Guide: Fleet Specification and Structure

Written by Schrödinger on . Posted in Community

Well guys today is the deadline of our AE Guide contest so what better day to show off our last guide ahead of it's closing. If you have a final burst of inspiration to send us a guide before the deadline find out how to enter the contest here. This Fleet Specification and Structure Guide was submitted by Schrödinger. Enjoy.

This is quite an advanced concept but a very important one for any higher level player. Whilst it is fine to build a range of units when your fleet is small (say less than 5mil), if you ever want to kill bigger fleets and make big money, you must specialize your fleet by choosing one or two particular ship types and specialize in (build a lot of) them. Why? Because each type of ship has its own strengths and you can then maximize its strengths. Also, in AE combat you should not have many different ships in one battle. A typical AE battle would involve fighters (meatshield) to absorb damage and your main attacking ships to deal the damage. Damage is spread evenly among different ship types, so if you add more types of ships in the battle the meatshields will have less effect, and hence more losses on your side. Therefore building many different ships will mean that your fleet be good at killing a range of units but will not excel in anything in particular, and the size of fleets you can kill will be limited.

But there are so many different units in AE! In theory you can take any unit and specialize in that. Deciding what fleet spec you build is kind of like trying to decide what you want to become when you grow up, and what job you want to do. Should you grow up to become… a Cruiser Killer? Or a Levi Hunter? Or even a big bad Rapist?!!(In AE terms only) The decision is a crucial one, and it is very difficult to try and change your fleet spec if you make a bad choice. There is no best fleet to build, but we shall discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each fleet spec in detail. Addition notes are included for certain units where I feel necessary. The “Goals” that I’ve included are mere guidelines, and you should never stop at those figures.

Note: This guide is not a guide on units, and I’m sure someone will make a guide on that. I will assume you to be already well versed in the basics of AE combat, and familiar with other basic concepts of the game, and know the acronyms commonly used.

- “Advantages” and “disadvantages” include practicality, and concerns production and technology as well as combat.
- “Good Against” is what the unit is best at killing.
- “Watch out for” is what units other players will mostly use to hit you.
- “Goes well with” is what units you may consider building as your secondary fleet.

I will also talk a bit about armour to cost ratio and attack to cost ratio a lot in this guide. Both are important when shield is not very significant. Armour to cost ratio determines your losses when you make a hit and expect most of your units to survive. Attack to cost ratio determines how much damage you inflict when you kamikaze-crash units (ie in FT or HB drops). In general, these ratios decrease as the size of the unit increase. The ratios, taking tech into account, should be very similar unless it’s a BO, HB, or IB.

Primary Fleet
This is the bulk of your fleet, and should form 40~80% of your total fleet. One can take any unit and make it his primary fleet, but the following are more common.

Fighters aka figs, FT
Any player should have plenty of fighters, but you can make them your main fleet, and possibly the only attacking ship.

- fairly hard to kill profitably. It will require a similar amount of FTs or a significantly larger HC/BS fleet to kill.
required in large amounts for various attacks, so will serve well as support with other players in a joint attack
can do FT swarm. With 2mil+ FTs, you can pop bases with 20 prings for about 70k loss. There is no possible way for a lower loss.
- Very high armour to cost ratio, so will be used as meatshields for most attacks.

- Requires transport (carriers/fleet carriers). The transport would cost a bit more than the fighters (in terms of FT:CA cost it’s 3:4, and for FT:FC it’s 4:5).
- This means less than half of your fleet can be used for combat, while the other half would consist of expensive and vulnerable CA/FCs.
- Troublesome to merge newly produced FTs with your main fleet, because they can’t move on their own. Hence you’ll need to send out transport to and from bases to pick them up.
- An FT fleet will be used mostly support in joint attacks, because you can’t really kill entire fleets by yourself due to low attack output of FTs. Therefore you will have to every active, and make sure you join OPs.

