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Strategy & Combat: Attack Ships On Fire Off The Shoulders of Orion


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#1

ElectricMonk

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Posted Apr 20, 2008 @ 6:49 PM

As authorized, I present a new thread about the general strategy of the ever growing number of sides on Battlestar Galactica and the fun battles they engage in.


We all know the strength of the Colonial Fleet—one Battlestar, an unknown number (but small) of Vipers and Raptors, and several ships with guns that get mentioned once in a while.

We know much less about the Cylons, obviously. I think there are two key pieces of information missing: is the pursuing Cylon Fleet all (or most) of it? How badly did the Rebel Cylons lose to the Loyal Cylons? (We never saw the end of that battle, and of course we don't know if more Rebel ships are floating around besides the ones that jumped in.)


As regards battles I think it's pretty clear now why the Cylons always get their ass kicked in a fair fight—they are incredibly bad at tactics. When you see a bunch of enemy ships getting into position surrounding you: shoot first. Given how fragile Baseships are (no armour & no point defence) any Baseship vs. Baseship battle at close range should be mutual suicide instead of the lopsided battle we witnessed in The Ties That Bind. Yes, yes, element of surprise and all that… but none of that would have surprised a human commander as us treacherous humans would have been expecting such an obvious ambush.


Anyway it's a shiny brand new thread: I'm throwing the doors open.


(The thread title is of course stolen from Blade Runner, but seeing as they actually are near Orion's Belt it seems to fit not too badly. :).

#2

kieran555

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Posted Apr 21, 2008 @ 2:26 PM

I find it hard to believe even the tactically naive Cylons would have their entire fleet in one group, I always saw the pursuers as the advance fleet. The rebels only seemed to have 3 baseships and contained half the Cylon models with the fleet so I think they're larger forces must be elsewhere. They mentioned in 'Downloaded' that their original attack succeeded beyond their most optimistic projections (I think), so I would assume they have vast forces created which they have never had to use.

Their usual tactics don't seem very effective unless they can somehow disable all defenses and or engines before as they arrive, like when Sharon purged that virus that would have done just that. Without that advantage they just arrive, launch raiders and missiles. If engines are working the fleet can get to safety and the raiders seem to be far inferior to the Vipers (nice improvement after a gap of 40 years, guess you just can't beat good old human dogfighting) and are easily dealt with, especially as they can't get near to Galactica because of the barrage line, and nearly all missiles would be taken out as well if the fleet isn't a distraction.

Those raiders also seem connected in some way to their baseship, or facility, see how easily a handful of vipers overwhelm them after that mining facility blew back in S1 which seems a tactical mistake, as if two baseships are attacking and on is taken out you've just lost half the strike force, which if even one managed to get past Galactica (and it's vipers)can take out any ship in the fleet.

The basic Cylon strategy appears to be surprise, infiltration and overwhelming superiority of numbers. Which works of course, most of the time.

I wonder of the Cavils have been specializing a bit more on the tactics, they seem to be more adept at face to face manipulation and we've seen hints of other models specializing ('our doctors', Leoben asked opinion on law like a legal man) and his plan worked very well. Keep them isolated on their ships, let them think they are winning, lure them into ground (or space) of your choosing, and ambush them before they can put the pieces together. They should have seen it coming really. I hope some make it out to learn their lesson.

As this is a new thread and concerned with combat I'll just include my favorite battle for no reason, which has to be the one over New Caprica. It wasn't a bad plan really and the Colonials knew it was dependent on factors outside their control and unlikely to succeed fully, so I don't blame them for miscalculating the strength of Cylon defense on that occasion. Plus it was fun seeing the Cylons still so flummoxed by humans occasionally, when they were fooled by all that drone business and 'where's Galactica?'

#3

desmo1984

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Posted Apr 21, 2008 @ 2:40 PM

When you see a bunch of enemy ships getting into position surrounding you: shoot first. Given how fragile Baseships are (no armour & no point defence) any Baseship vs. Baseship battle at close range should be mutual suicide instead of the lopsided battle we witnessed in The Ties That Bind.


Well, it seemed to me that Cavil had the rebels pretty badly outnumbered. The whole thing seemed to happen quite swiftly, and Natalie didn't have the slightest suspicion that the other ships would open fire on them. I mean, the whole thing was over in seconds. I don't think "shooting first" would've made much difference, if it was 3 ships vs 5 or 6 with the element of surprise.

