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Best Practices for Multi-Bridge Setups

posted Nov 26, 2012 07:03:06 by squirrel.eiserloh
I am looking for advice on "best practices" for running multi-bridge (for 2, 3, or more ships at once) simulations, either co-op or verses/BvB.

General advice of any kind is welcome. I've run a 6-player single bridge before but not yet 2+ bridges at once.

I'm also looking for advice specifically in regards to ship-to-ship communication. Some possible thoughts on this front included:

1. Communications officers (only) from all ships on headset open channel voice chat.
2. Communications officers (only) on open text/IM chat channel with each other.
3. A seventh officer per ship, the Liason officer (or first officer?) is on open voice chat with his counterparts, coordinating communication between ships.
4. Dedicated Liason officer per ship, but using text/IM chat instead of voice.

Likewise, there are questions about multi-ship decision making. Are all captains equal, with random-access anarchy-style decisionmaking? Or is the Artemis captain (for example) the "admiral" who directs the other captains in broadstrokes? Or perhaps even a dedicated Admiral who sits on the deck of the Artemis (perhaps with a Captain's Map terminal, which we don't normally use), directing the entire fleet, with a separate dedicated captain for the Artemis herself?

Two reasons I am considering text/IM rather than voice for ship-to-ship coordination are (1) easier to see exactly what people have said, without N-way crosstalk, and with clear history; and (2) easier to distinguish between things you are hearing/saying into your headset vs. things you are hearing/saying within your own ship's bridge; if the Liason (or Comms) officer is reading-and-typing ship-to-ship messages, but relaying to and from his own captain and crew via normal voice, perhaps that's most effective.

Looking forward to any and all ideas and suggestions.


Context: I am a professor at a game development grad school (SMU/Guildhall) where each of the 150+ students has an Alienware rig (laptop) and all of them are gamers. We have at least 6 lecture rooms with large-screen projectors, and are looking to work our way up to the largest possible Artemis party we can muster (6 ships x 6+ officers per ship = 36+ players?).
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20 replies
oliver.boylan said Nov 26, 2012 19:34:30
With multiple ships I reckon it would be awesome to assign a 'flagship' with an admiral. In my opinion, the admiral would have to be an additional officer on the flagship itself, rather than extending the captain's duties to cover it. As admiral, they would need a Captain's map in order to coordinate the fleet. I'd say primary communication could be through text to coordinate with the other vessels. You could have the comms officer relaying the orders to the captain easily enough. If you came up with procedures of how ships should coordinate themselves in the fleet, it would mean the admiral would be able to send short precise orders, knowing that the captain's of the ships would coordinate together in a particular way to complete the task set. You could also provide the admiral with the option to "hail the fleet" which would provide voice comms so that the admiral can converse with all the captains in the fleet. I envision this being something that may be done to brief the captains outside combat e.g. at the beginning of a scenario, in order to convey their strategies that they intend to employ for a particular part of the mission or when they go in to combat.

I imagine coordinating a fleet to be very different to coordinating a crew, and an admiral would have to realise they need a different approach to what they would normally take as a captain.

To master being an admiral, I would select a dedicated and capable player who has played as a captain and would be happy to "get into the role". I've found that with my crew, when we get into the roles a little more we really have fun, adding that extra edge of realism. Sometimes, I have felt like I am actually commanding a top class crew on a mission to eliminate hostile aliens. Personally, losing myself in the game that way is just awesome!

With fewer vessels playing (for example only 2 or 3) then why not just pick out the most "senior" captain, i.e. the person who has played most often. They could then communicate through voice chat with the other captains and tell them where they are heading to next. Using the something with the option to "push-to-talk" would mean the other captains wouldn't have to put up with listening to orders being continually given by the senior captain. A headset would mean the senior captain can communicate directly with the other captains without having to talk over his crew. Again, having a procedure in place for when the senior captain wishes to speak to the other captains would help e.g. using a particular word or phrase, or perhaps having some kind of "incoming hail" signal on the laptop would be cool. That way, the other captains know when to listen/ tune in.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I hope you find them of interest and I would be happy to provide more thoughts and ideas, or clarify any of my ideas for you.
JamesAllen said Nov 26, 2012 23:12:27
I've played a couple games with two bridges. The most fun (for me) have been where one of the captains attempts to enact some sort of strategy - usually by communicating directly with the captain of the other ship. I would think with more than 2 bridges, having a dedicated admiral would be highly advantageous, and just the ticket for playing those Trials of Deneb missions on a higher difficulty!

