Overcoming starter's block

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Overcoming starter's block

Postby olivertheorem on Sun 27 May 2018 18:20

So, as I said in another thread, I tend to get stuck after going through sections K and Y*, setting up the first turn, and sending the initial survey ships through the WP's. I do have a "turn checklist" of sorts, which may be somewhat out of order (but so long as I'm consistent, right? :P), yet I end up with some variation of paralysis after the first turn. Thinking back, it tends to be of the "did I do X? do I have to do Y? What did I miss?" variety. Trying to account for information lag is very hard for me for some reason (too much Star Trek/Star Wars I suppose). In the end, all of the detail, which from the outside I like a lot, seems to overwhelm me once I get past the initial system/race build (which part I like a lot).

So, any tips for a wanna-be solo player to get over that initial hump?
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Re: Overcoming starter's block

Postby Whitecold on Mon 28 May 2018 14:21

Tip one, use the spreadsheet to do the record keeping.
For the campaign, I always fill out a result sheet for each player. If you work down these points, you should capture all important things that happen.
As for information lag, I would not bother with that in a single player campaign for most things. Routine WP exploration and Survey messages don't matter much when they arrive. As long as no one is shooting at you, you should be fine. Your SOP should keep your survey ships moving without needing to send orders back and forth. Better play without lag than not play at all because of it.

Code: Select all
Empire: Mithradë Imperium
Turn: 039

Random Event:

Training:
  Ship      remains [BG-1]
 
Construction:
  In progress:
   X at Y
      
  Units Complete:
   X at Y

  De-mothballed:
 
Colonization & Shipping:
   x PU to Colony
 
R&D:
  Projects with success rolls:

  Projects that have not yet begun making success rolls:


Surveys:

  X (Open): X/Y (Fleet)

 
System Probes:
 
Interstellar Relations:
    
Troops:

Leader Creation / Promotion:

MCr Remaining:

SM Notes:
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Re: Overcoming starter's block

Postby Cralis on Tue 29 May 2018 13:47

My apologies for taking so long to get back to you after I suggested the thread. I spent all day with my kid at urgent care — strep throat. Blah. On the other hand, there’s a chance that I coukd get it and be off work for a day or two...

olivertheorem wrote:So, as I said in another thread, I tend to get stuck after going through sections K and Y*, setting up the first turn, and sending the initial survey ships through the WP's. I do have a "turn checklist" of sorts,


Someone suggested something like that a while ago. A “turn end checklist”... I don’t think anyone has expanded on that idea yet!

which may be somewhat out of order (but so long as I'm consistent, right? :P), yet I end up with some variation of paralysis after the first turn.


I totally understand. I’ve had that happen when I’m confronted by a huge set of data or instructions. I just want to read and calculate and analyze until I completely understand everything. It’s just my nature. The secret is realizing that until you put it into action, it’s hard to fully understand because tou need to find your style of play. You do that by playing!

Thinking back, it tends to be of the "did I do X? do I have to do Y? What did I miss?" variety. Trying to account for information lag is very hard for me for some reason (too much Star Trek/Star Wars I suppose). In the end, all of the detail, which from the outside I like a lot, seems to overwhelm me once I get past the initial system/race build (which part I like a lot).


I think the secret is in how you handle the inevitable discrepencies. I’ve adopted a philosophy that I saw other players do in games I ran: treat them like random events. Every one of these came from a game I was in or ran:

Forgot to put boat bays in your space station before you built it? Declare that your empire was beset by corrupt capitalists, shoot them, and then schedule a refit job to fix it so you can use the currently-unusable-station.

Forgot to pay your R&D costs one month? Declare that your scientists have unionized and were striking. Order your Qt to blow up an SA that the scientists were marching around and then hire new scientists to resume your projects next month.

Forgot to pay maintenance to your admiral’s fleet? Arrest and try him for treason for selling the maintenance and supplies on the market and pocketing billions. My emperor dodn’t like that jerk anyway because he was too dumb to realize that the enemy entering the system and then leaving through another WP could be intercepted without risking the population he was guarding (I made a bad SOP that the SM interpreted to mean he wouldn’t attempt battle if it meant leaving the space around the populated planet. Not even 2 LM away...)

So making mistakes is inevitable. How you incorporate them into your campaign’s story is how you make them part of the game and not “just a mistake.” If the mistake is bad enough, you can always go back a few turns and correct it too.

Does this advice help?
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Re: Overcoming starter's block

Postby olivertheorem on Tue 29 May 2018 18:22

For one, I need to take whitecold's advice and not worry so much about info lag (though I wonder how much it would mess with game balance if there was insta-comms available at some point or other), at least until it actually matters. Need to probably keep a results sheet like that too.

And yeah, just working mistakes into the fiction works well enough. I think I'm kind of like you, Cralis, in that I want to get it before I jump in too far, and I probably do need to just bite the bullet and push about 10 turns in to get some momentum going.

