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I have heard that Flak frigates are the strongest

By on June 9, 2014 12:15:07 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

WJC3688

Join Date 09/2008
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Recent developments have brought it to my attention that Flak frigates may be the most powerful in this game. They have a lot of hp and guns, actually 4 guns I noticed even though regular frigates only get one gun. The idea I have heard is that a blob of Flak frigates moving into the middle of the enemy long range frigates will fire all 4 guns and kill them. Another idea I have heard is that the Flak frigates can be queued to run circles forever, preventing enemy ships from shooting at them. Can anyone confirm?

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June 9, 2014 12:22:16 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

You best guess is trying it out for yourself. You will quickly change your mind on this.

 

Their proper use requires so much and intense micro it does not really worth doing this I hear. I only tried it against AI once, it sucked, really, I was struggling like a noob and it was just a hard AI. Their biggest disadvantage is their long build time and bad multipliers against many things, and extremely weak focus fire.

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June 9, 2014 12:24:21 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Using flak frigates against LRFs has also been a long standing thing for god knows how long.

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June 9, 2014 12:58:54 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

My experience is that the Flak frigates do not work very well at the start of the game because the AI only builds light frigates. At the beginning you make light frigates too. But when I see corvettes, missile frigates, and other ships being built I switched into mass Flak production and easily killed the enemy fleet. I had to put the Flak frigates on hold position and move them manually however, if they can move on their own they will just chase fighters which is useless.

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June 9, 2014 1:06:04 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting WJC3688,
corvettes, missile frigates

 

Because Flak somewhat counters these, and fighters as well, but against other things like heavy cruisers, capital ships, titans, starbases, structures they are useless. Risky investment, basically you lose the ability to focus fire dangerous things out.

 

Oh and btw you can defeat the AI in so many ways I wouldn't be surprised one can win with only mass scouts lol.

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June 9, 2014 1:08:56 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Sure you can beat the AI however you want but there are more efficient and less efficient ways to do it. The power of Flak frigates allowed me to beat an AI much faster than when I tried to keep building only light frigates which die much too fast.

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June 9, 2014 1:30:34 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting WJC3688,
Sure you can beat the AI however you want but there are more efficient and less efficient ways to do it. The power of Flak frigates allowed me to beat an AI much faster than when I tried to keep building only light frigates which die much too fast.

 

True, but I find flak to be situational, though I always try to have at least 10 of them, I never feel it necessary to have 50-100 of them, their required number is highly situational. Does your opponent have too many fighters and bombers? Then increase the number from 10 to whatever you like, just don't make flak your fleet's primary component, it's a bit risky.

Light frigates are not an I win button you know, and they are extremely vulnerable to long range frigates, that's why flak and CORVETTES do the job better. Against Long range I always build corvettes or try to use an area effect on them as they are weak and die fast to titans. Corvettes are much cheaper, easier to research, does not have huge penalties against other ship types, and are built fast, and in bigger numbers can even focus fire bigger objects (but not the Orkulus, it's pulse guns has light frigate modifiers, so very effective against corvettes).

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June 9, 2014 2:04:57 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Corvettes really are like mini-Flak frigates if you think about it, so it only makes sense that they are effective too. They have a lot of guns.

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June 9, 2014 2:20:35 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting WJC3688,
Corvettes really are like mini-Flak frigates if you think about it, so it only makes sense that they are effective too. They have a lot of guns.

 

True, but only to some extent. Damage types are different, corvettes are better in this case against most things. But really, I suggest you try these things out, and after some games you may feel what's the real value of these things.

There is nothing better than personal experience in this case, trying our various things in different scenarios.

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June 9, 2014 4:41:41 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Flak frigates deal Anti-VeryLight damage, which makes them a hard counter to Fighters. They also work as a soft counter to LRFs and Bombers, so mass flak is decent when an opponent is massing LRFs, SC, and Corvettes. You can try to use them against heavier targets, but it's micro-intensive and slow to defeat heavier ships.

