Hull lines design/balancing

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Oberlus
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Hull lines design/balancing

#1 Post by Oberlus »

I couldn't find another thread specific for this subject.

This is a try to help me clear out my mind about what is a good balance between all hulls in all lines.



Attributes of hull lines for comparison and balancing:

* AVAILABILITY: How easy it is to get to produce the hull (costs, times, restrictions and upkeeps):

- Research cost and time to unlock it: how many RP since game start to unlock the hull, and how many turns since game start to unlock the hull when you have plenty of RP to spend. Hulls that cost more RP or take more turns will be more powerful (on average) than same tier hulls that require less RP or turns to unlock. This is of moderate tactical importance, in the sense that it is useful to get hulls with specific capabilities early on, but it is not decisive for victory since one can use worse/faster-to-unlock hulls for a while without that comprising victory chances. Between cost and time, cost is more relevant because that is what can delay for longer unlocking other techs (like production boosts), and so hulls that require more RP but less turns will have better statistics per PP-hull-cost than hulls that require less RP but more turns to research.

- Shipyard build cost and time: how many PP and minimum turns to build the shipyard. Hulls with more expensive or slower-to-build shipyards will be better per PP. Again, PP cost is more relevant than turns because that is what can delay for longer building other stuff like new colonies or extra waships.

- Shipyard/Hull restrictions: location restrictions for the shipyard. (More/stronger) restrictions imply better hulls for the price.

- Hull build cost and time: same as with shipyards build cost and time, but much more important since these costs apply for each ship to build while shipyards' extra costs are prorated between built ships. In this case PP cost is much more important than build time, since PP costs are paid every time while the extra turn delay is only affecting the first batch of ships (from there one, you will pump out ships at a constant rate that will be constrained only by your available PP per turn).

- Shipyard and hull influence upkeep, once it is implemented. Hulls that cost less influence should cost more PP for the same statistics.




* EFFICIENCY: How good are the hulls in play with respect to their PP cost (statistics per PP):

All comments of the kind "hulls with more X should be more expensive than hulls with less X" apply to hulls of equivalent AVAILABILITY. For example, for tier 1 hulls of similar research and shipyard costs, if one has more structure than the other it should cost more PP for the same

- Structure (Hull/Health Points, HP). Sturdier (bigger in terms of HP) ships have more survivability (and so its weapons can shot more times before destruction), regardless of how expensive the structure itself is. Therefore, hulls with more structure should be more expensive (more PP per HP), and this should consider potential HP of the ship design, not only base HP of the hull, so hulls with more external slots should cost more PP per slot than smaller hulls. In this sense, base HP could be seen as built-in armor slots.
For example, a basic medium hull (2 external slots, 10 base HP equivalent to 1.67 std. armor plates) should cost less PP per potential HP than a basic large hull (3 external slots, 15 base HP equivalent to 2.5 std. armor plates).
For now I'm considering using
POTENTIAL_HP = BASE_HP + ARMOR_HP_OF_SAME_TIER_THAN_THE_HULL*EXTERNAL_SLOTS/2
(Specify what hulls are tier 1 (std. armor plate), 2 (zortrium), 3 (diamond), 4 (xentronium) or 5 (neutronium) is in my TODO list.)
So, assuming basic medium and large hulls are of the same tier 1 and with all other statistics comparable (same speed, stealth, etc., just one has worse fuel), this would give us 16 and 24 potential HP, for a ratio medium 2:3 large.
For PP costs of 20 and 30 respectively, we have both hulls costs the same PP per potential HP, while I'm saying above that large has certain advantage in terms of survivability and should cost more. However, large costs more time to build (small disadvantage), has half the fuel and worse fuel efficiency (considerably big tactical disadvantage that can be ignored when playing defensively/within own supply but that makes the hull practically invalid for incursions outside own supply), and can mount more diverse combination (small advantage, 2 armor + 1 weapon or 1 weapon + 2 armor, better for design versatility). All this means costs are probably balanced: medium is better for early aggression (short range incursions), large is slightly better for the price when playing defensively (except for the "best defense is an attack") but can't be used for early aggression / short range incursions.


