Too Cruiser-Heavy Gameplay?

I purchased GSB over the free weekend and became a fan. I unlocked all the designs, beat all the battles on expert and played a # of campaign battles. But I feel I’ve reached a point of diminishing returns and decided to post here to see if I’m missing something. My principal problem is that ship designs fall into predictable formats which limit experimentation. In short, cruisers rule.

Fighters and Frigates lack the firepower to penetrate Cruiser armor. Frigates lack enough speed, unless the Cruisers go with very low tracking speed weapons, to engage. Fighters are terribly vulnerable to tractor beams which allow cruisers to engage in a favorable trade off killing enemy fighters faster than they are able to damage the cruiser with lucky shot damage. Both Fighters and Frigates have utility but as the battles get larger, players consistently field more cruisers proportionally than the other two.

As a result, I solved the most difficult Battles and the Campaign with primarily Plasma Cruisers. Now this force isn’t perfect and I’ve lost plenty. Efficient Lure use and Multi-Missile Launchers could defeat my fleets. But these are Cruiser weapons and, invariably, the forces which gave me the most trouble simply had more Cruisers than me. At first, I used The Tribe as pure hull based ships were hilariously odd compared to the rest of the races, but that design does not translate well into campaign since destroyed components can only be repaired at shipyards. It was far more cost effective to continue the safe heavy armor designs which limited my damage and prevented repair yard work/costs.

I’d love to hear what I’m missing out on.

your missing out on mods, go to the main site and look to the bottom of the page (or just browse the forum)

Hello, Ceorl; welcome aboard. :slight_smile:

I hear you loud and clear. When experimentation should fail, it’s often difficult to excel without resorting, even when one would prefer not to, to at least some degree of spamming. Whether it’s spamming of a particularly effective hull (Tribe Utopia, Fed Panther), or even mass instances of a single weapon that’s head-and-shoulders above much of the game’s arsenal, is irrelevant. Many ships, as well as quite a few weapons and shipboard modules, are potentially interesting but challenging to squeeze a lot of mileage out of.

Yes, this is a heavily cruiser-centric game. I try to regard it as a feature rather than a weakness. Disclosure: as the author of the popular Classic Dreadnoughts mod, I might be biased in thinking that “bigger is better”. :wink:

GSB’s frigates are often best employed in quick-flying tactics involving large numbers of individually-weak units. Don’t get too attached to any one frigate; just concentrate upon the whole. Used as fast auxiliary forces, rear-echelon fire support or as a late-battle finisher against damaged enemy ships, frigates are definitely fragile but neither are they wholly useless.

Am I odd in wanting to see Battle Cruisers? Ships with frigate scale weapons and Cruiser scale engines and shields?

Depending upon what historical era of naval nomenclature you’re hailing from, what you described sounds much, much more like what was once called a light cruiser. CLs were typically armed with relatively weak but quick-firing weapons. Oh, well…perhaps in GSB 2, if (big if) that should ever come to pass, right? :slight_smile:

I use the term battle cruiser, because I envision a cruiser hull running several engines, and then scads of rapid firing frigate guns. Ole’ Jackie Fisher advocated big ships with negligable armor, high speed, and a killer punch. If it were possible to get a cruiser hull over .65 in speed, mounting a battery of Ion Cannons? Or since I enjoy Outkasts so much, I’d be pumped to get a survivable hull using sniper lasers.

Well, if you want battle cruisers by the definition you provided, I have some cruiser designs that can reach about 0.9 speed and are armed about as well as a frigate, if you really want them. They are a complete, total waste of credits in almost any situation, though, as they bring a grand total of one gun and one shield generator to the battle, for a cost of about 4,000 credits (unless you play Swarm, then it is a slightly more reasonable 3,000 credits). Also, absolutely no armor present on these. Personally, I’d rather take normal frigate or cruiser designs. Also, I don’t remember the exact designs for these, and I don’t think I have them anymore. Most races can get to about 0.7-0.8 speed on cruisers, races with speed bonuses on cruiser hulls can sometimes go faster. The fastest design I remember creating had a speed of 0.91, but it had only a single Quantum Blaster for its armament.

Alternatively, I have significantly better cruiser designs at around 0.5 speed that carry three or four guns, one or two shield generators, and maybe even some armor for about 3,000 credits apiece.

