I can see where All-Armor strategies for frigates are useful to prolong life against a large rocket fighter initial rush, but won’t that just leave them open for the armor penetrating power of the cruisers that follow and make short work? And all-shield will just leave any ship open to rocket fighters, or will some anti-fighter missiles or other anti-fighter weaponry be enough to counter it. Although I only mentioned examples with frigates, I’m interested in Cruiser AA/AS strategies as well. So, what are your experiences with these build strategies? Were they useful or not?
15-22 armor frigates were my weapon of choice as a primarily alliance player until the tribe came along. Since then I’ve sort of given up on that line.
Frigates are an interesting point of evaluation as it seems you can generally get more (proportional) protection with frigate defenses than with cruiser defenses, for lesser cost.
In my head, there are two classes of frigate - heavy and light. Heavy frigates can withstand reasonably sized rocket fighter assaults, either through armor immunity or slowing them sufficiently through shield saturation with multiple generators. Light frigates will completely destroy heavy frigates (and most cruisers!) through superior numbers or firepower, but they themselves will always get wrecked badly by the mere presence of rocket fighters. There is the first balancing act.
Armored ships (frigate or cruiser) theoretically go well with low numbers of high power consumption weapons (beams, cruiser lasers, ion cannons) due to the leftover power from not running shields, although you will always need to have more engines than normal. Conversely, low-power weapons you could normally need to spam a lot of (missiles, rapid fire lasers, howitzers) take up a lot of weight/space/crew and tend to ruin your armor ratio as protection is divided among modules. It’s really interesting how the rest of the ship determines your optimal defense capabilities.
Hard-armor fleets have a particularly fatal quirk: Explosions damage armor first. A wandering enemy assault cruiser armed with nothing but low penetrating weapons can still wreck the armor value of many of your ships simply by exploding in the middle of a pack.
Right now, I think the defense with the most potential is some sort of shield-heavy setup. The inclusion of tribe has turned things into a bit of a hitpoint race, and armored fleets are at a distinct disadvantage there due to lack of weaponry.
Shields cost almost as much when including power or crew but evaporate to close range weapons. Shields + speed + minimum armor is good for cruisers if they weren’t so suicidal.
Armored Frigates are quite good against fighters but die to beams. Shield frigates beat armor frigates but any amount of shields get destroyed by cruisers or fighters.