Sapphire Wyvern wrote:
Finding a way to break the initial 3-way deadlock is important as well. 3 player games of Magic: The Gathering are often dissatisfying because the winner is virtually always the person who has a reasonable early defense, to discourage attackers, and chooses to hold back.
It's a valid strategy. But it doesn't really matter. Empires will be so different (eg some low tech, others high tech) that the one who attacks first might not necesarily be at such a disadvantage.
The problem is that it's an overly
valid strategy. I, personally, find that while "last in, best dressed" is
very realistic, it usually detracts from the enjoyability of the game. Therefore, it's a good idea for us to provide incentives that make it beneficial
to get involved in the action, rather than always sitting back and waiting for other people to get impatient and start the firefight. Around the people I play with, we hate playing many games (M:TG, SMAC, MoO etc) in a 3-player environment because they so predictably devolve into sitting back and waiting to clean up the leftovers. (Aside: Settlers of Catan is a notable exception to that dynamic, which is one reason why it's such a great game).
Unless we give some careful thought to space combat design, the only situation in which attacking first will not
be a disadvantage will be if you can destroy the enemy fleet without any
expenditure of resources or accrued damage; in which case, the first combat you engage in is totally irrelevant (to you) and you are in the same position as if you had attacked last. While this is possible in very high-tech vs low-tech duels or other cases of total
dominance, that's not evidence that the game dynamic is good.
I'm not saying that we should totally disallow the strategy of sitting back and letting the others "go at it" first; it is indeed valid and very effective, and it should be a usable technique. What I am
saying is that it shouldn't be a dominant strategy
in the game theory sense, meaning guaranteed to be as good or better than any competing strategy. Taking the early damage and loss of resources (eg ammo) implied by actually engaging your enemies ought to bring some kind of reward to compensate for the loss of strategic position that your early commitment costs you. Perhaps we could award combat XP to crews in real time during a fight, so that engaging your enemies first will at least give you a chance to level up your crews before fighting the person who sat back? Another idea is to simply apply penalties to fights that go on too long; call it attrition or combat fatigue, to discourage time wasting.
While I've given some thought to encourage early activity in the macro game, I hadn't considered its applicability to space combat as well. Clearly, there is an opportunity here. Any other ideas?