How to post proper Online Challenges (IMO)

I make this post to help new players wanting to post a new challenge for all users in the Challenges section, but also to state my point of view so it is in no way meant to be an exhaustive, authoritative guideline. I am in no position to make one of those.

If Cliffski reads this, I would like to say that I don’t see the point in letting users post their Battle-beating fleets as a Challenge as that is just spamming. As I said in the Suggestions forum I also think that there should be chat/message options within each battle rather than straight into an inbox which is spammed heavily when users try to beat your challenge. That way, there could be an open discussion around a specific battle. Also, two messages per attempted challenge is superfluous (and a bit confusing).

OK, over to my suggested workflow for making Challenges…

  1. Before even selecting a race, decide what you want to achieve with your challenge right away. With that I mean, what is your fleet supposed to do???

  2. After having decided what you want the fleet to do, it is time to select the right hull (and thus, race) for the task. A popular challenge type is the 1 vs 1 cruiser duel, so let’s use that as an example. You now have a few choices to make: the more hardpoints you have, the more damage can be dealt, but shields and armor are also important. The largest cruiser in the original game is Empire’s Praetorian, so it is a logical choice. Empire it is, then.

  3. You now get to set up the restrictions, and this is where half the job is done. Many beginners to the Challenge mode make their first mistakes here. The most important principle is to make sure that you are not giving yourself a huge disadvantage. This can be ensured by setting up the exact same amount of cash and pilots that your fleet needs. In the given example, cash is irrelevant because you will only allow 1 pilot - but you can safely set it to 5k for instance (and minimum size + engines required). If you allow more than one pilot but enter only one yourself, this means the players taking on your challenge will have to restrict themselves in order to get a fair fight and this is both incredibly annoying and very unnecessary.

Another example may be in order here; let’s say you make a 100k, 1000 pilots, 4096 size challenge with no other restrictions - your foremost task is then to ensure that a fleet of 1000 fighters do not auto-beat your challenge because that is a logical choice given the power of 1000 fighters. Even 100k worth of heavily armored cruisers with pretty good anti-fighter capacity may come up short vs a 1000 of Rebel’s 2.65 speed Icarus (and consider the fact that all that anti-fighter capacity means less capacity for other things). It is here in the setup that you define the nature of the battle.

  1. Fleet design. The 1 vs 1 cruiser duel example is quite special so I won’t go into detail, but it is no secret that Cruiser Lasers have the best dps (damage per second) in the game and having an EMP Cannon is very useful, and the Praetorian hull allows everything you want so I’d include a EMP Shield as well.

  2. Testing. Try your own challenge to see if it works as intended. If it isn’t, delete it and do it again (to avoid spam). Make sure to use another “taunt” than the default one, to give an indication to others what type of challenge you have posted. “1 vs 1 Cruiser Duel” should be good enough, unless you want to be creative…

And a few additional points:

  • Fighter-only challenges are boring and very tedious to play
  • I’d avoid placing extensive supply limitations, because it often means that people need to build a new fleet just for that challenge, which can sometimes be frustrating as well as boring
  • It is generally a good point to build fleets that can deal with more than one type of fleet in some way; a 100k cruiser fleet of Federation Panthers with 8 Multi-Warhead Missiles each will of course be very powerful but they will have no chance against fighters, quick rush frigates, Tribe cruiser rush or a Swarm Smart Bomb + Scrambler fleet which is reasonably quick. The opponent will therefore likely lose the first attempt and then autowin the rest of the time. However, if you add some support frigates (for instance 20-30 Fox hulls, each with 2x anti-fighter missile, 1 ion cannon and 1 beam laser, shield and 3xarmor), you lose some long-range power but gain useful protection against fighters and rush. People will suddenly have to actually think!
  • Banning shields or reducing their effectiveness make the challenge into a beam laser fight, the same as Frigate-only challenges are.
  • Reducing weapons ranges will make the nature of the challenge unpredictable, since a number of weapons are allowed but cannot fire. Worse than supply limits!
  • I think it is sometimes fun to make challenges using inferior weapons such as Quantum Blasters, but if you do this make sure that you say so in the “taunt” - obviously a full-power fleet will destroy any fleet packing those so it is a good idea to indicate that you are aware of this :wink:

About creating challenges

Firstly, an online challenge is supposed to be fun, and in order to be so it needs to be difficult to beat. A challenge must be challenging. When you have played a few dozen hours of GSB, you’ll realize that the gameplay is basically that of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock. Not all weapons and armor are viable if you want to make a puzzle for others to beat. You’ll end up using pretty much the same ships as everyone else.

