Ok, so I'm a bit perfectionist, and lately, I've been having fun with challenges and started getting retaliations. I couldn't help but notice how some designs were lacking and I simply don't have enough room in the little message system to really tell people anything more than "...was fun, could improve blabla a bit..." So here I am making a generic design guide. One last thing, I do not own any of the expansions and I do not really care about them at this time. Without further ado:
Generic design guidelinesEdit
Before you even pick a hull, make sure you have clear goals for the ship. Specialization is good. Multiple roles are better on separate ships. Yes, that means you will have lots of designs, I don't know what the limit is with the recent patches, but in the worst case, create folders separate ships by race or whatever you want for that matter and swap as you need.
Hardpoints are more valuable than standard modules, simply because you can put standard modules in weapon slots while you can't put a weapon into a standard module slot.
Think about the range your ship is going to operate in. If you need to be close, then you better put on some speed and decent defences because you will be taking fire and speed because as long as you aren't in range, you're useless. Inversely, longer ranged ships don't need as much speed or defence and can usually pack more weapons or utility things if the front-lines are covered.
Pick your weapons carefully. Weapons have both maximum and minimum range, make sure all your weapons have similar range values and design your ships and deploy them so that they can all stay at their best range as much as possible. If you don't do this, part of your ship's weapons won't fire, and weapons that don't fire are useless.
Point defence and missile scrambling devices fire at any incoming missile, even if they aren't on the target ship. You don't have to have them on every ship.
Similarly, target painters don't have nearly the range missiles do and they don't have to be on your missile ships. Stick the painters on some of your frontline ships and set your missile ships to cooperative for best results.
Frigate designs are quite hit or miss, depending on what the enemy fields. If fighters are present, then frigates are better off behind your cruisers and better pack an average armor value of 12 or more. Why? Armored frigates are slow and can't hope to stand up to enemy cruisers, so they are better off behind, and no matter where they are, they are fighter food if they have less than 12 average armor.
Conversly, if there are no fighers, then you are better off with little to no defense and a high speed. Combined with their usually small size, speed makes them much better against cruisers than flimsy frigate size defenses would.
As far as frigate weaponry goes, there is only really 3 ways that work well. You can fit them for anti-fighter duty with tractor beams and either anti-fighter missiles or the fast tracking lasers. You can fit them for support duty, with EMP missiles ( and possibly other missiles to act as decoys for the EMP ). Or you can fit them for damage. If you fit them for damage, then don't bother with missiles or beams as those have far too low shield penetration values to do anything to cruisers. Fit them with either plasma for long range or a combination of ion cannons(awesome weapon), rapid fire lasers and maybe a phasor cannon or two for the higher armor penetration value at close range.
Cruisers are without a doubt the most flexible ships when it comes to design, so I'm going to spend most time here and actually split this into smaller aspects.
For reference, there is a pretty good thread about defence which you can look up here if you want. So, cruisers are big investments in general and keeping them alive is usually very important if you're going to win. Once again, the presence or lack of fighters is going to be an important factor. If there's fighters, then having an average armor value of 8 or more is going to be important as fighter lasers can entirely bypass shields by firing from inside the bubble. Due to the 2% chance of critical hit and the fact that fighters usually come in waves and fire fast, you're probably going to need either more than 8 average armor or want an armor repair system depending on wether or not you can spare speed or power/crew. If there are no fighters, then armor is not nearly as important. Still, if the scenario allows no shields or largely reduce shield strength, you may actually want to go with armor as your only defence. If you do, here are a few breakpoints you might want to reach:
- 8 - Fighter Lasers
- 12 - Fighter rockets
- 22 - Most frigate weaponry and a few cruiser weapons don't penetrate armor beyond that
- 55 - No frigate weapons, no cruiser missile/plasma weapons, only about 3 cruiser weapons reach that high
- 73 - No weapons have more than 73
These are all average armor values.
Now, as far as shields go, having one only one reflective shield is quite nice, because they will nullify a lot of potential damage. Why only one? Because only the highest resistance value matters and once you have a high one, the low amount of shield strength that reflective shields give doesn't justify putting more. For subsequent shield modules, it's better to go with either multiphasics or fast recharge ones. I personally like the fast recharge ones, because the shield strength is only about 5% lower than multiphasics, but it offers 14,3% higher recharge. In the multiphasic's favor, they cost less, weight less and have lower power/crew requirements. Also, shields have a stacking penalty, unless you want a really heavy shield tank ship to soak damage, it's usually not worth having more than 3 shield modules, because the 4th will give you less than 50% of the original value.
Finally, the cruisers on your front line are going to be taking a lot of fire. Typically, point defence/scramblers should go on these guys, as missiles have to go past them to hit anything. You should probably have an ECM shield as well unless you have no weapons at all. A point defence scanner might be worth the investment if you're facing missile-heavy fleets.
Weapons depend a lot on where you want the ship to be on the battlefield. I usually go with few weapons for front line ships, for a few reasons. First, you need a lot of slots to have sufficient defences if you're going to last long enough to protect whatever is behind you. Second reason is you also need slots for speed, because you want your ships to stay in front and to get in range ( unless they have no weapons, then you only care about being as fast/faster than the ships behind them ). Third reason is the Cruiser Laser: very high damage per second, high shield penetration, very low minimum range, perfect for a front line ship. Only down side is armor penetration, but the ships behind you should be able to quickly fix that. Front line ships are also prime candidates for tractor beams, target painters and such.
Second line ships usually sport mid range weapons, such as lasers/beams that rip armor apart and possibly light plasma launchers to deal with shields. EMP weapons also usually goes on these guys along with protector/rescuer/escort orders to reduce the incoming damage on your front line ships. Speed is important here, but not in the "as much as possible" kind of important. They need to be at roughly equal speed as your front line ships so they can keep up. A decent amount of defence is welcome as well.
Finally, ships that stay in the back are best with cruiser plasma launchers (heavy launchers don't really have anything over them) and/or missiles. Here speed is hardly an issue unless the map is really really large, defense can be at a minimum as well. Having the maximum number of weapons pays off at this point. You can also afford to stick carrier bays or target boosters on non-weapon slots to maximize their use.
Comments and constructive criticism is welcome and sorry for people with low attention span.