"Minesweeping Exploding SD Minefields" by Jason Cawley 1997 v2.6/7
Minesweeping Exploding SD fields
by: Jason Cawley
> What I've done is create a purpose built minesweeper on a Frigate
> hull type. A JOAT minesweeper with 3 Gatlings is a very effective and
> inexpensive minesweeper, since you don't have to put in a sensor suite(
> eg. no extra minerals, or resources to use). I've used it the 2nd time
> I've ever played the game, and it's very useful.
> Just my $.02 worth.
Frigates don't work too well against SD minefields that blow up - because you either give up shielding (thus passing up on a way to halve the armor damage taken) or have so little armor every hit kills the ship.
Is the general idea of cheap sweepers a good one? Yes - even to the point of using just one gatling, the frigate hull, and a cheap ramscoop engine. Very cheap - so cheap you can have as many as you want, really (the 512 fleet limit is more important than the cost) - but they don't work against exploding fields. Against non-SD mines they are great - for SD races especially (the two extra free warps - a DNA scanner if you really need it). But if a single ship is going to take 500-600 damage every turn it is sweeping, the problem is not so easily solved.
Then you might want 5 ships, that have some shielding - like a DD with a shield in the general slot, or a cruiser (a bit expensive, but they can form up to fight). Without ramscoops and with a fuelxport or base somewhere behind them, clear of mines (to repair damage when needed, and refuel if necessary).
The problem then is skirmishing. The cheap frigates one can use as throwaway ships, replacing them as fast as they are destroyed (since the limit is #fleets, not expense, in any meaningful way). But when your sweepers are 5 DDs or 5 cruisers, the attrition losses from enemy intercepts are not quite so easily made good. And if the "package" is predictable, they are easily killed without loss by a total force that may well be smaller (e.g. 100 sweepers in 20 groups of 5; interceptors 5 groups of ten each - result: in four years, all sweepers dead and all interceptors intact - *if* the sweepers are predictable).
So for the sake of efficient skirmishing, the #'s per fleet must vary and some fighting ability helps. Skirmishing works best with battlefleet support, too (which the other guy will have as well).
One might try to get around this with one-use ships that could take one mine hit alone, using them like the cheap frigates - but I doubt it will work very well (more expensive, and gone real soon without much effort by the other guy).
So, realistically, against a good SD player of approximately equal power and exploding fields, one needs unpredictable and imaginative skirmishing, with relatively expensive ships. IMO.