My thoughts on Unity

The Universal Game of Starship Combat
MRCAcct
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My thoughts on Unity

Postby MRCAcct » Thu Apr 27, 2017 5:35 am

(or thoughts by a Rules Lawyer)

So, been kicking the tires on Unity for a bit, experimenting, updating, and generally having a grand old time. In all honesty if Unity hadn't come about I might have finished switching over to Full Thrust instead.

So what do I think (having picked up Starmada back in the Admiralty days, and done AE, Fleet Ops, and Nova, as well as going back to poke around in X)? Well, as a bit of a background, I'm a lifelong (if sadly a terribly inactive) pen and paper gamer. The list of RPGs I've played is to long for me to remember accurately. But when it comes to games like Starmada, it's easier to list (in general order of exposure): Star Frontiers, Star Warriors, Car Wars, OGRE, Star Fleet Battles (not Federation Commander), Silent Death, Babylon 5 Wars, Battletech (briefly), Babylon 5 ACTA, Starmada, Task Force Zeta, Starfire, Full Thrust. (Think that's all.) So I've played quite a few games over the years.

I was left kind of divided internally by Nova; there was aspects of it I liked, and aspects of AE that I missed. Unity did (for me) what I think Dan intended, bring AE and Nova together. The rules are straightforward and understandable, and don't require an eidetic memory or a trolley (or terabyte hard drive) to access; yet seem to cover most typical situations. *coughStarFleetBattlescough*

Starship construction no longer requires a spreadsheet (or columned accounting sheets) having most of the more complicated equations simplified, yet still feels robust enough (though admittedly not as simple math wise as Full Thrust). AE was open to lots of fighter customization, Nova almost none; Unity gives a much better balance, yet keeping with Starmada being about starship combat and not fighter scrambles. Fighter screens are a great new addition as well.

I think a lot of ship traits were fixed and/or improved upon - having both directional shields again (AE) as well as 'armor belts' (Nova) makes for even more possibilities and flexibility. I do miss the AE screens, though admittedly they did make for a bit more record keeping. I like having Marines as a single package - no more boarding pods, transporters, and marines. Stealth's current rules (better than Nova and AE). The removal of Scouts and Escorts from Nova (which I found really, really confusing; please keep them out Dan, I do beg of you).

Weapon traits as well - multi-weapon mounts (a novel idea). Seeking weapons from Nova (gives a better feel than drones/et al did, though I'm not 100% in love with the movement rules yet), defensive (the answer to fighters being unbalanced), the return of non-hull damage traits (pirates man), Slow Slow weapons.

I do feel that some things are still missing - Regeneration (I mean, what's good sci-fi without organic ships right?), AE screens (I love them and hate them at the same time), expanded tech levels (+/-2 just seems kind of restrictive), Starship/Fighter exclusive weapons (What do you mean that spinal mounted ship-killer cannon targeted my highly agile fighter flight?!), traits that affect Screens, and Cinematic Movement as an optional movement rule.

And then there's the things I'm terribly divided on - 4 vs 6 defensive arcs (love it & hate it), the range-based/variable ROF/IMP/DMG traits and increased hits/IMP (it a flexibility vs complicated issue to me), Anti-Fighter Batteries (like the Starmada X concept, but don't think that they alone would cut it in a more fighter/seeker-heavy universe) - maybe allowing more than 1 occurrence of them (2 AFB means 2 fighter kills on a 1? Would require a bit of recosting).

And things that I think could be removed - probes and shuttlecraft; concepts brought in with the SFU and have a bit more of a specialized feel to them (more cinematic and less tactical).

As for a straight conversion from AE and Nova to Unity; the rules lawyer in me needs it, the gamer in me sees Unity for what it was meant to be - something familiar yet new/fresh. The rules lawyer is slowly learning to "see the light".

Lastly though there's Dan's continued approach to comments about Starmada, which seem to take the great and user friendly approach of "that is interesting, do tell me why you feel that way" and "well, make a house rule, test it out, and let us know".

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Re: My thoughts on Unity

Postby mj12games » Thu Apr 27, 2017 2:31 pm

MRCAcct wrote:(or thoughts by a Rules Lawyer)

Uh oh... :)

Star Frontiers, Star Warriors, Car Wars, OGRE, Star Fleet Battles (not Federation Commander), Silent Death, Babylon 5 Wars, Battletech (briefly), Babylon 5 ACTA, Starmada, Task Force Zeta, Starfire, Full Thrust. (Think that's all.)

