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The Islands TCS Campaign
Well, the first war in this TCS PBEM seems to be off to a good start. As of now, everyone in the game should have heard about the fighting, so it is a good time to talk about lessons learned in that fighting to date.
The first, and most obvious, lesson is that fighters, if used, need to be big, tough, and expensive. There have been three battles involving fighters on both sides, and two others involving fighters on only one side (you know who you are/were). In every case, the weaker fighters failed to accomplish ANYTHING against their opposite numbers, while the good fighters wiped the floor with their opponents. In all three cases, the stronger fighters were fighting at long odds, and still managed to inflict unacceptable casualties on their enemies.
In the two cases where fighters were only present on one side, the fighters that were more technologically sophisticated than the heavies on the other side (good show, New Home!) did quite well. Where the fighters were less well designed (that's you, Neubayern), they were completely ineffective.
And the factor most decisive in determining fighter effectiveness was, of course, computer number. New Home's model-7 computers beat up on Sansterre's model-5's, which in turn beat up on Neubayern's model-3's.
Players not directly involved might consider where their fighters fit onto this chain, and redesign as necessary (yes, all you guys that "Jane's" said had lousy fighters really did have lousy fighters!).
Second lesson: If you have a whole solar system to attack/defend, then GDW's standard picture of the Imperium at war goes out the window. So far, defense of the gas giant has NEVER been a factor in any engagement. In all cases, attackers appeared at 100 diameters from the main world, and ignored the existance of the gas giants. In-flight refueling capabilities have played a major part in all offensive operations to date.
And, defending gas giants is proving to be almost impossible anyway. After forces are deployed to protect the homeworld, and more are sent out to carry the war to the enemy, it is becoming obvious that a force deployed at the gas giant would either (1) be totally useless as the enemy ignored the gas giant, or (2) be totally overwhelmed if the enemy DID attack the gas giant.
If you choose to attack, and defend your homeworld, and defend your gas giant(s), and defend your colony worlds, then you will disperse your fleet into enough small pieces that even a weak enemy can overwhelm one set of defenders at a time, and so trash your fleet in detail.
Third lesson: This one hit me totally out of left field (I expected the first two from previous experience doing this). It seems that the presence/absence of meson technology makes a bigger difference than I thought. Conventional Wisdom (mine included) has it that a battle-rider is more than a match for a battleship. This seems to be only true for meson armed fleets.
In this game, so far, the ships have been armoured sufficiently to prevent free critical hits from happening. So the only damage done to most ships before one side bugs out due to heavy losses is that the maneuver drives and weapons are knocked out. Jump drives and power plants and computers are not being hit, due to armour sufficient to keep out the interior explosions, and fib computers.
When that happens, the battleships jump home for repairs. The riders left behind are captured and destroyed. In all five cases, ships have been disabled, but jumped to safety (even on the losing side). The winning side has then proceeded to capture/destroy all the riders left disabled by the fleeing losers. So the lost riders are being replaced at a cost of billions and years, where the lost battleships/cruisers are being repaired at trivial cost in a few weeks.
This has not yet made a crucial difference, since the war has not been going on for years yet. But Sansterre's battleships have already acquitted themselves well in THREE separate engagements, after having been disabled in EACH engagement. The same cannot be said for the riders deployed by any of the sides so far. In all cases, rider casualties to the loser have been extremely high (near 100%), and the winners have suffered the same fate for the riders as for their battleships - they are recovered and repaired for use later this year. This is all very well if you can make sure you win EVERY fight your riders are in, but it could get a lot tougher if you win a few, lose a few.
So it is fairly safe to say that in battles between fleets armed with particle-beams and missiles (lasers/energy weapons are trivial so far, just as they are in traditional Imperial doctrine) that the jump-capable battleships and cruisers have a considerable long-term advantage over the non-jump-capable riders.
TCS players: read and heed this! Your fleets may be on the line next.
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