June 08, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 10

Our recent look at missile combat in Aurora has rounded out our examination of the basics of warship design, so it's time to turn our attention to the various systems that I ignored for the sake of simplicity. Some of these are important for individual warships, while others are of more concern to the fleet as a whole.

One of these primarily fleet considerations is passive sensors, which come in two types: thermal and EM. Thermal sensors detect the heat of a ship's drives, while EM sensors primarily pick up the radiation from an enemy's active sensors and shields. Colonies and populations also have EM and thermal signatures, and a major colony can be detected at long range. Passives are far more important for the fleet as a whole than they are for individual ships, and I usually build dedicated scouts which not only operate with the fleet but also gather strategic information on potential enemies. It's also worth fitting any vessel that is likely to operate on its own (such as survey ships) with smaller passive sensors to make sure they aren't completely blindsided by the appearance of hostile aliens. At the very least, you'll know who did it and be able to recognize them if they do it again.

Related to the passive sensors are ELINT systems, which are used to gather information on enemy populations and systems. Exactly how this works is outlined here. These systems belong on specialized vessels, the Aurora equivalent of the AGIs that the Soviets were so fond of, although in practice I haven't found them to be all that useful. Diplomacy modules, which allow diplomatic contact between races, are of similar size and also should have specialized vessels.

Much more important on the individual ship level are two systems which can go a long way to improve survivability: shields and electronic warfare. Each shield unit has a specific number of points of damage it will absorb before it goes down, depending on its size and tech level. At low techs, this is not a large number, but as you move up the tree, it can become quite useful. Note that larger shield generators are more efficient, so a 20 HS generator will be about 40% stronger than two 10s. The downside is that all generators charge at the same rate, limiting long-term protection, and you lose redundancy. On the whole, shields are useful, but it's also possible to play without them.1

Electronic warfare falls into the same category, at least against the game's typical enemies.2 EW breaks down into Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) and Electronic Counter-Countermeasures (ECCM). Essentially, ECM makes you harder to hit, and ECCM counteracts the effects of enemy ECM. Each EW system has a rating from 1 to 10. Each point of ECM is a 10% penalty for beam weapons to hit, applied to whatever the to-hit chance is after range and speed are applied. So a ship with ECM 5 facing an enemy with no ECCM could sit at half the enemy's maximum fire-control range and be completely safe. Against missile fire control, ECM reduces the maximum range at which an MFC can target a ship by 10% for each point applied. It also penalizes the to-hit chance for missiles, although this is new in C# and I haven't played around with it enough to know exactly how. In all cases, a point of ECCM offsets a point of ECM.

For ships, EW systems come in three sizes: main (3 HS), compact (1 HS, max level is 1 below main) and small craft (.5 HS, max level is half of compact). A typical warship of mine has a main and a compact ECM (redundancy!), a main or two ECCM for the primary fire controls, and compacts for the secondary FCs. But the AI races generally don't invest heavily in this area, so it can be mostly ignored if you want. Missiles can have ECM and ECCM fitted, too, with each system taking 0.25 MSP and giving it a level equal to your racial tech in the relevant system. This is new in C#, and I haven't played with it that extensively, but it can make a big difference if you have the EW advantage, particularly if your missiles are fast enough to drive his hit percentage way down. ECM is a flat percentage point penalty, so a missile with ECM 3 against an opponent with a 25% chance to hit based on speed would be totally invincible.

So far, all of my discussion of warships has assumed that you're going for a fairly typical "big ship" paradigm. This reflects how I play, but Aurora does offer other options. Ships 1000 tons or less don't have to have a Bridge (an important part of the command system, which I'll discuss next time) and those below 500 tons are classed as fighters, and are built using factories instead of shipyards. Other than that, design of these craft is identical to bigger ships. You'll definitely have to sacrifice redundancy, although this is less important because the fleet will have so many more ships. Fighters and FACs (501-1000 tons) are generally armed with missiles in box launchers, although there's no technical restrictions on their armament beyond those imposed by size.

Obviously, if you have fighters, you'll need carriers, too, and boat and hangar bays are provided for just that purpose. Note that a ship can carry any combination of ships that are less than or equal to its hangar capacity, so a supercarrier with a 10,000 ton hangar could easily swallow a decent-sized warship. Any vessels inside a hangar have their crew taken care of, and will be repaired by the carrier's damage control systems. Box launchers are reloaded quickly, and the maintenance and deployment time clocks stop.3 Of course, the downside to all of this is that you have two sets of ships for one set of weapons. It's a viable strategy, but one I'm not fond of.

At this point, it's also worth circling back and talking a bit more about jump ships and jump points from a military perspective. It's easiest to force a jump point with beam weapons, although it can be done with missiles, as even mid-level tech will let you land outside beam range of anyone camped on the jump point reasonably reliably. In either case, your normal ships are probably fine, if coupled with specialized jump ships. These are great places to put fleet-level systems like big active sensors, as well as a nice chance to cover any gaps in the existing fleet. If you're missile-heavy, then a beam-armed jump ship could give some close-in firepower without needing another completely new design.

Jump ships are also a great place for flag bridges, which brings us to the last set of systems which can have a major effect on your warships - command and control. These allow you to appoint officers who can have a major impact on a vessel's performance. However, the command system in Aurora is a big enough topic we'll have to pick it up next time.

