FWC II - Drones

Started by Big Insect, 30 January 2024, 12:02:43 PM

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Big Insect

A very topical issue at present anyway, but I am working on the creation of a new Unit type (&/or upgrade) for FWCII (Draft) at present. So here are some thoughts, so far ...

Do we classify Drones in FWC II as:

a) one-off (single effect) weapons that are destroyed when used/explodes, but needing to be successfully guided (with Command orders) to a target - with the drone operating/Command unit not requiring LoS - but the weapon itself being classified as an Expendable unit (so no + to the army Break Point but no detriment when lost)?
They are likely to able to be classified as a variety of unit Profiles (Small and Average being the most likely/common) and could be any mode of movement (ground based, hover, grav, aerial, aquatic etc). NB: I am not that convinced that allowing Stealthed or Adaptive Camo'd or even Teleported drone will be a good idea (but I am open to being convinced?).

or

b) do we classify them as a single shot distance 'weapon' being delivered by a launcher/vehicle (on or off-table), possibly in addition to a vehicle/units other primary & secondary weapons (on table)? This would need to be on a LoS basis probably?

or

c) maybe a combination of the two above?

or

d) maybe as a form of off-table asset - purchased for use as a pre-planned strike?

The challenge we are seeing with Drones (in Ukraine & the Red Sea) is that whilst smaller aerial drones can pack a reasonable punch (enough to damage/disable a hugely expensive MBT or even set an oil-tanker alight) they are relatively cheap (especially in comparison with some of the current anti-air weaponry being used against them) but they are not really a 'game-changer' on their own. Once an MBT is disabled by a drone (flight of drones) a spotter drone (FAO to you & I) then guides in the MRLs or 155/152mm artillery to blow it to bits. Similarly in the Red Sea, the idea appears to be that a target or its defender is swarmed by small drones and then a larger ballistic anti-shipping missile is used to attempt to finish it off.

So getting that balance right in FWCII is going to be interesting, as I am not convinced that a game dominated by a lot of small semi-autonomous weapons will actually be that much fun, TBF  :D

One option with Drones is to only give them the ability to 'Suppress' an Armoured targets - rather than actually inflict potential hits damage? But again, that really depends upon the scale of the done and its target. Which might be best handled on a list-by-list basis. But the idea that a single 'small profile' aerial drone might be able to suppress a Massive Walker (for example) needs to be managed with great care. 

However, we are (as is usual with military 'arms-races') starting to see a range of 'close-defense' anti-drone systems being developed/deployed to counteract smaller drones (such as the new UK DragonFire lazer, for example) or even to protect AFVs from antipersonnel attacks in built-up areas (such as the Israeli semi-autonomous turrets on some of their very heavy IFVs).

The intention with 'Massive' profile units within FWCII is to allow them to rack-up considerably more hits and to carry far more weapons/technology than they do currently in FWCI. All at an appropriate cost increase of course. So adding anti-drone systems as unit upgrades will be possible.
And other defensive bits of tech, such as anti-mine systems (such as the equivalent of Vehicle Magnetic Signature Duplicator (VEMSID) or Surface Clearance Device (SCD) or their FWC equivalents) can be carried by units, but there will be a balance between offensive and defensive weaponry/technology.
As has always been the case in armoured warfare - the balance between armour/defence, offensive weaponry and speed is a key guiding principle in the core mechanism within the rules.

But I'd be interested in thoughts, views, ideas and suggestions please
Many thanks
Mark
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Orcs

I think you drones essentially come in three main types. Drones as used by in the Red sea are I think a subset of the suicide drone.

Observation drones.

These should be covered under the recce/spotting rules. Represented by a model or  marker that can be targeted if spotted. If you have electronic blocking this could simply be a "no go" zone. They are hard to hit but very fragile.

Suicide drones

From talking to a friend who regularly takes aid into the eastern parts of Ukraine, the suicide drones are normally easy to spot as they are relatively low flying to enable identification of targets. They linger looking for what the operator thinks is a worthy target. I would make them reasonably easy to spot, but tricky to hit as they are relatively small. They can cause suppression as people are reluctant to move about or gather together when they are about, for fear of becoming a target. (If they are about my friend only allows one person at a time to come to his van).

Distraction drones.

I think these should reduce the chance of a hit on incoming missiles. 

Unmanned Pilotless vehicles.

As their name suggests these are planes without a pilot, so should be counted as aircraft.


That's my thoughts. So to answer your question.


Observation drones.

Use recce/spotting rules.

