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 Post subject: Squadron or fleet maneuvers
PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2007 9:23 pm 
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I recently played my first game of AV:T. We decided to just play around with the movement, so there is no battle to report. Due to time constraints, we called the game after I was halfway to victory and my opponent was halfway to flying off of the map (the goal was to make a zero velocity/ zero distance intercept at each of two markers, starting from rest). I commanded a Lafayette and he had a Rafik. His extra half pip of max thrust and better pivot/roll rate only seemed to exacerbate his problems of predicting his future position/vector. From his experience, I learned that you really need to be in a hurry to shift your current vector to apply thrust while pivoting/rolling.

I shared my experience on the Ground Zero Games mailing list (one GZG game is Full Thrust, a miniatures game of space combat [in two dimensions]). While many of the Full Thrust devotees found the movement system to be interesting, they all seemed to think that Full Thrust was better for fleet engagements. I countered that it was equally bad for coordinated maneuvers of a group of ships moving from one formation pattern to another and was only better in the sense that you could write the turns orders for thirty-plus ships in a few minutes. Anything sophisticated was difficult to plan and as difficult to specify the orders required.

My question to the forum is whether anyone has tried to run several ships at the same time and attempted/succeeded in a coordinated maneuver. Running a line-ahead formation in AV:T is simple, each following ship starts its pivot/roll/burn as it gets to the same hex that the leader began the maneuver in.

A complicated maneuver that would be tempting when facing an equal number of ships with very heavy nose armor is an englobement. You split up out of effective range and then converge on the enemy from different enough directions that if your enemy attempts to defeat you in detail, he is offering your other ships a chance to hit the lesser armored regions of the sides/top/bottom.

A less complicated maneuver is a planar formation that is "pointed" in the same direction as the velocity vector [if the tabletop is the plane of the formation, the velocity is straight up or down]. After the formation accelerates to a new vector, the plane is "pointed" along the new velocity vector.

SITS seems to solve this problem by limiting formations to a group of ships in a single hex, effectively rendering it moot.


In my GZG mailing list post, I questioned the utility of a math degree for playing AV:T, but now I realize that it makes it easier to describe things if you and your audience have the vocabulary learned in a vector geometry course.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2007 12:33 am 
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I haven't actually tried any formation manuvers in SITS (don't have AV:T yet) but I've got an idea of what you're talking about and what might be required.

Running a simple line-ahead or line abreast formation should not be any sort of a challenge, so long as you pay attention to what you're doing. Transitioning between them, moving into and out of obliques and turns in line should be realitively simple for anyone around here. Although, I would be willing to bet that even then someone could still manage to pooch it by not paying attention to their spacing and velocities if they've let the velocities get up there.

For the other manuvers you're talking about, I actually think an "englobement" style manuever would be easier to pull off than a planar formation. Now, I will say that the only way I can envision a true englobement being achieved is through ambuscade, but what Doc Smith would have called a "cone of attack" is more than minimally complicated, at least for a small number of ships.

Supposing that I was starting with a group of four ships that are closely enough spaced to be counted as in the same hex, it would be a simple matter of reflecting the pivot/roll through an appropriate angle to achieve the desired divergence. If they were pointing in A, I'd just pivot one to C/D, one to E/F, one to +++ and the last to ---. Then burn for x segments/turns. Pivot all four back to A and start a new burn. I now have 4 ships in a planar formation with the sort of spread you're talking. From there converging back to attack towards the enemy should be little more than a logical extension of the previous manuvers.

The biggest question that comes to my mind on this formation manuver is how much work do you put into cancelling the diverging vectors. Do you do some amount of running up the diverging vector, then do a turn over to cancel it before coming back about to the original heading? Or do you just run up what is perhaps a smaller starting divergence before coming back about and leave it uncancelled to let it carry out the spread more slowly over time? I know part of it depends on how much time and space you have to work in before you come into engagement, and what sort of spread you're trying to achieve. But even then I bet there would be differing opinions.

More ships would complicate this some, but could still be doable with a little forethought.

