Read 123’s Comprehensive GSB Guide pinned at the top of this forum. There’s a lot of good info there that should give you ideas on different ship designs and tactics.
Fighters: Speed = Life. Fighters with a speed under 2.00 won’t live long. Popular flavors include 1xLaser, 1xRocket, 2xRocket, Painter/Laser+Rocket.
Frigates: High speed 3xIon Cannon builds, EMP Missile builds, Anti-Frigate Beam builds, AA with Anti-Fighter Missiles+Pulse, and Plasma long range support are all common.
Cruisers: Fast Cruiser Lasers, mass Multiple-Warhead Missiles (MWM), mass Cruiser Plasma (not Heavy Plasma though, you’ll never hit anything), Fast Missiles with Painters, AA with 1-2 tractor beams, 3+ pulses, & 1-2 Cruiser Defense Lasers for killing fighters, 73+ Armor Tanks w/nano repair, Long Range 55+ Armor Tanks, etc. There’s a lot of cruiser designs and then variations on those base designs to work with.
Original 4 Race Breakdown
Rebels (Speed Race)
Fighters: Icarus hull has the best speed bonus at 14% with 2 hardpoints so you can make Dual Rocket, Painter+Rocket, etc. They have the fastest Laser Fighter in game at 2.65 speed.
Frigates: Asgard has 2nd highest hardpoints at 6, but a mere 4 modules means you’ll have a hard time equipping 6 weapons. I use the Odin hull for my fast 3xIon build (uses all 11 slots).
Cruisers: I use the Valkyrie hull with 7 hardpoints for most of my long range builds. My fast CL build is on the Minotaur hull with .40 speed.
Other: Rebel Fusion Beam loses a little dps & accuracy for more range & armor pen. Personal choice.
Federation (Hull Race)
Fighters: Leopard hull wins with 12% speed and has 2 hardpoints for Dual Rocket, Painter+Rockets, etc. making for good fighters builds all around.
Frigates: No hulls with a speed bonus so fast builds aren’t so hot. Fox hull has a huge 17% Shield bonus (more than any Empire frigate shield bonus).
Cruisers: Panther hull is one of the best in the game with 8 hardpoints + small size. When more module slots than hardpoints are needed, the Eagle hull has worked well. Tiger hull for armor tanks.
Other: Federation Fusion Beam loses range & armor pen for more shield pen (can beat all shields except Reflective) and tracking.
Alliance (Armor Race)
Fighters: No 2 hardpoint fighters = Ouch. Slowest Laser Fighter in the game.
Frigates: Cobra hull makes for an incredibly fast 3xIon build. Good frigate options.
Cruisers: Python has the most hardpoints in game with 9 (Guidance Scrambler +8 MWMs? Sure. Expensive? Sure). Alligator looks like a good 73+ armor tank (12% armor), but 8 starting power makes it worse than Shark hull in that role (again, see 123’s guide).
Other: Three Alliance only weapons. The beam laser takes a noticable dps & range hit for more tracking. I’d use regular cruiser beam instead. Lightning Beam has super short range, but not even a third of the dps of the awesome short ranged Cruiser Laser = Pass. Fusion Torp Launcher has medium range, but lower dps like a long range weapon. You’re better off with Fast Missiles or MWMs.
Empire (Shield Race)
Fighters: Another race without 2 hardpoint fighters. All of their fighters are underpowered which makes them slow, but the Phalanx is the best option they have.
Frigates: Imperial designers decided that bigger frigates are better and moved the dial to eleven. One of their frigate designs (Hasta) is so massive (180 size) that it’s bigger than several Cruisers. If you want a lot of slots to work with though, the Empire has them in spades including the Hasta with 11 modules +4 hardpoints and the “Weapons Platform” with 8 hardpoints, but only 4 modules.
Cruisers: High module counts and bonuses to shields make them lean towards going for more shield stacking. Imperator hull has the most hardpoints for them at 7.
Other: The Empire Laser Beam jumps up to 860 range and has the highest accuracy for a 770+ range weapon, making it an excellent long range frigate killer.
I hope this is what you’re looking for. If you like it, I’ll do the expansion races later.