That said, I think the map might feel a little confined with more than a few ships involved. Our Tactical maps can get ridiculously crowded with just two friendly ships and a bunch of enemies in a hot spot. While 6 ships would be quite the feat, it might not be as fun as a couple well-coordinated ships can be. I encourage the exploration, but perhaps give the students a chance to learn the ropes with one ship at a time first!
squirrel.eiserloh said Nov 27, 2012 19:36:44
Great advice, thanks guys.

On easing in: Good point, I agree that we should start with just one bridge and play it by ear in terms of adding additional bridge(s) as the night goes on.

On captains-vs-admirals: I am liking the idea that, with two ships, one ship (say, the Artemis, by definition) is the "flagship" and her Captain is also acting as the Admiral. With 3+ ships, having a dedicated Admiral (who is physically present on the Artemis flagship but now a separate person from her Captain) seems smart. The dedicated Admiral (3+ ships only) would have a Captain's Map terminal, and the Captains (including the flagship captain) would still just be in the captain's chair looking at the main screen.

On ship-to-ship communications: There are sort-of two variations on this question: (1) what is the best / most awesome thing to do, and (2) what is the simplest thing that will work and feel fun given that we won't have a lot of time for prep?

For the pie-in-the-sky version, it seems like one could easily imagine a setup where we could have a webcam facing out towards the captain and bridge crew on each bridge. Each captain could wear a wired/wireless lavalier mic (or headset-mic) that is plugged into the main screen computer for his bridge. Let's say that each main screen computer is also running Skype in an N-way text chat (with dedicated Skype accounts called Ship_Artemis, Ship_Intrepid, etc). A dedicated 7th officer (Liason Officer) would then sit AT the main screen computer, which could be running the game on its 2nd monitor (the projector, on "extend desktop") and with the Skype text chat window on its 1st monitor (the laptop native display). The Liason officer can then send and receive text messages by typing in the N-way Skype chat window (with other Liason officers), which makes basic ship-to-ship communication interesting/challenging/collaborative/thematic (it has to go from Captain1->Liason1->Chat->Liason2->Captain2) but still manageable, since there would be a natural separation between the audio-space of each Liason officer's own ship vs. the IM-text-space of the fleet at large. Liason officers from one ship could then "hail" another ship (by initiating Skype video chat), which the receiving ship's Liason officer can reject or answer, and put that window on the main projector screen if they choose (or if so ordered by the Captain - "Liason: Hail the Intrepid; onscreen." The two bridges would then see each other but the captains being mic'd directly would have dominant communication across the video chat channel (and sound quality would be excellent, and not overly clouded by ambient sound effects). Video chat would be extra cool if either/both bridges supported DMX-style colored ambient lighting in the background, so you could see if/when the other ship is damaged, low energy, docked, or taking incoming damage (due to flickering lights, etc.) while you're video chatting with them. Then again, I'm not sure when you'd have much time/opportunity to video chat on the main screen in the midst of a simulation. But it may feel cool.

For the simpler version, we could forego the webcam and mic, and just have a text-based N-way IM ship-to-ship chat that the Liason officers could manage.

In general it seems that a live, permanent, N-way audio connection between bridges might just be too much crosstalk and chaos to manage, but push-to-talk DOES help mitigate that. A lot. If you did voice-chat (only) between ships, then it seems like you'd simply let the Communications officers wear headsets and push-to-talk to each other explicitly; the usefulness of the Liason is only justified if you're going to be doing text chatting and/or managing bridge-to-bridge video, probably (if at all).

