Nice to see you – better late than never, so don’t sweat it.
Interesting questions. Luckily for you, right now i can devote a small spot of time to giving you a bit of a tactical seminar. Consider this just an overview to the game. It’s gonna be light on specifics, because right now getting comfortable with overall concepts and their relative importance will be more helpful for you. Here we go…
Think of frigates as being somewhat like light, agile archers on horseback. They’re the opposite of the huge, heavy slow cruisers. Frigates are great for harrassing the enemy’s flanks if you use them in fast, frigate-only groups. This ship class has a very favorable thrust-to-weight ratio, so take advantage of it whenever possible.
Oh, and one particularly strong weapons loadout for harrassment duty involves using Ion Cannons and the Type II EMP Missiles. The former goes effortlessly through shields and has a high rate of fire; the latter stun-locks enemy ships, preventing them from firing back at anyone or even using point-defense systems to protect themselves. You won’t do much raw damage if these are the only guns that ALL of your frigates carry, though. But it’s a superb loadout when combined with other frigates carrying more “conventional” arsenals, and it also has the virtue of being fun as hell.
If you choose instead to keep your frigates mixed in with your cruisers, they’re medium-OK at their secondary role as fire support & general escorting duties for the big ships. Just don’t try a full frontal assault with frigates against enemy cruisers – they’re fragile and can’t take many hits from cruiser weaponry before exploding. You will likely do at least some damage, but that’s cold comfort when it comes at the cost of losing that entire force.
Instead, plan for hit-and-run attacks with frigates. Go for quantity instead of quality, frustrating the enemy with ample numbers of these quick and nasty little ships while your cruisers – the true core of your fleet – is busy getting the actual “heavy lifting” done on the battlefield.
You mentioned shooting fighters with your frigates. Frigates have access to a good anti-fighter missile weapon, as well as one or two rapid-fire & high-accuracy energy weapons which can help blow them away.
That depends upon your desired play style. How do YOU want to use them? The choice is somewhat more of a “I can do this” instead of a “I should do this”. You can build a galloping “rush” fleet or a steamroller (or barely crawling, lol) fleet of armor tanks. Or any mixture in between those extremes. Eventually you will be able to design ships as hard or soft counters against particular types of popular, extra-effective spamming tricks. This sometimes involves a degree of counter-spamming, and I’m way too enlightened of a man to look down upon you for ever doing such a thing while you’re learning this game.
The “should” part doesn’t begin to enter the picture until you consider things such as what kinds of armor penetration and shield penetration ratings those enemy ships’ weapons have. This is an important aspect of the game. It often goes hand-in-glove with the minimum, maximum, and optimum range bands for your own weapons as well as the enemy’s weapons.
Oh yes, and the tracking (i.e., accuracy) value for the game’s weapons. There’s a wiiiiiide difference between, say, the Cruiser Heavy Plasma’s 0.40 tracking [fairly terrible] and the Frigate Pulse Laser’s 2.80 tracking [awesome], and that directly impacts (ha-ha) each weapon’s usefulness in a given situation.
I won’t swamp you with the complexities of that sort of thing right now; you’ll be dealing with it eventually, though. Just want you to have a clue what to study on your own time, and why it’s worth knowing.
There’s definitely reason to use fighters, even though they’re a somewhat under-featured part of the game.
In small quantities and/or at the start of a battle (against intact enemy cruisers), I’d generally rate fighters as only “good” to “fair”.
In larger quantities and/or in the mid- to late-battle, fighters are often “very good” to “devastating” when matched against already damaged enemies.
The trick is in making sure you bring enough fighters to still have a potent striking force even after you’ve lost a ton of them in the opening phase of the fight. But don’t buy too many, otherwise you blew most of your budget upon them and won’t have enough credits left over for frigates and cruisers. You have to strike a balance somewhere.
If you plan to kill cruisers with your fighters, arm them with the Fighter Laser Cannon. The super-short minimum range of this gun allows you to fire at the target while the fighter itself is within the enemy ship’s shield bubble, meaning that you’re only worrying about armor penetration before your lasers are chewing his hull apart. This is a wonderful feature of GSB.
