Rock Paper Scissors in Campaign

For those playing the campaign (and for the Mighty Cliffski to consider. . .)

It is generally accepted that here in GSB land there is a rock-paper-scissors thing going on: fighter spam is whupped by cruisers with serious armor/AA, long-range fleets can be chopped to chutney by fast, close-in cruisers with the inevitable Cruiser Laser armament, and so on.

Perusing the challenges will reveal few fleets built around a general design and lots around a focused design. Even fleets that mix weapons often do so by using cruisers devoted to one or the other weapon type; missile cruisers in the back, beamers up front, that sort of thing.

And since the campaign uses random fleets drawn from challenges, here is what I see happening in the campaign game: build general purpose cruisers? Works sometimes, but overwhelmed by single-focus fleets that pop up. Clouds of fighters have been suggested as the “ultimate” Campaign fleet…until the random challenge throws up the high-armor Alliance fleet, which will chew your cruisers after shrugging off the fighter packs.

Or your general fleet with significant fighters meets the “here are 20+ Frigates” enemy fleet, on a small map with limited maneuvering room*. Good luck with that–and good luck retreating, because those frigates are fast, are ion-loaded for shield killing, and even at speed 17–not bad for a cruiser–it takes awhile to turn around and warp off the map. (And if you devoted your limited resources to the frigates needed to counter massed Frigates, or possibly cruisers with a load-out suitable for handling lots of small, weak targets, you’ll meet plenty of fleets that will destroy you before those rumored enemy frigates show up.)

I’m rambling a bit here, so to summarize more succinctly: in Campaign mode, one has to make a choice about fleet design. That choice will always come back to haunt you. Build general purpose cruisers and you WILL face a specialist fleet that will hand you your arse, or force you to retreat once you see what it is. Build a specialist fleet, and your rock WILL face paper; your paper fleet WILL face scissors…you get the idea.

The answer provided in Ramcat’s guide seems to be: achieve overwhelming force. Then your BIG ROCK isn’t troubled so much by smaller paper, and so on. That can be effective, but it is a lot less fun than engaging in anything other than “achieve overwhelming force” tactics.

Solution? Maybe a bias in the enemy fleet selection formula AGAINST specialist fleets. If a fleet with 20X the same ship were less likely to appear than a fleet with 5x 5x 5x 5x ships–different types–then the situation I’m describing above might be less common. Of course, when I fight challenges online, or even post the few that I do, I often use multiple copies of the same cruiser. It works. But in the random environment in the Campaign, it creates a situation where there seems to be only one sound solution. One hopes for more than one answer to the question the campaign poses. . .


*I’ve noticed in the last little while an increase in challenges that put a lot of points on a very small map. While two prizefighters duking it out inside a pup tent is potentially amusing, they really need a boxing ring to showcase their talents. If these show up in the campaign game, retreating becomes more difficult than it already is. . .

I was thinking the same thing, starting with “why am I so unhappy with the campaign that I was begging for?”.

The GSB game is a puzzle game. One person puts together a fleet which is understood to be defeatable, and another looks for the way to defeat it. For the really hard puzzles, any way is satisfying, but for most, the best mental reward is when you win using finesse and fewer resources than the opposing force did.

There are additional benefits - you can replay the same fight as often as you wish, with different forces each time, and losing has no consequence.

The campaign turned this all on its head. The player does not pick who they are fighting, can’t see it coming, can’t retry with alternate forces, can’t change commands on the fly, and suffers real consequences when the lose. This is the anti-GSB esperience.

Here are my suggested fixes, for whatever they are worth:

  1. You can’t see what is coming. Instead of facing a different force every time you attack a planet, keep the current force in place, and let the PC have a scouting ability of somekind. Pay a fee to “scan” a system, or have a method to send a special frigate to scout and automatically escape.

  2. You can’t retry. Add save and load features that work at any time, rather than only at the end of each turn and again, make sure that the same fleet or attack is waiting each time. Some fights I could have won just with a different configuration of orders and starting locations, and that drove me nuts.

  3. Filter out the hard fleets. Let the player rate fights after they finish, and store the results locally. If they identify a given fleet as being a bad experience, don’t let them encounter it again.