IIRC you’ll end up using Cruiser Lasers, Beam Lasers, MWM’s, FML’s, CP, CPL, EMP Cannons, Reflective Shields, Multiphasic Shields, Ultra-heavy armor, Powered/Lightweight armor, Supercharged Engines, Lightweight Engines, Nano-bot Repair modules, Guidance Scrambler Beams and Hi-Speed Point Defense plus some of the race-specific equipment. Similar stuff happens with Frigates and you will likely stop using armored Fighters altogether just like everyone else.

So being creative is also a challenge, and that creativity is likely to be all about Drive Orders and positioning of the fleet… the idea that you’re trying to execute. Like for instance flanking, luring them into an ambush or causing chaotic driving and aiming among the enemy ships. At this point none of us are likely to come up with something nobody has ever seen before, though.

Secondly, a guiding principle in GSB is that of fire concentration. The quicker an enemy ship goes down, the less damage it can deal, so the firepower must be concentrated on as few enemy ships as possible (unless you’re using EMP). The easiest way of achieving this is to pack only one type of weapon on all your ships and cramming them as closely together as possible while making sure that they don’t disperse. This is important both for slow fleets and for quick assault/rush fleets. An assault fleet that attacks a slow fleet one by one is going to have a hard time overcoming their defenses, so their speed must be the same and their drive must be uniform and uninterrupted so that they arrive at the destination as a unit. Packing an assault ship/fleet with only Cruiser Lasers ensure maximum firepower and dps, but only the ships in range of the enemy (490) can fire, leaving the ships behind the front line useless. Similarly, if there are too many rows of slow ships with long range weaponry, in a long range vs long range battle only the front row will fire. The principle of fire concentration is at the bottom of all these dilemmas, including that of the general Rock, Paper, Scissors gameplay - pack only Cruiser Lasers and any fleet with 20-30 armor may take you down easily, or any fleet that can destroy your ships before they are in range.

So, don’t spread your ships out randomly. Don’t use ships of varying speed, or at least don’t just let everyone loose so that they attack the enemy one by one. Think fire concentration! With that in mind, you’ll find that the other users may have to actually think when they face your challenge. You may find that some users try forever (or give up) to beat your fleet. That’s a compliment!

The Construction Yard

Let’s have a look at the art of creating space ships. I have not exactly achieved “ascension” myself, having full control of all possible viable builds, but I have experimented for a while now, and do have some insight into this part of the game. I won’t go into as much detail as the already existing guide on this site, as it covers much of this in practice, supported with statistics. Instead I am following up on the logical outcome of the three guiding principles (which I have written about above) of Challenge creation; The Plan, Concentrated Fire and RockPaperScissorsLizardSpock.

  1. Necessity, cost and the use of armor

Armor can be very useful. It can also be very redundant. It has two functions; soaking up damage and providing invulnerability. Compared to the other tool that does much the same, Shields, the first function is inferior. The second function is very powerful, though. Needless to say, Beam Lasers of any kind are very good at breaking armor, since most of them have an armor penetration rate of around 70. Next in line comes Plasma, then Missiles, Torpedoes and Rockets and least effective are the rapid-firing shield-breaking close-range weapons lead by Cruiser Lasers and Ion Cannons.

