Here’s the noob trying to reinvent the wheel again…
I wanted to see if carrier bays were worth having and, if so, whether I could determine an optimum ratio of bays to fighters. After running a bunch of tests I can say that carrier bays are definitely worth the investment, provided that you field enough fighters. If you only field a couple of squadrons, then you might be better off not to have them at all.
First off, for the maximum of 1 or 2 other folks reading this who don’t already know all about carrier bays, here’s how I observed them to work…
A single fighter bay can hold a LOT of fighters at once. I don’t know what the upper limit is but it’s more than 100. If you click on the carrier to see its modules, you’ll see a white number in the top half of the bay’s icon. That’s how many fighters are in there. All but 1 of them are waiting in line, however, because a bay can only repair 1 fighter at a time. Once the fighter is repaired, it flies back out (and even attempts to rejoin its squadron if under Stick Together orders) and the bay starts work on the next fighter in line. It appears (although it’s very hard to tell) that the bay works on a 1st in, 1st out policy.
If the carrier has multiple bays, incoming damaged fighters will usually go for an open bay if available, otherwise the shortest queue. However, if the carrier has 2 bays, sometimes the fighters get confused and most will pile up into 1 bay, so it gets crammed with like 70 (maybe it sells cheaper fuel?) while the other bay has only 2 or 3 in it. This only seems to happen with 2 bays. WIth 1 bay there’s no mistaking and with 3 or more there’s no such confusion.
The actual repair process takes some time, which appears to be a function of the bay’s repair rate (constant) and how much damage there is to fix (variable). In general, however, for the typical LC fighter with just a few HP left and all modules badly damaged, it takes about 6 seconds of real time when the game is running at 1x speed. The repair uses some of the bay’s supplies, which I infer is 1 supply point per 1 hitpoint of damage but have no way of knowing for sure. When looking at the carrier’s modules, each bay icon has a white bar across the bottom. As supplies are used up, this bar gets shorter until it disappears when supplies run out.
When a bay runs out of supplies, there’s a pause of a few seconds as if the mechanics are rummaging around looking for parts stashed in far corners. When they finally realize they’re out, they push a button that immediately dumps all the fighters in the bay back out into space at once, with their damage unrepaired. This can sometimes be pretty cool to watch, especially if there are like 80 fighters in the bay. It’s like the carrier explodes in a starburst of burning, smoking fighters radiating out in all directions. The ejected fighters then struttle on as best they can. Given that they have Cautious orders or they wouldn’t have been in the carrier, they now usually join the “left hand column” of cripples. However, if the carrier has more bays, some of them might go in them instead.
OK, that’s the mechanics. What good are they?
Well, a lot depends on the fortunes of war. Carrier bays are like cruiser repair modules: if you don’t take any damage, you don’t need them. OTOH, if the Dice Gods are mad at you that day, nothing you do will help. Also, you have to consider the relative quality and quantity of your opposition. If your fighters are inherently better or have dominating numbers, you’re going to win the fighter battle anyway so don’t need carriers. If your fighters suck and/or are way outnumbered, carriers ain’t gonna save you. Where carriers help is when you’re out-numbered about 9% or less, or your fighters are very slightly inferior (however you define that) to an equal number of the enemy. Without carriers, you’ll lose such fighter battles most of the time. With carriers having an ADEQUATE NUMBER OF BAYS, you’ll win such fighter battles most of the time. And if fighter quality and quantity are equal, having even 1 bay will tip the scales in your favor more often than not, while 2 or more bays will ensure a costly victory, and the more more bays you have (up to the optimum), the larger your margin.
So, if your situation is one where carriers will help you, now you have to determine the optimum number of bays. The number of bays affects 2 things: turn-around time on repairs and total amount of repairs available. In general, I find that turn-around time is more important when considering the value of carriers. The longer a figher sits in the repair queue, the more it approximates being dead in terms of the outcome of the ongoing fighter battle, so the less value there is in repairing it when its turn finally comes. For this reason, I consider the optimum number of bays to be that which keeps queues at 1-2 fighters, no more. In practical terms, this means you need 1 bay for every 5 fighter squadrons you deploy. Any less and the queues start exceeding 3-4 and can easily go as high as 10 to even 80, depending on the fortunes of war. Any more and the excess won’t ever be used until some of the others run out of supplies. This is regardless of what type of bay you have because both the Carrier Support Bay and the Reinforced Carrier Bay have the same repair rate, which is what controls the turn-around time.
