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How things will go pew pew, part II

Hey everyone!

This is part 2 of the military system blog. Let’s get into it…

First, I wanted to get into the tactical of what happens when two Forces move into combat range and start firing at each other. Here’s what happens:

Combat Basics

Combat takes place in the turn resolution phase (i.e. after the player has clicked ‘next turn’). In combat, units on each side do damage of various kinds to units on the other. All combat is fought simultaneously – across the universe, all targeting is done, then all rolls to hit, then all damage allocated – so a unit which is destroyed in a turn’s combat will still get its attack off. (NB: this means the turn sequence must be such that each force engages in at most one battle each turn.) In a given turn, a unit might be attacked from the ground and from space, by however many different enemies, but each individual unit can only conduct one kind of attack in a turn, once. So (with the exception of orbital combat, where each unit gets three space-to-space attacks against units in the same Planetary Orbit location for the price of one) units only ever get one attack per turn.

First, units pick targets. The target unit each unit picks is, by default, random. If there are more than two sides involved, all of a side’s enemy units are treated as one big mass of enemies for them to target, without distinction as to controller. In space battles, non-transports are more likely to be picked than transports, due to being in front of the ‘battle line’.

The units then roll to hit. The actual rolls required vary by the type of combat. Devastation damage in ground combat doesn’t target units, and is rolled separately to other damage.

Damage is then dealt. Units have a set amount of damage they do per hit. This is reduced by the target’s relevant armor (a percentage) to give the actual damage done. Any excess damage after the target is destroyed is discarded with no further effect. (Some units have the Multi-Target ability. This means that any damage left over after any of their targets is destroyed is passed on to another random enemy unit, which then counts as another of their targets this turn, so if they are destroyed, the cycle continues. This continues until they have run out of damage to allocate. Multi-Target units’ hits’ damage is resolved after non-Multi-Target hits’ damage, to make sure the best use is made of their diabolical power, and the excess damage is not affected by previous targets’ armor.)

If a Force is trying to do something else as well as fight, their chance to hit is reduced, and their effectiveness at doing the other thing is also reduced, whatever that thing may be.

MILINT (Military Intelligence)

Many aspects of combat rely on military intelligence, or MILINT. MILINT – info on Force movements, etc – can be gained by infiltrators in enemy war plans or spies on territories through which a Force’s supply lines pass. (The former provide more information on orders, and higher MILINT Quality than the latter, all else being equal – see below, and also the Subterfuge system.) Both infiltrators and spies are ordinary characters, with whom the controller has engaged in a Plot to Spy On War Plan/Troop Movements.

When you successfully Spy On War Plan or Spy On Troop Movements, as well as receiving some information about supply lines and future orders, your ‘MILINT Quality’ on that force increases. Despite the name, this is actually a quantity. The Quality of your MILINT on a Force decays over time, falling by a fixed amount every turn, down to 0. Even if your info about a Force’s future orders goes out of date, your MILINT Quality is unaffected, as it reflects information about formations, officers, troop morale, and so forth which is not modeled in the game systems.

War Effects

Pillaging and attacks on Planetside targets do Devastation damage to the planet. This causes civilian casualties, wrecks facilities and buildings, causes public anger against the perpetrators, and in extreme cases reduces the Bio rating of the planet. Each point of Devastation damage done has a random chance of killing a Pop or wrecking a facility, and increases that planet’s public resentment of the perpetrating Force’s controller, general, and Culture (if different from pops/planet’s majority) by a percentage point or so. The defending forces get their resentment production reduced by 75%, with exception of Pillaging Devastation, which causes Resentment at the full rate. Resentment means both Love reduction towards characters and increase of Animus against cultures and religions. Additional Resentment is created when a planet is conquered.

Resentment is not restricted to the affected Pops if the Force, their commander, or their controller are of a different culture or religion to them. A certain amount of Resentment grows – either globally, or throughout the area you’ve explored, or throughout the area with trade access to the planet – among Pops of the same Culture/Religion as the Pops affected. This will be less than the Resentment accrued at the source, but still a non-negligible amount, proportional to that inflicted.

Certain especially devastating war machines, such as nuclear weapons, will have the Bio Damage special rule. This means that the Devastation they inflict will also reduce the planet’s Bio rating fractionally.

Garrisons

A planet may have Military pops but no Force based there. These Military pops represent reserves, militia, police units and so forth. They are there to do two things: defend against invaders and suppress restive locals. If combat breaks out on the planet, and the planet’s Viceroy is not neutral in the conflict, they become troops under that character’s command. They may not leave the planet, although they may go In Hiding as usual. Indeed, they will have a Home Field Advantage since they are fighting on their Homeworld. The units they become will be a distribution of the cheapest units that Civ has suited to fighting on that planet type – most likely units will be flagged as ‘militia – planet types XYZ’ and which forces appear will be selected from the available appropriate units, using support units and cheap generic militia units if no appropriate fighting units are available.

