So, following after my longer article about defending against bombers, I would like to go into a bit more detail on how I view attacking with bombers. If you have not already read it, I will recommend reading the article about defence first (and maybe the more in-depth analysis on when and how to use what active defence modes).
Why use bombers
As mentioned in the previous post, bombers are awesome weapons. They have 360º fire arc, you can combine bombers from several carriers into on attack and they disregard signatures.
At the same time they have some distinct disadvantages. They are highly allergic to fine debris fields, they always give you a signature when launching and you only get to fire them, if you survive an entire round of fighting. In addition, you can give your opponent some additional opportunity to defend himself, if you use them at long range.
What about fighters on the offensive?
I specify that this post is about bombers on the offensive. Not because I have saved a long post describing the merits of fighter on the offensive for another time, but rather because this can be described rather shortly.
In general, applying fighters offensively is useless. You are always better off using more bombers instead. However, there are number of (rare) occasions where they might be of use so let’s list them here:
- The enemy is using his fighters for something other than defence against bombers.
This could be repairing with a command card or defending against close action weapons. In this case, using your fighter to nullify his might make sense.
- Some of your carriers are on short range with a target and others are on (fighter) long range.
So you have bombers resolving at the end of the launch phase and your enemy has fighters protecting this vessel. You have other carriers who can’t assist with the bombing (they are on long range so their bombers will resolve later) but their fighters can make it. In that case, you can use these fighters to nullify enemy fighters protecting against the bombers going off now.
Not a common case I think, but it might happen.
There might be other special cases that I haven’t seen, but they must be rather esoteric. Having that out of the way, let’s look a bit at how to use your carriers and bombers efficiently.
Distribution on targets
Bombers have an obvious use in the form of dealing damage. Exactly how to get the most of this can be slightly complicated, but I tend to follow the simple rule of concentrating bombers against a few targets. This comes with it’s own set of challenges (which I will go into in a moment), but in general overcoming point defence (and potential command cards to enforce this) means that the first bomber (or two!) is statistically speaking nullified so you need to pile on. 6 PD is statistically speaking enough to remove a bomber – or 8 PD for a PHR bomber.
In short, it can almost never pay off to launch only one bomber against a target (unless it is a shaltari ship with shields up) and for cruisers, two is needed. Are you launching against a Shaltari or Scourge battleships three is required or you can just as well skip it – it’s not worth the spike.
However, piling on too much can have some disadvantages. First of all, if you do too much piling on and are on long range, you drastically increase the odds that your opponent uses the active defence modes – moving through debris fields or orders that shake off bombers. Launching 8 PHR bombers sound deadly, but if the opponent gets to go for a course change and move through a fine debris field, statistically speaking only 1 or 2 will make it and the point defence of the enemy vessel combined with armour might mean that only 1 or 2 damage gets through. Those bombers would have made better use elsewhere
This leads to another challenge with many bombers on long range…
The flying bomb
If you pile on bombers on an enemy vessel on long range to the point where destruction is likely, a useful tactic of your opponent might be to employ the vessel as a flying bomb. Move it towards the closest group of enemy ships and hope for a big explosion (or force one using the right command card). If you’re a little bit unlucky, it might damage you more than him.
The best way to avoid this is not to use bombers on long range to destroy an enemy vessel close to your vessels – use other weapons for the final destruction and focus you bombers elsewhere.
When not to launch
This leads into the interesting topic of when not to launch bombers.
The obvious ones first. When forcing them through a fine debris field, it is quite the gamble. Fully 2/3 will be destroyed which will leave all but the biggest carriers to only launch a meager force against the target. In short; never launch through a fine debris field unless you desperately need to hit that specific target and are up for a gamble.
Then you might ask – if I have no other target, shouldn’t I launch anyways? Well, you get a spike and carriers do not like attention. Getting a spike might not be worth the launch, if the odds of doing damage are slim. In some cases, not launching is the superior choice.
Speaking of when not to launch – I have come to often decide not to launch on long range. First of all, you give the opponent the option of making an active defence. In return, you get a spike which – since you probably are at a distance from your opponent – might make the difference of whether or not you can be hit. If your preferred target is on long range, I would prioritize almost any other target on short range over the long range target and if I had none, I might simply skip the launching alltogether.
Bombers open up some manoeuvre options, other weapon systems don’t.
360º arc of fire means you can manouver around as crazy as you like, as long as you are within range. You can turn around moving away from the enemy or move past enemy vessels – which might make it more difficult for them to respond. This is of course most relevant for vessels where the carrier capacity is their primary weapon, but even if you have other weapon systems, moving past an opposing vessel might only give you a slight reduction in overall killing power and a much bigger in your opponent.
Another option is to play around with layers. Since bombers don’t care if you are in low or high orbit, you can change layer to either force your opponent to do the same or force them to accept a lock penalty. Rather effective against vessels which prefer to go for weapons free orders – they then have to choose either to forgo that option or to accept a lock penalty.
I sometimes place my Andromedas across layers. Both to protect them against blowing each other up should one of them go down, but also because it will make it hard for my opponent to take them all down in one go – he needs to plan his distribution of firepower very carefully.
You will need these advantages, though. Launching through a dense (or even worse, fine!) debris field is a total waste, so you need to make sure you are in a position, where this does not happen. Positioning is key.
Other uses of bombers
The primary use of bombers seems to be damage dealing. But – as any other weapon – it actually have some other interesting uses.
Launching a bomber (or two) against an atmospheric capable vessel in low orbit and longe range might force the vessel into atmosphere (to defend itself) which might delay it from more important pursuits.
Similarly, pouring bombers on bigger ships on long range might force them through debris fields or using special orders that might not be their preferred choice – like giving the enemy Moscow class vessel the choice between oblivion on weapons free orders or the chance of survival using course change and going through the nearby debris field.
Finally, like any other weapon, it might simply act as a deterrent. I would be reluctant to move my flag ship within short range of a large group of carriers and would rather present them with less interesting targets (or accept their attack on longe range, giving me some more defence options).
Launch assets are an interesting weapon that adds some depth and strategy to Dropfleet. My best tips for using them offensively are:
- Remember your carrier have to survive the round to launch its assets.
- Using fighters offensively is rarely a good use, but special cases do exist.
- Use at least two bombers on any target, in case of high PD three might be needed to do any damage.
- As rule of thumb, always launch at a target on short range.
- On long range use bombers carefully; the enemy gets further defence options and can create “flying bombs” – and you get a spike that might mean the difference between being a target and being safe.
- Your carriers can move past an opponent or place themselves in different layers for protection while losing none of their damage capacity.
- Bombers can be launched to force an opponent to move differently than intended to defend against the damage.
When used right, bombers are a very versatile weapon – use it as such.