The State of Defence - A beginners guide...

(And by beginner’s guide, I do mean a guide by a beginner more than for a beginner, but I suspect some input from elsewheres may improve it)

There are several ways to defend your ships, and while I personally prefer the approach of ‘A Strong Offence’ being a good defence, the game neither gets offended nor emotional when you swear at it.

That being the case, one must use more mundane methods to defend your ships:

  • Shields – These absorb, or reflect damage before it ever reaches your ship.
  • Armor – These absorb, or even reflect damage, before it does the same to your ship.
  • Speed – A moving target is hard to hit.
  • Gizmos – Widgets & do-dads that help you protect your ship.

First up, we have Shields.
There are several different kinds of shield, but they each have 3 basic factors for you to consider: Strength, Reflectivity, and Recharge Speed.

  • Shield Strength - This simply refers to how ‘deep’ a shield is, or how much damage it can sustain before it fails. Once it fails, it will not recover.
  • Shield Reflectivity - Weapons with a shield-penetration value less than this will bounce off the shield, having not harmed it.
  • Shield Recharge Speed - The rate at which a shield recovers strength lost to attacks.

For Cruisers, the 3 key shield options are:

  • Multi-Phasic shields – These have a high Shield Strength.
  • Fast-Recharge shields – These have a high recharge value.
  • Reflective Shields – These have a high reflectivity.

Now, you can’t get one shield with all three factors in surplus, you can mix and match them, but how exactly do they mix & match?
Well, lets take a hypothetical cruiser, and pack one of each of the above 3 shield options onto it. What does this do for you?
Well, currently, when you get attacked, the shield reflectivity is checked first. If the attack’s penetration is weaker than the reflective value of your highest-working shield, it gets reflected, and nothing happens to your shields.
However, if the attack isn’t reflected, a shield generator gets picked at random and it’s individual shield strength is cut by the attack value. If that takes the current strength of that shield generator to 0, that generator is knocked out. Otherwise, the generator has a chance to recover from the attack.
Things get a little more interesting once shield generators start cutting out on you. First, reflectivity is only determined using the highest working shield, so if your reflective shield generator dies first, more attacks can start hitting your shields. Second, when a shield generator is selected at random, even dead shield generators can be selected, and when a dead generator is selected, the shot hits the ship, even if other generators are still active – this makes it possible to destroy a ship without ever completely disabling its shields. Once one generator is dead, the hull becomes exposed to (some) enemy fire.
One last note on shields – if all of your opponents fire will damage even reflective shields, they arn’t worth bothering with, trade them out then for either an extra multiphasic or fast-regen shield.

Something to try: Pack a ship design with one each of the above three generators, and use it in battle. Make note of which shields tend to drop first.

Next up, Armor.
Armor does 2 things for you: It can absorb some damage. It can cause some damage to be reflected harmlessly, however the latter does come at a bit of a penalty. While high armor can make a ship relatively immune to enemy fire, like most tanks they lose the nimble mobility of fighter jets (there’s a reason fighter jets don’t get tank armor…), and often weapons must also be sacrificed.
How armor works is fairly simple: Take the total equipped damage asorbable. Divide it by the number of installed modules plus 1, and you get the armor value enemy fire must penetrate to damage your ship.

Something to try: Take a Federation Cruiser. Add to it 5 Ultra-Heavy armor units. Leave all the other slots empty. Deploy one of them against the tutorial ‘adding ships’ scenario. Try again, but with the empty slots packed with power plants & crew modules. While the first scenario ends in a stalemate before your ship is appreciably damaged, the second scenario, thanks to the added modules dropping your average armor value, you will find your ship destroyed.

Speed: This one’s fairly simple. The faster you move, the harder you are to hit. Some of the more powerful weapons have trouble hitting moving targets, so while it may seem easy to create ships without engines, what you are creating are quite simply ‘Sitting Ducks’. Fighters are perhaps the best example of this: If you make a fighter using only an Engine II & a rocket launcher (no armor, no power-plant), nothing short of tractors or lucky shots will kill them. If instead you pack in a power-plant, heavy armor, a cheap engine, and a heavy weapon, the fighter will move much slower, becoming an effective ‘sitting duck’ for enemy fire, and you may find them dying to long-range plasma fire. The same is true to a lesser extent for the larger ships, and a ‘Keep Moving’ order may be of use in keeping your ships alive. That, and engines that move your cruisers at above 0.30 instead of the leisurely 0.03…

