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Tech analysis: weapons Vs anything else

Author: Nick Bennett
Date: 05th April 2001

Firstly, we have to set out what we are trying to investigate. There is the consideration of the type of weapons involved (beams Vs missiles really) and then whether a certain weapons tech is going to be better than researching anything else.

Beams: never cost ironium, which is the main mineral in short supply in any game, since it is used to build all shipping and starbase hulls and most armours. To a certain extent things can be worked around, but it's an ironium crunch that the AR get during their colonisation phase, and all races get with any amount of long-term warship building spree. However they are slightly more costly in terms of resources, especially if you factor in the damage (i.e. bang for the buck).

Tech breakpoints are 10,16,22 for the various range 3 beams. Damage is 26, 66, 169 at each stage for 18, 25, 33 res without miniaturisation. That gives fp/res ratios of 1.44, 2.64 and 5.12 respectively.

In terms of missile/torps, most people favour the missiles due to their doubled damage against unshielded ships. This is a horrendous advantage that should never be underestimated - an Arm for instance will deal out 1050 dp per hit against unshielded ships. Missiles have inherently poorer accuracy than torps, but computers can bring this up to respectable levels. 4 super computers for instance (a standard BB design) will give you 83% accuracy with an Arm, still equivalent to over 871dp per missile on average. Tech breakpoints are 12, 16, 20 and 24 for the missiles, the "equivalent" torpedo coming in 2 levels higher each time. Both forms of long-range weapon deal half damage directly through the shield stack, whereas beam weapons must first burn through that before they start damaging ships. Smaller ships like frigates, destroyers and even cruisers will die even in huge stacks due to this phenomenon, which makes long-range weapons even more attractive (you are gradually reducing the returning fire throughout the battle). Costs for each of the torps are 13, 16, 20, 24 for 85, 150, 280 and 525 dp. fp/res ratios are 6.5, 9.4, 14 and 21.9 This ignores the doubled damage against unshielded targets.

Taking the equivalent torpedoes we get the following fp/res ratios: 4.8, 7.5, 11.3 and 17.5, and these don't double when shields drop (although they will of course retain the other advantages, and are harder to jam).

Assuming unlimited minerals, missile boats are far, far superior to any other kind of warship. However, with the widespread use of chaff, these kinds of ships can get neutralised in battle very easily. In addition, missile ships with beamers/sappers to drop the enemy shields fare better than a pure missile approach (the enemy ships die faster, this has been shown before, although obviously too many sappers and you'll start to go the wrong way - that's another topic though).

You can however look at the mineral costs: in this respect missiles and torps do far worse than the beams, especially considering their very high iron costs (beams cost no ironium, remember). To factor in all the issues would make things too complicated, so instead I am going to use missile weapons as the basis for calculating my fp/dp ratios later on. I have to pick _something_...

To help our intrepid tester, we'll allow him to have all tech cheap. The relevant tech is energy and construction, for shields and armour. Most people will develop relatively rounded tech up until the jihad BB era, that is: 10/12/12/13/11/7 or thereabouts (energy, weap, prop, con, elec, bio). After that, almost everyone will ramp up weapons at the expense of anything else. The "standard BB" testbed requires tech of 10/24/12/13/11/7 for example. I will show that this is a sound idea.

The research costs can be found on the advanced FAQ,
To get from weapons 12 to weapons 16 (jugs) costs 40690 with weapons cheap. This assumes no other tech levels, which is ludicrous, but will serve to illustrate my point. Our battleships will have a total of 3650dp armour and 800dp shields with an initial load of 20 jihads (assuming 4 BSC, that's about 1375fp per shot).

Our enemy researches solely weapons, so his ships are now carrying jugs, so he has 2430fp per shot. With equal numbers of ships, your shield stack will fall on the first shot, whereas his will hold. Even if we ignore this, we get an enemy_fp/your_dp ratio of 2430/(3650+800) = 0.546 Your_fp/enemy_dp = 0.309. Clearly you have to deal with this. There are two ways: research to raise your fp or your dp. One will raise your fp/dp ratio, the other will lower the enemy's fp/dp ratio.

We've already established it costs 40690res to go from jihads to jugs. If we spend that amount in energy we can get gorilla shields easily (costs 23930 res). However we can't afford anything more that would be useful. We can't get valanium armour even if we put it all into construction. But hang on, lets be really generous and allow our tester to spend MORE than his opponent and get both gorilla shields and valanium.

Your BBs will now have 1400dp shields and 5000dp armour. The enemy_fp/your_dp ratio will now be 2430/6400 = 0.380 Ooops. Even by spending more than your opponent and improving your defences way beyond his, he still will beat you in a 1v1 fire fight because his ships will do more percentage damage to your fleet than your ships will do to his.

To get gorillas and valanium would cost you about 57695res, over 10,000 more than he spent to get jugs. This is poor - especially considering your ships will STILL be inferior.

How much does it cost to get to Arms? 244,470res. What can we spend that on? Superlatanium (only an extra 7k or so)? His fp with arms is 8715 and your dp is now 11800. 8715/11800 = 0.738 Your jihads are still doing a measly 0.309 fp/dp. What about valanium (33765) and elephants (80315) for a total of 114,080. To be fair, we'll not let him use Arms, but he will be able to use Dooms which will cost 124,875 to research. Doom BBs, standard armour/shields have 4592fp and 4450dp. Your jihad BBs with valanium and elephant shields have 1375fp and 7400dp. But we've already shown that these ships are inferior to _JUG_ battleships, and now we're on a higher weapons tech! Your fp/dp ratio is still 0.309. His ratio is 0.621.

Let's try it for range 3 beams:

Firepower from the various BBs will be 520, 1320 and 3380 maximally for each weapon, assuming no capacitors. Tech costs to reach the last two from weapons 10 are 48675res and 184,110res respectively.

Colloidal BBs with neutronium/bears have a fp/dp ratio against the same design of 520/4450 = 0.117 (this highlights the power of missile ships as well - you'd need to build 3 times as many to overtake a jihad design). If your enemy gets heavy blasters, you can easily research valanium. his_hp/your_dp is now 1320/5800 = 0.227, you lose again (needing twice as many ships as him to win, even with valanium armour!). Again, if we cheat and let you take gorilla shields for free the ratio is 1320/6400 = 0.206 which isn't really much better! Even if you somehow get valanium and elephants, the ratio is 1320/7400 = 0.178, still better than you!

Against mega-Ds it gets even sillier. Do I really have to do the math?

There really is no contest, in terms of maximising firepower Vs enemy armour/shields and reducing enemy firepower Vs your armour/shields, the only way to go is to research weapons. In some situations it can get close, and you also have to factor in other things like PRT specific toys (the WM getting the dreadnought for example at con16) but on the whole the apparently worthless "wives tale" about taking weapons cheap rest expensive, seems to hold up very well indeed.

Sorry it's a bit long-winded, but there's your proof.



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