Good against: Anything from fighters to cruisers
Watch out for: Heavy Cruisers and anything larger.
Goes well with: Cruisers, which offer protection from HC rape and will divert damage from your FTs when you are being FT dropped on (FT dropping CRs is not profitable)
Goal: 6mil FTs

Destroyers aka dessies, DEs

- Good armour to cost ratio so it can be used as meatshield.
- Offers a bigger punch than FTs, so that whereas HCs are the nemesis of FTs, they are snacks for DEs.
- Can move by itself without transport, and it is fairly fast.

- Vulnerable FT drops and shield rapes.
- Doesn’t have hangars, so if you want FT meat you need CA/FC which slows DEs down significantly (See Frigate section).

Good against: Cruisers, Heavy Cruisers
Watch out for: Fighters, Battleships, and any capital ships.
Goes well with: Ion Frigates
Goal: 3mil FTs + 600k DEs

Frigates aka frigs, FRs

- Very high hangar to cost ratio (second only to CAs/FCs). Many frig fleets don’t have any CA/FC at all, and simply let the frigs carry all the FTs. This is a big money saver.
- Not bogged down by CA/FC so very fast.
- Can hit planetary rings with good missile tech (not pshields though).

- Very vulnerable to FTs, which are insanely good at killing frigs.
- Can be raped by any capital ship.
- Weapon tech (missile) is not useful for anything else (BOs are bad, and CAs don’t attack).

Good against: Cruisers, Heavy Cruisers, (maybe Battleships depending on tech)
Watch out for: Fighters, capital ships.
Goes well with: Fighters, Ion Frigates.
Goal: 2.5mil FT + 500k Frigs

Comparison: DEs and Frigs kill a similar range of units. DEs give better ratios, but only with FT meat. The FTs will require transport which slows down DE fleets. Frigs have no such problem. So, DEs or frigs? It’s up to you I guess, depending on how you want to play.

Ion Frigates aka ion frigs, IFs

- Fairly versatile. It can kill capital ships, but unlike BS, IFs do decently against HCs, BSs, and base defense (prings/pshields) as well.
- Fast. They are so much faster than the capital ships that they kill, and also much faster than HC/BS, the usual capital ship killers.
- Has good hangar (not as good as frigs but still better than most units)
- Better armour to cost ratio than BS, so they give better ratios when attacking capital ships.
- Rare. Yes this is an advantage! Not a lot of people have IFs so they tend to be overlooked. It’s good to surprise your enemies with the nimbleness, speed, and versatility of IFs while they are expecting slow HC/BSs.

- Very vulnerable to FT drops (Ion frig shield blocks out some damage so IFs are only as vulnerable as frigs).

Good against: Battleships, and any capital ships
Watch out for: Fighters, and anything smaller than Ion Frigates.
Goes well with: Fighters, Destroyers, and Frigates. These will hit smaller units to cover some of IFs’ weaknesses. These also help guard against FT drops.
Goal: 300k IFs

Comparison: Ion frigs and HCs have similar armour to cost ratios. Therefore, if you disregard shields, the two units are the same. Basically, ion frigs have twice the speed, better hangar, and can kill levis and DS, while HCs can rape FTs.

Cruisers aka CRs

- Very versatile, and can kill a range of units.
- The best ship to pop bases without having to use massive amounts of FTs.
- Good speed
- Uses plasma as weapon tech, the same tech used by useful units such as DEs, HBs, and HCs.

- Whatever CRs can kill, some ship can outdo it, eg FTs kill IFs, DE/HB kill CRs/HCs, IFs/HCs kill BS/DN.
- Raped by levis
- Susceptible to HB drop and FT semi-swarm.

