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Red threats? Pah! (Also further notes on min/max Space Alert scores) - Chronicles of Harry

2013 Dec 28

20:09:00 - Red threats? Pah! (Also further notes on min/max Space Alert scores)

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Of course I'm writing more about Space Alert.

So yesterday there was a bunch of Space Alert with Mickey and Nick and Oren. Oren has the expansion, so we played with those cards in and with specializations and with variable-range interceptors[0]. (Mickey was captain, I was comms, Nick was security.)

First game was all yellow threats -- except serious internal, those were white. (Oren apparently thinks mixed decks are silly.) It went pretty well, so next game, why not? All yellow threats!

When that went pretty well too, there was only one thing to do... yup. Red threats. External only -- internal was still yellow. This went less well. We drew the Executioner, and despite Nick's warnings, I screwed up and ended up getting knocked out by it; we survived, but largely due to luck. And to avoid getting knocked out, we did have to miss the mouse in 2nd phase and eat a delay. Still, the Executioner isn't as scary as I thought it would be. (The Seeker still scares me though. We didn't draw that.)

Did we want to put in red internal? Should we? That last one was pretty shaky... well, Nick wanted to, so we did. Not red serious internal though. (Those are pretty much all terrifying.)

And, uh, we survived. Of course, it helped that the phasing troopers happened to pass X on a phase-in turn and stay in lower red. Still -- we survived! I'm wondering if I might have to get the expansion sooner than I was intending. (Well, it's out of print right now anyway; and hopefully in a second printing they'll have fixed the misprints.) (Also, we still haven't tried any *campaigns* at Truth House...)

...I suggested we go to *all* red threats, but that was not done.


1. Red threats are not as scary as they seem at first; most just require a bit of counting. Not that the people back at Truth House are at all ready for them. The serious red internals still seem terrifying though (and so does Seeker).

2. Energy management is different with this crew. We had Mickey as captain and designated energy person; he handled all that, though he didn't always update it on the board. You had questions about energy, you talked to him. Different from how we do it at Truth House, with always explicitly marking energy and not having any central person manage it. Both seem to work, but maybe depends who you have. Remember that I played with Space Alert with Mickey, Nick and Oren first, so I learned this way first; when I introduced the game at Truth House, and tried captaining and doing this, I failed pretty badly at it. As did everyone else who tried it.

3. White shield trick is a bit easier when you're playing with specializations and one player is an Energy Technician!

4. Let me say a bit more about specializations, actually. I actually played with specializations before playing with heroic actions, but very little; I didn't really get a feel for how they were different from the base game. So let me say more on that.

To a large extent I'm not really a fan -- Data Analyst and Energy Technician, for instance, remove the spatial aspect of cracking a canister or hitting the mouse, which I feel like is making things a bit too easy. On the other hand, interceptors become much more useful when you have a Squad Leader who can get to them instantly; they're a bit too hard to use in the base game, IMO (I've mentioned this before). Not sure how I feel about Rocketeer. One thing worth noting though is that while the Squad Leader can repair their battlebots anywhere, they can't do a heroic battlebot action! That ability, often so crucial in the base game, is missing if you're playing with specializations. Medic and Special Ops offer some ways to get some of the same effect, but at more of a cost. This might be a good change -- as I've said earlier, heroic battlebot actions often obviate any need to repair the battlebots. (But perhaps not if you're playing double-action missions. Which we weren't.)

(Naturally I think the whole sort-of-experience-system thing is pretty stupid. If I do get the expansion, and play with specializations, I think I'll do it as "one game with just basic to get used to it, then straight to level 3 all the time".)

I'm really unsure what to think of Hypernavigator; we didn't play with one this time. (Mickey was Energy Technician, I was Pulse Gunner, Nick was Squad Leader, Oren was Rocketeer.)

5. Holy crap the expansion is so much more *complicated* than the base game -- both because of specializations and because the threats are way more complicated. Even the non-red ones can be really complex; take a look at Ninja! With the base game, you can learn the rules really well and predict all the weird interactions; with the expansion, that seems less possible. (What happens if your Special Ops is parasitized, and you would defeat the parasite (knocking them out) in the same turn they have a protected action? Is the parasite still defeated? According to the online FAQ, no! But that doesn't seem to follow from the other rules at all.)

EDIT next day: Actually, looking over the base game again, this is less true than I thought; it does have some weird interactions you couldn't really predict and just have to learn. But again, this is much more true of the expansion.

EDIT: You know what I just noticed? Even though defeating the Parasite requires knocking out a player[3], I'm pretty sure the Parasite is only worth 16 points if killed, not 18. I could be misremembering but I feel like I would have noticed that.

Also, the sometimes-relevant distinction between "moving really really fast" (what heroic movement does and what the Squad Leader does when he rushes to the interceptors), and "teleporting" (every other teleportation-like effect) is confusing. (When explaining heroic movement, I usually explain it as "teleporting", but in the expansion, that's not correct.)

So, the question: How does the expansion affect the lowest and highest possible scores?

Well, I can't answer that, because to seriously answer that would require sitting down and working it out and probably actually owning a copy of the expansion. But I can at least now say what is in there that would affect it.

Ways to get additional points beyond 69:

1. Double-action missions. These raise the total threat value from 7 (8 with 5 players) to 10 (12 with 5 players); I'm assuming we're using the standard ones and not the easier ones. However, in my opinion, it should really be considered a separate problem if you're doing this, so I'll consider this separately.