Oh no... you opened the "List of Games Played" box...

If you focus ONLY on starship/starfighter tactical games: FASA's Star Trek Starship Tactical Combat Simulator was my first exposure, via the Star Trek RPG. From there, I was hooked. Moved on to Silent Death, Star Strike, Star Warriors, Full Thrust, A Sky Full Of Stars, Star Fleet Battles/Federation Commander, Star Frontiers, Noble Armada, Bab5 (ACTA), never actually played B5W but I do have AoG's Turning Point Fleet Action game, Battlestar Galactica and The Last Starfighter (FASA, both essentially the same game), Star Blazers, Battlefleet Gothic, Hard Vacuum, Arclight, Squadron Strike, even the Spelljammer War Captain's Companion, not to mention a host of online-only rulesets like Minimal Space Combat, Generic Space Combat II, and Slag!. I'm probably missing some.

I do feel that some things are still missing - Regeneration (I mean, what's good sci-fi without organic ships right?), AE screens (I love them and hate them at the same time), expanded tech levels (+/-2 just seems kind of restrictive), Starship/Fighter exclusive weapons (What do you mean that spinal mounted ship-killer cannon targeted my highly agile fighter flight?!), traits that affect Screens, and Cinematic Movement as an optional movement rule.

Regeneration will probably be back sooner rather than later. Honestly, I was running out of room.

AE Screens -- you mean "X number of shield points which you assign to the various defensive arcs"?

Expanded Tech Levels -- I have no objection to these in principle. You mean having more than 2 levels up/down, and not more than a max of 200% and minimum of 50%, right?

Starship/Fighter Exclusive -- will be back.

Traits that affect Screens -- need playtesting.

Cinematic Movement -- I figured it was encompassed by the rules for Etheric Drag and Graded Turns, but I'm happy to put together something "official".

And then there's the things I'm terribly divided on - 4 vs 6 defensive arcs (love it & hate it), the range-based/variable ROF/IMP/DMG traits and increased hits/IMP (it a flexibility vs complicated issue to me), Anti-Fighter Batteries (like the Starmada X concept, but don't think that they alone would cut it in a more fighter/seeker-heavy universe) - maybe allowing more than 1 occurrence of them (2 AFB means 2 fighter kills on a 1? Would require a bit of recosting).

4 defensive arcs -- you can thank/blame Ken Burnside for that one. Frankly, if I hadn't settled on 4 arcs, there wouldn't be any at all. Six was just too much. I like 4, and it's not fiddly at all in practice... I was convinced after playtesting Grand Fleets on a hexgrid (which only has four arcs for both weapons and defense).

Anti-fighter batteries are simply a re-implementation of the rule prior to Admiralty. I decided there was no need to have "active" AFBs, since you could just design a range-3 weapon with Dfn/Pnp to achieve the same result.

And things that I think could be removed - probes and shuttlecraft; concepts brought in with the SFU and have a bit more of a specialized feel to them (more cinematic and less tactical).

I like the tactical use of probes -- suggested by someone on this forum whose name escapes me. But yeah, shuttlecraft are there for simulation purposes, and not much else.

Thanks for your comments!
Daniel Kast
Majestic Twelve Games
www.mj12games.com

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Re: My thoughts on Unity

Postby MRCAcct » Thu Apr 27, 2017 4:41 pm

mj12games wrote:Oh no... you opened the "List of Games Played" box...


See, you reminded me of a couple I missed. :D *adds FASA's Star Trek and AoG's Turning Point to his list*

AE Screens -- you mean "X number of shield points which you assign to the various defensive arcs"?

Expanded Tech Levels -- I have no objection to these in principle. You mean having more than 2 levels up/down, and not more than a max of 200% and minimum of 50%, right?


Right on both counts.

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Re: My thoughts on Unity

Postby mj12games » Thu Apr 27, 2017 7:29 pm

MRCAcct wrote:*adds FASA's Star Trek and AoG's Turning Point to his list*

I absolutely LOVED FASA's Star Trek RPG and STCS. I miss them both... *sniff*
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Re: My thoughts on Unity

Postby Marauder » Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:37 pm

@MRCAcct

Great post! Agree with most of it.


