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A basic guide to tatical combat

Tatical Combat Guide How to smash frigate swarms No Missiles

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Stelar_7 #1 Posted 12 April 2016 - 06:41 AM

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Ok,
 
I said I would toss up a guide to tactical combat. Hopefully this is helpful to folks. This will be an overview of a fight in turn 300 or so. By this stage in the game I've moved on from missiles and have my ships equipped with phasers. They are in multiple groups, and have 360 degree firing arcs. The game difficulty was Very Hard.
 
As you can see below it is 9 against 170. So, of course, the AI is doomed. My, Meklar, fleet consists of 5 Battleships and 4 Cruisers. The Klackons have been allowed to build up in peace for the entirety of the game. This is the fleet I kept near them to discourage adventurism on their part.
 
(Edit 6/16/16) I've adjusted some imagery to reflect the new updates through EA4. Please ignore the fear the doughnut hole stuff. It is now our friend.
The AI is significantly improved and will bring big ships with the frigate swarm. I probably couldn't get away with this unbalanced a fight anymore.
 
 
The opening
 
Here is a basic break down of the combat screen at the start of a fight. Note that the fight starts paused so you can take a look around.
 
The player ships start widely spaced. Controls in the lower right allow you to adjust the speed of time progression, from .25 normal up to 8 times normal. There is a button to play or pause the action, and the space bar is the default hot key for this. Finally there is a Cinematic Camera button. Use this for fights you don't need to manage. You trade your ability to control the fight for a pretty good rotation of camera views on the fight. Left clicking will change the view from one to the next. Clicking the camera again will leave cinematic view and let you control the camera again.
 
Note, the view can be scrolled with the arrow keys. The mouse wheel zooms in and out. Holding the right mouse button will change the angle of the camera, both vertically and horizontally. Pressing Ctrl+G will change the grid under the battle, on large battles the grid may not display.
 
 
Player ships start in a loose clump on one edge. The computer ships will start in a line, with any fixed defenses at the center. If you are defending  a base, your ships will spawn behind it.
 
In the lower left of the screen, if ships are selected, you will see the ship control menu. It allows you to set speed, set engagement range, and if you select multiple ships you can match their speed.
 
Ships can be selected by clicking them, double clicking them, or holding the left mouse button and dragging a selection. If you single click you will select a group. The AI sets squadrons, and players can not currently change that setting. A groups number of ships determines what formations are available. Box formation requires a set of 4 ships. Titans seem to group in no more than 3 ship units. Ships in a group will be identical, if you have Cruiser II and Cruiser III in your fleet they will be in separate groups.
 
Double clicking will select all ships of the clicked ship type. So if you have two groups of battleships, as I did here, you can select all battleships by double clicking all of them.
 
The range sliders dictate engagement range, and also will adjust how the AI maneuvers your ships. If you are running a fast long range ship, move the left slider closer to the right. Always move the right slider to the right edge, you want to shoot as soon as you can. The extent of the right slider also shows the maximum range of your longest ranged weapon. ​Range Sliders now control movement only. Your guns and missiles will shoot as soon as they are in range.
 
To select a single ship, drag the selection tool so it only covers one ship. You may need to zoom in. Currently the engagement range needs to be selected for each individual ship, which is one more reason small fleets of big ships are nice.
 
With the whole fleet selected, you can press the match speeds button to get all ships to move as a group.
 
 
 
Now, lets shoot some stuff.
 
Once you have your formations, and ranges and speeds set, select the whole fleet and move off to one of the sides of the play area. (You move by selecting the ships, then right clicking empty space where you want the ships to go. You will see blue circles with lines leading from the ships to them when a move command is issued.)
 
Note the AI will try to drive after it gets to where you told it to go, so you have to watch ships moving. I played this battle at .25 to manage fine control.
 
The computer ships do not currently respond until they have been fired on if they are defending a base. If there is no base they will move to envelop your formation. Flank if you are up against a base, concentrate your forces if you are not. You may still be able to flank, but the AI will move in a group. Do not let your ships get isolated.
 
 
If you set your ships close together in a clump, at the edge of their range, you can then issue a stop command, (Speed slider set all the way left) This will let you sit and watch while wave after wave of tiny ships splatter on your massed defensive fire. (Be sure the left range slider is all the way to the left, your guns may not fire if the enemy gets too close unless you do.)
 
