Flanking and Shield Facings

For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.

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Ran Taro
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#46 Post by Ran Taro » Wed May 04, 2005 3:04 am

Daveybaby wrote: Youre basically saying "i can do this to exploit the mechanism, therefore your idea wont work". But i'm saying - thats NOT an exploit because it can be countered.
No, what I'm saying is: 'I don't think the mechanism you propose will have the effect you want to achieve, and the effect you want to achieve can be achieved far more simply anyway".

You say that this mechanism will lead to strategic variation, I disagree. I think it would likley lead to a single dominant strategy, with some tactical variations. And I'm not alone in this opinion.
Daveybaby wrote:Specifically, it forces me to counter it by, for example, building my own ships specifically designed to shoot down small, fast, sneaky ships (i.e. pack them with sensors and PD weapons) and using them to intercept your ships. At that point, your ships are dead to no effect, so youve wasted all that money. So maybe you take some heavy cruisers with them to take out my PD ships so that your small ships can do their job. And then maybe i send some cruisers with my PD ships. And so on..
So the whole strategy of a space battle comes down to this: each side tries to get the smallest force they can get away with around the others flanks, and then blasts them from the front. That's not what I call a lot of varied strategies. There could be a lot of tactical variations on that one strategy, but I don't think that is nearly enough.
What i have done IS take the total war model and adapt it to my use. Its really no more complex than the total war system, i honestly dont see why you think it is.
The Total War system is this: Units are strong at the front, weak in the rear and to the flanks.

As I understand it, your proposal is this: Ships have shielding which is strong in all directions, except if attacked from more than one direction, wherein the sheilds become weaker to attacks from all directions, as determined by a mathematical formula that calculates the lessening of shield efficiency in proportion to the number of directions a ship is attacked from.

The second is flat out a more complex rule than the first, which already achieves its objective well. Hence it makes me think KISS.
And for the record, the total war system *is* vulnerable to attacks from the rear by fast, manouevrable, lightly armed units. Which is the whole POINT. The game actually specifically includes units to do this - light cavalry.
Yes, but it doesn't mean a single archer behind your flank makes your elite infantry an easy kill for the enemy spearmen in front of you. If it did it would make flanking an overpowered, unintuiative, exploitable single dimension killer tactic.

I believe the proposal as you stated it would be the equivalent of this. Let me repeat that I like your idea, but I think the implementation needs (at least) some refinement.

If you don't think something as simple as shields = strong at front / weak at back is appropriate as a solution, how about addressing this problem another way? For example, perhaps each sheild would have a minimum damage required from each facing to 'divert power' and thus reduce effectiveness to other facings. It's too complex for my taste, but something like that could work.
This to me sounded like somebody worried about either AI (development) complexity or processing capability - wasnt sure which so I addressed both possibilities (and just to reiterate, neither possibility is relevant). Note i said "if" as in "IF this is what you meant".
Your misinterpretation is not a good excuse to call into question my competancy.
I never said ignorant, so i'd appreciate it if you didnt put words into my mouth - and if you choose to feel patronised by someone countering something you've said (or indeed not said) then thats up to you. Its only flame bait if you over-react.
The phrases
...you don't understand how computers work
and "...you are ignorant of how computers work" have the same meaning. Both are patronising in the sense that they assume that it is likley that you have a greater understanding of something, without any evidence to that effect. The word 'if' does not excuse this. Any statement with the form 'If you think X then you are Y' where Y is derogatory is at least potentially insulting, and doesn't add anything positive to a discussion. Note that I didn't overreact, I just asked you politely not to do it. I'm more than happy to drop it now.

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#47 Post by drek » Wed May 04, 2005 4:37 am

Ran Taro wrote: The Total War system is this: Units are strong at the front, weak in the rear and to the flanks.
Homeworld1&2 works this way as well.
The second is flat out a more complex rule than the first, which already achieves its objective well. Hence it makes me think KISS.
My thoughts exactly.

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#48 Post by herbert_vaucanson » Wed May 04, 2005 9:51 am

Uhm, I think it may be difficult for AIs to handle this shield mechanism properly... I would stay with a simpler, Moo2-like solution.
- Well, what about this: a lot of empty space, colored balls spinning around, the occasional nifty exlosion, and some infestation here and there to give it the "lived in" feel?
- It shouldn't take more than a week... ok, I am in.

