#WARNING: EXTREMELY HUGE WALL OF TEXT.
Note: this thread is slighly smaller than “humungously huge”, but larger than “very huge”.
I’ve been reading through some great military sci-fi books, featuring a commander of a large combat vessel. Specifically, the Black Fleet trilogy and the Tour of the Merrimack. And, as with these types of books, I am inspired by the battles that the books describe. The tactics the commanders employ are the real meat of the engagements.
I have also been shown a great tactical game, Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations, truly one of the most deeply tactical games available on the market today.
I would love to see I:BS have the capability to have a deeply tactical side/meta. Maybe not quite as deep as CMANO, but something in a similar vein.
Obviously, the game hasn’t been released yet, and as such 100% of everything here is hypothetical at best, impossible/improbable at worst. So with that in mind, I’m not going to state how ‘hard’ or ‘easy’ implementation will be or even how I would do it. These are purely hypothetical.
Now, these suggestions have little to do with actual tactics, especially as the game hasn’t been released, and I have no idea how any of these suggestions would play out in game. Rather, these are options that would open up a lot of possibilities when devising a plan. However, I have tried to explain a scenario where the suggestion would be used.
So with the introduction out of the way, here are a few things I would like to see considered. A lot of these probably have been considered at one point or another, sorry for repetition.
1) Lots of different kinds of missiles, each with specific targets/profiles/targeting options/etc. It’s not enough having an “anti/this” or “anti/that”, making the tactical options limited to one missile to use for every single situation against one type of ship. Have missiles geared for stealth, with lower thermal signatures than it’s counterparts. Missiles for hull-penetration, with hardened nose tips. Missiles that rely on the ship’s sensors, or that have there own passive/active sensors, or both. Missiles that are better at hitting a target while chasing a fleeing target, or intercepting a charging target. Warp missiles. Missiles that detonate near a target to scramble all nearby sensors. One-way sensor probes. Missile interception missiles. The list of possibilities is pretty huge.
Perhaps have the missiles themselves be modular, allowing for swap-able warheads/engines/sensors/etc.
2) The ability to ‘program’ missions into the missiles. The missiles can be programmed to follow any number of tasks.
For example, say that we know that a damaged target ship is orbiting a planetary body . Now, while our ship is undetected, we drop off some missiles (ones that are better suited for intercepting a target head on) off in a projected escape route for the target, which then retro-thrust to a relatively slow speed to stay within the project route. Then, we orbit around the side of the planetary body, and make our position known. The target has two options: fight or flight. The target flees, right into our projected escape route. The missiles detect the target, then re-engage their rockets to intercept.
In this case, the missiles were programmed to 1) retro thrust to a target velocity, and 2) engage the target if it flies within a certain target range.
The ability to program missiles to fulfill certain mission objectives opens up a lot of possibilities, the above scenario only giving a small sample of what could be done.
Sensors and stealth are pretty well entwined. Sensors play a huge role, especially over extremely large distances such as an entire planetary system.
1) Passive sensors. These work by sensing ambient radiation in the form of heat/light/etc. The pro is that the ship remains undetected while these are active. The con is that the target might not be emitting any radiation, making it undetectable. Another con is that the there may be too much radiation to determine anything of value.
For example, a programmed missile or ship following a lava ‘river’, will have it’s thermal signature pretty well hidden. However, the passive sensors for the missile/ship will be pretty useless, as it’s flooded with the light/heat of the lava river. Both sides are blind.
2) The opposite of passive sensors, Active sensors. These work by something like RADAR/LIDAR. The pro is that everything within range of the system has a much higher chance of being detected. It also has a much longer range than passive. The con is that using this system alerts everyone nearby of your presence, because it would show up on their passive sensors. They wouldn’t necessarily know what is there, only that something was there. Prompting more focused scans in that direction.
There can be some instances where the passive sensors may be able to have a better chance at detecting an enemy than active. Such an instance would be in an asteroid field. In this case, the rocks and dust would interfere too much with the active sensor’s range, severely hindering it’s range. Passive wouldn’t be completely unaffected, but the range might be comparable to the active, so it would be advantageous to have some stealth.
