I’m a bit confused here as to the pros/cons of various weapons, as well as the usefullness of a few ships:
1: missiles/lasers(beam = range, pulse = short?)/blasters
Right now, my cruisers typically have about half and half beam lasers and megaton missile launchers. However, they keep getting chewed up by a challenge I have been trying to beat.
Frigates, they die ridiculously easily, what’s the point in them? I typically have a group of frigates behind my cruisers lobbing missiles, but they always rush up to the fight and die horribly. If I put them in formation mode, they never really get involved, until all the cruisers are dead (which is too late)
Fighters / “bombers” I’ve been using a 2 thirds rocket fighters 1 third target painter fighters and they seem to work rather well. Fast, good against other fighters, and they destroy frigates like no body’s buisiness. But what about cruisers? I’ve heard that laser fighters can get in ‘under the shields’ but when I try that, their speed is ridiculously slow. Also, I’ve tried some carrier bays, but I’ve never seen any benefit from them, even with cautious set to 90%.
In my opinion a combination of beams and missiles and short range weapons are good. Missiles to break through shields at long/medium range, Beams to cut through armor and hulls quickly, and at short range nothing beats the best short range weapons. Cruiser lasers and Tribe Howitzers dominate at short range with very high dps and dps/cost ratios. Tribe cruisers loaded with Howitzers and with plenty of engines for speed make a very effective fleet.
For missiles: Multiple warhead missiles dominate in large numbers and at long range. Enough missiles will plow through any defenses and vaporize ships. (missile spam)
In smaller numbers and at medium range Fast missiles do very well, particularly if a target painter is mixed in.
Rockets are the budget choice with good dps/cost ratio.
For beams I like Federation fusion beams best. That’s why I use Federation ships. Cruiser beam lasers are the best for non-Fed ships. Cruiser pulse lasers have good dps/cost ratio making them the budget choice.
There are ways to use frigates effectively, see SAC 18 for an example, but I don’t use them much.
For a fighter mix that works very well against cruisers and cruiser/fighter fleets look at my 3Fighter challenge on 2/18/10. It will lose to pure fighter deployments but it makes cruisers melt. It takes a large group of fighters to be effective against cruisers (fighter spam).
There is apparently a problem with carrier bays in the current version mentioned in the support forum. Cliffski says it will be fixed in the next patch.
Frigates generally offer a high firepower and speed per unit cost compared to cruisers, with some unique specialized weapon options. Their shield recharge rate is comparable to cruisers (max of 7 vs max of 8), so their weaker shields are still useful (and stackable) as long as you can keep damage spread out. Most frigates are small targets and are harder to hit, especially while moving quickly.
Notable weapon systems include the antifighter missile, the shield disruptor, the ion cannon, plasma, and the emp missile. The other longrange missile systems (outside of the torpedo) aren’t very good.
On their own, they do well against faster or minimally protected targets - they tend to suffer against things they can’t kill quickly, like tribe cruisers.
Protecting frigates is a science in itself, they have low health and are very vulnerable to the explosions of other ships. There’s a lot to learn from them.
(i haven’t been playing very long so everything below is just my observations and might not be true.)
i find the frigates are only good if they have the longest range weapons you can get for them since if they out range enemy frigates and cruisers they can do there damage without being killed, at least until the enemy gets into range, and so seem to be much better than frigates with guns that do more damage but have a shorter range.
i’ve heard that beam lasers on cruisers are supposed to be good, but i’ve never managed to get through enemy shields with beam lasers and when something else gets through for them they don’t seem to do much damage. missiles have good range and good damage but miss a lot and can be stopped quite easily by point deffence systems and there slow reload means you need at least 2 or 3 per ship if you want them to do anything (with less than that enemy shields recharge before the next shot fires) and pulse guns don’t seem to have any great advantages, but no disadvantages either…except maybe armor penetration
my best fighters have been laser fighters but they seem to get beaten by a rocket launcher a targeter and what ever was in the two ‘not weapon slots’ (i’m looking at you here follick) but fighters with a single laser and ablative armor are good for taking out enemy fighters while still going fast. and if you want to get under enemy shields make sure to tell your fighters to close to the closest range or else they will be outside of the shields half the time
Cruiser beams are good against frigates and cruisers with their shields down, so it’s more of a finisher weapon vs. cruisers. That’s why I normally don’t put more than two on a cruiser design unless I’m fighting the Tribe.
While Megaton missiles have high penetration and damage numbers, the tracking rate is really low resulting in misses and the missile travel speed is slow. Megatons also have the shortest range of the missile systems. I’d suggest you replace the Megatons with Fast missiles which have better tracking, and much faster travel speed which results in faster follow up shots for more consistent damage. Fast missiles also have longer range so they’ll start firing a lot sooner than Megatons would.
If your opponent is running with guidance scramblers to jam your missiles, you either need to spam more missiles to overload their scramblers or switch to an all energy weapon load out (plasma, beam, laser, etc.).
I run with two speed groups of frigates: slow, behind the cruiser line fire support, and fast frigates that use movement to help them survive. My slow frigates run .10-.20 speed and have long range weapons (800+ range) for fire support with plasma, torpedoes, and/or emp as needed unless they’re in the AA role (anti-fighter). My fast frigates run .40-.65 speed with Keep Moving orders to help avoid slow tracking cruiser weapons.
If you want to kill frigates with cruisers the ideal weapon is Cruiser Pulse Laser: decent DPS (par with other beams), high RoF, high tracking, and can beat any passive defence you can put on frigates.
If you want to beat frigates with cruisers, your defense is much more important than your offense - get an average armor of 53+ (display option is in upper-right corner of ship view in ship design panel), and frigates will have extreme difficulty taking them down, since their highest armor-penetration weapon has penetration 49.
In general, you need to play close attention to the particular strengths and weaknesses of each weapon, especially maximum range, armor and shield, but tracking, rate of fire, power usage, cost, weight, optimum and minimum range are important too. Leaving aside fighters for a moment, you need to get past the enemy fleet’s defenses and then destroy it. Some weapons are good at killing shields, like plasma launchers and missiles. Other weapons, like your beam lasers, are especially good at killing armor, but relatively weak against some shields. If an enemy cruiser has reflective shields, beam lasers will bounce off harmlessly, until something else weakens or takes down the shield. Megaton Missiles are powerful but slow, with a low ROF, and there are lots of defenses against missiles, so yours might not be reaching the target. Missiles seem most effective when there are enough of them in transit to saturate anti-missile defenses. Without knowing the specific challenge, it is hard to say why you are losing, but if you are having trouble with enemy cruisers you might give some thought to how your fleet deals with shields and armor.
Frigates are fragile no doubt but they can give you a lot of firepower at a low cost. What range are you setting your missile frigates to fire at? I usually set missile ranges at near maximum, and delete the attack fighters order so they don’t get distracted. There are ways a long range weapon ship can get lured in too close anyway, but this might help. There are many other viable tactics for frigates, but that might be a place to start.
Like schn said, try setting your caution level really low instead. Then the pilots will come in for repairs as soon as the paint is scratched. At 90% it means your fighters won’t come in until they are practically crippled, and probably can’t make it that far anyway.