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darkknight109

Galactic Conquest: An Armada Campaign (feedback requested)

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So, many moons ago I met some fellow Star Wars nerds online and we wound up forming our own small community. What initially brought us together is a game we created called Galactic Conquest - we ran it for a few years, tweaking the rules each time to make it interesting. It was basically a two-team strategy game that could be played over forums, using various different methods to resolve battles over planets (we started with X-Wing Alliance, which was an absolute mess, then graduated to Rebellion, which was initially even worse until I made an attempt to re-balance all the ships to be in-line with their costs - that game, unfortunately, requires witchcraft to set up a multiplayer game, so I wound up creating a pen-and-paper method to work out battle results which was... serviceable, I guess, but I was never happy with it). We had a tonne of fun with it - I think we played 10-ish campaigns of it before we ultimately moved on to other things (including a Star Wars Saga campaign which ran for nearly a decade).

Anyways, fast forward to a couple months ago and some friends and I - who had been casual X-Wing players up to that point - decided to take a swing at Armada, a game I bought when it came out because I thought it looked really interesting, but had never gotten to play due to lack of opponents. We were instantly hooked - we loved the focus on strategy over tactics and had a lot of fun learning the ropes and putting together some fun fleet builds (and we had a few Sector Fleet-sized matches before those had official rules). All in all an entertaining time and we pretty quickly abandoned X-Wing for Armada on games night. Then two of my Armada partners talked about how fun it would be to have an Armada campaign, which I was completely on board with. We tried CC, but we found it was a bit underwhelming and didn't quite carry the feel of a "proper" campaign. I then got the idea to resurrect Galactic Conquest and re-tool the rules to make it an Armada-compatible campaign.

Well, that effort is now at least in a usable state, so I present - for review and comment - my first draft of rules for Galactic Conquest: Armada edition. I only have a few months Armada experience under my belt, so mostly I'm looking for people more familiar with the system to poke holes in anything that I'm proposing here. Particularly, any rules that are italicized are ones that I'm kind of on the fence about and looking for feedback on.

Rules

In Galactic Conquest, you play a Rebel or Imperial Admiral trying to wrest control of the galaxy from the opposing team. As part of this effort, you will build up your fleet and use it to attack enemy worlds or reclaim friendly planets that have been captured by the enemy. Each planet provides much-needed income to the war effort, so losses must be matched with victories lest your team find itself on the wrong end of an income imbalance. The game ends when one team loses all of its planets (although the losing team usually concedes once the war effort starts looking particularly hopeless).

Each team starts the game with 15 planets, including one capital planet, and 5 player fleets. You will need to use these fleets carefully to ensure that you can strike deep into enemy territory while still leaving enough forces behind to defend against enemy incursions and/or reclaim captured planets. In addition to the five player fleets, each planet has a garrison fleet that it uses strictly for defence. These fleets are stationary and cannot move, instead doing their best to fend off enemy invasions (or at least do some damage on the way out).

Note that one of the elements of Galactic Conquest that adds challenge is secrecy: you will be able to see all fleets controlled by your team, but you will not be able to see enemy fleets or their movements. The only way you will know where an enemy fleet is and what ships it contains is when it attacks a friendly planet. Other than that, you'll have to simply guess and/or deduce how strong it is and where it's going to strike next.

Map

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Players

The campaign can be played with 2-10 players, divided into two teams. Each player gets at least one fleet to control - if there are less than five players per team, individual players can control multiple fleets. Although players have ultimate control over their own fleets, including how to spend points, where the fleet moves, etc., some decisions are shared by the team (such as defence allocations). Accordingly, each team should nominate one player as Grand Admiral - while forging consensus between the team players is strongly encouraged, the Grand Admiral has the final say on any disputed team actions.

Optionally, the game may also include a neutral gamemaster. This individual is responsible for updating the campaign map at the end of each turn, checking all purchases and movements made by each side to confirm they are legal, and resolving any disputes that arise between the two teams.

Game Mechanics

The Campaign Turn

Each Campaign Turn consists of the following phases, in order:

  • Income Phase: Each team receives income from each planet they currently control. This is when they may allocate points to player fleets or garrisons (see "Purchasing and Upgrading Fleets" below) and discuss their strategy and moves for the turn.
  • Movement Phase: Each player fleet can remain stationary or may move up to five squares horizontally or vertically in any direction. 
  • Battle Phase: If a fleet ends its movement on an enemy-controlled planet, a battle is initiated. See the rules below for further details.
  • End Phase: At the end of the turn, players note down the results of any battles, update the campaign map to reflect planets changing hands, and conduct any clean-up needed.