Suicide Drones.

a) one-off (single effect) weapons that are destroyed when used/explodes, but needing to be successfully guided (with Command orders) to a target - with the drone operating/Command unit not requiring LoS - but the weapon itself being classified as an Expendable unit (so no + to the army Break Point but no detriment when lost)?

 
Designate them small /Medium /large and give them attack values accordingly.
 
Small  -adapted small commercial drones carrying a grenade or 2" mortar round size bomb. Can destroy/suppress Soft targets but only supress armoured targets.

Medium - adapted larger commercial drone carrying several mortar shells, minigun or pack of C4 explosive . For ease I would class them as single shot discharging all ammo at single target. Can destroy soft target relatively easily. Will only suppress or immobilise Armour

Large - Military suicide drone like Shahaad which carries 110lb bomb. Capable of destroying armour.

Distraction drones

Again one off weapon, bought as an upgrade to a missile unit in the same way as assets are bought for artillery.  Player can then allocate a number of distraction drones when firing a missile, making it harder to intercept the missile.

On a general note I would limit the number of drones allowed. While they are widely used in Ukraine the attack drones are normally used by trained operators in semi specialised units, whereas observations drones are often privately purchased by the soldiers and used by the buyer.
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fred.

Interesting thoughts - and I think really important for Future War Commander - not much SciFi has used drones like they are currently being used. The books with the largest use of drones that I can think of is the Culture series by Iain M Banks - but they are sentient and in the books involved much more at a skirmish level. 

Current drone usage is perhaps at a peak as counter measures are pretty limited and ad hoc (quite a bit of the drone usage seems to be improvised as well). In FWC I guess both sides could have drones and anti-drone technology and it is the gap in the two levels that is significant, otherwise they will tend to cancel each other out. 

Ordering drones into attack feels in keeping with FWC and these feel like the ones to represent on the battlefield. Recce and Distraction uses both feel like upgrades. 

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Quote from: fred. on 30 January 2024, 07:27:09 PMInteresting thoughts - and I think really important for Future War Commander - not much SciFi has used drones like they are currently being used. The books with the largest use of drones that I can think of is the Culture series by Iain M Banks - but they are sentient and in the books involved much more at a skirmish level.


Erm...
Neal Asher has some REALLY impressive war drones in his books.
I mean, they are designed to take on adult Prador 1:1!

Try Prador Moon or Weaponised.
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Leon

I think I see them  in two ways:

- As disruptors, using light weaponry to make minor hits on enemy units to cause Suppression.
- As Recce units, flying around the table to spot enemy units and relay that back to the medium/heavy guns.

We do have some larger ones in the new ranges that could carry heavier weapons and make full attacks though. 

I did wonder whether we should make some little movement trays specifically for the drones, where you can 'deploy' your drones on their own bases and leave the operators back behind the line.
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Big Insect

31 January 2024, 10:34:44 AM #5 Last Edit: 31 January 2024, 10:51:52 AM by Big Insect
Many thanks all - most interesting and much appreciated.

Recce Drones will actually behave exactly like Recce units do already in FWC - so no need for changes there  :)

Larger Combat Drones (like the Asher 'scorpion' drones or 'Culture' ones*) I have always seen as autonomous units anyway - the fact that they are AI driven or 'live being' commanded (or 'flash-frozen' Prador ganglion controlled!!!) is of no particular relevance in the FWC universe. Using the correct Tac.Doc. for Droid/Cyber factions allows for an entire army of such drones to be deployed. But these would count towards army BP and losses - just like 'ordinary' units. They would need to be Commanded, but being 'autonomous' there is no command penalty for distance applied.
(*NB: some of the culture drones are the size of pin-heads or small knives - but I think we'll need to accept that depicting these is probably unrealistic on a 10mm table-top  :D )

The 'challenge' for me was around the 'controlled' weaponized drones (the 'disruptors' as Orcs so eloquently puts it) - such as we are currently seeing in the Ukraine & Red Sea conflicts. Small drones, often with a heavy 'punch', but operating in swarms. Fred's point about weapons and counter-measures is very appropriate and needs to be taken into account. And that can be factored in quite well.
They are (in FWC terms) quite primitive weaponry, but need to be included and I am leaning towards them being controlled by spotters and acting like one-shot disposable weapons. Again, they would be 'autonomous' and as the 'controller' is using the drone as their eyes-&-ears no LoS would be required.  However, to allow an opponent to effectively shoot them down or deploy countermeasures a path of attack needs to be plotted initially. But I am working on this mechanism. I don't want to make this too complex or to dominate game-play and it also needs to be workable.

