The Great Dogfighter Shootout

I’m sure, given the age of the game, this has been covered before but, if so, it’s now buried too deep for this noob to bother digging up. It was actually less trouble to re-invent the wheel myself. And to be honest, I haven’t had this much fun since they recently outlawed chicken fights in my bailiwick. So without further ado, I present the Great Dogfighter Shootout, a series of fighter vs. fighter battles to see what combination of modules, orders, and rules of engagement has the upper hand, and what variables go into this determination. The results may surprise you. Here’s a cut to the racetrack caller…

And now the backstory. My noobish prior experience and what little I’ve gleaned so far from this forum and other sources has convinced me that rocket/painter fighters are the best dogfighters. I have seen them beat all non-rocket fighters without the racially specific fighter gear and also mixes of rocket/rocket with a few painters mixed in. So, my #1 goal was to determine the best rocket/painter in head-to-head and then put that up against various other options.

By sending myself private challenges, I fought dozens of fighter vs. fighter battles. Each test was a best-of-5 series, 1st team to 3 wins advanced. The “home team” was the opposition in the challange, the “visitor” was whatever I put up against it. The scenario for Round 1 was as follows:

  • $56K budget
  • 400 pilots
  • Only fighters
  • 4096x map
  • Opposition: 25x16 Federation Leopard Rocket/Painter with engage fighters 100% at 350, Stick Together, Last Stand. Arranged in 3 ranks of 7, then a centered rank of 3, and 1 more bringing up the rear

My baseline opponent, which I’d been led to believe was about average, was as follows:
Federation Leopard, Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $121, speed 2.51, HP 19.25

So, off to the races…

NOTE: Neither the Alliance nor the Empire has a fighter with 2 hardpoints, so neither qualified for the competition.

1. Fed Leopard R/P vs. Fed Leopard R/P
First off, I wanted to see if orders made a difference, so the 1st thing was a straight-up duel with everything the same except that the visiting team didn’t have the Stick Together orders. This was 1 of only 2 matches to go 5 games with the home winning games 2, 4, and 5. The box score was 29-10, 12-25, 29-10, 19-39, 16-32. For a while, I continued running tests with different “visiting teams” comparing Stick Together to pure chaos and Stick Together always won, usually by a much greater margin. So, after a while, I quit comparing this, assuming Stick Together would always triumph. So…

Observation #1: In rocket/painter duels, all other things being equal, Stick Together beats otherwise.

2. Slow Fed Leopard R/P vs. Fed Leopard R/P
I wanted to test a previous observation that perhaps rocket/painters that were slower had the advantage. So, I did another Fed vs. Fed fight there the visitors had Engine 1 instead of Engine 2, The slow version had the following stats: $116, speed 2.21, HP 18.25, giving the baseline home team a slight edge in both speed and HP. That was enough for the home time to sweep the series in a rout, 25-50, 29-58, 25-50. Thus, in R/P duels, all other things being equal, having the advantage in speed and hitpoints wins. But now I had to isolate which of these variables was more important. In the meantime, I had many other fish to fry, so kept on fighting all other races against my baseline.

3. Reb Achiilles R/P vs. Fed Leopard R/P
The Rebs fielded the Achilles Rocket/Painter/Engine 3, $128, speed 2.72, HP 19.80, thus having 8% speed and 3% HP advantages. While the size of the battle meant that small differences could add up, I’m inclined (especially in light of later events) to discount the speed advantage and go with the more significant HP difference. Anyway, the Rebs swept the series handily, 48-10, 38-10, 53-10. This leads to…

Observation #2: In R/P duels, all other things being essentially equal, speed wins.

4. Tribe Serenity R/P vs. Fed Leopard R/P
The Tribe’s entry, later to prove the ultimate champion, was as follows: Serenity Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $120, speed 2.25, HP 35). So in this case, the Feds had an 11% speed advantage but were faced nearly twice their total HPs. Despite their slow speed, the Tribe won going away, 44-10, 45-10, 40-10. But still too early to call on the speed vs. HP issue. Other results will have to be taken into account.

5. Order Acolyte R/P vs. Fed Leopard R/P
The Order fielded the Acolyte Rocket/Painter/Engine 2/Engine 1, $129, speed 2.56, HP 18. Despite having a very slight speed advantage, they had a somewhat great disadvantage in HP. And they lost, although they put up very good fights: 20-41, 13-27, 10-16.

6. Swarm Seth R/P vs. Fed Leopard R/P
The Swarm had Seth Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $103, speed 2.57, HP 16.63. Compared to the baseline, the Swarm is only slightly different from the Order in speed but rather worse in HP. Despite this, the Swarm put up an even better fight than the Order, going 5 games but still losing 10-21, 14-29, 16-10, 11-10, 11-22. Not taken into account is that Swarm fighters are very cheap compared to other R/Ps, so without the constraints of this test, they’d probably have enough extra numbers to carry the day. Still, ship for ship, the Feds win, but not by much.7.

7. Swarm Amun FFG/ MTB vs. Fed Leopard R/P
The Swarm has 2 unique fighter components, the Fighter Fusion Gun (FFG) and the Micro Target Booster (MTB). The FFG is supposed to replace the standard Fighter Pulse Laser (FPL), which we all know already is a non-starter in the dogfight world. I wasn’t going to allow this but the Swarm’s envoys were quite insistent that I let their specially prepared teams play, so I took time out of my busy life to watch the inevitable outcome. I mean, with a range well shorter than the rocket’s, the FFG was still as doomed as the FPL, despite its higher rate of fire. And this isn’t counting the speed penalty imposed by the necessary power generator, on a hull that’s already short of hit points. So, for the 1st, I let the Swarm have all their unique items. This involved an Anum FFG/MTB/Engine 2/Power Generator 3, $98, speed 1.82, HP 20.9. Giving the short-ranged Swarm the ability to roam at will without the constraints of the Stick Together order, they were still slaughtered by the Feds 45-90, 41-83, 46-93. With Stick Together, they lost 44-90 and the match was called by the mercy rule. Same with the Amun FFG/Engine 2/Power Generator 2, $89.50, speed 2.10, HP 17.10. This was also called by the mercy rule after just 1 match, which the Swarm lost 47-94, So, the conclusion is:

Observation #3: The Swarm’s unique fighter gear are total crap and should never be used. The standard FPL is better in all signifcant respects compared to the FFG and the MTB makes no difference whatsoever. I have no ideas what the devs were thinking when they assigned their stats.

8. Nomad Majuli R/P vs. Fed Leopard R/P
The Nomads fielded the Majuli Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $125, speed 1.74, HP 21.88, $125, speed 1.74, HP 21.88, thus ceding a huge speed advantage to the Feds in exchange for a fairly significant HP advantage. They were swept although they put up a pretty good fight with Stick Together, slightly less so without. There best (with Stick Together) was 34-68, 35-70, 33-65.