Note that players are encouraged to keep a good record of each turn's actions (income, purchasing, movement, and battle outcomes) in case a dispute arises later (especially if there is no gamemaster to check things in real-time).

Purchasing and Upgrading Fleets

  • Each team starts the game with 1,000 points to spend as they please (these may be allocated to any of the five player fleets or given to defensive garrisons). As well, each team will start with an additional 3,000 points, but these points MUST be spent on planetary defence garrisons and cannot be allocated to player fleets.
  • Each planet under your control provides your team with 30 points in income each Campaign Turn.
  • Capital worlds (Coruscant and Chandrilla) are worth 100 points per turn, so defend them well!
  • You can use income to purchase ships or upgrades and place them either in one of the five player fleets, or on a planet as a defensive garrison. Once a ship is part of a fleet or defence force, it cannot be moved to another fleet or planet by any means. You may elect not to spend all your income in a given turn and, instead, save it for subsequent turns. Players should discuss and agree on how they wish to allocate income in a given turn.
  • Any unique officers/commanders/titles/squadron aces may only be purchased once for  *all* friendly fleets. If they are destroyed, they may be repurchased by any fleet. The only exception to this rule is that garrison fleets may use any commander card that is not being used by one of the player fleets (even if that commander is being used by a different garrison fleet).
  • If you wish to "move" a unique card to a different ship in the same fleet, you may do so for free. If you wish to move a unique card to another fleet, you may do so by spending half of its purchase cost.
  • If you wish to purchase a new commander for your fleet, you may do so by paying its point costs. The original commander is then replaced with the new one (you do not receive any points back for retiring the old commander).
  • Fleets must adhere to standard Armada fleet-building rules (no more than one Modification per ship, no more than 1/3 of a fleet's cost spent on starfighters, etc.), with the following modifications:
    • Only one flotilla is allowed per 250 points of the fleet's cost
    • If a fleet, through battle damage, no longer meets the building rules (e.g. a 600 point fleet with 200 points worth of starfighters loses 100 points worth of capital ships), it is allowed to remain "out of compliance", so long as new purchases do not further break the rules (in the previous example, the fleet would be allowed to keep all of its starfighters, but could not purchase any more until it either purchased additional ships or lost some of its current starfighters).

Movement and Battles

  • Each fleet starts the game positioned on a friendly planet of your choice. You may have multiple fleets occupy the same planet or square in space.
  • Player fleets may move up to five squares horizontally or vertically in any direction each campaign turn. Note down secretly where your fleet is moving each turn (both sides should keep a record of their fleet movements that can be shown to a neutral official and/or the enemy team once the game has been completed to confirm that all moves are legal).
  • Defensive garrisons may not move.
  • Player fleets with no ships in them cannot move. A planet's defensive garrison may have no ships in it, but if it is attacked while in this state and no friendly player fleet is present at the planet, the attacker automatically wins and the planet is captured.
  • Whenever a fleet moves into onto an enemy planet, a battle will be immediately initiated. As the garrison fleets are not assigned to any specific player, the team may choose which player takes control of the defending fleet for this battle. Ideally this should be a player whose fleet is not involved in a battle elsewhere on the map that turn - it is rare that all five fleets will see combat in a single turn, so usually at least a few players will be available to command garrison fleets.
  • Optional: If a gamemaster is being used, they should check each fleet's final position after both teams have made their moves. If two opposing fleets end on the same square, a battle is initiated just as if they had attacked a planet (in this case, randomly determine which side has Initiative). This is a rare occurrence, but it can happen and savvy strategists can anticipate where an enemy fleet is going to move after attacking a planet and try and catch them in an ambush before they can attack again.
  • If a fleet attacks a planet and defeats the enemy fleet, that planet will be taken over by the attacking fleet's team, giving them access to that planet's income. When a planet is first conquered, the side that conquered it immediately gains 200 points to spend on the defensive garrison for that planet in addition to its regular income. These credits may not be used to purchase anything other than ships/upgrades destined for the planet's defensive garrison.
  • If a player fleet retreats from a battle, that fleet will immediately be relocated to the nearest friendly planet (regardless of how far away that planet is). If the fleet is destroyed, it will rebuild at the nearest friendly planet. If multiple planets are the same distance away from the site of a lost battle, the fleet's player may choose which of those planets he or she retreats to/rebuilds at.
  • Battles end once six turns have elapsed or when one side has no non-Flotilla ships left in their fleet. In this case, any ships and/or starfighters which have not fled the battle (see "Armada Specific Rules" below) are immediately destroyed.
  • If a battle for a planet ends while both sides still have ships intact, the attacking player may choose to retreat or fight on.
    • If the attacking player chooses to retreat, all ships and starfighters that survived the battle are moved to the nearest planet, just as if they had fled during the battle.
    • If the attacking player chooses to continue fighting, the planet is now "Besieged". For the next campaign turn, the planet generates no income for either side (all commercial traffic is brought to a standstill by the battle raging in orbit) and neither the attacking nor defending fleets can purchase any ships or upgrades (as they are too busy fighting each other). In the Battle Phase, begin a new battle on the planet as though the attacking fleet had just attacked (assume that the previous turn's battle constituted a "first pass", after which the fleets regrouped and were able to bring any depleted shields back up and restore defensive measures, etc.). If a second player fleet from either side moves to the planet in that turn's movement phase, their ships will join the battle on the appropriate side.

