Best Cruiser Weapon against Frigate Spam

Do you ever get the thing where your cruiser design is great in slugging it out against other cruisers, but then you come across a frigate fleet and get overwhelmed?

When this happens to me, it makes me think about switching out a couple of the cruiser’s lower-rate-of-fire weapons, for some good close-in, anti-frigate weapons.

So, what’s the best cruiser weapon for keeping the frigate spam at bay; not necessarily the best weapon against other cruisers, but something which is specifically added to a cruiser for anti-frigate capability?

It’s interesting, trying to build a basic cruiser which can handle both of these; the slugfests against other cruisers, and the onrush of frigates.

It depends on what kind of spam.

If its Ion Cannon Spam, just put on about 20 Armor Power on a cruiser and some repair modules.

One of the best weapons to shoot down frigates are just plain old beam weapons. Defending against them is another matter entirely. Frigates can dish out plenty of hurt, particularly if they are well designed, but can’t take much punishment in return. They’re glass cannons.

A mixture of an EMP missile, a beam laser, and an ion cannon on a frigate, and large numbers of those frigates, can be utterly crippling to cruisers. Each frigate has its own EMP launcher, and if one of those missiles hits the cruiser is down. Get enough frigates and you’re going to be stunlocked forever. The ion cannon eats through the shields, and then the beam laser carves up the armor. Its a potent combination.

It depends on the nature of the frigate defenses. You obviously can’t depend on one type of cruiser defense to counter the myriad of possible frigate offenses.

Frigates are more defense dependent than cruisers are. The typical frigate weapon has 10 hitpoints - they do not last long once defenses are bypassed.

The standard frigate shield that everyone uses has a recharge rate of 7, which matches most cruiser shields. When I make a frigate team, I try to use every advantage I can to make incoming damage inconsistent - high speed, point defenses, multiple shields, distraction methods - in short, defense by statistic. If you can keep the incoming damage at a low incidence and spread across multiple craft, you can buy a lot of time for your frigates.

This makes some of the rapid fire cruiser weapons an unintuitively bad choice. While CL spam sometimes works just by powering through slower or larger frigates, the better tracking weapons like pulse lasers and quantum blasters take an embarrassing amount of time to actually bring down frigate shields due to recharge rates. Pulse can work if you heavily mass it and use it cooperatively; QB’s are just a total waste of real estate and cash.

The enemy of a high-recharge-low-capacity shield isn’t low sustained damage, it’s large damage spikes. This is why rocket fighters are so dangerous to frigates, not because they can merely penetrate shields, it’s because they do it in squad-wide volleys.

Focused high tracking, high delivered damage weapons are your best bet for shattering through frigate defenses.

Painted fast missiles ignore both size and speed bonuses of frigates; although you’d better be using painter fighters because the cruiser painter takes too long to reload. Heavy beams all hit hard, but the fed fusion beam in particular has an attractive 1.5 tracking and hits for 26-52.

If you want an example, SAC-20 is one of the most unpleasant fleets of the set to send close-range frigates after, despite having very little in the way of rocket fighters.

It seems there is an intentional hole in the cruiser armaments for fast frigates to exploit, however. The best answer isn’t always going to be another cruiser.

and that is why my frigate missile spam challanged managed to beat almost everything (i had just gotten teh game, dont judge me). anyway, glass cannons are a perfect description. i either: spam EMP, use legit balanced frigates, ues them as AA cause cruisers are more interesting, or just plain out use them as devirsions

That’s easy; replace one of the Shield generators on your cruisers with an EMP shield generator, then equip it with beam weapons, such as the Federation’s Fusion Beam. That is, assuming you are playing as the Feds. The frigates will be destroyed within seconds, due to their very light shielding and barely-existent armor. Even their speed won’t matter, because of the high tracking rate of the Fusion Beam. Even if your EMP shield generators can’t take all of the brunt of an EMP missile barrage, your point defense systems should take away some of the work. I personally have 3 fusion beams on my best cruiser design.

