We get this question from time to time. Strangely enough, we also get: Are ABMs too weak? I guess it depends how you look at it. First of all, how much does it cost to build them?
Before you can build them, they have to be researched. I count 4 ABM cards out of a 100 card deck. You have to pay $200BL per card you turn over. That sounds really expensive but keep in mind that many of the cards are already dealt out to players. How much do you have to spend on research on average? (help me out here math geeks) I’m not exactly sure of the math but from playing experience it’s expensive. You better plan spending at least $2-5TL on research. I’ve seen desperate players spend as much as $10-15TL.
That’s not all. You still have to pay for 2 minerals. If they are worth an average $500BL each, that is an extra $1TL. So let’s say you spend $6TL on ABMs. Are you protected? No. This is where the ABMs are ‘weak’. $6TL is a lot of cash. What do you get for all this? You can shoot down 1 incoming ICBM. If a player launches 5 at you at once, you are still out of the game.
Ok, so what did we spend all that cash for? It’s the follow up builds. Let’s say next turn, you build 4 more. Now you can shoot down 5 incoming ICBMs at once. A player would have to launch 9 at you to take you out. Let’s say the turn after that, you build 4 more. Now you have a total of 9 ABMs. The most ICBMs a player can launch at you is 12. You shoot down 9. Only 3 get through. You are still in the game.
Lets look at the economics. How much did it cost that player to launch 12 ICBMs at you? $6TL for missiles plus the cost of 6 minerals. Worse than that is the VP cost! It’s double: $12TL (+value of minerals). The kicker here is that the ABMs are not consumed when fired. They are reusable. Your stockpile of ABMs still count big for VPs. Again, this is double value. Your 9 ABMs are worth $18TL in VPs.
In addition, having the most ABMs also gives you the high tech advantage in combat: 3 re-rolls. A nice bonus but after building 9 ABMs, you aren’t likely to have a big conventional force.
So, what is the final conclusion? Are they too weak or too strong? They are very expensive. That expense is countered by the huge VP value. If you have only a few, they are weak. If you can build many, they become very strong. Too strong? Well, look at all the cash you had to pay for them! Would you spend that much effort on something that wasn’t very strong?
Also consider your opportunity cost here. What did you not build by choosing to build a huge ABM stockpile? How are you hurting and behind in those areas? Yes, a massive ABM force can be extremely strong. Considering the costs to build one, it seems just about right.