Armada-specific Rules

  • The attacking fleet always has initiative.
  • Any ship in an attacking fleet may attempt to flee a battle. In order to do this, on any turn from Turn 4 onwards, the ship must end its move within Distance 5 of the friendly board edge and declare it is jumping to hyperspace. The ship is then removed from the table and plays no further role in the battle. Starfighters may also attempt to flee the battle, and can do so by ending their turn within Distance 1 of a friendly ship of Medium size or larger.
  • Any ship that is within Distance 5 of an enemy ship with an Experimental Retrofit upgrade slot cannot flee the battle.
  • If multiple players are fighting within the same battle on the same team, use the "Alert All Commands" rules for multiplayer games.
  • Objective cards are not used for this campaign

Damage and Repairs

  • If a fleet survives a battle (either by fleeing or defeating its opponent), note any damage that occurred on any of the fleet's surviving ships. Specifically:
    • The number of facedown damage cards
    • Any critical damage
  • That damage will continue to the next battle unless repaired. Note that damaged shields and/or defences, as well as upgrades that are exhausted as part of their use regenerate automatically and do not need to be repaired or re-purchased. Repairs can be conducted only if a fleet begins its turn at a friendly planet. The costs are as follows:
    • 10 points: Flip a face-up damage card face down
    • Half of the ship's base cost: Remove all facedown damage cards
  • Any upgrades that are discarded by an enemy upgrade or attack are permanently removed and must be re-purchased. If an upgrade is discarded as part of its cost of usage, it is not permanently removed and will regenerate for the next battle (assuming its parent ship survives)
  • If a ship is destroyed, it and all associated upgrades are lost and must be repurchased.
  • Non-ace starfighters are subject to different damage-removal rules. If they are destroyed in a battle, they remain in their fleet but gain a "battle-damaged" token. If they survive the next battle, the battle damage token is removed; if they are destroyed in that battle, they are lost for good and must be repurchased. Ace starfighter squadrons do not follow this rule and are removed as normal if destroyed.
  • If a starfighter squadron survives a battle, any damage it suffered is automatically recovered.
  • If a fleet loses its flagship, the commander does not need to be re-purchased and can be transferred to another ship in the fleet at no cost so long as at least one other ship survived the battle. If the entire fleet is wiped out, the commander is lost as well and must be re-purchased when the fleet rebuilds.

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A few random notes and thoughts:

-I have absolutely no idea what to do with Objective Cards in the context of the campaign. I tried to work them into the rules in a couple different ways, but nothing seemed to work. I've left them out for now, but I'm not sure that's an ideal solution. The battles are frequently asymmetrical in this campaign, so I'm not worried about their loss as a mitigating factor to the player who goes second, but I'm worried this may push the advantage too much toward the attacker (who already has a lot going for them in these campaigns).

-One of the things I grappled with when writing these rules was how to avoid fleet sizes eventually reaching unmanageable levels. This was not a problem in when I was originally running this campaign online (since Rebellion can run battles with hundreds of ships on a side without issue), but obviously moving this to meatspace introduces some additional concerns. Making repairs cost points was one solution (originally they were free and automatic) and I've also trimmed down the number of points each planet gives from my first iteration of the rules, but then the issue becomes "Do players have enough credits to put together a reasonable fleet in the early game?"