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#49 Post by Daveybaby » Wed May 04, 2005 10:46 am

herbert_vaucanson wrote:Uhm, I think it may be difficult for AIs to handle this shield mechanism properly... I would stay with a simpler, Moo2-like solution.
The AI isnt handling the shield mechanism. Its automatic. Or do you mean the AI wont be able to handle the tactics arising from the system (if it works)? If the problem is that we cant design a tactical AI, then thats a pretty depressing outcome for the game.
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#50 Post by Daveybaby » Wed May 04, 2005 11:25 am

The Total War system is this: Units are strong at the front, weak in the rear and to the flanks.

As I understand it, your proposal is this: Ships have shielding which is strong in all directions, except if attacked from more than one direction, wherein the sheilds become weaker to attacks from all directions, as determined by a mathematical formula that calculates the lessening of shield efficiency in proportion to the number of directions a ship is attacked from.
All i have done is to effectively decouple the direction of shield's greatest strength from the direction of travel of the ship. The reason i did this was to try to reduce the micromanagement aspects of flanking, i.e. let the players concentrate on the relative positioning of their ships/task forces, instead of having to constantly try to rotate to face the greatest incoming threat. It also *reduces* the load on the AI. It doesnt have to *decide* what direction to point its ships in to reduce the threat. Its also doesnt have to decide between facing the greatest threat or carrying on towards its objective.

This is actually less complex than total war - because ship direction isnt as much of an issue. BUT - because all ship combat is ranged (whereas in total war its almost all melee) its more common that a ships target is different to what is actually shooting at it. In total war if all you had was archers, the direction the unit was facing wouldnt be as important, whereas for melee its critical.
The second is flat out a more complex rule than the first, which already achieves its objective well. Hence it makes me think KISS.
It only sounds more complex because theyre stated in different terms. The Total War system uses complex mathematical formulae as well.
Yes, but it doesn't mean a single archer behind your flank makes your elite infantry an easy kill for the enemy spearmen in front of you. If it did it would make flanking an overpowered, unintuiative, exploitable single dimension killer tactic.
...that i dont think would work for one second. All you will do is lose an archer very quickly to no great effect.

Why would you let that archer get behind you? You would have screening task forces to stop anything like this happening. And if by chance he DID manage to get behind you, why would you let him live for more than a nanosecond? He is just one archer.

Youre making a lot of assumptions about how everything else in space combat will work if you think that this will be an exploit. And i am making assumptions about how it will work if i think it wont be an exploit. ANYTHING can become an exploit if certain other conditions are filled - things will have to be balanced, of course, but this applies to everything in the game.
If you don't think something as simple as shields = strong at front / weak at back is appropriate as a solution, how about addressing this problem another way? For example, perhaps each sheild would have a minimum damage required from each facing to 'divert power' and thus reduce effectiveness to other facings. It's too complex for my taste, but something like that could work.
That is too complex IMO. At that point you *are* putting AI into the equation - how much damage is enough to bring up the shields? Not a simple thing to work out.
I just asked you politely not to do it. I'm more than happy to drop it now.
Fine by me.
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#51 Post by herbert_vaucanson » Wed May 04, 2005 11:58 am

Daveybaby wrote:
herbert_vaucanson wrote:Uhm, I think it may be difficult for AIs to handle this shield mechanism properly... I would stay with a simpler, Moo2-like solution.
The AI isnt handling the shield mechanism. Its automatic. Or do you mean the AI wont be able to handle the tactics arising from the system (if it works)? If the problem is that we cant design a tactical AI, then thats a pretty depressing outcome for the game.
Yes, I meant tactically. And there are shades of quality for a tactical AI. An omnidirectional problem can be more easily solved than a directional one. And in the case that we are given only a limited control on combat (maybe just the tactical briefing at the beginning, and not full real-time o turn-based control) the extra richness would not have a significant impact. Of course, this is only my opinion and it is limited by the mentioned assumption on the game design.
- Well, what about this: a lot of empty space, colored balls spinning around, the occasional nifty exlosion, and some infestation here and there to give it the "lived in" feel?
- It shouldn't take more than a week... ok, I am in.