Gizmos: There are several gizmos to chose among…

  • Missile Defence - Point Defence and Guidance Scramblers
  • ECM - Electronic CounterMeasures, and the ECM Shield.
  • Anti-Fighter Defences - Tractor Beams & Limpets
  • Cloak
  • Auto-repair systems

For the anti-missile systems, you have your choice of various point defence systems, and a guidance scrambler. Point defence blows up enemy missiles, and guidance scramblers cause them to fly random paths that seldom coincide with anything the missiles were aimed at. If you need to make a choice between the two, remember this about missiles: Missiles often have maximum flight-times that are longer than their launchers recharge, but until the missile hits something or is otherwise destroyed, the launcher that sent it cannot fire again. In this way, using guidance scramblers can actually lessen the speed at which missiles can be fired, because the missiles are left intact to fly until they run out of fuel.

As for ECM, you have 2 basic choices: The Frigate launched ECM Missile, the Cruiser mounted ECM beam. A ship caught in the effects of ECM will be unable to fire back, so each ship you keep ‘blasted’ with ECM becomes almost like a sitting duck. To prevent this unhappy outcome in your own ships, you can load an ECM defence item on your cruisers, however you can still expect to have some problems with ECM, even with the shield, but the shield can make the difference between a constant ECM state and an occasional ECM state.

Anti-Fighter gear comes in two types, first the Tractor beam: Fairly standard, tractors let a cruiser or frigate nab and hold onto a fighter long enough for weapons to shred it to bits. While they arn’t equipped with an impressive rate-of-fire, they can make swarms of fighters somewhat easier to clear. Second is the Limpet, of which I have heard rumors. I assume they are hunks of depleted uranium or similar materials with small tractors on them that attach themselves to enemy fighters, with the result that enemy fighters then become as maneuverable as your average hamster propelled super-tanker. Or so I hear, but I’ve never had a chance to use limpets.

Cloak: The good things about the cloak: Ships tend to ignore you more while cloaked, and the cloak device requires substantial damage to destroy (a plus for making the ship more durable). The bad things about the cloak: You can still be fired on, and hit, while under cloak. And you can’t shoot back. While these might seem like a problem to some, not all useful ship designs require weapons.

Auto-repair: This is the only class of item that lets you rewind the damage clock, and fix things the bad guys broke. While it can be an enormous plus, if a ship takes enough damage fast enough, the bonuses of auto-repair become insignificant. Ships relying on thick armor may benefit most from this, as the armor can mitigate the rate at which the ship takes damage, but anytime fire on your ships is not concentrated at single ships, this can still be of use. It does have a couple limitations: Repair supplies are limited, and it can’t fix something that’s been destroyed.

Here are some defensive ship designs to try. While they may not all work in all scenarios, they should give you something to start thinking on in building your own designs from scratch:

  • Pack as much armor as you can onto a cruiser, leaving room for only a engines, crew, power, a guidance scrambler, and a tractor beam. Ignore shields, and have this lead your attacks, taking fire for the better-armed ships behind it.
  • Using the above ship design, try omitting the tractor beam for an auto-repair system.
  • Using the top ship design, try omitting the tractor beam for an ECM weapon.
  • Pack as many shield generators into a single cruiser hull as you can. Include some rockets as your only weapon, and a cloak. (The rockets are to help draw enemy fire back to your ship after you come out of cloak, as it is possible to order attacking ships to largely ignore ships that don’t fire back)
  • Take a rebel Icarus fighter hull. Add engine #3 and armor, but no weapons or power-plant. Aim for a speed of around 4.0 when adding the armor. Set them as a reasonably close escort for a cruiser that has a repair bay & tractor. Ensure other nearby ships have short-range guns suitable for picking off fighters. When enemy fighters come in, they will try to take down your armored fighters, and fail, allowing your cruisers to pick the enemy fighters off at leisure.
  • Place some vulnerable heavy-weapons fighters in formation well behind a frigate. When the frigate dies, this will signal the fighters to begin their attack-run, on (hopefully) ships that have been cleared of their own fighter defences and are otherwise occupied with cruisers.

A last note, when it comes to defensive planning, if something stupid works, it ain’t stupid. Be creative.

