Author Topic: Dropping Troops from Orbit  (Read 3278 times)

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Offline Steve Walmsley

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Dropping Troops from Orbit
« on: December 24, 2018, 11:23:09 AM »
About a year ago there was a discussion on the forum about how to move troops to the ground from transports. My final thoughts at that time were as follows:

Quote
Troop Transport Bays will be similar to before, except there are now three sizes (small, standard, large), which are: 100 ton (2 HS), 1000 tons (20 HS) and 5000 tons (100 HS). This is a commercial system and functions in the same way as in VB6 Aurora.

Troop Transport Bays - Drop Ship Equipped is a new module which can function as a normal troop transport bay or quickly deliver troops from orbit using abstract drop ships. If the fast orbital delivery is chosen, there will be two options for the drop - Normal and Abandon. A normal drop will include waiting for the drop ships to return to the bays, which will require two minutes without additional research. A new tech line will reduce drop ship return times, starting with 90 seconds for 2000 RP and ending with 20 seconds for 64,000 RP. In an Abandon drop, the drop ships make a one way trip, allowing the ship to leave orbit immediately after the drop. In this case the bay is damaged (to simulate the loss of the drop ships) and can only be repaired at a shipyard. A ship with intact drop ships can also pick up troops from a planet, although this requires double the normal return trip time (as it is faster to unload than load). In all cases, the ship may only carry out landing or recovery operations if it starts the movement phase in the same location as the planet. For example, in an Abandon drop, the troop ship will arrive at the planet, take any fire for that turn, then launch drop ships and move away in the following turn. There are drop ship equivalents for the three normal bays. They have the same capacities but are 20% larger, 150% more expensive and a military system.

Troop Transport Bays - Boarding Equipped is a new type which can function as normal troop transport bays or launch infantry units in a boarding attack against a hostile ship (in a similar way to VB6 Aurora). There are equivalents for the Small and Standard normal bays. They have the same capacities but are 10% larger, 50% more expensive and a military system.

There are no longer any short-duration troop transport modules, as the 'landing craft' are now the abstract drop ships. This is partly to reduce micromanagement and the number of different ground-related orders, but also to create a real flavour of an opposed landing and to require investment in 'amphibious' operations. Any STO weapons on the surface will be able to target the landing ships on the way in and out of the drop zone. The player has a few options in terms of the troop ships. For example, large and heavily armoured dropping large formations, small and fast with small formations or raiding parties, or bare bones and expendable. Of course, additional ships can accompany the troop ships in an attempt to distract or suppress the defences.

One year on and with more code in place, I am considering making a couple of adjustments and I would be interested in comments, especially on the second part.

1) All the bays will be commercial, not military. This is mainly because now that I see how many military forces would have to be involved in a major planetary assault, building sufficient large military vessels is probably prohibitive due to the shipyard and maintenance requirements. I still expect the boarding-focused troops ship to be military because they will need the military engines and some large troop ships may be military because other systems are needed in the design.

2) I am tempted to abstract the drop ships completely and not require their 'replacement' by requiring the troop ship to repair the bays after an 'abandon' order. I think it is too much micromanagement and the game play benefit isn't enough to compensate, plus given the number of supply runs likely to be required to support a major conflict, the 'repair' element would get tedious fast. In this case, the Normal and Abandon versions of the drop would become a single 'Drop' order. All drops and pickups would be instant for a ship equipped with drop bays, apart from the existing requirement to end an increment in orbit.

The problem is that I am not sure the instant drop passes the 'giggle test'. In effect, it would mean drop ships moving incredibly fast to and from the planet. Or perhaps dropping while the troop ship moving away and catching up later (which begs the question of why the troop ship doesn't remain safe while the drop ships approach from a greater distance).

If I am being over-concerned about 'reality' here, let me know. Otherwise, I do have a couple of alternative ideas that might fit the desired mechanics. The first is that rather than using 'drop ships', the special troop transport bay (20% larger and 3x more expensive than an equal capacity 'normal bay') uses clusters of small tractor beams to drop and pick up troops during a close pass of the planet. This solves both the speed to drop/pickup and the reason to be in orbit. The special bay would have tractors as a prerequisite. The same technology could theoretically be used for cargo holds but the extra cost would make it difficult to justify - I could add the 'tractor cargo bay' though.

