There’s nothing I hate to see in fleets more than a block of low-engine cruisers. While they’re obviously beatable, they’re often equipped with a hard or soft counter for everything a generalist fleet (read: fleets with cruiser/frigate/fighter mixes) could throw at them.
The examples are numerous, but I’m pointing at fleets with two defining characteristics:
- Little to no reliance on frigates
- Outlast strategy against fighters
A row of beam/missile/plasma cruisers with armor/tractors to delay fighters is a typical example. The fighters that these fleets have (ranging from none at all to full pilot count) will typically fight over the cruisers in a defensive role and with a heavy home-turf advantage.
The striking thing about all this is how woefully under-equipped opposing fighters are for offense. Defensive painter and rocket fighters are too fast to hit with lasers; rockets and frigate AA missiles are swatted down by nearby cruiser scramblers. Losses begin mounting immediately due to local tractor beams, a weapon fighters are completely helpless against. A single armored cruiser can tank squadrons of laser fighters for several minutes, with the fighter AI being too limited to switch to more obvious vulnerable targets. Tribe takes too flipping long to kill, period.
The other distressing part is the notable absence of frigates. Since cruisers and fast fighters are the most survivable assets, frigates become a weak point (monetarily and tactically) that should be done away with in any fleet with an outlast strategy. The fleet is stronger for the removal of this weak link, and speed and maneuverability lose further value.
Logically, I think there’s a gap here; Fighters are lacking an offensive tool, and frigates aren’t needed for defensive purposes at all when there’s enough cruisers to cover.
The answer may be the lowly Torpedo.
The first thing we want to do is give fighters serious teeth against cruisers. The second thing we want to do is make frigates, not cruisers, the logical and cost effective defense to them.
You can see where I’m going with this.
One point of small picket ships and interceptor fighters in naval conflicts (which GSB draws a bit from) is that allowing a big furball right on top of your most valuable ships is a poor defense. If they’re dropping bombs and torpedoes on your big capital ships, it’s already too late. While GSB’s ranges and AI routines aren’t conducive to scouting and interception actions, we can reward an element of prediction and preparation.
Luckily, we’ve got another module class that isn’t being used by anyone sane out there making challenges. Those are the point defense modules, and by that I don’t mean scramblers or smartbombs.
Ages ago we were talking about a custom staged-warhead weapon that bypassed shields. I propose we go one step further and make this weapon immune to guidance scramblers, with the intention of giving it to fighters along with appropriate range/damage/survivability buffs. Maybe even drive the point home by giving it an EMP effect that breaks tractor beams; Cruisers should not be sitting unprotected against these, even with fighters overhead.
With the naturally high armor penetration, point defense becomes the sole practical solution to torpedo attacks - all that remains is to be sure that frigate PD always stays a superior choice to cruiser PD through price, reliability and hardpoint counts.
I think there’s a usable dynamic here. Let’s explore it.