TLDR: Generally a fleet of tiny ships provides the most raw combat power per logistic point, aka a fleet of tiny ships is the "strongest possible fleet". However, tiny ships cost a lot for that power, and so small and medium ships can generate "more power per unit of manufacturing". Aka both have a niche in the game, and the concerns about medium ships being "inferior" to smaller ones is not fully true, at least at first glance. However, the Big X factor is overkill (how many extra shots a ship tanks as it dies), and if that factor is strong enough, it could make Tiny ships completely superior to medium ones, even on cost.
Warning Note: I'll caveat this post that though I'm trying to do an analysis like I've done in other balance threads, this one is a bit "fuzzier". Unlike other areas where the math is much simpler and direct, with combat there are a lot of murky factors (and frankly we just don't know enough about the combat formulas, such as how attack damage is actually calculated). So I took a stab at this, but this is not as rock solid as some of my other threads.
There has been a debate in the community that medium and heavier ships are "inferior" to their small and tiny cousins, especially once miniaturization techs are added in. With 1.02, all ship types have the same speed, so we no longer have to worry about medium+ ships needing engines to keep up with their smaller brothers. That makes the comparison a bit easier, so with that in mind....lets compare the three core ship types (tiny, small, and medium) and see if there is still truth to the concern.
First up, I am going to compare them by logistic point. Aka if I am fielding a fleet of ships, and have only so many logistics points, what ship types will give my ship the absolute best power I can get?
By Logistic Point (aka all stats have been divided by the ship type's logistic value)
For the offense, I am using Avenger Missiles as a base. I am looking at a late game scenario where my missiles and hp have been heavily boosted by policies and techs, to give me a nice late game scaling look. Here are the numbers:
- Slots: 5
- HP: 12
- Offense: 28
- Offense * HP: 336
- Cost: 48 manu
- Slots: 3.5
- HP: 12.5
- Offense: 19.5
- Offense * HP: 243.75 (27.5% below Tiny)
- Cost: 34 Manu
- HP: 19
- Slots: 3
- Offense: 12
- Offense * HP: 228 (32.1% below Tiny)
- Cost: 30 Manu
This correlates with what I generally "feel" in game, slot for slot a fleet of tiny ships delivers the most combat performance (in terms of offense or offense combined with hp) as compared to higher sizes. I think my numbers also undersell this a bit, because of the way attacks normalize...5 "4 strength" attacks tend to do more damage than 1 "20 strength" attack, even when defense is added in (not in every case, but often in my experience). This means that a bunch of tiny ships gets an extra boost due to just having more attacks.
So based on that calculation alone....tiny is the way to go. BUT...there is another factor. Per slot, small and medium ships are cheaper on manu than tiny ships. Is that enough to make them useful? Lets take a different look at the stats.
By Cost (all stats are divided by the ships total cost in manufacturing)
- HP: .25
- Offense: .583
- Offense * HP: .146
- HP: .368
- Offense: .574
- Offense * HP: .211 (44.5% above Tiny)
- HP: .633
- Offense: .4
- Offense * HP: .253 (73.4% above Tiny)
So what these numbers suggest, is that while a fleet of tiny ships has some of the best stats you can get.... a fleet of small or medium ships can generate combat power "faster" than tiny ship production can, even when heavy miniaturization is factored in. So if you need the best possible fleet to go against an opponent.... Tiny ships. If you need more fleets that can cover territory and still be reasonably effective, small or medium fleets may be superior. Another way to think of this is....tiny fleets are great to build in peace time when you have the time to make the best you can make. Whereas after a lengthy war where your fleets are depleted and you need to generate as much combat power as fast as you can, larger sized fleets become attractive.
Now the best fleet combo is probably a medium+ ship with heavy defenses as an "Escort" to a fleet of Tiny ships that act as "Capital Ships" in their role. This gives you the highest offense per manu (with your tiny ships) but lets the medium+ ships leverage its superior HP, as well as the fact that defenses scale much better with the number of slots per ship than offense does (since defense works against every shot the ship takes)
The Big X Factor - The "Overkill"
There is one key element my simple math is not reflecting, which ultimately may be a significant "boost" to the Tiny fleet power...and perhaps is enough to make them straight up superior in all cases.
The way attacks work, all of the ships fire at their chosen target (which in many cases is all the same target). If 10 attacks are fired, and the ship is destroyed after attack 5, than attacks 6-10 are wasted due to overkill.
Now sake of argument, lets say a Tiny and a Medium ship both get hit with 10 attacks. The tiny ship dies on attack 2, the Medium ship does on attack 9. At the end of the day, they both had "equivalent HP" for the purpose of combat effectiveness, but the tiny ship of course costs way less in Manu and slots.
We know that a tiny ship will get overkilled more than a medium ship, based on simple logic. But how much more?
Quick Math says that if the Tiny ships "effective HP" was increased by 75%, it is actually cost comparable to a medium ship. That would mean that for every 4 attacks the Tiny ship could normally soak, it was actually tanking 7 due to overkill. Is that likely to be common? Honestly, yes, many fleets have 10+ ships, so if all 10 are firing at the same ship, I think the chance for large overkill numbers are very possible.
So all of that is a lot of words to say....if all things are working straight up, medium ships seem fine at first glance (they have a good niche as does tiny ships, both are strong in their own way). However, this "overkill scenario" might be a problem, and may be skewing the results too far into the tiny ship's camp, and maybe leading to some of the concerns from people about ships size balance.