I’ve had pretty good success using the orders to get ships how I want to engage, but the most difficult thing is controlling the range. Even if you have ships significantly faster than the enemy ships, your ships still do stupid things. Mostly they are unable to turn fast enough in order to hold a set range away from the enemy.
This seems to result alot in slower ships having an advantage over faster ships due to dumb AI. The fast ships just don’t seem to know how to use their speed smartly to keep an appropriate engagement envelope, thus wasting the resources you spent on that speed. Plus some dipfaces select smaller maps in their challenges so there isn’t enough room to manuver anyways - but that is another issue.
What do I propose to allow fast ships to keep engagement ranges better, while keeping a relatively dumb AI? I dunno, faster turn rates for one maybe - but best might be a capability to drive in reverse. Maybe all engine modules get it, maybe you need a special engine module to do it. But it would be tactically a wonderful thing to have. No longer could slow ships get away with being slow, they would get pounded to pieces safely from a distance as the other ships simply back off. Maybe letting ships spin in place rather than have to continuously thrust through the turn could be another helpful way around this. Slow turn rate would still be a problem with that though.
Also, another thing on engagement ranges - a ship seems to select a single enemy target, but then, in trying to turn in order to maintain a range from that target, it will sometimes turn towards other enemy ships (and to its death) when instead it could turn in a better direction away from all enemy targets. When I set the engagement range, I want the AI to attempt to keep that distance from ALL enemy ships.
Basically, greater manuverability and a reverse would promote a more heterogenous fleet with reasonable speeds rather than a bunch of boring slow boats lumbering towards each other.