So maybe the best overall solution is just push-to-talk between Comms officers who are all wearing single-ear headsets? (Which is also nice as it "scales up" the Comms position with an increased # of bridges, and helps them directly coordinate so they don't cross-order bases or NPC ships, etc).

Gears are still turning... and still open to more ideas and thoughts!

lochiel said Nov 28, 2012 22:13:51
I've only played with two ships, either together in the same game via invasion mode or in separate games doing missions. Our ships have always been in the same building, so we have always just had our captains yell at each other. If we were unable to yell at each other, I would probably have the comms officers on voice chat with PTT. Voice chat would be more immersive, not require the comms officer to alt-tab out of his client, and allow for hilarious yelling and confusion.

Our strategies have usually been to split up and protect different zones, or bases, or what ever made sense at the moment. We haven't needed an admiral, but with more than two ships and a more complicated scenario perhaps that would be necessary.
squirrel.eiserloh said Dec 02, 2012 10:05:57
18-person / 3-bridge Artemis party went well. Lots of lessons learned about multi-bridge:

1. Use wired CAT5 Ethernet cables, not wireless; the server in particular needs to be wired.

We suffered greatly when stations stopped responding at random intervals (especially helm!). Everything got better when we all plugged in. This was with about 20 computers on the wireless in the Artemis/Intrepid hall, and another 6 or 7 in the adjacent Aegis room.

2. Having more ships helps, but not linearly.

We were assuming that with 3 ships, a given scenario would approach 3x as easy (or at least 2x). While multiple ships did make things easier (forcing us to take difficulty up to 10 with a mixed crowd of moderate-to-little experience), there were some things that didn't scale: most notably, other than the additional 2 nukes the extra ships started with, stations weren't able to manufacture ordinance any faster than before, so effectively all 3 ships were sharing the stations' manufacturing output that previously we would have had to ourselves.

3. Captaining is hard to jump right into; best if new captains know the stations and are supported by players experienced at those stations.

Before attempting to captain a ship, a player should preferably play at least 2-3 roles (recommend communications, weapons, then engineering), and ideally have played or at least observed all stations in play. Also recommended is to have up-and-coming captains "apprentice" by sitting next to a veteran captain and experiencing one scenario from the captain's vantage point. We ramped up from one ship to three a bit too hastily, and had a few times where a new captain was directing a new bridge crew, which made it extra difficult.

4. Ship-to-ship communications via push-to-talk headset voice chat link between comms officers.

Having communications officers linked via voice chat (we did mostly push-to-talk) was cool and thematic but, to be fair, also slightly frustrating and confusing. We had a lot of human-lag and operator-vagary by communicating ship-to-ship via captain1->comms1->comms2->captain2, etc. That said, it was fun, and a good set of communications officers will be able to manage the chaos well enough (ours improved greatly and got pretty decent as the night went on).

5. Artemis is still buggy for multi-bridge.

Red Alert from any ship plays on the server-ship (Artemis, for us). Scans initiated by any science officer cancel scans in progress from other ships. Excalibur showed up as a second Artemis on our radar. Forward view on the 3rd ship had no models. Still, overall, it was a good experience.
oliver.boylan said Dec 02, 2012 12:08:17
It sounds like you had a lot of fun playing with multiple bridges. On the points you made in the previous post; being Captain is a challenging role, particularly if you are new to the game. If you can get someone enthusiastic enough though, encourage them to "research" the role in their own time. They can get to know the different stations by looking at documents, tutorials and having a go on their own computer, and then try putting it in to practise when you all get together.

I found that worked for me when I first Captained a vessel. You kind of have to throw yourself into the role too; going through my head the first time, I was thinking of the captains from star trek, from books I've read (Desjani and Geary from The Lost Fleet), and other places where I've read or seen captains in action. By virtually role-playing the captain, I found it worked really well and we all had a great time. I'd also taken a lot of time to get to know the different consoles you could choose and how they operated, so had a good overview of what everyone could do.

