As PHR is my primary army, I quickly realized that bombers was a central weapon. First of all, the PHR bombers are the best of all (averaging 1 critical for each bomber and 2/3 of an ordinary point of damage) but second, they also compensate for one of the most critical weaknesses of PHR – firing arches.
Hence launch assets have been a stable in all my fleets and I have gotten – relatively speaking – quite a lot of experience fielding them. This tactical on bombers and fighters are split into two to keep the length down; the first part (the one you are reading now) deals with how to defend against them and the second part deals with how to use them best offensively.
First of all, I would like to emphasize a couple of points about bombers as an offensive weapon.
- You have 360 degree of fire. Only close action weapons can match that.
- You only fire when all ships have moved. That means that you need your carriers to survive to the end of the round!
- Enemy signature does not matter. So you can’t hide from a bomber by running silently, hiding behind a debris field (though it will act as a deterrent) or keep you energy spikes down.
- Firing will always give you a spike, contrary to other ships firing. So a carrier will go through most of the game with a minor or major spike whereas other ships more easily can keep this down.
- Bombers attack at two distinctly different timings; in the launch phase (short distance) and after ship activation (long distance).
All of this means that defending against bombers are a different story than handling other types of attack.
The types of defense can be split into two approaches; active and passive defense. Active defense is stuff you can only do when the enemy is attacking over long distance where you have time to take an action to defend yourself. Passive defense is a precaution or fast reaction you can take and hence it will protect you both against long and short distance attack.
The three passive modes of defense are quite simply;
- Hiding in atmosphere
- Hiding behind / within debris fields
- Using fighters
Starting from the top is the simple approach. Ships in atmosphere cannot be targeted by launch assets. However, they are also rather limited in their movement so you normally only dive to atmosphere if you have a particular goal in mind (deploying troops or hunting troop deploying ships), so this is rather circumstantial, and only a few shipclasses have this option available.
Next up, is the option of hiding behind / within a debris field – or even better, an LSO. Hiding behind one of these is a no-brainer if the option is there. It might even be worth placing you in a way that forces you through a debris field in the next round or to be a little further away from your goal, if that means you are protected from a bomber-run.
The third option is the most obvious one (in the rules, at least) but also by far the worst. A PHR bomber require – on average – 8 PD to fully nullify and the others 6 PD. That means that you need between 1 1/2 and 2 2/3 fighters per bomber (depending on the fleets in question) to properly nullify a fighter. Unless a ship is very critical or you have no other use of your launch assets, you are probably better off launching them as bombers against an enemy vessel than using them as fighters defending you own vessels.
So all in all, for most part, your options are limited for the passive defense and in many cases there are no better option than to accept the risk of an attack and trust in your armour and point defense.
But in some cases – especially early-to-mid game, the launch happens on long distance meaning you get to use the active modes, which are more interesting. When an opponent launches bombers at you at long distance, you have an activation phase to act in. This leaves you with three (additional) options – which can be combined:
- Moving to atmosphere
- “Crazy Ivan” – eg. course change or max thrust orders
- Move through debris field
Moving to atmosphere is easy. If you are in low orbit and can move to atmosphere it is probably your best answer as you will lose all bombers on your tail. For the same reason, it is rarely a good idea to launch bombers against atmospheric capable vessels in low orbit. But, alas, it is an option not available to all.
The manouver option is a solid choice. It shakes off 1/3 of the attacking bombers and while it does incur a spike, unless you absolutely needed to do another special order, it is a good defence with little real cost.
Finally, we have the really interesting option – moving through something nasty, accepting the risk for a bit of damage to get rid of a bit of damage yourself. The question is then – when is it worth it?
The math behind this is actually not straight forward, as a number of elements factor in. Basically, the expected damage from the debris field vs. the expected damage reduction coming from the lost bombers from passing through said debris field. Finally, you have to remember, that your PD can negate some of the bombers – if you remove so many bombers that you have “surplus” PD but take damage in the process, you have been to agressive. And this is of course on top on (or rather, after) any bomber loss from the “crazy ivan” defence.
I have spend som hours analyzing this to see if there are some simple rules on when to use the different defences, but unsurprisingly, it depends on a lot of factors (armour, bombertype and point defence) so setting up some simple rules are not easy.
I will go into more detail of the math behind this at a later post, but for now, I will try to distill my lessons into four simple (and hence, at times also slightly misleading) rules regarding the active defence forms and how to use them:
- Dive to Atmosphere if you can.
This is rather obvious. If you have this option, go for it. The ships who can go to atmosphere can easily be killed by a single bomber or two, and rarely is a task so important in low orbit, that it is preferable to stay there and receive the bomber than to dive to atmosphere and go back up next round.
- Do a “Crazy Ivan” unless you critically need another special order.
Unless you need another special order or have a critical need to not increase your spike, go for it. If you have PD 6 and above (or 8 if you have PHR bombers on your tail) you can (on average) ignore a single bomber.
- Passing through a fine debris field is useful at around 3 bombers on your tail.
It doesn’t do that much damage to a ship but it wreaks havoc on bombers. If you don’t do a “Crazy Ivan” it is usually recommendable to go through Fine Debris Field at around 2 bombers (or 3 for the big ships).
- Dense Debris fields are worthwhile from 5-7 bombers and above.
The above number is assuming that you also do a “Crazy Ivan” – if you don’t it pays off a little earlier. Dense debris fields do more damage on the big ships and less on the bombers, which accounts for the high limit.
For using Debris Fields remember to consider if you should stay there or pass through. Staying will add passive defence but give you another round of flying through them and hampering your shooting and/or own launch assets.
With the defence against launch assets covered, it is time to go into how to use them offensively.