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Monthly Archives: March 2009

Monoliths are what you use when you can’t be bothered with managing a fleet as they can comfortably take on anything you throw at them. Spinal cannons for Dreadnaughts are mounted as turrets for the Monoliths, and the sheer diversity of gun types lining the sides mean that there are more than a few that have an effective range less than the length of the ship. They carry massive squadrons of Corvettes and Frigates as support vessels, not to mention being able to carry armies of millions for a land invasion, which may or may not be redundant as they could reduce the surface of a planet to glass within a half hour.

Fortunately, only three Monolith class vessels were ever built, on the other hand the collateral damage from the fire fights was enough to destroy the surface of four planets and one Monolith received so much damage that it actually crashed into the surface of a world. This was beyond mere devastation as it actually managed to punch a hole in the world’s crust when it impacted. For a world of two hundred million the survivors were measured in tens, and they were generally incredibly deep underground or evacuating while the ship went down.

Sadly, I can’t really say much about tactics as these were only used in The End Time Wars and as that’s a subject of one of the books they would be major spoilers. Suffice to say fighting these is pure suicide, and the majority of battles take place as far away from the Monolith as possible.

Next, some of the specialist roles.

The first are the Carriers. Do not mistake these for terrestrial aircraft carriers, they are actually designed to carry non-jump ships into battle. These ships can be of any size[1], but tend to be Fighter to Frigate range, with a few instances of Destroyers being used. Their advantage lies in not requiring an onboard Jump drive, and this, due to reduced peak power demands and so space saving measures, allows the carried ships or ‘Battle Riders’ to be noticeably tougher than their Jumping counterparts.

Carriers of a class are generally significantly larger than their combat brethren, mostly because they do not have to worry about being shot at and therefore target profile and armour are not serious consideration. They tend to carry only token weaponry, mostly long range and point defence, though they can be nasty if they catch you away from your support. There is a tendency for Carriers to fill other support roles in the fleet, carrying the command staff[2] for example, or repair facilities for ships other than their riders.

[1] With some practical limitations, as you can’t carry a ship larger than your own, or really expect to carry a large number of ships only slightly smaller than yours.

[2] As they have to be reasonably close to the battle to function, but not close enough to be in danger. This is perfect for your valuable officers, until they get flanked.

Dreadnaughts, sometimes jokingly referred to as deadnaughts are the ultimate in force projection. They use a series of spinal cannons[1] to create corridors of withering fire across the battlefield and even the Battleships struggle to withstand that kind of punishment. Their engines are unusually weaker than expected, but they make up for this by having an impressive turning speed and, given where most of their guns are mounted, this allows them to lay down death on any ship foolish enough not to get out of the way.

Like Battleships they struggle to bring their guns to bear at close range[2], but unlike Battleships their flanks are given over the intermediate and short range guns and this makes them damn near impossible to attack with anything short of your own Dreadnaught. Speaking of which, Dreadnaughts attacking Dreadnaughts is kind of like Cruisers on steroids, and is pretty much the only human event ever to illuminate the dark side of a planet. What they do is turn and face each other as rapidly as possible, fire as many shots as they can while the guns are lined up, then swing round to take the returning battery on the flanks and rinse and repeat. Whoever takes a direct hit to the main guns first almost invariably loses. Well, they always have lost historically but it technically isn’t a certainty. Theoretically you could still win, but as there were only two dozen Dreadnaughts built in human history no ones yet pulled that particular trick off.

In battle… no wait, what am I talking about? They are the battle, fully capable of taking down scores of enemy ships before succumbing and are in no way vulnerable to a fighter shooting them up the exhaust port. Their biggest flaw is actually inefficiency, as comparatively little of their tonnage is given over to direct weapon systems as it is so far away from this surface. Instead this area will usually house fleet support systems, full salvage yards and maybe even construction facilities. Without a doubt they will hold hundreds of Corvettes and the landing bays are actually large enough that Fighter duels have taken place inside them. These ancillaries are fairly useless in a battle so really it would be more cost effective to have a larger number of smaller vessels with more guns per tonne, but the tactical and physiological impact of Dreadnaughts can not be underestimated.

The record number of Dreadnaughts in a single system was actually five, only two of which were on the same side, and none of them actually survived the engagement. Nor anything else really for that matter.

[1] These are guns mounted on the ships backbone, i.e. are not turreted and always point in the same direction the ship does.

[2] Given that the cannons themselves are actually bigger than a lot of ships this is not actually that surprising.