Edit: The computer ships now start in multiple rows. And they match speed to their slowest ship. You can still engage a few at a time, if you are fast, or if they were defending something but expect to have to fight much larger clumps than are illustrated here.
 
Keep the fight to the extreme edge of the enemy mass to keep them from massing fire on you. Stay out of the envelop of any fixed defenses. Star bases are crap for offense, but it takes a lot of shooting to kill them, and while they distract your fire the enemy will be hurting you.
 
You can order your ships to engage specific enemies by selecting the ship, group, or groups that you want and then right clicking the mouse while hovering over an enemy group.
 
Be careful not to let the AI move your ships out of your defensive clump. If it does, select that ship, move the speed slider to the right and right click empty space back behind your ships.
 
Once all the mobile units are smashed, get into a line formation and wreck the fixed defenses.
 
At the end of this battle, I lost one over zealous cruiser, and they lost their planet.
 

If I missed anything you want to know please ask. I'll check here periodically. If you are using missiles, and not guns, you should try a more mobile strategy, get into extreme range, fire, then run away.

 

Watch out if you bring non combat ships, the enemy is smart enough to attack them if it's situation is hopeless, (Bravo Devs). Always keep non combat ships behind your combat ships in a line from the foe.

(If you are not sure, move your fleet in 2 steps. combat ships, and fight, then transports and ground attack. You can perform both in 1 turn.)


Edited by Stelar_7, 17 June 2016 - 06:01 AM.


Stelar_7 #2 Posted 12 April 2016 - 06:51 AM

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Ok,

 

I was asked to keep this updated so here is more adventures in Tactical Combat.

 

First off, most of the stuff above is just as applicable as it was back in EA2. However there have been some changes to the tactical environment, and to AI behavior in EA3 and 4. The most distressing bit of EA3 was that we lost the ability to select individual ships and give them orders. The good news is EA4 gave it back. So selecting individual ships is a go again.

 

 

So, there are a few of the basics.

 

One that I didn't know how to get a good picture of is the improved AI performance. It will now remember which of your ships it has been shooting at. Remember with a vengeance. It used to be if you moved an undamaged ship closer to the enemy and your hurting one further back the closer ship would take fire. This combined with armor and shield repair made for very, very strong players vs AI.

 

NOTE: Armor repairers are fixing ships out of combat, but I have not seen them fix ships during combat. The module is still well worth taking, hopefully this gets sorted out soon.

 

The AI will now remember who it was shooting and it will keep focusing fire as long as it can. It also will stop it's ships when it likes where they are. Finally the heavy mount beams are in, so the AI has a lot more range to work with, especially the fixed defenses.

 

It is important to note that while the battle area got bigger the static defenses stayed where they were. This gives them a much more commanding area of control. It's not usually possible to engage fleets completely outside their range but you can dart in, agro the defenders and then work your way back out.

 

Also, Range penalties are a thing now. So do not sit at very long range with your phasers, you need to get in close and the movement AI will not do that for you. It will try and hold you at max range.

 

But what about terrain, well there isn't much but...

 

 

The AI is using it. I have seen it duck deliberately behind rocks and sit in clouds. The good news is it will pursue you so you don't have to worry about it stopping in a cloud and never chasing your missile boats. For me this does push me to get out of missiles sooner, if I can, there are some very nice beam weapons, and that lets you keep upgrading your armor tech.

 

Finally I wanted to talk a bit about formations.

 

 

I am a huge believer in the square formation. I use it almost exclusively. The defense bonuses are nice, and if I have overwhelming strength I'll use the default line formation. If I need to hold range open I might, might, use the wedge. I never use the Circle formation, because it takes the ships too far apart.

 

Ship spacing is a huge factor in tactical combat, especially early and mid game when your weapons, and point defense, have shorter ranges. The computer will throw missiles at you and if you have good overlapping fields of fire you can laugh as all of them go harmlessly poof.

 

Ship speeds now default to matched, for player and AI alike. So no more baiting the frigates and then killing them while the battleships roll in.

 

On that note, focus on the small guys first. They have fewer hit points, but better spacing in formations. So their point defense can actually be better. Anyway they die faster than the heavies so each one you get rid of is that many less guns hitting you back.

 

Right click on enemy formations to select them as targets for any ships you have selected.

 

Line formations are ok, but they have to hold their targets in the center to get all the ships shooting together. This makes turning a very dicey proposition and you need to plan wide turns, to get your ships lined up again to hit the target. By comparison box formations can turn with very little issue.