-The rules for what happens when neither side tables their opponent are also new and experimental. This, again, was not an issue with digital battles, where you could just run the fight until one side was dust, but Armada clearly was meant to end after ~6 turns (so saying "just play until someone is tabled" doesn't strike me as an ideal solution, as there's going to be lots of wasted turns of getting ships turned back around for another run at the enemy).

-I was tempted to make it so Garrisons don't need a flagship/commander and to have them as optional, rather than allowing duplicates, but given the outsize influence commanders can have (plus the aforementioned advantages the attacker already enjoys), I'm not sure that's ideal either.

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14 hours ago, darkknight109 said:

-I have absolutely no idea what to do with Objective Cards in the context of the campaign. I tried to work them into the rules in a couple different ways, but nothing seemed to work. I've left them out for now, but I'm not sure that's an ideal solution. The battles are frequently asymmetrical in this campaign, so I'm not worried about their loss as a mitigating factor to the player who goes second, but I'm worried this may push the advantage too much toward the attacker (who already has a lot going for them in these campaigns).

There's an option on pg. 14 of the RRG for playing with no objectives:

Quote

Unlimited Rounds

Players who want to play a death match to the bitter end can use this rule. The game does not end after the sixth round; instead, the game ends only when all of one player’s ships are destroyed. Do not use objectives when playing with this rule, but place obstacles as normal. In addition, at the end of each round, the player with initiative gives initiative to his opponent by passing the initiative token to that player.

The largest issue with this is there's potential for last/first shenanigans. That could be remedied by not allowing the last activated ship in round x to be the first activated ship in round x+1 (unless it is the only ship available). Unlimited rounds could also simplify the rules above for when rounds exceed 6.

 

14 hours ago, darkknight109 said:

-I was tempted to make it so Garrisons don't need a flagship/commander and to have them as optional, rather than allowing duplicates, but given the outsize influence commanders can have (plus the aforementioned advantages the attacker already enjoys), I'm not sure that's ideal either. 

I'm not tracking... If you make commanders optional for garrisons, then it's just that, an option. Most commanders get better with more ships, so if a 200pt garrison is only a single tricked out ISDII and a couple squadrons, then let it be. But as that garrison grows, a commander can always be added later. It would be foolish to not have a commander once a fleet is large enough.

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20 minutes ago, thestag said:

There's an option on pg. 14 of the RRG for playing with no objectives:

And so there is. How did I miss that? That looks like it would work perfectly for what I'm going for!

21 minutes ago, thestag said:

The largest issue with this is there's potential for last/first shenanigans.

Wouldn't last/first shenanigans already be an issue with a static initiative if the attacker (who has initiative by default) has more ships than the defender?

23 minutes ago, thestag said:

I'm not tracking... If you make commanders optional for garrisons, then it's just that, an option. Most commanders get better with more ships, so if a 200pt garrison is only a single tricked out ISDII and a couple squadrons, then let it be. But as that garrison grows, a commander can always be added later. It would be foolish to not have a commander once a fleet is large enough.

Fair point, I suppose. That being the case, I'm starting to lean towards nixing that "garrison exception" for commanders. Many planets in the games of this I've played aren't all that important, tactically speaking, so they get left with their default defences (200 points) - sometimes less, if they haven't been touched since the start of the game and were deemed unimportant enough to get a pittance from the initial defence fund. The commanders would be upgrades to boost up particularly important planets, like the capitals or the Turn 1 exposed planets (Bespin/Corellia).

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You could have 4 generic commander types to be used for garrisons and/or small fleets. As an example, me and my friend have been playing with the following generics:

- Navigational: When a ship uses a Navigational Dial, it may increase/decrease its speed by an additonal 1 and add 1 yaw.

-Concentrate Fire: When a ship uses a Concentrate Fire Dial, it may add another dice to its pool on top of the dice it gains from the Dial.

- Engineering: When a ship uses an Engineering Dial, it increases the number of engineering points it gains by half rounded up.

- Squadron: When a ship uses a Squadron Dial, the squadrons that it activates may move up to distance 2 if they are not engaged, before resolving their movement and shooting.

 

Or, you could come up with a table of minor effects, and as the commander levels up it can roll a dice for an effect. Sorta like Battle Companies, Necromunda, Mordhiem, ect.

