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Nebulae Combat
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Patrick Doyle
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Joined: 18 Aug 2007
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Location: Norfolk, VA

PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:57 pm    Post subject: Nebulae Combat Reply with quote

SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE:
Combat Inside Nebulae

by Patrick J. Doyle

During most Star Fleet Academy Tactics courses, when the subject of combat within Nebulae comes up, the instructors traditionally make some vague reference to nebulae as being "sauce for the goose." This usually draws confused looks from the cadets, amusing the instructors. Occasionally, a brave cadet will ask what it means, in a tone that teenagers have perfected, indicating clearly that the adult has lost his mind. This does not amuse the instructors nearly as much.
At this point, the instructor draws a deep breath (to calm his/her nerves, human youth can be very trying, even for Vulcans) and explains that nebulae are the great equalizer. They will even the odds between large and small ships or between damaged and undamaged ships.
When inside a nebula, most systems on the ship are unusable, while weapons and shields are severely degraded. Of course larger ships can still absorb more internal damage, but their weapons and engines will be just as vulnerable. A nebula even adds an element of unpredictability due to turbulence, potentially reducing the advantages of more maneuverable ships.

NEBULAE EFFECTS
All shields are reduced to 5 shield boxes. This is one of the greatest equalizing effects of nebulae. Even small vessels have a chance at getting through the shields of a large vessel and causing damage.
Ships that normally have weak shields, such as small frigates and civilian ships, will not have lost as much defensive strength as a dreadnought or cruiser. The only defensive advantage that larger ships may possess over smaller ships is the greater ability to use shield reinforcement.
When fighting in normal space it is customary to try to maneuver so that you attack weakened shields on enemy ships. This will become less critical in a nebula since all shields are weak. Maneuvering to avoid enemy heavy weapon arcs will still be somewhat important. After all, a couple lucky hits from overloaded weapons could tip the scales in the battle.
If you delay your attack too long, in hopes of striking a down (or weaker) shield, you may find your plan disrupted by turbulence. Make close range attacks when able. If you can time your attack for an impulse in which turbulence does not occur, so much the better.
Attacking a convoy within a nebula could prove dangerous for the raider since the freighter's shields will not be reduced by nearly as much as the raider's. On the other hand, the unpredictability of the turbulence could scatter the convoy and allow the raider to focus it's attack on ships that become separated from the group. This one could go either way depending on the situation.
A fleet engagement within a nebula is likely to devolve into a confused melee depending on how turbulence effects the ships. Within a nebula, and admiral may be giving up control of his force and trusting that random chance won't scatter his forces too badly.
Players may have to consider using their first High Energy Turn sooner than normal to counter the effects of turbulence. Turbulence could easily wreck your carefully planned attack or suddenly put you in a situation where seeking weapons may hit you sooner than expected. Either way, don't forget the High Energy Turn and save enough power to use it.
Next, there is a +3 modifier to all direct fire attacks. Due to the modifier, opposing ships are likely try to fight from close range. Because so many systems are not functional in a nebula, disabling them will not produce any reduction in the combat capability of your opponent. It is important to note that ships are still able to use directed targeting within a nebula. Directed targeting will allow you to focus on the only 2 systems that are of any value within a nebula, weapons and power.
Transporters do not work wihin a nebula, so for most, that simply means that marine raids are not possible. If you are playing Klingons or Seltorians, the loss may be inconvenient, others may breathe a sigh of relief.
While this is likely to be a minor point to most players, combat in a nebula is very dangerous for the crew. Because shuttles and transporters do not work, there is no escape for the crew of a dying ship nor can a damaged ship be towed from the nebula with tractor beams. The fact that all hands will be lost if a ship is destroyed in a nebula may have consequences if you are playing a campaign, perhaps you have a favorite captain or admiral aboard. The only way to rescue a stranded crew within a nebula would be for the ships to dock with each other.
Certain empire specific systems do not function within a nebula, thus altering how that empire operates. Romulans cannot use their cloaking device, though the R-torpedo is a terrifying weapon in a nebula if it hits. The older Eagle ships in thier inventory have very strong shields but relatively weak interiors, even when their armor is counted, so they lose a lot of thier defensive power.
Lyrans cannot use their ESG and Tholians lose thier web casters and web snares (though the web fist still works). While neither the Tholians or Lyrans have seeking weapons, thier primary defenses against seeking weapons do not function within a nebula. Disruptors will consume a great deal of power and so should not be relied upon unless you have the power to spare.
Hydrans would do very poorly within a nebula for a couple reasons. First, their fighters (and any other shuttle) cannot operate with in the nebula. Secondly, the +3 die roll modifier would reduce the effectiveness of the phaser-G, which would average under 8 points of damage at range 1 and about 2 points of damage at 2 hexes. Beyond 3 hexes they are useless.
The Federation does not possess a unique system that is unusable within a nebula, nor does it rely on an abundance of any single type of Disruptors will consume a great deal of power and so should not be relied upon unless you have the power to spare. andard ship system. While the photon torpedo will lack accuracy, one or two hits are still possible in a spread of 4 torpedoes. Gorn, and Kzinti also lack unique systems that are lost due to nebulae. The Kzinti's sheer abundance of drones may be overwhelming within a nebula. All in all, the Alliance powers seem to come out ahead within nebulae.

