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 Post subject: SITS 2.0, Ship Book 3.
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 4:59 am 
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Location: Milwaukee, WI
Lots of folks have been asking about where Ship Book 3 (Short Victorious War) is, and I've been saying "It'll be out when it survives playtesting", which as far as it goes, is the truth.

Trying to make the SITS damage allocation system work for super dreadnoughts (really, anything larger than a BC) proved impossible. You quickly got into "It doesn't matter, half the damage is going to blow through the other side."

Trying to fix this problem resulted in breaking the smaller ships...

And at that point, we had to fundamentally accept that the damage allocation engine for the game just wasn't doing what we wanted it to.

We also looked at play experiences and found that SITS as it currently existed really turned into Lanchestrian battles of attrition. For missile duels that were supposed to be indecisive, in battles of maneuver, we really had cases where the games were "get on broadside, open fire, and keep firing until something dies" - there were no interesting decisions.

In part, this is the fault of the game engine - SITS feels very much like Honor Harrington shoved into an AV:T mold - the weapon salvo rates are so high compared to the maneuver rates that maneuver doesn't matter. While this supports David's numbers, with salvo cycles every 10 seconds or so at the ranges he specified, it doesn't replicate the feel of the books, where there are interesting decisions being made. Segmented movement makes a lot of sense if weapon ranges are short, and you can't fire every single segment. Neither of those is true for SITS 1.

Finally, trying to run multiple ships in SITS, which really captures the feel of the later books, was too difficult. SITS 1 has too much detail that you have to track in case it's important, but doesn't (usually) impact game play.

So, as long as we had the hood up and couldn't make damage allocation work for SDs, we decided to do a top-to-bottom rewrite of the game.

In summary:

Movement is now built off of a variant of the Squadron Strike movement engine - no segmented movement. The game scale got set to 1 light second hexes, with roughly 7 minutes per turn; thrust 1 is 140 gs. To replicate the feel of maneuvering formations (rather than "put everything in one hex and treat it as one ship), we've put a canon-breaking stacking limit that can be ignored by the purists. We also chopped the salvo rates down to make an interesting game. Again, numbers will be provided in a sidebar for purists who want to replicate it "by the numbers" - though it won't add much in the way of fun.

Missile launch happens prior to movement plotting; movement happens in response to missile plots. This replicates the feel of the books, even as it violates the numbers David gives.

Missile defenses have been greatly streamlined. Where once there was ECM, CM, PD, Lasers and Sidewall kills, there's now ECM, CM, PD+Lasers in one step. There's less calculation overall, and much more fluidity (and a broader range of results.)

Damage Allocation has been completely re-done, and is hard to explain without graphics. I'm going to be posting the spreads of the rulebook explaining Missile Launch and Damage Allocation later this week, but the short form is this:

We've been playtesting this since November of last year, starting with the SDs and working our way down the size ranges to be sure everything worked this time.

Like the AV:T upgrade, we will be selling an upgrade kit to prior customers. The upgrade kit replaces ALL the laminated cards in the game, plus the rulebook, and SSD books for Ship Book #1 and Ship Book #2. Price is $25. This kit will have 12 laminated salvo cards, 9 ship control cards, and 2 reference cards.

We will also be selling a "Big Fleet Action Upgrade" that has the same set of laminated cards as the upgrade kit (allowing you to handle more ships) plus extra tilt blocks and stacking tiles - this is also @25.

And, finally (this is what's been delaying the announcement) we got the agreement in writing to sell PDF copies of the SSDs - provided no class history information or ship art is included with the PDFs. We'll be selling PDFs of the SSDs in SB#1 and SB#2 for $5 for each product, and 60 days after SB#3 reaches game stores, we'll be selling PDFs of its ship sheets as well.

When we upgrade the parts, all new boxed sets will have the upgraded bits inside; when we send things off to press, we're going to "go slow" on fulfilling distributor re-orders to let the inventory clear through the channel so that when restocks go in, it's all 2e stuff. You WILL NOT be able to order the upgrade through your store - we don't make enough off the upgrades to make selling them through the retail chain cover expenses.

We are running a pre-order system to offset the costs of printing the laminated cards. At $4,000 in total pre-orders (160 sets of the upgrade kit, or some mixture of upgrade kits, PDF orders and Big Battle Squadron kits), we'll send everything to press.

We're still trying to figure out how some people on the Traveller minis pre-orders managed to get the shopping cart to charge their card on placing the order; if you manage to do this, please let us know what you did so we can figure out how to prevent it in the future. :)

We have a window to gang run these with Amarillo Design Bureau in late May. If we don't hit $4K in sales before then, we're going to have to wait until July to print.