You will definitely lose fighters against heavily-armored cruisers; just accept it. If the fighter lasers’ armor penetration is less than that ship’s armor resistance value, then the only chance they have to hurt it is the always-present 3% chance of a critical hit bypassing the defenses. That can take a while to be obvious to the player during battle, but once that starts happening the target’s armor undergoes a accelerating chain-reaction as it literally disintegrates, leaving the hit points of the individual ship modules vulnerable to the lasers.
If you toggle the game’s GUI during battle such that the screen displays damage for each shot fired by all units on both sides, you will notice the occasional instances when it will say something like “[Lucky Shot]” after the damage number – that was a critical hit.
The Fighter Torpedo can also be used (albeit with less success) against cruisers, but despite the greater potential damage output it’s also a really heavy module and it will seriously slow down any fighter trying to drag one along. This is extremely dangerous because fighter armor is fairly poor, therefore raw speed is usually your fighters’ only significant defense. If your fighters are too slow, they’re easy meat even for noob gunners aboard those ships. However, the rather high shield & armor penetration ratings for this weapon are really tempting.
And if you prefer to slaughter frigates with your fighters, look no further than the Fighter Rocket Launcher and the Fighter Target Painter. You see, frigates don’t have access to the uber-cool (and uber-strong!) armor choices that cruisers do, so if the little ships are armored at all they’re usually armored pretty lightly; just enough to fend off most most minor weapons which can penetrate frigate shielding. This rocket weapon is specifically designed to punish frigates who try to save money by cheaping-out on really thin armor. >:]
This anti-frigate rocket has an armor penetration rating of 12. If your frigate’s total shipwide armor resistance is less than 12, that captain and crew is due to have a very unhappy voyage. Take steps to make sure the enemy doesn’t do this to YOU; buy enough armor to stop those rockets from getting through.
Make sure that for every full 16-fighter squadron of rocket-armed fighters you send on the attack, you also send along 3 or 4 fighters armed only with those target painters – you will need these to insure accuracy. While any given target is being actively lit-up by a painter, ALL rockets, torpedoes and missiles launched at it have a 100% chance of hitting. Make use of that! Point-defense systems can still try to fry those incoming birds, but that’s a lost cause when pitted against a truly huge barrage of fighter rockets. I’ve seen frigates vanish the way a snowball thrown into a lit furnace would.
Well, to be fair that is pretty much the raison d’etre of this game. But the really interesting part is HOW you choose to position your forces during deployment, and what kinds of combat orders you assign to your ships during the pre-play phase.
Try experimenting with setting up different uses of the Formation order. You can create multiple clusters of ships moving together, each cluster being centered on one “core” ship as the driver for the whole group. I like to give a formation’s core ship the Keep Moving order, so that a given group will attempt to keep the range open and try not to be a “sitting duck”.
Formations are important because this is how you group together ships of identical or near-identical speeds, allowing them to pursue their overall objectives without being tied to an anchor of a unit that’s much too slow to keep up with them. This lets you create very different variations on a given hull design, each one not only with its unique loadout of weapons & equipment but also with a ship speed that’s sometimes dramatically different from other ship types in the same friendly fleet. Each group will have its own tactical goals to fulfill, so grouping similar types and sub-types together via the Formation order is a key part of planning your strategy.
Perhaps most importantly, if each separate battlefield formation is composed mainly of duplicates of the exact same type or sub-type of ship, the entire group of ships will be bringing enemy units into that formation’s optimum range band for their weapons at almost the same instant, which is a pretty big advantage for overwhelming the enemy!
And don’t forget that there are about 10 other combat orders for you to try out. Make sure to spend time with each one; gauging its relative effectiveness and testing its ability to extend your ships’ performance, depending on what sort of items you packed into their hulls. Not all combat orders are equally useful.
Yeah, there is a lot to read on the forum. However, it is a colossal treasure-chest of helpful info! Its sheer dimension is intimidating, but the forum is a rich resource. If you get bogged-down while digging around for something specific, make sure to use the Search bar at the upper-right corner of the screen.