Or you can head over to the modding forum to see if anyone has a frigate mod, or get any of the mods which have ‘dreadnoughts’ in them, since these usually come with a number of modules intended for use on dreadnoughts but which can fit on normal cruiser hulls, which lets you do ridiculous things like make 2.5 speed cruisers. Or even mod your own battle cruisers into being.

Side note: Admiral Fisher’s conception of the battle cruiser was a battleship-sized cruiser with cruiser-like speed and armor, and battleship-like armament. The GSB equivalent would be more along the lines of a battle frigate - cruiser-sized frigates with cruiser-level firepower and frigate-level armor and speed. Essentially, the 0.9 speed cruiser I mentioned above, except that that doesn’t have cruiser level firepower (more along the lines of frigate-level speed and firepower, cruiser++ cost, cruiser-level health, and fighter-level armor).

Thanks for the replies. Seems to me one of the easy fixes is to include the stacking mechanic for weapons as well. That way a player can’t take nothing but plasma or at least be forced to diversify to other plamsa types on the ship.

I’ll take alook at some of the mods. I had searched for Homeworld and Star Wars mod but there didn’t appear to be many especially the latter as Disney had clamped down like… well they clamped down.

That is a very interesting and unusual idea. Until now, I had never even remotely considered stackable weapons. Of course, that opens the door for sub-optimal guns as well as super-optimal guns… :wink: (Yet another suggestion for a hypothetical GSB 2.)

Even though the some of the most widely-recognized franchise sci-fi mods for GSB have fallen upon hard times, the Sun still shines. Our Gratuitous Modding forum is loaded with useful choices. Take a look at this creation; I’m rather fond of it. Here’s another one; I consider it a true first-class mod.

Yes the game is Cruiser-centric. I bought the game that weekend too, and haven’t been so addicted to a game in a long while. I have almost beat that 47-planet Campaign with Nomads, and I am basically only using three different fleet designs:

  1. the cheapest Laser Cannon fighters I can design (around 1300 credits for 16), they are relatively quick (2.49 iirc)
  2. Cruiser (forgot name, the blue shark-like one) armed with 3 Quantum Blasters, 2 Pulse Lasers, 1 Guidance Scrambler Beam, solid shields, decent armor and quite a bit of speed
  3. MWM platforms supported by anti-aircraft cruisers and anti-assault cruisers (6,3,4 respectively, 4 turns to build)

So as you see, no frigates…

I think you are vastly understimating the power of fighters. Since I can produce 9 units of those fighters per turn, I can build 36 of them in four turns, and in the fifth the only thing withstanding that fleet is anti-aircraft tank fleets with 30k+ strength. At 4x speed it usually takes less than a minute to mow through anything else. I have found that the one who wins the fighter war wins the battle, because if the fleet relies on fighters to defend against fighters the rest of the fleet is usually defenseless against them (and if they are not, they will have allocated too much against fighters and will be useless against anything else).

as for 2), it also mows through anything but fighters and tanks, and since they are quick cruisers they can pack a punch against tanks as well, if those tanks can’t take down the shields quickly enough - they are designed to beat laser-based fleets and rocket-based fleets.

  1. mops up what the two others don’t beat. Laser-based anti-aircraft tanks have no chance against MWM volleys.

So, yes I kind of agree with you, two of those three strategies do not require much thought at all. The third has also become fairly standardized after a while, so there is little experimentation at the moment. There is no need for it, since the combination of those three takes care of everything in Campaign mode.

Ya I’ve been experimenting with fighters more, but I’m still leaning toward cruisers since almost any weapon can destroy a tractored fighter and a cruiser with any shield, several layers of armor and a repair system can survive against lucky shots for a long time.

Fighter swarms only really start to become effective when there are at least two or three hundred fighters in the swarm. Less than that, and they cannot reliably maintain a constant stream of lucky shots getting through the armor, and even then you want your fighter swarm to pick one target for the entire swarm to chew on until it dies. As such, few of the default scenarios are good for fighter swarms. Challenges can give you much higher pilot allowances for playing with fighter swarms, and the campaign is probably the place where fighter swarms are most effective - if things go south, fighters are quick to retreat and relatively easy to replace, and you can build up a large fighter swarm while older cruiser/frigate/fighter fleets are securing a small part of the map, and you will almost always be able to build a few fighters every turn.