I will be posting pages of the rulebook as they get completed to show you the new game, with the first candidate being the new damage allocation system. Tom Pope is going to be shackled to the desk and creating SSDs, which push the bleeding envelope on what InDesign can do. Anyone who wants to help this game happen faster can contact Tom about babysitting in Pittsburgh. (Only half joking - the limiting reagent on Tom's time as he does the layouts is "Is anyone watching the kids?" in the evenings.

For those looking to pre-order the upgrade kit now:

http://www.genreconnections.com/shop/pr ... 85&cat=249

(The PDF links and the Big Battle Bits Package will be going up hopefully by Sunday - I miscommunicated with Sam, who's about to take a 9 day trip for the company on Monday.)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 11:26 am 
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Well, I guess you had to do it, Ken- once you saw how bad a fit SDs were going to be. I've received a pretty good taste of Squadron Strike and I imagine the whole engine will be smoother- even if the purists howl.

So, when do I get mine? :D

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 2:12 pm 
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Michael Scott wrote:
Well, I guess you had to do it, Ken- once you saw how bad a fit SDs were going to be. I've received a pretty good taste of Squadron Strike and I imagine the whole engine will be smoother- even if the purists howl.


Given that I am among the most rabid of said purists, I can guarantee that it was not an easy decision to make, nor was it made lightly. But, it was the right decision, unquestionably.

Quote:
So, when do I get mine? :D


Just as soon as it's done. :D


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 3:13 pm 
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I had recently reread At All Costs and seriously wondered how in the heck SITS was going to cover thousands of missiles, directed by several different targeting platforms, against heavily armored Super D's. Oh yeah, with scores of said SD(P)s in action on either side.

...not to mention Shrike, Ferret, Cimmeterre, and Katana LACs.

SITS works pretty good at the cruiser level, but there was no way it was going to work at the task force, waller, level.

I've put in my pre-order, guys. Anything to help out. 8)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 4:46 pm 
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Ken knows I've had my disagreements with how SITS works and is being changed to work, but I've gone ahead and pre-ordered mine. I like the craftmanship, even when I don't think things are quite right.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 5:46 pm 
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I just wish I'd known this *BEFORE* I ordered SB2, when I could have, instead, put that money toward the upgrade. Gee, thanks.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 6:13 pm 
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:shock:

Holy crap, Batman!

:shock:

Question from the peanut gallery......

Wouldn't it have been...simpler...to leave SITS alone and released this revision as an entirely new game?

Called it 'SITS Grand Fleet' or something.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 7:45 pm 
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Michael Strain wrote:
Wouldn't it have been...simpler...to leave SITS alone and released this revision as an entirely new game?

Called it 'SITS Grand Fleet' or something.


That (or a game similar in scope) is still planned. SITS 2 is focused at the cruiser level with small squadrons, just like the original. You will find ships have a similar level of detail (less in some ways more in others) as they did before, but that the game plays much more smoothly, especially with multiple ships per side.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 7:59 pm 
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Can I slag off the old damage system now?

Not only was it 'pointless simulation cruft', it wasn't even good simulation cruft!

Adding all the damage togeather so it penetrates armour as a group works for AV:T because the wizzo optics and networks lets you hit the same spot every time, but for the honorverse I think each laser head 'cannonball should punch through on it's own, dismouting guns and sending wood shards through the crew.

So you end up with a massively slow thing that doesn't even work!

I try to keep my internet whinging to a minimum these days, because I suspect I just don't like these games (the thought of doing four step missile defence BY HAND! MORE THAN ONCE! makes me slightly nausious, and you guys really play these things for fun?), and no one can say Ad Astra don't make quality product, and in my youth I'd have been all over the cool ship books*.

So, er, yeah.

But still. The damage system bothered me, and I for once I don't think it was just my preference for lite games or Views - damn thing just didn't work right.

*I mean, I still love em, but at one time I'd have LOVED them. Know what I mean?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 9:31 pm 
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I to was starting to wonder how damage would work for a SD, and i didn't even think about the SD(P).

But i really enjoy SITS 1.0, like an addict (yes i'm addicted to gaming) i pre-ordered 2.0. Bring on the slugfest.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 7:46 am 
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Well, SITS 1 was very rigorously true to the setting. Unfortunately, in the setting, space battles are dead boring. In the books, this is covered up with florid descriptions and eyeball-deep angst, but that really doesn't work for a game...

I've always been amazed with just how non-dull Ken managed to make SITS 1 - I'd have thought it couldn't be done.

Sacrificing some setting-fidelity for fun seems to be a good way to go. I'm sort of surprised the Author went for it, but then, he's an old game-designer.

AdAstra just might have the best product upgrade policy in the industry, nice to see it in action again. Good to hear about the PDFs, too - must've been a bear to negotiate.