Some good points.

For my cruisers (Empire) I usually fit 1x Multiphasic shield 2x Fast recharge shields. I’m sure its not optimal and I’ve never really put much thought into it, but it seems to work well in most encounters.

I haven’t personally found a good fitting for any of my cruisers that accommodates a Cloaking device to any useful capacity, generally I just prefer to take another engine - it feels more useful. A cloak might be useful on a fighter carrier, assuming it still repairs them whilst docked, but I cant think of any other uses for it.

You forgot limpet launchers under gizmos. I usually use two fast recharge and one reflective shield.

Limpets added, although I lack access to them. I’ve added a note under shields to the effect that ‘if all enemy weapons pierce reflective shields, there is no benefit in using them’, and a couple fighter suggestions to the final list.

I only use reflective shields on cruiser designs. The ability to outright ignore about a third of the enemy arsenal is far more valuable, IMO, than deeper or faster refilling shield reserves.

Which leaves me wondering: Do you only ever use a single shield generator on your cruisers? That makes it fairly easy to defeat their shields, not unlike putting one piece of armor on a cruiser. It’ll absorb some damage, but once it’s done, it’s done. Yes, it works, but never for long.

If, on the other hand, you use multiple shield generators (hmm, looking at my lead-paint cruiser, is 7 shield generators too many?), having one reflective generator is all you need for that reflective power. The durability of your shield is on a per-generator basis, the reflectivity is not. You can add multi-phasic or fast-recharge shields to give you a deeper shield in places, or a shield that recovers faster in places, but once you slap in a single reflective generator, they all reflect at that higher rate.

Something to try:
Make two ship designs - A ship with 3 reflective shield generators, and a ship with 1 each of reflective, multi-phasic, and fast-recharge. Otherwise, the 2 ships should be identical. Place them in the same scenario and see which one survives longer (try one at a time, not side-by-side, for a best comparison). Because the reflective shield is both shallower than both the multi-phasic and fast-recharge generators, it will usually be the first to fail. It also recharges slower than the fast-recharge shield (same recharge rate as the multi-phasic). In the case of your 3 reflective shields, they may last longer against some weapons, but pit against massed fire from any weapon that can pierce reflective shields, and it’s going to be a relative push-over. The other ship will survive equally well against non-piercing weapons, it just needs one reflective generator for that, but it will survive longer against heavier fire as well. Why I suggest using one of each is actually quite simple: One shield for the reflective. One each of the other two – good enough for most scenarios, and if in a specific scenario your shields are not holding up long enough, its easy to check for which one is failing first, and replace it with the more durable generator.

(And no, I do not think the 7 shield generators ship design is an inherently bad one. I just wish it would stop parking inside the shield bubble of enemy cruisers, as it tends to die doing that.)

Seven shield generators, receive a stacking penalty of 50%. Not so good.
4 multiphasic generators give 801 shield points
5 give 902 shield points
7 give 1023 shield points

When you have 5 shields, adding 2 shields give the same strength than adding 1 when you have 4 shields. Of course you still have more regeneration. However when under fire it doesn’t matter much.
Shields go down, a few remain up barely doing anything.
And missiles will always hit shield bubble as long there is a shield up, giving less time to get scrambled.

Any kind of tank ship gets easily screwed by retaliate order.

Great thread.

I’d only like to add one thing, in response to the poster who hadn’t found a use for the cloak. I don’t use it much for most races, but for the Tribe it can be an awesome addition. A fleet of cruisers equipped with cloaks and two tribe repair modules can be very hard to kill as they phase in and out fixing things up before re-engaging.

In my experience, even adding a few token weapons to a tank ship can get around that. Well, that combined with positioning. I’ve noticed that your ships will target the closest thing in range, regardless of other orders, so the tank ships still end up soaking a lot of damage, even when using either Retaliate or Rescuer.

Simple - or is it? I think speed could use more discussion by others more knowledgable. Specifically, what are the important speed thresholds that make a difference versus certain weapons. So I’ve made a fast cruiser that can go speed 0.30; have I done as good as I could, or do you really need to pump it up to speed 0.35 before you’re really getting yourself anything? Is there really much of a difference in the likelyhood of hits on mid-range speed cruisers, between 0.15 to 0.25? If not, why bother with something in the 0.20 speed range? These are the intriguing questions.

