Ships of the...Earth Alliance (Early Years)


Ships of the Earth Alliance (Early Years)

When fans of Babylon 5 think of the Earth Alliance navy they usually evoke the image of the massive Omega Destroyer cutting down everything in its path, dwarfing lesser support ships like the Hyperion and Nova. Well forget about all that, soldier! This ain't your kid's Earthforce. Early Years navies have to work for a living! Those "support" ships from the third age are the ships of the line for EAEY. And with them Earthforce forged a star faring nation, pushed back the Dilgar menace, and blew up in front of some Minbari.

There's something appealing about EAEY that you just don't find in other fleets. This is an honest fleet, a soldier's fleet. No pretentious purple and gold wings or fish fins or any of that other fluff. Take a block of ship-grade alloy, add weapons appropriate to its role, put on just enough engine to get the job done and you have an EAEY ship.

The EAEY fleet is designed a bit like a modern wet navy. You have a stable of general purpose hulls, ready for any situation like the Hyperion and Olympus. And then you have a series of mission-specific ships that fulfill a fixed role within a fleet, like escorts or missile ships.

There are some common traits that ships in this fleet share. Awareness of these will help you build a successful plan for victory.

Earth ships are not known for their speed or maneuverability. They will tend to be slower than the enemy and less able to change formation once the fleet is in motion. Even the smallest frigate isn't agile. Knowing this, initial deployment of your ships is crucial. Your first turn or two of maneuver will largely determine where you will be for the bulk of the fight.

Weapon Arcs (non laser):
Knowing the Newtonian tendency of their ships to remain moving in a straight line, Earthforce engineers have given their ships good all around firepower. Most EA ships have the majority of their weaponry arranged for broadside fire (port/starboard). Thus, when you plow through the middle of an enemy formation you will be able to pour fire into them as you pass.

Weapon Arcs (laser):
The only thing better than a laser weapon is a huge laser weapon. So rather than waste time creating turreted "Nancy shooters" Earthforce just got the biggest laser available and stuck it on the bow (or stern) of their ships. Thus all beam weapons for EAEY are boresight weapons. This leaves ships like the Hyperion and Orestes having to decide between using their forward beam or their broadsides. The net effect is that lasers get used in the closing battle and broadsides dominate once the knife fight has begun - with targets of opportunity getting the beam whenever possible.

This bears special mention. While few ships in other navies (especially in this time frame) have active defenses, Earthforce is unique in deploying interceptors to nearly all of their ships. This makes their already tough ships even more difficult to destroy. It also frees up their fighters for duties more glamorous than babysitting a cruiser.

Four weapons systems dominate the EAEY inventory in this era: lasers, plasma cannons, railguns, and missiles. All of these weapons are good at penetrating armor, making enemy fleets easier to damage than they might first appear. And any of these weapons can be the focus of your fleet. A laser-heavy force may be ideal for tackling the tough hulls of the Narn, while a missile barrage could overwhelm the weak defenses of a Dilgar invasion fleet.

As mentioned earlier, all lasers in the fleet are boresighted. That being said, laser fire will dominate mid-range closing portion of the battle. These weapons have the potential to cut down the toughest enemy vessels and should be concentrated on key targets. Once range has closed, choice of target may be much more limited. Ships that have fore and aft lasers can often bring at least one of these to bear on the enemy once the knife fight has begun.

Plasma Cannons
Plasma cannons are the ubiquitous secondary weapons system found on nearly all ships. For some (Avenger, Olympus) they are backup weapons for use when the enemy gets too close. For others (Nova, Hyperion) they are the primary damage dealer. I tend to prefer the plasma weaponry of EY to the pulse technology of later years due to the boost they can get from scout redirects and Concentrate Firepower actions.

Rail Guns
These excellent weapons can be the heart of the damage dealt by an EAEY fleet. Centauri players will recognize the 15" range and AP/DD traits as identical to their matter cannons. Artemis frigates, Hyperion Rail Cruisers, and Olympus Corvettes all carry these in sufficient numbers to worry the enemy. The fact that they are carried on skirmish level hulls only adds to the destructive potential within the fleet.

The first exchange with the enemy will probably be done with these weapons. An EAEY fleet can be built which is centered on the missile, with a core of Sagittarius and Hyperion missile cruisers. In this case the first turn of the game could very well be the most critical as you focus on key enemy units with a hail of P/SAP fire. Most EAEY fleets will have a smattering of incidental missile weapons like those mounted on the Oracle or Olympus. These can be used to whittle away the defensive systems of the enemy before the primary strike.

