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Foxtrot Four

Entrenched Positions and PDS

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So me and my friends have finished our 2nd game of Twilight Imperium 4th Edition, and 2 of the players have come to an usual conclusion. The PDS Technologies are incredibly unbalanced when combined with Deep Space Cannons. When the mid game hits, if your opponents have Deep Space Canon, Plasma Scoring, Magnan Defense Grid, and Graviton Laser Systems, and if they have PDS on the planets in the second ring, then there are potentially 10 squares of the board that are in danger of taking anywhere from 5-7 shots that can NOT be taken on fighters, with re-rolls. This is devastating, and made taking his planets and breaking his lines almost impossible. The Muaat came in with 2 War Suns and 4 Dreadnaughts and they were almost all obliterated before shots were even fired. The Mentak have even greater advantage at safeguarding their lands when you factor in ALL PDS Shots, AND Two Shots from the Cruisers. This is almost 10 combat dice being rolled before your opponents gets to return fire.

I understand that PDS needed some extra help, in previous editions a single War Sun full of fighters would shrug off the shots as mathematically they weren't promised to kill all of your fighters, and then you open fire with War Sun Power. So PDS in 3rd Edition needed help, and Fighter Swarm was far too strong, and now it seems to be the absolute opposite. PDS screens are absolutely bonkers and a considerable hard counter against Fight Screens which aren't nearly as potent now anyway due to the fact that Carrier I can only carry 4 units, and requires Carrier II to get back up to the standard 6 unit carry.

NOW; Me and my friend are veteran players as we played the crap out of 3rd edition and we are not sold on these arguments all too deeply. For a few reasons.

  1. The Muaat Player, and the Mentak Player were in last, and second to last place respectively. [3VP and 4VP respectively]
  2. The Jol-Nar player who only had 4 PDS on the board won the game handedly, with Xxcha in second place, but a silk tongue gave the Xxcha Player his 2nd place position, not PDS
  3. The Mentak Player ONLY had those technologies listed above. Along with their racial tech by the end of the game. The Muaat Player only had Graviton Lasers because he had access to a Yellow Tech Specialty and skipped over Sawreen Tools. Then proceeded to Rush War Sun II and technologically stagnate the rest of the game.
  4. Our very first game this was also done by the Jol-Nar player, but they only came in 2nd. The Aborac took 1st that game by growing like a plague [as they do], a strategy that PDS does not help against.

HOWEVER; Anecdotal as it is, the game we played did present pretty interesting evidence of this strategy being very potent. They requested that I ask the community because the two players who have seen this happen are commonly power gamers. The type to streamline victory as hard as they can. So I do weigh their words with some merit. They feel as we become better and better at the game we will focus on entrenched positions with PDS fire, backed by Graviton Laser Systems. We will chose races whose starting tech gets us closer to the end goal, we will take Construction more often and always use the secondary. We will form, "No Man's Land" of planets stationed between two sides of PDS Fire. I understand the concept, and they claim that they will try and do this every game until they either win because of it, and win subsequent games because of it, or they will keep doing it until it proves to be not worthy of consideration on a Meta Level.

They requested that I ask the community if anyone else is experiencing problems with PDS fire and players digging dig in the second ring with Deep Space Cannons? Anyone else having a problem with this?

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They are powerful but not game breaking IMO. I will say, however, that in my last game (which I lost) I had a space turtle fleet just outside of MR with 4 PDS (2 planets) and the flag ship. I was tossing 8 dice at anyone and everyone that tried to move in on MR. The goal for that game was really just teach new players how to play the game, so I was trying to see how powerful PDS could really be. The funny thing is that the ability to blast non-fighters only works once because you have to exhaust the card - but NOBODY wanted to be the guy that decimated his fleet so the next guy could move in and get victory points. Cold War tactics at it's best.

I'm playing again this afternoon and will keep my eyes open to see if this trend continues.

mattprov likes this

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Upon Further Review:

I tried a quick turn 2 invasion of the Jol-Nar next to me in a game this past weekend with 3 dreadnoughts and a couple of fighters and took heavy damage (3 hits requiring me to sustain damage on all 3 dreadnoughts). I managed to take the system right next to their homeworld with my fleet avoiding any additional damage, but the thought of having 4 PDS dice hit me was enough to keep me from invading with damaged ships. Sadly, he was able to build up a small group of ships in his homeworld before I could reinforce.