3) Time Delay of sensors. Space is big. So big, that if you lost your car keys in it, they would be almost impossible to find. Even at the speed of light, light itself takes some time to get around. The only thing capable of traveling faster than c are ships with a warp drive. Sensors will be bound by this. So it may take some time for active sensors to get resolution on something that’s halfway across the planetary system. Passive sensors won’t have this problem, as they are reading radiation that’s already there.
In theory, if this were implemented, one could ‘outrun’ their own active scan. So right before a task force warps, any number of ships can activate active scan. The ships wouldn’t be able to read their own scans, as they have left the envelope of the returning radiation, but in may prompt the targets to use their own active scans, giving the task force their exact location.
4) Focused Sensors. Sometimes, we know that something is there, but we don’t exactly what. So we can focus our sensors towards a smaller section of space. The smaller the section, the greater the resolution, but this sacrifices peripheral vision, because the ships computer is busy resolving the smaller area.
In the scenario above, the targets have a few options. They can activate their own active scans, to determine what was giving off radiation, or they could continue using their passive sensors. They didn’t see the task force before it used active scans, but now they supposedly have a rough location of the task force. So they focus their passive scanners on the estimate location of the task force. They see something, but it isn’t too clear. They decrease the scan area, which increases the resolution of the scan. They see a rough estimate of the task force’s numbers and ship types. However, they are catching the last of the radiation of the task force before it jumped, and the targets then see the jump. Before the jump, the radiation increases, indicating the rise in energy.
The task force can estimate the time it will take before the radiation from their jump to reach the targets, assuming that the estimation of the target’s location is correct, and perform more active scans or warp to a different location.
The targets could also detect the length of the task force’s active scan, and draw the conclusion that it was a ploy or a simple ping of the immediate area.
5) Linked Sensor Systems - Having other ship’s sensors linked to another. Over short distances, the ships can share information over a short-range laser communication systems. This would maintain the ‘low profile’ of the ships involved. Over longer distances, the only way to share sensor info when the ships are moving is to have it be basically broadcast over the local area. This is not stealthy. All other ships, friendly or not, will be able to see what the broadcasting ship is seeing. One or more ships may be broadcasting sensor information at the same time, allowing for Overlapping Sensors (see #6).
In one scenario a capital ship is swamped by enemies, and is letting allies know what it’s up against by broadcasting it’s sensor readings. The enemy ships attacking this capship can see the broadcast. If allies warp in, they will be able to see the broadcast as well. Now, because the enemy ships are being detected on active and passive scans, their active scans are on as well, so there is no need for the allies to rely on passive scanners. Basically, everybody knows where everybody else is, and whatever stealth any ships involved had before is now gone.
In a second scenario, two ships from one faction is fighting another ship, which outclasses these two ships. One of the two ships is broadcasting sensor info, while the other is undetected. The undetected ship launches a stealthy missile. Now, because one of the ships is broadcasting it’s sensor data, the stealthy missile can supplement it’s own passive scans with the active scans of the first ship, and has a much higher chance of hitting the enemy ship.
6) Overlapping sensors - In the scenario above, there are a lot of active scans. This will increase the resolution of the targets, but only if the linked sensor systems are on for both of the ships, having both ships broadcast their sensor readings.
In the scenario above with the swamped capital ship, nearby allies also broadcasting their sensor data. This provides mutual support as the missiles and weapon targeting has much higher resolution on the target.
7) Direction of sensors - As implied with the focused sensors, all sensors aren’t necessarily omni-directional. The sensors that need to be focused in a single direction will likely have a higher resolution of than their omni-directional counterparts. These sensors are also the kind that have the ability to focus. The more directional sensors the ship has, the higher number of targets that can be tracked.
For instance, a Helion with 3 directional sensors and one passive sensor can acquire 3 separate targets, or devote all 3 to a single, more important target, or even a subsystem of a target.
8) Range of sensors. For passive scanners, the range is determined on how small of an area that you want to resolve and how long you want to look. For active scanners, the range is not only determined by resolution area, but also by the strength of the scan. The type of scanners will also effect the range. Long range scanners have better resolution at longer ranges, but at close range the resolution won’t increase. Likewise, scanners built for shorter ranges will have excellent short range scanning capabilities, but over longer distances the effectiveness drops dramatically. However, only the scanning detection capabilities, and not emission, is affected. A high power short range scan will emit the same radiation as a high power long range scan.