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On 2/9/2019 at 1:35 PM, Ling27 said:

You could have 4 generic commander types to be used for garrisons and/or small fleets. As an example, me and my friend have been playing with the following generics:

- Navigational: When a ship uses a Navigational Dial, it may increase/decrease its speed by an additonal 1 and add 1 yaw.

-Concentrate Fire: When a ship uses a Concentrate Fire Dial, it may add another dice to its pool on top of the dice it gains from the Dial.

- Engineering: When a ship uses an Engineering Dial, it increases the number of engineering points it gains by half rounded up.

- Squadron: When a ship uses a Squadron Dial, the squadrons that it activates may move up to distance 2 if they are not engaged, before resolving their movement and shooting.

 

Or, you could come up with a table of minor effects, and as the commander levels up it can roll a dice for an effect. Sorta like Battle Companies, Necromunda, Mordhiem, ect.

I'm trying to avoid adding levelling up into this as well - bookkeeping for this many fleets is complex enough as it is, nevermind adding experience to the mix.

The generics are an interesting idea, though.

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I have a few remarks:

- Why can't the defending fleet retreat from the battle? It would make sense if they would recognize a lost cause and save what they can. Player fleets would retreat just as the attacker and planetary defenders would relocate to another planet and join its defence force.

- Squadron retreat makes no sense. All Rebel squads have hyperdrive and many of thr Imperials have too. If the only way to retreat is to be next to a friendly medium or large ship, then squads from MSUs can't retreat at all.

- I don't really understand why is there a distincrion between generic and ace squadrons. Aces shouldn't be destroyed easier than generics, especially because they often have to carry the bulk of the squadron play. Making them extra vulnerable turns them from an asset into a liability.

- Why not turn around the unoqe squadron thing and say that a squadron starts its life as a generic and once it survived a battle it may turned into an Ace for the point cost difference.

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1 hour ago, Norell said:

- Why can't the defending fleet retreat from the battle? It would make sense if they would recognize a lost cause and save what they can. Player fleets would retreat just as the attacker and planetary defenders would relocate to another planet and join its defence force.

Two reasons for this - one is to try and keep bookkeeping to a reasonable level (this campaign already requires plenty) and the other is meant to shape strategy. Defensive garrisons are meant to be "anchored" to their parent planet, with no way to move them - this is intended to force teams to think carefully about how much they want to spend defending a given planet, given that any money put there is basically left there until destroyed. It seems wonky, I know, but in the non-Armada variants of this campaign that I've played/run, it actually works really well.

1 hour ago, Norell said:

- Squadron retreat makes no sense. All Rebel squads have hyperdrive and many of thr Imperials have too. If the only way to retreat is to be next to a friendly medium or large ship, then squads from MSUs can't retreat at all.

I waffled on this, largely for the reasons you're bringing up here (although I hadn't considered the MSU issue - went with Medium or Large ships purely from a lore perspective, given that anything smaller probably wouldn't have hangar space enough for a full squadron). I was originally considering writing in that starfighters could retreat through hyperspace too (with exceptions for TIE Fighters, Interceptors, and Bombers) but wasn't sure if I wanted to get that granular. I kind of like the idea of forcing someone to decide whether they want to hang back with one of their ships to try and recover some fleeing fighter squadrons that are being harassed by pursuers, or cut their losses and flee to hyperspace, abandoning the fighters to their fate.

I'm not completely sold one way or another, though, so I could very well end up changing my mind on this.

1 hour ago, Norell said:

- I don't really understand why is there a distincrion between generic and ace squadrons. Aces shouldn't be destroyed easier than generics, especially because they often have to carry the bulk of the squadron play. Making them extra vulnerable turns them from an asset into a liability.

Perhaps this is my inexperience shining through, but generally I find Ace squadrons already have a survivability bonus built in in the form of defence tokens, whereas the generics are usually more "chaff" that gets tossed at the enemy, with the mindset of "there's a good chance they'll die, but hopefully they will take out enough enemy squads/shields/hull points to pay back their points cost". Aces - especially of the scatter/brace variety - seem to be pretty durable in the games I've played; I don't think I've yet see Whisper or Morna Kee go down.

1 hour ago, Norell said:

- Why not turn around the unoqe squadron thing and say that a squadron starts its life as a generic and once it survived a battle it may turned into an Ace for the point cost difference.

Interesting idea, but I'm not sure I'm sold on it. I could see using the CC "elite squads" as that sort of an upgrade, but something doesn't feel right about that approach for the other aces (though I can't really articulate what).

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