That’s what happens when somebody designs a great game, though: starry-eyed fanatics like me set up shop here and try to spread the joy of GSB to anyone who will listen. This has been going on for over three years now and I’m not tired of it yet.
Please feel free to continue asking good honest questions…either myself or another grey-bearded veteran warrior will do their best to answer them when time permits. Remember: the only silly question is an un-asked one. Take care, and welcome to the game. How I envy you experiencing it for the first time!
OK, so I’ve played a fair bit more. Couple (or more than a couple) of things still puzzle me.
I am having to devote a lot of my slots to crew/power, sometimes only leaving a small amount of space for armour/shields. Which is more important, and what’s the best type? I’ve been using one reflective (27 resistance) and the rest fast regen. For armour I always use the ultra-heavy, but even so I rarely get a very high armour level.
With engines I can’t make a cruiser fast. Everything just weighs them down too much and needs so much power and crew I’m lucky to build one over 0.20 speed. Is that normal?
If you want to make fast cruisers, you probably need to leave some module slots empty. This reduces the total weight of the cruiser, and can allow you to add additional engines and the power plants and crew modules to use them, but this isn’t always worthwhile (I rarely use more than four engines on a cruiser [speed about .2-.3], but occasionally I’ll make one that gets up to about .3 or .4 speed - these cruisers are rarely worthwhile, though, because in order to get that fast you have to sacrifice a lot of firepower and armor). I would say that somewhere around 0.2 speed is normal for my cruisers, and based on the handful of challenges and base-game and campaign missions that I’ve played, I would say that that is about normal for cruiser speeds. Anything much higher and you’re usually sacrificing too much for too little gain.
Extremely heavily-armored cruisers are easiest to make if you drop most of the modules from your cruiser. So, for example, using the Parasite Plasmodium Cruiser, you can achieve an average armor rating of about 90 if you have an engine 1, 1 crew module, and any 1 weapon that uses less than the remaining available power. This is an extremely slow cruiser (speed is about 0.06), but it’s essentially unkillable and can barely hurt a fly. I also hate facing cruisers like this, so I only make one of my own if I’m facing things like it. Be aware that you can also face diminishing returns with armor plates - that Plasmodium Cruiser will actually have a lower average armor if you fill all the module slots with armor plate than if you leave some of them empty (on the other hand, your armor will also be thicker, so it may take longer to chew through it - but that’s a trade-off that you have to decide whether or not you feel is worthwhile). More moderately armored vessels are much more common (though there is a tendency to include at least one armor tank in a fleet) and much more fun to play against and field in the battle line - that armored behemoth isn’t going to die fast, and it’s certainly not going to kill anything fast either.
As for whether armor or shielding is better, that depends heavily on what you’re facing. If you go against someone who brought nothing but beam cruisers to the party, then you can take one reflective shield and forget that armor and any other kind of shield existed. If, on the other hand, you’re facing fighters, frigates with Ion Cannons or Disruptor Bombs, cruisers with any kind of missile, or cruisers with Cruiser Lasers or Quantum Blasters, armor is generally more valuable than shields, because no shield in the (unmodded) game will give you a high-enough resistance to stand against these, and unless you really commit to building a shield tank (as in, seven or more shield generators), your shields will fall without really doing much for you. I usually put one to three shield generators on my cruisers, and usually aim for an average armor rating between 20 and 60, depending on my goals for the cruiser. 20 armor makes you essentially immune to all fighter weapons aside from the torpedo, as well as to most frigate weapons that can be fired from underneath your cruiser’s shields. 60 armor allows you to ignore missile fire, but still leaves you vulnerable to beams. More than 73 average armor (granting immunity to proton beams) is not something that I like to have, because it’s boring to be virtually immune to every weapon in the game, makes for extremely slow cruisers, and is generally not fun for anyone involved.
