier always meant an increase in effectiveness of 40%; this was not the case in other editions of the game).

However cool and efficient this mechanic may be, it resulted in some admittedly kludgy applications when it came to non-ship weapons (such as mines and fighter flights). More importantly, it didn't allow players the flexibility to differentiate between low-ROF, high-accuracy weapons and vice versa. For a game that prides itself on universality and the ability to mimic any setting, this proved to be a significant drawback.

Thus, with Unity, we are returning to pre-Nova Starmada: each weapon rolls X dice to-hit against the ACC stat, with modifiers applied to the result of each die.

The shield roll never really changed: although it was expressed as a "saving throw" in Nova rather than a "number to exceed", the mechanic was the same, and it remains so in Unity, albeit going back to a numerical rating instead of dice icons.

Once hits have been scored, and confirmed against the shields, damage must be resolved. This brings us to the other major change in Nova: the elimination of the damage roll. As I confessed in my designer's notes in the rulebook (also published in ADB's CL#52) this was a mistake. I can bore you with the reasons why I did it in the first place, or I can just tell you the damage location roll is back.

1-3: Check off one hull box. Once all hull boxes are gone, the ship goes "BOOM".

4: Check off one box on the engine track. As the number in this track is reduced, the ship slows down.

5: Check off one box on the weapons track. As the number in this track is reduced, the controlling player must remove the appropriate number of weapons. For example, if the number on the track drops from 12 to 10, two weapons must be damaged. The specific weapons damaged is up to the player, with the limitation that no battery may lose more weapons than indicated by its loss limit until all batteries have reached their loss limits.

6: Check off one box on the shield track. As the number in this track is reduced, the ship's shield rating is lowered.
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Re: Unity design thoughts

Postby mj12games » Mon Mar 20, 2017 4:18 pm

Screenshot of the Unity edition drydock construction tool.
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Re: Unity design thoughts

Postby mj12games » Tue Mar 21, 2017 3:52 pm

Low-res version of one of the starship display sheets included in the Unity Rulebook. This is from the "Contact: 1939" setting in the Squadron Strike rulebook (Ad Astra Games).
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Re: Unity design thoughts

Postby mj12games » Thu Mar 23, 2017 3:50 pm

BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY

One of the things we haven't talked about yet is the fact that the Unity Rulebook includes guidelines for using ships designed for previous editions alongside those for the new edition. Indeed, as I mention in the designer's notes, trying to "unify" the two previous editions was the impetus for developing the new rules in the first place.

Admiralty ships can be used as-is, with only a handful of tweaks to certain ship options (for example, Regeneration hasn't been added to the new edition yet, while the number of Anti-Fighter Batteries must be adjusted).

Nova ships require a little bit of massaging, based on a proposal I had floated a while back to re-introduce a damage roll to the process. In short, the middle section of hull boxes become "system boxes" instead, which regulate the timing of loss checks. The damage roll itself is simple: 1-3=Hull Hit; 4-5=System Hit; 6=No Effect.

One thing that didn't make the transition was customized fighter flights; while I am not precluding their reintroduction later, I want to be very careful how that is done. I felt that Admiralty was becoming far too fighter-focused, so with Unity all fighter flights are converted to standard flights (one flight per 50 pts. of fighter capacity). However, the Unity Rulebook does include a half-dozen fighter flight variants which hopefully will fill the void until some playtesting can be done on others.
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Majestic Twelve Games
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