Drones-II: Can Direct-fire drones be made to work?

Star Fleet Universe Discussion Board: A Call to Arms Star Fleet: ACTASF Book 1.2 (The ADB Revision): Drones-II: Can Direct-fire drones be made to work?
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Archive through November 18, 2013  25   11/18 08:22pm

Direct-fire drones are certainly easier to work with but the current ACTASF rules clearly don't work. They made drones grossly too powerful and don't do what drones do (make the enemy maneuver). Can that be fixed?
By Steve Cole (Stevecole) on Monday, November 18, 2013 - 02:04 pm: Edit

I support that.

By Bill Stec (Billstec2) on Monday, November 18, 2013 - 02:36 pm: Edit

I second that...and ask for Plasma to be a fixed warhead strength as well.

By Iain McGhee (Irmcg) on Monday, November 18, 2013 - 04:03 pm: Edit

Plasma doesn't have a fixed damage rating over range like drones in FC though, bleeding energy over distance is one of the weapon's signature characteristics. Need to see what they come up with for Drones first anyway before even discussing Plasma, I expect.

By Bill Stec (Billstec2) on Monday, November 18, 2013 - 06:06 pm: Edit

I meant fixed warhead at launch, subject to energy bleed and phaser damage.

Type S torp, instead of 4 dice damage, call it 15 damage, subject to some sort of energy bleed and reduction due to phaser damage.

Sorry I wasn't more clear on that.

By Gary Carney (Nerroth) on Monday, November 18, 2013 - 08:22 pm: Edit

Is Multihit 3 a fair representation of a standard 12-point drone warhead? As a point of comparison, the 8-point warhead of a standard photon torpedo is currently represented as Multihit 4. (Unless one ought to set direct-fire and seeking weapons into separate categories when running the numbers this time around.)

I do agree with the concept of setting a fixed warhead for standard drones, and for each type of plasma torpedo at launch. (I would be concerned at just how high the respective numbers might end up being, if the respective damage outputs are tied to those seen in FC.)

By Steven Jones (Finlos) on Monday, November 18, 2013 - 09:49 pm: Edit

I think Bill's idea for plasma torps has a fair bit of merit, actually. Call the 'S' one torp with multihit 15 (using his example, might be too high) and each phaser hit / energy bleed reduces the multihit by 1 (or by -AD as previously in Energy Bleed).

You could do multihit 4 (as an example) for drones, keeping the one-hit-kill as usual. That might be too high given how -plentiful- drones are in SFU.

If we went with the above example, the Condor would have 5 torpedoes with a maximum potential of 75 damage (25 + 2x15 + 2x10 -- half max. damage from SFB), making plasma suitable scary again, subject to playtest.

Does FC use the same warhead strengths that SFB does?

By Gary Carney (Nerroth) on Monday, November 18, 2013 - 09:59 pm: Edit

You can see the FC plasma weapon charts in this PDF.

Bear in mind that each FC impulse is akin to 4 SFB impulses, with the former broken down into 4 movement sub-pulses apiece (which allows a plasma torpedo to move 32 hexes a turn, as you see in SFB). So in the case of plasma, each "impulse of impact" is akin to what you may get if you averaged out every fourth post-launch impulse for that class of plasma in SFB.

Also, plasma in FC can bolt or (for some empires) carronade; there are no enveloper, shotgun, pseudo, sabot, or other such options available at this point in time. (Not that I'd be in a hurry to see most of those, mind you. But I wouldn't mind if sabot were added to X-plasma, should FC ever get around to first-generation advanced technology.)

By Steven Jones (Finlos) on Monday, November 18, 2013 - 10:22 pm: Edit

At a quick glance it looks like the weapon tables are identical, thanks.

By Gary Carney (Nerroth) on Monday, November 18, 2013 - 10:30 pm: Edit

For the most part, the weapons do match their SFB counterparts. But there are a few exceptions or differences that show up here and there that can catch people out if they are expecting them to work just like they do in the elder game system.

By Lee Storey (Storeylf) on Tuesday, November 19, 2013 - 05:39 am: Edit

If we went with the above example, the Condor would have 5 torpedoes with a maximum potential of 75 damage (25 + 2x15 + 2x10 -- half max. damage from SFB), making plasma suitable scary again, subject to playtest.