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June 9, 2014 11:32:49 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

I played another match against the AI today. I played the map Triumvirate which has a few star systems, with 2 players each in 3 systems. So I was up against another AI in my very small system who I wanted to conquer before expanding into the stars. It ended up being Vasari vs Vasari.

This AI attacked me with Kanraks, Carriers, and multiple high level capital ships (Unfair difficulty). I tried to build relatively equal amounts of Corvette and Flak to launch my counter-attack. However, the Corvette are shredded very quickly by the side weapon banks on enemy capital ships and their fighters also. I cannot even retreat the damaged Corvettes before they die. The Flak that I send in however, are barely even losing any shields. After sending a 5:4 ratio of Corvette:Flak from my adjacent factories to reinforce the battle, out of each wave of 5 Corvettes 3-4 are very quickly dead, but I only remember losing maybe 2 Flak the entire time. Since they take years to die, it is easy to micro back the ones that are low and retreat them to a repair platform on a nearby planet. As the Flak build up to 30+ they reach a critical mass and exterminate all enemy strikecraft and Kanraks from the gravity well, at which point my high level Kortul can pick off the enemy capitals one at a time until he has to retreat. Meanwhile I only have 5 Corvette left alive.

The Corvette is only really better than the Flak against light frigates, however, the AI does not build these except for the very early game, and even then Corvette is a bad response since you can just make your own LF which are more effective in this match up and do not require research. The Flak frigate has three times the armor and total hp of the Corvette despite being only 1 more fleet supply point. A ball of Corvettes is cannon fodder to any AoE abilities, while Flak can tank these abilities. Corvettes cannot avoid taking many losses even in battles they win, while Flak can be micro-managed to maximize survival easily.

I am really beginning to think that Flak frigates are the strongest in this game.

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June 10, 2014 1:19:06 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Not only that, its gotten to the point where some people ban mass flak spam in games because its so powerful. The thing about flak is that if it doesnt reach the "critical mass" stage, it is nearly worthless. However once that "switch" is pulled, theres no going back and it can even counter its supposed nemesis the LF With heavy micro. 

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June 12, 2014 9:32:58 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting WJC3688,

The Flak frigate has three times the armor and total hp of the Corvette despite being only 1 more fleet supply point.

There are some significant racial differences here regarding relative fleet supply (fs):

  • TEC: Garda has -1 fs vs. Cobalt, equals Javelis LRF, and +1 fs vs. corvette.
  • Advent: Defense [Vessel] has equal fs to the Disciple, -2 vs. Illum, and +1 vs. corvette
  • Vasari: Sentinel has -2 fs vs. Skirmisher, -1 vs. Assailant, and +1 vs. corvette

So it's not really possible to generalize fs statements about all flaks equally when compared to LFs or when fighting LRMs, but it seems okay to generalize when flak is compared to corvettes of the same race (even though the 4:3 flak:corvette fs ratio of the TEC and Advent isn't quite the same as the 5:4 ratio of the Vasari counterparts).

Also, the Vasari Sentinels benefit from the same AoE research (Charged Missiles) that Assailants get, even though the in-game description of said research isn't terribly clear about that.

This thread needs some comparative sandbox fight recordings... There are quite a few combinations to try.

 

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June 12, 2014 11:36:29 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Only thing that bothers me if Flak are truly OP and etc, how comes noone noticed this before for years? This smells like a giant conspiracy so far.

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June 12, 2014 11:41:19 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

I'm hardly the first person on these forums to suspect the true power of Flak. If no one "notices" it has been a result of the Anti-Flak lobby's underhanded tactics to suppress our community from finding out the truth. You are furthering that agenda when you say things like "giant conspiracy" as these kind of comments paint the Flak movement's character in an unflattering light.

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June 12, 2014 11:46:19 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting WJC3688,
Anti-Flak lobby

 

You are paranoid you know?