Good against: Ion Frigates, Cruisers, Heavy Cruisers, Battleships, Dreadnoughts, any base defense.
Watch out for: Fighters, Destroyers, Heavy Bombers, Frigates, Titans, Leviathans, Death Stars
Goes well with: Fighters, Battleships (for escort against rapes)
Goal; 300k CRs, maybe with 10k BS escort

Note: Cruisers and fighters are the most common unit in AE, and CRs are the mainstay of many fleets. This is because they are very versatile, and are good at killing a range of units, as well as having unrivalled base-busting abilities. For players under 5mil fleet, definitely go for CRs. But it is actually not a good idea to spec into cruisers for bigger fleets. This is because CRs are good at a lot of stuff, but they don’t excel at anything, and there’re always ships that can outdo cruisers for any particular target. Therefore you may start out with CRs, and keep them as secondary fleet (especially if you’re BS/levi spec). However, don’t fully specialize into CRs.

Heavy Cruisers aka HCs

- The best counter against FT fleets. HCs rape FTs effectively and kill their transport simultaneously.
- Not very easily raped (I have seen levis rape HCs before however).
- Fairly versatile. It can hit prings too (but not as good as CRs)
- Uses plasma as weapon tech, the same tech used by useful units such as DEs, HBs, and CRs.

- Susceptible to HB drops
- Raped by DS, and possibly levis.
- Fairly slow.
- The worst hangar to cost ratio amongst all units (however this isn’t too bad considering HCs are used primarily to rape FTs)

Good against: Fighters, Battleships, Dreadnoughts, Titans.
Watch out for: Destroyers, Heavy Bombers, Frigates, Leviathans, Death Stars.
Goes well with: HCs work pretty well by itself. You need to have a significantly larger fleet of HCs to rape FTs and prevent being levi raped so just focus on building HCs.
Goal: 150k HC

Battleships aka BSs

- Large BS fleets are extremely hard to kill .With all the fleet specs I’ve mentioned, they can be “dropped” on by FTs and HBs even if the enemy does not have a larger fleet than you. So say for example, you have a million CRs (worth 200mil). That’s incredibly large right? And probably no one has a bigger fleet than you. However, everyone can gang up on you by crashing HBs to wear your fleet down to a more manageable size. But with BS, there is no such fleet (except for IBs, but no one has IBs in any large amounts – for a good reason). People can only crash IF/CR/HCs at you with a barely profitable ratio. If you have a few CRs in your fleet and park them over high CCs, that’s as close to invincibility as you get in AE.
- Good shield. In terms of shield raping abilities it’s basically the same as that of DNs, but BS are so much faster.
- Versatile. The only units BS can’t kill are IBs, IFs, and HCs (and prings).

- Not good at base hits against prings.

Good against: Anything under Frigates, and all capital ships.
Watch out for: Ion Bombers, Ion Frigates, Cruisers, Heavy Cruisers.
Goes well with: Cruisers to complement to weakness of not being able to hit prings, and serve as protection against CR/HC.
Goal: 50~100k CRs, 30k BS

Leviathans aka levis, LVs

- These can give extraordinary ratios by shield raping.
- Levis have only one big nemesis – BSs (and IFs but too few players have them), therefore most fleets can be raped by levis. Levis are especially good in blob crashes. An (active) levi fleet at a blob crash, no matter whether it’s attacking or defending, would be like a fat man at a buffet.
- Has 5% attack and armour bonus. In a large battle where you lose over 4mil, consider throwing in a levi. Just the 5% armour bonus will mean that you lose at least 200k less as a result.
- Large levi fleets are very hard to kill for the same reason as BS (read Battleship section). However, I have seen 1000 levis (Hellraiser in beta) brought down by people crashing BS into it.

- Very slow. This is a crippling disadvantage, and is the reason why levi players don’t catch as much fleet as they might have. It takes days if not weeks to move between galaxies, by which time your target could be long gone.
- Requires high shipyards, which you’ll need on most of your bases.
- A levi parked over any base is a profitable target, so you need to move your levi immediately after it has popped out of production.
- Can’t hit prings.
- You need to be a highly active player to use levis effectively, otherwise you’ll never catch anything.