Lastly, does hull size make as much of a difference as it is suggested that it might? You’ve got your 240 meter cruiser and you 140 meter long cruiser - it is usually easier to make the smaller one faster, but how much does size really matter when it comes to getting or avoiding hits? Is it all a moot point anyways if the ship has a huge shield bubble that can be hit like the broad side of a barn?

There aren’t too many thresholds outside of fighter types, but there are a few odd ones.

Certain types of plasma, proton beams, and the EMP beam have particularly bad tracking values. If you can get speeds close to or past their tracking values, you won’t have too much trouble from them.

Missrate for basic weapons is a function of size and distance against the tracking of a weapon.

For a 240 size cruiser against a .9 tracking cruiser laser, going from .30 to .35 means roughly 5.4% less fire taken.

If shields were unimportant, I’d see more designs without them. (yes, I have designs that do without shields, but there are special circumstances for those, just as there are for 7 generators).

1 - I said 7 shield generators is not a bad idea. I did not say it was a good idea – that remains to be seen.
2 - 7 shield generators gives ~ 4 fold the shield points that 1 generator does – This means you can expect to need an average minimum of 4x the damage to completely dismantle the shields, if attacked heavily enough to ignore the monster regen they have. Consider also, your average ship has on the order of 700-2000 points of hull to work with. Adding a ‘meager’ 1000 to a 2000 point ship is significant, and far from trivial for a ship otherwise sporting 700 points of hull. Adding 200 points of shield from a single generator is comparatively less significant
3 - While any shields are up, all fire that hits your ship will be animated as striking the shield bubble. Missiles, plasma, lasers, etc. But if in the shield generator selection phase they pick a down shield generator, you will also see an animated ‘impact’ on your ship, be it a brief brightening of weapons impacting on armor, or the fiery explosion of weapons chewing into your engines. I’ve seen ships animate their shields dropping only because the last missile volley destroyed the ship, and did not properly knock out the shields.
4 - My last note in 3 above may argue against more generators, but I refer to the phrase above ‘monster regen’ – the game is about tradeoffs. I buy ‘monster regen’ and ‘very-deep shields’, and with it comes a level of uncertainty. I may or may not get to use the regen. My shields may or may not get disrupted. My ship may unwisely park itself (yet again) on top of some otherwise harmless vessel. I make fighters without armor or power plants because I trade that armor and energy for speed, which makes them harder to hit. I make ships without shields because I use those places to pack additional thick armor. I do it at the cost of maneuverability and being unable to reflect fire off my shields. In return even heavy plasma fire requires far longer to scratch the ship.

I’ve seen fast moving Cruiser Laser ships fairly consistently dodge fairly heavy plasma fire. Their shields were able to cope with it up until they reached my own ships and had to slow down to turn around, at which point they got pummled – if not for that ‘stop of motion’ I’d have had real problems winning even with my otherwise effective fleet. What you can’t shoot, you can’t kill. Sadly, I had no yardstick so I can’t exactly qoute for you how fast they were going, but .35 would not surprise me.

On the point of hull size – Bigger hull = bigger shield bubble = more vulnerable to fighters. The more often fighters manage to fire from within your shield bubble, the less often your shield protects you from them.

The entire goal of this thread is to get new players thinking about things they can do in making ships. To give them some ideas to knock around in their heads. To try in the game. When I installed the game, I had the 2 or so default ships to work with, and nothing more. No ‘beginners guide’ in the forums, no repository of good ship designs. Not even a list of general concepts in ship design. Well, this is that ‘beginners guide’. It may not carry numerous fantastic designs, but it does at least point out the basics. Cruisers want 1 of 3 shield types, if any. Tons of armor can be handy. Lots of speed can be handy. You have ways to cope with fighters, missiles, and that ‘damage’ stuff everyone seems to love delivering but hate receiving. And hey, it has some neat things to try so as to demonstrate some of the points it makes. What it doesn’t do is say ‘this is the right way to make a ship, that is the wrong way to make a ship’, because that would limit ideas, and when you limit ideas you limit possibilities. I will not place limits on what others can try. I will try to correct people where they have an incorrect understanding, or point out where they might gain added advantage. I will let players find for themselves how far they can go.

