Author Topic: Opposed survey  (Read 1081 times)

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Offline Michael Sandy

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Opposed survey
« on: April 04, 2017, 11:03:34 AM »
Inspired by the Alpha Centauri Arena and the other links here:

http://aurora2.pentarch.org/index.php?topic=9484.0

A mix of strategy, tactics, and priorities.

Similar to the Alpha Centauri Arena, the two sides enter through jump gates about 1 billion km apart, and they have 100 k or so research points available.

But the objective is to survey the intervening space, probe the jump point leading out, and if things haven't been resolved by then, to survey the discovered system(s).

There is at least one jump point out, and it may lead to an El Dorado system, a junction system that shortens the distance to both empires, or some other interesting strategic goal.

Players start with a survey fleet that has used 7 billion km worth of fuel and a year on their morale and maintenance clocks, and 1000 BP.

7 billion km back, they have a nodal response fleet and maintenance base, (fleets there are fueled up and full morale with no time on their clocks), comprising of 3000 BP.

7 billion km further back is the capital, with 6000 BP worth of response force.

Unlike in previous set ups, production technologies won't increase the size of the initial fleets.  It WILL affect the monthly builds from the capital.  Players can try to plan for a long or a short war, rather than the choice being between a larger, low tech fleet and a smaller, higher tech one.

I figure the economy of both sides will be 2000 BP x the square root of the mining, construction, and wealth technology multipliers.

Production will be discounted by the production techs available, like ordnance, fighters and shipyard tech.

Certain technologies will be discounted, at least 50%.

Emergency Cryo, Salvage, Cargo Handling, grav survey, construction brigades and possibly jump engine tech.

There won't be explicit fuel requirements, other than all new production will have traveled 14 billion km, and you have to pay for the fuel.  So fuel efficiency tech isn't a bad idea.  I am toying with the idea of having various small asteroids available, both in the contested systems and in the systems leading to them.

Players will have the option of increasing their survey fleet size, at a cost to the size of their response fleets.  Each BP would cost 3 BP from the nodal response fleet, or 6 from the capital response fleet.  So players can go with larger initial fleets at the expense of immediate reinforcements.  This makes scouting and probing a lot more important. Similarly, the nodal response fleet can be made bigger at the expense of the capital fleet, and vice versa.

I would like to explore what people would arm their survey fleets with if they were competing against players instead of the AI.  And do they go with small expendable, low signature survey craft, or with concentrated survey power, including multiple survey instruments together with an escort.  Do they hunt enemy surveyors, or focus more on completing their own goal?

Some tie breaking conditions:
Capturing enemy ships, crew
Crew losses (which can be reduced if crew pods can be rescued
Surveying beyond the contested system, bonus points if you can find the jump point to the enemy nodal base.
Salvaging enemy technology. Figure that salvaged enemy ships are worth about x10 as much as destroyed enemy ships.

Some caveats, I have little experience, and would not be able to run this, nor would my computer be able to handle it.  This is as much the seed for a campaign as for a one off extended scenario.
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2017, 11:19:51 AM »
Something important here, the victory condition doesn't require any combat.  But turtling just isn't going to be enough.  Stealthed survey ships would be able to get at least a partial victory by surveying the contested system, but that isn't going to be enough if the enemy surveys the contested system and forces or blockades the jump point, and completes their survey of the newly discovered systems as well.

And yes, one side could go with a 3000 point survey force and rush to interdict the enemy jump point, but their enemy would not be obligated to jump in with dribs and drabs, they could have the nodal and capital response fleets hit it together.  They can't wait too long, as a front loaded force might complete the surveys and probes if not pressured.
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2017, 11:30:41 AM »
So I am expecting all sorts of crazy strategies.

Like dumping recon drones on all the grav survey points.  Like having the nodal base initial BP be mostly missile stocks.  Like truly long ranged missiles for the purpose of constraining the enemy survey, forcing it to stay concentrated within a point defense envelope.  Like fighters waiting with engines off, waiting for an enemy and englobing them.
 

Offline MarcAFK

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2017, 06:49:24 PM »
I like it, I have trouble visualizing the setup though but that's just me.
" Why is this godforsaken hellhole worth dying for? "
". . .  We know nothing about them, their language, their history or what they look like.  But we can assume this.  They stand for everything we don't stand for.  Also they told me you guys look like dorks. "
"Stop exploding, you cowards.  "
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2017, 07:33:40 PM »
Basically, the frontier system being contested is far enough away from the Homeworlds for logistics to matter.  And the initial contact is going to be between a small fraction of the available fleets, but can still gain a valuable advantage as both sides put more of their forces to bear.

As the survey fleet is kind of small, I didn't want a concept to be unnecessarily stifled trying to fit it into an exact number of build points, but I wanted a cost to going over.  And it is a sort of abstract representation of different deployment strategies, whether it focuses on nodal defense, or somewhat better equipped survey fleets.