When adding armor to your ships, you need to aim at invulnerability to a certain weapon. To stop the most effective damage dealers, CL and IC (Cruiser Lasers and Ion Cannons), you need an average armor rating of 16+, preferably 20+ so that their quick rate of fire don’t break armor through lucky strikes too quickly. Anything less than that costs a lot of money and slows down the ship, and the damage soaking ability which helps against Missile and Plasma shield penetration damage is normally not worth that (the exception is Order’s Radiation Gun). In order to stop Cruiser Plasma, average armor must be higher than 53. In order to stop Beam Lasers, it must be higher than 74.

This means that putting armor on Frigates is pretty much a waste, with the exception of Anti-Fighter Frigates. And then we talk about Laser Fighters, not Rockets and certainly not Torpedoes. Fighter Rockets have an armor and shield penetration of 12 IIRC, and when creating Anti-Fighter Frigates I normally use 3 slots for armor and get a rating of 15. This is more than enough against Laser Fighters as long as the ship also have a shield. However, the extra 3 armor rating dissipates rather quickly against Rockets (which takes down Frigate shields immediately), so you’ll need more against them. Maybe 20-25, but even then they are easily overwhelmed. To get even more armor on a Frigate, you’ll need open slots, sacrificing versatility - so it would be better to make a Cruiser Anti-Fighter to deal with Rocket Fighters.

Frigate-only battles/challenges are mostly about Beam Lasers, which penetrates all Frigate shields. It is perhaps impossible to make Frigates with armor that can withstand Frigate Beam Lasers (at least I haven’t figured out how… or why), and shields are more effective damage soakers in practice anyways. So in a 1-on-1 Frigate battle, the ship with the highest amount of FBL and shields will win. In a 100k 1000 pilot Frigate-only challenge, however, you can make 80-90 of the biggest Frigate in the game from Nomads (forgot name). It is possible to make frigates for nearly 1/3rd the price of those, with two or three FBL’s and less shields but when you have 200+ ships on the battlefield more lasers will be firing at once, easily overwhelming the bigger and more expensive ships (in addition, more ships = more Hull Integrity - so the bigger ships need to deal more damage in the same amount of time). The principle of Fire Concentration at play, in practice.

To summarize, adding armor to a ship is not necessary. It does not improve a ship significantly enough as a tacked-on addition if you have an open slot. As part of a game-plan, however, armor can make your ships invulnerable against certain enemies and that’s certainly useful. Saving money by leaving open slots and using cheaper equipment is only useful if you get an extra ship or more, and then only if that added ship increases firepower enough that it matters. With Swarm, for instance, you can make a quick assault cruiser for less than 1500credits, but even in a 15k 10 pilots challenge, those might not be more powerful than 5 full-powered cruisers.

  1. Priorities

The first and foremost priority is to deal damage. Second is to avoid being dealt damage. It is logical, yes, but many players miss out on the fine print. In order to be able to deal damage, you need to take down the shields first, then you need to break the armor so that you get access to that hull. That order is all-important, because with the shields up you cannot normally break the armor! In order to get the shields down, you need weapons with Shield Penetration higher than 27, and these need to fire quickly enough that the shields don’t get the time to recharge. This is why Cruiser Lasers are so good - they fire quickly with high damage and high shield penetration. Two or three of them are enough to take down a shield of 500-600 power. In comparison, you’ll struggle to do so with only four Cruiser Plasma, Fast Missiles and even the relatively quick-firing Cruiser Rockets. Without actually checking this out, I am fairly certain that ten 4 Beam Laser, 4 Cruiser Plasma Federation Panthers would lose against ten 8 Cruiser Plasma Panthers of otherwise similar build and order/formation, even though the former ships would be able to deal more damage quicker once an enemy ship’s shields are down (even when assuming that the lasers are in range at the start of the battle).

So you’d want your shield-penetrating weapons to fire as early as possible in a battle, and thus arrange the ships so that this happens. Once the shields are down, unless we’re talking about tanks (74+ armor cruisers), the armor, if any, is gone quickly and so is the ship. It is worth considering that hull damage destroys modules, so ships taking hull damage will stop firing eventually. Defense is thus in most circumstances about keeping the shields up. Normally, missiles are inefficient in challenges because point defense is a simple, cheap and good countermeasure. This mostly leaves Cruiser Plasma and Cruiser Lasers, and while CP has good range they are imprecise and slow; similarly CL’s have poor range but they are rather precise and fire very quickly.

