(The following is a rebuttal to “Seeing Purple and Red“, by Talespin. The opinion is that of the author, and does not necessarily reflect that of the Planets Magazine as a whole.)
Hands Off My Minefields, Dammit!
My esteemed colleague has raised several points in his article, and it’s true that there are factors that need addressing. The prevalence of short-form Planets games alongside the rise of the new PPQ system (which I’ve referred to as the New Nu Queue, to spare confusion) certainly creates new questions of balance and game flow. Steady advances under solid logistics and impeccable defenses are no longer tenable in non-Classic, non-Standard scenarios.
To this I say: So what?! The majority of our time here is spent in Classic and Standard games. So the PPQ is inherently unbalancing; should we change Classic to accommodate it? Bah! Rather, we should be certain to adjust the balance within the system before using it in Standard games — or, in my opinion, Championship. The same goes for such ‘advances’ as Accelerated Fight Or Fail and *shudder* Top Six Advance, God help us all. Either we need to make them work before widely adopting them or there’ll be a lot of confused players losing games (and leaving the site) because they can’t spend half their lives adjusting, relearning rules sets, and adapting their tactics.
Five of the races depend on fighter production combined with massive projected defense to win; they build heavy carriers and have logistical advantages. Four others either swashbuckle or die — Privateers, Lizards, Fascists, and Birds. The Federation wins easiest through diplomacy, and the Crystals win through webs — which is why they can’t build a decent war fleet; with webs they’ll use yours, thanks. Four races cloak; none of the others can repel cloakers effectively without minefields. (No, not even the Feds. We can fight about that later.)
So yes, we need our minefields. We rely on those vast spreading green fields as safe zones for our freighters and as territory demarcation. They show the whole cluster what we claim as our own — just like a lawn, in fact. A lawn stuffed with explosives, just the way it should be.
Because I don’t want you kids on my lawn, dammit! I don’t want you zipping across it with your Gravitonics, leaving Meteor tracks through my prize-winning begonias. I don’t want you Fascist scum hanging about, lowering the tone of the place; I don’t want snakes in my grass; I don’t want birds crapping on my porch. It’s mine, dammit; keep out! And take your trans-sister radios and your rocking roll music with you!
Seriously: Until every race has a reliable defense against tow-mugging, not to mention burglary, robbery, and Lizard home invaders, the minefield is all we’ve got. It’s fun in movies to watch the little guy win, but in a military simulation game I do NOT want my expensive, hard-won Gorbies getting blown up by some punk kid in a fighter — or, worse, stolen by a jumped-up biker gang in full leathers and BR4s.
How To Avoid A Bogged-Down Game
It’s a strange truth that the Crystals can be undone more easily than other races by countermining. Their ships are light, their cargoholds often filled with ammunition rather than supplies. They tend to strip fuel from border planets and burn supplies generating minerals for more and larger web fields — all of which works in favor of the offensive minelayer.
Additionally, the Crystal economy is weak; all things being equal, Crystal colonists multiply at half the speed of those of other races, which hampers them in tax collection. They need to expend funds on engine, hull, and above all torpedo tech. And let’s not forget: Torpedoes, and therefore minefields, cost money and minerals. The last thing a Crystalline fleet is going to have is Heavy Phasers in plenitude.
As a result, it is axiomatic that Crystals alone are weak. In order to win, they must have excellent diplomacy, command of a restricted build queue, and vast amounts of time. There is no need to weaken them beyond where they are — and minefields, ironically, are tremendously effective against them.
The Robots have not one but two major economic advantages: They build “free” fighters, and their minefields are four times larger per mine — hence a quarter the cost. Against these must always be considered that their ships are massive, hence fuel hogs, and that they have no ability to economically reduce enemy strongholds.
Thus, in order for the Robots to win, they must move quickly, be logistically aggressive, hold more fuel factories (and, perhaps, Merlins) per world than other factions, and rely on their minefields. Against this we have the ability of the Colonies to fighter-sweep without risk, that of the cloaking races to set ambushes behind a retreat, and that of every player to remove or destroy resources as they withdraw.
The Robots thus are potentially one of the weakest races. They certainly require no alteration of game rules to weaken them further.
3. Torpedo Races
While the heavy carrier races may well employ defensive minefields, it is the battleship-inclined that are required to invest in torpedo technology and therefore become more apt to build minefield walls. This includes all four of the cloaking races in addition to the Crystals and Federation. Although it is arguable that the Privateer has some advantages beyond the normal player, none of these others can be reasonably said to be over-strong in game balance. Indeed, for them to win, each is almost required to make advantageous alliances — which any faction has the tools to do, and which any player with the proper skills and motivation can turn into victory.
These races do not need to be at all weakened in order to impact game balance.
4. Heavy Carrier Races
Any player with access to massive vessels that can stand fearless in space awaiting all comers in full knowledge that they will at worst break even in a straight fight has all the advantages they require to battle space mines. Even the largest minefield can be swept away by fifty Heavy Phasers in a single turn; five Gorbies or six Iron Ladies can handle that. All that is required is a willingness to stock one (preferably massive) ship with Supplies and fuel, and have it tow a sweeper directly into an enemy field. Do this in ‘leapfrog’ stages or from multiple directions and no enemy mine wall can hold you.
Additionally, all of the carrier races except the Empire have massive economic advantages to accompany their formidable military power. Robots, Rebels, and Colonies can all build free fighters; Rebels have their Falcons and Colonies their Cobols. The Cyborg can field a wide network of Fireclouds and massive populations. Between them, they can certainly afford the initial expense of high-tech beam weapons during the earliest parts of the game.
Of them all, only the Robots and Empire can be said to require aid to be balanced, and the Robots rely on minefields. The only adjustment I might suggest here would be to give the Empire access to a decent logistics ship — and they can easily manage that through diplomacy and trade.
Minefields are NOT overpowered. They require no adjustment except, possibly, in the behavior of the player facing them — adaptation to new tactics, the creation of habits of ship construction and logistics, and perhaps a more flexible approach to diplomacy.
Having said that: I have no objection to using Crew Experience as a way to somehow improve vessel performance. Minesweeping… well, if it’s a minor buff, sure I can see it happening — if there’s an equivalent debuff for unskilled vessels. Cheaper ship repairs from stored Supplies would be another possibility, or even repairs between ship battles. I’m open. Just so we don’t nerf minefields in general, have fun with it.
If you don’t like enemy minefields, I advise you do what I do: Build better beam weapons. While you’re at it, develop your damned economy so you can countermine effectively. And talk to your neighbors.
Learn to play the damned game before you try to “fix” it.
TL;DR: Get the hell off my lawn! -G
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