I think there are a bunch of variants regarding the exact distance to the nodal defense and ratios of defense force to survey force that could be fun.

I like the 100,000 RP budget contests more than the 'get everything under 5k cost' contests, because it more reflects how players would develop their technology from a conventional start.  I wanted a scenario that would capture some of the strategic considerations players encounter early in their expansion, to give ideas for what a good survey force/nodal force/heavy response force should look like.

I don't know if having a 'capture and salvage' bonus adds anything to the scenario, but it is a consideration that players would have, especially with their early expansion.
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2017, 07:41:19 PM »
And yeah, I am a bit stumped on the setup as well.  Considerations of one-off fleet vs fleet are a lot easier to quantify.  "Can I carry enough missiles to destroy the enemy?"  "Can I force an engagement or disengage effectively?"

But this is more about managing a small war, about the difficulties in anticipating what missiles or other resupply will be needed.  You could have a scout fleet designed to try to make the enemy maneuver a lot, and waste fuel.  Useless vs the AI, but can cause a potential headache for players.

I have seen a number of interesting designs for large carrier borne boosted ships, which are very fuel intensive and short ranged.  Those can be great for one-offs, but are a logistical pain in the butt if you have an expectation of a succession of high intensity and low intensity engagements.  It is easily the sort of thing that would bite me, I know.  I don't know if would be a FUN complication to manage.
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2017, 01:04:24 PM »
I would like some feedback on mine strategy.

I figure a size 6 missile, with 1.5 MSP drive, .5 msp fuel, a 2 MSP second stage sensor head, and a 2 MSP missile with a size 4 warhead would make for a harassment build.

The goal is not to destroy enemy survey craft so much as to attempt mission kills with a point of structure damage taking out fuel tank or engine or even the expensive sensor system.  Resolution 10 active sensors, to be able to target even the smallest survey craft.

The other idea would be to go with resolution 60 sensors, which would allow for much longer range on the mines, assuming the targets to be survey ships with commercial engines.  Again, deploying enough mines to get a kill, especially on survey ships that have 25 HTK on just their engines seems impractical, but it would severely hamper someone who went for barebones cheap survey craft, and nothing like a 4 megaton warhead to signal the location of a target for potential followup.

So the strategy would be to have a couple of minelayers with the survey fleet, they launch on the ring of survey points closest to the enemy jump point first, and move out.  At 15 MSP a magazine or so, at that tech, 20 magazines is 50 size 6 missiles, enough to cover all the survey points.  Then the minelayers head to the nodal base for more missiles, which can also be used to buff up the jump point security if the enemy has an aggressive survey fleet.

But such a cheap minelaying strategy could be fairly easily countered, with a AMM missile launcher and sensor on each survey ship.  That bumps up the per survey ship cost a bit, but makes it substantially harder to cheaply kill them.  And in a main fleet engagement, they can help thin out missile attacks and soak damage.

The question is, how big an anti-missile sensor do you go for on your survey ships?  Anything larger than 1 HS, you may as well turn your survey ships into real escorts, with 2-4 launchers and 1-2 magazines per launcher.
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2017, 02:41:05 PM »
I began this exercise as a fan of bare bones survey ships.  But early on, you can't fit 5 HS of grav sensor on to a fighter that has more than 2 HS in engines, so a commercial engined grav survey ship is likely to be faster than a grav survey fighter, at least if the fighter has any operating range.

The commercial engined survey ship will be bigger, easier to hit, and a bit more expensive... except that it doesn't require the overhead of a carrier.

Unlike almost any other ship class, the grav survey class has to operate independently.  It can't rely on a squadron mate for sensor coverage or point defense, it has to have that on its own, or be completely expendable.

Geo survey fleets can choose to use survey drones on planets, moons, asteroids, but that isn't an option for grav survey.

This has really gotten me thinking about whether or not to arm my initial grav survey fleet.  I am kind of inclined to, partly to conserve shipyard retooling time.  The purpose wouldn't be to win wars with them, but to get more information back if they met something hostile.
 

Offline lennson

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2017, 03:28:39 PM »
For the scenario do both sides know that the system will be contested?

If so I probably wouldn't even bother trying to do a survey until the system is secured, so the font 'survey' fleet wouldn't have any grav survey sensors and rather would be equipped with high power box launched missiles and tasked with securing and picketing the enemy jump point while waiting for other forces to arrive.


If my side didn't expect the system to be contested I would probably just immediately withdraw from the system, having a cheap survey fleet (moving BP to a stronger response fleet), and wait for reinforcements. The point being I don't see the enemy accomplishing any meaningful amount of surveying before a proper battle fleet can show up, which can then take care of securing and sweeping the system of threats.

 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2017, 07:10:04 PM »
The point being I don't see the enemy accomplishing any meaningful amount of surveying before a proper battle fleet can show up, which can then take care of securing and sweeping the system of threats.

