For those playing the campaign (and for the Mighty Cliffski to consider. . .)
It is generally accepted that here in GSB land there is a rock-paper-scissors thing going on: fighter spam is whupped by cruisers with serious armor/AA, long-range fleets can be chopped to chutney by fast, close-in cruisers with the inevitable Cruiser Laser armament, and so on.
Perusing the challenges will reveal few fleets built around a general design and lots around a focused design. Even fleets that mix weapons often do so by using cruisers devoted to one or the other weapon type; missile cruisers in the back, beamers up front, that sort of thing.
And since the campaign uses random fleets drawn from challenges, here is what I see happening in the campaign game: build general purpose cruisers? Works sometimes, but overwhelmed by single-focus fleets that pop up. Clouds of fighters have been suggested as the “ultimate” Campaign fleet…until the random challenge throws up the high-armor Alliance fleet, which will chew your cruisers after shrugging off the fighter packs.
Or your general fleet with significant fighters meets the “here are 20+ Frigates” enemy fleet, on a small map with limited maneuvering room*. Good luck with that–and good luck retreating, because those frigates are fast, are ion-loaded for shield killing, and even at speed 17–not bad for a cruiser–it takes awhile to turn around and warp off the map. (And if you devoted your limited resources to the frigates needed to counter massed Frigates, or possibly cruisers with a load-out suitable for handling lots of small, weak targets, you’ll meet plenty of fleets that will destroy you before those rumored enemy frigates show up.)
I’m rambling a bit here, so to summarize more succinctly: in Campaign mode, one has to make a choice about fleet design. That choice will always come back to haunt you. Build general purpose cruisers and you WILL face a specialist fleet that will hand you your arse, or force you to retreat once you see what it is. Build a specialist fleet, and your rock WILL face paper; your paper fleet WILL face scissors…you get the idea.
The answer provided in Ramcat’s guide seems to be: achieve overwhelming force. Then your BIG ROCK isn’t troubled so much by smaller paper, and so on. That can be effective, but it is a lot less fun than engaging in anything other than “achieve overwhelming force” tactics.
Solution? Maybe a bias in the enemy fleet selection formula AGAINST specialist fleets. If a fleet with 20X the same ship were less likely to appear than a fleet with 5x 5x 5x 5x ships–different types–then the situation I’m describing above might be less common. Of course, when I fight challenges online, or even post the few that I do, I often use multiple copies of the same cruiser. It works. But in the random environment in the Campaign, it creates a situation where there seems to be only one sound solution. One hopes for more than one answer to the question the campaign poses. . .
*I’ve noticed in the last little while an increase in challenges that put a lot of points on a very small map. While two prizefighters duking it out inside a pup tent is potentially amusing, they really need a boxing ring to showcase their talents. If these show up in the campaign game, retreating becomes more difficult than it already is. . .