The Bellerophon was my first love in terms of heavy cruiser. It had a nice, big laser, a lot of deadly launch and packed a nice bit of hull and armour. It has, however, been a while since I fielded it last and in this analysis I will look into why I use it less regularly these days.
Most favoured of the heavy cruisers
When I started Dropfleet, Battlecruisers was for the kickstarter backers (which I was not), so if you wanted something of Heavy tonnage, it had to be a heavy cruiser. There were three options; Hector, Achilles and Bellerophon.
The Hector seemed (and for me, still seems) like the luke-warm middle ground with no clear purpose; a deadly laser in front but also two medium broadsides and I think in many cases, it will be hard to bring even two of the three weapon systems to bear at once. It simply seems that an Orion or a pair of Pandoras would be a better choice.
The Achilles also seemed a bit weak. Heavy Calibre Broadsides was simply not good enough (the changes in the following errata did help a lot on that) and it seemed like a ship with only one real role – to hunt other heavy ships.
So that basically left the Bellerophon as the only option, and hence it was my go-to.
The Bellerophon at a glance
The armament of the Bellerophon lends itself neatly to fighting at distance. The bombers have a 24″ range and the more distance to the target, the better the odds that the Twin Supernova Lasers have the target in their firearch without any crazy manoeuvring needed. On top of that, you only have a single weapon system besides the close action, so weapons free is never needed, cutting down on spikes.
Basically the approach is simple, load up the admiral (for that nice discount), keep your distance while heating them up with lasers and attacking them with bombers. Your admiral is safe and you can really strike at your opponent.
Ah, if only the above tactic worked unproblematic, it would be an awesome ship. However, there are a couple of problems.
First off, the problem about the Twin Supernova Laser is, that you have to fly in the direction of your target. That means that if you want to utilize that weapon (and you want to, otherwise, there was no reason not just to bring four Andromedas instead) you approach your enemy with at least 3,5″ a turn (or you use station keeping and quickly build a major spike). That means that keeping distance while fighting is a nice idea but rarely possible for more than a single turn.
Second, bombers are simply better at short range to deny your opponent the possiblity of using active defence measures or simply become a flying bomb. So in short, in order to keep your distance, you lose some efficiency of your bombers.
This means that you might want to consider using the Bellerophon somewhat more aggressively than it seems to lend itself to and hence it should not be the home of your Admiral. Or, alternatively, use it for your Admiral but keep it away from the heaviest fighting engaging in a flank or some similar place, where it is at less risk.
So… how do I use it then?
I think, that it is a nice supplement to your other carrier ships in a larger fleet or – if used delicately – a fine flagship in a smaller fleet.
If it is not your flagship, you should be able to engage it in the thick of battle while you make sure that it can consistently use its Twin Supernova Laser and have targets within 12″ for bombing raids. It will probably not survive as it will attract a lot of enemy firepower, but it is tough and it will get to deal a fair bit of damage itself before it goes down. Heck, going for the flying bomb or a ramming tactic might be a part of the intended usage.
If it is your flagship, you need to be more careful. It should not be set into the thick of battle but should ideally be kept either at a flank or in the center, flying towards the flank to make sure that you both have targets for your Twin Supernova Laser and is not the target of too much firepower yourself. This is more complicated to manage, but if you can pull it off, you can put it in a role where it will excel.
The Bellerophon is nice ship. It is somewhat difficult to use as a flag ship, as it will perform best at a range where it will attract a lot of firepower. It is a nice supplement to the more aggresive usage of the other carriers in PHR and if you have no battle cruisers, it is most likely your best option for a flagship.