One of the points of this scenario/contest is to find out IF a meaningful amount of surveying can be done before a proper battle fleet can show up, and if so, how, and what are cheap ways of interfering with it.

Among the issues I anticipate is that it might take a substantial division of force to really stop a determined surveyor, and that could lead to defeat in detail.

Finding fighter sized or FAC-sized survey craft at low tech level is a nontrivial expense.  So 'sweeping a system of threats' could involve consuming a LOT of fuel.  Not a consideration vs the AI, but a player vs player campaign is a potential issue. Yes, you know where they WANT to be, the various grav survey points, but at any given time they may not be near any of them.

Having to be strong at one's entry point, one's enemy's entry point, as well as the distant survey points may not be possible, so one has to make compromises which leads to a more dynamic strategic equation.
 

Offline lennson

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2017, 08:53:00 PM »
I imagine one way to find sneaking survey crafts would be to fire/drop thermal sensor buoys on the grav survey points. They can be really small/cheap since you know that a survey craft will need to be right on top of it to survey the grav point.

While it is true that it may be not practical to make sure there are no enemy ships in a system it shouldn't be that hard to make sure they aren't doing anything useful without giving away their location.
 

Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2017, 09:17:22 PM »
Cheap in terms of BP, but not cheap in terms of magazine space.

In order to get recon probes that have both range and speed, they need to be fairly large to have efficient engines.  Yes, the initial recon probes can go pretty slow, but replacements you want to get on site before the target has moved off.

I expect the game of killing recon drones and buoys could get quite complicated, again, offering the opportunity for defeat in detail, or for suckering large forces off of other vital strategic points.

Writing the standing orders could be a bitch.

Would thermal buoys have enough detection to detect a slow moving fuel efficient survey ship?  Cause if you put it EXACTLY on the survey point, your own buoy could get detected by an active sensor buoy.
 

Offline lennson

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2017, 01:30:06 PM »
I thought about this some more and I don't think the my initial idea of buoys works very well because it is too easy to effectively do 'hit and run', avoiding getting caught.

However what could work would be to set a trap in the form of a combat ship sitting silently near a survey point with only hard to detect low res active sensors on. This prevents the enemy survey crafts from having an opportunity to run away and it doesn't cause logistic issues since excessive ammo or fuel isn't needed.


This could lead to both sides needing to check a survey point for hiding combat ships with their own combat ships before sending a survey ship. Unless they are okay with some of their survey ships getting blown up eventually.

 

Offline hyramgraff

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2017, 07:39:29 AM »
There's one detail about the scenario that I haven't seen mentioned.  How many SP do each of the survey points require?

If the contested system is easy to survey (~100 SP required) then a delayed response would be more likely to arrive after the critical JP has already been found but the survey locations will be close enough that one or two sensor ships would be able to cover all of them.  If the contested system is hard to survey (~1000 SP required) then there's no hope of completing the survey before capital response fleets arrive but you might need a dedicated logistics operation just to get your survey ship to the survey locations on the far side of the outer ring.
 
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Offline Michael Sandy

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Re: Opposed survey
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2017, 02:47:32 PM »
Oooh, those are good questions.

Cause if a rush fleet can't complete the survey before the main fleet gets there, what is the advantage of even STARTING surveying with a normal sized survey fleet?

Hmmm.  Actually, there is some advantage.  After more fleets arrive, it becomes harder and harder to survey multiple nodes at once without losing survey vessels.  If you can survey the inner ring of nodes, it gets harder for an enemy fast response fleet to intercept without exposing themselves to defeat in detail.

An initial survey effort can make it harder for the enemy which has a larger fleet at some point from simply barricading an unsurveyed node, if they aren't 100% sure that node has not been surveyed.  It might be worth it for the survey rush fleet to sacrifice a few bare bones survey craft on nodes they have already surveyed, to let the enemy think that they HAVEN'T yet complete the survey on those nodes.  If they can sucker the enemy fleet into blockading nodes they have already surveyed, that is less resources to slow them from completing the rest of the survey.

How about this, a pure rush fleet should be able to complete the first survey before a slow capital response fleet can get there. (say 50% HS commercial engines, or 25% HS regular engines)  Which could give them an advantage if they can then get survey started on the second system without revealing the location of the jump point to the slower fleet.

But if the rush fleet was nearly pure survey fleets, that means it doesn't have reinforcements coming until the new builds can get from the capital to the system, so they have nothing in system to stop the less front loaded forces from quickly surveying the system.

The scoring is sort of like Quidditch, the game ends when the second system is surveyed and probed.  But I suppose if the successful survey force has lost their nodal base, that is at best a draw.  But if the 2nd system has jump points to the outer reaches of both home systems, even that would yield a victory for the survey force, as they could directly threaten the enemy home system while the side with the unsuccessful survey force's fleet is away.

But you are right, the set up is a bit tricky to calculate.
 

 

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