Battleships are Cruiser killers pure and simple. On their hulking frame they mount a series of large, long range turrets, the majority covering the forward arcs, and these can inflict punishing damage on any vessel foolish enough to stay still. Several metres worth of armour and ablative shielding give them the ability to get into the thick of combat and stay there until they’re destroyed or the battle is lost. Their engines are usually large to allow the ship to charge the enemy line, but they are seriously underpowered in the thrust department, but they make up for this with their broad firing arcs and the ability to lay down fire anywhere on the battlefield.

In combat Battleships generally duel at long range before actually entering the battle, their long guns give them the ability to hang back a little and pick off strategic targets. This can only last for a short time though as the mêlée slowly obscures any targets of opportunity and the Battleships have to close in order to avoid friendly fire. When they do charge the landscape of the battle changes in an instant, they are massively important targets[1] and all guns will be trained on them, which is exactly what they want as the more enemies in their sights the better.

Due to their large slow tracking guns they do struggle to bring their full firepower the bear in a close mêlée and outfitters run a fine line between maximising long range fire, where the Battleship is most effective, and close range where it is the most vulnerable. Just as a note, vulnerability is relative, certainly they struggle when their targets are close and numerous, but that doesn’t mean they won’t swat most other ship classes out of the sky. They have numerous, fast tracking deck guns designed to deal with Frigates and Destroyers, hold thousands of missiles and carry a Corvette complement of nearly a hundred, some will even carry Frigates internally and it has been known for them to carry a hidden wing of Destroyers.

Battleships, due to their gun size are the first ships that can really start threatening fixed installations, like stations, surface bases or cities[2]. Having even one of these in system is either the ultimate deterrent or a declaration of war, and by the late End Time Wars the fleets would contain dozens of monstrosities. Commonly they would be one of the first to Jump into a combat zone; their armour would withstand most attacks until reinforcements could arrive and long range guns could put down fire on the enemy fleet regardless of the Jump inaccuracies. “Battleship off the prow!” is a fairly common cry in the later wars.

[1] Not merely because they are also a favourite place for commanders to hold their court,

[2] Other ships can hit them, but Battleships are the first to carry guns large enough that they’ll penetrate the atmosphere with no customisation.

Cruisers are the multi-roles of most fleets. They have the staying power to be in a battle, the weaponry to make a difference and enough thrusters not to be a sitting duck; the only drawback here is that they aren’t particularly good at any of these roles. With onboard squadrons, long range weaponry and generally a hefty load of missiles it is pretty difficult to find a weak spot to exploit[1] and so most will just settle for sitting in range and hammering away at each other.

This leads to some of the more spectacular fire fights in Vast Worlds as they literally sit and take it, weapons discharges arc between the opposing Cruisers, searing ugly black scars across the hull metal and thousands of deadly shards of small ordinance race across the gap. Getting between two such vessels is pure suicide as you’re just as likely to be hit by your own side, but as each side is launching fighters at each other to snipe at critical systems at least a few of those silver shards are actually manned[2].

In battle Cruisers tend to be the follow-up, hot on the heels of the Destroyers and they smash though the already reeling formations. They also tend to be the fallback line if everything goes pear shaped as they tend to only break if the battle is long lost. When forced to deal with ships larger than themselves they tend to find themselves outclassed, while they can focus fire on their target it tends not to be able to do significant amounts of damage and they find their armour buckling under the law of superior tonnage. There have been cases where a Cruiser squadron[3] have taken down a larger ship, but, as most larger ships were designed with taking down Cruisers in mind, these are few and far between.

Cruisers, due to their size, fill a number of roles within the fleet simultaneously. They will quite often host command staff, or even the fleet commander, and they will be ready to seize control if the flagship takes critical damage. As aforementioned they carry a large Fighter complement and in addition more sturdy Corvettes, but they will also carry ‘Ground Pounder’ weapons and house extensive R and R[4] facilities. Theoretically you could build your whole armada around Cruisers as they are so versatile, but you’d be leaving yourself wide open to flanking manoeuvres and more diffuse fleets.

(Also, fiftieth update. Whoo!)

[1] Beyond flanking, but it is fairly difficult to get anything meaningful behind them.

[2] Fighter duty on Cruisers is not a good position if you plan on seeing your next birthday, which means you generally get a good mix of suicidal nutters signing up.

[3] It’s odd to think of a ship roughly three hundred metres long actually forming a squadron, but it has happened.

[4] Repair and Re-supply.