Capturing enemy jumpship yards is an important military tactic within the current metagame. It allows players to extend their jumpbeacon access to enemy worlds that would otherwise be beyond striking distance. Capturing jumpship yards is important because a jumpship yard's jumpbeacon switches to the attacker's control after it is captured, even when the planet is outside the control radius of the attacker's sector capitals. All of this is mechanically sound; issues with jumpbeacons arise from the way jumpbeacons are tied to structures and planetary designations.
Jumpbeacons are a core game concept and are implemented as a property of a couple of existing structures. However, the term "jumpbeacon" does not appear anywhere in the game where a player could easily find it, so it may not be obvious to players where the jumpbeacon effect is coming from.
Reduced strategic complexity
All planets belonging to another empire and under capital control and that are within 250LY of one of another empire's planets are an existential threat to that empire. This is because any planet can be redesignated as a yards (with jumpbeacon) at a moment's notice. Strategically, all planets within control range of another player's sector capital have to be treated as if they were enemy jumpbeacon planets, because they could be converted so rapidly. This reduces the strategic complexity of the game.
Spite-Redesignation and the incentive to wait for AFK
If two players are active and one is attacking the other, the defender derives a strong advantage from performing "spite-redesignation": immediately redesignating their jumpship yards just before it gets captured. This blocks the enemy from being able to use the jumpbeacon. (Spite-redesignation is also an issue for sector capitals). Because of the risk of spite-redesignation, players have a strong incentive to only attack empires whose players appear to be AFK and not to wage head-to-head war. This makes empire-vs-empire combat less thrilling.
Remove the jumpbeacon attribute from all structures that currently have it. Create a discrete TL6 jumpbeacon structure. For now, it can be in the industry table for the jumpship yards and F&M imperial and sector capital. This structure has the jumpbeacon attribute; it does not need to do anything else. When a player looks at a world's structures, they will be able to instantly tell whether a jumpbeacon is present or not.
Even better solution
Make the beacon structure buildable on any world, not a property of yards, and subject to 200LY or 250LY spacing restrictions similar to the sector capital designation. Jumpship yards could get a mini-beacon with a very short radius, like 50LY and not subject to spacing requirements (but still with a longish build time). Mini-beacons can upgraded to regular beacons if they meet the spacing requirements.
- 250-300 for F&M capitals
- 200-250 for normal beacons
- 50 for jumpyards mini-beacons (no spacing limit)
Optionally, beacons could be buildable on outpost constructions, the first constructions the game
Give the jumpbeacon structure a buildTime between 120 and 1440 so that players cannot extend their beacon ranges within a single gameplay session. Changing a planetary designation should be a signal that other players get some opportunity to interpret and react to. Trust can be established between players if they get a chance to observe that their counterparts are refraining from placing jumpship yards aggressively in the border zone. (Right now such restraint is not enough to inspire trust - beacon coverage can be established only seconds before an attack starts).
Don't remove the jumpbeacon structure instantly when a planet is redesignated. Instead, it should remain for at least two periods before disappearing. A mechanic that is the inverse of buildTime (ruinTime?) will be needed. This will remove the incentive for players to spite-redesignate, since redesignation will not block the attacker from using the jumpbeacon for a while.
Partially included in pull request 5.
Perhaps we can deal with spite-redesignation with revolution index. Spite-redesignation is basically a type of scorched-earth tactic that will cause the local population to suffer. Perhaps the empire suffers an increase in revolution index in the surrounding worlds.
The players who are savvy enough to spite-redesignate are probably also using the Law and Order doctrine (as are all large empires), which provides a pretty good toolset for deterring/dealing with civil wars in the form of imperial guards. I'm not sure that a temporary efficiency penalty on nearby planets will be much of a deterrent when the alternative is that those same planets get subjected to savage jumpfleet attacks. (Although I guess it does block the redesignator from rapidly fortifying ground forces, so they will have to have deployed imperial guards in advance, which isn't something people have been willing to do historically because of attrition issues)