I am aware that multiple bridge officers, such as the science officer, interfere with one-another. Perhaps you could have one science officer on the flagship as "Admiral's staff" then have a tactical officer on the other bridges who have access to the science console and the information it provides, but they don't scan anything, just relay the information. The science officer on the flagship would therefore have to be confident, with some experience, and understand that they have to be aware of who will need scans completed (for example, two vessels from the fleet would want information on the enemies that they will be engaging in grid B2, so scanning those vessels would have to be prioritised). The science officer would therefore have to be really good at situational awareness.

I was reading through your ideas about having a Liaison officer. I thought it was a great idea to have someone dedicated to ship to ship communication. I have a different approach which I'd like to offer up though. This idea is designed for multiple bridges (e.g. 3+) where you would have a dedicated Admiral position.

Instead of having another officer aboard each ship (the Liaison officer), utilise officers already there; the Comms officer and the Admiral. You could have the Comms officer on each of the ships with 2 consoles;

1. the original Comms console,
2. an additional console running Skype.

Their second console could be the server machine on duel monitor like you mentioned above (so they'd have their own laptop screen with the normal comms console and then the duel monitor from the server with skype on one monitor and the normal mainscreen on the second). Aboard the flagship however, the comms officer would just have the normal comms console. Instead the Admiral would have two screens;

1. the captains map as you mentioned above
2. a console running Skype, exactly the same set-up as described above.

Basically it's cutting out the middle man. The Admiral would have a direct text-link via Skype to all comms officers in the fleet, aside from the one on the flagship as it's not needed. The comms officer on the ships could keep an eye on messages from the Admiral and relay them to their Captain. If the Admiral wants to talk directly to the Captains they can signal it to the Comms officer by starting a voice chat, and this can be put on the main screen. The Admiral would have to operate Skype, but I don't see that as a problem as I can't see it overloading the Admiral, just being part of his normal role.

The main issue I see is if you want to communicate with only one or two ships in the fleet. You'd have to figure out some simple prefixes to messages to indicate which ship it should go to. Here's an example:

4 Ships in the fleet
Battleship: Artemis (Flagship) Prefix: Flg
Light Cruiser: Intrepid Prefix: In
Dreadnaught: Excalibur Prefix: Ex
Light Cruiser: Horatio Prefix: Hr

Admiral: Hr, Ex - course to grid D4 - Defend DS2
Excalibur would take the lead as it is the heavier vessel
Admiral: In - join Flg - Formation delta - course 243 to DS4, warp 2
The Intrepid would fall into formation behind the flagship, the Captain would double check the course then engage warp 2 when he sees the flagship go to warp.
Intrepid: Command confirmed
Horatio: Command confirmed
Excalibur: Command confirmed
After completing tasks set (defending bases and destroying enemies)
Admiral: Fleet - rendezvous DS3 - Join Flg - Formation Omega

Coming up with some kind of shorthand would be cool but would have to be figured out with the Comms officers some ideas could include:

Cmd Cnf - Command Confirmed
Flg - Flagship
course to.... - this is where we are going so follow us in/ where I want you to go with those other ships
Formation .... - predefined fleet formations that the captain would know
Fleet used to send a command to all ships in the fleet

To open voice chat, you'd just hit the call button on Skype, which would automatically "Hail" all ships in the fleet, or the Admiral could just open another voice chat to Hail individual ships.

When you split the fleet you could have the procedure that the larger vessel is in charge of the new "sub-" fleet (a smaller formation or task force), or if both vessels are the same the most senior captain is in charge. If no-one is senior use the name that came first in the communication. One Captain could then control the smaller formation of vessels via their Comms officer (I envision a smaller formation to be just 1 or 2 ships, sent off to complete a particular task). Of course, now you run in to the problem of how to communicate and coordinate effectively between two Captains. Having formations, patterns of attack and strategies already worked out would aid coordination. I'll have a think on it some more; if you're interested, ask and I'll post more ideas and thoughts here.