The entire goal of this thread is to get new players thinking about things they can do in making ships. To give them some ideas to knock around in their heads. To try in the game. When I installed the game, I had the 2 or so default ships to work with, and nothing more. No ‘beginners guide’ in the forums, no repository of good ship designs. Not even a list of general concepts in ship design. Well, this is that ‘beginners guide’. It may not carry numerous fantastic designs, but it does at least point out the basics. Cruisers want 1 of 3 shield types, if any. Tons of armor can be handy. Lots of speed can be handy. You have ways to cope with fighters, missiles, and that ‘damage’ stuff everyone seems to love delivering but hate receiving. And hey, it has some neat things to try so as to demonstrate some of the points it makes. What it doesn’t do is say ‘this is the right way to make a ship, that is the wrong way to make a ship’, because that would limit ideas, and when you limit ideas you limit possibilities. I will not place limits on what others can try. I will try to correct people where they have an incorrect understanding, or point out where they might gain added advantage. I will let players find for themselves how far they can go

well Put mate

I have one observation and a question with regard to shields (at the risk of slightly moving the thread in a less begginerish direction).

Question first: What does “regen=8” mean? Clearly the bigger number is better, but what does the number mean? Specifically does it mean a flat regeneration rate or a rate relative to the full shield strength? This is critical, because if regeneration is relative to the shield’s strength (such as “8% per time unit”) it would be affected by the diminishing returns, where if its a flat rate (“8 points per time unit”) it is not affected by stacking shields.

The observation is also about stacking shields. When a shield goes down its gone for good. Under any significant amount of fire even one shield module down means a quick death (from direct hull damage) unless you are packing serious armor and a repair unit (which pretty much leaves no space for anything else). If you stack shields to the point where they are at 50% effectiveness, each shield module starts to get dangerously shallow - to the point where a few simulteneous hits that happen to select the same module to hit will disable it.

The reflective shield, which we all like to take one of, is only 200 points deep at 100%. In a stack where it is at 50% thats only 100 points. Under a barrage of fire, that module will give out to a string of hits much earlier than the point where you are actually losing the regen race - getting your ship prematurely killed in the process.

So, when heavily stacking shields, dump the reflective. When really stacking them to the limit (such as the 7 stack mentioned here) going full multiphasic might even be more effective than using the generally superior fast recharge shields.

EDIT: Actually full multiphasic is a terrible idea, their terrible resistence sinks them in this application.

Its a flat regen rate for that shield. So if a different shield is hit, its HP is restored by its own regen rate.

I’ve found that mixing shield types works well. Placing a high resistance with a fast regen give my cruisers a balanced defense. Since the short range pulse lasers can rip through resistances, the fast regen is handy. Conversely, the beam lasers have high damage but fail at penetrating my high resistance shields. Missiles rip through anything though if enough of them hit.

Using 2 or 2 or 3 different shield types gives good coverage against many weapon types without incurring a sharp stacking penalty for having 3+ the same module.

I think mrocktor is right. I have been doing some testing and I think designs with heavily stacked shields would be better off not including a reflective shield.

I’ve been playing with the idea of the opposite - adding shields designed to fail, like those cheap 100 point generators.

Theory being, if at least one shield is active, some degree of damage is being mitigated and some degree of regeneration is occurring, and dragging that out as much as possible could be beneficial. Tree that bends in the wind and that kind of zen. It also makes repair modules a bit more attractive.

Even if it means your ship takes half damage over it’s entire lifespan, hey, that’s sort of like a tribe cruiser, right?

The difficulty is in the budget, obviously because a bunch of high quality shields is always going to be ‘better’.

I tried that but it didn’t seem too effective (semi shield semi armor tank). After the sacrificial shield was down the ship got owned quickly (even with 3 fast recharge up).

There is a problem with this strategy, and the problem is that it doesn’t work. The reason is that once you start taking hull damage nothing prevents your healthy shield module from being damaged too, even if it itself still has shield strength.

Unlikely. The entire shield usually collapses before the module does, although you will suffer weapon slowdown if it gets far past your plating. To be clear, no, I’m not talking about 3+shield setups.

Anyway, by some cost analysis earlier, it doesn’t look like it’s worth doing. It could have questionable benefit in certain cases of 1-2 shields on extreme 1700 budget cruisers, but I wouldn’t say to any global profit.