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Distant Armada Review from an SFB/FC Players Perspective
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Andromedan
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 10:08 pm    Post subject: Distant Armada Review from an SFB/FC Players Perspective Reply with quote

I got a chance to play in a Distant Armada Demo here at Origins 2011. It was a lot of fun to play. It definitely is a lot faster to play than either Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander. Handling a large fleet is definitely a doable thing in this Starmada-based product. There are many differences when it comes to playing Distant Armada vs. SFB/FC. Some of those differences are: plotted movement, thrust-based speed, scanner shields (i.e. you do not need to destroy a shield to get damage on a ship), impact-based damage, simplified ship system definition, simplified damage allocation, short turns.

Plotted movement is something very old from Star Fleet Battles, so old that is has not been used for over 20 years. To some the need to pre-plot movement for the turn is a deal breaker. But I think it is a great way to speed up the game. It eliminates the worry about initiative. Everybody moves at the sometime. Yes, it means that you need to think about where you want to move ahead of time and what your opponent is going to do. But you should be thinking about that anyway. If the ships are going at moderate speed it is around the same a pre-plotting 4 to 8 impulses in SFB.

Thrust-based speed is a little different to use than the energy-based speed. Your speed is based-on your current speed plus the thrust that is applied during the turn. Another thing that is different is that there is no turn mode. In place of that the thrust-based system has the cost for turning based on your speed.

Scanner shields are a weird thing for a person that plays Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander where the shields protect the ship from damage is nearly complete. The job os shields in Starmada is to make it harder to damage a ship. This makes the ships take damage sooner and die faster. I call it scanner shields because it is like a oscillating scan that goes back and forth and the higher the rating the higher the oscillation of the scan is. Therefore, causing the damage taken to hit the shield more often.

Impact-based damage is a big change for SFB/FC players that are used to just rolling a dice and checking to see if it hits. In Starmada you first see if it hits and then you see if it does damage. (i.e. see if it impacts the target). That impact roll is based-on the rating of the facing shield. So there are twice as many rolls needed for firing a weapon.

The simplified ship system definition means that the beautiful SSDs from SFB and Fed Com are gone. They are replaced with an abstraction of the ship itself. A track for engines, a track for hull, a track for shield generation strength, the different battery of weapons and a box to describe special things on the ship (e.g. the ship has 2 Stingers). It is good for playing quick games a lot less work for allocating the damage (i.e. no need to scan the ship for the box to destroy when taking damage), but it definitely doesn't look as nice.

The damage allocation is greatly simplified over either Star Fleet Battles or Federation Commander. No charts, just roll the dice (1 d6 per impact damage) and match the numbers to the system. Hull gets hit on all odd number dice rolls, engines get hit of 1 or 2, shield gets hit on 3 or 4 and weapons on 5 or 6. This keeps things going at a swift pace and makes it pretty simple to know when a ship is destroyed. Because the ship is considered destroyed when all of the hull boxes are destroyed.

Starmada has very short turns compared to Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander. The movement, fire, damage allocation, launch sequence is over and done with pretty quick. The longest part is fire and damage allocation which is the same for SFB/FC.

Overall, I think the game is a lot of fun and I will be playing more to evaluate it. The one concern I have is that the amount of damage compared to the amount of defense that the ships have. But this might be related to the relative small ships that I was playing. I just looked at the Kzinti Medium Cruiser and it seems he defense is more reasonable. So I need to do some more comparisons of SFB ships vs. Starmada ships when it comes to can this ship blow up this ship at the same relative range. Also, want to hold off judgement on the system until I understand the tactics involved in the system better. Because the tactics that work in SFB or Fed Com no longer apply to this game engine.
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Mike
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 26, 2011 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the write-up, Paul. I'll be interested to see what else you post about this.
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csragamemaster
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul,
Can you post this to the Facebook Page and the Star Fleet Battles FB page?

Thanks,
Mike
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Andromedan
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Done. Post it as a Note in my account with a link posted on ADB's wall.
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terryoc
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that the weapons in Star Fleet Mada may be a bit overpowered, phasers in particular. The range-based ROF seems to be an issue IMO, at close range you're firing 3 shots per phaser at +1 to hit... granted, phasers are supposed to get better at close range, but it's a bit too powerful...
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Andromedan
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Understood. That is one of those things that I would like to do more research on before I make a judgement.

The toughest thing is that you have a graduated damage system vs. a to-hit (i.e. all or nothing) damage system. Yes, ROF-based gives you steps to the damage. But the steps are pretty course.

Then there is the difference in how damage is taken. The non-leak shields vs. very leaky shields. Before I make a judgement, I want to compare how the SFB takes to "destroy" a ship vs. Starmada takes to "destroy" a ship. I think that it a good measure.
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you want simple rules that can handle 20-vs-20, you're not going to get the same rules as FC or SFB. That said, this is something for Mongoose to review concerning ACTASF.
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Andromedan
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve,
I think we all realize that Starmada is not SFB. But to me, we just want the results of the battles to be roughly equivalent.

I understand the tactics will be different and that can play into the results. But my thinking is that the amount of fire power required to destroy a ship should be approximately the same.
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Bolo_MK_XL
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

20 vs 20 always a good size for starfire
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mj12games
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 8:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andromedan wrote:
The non-leak shields vs. very leaky shields.

I suspect this is the difference that most causes SFB/FC players to perceive Starmada as "too bloody".

The ratio of weapon power to ship damage is actually consistent between FC and Starmada -- but because of the difference in how shields operate, that weapon power translates to actual damage much more quickly.
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csragamemaster
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know the earlier editions of SFB had an option for something called "leaky shields" which made the ships much more vulnerable. This has a similar effect.
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Andromedan
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 12:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is still in the rules for SFB. It is just an optional rule.
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Jeffr0
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bolo_MK_XL wrote:
20 vs 20 always a good size for starfire


It would be highly ironic if that system was still *the* best one for big fleet battles even after all these years. (First edition, of course.) Wink

Neat idea: ships as a string of characters... damage allocation crossing them off.... You get the benefits of High Guard's dense ship descriptions, but with a playable game with map and counters.

It appears that Starmada is attempting to fill the void created by Starfire's exit from the gaming scene....
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Andromedan
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isn't that "Fleet Ops"?

You still have the different kinds of weapons and arcs. But you just cross off the hull hits and when all hull is destroyed the ship is dead. It also, has the ability to have a ship crippled after a certain number of hull hits. And the capabilities are halved after it is crippled.
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madpax
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mj12games wrote:
Andromedan wrote:
The non-leak shields vs. very leaky shields.

I suspect this is the difference that most causes SFB/FC players to perceive Starmada as "too bloody".

I feel it's a combination of the faceted shield (less efficient than regular shield, especially after some shots where a shield could be entirely down) and overall firepower.

Marc
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