Now, trying to achieve that same result from a line-ahead or line abreast where the ships are in different hexs could be a different story. Depends on how picky you are on alignment and spacing. If you aren't all that picky, going into a cone from a line abreast would be just a matter of breaking the right ships in the right directions. To pull it off right from line-ahead, I think you'd better have a lot of practice at manuvering ships at different thrusts. Simply breaking in the different directions at the same hex and mirroring the same manuver timing from there is going to result in a stagger that could be inviting a defeat in detail of its own. But screwing up your timing on trying to make up the stagger could place one or more ships even more badly out of position than not even trying.

But compared to all that, I would see the sort of planar manuver I'm envisoning you as talking about as vastly more complex. Although some of that may be that the most appropriate manner I can imagine for achieving such a manuver would be a 3-d version of a wheel in marching. Problem is, to do a wheel right your pivot man has to mark time while your outside is moving at double or triple time to pull the formation around in the right time. Hard enough to do on a parade ground, I'm not sure I'd want to try it in AV:T or SITS. At least not without a ton of practice and an expectation that I'm going to screw it up a lot. Even then, it would still effectively be a "programmed" manuver that I'm not going to even think about altering on the fly.

As for the simplification in SITS, I'd say thats just luck of the fact that Weber makes it clear that in the Wall of Battle, the ships are going to stay as tight together as they can manage without risking intersecting wedges. Which allowed Ken and Thomas to sweep all the complications of squadron manuvers and formation keeping under the rug of scale.

And I would agree having some experience in the vector maths is probably a good thing here.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2007 2:23 am 
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Lost an earlier reply to this:

I find that maneuver in AV:T is constrained by three things:

1) You cannot shift your end of turn marker by a number of hexes greater than your current thrust rating. So, look at where the EOT marker is and thrust appropriately. Same for your opponents. This means that at higher speeds, your vectors are part of a long trumpet bell of geometry.

2) Most pivots worth mentioning are in the 2 to 4 window range. Keep those in mind for your time needed to perform a pivot, and note that it will delay the onset of thrust a bit because of the thrust break conditions.

3) Fuel and time are both limited commodities. You have to worry about running out of gas eventually. You have to worry about filling your heat sinks, eventually.

In trying to do coordinated maneuvers, I don't try for "formations" - formations for combat in space ships are about as useful as formations for combat with fighting jets in contact with other enemies. You want to attack an enemy from two directions at least 60 degrees if not 90 degree apart; apply your thrust to give you two separating vectors, or use seeking weapons to constrain the direction he can thrust in. It's a very fluid, and dynamic situation...and trying to impose "line ahead" thinking on it is, um, like demanding that air combat be fought in regimental pike square formations.

Focus on bearing and rate of closure to determine where you're going, rather than trying to get to point X, turn in direction Y, and cancel vector(s) Z.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2007 7:13 am 
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Ken Burnside wrote:
Lost an earlier reply to this:


In trying to do coordinated maneuvers, I don't try for "formations" - formations for combat in space ships are about as useful as formations for combat with fighting jets in contact with other enemies. You want to attack an enemy from two directions at least 60 degrees if not 90 degree apart; apply your thrust to give you two separating vectors, or use seeking weapons to constrain the direction he can thrust in. It's a very fluid, and dynamic situation...and trying to impose "line ahead" thinking on it is, um, like demanding that air combat be fought in regimental pike square formations.

Focus on bearing and rate of closure to determine where you're going, rather than trying to get to point X, turn in direction Y, and cancel vector(s) Z.


While formations are of trivial use once you have to worry about the fuel consumption to dress them, coordinated maneuvering is rather important (or so it seems to me), so I wanted to generate discussion on what multiship maneuvers were tried and whether anyone pulled one off. The example of a coordinated turn of a line ahead formation was chosen for only two reasons 1) the maneuver is easy to describe and 2) the maneuver, unlike many of the possible multiship maneuvers, is easy to execute.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2007 7:32 am 
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Even in the Line Ahead formation I can see one problem.

