Some people have a problem with cruiser spam.
It stands to reason that most cruisers should have better weapons, power plants, armor, and other things than smaller ships like frigates. In a science fiction setting, whoever can generate more power usually gets an incredible advantage. This makes it hard to give frigates an exclusive “role” in the game. Why give frigates an exclusive AA gun, for example, and not stick one on your cruisers? In fact, having cruisers with a mix of offensive and defensive arsenal sounds like proper ship design theory to me. Due to their large size and excessive power, it seems like cruiser engines should be better than they are, too.
So what’s the “answer” to cruiser spam?
It seems to me that the solution should be one of logistics, rather than game balance. You can’t just balance it with cost. If it costs too much, you end up with no cruisers. If it costs too little, you end up with all cruisers. And if its at the sweet spot, you’ll end up with one situation or the other, but not necessarily a mix.
I see three basic solutions:
Have cruiser hulls cost more for each additional cruiser in the fleet, like a logistics penalty. This makes your first few cruisers cheap, but its too expensive to pay for too many cruisers. Each player will have to decide for themselves about how many cruisers is “too much”.
Simply place a mission-specific limit on cruisers like the “fleet supply”. Personally, I like the idea of an even larger hull - a flagship - limited to only one ship by default, but even then I think the setting should be adjustable. Still, this seems like the least interesting solution and will only lead to fleets with the max cruisers possible – still better than “cruiser spam” for a lot of people though.
My favorite of these proposed solutions, have cruisers cost more pilots. If it costs 1 pilot for a fighter, 2 pilots for a frigate, and 5 pilots for a cruiser, i think we’ll see some more variety in fleets. I like this because it still leaves choices in the hands of the player. You can still have “cruiser spam” if you like, but I don’t think it will be as big an issue. This can even be combined with #1 to have the pilot cost for each cruiser rise progressively higher for each additional cruiser.
This isn’t really related but also touches on the subject of frigates and cruisers: Another thought I’ve had is that perhaps shields for frigates should be much more efficient and have higher resistance ratings due to the small size of their protective shield bubbles. A lot of energy must be wasted creating those gigantic bubbles. I think this will be my next mod.
As a final note on the subject, I think all the specialized technologies available to cruisers should also be available to frigates. I don’t like exclusive cruiser-module unless there’s a good justification for it, such as extraordinary size and power requirements of certain weapons. But “superheavy armors” and “driod bays”? Why not have frigate versions of those, as well?