Are you kidding. Plasma is by far and way the most scary powerful weapon in ACTA already. I don't understand why people keep thinking plasma needs further power. It's been a while since I played, but I don't think I ever lost with Gorn, they are just scary potent.

I don't like plasma in terms of it doesn't have the right 'feel', but it certainly doesn't need extra hitting power within the current game. It needs some thing that makes it feel right, and represent the way you defend against it better.

The problem at the moment with plasma is that it is very threshold driven. Any given target can withstand X (be it via IDF, shield boost or whatever). If you launch less plasma than X you are wasting it (except maybe situationally). But as you climb over X it gets increasingly more powerful. On top of that it reloads faster than in SFB/FC. Bonus.

It is nearly always madness to ripple your plasma, as you often do in SFU, you just end up with 2 volleys each doing less than X and achieve nothing.

As the game currently stands the plasma empires can use 2 heavy cruisers to fairly reliably kill an enemy heavy cruiser in 1 volley. No other empire can come close to that, how that doesn't class as 'suitably scary' I don't know. Sure they may lose a ship or 2 approaching, but once in range they just sweep the enemy off the map. Even with fleet IDF you are probably looking at a fairly reliable 2.5 cruisers to kill 1 enemy cruiser.

At least that was pretty much my experience with Gorn, spend a couple of turns feeling the pain of approaching, wipe a large chunk of enemy off the map in 1 massive volley then finish off.

It is pretty pointless worrying about plasma strength though until we see what sort of generic seeker rules there are. If IDF becomes a given then that weakens seekers, if you can reduce seeker strength by other means that weakens it etc.

By Cory Waddingham (Cwaddingham) on Tuesday, November 19, 2013 - 12:28 pm: Edit

I wonder if the question of drones is being looked at from the wrong direction? Rather than focusing on limiting the drone launching ship in some way maybe it would be better to empower the target ships.

Obviously the surest way to deal with drones is with phaser fire. And drones that are launched at the extreme end of their envelope are going to face more phaser fire than those launched closer to the target. So why not give the target ship additional chances to hit the drones that are launched at long range?

What I propose is this: for every 12" in distance from the target, the target gets an additional AD for each AD of phasers being used in defensive fire, subject to range penalties. So if drones are launched at 12" or less you get your normal AD of phasers; at a range greater than 12 but less than 24 each AD of phasers would turn into two AD; beyond that and up to 36" it would be three AD per phaser AD.

Yes, this means that phasers would be "firing" at longer than their max range, but really it just simulates getting multiple firing solutions on a given drone as it's homing in. You're essentially "borrowing" phaser shots from future turns, when the drone would actually hit, even though you still to get to use those shots on other targets in those later turns, all in the name of simplicity.


A Kzinti BC is facing a Klingon D7 at range 33. The Kzinti launches four AD of drones, rolling for successful hits with all four. The BC is in the D7's starboard arc so it has four AD of phaser 2s and three AD of phaser 1s available for defensive fire. The D7 elects to use the two waist phaser 2s for defense; with the starting range being in the third range band, this gives the Klingon player six AD of phasers, hitting on 4s (-1 for long range, +1 for the P-2s' Accurate +1). The Klingon player rolls 1,1,3,5,5,6, stopping three of the drones and the fourth getting through and scoring d6 hits against the shields.

By Bob Stusse (Lincolnlog) on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 08:08 pm: Edit

As a process change to direct fire drones:

1st Add a separate seeking weapon launch phase before activations/movement.

2nd Allow ships that are launching drones to only volley against a single target (this is what players normally do anyway)

3rd The defending player now has an opportunity to react to the drone fire during their activation without having to place markers or miniatures on the table top (this can cause maneuver).

4th After all ships have moved, allow any ship that is within 4" (or 8" if you like since that's kill zone of phaser-1) of the path between the launching vessel and the defending vessel to fire at the drones. This can be determined quickly with a tape measure and ruler or 2 tapes.

5th Escorts fire in defense of the target.

6th The target fires in defense of itself, ADD/ESG, Phasers and then tractor beams in that order, no backing up.