2. Red threats. This is the other obvious one. Surviving a red common threat is worth 4 points (as opposed to 3 for yellow and 2 for white) and the other numbers are derived in the usual way. (There's a little bit of variation which I'll describe in a moment.) But in fact there are smaller ones...

3. Data Analyst basic action -- use of this action gets you +1 point, so there you go.

4. Data Analyst advanced action -- use of this action allows you to get up to 4 extra points.

5. This one's not really that relevant, but it is technically possible. By using the Medic's or the Special Ops's advanced action against the Seeker, you can avoid being knocked out by it (though your battlebots will still be disabled). The Seeker is worth 15 points if killed instead of the expected 12 to compensate for the knockout effect, meaning you normally only get 12 points out of it despite its listed number being higher; this allows you to get 14 points out of it (with Special Ops) or 13 points out of it (with Medic). Of course, that's still less than you'd get from just killing a serious red threat instead.

So, with the expansion in, and 5 players, a perfect game becomes 8*8+25+1=90 points for a normal mission, and 12*8+25+1=122 for a double-action mission (not 117 as I said earlier). Whether these are actually achievable, who knows.

But what about the question of getting points *below* -28? (Here I'm assuming a normal mission.) Note that in the base game, we had an absolute lower bound of -36 (no positive points and all the penalties), a lower bound of -30 based on analyzing the audio tracks and how few threats you can let through, and an actual minimum of -28 (assuming I'm correct).

Let's address these in reverse order:

1. Plasmatic Fighter -- the Plasmatic Fighter can knock people out, but is a white common threat (!). This probably makes -30 achievable.

2. More slow threats. The expansion adds in more threats that have an initial speed of 1; IIRC, they all speed up later, but these should still be useful for lowering point values, just as the Man-of-War is. (The Juggernaut unfortunately isn't really useful for these purposes.) Many, IIRC, are yellow or red, but in this context that doesn't matter.

3. Calling in threats. Several of the serious red threats call in another threat; these threats are only worth the points of a red common threat (4/8) instead of a red serious threat (8/16). This is still too many points to be helpful for this, but it's worth noting. A called-in threat may not appear until quite late, making it easy for it to be neither killed nor survived. However there is one case that is helpful...

4. Sealed Capsule. The Sealed Capsule is the one red common threat that calls in another threat; it is worth no points at all. (Yellow and white threats never call in other threats.) Now that's helpful for reducing your score! Especially because, once again, the called in threat may not appear until quite late.

5. Hypernavigator basic action. The Hypernavigator's basic action can be used to have threats move one less space that turn. The application is obvious.

6. Hypernavigator advanced action. This allows the ship to jump to hyperspace after turn 10 or 11 instead of 12 (although there is always a "turn 13", no matter what). The application, once again, is obvious. So, point 1 should allow us to achieve -30, and points 2-6 should allow us to achieve -36; indeed, they seem like overkill for achieving -36. Although, of course, I haven't checked this. But it may even be possible to get below -36...

7. Medic advanced action. Using this action costs you a point. So, with it, it's quite possible that -37 might be achievable! And that of course truly is an absolute lower bound.

And that of course is as far as I'm going to go with the matter until such a time as I actually get the expansion.


[0]Looking through the rulebook, I see variable-range interceptors are really only meant to be used with double-action missions. Well, whatever. We can play it how we like...
[3]Barring use of the Medic's advanced action, which could also be applied in the case of the Seeker -- of course, the Medic didn't exist then...


[User Picture]
Date:2013 Dec 30 20:08:35 (UTC)
In fairness, I *meant* to update the energy on the board and sometimes even remembered to. :) I'm glad that I managed to give good answers about energy when asked, at least.

I wonder if I'll ever get to play with serious internal reds...
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
Date:2014 Jan 1 07:22:16 (UTC)
But the thing is I think as you do it, because we can ask you, it's less necessary to keep it updated on the board.

At Truth House we tend more towards, like, a fire team manages its own energy. Here by a "fire team" I mean two people in the same zone on opposite decks. So whoever's on bottom is both manning the side gun, and drawing energy (if necessary; it more often than not isn't) for the heavy gun. Canisters are handled by... whoever happens to be there. If nobody's there at the moment, the captain will assign someone (or go themself). So, some more planning effort required due to lack of specialization, but the benefit is less unnecessary motion.
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[User Picture]
Date:2014 Jan 2 04:26:04 (UTC)
Side note, have you seen that randomized/scripted mission generators exist on the internet? (Google "space alert mission generator".)
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[User Picture]
Date:2014 Jan 2 05:01:36 (UTC)
I remember we tried using one at Nick's a year ago and didn't like it... why, are there better ones?
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[User Picture]
Date:2014 Jan 2 14:56:43 (UTC)
Heh, I was just curious. I know you know the missions pretty well by now, so I figured it might be nice to mix things up a bit.
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[User Picture]
Date:2014 Jan 2 18:24:42 (UTC)
Well, the main reason I know them at all well is because of trying to figure out maximum/minimum scores, not because of playing...

I think all the other non-audio-track factors do a pretty good job of mixing things up. At some point I might want to try that but right now I just don't feel it's necessary.
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