Good against: anything below Heavy Cruisers (except Ion Bombers and Ion Frigates)
Watch out for: Ion Frigates, Battleships.
Goes well with: Cruisers, to complement to weakness of not being able to hit prings, and serve as protection against CR/HC.
Goal: 400 Levis

Secondary Fleet

In the previous Primary Fleet sections I have included what “Goes well with” what. Basically all of those are just secondary fleets. Those are additional types of ships that could make up to 40% of your total fleet, and would serve as remedy for any weakness your primary fleet has. These are worth considering to build, but please be aware of building too many different ships that could turn your fleet into a “rainbow fleet” (many different units with no real emphasis on any). Secondary fleets would (generally) give you more defensive ability (except for Heavy Bombers), but at the expensive of less offensive ability. This is because your main attacking fleet, your primary fleet, would be conversely smaller. When deciding what secondary fleets to build, also bear in mind factors such as speed and technology. For example, you could have frigates and ion frigates together because they have the same speed, and you might want some heavy bombers with your cruisers because they share the same weapon technology.

Many secondary fleets can also be primary fleets, and vice versa. I will not repeat writing much of them here again, so please refer to previous sections. Also refer back for what goes well with what.

Fighters (refer to Primary Fleet: Fighters section)
Since all fleets should have more or less some FTs, FTs are technically the secondary fleet of all fleets. However, some fleet specs need more FTs than others. Keep more FTs if you have Heavy Bomber, Destroyer, Frigate, Ion Frigate or Cruiser fleets. You may get away with less FTs if you are Heavy Cruiser,, Battleship, or Levi spec’ed.

Heavy Bombers aka HBs

- Very high attack to cost ratio. It’s almost as high as FTs, but carries a much higher punch, so it can kill a larger range of units.
- Best used against CRs or HCs of overwhelmingly large size and/or sitting on high (10+) CCs.
- Uses plasma tech, which is used by good units like DEs, CRs, and HCs too.

- Very vulnerable to FT drops.
- Requires hangars to move.
- The above two factors means that HBs are good targets as soon as they come out of production. I myself have made many good profits by FT dropping on HBs sitting over bases before they could get moved.

Good against: Cruisers, Heavy Cruisers.
Watch out for: Fighters, Battleships, any Capital Ship
Goes well with: any fleet spec, but especially good with FT fleets, and for people who like to hit bases, which often have CCs.

Corvettes aka CVs, corvs

- Very, very fast. This means they are good at freeing bases, raiding small targets, and to surprise people. They can be used as scouts.
- Good armour to cost ratio, so they can be used as meatshields (for IF, HC, or BS attacks)

- If you want to attack and get the derbs you’ll need to bring recs, which will slow CVs down. In that case you’re better off with DEs.
- Hence in many occasions where you need CVs you won’t be able to get the derbs. That’s fine for small attacks when you might be just trying to annoy the enemy. But for bigger attacks, would you want to lose millions of fleet and not get any derbs? Therefore you could keep a few CVs, but it’s not a great idea to build too much of them.

Good against: poorly defended bases, and Cruisers (CVs are too weak, and there are few targets that CVs are great at attacking). Fairly good against frigs and ion frigs too, but CVs are not the best choice.
Watch out for: Fighters, Battleships, and any Capital Ship
Goes well with: Ion frigs, Cruisers, Heavy Cruisers, and Battleships as meatshields

Destroyers (refer to Primary Fleet: Destroyers section)
Like CVs, these can be used as meatshields for Ion frigs, Cruisers, Heavy Cruisers, and Battleships. DEs can also add firepower to your main assault fleet. For example, say you’re attacking Heavy Cruisers with Cruisers. Throwing in some DEs will kill more HCs while giving you less loss as meatshields. This is one of the few occasions where you can have multiple attacking ships, because one of the attacking ship itself is a meatshield.

Frigates and Ion Frigates (refer to Primary Fleet section)
Goes well with each other.

Cruisers (refer to Primary Fleet: Cruisers section)
Good support unit. Serves as escort, particularly to BS and levis which lack the ability to hit prings

Battleships (refer to Primary Fleet: Battleships section)
Good escort against shield rapes by Capital ships.

