AstroEmpires: Napkin Combat


This article discusses how to run a fairly efficient attack without relying on a battle calculator. The first section describes how to attack in waves. The second section provides a couple rules of thumb that help calculate how many units to bring.

Beyond the rule-of-thumb approach highlighted below, you can always manually calculate your attack. First, calculate the total power of both sides. When calculating the value of base defenses, remember to multiply the power by the number of turrets or rings (those multiples of five). Adjust for the presence of Command Centers to the appropriate party.

Attack in Waves

First, you should always consider attacking in waves. Never hurry an attack if you can avoid it. The great thing about being in the attack is that initiative should be yours. Therefore, you should time the attack to advantage you—so take your time. If you’re on the defense, then it is more likely you are being attacked by overwhelming force. Better to retreat and batter elsewhere than be battered by an attacker.

Fighter Waves

The first waves should be massive Fighter drops. The goal is to kill all the support fleet (i.e., unshielded fleet) in one go. How many Fighters you bring should be based on the rule of thumb listed below. If the first wave was insufficient to waste all but a handful of support ships, then launch a second wave of Fighters to finish the job.

Once the Fighters have killed all but a few unshielded units, time to mop up with Heavy Bombers and other escort-killing units. If you read about Small Fleet Doctrine, you will know that Fighters are efficient against all unshielded units.1 Now that your Fighter drop has eliminated hostile Fighters, its time to focus on the Escort Ships.

The Small Fleet Doctrine says that Cruisers are efficient against all Escort Ships. However, Heavy Bombers, Destroyers and Frigates are fairly efficient against Cruisers and Heavy Cruisers. So, use the rule of thumb below to estimate how many you will need to wipe out your enemy’s Cruisers and Heavy Cruisers. As with Fighter waves, you may have under-estimated how many you need. Hit the enemy with a second HB wave until there are only BBs and up.

Escort Waves

Now, you should have removed all units below Battleships. If there are no Titans or larger in the remaining enemy fleet, use Cruisers with Fighters. The Fighters absorb some of the damage that would otherwise be directed at Cruisers. If there are Titans and larger, bring Heavy Cruisers.

Rules of Thumb

This section provides a few assumptions when planning your attack.2 Remember that these rules of thumb are just dirty-math assumptions. They vary with differing tech levels.

With FT and HB drops, you do not want to over-estimate the numbers you use. Those extra units will attack higher-shielded units that are unscathed by these units. That ruins your combat ratio. Remember, an attack with good ratios is like fine surgery.

the 1/2/4/6 Rule

The 1/2/4/6 Rule provides a guide for how many Fighters you need to cleanse your enemy’s fleet of escort units. The numbers represent the following assumptions:

  • 1 FT per enemy FT/BO/RC/SS
  • 2 FT per enemy CV/HB
  • 4 FTs per enemy DE
  • 6 FTs per enemy FR

Remember that the presence of other ships will destroy some of your Fighters. So, provide a few extra Fighters to absorb the extra damage. What we need here is a percentage to figure the FTs that will bleed off.

Heavy Bombers Use the 3.5/8.5 Rule

The 3.5/8.5 rule provides estimates for using Heavy Bombers against Cruisers and Heavy Cruisers. The numbers represent the following assumptions:

  • 3.5 per enemy CR/CA
  • 8.5 per ememy HC

Destroyers Use the 3/7 Rule

If you’d rather use Destroyers against Cruisers and Heavy Cruisers, use the 3/7 rule. Notice how close this rule is the the Heavy Bomber? This ratio should work for Frigates as well, but you have to push your Missile tech. Destroyers use Plasma, which we tend to push anyway because of Cruisers.

  • 3 Destroyers per enemy CR/CA
  • 7 Destroyers per enemy HC/FC

Cruisers and Heavy Cruisers

Cruisers yield about a 10:6 ratio against Dreadnaughts. You need about 30 Cruisers to kill a Dreadnought. Twenty HCs will take out a Dreadnought, but with a 9:8 ratio. This is less efficient. So, bring the extra Cruisers.

Heavy Cruisers yield a 2:1 kill ratio against Titans. However, you need 60 HCs per Titan. Bring your HCs after the Fighter and Heavy Bomber waves. You will need about 200 HCs to kill a Leviathan, for a 2:1 ratio.

The ratios mentioned here derive from my unit comparison chart, which tries to show unit ratios needed at “optimal” technology levels. The actual ratios are highly dependent upon the technology of both the attacker and defender.

Attacking Massive Units

Say you want to target a “naked” Dread—a Dreadnought that has no escort. This is more likely to occur when there’s a gullible character or some other defense (e.g. prings) in play. What I’m about to describe applies to all sorts of “massive” units. But, you don’t know what to bring. All you have at your disposal are Fighters or some other small unit (e.g. Frigates). The problem is the Power of the Fighter is maybe 4, and the Dread has a Shield of 30. So, it sounds impossible.

The math is simpler, actually. We know that at least one percent of these smaller units pass. So, we know that 0.04 of the Fighter passes through. If you’ve followed my advice, you know what the Dread’s Armour is (say 512). Divide that Armour value by one percent of the attacking units Power. In this case 12800. That’s how many Fighters in this scenario one-shot-kill the Dread.

That sounds like a lot to some, perhaps. The question is: how many Fighters are killed. This is simple math as well. Just divide the Power of the Dread by the Armour of your Fighters. Assuming the Dread Power is 982, then 256 Fighters will perish in the ordeal—two percent of the 12800 Fighters.

This means you could go in with fewer fighters and repeat the attack. If you went in with 4200 Fighters (1/4), you’d need more than four waves. But, in the end the Dread would be dead.

Of course, if the naked Dread has any other protection (prings), then you have to take that into account.

Look at my Whither Thou Death Star article for more useful information on attacking massive units.

  1. Look at the new fighter rule analysis, Fighters were once efficient against all units. 

  2. Check out my more detailed unit comparison chart, which tries to show unit ratios needed at “optimal” technology levels. 

© 2014 Ben Wilson. All Rights Reserved