One thing whitecold said though, brings up another factor I didn't originally bring up, as I'd forgotten about it: SOP's. Perhaps I'm too used to computer games (closest I've played to something like this is Master of Orion 3), but I have a hard time laying out beforehand how fleets should respond to scenario X. I prefer to make it up as I go, which I suppose wouldn't be such a bad thing given that I wouldn't have to have something for an SM to refer to as he goes, so long as the decisions make a degree of sense within the fiction.
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Re: Overcoming starter's block

Postby Cralis on Wed 30 May 2018 02:04

olivertheorem wrote:For one, I need to take whitecold's advice and not worry so much about info lag (though I wonder how much it would mess with game balance if there was insta-comms available at some point or other), at least until it actually matters. Need to probably keep a results sheet like that too.


Oh I understand now... I thought you were talking about something else, not the travel time for communications and messages to reach a destination. You can always calculate message travel by moving it in StMP movement instead of calculating the exact times. Usually it doesn't matter whether a message arrived this week or last week, or well within the time frame of an average StMP. And in a solo game it might be easier to only calculate the travel time when it may be important, such as how long until your admiralty gets that CD from the patrolling destroyer that discovered some goober aliens have found a way into your frontier and are happily eating your CFN.

And yeah, just working mistakes into the fiction works well enough. I think I'm kind of like you, Cralis, in that I want to get it before I jump in too far, and I probably do need to just bite the bullet and push about 10 turns in to get some momentum going.


That's what I had to do. And ultimately there were some errors I just pretended never existed. At least once it meant that I lost some MCr or didn't do optimal builds, but not only did it keep things moving but after a while it felt more like real life. That's when I started trying to find humorous ways to explain what happened. All of a sudden my games had corrupt politicians, industrial accidents, and even admiralty in-fighting to explain mistakes I made along the way. Adding actual random events made it even more interesting (because then it happened even without my making a mistake). I had at least one game it felt like the universe was trying to kill my fledgling empire.

One thing whitecold said though, brings up another factor I didn't originally bring up, as I'd forgotten about it: SOP's. Perhaps I'm too used to computer games (closest I've played to something like this is Master of Orion 3), but I have a hard time laying out beforehand how fleets should respond to scenario X. I prefer to make it up as I go, which I suppose wouldn't be such a bad thing given that I wouldn't have to have something for an SM to refer to as he goes, so long as the decisions make a degree of sense within the fiction.


I did two things in regards to SOPs:

First, I just started playing a solo game and determined that I would figure out what I'd do as I learned the game.

Second, I wrote SOPs as I realized that I would want one. Eventually I had a whole bunch of SOPs, even different variations on the same SOPs, and when I started a new game I would figure out which I wanted to use. Sometimes even changing them up as I built an empire with particular attitudes or playing styles.

In a solo game I wouldn't worry about SOPs. Just figure out what you want to do as you go along. But then I'd write down SOPs as you figure out what would be nice SOPs to have in a game and keep them collected someplace where you can refer to them later. Then when you play a game where you feel comfortable with SOPs, or you play a game with other players, you have a source of SOPs to draw on.
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Re: Overcoming starter's block

Postby Caplin on Wed 04 Jul 2018 12:29

I'm watching this thread with interest. I feel like the spreadsheets are a bit less efficient for me, just because I don't have a quick way to jump to specific cells, the way you can with a mouse. THere's probably a keyboard shortcut or a way to set something like that up.

Alternatively, I feel like if I do the calculations myself I'll at least understand what's going on a bit better. Mapping, as always, remains a thorny problem.
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Re: Overcoming starter's block

Postby aramis on Thu 05 Jul 2018 16:13

Caplin wrote:I'm watching this thread with interest. I feel like the spreadsheets are a bit less efficient for me, just because I don't have a quick way to jump to specific cells, the way you can with a mouse. THere's probably a keyboard shortcut or a way to set something like that up.

Alternatively, I feel like if I do the calculations myself I'll at least understand what's going on a bit better. Mapping, as always, remains a thorny problem.


Not as easily understood, but...

A list of links two layers deep. It's better than single layer link lists, not as good as a real map, but halves the number of lookups to find somewhere
System 01
WP 1 to 47 On to 82 85 95 95)
WP 2 to 78 On to 67
WP 3 to 35 On to 56 02 54 28 32
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Re: Overcoming starter's block

Postby Lomn on Tue 17 Jul 2018 19:15

olivertheorem wrote:One thing whitecold said though, brings up another factor I didn't originally bring up, as I'd forgotten about it: SOP's. Perhaps I'm too used to computer games (closest I've played to something like this is Master of Orion 3), but I have a hard time laying out beforehand how fleets should respond to scenario X. I prefer to make it up as I go, which I suppose wouldn't be such a bad thing given that I wouldn't have to have something for an SM to refer to as he goes, so long as the decisions make a degree of sense within the fiction.
A couple of SOP suggestions:

1) Start with the easy ones.

