March 2012

Ask Admiral Growler (Continued)

     Andrew J. Koch asks: An interesting question regarding tractors. If you win a tractor auction over a turn break, as I did for one point of power, does your opponent get an opportunity to block your rotation with negative tractor?
     ANSWER: No. His chance to block the rotation happened when the tractor beam was re-established in the Energy Allocation Phase. Once he failed to break the tractor, the rotation was going to occur. The only other place he can fight the tractor is in the Ship System Functions Stage (6B4). There is no provision in (G7.42) for a tractor auction to take place other than in the Energy Allocation Phase, or "during the turn", i.e., during the Ship Systems Functions Stage. (G7.42) TRACTOR AUCTIONS: If a tractor beam was established during a prior turn, then the two ships involved must determine if it is broken at the start of each turn. This is done by an auction during the Energy Allocation Phase. Auctions may also be held during a turn. Note that the player who is maintaining the tractor must announce his intention to either maintain or drop the tractor link. If he announces that he will not maintain it, there is no auction.
     Follow-up question: That is what I thought, but I think I should mention that (G7.351) does say "a unit with energy allocated to tractors can designate this energy for use as negative tractor at any point". I think this was the passage Jason was reading that caused the confusion.
     ANSWER: While you might regard the writing of (G7.351) as sloppy, it does not change WHEN you can apply the energy. It just tells you that whatever unused tractor energy you have available is neither positive (able to reach out and grab something) or negative (able to repel an opposing tractor trying to grab your ship). When you allocated that one, two, three, whatever points to tractor during Energy Allocation (assuming you were not engaged in a tractor auction at the time), you did not have to designate it as either positive or negative. It becomes whatever you want it to be when you use it.
     Jason Gray asks a follow-up question: So when in the Sequence of Play can you apply allocated tractor power to negative tractor?
     ANSWER: This was provided in the initial answer to Andrew Koch's query: The Ship System Functions Stage (6B4).
     Jason Gray asks a follow-up question: I am also very confused by (G7.711): "If moved further away, extra power would be required (from reserve power or unused power allocated to tractors) or the strength of the tractor beam (G7.6) would be reduced (it could even be broken after the rotation is completed)." What does the "could even be broken after rotation is completed" line mean?
     ANSWER: It means that once you rotate the target away, your tractor beam might no longer be strong enough to continue to hold the target in tractor. Essentially if you won the tractor auction at Range 1, you could push me to Range 2, but if you did not have the power to hold me at Range 2, once the rotation was completed, I would no longer be held in your tractor beam. The rule allows you to apply reserve power, or unused tractor points, or both, to retain the tractor link after the rotation. It does not allow me to use any reserve power, or even other tractor points I have previously allocated to tractor, to fight your tractor link. So, yes, (G7.711) is a case of a specific rule overriding the general rule on the use of reserve power by the tractoring unit. It does not allow the unit being rotated to access reserve power (or even allocated but unused tractor points) to apply them to fight the rotation.
     Andrew J. Koch asks a follow-up question: I read (G7.711) and assumed "could be broken after the rotation is completed" meant that negative tractor could be applied at the next opportunity to break it.
     ANSWER: Nope, it means that you might rotate the ship to a distance where your tractor is no longer effective, i.e., that once rotation is completed the tractor link fails. For example, you tractor Jason Gray's ship during Turn #1 at Range 1. During Energy Allocation of Turn #2 you and Jason conduct a tractor auction. Jason abandons the auction after allocating three points, so you are holding him with four points of tractor. You then rotate Jason's ship to Range 2. At that point you would need eight points of tractor energy to hold Jason's ship. If you have four more points of tractor power allocated, or have four points of reserve power, or have some combination of unused tractor points and reserve power to increase your tractor energy to eight points, you will still have Jason in tractor. If not, then after you complete the rotation of Jason's ship to Range 2 the tractor link is broken.
     Loren Knight asks a follow-up question: It gets more complex when dealing with a resisting ship but after the tractor auction it is essentially the same. Say you tractor a frigate and have six points of energy allocated to tractors to hopefully snag that little bugger. At Range 2 you start with two points. The frigate then informs you that he has negative tractor energy and the tractor auction begins. You must put out two points for each point he applies because the range is two hexes. He only had two points of negative tractor (his two batteries) while you had six allocated so you win the auction with two points remaining. If you then rotate him to Range 3 you will need battery reserves to add a point of power or the tractor will break because you only have two points operating a Range 3 tractor beam.
     ANSWER: You are wrong because you are confusing two things. Tractor rotation is not done during the turn. It is done during the Initial Activity Phase. There is no tractor auction in the initial activity phase, so the tractor status of the tractored ship before rotation is determined in the Energy Allocation Phase. There is no auction in the Initial Activity Phase, and no means by which the tractored ship can start an auction in that phase. If the tractoring ship rotates the tractored ship to a location where the tractor link breaks (it cannot rotate it to Range 4), the tractor link breaks. The break occurs unless the tractoring ship has the energy allocated, or from reserve, to maintain the link after accounting for any energy the tractored ship used for negative tractor in the Energy Allocation Phase.