  4. Filter out huge fleets. Especially on the cadet level, don’t ever send the player an attacking fleet that outnumbers their fleet by 4x or 5x times.

I look forward to seeing how the game evolves.


I’d like to see it evolve into a MMO.
A galaxy, where each player has a system to start with. You can form alliances and gang up on people, you can backstab, you can trade, and you can combat. Best of all, you can battle multiple fleets at once. 5 people all want a planet? It’s a 5 way battle royale.
If your home planet is wiped, you are out of the game and have to join another at the beginning.
There should also be a rebel factor, when your empire grows large there is the change that system will turn rouge to throw off your control. The more planets, the more chance of one succeeding.

Just my 2 cents

Seconded on all of this. I’d particularly like to emphasize point 2 - that’s kind of what I signed up here for. One of the nice things about GSB is that you can keep retrying a fight to determine an optimal way to defeat it - the campaign needs to have this as well. In terms of how to implement getting the same fleets after reloading, you could base fleet choosing algorithm after seed values (perhaps going by challenge date?).

I wish I could have said it so well. I have not updated my Campaign Tutorial because I have been testing lkohime’s Fighter Tactic for playing the campaign. But Red Cinema has it right. I am suggesting the way to win the campaign is to build a BIG ROCK of durrable ships (Cruisers and Frigates) so when a Paper fleet hits you you’ll be big enough to withstand its nasty effects.

In my playing of the Fighter build tactic I have won almost every fight - but I have encountered the paper to my rock. Several swarm fleets have been able to fight off my huge fighter fleets, and killing that much resource has caused me to turtle and rebuild.

The Rock-Paper-Scissors of GSB is very much alive in the campaign, but unlike GSB you can’t adapt or adjust for it without a many turns long build cycle - and then, the fleet you’re building for might not be there when you get back to that system = wasted build.

Retry battles?

I say no.

One can always restart the campaign.

I really enjoy the TRUE ANXIETY that rises when faced with an enemy fleet.

If I knew I could just replay it, meh. No anxiety.

The fine-tuning comes in at the campaign level. What constitutes your early builds? What systems will you attack first? What strategies will you employ in battles?

Try thinking of the campaign not on the GSB “battle” level–look at the galaxy screen. That’s the battle.


Not everyone wants more anxiety. Some people play games to escape from it. Try marketing a game based on how anxious it makes its players and see how far you get.

This point is actually one that I have used to describe to my friends why I like GSB. To use psychological terms, there is no negative reinforcement (punishment) for bad decisions, only positive reinforcement (reward) for good ones. If I design a good fleet, I get honor. If the fleet was bad, well, no harm no foul. Please hang up and try again. There is no sense of “Well, since you screwed up that mission, you can’t use these ships anymore.”

It sounds like that’s present in the campaign (which I haven’t picked up yet; unemployment really sucks), which makes sense; however, the fleets you face weren’t built in that paradigm, which seems to be a recurring theme in a lot of the threads I’ve read over the last couple of days. I don’t know that there’s a fix for that, in all honesty. Frankly, the only place where I’ve seen a decent population of fleets that don’t fit the rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock paradigm of the challenge list is in the mission scenarios. And I know better than to suggest some of those fleets get put into the campaign mix since most everyone who mentions them in these forums does so by elucidating how easy they are.

Of course, since some of the “complaints” about GC are that its difficulty is hit-or-miss, maybe it’s not as bad an idea as I thought. Sorry if this is too rambling for anyone.

It’s early days yet, but I certainly agree the campaign isn’t immediately satisfying. Too often the strategy devolves into going away and getting a bigger hammer; and conversely many of the fleets you end up fighting reflect someone else going away and getting a bigger hammer, clearly “Auto-Deploy, Auto-Range, off I go”.

A radical proposal would be to abandon the deployment screen altogether. Instead ship classes would be assigned deployment orders - things like “front and centre”, “left wing”, etc. Conventional battle orders would need a bit of work; for example the Escort and Formation orders would need a framework for saying “Escort a ship of class X”.

However, that would mean that instead of fighting a specific fleet someone had deployed, you’d fight their fleet concept. The game would then take note of the typical percentages of ship classes you used in actions you fought and upload that; then fleets similar to ones you used would be assembled to size for other players.