7th Completely get rid of IDF, it should only apply to Escorts.

8th Make drones range 18, since they are no longer auto hit. This will force the launching ship to close which will make it more vulnerable.

9th ADD and drone racks need the ability to reload. Running out of ammo should not be a permanent condition. Only allow frigates and destroyers to reload a rack every other turn, allow cruiser to reload 1 rack per turn. Allow DN's and BB's to reload 2 racks per turn. I know DN's would normally take a turn and a half to reload two racks, but this keeps it simple.


By Bob Stusse (Lincolnlog) on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 08:40 pm: Edit

Oh, and

10th: Make drones a standard AD, but 6 not 3. In ACTA-SF heavy weapons are half strength of FC. So 6, and drones won't be so deadly if they are launched before movement occurs.

By Gary Carney (Nerroth) on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 09:13 pm: Edit

Bob, just to note that you can edit your original post within the first hour of posting, if you prefer to add any points to a given post within that time.

Also, when it comes to adjusting the range, would 12 be an option for standard Speed 24 drones, to account for the distance they can travel in a single turn?

That could allow for Speed 16 drones to go 8 inches in the Middle Years (if one uses FC: Briefing #2 as a basis for conversion), or range 16 if one allows for Speed 32 drones (say, if we ever get drone-armed first-generation X-ships).

Perhaps one could say that, for the purposes of this game, the target ships are able to "shake off" the incoming drones after the first turn's worth of movement (one way or another; perhaps the crew are assumed to be doing what a player would have to actively do in SFB or FC, or perhaps the launching ship is forced to drop the control channel due to the drones moving out of range), which would allow direct-fire drones to avoid remaining in play from one turn to the next.

Or something to that effect.

(Not that I'm saying there shouldn't be a requirement to track from one turn to another. Those ranges could just as easily be the distance the drone is able to move in each turn instead. But, if things were decided so as to make direct-fire drones a one-turn deal, it seems reasonable to limit them to how far each drone can actually go within that period of time.)

By Tony L. Thomas (Scoutdad) on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 10:13 pm: Edit

Re drone speeds.
ACTASF is based on Federation Commander.
In Fed Comm, while a ship can accelerate to a speed of 32 hexes per turn; the typical baseline speed is 24 hexes.
Drones in FC also move at 24 hexes per turn.

As far as I recall from early testing, 12 inches was chosen as the equivalent to 24 hexes per turn, hence ships and drones have a max movement of 12 inches per turn.

And while Early Years is a long way down the line... the Battle for Kh'rtis Rock scenario has an option to use slow drones (with a movement of 8 inches per turn)

By Stuart Tonge (Stu) on Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 05:37 am: Edit

Just a random thought, but perhaps the target of a drone attack could receive some immediate defensive bonus but in the next turn be forced to take some kind of evasive move to represent the ship having dodged?

It would be good if the game could retain the drones as a non-trackable weapon just to keep things simple IMHO.

By Ken Rodeghero (Ken_Rodeghero) on Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 08:55 am: Edit

Could the arc that the drones impact on the target be used as a defensive or to-hit modifier? I am thinking that in Fed Com or SFB you can get multiple firing opportunities if you can turn away or have seekers chase vs. if you are at full head-on closure with seekers. While this modifier would not be an exact match to the source material it would give targets another reason to maneuver rather than getting out of range and fit within the full movement IGOUGO mechanic. It could encourage people to turn away and try to delay engagement to improve their defensive odds or face worse odds if they keep coming, just like the source material.

By Ken Rodeghero (Ken_Rodeghero) on Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 08:57 am: Edit

Duplicate post. Whoops.

By Bob Stusse (Lincolnlog) on Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 09:24 am: Edit

Tony, there is another conversion inconsistency. I hope Steve understands my context here, it's difficult to discuss drones without reference to plasma (and other things, due to inconsistency in source conversion).

If 12" was the equivelent of 24 hexes why can disruptors fire 24", and why does plasma fire 36"? There needs to be for everything in the game, and standard conversion formula. If not, when you fix one thing it breaks another.

I honestly think you would be better off changing movement and weapons ranges 1" equals 1 hex. If you go less that 1=1 scale, some weapons become worthless. at 1=1 conversion falls right into place. Fast ship speed needs to be all ships maximum speed, but fast ships move fast without penalty while other ships suffer heavy penalty.