9. Nomad Awazem DFL vs. Fed Leopard R/P
Like the Swarm, the Nomads have a unique fighter weapon, the Dogfight Laser (DFL). Again, this is SUPPOSED to be an improvement on the totally useless FPL. And I’ll give it that, it does improve on the standard a bit, but it still sucks. The Nomads had the Awazem DFL/Engine 2/Power Generator 2, $99.10, speed 2.05, HP 18.00. Here they were out-ranged, slower, and had less hitpoints, so the result was a foregone conclusion, although closer than you’d expect from the standard FPL. Feds sweep 18-37, 17-25, 21-43. Thus…

Observation #4: The Nomad Dogfight Laser is a big improvement on the standard Fighter Pulse Laser but still will not win against rocket/painters in a dogfight. It will, however, do more damage than the Nomad R/P so, given that Nomad fighters generally suck, making the enemy go through a wall of DFL fighters will make it much easier for your main ships to fend off the survivors of the fighter swarm. I think the DFL is the only valid Nomad option for defensive fighters and, given that DFL fighters are way cheaper than R/Ps, would be a good, but expendable, investment in fleet defense in 1-off battles. But I expect their attrition would limit their usefulness in a campain.

10. Parasite Sporozoa R/P vs. Fed Leopard R/P
The Parasite Sporazoa Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $125, speed 1.97, HP 18.73 is inferior to the baseline in both critical respects. Not surprisingly, it lost in a sweep 28-56, 27-55, 28-59. Good ridance to something that looks like it was cribbed from that horrific, never-to-be-sufficiently-damned Star Wars Episode 1 movie :).

So, after an intermission while a mini black hole was brought in to sweep up the debris from all the previous battles, the stage was set for the final showdown to determine the relative importance of speed vs. HP. The finalists were:

Tribe Serenity Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $120, speed 2.24, HP 35.00
Rebel Achilles Rocket/Painter/Engine 3, $128, speed 2.72, HP 19.80

Now the 2 best rocket/painters were going head-to-head in a contest of speed vs. hitpoints. Speed, after long custom, had the home field advantage. After fighting even down to both sides reaching about 75%, mass started to assert dominance and, while speed kept the score respectable, it eventually succombed to superior bulk. Tribe wins 32-10, 29-10, 20-10.

Observation #5: In R/P duels, all other things being equal, having both speed and hitpoints on your side assures victory. Having more hitpoints is more important than having higher speed. A speed advantage of 0.05 will ALMOST, but not quite, even out an HP deficit of 1.25, but with greater HP deficiencies, speed advantages become inconsequential.

The best R/P now had to face the ultimate test: facing a mix of the same machines armed with rocket/rocket and a few with a painter alone.

12. Special Overtime
The winning dogfighter now had to face a mix of similar ships armed with rocket/rocket and a few painters through in. The contestants were:
Tribe Serentiy Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $120, speed 2.24, HP 35
Tribe Serenity Rocket/Rocket/Engine 2, $81, speed 2.62, HP 34 and
Tribe Dove Painter/Engine 2, $100, speed 3.04, HP 24

I did this 4 matches of 3 games each (12 in total), with the mix of twin rockets and painters having a 5:1 and 6.25:1 ratio, and for each ratio, the R/R guys Sticking Together or not. The Painter-only guys were always not, to mix in. In all cases, the R/Ps swept each match in 3 games with an average score of 25-55. So…

Tribe Serenity Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $120, speed 2.24, HP 35.00
Thanks to all contestants for their participation.

The losers, in order of performance against the baseline, are as follows:
2. Rebel Achilles Rocket/Painter/Engine 3, $128, speed 2.72, HP 19.80
3. Federation Leopard Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $121, speed 2.51, HP 19.25
4. Swarm Seth Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $103, speed 2.57, HP 16.63 (a VERY close 4th, with the cheap price perhaps bumping it up without pilot constraints)
5. Order Acolyte Rocket/Painter/Engine 2/Engine 1, $129, speed 2.56, HP 18.00
6. Nomad Awazem DFL/Engine 2/Power Generator 2, $99.10, speed 2.05, HP 18.00 (special mention)
7. Nomad Majali Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $125, speed 1.74, HP 21.88
8. Parasite Sporozoa Rocket/Painter/Engine 2, $125, speed 1.97, HP 18.73

It should be noted that the top 2 (Tribe and Rebels) are head and shoulders above the pack. Federation and Swarm are very, very close and neither is much better than the Order. After that, everything else just sucks. The Alliance and Empire need not apply, and fighters equipped with Swarm unique modules are total garbage.

In conclusion, having determined the above, I also fooled around with some Serenity R/P vs. Serentiy R/P matches with both sides Sticking Together and Last Stand, the only difference being the engagement range. I found that in R/P duels, if 1 side was set to a range of 350 (the standard in all the above), shorter ranges lost (but not by much) and longer ranges out to 500 won, the best results being at 400.

Thanks for listening.

Whew. I apologize for the wall of text above, which upon rereading now, is full of redundant phrases and grammatical errors. It also had 1 major error which I have now corrected via edit. I had originally put the Nomad Awazem with the Dogfight Laser in 8th place. It’s actually in 7th, between the Order and Nomad R/Ps. All I can say is, I was quite drunk by the time I got to that part of the original post. Maybe I’ll go back and make the whole thing more readable later.

I have also received a request to make my challenge public, so here you go. Look for #4931895 by Bullethead. Here you’ll find 25x16 Tribe Serenity with range set to 350, Stick Together, and Last Stand. I thnk this is the best fighter in the game, only beatable by other Serenities with their range set to 400. Try to prove me wrong :).

I now offer a bit of clarification on my test results. In the special case of dogfighting, if you’re the Tribe, you own everybody. If you’re the Rebels, you own everybody except the Tribe. Everybody else is totally outclassed by these 2, so if fighting these races, forget bringing fighters and just rely on shipboard defenses.

In battles not involving the Tribe and Rebels, things are a bit different. The Federation and Swarm are the best of the rest and while the Feds have a slight edge ship-for-ship in fighter-only battles, in fleet battles with more variables and the cheaper Swarm price at play, the Swarm could well prevail. The Order is definitely worse than either of these, but still close enough that they’ll reduce the Swarm and Federation fighters to ineffectiveness, allowing ships to make due with fewer anti-fighter weapons.

The same MIGHT be said of the Nomad Awazem DFL, especially when going against the Order. The cool thing about the Awazem DFL is that it’s significantly cheaper than all R/Ps except the Swarm Seth, so in real battles its numbers might move it up higher in the ranks. In any case, if a Nomad player wants dogfighters, he’s better off using the Awazem DFL than the Majali R/P. OTOH, the Parasites might as well not bother trying. Their R/P is the worst in the game while being the 2nd-most expensive.

For my next trick, I intend to test the effectiveness of carriers. The basic question is, does having fighter repair facilities influence the results of the dogfight enough to justify the cost (both in money and using up ship space for these modules). And, if so, what is the proper ratio of repair bays to fighters? I expect the answers will vary depending on what race you have and what race you’re fighting. I doubt carriers will help the losing side except in very close battles (say Federation vs. Swarm) but will probably make things even better for the winning side. But we’ll have to see what happens in the tests.

Really impressive work!

Does Uni-T, Union, Praetorian and Xedilco count? ^^

Bullethead, I congratulate you on gracing our forums with such a complete and conclusive look at this subject. You may be new to GSB, but you sure as hell have a good head on your shoulders. Thanks for committing your time and attention to shining a very bright light upon our fighters! I look forward to your later follow-up about the inclusion of carriers, too.

While I consider myself quite enlightened by the Great Dogfighter Shootout, some of the results are also really depressing. Yes, hardly surprising, but it’s cringe-worthy to see the parts of your data which carefully shows the really under-performing rocket dogfighters, lit-up there on a billboard. :slight_smile: Despite that, it’s best for the player community to be certain about these things.