DIRECT FIRE WEAPONS
Scoring hits with heavy weapons is likely to be problematic. A 50% chance will be the best you can expect from point blank range with photon torpedoes and or other weapons that use a single 6 sided die roll. Weapons that use 2 six-sided (Hellbores and Ion Cannons) dice will work a little better.
Phaser-1s do fairly well, though hits are only guaranteed out to 2 hexes. Phaser-3s will require point blank range to be useful but there are no ranges where hits are guaranteed.
A starbase, with its large number of batteries and armor will be well protected in a nebula. Furthermore it's phaser-4s would cut starships to pieces from a safe distance. Battlestations and base stations would also be dangerous targets, though not nearly as well protected as a starbase.

SEEKING WEAPONS
Drones - It's strongly recommended that drones be launched from close range. Drones take 1 point of damage during every defensive fire phase because of the nebula. This limits thier lifespan to 3 impulses and an effective range of 9 hexes. It will be destroyed during the defensive fire phase of the fourth impulse it is in flight, so even if it hits a target on the fourth impulse, it will be destroyed before causing damage.
Launching from close range ensures drones will sustain less damage, making it more a little more difficult for phasers to shoot them down. As always, if you can get the drone to hit immediately, you prevent other enemy ships from assisting the target by shooting down drones.
Anti-drones will be nearly useless with only a 1 in 6 chance to hit during defensive fire. They completely lose thier ability to fire at drones during the offensive fire phase due to the +3 die roll modifier. Klingons are the biggest user of ADDs and so will be negatively affected when fighting the Kzinti.
While phasers are degraded you will only need to inflict 1-3 points of damage to destroy a drone depending on how long it has been in flight. In open space, there is more certainty when it comes to shooting down drones. Within a nebula, luck may play a greater role because even a phaser-1 is not guaranteed to kill a drone during defensive fire.
When all else fails, people are used to falling back on tractor beams as the last line of drone defense, but they do not function at all in a nebula. As a practical matter, movement and phasers are the only defenses against drones.
Plasma Torpedoes
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mojo jojo
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are Andromedan systems affected by Nebulae? If they aren't, I would imagine that Andros would be terrifying with PA panels, Displacement Devices, and TR beams.
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terryoc
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 5:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mojo, I think Andros are not affected. Yes, they are brutal in a nebula.

Another thing to consider is that some ships are not as badly affected by the Nebula rules as others. Klingon Penal Ships already have negative modifiers to fire which are overridden by the nebular ECM, and the lack of shuttles or transporters is not a problem when you consider that they have fewer shuttles and their Marines are weak. A D6J is almost as good as a D6 in a nebula, and cheaper.

Some empires are punished pretty badly by a nebula: Romulans can't cloak, Tholians can't use webs. Others benefit: Hydran Hellbores are frightening in a nebula. The thin shields make Hellbores incredibly deadly, and the +3 penalty does not affect their die rolls as much. (Ditto Vudar Ion Cannons & ISC PPDs).
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mjwest
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Joined: 08 Oct 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This was brought up a while ago and the final result was put into Communiqeu 65:

(6F1b) Andromedans in a Nebula: When operating in
a nebula, PA panels suffer reduced capabilities. First,
each PA panel may only hold six points of energy instead
of 10. (Mark the last four columns in a special color
to note they are unavailable.) Second, each PA panel
box (not bank) receives a point of energy at the very end
of the Defensive Fire Phase on Impulses #2 and #6. If
the PA panel box is full, the point of energy is ignored;
these energy points cannot cause internal damage.

