Over the past few weeks I had been thinking of ways to improve upon the space battle mechanics and add depth to the system as a whole in true Paradox fashion. My ideas boiled down to three key features: Morale, Flagships & Admirals, and Boarding. Long post, so tldr; Paradox should add in Morale, Flagships, and Boarding with interesting mechanics tied to them.
It is about time a mainstay in just about every Paradox game makes a return to Stellaris. The concept of morale I propose is fairly simple. Morale is called Fleet Morale and is the overall level of the battle group, not the individual ships. There is a base value and through repeatable techs, morale can be increased (for the role-players view this is accomplished through propaganda, training, discipline, and ethics). It is not enough to just have morale, the mechanic has to do something tangible and be susceptible to internal and external factors. The following are the main factors of the morale system:
Combat effectiveness (i.e. fire rate, damage, accuracy, and evasion). All the current base combat modifiers can be influenced through the morale system: the higher the morale the more effective your battle group, the lower your morale the less effective and can increase the potential for other actions that I will outline below.
Be influenced by battle losses and pre-battle fleet size/composition (though I admit this second one is more difficult to implement). As your fleet engages with the enemy and begins to lose ships, the amount of ships and classes should directly decrease the overall morale of the battle group decreasing effectiveness. This could compound with the damage system currently implemented. The second point is from pre-battle fleet size/composition. Sometimes, even the most hardened and technologically superior force is outmatched by the sheer numbers of the enemy and can play havoc on the morale of soldiers. This same concept can be incorporated into the morale of the battle group by decreasing the overall morale by a certain percentage before the official engagement has commenced. Think of it analogous to the battle progress bar we currently have. Finding a way to have that tie into a morale meter could be interesting.
Desertion and disengagement can also be impacted by morale. Currently, as a ship’s health becomes too low there is a chance it can disengage from battle, a different form of the retreat button. Desertion and disengagement would rely upon the morale, with disengagement still taking the ship’s health into account too. However, once morale drops below a certain threshold, say 35%, you have an increasingly small, really small, but still there chance that a random ship will up and leave. Gone. Where the ship went, I do not know. The game could just delete the ship, could join the other side, or randomly reappear as a pirate at some later time. That would be up to the developers.
Flagships and admirals, something I will touch upon in the next section, would also impact morale and battle efficiency. Again, the concept is rather simple. Each fleet is commanded by an admiral that is assigned to a specific, player chosen, ship. The presence of an admiral increases the max morale of the whole fleet. When an admiral is assigned to the fleet, the chosen ship becomes the flagship. If the flagship commanding the fleet is destroyed in pitched combat along with the admiral, this should be seen as a morale debuff. Akin to the Romans losing the eagle standard. Essentially, you have lost the pride of the fleet as well as the commanding staff and most senior officer (perhaps). Unless the admiral escapes or another junior officer takes his place (through weighted percentages) your fleet is now at a significant morale disadvantage.
Flagships & Admirals
The concept of flagships is not a new one, but combined with the morale mechanic would provide a unique feature that can then be further fleshed out depending upon ethics and civics. The primary goal of a flagship is to represent some form of command structure in each fleet tied to a specific ship not somehow detached from the group as they are now.
Centralized command allows for more coordinated attack patterns, focused fire, and accuracy on targets. Combat stats, evasion, accuracy, fire rate, and damage can be given a buff as long as the admiral and flagship are still in battle (i.e. did not disengage), as well as the morale boost mentioned above due to their presence.
Admirals can have a larger set of traits since they can be assigned to a specific ship. Some may be better suited for corvettes, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, or titans. On top of the other generalized bonuses in game, these class specific bonuses can give useful boons to the ships of that class in the fleet. This would allow you to have some specialized fleet compositions and give greater variety to the admirals and traits.
The loss of a flagship negatively impacts morale of that fleet, so if multiple fleets are engaged, only one is impacted. If multiple fleets are engaged it is possible to have that debuff reduced if another admiral in another fleet is present.
The loss of a flagship means a large chance for your admiral dying while commanding the ship. The old moniker, a captain goes down with his ship comes to mind. This death percentage would be higher in the early game, but I was thinking with techs that increase survivability (i.e. engineers found out that placing the escape pods closer to the bridge means a better chance at living) the admiral of the fleet can stay alive and ‘hop’ aboard another nearby vessel. I was thinking 25% survivability early game increasing to 75% by late game with 10 5% repeatable techs.
If an admiral does not survive, there is a smaller chance that a junior officer takes command of a ship (the ship does not become a flagship while in battle, this is a player chosen action) reducing the moral impact of losing the flagship and admiral.
This brings me to my final topic of boarding. Each fleet should have a static percentage value of capturing an enemy ship while in combat. Capturing an enemy ship would be restricted to not include crisis ships, the Khan’s ship, creatures, and most event spawned ships, but Fallen Empires can be fair game. No colossus! Anyways, through repeatable techs, the chance to board ships can be increased but this overall fleet value should not exceed say 5-10% as capturing every ship in the enemy fleet doesn’t seem right even if it would be fun.
The process by which your fleet would capture a ship would depend on the capture percentage, the distance your ships are to theirs, admirals, and morale. Distance to ships might be restricted to the lowest range value of weapons in game. This would prevent a fleet from potentially capturing a ship as soon as they engage another fleet. Second, admirals with a capturing trait or nations who specialize in raiding could get a boost to the capture percentage. Lastly, morale should impact the potential to board and capture a ship as they might be more likely to surrender and put up a fight. So, say you did capture a ship, what now? Well you have a couple options.
As the ship would still be engaged in a battle, the captured ship would have a debuff to combat effectiveness. Hard to operate those alien controls if they don’t know how to work the controls well on a limited crew and on a damaged ship. But you have essentially robbed the enemy of a ship.
After the battle is where the main choices happen. You can either send the ship to one of your shipyards and either retrofit/repair the ship and after some time, press it into service. You cannot alter the weapons mounted on the ship (perhaps? Maybe this could be possible).
OR, you can escort the ship to your shipyard where you can dismantle it. Dismantling a ship will refund you a number of alloys, sciences, and progress towards ONE technology that you do not have that was found on that ship. This would be similar to scanning debris but better. As an added bonus, capturing larger ships can increase the tech progress further.
Obviously, numbers would have to be tweaked for all of these proposed ideas, but they would give the current combat system more depth, something we all agree is needed. Let me know what you think, expand on what I have proposed, suggest your own, have at it.
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