The second option is that all ground forces are equipped as standard with some form of anti-grav 'parachute', which allows fast deployment on to planets. In this case, the special bays are designed to allow this type of speedy, mass deployment. However, loading ground forces would require the same cargo shuttles that are needed for normal transport bays (or suitable facilities on the ground). The upside is that this has no impact on other (non-ground-related) mechanics but the downside of this approach is that evacuating a force in trouble would be almost impossible against serious ground defences. Maybe that is actually realistic when considering planetary assault.

Anyway, in summary, I need mechanics/justification to allow a 'special' bay to have instant drop (and perhaps instant pickup) from orbit without micromanagement or tracking of small landing craft. BTW the reason I don't want to have to track small landing craft is that given the huge variety in units sizes (5 tons to 500 tons) and great variety in potential formation sizes, that would be a micromanagement nightmare.

All comments welcome.
 

Offline TinkerPox

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2018, 11:58:40 AM »
With the anti-grav parachutes, I believe that drop pods would be the best option.   Although I myself enjoy manufacturing small dropships/landing craft.   Perhaps both could be options to add some depth.   For instance drop pods would more difficult to target and take down, while larger vehicles would need to be carried by transport vessels, and dropships would be able to carry more.  If you want to bring massive units/vehicles to an assault, there should be a logistical burden to deploy/retrieve them.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 12:03:12 PM by TinkerPox »
 

Offline clement

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2018, 01:33:15 PM »
I like option 1 or option 2 (compete abstraction of drop ships). Could you make option 2 take some amount of time with research to reduce it. Start at 1 minute with research down to 10 seconds.

I think a planetary insertion via orbital drop (HELLNO jump from the HFY Deathworlders universe) would be a special forces maneuver.

Instead of making an abandon drop ship action require ship yard time to repair to could make it use maintenance supplies, but I am not sure if that is any better in the long run.
 

Offline JustAnotherDude

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2018, 01:46:16 PM »
I think that drop pods would work. Also, similar to the repair system but less finnicky, the Drop Bays could consume a drop pod "Ammunition". A given bay would hold X or Y pods, which would reresent the ability to drop X or Y tons instantly. This would make large scale instantaneous deployment expensive, making destruction of Ground to Space batteries more important so that reinforcements can be brought in cheaply and safely. It fits thematically and make the choice between drop and normal bays more interesting now that the military/commercial distinction doesn't apply to them.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 01:49:07 PM by JustAnotherDude »
 

Offline Scandinavian

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2018, 01:47:38 PM »
The second option is that all ground forces are equipped as standard with some form of anti-grav 'parachute', which allows fast deployment on to planets. In this case, the special bays are designed to allow this type of speedy, mass deployment. However, loading ground forces would require the same cargo shuttles that are needed for normal transport bays (or suitable facilities on the ground). The upside is that this has no impact on other (non-ground-related) mechanics but the downside of this approach is that evacuating a force in trouble would be almost impossible against serious ground defences. Maybe that is actually realistic when considering planetary assault.
This sounds very sensible to me - underestimating the difficulty of evacuating from a contested beachhead under fire and covered by still functioning shore batteries was one of the (many, many) things the British did wrong in Gallipoli, and one of the reasons it turned from a low-cost mistake into an expensive debacle.

I would even consider limiting drop harness to infantry and light vehicles (with tech upgrades to allow medium and heavy vehicles, but never super- and ultra-heavy). This would restrict the deployment of heavier vehicles until a beachhead had been secured, either with lighter ground forces or by fleet elements blasting any STOs contesting the landing.

This would mean having a standard bay that uses shuttles both ways, a drop bay that uses jump harness for drops and shuttles for pickup, and an assault bay that allows boarding but otherwise functions as a standard bay.

You might also want to consider a non-shuttle troop bay (maybe only available in Large size), which requires a spaceport to load and discharge troops, mirroring the distinction between shuttle and non-shuttle enabled cargo bays. This would give people a cheaper option to construct very large troop carriers for redeployments between existing hubs, and the symmetry with cargo bays seems aesthetically pleasing.
 