Missile Variants
Many EA vessels that carry missiles can exchange them for a number of other types. If you know what enemy you will be facing, review the special missile replacement options. Keep in mind that you don't have to trade all your missiles for the same type. A Sagittarius, for example, take one kind of missile on its port side and a different on the starboard. Hyperion missile cruisers often take a special missile for the smaller, front arc.

Standard Anti-Ship Missile
This is the basic choice, and it is an excellent one. It allows attacks against the enemy at long (up to 30") range. If you are fighting a foe that engages at mid to short range, these can allow you to deal unanswered damage. Sagittarius cruisers favor these as it allows them to keep their fragile hulls away from the fiercest fighting. The SAP trait is perfect for engaging enemies that have tough hulls and few active defenses (Narn, Brakiri, etc.). And the Precise trait means it will score twice as many criticals.

Flash Missile
This missile looses 10" of range and reduces the SAP trait to AP. In exchange, it adds the DD trait. It is an excellent choice because the weapon is still Precise - meaning double damage criticals! This is an excellent choice on a Hyperion Missile Cruiser, which can afford to get closer to the enemy. It is very useful against enemies that have average hull and few active defenses (Dilgar, Vorlons).

Heavy Missile
This missile looses 18" of range, making it a very short range weapon. It also looses the Precise trait. In exchange it becomes Tripple Damage. These are also best used on ships that will find themselves close to the enemy. Treat it like a powerful railgun. An Olympus is an excellent candidate for this weapon as it turns the few missile AD it possesses into a credible threat and the range is consistent with the other weapons on the ship.

Anti-Fighter Missile
When facing an enemy with swarms of fighters, sometimes relying on Anti-fighter traits is not enough. This system has a range of 15" which means it can engage most fighters on the turn before they are able to attack. For ships with arcs containing weak missile racks, this is a viable option. The front arc of a Hyperion Missile Cruiser is an excellent place, as it should be racing toward the enemy. An Olympus corvette armed with turret-mounted anti fighter missiles can be as valuable as an escort ship in the right situation.

Long Range Missile
There are many enemy fleets that can match the impressive range of the standard missile (Narn, Minbari, etc). This can put your Sagittarius hulls in unacceptable danger when trying to engage. These missiles trade down the SAP trait to AP and gain an additional 10" of range. If you absolutely do not want the enemy firing on your missile ships this is the system to take.

HARM Missile
This missile is very special-purpose. When it hits, it has a good chance of making all ships in your fleet have a Stealth 3+ against the target. It is best used when there is a single, powerful enemy unit in the enemy fleet. If successful, it has the possibility of removing the firepower of the unit entirely - if it fails to beat the granted stealth rating. This can be a good weapon to use against that Sharlin tearing into your fleet or an Armageddon level ship. The missiles do no damage and are SAP. So this system is appropriate for ships with low AD missile racks, like the fore rack on a Hyperion Missile or the turret rack on an Olympus.

This is the fifth, hidden weapon system of the EAEY navy. Like their historical counterparts, Earthforce relies heavily on its fighters. They build large numbers of high-quality fighters to add to their already flexible combat toolbox. These excellent craft are used in ample numbers to take the fight to the enemy and seize the initiative. Like with the other weapons systems, an EAEY fleet can be centered around the starfury. With squadrons of heavy carriers supporting massive wings of attack craft.

A word on scouts in the EAEY. Unlike later Earthforce fleets, the EAEY fleet tends to use weapons with the AP or SAP trait rather than the TL trait. This means you get a sharp increase in damage output when using scouts to redirect fire (or when issuing the Concentrate Firepower action). Always consider carefully your targets in a given turn and "paint" them with a scout if possible.

The EAEY fleet has a host of ships to choose from, with ample variants for specialized tasks. Their choices tend to thin out as you move up in priority level, with no choices at war or Armageddon level and a single battle level ship. Fleets will often be made up of large numbers of mid-sized ships flying in a formation that best exploits the chosen weapons systems.

I am going to have a separate section at the end for the Hyperion variants, as they are a family unto themselves.

Auxilliary Craft:
Breaching Pod
Standard "agile" type breaching pod. Very tricky to use and seldom deployed in battle.