 

If you are not sure how a fight will go, slow it down. I run some fights at .25, both so I can keep an eye on whomever is taking the brunt of the AI fire, but also because you can literally see each weapon hit and hit in different places along the shields, and then the hull.

 

Blue damage numbers indicate a hit on shields, or armor. Red numbers tell you you're hitting the meat of the ship.

 

Finally, and super extra cool. Ships and fortifications do not stop shooting until they visually explode. So you can see the battleship, in flames, firing away and then BOOM. her spine breaks, the super-dense fusion bottles let go and it's confetti everywhere.

 

 

--------------------

Edit 6/16/16

===========

 

The slider functionality in the lower left of the screen when ships are selected is confirmed to no longer effect the ranges weapons shoot. It is now just for AI assisted movement.

 

Here is a quick guide talking about ranges and the slider. Different weapons like different ranges. If you go for long range beams, Heavy mounts are great, they extend range. If you are up close and brawling, I recommend using regular guns for the higher rate of fire.

 

Both long and short range combatants should focus on killing small ships before large ones. Large ships take longer to kill. Every small ship you roast is less guns shooting back at you. It is sometimes possible to get smaller ships to chase faster than their large friends if you move away from the big ones. Be careful though as moving away from them makes your guns less effective on them until you get back in their face.

 

Right now I really like the Gauss Cannons late game. That shield penetration is a big advantage.

 


Edited by Stelar_7, 17 June 2016 - 06:06 AM.


JosEPh_II #3 Posted 12 April 2016 - 12:45 PM

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Thank you Stelar_7! Much Appreciated! :D

 

Now how do you get the Admins to Sticky a Thread around here?

 

JosEPh


Edited by JosEPh_II, 12 April 2016 - 12:46 PM.

Old and Slow.....Watch Out! It's Not Y'uns Turn!

CecilPaladin #4 Posted 12 April 2016 - 02:55 PM

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Excellent guide!

Mikko_M #5 Posted 12 April 2016 - 03:31 PM

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Nice guide. :)

 

​The engagement range slider could certainly use some markings on it to indicate the maximum shooting distance and name (and stats tooltip) of each weapon on the group/ship. As has been previously suggested.

 

This too sounds like poor design of both the player and AI trying to control the fleet:

 

View PostStelar_7, on 12 April 2016 - 06:41 AM, said:

Note the AI will try to drive after it gets to where you told it to go, so you have to watch ships moving. I played this battle at .25 to manage fine control.

Edited by Mikko_M, 12 April 2016 - 04:44 PM.

Moreover, I advise that the tactical combat must be made more player controllable and informative for this to become a proper MOO game.

 

​The long lost formula for space 4X game success = Good tactical combat + good empire management > than just good tactical combat or good empire management alone.


JosEPh_II #6 Posted 12 April 2016 - 03:47 PM

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Quote

Note the AI will try to drive after it gets to where you told it to go, so you have to watch ships moving. I played this battle at .25 to manage fine control.

 

Was the Admiral AI check box upper right corner still checked?

 

JosEPh


Old and Slow.....Watch Out! It's Not Y'uns Turn!

Mikko_M #7 Posted 12 April 2016 - 03:53 PM

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View PostJosEPh_II, on 12 April 2016 - 03:47 PM, said:

Quote

Note the AI will try to drive after it gets to where you told it to go, so you have to watch ships moving. I played this battle at .25 to manage fine control.

 

Was the Admiral AI check box upper right corner still checked?

 

JosEPh

Whether it was or not, this whole confusion could have been likely avoided, if the developers would have made the choice of either commanding the battle or watching the battle clear from the first screen instead of just cramming those two together in a confusing fashion.

 

If you want to offer the player the option to change his/her mind later on then provide an option for that, but do not make the player guess which mode is on when.


Edited by Mikko_M, 12 April 2016 - 03:55 PM.

Moreover, I advise that the tactical combat must be made more player controllable and informative for this to become a proper MOO game.

 

​The long lost formula for space 4X game success = Good tactical combat + good empire management > than just good tactical combat or good empire management alone.


Stelar_7 #8 Posted 12 April 2016 - 03:56 PM

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I leave the combat AI on. I think the risk of unintended ship movement is worth making sure it shoots as often as it can. What I would like is a separate AI, one for movement I can turn off, and one for weapons I can prioritize targets with.

