I’ve only had GSB a couple of days, so please forgive me if I’ve missed something. My impression, after beating all the stock missions on expert, is that Cruisers are far superior to Frigates and that the cost difference is too small. Perhaps this opinion will change as I immerse myself in the player challenges.
I think the issue is that Cruisers can (obviously) be made to be considerably more durable than Frigates, but still bring impressive firepower to a battle. During deployment, the only time I add frigates to the mix is if I don’t have quite enough credits to field another Cruiser – and even then the only type of frigate I have found to be of any use is a long-range weapons platform with few defenses. The trouble is that it seems to be impossible to design a frigate that can withstand any kind of direct damage while still contributing any offense.
The cost difference between cruisers and frigates is too small to encourage me to switch to using more frigates. The only unique advantage to a frigate is its higher potential speed, but (and this may be inexperience) I have not seen any real advantage to fielding fast frigates. In fact, the more I play the more I have moved to minimizing the number of engines I use (though I have not gone so far as using zero engines yet, despite the fact that anomaly effects seem to point to this being a strategy some use).
If I am missing an important use for frigates (possibly in challenges?), please point it out to me. Maybe it’s as simple as a design tip for constructing more durable frigates or how they are a good counter to certain fleets.
Otherwise, I suggest that the balance here should be investigated to encourage a more diverse fleet. This may require increasing the cost of Cruisers and/or increasing the survivability of Frigates (possibly by making speed more important).
Fighter defence - you can get 4 or 5 anti-fighter missile launchers fairly cheaply or a tractor beam and a couple of lasers. Stick on 10 armour and you’re sorted, particularly if the frigates are backing up a cruiser and the fighters go for the cruiser first.
ECM saturation - a couple of frigates with fast missile launchers and no defences can put enough extra missiles in the air to help your heavy hitters get their missiles through.
Force multipliers - ECM shock missile launchers sprinkled liberally throughout the fleet keep the enemy from firing back and save space on the cruisers.
Bulking up your firepower - frigates with a beam laser and an ion canon or two can deal with other frigates or help take down cruisers without costing much. Stick them on Vulture duty and they’ll help finish off damaged ships quickly allowing your cruisers to concentrate on bigger threats.
Against most challenges I deploy a squad of about 3 frigates each armed with a beam laser, 2 ion cannons and an ECM shock launcher. Cost: 716. They tear through enemy frigates and deal pretty well with cruisers thanks to the shock launcher. When they team up with my own cruisers, they’re lethal. At that price, I can afford 4 of them and still have saved money over a cruiser.
The trouble is that historically, frigates don’t fight in major fleet engagements - they perform recon. Without more detailed orders or a bigger price difference, there’s not going to be much more reason to use them. An interesting modification to the game engine could be to place a limit of fleet crew size and fleet power consumption - then frigates might start to play more of a role.
They can be devastating against plasma-firing cruisers (and other slow tracking stuff), they can spam ECM missiles, and they can provide a cheap way of getting lots of tractor beams / anti-fighter weaponry to the battle. I would use them in two distinct roles - either in small numbers as escorts for cruisers, or as a massive wave of fast ships to get in close.
Thanks for the tips. I have tried to deploy frigates in an anti-fighter role, but it’s possible that my builds were too primitive as I’ve had better luck with just using my own fighters to target bombers.
I will continue to experiment with frigates as lightly armored back-row damage dealers. Maybe as I develop better fleet deployment I’ll get better at keeping them out of the line of fire.
What Frigates can do better than any Cruiser ever will is function as gun platforms. For around 7-800, you can get a frigate with 5 Ion cannons and reasonable speed (but no protection). Compare that to the cost of a single Cruiser and the weaponry it could mount. Between Ion Cannons (with their 550 range) and Frigate Beam Lasers, Frigates will tear things up like little else. I’ve also seen very effective builds that use shields by sacrificing a little firepower and/or a little speed, and they work even better in cases where your plan goes FUBAR. In maps where fighters aren’t permitted, you can build Ion Frigates with over 1.00 speed - they’re nearly impossible to hit unless the enemy is packing high-tracking weapons. Frigates also get two weapon types that Cruiser never do: scrambler missiles and antifighter missiles, both superb specialized weapons.
The balancing factor is that Frigates are always attrition weapons: they cannot be built to endure enemy fire, only to give better than they get. Even super-fast frigates take occasional hits, and they don’t get auto-repair systems! They’re most effective when screened from harm by armored and shielded Cruisers, but die quickly when they become the focus of attention.
Actively moving, just like fighters. Tractor beams will transform them into nothing more than fragile targets. And I can’t remember the last time that I deployed frigates without issuing them the “Keep Moving” order.
Cruiser Pulse Lasers in particular murder super-fast frigates. Frigate Ion Cannons are also good due to their combination of solid tracking, great range, and very high rate of fire (the shotgun approach). It came up big time in the second Grand Challenge Quest. Since it took place on a fighter-less map, frigates became the substitute for fighters.
I find frigates in moderate numbers to be a great way to enhance the firepower of my fleet, IF there is no substantial enemy fighter threat.
An ion cannon frigate with the proper targeting/range/escort orders will stay in the shadow of its cruiser, and usually won’t draw fire until after the cruiser is down - which takes a while. Meanwhile it is spewing out tons of damage. The ion cannons help take down enemy cruisers shields very fast; they may be useless for the brief interval while cruiser armor is still up, but as soon as that comes down they just tear through ship components.
The problem is, a reasonable number of properly targeted fighters will annihilate your frigates long before you can take out the fighters.
