Crossposted from the SFU blog at BGG.

Expansive wargames like Federation & Empire often present the player with too much to do when first learning the game. This is normal, but still creates a very steep learning curve when first getting into the game. In F&E, like in most such games, the biggest burden is figuring out what you should be doing with your forces. There’s a lot of ships out there, and six hexes of operational movement gives them a fairly good range. Making things worse is the fact that at the beginning of the game there are a lot of targets out there for the Coalition, who is on the strategic offensive, to hit.

The bulk of the initial targets is the line of battlestations (BATS) along the borders. These are small, but quite capable of cutting lines of supply, holding provinces for the original owner, providing limited repairs, and acting as a forward base for staging counter-raids into your territory. They do need to be taken down, and this should be done as efficiently as possible, as there is likely to be stubborn resistance over the more capable starbases, and possibly the more valuable planets, which will need the attention of as much of the fleet as possible.

Given the number of BATS, and the Alliance’s need to defend more important targets, it is helpful to have a good idea of what exactly needed to take out an undefended BATS with minimum effort. I’ve always been disappointed that I’ve never seen an article discussing this subject. While it is something relatively easy to work out, the number of things that need consideration is still overwhelming for a beginning player.

A BATS has an offensive and defensive Combat Potential (ComPot) of 12, and 6 fighter factors. From worst case (50%) to best case (10%) this permits damage anywhere from 9 to 2 points. On the other hand, it takes 21 points to kill. 12 points to cripple, 3 more to force it to be killed (at least 50% of the smallest available defense factor—middle of 302.61), and the six fighter factors, which are sure to be given up in preference to actually killing the base.

Planning for the worst possible result (rolling a ‘1’ at 0 BIR, giving 10% damage) shows that it would take 210 ComPot to ensure a one-round kill a BATS, an impossibly dense line, and a waste of resources even if available. The opposite extreme (50% damage on a ‘6’ at 10 BIR) would only need 42, a much more realistic force. However, you can’t count on getting that.

What can you count on? Well, at an undefended base, you get to control both halves of the BIR equation (304.41), leaving only the Variable BIR and the final result outside your control. Assuming you pick BIR 8, the worst result is that the VBIR goes down two, and you roll a ‘1’. This is 25% damage, indicating a need for 84 ComPot, which is possible, but a pretty heavy line at the beginning of the game (that would take something on the order of a DN leading an entire line of CWs).

In fact, that’s too good a line to be putting on a limited secondary mission, and is completely impractical. What can be done? Well, the question becomes, why kill the BATS in one round? The reason is to give it less opportunities to fire back and cause damage to the fleet that will then need to be repaired. However, the only way to do high damage is to pick a high BIR, which allows the BATS to do more damage in return. Lowering the BIR will lower the damage done in a round for both sides, it doesn’t actually help with the ratio of damage done, which is what we really want to maximize. So, given that a smaller force will need to spend more time taking damage from the BATS, what can be done?

The magic number is 8. That is the maximum amount of damage a BATS can take before it’s ComPot is degraded on the next round. 8 damage or less can be taken as one or two SIDS which have no effect on the BATS’ performance (308.83). The ninth point would be a plus point, which would have to be resolved on a fighter, lowering ComPot to 17 for the second round. Around about 12-14 points is best; at that point the BATS must either cripple to preserve fighters (lowering ComPot to 6+fighters), or it must lose extra fighters over what the crippled side can hold (and absorb damage with).

At max BIR, the minimum result (25%) demands ~36 ComPot to get a minimum 9 damage (say, a CA, and 4xDD). A more average result would be in the middle of BIR 8, or around 35%, and would generate 12 damage, right into our sweet spot.

Now, the BATS should be doing 5-7 damage at this point (more at higher BIR, but I’m sticking with the BIR 6 and 8 examples I’ve been going through). That’s crippling a ship, or two if the force is mostly FFs. This could turn into a noticeable drop in ComPot if you hold the cripple off the line in hopes of not having to damage anything on the second round (thanks to a high smallest defense number). It should still be enough to take the weakened BATS in one round, however.

However, it needs to be noted that we’re looking at a total of about 6-12 total incoming damage. Most BATS-busting in the early game falls upon the Klingons. The early D6V/TGV and FV carrier groups are given short shrift because of their low density (because there’s no large escorts) and the not-quite-a-ship-equivalent 5 fighter factors on the large carriers. The low density tends to make them ill-suited for large base battles, where damage needs to be poured out to wreck the enemy fleet as fast as the attacking force takes it. This makes them available for missions like this. A [D6V+E4A+E4A] and [FV+E4] is 25 ComPot, which, at max BIR will do 9+ damage 50% of the time, and can aborb 9 points of damage itself before taking any permanent harm.

Adding a free scout (to get rid of the EW penalty) will make it 2/3rds of the time. Making sure of 9 damage at max BIR without a scout needs another 13 ComPot—say two D5s. With the scout lowers it to 9 more ComPot; if you put a F5S on the line, this drops to 7—one D5.

This is great in theory, but there’s generally not enough carriers at the beginning to cover all the targets. All that can be done is to make do with what there is. However, it does provide motivation to use the Klingon’s free fighter factors filling out the carrier force until the better escorts and carriers show up.