Archive for May, 2007

Turn 3: Cold War turns Hot

Posted in ACTA Campaign on May 31, 2007 by redcoat668

Turn 3 considerably ramped up the pace of the campaign and conflict has broken out across the map. This was, in general, only to be expected as most of the various factions had either run out of neutral planets to expand to or were up against powerful and aggressive neighbors.

Here’s the current situation (click for larger image):

The situation on Turn 3

There are two major additions to the map:

Hyperspace Routes: these are indicated by the lengths of string. Once a system has been explored, those are the only ways in or out.

Jumpgates: These are the brass tacks. As per the show, onecan travel to any jumpgate from any other jumpgate.

Strategically, you can see that the fronts have solidified. The major upset was the acquisition of Rilus V (A6 on the map) by the Minbari, cutting the League of Non-Aligned Worlds off from the still-neutral planets beyond. Now the League needs to punch through to expand…always a rough deal against Minbari stealth and beam weapons.

Several battles are in the works:

Ve’fros (K9 on the map…hello Google users!): Bob’s Narn and the Drazi are fighting over a crashed ship on the Barren world of Soldan.

Carthage (G12): Scott’s Narn (henceforward the Tza’sol “Eyes of Blood” Narn…I know it’s Klingon. He picked it, not me) and the Drazi go head to head over a mining outpost.

Saguntum 3 (G2): The EA and Centauri draw first blood.

Caesar’s Folly(F5): The EA attempts to trap and destroy a sizable Centauri fleet.

Flux(F3): The Centauri deal with a raider base.

In addition, the Defiance system (F8) remains divided between Minbari, Tza’sol, and Narn (vanilla variety) claimants, though no side risked battle this turn. 

With five battles to be resolved, Turn 3 officially marks the end of the campaign’s “expansion” stage and the beginning of the “conflict” stage. The Centauri fight the Raiders on Friday…and an Earth Alliance “observer” will be there to record the action!

Once again, original Shannedam County map copyright FASA. No challenge is intended. Librarians are poor and not worth suing.

The League Runs Screaming

Posted in ACTA Campaign on May 23, 2007 by redcoat668

Last Friday we gathered to digest the reply from Mongoose, and to have our first battle of the campaign. The rules discussion was productive, the battle anticlimactic.

Basically, we decided that doing things Mongoose’s way was too much trouble at this point, and to go with Twilight Imperium-style “Bring the House” battles. We’re still rolling scenarios randomly, so hopefully we’ll see some convoy battles as well, but for the most part we’re looking at straight-up slugfests for control of our strategic targets. Less flavor? Yes, sadly, on the combat side. But we still get to preserve the experience system which mitigates things a little bit.

All the rules discussion we’ve been having set my mind working on coming up with a different campaign system, using the Babylon 5 Universe map and working from the viewpoint of one large fleet rather than individual fleet movement. I suspect that by the time this campaign is over everybody else will not exactly be raring for another one, but it’s still an interesting design exercise. 

But anyway…battle and stuff! As I warned, the battle itself was not exactly epic, as the League’s tiny scouting force ran up against vastly superior Narn fleet elements:

Narn scouting force.

  Only the Narn would use a Bin’Tak as a scout…

The League’s tiny scout element did the only sensible thing…deployed facing the edge of the board and ran like frightened schoolchildren.

Run away!

And that was it…over on turn one. Not even a single explosion.

I suspect Turn 3 will be a little more action packed…there’s really nowhere for anyone to go except systems controlled by other players. At the very least there should be some serious EA/Centauri combat in the weeks to come.

EAS Xenophon...in basic black.

EAS Xenophon…just out of the Proxima shipyards, primed, and ready for her first coat of paint…  

Turn 2: Earth Alliance Retrospective

Posted in ACTA Campaign on May 15, 2007 by redcoat668

We’ve already looked at the results of the Turn 2 orders in general. Now that that’s safely out of the way, we can more closely examine the REAL question all my fans (I know there are at least 20 of you. I can see the blog stats) want to know: how did what went down affect me and the Earth Alliance?

