Employing Cruisers in 'Echelon'

Has anyone experimented with designing 2 or 3 weapon-specific cruisers, and employing these types in depth?

For instance, the first line containing cruiser lasers and blasters, the 2nd line or echelon employing proton beams, and the 3rd employing some kind of missile weapon?

This is with the idea of all of the ships reaching combat range at more or less the same moment, so there is a maelstrom of fire from all these weapon types opening up at once.

It seems to me that the 1st echelon, close-range, cruisers need to be beefed up in order to ‘get in there.’ But if they make it to their optimal, close-in firing position, the combined fire from these and 2nd and 3rd echelons is quite something to see.

I tried this once with cruisers. I had three rows of cruisers the first fielding cruiser lasers, the second rockets, and the third missiles. It didn’t end well. However, I later tried the idea again but with a mix of cruisers and frigates. This is one of the key features of my HIppy Horde challenge. The first row is made of relatively cheap cruisers that are reasonably fast and sturdy enough to rush into range and start melting shields with their cruiser lasers (490 m range). Behind that is a row of frigates (I’ve found that Tribe frigates are quite sturdy) with frigate beam lasers (700 m range) and emp missiles (800 m range) that lock down and finish off the enemy. I find this the most effective way to do it since the setup performs well even in worst case scenarios. For example if all my frigates die, then I still have plenty of cruiser lasers; if I get rushed by hordes of fast frigates, my cruiser lasers won’t hit but my beam lasers will while the cruisers act as distraction and soak up the damage. I also always keep a few wings rocket fighters as insurance against that strategy; even if there are no frigates for my rocket fighters to pick off, they’ll distract anti fighter fighters while my main fleet closes in. To summarize, it is a good strategy (I think so anyways) to employ as long as you prepare for the worst case scenario. Actually, no matter what strategy you go with, you should always prepare for the worst.

The problem I have with this plan is that it usually results in a loss when fighting the “wall of plasma” or “wall of missiles” type fleets. Their front row is firing early because it’s the same as their back row – long range missiles. Meanwhile YOUR front row isn’t firing because it’s not in range yet for whatever you have equipped.

Also, to use the shorter range weapons you really need a lot of engines so you can get there before the plasma/missiles blow you up. Extra engines will mean extra power, sometimes an extra crew quarters, so you really end up sabotaging your ability to load up weapons or good defenses. And if ONE row of ships is fast you’ll need ALL of your rows to be at least reasonably fast.

I’ve seen attempts to deal with this problem by creating a fast fleet put into formation with a slow ship stuck out front. The idea is that when the slow ship gets into range and gets blown up, your fast ships “release” and rush forward to attack in unison. The problem is that you can’t do “Formation” and “Keep Moving”, so your fast ships get into firing range and then…stop. That negates the defensive advantage you had with all those engines, had you been able to set “Keep Moving”.

Basically I think long range weapons in this game are overpowered. The counters to them have too many downsides and they are too all-around good.

I did this all the time when playing Rebels. Thing is, it’s not about mixing weapon types so much as it is economizing on defenses. I’d typically deploy a front line of a few extremely heavily shielded ships with Cruiser Lasers and point defense, a middle line with a few heavily armored ships with beams, and a huge back line of minimally armored plasma ships. Typically the enemy would take forever to kill off the front two lines, allowing my cheaper backline armed-to-the-teeth wall of death to kill them off in turn. Plus, it had the benefit of running into the occasional fleet that would either fail against heavy shields, or fail against heavy armor, never even getting close to the backline plasma spam.

And no, long range weapons are absolutely not overpowered. Plasma falls flat against fast, short-range fleets. Missiles are much deadlier than plasma, particularly at medium ranges… except that point defense takes a huge chunk out of their damage per second. If anything, it’s the basic Cruiser Laser and Frigate Ion Cannon that are overpowered - and they wouldn’t be, if not for the screwyness of the order system (give us minimum desired range as well as maximum desired range - we’ve only been clamoring for it since the middle of the beta…).

This is true. However, the thing about missile fleets is that once you get within their minimum range their dps drops substantially. They’ll have to turn around and move back into range before they can shoot. If your ships are faster then theirs, they’ll just ride their asses and shoot them to death at point blank range. You have to set your short range ships to engage at close as possible though; I set mine to engage at 100 m. The same goes for plasma except it is even less effective since their is no target painter equivalent for plasma and it seems to miss frequently when shooting anything that isn’t almost standing still.