1 The changes in 2.2 probably increased the value of shields as a way of dealing with the leakers that the new missile defense model made inevitable.

3 There are caveats to both of these last statements. The maintenance clock doesn't stop in commercial hangar bays, which are meant more for building drydocks and stuff. The deployment time clock for the fighter stops, but the crew will still be affected if the carrier goes over its own deployment limit.


  1. June 09, 2020echo said...

    OT, but do you plan to detour back into economics at some point? It took me a restart to figure a few things out, like that the early bottleneck is construction speed on Earth.

    Planning ahead for mineral needs is hard, as is managing wealth. I've been trying to keep them slightly positive, but do I need to build up stocks of both for rushing a navy?

    Is it actually worth building terraforming early? Infrastructure is so cheap, and the civilian economy makes lots of it.
    If I understand the terraforming mechanic right, Mars won't drop below cost 2 until there's proper temps and a fully breathable atmosphere, right? So the investment has a much longer payback time than other options.

    Do you do all your production on Earth? I couldn't figure out how you'd organize stockpiles of every mineral on every world, so Earth became a factory shipping out buildings to colonies with spare labour.
    Obviously need fuel and supply depots in other systems. You said you don't like sorium harvesters--is there a better option?

    Still haven't built a warship yet >_>

  2. June 09, 2020bean said...

    A return to the economy wasn't in the plan, but it might be good to circle back and talk about it on a broader level.

    You'll need stocks of both, but ships take different minerals from infrastructure. I often find myself limited by Gallicite in particular there.

    Some of the building in the tutorial was set up for later stuff in the tutorial. Terraforming falls into that category. Game doesn't start you with any, but I needed them for later parts, so I had you build some.

    Mars will drop below 2 when the atmosphere is breathable, if the temp factor is below 2. Which it almost certainly will be if you use the right buffer gas.

    And I do the lion's share of my production on Earth. I'll do it in other systems if I can guarantee a supply of all minerals, but if not, I ship the minerals back to Earth and assemble them there.

    As for Sorium harvesters, I like them very much, so long as they're mine, and not the civilian ones. Those, I don't like, because they're a lot less useful than freighters or colony ships, and because they steal my Sorium.

  3. June 10, 2020echo said...

    Thanks. Luna hit 10mil, so now I'm googling "planetary protection value unrest aurora 4x" and trying to filter out the advice from 2011.
    I can't tell if it's easier to put a monitor in orbit or suppress the unrest with police units. Or what values mean what, how much PPV you need for a given pop, etc.

  4. June 10, 2020bean said...

    PPV is basically just how many HS of weapons you have on ships in the system. It shows up on the ship design screen for ships, and the required value is on the summary page of the economics window. Police can make it better, but not eliminate it entirely. For a pop that just crossed 10m, you'll be fine with a monitor or two.

  5. June 10, 2020echo said...

    Thanks, a 3kt missile cube worked nicely. I shipped a few maintenance facilities to Luna to support it, but setting up mass drivers to toss the right minerals back and forth between earth is difficult. And apparently there's no way to ship supplies directly?

    Thinking of doing another restart with real stars disabled to increase the planet/star ratio. Do you usually play that way?
    All 4 of Sol's points led to empty systems, and I haven't found a single breathable atmosphere 4 jumps out in any direction. Kinda disappointing.

  6. June 10, 2020bean said...

    Oh, PPV is a system stat, not restricted to any one planet. Park the missile cube at Earth. You can ship MSP, but it takes maintenance storage bays and a cargo shuttle bay to unload them. A lot of my tankers have this as a secondary role. (Post on that coming Monday.)

    I almost always play with real stars, and I'm not sure that . Looks like you got a fairly bad set of rolls on your systems, which happens. My usual response is to take what I've learned from that game and start a new one. Fully habitable planets are rare. In my last game, I had I think 2 in about 200 systems. Much more common are ones that are fairly easy to terraform. This could be anything from it having slightly too much or too little O2 to being the wrong temperature to not having enough water. Most of these can be rectified in a couple of years (not that long if you're playing a lower-end game) and if the atmosphere itself is breathable, you can basically end up not needing to ship in infrastructure as the colony cost falls.

  7. July 04, 2020bean said...

    I just got around to testing out missiles with ECM, and my goodness that made a difference. I was attacking a spoiler race that I had previously struggled to get salvoes through to. I was doing a side-by-side test of fast missiles (recently researched an engine upgrade) and missiles with ECM. Previously, I'd been getting ~6 missiles through out of a 72-missile salvo. Fast missiles got 20 through on the first test. They didn't shoot down a single one of the ECM missiles. Do note that I've got ECM 5 researched (vs ECCM 2) and my missiles are significantly faster than their tracking speed, so it's very possible that this is a case where it works really well. It probably wouldn't be nearly as effective against an equal opponent.

  8. October 31, 2020DuskStar said...

    Bit late, but worth mentioning - the link http://auxrora2.pentarch.org/index.php?topic=8495.msg109678#msg109678 doesn't resolve and should likely be http://aurora2.pentarch.org/index.php?topic=8495.msg109678#msg109678 (unless this was intentional)

  9. October 31, 2020bean said...

    No, that was probably a typo while I was putting the post together. Fixed now.

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