For example: Allied and Imperial fighters…[-heavy sigh-] I’m not 100% sure, but it probably might be best to just continue skipping over them. The lack of a two-turret model is pretty damning, though other obscure factors could yet be useful to them. (Suggestions?)

Also: After the initial honeymoon was over, Tribe have long been blasted by players for the extent to which their double-hitpoints bonus tends to skew the game’s balance. I hoped that particular quality would not win this competition but also pretty much expected it to.

At least Tribe greatly helped to illustrate that when involved in the specific situation of going head-to-head in dogfight-style combat, “hitpoint superiority = WIN” is truly not just a Tribe-only advantage – it’s game-wide, and affects all fighters due to the nature of that type of combat unit. The Tribe have the fighter which can make use of this quirk the best, but some other races’ fighters are not far behind it.

Dont need em :wink:

Thankyou for accepting my request and making the challange public.

I placed 25 x 16 of the fighter I have used as a benchmark and it was soundly defeated. . .
(Damn, so much for my best GSB fighter design.)
So i sat down and reveiwed the battle stats and tweaked the fighter design. Back into the fray.

Sucess ! while only 33% of the fleet survived it was a victory . . Tweaking the fighter again (weapon ranges) I lanched again and ended up with 67% of the fleet returning from battle. . .

Just to make sure that lightning would strike the same place thrice, i added some extra orders (ie stick together) and came out victorious with 69% remaining. (I have placed a retaliation on the challange as proof)

Thankyou for providing an opportunity for me to get those neurons firing again.

I am happy to say that this 3-0 victory was brought to you courtesy of the Rebel Fighter :slight_smile:
(Rebel Icarus Fighter | fighter power II | fighter_engine III |fighter_laser | fighter_armour III)

If it was a case where both the tribe and the rebel fighters had the same weapon, then yes hitpoint superiority = WIN. While the rebel was light on in the hitpoint department, it made up the gap with a mean left hook via the Fighter Laser.

Remember: Fighters have a need for speed

I have sent you a personal retaliation with my 2 of my fleets that defeated yours.
I personally hate dog fights. They take resources away from the real battle of cruiser on cruiser combat which is what all admirals desire to achieve their rise to ultimate supremacy. Also fighter pilots are overpaid hotdog artists who refuse to swab the deck and over indulge in the officers lounge and cannot hold their liquor.
So I don’t dog fight, per se.

The Rebel Fighter is the Pheonix (anyone notice that Pheonix is actually misspelled and should be phoenix?) Hull with Fighter Laser, Fighter Power Generator, Engine 2 and Engine 1. Cheap. Disposable. And beats your fleet 3 out of 3 tries, 56, 55, 50 winning percents respectively.

Also I only used 23 Squads… 2 of the squads are my special ops squadron.

This design theory also works with Federation, Tribe, Nomad and Swarm. The Empire, Order and Alliance just had too many penalties. The Parasite Pilots were so traumatized by friendly fire incidents with the Flak cannon that I didn’t even bother.

As I said - all squads except 2 were the same design, Fighter laser and power gen 1, with 1 or 2 engines depending on ability of the hull. And of course my 2 squads of special ops.

Without the special ops squads it was generally a loss (excepting the tribe), even though in theory it would add to the firepower. The special ops have 0 damage potential.

I think I tend to have a different view of fighters - I used them primarily to screen my cruisers against frigates and take down hurt cruisers. Or, in a concentrated rush overwhelm cruisers en masse.

My special ops squads are to drag fighters away from the cruisers and leave the big boys to do their duty.
They also are extremely cheap.

The Creator of the 1k Cruiser design
Can we say cheap?

So, I believe you said that Imperial forces need not apply to your dogfighter challenge. Since you clearly did not believe that any Imperial fighter could beat it, I chose to see if I could design an Imperial fighter that would beat your challenge, and I was successful. The fighter uses the Phalanx hull (though any would probably work), a Mark 3 power generator, a Mark 2 engine, and a Fighter Pulse Laser. Orders are all the default attack orders, Last Stand, and Stick Together at default distance. Fleet set-up is all but one squadron of fighters in a big group on the lower end of the map, and one squadron of 16 at the upper end. With this set-up, the Tribe fighter forces suffer defeat at 10% of their starting strength, and my Imperial fighters remained at 63% of their initial strength. Full pilot force and about half the honor budget is used.

Why did I make the design choices I made? Well, mixed groups of rockets and painters were not going anywhere (best I could do with them was to lose when your forces had about 75% remaining health), and laser fighters, though they performed better, still left you with about 40% when I lost. Since the number of painters involved in the battle essentially ruled out using speed as a defense, and rockets have high enough armor penetration to blow through any armor that I could put on the fighters (assuming I could fit any in, anyways), I decided to maximize the health of the fighters. Granted, at 19 health per fighter this is still next to nothing, but it was able to beat your fighter forces (after I moved a sacrificial squadron north to encourage your fighters to split, anyways). Taking the Power Generator Mark 3 instead of the Power Generator Mark 2 (the minimum needed to run an Engine 2 + Pulse Laser Imperial fighter) cost me a little speed, but gained me about 400 health for the fleet. As for why pulse lasers instead of lasers - lasers were averaging 3 damage per shot, pulse lasers 5, and they have similar rates of fire (or is it the same? I’m not sure), so naturally I took the pulse lasers since your fighters had no armor.

If you keep them all in a big ball, this loses, but the Tribe fighter force is reduced to about 30-35% of its initial strength.

My total fleet health was 7600 for the fighters that won the dogfight, 7200 for the laser fighters that showed me the path, and around 4000 for the mix of painters and rockets that were trashed. Given the margin by which my Pulse Laser fighter won, I probably could have either cut back a little on the fighters or switched to standard lasers or used a Mark II power generator rather than the Mark III, but I’m simply pleased that I managed to find an Imperial fighter that could beat your Tribe rocket/painter swarm.

Edit: Forgot to mention fighter speed - 1.98. My standard Imperial Laser Fighter is somewhere around 2.3, and my rocket fighters are up at 3.99, so this is a very slow fighter design for me.

I couldn’t try the challenge because somebody ahem forgot to uncheck the parasites box. But based on everything I’ve seen and experienced, the best dogfighters are rocket fighters supported by painter fighters. It’s the only combination that can get over 3.00 speed (enough to dodge everything but painted missiles/rockets, cruiser defence lasers, and frigate AF missiles) and reliably hit any other fighter (except for speed-six+ dummy fighters with nothing but engines)

In scenarios like this one, where the limiting factor is pilots instead of credits, armor is a must.

Alliance Hornet - 2.96 Speed
Armour III
Engine II

backed up by

Alliance Tarantula - 3.01 Speed
Ablative I
Engine II

They’re both over 2.9 speed (enough to dodge fighter pulse lasers). Notice how the Tarantula is faster than the Hornet, this is important because slow things get shot at first. You don’t want to spam painters, just get enough to paint for your rockets. Rockets without painters are useless against any fighter above ~1.9 speed, so you need to keep them alive. By making them faster, they take less aggro and you don’t need as many of them.

