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Drasnighta

"The Theory of Three" - an Outline

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So, a lot of people here know of me as "The Rules Guy" or something similar.  I don't have a blog or anything like that, nor do I normally have very long and poignant things to say, if I'm not discussing rules.

Right now, I'm going to elaborate a little about what I refer to as the "Theory of Three".  So if you see anyone, in particular, me, refer to the Theory of Three, you realise what we are talking about.


Some background, I've been heavily into game design in my Young Adulthood, and have a few known things to my name in collaboration, so I have a little insight into generalist "game design" and how to think things through on it - but I would also like to state that, at no time, do I consider myself a "Games Designer" - the great people at FFG have that horribly difficult job, and I do not envy it - so this is more, if anything else, to peel back a little mysticism, and point out what I consider to be "an issue".

That issue isn't Cluster Bombs.  But Cluster Bombs bring me to that issue.

In this world and Meta we have of High Squadron counts and individually effective squadrons, I am constantly looking at what I can do about it, and suggestions I can make to my own fleet building clique as sorts.


But let's start with the Cluster.


This is, seemingly, a universally hated card.  "It'd be better if it weren't an exhaust".  "I'd use it if it could reroll."...  These are most often the statements I get about it.

And you know, it would be awesome.  If it were not actually, legitimately, balanced upon what is essentially the "Standard" for Defensive Retrofits.

That Standard, is 3.  

3 Points of Damage.  This could almost be put more down as "Two Points per Damage Effectively Saved", but we'll go in that in a moment.


So, let's look at the Suite of the Defensive Retrofits.

Cluster Bombs
Advanced Projectors
Redundant Shields
Reinforced Blast Doors
Electronic Countermeasures
Early Warning System

We have 6 choices, and basically - you only see 2 of them with any regularity.  One or two others you saw previously before the Meta shifted, but few are as Universally Derided as the Remaining Two.  Why is that?  I mean, sure, hate on Cluster Bombs - but you can't Hate on Cluster Bombs and Love Reinforced Blast Doors, they're pointed very similar.  Given that the Meta has a vast majority of Squadron Heavy attack fleets, I'm going to (temporarily) disregard that as a factor.  Again, Temporarily.


So let's look at the Theory of Three.

Advanced Projectors

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These came out with the Assault Frigate Mark II, and is pretty well designed to run with that sort of ship, or on a Mon-Calamari Cruiser.  Effectively, with good Redirect Management (outside of any Engineering Moves), Advanced Projectors is going to save you 3 or 4 points of Damage.  Most likely 3.  How do I get to that?  Advanced Projectors allows you to access the Shields on the FAR facing to your angle of attack.  This pretty well averages to 3, when you consider its use on 4-shielded MonCals, and on things like ISDs, where on the larges you're getting two Redirects to work with.  Its cost is 6 points.  6 Points for, again, a rough estimate of 3 damage saved, as you're likely to die without those shields, rather than have them intact.

 

Reinforced Blast Doors

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These were much more popular in the past with the concept of the Rambo90, but its lustre has faded as of recent note.  Why is that?  Its because, essentially - it conforms to the Theory of Three.  It saves you 3 Hull Points, because that's what it restores, once, and done.  It costs a point less than expected (5 instead of 6), but I can very easily attribute that to its two biggest caveats - one, that its timing isn't at or during an attack, its at the start of the Ship Phase (so you must survive to use it), and that it is only Face Down damage cards, and you may indeed not get the full 3 the whole time unless you're really risking it.  Essentially confirms to the Theory of Three.


Redundant Shields are another Maligned one.  

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Its just one Shield at a time.  Its at the end of the Turn.  It takes up a Modification.   Now, well, with all of those, really the Modification I feel is the only Legitimate complaint.  For 8 points, you can basically say "4 Damage saved", so does it do that?

