Thursday, September 1, 2016

Tactical Analysis: Monstrous Conflict

The previous two tactical analyses shouldn't read like anything new if you've ever run an Action game.  They only differ in the technologies offered, and even then, those have obvious parallels to real-world weapons.  But Psi-Wars offers us a unique opportunity in that allows us to fight inhuman opponents, such as robots and space monsters.

I have limited time and space to discuss these, so I'll bundle them up into a single place.  I'll do that because they have a single consistent thing: They will not fight like people do.  I don't actually have any space monsters, though we can easily derive some rough examples.  I do have robots, of course, and you can read up on them here.

Space Monster Tactics

by BrighterSuns
Space monsters vary greatly, and could be nearly anything, but we can grab a few "typical" GURPS examples.  Given that most space monsters seem to be giant beasts, we could use the Tyrannosaurus (from GURPS: Lands Out Of Time) as our basis for creatures like the Rancor, and the Insectoid out of GURPS Monster Hunters 5: Xenology for the creepy-crawly sort.  Later, in Iteration 5, I'd like to deal with this concept in more detail, but this will work for now.

Both the Tyrannosaurus and the Insectoid have enormous strength (thought the T-Rex isn't quite as high as you might expect) and built-in melee weapons, like claws, teeth and tails.  Despite this, neither does very much damage against armored opponents.  The insectoid deals an average of 11 cutting damage with an armor divisor of 2, which will barely penetrate a battle-weave long coat, while the T-Rex deals 3d+2 impaling or 3d+4 crushing with its tail, neither of which are very impressive compared to TL 11 armor.

Neither has very much armor.  The T-Rex has a DR of 2, and the Insectoid has a DR of 15.  Neither will slow down a blaster very much.

For both, instinct rules the day: Both have a low IQ but high Perception, and unique sensory abilities.  Both have a high move and a decent DX. I would expect "clever" but pre-defined tactics. Once you've figured out how an alien tiger hunts, you know how almost all alien tigers hunt.  Giant aliens like the Rancor will just try to use brute force, etc.  We'd also expect alien monsters to be very adept at using the environment they're adapted for (chameleon, sure-footed, night vision, etc).

Robotic Tactics

"My Robot Army" by daonovski11
In case you missed the link before, here it is again.

Robot armies tend to be broken down into battle bots as the main, brute-force line of infantry, and specialist robots used sparingly, as scalpels.  We expect them to march forward, unwaveringly, and open fire on the enemy when they see them.  They're BAD 10, so not a major threat, but they have considerable HP (13-20) and DR (25), though they're not quite as survivable as troopers.

The Heavy Battle-Bot combines the DR of an Assault Trooper with the firepower of a Heavy Trooper, with superior skill and vastly superior ST.  Like battle bots, he'll simply march forward, shrugging off return fire and blasting away, unless he can reach you, in which case he'll throttle or pummel you to death.

Warbots take all of this a step forward, between the "Heavy Infantry" of the Heavy Battle Bot, and a tank.  He sports even greater HP, up to 275 DR, loads of weapons, an extra attack, high speed and excellent senses. Its only real weakness is its unimaginative tactics.

Finally, we have the assassin-bot, which has low DR, superior HP (20), superior senses, superior stealth, and superior senses.  Unlike the other robots, he can engage in imaginative tactics, studying its prey, learning from them, and then ambushing them with its dangerous claws.

A typical robot army will likely send assassin-bots into the population, use them to infiltrate enemy ranks, or simply use them as recon/ambush parties.  Once actual battle is joined, they'll simply march lines of battle bots, with the occasional heavy bot and war-bot as additional support.

Killing Space Monsters

While space monsters might not have the concept of "open battle," meeting on an open plain, in a gladiatorial arena, or in a prison pit where it thinks it has the upper hand, could all qualify as "Open Battle."

Force Sword and Force Sword-and-Buckler
If we allow Unarmed Etiquette to apply to space monsters, they might pose a decent threat to someone with a Force Sword, though I would certainly allow the force buckler to defend the character from the scrambling claws of the beast.

Otherwise, the Force Sword should utterly dominate a space monster.  Space monsters prefer to fight at close range, which already puts the force swordsman at an advantage.  The superior HP doesn't mean much to a weapon that deals 28 damage a hit, and the piddling DR offered by most beasts won't even slow it down.  The scary thing about a space monster is that it'll take two or even three hits to bring down, even with a force sword!  The monster won't be able to parry either, but most monsters are quite adept at dodge.

The force sword does less well in an ambush, as the character needs a second to activate his weapon.  During that second, if the alien is already atop him, then it has a single chance to kill him before he can bring his force sword to bear.

The force buckler is somewhat less impressive, as monsters are less likely to form up all on one side and would prefer instead to swarm around the character or use pack tactics.

Military Tactics
How well a soldier does in an open battle against a space monster typically depends on the range of the encounter.  If the soldier can engage the beast from a distance, his heavy ordinance will quickly turn it into a pile of goo (for example, a gatling blaster deals 7d(5) with an RoF of 12.  If only 4 shots hit, you've still dealt nearly 100 damage to your unarmored target!).

The trick is, of course, engaging a space monster from a distance.  They'll often use their natural environment as a form of cover, and they'll use their considerable speed to race at the soldier.  Here, the solid armor of the soldier helps a great deal, as most of these monsters can't penetrate 60-100 points of DR, but the bulk of his weapons causes him a serious problem.