First some fluff. The year (according to my interpretation of the campaign background) is 2261 and Babylon 5’s fourth season is well underway. As the Shadow War enters its final phase and President Clark tightens his grip on Earth I, an ambitious and well-connected Earthforce General (the fluff says “Admiral” is an affected title in Earthforce…I’m not sure yet wether my character is enough of a prick to insist on it or not) have been sent to a remote sector on an antipiracy cruise. Upon realizing that this sector is essentially “up for grabs” and that the problems at home with the Marsies and Proxies have essentially given me local autonomy, I begin to build up my own personal empire under the guise of safeguarding the EA’s interests…with the ultimate ambition of leading a fleet home and ousting that no-talent xenophobe Clark. I think “First Consul” or “Protector” sounds like an excellent title… 

As you may recall, my Raider-hunting mission led to my being stuck in Gustaviv’s Regret for the entire first turn of the campaign. As a result, Earth’s sphere of influence looked like this:

The situation on Turn 1

Not an impressive start for the future First Consul of the Earth Alliance! But that’s what you get for having to follow someone else’s orders.

On Turn 2, however, my raider problem was dealt with and I could expand wherever I felt the need. As I mentioned before, I formed “heavy” CV and scout groups. I did this for two reasons. Firstly, being in the corner means there are several worlds I don’t have to worry about competing for for a while, and secondly because being a turn behind I expected to run into opposition.

I therefore pushed south and east, ignoring the equally economically impoverished Minbari in favor of creating a strong front with the Centauri. My primary objectives were the Major Systems of Trader’s Paradise and Caesar’s Folly, with Moshelle and several of the minor systems being secondary objectives.

Results: mixed success. The EA “liberated” Trader’s Paradise without a hitch, and my minor world scouting missions were, as I expected they would be, unopposed. Unfortunately another of my suspicions was proved absolutely correct when Task Group Leonidas showed up in Caesar’s Folly to find the Centauri and Minbari already there. Battle was avoided this turn as the Centauri declined a confrontation over Caesar’s Folly’s only settled world, despite being present in equal numbers.

The really nasty surprise was waiting at Moshelle, where my re-enforced scout group TF 1.1 discovered a huge Raider infestation. They were present in such superior numbers that TF 1.1 had to hide in a providential ship graveyard and call for re-enforcements.

So when all was said and done, the new situation looked like this:

Turn 2...better but still not great.

That lonely pin at the top is TF 1.1 hiding in Moshelle, and the multicolored array at the bottom right is Caesar’s Folly. Three new additions to the EA’s economy and two contested systems. Not bad, but nothing compared to the Centauri and League.

Counterbalancing this, on the theory that tiny powers should help each other out, I formed an alliance with the Minbari. This keeps my eastern flank quiet while I deal with the fanheads, and makes the battle for Caesar’s Folly a two-way instead of three-way issue. Yes, my EA political officer reminds me that official policy frowns on fraternization with the boneheads, but as that great sage Edmund Blackadder once said: “Needs must, when the devil vomits on your eiderdown.”

So…what next? Do I move in my reserves to Caesar’s Folly or exterminate the Raiders before they can drain off too many resources (d6 RR a turn for each player, in fact)? All shall be answered when Turn 3 rolls around. 

In Which We Appeal to Mongoose

Posted in A Call to Arms 1e, ACTA Campaign on May 14, 2007 by redcoat668

Turn 2 provided us with another useful lesson for miniatures campaigners: make sure everyone’s on the same page before you start!

I had gone into this endeavor with the understanding that things would be along the lines of the campaign system as presented in Sky Full of Stars: variable Priority Levels, points values, and scenarios. Others in the group had in their mind more of a Twilight Imperium feel: full access to your entire fleet at all times. The first way encourages more balanced fleets, the second way quicker and more decisive results.