Also notice the armor. A Hornet has 12% armour boost, when you combine it with armour III, you get 18.2 armor points, enough to fully stop 2 fighter rockets without taking any hull damage (almost enough to stop a frigate AF missile as well). The Tarantula has just over 9.6 armor points with the ablative and it’s armour boost, enough to stop a stray rocket from wrecking the thing. Avoiding hull damage is big, especially when you have flimsy components that are all critical to your ship’s success. Damaged rocket = no damage. Damaged Engine = dead fighter. This doesn’t apply to laser and pulse fighters as much, since they aren’t as dodgy and need every ounce of speed they can get. (still applies to this map though, due to unpainted rockets being the only thing you need to dodge, and rockets do enough damage to spillover through half of another module even if they hit the powerplant)

For orders, last stand generally increases dogfighting capability by wasting enemy DPS on weaponless ships. But sometimes having it off will cause the enemy to attack a fleeing fighter, which can sometimes be the distraction you need. But that’s kind of rare. There’s also the chance that your painters will get the brilliant idea to chase down the distracted enemies while your rockets stay up front, missing everything, or you’ll have 1-2 squadrons follow the bulk of the enemy force and get plastered. Having it on leaves less to chance.

I use stick together on the rockets, with a medium-ish spread (20-30), I set the attack fighters order to 300-600 (longer attack range ones will still randomly fly in range, and will back off from close range fighters slightly better)

My painters are usually set to 400-500 range with last stand and rescuer (lower chance of painting a weaponless ship or one with a damaged gun).

For laser and pulse fighters, I always stick together with 12 separation, have attack range set to 100, and have last stand on.

That’s my 2cents on dogfighting.

So, testing Jonzo0rz’s fighter designs and using Last Stand on the painters (attack range 400), and Last Stand and Stick Together on the rockets (attack range 450), I was unable to defeat the challenge even with putting a bait squadron up in towards the top of the map and the main force down towards the bottom. However, without the bait squadron this force is about even with the Tribe fighter swarm up until the 43% mark, at which point the Alliance fighter strength begins to plummet - I can only assume that at this point the armor is almost all gone, with the end result being a Tribe victory with 41% to about 20%. With the bait squadron, things go reasonably well until the 34% mark, at which point Tribe losses once again seem to halt and Alliance fighter strength plummets, with a final tally of 31% for Tribe and 15% for Alliance.

I’ll try again with Rescuer on the painters, to see if that matters, but I find that usually if I don’t give the painters orders to Stick Together they usually do a reasonable job of spreading out the target painting. Possibly I’ll also play around a bit with attack range, but I don’t think it will help much (though fighter battles are finicky).

I used four squadrons of 16 painters, and the rest as rocket fighters, because that’s what worked best when I tried this with Imperial rocket/painter mixes. I never actually tried using armor on the Imperial fighters, so now I’m thinking I might try that again.

Edit: By adding rescuer orders on the painter squadrons and leaving all of the Alliance fighters in a big group in the center, the Alliance can pull a convincing win - Alliance 55%, Tribe 10%. I had not expected that adding rescuer would improve performance that much. Attack orders were 400 range for the painters, 450 for the rockets, with default Stick Together orders on the rocket fighters, and Last Stand on everyone. Formation was three columns of seven rocket squadrons following one column of four painter squadrons.
’ ’ ’ ’

Now I really need to try this with armored Imperial fighters.

Edit 2:
Further testing shows that Imperial fighters can work about as well as the Alliance fighters did, using the same orders and formation. I used the Ballista Hull with rockets, Engine II and Armor III, and Phalanx Hull with Engine I, Advanced Ablative Armor and Painters. Speeds were 2.96 for the Ballistae and 2.95 for the Phalanxes. Win was slightly less convincing, with Empire 45% and Tribe 10%.

Also, two more fighters that beat this without a bait squadron (one for Parasites, one for Order):

Order Disciple: Pulse Laser, Armor III, Engine II, Power III. Speed is 1.38, Average Armor is 3.25, Health is 23.18, cost is 140 credits. You can field 24 full-strength and one half-strength squadron (ran out of budget, you have pilots left over), and it wins Order 45% - Tribe 10%.

Parasite Hydrozoa: Pulse Laser, Armor III, Engine II, Power III. Speed is 1.69, Average Armor is 3.74, Health is 20.33, cost is 138. You can field 398 of these, so there are two pilots left over when you run out of credits. I tested this one twice, and it won both times - first with 73% Parasites - 10% Tribe, second with 70% Parasites - 10% Tribe.

Both of the above fighters are arranged in 5X5 squares in the center of the map, with Last Stand, default Stick Together, and default attack orders.

First off, apologies for the delay in getting back to you all here, but I’m a fireman and just got home from a 24-hour shift.

Anyway, thanks to all for the responses, which are quite thought-provoking. Being a noob, there are many options I obviously don’t know about and many things I failed to consider. But the best way to become aware of such things is to have your noob nose rubbed in them by veterans, so I’m grateful to all who have proved me wrong and hope more folks do so :).

Rereading my original drunken ramblings, I see I failed to mention a number of important things that lie behind this series of tests.

  1. My primary interest is in the campaign. This means that my ultimate goal in all my testing is to develop the best general-purpose designs for the various races. Ships have to be general-purpose because you never know what you’ll be facing in campaign battles. Also, splitting functions between separate designs is not good because if you lose 1 component of the pair, the travel time from the shipyard to the front makes the surviving member very vulnerable for a long time. So, ultimately, what I’m trying to do is develop a number of general-purpose designs for each race and then determine the best combinations of them. I’m just getting started on this huge task and settling the fighter question looks the easiest thing to do first.

  2. All I’m doing here is laboratory testing to determine the best fighter for the dogfighting role on a ship-for-ship basis. Thus, I’m eliminating as much as possible most of the variables found in general fleet battles. This is why, in these dogfight tests, I just mobbed everybody together and ran them head-on into each other. When you spread 1 side out, you open the door to all sorts of dodgy AI decision-making and that clouds the issue of determining the best individual design. Now obviously, dodgy AI decision-making is a huge part of real battles (it’s why “tanks” exist, for example). All you can hope for, then, is that this affects the enemy equally and that as a result, your better design will usually win out anyway.

  3. Besides determing the best individual design, I need to determine the best orders to give them. Given the tactical constraints imposed above, this pretty much limited the choices to “Stick Together” or not, “Last Stand” or not (which I’ll actually cover later in the CV effectiveness test) and engagement range. All other things being equal and there being no CVs, Stick Together and Last Stand are both advantageous. Engagement range is a trickier subject that will involve further testing to nail down. Bearing in mind that my goal is to develop general-purpose designs, what I’m really after is the fighter that can both dogfight AND attack ships effectively with the same engagement range. So, having found the best anti-fighter range, I will then have to test this against some ships and repeat both tests with many tweaks until I settle on 1 range what works well enough for both purposes.

So, all this is why I initially didn’t post any of the challenges I made along the way publically. This was all going on in my lab for my own edification and I thought posting the results would be sufficient to stimulate discussion. Now that the Tribe Serenity challenge is up there, though, feel free to take a crack at it. But please understand that if you use a tactically designed deployment other than 1 big mob, you’re not playing the battle as it was intended to be fought. Same goes for a combination of scattered deployment and specialized bait fighters. This whole thing is to toss everybody into a big scrum and see who survives and at what ratios.

Now, on to specific comments, not necessarily in the order posted.

@Archduke Astro
Thanks for the props :).

