F&E Strategy of The Month [continued]
THE ISC GUNLINE VERSUS BATTLE GROUPS
Over the years of playtest many players have questioned the viability of the standard Inter-Stellar Concordium gunline group consisting of three destroyers and three frigates. At first glance it looks like they are at a disadvantage when compared to a standard Romulan battle group of three SparrowHawks and three SkyHawks or a standard Gorn battle group of three heavy destroyers and three battle destroyers. The Inter-Stellar Concordium gunline group, using the above-mentioned standard ships, is (19 + 16 =) 35 points of combat potential. The Romulan Battle Group is (22 + 16 =) 38 points of combat potential, while the Gorn Battle Group is (22 + 19 =) 41 points of combat potential. So given those numbers the gunline group does appear to be disadvantaged. The above numbers include +1 for each group of three standard hulls under rules (303.51) and (303.52).
This is not actually the case.
First, gunline groups can only be formed within an echelon under rule (324.42). This means at a minimum you will have one strike cruiser with those aforementioned ships, thus adding eight points of combat potential to the 35 points for a total of 43.
Second, and more importantly, carrier escorts that are of the destroyer escort and escort frigate variety may be included in the gunline group. This is especially important if the carrier they are escorting is a CVLS, CVS, or BCV as any of these carriers can serve as the required plasmatic-pulsar-armed ship. Any of these carriers will intensify the combat potential of these lines and increase the unit density without adding any more ships.
Third, the presence of the PPD-armed ship and subsequent echelon formation results in an extra 2.5% of damage being done to the opposing fleet. Note that the leader rule will not apply when the number of standard destroyers and/or frigates have dropped, causing your initial gunline group combat potential to drop by a minimum of one point. This is more than made up by the fighters on the plasmatic-pulsar-armed carrier.
Fourth, the number of ships used for command purposes is the same. A battle group consists of exactly six ships counting as five, while a gunline group formed with the aforementioned single strike cruiser is seven ships [one for the strike cruiser plus four (six ships of the gunline group)] counting as five.
What I found at Origins was that, outside of directed damage on a big ship that was not in a core slot, the gunline groups were being crippled in the large fleet battles and sometimes destroyed as self-kills. The destroyers were the ships killed first as they are easier to replace while the frigates are easier to repair. The light cruiser was generally the largest ship not in a core slot and not being protected in a carrier group like the escort cruisers were. They became the unit of choice for directed damage.
Managing your frigates and destroyers to keep your gunlines intact will be your biggest challenge as the Inter-Stellar Concordium player in any game. In order to keep your gunline groups for better density you will on occasion find yourself crippling or possibly killing a light cruiser or larger hull if the battle goes longer than you expect it to. This is to be expected and confirms the notes on Inter-Stellar Concordium losses from Star Fleet Battles in (R13.1B). The creation of minor shipyards for additional frigate and destroyer production will be a must.
In the Origins scenario I found myself building the standard dreadnought instead of the heavy carrier. In the light cruiser slots I found myself building the light scout cruiser as an additional scout. The torpedo heavy cruiser was the unit of choice for conversion to a carrier variant. Generally it was converted to an area control ship to provide attrition unit support and additional protected electronic warfare support.