Most of the shielding I have is usually 1 reflective and 1-2 fast recharge shield generators, or 1-2 fast recharge shield generators, depending on what I think I’m going against. I rarely use a reflective shield generator on its own, because it can be taken offline too quickly if there are no other generators backing it up. On the rare occasion that I make a shield tank, I usually go in for 1 reflective shield generator and 6-7 multiphasic or fast-recharge shield generators, which gives somewhere around 1000-1100 shields (sometimes a little more, if you’ve got a hull with particularly good shield bonuses). These things can soak up amazing amounts of fire (even when missiles are involved, if you included a guidance scrambler), but not nearly as much as can an armor tank with more than 73 armor, and if someone brings a bunch of frigates with disruptor bombs to the party your day is ruined, since your average armor rating on these is probably barely more than the minimum needed to be immune to fighters (maybe also frigates, if you were willing to be slow and sacrifice a little firepower). Cruiser Lasers and Ion Cannons are your worst nightmare when you run with one of these, though - they will usually be present in sufficient numbers to outpace your shield regeneration significantly, and you probably don’t have the armor to ignore these once your shields are down (even if you do, it won’t last long once the weapons the other ships brought to the party begin hitting your hull).
Overall, though, the degree to which you want to put armor and shields on a cruiser, and the amount of speed you want for the cruiser, depends on the role of that cruiser - a missile cruiser doesn’t need to have the same heavy armor and heavy shielding as a laser cruiser that goes right into the center of the enemy fleet, because hopefully your missile cruisers are standing off 800 or so range units from their targets. They also don’t need as much speed because they don’t need to close with the enemy rapidly under fire before they become effective. The opposite holds true for the laser-armed cruisers, and something in between for the ships with the big beams (usually, anyways). Missile cruisers should have enough armor to ignore fighter lasers, perhaps a shield generator or two. Most defenses should go on the beam cruisers, and most speed on the ships with Cruiser Laser-type weapons (at least in my opinion).
Thanks for the thoughts, Aeson. You’ve given me much to think about.
I have a strong background in real-world naval history so I approach GSB from the perspective of a WW1 admiral. That is, slow, tough ships with lots of big, long-range weapons, in the tightest possible formation to mass their fire. I find that plasma works great for this and was curious that you didn’t mention it by name the post above.
My cruisers typically have a speed of 0.04 due to having only 1x Engine 1. I find that being slow is advantageous for 3 reaons. First, the slower your ships are, the less they spread out over time, so the more concentrated your fire. Second, there’s no real need to move at all because the enemy WILL come to you, and when he does, his fleet will usually get strung out from different ship speeds, presenting themselves 1 or 2 at a time to my solid phalanx of firepower. Because my ships are nearly stationary, the closing speed is only that of the enemy, so I have a longer period of time to pound the enemy at long range. And 3, the less slots, crew, and power I use on mobility, the more I have for weapons and defenses.
In combat, there is generally the choice of using a bludgeon or a rapier. I’m unabashedly a bludgeon guy, all brute force and ignorance, because of the KISS principle. Generally, the rapier option requires a complex plan involving several elements, all of which have to work out or the whole plan falls apart. But my small brain can’t even conceive such plans, let alone execute them. About all I’m capable of is beating on targets until they go away, then beating on the next target. I suppose this makes me a plasma spammer, but I have no problem with that. Spamming is a real-world tactic with millennia of proven results, and I fully expect my opponents to spam me in return.
The reason that I didn’t mention plasma is twofold:
I consider plasma weapons to be essentially another type of missile - it’s just that it is an inaccurate one that cannot be affected by point defense.
I don’t like plasma weapons because of their accuracy. In sufficient numbers they certainly work, I just don’t like bringing them in that quantity.
Also, as far as the ‘getting spread out all over the map’ issue goes, missile cruisers generally have the range to hit ships 1/3 to 1/2 of the way across the map anyways (though there are some larger maps where this is not the case) and will stay close enough to support beam ships if they move at ~0.15 speed when the beam ships move at ~.2 speed. If I do beam cruisers and laser cruisers, then I’ll make the beam cruisers a little slower but more heavily armored (say, .18 speed or so) and use fast (~.25-.3 speed) laser cruisers that I want to move around in the enemy fleet. The beam cruisers will have orders such that they’ll stop when they reach engagement range, and if I were to have thought about it before-hand, they’ll also be larger than the laser cruisers are (and hence be fire magnets). The laser cruisers will have orders to keep moving and perhaps have orders that encourage them to target things that still have shields up, and rely on shield regeneration and repair modules more than armor and health to stay alive.