2) When you play out a situation, write down a generic version of what you did. SOP!

To build on (1), CC4 (the SOP example appendix) opens with "Warp Transit SOP". That's a good one to build from. Here's the starter chunk of mine:
WP Transit SOP

WP Transits
All WP transits are made under Battle Stations (BS). By default, ships that do not encounter hostile or unknown forces secure from BS to General Quarters (GQ) after one minute, and from GQ to Normal Readiness (NR) after five minutes.

Hostile WP Transit
Ships transiting into known hostile systems will remain at BS while the fleet completes transit, and they will secure from BS to GQ no less than 10 minutes after the fleet completes transit. Ships will then remain at GQ for no less than one hour after securing from BS. A “known hostile” system is a system currently believed by the fleet to have hostile forces, belong to a hostile power, or to be an unsecured or unoccupied system en route to another known hostile system.

Unsecured WP Transit
Ships transiting into unsecured space will remain at BS for no less than 5 minutes before securing to GQ. Ships will then remain at GQ for no less than 25 minutes after securing from BS. “Unsecured space” is a system not claimed or occupied by this power or one of its military allies. Hostile space transit protocols supersede unsecured space protocols if both apply.

Imperial WP Transit
[classified security measures redacted]
Imperial WP transits that deviate from the above protocols are authorized under combat conditions. Such exceptions should be preceded by emergency notification by the at-WP infrastructure and/or CDs from the fleet.
Hostile space transit BS protocols supersede Imperial transit protocols if both apply.

Really, that's just "hey, your ships should transit at Battle Stations" with some theme fleshed out. Everything could be the default and it's functional. Everything could be the longer-BS period of a hostile transit and it's identical from an empire-planning perspective (there's no penalty for spending an hour a day at GQ). But grades of caution seem to make sense.

From there, iterate. I added "what constitutes a 'hostile space' transit" while writing this post because, hey, somebody might question that. The definition might need refinement, particularly for the stab at "follow an I-think-it's-empty WP chain toward an enemy" part.

----

From there, start mixing and matching. Particularly if you're dealing with comm lag, SM-confirmed information is life. You're supposed to have a list of all the messages you've sent and received over the course of the game -- build on it. I have a parallel SOP that specifies WP infrastructure reports all transits back to the capital via ICN. It also riffs on the Communications Priority SOP in CC4:
IFF at WP Transit SOP

This SOP applies to Imperial WPs under direct observation (manned or automated, mobile or fixed). [classified security measures redacted]

Standard IFF responses are defined here for reference below:
A. Class A transits shall be treated as hostile, regardless of IFF. Class A transits shall be reported immediately to the nearest ICC and to the CAP.
B. Class B transits shall be queried by IFF. Unrecognized signals or non-replies shall be treated as hostile. IFF will query continuously for one minute to account for possible transit effects. Class B transits shall be reported immediately to the nearest ICC and to the CAP.
C. Class C transits shall be queried by IFF. Unrecognized signals or non-replies shall be treated as provisionally hostile on the turn of transit, with units authorized to return fire if fired upon but not to fire first. Transiting units shall be re-queried on the turn after transit, with those IFF replies treated as definitive. Class C transits shall be reported to the nearest ICC and to the CAP only after units are fired on or the second-turn IFF query fails.
D. Class D transits shall be queried by IFF. Unrecognized signals or non-replies shall be treated as friendly on the turn of transit, but units are not authorized to return fire. On the turn after transit, transiting units shall be re-queried, with any unrecognized signals or non-replies treated as provisionally hostile; Units are authorized to return fire if fired upon. On the second turn after transit, any transiting units that have not yet cleared IFF are re-queried with this result treated as definitive. Class D transits shall be reported to the nearest ICC and to the CAP only after units are fired on or the third-turn IFF query fails.

Transit reports above are all high priority message traffic. In all cases, WP infrastructure units shall report all transits (both inbound and outbound) at standard priority to the nearest ICC, noting time of transit, quantity, type, and size.
The SOP then goes on to define various transit types: an unscheduled mass transit is Class A (and so if your own fleet or an ally's is hauling and mass-transits unexpectedly, it will be fired on). Various oddities are Class B or C. Standard expected traffic (like a scheduled courier) is Class D. Nearly everything I reasonably expect my own units to do is C or D, because I don't want friendly-fire incidents emerging from a SOP (Class B re-queries IFF but starts shooting immediately; Class A assumes any friendly IFF signals have been hacked by an enemy. WP defenses are not authorized to stand down from a Class A event by this SOP. This may be a mistake, but it's a narratively-interesting one.)
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