Surprisingly, yes.  Albeit in the worst of situations.  By triggering at the end of the Turn, you can expect to "make a difference" on up to 5 shields gained...  (Gaining a Shield at the end of the 6th turn is pointlessly irrelevant, because you either lived or didn't, and you can't use that shield to save you further), but it is Theoretically Possible to gain all 5 useful ones...  You can't tell me that people can't attack you on the First Turn (See:  Nose Punch), especially with the Forward Deployment styles of the SSD coming along, its something you're going to have to prepare for - earlier engagements...   Now, that being said, 3 Damage is far more likely, and 4 is still a possibility if your engagement is turn 2...  So with a spread of 5-3, you can basically say that 4 is an Average, and...  Well.  Look at that.  8 Points is 4 Damage worth.  Theory of Three, even though its Four!


Cluster Bombs.  

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The part you have been waiting on.  How does Cluster Bombs factor into the Theory of Three given that it doesn't actually Heal, Save, or actually Transfer damage?  It may feel a little bit nebulous, but hear me out.  3 Damage is still the effective expectation of Cluster Bombs, being that 4 Blues, counting everything but ACC results, averages to 4x0.75, or 3 damage.  3 Damage is also the baseline Average Damage of a TIE/Y-Wing Bomber when its shooting at you with its Black Die over 3 Turns.  Why 3 Turns?  Because the Average Flak Damage out there by General ships is somewhere less than 1 per turn (unless you're a dedicated flak raider), so 3 Damage from Cluster Bombs, which CANNOT be Braced or Scattered (as it is not an attack), is giving you a Leg Up on 3 Turns worth of Flak Damage, and thus if you kill the enemy squad 3 turns earlier, that death saves you 3 turns worth of Damage.  Or in other words, 3 Damage.  Theory of Three.  Again, due to its "considerations", it drops a point as an incentive because that Damage is Random, and its flat odds, no modification.

"But Dras, what if they ignore that ship and just target something else?"  Then Mission Accomplished.  You paid a 5 point premium to make the Ship you not wanted attacked by Bombers to Not be Attacked by Bombers.  How is this a bad thing?

But now, now we're getting to the Breakers.  The Theory of Three works for the "Majority" of the Defensive Retrofits, in such that there's 4/6 of them covered that way.  There are two specific outliers, and well, we know the single biggest one.

 

Electronic Countermeasures is the main one.  

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This one breaks the Theory of Three because, for its measly 7 points, its capable of saving you FAR MORE than 3 Damage in a single use, let alone well managed over a game.  Even if you Burn your Brace immediately using it, dumping off its usage straight away, its probably saved you 5, 6 or even more damage than not having it.  Well measured and managed, an ECM can save you upwards of 10 points of damage a game.  At our 2 points per damage saved, we could *easily* write that down to say, 7 or 8, call ECM 15 points, and have a game on (in due consideration for things like, Brace stripping Sloane abilities and Nym and such which renders it useless).

 

 

Early Warning System is in the same bent

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- by virtue of the fact that EVERY time it blocks a squadron from shooting at you, its saving you at least 0.5 damage, more likely 0.75, and quite often 1 (again, without things like Toryn or any BCC rerolls).  Which means that, a bomber cloud can easily not get a single of its dice through to you - and even if they do, because they're something silly like a B-Wing or Maarek - the damage is flat out halved at the very least.  Again, well beyond saving you 3 points of damage a turn, let alone a game...  

The choice of ECM or EWS for saving you Maximum potential damage basically comes down to a Meta call.  Do you forsee your major sources of damage coming from enemy ships with large punches?  Then ECM.  Do you forsee a bomber cloud being your major points of incoming fire?  EWS is the better call there, as EWS does little to the 9-die incoming Imperial Star Destroyer assault, but ECM is also doing little when a bunch of bombers decide to ruin your day in one and two point drips.

In the end, Defensive Retrofits are essentially two-tiered, personal preferences aside.  This is those who conform to the Theory of Three, and those who break it - and in all recorded instances thusfar, those who break the underlying Theory of Three are doing so in a positive way for themselves, rendering those that conform as "Secondary".


So yes, in reality - its not that Cluster bombs are Bad.  It is that we, in our efforts to spend our points most efficiently, have really only been given 2 legitimately efficient choices, any personal preferences aside.  ECM and EWS are, arguably, too good for the rest of them.  And since they are the Minority, they are the outliers that we must consider - and continue returning to.  And it is telling that the only Retrofit designed in our "Modern" Era is EWS, and that is, again, on the same power level as ECM is for its Meta choice.