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#52 Post by Daveybaby » Wed May 04, 2005 12:38 pm

Yeah its assumed that we're talking about having full player control over the combat for this to take place. If all we're ever going to have is an automated system (which i doubt) then this idea is redundant - but then so would be a whole lot of stuff related to ship design etc.

w.r.t. the AI issue - i think there is little point in having player controlled space combat unless it is tactically rich. If its beyond the scope of this project to build an AI capable of tactical combat then IMO we should just stick with automated combat (with maybe a few simple setup decisions). The Moo2 style of combat (tactics and strategy are irrelevant - its all down to ship design) is just too depressing to contemplate - if the combat system is so empty of tactics/strategy that a retarded AI can still compete then automate it.
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#53 Post by Dreamer » Wed May 04, 2005 6:02 pm

Daveybaby wrote:if the combat system is so empty of tactics/strategy that a retarded AI can still compete then automate it.
Completely true! A lot of times I got bored with combat in moo2 and used "auto" some other times I couldn`t use even that because the AI didn`t exploit well my designs. So I HAD to play. I would happily stick with an automated system with fewer options until a proper combat module is feasible. It`s just a matter of "leaving the door open" in the code to attack this module.
The Total War system is this: Units are strong at the front, weak in the rear and to the flanks.
Well, That is exactly what I proposed with customizable shield strenghts.

On the other hand, a very good, tactically rich and creative way to have strategy in combat can be made. Just by diversifying the types (advantages/disadvantages) of ships, shield and weapons you get very complex strategy with minimum AI.

They are using something like this in Galciv2. You can have just normal, onmidirectional shields and skip all about whitch face you need to give or where the real threat is for automatic shield adjustment. I think you can get a very interesting combat system just by handling small ships different than large ships. Missiles different than energy weapons, etc. Shields and Armor work different, etc.

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#54 Post by Ran Taro » Thu May 05, 2005 1:36 am

Daveybaby wrote:All i have done is to effectively decouple the direction of shield's greatest strength from the direction of travel of the ship. The reason i did this was to try to reduce the micromanagement aspects of flanking, i.e. let the players concentrate on the relative positioning of their ships/task forces, instead of having to constantly try to rotate to face the greatest incoming threat. It also *reduces* the load on the AI. It doesnt have to *decide* what direction to point its ships in to reduce the threat. Its also doesnt have to decide between facing the greatest threat or carrying on towards its objective.


Yes I think that is a good objective. I also think you should be open to different ways to achieve it, or modifications and critisisms of your proposed method.
It only sounds more complex because theyre stated in different terms. The Total War system uses complex mathematical formulae as well.
Ok, but even if you make it:

Code: Select all

 
Ships have shielding which is strong in all directions, except if attacked from more than one direction, wherein the sheilds become weaker to attacks from all directions, in proportion to the number of directions a ship is attacked from. 
it's still more complex than:

Code: Select all

 The Total War system is this: Units are strong at the front, weak in the rear and to the flanks
Yes?
because all ship combat is ranged (whereas in total war its almost all melee) its more common that a ships target is different to what is actually shooting at it. In total war if all you had was archers, the direction the unit was facing wouldnt be as important, whereas for melee its critical.
I actually see the primacy of ranged combat as one of the major problems with the proposal. If your proposal existed in total war, for example, you would have a decent opportunity to eliminate the archer behind your flank before engaging in melee at the front. However, in space combat the flanker only needs to survive for a very short amount of time to give powerful long range forces at the front an opportunity to land a decisive blow. Because units attack at range, co-ordination is much easier and attacks can happen much faster.
Why would you let that archer get behind you? You would have screening task forces to stop anything like this happening. And if by chance he DID manage to get behind you, why would you let him live for more than a nanosecond? He is just one archer.
Small harrassing units are often difficult and annoying to chase down (as they should be). You may not have the capacity to stop 'a single archer' living for more than a nanosecond, and a nanosecond (or a turn) may be all the archer needs to survive in order to let the ubiquitous long range clump at your front crush you. It would really suck if you lost a battle because you didn't notice, or couldn't quite swat fast enough, one measley pea shooter behind your flanks. It seems wrong and counter intuitive to me to therefore increase small harrassing unit's game swaying power way beyond their natural abilities.