#4

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Posted Apr 21, 2008 @ 3:54 PM

I do agree that the rebels were outnumbered but Baseships are so fragile that even a single salvo of missiles (since, again, no point defence) should have really badly hurt the loyalists. Look how few missiles blew up the Baseships in the part of the battle we saw.

Add to that even a handful of (hopefully nuke equipped) Raiders cruising around, well that would mess with the Loyalists and buy time if there are other Rebel fleets.

But yeah, the Cylons just don't think about this stuff like humans do as far as I can tell. Maybe because they're so young, or too logical, or whatever—they just don't get it. They need the computer viruses because I bet a straight-up fight with the whole Colonial fleet would have seen them lose, flat-out.

(Incidentally, my guess at a Cylon Plan B way back in the beginning if the computer virus plan failed would use Raiders superior jump abilities to nuke the planets, and then use the Baseship's superior jump abilities to defeat the Colonials in detail. Even if you only kill the planets and say half the Colonial Fleet the Cylons are still free and clear to spend a few decades rebuilding their fleet while the Colonials basically have nothing.)


As this is a new thread and concerned with combat I'll just include my favorite battle for no reason, which has to be the one over New Caprica. It wasn't a bad plan really and the Colonials knew it was dependent on factors outside their control and unlikely to succeed fully, so I don't blame them for miscalculating the strength of Cylon defense on that occasion. Plus it was fun seeing the Cylons still so flummoxed by humans occasionally, when they were fooled by all that drone business and 'where's Galactica?'


Yeah that was pretty sweet. It was kind of depressing that after all the work the Colonials put in to save the good Battlestar (the modern one, the one that can build new fighters) they still wound back with the Galactica.

#5

DocOrlando

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Posted Apr 21, 2008 @ 5:23 PM

In TTTB, Cavil made reference to "the nearest accessible server" to a "central resurrection hub" which was "three jumps away." There was, of course, limited truthiness in his words, but it still speaks to Cylon logistics and the "supply line," at least insofar as it may extend to the Cylon network.

We don't know exactly which direction relative to the RTFF (or the Demetrius) the operative Cylon fleet (ie, the one we have been seeing since the beginning of the season) is. Chances are, whatever jump they made into Cavil's trap was backward w/r/t their current position/heading. Otherwise the implication is that the Cylons have already moved well ahead (in SOME direction) rather than continuing to shadow the Colonials after the aborted attack in the season premiere.

So the conclusion I take from all of this is that we haven't seen the entirety of the Cylon fleet, not even with the large formation assembled to take out the rebel Cylons. For that matter, was it clear to anyone else exactly how many basestars were held by the rebels? They were clearly outnumbered, but by what margin?

Additional hints at Cylon deployment -- such as the outpost attacked by Pegasus in Razor -- suggest that there are structural bases, though these may have since been abandoned partially if not totally as the fleet pursues the Colonials.

And as a final word: I don't believe that there's a Cylon "homeworld" as such; I believe the entire race (humlons, centurions, et al) is spacebound. Their prime directive has never included domestication; settling a planet (at least up to the point where they have evolved now) has never been their purview. They may use a planet for its resources (Caprica) but ultimately their "home" is the fleet.

Oh, and since I can't seem to quit, here: Cylon point defense = an overwhelming initial offense. Their tactic of standing at a distance and launching salvos of hundreds of raiders and missiles means their opponent is usually too busy fighting off that onslaught to engage in an attack run. It wasn't until the craziness of putting Galactica, and then Pegasus, in point-blank range that the basestars faced any kind of threat.

#6

EvilGeniusClub

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Posted Apr 21, 2008 @ 5:32 PM

Their usual tactics don't seem very effective unless they can somehow disable all defenses and or engines before as they arrive, like when Sharon purged that virus that would have done just that. Without that advantage they just arrive, launch raiders and missiles. If engines are working the fleet can get to safety and the raiders seem to be far inferior to the Vipers (nice improvement after a gap of 40 years, guess you just can't beat good old human dogfighting) and are easily dealt with, especially as they can't get near to Galactica because of the barrage line, and nearly all missiles would be taken out as well if the fleet isn't a distraction.


