Tuesday, September 21, 2010

LBB2 I love you, but

on the other hand, I just ran an LBB2 fight between a type R (skilled crew, expensively-programmed computer) with a type T (hack crew, low budget programming; barely enough to afford the launch program.) The R lost its laser turret (BBB) but its combo missile-sand (MMS) turret remained up the whole fight, and the T always suffered a disadvantage with lasers; the 6 missile racks on the T seemed likely to overwhelm the R's two; neither the T nor the R had any missile defense available. And yet neither side landed any major hits, only scoring dozens of hull and hold hits until the last missile salvos, whereupon both suffered criticals to drives and power plants, leaving them adrift on vaguely similar vectors. If I hadn't houseruled crew casualties, not a soul would have been hurt on either side.

I'm seriously thinking of beginning to experiment again with High Guard combat, perhaps retaining LBB2 for shipbuilding, perhaps not. I may be able to retain the spirit of the thing, regardless.

Although I love the computer programming aspect of LBB2, I do think it throws things out of whack if a little slug of a Free Trader can slap in Maneuver/Evade 5 and give free reign to a Pilot-4, you know? Also - especially if you're like me, and barely get a chance to do anything but solitaire play - HG is attractive for limiting the variables somewhat. Makes it easier to slap an encounter together.


What one suspects about LBB2 combat is that ships are really fragile, and it's true that any hit is capable of being a critical: a 5000 ton carrier, notionally, can be wasted by a lucky shot from a ship's boat. (An argument, certainly, for keeping military hulls small in my book.)

In practice, however, two tiny ships can stand toe to toe and let each other have it for an hour or more without doing much more than poking holes (lots and lots and lots of holes) in the hull, and two ships can fight each other to a standstill, and end up delivering mutual mission-kills.

I don't, for the life of me, remember how a fight like that plays out in High Guard. I'll have to try it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Things are out of whack because you installed a larger computer in the Type R and added a legendary pilot too. Every system breaks down when it's pushed to extremes and the subbie you wrote about is an extreme.

With a computer rating of 1, a subbie *should* only be able to run 2 points of programs while holding another 4. That's essentially "Maneuver & Target" or "Target & Launch" and not much else. Each turn the crew can choose to either maneuver and shoot their lasers or not maneuver and launch missiles. They cannot use return fire, they cannot even perform AM fire if memory serves.

What size computer did you put aboard? Something close to the Type T's size 3 computer?

LBB2 doesn't even mention energy points but, with the exception of the x-boats, the LBB2 designs do happen to meet their HG2 energy budgets when designed with those rules. IIRC, the subbie design doesn't have any "extra" EPs for a larger computer, so your computer upgrade should have included a bigger power plant too.

Another question I have is what gee-ratings did you use for missiles?


8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And about your questions regarding HG2's range determination...

HG2 is an extremely abstract ship combat simulation. There isn't even a map for starters and many other possible situations were ignored so that the rules could handle huge numbers of huge ships with huge amounts of weapons in a fairly quick manner. Check out my HG2 battle summary in COTI's file section for a more in depth discussion of this.

Anyway, I can easily see an "immobile" ship "determining" the range of an engagement for a few turns after losing it's maneuver drives. Remember, HG2 is supposed to be modeling ships moving along vectors in three dimensions and the controlled chaos of a battle means that "movement", "shooting", "damage" don't occur in discrete steps completely separated from one another.

Look at vectors for example. The immobile ship is actually "coasting" along a vector it can no longer change and the range between it and the mobile ship is going to depend on a comparison between it's vector and the mobile ship's vector. Who's to say that the mobile ship cannot change it's vector enough to "choose" the range in the time associated with the turn in question?

HG2's ranges have Mayday equivalents: 0-5 hexes is Short and 6-15 hexes is Long. Push a few chits around a Mayday map and you'll see that, in some situations, changing the range isn't a given.

Look at the controlled chaos angle too. Ships in Traveller's "reality" aren't moving, then shooting, then applying damage. They're moving, shooting, and inflicting damage all at the same time. We just separate those actions out in order to impose some order on the chaos for play purposes.

This means that a ship isn't going to fire after all movement is completed. Ships are going to fire when they THINK they have the best possible shot and, because no one knows the future, ships may fire "earlier" than they should.

The "best possible shot" decision is going to be an amalgam of many, many different things like the current sensor situation, the projected sensor situation, weapons availability, targeting locks, positional relationships between firer and target, and others we cannot even guess at.

The "mobile" vessel in your question may very well start the time period at Long range, end the time period at Short range, and yet fire her weapons at Long range because of this "best possible shot" decision. I don't know if you've ever played "Star Fleet Battles".

That war game uses a pre-plotted pulse movement system which illustrates my "best possible shot" blather neatly. Each movement phase is split into many subphases in which a ship may be moved one hex along a pre-plotted course. For example, imagine Ship A with a speed of 2 and Ship B with a speed of 6. The movement phase would be split into 6 "pulses" with Ship B moving one hex each time and Ship A moving one hex on pulses 3 and 6.