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June 12, 2014 1:50:57 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Actually, Sinkillr has posted a playback of Gardas vs. Cobalts at http://forums.sinsofasolarempire.com/451948/page/1/ a while back. I think I'm going to try something similar [once I find time as there are quite a few other test I'd like to run], but playing both sides, because playing only one side in sinkillr's 62 Disciples + Prog vs. 1-up-hull Orky (http://forums.sinsofasolarempire.com/454588/page/1/#3469628) had produced extremely skewed results versus what happens if a human played on the Advent side too, in that case mainly because the AI is completely inept at casting Shield Restore when it matters.

I know from my Cobalts vs. Cobalts tests that in a 6v6 situation, if you combine simple run-through maneuvering with the optimal firing strategy, you can win with just one loss (that is 5 Cobalts surviving on the winning side and zero on the losing one) vs. the AI's default behavior for Cobalts. So there's quite a bit of micro that a human player can do with Cobalts too, but wasn't done in Sinkillr's test of Gardas vs Cobalts. It's possible to play both sides using the dev exe, but it's quite tedious for longer play; fairly detailed steps for that are at http://forums.sinsofasolarempire.com/455085/page/1/#3472452 for anyone brave [or crazy] enough to try that.

 

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June 12, 2014 3:26:51 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Additional testing confirms suspicions regarding the hidden potential of Flak (or rather not so hidden, but willfully ignored). I ran tests on various unit types here and will do more unit types and varying fleet sizes in the future. No research.

5 gardas vs 5 javelis

By running my gardas through the javelis, and later switching to a circling strategy when there are only two javelis left, I am able to win with all 5 gardas still alive. Two are very low on health and nearly dead, but had I micro'd them back and let the others take some damage as well, this could have been easily avoided. There is no point in the javelis trying to do the same as the gardas can chase kills much more easily and efficiently. This shows Flak as an extreme hard-counter to LRF, as opposed to the LFs which *supposedly* are the counter to Flak, winning my similar test run of 5 gardas vs 4 cobalts with only one LF still alive.

5 gardas vs 7 shrikens

The results are predictable, the gardas curb stomp barely even losing their shields.

7 shrikens vs 5 javelis

This gives us some more insight into the true power of Flak. This supposed "hard counter" to LRFs actually loses this fight, one very low LRF and another with a moderate amount of damage remain alive while all 7 corvettes are junked. A quick glance at the damage tables and this is easily understood, while corvettes do have a high damage multiplier against LRF, the LRF's "anti-medium" damage still does 100% damage back to the Corvettes allowing them to inflict high casualties of their own. Gardas have over twice as many hull + shield points as Shrikens and 4 times the armor, in addition to only taking 75% damage from LRFs. Comparatively this is a far greater gap in durability than the gap in fleet supply cost, indeed the Shrikens were using 1 more fleet supply than the gardas and they are still not anywhere near as strong.

7 shrikens vs 4 cobalts

Once again predictable results. The corvettes come oh so close to killing a cobalt, but alas it survives with 30 hp. No corvettes have any such luck.

 

These results are perfectly in line with what I have already explained. Flak actually breaks any semblance of balance between these ship types and demands to be built. You might want to build LFs as a "counter" to flak, but if you do this, you leave yourself open to be slaughtered if the enemy goes LRFs in exchange for a very marginal advantage against your intended target of Flak. The risk-reward is not at all worthwhile. Meanwhile if you just build Flak the worst the enemy can do is build ships that will trade with you, it is the only sensible choice.

We can also see the hollowness of the calls for Corvettes to fill the role of Flak in fighting against anything other than fighter strike craft, corvettes in these scenarios are in fact actually the weakest/worst ships out of the whole lot and have the dubious honor of losing to literally anything else. This falls in line perfectly with my in-game experience where Corvettes always experience heavy losses even in battles they end up winning, and never win battles in which they are the "bulk" fleet unit composing over 50% of the total fleet supply I have in play, unless my fleet supply is simply overwhelming relative to the opponent's (and again, even then, many corvettes die).

 

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June 12, 2014 4:07:24 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting WJC3688,
Flak actually breaks any semblance of balance between these ship types and demands to be built

 

Who prohibits you in doing that?

 

Anyway, interesting tests, good to know in many situations flak are better than previously expected.