Fighting the battles that really matter in the HH setting (hundreds of capital ships per side) is going to take an entirely different game, as mentioned above. Individual ships and (once battle is joined) even fleet-scale tactics disappear into insignificance in battles like that... By the later books (heck, by the middle books) they amount to basically unmoving specks flinging enormous swarms of missiles at each other across half a solar system. A game of these battles would probably have to focus on the pre-battle manouevre and detection double-blind game. Once battle is joined in these instances (in the books) it always seems like the results are either 'one side obviously wins' or ' too close to call, flip a coin to decide winner and then reverse-decimate both fleets'

Looking forward to seeing the new stuff.

-Kle.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 9:37 am 
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Well, I'm in for a copy of the upgrade kit.


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 Post subject: Salvo Rates
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 10:08 am 
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Location: Milwaukee, WI
One of the places where the game scale is going to take a beating is on salvo rates.

Ignoring the numbers, and just timing the dialog and "thinking time" in the combat descriptions, you'd guess that the ships in the Honorverse run out salvo every 45-60 seconds.

Paying attention to the numbers, the salvo rate ranges from as low as 12 seconds per salvo to as high as 30 seconds per salvo in the later books.

We're still juggling turn lengths - I'm pushing for 420 seconds, because at that scale, listed acceleration rates map nicely to 2 for capital ships and 3 for BCs and smaller, with a couple of very small ships getting to thrust 4; Hexapuma from Shadows of Saganami is good for thrust 5 on that scaling.

Unfortunately, using 15 seconds per salvo, 420 second turns means 28 salvos per turn; in short, most anything short of a capital missile armed ship can empty one broadside magazine in one turn. Or, more prosaically, in the time it takes to change your vector by 3 hexes per turn, you can empty one broadside magazine.

We're experimenting with soft caps (penalties for subsequent missile firings impacting in the same phase of the turn), but this is being done mostly to see how bad it really is. I suspect we're going to have to butcher salvo rates below what the books say, because a game of "OK, change your vector by 3 hexes per turn, fire until empty, change your vector by 3 hexes per turn, and flip." not only doesn't make for a fun game...but it really doesn't replicate the feel of the books at all.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 10:50 am 
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Well, moving to throwing a generic Broadside Weight against a nebulous Ship Toughness would not only require much less bookkeeping and math scutwork (and, I might add, allowing concentrating on things the player does have control over (shot geometry etc) and not on things they don't, like the old damage and missile defence systems), but could also be used to somewhat obfuscate precisely what is going on.

And it would be far easier to check it actually produces meaningful results...






Sorry. My opinion of SITSv1 really is pretty scathing. For a game thats already going to be pretty complex because of the 3d thing it adds these stupidly time consuming and pointless damage systems (in that they add precisely nothing to the game element of the thing - its just something to crunch through, presumable because you enjoy double entry bookkeeping or don't own a computer for doing endless repetitive calculations. You could reduce it all to one table without losing anything but the 'fun' of seeing the machine work, which is going to be entertaining once, and then get rapidly more tedius and distracting from the game. Load up that defence program, click resolve a couple of times to watch it go, then dump it for something quick. You will be far happier in the long run.)

Its Crazy I tell you, Crazy! Wargaming didn't die - it commited suicide with just this sort of thing!







Arrrrrgggggghhhhh! Empires In Arms flashback! Please! No! Don't make me play it any more! I've got dreams! I like the sunshine! Can't we just play settlers then go to the pub?


Last edited by Erik Boielle on Sun Apr 22, 2007 11:27 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 11:05 am 
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Part of the problem of replicating the novels is depicting the heroic actions within a massive space battle. Thousands of missiles are zeroing in on the flagship and one of the characters commands his superdreadnough to move between the missiles and the target to absorb the fire. These kind of actions make me want to suggest individual counters for SD's and squadron counters for BC's and under, moving the ships by a much more primitive version of the 3D system to allow hundreds of ships to be moved within a decent time interval.

...then then there's microjumps. This particular tactic is SO important in Honorverse battles that it demands special attention. At a cruiser/destroyer level, our RPG game made use of microjumping during our last session. The enemy microjumped to try to ambush the convoy from a stealth position. Then the players surprised me (though I really should have expected it) by jumping away to avoid the pirate! (Damn...I should have put the whole engagement inside the hyper limit...). Anyway... I would imagine that the big game would handle this by having the player select a target astrogation hex for a task force/squadron and then rolling to see how accurate the microjump was- using a scatter diagram to locate the actual jump endpoint.

So, now you have massive task forces of warships blinking out, jumping in from hyperspace when a destroyer pops out to tell them it's time, and so on. What chaotic fun... :?

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