Explosions to cure what ails ya

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:

  1. Little to no reliance on frigates
  2. 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.

Most every cruiser I field has a tractor beam on it? Guilty as charged.

Because, contrary to the idea forwarded above that fighters lack compelling arguments against cruisers, I find that ships that can’t contribute to anti-fighter work make the fleet vulnerable to packs of fighters that can bring hellfire and damnation down upon cruisers and anything else that gets in their way.

Should there be a more interesting dynamic between these classes of vessels? Yes. But do fighters really need something more than being able to shoot from within the shield bubble to make them worthwhile?

Maybe–just maybe–some torp type weapon with a high minimum range–must be fired as a standoff weapon–and a non-fast firing rate. I’ve tried this with Torp fighters set to fire from max range, but they don’t cut the mustard.

Generally speaking, one thing that makes the whole fighter/cruiser relationship a monotone situation is that there seem to be just a few weapon loadouts that are survivable–whatever leaves the fighters moving fast, works. Whatever slows 'em down, doesn’t work.

My two cents,


I think at this point, the big issue is that missile type weapons simply don’t have high tracking, making painter modules a necessity (which is kinda odd; surely it would be easy to target a big honking hunk of metal the size of several city blocks without assistance?). This makes Torpedo modules have a low hit rate to begin with, and scramblers/PD shoot what’s left of said hit rate to pieces. If they could actually hit every time to start, then we could talk.

Even if they did, fighter torpedoes still have the worst individual sustained damage in the game. All they’ve got going for them is penetration and the (unreliable) front-loaded nature of their opening volley; after that, they’re usually struggling to overcome shield recharge rates.

If we want bombers to be a real threat to cruisers, flat out increasing that damage to down cruiser shields is a dangerous proposition as they’ll turn around and nuke frigates with it. Borrowing the mechanic from laser fighters might work better (letting them drop bomblets from within cruiser shields) but then PD wouldn’t get much time to counter.

I figure ignoring shields is what fighters do - it’s not much of a stretch to give it to torpedoes.