mind you, the fusion beam is too Overpowered anyway. regardless, i think that the frigate spam is comeing into its own. with teh advent of EMP missiles, there can potentially be a permenant deadlock. also the problem with teh fusion beam defense is teh swarming factor. add cooperative. it may give you a chance to survive.
as for the weaknesses of the frigates, try some AA if you have room. cause all you need to do to demolish that fleet is a squadron of fighters

Cruisers can fight back, but it’s not always going to be a winning battle. You really do want to be using other frigates and fighters instead. Cruisers just don’t have the granularity to deal with that many fast targets.

Note that many of the so called “frigate rushes” have large volumes of laser fighters. These fighters actually provide a lot of straight damage - the frigates support them by stripping shields/armor and assassinating antifighter frigates and fighters. The fighters compensate for the lower armaments carried by faster frigates.

And cruisers… do not deal with fighters well.

no they do not. though they will slaughter most frigates in a few hits, so you have to be careful there. unless you are lucky/have great ships, you will probably only get 5 or so decent salvos from your frigate before it is destroyed.
as for fighters, the fighter defence module for cruisers (forget the actual name) is really useful in the absence of AA fighters/frigates, but is otherwise not worth it, as it may not 1 hit kill a fighter, and does poorly in swarms. all in all a bad module that survives via a monopoly. it is the only direct anti-fighter weapon, as tractor beams dont do direct damage.

I like frigate spam with cheap 1EMP/2laser + 1EMP/2Ion. With swarm it is easy to keep cost under $600 each. Though its defense will be no more than a lv 2 shield. large amount of EMP and high speed works better than trying to “tank” a cruiser anyway. The ratio of ion:laser is 2:1.

Without armor, they will die horribly to fighters. Rather than putting armor on all the frigate, which cost a lot, laser fighters are used to cover that weakness along with some anti fighter frigates. But if it’s frigate vs cruiser only I will definitely op out on laser fighters.

i do like that design, my problem is that it is horribly vulnurable to fighters that willl only attack the frigate. one strategy is to tell your rocket fighters to only target frigates, and as such will destroy the frigate befor the laser fighters kill them. in situations w/out fighters, armour on frigates is a waste

Yes I find that it is the best way of getting rid of frigates. Rocket fighters can usually outrun laser fighters. I don’t really do well with dealing with frigate rushes. If I counter a frigate rush it seems every time my frigates get their privates handed to them. So my counter has always been rocket-fighters. Obviously they don’t do well in attacking fighters, and pretty useless against shielded cruisers but they eat up frigates.

Another way I deal with frigate rushes is give them a decoy frigate or cruiser to chase after. Even though eventually they catch up and slaughter the poor guys they formation gets strung out and broken up by the rocket-fghters. That way they can be picked off easier by the cruisers. I used this method in fighting off some of the swarm formations in the SAC challenges.

The thing about the tractor beam is that anyweapon will hit the fighter caught in it. Keeping a Cruiser Laser instead of the Cruiser Defense Laser take out a fighter without a problem. And that Cruiser Laser is usefull to have in many cases. And any other ship can fire. You are right about the Cruiser Defense Laser. It is pretty useless.


exactly what i do. the other thing is to just to use cruiser beam weapons, but for an easy, fast way that wont take up the job of one of your cruisers, light rocket fighters are the way to destroy frigates. the best are rebel and swarm, though most races can make good rocket fighters

as for that brilliant decoy idea which i will have to try, i think that the only other way to fully protect that frigate is to either spam armour or escort laser fighters. do you have a better idea that might help?