The bottom line here is that to combat CL’s mounted on quick ships (0.20+ speed), CP-based ships needs to either be able to kill them before the CL’s are in range, or they need backup in the form of CL’s (or Ion Cannon Frigates) themselves, which of course reduces long-range power. That makes them more vulnerable to other long-range fleets which do not sacrifice power for close-combat protection. A 0.30 speed CL assault fleet with 500 shield power is likely to take down a CP-based fleet with 500 shield power. The CL assault fleet is likely to lose vs a CP + CL/Beam Laser defender backup combo, which in turn will lose against that CP-only fleet. Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Then we can add that certain strategies can overcome these “deadlocks”. Tank lures; fighter lures; supply limitations and other limitations upon creation; dispersal of fire concentration in the form of withdrawing lures or flanking; dispersal in the form of confusing enemy driver orders; sacrificial lambs releasing quick close-combat ships upon death, and others. I’ll talk about those next.

I like your posts and wish there was a way to sticky it to the actual game but… I would like to point out that any Cruiser that leaves the construction slipway without enough armour to withstand random hits from the Fighter Laser will fail on any challenge involving fighters. They are cheap and ubiquitous enough that in small quantities their damage potential far exceed their costs. Able to slide under shields any cruiser is vulnerable.

I know there are many strategies with dealing with fighters but a basic challenge should at least be able to shrug off a few squadrons.

Also found armoured fighters are usefull…

They won’t fail in any challenge involving fighters unless you don’t have fighters or frigates yourself. Just a few fighters slapped on to use up remaining funds will normally not do enough damage to an unprotected rush fleet before the rest of that fleet is gone and you autowin. However, a defensive fleet, which often kills slowly, should always have fighter protection in challenges allowing that. If that is in the form of 10-15 armor to stay alive long enough, that may work fine.

It is always a good idea to make sure that you win the “fighter war” in most challenges involving them. Besides, on Escort service they provide good chaff.

I agree armouring a rush fleet is counter productive, but a pure rush fleet is probably one of the simplest to defeat in the end. And only one of the many variations.

But if you are making a challenging fleet you should realize that you might be engaged in a heavy fighter engagement or a rush engagement or a cruiser duel. You won’t know if the enemy will use his fighters solely to go after your fighters, or concentrate on cruisers. Will the cruisers be solely tasked with breaking shields and using rocket fighters to overwhelm the opponent? Using fighters for solely AA purposes removes their offensive potential, and frigates used for AA easily succumb to rocket fighters.

A challenging fleet should be one that requires someone to do at least 3-4 attempts. It should not show it’s counter until you’ve played it.

And yes I agree that simply cutting pilots to make a map un-fighter friendly works - but I work with the idea of few builds covering many areas.

Needs more challenges

Yes it becomes increasingly difficult to build a fleet designed to deal with a variety of opposition the more pilots you allow. Of course, the more general in purpose a ship or fleet is, the more likely you are to have to add 10-15 armor or so. Laser fighters won’t become efficient at killing armorless cruisers until you have like 50-60 or more of them, and usually, when I want them to be such a threat, I add 10 squadrons or so. As a strategic choice, that means that the opponent is likely forced to allocate resources to stop them. At least that is what I do when I see a challenge sporting a significant amount of fighters.

A mistake I see many do when creating their first few challenges (that probably included myself) is that they allow plenty of pilots, spam fighters and then add a few cruisers and frigates just as a kicker. Unless those cruisers are heavily anti-fighter they won’t matter in the fighter-war at all and in most circumstances the cash they cost gives the creator a figher-war disadvantage. He would likely be better off just adding more fighters instead… Not to mention that the opponent could plot to destroy those non-fighters quickly so that the match ends that way.