 

Even if these tests show flak is strong, still I fail to see any proof that flak is overpowered, and this is your main statement in this thread. You yourself wrote your opponent can at least trade ships with you, does not sound like your opponent can only face heavy losses and will surely lose if you start building only flak.

Or do we define what is OP this radically different?

What is OP in your opinion? this question is in me for a long time now.

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June 12, 2014 5:55:41 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Based on WJC3688's testing and a quick look at the comparative health of Garda and Cobalt (armor included), I suspect that the quickest nerf would be to increase Garda's fleet supply to 5. Either that or decrease its health.

 

 

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June 12, 2014 6:48:15 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Hmm, in all honesty... I can't think of a good reason for a flak frigate to be more heavily armored (Armor, HP, and Shields) than the LF.

Something I've been toying with in my mind and want to try modding at some point to test...

Add couple flank flak weapons to capital ships and Cruiser Carriers.  DPS for each should be less than the flak frigate.  Then decrease the flak frigate's health/armor/etc significantly.  I kind of would like to see how that plays out.

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June 12, 2014 7:13:24 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting furyofthestars,
Add couple flank flak weapons to capital ships and Cruiser Carriers. DPS for each should be less than the flak frigate. Then decrease the flak frigate's health/armor/etc significantly. I kind of would like to see how that plays out.

 

An excellent idea, who ever saw ships of great importance without the ability to deal with even one squadron?...

 

Though it will never get implemented in this game.

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June 12, 2014 7:17:59 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Haha, and that's honestly why I even thought of it.  One of the first times I played... "What...?  This huge ship has no point defense weapons against fighters and bombers?  Well that makes no sense...."

But agreed.  Even if it does play nicely, it probably wouldn't get in to the core game.

 

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June 13, 2014 12:29:32 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

More Frigate Deathbattle Goodness (big wall of text incoming)

 

10 Cobalts vs 1 Akkan (level 1 w/ colonize and a fighter squad)

This was amusing to watch because at first it seemed certain the Akkan would go down, it got to half health long before it killed the 5th frigate. However, with only a few hundred hull left, it managed to whittle the cobalts down to a tipping point at which their DPS could no longer overcome its passive hull and shield regeneration..... leading it to actually survive with about 400 hull, despite being down to 300 at one point.

12 Javelis vs 1 Akkan

This fight was much more predictable as the Javelis junked the poor Akkan with only 4 Javelis going down. Amusingly the capship's fighter squad killed another Javelis and got a lot of health off another before finally dying, but ofc in an actual match the Javelis would withdraw after killing their prey (or more likely, the Akkan would pre-emptively flee when the disparity in DPS became obvious).

The reasons for this can be seen in the damage tables where one can see that Anti-Medium does 75% to capitals but Anti-Heavy does only 50%. Combined with the lesser DPS per fleet supply (Cobalt have less damage despite being more fleet supply) the Cobalt group did not have nearly as much firepower. Notably this same chart lists "Anti-VeryLight" as doing 50% to capitals, the same as the Cobalt. Hmmmmmm....

12 Garda vs 1 Akkan

Sure enough the Gardas win the day, once again defeating a supposed "counter" through simple micro and attrition tactics. First of all this Akkan was loaded with a bomber squad which has slightly better numbers against Flak but still gets shredded instantly without doing really anything. This is one advantage of the Flak here, other ships will have strikecraft adding to the capital's DPS, Flak.... not so much. Anyways, the Flak targeting AI wigs out if you just let it auto-attack or order a manual attack and then let them sit, and most of them won't fire. However by ordering the Gardas to move "through" the Akkan, resulting in them going around it in a tight group back and forth, over and over, they will fire all banks consistently and keep up enough DPS to take it down rather easily. I had 7 Gardas left alive, two heavily damaged.... almost the same efficiency as the Javelis which are supposed to specialize in this area, and notably the opposite of how my Cobalts fared.