Nova Starfury:
In battles taking place before 2237, this will be your superiority fighter. It is fairly average with a middling speed and little to distinguish it from the fighters of other races. Used in numbers or with carrier support these can handle most enemy fighters of the era.

Tiger Starfury:
This is your anti-shipping fighter. It is slow so care will have to be taken to get it where needed at the right time. However, it is as good a dogfighter as the Nova so it can handle itself without needing escort. If facing a slow enemy with little to no fighter support (like the Narn), this may be a superior choice to the Nova.

Aurora Starfury:
A first-class superiority fighter. As soon as this is available you should be throwing your Novas into the recycling bin. It has excellent speed, dodge, dogfight, and decent firepower. With carrier support this fighter will dominate all but the most advanced enemies (Cantauri and Minbari). There is a reason Earthforce is so closely associated with this craft.

Patrol Ships:
EAEY has some fairly good choices for patrol ships. While they don't shine as brightly as the skirmish ships, they are init sinks that also have some utility.

This is an excellent utility ship for its class. It has a bit ranged firepower in the form of missiles, moderate close firepower (4AD) and carries a flight of fighters to boot. In missions where "silly jump point tricks" are called for it's a cheap jump engine. It's also the fastest ship in the EAEY inventory, able to get to an enemy flank when the other flying bricks are busy. Just don't count on it surviving the fight. CBD is your friend when outside of plasma range.

Tethys Cutter
This ship exists primarily to provide variant hulls. Both the variants are superior to to this ship excepting very special circumstances.

Tethys Missile Boat
These are fun initiative sinks that carry a decent mid-range punch. Since you buy them 2-for-1 you are getting 4 AD of missile. By the time small ships like this are firing in a turn the enemy defenses have usually been exhausted, opening the chance for a lucky critical due to the Precise trait.

Tethys Laser Boat
A pair of these little ships has the same laser firepower of a Hyperion cruiser. But like all EA lasers they are boresighted, making it difficult to use these as initiative sinks. I save these guys for base assaults or when I know that I won't be needing them as init sinks.

Skirmish Ships:
This is the true strength of the EAEY fleet. The ships here all excellent in their roles and should compose the bulk of a balanced EA task force.

Artemis Heavy Frigate
This tough little ship carries enough firepower to give the enemy headaches. With a broadside of 5 AD of railguns and better active defenses than a Hyperion, the Artemis is a solid attack vessel. Scout channels should be prioritized to the targets of these ships.

Artemis Escort Frigate
This ship can serve either as escort to the ships of a fleet or as the center of a fighter attack wing. Until the advent of the Aurora, the Artemis Escort is as fast as any EAEY fighter. It is as well defended as the base hull and its plasma broadside is superior to a hyperion. This is a solid choice when facing enemies with waves of fighters, and can switch to offensive operations once space superiority has been achieved.

Olympus Corvette
A consummate all-rounder, the Olympus is to skirmish vessels what the Hyperion is to raid. While not as focused as other ships like the Sagittarius the Olympus is ready for any contingency and is able to engage competently at all ranges and all arcs. As mentioned earlier, always keep an eye out for special missile replacements for this ship.

Olympus Gunship
Many Earthforce admirals see their Hyperion's as a delivery device for the heavy laser. They fly the cruiser as if the other weapons didn't even exist. That's why they made the olympus gunship. It has the same heavy laser as the Hyperion...and that's it. Once things get close and personal, let the Hyperion's move before the Olympus G. The Hyperion is tougher and has weapons bearing in all directions. Then the Olympus Gunship can punish anyone who thinks they can pick on its big brother.

Oracle Scout Cruiser
This ship is a personal favorite of mine. If it had a flight of starfurys I think it would be perfect. The oracle is an excellent scout. Even though it is not a tough ship (hull 4, 15 damage) it has excellent defenses in its stealth, anti-fighter and interceptors. It has a long-range missile turret for harassment of the enemy when at long range (where a scout belongs). If someone gets too close, it does have a beam weapon. But the ship is purposefully designed to make its crew want to stay the heck away from the fighting. To further punctuate this, the Oracle has a high speed and is able to scram 18" away (with an APTE order) when flight is needed. In campaign play, the value of a scout ship increases as the crew quality rises. The Jump Engine is there for an emergency exit to preserve your fleet's best friend.