At the other end of the scale, the most challenging challenges usually do have some fighters in them, and they usually do have other purposes than dealing with other fighters.

How game plans are connected to ship builds and orders

  1. As explained in the excellent Comprehensive Guide, there is an algorithm deciding chance to hit a ship that increases from near-zero to almost-100% as the speed of the target decreases compared to the tracking of the weapon. The ship’s size also has a bearing on the outcome of this. The smaller the target, the less likely one is to hit it. The ship needs the Keep Moving order on to be harder to hit, but it does not actually need to be moving on the map to get the “bonus”. A quick ship on Keep Moving that gets stuck in another ship will still be harder to hit.

In addition, here’s some general observations:

A) Some weapons are more precise than others, even though the tracking rate is comparable. The Disruptor Beam, for instance, has a tracking of 1.2 IIRC, but the rate of misses on an unmoving target seems very low compared to Plasma, for instance. Plasma is described as “reliable”, but it is actually the least reliable in the game; its miss ratio on unmoving, large targets seem to be the highest in the game.

B) Effectiveness of weapons take a large dip once the ship’s speed exceeds that of the weapon’s tracking. This is especially important for fighters, actually. The standard weapon for fighters is the Laser Cannon, with 2.80 tracking and 300 fire rate. The second most popular fighter weapon is Rocket Launcher with 2.00 tracking. The quickest laser fighter is the Rebel Icarus at 2.68 speed (I don’t have Outcasts and Parasites), while a fighter with a single rocket launcher can have a bit over 4 speed and 2100 fire rate.

This means that in a Icarus vs 4.0 speed rocket fighter battle, lasers will win every time because of the fire rate increasing the chance of “lucky strikes”. Similarly, Icarus will win equal numbers fighter battles against any other laser fighter because of the decreased chance to hit them. Armor lowers the speed so much that the increased chance to be hit outweights the number of extra hits that the fighter survives, as long as the speed is lower than 2.80. I don’t think that a 3.50 speed dual rocket fighter with armor is that much more likely to be hit than a 4.00 speed single rocket fighter without armor.

Tracking Beams really help rocket fighters, though.

C) Even on Keep Moving orders, when moving in a straight line across space towards the driving target, quick ships appear to be easier to hit than when they start strafing.

I will continue this post later today

How game plans are connected to ship builds and orders

… continued

  1. When you cram cruisers together, for instance in a 4x4 square, they will disperse once you start the battle. They cannot usually occupy the same space, so the foremost ships will accelerate towards the driving target, while those behind will slam the brakes and those to the each side will move towards open space in that direction. Some cruisers are bigger and more clumsy than others, so the chaotic driving will be dependent on which hull is where. Federation’s Panthers are very small and to my knowledge the hull that is the least affected by this. They stay packed together and thus provide excellent fire concentration compared to other hulls. Tribe’s Utopia hull is also small and relatively unaffected by dispersion. Swarm’s wide, “winged” hulls are highly affected by dispersion.

A) The longer the distance between your fleet and the opposition fleet, the more likely your fleet is to arrive one by one (which means minimal fire concentration) because the tailgating ships will brake and the drive target will always be the closest one you have selected.

B) It is therefore a bad idea for cruisers to target fighters, and in some cases a bad idea to even target frigates. They will fire at the closest target regardless of driving orders, so if there are fighters in the scenario delete driving orders for fighters for all cruisers and frigates. If a cruiser fleet with orders to drive towards fighters encounter a bunch of laser fighters which are not escorting something, they will abandon all sense of tactics and be picked off one by one by opposition cruisers. The same could be said about quick frigates if your cruiser fleet has orders to chase frigates.

