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This is just an introduction to ship combat in Aurora. The details of weapons and systems are covered on their own pages:
Warning: there is a glitch in the game that can prevent incoming missiles from being detected and fired upon by your automated defenses if you choose a long increment time in battle. It's safer to stick to increments of under a minute.
Ships move through the galaxy and if a ship or Task Group (which might consist of only one ship) detects a hostile Task Group or colony, combat might ensue. Combat is handled from the Ship Combat interface.
Engagement range and Speed
The faster fleet determines the engagement range. Being faster than the enemy allows you to either run away or close the range. This is mildly important for missile ships and absolutely critical for beam ships and missiles themselves: if you cannot close within range of your beam weapons, or your missiles cannot catch their targets, then you cannot defeat the enemy. See also Task Group Initiative.
Additionally, the faster a ship is, the more difficult it is to hit it, both with missiles and beam weapons. So if your enemy is both faster and has greater weapon range, you are in trouble.
Distances and speed in space combat
Just to give you a very rough idea:
- with early-to-mid tech sensors, you might spot an medium-sized 6,000-ton ship at 40 million km (40m km).
- a typical ship with magnetic drive tech engines might travel 4,000 km/s. It would take 10,000 seconds, i.e. about 3 hours, to reach the enemy (if he or it didn't move).
- a salvo of enemy medium-sized (6 MSP) fast anti-ship missiles, traveling at 30,000 km/s, would cross this distance in about 1300 seconds, or 22 minutes.
- but your anti-missile active sensors (Resolution 1) might pick it up at only 800,000 km, depending on sensor strength and things like ECM/ECCM that affect sensor range.
- the missiles will reach their target in 48 seconds. If your AMM-Missile launchers have a reloading time of 30 seconds, they will get off only two shots each.
Formations and Escorts
You can order a Task Group to escort another TG and automatically keep a certain distance and position relative to that TG. These Formations can be an important part of your battle tactics. They allow e.g. missile defense ships to stay forward or to the side of the main group, or transports to stay a few million km behind the main battle group.
The Dangers of Jump Point transit
All of a ships's active sensors and fire controls are "blinded" for a period of perhaps 30–60 seconds after transiting through a Jump Point (see Jump shock). That's why a defender will often park his fleet there, to get a number of "free" shots at any attacker coming through the JP.
Sheffield C40 003 is preparing to fire but her weapons are not yet ready.
It's either that the ship's blinded due to recent jump transit (see above), or headless chicken syndrome. The less experienced a crew is, the longer they take to find their battle stations and remember what all these buttons and switches are for.
To avoid detection, a fleet might travel with its Active Sensors switched off (the default setting for all Task groups). That's because ships with passive EM sensors might pick up the emissions from Active Sensors at long range, possibly without being spotted themselves. See also stealth.
Before you can fire at an enemy ship, you must first detect it with at least one Active Sensor. While passive sensors can detect ships as well, only Active Sensors provide targeting information. Only one sensor needs to detect an enemy ship to allow all of your ships, regardless of position, to fire at it, provided that both their weapons and their Fire Control sensors are in range.
Fire Controls (FC) are similar to active Sensors, but cannot detect anything. Instead, they direct weapon fire. You need Missile Fire Controls for missiles and Beam Fire Controls for beam weapons. One Fire Control can direct an unlimited number of weapons on the same ship. For missiles: once a missile is underway, the FC can switch to a different target, while the first missile still heads for the original target.
Unfortunately, Tracking Speed (TS) is used for two different parameters in the game:
- The TS of a beam weapon is its ability to physically follow and point at a target. For non-turreted beam weapons, it's the higher of either the ship's speed or the racial tracking speed tech. For turreted weapons, it's the turret's TS. In other words, if you want to shoot at something moving really fast, such as missiles or fighters, mount weapons in a turret. It allows far higher weapon TS than rigid mounts.
- The TS of a FC is its ability to calculate targeting data. Both weapon and FC tracking speed should match, as the weapon's actual hit chance is determined using the lower of either the FC's or the weapon's TS.
Charlie Beeler: Hull mounted weapons have a tracking speed of either the ship's max speed or the current base beam fire control tech, whichever is greater. To benefit from turret tracking speeds the weapon must be in a turret. To benefit from beam fire controls that have above standard tracking speeds the weapon(s) must be turret mounted.
Make sure you understand the way active sensors work in Aurora. While a large AS with a high resolution might detect an enemy 20,000-ton battleship at 150 million km, it could miss a small incoming 0.3-ton missile completely. And a sensor designed to pick up missiles is not ideally suited to detect a 400-ton fighter. You need sensors with different resolution to detect all that's out there.
While missiles can have ranges of more than 100 million km and great damage potential, a ship can carry only a limited number of them in its magazines. Once they are used up, the ship needs to rearm at a colony which actually stocks the missiles you require, or you have to transfer missiles from a collier.
Missiles are designed in the Missile Design window, which can be accessed by clicking the button at the bottom of the Population window.
Beam Weapons have much lower ranges than missiles, usually not more than a few hundred thousand km (depending on your tech levels), but they have unlimited ammunition. They also tend to have a far higher rate of fire (ROF), but need Power Plants to recharge.
