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Designer's Notes: Attack Dice

 
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mj12games
Lieutenant JG


Joined: 13 Aug 2009
Posts: 60
Location: Milwaukee, WI

PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:39 pm    Post subject: Designer's Notes: Attack Dice Reply with quote

Welcome to the first in a series of mini-articles describing the whys and wherefores of the new edition of Starmada. Today's topic: Attack Dice.

In previous editions, the basic premise has been that each individual weapon mount rolls one or more dice to determine hits. For each hit, one or more dice is rolled against the target's shields. Finally, for each die that penetrates the shields, one or more dice is rolled for damage location. While this process has worked quite well, there are some drawbacks:

1) It's a LOT of die rolling, particularly when some of the weapon traits/special equipment are factored in.

2) Rolling for hits on a D6 severely limits the number of modifiers that can be applied -- and those modifiers aren't consistent in their effect. For example, if the weapon's ACC is 5+, a +1 modifier increases the chance of scoring a hit by 50%; if the ACC is 3+, that +1 modifier only represents an increase of 25%.

3) The need to roll for damage location on each die -- and the need to track damage to individual weapon mounts -- requires special considerations, like the weapon damage chart (which incidentally means yet ANOTHER die roll).

4) Did I mention that it's a LOT of die rolling?

With the new edition, we're making a paradigm shift, from individual weapon mounts to whole weapon batteries. Each battery has a total attack dice strength, which is then stretched out into a "string", like this:

PHASER-1 : 15 - 11 - 8 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 - 1 - 1

When making an attack, the appropriate number of dice are rolled, and each 5 or 6 scores one point of damage on the target. That's it. To represent differing firepower strengths in different arcs, each battery is then subdivided into "banks", like this:

PHASER-1 : [FH4][FP4][FS4][AH4] : 15 - 11 - 8 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 - 1 - 1

Each bank has a firing arc ("FH" = forward half; "FP" = forward-port; "FS" = forward-starboard; "AH" = aft half) and an arc modifier (all arc modifiers are negative, but the minus signs are omitted for clarity). When determining the number of dice to roll, each -1 results in a one "column" shift to the right. Thus, each of the phaser-1 banks has 4 attack dice.

Other modifiers are applicable: in particular, the target's ECM is subtracted from the arc modifier. For example, if the FH bank is used to attack a target with an ECM of 1, the number of attack dice is 3 (-4 - 1 = -5).

Why is this better?

1) It's faster. Consider this: in The Admiralty Edition, the Federation Heavy Cruiser has two Phaser-1s firing forward. First, as many as six dice are rolled to score hits; then, as many as six dice are rolled for impact; finally, up to six dice are rolled for damage location. Thus, in order to resolve the attack anywhere from 1 to 18 dice are rolled, in three separate rolls. If these weapons are converted to the new system, one roll of 4 dice is made, with each 5 or 6 scoring a point of damage. Simple. If the target has shields, a second roll is still needed -- on the other hand, if the target's only defenses are ECM or Armor, just the one roll will suffice.

2) It's more consistent. Each modifier has the same effect, regardless of the starting number of attack dice or when in the process it is applied. For every +2, the number of attack dice is doubled; for every -2, the number of attack dice is cut in half.

3) Damage to weapons can be handled in a more abstract fashion (i.e. as a further attack dice penalty) or in a more traditional "damage to individual banks" fashion.

And if you're worried about a loss in granularity, consider this: if the SAE version of the CA's Phaser-1s are fired at medium range at a target with a shield rating of 3, the overall chance of causing hull damage is as follows:

Hull Damage ... Probability
One point ... 6.25%
Two points ... 16.41%
Three points ... 14.45%
Four points ... 4.27%

Thus, in the process of three separate die rolls, involving as many as eighteen dice, four hull hits occur in less than one out of twenty-three attacks. In the new system, this same scenario would result in the roll of two attack dice (assuming an ECM of 2, which is the equivalent in protection to Shields 3). The probability of each outcome is as follows:

Hull Damage ... Probability
One point ... 44.4%
Two points ... 11.1%

The curve has been flattened, but not completely. Although the very rare 4 hull hit results have been eliminated, the chances of causing at least one point of hull damage has gone up by more than a third (55.5% to 41.4%), while the average number of hull hits caused has remained the same (0.50).

In other words, by reducing the attack to a single roll -- and thus considerably hastening what has been traditionally the most complicated and time-consuming part of the game turn -- we have kept a similar range of (reasonably) possible results, increased the probability of success per attack, and maintained the overall hits-per-attack ratio.
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Daniel Kast
Majestic Twelve Games
www.mj12games.com

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