This split had direct bearing on our first major in-game rules issue. The campaign rules are written on a one-system-one fleet basis. What happens when you have multiple fleets (a common occurrence in a game our size) in one system? Are they considered one big fleet or several small fleets? Can they take one Strategic Target or several?

Well when in doubt, go to the source. Here’s what Mongoose told us:

In this instance, they may separate into smaller fleets to attack different system targets. The defending fleet may separate as they wish to defend these.

This is an interesting can of worms to open, as it basically replaces the old “one fleet-one target” system with a completely new way of doing things. Before, you didn’t have to worry about defending all your STs as long as you had the ships to cover them. Here, positioning enters the mix.

It also leads to another question: what happens when your fleet doesn’t have ships of the proper priority level for the scenario? Modify the PL? Or should fleets exist as abstract “points” with ships bought as needed? Again, here’s Mongoose’s interpretation:

The last option (points) is the one to use, however the way you have been playing it can certainly be made to work. Perhaps if a player cannot bring some of his ships to the battle the story could be that sudden repairs have delayed that ship entering the battle.

This, to me, is slightly unsatisfying. Making fleets abstract essentially does away with the XP dice system, Crew Quality increases, and the Other Duties table all of which are full of great fluff.  In essence we’d have to either give all ships a blanket CQ of 4, which is bland, or reroll crew qualities for every battle, which is unrealistic. It also breaks the repair system: if ships aren’t permanent why keep track of damage? 

One way around some of these issues might be to “pool” earned experience dice. These could then be spent as desired when making fleet lists, and ships with modifications could then be kept by the player for later use. These ships would be useable in only one battle per turn, and would be lost when destroyed.

Mongoose’s reply DID ensure that there will be a battle this turn, as their ruling allows the League’s fleets to go to multiple strategic targets. Thus, the virtual pages of this blog will soon be filled with the silent, deadly interpretive dance of space combat. Finally! 

Turn 2: Fanheads and Snakeheads Ahead

Posted in ACTA Campaign on May 13, 2007 by redcoat668

Turn 2 saw things heat up as the Earth Alliance and the Minbari entered the rush for colonies, the League of Non-Aligned Worlds grew to frightening proportions, and six worlds became flashpoints.

Here’s the situation as of Turn 1. The picture is, sadly, pretty blurry but as you will see, I got better:

Turn 1-The whole map

You’ll note that everybody except the Earth Alliance and Minbari (the Yellow and Blue pins respectively) has a nice, relatively compact little sphere of influence although the Centauri and League (Orange and Green in this picture) have a little more territory. Now, here’s the situation on Turn 2. Watch the League of Non-Aligned Worlds, which will have metamorphosed to clear pins:

   Turn 2

Now we’re seeing some serious empire building! The strategy of splitting their fleets into small scout detachments has clearly paid of for the Centauri and League, as both have been able to lay claim to a larger number of neutral systems than the other players with more concentrated fleets. The League in particular is a bloated economic monster with over ten systems as Turn 2 ends, all of which have the potential to provide 20 RR EACH for their controlled system bonus. With homeworld income factored in that’s FOUR Armageddon-class ships (a Brivoki, Fireraptor, or Z’takk) every turn…and that’s even before system bonuses! Is that going to be enough to protect all that territory? We’ll have to see.

Six systems are currently contested:

  • Caesar’s Folly: Minbari, Earth Alliance, and Centauri
  • Defiance: Narn (Bob faction), Narn (Scott faction),l Minbari
  • Fager: Narn (Bob faction), Centauri
  • Ve’Fros: Drazi, Narn (Bob faction)
  • Carthage: Narn (Scott faction), Drazi
  • Sutherland: League, Narn (Scott faction)

So far, the various factions are warily eyeing each other in the contested systems, though a battle may be in the offing between Scott’s Narn and the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. More on this (and why I can’t say for sure yet) in a future post.

Original Shannedam County map copyright FASA. No challenge is intended. We beg you, do not sue.