Omega_Weapon #9 Posted 12 April 2016 - 08:18 PM

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A very well put together guide. Appreciated.

Ozymandyus #10 Posted 13 April 2016 - 04:37 AM

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Very nice work, sir.  Thanks for putting it out here for us!

icthulu #11 Posted 25 April 2016 - 09:08 PM

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Thanks for this. With the latest build, I am having difficulty with the AI and my ships firing as soon as enemies enter range. Instead they head in to melee range then think about firing. Happened in both AI and manual mode. Is it just me, or something that the latest patch instigated.

 

Also, what's been your experience with weapon types and builds as an overview. Been trying multiple things, and can't determine if I am better loading up a slot with a single massive laser or missile type, or having several smaller differing weapon groups with all the options.



Stelar_7 #12 Posted 25 April 2016 - 10:33 PM

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This was from EA2, so far EA3 seems similar but I haven't played enough to be certain. It sounds like you may be needing to move your range sliders to max, one all the way to the right and one all the way to the left. I found if I didn't max the close range shots some ships would not fire when the enemy got too close. So I now max both, and then fly manually.

 

To get through a big fight don't be afraid to slow down to .25x so you can really see what every ship is up to. 

 

I use multiple groups of weapons for beam weapons. Missiles, Bombs, Fighters and Point Defense all do fine in single big stacks.



icthulu #13 Posted 25 April 2016 - 11:57 PM

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Yeah, I tried messing with the sliders to no avail.

 

I was kinda disappointed with the fighters. It was like they never launched. I must have a bug in my build. I'll have to reinstall the game.



Syanis #14 Posted 26 April 2016 - 12:45 AM

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You covered this in a point but I also noticed how easy it was to bait the AI. I would keep my main fleet hanging back and take in a smaller fast craft just close enough to fire and then run back to the main fleet. The AI will send in all its ships leaving the protection of defense structures so they can get picked off rather easy. To often I've won fights with barely any losses on my side that should have been easy victories for the AI if just let the AI do its thing w/o me.

diehardtwinsfan #15 Posted 26 April 2016 - 04:36 PM

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They really need to add a halt button or a way to designate ships as non-combat.  I create specialized bombers who only drop bombs so as not to add extra crap on my fighting ships... I move them to the back, and at that point the ship always turns around and heads straight for the enemy.

Stelar_7 #16 Posted 26 April 2016 - 04:55 PM

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View Posticthulu, on 25 April 2016 - 11:57 PM, said:

Yeah, I tried messing with the sliders to no avail.

 

I was kinda disappointed with the fighters. It was like they never launched. I must have a bug in my build. I'll have to reinstall the game.

 

You get 2 fighters per "fighter bay" and they are very small. If you equip quite a lot of them you get this cool little swarm that goes out, but it can get picked apart by point defense. So I don't think they are worth the weight. I prefer beam weapons from mid game on because there is no stopping those hits.

 

View Postdiehardtwinsfan, on 26 April 2016 - 04:36 PM, said:

They really need to add a halt button or a way to designate ships as non-combat.  I create specialized bombers who only drop bombs so as not to add extra crap on my fighting ships... I move them to the back, and at that point the ship always turns around and heads straight for the enemy.

 

The rainbow slider controls speed. Move your bombers to where you want them and then pull the slider all the way to the left and they will sit there. Be careful, the AI will attack weak ship if it can. So either leave a defender or try to make sure that your combat ships are between the AI and your non combat ships.



icthulu #17 Posted 26 April 2016 - 05:03 PM

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Ah I see. It was so tiny I never saw them I guess. Well hopefully the devs will lower the weight on fighters then. 100 weight for 2 fighters seems a waste or space.

 

Are the bombers the same deal?



Stelar_7 #18 Posted 26 April 2016 - 07:00 PM

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Yeah, 

 

I never take fighters, battle pods are vastly better. Bombers are ok, heavy fighters are also OK, but the Point defense is so brutal at the time you get HF that I just take the weight and use Phasers,



Ski_Dog #19 Posted 27 April 2016 - 05:14 AM

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GOOD JOB on explaining the dash board, that is something the game tutorial SHOULD do, let's hope they will by release.  Thanks!

ApolloArtemis #20 Posted 13 May 2016 - 09:26 PM

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got a request to pin this, so pinned. 




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