Fighter swarms for scenarios and challenges, and perhaps for campaign, should also have at least one ‘anchor ship’ - either a cruiser or a frigate - to prevent the special fighter-only fleet defeat rules from being applied (if your fleet consists of only fighters, or has only fighters surviving, the game will usually declare a loss when the percentage of your fleet surviving is less than half the percentage of the enemy fleet surviving), unless you are confident that the opposing fleet lacks sufficient fighter defense to wear down your swarm.

I find that I only need an equal amount of fighter units to beat anything but other fighters and anti-fighter tanks. This is why I build them as cheaply as possible, so that I get more fighters than they have. This, at the very least, means I can destroy their fighters and if it appears that their cruiser’s anti-figher capacity is too high I withdraw at that point. Then I just go in with my assault cruisers and mop up the rest.

This is in Campaign mode yes. The amount of pilots is usually too resticted elsewhere to do this, precisely for this reason. If you set no pilot limit in a challenge, anti-fighter tanks are so expensive that I believe that fighters worth the same amount of gold will beat them anyway. 16 Swarm laser cannon fighters with the smallest engine and power module (2.30 speed iirc) costs what… 6-700 credits? An anti-fighter tank costs 3500 credits? Set up such a challenge for yourself and see how it goes. It is the number of guns first and foremost, and after that speed (when it comes to fighters).

I have to buy every modules, ships and races. It took me long time to buy those. When i played GSB i just took fighters and set up “direct control”, normal fighters with laser cannon. i think 200 fighters destroyed 4 cruisers, i’ve attacked cruiser one by one and continue with it. However, i’m not a great design but i’m doing this to have fun.

Tribe races is very powerful and the cruiser has a wonderful armor, but it is not strong enough for it. The enemy destroyed me, so i have to set up a direct control over the ships and fighters. For the weapons in Tribe races, i have to set up cannons, and it was not so very easily to destroy the cruisers and frigates.



This is very much not the case. A decent anti-fighter cruiser needs, at a minimum, enough armor to reflect most fighter shots (I prefer to have two or three plates of armor, to help spread the lucky shots around), and should have at least one, and probably two, nanobot repair modules, as well as a shield generator. All of the weapon hardpoints should be filled with Cruiser Defense Lasers, if the cruiser is specifically for the anti-fighter role, although tractor beams and Cruiser Pulse Lasers can also work (this is less effective against laser fighters, however). Cruiser Pulse Lasers are probably the better choice if the fighter swarm consists primarily of torpedo fighters, though. Such a cruiser will cost about 2000 to 2500 credits, and about twelve of them will beat 1000 laser fighters - meaning that dedicated anti-fighter cruisers can beat roughly twice their cost worth of fighters. Good antifighter frigates can also beat roughly twice their credit value in laser fighters, though I’m not sure about how well they’ll do against rocket fighters (they can work, I just don’t know at what cost ratio).

Parasites are a special case. If you use Parasites and fight a fighter swarm, you should have a design similar to the anti-fighter cruiser design listed above, except that all of the Cruiser Defense Lasers should be swapped out for Flak Cannons, and you should also mount a tractor beam or two. The Physalia version of this costs about 2600 credits, and two of those will beat 1000 laser fighters roughly three out of four attempts. Note that this is specifically for use against fighter swarms - the Flak Cannon only becomes this effective against fighters when there are enormous numbers of them concentrated in small areas, such as 1000 fighters swarming two cruisers.

2-3 armor plates? Oh… you’re talking about leaving slots open. I haven’t tried that. Should probably do that… That’s the kind that takes forever to break through the armor but when that happens they take only a few shots and then blows? What armor rating does your design produce?

Yeah we can build dedicated anti-fighter tanks that can do what you say, but those are few and far between when fighting the AI in the campaign. When facing that kind of anti-fighter power in the campaign I just withdraw and send in the assault cruisers instead. It is pleasing seeing 5-6 fighter squads mow through fleets of 20+ cruisers and frigates in a matter of seconds, though.