In Hiding units

Some units (such as local partisans) can go In Hiding (hiding among the local population or otherwise evading detection). This means they cannot be attacked or make attacks, and are invisible to the enemy. Forces can be ordered to move their units to and from the In Hiding space on the board. A unit in a planet’s In Hiding space still counts as being in that planet’s Planetside location.

In Hiding units may be exposed by any enemy that has units Planetside on the planet. Said enemy’s chance of detecting your In Hiding units on a planet (all of them at once) and thereby forcing them out of the In Hiding into the ordinary Planetside space is proportional to their highest single MILINT level or quality against any of your Forces that have units In Hiding on the planet. Their forces may increase this chance by engaging in Counterinsurgency Operations. Enemy spies on the planet increase their MILINT on your Force as usual. Detection checks happen before combat, so if your units are detected, they will immediately enter combat with the enemy, that turn.

When you attempt to send units In Hiding, the enemy immediately makes a detection check, with a bonus. If they succeed, you fail. Your troops will keep trying to obey the order every turn until and unless it is cancelled by you or by your commander. Units attempting to go In Hiding will not make attacks, but if they are detected by this check, the enemy can attack them.

All this can also be conducted with the roles reversed, so you can find yourself looking for In Hiding enemies.

Attached Inquisitors

An Inquisitor can be attached to a Force in a commissar-type role, to purge them of spies and traitors. This is Tyrannical, increasing Fear of you among their Homeworld’s military pops, and reducing their Love for you. It does, however, increase your chances of getting Secret parts about spies in the Force’s War Plan, and about plots by the Force’s commander. They also slowly reduce your troops numbers in that Force as they imprison and execute ‘subversives’.

How are ships/ground units built?

New units are ordered from a Force’s ‘Manage Force Composition window, accessible from the action zone when the Force is selected. This window allows new units to be recruited, existing units to be upgraded, and units to be disbanded or mothballed. Troops and crew are always recruited from the Force’s Homeworld, but their ships, vehicles and equipment may be purchased from other worlds, which can be chosen manually by the player or auto-selected to minimise either cost, production time, or time to arrival at the Force’s deployment zone (including production time). Ships are built using starship factories (using BPs as with any other construction) and ground units are built using ground factories. The units will be automatically built as the request is made IF there is not already a suitable Unit in garrison or available status that can join the Force.

Units can only be built up to the number of military pops on the Homeworld divided by a constant factor. The number of pops different units ‘take up’ may vary. If the number of military pops falls below the required number, they will suffer under staffing penalties as described in ‘On Duty/Off Duty’, above (despite On Duty/Off Duty not applying in general), and no further units may be built whilst this state of affairs persists.

Garrison/protection

A planet that is near enemies whom the populace do not Love or with whom they share no cultural affinity, or which has been recently Pillaged by an enemy, will be flagged ‘People demand protection!’. This means their Love and Fear for their controller will fall if a garrison or Force of a certain minimum anti-Space strength is not stationed on the planet. Ideas will also play a large part, specifically Xeno-Tolerance and Tolerance in general.

Intimidation

A force can be instructed to enforce martial law on a planet. This increases the Fear of the force’s controller and its commander among the population, whilst reducing their Love for them; it is Tyrannical. It is useful on a newly-conquered planet, as there’s not a lot of Love going around there anyway. (Once Fear has built up, martial law can be ended without the planet rebelling again, which will allow some Love to grow.) If the Force does this to its own Homeworld, they will not build up as much Fear among the Military Pops there. If the Force doing this is of a different culture or religion to the majority on the world, they will build up Resentment against them on that world just as though they were dealing Devastation damage to it.

Whew! Lot to cover, so much that I’m going to write a Part III to go over military reforms and how you can build/discover the technology required to defeat the Xyl (and your enemies!) once and for all!

-Steve

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How We Go Pew Pew: The Military System, Part I

Hello everyone!

So as we make the march to .8, a question that has come up frequently is ‘how is the pew pew going to work?’ Well, given that AotSS is a 4X at its core, that is certainly a fair question! Let’s get into a little more detail about how that will work.

To start, please note that AotSS is about grand strategy. The normal process of building individual ships, kitting them out, naming them, and grouping them with a leader to send to a planet to take it over doesn’t necessarily apply to AotSS. You are the Emperor, after all, and you would have little or no interest or say in that process. What you would be involved in is setting up high-level target priorities – i.e. “I want to take that star system by force” or “I want to show military might to the people of planet X” or “I want to improve our military presence in the northernmost constellation of our Empire”. This is called a Military Plan, and will be discussed shortly.