Since the raiders and centurions higher level processes have been limited (until Natalie and company removed the chips), I'd assume that this limits their ability to think critically or creatively. When going up against the likes of an Apollo who is very adapt at asessing situations and formulating a sound plan, or a Starbuck who loves to pull rabbits out of the hat, the raiders continue to act in a if they do this, I'll do that manner instead of adapting to a changing situation. That's why they had to download into a new body, so they could keep processing info, and new strategies.

#7

kieran555

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Posted Apr 21, 2008 @ 5:45 PM

Since the raiders and centurions higher level processes have been limited (until Natalie and company removed the chips), I'd assume that this limits their ability to think critically or creatively

Good point. I'd forgotten about that. The Raiders may not have been inhibited by the Humlons, that we know of, but they were in any case more animalistic, relying on instinct which may have impacted how they go about things. The humans needed some advantage anyway, and strategy and so on seems the only place where they could have an advantage, or else the series would have been very short indeed. A blunt force strategy has worked for the Cylons in the past, and if they can pin Galactica down it would again. Courage, ingenuity and even strategy often take a backseat to massive superiority in numbers, and lose to it.

Plus, bar a few times (like after the Resurrection ship was destroyed) it's not like the losses mattered very much at all (beyond the dying being 'unpleasant') and they have all the time in the world(galaxy) so there was no need to try fancy tactics, preserve numbers or be complicated. Just hound them and bombard them until out of exhaustion or some other reason they slip up. Whereas the colonial fleet has to try to limit casualties by clever tactics if possible, and even the few losses they have suffered in battle have rendered their every victory a kind of Pyhrric victory, down that path anyway.

Edited by kieran555, Apr 21, 2008 @ 6:07 PM.


#8

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Posted Apr 21, 2008 @ 7:03 PM

Kiernan has a point that the humans need some advantage and tactics can be written to make the most sense. The Humlons only knew 7 people and they never really argued about anything. Plus their original plan with the virus worked pretty darn well.
As to why the Basestars sort of suck I think the Cylons have two problems there. First they might have made the common mistake of preparing to fight the last war. Fighters were the big killers in the first Cylon war so let's add more fighters. Second since the Basestars are grown I am not sure they could really add more armor. Making a ship bigger is a lot easier than making it tougher.
Lastly I am not totally convinced the Cylons heart is into kicking the human's ass. Some of the want to do their various religious/science experiments. The 12 Colonies were a huge threat but the RTTF even with the Pegasus or Galactica is not much of a threat. Let the RTFF find Earth and give them a couple of centuries though and the Cylons would be in a lot of trouble.

#9

desmo1984

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Posted Apr 21, 2008 @ 9:32 PM

I do agree that the rebels were outnumbered but Baseships are so fragile that even a single salvo of missiles (since, again, no point defence) should have really badly hurt the loyalists. Look how few missiles blew up the Baseships in the part of the battle we saw.


I'm not sure I agree that Basestars are that fragile. What I've noticed in rewatching some of the episodes with the biggest battles is that when Baseships get hit with large amounts of ordinance, there are lots of explosions, but sometimes it's difficult to see how much damage has actually been inflicted. Rewatch the battle in Resurrection ship part 2; you'll see that Galactica and Pegasus are really hammering that first Baseship for quite a while. Even two Battlestars combined need some time to take out one Baseship.

From what we've seen on the show, I think we can safely assume that Battlestars have significantly heavier armor than Basestars, but they are REALLY heavily armored. Basestars certainly aren't so fragile that a single volley of missiles from the rebel ships could have made any significant impact in the battle.

For that matter, was it clear to anyone else exactly how many basestars were held by the rebels? They were clearly outnumbered, but by what margin?


I counted 3 ships for the rebels, and at least 5 for Cavil, though there may have been more just offscreen.

#10

ElectricMonk

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Posted Apr 22, 2008 @ 10:28 AM

As counterexamples:
-Battle of New Caprica saw the Pegasus blow a baseship out of space incredibly fast (probably because they were not diverting any gun batteries to point defence).
-Battle of the Binary Star System (aka the rescue trap with three baseships) saw the Pegasus force a baseship to withdraw with heavy damage in short order by concentrating firepower on it.

