Ignition offers a standard and not customizable fleet composition, which is in our opinion one of the best. However, Genesis or the Beyond the Gate expansion bring more miniatures, so your first task as a Fleet Commander is to create your own fleet by picking the ships you want.
Before assessing the various fleet compositions, we must talk about the different types of ships, their strengths and their weaknesses.
The class 1 frigates
These are the smallest warships available. With little firepower (1) and very few (6) hull points, there are of little interest at first sight. You lose firepower every time you take 6 damage points. This is often not tolerable when the fight lasts for long. We used to say during the tests that “commanding a frigate is the end of a career” because so little survived the fight.
Yet frigates are often seen as a top choice by an experienced Fleet Commander, some of them picking up only frigates in their fleet. Why is that ? Frigates are not designed for close combat. To make the most of these vessels, you have to take into consideration their low cost and their high mobility.
Their low cost in terms of class allows you to have a lot of them. Their loss is not significant in terms of defeat. But even with only one small frigate, you can prevent your opponent from occupying a square. To destroy the frigate, it will cost him many dice. Notice that a square can contain only 5 firepower, and the frigate has 6 hull points, so unless you make a combined attack it requires at least 2 dice to destroy it. This is to keep in mind, and can be very effective, particularly in some scenarios where the opponent has to escape (especially in the Capture and in Blocus).
This is especially true to block the exits of asteroid fields, which are sometimes natural borders between the fleets. It feels safe, but any ship can pass through and cause havoc in your fleet. By putting your frigates on the squares of the outputs of an asteroid field (this is also true for a gravitic field or a gate) you prevent not only the opponent to get out, but in addition you don’t risk being attacked from these fields, making their weakness in terms of resistance useless to the opponent. You will prevent its movement without losing too much firepower. Obvioulsy you cannot imagine doing the same thing with a cruiser or a battleship. You are protected from opportunistic intrusions through the fields.
This also applies to directly occupy an asteroid field where you do not want to see your opponent’s damaged Battleship to find a safe place. Send a frigate there. This frigate won’t be a huge loss for the rest of your fleet, it cannot be attacked and it prevents your opponent to escape from your attacks. You fail the damage field test? So what, you just lose a single hull point!
That’s it for their defensive role. But the frigates can be strong attackers too. First of all by occupying more space, which creates more attacking opportunities. If you occupy two adjacent squares to a target in two different directions, then you have a chance of 5 out of 6 of triggering a combined attack with a die. Much better than the class equivalent on a single square (1 chance in 2 in that case).
Fleets with a lot of frigates are often rallied into squadrons from 4 to 5 frigates to use offensively their special abilities. Indeed frigates are equipped with the advanced propulsion system, enabling them to use a movement die twice, instead of one for the other vessels. They can cross great distances cheaply and become champions of “hit and run” three squares away, so out of destroyers range. This mobility can also play a decisive role in the endgame, when you have to get the last damages to win.
Their propulsion also allows them to dodge without taking damage unlike the other ships. If you have a special die on your command bridge, your frigates become untouchable. You can leave them in the middle of the enemy’s fireline, for example after launching an attack. If they are targeted, they will dodge without taking damage and fly to a safer square. A special movement die is the best friend of your frigates.
To sum it up you have a fragile ship, of little use in a pitch battle but very useful in defense – to block your opponent’s moves – and to attack – to launch fast and risk-free targeted attacks. It’s up to you to choose how many frigates you will take in your fleet. Fleets only made of frigates can be daunting.
The class 2 destroyers
This class 2 vessel is considered as a small one but it is already more significant than a frigate. With 12 hull points, it will survive longer in a fight and will not be destroyed quickly. You can bring it on the front with less remorse than a frigate.
It’s not the best ship for a frontal assault, as it is largely outclassed by the cruiser and the battleship. It is also less effective than frigates in defense and space occupation. But it has other advantages.
Its advanced weapon system allows it to use its ranged weapons much more efficiently than any other ship in the fleet. In a ranged attack, if there is only one destroyer on a square, an attack die counts double. With 2 attack dice, it will even do damages at a distance of 4 squares, meaning not less than the whole gameboard!
Potentially you can hit a target up to 6 squares! It’s a sniper, a stalker, a lonely hunter, ideal to finish the enemies damaged ships that are trying to leave the line of fire to take refuge rearward. There are countless games where the victory was brought by damages inflicted by a destroyer.
It is also perfect at the begining of the battle, when the fleets are aligned generally at a one-square distance, seeking to break through in the enemy’s front. At this distance, a single attack die will scratch slightly your enemy’s ships. It will deal little damage (2), but in the long run it will pay off (3 successful shots are enough to destroy a frigate, so theoretically a round with 3 red dice may be enough to do the job) and mostly, this could provoke your opponent to make a mistake, exasperated by the repeated damage.
Note that at an orthogonal distance of 2 squares, a target can be hit with a diagonal or an orthogonal attack die with a probability of 5 out of 6 if there is no obstacle on the two squares. This is the “red zone” when facing a destroyer. Think about it when you deploy.
For these reasons, having one or two destroyers in your fleet can be decisive. And don’t forget that you can use it as an honorable ship of the line. In the next article, we will talk about the other ships available in Genesis: the robust Class 3 Cruisers, and of course, the dreaded Class 4 battleships.