To be continued:

- Fuel capacity.
- Fuel efficiency.
- Shields.
- Speed.
- Stealth.
- Detection.

Comments and critiques are welcome.

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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#2 Post by wobbly »

So like I said in the other thread I had some idle ideas and opinions on some of the hulls in general and I'll add them here:

Asteroid hulls: I remember these being more viable to rush. I suspect whats happened was microgravity industry was nerfed. So it was worthwhile because you picked up the PP from asteroid belts on the way, then got the cheap rock armour plating. I don't see many people aiming for early microgravity, compared to GG generators and adaptive automation. So possibly a dual solution would be to make microgravity industry quicker to reach? Then you'd still need to make robotic hulls harder to reach otherwise you just pick up robotics 1st.

Flux bubbles/flux drives: I've been looking at these recently and they seem reasonable value. However,
flux bubble 24 RP + flux drive 50 RP = 74 RP
domesticated mega fauna 18 RP + organic hull 16 RP + contrived symbiosis 32 RP = 66 RP
It's worth considering that flux's aren't the problem (as I said reasonable value in themselves) and that the problem is more to do with symbiots.

Organic line: The base organic is actually a reasonable ship, it just isn't competitive with symbiots or statics. So its a choice between changing organics or making symbiots harder to get. My one big issue with symbiots is at some point they become an auto-get because they are the fastest/most economical troop and outpost ships. (the basic organic is good here too). If you don't want everyone building organics they need to be a bigger research detour or the other lines need a strong competitor in the troop/outpost role. look above - cheaper to research symbiots then fluxs and they are a better all round ship and cheaper. The rest of the line takes too long to reach (except protoplasmic) which has been mentioned elsewhere.

Energy line: Not much comment for now other then what I mentioned elsewhere. The energy compressor is a big barrier to even getting the early scout and a symbiot with improved engine couplings will match it for speed. I guess if you want the speed and fuel you need to go as far as protoplasmic and deuterium tanks which is a bigger ask. However protoplasmic are also good carriers and deuterium tanks work on all your ships.

robotic hulls: I've mentioned elsewhere that I don't mind them being easy to get, as a good option for low RP races. However they probably are too early. You could just move them a bit? Behind fusion generation or add asymptopic materials as a requirement. Or you could move them off of industry centres. There's also another option of nerfing their scructure to 20 which would make early robotics less chunky and robotics with high tech armour about the same. Running the numbers for filling 2 armour slots:
  • standard armour plating: 86.5% of original structure
  • zortium armour plating: 89.8% of original structure
  • diamond armour plating: 91.8% of orginal structure
Edit: Haven't checked whether a structure nerf would make them too weak against static molecular hulls

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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#3 Post by Oberlus »

Thanks, wobbly, for that insight. I'll consider them once I get down to real business.


Continuing with my onanistic system of rules for hull balance.

- Shields. These are a twist for ship structure, increasing survivability against direct damage weapons depending on shield strength, enemy damage per shot and actual structure of the shielded ship.
In terms of turns, a ship with structure H and shield strength S battling against direct damage weapons of damage per shot D survives for floor(H/(D-S)) turns (infinite when S>=0). In terms of structure, effective HP of a shielded ship is multiplied by S/max(D-S,0).
For example, mounting a shield 3 vs MD4 (or shield 15 vs DR4) is equivalent to doubling effective HP of the shielded ship; shield 3 vs DR4: x1.11; shield 5 vs MD: x6. Thus, shields double survivability against upped weapons of same tier, makes the ship invulnerable when shield is 2+ tiers higher, and gives a negligible bonus against weapons 3+ tiers higher. I will assume same tier for calculations.

- Stealth. Undetected ships get first strike, which means reducing damage output of the enemy by 100/N_ROUNDS% (25% less damage for 4-round combats).
Defense against direct damage weapons (i.e. shields) is prorated between all enemy shots. Defense against fighters applies after first enemy fighter attack, so it can be useless against big enough enemy fleets (you killed all fighters but fighters also killed you). Instead, this stealth defense applies before first enemy attack, so it can become a huge reduction of damage taken if the first strike kills enough enemy firepower, and otherwise is a nice damage reduction. However, once ships are detected this defense becomes completely useless.