Recon-type soldiers excel at getting the drop on alien monsters. Normal soldiers, with all their stumping around in heavy armor, will almost certainly alert the alien, creating a situation where he gets ambushed.  A recon trooper can effectively hide and out-fox the alien, using his sniper skills to defeat the beast.  If he fails, most recon troopers carry a vibro knife, which will work well to dispatch the beast.

Pistol Tactics
Pistols have most of the advantages of military tactics... except for damage.  A pistol will deal 10-12 damage per hit, which means you need to hit a T-rex at least 3 times to bring it down to zero hp, and another 3 times if you want to kill it.  That said, the pistol can engage from a range, and the quick-draw nature of the weapon helps him deal well with ambushes. In effect, the pistol works like a longer ranged, less damaging force sword from the perspective of most beasts.  The low bulk allows it to work well in close range combat, and the high mobility of the character means he can keep a low profile, and run-and-gun when it comes to dealing with the beasty.

Other melee weapons and unarmed
Unarmed combat is not recommended against beasts.  While most beasts lack the necessary armor to defeat a punch to the face, they have more than enough HP to take a hit, and it forces you into melee where the beast excels.  A space monster is a better unarmed combatant than a human(oid), period.  Unarmed tactics are better than nothing, but not by much.

Other weapons might fare better: A neurolash baton might beat the beast into submission.  Vibroblades deal plenty of damage.  Polearms deal that damage while keeping the beast at bay, a yard or two away (making this probably the one place where polearms like the vibroglaive) excel.  But the force sword is a superior melee weapon, and being in melee with a beast is not ideal.  These weapons also don't deal that much damage (usually 1-3 dice), which means you'll need a lot of hits to deal with something like a T-Rex or a Rancor, and against a giant beast, the reach advantage of something like a vibroglaive disappears.

Killing Robots

In a lot of ways, fighting robots is like fighting soldiers, but they typically lack the tactical acumen of soldiers, but make up for it in superior ST, HP, arms and armor.

Force Sword and Force Buckler
Everything that applies to fighting soldiers applies to fighting robots, but a non-psionic character with a force sword has a reasonable tactic for fighting robots: Hide in cover while the robot army approaches, then spring out and do battle.  Most robots won't use grenades or flanking tactics to flush the swordsman out.  Assassin-bots do have the tactical acumen to ambush force-swordsman in cover, but their inferior (compared to a force-sword) melee arsenal makes them easy prey for a force-swordsmen.

Once in melee range, the power of a force sword will easily defeat battle-bots and assassin bots.  At 8d(5) damage, a force swordsman will deal an average of 8 damage per attack on a heavy battlebot, which means he'll need to hit him 3 times before he has a reasonable chance of taking him out.  A warbot poses a much greater challenge.  While the armor is less, the force screens it has is more than enough to defeat a force-sword.  A weapon master with power-blow, on the other hand, can begin to deal the sort of damage necessary to defeat one.  Thus, the average character has no hope of defeating a warbot... but a master space knight could.

Military Hardware
Soldiers can use the same tactics they use against one another to defeat a robot army.  In fact, the superior firepower of a missile launcher or a gatling blaster are sufficient to take down anything, including a warbot, making a heavy-trooper very useful against a robot army.  The recon-trooper is good for playing cat-and-mouse games with assassin-bots... but little else, as robot armies lack the high-value targets of human armies.  The tactics of assault troopers don't work well against robot armies, who do not take cover, thus do not need to be flushed out, and most weapons that the typical assault trooper don't do much against robots: Neurolash batons aren't useful, nor are stun grenades, nor are flamers.  Only blaster carbines work well, and every trooper has a blaster carbine.

The greatest problem facing military hardware is the high cost of their equipment.  Generally, robot armies make up for proficiency with numbers, and when your opponent vastly outnumbers you with largely useless troops, then suddenly the higher cost of power cells and missiles can beggar a commando squad.

Pistols work better against bot armies than they do against soldiers, as the average bot only has around 25 DR, which is insufficient to stop 3d(5) or 4d(5).  A gunslinger can afford to quickly down quite a few battlebots.  The pistoleer's quick reaction also serves him well against assassin-bots.  The gunslinger cannot defeat heavy battlebots or warbots, due to her low penetration, and the lack of vulnerable points on either, and the pistoleer needs to worry about ammunition when fighting vast hordes of battle bots.

Other Melee Weapons and Unarmed Tactics
Fists will not serve you well against robots.  Targeted strikes, grips and locks in most martial arts work best against humans rather than robots (Ie, you can't choke-hold a robot), though "dumb" robots will try to grapple and strangle, and unarmed skill excels at defending against such attacks.  However, unarmed combat often comes down to strength, and robots are almost always superior to humanoids when it comes to contests of ST.

Some melee weapons will work well, some will not.  The neurolash baton, so useful against troopers, is useless against robots.  Vibro-weapons (vibro-knives, vibro-blades, vibro-glaives) work decently against robots. Battlebots lacks the DR necessary to really stop the weapons, and they deal quite a bit of damage (2-3d). Impaling attacks aren't useful, but vibro-weapons are superior at cutting in any case.  Furthermore, they don't need to deal with ammo, so in principle, someone armed with a vibroglaive could kill robot after robot, making him an excellent choice for defeating swarms of battlebots.

But these weapons face two problems.  First, nothing in the melee arsenal outside of a force sword can defeat the armor of a heavy battlebot, unless the character has power-blow.  An ST 15 character with a tripled power-blow and a vibroglaive can inflict more damage on a swing than a force sword, but that's certainly not enough to defeat a warbot.  The second problem melee characters face is that they lack any defense against ranged attacks.  Melee characters can ambush bots, but he won't always be in the circumstances to do that.
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