It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here, and I’ve found the motivation. The stats and game theory behind DFC is interesting.
In this short piece, I’ll introduce and explains some base concepts that I’ll refer to later on. I’ll hopefully be posting a series of articles on mechanics, all linked and summarised here.
So one of the most interesting differences of DFC, is the variable range mechanic. In flavour, it makes DFC more like a submarine game than a surface vessel game (in the traditional gaming sense, obviously at the right scale/tech level it’s a surface ship mechanic). In terms of mechanics, it acts as a really good mediator for alpha strike, a really good promoter of beta-strike, and also allows for in-game statistics on units that allow harassment mechanics that aren’t tacked on.
So, let’s start with some useful overall game strategies.
Alpha Strike is a US Navy term. It refers large strikes, of maximum size, as opposed to a cyclic roster of missions. These tend to be large, overwhelming strikes, and in game parlance they are normally considered a burst attack before your opponent has a chance to weaken your force. Forces in games focused on alpha strikes, emphasise initial impact over longer term considerations, the plan being to wreck exactly the right stuff to ruin your opponents plans, before your alpha strike force is overwhelmed. A good example that many people would be familiar with, is a chariot in various versions of Warhammer Fantasy. It does great impact damage, but it won’t win a protracted fight.
Beta Strike, is a gaming specific term that normally refers to a force that reacts with a powerful hit. A good beta-strike force might have mechanisms to prevent an alpha strike’s initial impact, cheap units that the opponent can be forced to expend their alpha strike on, or some other mechanism that allows the beta strike force to maintain it’s (usually fragile) damage dealing elements. In dropfleet, beta strike is supported through the spike mechanics. If you can lure your opponent into going weapons free with their most powerful assets, on perhaps your less valuable but more annoying assets, they will suddenly be in range of a much larger area of the board.
The third major strategy is attrition warfare. In attrition warfare, you try and break down your opponent’s force over time. It makes sense if it’s not possible for you to alpha strike your opponent, if you can’t bring enough decisive force for a beta strike, if your opponent is attempting to harass you, or if you just know that point for point you have the HP and sustained damage rate to come out clearly ahead. The main attrition warfare faction is the UCM. They have the most generous weapon arcs, they have secondary batteries on most cruisers, and their heavy mass drivers are cheap and relatively effective. Their cruisers are also well armoured and have a reasonable amount of damage points.
Harassment is less often a strategy, and more often a tactical opportunity. Forces that focus on harassment, entice the enemy to make mistakes, and goad them by dealing (usually a small amount of) damage without the opportunity to strike back. In dropfleet this can be low signature ships with carrier capacity, shaltari with shields down, or even scourge anti-gravity frigates, firing from atmosphere into higher orbital levels.