Large groups of slow, tough ships with lots of big, long-ranged weapons works, I just find it to be too boring. I also find that unless I’m facing lots of point-defense weapons, I can usually achieve the same results with lots of missiles that I can with lots of plasma, and it will usually be over faster, seeing as my experience with plasmas is that they have a tendency to miss even slow-moving (or unmoving) cruisers. Missiles are also helped out quite a bit by a rocket-and-painter fighter screen, whereas with plasmas you don’t really have any options for improving their accuracy (maybe target boosters will help, but I’ve honestly never noticed, and feel that for the cost I’m better off with an extra cannon or two).
I’ve heard a lot of folks say plasma is inaccurate but in my (albeit limited) experience with the game and from my WW1 admiral POV, I have no complaints. Plasma is a cruiser main battery weapon intended to kill other cruisers. Against them, and anything else moving at the same speed, it hits from 2/3 to 3/4 of the time even at extreme range, which is better than multi-warhead missiles facing normal and expected levels of scramblers and point defense. Plus, there’s no risk of plasma coming back at you like there is with missiles.
Now, I grant you, cruiser plasma almost always misses fast frigates. But that’s only to be expected of capital ship main battery weapons (remember, I think like a WW1 admiral). And in keeping with that mentality, I give my cruisers a secondary battery of pulse lasers, which is also reasonably effective against fighters. So, when the fast frigates close in, the pulse lasers chew them up while the plasma hammers the cruisers staying back at long range. I find this works quite well.
I do have a question about plasma, though. All plasma weapons have a “fuel” stat. What’s that for? I initially thought it was ammunition supply but I’ve seen no evidence that plasma guns ever run out of ammo. So what’s it for?
BTW, in one of your posts above, you say that some frigate weapons can fire from inside cruiser shields. When does that happen? I’ve never seen any evidence of this in non-modded games and the manual even says this is a unique power of fighters. Now, in some mods where corvettes that act like fighers can carry frigate weapons, that’s definitely a threat. But which non-modded frigate weapons can fire from inside a cruiser’s shield? Sure, frigates can park right on top of cruisers but they’ve still got to fire through the shield (this is one of the few examples in the game where the 3rd dimension comes into play).
The fuel variable for plasma weapons (and missiles, in point of fact) defines the distance the plasma shot or missile can travel (assuming it misses the target). This is important because each missile turret can only have one missile out at a time (plus its decoys, if it has them). Most plasma weapons can also only have one shot out at a time, with the exception of the Parasites’ Plasma Slinger weapon, which can have up to four. (There are also plenty of modded modules out there that do this.) So a missile/plasma with a high fuel variable can be less than effective if it misses the target a lot.
@Bullethead - I think that the ‘fuel’ statistic for plasma weapons affects the amount of time that the plasma weapon stays on the screen - in other words, if you had a sufficiently large map, fired a plasma at a target and missed, you would see the plasma round travel for fuel*speed distance units and then disappear from the screen. You could test this by modding in a plasma weapon (or altering a current one) to have a much lower fuel supply to see if it will disappear (try for something that shouldn’t be able to achieve its maximum range, so you have something on-screen to compare against). An easy way to do this is to find where the text files which describe ship modules are stored on your computer and copy any of the plasma weapons, then edit the fuel line to whatever you want it to be.
As for when frigates fire from beneath the shields of a cruiser, I believe (though I am not certain) that I have seen this happen when you have very large cruisers and frigates that move so that the weapon icon on the frigate hull is inside of the shield bubble. I’ve also had this happen on very rare occasions when facing cruisers with short-ranged weapons. An example with which this can be reproduced: Imperial Praetorian Cruiser with 1 reflective shield, 7 multiphasic shields, 3 reinforced power generators, 4 supercharged engines, two heavy cruiser plasma launchers (to ensure that it cannot kill frigates before they have a chance to get under the shields), EMP beam, and enough crew modules to make it run. Deploy one on the Tutorial Mission (this ship is essentially unkillable in this mission if the only thing that can be hit are its shields), give it the Keep Moving order and a short range (600 works, less is probably better) attack order for frigates and cruisers, and watch. As soon as either the laser-armed frigate or the pulse laser-armed cruisers get inside the circle of the shield bubble, you will see hull damage occur, even though the shields generators are all online and probably at full strength.