My guess is how fast a battlestar can take down a baseship depends on a) Galactica or Pegasus, and b) how much % of total firepower is reserved for point defence. In the Battle of New Caprica the Galactica diverted all firepower to point defence and that kept them even against two baseships (neither side had any fighters). On the other hand Pegasus could not keep up with three baseships in the Binary Star System. (Incidentally, that gives us limits: the Pegasus had less than 50% more firepower than the Galactica.)

My only explanation for the Battle of the Resurrection Ship is that both battlestars retained most guns in point defence mode simply because they could—when you know you're going to win, might as well be careful and not let a missile through.


So it could be argued either way, but I still lean towards the fragile side of things. (Given that four baseships put out 50 missiles in the Nebula in 4-1, I think that three baseships could have put enough missiles into space to take out a loyalist ship… but that would require them to be run by somebody other than Cylons.)




I remain curious to how much of a Cylon fleet exists. I agree that they probably just live on the baseships.

I remain curious as to the Colonial Fleet that once existed: the half-sized Valkyrie & the unknown ship at the Scorpion Shipyards makes me wonder as to what, exactly, a battlegroup was made up of.

I remain curious about how few nukes there are—every Cylon missile should carry a nuke. Either the Colonial system and nearby systems lack fissile materials for the most part, or nuclear power was not widely used and as such there were/are few places to build nuclear weapons. The second is rather silly, so I'm leaning towards the first explanation.

#11

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Posted Apr 22, 2008 @ 3:27 PM

Dahak got me thinking about another issue with the Basestars. Let's compare the Cylon military to that of Germany in WWII. The Wermacht was designed to conduct what the Germans called "lightning war." The types of weapons, strategies were designed to deliver a devastating blow, and achieve victory quickly as in the case of Poland or France. However they got into trouble when it came to dealing with an opponent who was willing to hold out as in the case of the Soviet Union or Great Britain. With the Soviet Union it was a tactical mistake of not supplying the army for the bitter Russian winter. The Soviets were able to hold out long enough for their two greatest military assets, General January and February, to get in and go to work. Similarly in New Caprica, poor strategy by the Cylons put them in a situation where they didn't have the supplies they needed to continue on against a determined band of resistance fighters. In the case of Great Britain, Germany had large numbers of medium and Stuka dive bombers, which were great for surprising and overwhelming an enemy. However they had relatively few heavy bombers like the U.S. B-17 or B-24. Though they were able to inflict heavy damage during the Battle of Britain it could have been much worse if they had the types of weapons which could land heavy punch after heavy punch instead of jab after jab. Even the terror visited by the V1 and V2 flying bombs didn't provide enough punch to get the British to consider suing for peace. Similarly the basestars are great with the sudden and swift attack, but if your opponent is hunkered down, and has the ability to jump away its effectiveness is limited.

#12

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Posted Apr 22, 2008 @ 4:22 PM

Their "make-up" is collective. Each model was to have highly developed specialized skills.
Their "society" is based on the "sharing" (mutual cooperation) of the various models. Each
individual Humlon is limited and very underdeveloped in skills outside of their original programming.
They have had very little time/opportunity to develop or evolve. Separate the models from each
other and they are vulnerable. The "masters" of the basestars are the "hybrids". They would have
no reason to suspect treachery between the Humlon models. I think this explains why the 2,6,8's
could be so easily attacked.

Battles between the raiders and humans: raiders never "learn" adapt. I dont think they are regenerated
with any experiences from model to new model like the Humlons. They have a program for operation/battle
and are constricted to it. Those that lose--gone forever. They never adapt or evolve unless their program
changes.

#13

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Posted Apr 22, 2008 @ 4:30 PM

Battles between the raiders and humans: raiders never "learn" adapt. I dont think they are regenerated with any experiences from model to new model like the Humlons.

Actually we leaned in 'Scar' that they do, being told that Galactic had probably 'killed' the eponymous Raider on many occasions and that they are supposed to learn from their defeats,. In that episode we also got evidence that the Raiders can outsmart the viper pilots one on one, but that was probably as result of there being no resurrection ship or hub for them, so they lacked overwhelming numbers and had to be sneakier as death would be final. It seems they forget all that in a normal situation, where in any case there is little opportunity to hide, just the performance of the vipers vs the performance of the Raiders and they seem to lack in split second decisions, unpredictable moves in those situations. Also given they are thrust newly 'hatched' against skilled pilots they don't have much opportunity to learn from it for next time.