The remaining statistics are good for tactics more than survivability:

- Fuel capacity and efficiency: important to manoeuvrer outside of (allied) supply. Offensive hulls must have nice fuel. However, one could play aggressively using bad fuel ships with strong supply lines and outposting/invasion of border planets.

- Speed. Being able to move faster than your enemy, or to reach next destination in a single hop to not let enemies react to the manoeuvre, is quite important for tactical deployment. But it is not of much help when enemy is stronger and can set proper blockades and advance slowly but steadily.

- Detection range. The less important for combat, in my opinion, because a single ship with good detection range will compensate for the bad detection of all other ships. But, in general, having better visibility is very relevant to set up or avoid ambushes, and to be able to react sooner to enemy movements.




I think we can consider ships (hulls) and fleets like armor and weapon transports.
- With more external slots per hull, more weapons and armor plates can be put together to increase survivability of those weapons (probably increasing total combat damage output).
- Also, with more external slots per internal slot, you need less internal parts per weapon to get the internal-slots benefits (extra fuel, shields, stealth, speed).
- With more internal slots per hull, the more hangar bays you can mount, so ship designs "abusing" fighters need one or more internal slots apart from the ones for the tactical benefits.

All this means that hull with
- more external slots should cost linearly more PP per slot, and
- more internal slots should cost exponentially more PP per slot.


I don't think I have the skills to get useful equations from the above premises, but I'll try (to be continued).

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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#4 Post by Ophiuchus »

just one more complication/design option i did not see mentioned: one can tweak the base, e.g. after some protest i made the bubble flux hull more expensive, adding cost and structure at zortrium armor cost point.

so one can design for a cost efficiency of a hull relative to tech level. (so that structure gain is good if you did not research zortrium, and it is suboptimal after researching e.g. diamond)

on a sidenote - maybe that bubble flux hull tweak should be reverted now as anti-chaff got stronger.
Oberlus wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 9:34 am All this means that hull with
- more external slots should cost linearly more PP per slot, and
mostly agreed
Oberlus wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 9:34 am - more internal slots should cost exponentially more PP per slot.
um, no. i am pretty sure there is no easy formula for accessing the value of internal slot.
e.g. one shield slot changes the efficiency of structure, so changes the value of armor slots.

efficiency of hangar parts depends on the availability of launch bays.

slot value is the same for internal/external for troops - and usually that boils down to slot-count/hull-cost.

fuel tank value depends on hull fuel efficiency.

if you have one external slot, a hull having five internal slots instead of four internal slot is in most cases marginally more valuable and definitly not 150% (25/16) as valuable.

i think one has to go the hard way, do a checklist of ship purposes and see what designs are possible for each purpose and value the usefulness/efficiency.

I think it makes most sense to define turns when tech/hulls are expected to be available and build up from there (so design the earlier hulls first and then design the later hulls based on all earlier hulls).
If you have the turns defined, you can assume certain PP/RP production to base the cost balancing as well.

I think it would be great if every hull has a distinct speciality (e.g. there will be no more effective ship design for that speed and slot count in the whole game), but this is a nice-to-have.
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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#5 Post by Oberlus »

Ophiuchus wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 11:59 am one can tweak the base [cost]
[...]
so one can design for a cost efficiency of a hull relative to tech level
Yes, all that is considered in the first post.
Ophiuchus wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 11:59 am
Oberlus wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 9:34 am - more internal slots should cost exponentially more PP per slot.
um, no. i am pretty sure there is no easy formula for accessing the value of internal slot.
Agree, there is no easy formula. But I'm getting some success trying to approximate hull base cost based on number of internal slots to a power based on number of external slots (right now I'm trying INTERNAL ^(1+EXTERNAL/10). I will report back soon when I finish calculations for different hull sizes, internal/external ratios and combinations of internal parts (stealth, shields, hangars, fuel...).
i think one has to go the hard way, do a checklist of ship purposes and see what designs are possible for each purpose and value the usefulness/efficiency.
The casuistic is huge. I rather have success with this.