This leads fairly directly into a more obvious campaign game where enemy forces are not so assembled out of whole cloth. Let us view political blocs corresponding to the races on the campaign map; when I fight in Alliance territory, or get invaded from it, I will most likely fight a fleet based on information from an Alliance player.

What’s the motivation here? The generated fleet can be based on a mix of ship classes and orders from more than one player. At a stroke, it becomes relatively unlikely that, say, a pure rocket fighter fleet will be generated.

Don’t like anxiety? Maybe a nice game of chutes-N-ladders is more your speed. :slight_smile:

Anxiety might be too negative. Please substitute EXCITEMENT instead. Sorry for my poor choice of term there.

Contrast that with the fun-for-quite-awhile feeling of puzzle-solving in regular GSB online challenge play, which all too easily can slip into oh-not-another-frakking-corner-packed-missile/plasma-spam fleet ZZZzzzzzzzzz.

Of course, in Campaign-flavored GSB, the negative feeling can end up being oh-crap-that-was-40-weeks-of-production-that-just-got-nuked. So the good comes with a decaying quantum pus-blister ablation sphere.


Personally I don’t like the campaign much. Not being able to adjust the fleet pigeon hole the only winning strategy to preserve and outnumber. Rush becomes practically pointless, and pure long range has too much weaknesses. So we are left with a standard counter rush with armored wall, or fighter spam. Not to mention that you are pretty much stuck with the same fleet for the whole game.

Red, i respectfully submit you’re wrong about fighters. The thing about a fighter swarm is if you use cruisers at ALL, you’re doing it wrong. my fighter swarm eats alliance armor tanks alive, for under 5% losses net on average.

EDIT I generally stop after i capture 2-3 worlds with my fighters and sim for 10 turns of so of credits, then PURE fighter production to make sure my swarm is always growing. By the time i finished my last campaign my fast missile cruiser fleet had 160.000 hp, and my fighter swarm had nearly 52.000. At ~36 hp per fighter… the numbers are in the fighter’s favor, always :stuck_out_tongue: Like I said, send me a challenge that can have 1000+ fighters on it and you’ll see what i mean

It is true I haven’t yet tried the “all fighters, all day” approach, but I have seen 8 squadrons take on 6 cruisers and not scratch them until a cruiser gets in range to ding the armor. I suppose the 8-10 more squadrons I could have had at that point might have made a difference, esp. if I’d thrown in some different kinds of fighters to either drop shields or create even more overwhelming lucky shot chances…

BUT if that’s the only way to overcome the uber-armor random fleet, that pretty much helps prove my point–that rotating random fleetness will inevitably put up the paper that wraps your rock, unless you hyper-specialize so much that your BIG ROCK can shrug off the smaller paper.

And, just a personal note on aesthetics, while pure fighter spam gets the job done (I take your word for it), the last thing I want to do is play a campaign that takes hours and hours and watch a gazillion fighter-swarm battles. Variety is the atomic spice of GSB battle life, they say.


Just to add another point about how “do it all with fighters” is perhaps not a desirable situation - I have on occasion run challenges with obscene numbers of fighters (figure 15-20 full squads on each side, minimum). I don’t do those anymore because the playback is at best choppy, and twice it managed to crash the whole game. To put it bluntly, I don’t like the idea that the only tactic that consistently works is the only tactic that my computer is unable to handle. I could always adjust the screen so that the computer doesn’t have to render the twelve million fighters and all their attendant effects (this does keep the poor beast from going into meltdown), but if I can’t watch the GSB battle, I might as well play MoO II which won’t cost me any additional money.

Well my “standard counter rush with armored wall”, is heavily reliant on Fast Missiles and I have some plasma mixed in to drop shields of well defended “counter rush” fleets (guidance scrambler beam defence). And I back it with tethered fighters.

As for the “all fighter” model, I have found an inprovement to it. Add in Speed 1.15+ ion cannon frigates to drop shields. A spam of fighters and fast ion frigates wins with less losses than straight fighters. Either way the fighter battles are boring from a combat perspective, economically it can be tense/entertaining.