It's a valid concern, held by several people, and I think you should address it in your solution.
Youre making a lot of assumptions about how everything else in space combat will work if you think that this will be an exploit. And i am making assumptions about how it will work if i think it wont be an exploit. ANYTHING can become an exploit if certain other conditions are filled - things will have to be balanced, of course, but this applies to everything in the game.
I think this is a very flawed argument. According to this argument you can base any game mechanic on any flawed, unbalancing premise because 'things will have to be balanced of course, but this applies to everything in the game'. The thing is it is difficult to balance anything based on an unbalanced premise.

The whole reason we can design a game is that we can predict the effect the underlying premises of game mechanics will have. The success of the game relies largely on how solid those predictions are.

If the idea is to be balanced you need to make a convincing case for why it will be, or modify it so it addresses concerns about how it will be unbalancing, not say essentially 'of course it will be balanced later'.

I understand that is what you are doing, and what this conversation is largely about - but that particular argument doesn't hold water. It's the equivalent of just saying 'trust me'.
how much damage is enough to bring up the shields? Not a simple thing to work out.
I don't think so. Each shield just has a preset damage value below which it automatically deflects damage, without 'diverting power' from other facings. This could be set by shield type, shield power rating, or be user selectable as part of the design process (higher value = more expense/space). This value would be nessesary low, but would make it so a kid with a rock behind your ship can't make it mince meat to the cruiser at it's front.

Another idea would be that if a ship is attacked from multiple sides, the shields react by being most effective at the side where the larger attacks are coming from, and least effective at the side the smaller attack(s) are coming from, in proportion to the size of the attacks on each side. This reflects (fluff) the ship directing power to the shields where it is most needed, seems fairly intuitive to me, and also solves the problem of the AI having to choose facing. Wherever you are attacked most strongly is automatically where your strongest shields are. Flankers would still be able to 'draw off' shield power, making you more vulnerable on other sides, but not unbalancingly (new word!) so.

As an example:
You have shields with a value of 100.
You are attacked with damage of 200
You are simultaneously attacked from behind with damage of 50.
((200/250)*100) 80 Shield points defend against the front attack, (50/250)*50) 20 against the rear.

Note that this is just an example. The numbers wouldn't have to have such a linear relationship, and the way the shields actually function against the damage shouldn't be read into it.
if the combat system is so empty of tactics/strategy that a retarded AI can still compete then automate it.
Totally agree.
A lot of times I got bored with combat in moo2 and used "auto" some other times I couldn`t use even that because the AI didn`t exploit well my designs. So I HAD to play.
This is the worst possible outcome. Far better to do something simple well than something complex badly!
I would happily stick with an automated system with fewer options until a proper combat module is feasible. It`s just a matter of "leaving the door open" in the code to attack this module.
Me too! Although I would at least want to be able design ships that worked well in the automated system, so the automated system would have to have some complexity.

Obviously a great tactical battle system would be best, if definatley acheivable (which I'm a bit doubtful of, at least against an AI).

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#55 Post by Daveybaby » Thu May 05, 2005 11:24 am

Ran Taro wrote:Yes I think that is a good objective. I also think you should be open to different ways to achieve it, or modifications and critisisms of your proposed method.
But i will, of course, argue my point if i feel its better :P
The Total War system is this: Units are strong at the front, weak in the rear and to the flanks
My proposed system is this: Units are weaker when they are attacked from multiple directions at once.

And, for the record, the total war system is actually a *lot* more complex than its been described here - it involves morale, speed of enemy charges, status of nearby friendly units, types of weapons, shields (units are better protected on the shield arm flank) formations, enemy penetration into your formation etc etc etc. I could describe the total war combat system in ways that would turn your hair grey.