In the end, there's little that we as players can do about it - other than, essentially, get our hate sorted a little better.  If its not ECM/EWS, then its Second Class, and should be equally made fun of, unless you're going out of your way to do something *really* peculiar.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Drasnighta said:

The part you have been waiting on.  How does Cluster Bombs factor into the Theory of Three given that it doesn't actually Heal, Save, or actually Transfer damage?  It may feel a little bit nebulous, but hear me out.  3 Damage is still the effective expectation of Cluster Bombs, being that 4 Blues, counting everything but ACC results, averages to 4x0.75, or 3 damage.  3 Damage is also the baseline Average Damage of a TIE/Y-Wing Bomber when its shooting at you with its Black Die over 3 Turns.  Why 3 Turns?  Because the Average Flak Damage out there by General ships is somewhere less than 1 per turn (unless you're a dedicated flak raider), so 3 Damage from Cluster Bombs, which CANNOT be Braced or Scattered (as it is not an attack), is giving you a Leg Up on 3 Turns worth of Flak Damage, and thus if you kill the enemy squad 3 turns earlier, that death saves you 3 turns worth of Damage.  Or in other words, 3 Damage.  Theory of Three.  Again, due to its "considerations", it drops a point as an incentive because that Damage is Random, and its flat odds, no modification.

"But Dras, what if they ignore that ship and just target something else?"  Then Mission Accomplished.  You paid a 5 point premium to make the Ship you not wanted attacked by Bombers to Not be Attacked by Bombers.  How is this a bad thing?

But now, now we're getting to the Breakers.  The Theory of Three works for the "Majority" of the Defensive Retrofits, in such that there's 4/6 of them covered that way.  There are two specific outliers, and well, we know the single biggest one.

So in general, I agree with you that this card is intended to conform to the Rule of Three.

The problem isn't just unreliable damage output or even EWS/ECM (though they're certainly a very hard act to follow.)  It's the only defensive retrofit in the game that is actually unusable in certain matchups.  CRambos will chip shields off for Redundant Shields to regenerate.  RBD won't prevent Norra from shredding your shields, but you'll save 3 damage once they're gone.  But Cluster Bombs against a squadless list?  Better to have an empty slot.  Additionally, the effect of Cluster Bombs can also be partially or completely thwarted by high hull squadrons near the station, scatter aces that survive the initial hit, and kiting Rogues that will never get flakked.

Thanks for the thinkpiece, it was an interesting read.

Edited by The Jabbawookie

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, The Jabbawookie said:

So in general, I agree with you that this card is intended to conform to the Rule of Three.

The problem isn't just unreliable damage output or even EWS/ECM (though they're certainly a very hard act to follow.)  It's the only defensive retrofit in the game that is actually unusable in certain matchups.  CRambos will chip shields off for Redundant Shields to regenerate.  RBD won't prevent Norra from shredding your shields, but you'll save 3 damage once they're gone.  But Cluster Bombs against a squadless list?  Better to have an empty slot.  Additionally, the effect of Cluster Bombs can also be partially or completely thwarted by high hull squadrons near the station, scatter aces that survive the initial hit, and kiting Rogues that will never get flakked.

Thanks for the thinkpiece, it was an interesting read.

That was kind of my point about dismissing that - In an ideal world, I'd agree...  But we're in a regrettable situation now where a Squadless matchup is a rare outlier.

And only you can prevent High Health Squadrons gaining access to the Station.  Cluster bombs is a spike of half of their full health on average...  If you'r eletting them get away at that point, well...  :)

 

All of that is, of course, outside the Thinkpiece...  But I certainly believe that Cluster Bombs conforms to it moreso than the outlying options, and enough that I'd include it there.  Given the vast majority of the expected meta meetups, its got a use.

Edited by Drasnighta

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1 minute ago, Drasnighta said:

Cluster bombs is a spike of half of their full health on average...  If you'r eletting them get away at that point, well...  :)

If Morna and Jendon want to shoot you twice in the squadron phase and leave for the station, that's exactly what they're going to do.  With Squall shuffling, Maarek won't often have too much difficulty the same.  If Mauler or Valen don't die immediately to CB, they're probably going to shoot you for the rest of the game without dying.