Sagittarius Missile Cruiser
This is the ship that is most often associated with EAEY fleets. And there is a reason for this. The Sag, as it is affectionately called, can place 6 AD of P/SAP hurt on an enemy up to 30" away. The ship is the most extreme example of specialized construction in the EAEY fleet. It exists solely to deliver the missile systems to the field of battle. The hull is weak, it is slow, and it has no secondary weapons; though it is protected by the standard interceptor network. Don't expect these ships to survive long in battle - the enemy knows just how dangerous they are - so make your first volley count. Scouts exist to guarantee just that.

Raid Ships:
Most EAEY fleets will be centered around these ships. They are the flagships of Earthforce at the time. They exist primarily to support and enhance the other ships in the fleet. Some of them are heavy firepower while others are force multipliers and "spot fillers".

Avenger Heavy Carrier
The Avenger is par for the course as heavy carriers go. It is in the same ballpark as the Dilgar Garasoch or the Centauri Balvarin. It should be kept away from the action when possible. This is a fleet carrier, so it enhances every fighter you take to battle. With Earthforce, this can be a large number. Be sure to have at least one of every type of fighter assigned to the ship, to allow recovery of destroyed fighters. It has a good troop compliment and shuttles, but should only be used as an assault ship after space around the enemy planet has been cleared.

Explorer Survey Ship
This ship isn't often used in battle where I play. It does have some good features, though. It offers scout and command abilities on a hull that is nearly impossible to destroy without considerable effort. It has a strong contingent of fighters, though they are difficult to deploy in combat. Its weapons are so short range for a lumbering ship that it will seldom get to use them. The special abilities will most likely be removed by critical hits long before the ship is destroyed. This ship should be sent back out to the rim where it can perform its job. If stuck with it, though, I suggest ramming it right down the enemy throat. They may find it hard to ignore and it can absorb damage that would otherwise be directed at your fleet.

Nova Dreadnought
If this ship can be put between two (or more) enemy ships it can, especially with scout assistance, be devastating. The decent range of its guns means that it will generally be able to engage after a couple of turns of closing distance. The enemy knows this, though, and will usually try to eliminate the Nova before it can be brought to optimum position. If you are using Novas then you must either give the enemy something else to occupy them or bring more Novas than they can kill. I prefer take one Nova and use it as a "decoy", drawing enemy fire as it closes and freeing my other units to accomplish the mission.

Battle Ships:
There is only one of these, so read below.

Orestes Battleship
This ship is a conundrum in battle. With it you finally have a ship with a powerful long range beam weapon. But if you hang back then you are wasting the other powerful weapons you paid for. The Orestes is like a Hyperion and a nova smashed together, on steroids. But I find that this ship is too expensive for what it brings. I'd much rather have several skirmish level ships. But when I do fly it I like to use it as a battering ram. Fly straight into the enemy fleet, beaming on the way in and broadsiding on the way through. It's classic Earthforce doctrine.

Hyperion Ships:
This venerable hull will most likely be found in nearly any sizable fleet you field. The number of variants of the hull means that there is a Hyperion to match most fleet types you construct.

Hyperion Cruiser
A solid, flexible ship. The Hyperion has a good main gun in the heavy laser and decent firepower in the fore and broadsides when in close. Its fairly maneuverable (for an EA ship) so will usually be able to bring either the forward or aft laser to bear on something. It has good defenses, but can be overwhelmed under concentrated firepower. Low damage points is its Achilles heel. The single fighter is a bonus as it can be deployed on the table at the start.

Hyperion Command Cruiser
This ship can serve as the flagship for an EAEY fleet. It has the largest command rating available and increased defensive systems. While it retains the heavy laser it looses the plasma cannons in exchange for pulse cannons. This ship should be kept at range, sniping with the laser until the enemy has closed. Scout channels can enhance the broadside fire to respectable levels. I seldom use this ship, as initiative is less important when you have so many small ships for init sinking.

Hyperion Missile Cruiser
A compromise between the Hyperion and the Sagittarius. It is trapped between the urge to use its laser up close and the ability to use its missiles from far away. Use this ship as a guard for your Sagittarius and oracles, bombarding until the enemy gives chase. Then turn to spear the hunter with a laser, finishing him with plasma cannon fire at close range.