I don’t know that I would agree with that. Missiles do lower damage than most of the shorter range weapons, they have high minimum ranges, and they can be shot down by defense modules. If anything is overpowered, I’d say its the cruiser laser since it melts shields so fast and performs well against armor. I think this is more a flaw in the way that armor is handled than the cruiser laser itself though.

I find I usually end up with catastrophic failure whenever I try tiered offenses like this. I get the theory, but the practice doesn’t do so well.

In order to pull it off with smaller range variations, you can’t use ‘keep moving’ orders, because not only will the boats bump into each other, the fire doesn’t come in disciplined enough to force kills. This often causes your ships to naturally clump together, causing plant damage and becoming a prime target for the standard drunken unarmored cruiser laser to explode all over.

Many of the midrange weapons are deeply flawed in some way or the other (beams can’t penetrate cruiser shields but destroy frigates, disruptor bombs don’t do hull damage and are only on frigates, frigate missile systems are generally bad, etc) so it’s probably going to take longer for someone to come up with a really good setup.

Right now, I get far better results with Phalanx type tactics, which makes a bit of sense considering the minimum range of a standard beam.

It unfortunately might not be that simple.

I’ve been doing extensive experimentation with a very fast cruiser armed (and ordered to engage) with 1200 range missiles, so the natural retreat range is 600, outside of cruiser range. 1v1 the cruiser preforms exceptionally against slow, cruiser-laser armed enemies. Group conflicts of any greater size then that often get it killed.

It appears the pilots aren’t choosing (or switching to when conditions change) the closest enemy to match distance with. You’ll see them turned around, pulsing their engines and keeping perfect distance with some cruiser in the middle of the pack while the ones in the front shred them. It seems at some point the driving target becomes very much a “till death do us part” sort of thing, I can’t even snap them out of it with a ‘retaliate’ order.

True, that can happen. Target acquisition is complex; it’s weighted for range, but there are other factors involved and ships tend to pursue a target to the death. But it would be a huge improvement to be able to give the AI orders about minimum range rather than be stuck with the hardcoded 1/2-desired-max-range minimum range.

Getting OT though - back to layered fleets, they definitely only work with slow fleets that don’t need the “keep moving” order. It’s the only way that they can maintain cohesion. Yet those can work wonders - typically the only fleets that’d stomp my rebel one would be Frigate-Cruiser phalanxes, layered in much the same way as my cruiser based phalanx, that had enough fighter defense to shrug off the insanely-strong rebel rocket fighters. Cruiser Laser-based rush fleets of doom were also a problem, for obvious reasons (I was plasma based).

I’ve been able to field something like:

cruiser laser -------------------
cruiser laser ------------------
proton beam ------------------
missile -------------------------

with good effect when accepting challenges. When presenting challenges, such a fleet is usually defeated by the 2nd try.

Each cruiser has 3 weapons and rudimentary shields, and a missile disruptor. They cost somewhere between $1000 and $1600 apiece or thereabouts. When fitting out a fleet, I can get the speeds so they’re all uniform; usually at somewhere between .23 and .25. By juggling around different engine combinations in each design, the speeds between all cruiser classes can be made identical.

I find that the faster cruisers (.30 speed and above) are more often than not just too lightly equipped in weaponry and defenses. Too much is spent on engines in those designs.

Anyway, these budget cruisers are meant to correspond at a roughly 2:1 ratio with heavier cruisers.

The main cruiser is the one with all of the cruiser lasers. The ones with the proton beams help out with finishing off the ‘hedgehogs’ or ‘tanks.’ The missile cruisers are just there to provide a bit of longe range firepower.

It seems to me that the tribe is very well suited for a heavy dose of close-in cruisers, but speed is problematic. When using this tactic with the Rebels, speed is no problem but the ships aren’t nearly as sturdy. BTW, those Tribe frigates are indeed sturdy.

I’ve also been experimenting with an air support wing made up of 1/4 laser tagers and 3/4 rocket fighters.

This has always been my design, though I often skimp on weapons for the front line in favor of heavy shields (3-4 modules).

While I don’t ‘layer’ my cruiser fleets, I arrange them in tightly control “squadrons.” For example, my rebel fleets are centered around a Fenrir class Flagship, or a bigger class, and then I stagger units in a square formation.

Like so.
EC: Escort Carrier, X: Whatever I need for the situation, S: Fighter Screen, TC Torpedo or Missie Cruiser.
This is an example of my Fenrir Squadrons.
[EC] [X] [S]
[TC] [F]
[EC] [X] [S]

Usually my “light” squadrons have a heavy fighter-bomber component. I try to get at least two or three on a map, if not I use one and have a larger fleet of Cruisers to back it up.