This was an oversight in Rev6. Sad
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Nerroth
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One way to show how historically important a nebula can be is to try and send a few Neo-Tholian or Seltorian ships in after a squadron of Old Galaxy Pirates; while the OGD and OGR are missing the as-yet-unspecified "key Nebuline technology" which their chief suppliers keep for their own fleet, you can get a sense of why the last free peoples of the M81 Galaxy were so heavily reliant on this particular type of terrain.


Also, it might only come up when being edited, but I see "Gorn" and "Kzinti" being used, where "Gorns" and "Kzintis" might read more easily.

This is something that I see a lot; people using Gorn in both singular and plural, and Kzin/Kzinti (i.e. the way the Franchise and/or Nivenverse tends to use them) rather than using the SFU standard. I suppose with the Gorns, it's not that big a deal, but I gather that the nature of ADB's license requires the cat-ear Kzinti(s) to be explicitly separated from the bat-ear Kzin(ti)...
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storeylf
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:58 am    Post subject: Re: Nebulae Combat Reply with quote

A couple of counter points.

Patrick Doyle wrote:
Disruptors will consume a great deal of power and so should not be relied upon unless you have the power to spare.


Disrupters are excellent in a nebula and you should be maximising that as much as possible. Disrupters are one of the few weapons that can actually enagage in the 9-15 range bracket. Whilst you only have a 1/6 chance of hitting, the 5 point shields make even a couple of hits painful. Where possible disrupter ships should try to keep the range open to gain as much advantage as possible. Range 9-10 directed shots beyond the range of those greengrocers (the federation) are nasty.

Quote:

The Federation does not possess a unique system that is unusable within a nebula, nor does it rely on an abundance of any single type of Disruptors will consume a great deal of power and so should not be relied upon unless you have the power to spare. andard ship system.


Typo? missing words? that doesn't read well.

Quote:

While the photon torpedo will lack accuracy, one or two hits are still possible in a spread of 4 torpedoes. Gorn, and Kzinti also lack unique systems that are lost due to nebulae. The Kzinti's sheer abundance of drones may be overwhelming within a nebula. All in all, the Alliance powers seem to come out ahead within nebulae.


Photons are max range 4 and Kzinti drones are badly degraded due to the constant damage effect which seriously limits how long coaltition ships will have to manouver against them. Both Lyran and Klingons bring disrupters.

Quote:

DIRECT FIRE WEAPONS
Scoring hits with heavy weapons is likely to be problematic. A 50% chance will be the best you can expect from point blank range with photon torpedoes and or other weapons that use a single 6 sided die roll. Weapons that use 2 six-sided (Hellbores and Ion Cannons) dice will work a little better.


Hellbores and PPDs (in particular) are arguably the most potent weapons in a nebula. The decent 2D6 hit chance - and decent long range odds - give them a major range advantage. That is coupled with the ability to strike multiple shields at once which is particuarly painful in a nebula with the 5 point shields. A PPD has a good chance of hitting with directed fire out at range 10, beyond the ability of some ships to even return fire, a single PPD volley could effectively crush many ships in a nebula.


Quote:
Klingons are the biggest user of ADDs and so will be negatively affected when fighting the Kzinti.


Kzinti are are the biggest users are of drones, and so are negatively affected aganist everyone, including klingons.
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Kang
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Nebulae Combat Reply with quote

Nice article Pat; thanks as always Smile

Patrick Doyle wrote:
The only defensive advantage that larger ships may possess over smaller ships is the greater ability to use shield reinforcement.

I'm being pedantic here, but a further defensive advantage for larger ships is their greater number of internal system boxes.

Also, the 'seventh shield' (the Hull boxes) is not degraded. Furthermore, many system boxes such as transporters, shuttles and tractors - indeed anything else that cannot be used in a nebula - become simply padding. In a nebula, these boxes have no other use except as free hits.

The lack of shuttles may also mean that some empires have no seeking weapons at all, not even Suicide Shuttles.
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mojo jojo
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I still think the Andro would be the deadliest nebula fleet. Even with only 6 capacity per panel, they can easily crush most opposition with a short range overrun. Even range 0 isn't to be feared in the first pass and TR beams can do potentially 20 pts of damage at range 3 or less. A lowly Cobra averages 27 pts of damage if centerlined at range 0 and still has 24 pts of protection early on. An Int averages 65 pts of damage at point blank centerlined which should crush just about anything with 5 shields. It has 48 pts of protection which should be plenty against even a DNH with the +3 shift.
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Patrick Doyle
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to all for the comments, this will make the re-write better.
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mojo jojo
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 4:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

At range 0-3, phaser type weapons of all sorts (except PH-3 and PH-G are ineffective at range 3) dominate in terms of energy efficiency (average damage divided by energy used to arm the weapon). At range 0, a PH-G has an astounding 10 efficiency!

