There are many different tactics that can be utilised in a game like dropfleet. In this post I will describe three simple ones that I guess many experienced players know, but which might not be spotted immediately by a new player.
Divide across layers
One of the issues with group coherency is, that it means that there is always a chance that the catastrophic damage explosion of a ship might reach another ship in the group. Since it is against the rules to deliberately split groups to avoid this – and the consequences for incidentally splitting a group are harsh – this seems like an unavoidable risk. No place is this problem greater than for frigates where the catastrophic damage of one frigate easily can cause another to take sufficient damage for a crippling roll, causing its destruction etc. as a chain throughout an entire group. Even undamaged big ships (hull 10 to 12) can suffer from chain reactions like this due to the distortion bubble catastrophic damage, though this is immensely unlikely.
In any case, there is a simple tactic to avoid this. Since catastrophic damage explosions only affect ships on the same orbital layer, you can spread your frigates across layers to easily avoid chain reactions. Just place them alternately in high or low orbit and keep them 2-3 inches apart, and their explosions will never affect one another.
This will for most frigates have some impact on their primary offensive capability (with Andromeda class being a notable exception) but depending on the usage, it might just be worth it – or be relevant precaution when you have one or maybe more severely damaged frigates that you fear will unleash a chain reaction soon.
Break opposing group coherency
This is an offensive tactic utilizing the group coherency rules to your advantage. When shooting at an enemy group with three or more ships that are spread out thin to ensure against catastrophic damge – this will most often mean frigates or corvettes – fire at (one of) the middle ship(s). If you destroy this, you break group coherency forcing your opponent to go for standard orders for this group and spend movement to again regain group coherency – which might prevent the ships from reaching their desired position.
If this is useful is somewhat circumstantial – in many cases standard orders are a solid choice and the group will be able to reach its intended destination while recreating group coherency. However, in any case where you are shooting at a group of 3+ ships where all else is equal between the ships you should always go for the/a middle ship to gain this advantage and limit your opponents flexibility.
This is a classic and very strong tactic.
You make a battle group with a very low strategy rating – no more than SR 4, preferably SR 3 or SR 2. This is a group consisting of either offensive fast ships or strike carriers. For PHR, feasible battle groups could be; 2 Pandora-class, 3 Echo-class or 2 Medea class – all are good battle groups for this strategy.
Then, you place this battle group last in your strategy deck in one turn and opt for going last and potentially using a “max thrust order” to move very far onto the table. Then in the next turn you place them first in your strategy deck and opt to go first. Then you can give them a standard order (or, in case of Echoes a Silent Run order) and move them to their desired target.
Some example uses; 2 Medea class ships can be brought as much as 30″ onto the table and in atmosphere – enough to bring them within range of dropping into almost any cluster on the board (effective dropping range is 33″). 3 Echo class ships, can reach vessels up to 42″ into the table with your echoes either in atmosphere or in silent running mode – and in either case, able to shoot at whatever enemy ship (maybe a strike carrier?) that needs to be removed. With 2 Pandora class this will give you a 89 % chance of giving at least a minor spike to a single ship within 38″ of your entry point (maybe a little more or less depending on signatures, debris fields, etc.) – making this target within reach of slower ships wielding more firepower.
There are only two major weaknesses. The first is, that you need to be sure, that your opponent does not have any battle groups with lower SR than this – or that any such battle groups are at least operating in a different place on the board. The other weakness is that command cards the manipulate activation order or SR might cause this tactic to backlash – exposing your small and somewhat fragile battle group to enemy fire while having a minor spike from the max thrust order of the first round.
Small tricks matter
All of these could be labelled micro-tactics – they are small tricks or tools to be employed in a game, but they are not in themselves fully-fledged strategies for winning. I guess most players will get in touch with these (especially the double tap) after a few matches, but for newbies knowing them in advance can really be useful.