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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#6 Post by Ophiuchus »

Oberlus wrote: Thu Nov 19, 2020 12:44 pm The casuistic is huge. I rather have success with this.
would be great :mrgreen:
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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#7 Post by ThinkSome »

There is another thing with shields:

Early game they are simply too expensive given the cost of finished ships and fighter-heavy organics. The latter are also the smart choice, as fighters are automatically updated when newer tech is researched, while direct weapons stay at just refinements.

In the future I might rewrite my combat simulator into a faster language and extend it with a genetic algorithm fleet designer. Then I'll force use of shields for one fleet and not for the other. I bet I'll be able to show that the unshielded fleet always wins (given the same PP).

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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#8 Post by Oberlus »

ThinkSome wrote: Fri Nov 20, 2020 1:10 am Early game they are simply too expensive given the cost of finished ships and fighter-heavy organics.
There might be no solution for that. If you make shields cheaper, so they are more probable to be deployed early game (if enemy abuses cannons, shields will be great advantage; if enemy abuses fighters, well, one cheap shield isn't big deal, and I can throw in a flak per ship with each shield), then you make more probable also to deploy fighters early game. You might end up forcing everybody to play with the most round up ship design: add in shields, fighters and flaks on every fleet (not necessarily in the same ship design). Also, it means that mounting medium tier shields in big hulls is always worthy: a shield effectively multiplies your mounted armor plates, so the more plates in the ship the more the shield pays off, and big hulls always have plenty of external slots for armor and cannons, so you know you'll be using the shield against other big hull ships.

Keep in mind that it's easier to defend more effectively against fleets abusing fighters (neglecting armor and cannons), because you can negate 67% of its combat damage, while shields only 50% (37.5% if enemies are great pilots). And that fighters do not refill out of supply. So there is always space for cannons, and hence in certain situations shields can be a good choice.

The best design is a dynamic one: react to your enemy's fleet composition changes with your own changes.

A pending issue with shields is their RP costs. Too big, maybe reasonable when there wasn't fighters in FO, but not anymore.

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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#9 Post by Ophiuchus »

ThinkSome wrote: Fri Nov 20, 2020 1:10 am I bet I'll be able to show that the unshielded fleet always wins (given the same PP).
If you can design your fleet knowing that the other one has shields (or any another feature), you will be able to design a fleet which kills it.

If you force one fleet to use arc disruptors, shielded fleet will be probably the most efficient killer.
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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#10 Post by wobbly »

I agree that the weakest shield is generally bad value against anything but arc disruptors, but Ophiuchus is right. Try a bunch of symbiot laser bombers against robotic mfs (mass driver and flak cannon) with MD4. I bet you the robotics win despite being a full tech tier behind.

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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#11 Post by LienRag »

ThinkSome wrote: Fri Nov 20, 2020 1:10 am There is another thing with shields:

Early game they are simply too expensive given the cost of finished ships and fighter-heavy organics. The latter are also the smart choice, as fighters are automatically updated when newer tech is researched, while direct weapons stay at just refinements.

In the future I might rewrite my combat simulator into a faster language and extend it with a genetic algorithm fleet designer. Then I'll force use of shields for one fleet and not for the other. I bet I'll be able to show that the unshielded fleet always wins (given the same PP).

Isn't it a bit self-defeating to have the Flak kill fighters after they shot rather than before ?
If this was solved, Fighters would be less of a no-brainer. Also, that's how Flak works and the reason it was invented.
Maybe Flak would become a no-brainer and negate fighter then, getting us back to step one, of course...

Maybe have Flak kill fighters at the end of the turn (so after damage, like it does now) but allow it to kill fighters launched on turn one ? I didn't check the code (I don't know C++) but it doesn't seem difficult to implement.
That way stealth carriers would still have all their fighters do at least one turn of damage (since the flak would not shoot them on turn one), so stealth could be some anti-flak strategy.