i agree, the tractor beam is really, really useful, especially since other ships can target it as well; therefore, i use it on many of my cruiser designs. my only problem with it is that is takes up a hardpoint slot without contributing any damage, however, on most cruisers, you really dont need 5-6 hardpoints. 4 or 5 will do nicely, and a good defence is a really, really good idea for cruisers. anyway, one point that may have been mentioned, is to make sure that your armour isnt just above the maximum penetration of fighters. so instead of having it at 12, make it at 16. this will enable your cruiser to survive a lucky critical, and coupled with an autorepair, will make your cruiser all but invulnerable to fighters. seriously, it works wonders

If you look at SAC-46 you will see my approach. Notice the frigate off by itself. It’s an AA frigate with 3 Anti-fighter missles and a tractor and it’s escorted by a squadron of painter fighters and some rocket fighters. It has done a tolerably good job of dividing frigate rushes and it’s not the easiest target for fighter rushes.

But if you slap 16+ armor, plus a repair module, plus a tractor beam onto your cruisers, they are suddenly quite expensive for not so much firepower. Usually, you need two engines, a big crew compartment and probably even two reactors and suddenly you’re all out of hardpoints.

And this scenario again points to missile spam to be ideal: Low power consumption means you can possibly get by with a single reactor, and usually also a single engine (who cares about speed when you have vastly more range than anything else). I’m just sayin’.

Well thats where I got the whole idea of decoy frigates. I had to try and decoy the decoys! That is why I love the SAC challenges. They money/pilot constraints are enough that you really have to get imaginative and every little piece has to fit perfectly. A decoy is great - if you can spare it. Spoof fighters are great - except they are pretty useless in combat.


One possible solution is to put AA frigates with armor in the front, so the missile fighters will shoot at them instead. Making the AA frigate slower than other frigates will lure more hits from the fighters, and putting the “keep moving” tag will help prevent them from reaching/getting killed by enemy cruisers. The laser fighters can set to escort AA frigate with max range so they stick around to participate in dog fights.

i will check that out once my GSB computer is fixed (good old fashioned procsessor chrashes are awesome, arent they?), but it sounds like that will be very effective. i will look into that

also true, but i do like that deviding trick. ill try both of your ideas. however, it is difficult to get high frigate armour and still have firepower, unless you overelook shields, which is usually a terrible idea. also, you will not have a ton of room for engines either, so cruisers can kill it. however, that will release the fighters, so it can also be useful. with the fighters and the AA Missiles, rockets will be demolished. also, do Point Defense modules work on fighter rockets?

Technically, yes. In practice, no. Frigate PD is like cruiser PD but cheaper and even less effective.

Scramblers will mitigate a surprising amount of rockets, though.

I must point out that we were initially talking about frigate spam. Using a few armored frigates for AA isn’t going to cut it when fast frigates are actively hunting them down with 80% frigate attack orders and beam lasers. These frigates have to be screened.

Yes I op out on shield on the AA frigate. Shield dies in less than 1 second against a swarm of rocket fighters. As the front line to “take the fighter’s hits”, they won’t have shield regardless. Hopefully the rocket fighters will reach the AA frigate before the cruisers, so the keep moving will kick in for AA while the ion/laser frigate drive past to engage the cruisers.

After some testing, I find Armor only AA frigate with rocket/painter hybrid fighters fairs the best against mass rocket fighters. The actual frigate look like this.

hull = Swarm Horus Frigate hull

0 = frigate tractor,
1 = frigate power II,
2 = frigate_armour IV,
3 = frigate_engine II,
4 = frigate_engine II,
5 = frigate_armour IV,
6 = frigate crew II,
7 = frigate_armour IV,
8 = frigate antifighter missile,
9 = frigate antifighter missile,

I am wondering if I should put the caution AI on them as well to keep them away from the cruisers.

Point defense doesn’t stand a chance against the quantity of fighter missiles. You better off with another AA missile to shoot a fighter down.

Well we are looking at the perspective of the frigate spammer side, and rather or not they can be beaten with rocket fighters/cruisers.

How well will rocket fighters/painter fighters/fast missile cruisers do vs frigate/laser fighter spam?