If your formation includes multiple ships with different pivot rates each will generate slightly different vectors as they leave the pivot on slightly different segments (in relation to the start of the pivot). :shock:

I think that Ken makes a very good arguement that 'formations' in that context simply aren't worth the effort.

What you seem to be talking about is coordinating attack and defense strategies rather than actual formation flying (for example timing multiple ships in an 'encirclement' perhaps).

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2007 11:21 am 
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Basically, formation flying is trying to over-control the movement. It presumes that there's a benefit, for example, to having four ships fire on the same segment at the same target at the same range that wouldn't exist if all four ships fired on 3 consecutive segments.

The "flying escort" rules allow you to maneuver a more maneuverable ship in your hex to position it on an incoming damage bearing for dealing with inbound seekers, so that level of formation flying is useful.

But trying to do "rotating diamond" formations, or line ahead, or line abreast, or 2-D wedge formations don't offer a lot of utility on offense.

Trying to attack a target from multiple angles offers a lot of utility, and with seekers, the ability to herd a target or force facing changes also complicates maneuvers.

For example - you have two ships flying with the same vectors. You launch two spreads of seekers, set up so that there's overwhelming saturation for one target in all directions but ---, and for the other target in all directions other than +++.

If they stay in formation, one target is going to get hammered, or both divert resources to deal with saturation for one target. If both evade (likely with corvettes and smaller), then they end up with divergent of at least 120 degrees apart.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:31 pm 
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Gareth Perkins wrote:
Even in the Line Ahead formation I can see one problem.

If your formation includes multiple ships with different pivot rates each will generate slightly different vectors as they leave the pivot on slightly different segments (in relation to the start of the pivot). :shock:

I think that Ken makes a very good arguement that 'formations' in that context simply aren't worth the effort.

What you seem to be talking about is coordinating attack and defense strategies rather than actual formation flying (for example timing multiple ships in an 'encirclement' perhaps).


Pretty much correct. As early as WWI, people saw value in coordinated maneuvering of aircraft, even if it was only "If you cannot point your guns at your opponent, lead your opponent in front of someone who can, and hope he notices".

If your opponent forces your two ships to break away from each other, you need some plan to coordinate your movements to limit the enemy's ability to defeat you in detail. I suppose that I need to ditch the term 'formation' and replace it with 'coordinated movement of multiple ships'. Formations of X ships against Y seeking weapons are only good if the combined point defense is better than each ship trying to stop Y/X seeking weapons (X, Y are arbitrary integers).

Ken, I may have misunderstood something about your example of using seeking weapons to break up a two ship group-- possibly because I only have the demo rules that include movement and lasers, but omit all seeking weapons:

If you can get the saturation to force the two ships in the formation to split apart in opposite directions, why don't you just saturate one to the point that it just gets hammered and route any left overs to the other one to complicate mututal support?

Have I played too many naval combat games (on water, in space, or one pretending to be the other) to realize that I am trying to apply a paradigm that was never meant to be used in AV:T?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2007 11:29 pm 
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Richard Bell wrote:
If you can get the saturation to force the two ships in the formation to split apart in opposite directions, why don't you just saturate one to the point that it just gets hammered and route any left overs to the other one to complicate mututal support?

Have I played too many naval combat games (on water, in space, or one pretending to be the other) to realize that I am trying to apply a paradigm that was never meant to be used in AV:T?


Yes and no.

There are point defense systems that (while expensive in power to use) can damage all inbound seekers on an incoming shellstar zone (sorry for the greek terminology - think of a shellstar zone as being a clump of seekers that can intercept you within certain lateral thrust parameters.)

One of the things you want to do with seekers is layer enough of them in that it's not quite tempting enough to use an area effect defensive weapon, or leave someone some alternatives.

Lastly, no point defense parameter is ever quite perfect. If you have a chance to evade in a direction and avoid ALL seekers...with no energy expenditure, it can be awfully tempting.

Plus there's the aforementioned "split unit coordination" bits.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 3:09 am 
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