At range 4-5, PPD, PH-1, Carronades, and TRH still have good efficiency, with a ratio above 1.

At ranges 6-10, only a PPD has excellent efficiency at 1.92. HB, PH-1, and TRH are ok at 6-8 range with 0.5-0.6 efficiency.

At ranges 11-15, again the PPD is the only decent weapon. The best of a bad lot for the other weapons are HB and disrupters, with Ion Cannons trailing by a fair amount and nothing else worth mentioning.

When your efficiency dips below 1, it's usually more worthwhile saving energy to battery away damage or move rather than fire weapons. Obviously vs 5 shields any damage is good damage, but there is a certain point where it's not worthwhile. If efficiency drops significantly below 0.5, it may be more worthwhile to repair shield damage rather than fire ineffectually.

Incidentally, a TRH normally does more damage than a PH-4 per shot with no shifts, but with a +3 shift, the PH-4 comes out way ahead since it has a lot of single range brackets unlike the TRH which has 2-4 ranges per bracket in general. Ths makes any shifts far more effective vs the TRH than the PH-4.

I have a chart with all efficiencies rated for all direct fire weapons up to range 15, but it's ugly looking and it doesn't format well on these boards.
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storeylf
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mojo jojo wrote:
I still think the Andro would be the deadliest nebula fleet.


I agree with that, Andros appear to be kings of the nebula. Whilst they take quite a bit of panel damage each turn, that actually goes a huge way to mitigating there biggest disadvantage - multi ship action.

In a multi ship action the go-to tactic against Andro is to never fire at anything but the one ship you intend to kill, in order to not feed them energy. After a few turns you can kill one or two ships and the others will probably be battery starved in a high tempo fight.

In a nebula that damage to the panels will just feed the andro batteries of any ships not being fired at. An INT can feed its batteries 14 power a turn so it never has energy issues even if not being shot at (and dump the other 14). As Mojo says, reducing to 6 point panels and taking damage per turn may look grim, but it still makes them monsters compared to standard ships with 5 point shields.

Couple that with the TR beams that can hurt at a range that only a few other heavy weapons can respond to (even TRLs can hit quite well at range 12, and still get some damage at 18 ) and they are truly a nasty nebula fleet.
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mojo jojo
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I were to rank the fleets, it would be as follows:

1 Andro
2 ISC. PPDs, Plasma, and lots of good phasers are a great combo.
3 Orions. Load up on PL-F (for the carronade), PH-1, and PH-G and you're good to go.
4 Hydran. PH-G is still deadly at range 0-1, and it's easier to get there since it's harder for the opponent to disable you at range.
5 LDR. See Hydran.
6 Gorn. Carronades and PH-1.
7 Fed. Pick the PL-F ships for the carronade and let the usual excellent PH-1 suite take over. Holding photons is also pretty efficient for a close range pass.
8 Romulan. Plasma takes less of a hit than direct fire weapons and defensive fire vs an impacted plasma is problematic with the +3 shift. The only problem is that the opponent is probably firing fewer weapons than usual and will have more power for movement.
9 Selts/Lyran/WYN. Lots of PH-1 means decent damage up to range 5.
10 Klingon/Kzinti/Tholian. Lousy damage at range and mediocre damage up close. Kzinti probably slightly better than the rest due to sheer numbers of PH-3 and can play for a close range pass.
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Patrick Doyle
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What we may need are actual tests. I'm sures its a rocks, paper, scissors thing. Who has experience actually playing in a nebula? We can present facts and stats (chances to hit, & average damage) but how it all interacts may not be as easily predictable.

I'll update the article based on the comments here. I'll be posting some addition terrain articles for comments. Thanks for the comments and keep em coming.
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Patrick Doyle
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just realized that the entire article was not posted. I've been making changes based on comments that have been provided. I'll try to repost it when completed.
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terryoc
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2011 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From my (one game) experience of fighting in a nebula, the +3 to shooting and the reduced shields balances out mostly. Shields are thinner but the shooting is less effective. You need to get in close to have much effect. The nebular movement is a PITA, sometimes it makes you turn away from where you want to go, sometimes it turns your opponent in the direction HE wants to go and he turns faster than you expect Sad Keeping a squadron together is difficult, it will turn into a bit of a confused furball.
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