Quite a lengthy post, but I hope you find it interesting reading.

(P.S look out for a TSN Tactical Handbook (to go with the other TSN Handbooks on the Wiki) which I know is in the working. Multiple ship formations and fleet manoeuvres will possibly be included within the content.)
[Last edited Dec 02, 2012 13:02:57]
xavierwise.tsn said Dec 08, 2012 15:43:30

I have been puzzling out how to coordinate multiple vessels as part of the Tactical Handbook that I am compiling. Currently, all my work is theoretical and requires testing to see if it actually works. In my opinion, there are two ways vessels can work together;

1. Working together in the same sector or towards achieving the same goals, but manoeuvring and attacking independently.

Working like this, one captain may assume a lead role in formulating the overall strategy. In this role that lead captain would assign vessels tasks such as; "Intrepid, defend DS2 from incoming attack", or "Horatio, attack enemy fleet in grid D2". The vessel would then move off to complete their assigned tasks, operating independently. How an assigned task is executed would then be up to the individual captain. Using this method, ships would ideally operate independently of one-another, as working with another ship to attack an enemy fleet would mean that more complex cooperation needs to be considered if effective tactics are to be employed and friendly fire is to be avoided. A simple solution may be to say "no use of torpedoes in combat with more than one vessel". That does limit the potential damage that can be inflicted, but will eliminate the potential of damaging or destroying allied vessels in combat.

This would be a simple option for less experienced crews and crews who just want to work together in a sector to complete a mission. All it would need is an additional messaging service like Skype or other IM software so that the lead captain can just type their orders and send to the comms officer aboard the other vessels. The comms officer could then relay the orders to their captain.

Having one captain assume overall command in this situation would make it easier to effectively coordinate the actions of ships in the sector. A democratic system would work, but it would be slower due to the nature of the system and in my opinion not as realistic. Armed forces operate on a autocratic hierarchical system for a reason; speed and efficiency.

2. Working in close proximity, assuming positions relative to one-another, and closely coordinating movement and fire to attack enemies.

This way of working is what I am currently focusing on. I have found that it is rather complex to devise ways to coordinate movement and fire effectively when working in close proximity. I am trying to develop relatively simple and stand ways of moving and working together in order aid captains of multiple vessels. In the tactical handbook, I have defined 2+ ships working together as a "Formation". A formation would be commanded by a "Formation Commander" and may not necessarily be part of a fleet led by an Admiral. I am addressing fleets separately; I see them as being made of 3+ ships and commanded by an Admiral, an additional officer who works aboard a flagship.

So far, I have begun considering how to communicate effectively. Basically I am going to give suggesting on how to type orders in an IM client that can go to the ships in the formation. The communications protocol would work as described above, with the formation commander having a text-link to comms officers aboard supporting vessels. I have determined that a text-link would be more effective as it would mean the commander can use short predetermined orders that can be sent to vessels in the formation (similar to the attack patterns that I devised for individual ship tactics).

I have taken time to consider how to manoeuvre a formation without having to continually give new bearings and headings to be transmitted to other vessels. Finally I have come up with a number of ways to organise the ships in a formation, with detail on how each vessel type would act when it encounters an enemy fleet. Below is an example that I intend to use in the final version:

Tactical Formation Zero-One
This is the most basic formation. The commander’s vessel takes a lead position. Supporting vessels form up behind the commander’s vessel in a triangular formation. Heavier vessels will take positions towards the front of the formation, whilst lighter vessels will follow to the rear. As the formation passes through the enemy fleet, the heavier vessels aim is to weaken and disable enemy ships so that the lighter vessels following behind can destroy weakened ships. Once the vessels have passed through the enemy fleet, they are free to manoeuvre and engage individual enemies in order to destroy surviving ships.

When the enemy fleet enters missile range, lead ships can engage with a single volley of Mk. 1 Homing Torpedoes and Mk. 8 ECM Torpedoes. As the range to closes to beam range, vessels in the formation are to engage with Primary Beam weapons only, targeting enemies as they enter beam arcs.
The Mk. 6 Autonomous Mine and Mk. 4 Long Range Nuclear Torpedoes are not to be utilised when engaging an enemy fleet using this formation unless direct orders are given by the formation commander.