17 Shriken vs 1 Akkan

Fighters are the bane of Corvette so that already bodes ill. Corvette does get a slightly better damage modifier against capital armor than some other units though. As it turns out Corvettes end their embarrassing losing streak in a big way. The lone fighter squadron is melted instantly, and the capital follows suit with basically 13 full health corvettes left (one might have had some shield points missing). This is even more remaining fleet supply than the Javelis had.

My theory regarding this outcome is that the Akkan is a "tank" relative to the balls of frigates it is facing. It has a lot of durability compared to them and does not lose firepower as it takes damage, whereas the frigate balls have more total DPS but lose damage every time a certain chunk of their total health is depleted, eventually doing insignificant damage by the time they are almost dead. The other frigate balls have enough DPS to kill off Corvettes rapidly and reduce their damage below dangerous levels, while the Akkan with lesser firepower takes too long to kill just one Corvette, needing many volleys while a dozen light frigates need only two, maybe just one.

 

6 Cobalt vs 2 Percheron (loaded w/ fighters..... fighter and bomber seem to have the same damage multiplier vs LF, and fighters get 1 more craft, so, meh.....)

The Percherons are ordered to circle the gravity well in a 12-point pattern, but alas, they are too sluggish and easily hunted down by the swift LF. One of them is actually barely able to reach the first rally point before dying. This makes sense as Cobalt are supposed to counter these units. One cobalt dies and one is heavily damaged when the 2nd Percheron goes down, but by the time all the fighters actually die off, there are 3 full health cobalts and 1 left heavily damaged, 2 dead.

8 Javelis vs 2 Percheron (fighters)

The circling-running-away-technique actually completely fails here..... the Javelis, controlled only by the auto-attack AI with no micro from me, cruise behind the Percherons matching their speed and circular pattern while firing constantly. I think run-through micro would have been better and might have saved a Percheron. As it stands one died but the other lived with full health, all Javelis went down. An examination of the fighter's "Anti-Light" damage explains this outcome; this damage type has an absurd multiplier against Javelis, 2x damage, higher than any other multiplier seen in the game by far. Bombers are also classified as Light so this solidifies the role of fighters against them, but Javelis unfortunately fell into this same armor class.

10 Arcova vs 5 Javelis

This is one that I've been wanting to try. It's unconventional yes but can you guess what damage type scouts have? That's right..... Anti-Light. The Arcovas in their numbers can actually burn down a Javelis surprisingly fast and win the fight with 4 left alive. Of course they are still not as effective of a counter as Flak, but hilariously they do counter the Javelis quite well on a per-supply basis and therefore far outperform the supposed "counter" of LRF, the corvettes. Arcovas do much more damage to structures than corvettes as well, with a certain upgrade!..... Of course they are cannon fodder against anything else, but it's amusing nonetheless. Given that they don't require research and are dumb cheap you really could pump out a dozen or two to fight enemy LRFs in an earlygame pinch situation (SP at least, no MP experience).

9 Shriken vs 2 Percheron (fighters)

Shriken can hit back against the fighters unlike most so I'm expecting a Corvette win here despite fighters doing good damage to them. It's going to be somewhat of a battle of attrition, if at least half the Corvettes are still alive after reducing the carriers to just making one fighter at a time with all the starting ones dead, it should be pretty sealed up. After running the test Corvettes have let me down again. 4 fighter squads has a "critical mass" of DPS to down a Corvette in just two passes, and the Corvettes are splitting their weapons fire between SC and the carriers themselves so they don't manage to take down even one squad of fighters, only a few individual craft. One Percheron loses his shields but has basically full health when the last Corvette dies. You might have more success ordering Corvettes to target the strikecraft squadrons manually, since they likely focus the carriers when left to auto-attack, but you certainly can't win this by going after the carriers so if it's not a winning proposition they can withdraw in relative safety, meaning Corvette remain ineffective.