Edited by kieran555, Apr 22, 2008 @ 4:32 PM.


#14

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Posted Apr 22, 2008 @ 7:04 PM

Also the Cylons at least when the current war started was basically a navy of FNGs. There were no old bastards to toughen them up like Adama or Tigh (that's ironic). So Scar is a good pilot but like WW1 especially there would eventually be good pilots for the Cylons but a lot of dead pilots to get there. While the Colonials right now are more like the Japanese in WW2. Very good pilots at the start but not really able to replace them.

#15

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Posted Apr 24, 2008 @ 1:42 PM

From what we've seen on the show, I think we can safely assume that Battlestars have significantly heavier armor than Basestars, but they are REALLY heavily armored. Basestars certainly aren't so fragile that a single volley of missiles from the rebel ships could have made any significant impact in the battle.

This source (Battlestar wiki) seems to confirm that.

"Cylons build tough ships and nobody's better at making repairs on machinery, so we have to follow standard Colonial Fleet procedure in this -- unless it's confirmed as destroyed (by gun cameras, witnesses, or wreckage) Galactica can only claim it as "Damaged." -"
The one who wrote this answer is BSG writer Thompson. So, baseships indeed can take a number of hits before it is a "total loss".

Rewatching those first moments of the battle, I think only one baseship (the one in the middle, closest to the camera) is taking really crippling damage (it seems to be hit very hard in at least three of its "blades"). Also, while 8 indicates they are targeting the FTL drives, I'm not sure if it was actually destroyed or disabled on Natalie's baseship. They may yet escape (2 out of 3 perhaps, if they're lucky).

#16

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Posted Apr 24, 2008 @ 1:59 PM

I think only one baseship (the one in the middle, closest to the camera) is taking really crippling damage (it seems to be hit very hard in at least three of its "blades"). Also, while 8 indicates they are targeting the FTL drives, I'm not sure if it was actually destroyed or disabled on Natalie's baseship. They may yet escape (2 out of 3 perhaps, if they're lucky).

I had thought 2 looked totaled myself, though I hope you are correct in how some at least escaped. If you are right about 2 out of 3 then it's a poor ambush from Cavil, who should know the amount of time they had to take out the Basestar FTL drives and how many of his own ships were needed to take them out in that time. If he wasn't confidant they could take them out with what they had he should have waited (arranged for other forces to help take them out on another jump maybe).

I'm thinking his forces, like Natalies, are acting outside the bulk of the Cylon population's immediate knowledge and voting initially only tallies those in the vicninity. If he failed to put down the coup and the rebels escape I can see the other models from further away condemning his forces for trying to fully eliminate them, whereas if he had succeeded they might have bitched but accepted it as a fait accompli. Obviously a lot of this is presumption on how the Cylons work but given I hope some rebels escaped I think Cavil made a tactical misstep in making the attempt, as he should know that if the rebels had caught on just a little more quickly they all could have escaped, so the strategy was always risky with a high chance it could fail. I guess he was thinking he couldn't allow the 3's to be resurrected and arise to outvote him.

#17

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Posted Apr 24, 2008 @ 2:11 PM

Those 3 baseships certainly can't contain all 6s, 8s and 2s (there are supposed to be millions of each model), so I think you're right. Only local forces were involved in the brawl. It may spread further in time, though.

#18

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Posted Apr 24, 2008 @ 2:52 PM

That may be why Cavil put together an immediate ambush instead of waiting. He wanted to make sure he got the 268s now, before they had time to talk with the other 268s to bring them into the rebellions, and maybe more importantly before the Centurions had a chance to wander off and start de-chipping more Centurions.

I think it's likely that at least one rebel baseship will survive. Even if they initially knocked out Natalie's FTL, it might be repaired in time like it was with Pegasus. Given how long it's taken battlestars to kill basestars before, I don't think Cavil could have destroyed all three is such short order. More likely than not, the reason why we saw one breaking apart is that the ambushers concentrated more fire on it. It's a pretty standard tactic for this sort of battle, because it lets you rapidly eliminate enemy units and degrade their ability to fight back and defend each other. Cavil's first volley probably targeted FTL, and then the next focused on one ship.