@ Aeson and AcePalarum
Thanks for the info on plasma fuel. I’m surprised that fuel can carry it further than its maximum range, map permitting.
As an aside, I’ve noticed sometimes that plasma that misses the target sometimes curves back around like it’s a homing missile. This does it no good because its turn radius is like 3/4 of the map, but it does happen. So it could be that in the game, plasma has a lot in common under the hood with missiles.
I myself never use heavy plasma. It’s definitely too inaccurate and has too low a rate of fire. Of the 3 non-modded cruiser plasma weapons, I find that the Cruiser Plasma has pretty much an ideal balance of damage, range, accuracy, and rate of fire. But the LIght Plasma is often quite tempting (nearly as much range and damage, nearly twice the tracking rate, and a rather better rate of fire) and I use it as standard on my light cruisers. Both IMHO are better choices than Heavy Plasma. Gee, I sound like Admiral Tirpitz prior to Jutland :).
Well I’ll be John Brown. You are absolutely correct, sir! Normal frigates CAN get within cruiser shields and fire directly into the hull just like fighters. I owe you a drink. What’s your poison?
I had not thought this was possible. First, the manual denies it. Second, in other scenarios (like the Empire survival scenario), I’ve had frigates park right on top of me and do no harm whatsoever. Damn, now I’ll have to re-evaluate all my fleets. But to be honest, once I started including a secondary battery on my cruisers, I haven’t had the problem ;).
@Bullethead: Water is fine, so’s Coke or Pepsi (not the diet stuff, yuck!) - if water, I’ll just assume you sent it down the city water mains for me so it comes out the tap.
Really, though, even a cruiser can potentially fire on a cruiser from under the target’s shields, provided that it has weapons of sufficiently short range that they can fire from within the shield bubble (Cruiser Lasers, Cruiser Pulse Lasers, and Cruiser Defense Lasers are probably the only weapons that have a reasonable chance of actually doing this, though, accounting for usage). If you’re insanely unlucky or play Empire, this can even happen to your frigates (Hasta Frigate, I’m looking at you - bigger than some cruisers out there). Probably the reason that you saw frigates park on top of your cruisers and do effectively nothing is that either they were carrying a weapon that couldn’t harm you through your ship’s armor or you were lucky enough that the frigates parked on top of cruisers which were next to the target of the frigate - if the frigate is under the shields of Cruiser A but not under the shields of Cruiser B and decides to shoot at Cruiser B rather than Cruiser A, Cruiser B’s shields are still going to absorb all the fire the frigate puts out (until they collapse, anyway).
I think that the reason the manual denies that it can happen is that it’s rather unlikely to happen. For one thing, the frigate has to survive long enough to get right on top of the cruiser, and for another most cruiser weapons will make short work of the majority of frigates (plasma, rockets, and some missiles tend to have difficulties with frigates, and if you make a really fast frigate beams will have trouble). Secondary batteries, especially of things which seem designed for anti-frigate work (i.e., Cruiser Pulse Lasers - good luck getting a frigate with enough armor to resist that, and it’ll penetrate any frigate shield while serving as a reasonable AA weapon, too) largely remove this problem, though you can still occasionally have an issue where there are more tempting targets and the frigate will get through. That’s why you put armor on, though - 8+ for immunity to fighter lasers, 12+ for fighter rockets, 20+ for most short-ranged frigate weapons.
Yes, the Frigate Pulse Laser can penetrate up to 20 inclusive, and there’s a small chance that the Frigate Smallbeam Laser can still hit your cruiser if the frigate carrying it is under the shields, but you can’t have everything, and if the Frigate Beam Laser can hit part of your cruiser while it’s inside the shield bubble, well, I don’t think even the largest base-game and official expansion ships have that problem - 290 min range).