This thread is a followup to a design that's been discussed in the following threads:
As you might already know, I'm currently elaborating plans for a 4X game I'm currently developing.
As I'm trying to make this a compelling strategy experience, I'm struggling with a few elements here and there and I could really use a hand with this one.
The game I'm basing my concept around is the very old VGA Planets. To simplify this game for the purpose of this thread, this is a game where you build ships using various minerals and $ and use fuel for movement. Each ship can go at various different speed, each of which have their own distance travelled and fuel consumed ratio. It is much less efficient to go faster from a resource (fuel) perspective, but more often than not, you'll want to go to the fastest speed possible.
Additionally, ships and planets you control have sensor ranges, which allow you to see enemies coming a few turns before they actually do.
The part I'm currently struggling with is when trying to intercept an enemy that seeks to enter your cluster and go straight for your valuable planets.
The current setup would go a bit like this:
- You see the enemy ship
- You choose to send some of your ships at the most likely planet they'll hit
- The enemy ship bypasses you and go further at top speed
- You follow them at top speed
- This goes on until either of you no longer has any fuel
This is one of the situations where the game feels very dull. Normally, engagements and interceptions can really be fun, but there's really no stopping one enemy ship from going straight to the heart of your empire (provided he knows where it is). The run and chase gets a bit boring.
Technically, you could refuel your starships at nearby bases and keep the fuel advantage, but it really isn't a great defensive mechanic.
Now, VGA Planets had a solution for that. It allowd you to create Minefields. Essentially, minefields were created by turning a large amount of torpedoes (an ordnance that cost a lot of minerals to produce) into an area of effect minefield around a point of origin.
This way, you could turn an economic advantage (minerals) into a sizeable defensive advantage around a planet. You could cover entire fronts with intercalating minefields, etc.
The enemy would then have two options:
1 - Cross the field (at the peril of MAYBE hitting a mine, and taking damage as a result, knowing most ships would die with 1,2 or 3 hits only).
2 - Sweep the field (by bringing ships armed with a lot of phasers).
In other words, the opponent could either risk it, or be slowed down.
While I like this concept in general, it also feels a bit stagnant. Slowing down the enemy is interesting, but sweeping mines isn't necessarily an exciting reason to be slowed down. On the other hand, the fact the player can risk it is random. I don't like random much, I believe that player error should come either from inexperience, or hidden information (things they could scout if they dedicated sufficient resources towards acquiring this info). Having minefields that are sure to hit a ship might be a bit extreme as well.
One side-mechanic I've developed in an attempt to rectify this slightly is to have planetary invasions take more than one turn. Assuming you drop troops on an enemy planet, they won't instantly conquer the planet. Instead, they'll duke it out for a few turns, requiring reinforcements, and benefitting from the firesupport of any orbiting ship. This system meant that an enemy that bypasses your fleet just can't planet-hop and drop a few people here and there and take your entire empire out of the blue. Rather, they'll need to drop their force on a single planet, bring additionnal reinforcements from behind, and stay in orbit to support their assault. In other words, if they've not achieved "space superiority", their assault might be thwarted the minute they stop to besiege a planet.
This is an acceptable mechanic, but it does not do a lot in terms of space geography control/defense as a minefield would.
Thus, I'm looking for potential alternatives that would cause an opponent to be delayed in their invasion of a sector that would prevent them from easily running away from your ships (assuming you were wise enough to set them up in the first place) and be free from random chances (but provide hidden information advantages).