For instance, if only a local active scan is needed to check for mines, it makes no sense to alert the entire solar system that the ship is checking for mines. Rather, it would use a very-low power scan to check the immediate area, thus minimizing the risk of being detected if active scans had to be used.
Also, the smaller the ship, the less likely the ship is to be detected. This will provide smaller ships an advantage over larger ships, giving the ability to launch a bomber strike or fighter sweep before the big ships engage or to flank the enemy.
9) Ship/Missile Stealth. There are a number of ways a ship should be able to hide itself. Lowering it’s thermal signature, by lowering the use of or powering down weapons/engines/etc, not broadcasting sensor data, and not using active scans will reduce the risk of passive scans. Ship profile and the engaged hardpoints should effect the ability for an active scan’s detection chance, as well as the angle to the source of the active scan. Some sort of absorbing layer on the outer skin of the ship would lower the detection chance. The environment will also be a factor, when applicable.
In the first scenario involving the dropped missiles, our ship was undetected as it dropped it’s missiles. This was because it had a very low thermal signature, as it obtained it’s velocity for reaching the planet earlier, and it didn’t have active scanning engaged. The ship may have it’s location given away if the missile’s retro thrust was detected on passive scans, or the ship/missiles were detected on active scans. However, in this scenario, the target needs to maintain a low profile to initiate repairs safely, and the missiles and the ship escapes detection. While the missiles have almost reached their target velocity, our ship engages in massive retro thrust to get into an orbit around the planetary body that would intercept the target. The target will notice the heat from the ship’s use of the engines, but not until the signature has traveled to the target, giving the ship time to orbit and intercept.
By the time the ship is close to a point where it will engage it’s engines in a full burn to intercept the target, the target senses the thermal signature from the retro burn. It focuses it sensors, and determines the type of ship that caused the signature from cross-referencing it with a database. About the same time, the target also detects active scans from the ship, and it’s coming from behind. By this time, the ship has initiated full burn on an intercept course. Although the target’s location was roughly known, the exact location was not, and the ship was willing to take the risk of being detected in order to determine the target’s location. At this point, the target initiates full burn away from the ship. The target turns on it’s active sensors to detect missiles coming from ship. The target has two active sensor systems. An omni-directional, and a directional, the directional scanner directed at the ship to increase the chance of detecting incoming missiles. Unfortunately for the target, it’s current path is taking it directly towards the missiles that were dropped by the ship. The missiles detect the thermal signature of the target, and wait until the target is within a designated range. As the thermal signature matches the profile that the ship programmed them to attack, the missiles engage thrusters to intercept the fleeing target.
The target is almost caught off guard by the missiles, saved only by the omni-directional active scanner. Unfortunately, even though the directional scanner was brought around to focus on one of the missile, one still remained. Because the target was damaged, only one missile bay was still in operation. The target launches a missile to intercept the missile that is tracked by only the omni-directional active scanner, and uses point defenses to destroy the one targeted by the directional active scanner. Ultimately, both the missiles were destroyed, and the stricken vessel lives to fight another day.
Our ship was unable to catch up to the ship before it warped, and we had expended all our missiles creating the net. The error was to activate scanners too soon, which tipped off the target.
1) I find the fact that in the prototype, one can exit warp at the speed you are currently going in warp (provided it’s below c) opens up a lot of neat possibilities. In the first scenario, the ship had a lot of velocity coming into orbit, but was undetected. This is because it exited warp at a very high speed, and was undetected because it exited warp a considerable distance from the planetary body, and powered down most systems. I recommend to keep this a feature.
2) Warp detection - The bigger the ship, the greater amount of energy is used to initiate warp, and the greater the chance that it will be detected. Warp detection should be based on passive scans.
3) Warp charge up time - The bigger the ship, the greater amount of energy is used to initiate warp, and the longer it takes to warp. In envision about 5-7 minutes for capital ships to be able to warp. That way, it’s not an ‘instant out’, and capital ships aren’t just really big fighters, zipping around everywhere. They need to be escorted and protected.
Well, that’s all I want to type ATM.
What do you think? Is I:BS an appropriate platform for tactical game play of this level? Is it too deep, too shallow? Have more suggestions? Hate these ones?
Nothing I post is sacred. Go ahead and bash it if you want!
Okay, I’m done.
TLDR; Like this post because it has a lot of words.