The Emperor would also be responsible in a broad sense for making sure that logistical/supply networks are built and maintained where he/she expects to see conflict, so building logistical networks and expanding them to systems where forces are expected are critical.

Finally, the Emperor would want to make sure that forces are being raised from planets that are loyal to the Empire, and not likely to rebel, and that the general who is in charge of that force does not ‘go rogue’ with the most advanced force in the Empire.

So let’s first talk about Forces.

No, it’s not the Star Wars trope, but a combined space/ground unit that is assigned to perform a mission. Forces may contain up to 6 different Units, which are basically Fleets (space warfare) and Armies (ground warfare). Forces are named, gain experience, are commanded by a General, and move and fight together on the Galaxy View.

All units have hit points. All starships have Speed and Defense values. Anything that can attack starships in space has Sensors and Space Damage stats (referred to simply as Damage in the discussion of space combat, because we know it’s in space already). Anything that can attack units planetside has Tactics, ie. chance to hit, and Lethality and Devastation stats, which describe how much damage they do to units’ hit points and the planet’s infrastructure respectively. All starships have Space Defense, and all planetside units have Planetside Defense and Space Defense.

Starships

  • i. Space-to-Space

These craft are there to attack other spacecraft. Some can be used for Space-to-Ground attack too, at reduced effectiveness.

ii. Space-to-Ground

These craft are designed to bombard ground targets from orbit. Some can also attack other spacecraft, at reduced effectiveness.

Planetary troops

These include aircraft, ground troops, and naval vessels. Different units will gain bonuses and maluses on different kinds of world – naval units, for example, will be very effective on water worlds, moderately effective on terrestrial-type worlds, and useless on worlds without oceans.

  • i. Planet-to-Space

These are planetside forces that can attack ships in orbit. Some may also be used against other planetside forces, at reduced effectiveness.

  • ii. On-Planet Combat Units

These are planetside forces that can attack other planetside forces. Some may also perform Marine duty, i.e. fighting in boarding actions against starbases.

So where can a Force go? They can exist in one of 5 possible locations: Planetside, Planetary Orbit, Interplanetary Space locations, Starbases, and Deep Space. These will be explained in more detail in Part 2.

So as Emperor, you want to be sure that Forces are kept up properly. This requires 4 things per Force:

  • Crowns (money)
  • Food
  • Energy
  • Ammo (built from heavy and rare materials)

These resources come from your Empire Stockpile (the money comes from your Military Budget). When Forces are inactive (i.e. not part of an active Military Plan) they only consume Money and Food. When deployed, they also consume Energy. When actively in combat, they consume Ammo.

Now, let’s talk about Characters that can be involved in your Military. There are 4 different types of Characters:

  • Commander – This is the main leader of the Force. Their military skill has a large impact on the success of combat.
  • Captains – These are the leaders of your notable ‘capital starships’ that have additional impacts on their abilities (and thus your Force’s ability)
  • Coordinating Commanders – These are the leaders of other Forces who are involved in the Military Plan but are waiting for a trigger to proceed (aka wait for order x to be executed by force y)
  • Plan Commander (PC) – This is the overall leader of the Military Plan, and the Coordinating Commanders are subordinate to them.

Finally, let’s talk about Military Plans. As Emperor, you will set high-level targets and it is up to your Plan Commander to create a Plan that gets that done. You will have an overall strategic objective which consists of a Target and an Military Action. Targets can be the following:

  • Planets
  • Systems
  • Provinces
  • Pops on a world
  • Starbases not owned by you
  • Logistical stations not owned by you
  • Ground Forces
  • Space Forces

Once you have selected a Target, you can generate an appropriate Military Action to act on these targets. Military Actions are as follows:

  • Attack (Forces)
  • Destroy (Starbases, Logistical Stations)
  • Pillage (planets, systems)
  • Invade (planets)
  • Bombard (planets)
  • Enforce martial law (planets, systems)
  • Conquer (systems, provinces – basically chains numerous Invade orders)
  • Engage in genocide (Pops – specific Pop cultures)
  • Gather intel (planets, systems)

From there, the PC will generate a Military Plan. You can also specify specific Forces you want to participate, but you don’t have to – you can simply specify a force level from ‘Minimum’ to ‘Overwhelming’ and the PC will try to add enough Forces that can engage that Action to meet your force level.

Coming in part 2: Inquisitors, Spies, Building Military Units, effects of Warfare on Planets, Science considerations, and more! That’s coming tomorrow!

Enjoy!