But semantics is beside the point. The KISS rule is a great rule of thumb, but if you follow it to its logical conclusion we will end up with a game of one-dimensional tic-tac-toe. Sometimes greater complexity is beneficial (not that i'm admitting my system is more complex) and desirable. Think of it as more of a guideline than a rule. Yarrrrr! :wink:
I think this is a very flawed argument. According to this argument you can base any game mechanic on any flawed, unbalancing premise because 'things will have to be balanced of course, but this applies to everything in the game'. The thing is it is difficult to balance anything based on an unbalanced premise.
Thats not what i'm saying - just that we cant predict what will be balanced or unbalanced (or even an exploit) yet, because we have no idea how anything else in space combat will work yet. There are so many undefined variables that trying to correct for perceived inbalances at this stage is probably wasted effort.
The whole reason we can design a game is that we can predict the effect the underlying premises of game mechanics will have. The success of the game relies largely on how solid those predictions are.

If the idea is to be balanced you need to make a convincing case for why it will be, or modify it so it addresses concerns about how it will be unbalancing, not say essentially 'of course it will be balanced later'.
I was just saying - if it needs balancing it will *have* to be done later. Theres no way we can even attempt to identify exploits yet. We are like the blind man feeling the elephant (to drag up an analogy from the moo3 days).

Balance is a key element of game design. There is a balance which must be achieved between flanking units being overpowered and being totally ineffective to the point of being redundant. This must be done whatever shield system we use. Its not an excuse for bad design, but its almost always necessary, all the same.
Each shield just has a preset damage value below which it automatically deflects damage, without 'diverting power' from other facings. This could be set by shield type, shield power rating, or be user selectable as part of the design process (higher value = more expense/space). This value would be nessesary low, but would make it so a kid with a rock behind your ship can't make it mince meat to the cruiser at it's front.
The problem is there will (probably) be many different strengths/techs of shield, and many different weapon strengths (maybe even different types of damage) as the game progresses. Balancing this sort of thing (many to many relationships) is a tedious mess at the best of times. This *is* one example of where you want to KISS.
Another idea would be that if a ship is attacked from multiple sides, the shields react by being most effective at the side where the larger attacks are coming from, and least effective at the side the smaller attack(s) are coming from, in proportion to the size of the attacks on each side. This reflects (fluff) the ship directing power to the shields where it is most needed, seems fairly intuitive to me, and also solves the problem of the AI having to choose facing. Wherever you are attacked most strongly is automatically where your strongest shields are. Flankers would still be able to 'draw off' shield power, making you more vulnerable on other sides, but not unbalancingly (new word!) so.
That sounds like it would work nicely. I would like to see some kind of lower limit above which shields are equally diverted. So, say, if this limit was 50%, then, from your example:

Attacked from front with 200 strength
Attacked from rear with 100 strength
Shields divide equally between front and rear.
And a linear (of course doesnt have to be linear) relationship down to zero

This would mean that flankers would still have an effect greater than that of just their firepower (which is the point of flanker) but it should still eliminate any exploit.

Reason? While you dont want flankers to be overpowered, the essence of flanking is still that a smaller force can have a significant effect on outcome - i.e. you shouldnt have to split your forces 50/50 in order to be able to flank effectively - a smaller task force should be able to have just as much of an effect. How small a task force, and how much of an effect is, of course, down to balancing again.

I still think this probably wouldnt be needed, and that flanking forces below a certain size would end up being totally ineffective due to other gameplay mechanics coming into play - but this is a good fix anyway.
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#56 Post by Ablaze » Thu May 05, 2005 7:48 pm

Daveybaby wrote: The KISS rule is a great rule of thumb, but if you follow it to its logical conclusion we will end up with a game of one-dimensional tic-tac-toe.
Is it just me, or does tic-tac-toe seem needlessly complex for this analogy to anyone else? How about rock-paper-scissors? Or better yet, each player picks a randomly generated number between 1 and 10 and the closest player wins the game.

Hmm.. but what if someone picks 5?

I guess it will require some balancing.. We had better throw the whole idea out and start from scratch, because balancing is not KISS.
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#57 Post by Ran Taro » Thu May 05, 2005 11:49 pm

Daveybaby,

Yes I thought the idea you liked was better too. I did consider the variation you suggest (hence why I said the numbers didn't have to be so linear) and agree that that would be a good addition.