Anyway, the necessity to be able to overwhelm enemy Flak in order to do some damage is the tactical situation usually associated with Flak, so with adequate balance of cost it should be possible to reproduce what seems to be a more interesting tactical conundrum than "fighters win everything" as we have now (yes, with enough firepower it's still possible to ensure mutual destruction against a fleet of carriers, but that's not necessarily the more interesting strategy).

Maybe have the Flak part reduce the ship's speed ? That would mean that the player would have to make a choice rather than spam his fleet with Flak "just in case"...

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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#12 Post by Oberlus »

LienRag wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 1:03 pm Isn't it a bit self-defeating to have the Flak kill fighters after they shot rather than before ?
If this was solved, Fighters would be less of a no-brainer.
No.
Shields can't negate all gun damage, and so with guns you know for sure you can (slowly) kill the enemy (exception: late shield versus early gun). Plus there's no need for supply to keep shooting.
If flaks (or interceptors/strikers) were able to completely negate striker/bomber damage, together with the resupply disadvantage, then it would be prohibitively risky, maybe even suicidal, to go fighters.
Also, that's how Flak works and the reason it was invented.
I'm confused.
Did you say that flaks should kill fighters before they shoot, and that "also, that's how Flak works"?
/Edit: Oh, now I understand, you mean "in real life". Irrelevant here./


Maybe have Flak kill fighters at the end of the turn (so after damage, like it does now) but allow it to kill fighters launched on turn one?
That's "shoot fighters before they shoot".
"fighters win everything" as we have now
That's incorrect. Fighters don't win everything.
Add one flak to your fleet for each non-interceptor launch bay of the enemy, and one for each interceptor hangar if there are also non-interceptor hangars, and you ensure enemy will do 33% of total damage output (all of it on bout 2). If enemy didn't invest on shields (probably if going fighters), your weapons will do 100% damage (25% per bout starting on bout 1).
I've been there, fleets of bombers falling miserably to an enemy gun-flak fleet of similar PP cost: they lost 50% of the fleet, I lost 100%.
Maybe have the Flak part reduce the ship's speed ? That would mean that the player would have to make a choice rather than spam his fleet with Flak "just in case"...
There is a choice: flak (that can't kill enemy ships), armor (that work against any kind of weapon) or cannon. Add flaks against enemies that use no fighters and you'll be in trouble.
Slowing down ships depending on the weapons they have makes no sense to me.

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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#13 Post by Ophiuchus »

Oberlus wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 1:27 pm
LienRag wrote: Mon Nov 23, 2020 1:03 pm "fighters win everything" as we have now
That's incorrect. Fighters don't win everything.
Agreed. There are easily available and cost efficient counters to fighters.

A flak costs 20PP and nerfs a launch bay plus bomber hangar for 30PP to doing only 12damage. For that 10PP you can have half a mass driver which also does 12damage for a mass driver 4 tech. This is not a very convincing scenario, but a very basic one one can improve on. But it is a already a feasable way to suppress enemy damage and make good on a lack of internal slots.
E.g. you could take the full mass driver in exchange for half a flak - this doubles the mass driver damage, but increases the bomber damage only by 50%.

The boring part is that the fighters vs anti-fighters situation increases the steamroller effect - if you cant take out the enemy fighters fast it gets much more expensive.

The great downside of fighters as attack weapon is that they are expendable.

The great upside of fighters besides being shield-piercing is that you can invest early and upgrade later (+50% of base damage each tech step).
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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#14 Post by Oberlus »

I'm trying to characterize ship designs in each tier in terms of HITS, CANNON_SHOTS and FIGHTER_SHOTS (per combat), all three in terms of the strength of the armor plate of that tier.
So for tier 1, a Cruiser Ms with MD1 has 3.5 HITS (21 total structure / 6 structure of an armor plate of tier 1), 4 CANNON_SHOTS (2 MD1 x 3 damage x 4 bouts / 6) and 0 FIGHTER_SHOTS
For simplicity, I assume that all cannons will be fully refined/upgraded sooner than later. Thus I get:
- HITS = hull_structure/ARMOR_PLATE_STRENGTH (6 for tier 1, 11 for tier 2, etc.) + #mounted_armor_plates
- CANNON_SHOTS = 4 bouts x #mounted_cannons
Fighter damage is translated to number of shots with ARMOR_PLATE_STRENGTH damage. One Striker/Bomber/Heavy bomber hangar does in total 3 bouts x 12 damage / 6 structure of an armor plate = 6 FIGHTER_SHOTS at tier 1, 4,91 at tier 2, 4 at tier 3, and 3 at tier 4.
(Yes, despite the increase of damage with each new tier, effectiveness of the fighters diminishes with the tier, but their PP cost is constant and so they remain efficient and competitive.)