Checklist for new players
Do your ships have:
- at least one Active Sensor with resolution of 50-150 in the Task Group that can spot enemy ships at range? If not, nobody is going to fire at them.
- at least one Active Sensor with a resolution of 1 in the Task Group that can spot incoming missiles at range? If not, see above.
- at least one fire control of the correct type (beam/missile) on each ship? Does it have a high resolution to spot ships, or a low resolution to spot missiles?
- Are these Active Sensors switched ON? By default, all active sensors are OFF.
- Power plants to recharge beam weapons (except for Gauss Cannons)? If not, your guns will fire only once (they were charged in the factory).
- Missile magazines to reload launchers? If not, your launchers will fire only once (each launcher can store one missile).
- a formation? If not, they all travel very close together (less than 10,000 km, which means they are practically in the same spot).
- Main: Point Defense
You might have noted that combat in Aurora is similar to modern naval battles. And like a real naval fleet, a space fleet typically employs different weapons to defend against missiles at different ranges. When designing AMM (Anti-Missile Missiles), keep in mind that high speed is paramount for them, because their hit chance depends heavily on speed.
Long-range AMM. For those missiles you detect at 20m km, you might want to have a specialized AMM. It needs enough fuel for at least half that range (the enemy missiles coming towards you while your AMM are on the way) but a Fire Control capable of targeting them at the full range, because if the FC can't spot them, you can't fire. A long-range AMM tends to be larger than an AMM intended for point-blank fire.
Point Defense AAM. Typically size -1 or -2 missiles.
Area Defense Beam Weapons
Spike B 005 - Fire Control S12 120-16000 H50 targeting Missile Salvo #13255 at 110k km: Base Chance to hit: 54% (Fire Control To Hit: 54% Modified by Crew Grade: 54%) Spike B 005: Triple 12cm C4 Ultraviolet Laser Turret (To Hit Modified by Tracking Speed: 22%) hit the target and destroyed an enemy missile.
Turreted beam weapons designed to defend the task group, not only their own ship. Being beam weapons, they have unlimited ammo, but their volume of fire tends to be rather low.
A CIWS is an autonomous dual Gauss Cannon turret that is meant to shoot down incoming missiles in their final approach phase, just a second before they hit the ship. It's your last line of defense. It greatly simplifies adding point defense capability to a ship because it contains its own active sensor and fire control and is fully automatic. Just design it and stick one or more on every ship that you want to protect, the CIWS does all the rest. It only fires at missiles aimed at the ship carrying it, and only at a range of 10,000 km or less.
Armor and Shields
- Main: Armour and Shields
All vessels are equipped with some degree of armor plating to the vessel's hull from damage for a period of time. Each weapon type has a damage template. Missiles tend to crater the armour while lasers cause narrower but deeper damage. Some weapons, such as railguns, have a high rate of fire and cause more overall damage than lasers but because that damage is split among many small hits, they tend to sandpaper armour rather than penetrating as a laser does. Any damage hitting in a location where all the armour has been destroyed will penetrate and cause internal damage. It is possible even for a well armoured ship to get unlucky and receive several hits in the same location, which will result in armour penetration and internal damage. Equally, if a ship has hits distributed all over the armour and doesn't lose any key systems or suffer a secondary explosion, it can withstand quite a lot of punishment
Shields offer additional layer of defence, they act as a buffer between the armour and incoming weapons fire. They absorb damage up to their rating and are slowly recharged over time. They offer protection aganst High-Powered Microwaves and Shock Damage, to which armor is vulnerable, and are most useful when absorbing small sporadic attacks, or when buffering against deep-penetration lasers.
Hull and System Damage
- Main: Internal Damage
Certain weapons such as Mesons and High Energy Microwaves are capable of by passing shields and armor causing internal system damage. Once shields are down, any weapon that manage to impact the surface of the vessel might cause internal shock damage. And any weapon damage that manage to impact a location where all protective armour layers has been destroyed will penetrate and begins destroying vital ship components. .
Each time a ship suffer internal damage, it can set off a string of secondary explosions, so a Hood style catastrophe is possible. Ship performance will be crippled with each damaged component, and the more extensive the internal damage is the more likely ship will be destroyed. Destroyed ship wrecks may leave behind resources that can be salvaged.
Ships can repair destroyed components within a time frame of a few hours, as long as they have engineering sections and maintenance supplies left (see Damage Control). If the component is down due to battle damage (as opposed to malfunction), you have to manually order repairs.
Survivors and POWs
When you rescue survivors from your own ships or those of other races, they remain within their crew groups while on board the rescue ship. The ship window shows a list of the crews rescued (using ship name / race name) and how many in each crew. Those from alien ships are shown as POWs. If you decide that you don't want aliens taking up your precious life support (or your own crews that lost their ships), there is an "Eject Into Space" button.
The other option for POWs is to unload them at one of your colonies. The total POWs for each alien race will be shown for each of your populations. If you retake an alien population that has POWs of your race, they are added back into your crew pool. You can also accidentally kill your own crewmen if they are held prisoner on a world that you bombard.