@cricket

I love 4 defensive directions. 6 in SFB was always too much, but it worked okay with that game - but that was a game you didn't design your own ships.

RE: Screens - I really like the current incarnation of screens/armour. Do we need a weapon trait that counters it? I guess catastrophic and kinetic doing extra damage to it just keeps it consistent with how those traits are affected by all the other defenses.

Glad to hear some of the other stuff will be back.

I'm thinking really high levels of Stealth might get annoying to deal with. Fire control somewhat mitigates Countermeasures, as does high accuracy, but what about stealth?

-Tim

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Re: My thoughts on Unity

Postby mj12games » Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:53 pm

Marauder wrote:RE: Screens - I really like the current incarnation of screens/armour. Do we need a weapon trait that counters it? I guess catastrophic and kinetic doing extra damage to it just keeps it consistent with how those traits are affected by all the other defenses.

About the only traits I can think might be useful are:

1) Weapons that do 2x (or 3x) damage to screens, but normal damage once screens are gone.

2) Weapons that bypass screens altogether.

I'm thinking really high levels of Stealth might get annoying to deal with. Fire control somewhat mitigates Countermeasures, as does high accuracy, but what about stealth?

Stealth is more correctly equated with Shields than with Countermeasures, IMHO. And in that respect, while high levels of Stealth might be annoying to the attacker, Stealth becomes less efficient the more you use.

Stealth 1 is equivalent to Shields 1, and takes 30% less space.
Stealth 2 is equivalent to Shields 1.8, and takes 24% less space.
Stealth 3 is equivalent to Shields 2.5, and takes 17% less space.
Stealth 4 is equivalent to Shields 3.1, and takes 10% less space.
Stealth 5 is equivalent to Shields 3.6, and takes 2% less space.
Stealth 6 is equivalent to Shields 4, and takes 5% MORE space.
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Re: My thoughts on Unity

Postby Blacklancer99 » Fri Apr 28, 2017 7:25 pm

mj12games wrote:I like the tactical use of probes -- suggested by someone on this forum whose name escapes me.


I believe that was me. :geek: Have to admit I was a little too excited to see the rules in the new edition!
I was and have been a proponent for "things other than stuff that goes *pew*pew*pew*" having a game impact. I would rather not have a piece of equipment called a Probe that is really just another weapon than have it just to put on the design.

I Think every game gets exceptionally dull when it is all about simply smashing away at opponents.

I did like the scouts/escorts, though I did feel they were a bit over-priced for the in-game effect, and I like having "terrain" and other fiddly bits because they spice up the game to me. Everyone has different ideas about how they want their game to be though and that's why Starmada is kind of the perfect balance of gameplay flexibility. Go more point-shoot-'splode if that is fun, or build bigger more complicated ships and games if that is your thing, without the game getting too bogged down by encyclopedic rules.
Cheers,
Erik
Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.
Mark Twain.

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Re: My thoughts on Unity

Postby murtalianconfederacy » Sat Apr 29, 2017 9:20 am

mj12games wrote:Stealth is more correctly equated with Shields than with Countermeasures, IMHO.


(just throwing an idea that was spawned by this part of your post)

Well, if Stealth is more along the lines of Shields, maybe a weapon ability that reduces levels of Stealth (and maybe ECM, though I'm not too sure about that) akin to how Piercing gets a bonus to Impact rolls? Call it Tracking--each level of Tracking ignores one level of Stealth. Costing abilities similar to Piercing.
Staff Door at my local Waterstones:

"This door is alarmed"

:) :)

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Re: My thoughts on Unity

Postby mj12games » Sat Apr 29, 2017 6:30 pm

Tracking would have to be starship-based, and not a weapon trait, as the results of a Stealth roll apply to all weapons on the attacking ship.
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Re: My thoughts on Unity

Postby Marauder » Sat Apr 29, 2017 11:22 pm

Of course - stealth is already countered by Mines, shockwaves and the proximity trait on weapons. So probably not a big priority to find another way around it.

Would be cool if there was a ship system that was able to target a ship and somehow mitigate its: countermeasures, cloak or stealth - like some sort of electronic warfare specialist type thing (kind of like what scouts could do in SFB).

-Tim


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