8 Gardas vs 2 Percheron (bombers)

What do you think? The bombers only manage to off a single garda before they're all melted. After this point there's no use in the carriers being in the gravity well as any rebuilt strike craft are instantly killed. In one sense though, Cobalt may be more desirable since they are more adept at chasing and actually killing the carriers, forcing them to leave the grav well or risk permanent losses. Garda render them ineffective, basically disabling their weapons, and take longer to kill them, but will definitely wear down the carriers if they stay around. Both work, the Cobalts take more losses in the process, but may be more effective if you're just looking to trade fleet supply for the enemy carriers themselves.

4 Percheron (2 fighters, 6 bombers) vs 1 Akkan

I didn't realize until it was nearly over that the fighters on the Percheron side were stupidly attacking the Akkan and ignoring its fighter squadron, this likely would have been even more lopsided if I had ordered them to do what they were there for. This was still a curb stomp though. One Percheron did go down to the Akkan but run-through followed by run-away-as-far-as-possible micro is very effective in playing keep-away with the sluggish capital, with a little practice I could probably do it without losing any carriers.

 

All food for thought regarding small size fleet engagements. And another myth perpetuated by the Anti-Flak lobby successfully debunked (that capitalships somehow "counter" Flak..... certain capitals could beat them, more than likely, but this would likely be due to abilities that just make them powerful against any type of frigates, or against anything in general, like the Kortul's incredibly dumb self-healing abilities that make it unkillable in very small size fleets like these).

 

Quoting Turchany,


Quoting WJC3688, reply 17 Flak actually breaks any semblance of balance between these ship types and demands to be built

 

Who prohibits you in doing that?

 

Anyway, interesting tests, good to know in many situations flak are better than previously expected.

 

Even if these tests show flak is strong, still I fail to see any proof that flak is overpowered, and this is your main statement in this thread. You yourself wrote your opponent can at least trade ships with you, does not sound like your opponent can only face heavy losses and will surely lose if you start building only flak.

Or do we define what is OP this radically different?

What is OP in your opinion? this question is in me for a long time now.

By the definition that you cannot even trade with your opponent, and will always face heavy losses if the strategy in question is used, no strategy or unit could be OP..... because you can always adopt the exact same strategy as your opponent and, at worst, trade with him. By this reasoning, for example, even if Light Frigates had 4x their current health and damage and all other attributes left the same, they would not be "OP." Even though there would be little point in ever building anything but LF, the proper response is to just build your own LF spam which will trade with the equally powerful LF of the opponent. Therefore LFs are "not OP" by your line of reasoning in this situation..... even though this hypothetical LF actually somewhat describes Flak in the current version of the game, not to the same extreme extent, but testing has proven that Flak will trade efficiently with or curb stomp all other units (heavy cruisers might end up being the exception, further testing is ahead, of course).

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June 13, 2014 1:12:09 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting WJC3688,


10 Arcova vs 5 Javelis

This is one that I've been wanting to try. It's unconventional yes but can you guess what damage type scouts have? That's right..... Anti-Light. The Arcovas in their numbers can actually burn down a Javelis surprisingly fast and win the fight with 4 left alive. Of course they are still not as effective of a counter as Flak, but hilariously they do counter the Javelis quite well on a per-supply basis and therefore far outperform the supposed "counter" of LRF, the corvettes. Arcovas do much more damage to structures than corvettes as well, with a certain upgrade!..... Of course they are cannon fodder against anything else, but it's amusing nonetheless. Given that they don't require research and are dumb cheap you really could pump out a dozen or two to fight enemy LRFs in an earlygame pinch situation (SP at least, no MP experience).

This has been around since at least Diplomacy. Before Rebellion, Scouts were often used as a counter to LRFs, and later got nerfed for it. They're still pretty good as a cheap counter, though. Good times.

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June 13, 2014 1:47:10 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting Turchany,

Only thing that bothers me if Flak are truly OP and etc, how comes noone noticed this before for years? This smells like a giant conspiracy so far.

If I were to venture a guess, it might be because there is a very high level of variation in outcomes (from the same starting OOB) depending on relatively obscure maneuvering details that are hard to grasp outside a sandbox. See for example what my experiments of 4 Cobalts vs. 5 Gardas turned up: http://forums.sinsofasolarempire.com/455126/page/1/

 

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