Sorry I didn’t make my baseline thoughts clear the 1st go-round. But your results show the reason for me lumping everybody on both sides together. Once you open the door to AI decision-making, anything can happen, especially if, as in this case, 1 side is much more affected by it than the other due to differences in deployment.

For instance, I noticed in several of my own tests that I didn’t quite eliminate the dodgy AI decision-making. Where the eventual winner of a 5-game match lost a game or 2 along the way, the usual cause was that a single squadron of the stronger fighters, for reasons unknown, would run off towards a corner of the map pursued by superior numbers of the weaker fighters. Upon reaching the map edge, this isolated squadron would be destroyed in detail, releasing several squadrons of weaker fighters to re-enter the general melee all at once. Their arrival was sometimes enough to swing the balance of the overall fight, probably because they got some free shots in on the main mass of stronger fighters, which was still fixated on the weaker fighters that had stayed in the scrum.

So, what made the 1 strong squadron run away? I can think of several possible reasons. Morale failure comes to mind, although I’ve never heard this mentioned as being part of the game. Thus, I’m more inclined to believe this was an artifact of running the battle at 4x speed. When you speed up the flow of time in ANY game, what you’re really doing is reducing the number of calculations the game makes per unit of game clock time. IOW, if at 1x speed the game performs X calculations between 1:00 and 1:10 of game time (NOT real time), at 4x it will perform Y calculations in the same interval, with X > Y. Y always has a critical minimum value after which the whole game gets screwy, which I’m sure is why GSB limits acceleration to only 4x. The acceleration limit is almost always set by the AI because the fewer calculations it can do, the worse decisions it makes. Thus, when you’re at max acceleration for a game, the AI will sometimes do strange things you don’t see at 1x speed. I’m thinking that’s what happened here.

I’m glad to see that you managed to beat the Tribe Serenity R/P with something other than an R/P. That makes the whole question of the best dogfighter much more complex and therefore interesting. I suppose what I’ll now have to do is determine the best dogfighter for each race in fratricidal shootouts and then pit the best from each race against each other.

Your results intrigued me enough to try it for myself and I think I might have improved on your design. I use Achilles instead of Icarus because, despite the Icarus’ speed boost, the power boost of the Achilles makes it faster for the same modules, plus it has 19.26 HP instead of 18.00. And in fact, I went cheaper by using only an Engine 2 (the Achilles has the power and can actually benefit from using an Engine 3) and no armor. So, Achilles Laser Cannon/Engine 2/Power Generator 1, $80.00, speed 2.49, HP 19.26. This managed to beat the Serenity R/P by an average of 55-10 in 3 straight games, even without the Last Stand order.

Bravo on poking this fatal hole in my premise that R/P fighters were the best dogfighters :).

I personally favor LC fighters because for the present I think they’re better at hurting cruisers than rockets. If you want a single all-round fighter, an LC seems the way to go provided it can dogfight. The Rebels appear to have this option available. And because they can still win dogfights without Last Stand, carriers will probably prove to be advantageous for them as well. But there’s a lot of testing to do before I can pass final judgment.

I’ll get to your fleet challenges eventually. I’m really not about 1-upping, though, at least until I get a better handle on the intricacies of the game. The reason I sent you a challenge was just to show that you could improve your original battle design, where you had a mass of fighters, by outlawing the Parasite flak cannon. I tried to make that clear in a message I sent.

Anyway, on the fighter side of things, I agree with you 100%. I’m a battleship admiral and would rather not spend a dime on fighters. But the other guy will probably have fighters so I have to deal with them. The choice thus comes down to making my big ships self-sufficient in fighter defense at the expense of their anti-ship capabilities or relying, at least to some extent, on a CAP of dogfighters. If your fleet is cruisers only, you might be able to get by with self-sufficiency, but you can’t make frigates totally fighter-proof, so if you need frigates you also need dogfighters to protect them. Hence, my need to determine the best dogfighters.

I tried the fighter challenge you sent using the Feds. In this one, you’ve got 2 squadrons of bait “special ops” guys who exploit the dodgy AI by luring large groups of Tribe R/Ps off in futile pursuits, allowing your laser guys free reign to blindside the fixated Tribe. I suppose you’d get similar results against any single type of enemy fighter (IOW, the enemy AI is always making decisions based on the same variables so comes up with the same results). IOW, I think the AI exploit outweighs the merits of any individual ship design, in the same way that “tanks” or “bullet magnets” exploit cruiser and frigate AIs. So while this is fight is quite instructive on the broader issues of overall fleet design policy, it doesn’t do much to settle the question of which fighter is better.

I’m sorry. I checked the Parasite box to allow folks to try everything in the game. But you can still easily make this same scenario yourself. The biggest map size, $56K budget, 400 pilots, 25x16 Serenity Rocket/Painter/Engine 2 arranged in 3 ranks of 7, a centered rank of 3, and 1 centered in rear.

Anyway, thanks very much for the fighter design and order tips. I’ll have to build these ships myself and see what happens.

I have a bias against using separate rocket and painter fighters, mostly due to my concerns with the campaign noted above. If you lose most of your painters for some reason, the surviving rockets are out of business until more painters make the long slog to the front. Also, during any given battle, the rockets and painters could get separated too much to cooperate, thus negating your dogfight capability, although both types would still be somewhat useful in other roles.

What do you find is the best ratio of painters to rockets?

Anyway, thanks again for the responses.

Well, since I appear to have been editing while you were posting, I have since found that Imperial, Alliance, Parasite, and Order fighters can be made which will beat your fighter force without relying on abusing poor AI decision making (i.e., no bait squadron to lure away half of the opposing fighter force). See my post above yours for the description.

I would say that from my attempts with mixed groups of rocket fighters and painter fighters, the best ratio is about 1 painter in every eight fighters (I found that 4 squadrons of 16 painters worked better than 5+ or 3- while I was trying unarmored Imperial rocket + painter fighter combos, leaving the rest as rocket fighters). So 1 full squadron in every eight should be painters, the other seven squadrons should be rockets.

Armor appears to be very helpful in providing staying power against rocket-armed fighters, but it’ll severely hurt your fighters against frigate and cruiser level antifighter weapons, and won’t help at all against lucky hits from heavy weapons (and may even slow your fighter down enough that torpedo-equipped fighters can keep up with them, and we all know how popular those are). Armoring fighters is probably best if your enemy is fielding fighters as their primary antifighter force, otherwise probably don’t bother.

I also prefer the cruiser battles to the fighter battles. My usual screening fighter is just a basic laser fighter, because it’s usually fairly survivable and performs reasonably well against most fighter targets. I also usually throw a tractor beam and perhaps a cruiser pulse laser onto some of my cruisers, to help the fighters achieve local superiority.

I have also occasionally tried using torpedo equipped fighters as an alternative to putting shield-breaking weapons on cruisers, but it doesn’t really work that well - the torpedo fighters tend to not focus on the same things that the cruisers are targeting and often waste shots on any enemy fighters in the area. This was something I was trying for the campaign, because if I could get a squadron or two of torpedo fighters on each cruiser and maintain a reasonable real fighter screen, I could dedicate the cruisers to things like Cruiser Beam Lasers, with the thought being that squadrons of torpedo fighters bring more antishield capability to the fight than anything similarly inexpensive. Sadly it just doesn’t seem to work, and it really cuts into your actual fighter screen.

