Big post from a New guy, no software experience but total veteran with lots of paper and dice tactical game experience. I think the pad is well thought out, I remember 8 hour, pray for no crashes MOOII combat. Sigh...
Simple is better and beer and pretzels is always more fun than hours of sweating!
Here are a couple ideas to keep fleets at a manageable size.
1.) Higher ship cost in minerals and industry to build
2.) Ship maintenance costs a'la lots of other games (minerals + industry required for upkeep)
I am a bit of a fan of #2 as it prevents huge fleets and makes combat decisions more important if those ships cost a lot of time and effort to maintain. Late game FOO it's pretty easy to build a LOT of ships...if you had to pay for that fleet sitting around, it would be a bit different
Also totally agree with the "some sort of fleet organization" in the pad.
How about a mechanic that does the following: in a system, if 1-5 ships are present, they are organized into a fleet. Fleets can be larger than 5 ships but not smaller, unless there are an odd man out or 2. Or, add those odd leftovers to existing fleets...
Fleets possibly organized into high value units (center) and escorts (edges) of the fleet. Call it "order of battle" which it is. Players build and order their fleets by designating type of unit. No figuring out a graph bs or anything like that. You could also pick formations based on what you think may work???
Fleets move and fire as a single ship. Bingo - lots of decision and microclicking minutes just disappeared! If instead of individually firing units, the player gives the fleet a set of orders (attack high value, attack escorts, or "oops, I forgot to tell the admiral what to do, so randomly pick targets and fire
So it ISN'T like SE V, have players control their fleet movements in a battle. Have movement be turn based but simultaneous to simulate the clanging of alarms, adrenaline, etc. Both sides in a battle enter their movement orders by clicking the fleet and then clicking where it is to move to. When this is done, the game moves the ships all at once. As far as paper and dice goes, this was the best I played; lots of screams of joy and moans of despair when a good or poor move was made.
This also gives the opportunity for large scale indirect fire weapons with an area effect. You fire the weapon during movement by clicking where you think the enemy will be. He has a chance to dodge through crafty movement but suspense is dramatically increased when movement is resolved.
After movement is completed, the players get to fire their fleets individually. Fire is based on battle orders and the ships will fire at the clicked target based on these. NO MICROCLICKIN'
I also love the idea of stealth (or ecm, or whatever). It was too tough to keep track of on paper but in a PC game, dodging missiles and direct fire weapons due to being tougher to hit is good, too.
Simple and fun is tough but based on the rest of the game I've seen, quite doable.
Cheers / Robert (& forgive me but this is a near and dear topic)