Today one of the longest battles I faced was a few dozen anti-fighter-only frigates on a No Cruiser planet. Once my fighters were gone I had only some EMP/Plasma frigates and a captured missile frigate left and the enemy was hiding in the corners for at least ten minutes…

The Gravity Well mission in battle mode (against the Empire) can be cleared with pure fighters alone :stuck_out_tongue: And you’ll get truckloads of honor points as well.

There are some kinds of frigate spams that do work amazingly well against cruisers. I usually go for fast frigates with ion cannons: cruiser shields fall flat, and the overwhelming number of attacks yields more lucky shots, so it’s entirely possible to break armor. Doesn’t work all the time, but when it does it’s fun to watch.

No, I’m talking about cruisers that have an average armor somewhere around 15 or 20, which is more than sufficient against any fighter weapon other than torpedoes, and torpedo fighters are both rare and easily destroyed. You really don’t need a true armor tank against fighters, and in my opinion it is better to bring lots of guns than lots of armor when trying to deal with fighter swarms, because lots of guns will let you kill the fighter swarm more quickly while lots of armor just drags things out.

More on topic:
In addition to the fast frigates mentioned, slow frigates can also work, either in support of a cruiser group (which, in my opinion, is where slow frigates work best), or on their own. Long-range frigate weapons (torpedoes, plasma, sniper lasers, and two-stage missiles) tend to work better for this, but the Outcast Pulse Gun works nicely as a mid-range option for slow frigates. Fast squadrons of ion cannon frigates, or mid speed frigates with pulse guns or ion cannons, or slow frigates with any of the weapons named earlier, can really tear apart a cruiser force if deployed in sufficient numbers.

One thing that I haven’t noticed being mentioned is the EMP missile. This is a great weapon for helping your frigates survive a little longer, as if deployed in sufficient numbers you can keep large portions of an enemy fleet disabled for a while, and through the use of the retaliate and rescuer orders you can get the EMPs to target ships which aren’t currently disabled. I think it tends to work better as a weapon for mid-speed frigates partnered with slow long range frigates (mid-speed long range frigates can also work, but they need to stop or be slower than the EMP frigates to draw fire away) armed with torpedoes or frigate missiles, so as to overwhelm point defenses. This can also work partnered with rocket fighters, as point defense weapons (including guidance scramblers) will attempt to intercept the rockets even if the rockets pose no threat to the ship carrying the defense, and it’s difficult to find a cheaper way to field large numbers of missiles than a squadron of rocket fighters (I don’t think there is a cheaper way, actually).

Disruptor bombs are another weapon which is interesting to experiment with, as they can temporarily disable a ship’s shields with three or four successive (or simultaneous) hits. Disruptor bombs are also difficult to spot, and can be used to allow something with good anti-armor qualities but poor shield penetration to hurt a cruiser which would otherwise have been well-protected by its shields. I like to put one or two of these on any EMP frigate I use, because even if I do bring something that can bring down shields easily, it is still useful to take down the shields early so that the enemy fleet starts taking hull damage sooner.

I don’t know what kind of fighters AI is using, but on Endless Battle “Encounter At Andromeda” they tear up my tank Cruisers with 55+ average armor (after a while). Plus in the new version (1.62) Cruiser Flak Cannons stopped working for me which forces to use squishy Frigates.

I wonder if they’ll officially add Battle Cruisers or Battleships. Would make it more interesting.


When I originally made this post I had only played battles and not the campaign. With hindsight, the battle AI’s poor force optimization (read min/max) and the limited # of fighters relative to total deployments clouded my perceptions. With several campaigns under my belt I’ve now settled into a comfortable pattern of using cruisers to lock down their deployment only planets while using fighters to conquer the galaxy. Is is perfect? nah, I still lose plenty (often times to those armor lures whose fleet data shows retreats, cough ctrl-alt-delete cough, despite having a speed of .03).

On the whole I still believe cruisers are superior to fighters but cruisers have to give up too much to obtain superiority by dedicating the majority of their systems to anti-fighter duty while a laser fighter can kill anything given enough time.

On the whole, there is a certain symetry of play in GSB but I feel that alot of balancing changes could be made (play mods yes I know, on my list) to encourage players to utilize combined arms forces rather than all cruisers or fighters. My next goal is to see take some of the comments here and see if I can create viable frigates.