Leviathans (refer to Primary Fleet: Leviathan section)If you build a single levi it will give the 5% bonus to your entire fleet. So keep one! For a fleet of 30mil it will mean the enemy will lose 30mil x 0.05=1.5mil. This is well worth the 200k investment. You can also build a few more levis (up to 100 – any more and should just be levi spec’ed) to give you some shield rape abilities. It could also force the enemy to use BS to hit you even if you are, say, Cruiser spec, which increases their loss. By the way I have seen people putting a levi over bases, to force HC or BS use. Don’t do that! The single levi itself is enough to make the base profitable. Not even TNs will work, and DS are worse.

Utility Ships
These ships are not normally used for attacks, and are the more vulnerable parts of your fleet. When build your fleet, think about how to best protect them. For example build FTs to protect recs.

Scout Ships (SS) and Outpost Ships (OS)
Build only as much as you need (so no more than 1000 SS and 5 OS). Don’t be silly and try to build a SS stack. It doesn’t work!

Recyclers aka RCs, recs, cyclers
A good rule of thumb is to have 15% of your fleet as recs, though you may have anything between 10~20%. Build more recs if you are a highly active player who often makes big hits. The more recs you have the sooner you can leave and retreat to safer waters after a hit.

Carriers (CAs) or Fleet Carriers (FCs)?
CAs have higher speed but slightly less hangar to cost ratio. FCs are slower, but more effective at carrying units (by about 6%), and also have good shield. Which one you use mainly depends on your fleet spec. If you have anything faster than Cruisers inclusive, then build CAs. Not only for the speed, but also as protection against FT drop. Note that FT dropping CAs is only slightly profitable, so introducing CAs to fleets vulnerable to FT drop (DE, FR, IF) will divert damage away from your more vulnerable ships. On the other hand, build FCs for BS fleets for the speed and same weapon tech. Also note that FCs have shields that rival that of BS, so at times you may use FCs to assist your BS in rapes.

Other Ships I have not yet mentioned (and why not)

Bombers aka BOs- There is nothing it can hit that FTs or HBs can’t do better. On the other hand FTs and HBs can hit a much wider range of units. 
- The only thing BOs can be used for is meatshield. But if you have FTs, CVs, DEs (which have use other than as meatshields) already, throwing in BOs will only lower losses further by about 1%

Ion Bombers aka IBs
- Only useful against BS or capital ships of large size and/or parked over high CCs.
- Extremely vulnerable to FT drop (almost as vulnerable as recs)
- Unlike FTs and HBs, when you drop IBs over prings, it will hit not only what you want them to hit, but also prings.
- Vulnerability and limited use outweigh the occasional usefulness.

Dreadnoughts aka DNs, dreads
- Good against guarding your trade routes from plunder. So have 1 DN per base. No more, no less.
- Apart from guarding TRs DNs are not good for anything else, so don’t build too many. There is basically nothing DNs can do that BS can’t (except maybe raping frigs, but BS rape them fairly well, otherwise FT drop is also good).
- However BS can be much faster, and gives much better ratios when hitting capital ships.

Titans aka TNs
These are lesser versions of levis. But why build lesser versions if you can build the full version? Levis are more durable, give 5% bonus, use a more useful weapon tech, and can rape HCs too. There is nothing TNs can do that levis can’t do better, while the reverse is not true.

Death Stars aka DS
When we start out in AE, we’ve all wondered how awesome it would be to have the legendary Star War ship the size of a small moon. But in reality, these are horrible for one critical reason – can’t use jump gates. Considering that I (and most other players) park mobile fleets over a high gate at all times, DS are therefore 10 to 15 times slower than the next slowest thing, levis. It could take over a day to fly the DS in-galaxy. And don’t even think about moving it across galaxies, when it could take up to 3 months! You’ll never find a target and expect it to still be there 3 months later. What’s more likely is that an IF or BS fleet will find you first. Also there isn’t much that DS can do that levis can’t. DS fully blocks out HC attack while levis block about 80%, and DS give 10% as opposed to 5% bonus but that’s it.

Guide sent by Schrödinger for the Community Guide Contest