Back to drones, if a 1-1 movement/range scale was used, and if drones moved 24", a ship could APE to maneuver away, with heavy penalty.

What I would do on a 1-1 scale is make baseline 16, APE 24. Every power drain SA would reduce your speed incrementally. Or if you APE, phasers only for slow ships, but still the works for fast ships.


By Lee Storey (Storeylf) on Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 09:55 am: Edit

===There needs to be for everything in the game, and standard conversion formula. If not, when you fix one thing it breaks another.

I honestly think you would be better off changing movement and weapons ranges 1" equals 1 hex.=====

The game mechanics are very different, what works in one system does not work in the other if you stick to such a conversion.

In FC almost every ship can turn 360 degrees every turn, and can fire all weapons in a turn irrespecive of arcs. All ships can react to what other ship are doing with its phased movement.

With a simplistic 1:1 conversion ships will move further than weapon ranges with no ability of one side to react to such.

In FC the disrupter is the arguably the best long range weapon in the game, and the klingons the best ling range fighters. A klingon group can reasonably expect to get in 2-3 volleys of disrupters before the enemy gets into short range (e.g. photon overloads).

If you did your converion then you have ships moving 24(standard FC speed) or 32 on APE, and disrupters having range 25. With no ability to react after you have moved a ship, and no ability to fire disrupters unless you end facing the enemy to some extent, the klingons will find them selves losing an awful lot of long range firepower as the enemy simply zips straight to point blank range from beyond max range.

PS, Big plasma has range 16 if I remember right, not 36. I'd have to double check though.

By Bob Stusse (Lincolnlog) on Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 12:32 pm: Edit


Your right Plasma is range 16 (brain gas episode). You can turn tighter in FC both because of variable TM based on speed and the fact that turns are 60' versus 45'. I think 60' turn modes are too complicated for a table top miniatures game.

But you'll never convince me that a flat standard conversion isn't the best way to go. Find a formula for each item that is in scale from the source material with every other item and stick with it.

By Iain McGhee (Irmcg) on Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 12:51 pm: Edit

60' is easy, all you need is a hex base.

By Andrew E Schwenzer (Andrew_Cluetain) on Monday, November 25, 2013 - 10:33 pm: Edit

First off needing hex bases would cause problems for anyone who has permanently based their ships.

What I've been testing is making seeking weapons Accurate +2 within 18 inches (needing 2+ to hit normally) but only Accurate +1 at long range (needing 4+ to hit). I'm also play testing with Bob's order of defenses against drones.

EDIT: forgot to mention Seeking Weapons will never ignore shields on a roll of 6

I feel that Direct fire seeking weapons must be made to work for ACtA. Since there are typically more ships on the board in ACtA than in other SFU games (F&E not included). For try to keep track of a 10 ship Kizinti Task force launching a drone wave with out extensive record keeping... what if they split fire? ...what if you add fighters? See where I'm going?

By Iain McGhee (Irmcg) on Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 06:18 am: Edit

Only issue I'd have with that is that you're making them better at long range than they currently are (5+ to retain tracking). Or do you do that as well ?

By Andrew E Schwenzer (Andrew_Cluetain) on Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 09:11 pm: Edit

Sorry, your right at long range I should have it at 5+ to hit. My mistake.

By Dixon Simpkins (Dixsimpkins) on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 07:09 pm: Edit

Are direct-fire rules still under consideration?

By Charles Lister (Daboss) on Sunday, January 26, 2014 - 09:12 am: Edit

The current play test rules as posted on here with the "to hit" roll based on speed of the target would work either as 24" direct fire or 12" off and 12" on the table.

I prefer the former myself......

By Steve Cole (Stevecole) on Sunday, January 26, 2014 - 10:25 am: Edit

But a "high playability" rule that does not match SFU is a dead horse.

There are ways to make DF work but these require things people don't like, such as keeping a record that the target ship MUST move away from the drone approach direction next turn. Moving 24 inches is moving two turns and you have to warp the game system to move the ship two turns in one turn. Moving drones 24 inch WARPS the game system and you have to warp five other things to balance that.

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