C) To my knowledge, the firing range you set is the frontmost hard slot (weapon). In a ship like Swarm’s Sekhmet, the main hard slots are positioned in the middle of the ship a good distance (at least 50 meters) from the ship’s nose. So if you have a Disruptor Beam in the front hard slot (910 max range IIRC) and the rest of the hard slots filled with Heavy Plasma (900 max range IIRC) and then set the range to 900, the ship will stop in range of the Disruptor Beam but the Plasmas won’t fire (in theory - I haven’t actually tested this specific example). This is especially important to remember if you have your ships arranged in rows. The second row may not be within firing range if the ship is large, and especially Swarm cruisers won’t fit between each other easily. So if you want two rows to fire at once you will have to bring all the ships well within max range. This of course runs the risk of letting several rows of the opponent ships also fire at your front row. This make Panthers and Utopias very powerful because they are so small. Federation’s Tiger Cruiser hull is one of those that needs to go a bit closer in order to fire, and it is worth considering that the Eagle and the Panther may both be able to fire off a volley before the Tiger, even though the speed is the same.

“Then we can add that certain strategies can overcome these “deadlocks”. Tank lures; fighter lures; supply limitations and other limitations upon creation; dispersal of fire concentration in the form of withdrawing lures or flanking; dispersal in the form of confusing enemy driver orders; sacrificial lambs releasing quick close-combat ships upon death, and others. I’ll talk about those next.”

How game plans are connected to ship builds and orders


Tank Lures

  • Tank lures are cruisers with an armor rating of 74+ that are positioned in front of the main fleet in order to draw the attention/fire of the opposition fleet while that main fleet gets to fire at them undisturbedly. There are two ways to deal with tank lures; 1) fire at it until the lucky shots do their thing, and 2) set orders to go to minimum range (100) and Retaliate. This will hopefully divert the attention to the tank and to the real threat.

Fighter Lures

  • Fighter lures are fighters which function is to draw fire away from the main fleet, usually as Escort for a frontline ship. The most irritating kind are those without weapons whizzing about at great speed, which makes them hard to catch while occupying enemy fighters for a while. If you have a little money left over, using them to get half a squad of fighters and then attaching them to a front ship with range 600 can spare your fleet for several volleys, and that could be the difference between victory and defeat.

Withdrawing Lures

  • Withdrawing Lures are usually frigates set to fire at max range (2000) or a range otherwise exceeding the max range of their weapons, so that they withdraw when the enemy gets too close. The same can of course be done with cruisers but the lack of speed means that the enemy is likely to catch up, reducing this tactic’s efficiency. Obviously, if the enemy has weapons with better range than the lures, the tactic won’t work. This tactic is excellent at dispersing enemies since it is likely to confuse driving orders.


  • Flanking can be efficient if set up correctly. The goal is to split up the oncoming enemy fleet. If you set up one central fleet that becomes the driving order for the enemy (i.e it is closest), and then two quicker fleets farther back, you can divert their fleet into two or three parts as the wider fleets enter the battle before the initial driving target. A simpler version is that you put your main fleet in one corner and then have a few offshoots in the other corner. If you send half their fleet off to deal with one flank and the other to deal with your main fleet, the main fleet will have an advantage because of fire concentration. The lure fleet/ship will of course die quickly but by then they are dispersed and often arrive at the main battle one by one.

Sacrifical Lamb

  • An even more extreme version of the second flanking manoever above, where the offshoot fleet can actually kill a few ships before going down. The sacrifical lamb is often just a frigate/fighters that you can afford with that last few hundred bucks left over from deploying your actual fleet. Again the goal is to disperse their fleet by changing their driving order from the main fleet to a closer ship that is of course of no consequence for the battle.
  • The other version of the sacrifical lamb is that you set one ship up (preferably a tank) to drive for enemy territory, tying the rest of the fleet up to it with a Formation order. When it dies, the fleet is released and can do their thing, now much closer to the enemy without having drawn much fire.
  • If you make a fleet of anti-fighter frigates with one or two Ion Cannons there to protect the main fleet vs fighters, it is usually a good idea to use a Formation tying it to a cruiser. When it dies, the frigates are released and they are also a threat against both cruisers and frigates now, giving you a late-game chance to overwhelm the opposition. Timing this so that it happens at the right moment could be important, and thus you need to select the right cruiser to “sacrifice”.