So, this was a nail biter of an episode and…to be honest our navy just isn’t doing a lot of work versus equal FP of reyubb ships. So since Austin and Rob haven’t messed around with the ship designer much I figured now might be a good time to talk about the various weapon and classes in stellaris and how they do (or don’t) work.
By default, all non strike craft or missile weapons come in 1 of 4 sizes. Small, Medium, Large or XL Spinal mounts. Not all weapons come in all sizes and XL weapons only come in that size and have to be mounted to battleships specially fitted for them. smaller guns have better tracking and can hit smaller targets better while larger guns are really only good at hitting big targets, XL weapons can also only shoot things within a forward firing arc of the battle ship (because they’re part of the ship’s spine) and are exceptionally terrible at hitting small targets with 0% tracking.
First there are energy weapons, which are broadly good against armor and less effective against shields. Lasers (S,M,L) are the basic form of this, having +50% damage to armor but -50% damage to shields. Plasma throwers (S,M,L) are the better versions, having a bigger damage penalty against shields but doing double damage to armor AND having a bonus to hull damage which is the most important damage type as that’s where ships have most of their HP. There are also the special energy weapons, disruptors(S,M), cloud lightning (L) and arc emitters(XL). All 3 completely bypass shields and armor with disruptors doing uninspiring damage all the time while cloud lightning and arc emitters have perfect accuracy but highly variable damage making them unreliable. Particle and Tachyon lances are XL only weapons
Second, we have kinetic weapons which are better against shields but suffer against armor. First up are railguns (S,M,L), they’re essentially the reverse of lasers but they have higher dps, presumably because there is no direct equivalent to plasma throwers for kinetics. Next up are artillery (L) and cannons (XL), they’re big beefy sniper weapons that outrange almost anything else and can only be mounted on battleships. Both do extra hull damage and either have a higher shield damage bonus (artillery) or lower penalty for armor shots (cannons) than railguns. Last but definitely not least are autocannons (S only) they do double to shields and do bonus 50% damage to hull while doing 25% damage to armor. Autocannons have EXTREMELY high base damage for their size, a tech 1 auto cannon has the same dps as a max tier plasma cannon of the same size letting them mulch anything they get close enough to fire at.
Next are guided weapons which come in 3 types regular missiles, swarm missiles and torpedoes, all 3 ignore shields but can be shot down by point defense. These recently received a major overhaul in 2.0 to make up for them being extremely lackluster. The most significant and important difference is that they do not have different sizes, they simply take up guided weapon slots, meaning a corvette mounts the same weapons as a battleship if it’s guided. Regular missiles do moderate damage with a bonus to hull and travel somewhat quickly. Torpedos are slower but have more hp and do more a lot more base damage and bonus versus armor instead of hull. Swarmer missiles fire in clusters and in theory are meant to overwhelm point defense systems with things to shoot down, in practice they are mostly useless as point defense are currently very bad at their job.
Which brings us to point defense, it comes in 2 varieties (Flak and PD) and takes up a pd slot. PD will primarily focus on shooting down enemy missiles and strike craft but will shoot nearby ships if they have nothing else to do. Flak are supposed to be lower damage but better at hitting strike craft while pd are better for dealing with missiles. In practice, their damage is so low that they almost never shoot down missiles or torpedoes before they can hit and don’t do enough damage for strike craft to care about, needing ~12 hits to take down a single fighter.
Lastly, there are strike craft. They can only be mounted in hangar modules on cruisers and larger and ignore shields. On paper, their damage is fine but in practice they have terrible uptime when trying to put it out there. They have about 1/3rd the range autocannons(the shortest range small weapon), Can only fire in a forward arc like an XL weapon and can only turn at the same speed as a corvette. They spend most of their time setting up for attack runs instead of actually firing and have to be closer to do it than a normal ship to do it. They are currently utterly irredeemably TERRIBLE.
So, what about actually designing ships using that. Honestly there’s a lot more that could be said about hull sizes but this is already a giant wall of text.
The TL;DR version is that right now corvettes completely overshadow the other 3 hulls when it comes to general use right now.
Corvettes are faster which is very important on a strategic level now that you have to cross systems to jump out. With better thruster tech and using afterburners in the aux slot (which make them even faster in sublight) they can also easily hit the 90% evasion cap making most larger weapons unable to shoot them. They’re also cheaper to build and have the highest disengage chance out of any ship type meaning you have to replace fewer losses and can do so more quickly than building bigger ships. Because of how guided weapon hardpoints work and that they’re the only hull that can effectively mount autocannons, you can get 1 torpedo/fleet power by making torpedo hull corvettes (1 G slot/ 1 s Slot) and put an autocannon as the other weapon to have a very high dps ship that is nigh-unhittable.
Destroyers main gimmick is they can mount a lot of PD, or mount a large weapon slot on a very small hull making them cheap efficient killers of big things. Unfortunately neither of those gimmicks are particularly useful at the moment and they can’t mount any torpedos.
Cruisers are middle of the range, being capable of fitting almost any non xl-weapon in some capacity. They used to be your durable front line that would primarily be used to soak fire but now they’re very overpriced for what they provide. Notable for being the largest hull that has PD slots.
Battleships can only mounts large or bigger guns making them ineffective at hitting things that aren’t other battleships. This makes them questionably useful against AI empires, but their high health pools and ability to mount extremely long range/high damage weapons does actually make them useful against crisis fleets which are mostly big ships with special weapons that screw over corvettes.
Last are titans, they’re expensive flag ships that require the apocalypse DLC and you can only have 1 per 200 naval capacity. They have a special titan only weapon that does a ton of damage and have offensive and defensive auras. They’re not super great at actually shooting outside their main gun but the auras are nice.
The TL;DR version of all of this is that if you want a ship that will win you wars no questions asked without fiddling around with the ship designer too much, put torpedos and autocannons on a corvette design and stick an afterburner on there. Prioritize thruster/afterburner/torpedo/AC tech for more damage and better evasion. Then just build that until the cows come home. Mix them 50/50 with 2Plasma/1AC corvettes if you’re feeling spicy. This is not to say that there aren’t other fleet compositions you can with, it’s just the most broadly applicable and easiest to implement one.