This may have been especially potent because Jol-Nar starts with 2 in their home system, PDS unit upgrade was his first move, he built one with a construction action, and good dice rolls put  some hurt on me. That being said, I may seriously reconsider making PDS one of my first unit upgrades, with level 2 yellow not far behind. Considering there are VP's to be scored by having tech upgrades, and VP's for unit upgrades - it's not like upgrading them would be a total waste (unless those cards don't flip over). Especially if you have a better racial tech for a second red tech, or control a red tech planet you can tap to skip to the red 3 (armor) tech.

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I hope that PDS are this powerful. As your point out, digging in doesn't necessarily win you the game, but with many objectives, holding on to what you DO have, so long as it's just enough resources, influence, or # of planets will get you very close. I'm glad there is a decent alternative to JUST building up the biggest fleet. The scariest races to me were ones like L1z1x and Hacan, who will either out-gun or out-produce respectively. I've been trying to find out what strategies will hold them back, and if PDS hold that kind of power, then if anything it seems to balance out the races who don't have such a simple route to combat success. Especially someone like the Winnu, who's racial abilities don't lend themselves to many strategies. If they're able to take Mectol, entrench, and use their PDS to hold on for dear life, than I consider that a success in design.

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If I started with a red/yellow tech like Mentac I'd probably buy it first thing. If I started with a yellow, or even the first red - I might work towards it as well. The only hesitation is that the number of technologies you get in a game is limited. So if you really need blue/yellow for unit upgrades you probably won't want spend early turns on red. The PDS upgrade, however, I think is a strong deterrent early and mid game.

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Yeah. It's definitely an interesting choice. They've made it where Blue/Green works if you plan to get aggressive, and Red/Yellow work if you plan to stay defensive.

Worth nothing: to get War Suns, you are  forced to go most of this route. So, a player with the most powerful unit in the game likely has some of the most defensible home turf as well. Should give that player a lot of comfort to get those War Suns out there and do some damage.

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With most things in TI that seem "overpowered" on the surface, the dynamic of the game changes such that the other players begin forming and breaking alliances to combat an overwhelming threat. That's one of the things that I love about the game; if someone is super-threatening to everyone else, that person has basically painted a bullseye on himself. Basically, this game is an exploration of the dynamics of interpersonal and interracial relationships on a galactic scale. Although, if players cannot get past their own insecurities in this world and instead take things personally, then the game is not as enjoyable.

Skootur likes this

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4 hours ago, Wh0isTh3D0ct0r said:

Basically, this game is an exploration of the dynamics of interpersonal and interracial relationships on a galactic scale. Although, if players cannot get past their own insecurities in this world and instead take things personally, then the game is not as enjoyable.

YESYESYESYESYESYESYEYESYESYESYES. PREACH!

OrangeCat likes this

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7 hours ago, Wh0isTh3D0ct0r said:

With most things in TI that seem "overpowered" on the surface, the dynamic of the game changes such that the other players begin forming and breaking alliances to combat an overwhelming threat. That's one of the things that I love about the game; if someone is super-threatening to everyone else, that person has basically painted a bullseye on himself. Basically, this game is an exploration of the dynamics of interpersonal and interracial relationships on a galactic scale. Although, if players cannot get past their own insecurities in this world and instead take things personally, then the game is not as enjoyable.

While I agree with this in theory, I would caution that there is a limit.  No game with asymmetrical powers will be perfectly balanced, and a lot of the balance can indeed come from smart players working together to pile onto the leader, etc.  This is absolutely true.

However, when something is so strong (or weak) that it warps every single game in the same way, you have to start to ask whether or not it really is too much.  Yssaril in TI3 is one example, and some of the other powerhouse races were pretty darn close.  The power differential between Dreadnoughts and Fighters pre-expansion was another egregious imbalance that resulted in stale, repetitive gameplay in competitive environments.  These were blatant problems with the game, and yet I wrote literally thousands of posts arguing with people who would fight to their last breath saying that the game was perfect the way it was designed.  One of their favorite arguments was always "What's the problem?  If X race is too strong, just make sure everybody gangs up on them every time."  Maybe that works some of the time (and it sure doesn't all of the time depending on the people playing), but if every single game has to be like that, then I'd rather fix the problem and have more variety in my games.

So, basically, I agree with you.... to a point!  And I totally agree that the game is better when played with a healthy mindset.

Dweomer likes this

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Oh, Gods yes. 

I stopped playing this game for a year because I ran into... let's just say, an "interesting fellow".

This is a 4x game, and sometimes you get "Xterminated". Modern Euro game style, old war-game sensibilities. TI has one foot in each. 

 

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