Some suggestions for possible AOE weaponry. Hopefully cliffski thinks a few of them are as peachy-neato as I do. So…
A minelayer module for friagtes. Have ML-equipped frigates tied to a ship via the escort or formation orders, and they’ll drop mines behind themselves until they run out of them. My intention is that the mines are designed as something other than an anti-ship weapon. The blast damage is low, as it’s only meant to lay down the smack on tight formations of fighters at close range. The blasts are to be light enough to be unnoticed for ships. (If cliffski wants to expand this to larger, kill-o-zap mines that can lay down the smack upon frigates & cruisers, that’s a future possibility.)
A cruiser module with a high-power, wide-spread beamwidth. High tracking speed so as to slew the barrel around and catch a group of fighters with their metaphoric pants down. Light shield and armor penetration, but that’s enough to smear most any fighter into a thin mist anyhow. Think of it as a spaceborne flamethrower of sorts…just the thing to nail a dozen or more army ants at once,
How about a fast-firing module that fires tiny AOE-type EMP missiles solely at fighters? While a group of them within reach of the expanded EMP blast are shocked, they aren’t firing back, and this would give you a moment to “catch your breath” as you bring other anti-fighter weapons to bear. This might be too tough to implement well, but I can’t shake the idea of something that somehow “hacks” a bunch of enemy fighters simultaneously.