Missile Cruisers
Missile cruisers are to assume position to either the port or starboard side of the formation and fire ECM and homing missiles before the formation enters engagement range. Once the formation is within engagement range they are to stand off, remaining within engagement range and providing supporting fire should the formation need to retreat. When the formation is engaged with the enemy, missiles are not to be fired as the risk of impacting friendly vessels is too great.

If you would like more details, email me:, or message me here.
Charlie said Dec 09, 2012 06:11:00
Captain Xavier, nice work so far. My ship employs a mine attack we call an ECHO 1, 2, 3, 4 for the Type 6 mines. When we attack a "line", of ships I have used what we call a "J" or a "S" pattern one turning away from the line as we approach and one where we cross the line and fire.
With multi-ship tactics I am looking forward to trying 2 ships, Echo ?, S & J pattern, meaning the lead ship would cross the "line" with the "S" pattern and fire. While the enemy turns to ship 1, ship 2 approaches the "line" and turns away with the "J" pattern approach firing an ECHO or Mine attack.

Captain FutileChas
Artemis 1701
xavierwise.tsn said Dec 10, 2012 21:03:16

Could you send more details about your mine attack? It sounds a good tactic that I could include in the handbook. I just need it clarifying a little so I could provide an accurate diagram. I have an idea of how it should look, I just want to make sure I get it as accurate as you describe. If you could draw a quick sketch/diagram on something like paint, that would really eliminate any chance of me making errors.
Charlie said Dec 11, 2012 04:17:48
gimme a couple days
cdm014 said Apr 18, 2013 16:54:32
I know this is an old topic, but here's my thoughts on making command structure simple in multi-bridge games.

Default: The ship at the top of the list is the flag/command ship for the mission. If there are opposing teams, it's the topmost ship on the team. Commanding officer of that ship is the Commanding officer for the mission.

Admiral: If a ship's crew includes an admiral, that ship is the command/flag ship for the mission. In the absurd case of multiple admirals the admiral of the topmost ship has the command. If the admiral's ship is lost mission command reverts to the top listed ship.

Join: When the mission commander dispatches ships on a specific task it should be in the format Ship3, Ship2, join Ship 1 (Ship 1 is then given the specific task). If ships are to join a group already formed, the commanding officer of the group to which they are joining has command. Once ordered to join another ship, ships remain under that ship's command until otherwise ordered by that ship or by mission commander. If the group command ship is lost, command reverts to the top listed ship in the group. (The mission commander may issue a new join order at any time to specify new group commanders.)
Mike_Substelny said Apr 27, 2013 05:55:07
I will be running six bridges at my house tomorrow. I'll let you know what the six captains use to coordinate.
"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton!"

(Likely actual words of Admiral David Farragut, USN, at the battle of Mobile Bay. Four bells was the signal for the engine room to make full steam ahead).
Charlie said May 14, 2013 21:07:53
Had a great BvB match! 2 players vs 2 players on a custom map. Artemis vs Intrepid.

Had such a great fight, my brother Hallboy insisted I put together another BvB scenario.

This is what I came up with:

BvB or Single Ship Combat Simulation
AndrewFuerste-Henry said May 23, 2013 21:05:58
Can anyone verify whether or not the multi-ship bugs mentioned above are still active? I'm a public librarian planning to host a game here. We have three separate meeting rooms with built-in projectors and plenty of laptops, so we could, theoretically, run a three ship game. I'm pretty sure I don't want to jump right into that with a lot of folks who've never played before. I may avoid it altogether if it's going to be buggy. Anyone have wise words on the subject?
cdm014 said May 23, 2013 21:53:11
Andrew, I work for a public library in Louisiana. If you do this as an activity, I'd be glad to get a debrief from you about how it went. My work e-mail is
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