But the point made by the two before me is well made - you play the same fleet throughout the campaign, and that fleet wins by “achieve overwhelming force” tactic. Preserve and Outnumber.

I do have a question here - is that not the inevitable result of adding an economy to any wargame? You always have to kill more with less to win. What makes this interesting in GSB is that before the campaign and if not playing a DuelDown you could spend more and win. Also you were only playing against a rock or a paper or a scissors, so if you were spending less you only had to defeat that one fleet. Now you must beat all these fleets with one.

What fundamental change could we make to improve this situation?

The problem isn’t winning, the problem is winning random fleets with a high ratio for the next fight. And as you already discovered, the best cruiser based strategy is a near stationary fleet with long range, some tanks, and a few CL to defend against a rush. After that it’s just repetition.

First, I proposed a high scrap return. 100% for easy, 75% for normal, 50% for hard. This way you can switch your fleet whenever you wanted to.

Second, a given region should have similar random attacking fleets. So defense can be design specific for that region. Rather than rely solely on outnumbering.

Third, defending fleets should remain the same, but are significantly larger than the random attacking fleets.

Forth, significantly increase resource production and upkeep (by 5x). This allows players to build a fleet quickly, at the same time limit the total amount of ships.

I like your ideas. I have a few as well (each “idea” is a different “game”):

Idea #1:

  1. You don’t move ships you move production. You build a fleet for every battle from your ship designs, up to, the production you have on that planet.

1.a) Killed (or wounded, if you lose) ships are lost after a battle (and their production cost is lost from your stores). All other ships are converted back to production.

1.b) Production is credits and crew, which you have to manage/move/deploy.

Idea #2:
2) You still build ships like in the current game.

2.a) When a fleet attacks you, you have to assemble a fleet from your existing ships in that system, up to the value of the attacking fleet (credits/crew/hit points are all possible limiters). This is the “system edge” battle.

2.b) If you lose that battle, you again assemble a fleet from the ships you have in-system, but not ANY of the ships used in the first battle (same equal size limitation). Attacking fleet is repaired! This is the “mid-system” battle.

2.c) Finally, last ditch defend the planet battle - you can use everything you have left, against the repaired attacking fleet.

2.d) To prevent people from holding everything to the last battle you MUST put up at least 90% of the attacking force in the “system edge” and “mid-system” battles.

2.e) Attacking works like this: you assemble three battle groups who fight the defending fleet (copied three times). You have to win 2 out of 3 to take the system. Surviving ships show at the system. If you lose two, surviving ships from all three battles automatically retreat. Battle groups have to be 33% balanced (as close as possible).

After about 3.5 hours on the Fighter theory: it sure as hell works better than building a more traditional fleet. By week 33 I owned three systems, by week 90 I owned 5, and the only significant losses were vs. heavily armored cruiser fleets that made the battle last so long that half a dozen fighter squadrons went phhhht! when the AI decided the battle was over–and handed me a loss despite the fact I was ahead in both cases. Note to self; faster on the retreat button if the enemy cruisers aren’t melting away fast enough. Had to build cruisers for the final system adjacent to homeworld, but by that time it was a matter of saving up for a mere 20 or so weeks and kabam kaboom, had enough left to make it to the type B shipyard and voila makin’ fighters on the far side of the “no fighter” anomaly.

On the other hand, not nearly as interesting as fighting with more typical fleets. . .


I’ve started building my normal cruiser fleet, and using the fighter fleet to capture stuff. And how big was your swarm? Heavily armored cruisers should last no more then 30 seconds at x4, simply because you have so many co-operating that the lucky shots kill it

Maybe my Fed fighters aren’t manly enough, but I definitely run into ships that take a loooong time to pop under fighter pressure. I can win easily with fighter to enemy fleet hp ratios of 1 to 4, but sometimes a fleet pops up that takes a 2-1 ratio. I run my laser fighters at minimum range, 100, and rockets at close to 280, their actual minimum. Ramcat, I think, suggested including ion frigates to help break that almost-stalemate. . .

I also ran into a Nomad Frigate fleet that was curiously immune to fighters; turns out 3xShield II’s on a frigate do a good job of fending off fire. . .