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Offline Steve Walmsley

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2018, 02:16:18 PM »
The second option is that all ground forces are equipped as standard with some form of anti-grav 'parachute', which allows fast deployment on to planets. In this case, the special bays are designed to allow this type of speedy, mass deployment. However, loading ground forces would require the same cargo shuttles that are needed for normal transport bays (or suitable facilities on the ground). The upside is that this has no impact on other (non-ground-related) mechanics but the downside of this approach is that evacuating a force in trouble would be almost impossible against serious ground defences. Maybe that is actually realistic when considering planetary assault.
This sounds very sensible to me - underestimating the difficulty of evacuating from a contested beachhead under fire and covered by still functioning shore batteries was one of the (many, many) things the British did wrong in Gallipoli, and one of the reasons it turned from a low-cost mistake into an expensive debacle.

I would even consider limiting drop harness to infantry and light vehicles (with tech upgrades to allow medium and heavy vehicles, but never super- and ultra-heavy). This would restrict the deployment of heavier vehicles until a beachhead had been secured, either with lighter ground forces or by fleet elements blasting any STOs contesting the landing.

This would mean having a standard bay that uses shuttles both ways, a drop bay that uses jump harness for drops and shuttles for pickup, and an assault bay that allows boarding but otherwise functions as a standard bay.

You might also want to consider a non-shuttle troop bay (maybe only available in Large size), which requires a spaceport to load and discharge troops, mirroring the distinction between shuttle and non-shuttle enabled cargo bays. This would give people a cheaper option to construct very large troop carriers for redeployments between existing hubs, and the symmetry with cargo bays seems aesthetically pleasing.

The more I consider it, the more I think this is the cleanest option.  We already have bases that can hold their orbit with no engines, which means they have TN thrusters that are so small they don't need to be a dedicated system. Logically, that means a TN module that only needs to control speed of descent as the ground forces approach the ground would be tiny and therefore easily abstracted. Troops would have to be lifted back into orbit using normal loading (cargo shuttles). The only situation were extraction is an issue is one where the troops where dropped into an environment in which the defenders still have functioning planetary defences and then get into trouble, which probably should be a serious problem.

That gives us normal troops bays as exist now, expensive 'drop bays' that are intended to release troops in orbit en masse with the abstracted (and easily replaced) 'descent-control units' and the already planned 'boarding bays', which have tubes to fire infantry at nearby ships. Cargo shuttles, which are a separate system, are optional in all three cases, but would be needed for all three types of bays to lift forces from planets without spaceports or cargo shuttle stations.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 02:19:24 PM by Steve Walmsley »
 
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Offline Marski

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2018, 03:53:32 PM »
Well, to clarify; Are there "special forces" that upon landing on a planet can "skip" enemy ground forces and attack directly anti-orbital assets?

I have a suggestion:
Keep shuttles as something you can design, but add a "shuttle" box you can check on the design screen.

When you want for a troop transport to send troops to a planet, have an order "shuttle ground unit to" and you select the ground unit(s) and destination. Then automatically the ship launchesthe shuttle(s) if it has them and the ship is close enough so that the shuttles can make the trip, drop the selected unit(s) and return to the ship. You could use this order with planets if you want to shuttle teams to moons or other nearby system bodies.

Add an order if you want it to be one way trip (longer range!)

I like these sort of little things. I transport teams using ships and shuttles in VB6, one time they were used for emergency evacuation of troops from a planet from a distance due to enemy ships approaching. Being able to design military shuttles gives you more options.

This way, in a underdog situation, a player can potentially take a planet from a stronger enemy without sacrifising ships to clear out the anti-orbital assets and ships first.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2018, 04:26:33 PM by Marski »
 

Offline MasonMac

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2018, 04:21:23 PM »
"Tell me boys and girls... how will you leave?"
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Offline Scandinavian

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2018, 08:10:04 PM »
Cargo shuttles, which are a separate system, are optional in all three cases, but would be needed for all three types of bays to lift forces from planets without spaceports or cargo shuttle stations.
Another thing to consider is whether ship-based systems should distinguish between cargo shuttles for freight vs. troops/passengers. In terms of realism, shuttling containers only requires you to have a spreader and enough lift to get twenty tons of payload into orbit. Self-loading freight is a lot squishier in terms of the kind of g-forces you can expose it to and you need airlocks or enclosed hangars to get it onto the orbiting vessel (whereas containers you can just hand over to a guide rail and let the vessel worry about whether the cargo hold should be pressurized or not). So while passenger lift implies cargo lift (because passengers carry supplies, carry-on baggage, equipment, etc.), cargo lift does not necessarily imply the ability to transfer passengers.

