June 19, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 13

In our journey through Aurora so far, we've covered everything from the basics of the economy to the details of the ship logistics systems. But while I've spent about half of the series talking about how to build warships, I haven't really discussed tactics that much, and with good reason. Basically, your meaningful tactical options are fairly limited, because the AI isn't smart enough to appreciate it, and the game itself isn't really set up to support it.

Let me start by saying that any tactic which requires so much micromanagement you don't use it is a bad tactic. To give an example, I once came up with the idea of thickening my AMM defenses by fitting 3 AMMs as a second stage on a size-1 booster and firing that out of my size-4 missile launchers that I used for anti-ship missiles. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but then I realized that it wasn't going to work for several reasons. First, the game isn't set up to fire less than 1 AMM at each incoming missile, and it would count each pod as a single AMM. So I would be effectively shooting 3:1, gross overkill with the AMMs I had, and if I wanted to use it, I'd have to fire them manually. This would be a ton of work. Second, the pod would also count as an AMM for the game's automatic targeting, even though it had the anti-missile properties of a ball of paper. The second problem could be dealt with to some extent (raise the speed of the pod to get it to "intercept" earlier and have an inner ring of 2v1 AMMs), but the first one would have required so much micromanagement that I threw the idea away and moved on. Before you get fancy, it's a good idea to know how much micromanagement you're willing to tolerate and make sure this won't breach the limit.

The second thing is to set up your fire controls. This is done for each ship individually in the Ship Combat tab of the Naval Organization window. Note that you have to click on a ship for this tab to populate correctly. It's a click and drag interface, and I really wish we had the old one back because you could multi-select. The best way to start is the Auto FC button, which generally produces a reasonable best guess as to the layout you want. It's not perfect, and I've even had the auto-assignment screw up and lose some of my missile launchers, but it's usually a good place to start. You can set weapon assignments, ECCM assignments, and even what missiles go in what tubes. When you have one you like, you can just copy it to the entire fleet or every ship of the class anywhere using the buttons on the right. This screen is also where you set targeting during battle. You'll drag possible contacts to the fire controls, or just use the auto-assign function. And don't forget to open fire.

So what does a typical Aurora battle look like? It's really quite simple. You enter a star system that you've decided is yours, active sensors on and engines blazing, and make for a planet. Unfortunately, the inhabitants are under some misapprehension as to the ownership, and when they see you, they send their fleet, or at least part of it, out to fight.1 The AI isn't great, so they'll probably charge right in.2 The AI fleet will usually have six or more types of ships, but they basically all split into one of five categories: offensive and defensive missile and beam ships, and jump ships, some of which are armed and some of which aren't.

And the AI's algorithm is pretty much just to fire weapons at you if you're in range. First, you'll see their offensive missiles. Not all of them at once, as there are limits to prevent gross overkill, so these tend to come in waves. If you find that time is only advancing 15 or 20 seconds per click, no matter what button you choose, this is a good sign that the enemy is launching missiles. You'll see them soon enough, and if your missile defenses are decent, you should be able to handle them. Of course, once you shoot those down, more will follow. If you have missiles of your own, you may or may not see the enemy's offensive missiles (although I would warn strongly against any strategy which assumes you definitely won't) but if not, then you face their AMMs. These are probably the most annoying layer. They're fast and fire in much greater quantity, so they're a lot more likely to break through and get his. Fortunately they're pretty minor hits, but it's still annoying. Worse than that, penetrating the AMM ring takes a long time relative to the number of AMMs they're firing at you. In the past, I've used the handful of missile ships in my beam-heavy fleet to snipe the enemy's AMM platforms just to save myself the annoyance. And then you're into beam range, where they'll blast away with whatever they have.

So how do you respond? Again, there's nothing too complicated here. If you're under missile attack, turning away from the enemy can help by reducing the effective closure rate. It doesn't make your AMMs or beam weapons more likely to hit directly, but it does give your AMMs (and any area defense weapons you may have) more time to fire, and it might increase your tracking bonus, depending on your sensors and tracking tech. Fortunately 1.12 fixed the bug where missile and area FCs wouldn't fire unless you set them to fire manually.

If you're targeting your own offensive missiles, the big questions are what to shoot at, and how many salvoes to throw at once. The first is easy. If you can identify them, shoot at missile defense platforms first, then at missile ships. The game will sometimes tell you what weapons a ship has if you're close enough when it uses them. Look under the intelligence window (Alien icon in the top bar) and see the classes available for the relevant race. If you haven't gotten close enough to get that data, then you'll need to base the decision off information you do have, specifically the strength of their active sensors. Used to, you got this information automatically, but that's changed and you now need ELINT modules and time. Fortunately, there's still a way to figure it out in action. You can see a value called GPS (Grav Pulse Strength) for the enemy's sensors. This is equal to the sensor size x the tech used to make it x the resolution. Because of the way sensors scale, this basically means that every missile defense sensor is much lower GPS than any big-ship sensor. In one test, I found that a 10 HS R1 sensor had the same range as a .2 HS R100 sensor, and half the GPS. The AI doesn't do anything like fitting a big sensor to an AMM ship to mess with your targeting plans, so look for the ship classes with smaller sensors (or no sensors you've picked up at long range) and target them first.

More information can be gained as you damage your targets. While you can't see the exact weapons the enemy is using, you can pick out how many hits they get on your incoming missiles and what type (nuclear or energy hits, and how strong). If one type falls off after you blow up a specific ship, you probably know what kind of ship it was.

Oh, and one more thing. The system that sets up the sub-intervals isn't all that smart, which can be either good or bad for you. On the bad side, it's easy for the system to overshoot and dump you out at range zero from your target, which can be a major problem if you were, say, planning to fight at longer range.3 To avoid this, just pick a time interval shorter than the time you have left until you reach the target (displayed for each fleet on the system map, and yes, this does account for the other fleet's movement). On the other hand, this exact same behavior can be useful if you have a beam-focused fleet and want to avoid a long, tedious slog through the other fleet's AMM fire. Of course, this doesn't apply just to ships, and if your missiles are fast enough and you're using long intervals, you can find them skipping all defenses except the CIWS on the target.

That's really it for tactics, and for warfare in general, unless I get some new ideas on it. Next time, we'll return to economics and colonization.

1 In my recent C# games, I've found the AI to make a habit of splitting its fleet into three or four different groups, even in its home system. This is usually quite good for you, who can defeat them in detail.

2 You can also exploit this to pull them off a jump point. Slip a ship into the system before the war begins, and have it get within sensor range of the JP and turn on its transponder. They'll go to chase it, and you can pop right in with less risk of getting into a knife fight.

3 The minimum ranges you can enter in the Naval Operations window don't seem to be working as of v1.11.


  1. June 19, 2020bean said...

    Also, as this series is wrapping up, Part 14 will be up a week from today, instead of going up on Monday.

  2. June 19, 2020ADifferentAnonymous said...

    The footnotes seem to be missing.

  3. June 19, 2020bean said...

    Not any more, they aren't.

  4. June 27, 2020bean said...

    I've added an extra paragraph to this post, discussing tactical use of the clock.

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