The fun really begins when it comes to firing weapons. You can shoot in any pulse, but you can only shoot a weapon once during the entire movement phase. You know where you're heading during the movement phase, but you don't know where you opponent is moving and you don't know how far he's moving either. After each pulse, you've got to decide whether to shoot now or to shoot later when the range might more favorable.

It's this "best possible shot" decision that let's an immobile ship "determine" the range in HG2.


8:50 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Thanks for the responses! But I think you've got LBB2 computer rules borked. They're not that restrictive. In a given turn, a computer/1 can have 2 program slots active, and 4 in storage. Only the two CPU slots can be active during any one phase, but programs rotate from CPU to STORAGE freely between phases.

My subbie had a stock model/1, running:

Auto Evade (1)*
Return Fire(1)
Target (1)
Launch (1)
and Gunner interact(1).

*I use Mayday's interpretation of A/E, M/E and Maneuver; they don't mix.

Antimissile works fine, IF you drop one of the other programs during the reprogramming phase and slot AM in. It just means that you can either do Antimissile fire, or return laser fire. Not both.

Programs only need to be active during their relevant phases, so during the return fire phase, Return Fire and Target can operate; during the laser fire phase, target & GI and so on.

LBB2, page 38 covers this.

The major imbalance in the fight was actually the T's lack of programming. Generally speaking, I'd have a Navy ship using top of the line programming, but when I'm futzing around I'll randomize a ship's programming budget, and these clowns couldn't afford much.

Now, with regard to your HG analysis (the best possible shot blather), I find THAT pretty compelling. That's the sort of thought I was trolling for on CotI, and not finding. Thanks!

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup, I'd forgotten about the free program swaps between phases with the Programming Phase used to move programs in/out of the computer itself.

Still, pilot-4 is "extreme" for the thinking behind the rules. The whole skill inflation paradigm we've seen over the last 30+ years wasn't foreseen at all. With CT, GDW didn't think we'd be running PC through large numbers of terms to routinely produce skill levels like that. Look at the pre-genned PCs in the various CT adventures, S:4, boxed games, etc. Anything at a level of 4 is rarely seen. It's an extreme for the system so it's going to produce weird results.

As for program load outs, I always assumed gov't ship, and especially military ones, would have better software than the usual free trader. One of your other blog posts nicely pointed out how the software to use a weapon costs more than the weapon itself. Gov'ts are going to have the dough to buy what they need, they're going to buy enough to get price breaks, and they'll usually have enough skills on the payroll to write their own. Unless it belongs to Backwater-3 or is being operated by someone who "stole" it, that Type-T should have a better software package than the subbie.

Again, giving the subbie better software than the Type-T pushes the "experiment" more towards an extreme the system cannot handle.

Whether there would be better skills on the Type-T is another question... ;)

Thank for writing soon quickly.


10:10 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

We're pretty much in agreement.

Pilot-4 is extreme, but the rules do envision some few having it: check the computer programming rules for example. Indeed, I was using that as an example: my boy in the subbie had Pilot-2.

My assumption as well about the Military/gummint ships: the best programs money can buy for the routine vehicles, custom stuff for the good ships.

This particular foe were a pirate, so I allowed some wiggle room. Though I probably shouldn't. Were it a navy ship, it'd be firing at +3 and evading at -5 all the time.

Now, the assumption in High Guard is that the programs to run all the ship's systems are in place, a full load-out, and that the strength of the computers is the main factor. Makes sense in a naval engagement: also makes sense if you want to avoid programming rules and expenses!

4:00 AM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Oh! And I forgot all about the missiles.

Basically, I've been doing "range band" combat, but using Mayday hexboards and chits; the missiles I've defaulted to 6G-whatever. (Actually, 6Gs for 6 turns would have done it. The missiles could have been made in SS3 for what, ten thousand apiece?)

4:03 AM  
Blogger Festeria said...

In the end, I'd probably be just as happy doing the sort of split-duty that I did when I first got High Guard back in the day: kept LBB1 for most adventure level ships, and used HG as a source for big ship background chrome. In fact, I distinctly remember recoiling from HG ship design but converting book 2 ships to HG stats and running the combats in HG.

The thing that sticks in my craw (apart from my basic reluctance to leave the LBB123 framework I've been using here) is that while you can express book 2 ships in High Guard nomenclature, the opposite really isn't the case: you can run a book 2 ship in High Guard combat but you can't really translate a High Guard build into Book 2 terms without lots of fudging (Okay, the ship's 400 tons and the drives all operate at 2, so I guess that makes them equivalent of D drives, sorta?) Awkward.

On the other hand, I'm envisioning a TU with lower budgets overall, fleets more concentrated on key worlds and less wide-ranging, so in many ways I think I can still run with the LBB2 model and enjoy it. I can create my TL 13+ warships and naval tech by fiat: the bigger computers do have far more space than any standard programs would ever call for.

8:50 AM  

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