Edit: Also, if you play with parasites just put a flak cannon on every cruiser and forget that you ever heard of fighters - just make sure that all of your cruisers (and any frigates you bring along, though I don’t bother with them in campaign usually - they die too much for me to consider them a useful part of my fleet in the campaign) have at least 18 or so Armor Resistance, or your flak will do really really well at killing both the enemy’s fighters and your own ships.

Edit 2: If you’re just looking for something to occupy enemy fighters and are playing Tribe, you might try out the Heaven hull. Why? Because you can make a fighter with 82 hit points that has a laser (so it isn’t a terrible dogfighter - and it still beats your painter/rocket combo in a fair fight). Bear in mind that this is going to be a very expensive fighter (I was able to field 348 of them - 21 full squadrons and one partial squadron - in your challenge and still had 27,900 or so fleet health, which is nearly double what you had, and won with 70% of my fleet to 10% of yours).

Design: Heaven hull, 2x Engine III, 3x Power Generator III, 1 pulse laser (could probably go for laser here if you wanted). Health is 82 per fighter, costing 161 credits each, and moving at 1.36 speed. The health is the only real selling point in my mind, although as a laser-armed fighter it can still have a reasonable chance of hitting most other fighters and with 82 health even one or two squadrons of them is going to take a lot of effort to kill.

Looking at it, this might even make a viable torpedo platform, just because the health is so high that it can take a few hits.

Thanks for the input, Aeson.

Speaking of torpedo fighters, I’ve been experimenting in the design workshop and have come up with the following possible contenders:

Rebel Atlantis: Fighter Torpedo/Engine 3/Figher Armor 3 x 3, $224, speed 1.01, HP 13.0, average armor 8.86

Order Salvation: Fighter Torpedo/Engine 2/Figher Armor 3 x 3, $223, speed 0.67, HP 12.0, average armor 8.13

Parasite Sporozoa: Fighter Torpedo/Engine 2/Fighter Armor 3 x 2/Fighter Armor I, $193, speed 0.75, HP 12.84, average armor 8.39
(with 3x FA3, AA is 9.34 which is a waste, but you need 2x FA3 to get above AA 8.0)

An average armor > 8.0 makes a fighter totally immune to the following weapons:

Fighter Pulse Laser (AP 3.8)
Nomad Fighter Dogfight Laser (AP 4.2)
Swarm Fighter Fusion Gun (AP 5.0)
Frigate Anti-Fighter Missile (AP 6.0)
Fighter Laser Cannon (AP 8.0)
Cruiser Defense Laser (AP 8.0)

Thus, only rocket fighters can hurt them in dogfights and bigger ships need fast missiles or pulse lasers. The fast missiles seem the most effective against them, but not nearly enough to avert doom. Maybe other races can also reach this armor threshold–I’ll have to see.

I actually did 1 online challenge battle using the Rebel Atlantis torpedobomber. One of the retaliations to my public Tribe challenge was from MaxOrd who, from his name, is apparently a fellow artilleryman :). Anyway, he put up a HUGE mass of Swarm cruisers and the taunt was, “What good is an army of fighters?” Well, the torpedobombers, costing about 1/2 the money but using all available pilots, still won on average 90-10. So I figure the torpedo, contrary to popular opinion, is a valid option. At least if armored as above and not facing rocket fighters.

Anyway, the upshot is, given that at least some races can armor their TBs above 8, rocket fighters are required for CAP.

EDIT: Re-orderd list of things fighters with average armor >8 are immune to, to put smallest on top.

I find that generally speaking, if I have any live fighters doing CAP, torpedo fighters will waste most of their shots against those fighters, and will rarely be used in great enough numbers that they have significant chances of making a reasonable contribution to the battle. Also, the torpedo bombers you’ve listed there are slow enough that laser-armed fighters should be able to reliably hit the torpedo bombers, which means it shouldn’t take that long for a lucky hit to occur, and then your armor is no longer as useful as it once was. Certainly torpedo fighters can work, but there are usually better ways of accomplishing the same thing.

Torpedo fighters, in my experience, only work well if there are either very few opposing fighters or if they are supported by large numbers of regular fighters to occupy and destroy the opposing force’s fighter cover. They are also much more vulnerable to normal cruiser armaments than regular fighters.

Also, if you haven’t found out about it already, I would generally recommend using the Cruiser Pulse Laser instead of the Cruiser Defense Laser as an antifighter defense - it has almost the same tracking speed, and the armor penetration is much, much higher (so, I think, is the damage, but I’m not sure about that). It also has a reasonably high rate of fire, and will contribute reasonably well to the capital ship battle once shields are down, unless you’re facing the really annoying extremely heavily armored tank cruisers.

Normally my laser fighters would never bother tangling with fighters - their ‘attack fighter’ order is removed completely. They are 100% cruiser, followed by 50% Frigate. Normally I would have twin rocket fighters with the inverse orders to take out frigates. Fighter pilots are allowed to go up against fighters only and only after all cruisers and frigates are dusted. I just enjoy the AI’s sometimes Dodgy decision making as in reality some people make incredibly dumb decisions which could never be translated to an AI.

JonOrz’s designs beat my fleet (positioning his fleet in a conservative manner at heads with mine) but it took a looooooong time.

As for protecting frigates - I find that is a lost cause - a dedicated anti-frigate rocket fighter force would carve the frigates out of existence before any cap could significantly reduce their numbers. Frigates will always be extremely vulnerable. I tend to use frigates in mostly fast frigate swarms where fighter power is insignificant. Or tucked in a cruiser formation where, although vulnerable, sucker the fighters in to a pulse-laden death. I usually employ pulse lasers on most cruisers as they are quite accurate against fighters, and deadly against frigates.

Bullet Magnet Tank AI can be worked around with orders on occasion
Going to do a 13 hour shift and then a 8 hour movie marathon at the cinema!

Again, thanks for the pointers. Yup, torpedobombes have 2 main problems: a VERY slow rate of fire combined with a dodgy AI that makes it shoot at inappropriate times and be deflected from its mission. I was hoping that armoring them would keep them alive long enough to overcome these problems.

As I understand things, there’s a 3% chance of a lucky hit per hit, but the Fighter Laser Cannon only hits about 20% of the time even against immobile cruisers. Thus, each shot has only a 0.6% chance of doing a lucky hit. I figured that would keep the torpeodobombers alive long enough to do something despite the interference of laser fighters. That’s something else I need to test. But even so, armored TBs are just too expensive for the marginal amount of good they seem to do. At $220 each, a full squadron costs more than the average tricked-out cruiser, so why bother?

On the subject of big ship anti-fighter weapons, I took your advice and ran some tests comparing the Cruiser Pulse to the Cruiser Defense Laser. Yup, the CPL seems rather more effective, and can actually benefit from having a tractor beam aboard. BUT, it has a rather long minimum range and strafers attacking the cruiser will generally stay inside this, at which point the CPL becomes useless. Now, if you have 2 ships in close formation with CPLs, one can cover the other’s blind spot, but a ship by itself seems to need a CDL as a backup AA weapon. Or so it seems to me.

The main weakness of the CPL, however, is that there are times when it will have both fighters and big ships within its range and it has to decide which to shoot at. From what I can tell (please correct me if I’m wrong), when given the choice, the CPL will shoot at big ships rather than fighters, and there goes your anti-fighter weaponry. The CDL has the advantage here because, while it will shoot at big ships, too, it will choose fighters first (and, of course, the chances of a big ship getting into range of it are much less than with the CPL anyway). Still, apart from this somewhat uncommon situation, the other characteristics do seem to make the CPL a better choice.