I feel there's an unspoken assumption it's MC30s and CR90s who could want to take Clusters; unfortunately, they're lousy flakkers and are probably sacrificing real attacks to even try AA.  Dual flak ships might actually get more use out of them; this is where ECM and EWS come in, as per your point.  Even without them, though, it's unreliable due to ace defense tokens mitigating the flak damage needed to finish them off.  This is another demonstration of how ships can't effectively kill squadrons alone without a degree of accommodation from the squadrons themselves, not always through disengaging.

Maybe CBs can justify bringing a screen to spread damage around enemy squads, thus setting them up for death by Cluster and scaring them away from shooting your ships?

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1 hour ago, The Jabbawookie said:

If Morna and Jendon want to shoot you twice in the squadron phase and leave for the station, that's exactly what they're going to do.  With Squall shuffling, Maarek won't often have too much difficulty the same.  If Mauler or Valen don't die immediately to CB, they're probably going to shoot you for the rest of the game without dying.

If I make Morna and Maarek run away, even for a Turn...  If it buys me just enough time to add a screen back, or such...  One Jendon Turn of Bombing with Maarek is more than 3 damage.

3 Damage really isn't much.

 

Mission.

Accomplished.

 

:D

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I think advanced projects in the right build can be fairly useful. The problem is they are basically straight up negated by X17; though X17 have become less common recently. I think ECMs kinda do the same thing to accuracy generation tech as it just makes accuracys feel almost worthless. 

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10 minutes ago, Green Knight said:

ECM then, if we follow your reasoning, is actually costed more like a discard than an exhaust.

Sure, sometimes you don't use it, but on average it saves say 3.5 points damage, even if used once.

I could live with that. 

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3 hours ago, xero989 said:

I think advanced projects in the right build can be fairly useful. The problem is they are basically straight up negated by X17; though X17 have become less common recently. I think ECMs kinda do the same thing to accuracy generation tech as it just makes accuracys feel almost worthless. 

Can Advanced Projectors ever save you more than 4 dmg? 

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2 hours ago, Green Knight said:

ECM then, if we follow your reasoning, is actually costed more like a discard than an exhaust.

Sure, sometimes you don't use it, but on average it saves say 3.5 points damage, even if used once.

Yes. A Discard ECM would be hit about the right points. An Exhaust is far more expensive, at least theory wise.

 

Just now, Ginkapo said:

Can Advanced Projectors ever save you more than 4 dmg? 

At the moment, no - although there is a redundant synergy between an MC80a packing AP and Redundant shields that kinda does...

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If you take a MC80 with Projection Experts and Redundant shields and add a MC75 with Aspiration, you can get probably the 5 shields out of it.

Theoretically speaking...

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Posted (edited)
41 minutes ago, Ginkapo said:

Can Advanced Projectors ever save you more than 4 dmg? 

Yes because you can redirect "to more then one hullzone." Meaning you can redirect to an adjacent hull zone like normal the the far side and your other adjacent hull zone. I think its a little underated it makes it so a mc80 could take 15 points of damage and not take any hull damage without spending the brace. If you combo it with some shild regeneration gimick it can save you a lot of damage over the course of the game. They also make your engineering commands a little more effective because as long as yoy have redirects dont worry about hull damage just get two shilds as you know you can put the damage on them no matter what hull zone they attack. However the way they ruled the interaction between Advanced Projectors and X17s is what I think really shyed people away from it because XI7 where so popular but now they are not quite as common so I am thinking of dusting them off. I mean I personally have fond memories of using them on assult frigates in wave 1 to combat the Gen Con special, and im a sucker for getting forgotten cards back to the table.

Edited by xero989

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40 minutes ago, KaLeu said:

If you take a MC80 with Projection Experts and Redundant shields and add a MC75 with Aspiration, you can get probably the 5 shields out of it.

Theoretically speaking...

Exodus fleet with an engineering token is just as good as a command as well to get 2 shilds back each round.