-Steve

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First glimpse of the military system

Hi all, Oliver here, with our first mockup of the military screen!

mil-sys-planet-mockup-v4

This mockup – which Ogi produced in Unity, meaning that the finished article will look a lot like this – shows a massive battle happening on a planet. Your forces, arrayed down the left-hand side, are ranged against the enemy, in red on the right. Each Force can have up to six units – which might be anything from ground-pounding local militia to massive starships and superweapons – each of which has its own Captain, under the command of the Force’s General. At the bottom of the screen, just above the ‘selected Force’ panel, you can see a tooltip for a unit, showing its strength (or damage dealt last turn, as this is a battle!), its health and the damage it took last turn, its icon (currently a khaki blob, but we’re working on it) and its Captain. You have to think carefully about who to put in charge of your units and Forces – military skill can turn the tide of an entire war, but a disloyal Captain might leak secrets to the enemy, making your Force much more vulnerable to interception and attack, while a disloyal General might run off with the whole Force!

As well as your commanders’ loyalty, though, you have to consider the loyalty of their troops. Every Force has a single homeworld, and the affection of the Pops on that homeworld for you and for their commander determines the loyalty of the troops they support. You can think of the troops as simply their homeworld’s Pops, abroad. Thus, if you oppress a Force’s homeworld, you’d better watch out – sedition in the ranks can lead to civil war. If, on the other hand, you have a Force from a world that loves you to pieces, you can be relatively sure that their General won’t be able to run off with them – unless they impress them sufficiently with their charisma and command ability. Even where the Force is posted matters – a Force far from their homeworld will be much less able to join in rebellions there. All these considerations – inspired by the troubles of the classical Republic of Rome – will impact on your military decisions as Emperor.

Now to return to the battle screen , you can see that at the top of the screen, just under the Action Points counter and button, you can see the planetary Devastation and the balance of power. The balance of power shows which way the war is going – wars on planets can take a number of turns to complete, as each turn represents a month, creating a strategic back-and-forth as you redirect your fleets and try to prosecute or stymie an invasion. Devastation represents the horrors war inflicts on the poor, suffering population of the planet. It drives waves of refugees from the planet, dramatically depresses its economy, and outright kills Pops. Certain units will cause more Devastation than others – in particular, Xyl forces will wipe out every human they come across. Wars can have wide-ranging consequences in Alliance of the Sacred Suns, far beyond diplomacy and conquest, and as Emperor you will have to find a way to handle them – for better or worse.

I hope you enjoyeed this preview of the military system – until next week, Ave Imperator!

Oliver

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Revising the design for the military system

Hi all, Oliver here. Today I’m going to be talking a little bit about redesigning the military system, our carrot-shaped design strategy, and not being afraid to kill your darlings when you’re hammering out a design.

We’re right at the end of build .4 at the moment – we’ll probably have it out to the alpha testers this week – so we’re looking ahead to the next few builds. Coming up in .7 is the military system, which we’ve had the design for sitting around since we finished the GDD (Game Design Document), but which we’ve not really touched while we’ve been putting together the other elements of the simulation. When Ogi and I took a preliminary look at it, we realised it was too fiddly – there were a lot of cool ideas in there, but the amount of information conveyed and control required would be out of step with the rest of the game. For example: I’d written in a ‘tour of duty’ system, whereby you would be able to adjust the amount of time your troops spent on deployment versus home on leave, trading off their morale and loyalty against the immediate strength of your forces. It could have been an interesting system, and might have worked well in another game, but in AotSS it would just be too much detail – not something the Emperor would personally control – so that’s getting scrapped.

Similarly, we were going to have a slightly involved system whereby you would give your forces orders, but the orders would have a ‘lead time’ before they could be executed, with a fixed cost for giving any number of orders on a single turn. The point of this was to encourage the player to set up queues of orders that the AI could then spy on and use to intercept your forces. Again, this could have been a cool system in principle – but in a non-combat-focussed game like AotSS, it would probably be too complicated and unintuitive. Instead, we’re allowing you the player to spy on enemy war plans and find out where they’re planning to move and attack, but enemy spying will simply provide their forces with extra damage against yours and allow them to intercept you in deep space (which you can only do if you know where the target fleet is going to be). This keeps the fun bit – finding out the enemy’s plans and foiling them – without subjecting you the player to the weird constraints of the original design, making the game much more responsive and playable.

This all ties in to our overall development strategy. Although obviously when we wrote the GDD we didn’t realise that specifically these features were going to be streamlined, we knew that streamlining would be happening down the line: knowing how easy it is to get caught up in feature creep, we made a conscious decision to get all of ours in right then and there, and from that point onward only cut features, not add them. That’s a strategy we’ve largely stuck to, and it’s allowed us to stay focussed and on-task through our development process. Of course, it’s much less fun cutting things than adding them – part of the reason we’re making AotSS is that we like the idea of having a massively detailed universe simulation happening underneath your feet while you play, hence the Action Point restriction, the systems for delegating power, and so on – but it means we’ll make a better game on a shorter timescale than if we just let our maximalist instincts run wild. And who knows – maybe the features we cull this time around will make it into another game in the years to come.

Until then, Ave Imperator!

Oliver