It would be simple to add a multiplicative factor to attacks from the second and subsequent facings, and then you could simply adjust that multiplicative factor until it was felt to be balanced.

So in your example, you just times the 'shield drawing power' of the attack from the rear by 2. You could times the shield drawing power of an attack from the third facing by 3 etc. Then if this was found to be too strong you could make it 1.5 and 2. Etc. In other words I think this adds a control that is really easy to understand and balance.

In regard to KISS - I think KISS only really applies as an absolute rule in one situation: where you have two methods that achieve essentially the same effect, but one is simpler, you should always take the simpler method. If you need to kill a guy you're standing next to and you've got a knife, you don't go away and invent a disintegration ray. You just stab him.

A game like this is and should be complex. But I think you've only got a certain amount of complexity to 'spend'. Everywhere you can make something simpler to no ill effect allows you to add something fun you want somewhere else, without overburdening the design.

In regard to Total War, Ok I take your point. However, it at least seems simpler and more intuitive to understand to anyone who has studied history. So it might just be that your idea is less intuitive to people who haven't studied the history of future space battles :wink: . Regardless, the new idea still makes me much happier about balance.

But I wouldn't make a habit of paraphrasing MOO3 developers to make your point about how it will all turn out ok in the end!

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#58 Post by Rapunzel » Fri May 06, 2005 9:16 am

Daveybaby wrote:[...] The Moo2 style of combat (tactics and strategy are irrelevant - its all down to ship design) is just too depressing to contemplate - if the combat system is so empty of tactics/strategy that a retarded AI can still compete then automate it.
MoO2 games are not empty of strategies. Tactics are based on ship design (but this ought to be so). The AI has no chance against a human player. So even such a simple style of combat involves strategies. At least my impresion of the players at Kali is that they use strategy and tactics in combat.

Still there could and should be a greater possible diversyty and possibilitys to create own new ways of annihalating the enemy fleet.
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#59 Post by Daveybaby » Fri May 06, 2005 10:26 am

Rapunzel wrote:MoO2 games are not empty of strategies. Tactics are based on ship design (but this ought to be so).
Ship design is the overriding factor in moo2 combat. There are no tactics involved that i have ever seen.

Most of the so called 'strategies' that exist in Moo2 combat are in fact just cheesy exploits of gameplay mechanics, the classic and most extreme example being the timewarp facilitator / stasis field exploit.
The AI has no chance against a human player.
Only because it cant design a decent ship to save its life. I suspect you would find that if you gave the AI human designed ships it would be able to compete quite effectively.
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#60 Post by Rapunzel » Fri May 06, 2005 12:36 pm

Daveybaby wrote:Ship design is the overriding factor in moo2 combat. There are no tactics involved that i have ever seen.

Most of the so called 'strategies' that exist in Moo2 combat are in fact just cheesy exploits of gameplay mechanics, the classic and most extreme example being the timewarp facilitator / stasis field exploit.
The AI has no chance against a human player.
Only because it cant design a decent ship to save its life. I suspect you would find that if you gave the AI human designed ships it would be able to compete quite effectively.
First of all, the AI does a bad job designing ships but it also does not use it properbly in combat.

In Multiplayer you are not going to have any timewarp faciliator or such things, since you are whiped out by then (or victoryous). Have you actually played in the online comunity lately, so as to estimate on th amount of tactics used?

There are some tutorials for Kali-beginners like

http://masteroforion2.blogspot.com/2005 ... 5037872720

the part about combat is at the very bottom of the article.

here a little quote:
Combat
[...]On the other hand, if you have a lot of beam firepower, you have combat initiative, the enemy has thrown a bunch of missile salvoes at you, and you have the luxury of moving second in the combat round, sometimes it makes good sense to charge forward. The idea is that you charge forward until your ships are just about to get hit by the incoming missiles, and then halt and shoot at them at point blank range. At the start of the next combat round you take the initiative to move first, take a second shot at the missile salvoes, and then move through the remaining missiles to get behind the enemy missile ships. You can then run away from the second salvo, firing backwards at it to attrite it. This maneuver can be quite a surprise to your opponent and very effective.[...]
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