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2 minutes ago, Green Knight said:

AP --> XI7 --> not so great after all

AP --> massed squads --> not that great after all

Edit: Save a repair token, then use the defensive slot for something else. Prosper.

I agree with the X17, but I think AP is kinda nice against squadrons, it makes it so its impossible for squadrons to reposition so you can't redirect. While against some squadrons like MMJ or b-wings etc it will still be able to redirect damage to the far side.

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, xero989 said:

Exodus fleet with an engineering token is just as good as a command as well to get 2 shilds back each round.

Well, yes, but it's more about gaining maxiumum advantage out of the defensive retrofit upgrade, isn't it? After deploying an Aspiration you can pump up front and enemy facing side to 6, then turn 1 and 2 move 4 shields to them regenerating all of them. When hitting starts turn 3, you may have successfully used Redundant Shields from turn 1 to 5.

Edit: And you will have an Aspiration with 6/6/3/2 shields.

Edited by KaLeu

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, KaLeu said:

Well, yes, but it's more about gaining maxiumum advantage out of the defensive retrofit upgrade, isn't it? After deploying an Aspiration you can pump up front and enemy facing side to 6, then turn 1 and 2 move 4 shields to them regenerating all of them. When hitting starts turn 3, you may have successfully used Redundant Shields from turn 1 to 5.

You also have to take into account that normally you can only redirect to one adjacent hull zone AP makes it so you can redirect to "more then one" so you could redired to your normal adjacent then in addition the far side and in addition to that the other adjacent hull zone you normally would not be able to redirect to so Aspiration is irrelevant, its all about the total shields you have not where the shilds are.

Edited by xero989

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3 minutes ago, xero989 said:

You also have to take into account that normally you can only redirect to one adjacent hull zone AP makes it so you can redirect to "more then one" so you could redired to your normal adjacent then in addition the far side and in addition to that the other adjacent hull zone you normally would not be able to redirect to so Aspiration is irrelevant, its all about the total shilds you have not where the shilds are.

Maybe there's a little misunderstanding here. My post was about maxing out redundant shields in a very special build consisting of a MC80 and a MC75. Advanced Projectors are another thing and i absolutely agree that with less XI7 around they might be more usefull now than they were before.

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6 minutes ago, KaLeu said:

Maybe there's a little misunderstanding here. My post was about maxing out redundant shields in a very special build consisting of a MC80 and a MC75. Advanced Projectors are another thing and i absolutely agree that with less XI7 around they might be more usefull now than they were before.

Sorry miss understanding in your op I read projection experts as advanced projects my bad.

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11 hours ago, xero989 said:

I agree with the X17, but I think AP is kinda nice against squadrons, it makes it so its impossible for squadrons to reposition so you can't redirect. While against some squadrons like MMJ or b-wings etc it will still be able to redirect damage to the far side.

I agree. It is "kind of nice". But squadrons attack en masse, and you only have so many tokens. But yeah, it can help spread it out more.

But at 6 points, what ship will you actually put it on? MC80 Assault? Why not take EWS and actually prevent damage - or force squads to spread damage, same as AP?

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8 hours ago, Green Knight said:

I agree. It is "kind of nice". But squadrons attack en masse, and you only have so many tokens. But yeah, it can help spread it out more.

But at 6 points, what ship will you actually put it on? MC80 Assault? Why not take EWS and actually prevent damage - or force squads to spread damage, same as AP?

I diffintly see your point , but like you said squadrons attack en masse and generally target the same hull zone so AP can still give you more health before they reach the hull. What if you take both EWS, and AP on you mc 80 assault, and have sloar corona as your blue. That way you have EWS, AP,  and a way to keep your opponent from locking down tokens with solar corona? A bit nich but might do well.

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The Exodus Fleet title conforms to this rule as well, if not better.  When played well, an Exodus Fleet ship shouldn't die with shields up anywhere.  Think about it - how many times have you removed a ship from play when it still had shields up somewhere?

An MC80L can regen 1 and redirect 2 on a token.  Same for an MC75.  Both ships are a little short on redirect tokens anyway.  So if you can feed the ship one eng token and survive for just one more turn then you've met the Rule of Three, and soft-countered XI7's to boot.  Two or more turns and you are doing great.

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