Given 1 bay per 5 squadrons, the amount of supplies only becomes a factor in a very close fight (due to overall numbers or quality). The more you’re on the short end of the fight, the more fighters will come in for repairs, so the sooner you’ll run out. If you do, that’s a very good sign you shouldn’t have tried to run with the big dogs :). But if the numbers/quality thing is even, just having 1 bay regardless of the number of fighters will USUALLY allow you to squeak out a win. In cases where quality is even but you’re outnumberd by no more than 9%, 1 bay will USUALLY let you win anyway. In both cases, the bay will usually run out of supplies but it patches up enough of your fighters to turn the tide.
All the above observations were made in Federation vs. Federation fights. The default “challenging” side had 25x16 Leopards with LC, E2, and PG1. Orders Attack Fighters at 200, Stick Together, and Last Stand. The “visitor” was a variable number of identical fighters except for Cautious instead of Last Stand. The visitors also had a carrier which had no engine, PG1, enough armor to make it immune to the LC, enough crew to support the power and up to 6 bays, and 1-6 Carrier Support Bays.
I did not test Reinforced Carrier Bays because its repair rate is the same as the regular kind. Therefore, you still need the same number of them to keep the queues short and the only advantage is 600 vs. 500 supplies. But the supplies aren’t meaningful if you have keep a ratio of 1 bay per 5 squadrons and the situation isn’t hopeless to begin with. Therefore, I see no reason to invest in the Reinforced Carrier Bays unless you have money to burn and really need the extra handful of ship hitpoints.
Carrier bays cost more than just money. They take up slots, consume some power, and (most importantly) require more than 40 crewmen. This all impacts the overall firepower and defense of the carrier itself. IOW, if you like lots of fighters and want to keep them alive, having a carrier with the optimum number of bays will make you field a cruiser with little anti-ship firepower and weak anti-ship defenses.
It’s very important that the carrier have or be supported by strong AA fire. The Cautious order necessary to use carriers at all will thin your front line very quickly so the epicenter of the fighter battle will rapidly gravitate in the direction of your carrier, plus entire enemy squadrons will break away to chase your cripples home. But OTOH, the attrition inflicted by heavy AA fire around the carrier can also help tip the fighter battle in your favor, allowing you to get by with fewer bays and/or fewer fighters than the figher quality/quantity index would allow by itself (whcih is what I was testing). So, when I said that carriers will only help if you’re even on quality but outnumbered no more than 9%, that was in the absence of carrier AA fire. Depending on the nature of your flak, you might win with worse odds and just having 1 bay. IOW, the carrier can be bait for an AA trap. But note that Parasite carriers and their supports should avoid using Flak Cannon due to the “friendly fire” risk.
HOWEVER, note that unless you have strong AA at the carrier, your freshly repaired fighters will launch into the teeth of 1 or more enemy squadrons hanging around your carrier. On the surface, this is a good example of “why did I bother?”, but note that my results were in obtained from this very situation because my carrier had no weapons at all. Thus, I still think the results (tabulated below) show the relative value of bays.
5, As mentioned, my tests involved 25x16 squadrons. So the "outnumbered 9% means you have 23 and the non-carrier-using enemy has 25. With 25 squadrons, the optimal number of bays is 5, which keeps the queue at 1-2 throughout the battle and never runs out of supplies. With fewer bays, the queues get longer and the supplies in each bay often run out before the battle ends, but even 1 bay will USUALLY tip the scales with this number of equal fighters.
- If you turn on the red/green marker overly, you’ll see green icons of your fighters in the repair bays. Otherwise, they’re invisible while in the bays. There’s also a bug in this. If you move or zoom the POV, the icons for the fighters in the bays won’t move but the carrier will, so you’ll see the wad of them beside the carrier.