Sunday, May 22, 2011

Starmada Campaign: Week 0

The opening battles of the war for the Sakkara Sector were fought this evening, with the native Sayok (moi) defending their claim to the sector against the hive-minded Bedechnis (Jared), the time-traveling space Romans of the Mythic Legion (Tim), and the Royal Brittonic Navy (Matt).  The first game saw the Sayok allied with the Legions, as the carriers of both fleets were caught trapped against a black hole known as the Maw by the combined fleets of the Bedechnis and the RBN, who hid in the dust clouds accreted around the Maw.  The Legion was bolstered by unexpected reinforcements, as were the Bedechnis, while I had a poorly-chosen vendetta against a Bedechni cruiser known as Sajuk.  The RBN's subplot was Surprise Attack, giving them 2 turns to win the battle...  I suppose their intelligence network was responsible for the trap, perhaps.  While a group of Sayok raider frigates was able to capture one Brittonic vessel, both of our carriers were destroyed by enemy small craft, and we lost (and also failed both of our subplots, while Jared and Matt both achieved theirs).  This allowed Matt and Jared to extend their influence deeper into the Sector.  Tim failed his appeal for reinforcements, while I managed to procure a flight of lance frigates and a flight of independent fighters.  The Legion, however, took possession of the captured Brittonic vessel, as no Sayok vessels remaining on the field, precipitating a declaration of war against them as well.

In the second battle, the Battle of Dark Space (though the Bedechnis and the Legions have a different name for it - we named it for the sensor interference which greatly hindered our fighting), I allied with the RBN as the attacker on Patrol.  We'd never played Patrol before, which perhaps contributed to our poor tactics.  We should've hung back...  but the captains of the Sayok cruisers, hungry to avenge their fallen comrades, engaged somewhat more hastily than was optimal.  All four fleets rolled Extended Duty for their subplots (with odds of 1 in 1296...), leaving the Legion's capital ships nearly weaponless and inflicting light inconveniences on the other fleets.  The Legion flotillas arrayed themselves in one corner of the map, while a Bedechni flotilla attacked along the south, and the Bedechni missile carrier from the first game hung back and launched missiles.  The RBN ships remained behind the Sayok cruiser line and launched a huge wave of boarding pods...  but the Bedechni flotilla managed to cripple two of the Sayok cruisers (though it was destroyed in turn), and the rest of the enemy fleets managed to escape, scoring them many VP.  Jared and Tim were both promoted to Subsector Commander, while Matt was demoted to Battlegroup Commander, and I remained merely a commander (with Renown 2 after as many battles), and my fleet held together by duct tape and military aid (repairs) from the RBN in exchange for a non-aggression pact during our next game.  And no aid from the home front, either...  failed my reinforcements roll.  But hey, if they take my homeworld (which Jared and Tim are poised to do in two more wins - I had last pick of systems, and the corner industrial world was looking kind of meh), then I can play Eldar pirates like I really want to.  Likewise, if I hit Renown 0, the Sayok tribes may disband into leaderless raiders, prompting a similar transition to piratehood. Arrr.

So, the map:

Jared's green, I'm grey, Matt's red, and Tim's blue.  Neither of our pirate players was able to play today, but I'm hoping I might be able to score a win against one of them during the week so I can grab another system for much-needed repair output (probably that civilized world as a buffer against Tim).

Other things I learned:
  • Man, flotillas.  More forward firepower than a cruiser, faster than fighters, and more searchlights than you can shake a flaregun at.  Part of why I really wish I were playing Eldar; easy enough to get behind a flotilla with cloaked Eldar, and then you can open up on them from relative safety.  Especially annoying because my long-range guns are No Hull Damage, for a -1 penalty to shooting against flotillas.  Basically I need to build high-IMP weapons to deal with them.
  • I think we're going to see a lot of "Stand off and let the fighters do the talking", especially with the higher-CRAT games we've started playing.  This makes me sad, because my only carrier was destroyed in the Battle of the Maw, so now I'm stuck with fairly expensive independent fighters and mediocre long-range firepower (especially against Tim's Stealth fleet).  On the other hand, they're a lot better than my carrier fighters were, so meh.  I am also disappointed that I bought Extra Shield Damage, since nobody else is actually using capital ships or shields much (Jared's got screens, while most of Tim's stuff seems to have Shields 3, and Matt's running mostly Shields 1 from what I've seen).  Failed to read the metagame correctly, I guess.
  • Searchlights and localized dust clouds were actually really interesting, terrain wise, though I like planets better.  The localized dust clouds provided an area of cover where you had basically had to be in the cloud to shoot other things in the cloud - most of the battle took place there.  I guess it was kind of the equivalent of forest or town hexes in some of the older SPI games I've read, where you want to hold it because it's hard to shoot through.  Searchlights were interesting because it provided a decent simulation of sensors that weren't of infinite power.  It also prompted the notion of using flotillas as spotters; they get so many searchlights that you could build a flotilla of high speed, with a bunch of defensive specials and like one teleporter for a little ORAT so they're not free, and then buy them in huge numbers.  Then use them to light up enemies, since they have a ton of searchlights, so they'll make the range rolls eventually (or just run them up to within 10 of the enemy and have them auto-light for not very many points).  I might actually have to keep some flots designed like that around for that purpose.  I think it might be interesting to make searchlights kind of a standard rule - it does nicely cut down the long range factor (unless one side has many many more searchlights than the other, as happened to us).  Also interesting would be to add a modification where a ship that fires is automatically illuminated for the next turn's shooting phase (the old counter-battery fire trick).  
So yeah - crushing defeat.  I think things will get more interesting once someone else takes the center industrial world and one or more strong powers end up fighting over it, though I'm also not sure how much repair they're going to need - Tim and Jared have both been unable to use their full repair capacity either battle.  Guess we'll see next week.

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