Hyperion Pulse Cruiser
The Hyperion pulse flies more like a Dilgar or Centauri ship as it carries the majority of its firepower in the forward arc. This puts it at odds with other ships in the fleet, but makes it a good "pursuit" ship to chase down ships after the general melee has put an end to organized formations. There is some flexibility in having the entire forward arc available for a full volley.

Hyperion Assault Cruiser
This would not be a particularly good ship, except that it is skirmish level ship with the defenses and toughness of a Hyperion cruiser. Its all-round firepower allows it to behave like an Artemis with less firepower and more armor. The troops can provide a surprise when the rare opportunity presents itself. These are excellent for missions where points are low and survivability is key. On planetary assault missions, a squadron of these can get the job done. Can be an init sink for other boresight-dependent ships.

Hyperion Rail Cruiser
Much like the assault variant, this ship is impressive because of the cruiser hull at skirmish costs. Same broadside as the Hyperion (less than an Artemis) but good forward firepower. Like the pulse variant, it is good at pursuit. Can be an init sink for other boresight-dependent ships.

Special Actions:
All Power to Engines!
Most EAEY ships perform best once they have reached close range with the enemy. This order can reduce the time spent languishing outside optimal range. It is especially useful against enemies that fight in the mid-range bracket (Centauri, Dilgar, etc.) as you can often use this sudden burst of speed to move from long range right to short. Care must be taken when deciding between this order and CBD. Each has its place in keeping your ships alive and getting them to the fight.

All Stop and Pivot!
Sometimes an EAEY ship will want to keep its distance and use the boresight laser. This order allows it to sit in place and bring the main weapon to bear. Since the ship had to have not moved in the previous turn, this is not used as often as EA captains would like.

Close Blast Doors!
This is a very common order in Earthforce, especially with ships that have exclusive weapons ranges. Hyperions often give this order when firing the laser, Sagittarius when firing one missile system. The combined effect of interceptors, strong hulls, and CBD can make an EAEY ship very difficult to destroy.

Come About!
Earthforce ships are not very maneuverable. This order can make up for this failing, bringing a critical broadside or boarsight to bear when it is most needed.

Concentrate All Firepower!
Scouts are in high demand in an EA fleet. When one isn't available this order can be a good substitute. It is also good when you want to bring multiple non-beam weapons to bear in a single arc. This isn't too common in Earthforce, but many Hyperion variants have multiple weapons in the forward arc. Using this order will prevent firing on both broadsides so only use it against key targets or when only one arc bears on the enemy.

Give Me Ramming Speed!
We've seen that this is a specialty of Earthforce, just ask any Minbari. Sometimes you just have to kill a ship and there isn't enough gun.

Intensify Defensive Firepower!
Great order for the Artemis Escort. Can be used by a ship in "survival mode" that wishes to increase its interceptors but it generally is not as effective as CBD to mitigate damage for ships with interceptors, unless the weapon is TD.

Manoeuvre to Shield Them!
This is a perfect use for a Tethys in the opening stages of a battle. Specialty ships are high value targets for long range sniping. If your cutter can take a neutron laser hit instead of your Sagittarius, so much the better.

Run Silent!
Sometimes good for the Oracle wanting that extra bit of protection, since it can still use scout abilities when giving a special order.

Scramble! Scramble!
Used occasionally by the Nova, this order is usually given at the start of a battle if at all. The Avenger has a high enough carrier rating to launch the second half of its fighter wing without this order.

Track that Target!
A common order for EA ships. Successful execution can allow a beam weapon to bear on targets otherwise unavailable. This order can often mean one more turn of hitting the enemy with a heavy laser before the melee begins - or catching a ship with a laser when things are tight.

Final Thoughts:
More than any other fleet, the EAEY roster is like a toolbox. Your battle plan will greatly depend on your choice of tools. If you know what enemy or mission you will face before choosing your ships, then you have a powerful advantage. Build the right fleet for the job. If you don't know what you will be facing you can still build a fleet that fits your particular playstyle: standoff bombardment, laser saturation, melee brawler, fighter's all there. Just remember to bring along your scouts!
Another excellent report - once all done - maybe I can stick some pics with it, make it a pdf an put in the resources section? 8)
That would be great. :)

Hopefully each of these threads will get some discussion so the whole thing isn't solely a single viewpoint. I'm sure that many of my ideas are heretical if not outright crazy!