Before I say anything let me just put this out there. I just got the game and have been playing around with a few ideas, so please forgive me if anything I say is completely stupid. But with that said I have to agree with what Corbeau (and others) have said. Frigates are great helpers to your fleet. I haven’t gone through all the missions yet. I really haven’t even gone through half of them as I’m a teacher and only have time for 2-3 rounds of GSB between my job and my girlfriend, but I’ve found them to be invaluable.
What I do with them is put 1-3 (depending on the enemy force size) of my heavy cruisers right up front. The cruisers are equipped with weapons that are focused towards taking the enemy’s shields offline and loaded with armor/shields themselves. I want my cruisers to be a moving wall that draws the fire away from my frigates and have the fire power give some back. Set in formation behind my cruisers I’ll position 3-4 frigates with torps/ECM missiles. This keeps them behind the wall, but they’ll have the range to engage the targets that my cruisers are working on. Depending on enemy fighter density I’ll sprinkle in a few anti-fighter frigates in formation with the torp frigates as well. This is sort of a costly strategy, but I’ve already unlocked all the honor stuff anyways.
As I said up front, I’m still very new to the game and feeling my way through ideas. It seems like the game has a lot of potential to be open to many different strategies. Almost all the weapons have some sort of niche that they fit into. But feel free to discredit me and/or educate me!
And sorry about any difficulty reading my post. I just woke up from a late night of drinking with my coworkers and talking about our students, so I’m still really foggy.
I tend to stick torpedo frigates with a single anti-fighter rocket behind my cruisers. A good volley out of them is more than enough to overwhelm point defenses and they can eat right through shields. 2-3 volleys tend to take out the shields of any cruiser and make them vulnerable to the laser fire from my cruisers. They also eat right through enemy fighters since I have so many rockets in the air.
My experience so far runs parallel to what i have read on the board. Frigates are really under powered, yes they can be used as a cheap weapons platform but I feel reasonably sure that having a cruiser in the place of three frigates is more valuable. The reason being that the Cruiser will most likely hang on until the end of the battle, where as the Frigates will be destroyed halfway through. perhaps the three Frigates collectively will possess more firepower, but the cruiser will survive intact much longer and fire far more shots.
Perhaps Frigates should be dropped in price, or have there ability to evade Cruiser type weapons upped so as to increase there survivability. As it is I feel cruisers have little to fear from the frigate, or fighters even if designed well. And to use any other platform is a waste of points, in my opinion. None the less, I am very much enjoying my pre-order copy of the game and look foreword to the finial product.
I’ve been deploying frigates in groups. An armoured and shielded but cheap one to act as a damage sponge with 2 more heavily armed ones in close formation behind. The sponge will soak up the fire from enemy set to fire at frigates, leaving the well armed friends behind free to pound away for longer before their effectiveness starts to get worn down.
I think frigates would last better if there was a sort of “follow and break” command that allowed the frigates to tail your cruisers (meat shield) and then break off and attack. This would give the advantages of formation and keep moving. I noticed that moving frigates are harder to hit with slow track weapons, paticularly plasma.
Or if Frigates had stronger shields and armors then it wouldn’t matter if they flew through a swarm of enemy ships or not. They could go for another spin and THEN get blown up. Currently frigates almost always charge head on to the enemy ships and then notice that they are 1/4 on health and start to turn back but get blown up.
So, either that, or make frigates to fly like max 2,5 speed. That would make it harder for bigger weapons to track them but they could still hit them because frigates are so big. Fighters still could take down the frigates easily if they are just built correctly, meaning built for speed.
To me, frigates are a bit underpowered for one reason: rocket fighters. They absolutely decimate frigates. You’d need large amount of anti-fighter frigates to kill them fast enough before they wreak havoc with the rest of the frigates. Anti-fighter cruisers will easily withstand such fighters, but they don’t kill fighters fast enough. To put things in perspective, I tested 96 pilots and 11k credits worth of rocket fighters (2 rockets each) against 17 pilots and 13k credits worth of anti-fighter frigates (5 anti-fighter missiles each), and the anti-fighter frigates barely won (one less frigate and they consistently lost). This doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that rocket fighters are a lot more mobile and versatile than dedicated anti-fighter frigates.
Rocket fighters wreck havoc with any attempt to “hide” frigates behind cruisers. Just tell the rocket ships to only go after frigates. I’ve usually had good results with a couple squadrons of suicidal rocket ships that just get rid of frigates while my own cruisers (and frigates if the enemy lacks rocket fighters) mop up.
IMO the solution is pretty simple: frigate anti-fighter missiles need a slightly faster turn rate, and fighter pulse lasers need a major improvement so that we can finally have real interceptor fighters.
Mixed groups of frigates make for extremely versatile units.
I build them to operate in mixed squadrons. For example My “Arbalest” series of rapid but fragile long-range torpedo bombardment frigates has four variants. Arbalest-AF has two torpedo launchers and an anti-fighter launcher. Arbalest-EM has two torpedo launchers and an EMP launcher. Arbalest-PD has two torpedo launchers and a point defense. Arbalest-Omega has three torpedo launchers. Deploy them in small “Cooperative, Escort” groups and mix and match the composition to the situation.
Against crazy fighter fleets I deploy a class of sacrificial frigate up front with as much armour as it can support and lots of PD with orders to engage fighters at rock-throwing range. While the fighters pound it to scrap the second line of cheap disposable anti-fighter frigates set to “protect” the doomed frigate whittles down their numbers.