I was rather surprised to see how ineffective the frigate Anti-Fighter Missile is, though. It seems to have a very hard time hitting even very slow TBs. But despite the armored TBs above technically being immune to them, a few still fell to AFMs. But this was quite interesting. The only kills occurred during the initial approach, on the frigates’ first volley, before the TBs were in range to fire themselves. Thus, the missiles and TBs were going head-on. The AFMs seemed to have a proximity fuse, causing splash damage that apparently bypassed the armor. I say this because every such missile did damage, with no “no effect” messages, and the armored TBs died immediately. But once the TBs closed in enough to starting firing and turning, the AFMs did no further damage. And this was NOT because the armor defeated them, but because the missiles just couldn’t hit or even come close enough for any proximity fuse, if they actually have one. The armored TBs were turning too tight for the AFMs to follow, so the AFMs always missed astern. I slowed time down to 0.2x to make sure of this obseration.

And NOTE: From careful observation, I have noticed that painting a target does NOT guarantee a hit by a rocket. It’s the same reason as above; the fighters turn tighter than the rockets. Rockets are quite effective in low bearing-rate situations, whether painted or not, but when the target is turning hard (regardless of speed), a painted rocket won’t hit it. This is a big mark against rocket/painters as effective dogfighters.

I also noticed that main battery weapons aren’t enough of a threat even to very slow TBs to be worth worrying about. The most effective seems to be the Fast Missile Launcher (both CA and FF varieties) but even they don’t kill very many. I think this is a combination of their low tracking rates, low rates of fire, long minimum ranges, and the fact that the ships carrying them have orders to shoot at other big ships instead of fighters.

I’ve found that removing the “Attack Fighters” order from a unit, be it a big ship or a fighter, doesn’t make the unit ignore fighters completely. The unit will still shoot at fighters if there’s no other target available. Instead of removing the order, have you ever tried just moving the priority slider all the way to the left? The lowest the sliders will go is 1%, not 0%. I think, therefore, that removing the order completely is the same as moving the slider all the way left; you’re just assigning a 1% priority to that type of target.

By default, the SHOOTING AI seems to work as follows:

  1. If there’s only 1 enemy in range, shoot at it regardless of priority or even a lack of orders to engage that type of unit.
    (NOTE: This is why everybody shoots at fighters even without orders to, provided they’re all that’s within range)
  2. If, while targetting 1 enemy, a higher-priority enemy comes within range, switch to the higher-priority target
    (NOTE: This is why CAs will switch from wasting ammo on the outer band of escorting fighters to the enemy cruisers)
  3. If 2 targets of equal priority are in range, shoot at the closest one.
  4. Once shooting at the closest high-priority target, continue shooting at it until either you or it dies, even if you can’t hurt it or catch it, regardless of other high-priority, more vulnerable targets moving to closer ranges.
    (NOTE: This is why the tank cruiser exploit works)

There are several orders that can alter the default rules, such as Cooperate, Retaliate, and Rescuer. These have the effect of causing the unit to switch targets under player-defined circumstances. Retaliate and Rescuer both reduce, but don’t entirely eliminate, the effects of the tank cruiser exploit.

Each individual weapon on a ship seems to have its own shooting AI and they sometimes come to different conclusions. This is why multiple weapons of the same type will sometimes shoot at separate targets. This is also why short-range weapons will shoot at different, closer targets than the main battery.

The MOVING AI works independently of the shooting AI and they don’t coordinate their actions very well. Even worse, the player has even less control over the moving AI than he does the shooting AI. By default, the moving AI seems to work like this:

  1. If outside the engagement range for the highest-priority target type, move toward the closest highest-priority target.
    (NOTE: This is why bait fighters work)
    2A (Cruisers and Frigates): If at or inside the specified range to the highest-priority target type, stop unless you have the Keep Moving order, in which case GOTO 2B.
    2B (Fighters): If at or inside the specified engagement range, turn to maintain the specified engagement range.
    3A (Cruisers and Frigates): Only move again if the target you stopped for dies and you are now outside the specified engagement range. If so, move towards the closest, highest-priority target until reaching the specified range.
    3B (Fighters): Once the target you’re turning for is destroyed, move into range of the closest, highest-priority target.

In the absence of orders like Escort and Formation, the moving AI is a runaway horse with the bit in its teeth. The target selected by the moving AI can be, and often is, different from the target the shooting AI is aiming at. And the moving AI doesn’t care that the target is too fast too catch, it’s going to keep on chasing it anyway, even though the chase passes within spitting distance of other targets of equal priority. Essentially, once the moving AI picks a target, nothing but death will make it pick another. The moving AI is more suited to a missile guidance system than a warship, which is why the bait fighter exploit works.

So, finally getting back to the question of the best dogfighter, the bait fighter exploit is very difficult to overcome. The player can’t stop the Hell-for-leather pursuit of the moving AI, he can only try to give it indirect influences. Retaliate and Rescuer orders at least let the shooting AI take potshots at passing targets of opportunity as it’s dragged around willy-nilly by the blind ambition of the moving AI, but will not cause the moving AI to stop its futile pursuit and turn on its attackers or go rescue endangered friends. The main thing that seems to put the brakes on the moving AI is to give it the maximum engagement range (2000). This will keep it from being dragged fruitlessly all over the map but still won’t change its mind on what to chase.

BTW, Berney, using the above orders, my Serenity R/Ps will beat your Fed bait-and-laser mob about 1 out of 3 times, which appears to be the best they can do. What happens when I win is that we somehow end up in into conga lines. As your faster ships catch up with mine, they present ideal rocket targets with low bearing-rates and get a faceful while still out of range themselves. This doesn’t seem to work at all against the faster Rebel mod, though.

For clarity, the “bait fighter exploit” you refer to is exactly the reason to remove Attack Fighters. Leaving it in with a 1% priority still allows the ship to select fighters as its driving target, while cutting it out entirely eliminates the possibility of stray fighters drawing the ship off of its actual intended targets.

A good visual example: Pick a scenario/challenge with a squad of fighters out front that comes straight for your fleet. Put a similar squad of fighters in your deployment. If you leave Attack Fighters in there, your squad will get pulled into a furball once it closes with the incoming fighters. Take Attack Fighters out, and your fighters will take shots of opportunity as they pass the incoming, but will still make a beeline for the nearest frigate/cruiser (depending on priority on those orders).

Sure, that’s great for big ships but the bait fighters I’m talking about are in fighter-only dogfights. Here, you put a squadron or 2 of your fastest design out in front with their engagement range really big and not sticking together. So, when the bait reaches its huge engagement range from your guys, the bait all turn individually and run away from you trying to stay at the range specified for them. Your guys chase after them because they were the closest enemy to start with, and continue to chase after them even while being dragged through the middle of the enemy’s main force.

I call this an exploit because it takes advantage of the “runaway horse” nature of the moving AI. In a fighter-only battle, there is no way to prevent this from happening except not to use the exploit. There is no way to stop it once it starts, either. The only thing you can do to try to combat this is to give your guys as many anti-baiting orders as possible (Retaliate, Rescue, long engagement range) and/or put out some bait of your own.