To compare different ship designs when fighting against each other, the defenses mounted by the target are considered, and so CANNON_SHOTS are divided by 2 (50% damage per shot) if enemy ship design has shields, and FIGHTER_SHOTS are divided by 3 (shooting only on bout 2, then kaputt) if enemy has interceptors/flaks. Note that, at least for now, I'm comparing fleet compositions with all items of same tier and that either do not have point-defense or have plenty of it.

The main indicators are then
  1. Against undefended targets: (HITS+CANNON_SHOTS+FIGHTER_SHOTS)/PP_COST
  2. Against unshielded targets with PD: (HITS+CANNON_SHOTS+FIGHTER_SHOTS/3)/PP_COST
  3. Against shielded targets without PD: (HITS+CANNON_SHOTS/2+FIGHTER_SHOTS)/PP_COST
  4. Against shielded targets with PD: (HITS+CANNON_SHOTS/2+FIGHTER_SHOTS/3)/PP_COST
Now I'm pondering how to unify those... I'm inclined to use the pair <a, d> (against undefended and against fully defended targets).

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Re: Hull lines design/balancing

#15 Post by Oberlus »

For ships without special defense (PD, shields), the fleet metric "HITS+SHOTS" seems to work mostly fine (with caveats):

Fleet Offensive: 20+80 (HITS+SHOTS)
Fleet Balanced: 50+50
Fleet Deffensive: 80+20

O vs D
Round 1: O takes 5 SHOTS (loses 25% of its HITS), D takes 20 SHOTS (loses 25% of its HITS).
...
Round 4: all dead.

Results vary depending on number of ships, because same HITS between less ships means more survivability and hence less shots lost before reaching bout 4.

"Real" examples:

Fleet A: 3x Large MMs (Large Basic Hull with 1 std. plate, 2 MD4 and 1 fuel tank): 3x60 = 180 PP, 12 HITS, 24 SHOTS.
Fleet B: 4x Large Mss (Large Basic Hull with 2 std. plates, 1 MD4 and 1 fuel tank): 4x44 = 176 PP, 20 HITS, 16 SHOTS.
Fleet C: 5x Medium Ms (Medium Basic Hull with 1 std. plate, 1 MD4 and 1 fuel tank): 5x35 = 175 PP, 15 HITS, 20 SHOTS.

A vs B
Round 1: A -4 HITS (most probably no ships dead), B -6 HITS (idem).
Round 2: A -4 HITS (one ship dead and the other two badly damaged), B -6 HITS (one ship dead and some of the other three badly damaged).
Round 3: A -3 HITS (two ships dead, one barely alive), B -4 HITS (two ships dead, two barely alive).
Round 4: A -2 HITS (all dead), B -2 HITS (three ships dead, one alive).

A vs C
Round 1: A -5 HITS, C -6 HITS, both might lose one ship.
Round 2: A -4 HITS, C -4 HITS, most probably both lost two ships.
Round 3: A -3 HITS, C -2 HITS, A is kaputt, C has one ship

B vs C
Round 1: B -5 HITS, C -4 HITS, no ships dead.
Round 2: B -5 HITS, C -4 HITS, most probably one ship dead each.
Round 3: B -4 HITS, C -3 HITS, two dead ships each.
Round 4: B -3 HITS, C -2 HITS, one ship alive each.

In absence of particular defenses (like first strike from stealth), the fragility of high-damage low-structure fleets makes them slightly less effective in battles of fleets with similar PP cost and similar HITS+SHOTS metric, but overall the metric seems useful to predict the raw power of fleets (and ship designs).

Next chapter: what's up with the defenses.

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