Saturday, November 26, 2011

VBAM Aliens Follow-Up

So instead of doing homework for the last couple days, I've been working on some balanced, trope-based races for Victory By Any Means.  Here's what I've got so far:

Bugs:
  • Adaptable - Raises carrying capacity of all owned planets by 20%
  • Fast Gestation - Check for population growth every 6 turns rather than 12
  • Hive Mind - +20% construction capacity, but limited to Collective governments
  • Incomprehensible Language - All treaties have a 50% chance of failure
  • Subterranean - Increases dug-in bonus when defending, halves enemy bombardment points when bombarding owned planets
  • Stalwart Defenders - Each owned planet generates militia units to defend it when invaded.
These guys are very good at filling planets with population and at holding on to worlds, but quite bad at diplomacy.  Tactically, they have no particular strengths or weaknesses.  Collective government is pretty strong (+intel defense, +construction capacity, immune to morale, -science, no elite officers), but in a game with elite officers, that penalty is actually a penalty.  Basically, they're all about the macro advantage afforded by high population.  I'm sad that I didn't find a way to work in the "nomnomnom" aspect of the trope - perhaps a special trait that increases EP yields from eating civilians and/or liquidating infrastructure is in order.  I'm also kind of considering building a trait that gives all this race's ships the Biological special ability from the CMC; not sure whether this should also increase maintenance costs of their units, but I don't know by how much.

Bots:
  • Advanced Weaponry - +1 Anti-Ship and Anti-Fighter on naval vessels, +1 attack and defense on ground units, +5% military maintenance
  • Environmental Tolerance - +2 carrying capacity on all owned worlds, 10% discount on infrastructure purchases
  • Predictable - -1 penalty to surprise rolls in space combat
  • Robotic - No natural population growth, can artificially build census, 1/3 maintenance on census, +20% construction capacity, Collective governments only, lower difficulty for stealing tech
  • Superiority Complex - Until roll a 10 on 1d10, cannot conduct diplomacy with newly-met empire.  Roll each month; declarations of war and hostility unaffected.
Very similar on a holistic level to the bugs - definitely have a macro advantage for booming econ between being able to control population growth and the discount on infrastructure, but bad at diplomacy.  While the bugs have strong defense, the bots have strong offense, but suffer from high maintenance costs (both on military units and on their own populace), and since robotic census is pretty expensive, you're paying economically for your versatility.  I'm most worried about balance on these guys, but I think I hit the main themes of the trope well.

Savages:
  • Combat Respect - Treaties with any given power have a 25% chance of failure until you've met their forces in battle
  • Honorable - All bonuses and penalties to breaking treaties are doubled
  • Maneuverable Ships - Increased control over scenario length
  • Martial Prowess - All owned ground units gain +1 to attack, attrition, and d-factor
  • Poor Spies - One point of intel per intel mission is 'lost' and generates no benefit 
  • Professional Armies - Ground unit maintenance costs are reduced, and military elite officer XP costs receive a 10% discount
  • Skilled Commanders - All owned naval units gain +10% command rating
  • Warmonger - +20% bonus to declaring war, 15% chance to refuse any off of armistice
In stark contrast to the bugs and the bots, the noble savages have basically no macro advantages, but are very strong in combat, both in space and on the ground.  They're bad at spying, but OK for defense against spies, and suffer from some diplomatic restrictions.  They're mighty good at declaring war, though...  Also, while the bugs and the bots are restricted to Collective governments, the Savages can choose any flavor of government they like (Military Meritocracy, for example).  As far as the tropes go, I probably could cut out some of the naval bonuses, but they're rather nice.

Puppeteers:
  • Corrupt - -5% GDP, easier for underworld empires to gain power in owned systems
  • Cunning - +1 bonus to surprise rolls in space combat
  • Elite Diplomats - 10 free intel points per turn which can only be used for diplomatic purposes, and elite diplomat XP costs gain a 30% discount
  • Sabotage Experts - All sabotage missions gain 1 point of free intel
  • Shapeshifters - -25% to failure rate of intel missions, but enemies gain a +15% bonus to break treaties
  • Slow Gestation - Check for population growth every 18 months rather than every 12
  • Sneaky - Reduce the length of pursuit scenarios by 1 turn, pursuer must use one fewer squadron, -10% to chance of being discovered if using stealthy movement
The puppeteers have some serious macro penalties, but gain excellent spies, excellent diplomacy (not only no restrictions like the previous three races suffer from, but bonus intel for diplomacy), and a few tricky tactical bonuses to space combat.  Not a race for a stand-up slugging match, but in a 5-person game, a little plausible deniability could go a long way.  I'm a bit concerned that they might be underpowered, but that's something only playtesting will tell.  I considered the Telepathic and Espionage Expert traits, but I'm not sure hidden forces will be a thing, since we're going to be playing face-to-face / board game style.  If playing by PBeM, substitute Espionage Experts for Sabotage Experts to taste.  There's also no 'dark X' side of the coin here, but I'm pretty OK with that.  Elsewise, hits the tropes fairly well.

Merchants
  • Efficient Operatives - Maintenance on Intel points if 1/12 rather than 1/10
  • Expert Scientists - -5% to tech investment threshold
  • Friendly - Other powers take -15% to break treaties with this power, -10% to declare war against
  • Gifted Negotiators - 3 free intel points per turn for diplomacy only
  • Logistics Experts - Supply range of 3 starlanes instead of 2
  • Mercantile - +20% commerce income
  • Open Society - All intel missions against this power are at -1 difficulty
  • Unprofessional Armies - Ground unit maintenance increased by 1 per denominator
The merchants are kind of a happy middle ground.  They've got some economic stuff going for them in terms of EP generation, which serves similarly to the macro advantage of the bugs and the bots, but they also have small diplomatic bonuses and a choice of governments.  They have the strategic advantage of long supply lines, but suffer from weak defense against spies and from expensive ground units (justified as having to pay mercenaries).  Think the Italian states of the Renaissance period.  I'm concerned that, as with generalists in many games, the merchants will get stomped by specialists (namely everybody else).  It would be possible to specialize them further, but I'm not sure trade / civilian fleets / supply are a particularly strong thing to specialize in.  Also weird is that they kind of have two cross-purpose traits - Efficient Operatives makes it cheaper to hold on to lots of defensive intel, which is then rendered less effective by Open Society.  Not entirely happy with that; could swap Efficient Operatives for another 'spy' trait of the same price to put a particular spin on them.  Mission Specialist: Assassinate Officer significantly changes the way the race feels, for example, from a bunch of merchants to a race of mercenaries, while Insurgency Specialist puts a more social / cultural powerhouse spin on things (a bit more like modern Japan, perhaps).

So, that's what I've got.  In a five-player match, one of each species, I'm really not sure how things would roll out.  I think the puppeteers and bugs would get along great, as the 10 points of free diplomatic intel can be used to counter the language barrier, allowing treaties with no chance of failure.  This leaves the savages, the bots, and the merchants to kind of hack things out amongst themselves...  That could go quite poorly for the merchants, leading to possibly a "Poland between Germany and Russia in World War 2" situation, or to a small, staged engagement between the merchants and the savages in order to satisfy the savages' combat respect and allow an alliance with the machines...  Really depends on the players, there, and possibly on the order of contact between species.

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