More thoughts welcomed  :)
Cheers
Mark
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fred.


QuoteErm...
Neal Asher has some REALLY impressive war drones in his books.
I mean, they are designed to take on adult Prador 1:1!

Try Prador Moon or Weaponised.
I've forgotten or not read those particualr Asher books - but those type of drones do sound like an AFV in FWC terms. Which just makes it another unit. Perhaps with different morale or breakpoint rules. 


It's really the small drones that are seeing a lot of current use that seems to have been missed in SciFi. These almost feel like a munition rather than a unit?
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Big Insect

Quote from: fred. on 31 January 2024, 06:50:56 PMIt's really the small drones that are seeing a lot of current use that seems to have been missed in SciFi. These almost feel like a munition rather than a unit?

That's where I am ending up as well Fred  :D  - munitions rather than units - so Leon's idea of 'swarms' of them attacking and distracting (& doing some damage) to larger units makes a lot of sense. I can see an additional sales line in the new Pendraken sci-fi range lists (extra drones - hordes of 'em sah!)
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Ithoriel

I have been wondering about using drones in my 5 Parsecs games.

I envisaged a swarm of them consisting of a small number of micro-drones half a metre, or so, across with a much bigger cloud of cigarette packet sized nano-drone decoys as ablative armour absorbing incoming shots and detaching to harass enemies targetting the swarm.

Interconnected by short range, hi-tec, futuristic versions of Bluetooth and with blockchain type security shared throughout the swarm.

I envisaged modelling it on the table in a fashion similar to the bat swarms from the Pendraken fantasy section.

The model would have one or two dice holders giving 6 or 12 shots before the swarm is exhausted and removed.

Successful hits would also reduce the number of shots remaining.

If any of that is remotely useful here feel free to pillage it!
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Big Insect

Many thanks - the 'swarm' idea works well  :)
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Shedman

Observation Drones: catered for under existing Recce rules

Attack Drones: I see these as one-off weapons - otherwise they are just like standard units, eg Cybernetic Species X31 aka Tau, so why bother having a separate category for them

Definitely: Independent & Expendable
Possibly: Sniper teams, Low Profile, Fast, Fearless

Big Insect

Quote from: Shedman on 02 February 2024, 08:44:29 AMObservation Drones: catered for under existing Recce rules

Attack Drones: I see these as one-off weapons - otherwise they are just like standard units, eg Cybernetic Species X31 aka Tau, so why bother having a separate category for them

Definitely: Independent & Expendable
Possibly: Sniper teams, Low Profile, Fast, Fearless

Interesting ideas - thank you I'd like to be having Drone guidance teams (maybe the FAOs?) to operate some types - obviously those run by Cybernetic or Droid armies wouldnt necessarily need them.
'He could have lived a risk-free, moneyed life, but he preferred to whittle away his fortune on warfare.' Xenophon, The Anabasis

This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. Remember that dyslexics are often high-level conceptualisers who provide "out of the box" thinking.

Ithoriel

I've been thinking about this ... procrastination is a wonderful source of inspiration!

Drones as a unit upgrade? My swarm ideas were designed for small scale skirmish but on the battlefield would it make sense for units to have drones allocated in the same way as BKC bazookas and panzerfausts?

An activated unit with recce drones can, instead of moving or firing, declare itself as having the recce ability.

An activated unit with an attack drone could use that rather than it's AT stat. Lots of "Bang!" but subject to defensive fire like an aircraft?

Just some idle thoughts, really.
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Big Insect

Quote from: Ithoriel on 02 February 2024, 12:50:31 PMI've been thinking about this ... procrastination is a wonderful source of inspiration!

Drones as a unit upgrade? My swarm ideas were designed for small scale skirmish but on the battlefield would it make sense for units to have drones allocated in the same way as BKC bazookas and panzerfausts?

An activated unit with recce drones can, instead of moving or firing, declare itself as having the recce ability.

An activated unit with an attack drone could use that rather than it's AT stat. Lots of "Bang!" but subject to defensive fire like an aircraft?

Just some idle thoughts, really.

All good thoughts - adding the Recce ability to a unit is an interesting idea. In CWC units can be classified as 'Recce Support' that allows them to operate and behave with some of the abilities of a full Recce Unit (for an additional cost - like an upgrade) - so that might work.

Similarly adding 'Attack Drones' as Upgrades to units also makes sense - as a 1-off attack weapon. An interesting idea. Thanks
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This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. Remember that dyslexics are often high-level conceptualisers who provide "out of the box" thinking.