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Drone dodging counters.

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Fleet Captain

Joined: 24 Jul 2008
Posts: 1897

PostPosted: Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:52 pm    Post subject: Drone dodging counters. Reply with quote

This is aimed at drone heavy users whose opponents have read the tactics manual and learnt how to outmanouver drones by flying straight past them at speed, or those who knew that already.

Whilst there are various anti drone defenses, often the most annoying (for the drone user) is the target simply flying past them and continuing on towards you. Many times that will be an opponent who has much better crunch direct fire power, and you really wanted your drones to keep him away, or at least use up his weapons/power.

When FC first hit our game table some years ago the common opinion seemed to be that lack of T-Bombs (from SFB) made stacks of drones awesome. All those drones hitting would do massive damage at once on one shield. However, it became clear quickly enough that in fact they didn't really achieve that much due to the fly by tactic. For the most part it was me doing the fly bys and my drone loving opponents getting annoyed that their drones never hit. At some point I played a drone heavy force and realising that I would face the same issue had a rethink.

As experienced players will realise, and the tactics manual points out, drones are not primarily about scoring damage. They exist for the most part to reduce the enemy options. Either by making him move away, or absorb his power and weapons. Once we understand that then we can see that the point of the stack of drones (score mass damage if it hits) is a red-herring. By being a single stack we make it so much easier to avoid, we give up the main benefit of drones to try and focus on the least important.

There are 2 semi-counters to the high speed dodge, i.e. tactics that make it more awkward or more expensive to execute.

1) Drones in depth, Have a couple of waves of them, so that having got past wave 1 he runs straight into wave 2 just 2 or 3 hexes behind. This can be done either by launching drones in different directions, so that the first move always seperates them, different ships launching from different hexes, or by launching across impulses so that each one is launched from a different place.

If you can achieve such a formation of drones then it is very hard for the target to simply dodge all of them whilst continuing towards you. Given the position you must obtain to accelerate past drones you cannot then avoid being hit by the ones behind.

Of couse by splitting them up in such a way you often make it easier for the enemy to readily avoid some of them, and also increase the chance of the ones that do impact being across different shields or impulses. This may feel wasteful, but you are greatly increasing the chance that the enemy must 'deal' with at least some of them (rather than none) if he wants to get straight to you, and that means weapons and extra power being used up.

2) The alternative is to consider the movement sequence and positioning needed to dodge past drones, and launch in a way that the target will find it harder to set up.

A speed 24 ship moves 3 hexes in an impulse, as do the drones. The ship can pay for an accel for an extra move. In order to get past the drones and still head more or less at you using speed the ship has to end an impulse adjacent to the drones*. If the drones are launched at range 8/9 (more or less head on) then it is not possible to achieve this without doing a lot of decelerating (using power up) over 2 impulses. A range 15 drone launch is also awkward to counter via a speed past, over 2 impulses the drones move 6 and the target has to accel twice to move the 8 hexes to get the position needed (and then again to go past), that means 2 extra power and limited choice on where he moves for 2 extra impulses unless he accepts just turning away. A range 16 launch will take at least 3 impulses to set up the dodge, as the target must turn his 9 moves into just 6 (by slips or decels). The further out you launch the more room and time the target has to set up the dodge, but the closer you launch the more likely the target will have already got the range he wants to just fire then turn away.

Obviously the 2 tactics above can be used together. A combined range 15/16 launch for example has at least one stack being pretty unavoidable, and in need of some other anti drone defense/tactic.

Neither of the above are going to work all the time. The other guy will be doing his damnest to make life awkward for you, but that is no reason to just lob out drones willy nilly without thinking what you are wanting them to do.

* Depending on drone facing and your position relative to it you can do it from 2 hexes away as well, though not quite as well.
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