Well, if you want to make use of torpedo fighters, here’s some suggestions:

Take any fighter with two hardpoints and at least one normal module slot (two or more module slots is preferred). Put fighter torpedoes in both hardpoints, and the best engine you can power in one of the module slots, then add as much armor as possible. Pair this with a beam cruiser that has mostly pulse lasers, one or two Cruiser Beam Lasers or Proton Beams, and a target painter by setting the fighters to escort the cruiser (an escort range of 350 to 500 is probably good). Set the cruiser up so that it’ll close to within firing range on the pulse lasers, and watch your 32 torpedoes per squadron strip the shields off of the cruiser’s target then aid the cruiser in smashing said target to tiny bits. Make sure that the engagement range on the torpedo fighters is at least 400, and either delete or significantly reduce the priority of the engage fighters order.

Alternatively, drop the second torpedo for a target painter, and replace the cruiser’s target painter with a real weapon. Then order the torpedo fighters to escort the cruisers at about the same range as above, and set the cruiser’s engagement range to where it can fire all its weapons on a single target. This works about as well as the the two-torpedo fighter/painter cruiser pairing given above, since the two-torpedo fighters can choose to target unpainted targets, which they might miss, but deal out about twice as much damage, whereas the torpedo+painter fighters almost always fire on painted targets and virtually never miss as long as they aren’t shooting fighters or unusually fast frigates (but the cruiser’s pulse lasers should take care of those).

You still need some real fighters to help with taking out the enemy’s fighter craft, but since the cruisers already have a lot of pulse lasers on them you could add a tractor beam in place of one of those and keep only a handful of regular fighters.

If you want to do a pure fighter attack, then you need to clear enemy fighters out (at least locally), and enemy fighters that are not escorting something will seek out your torpedo fighters as a primary target, so you need to be able to kill fighters quickly. This means either lots of laser fighters of your own, or rocket/painter combinations (either separate rocket fighters and painter fighters or rocket/painter fighters will do - if you use any painters, though, I would recommend using a paired-torpedo fighter for more damage or a single-torpedo heavily armored fighter for greater survivability against fighters, as you’ve already brought painters to the fight) to remove enemy fighters from the engagement zone. Rockets with painters have a slight disadvantage here - if they go after frigates and fighters, they’re painting things that you don’t want your torpedo bombers shooting at, since there are some frigate designs that can do against torpedoes what fast fighters can do against rockets (dodge them) and rocket fighters will generally slaughter frigates on their own anyways. Moreover, if the painters light cruisers up, you’re probably going to be seeing your rocket fighters waste shots against those. So, if I were to attempt a pure fighter force to win an engagement, I’d bring laser fighters and torpedo/painter fighters, and only consider rockets if there are lots of frigates.

None of this, in my opinion, is really worthwhile compared to a beam cruiser, missile cruiser, fighter screen combination - a mix of missile and beam cruisers with a fighter screen will generally work at least as well as beam cruisers with torpedo fighters and a fighter screen, and will do so more cheaply using fewer pilots (though many more crew). Thus, for campaigns I usually focus fighter production on whatever my preferred dogfighter is at the time, and split ship production between missile and beam cruisers (mostly beam cruisers because mine tend to die more than the missile cruisers do) while completely ignoring the existence of frigates.

My philosophy on fighter defense is to carry a pulse laser on any capital ship that uses primarily beams or lasers, maybe include a tractor beam, and give it an escorting squadron of dogfighters. Sometimes I’ll put in a tractor beam instead of a pulse laser, other times I’ll have both. I also occasionally include a pulse laser and tractor beam on my missile cruisers, but I usually rely on my fighters to take care of defending missile cruisers against fighters.

I suppose I should put up some results for torpedo bomber + beam cruiser combinations:

Using the Rebel Atlantis bomber with paired torpedoes escorting Rebel Minotaur Cruisers with one Cruiser Target Painter, two Rebel Fusion Beams, and the rest of the hardpoints as pulse lasers, fight the Defend Caspian IV mission.

The fleet I used was eight cruisers each with its own squadron of Atlantis bombers, and 10 squadrons of a laser fighter. The torpedo fighters will generally target the cruiser’s target since the cruiser will paint that ship, and that ship will very rapidly lose its shields to massed torpedo fire. End result on the easiest difficulty was three cruisers lost, two damaged. I think that most of the laser and torpedo fighters survived the battle, but its a little difficult to judge from the battle statistics page, since each squadron is a best represented by a single fighter. Then I traded out the cruiser target painter for another pulse laser and switched to an Atlantis torpedo/painter fighter. I again used the same 10 squadrons of laser fighters, and had eight cruisers with eight squadrons of escorting torpedo/painter fighters.

The end result was about the same - 5 surviving cruisers, two of which were damaged, and most of the fighter force survived the engagement. Fleet arrangement was a double line of cruisers packed as closely together as possible, attacking Cruisers and Frigates at 550 range, with the torpedo fighters placed nearby with Escort (500), Stick Together, and Last Stand orders. The laser fighters were placed nearby and had Stick Together and Last Stand orders, but were not commanded to escort the cruisers. The torpedo fighters in both cases generally removed the shields from opposing cruisers at about the same time my cruisers came into firing range of that cruiser.

When the Cruisers carried the target painters, it encouraged the escorting torpedo fighters to target the same ship that the cruiser wanted to kill, which usually resulted in that ship dying very quickly. When the torpedo fighters carried their own target painters, the torpedo fire spread out more and tended to remove shields from more nearby ships, but this wasn’t really much of an improvement over the twin torpedo fighters with the Cruisers carrying the target painters. I think more torpedoes missed when the cruisers had the target painters since the fighters did not always chose to shoot the ship the cruiser was painting, but the increased volume of fire made up for it.

Thanks for the detailed info. That is most helpful both in general tactical insights and in sparking my creative juices. I’d have never thought to use torpedobombers as escorts :).

@Bullethead: I tried the escort orders on the torpedo fighters because it (1) keeps the torpedo fighters in an area that I can attempt to have fighter superiority, (2) controls where on the battlefield the torpedo fighters are, and (3) provides me with a significant missile battery of about the same range as cruiser beam weapons, assuming I choose the escort ranges correctly (and, yes, I know about rockets, but rockets are somewhat unpredictable).

Also, I’ve done a little more experimentation, and it seems as though adding the Rescuer order to fighters improves their effectiveness in a dogfight. Evidence (tested only once, but still):
Imperial Phalanx fighter hull with Fighter Laser, Engine II and Power II (speed 2.39, 18 hit points, no armor) against your Tribe fighter swarm. Fighter orders are Stick Together and Last Stand. Fleet formation is a 5X5 square of fighters. Without the Rescuer order, this loses 41% Tribe, 20% Empire. With Rescuer, it wins 25% Empire, 10% Tribe. The performance discrepancy is far too large to be mere luck (in my opinion), and the only difference is the addition of the Rescuer order. I suspect this is because the fighters focus on taking out the enemy fighters which remain active threats, rather than just killing whatever happens to be the most appealing target (same reason Jonz0rz recommended Rescuer on the painter fighters he suggested for Alliance). This probably would not be for the best in a combined fleet fighter screen, since it would cause the fighters to consider healthy cruisers to be more appealing targets, but might work if combined with a relatively short escort range (though that has its own problems, like being overwhelmed locally).