What militates against this is the additional complexity involved for what may well be a fairly minor gain in realism. Presumably space-going vessels will usually be carrying either freight or passengers but not both, and forward bases that have cargo shuttle facilities will usually want to be able to take garrisons as well as cargo. So usually the dual-use facility will be the correct one for planetside use.
 

Offline Graham

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #9 on: December 25, 2018, 04:29:00 AM »
I would support both proposals, since I really don’t want the micro of consumable shuttles. Your refined idea definitely seems like the cleanest solution to me.
 

Offline Marski

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #10 on: December 25, 2018, 04:40:51 AM »
I would support both proposals, since I really don’t want the micro of consumable shuttles. Your refined idea definitely seems like the cleanest solution to me.
I don't think the sort of people aurora attracts who go through the effort of learning to play it mind the micromanagement.
 

Offline Scandinavian

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #11 on: December 25, 2018, 04:54:19 AM »
The shuttles modeled by the cargo shuttles module are 10-20 ton small craft, not the 100-200 ton pinnaces you can design in the class design window. Trying to model something that small independently of its hangar module, when the smallest ordinary class design component weighs in at 5 tons, is going to be an exercise in frustration.

However, I think there is merit to allowing fighter sized vessels to embark and disembark troops without shuttle support (simulating that they are atmosphere-capable). That way you have the option to devote additional space to boat bays and fighter-sized assault vessels rather than shuttle bays, if you prefer to conduct your planetary invasions from stand-off range.
 

Offline Whitecold

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #12 on: December 25, 2018, 04:56:44 AM »
The shuttles modeled by the cargo shuttles module are 10-20 ton small craft, not the 100-200 ton pinnaces you can design in the class design window. Trying to model something that small independently of its hangar module, when the smallest ordinary class design component weighs in at 5 tons, is going to be an exercise in frustration.

However, I think there is merit to allowing fighter sized vessels to embark and disembark troops without shuttle support (simulating that they are atmosphere-capable). That way you have the option to devote additional space to boat bays and fighter-sized assault vessels rather than shuttle bays, if you prefer to conduct your planetary invasions from stand-off range.
10-20t smallcraft seem to be very small to carry 50-500t tanks, though. There is some consistency gap there in sizes.
 

Offline Scandinavian

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #13 on: December 25, 2018, 05:14:05 AM »
Some of that is that a tank taking up 500 ton of transport capacity isn't going to actually weigh 500 tons; the 500 tons includes its share of rear area repair depots, fuel and munitions for 30 hours of sustained combat operations, long-term crew accommodations, etc.

Another part is that Aurora abstracts away density. A Tiger I tank of fifty tons can be transported on a standard container flat-rack, and the whole thing is not going to be much larger than a 12 meter container (though the dimensions are a little different). But as a rule of thumb a 12 meter container, fully loaded, weighs 10-16 tons, not 50. And a 20 ton semi-trailer truck absolutely can load and move a Tiger tank, provided it can handle the axle load.
 

Offline Graham

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Re: Dropping Troops from Orbit
« Reply #14 on: December 25, 2018, 06:55:01 AM »
I would support both proposals, since I really don’t want the micro of consumable shuttles. Your refined idea definitely seems like the cleanest solution to me.
I don't think the sort of people aurora attracts who go through the effort of learning to play it mind the micromanagement.

I’m attracted to Aurora, and I mind. I love the level of control we have over new ground forces, but sometimes you’re just adding complexity for complexities sake, and I think this is one of those cases. There is no fun for me in having to manually rebuild the shuttles for my dropships, because it’s not interesting, it’s just admin that I shouldn’t have to deal with.

To clarify, we already have dropships you can build to run from your carrier to the planet. I don’t think we need to design 10t dropships to fit inside our 1000t dropships.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2018, 06:59:18 AM by Graham »
 

 

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