Homeworld Ships


Homeworld ships are 3D units with separate moving parts and turrets. Despite a variety of different weapons, the paper- scissor- rock relationship between Homeworld shipping revolves around different hull classes and the formations and tactics used when deploying them. There's no real life or death trumping; pretty much everything can damage everything else, although more specialised units will have an edge over their particular targets, and of course, sheer size and speed will make all the difference. As a general rule, the bigger a ship gets, the slower, less manoeuvrable and harder hitting it becomes.

Armed ship classes are roughly grouped into three groups, each with its own behaviour and tactics. Strikecraft are small, lightly armed fighters that rely on speed and their small size to stay out of trouble. You can arrange them into squadrons or loose clouds. When attacking, they do attack runs on the target, converging on the target and firing all at once before disappearing out of range to about turn and attack again from a different vector. Corvettes are bridge the gap between Strikecraft and the bigger vessels. They trump Strikecraft with their heavier weapons and armour. While slower than fighters, they can still inflict serious harm on them. Capital Craft are the biggest ships in the game, and trump Corvettes with their superior weapons and armour. While capital craft can take out corvettes, their larger and more sluggish are hard pressed taming fighters. Fighters in turn, are hard-pressed overpowering the big ships with their minimal firepower, requiring a lot of help and a lot of time to work through those thick hides.

As part of the pre-game promotion, Sierra released a Unit Viewer that allowed you to admire their spaceship designs as rotating 3D models with some tantalising vital statistics. (However, in order to see any ship models you had to download about two dozen separate(!) .ship files...) Naturally enough, these were seized upon and used in the first Homeworld fan sites.

But for a truly definitive catalogue of Homeworld's shipping, scoot off to The Homeworld Shipyards. This site lists everything, including all the ships from the other races you meet in the single player campaign, even the derelicts found floating around on some maps. There are also sections for the sequels, Cataclysm and Homeworld 2.

The Mothership
The Mothership is the heart and soul of your fleet
The Mothership is your mobile command centre and the heart of your fleet. In a regular real time strategy game set on the ground, the Mothership would be a titanic building representing your General Headquarters, Barracks, Factories, Farms and Houses, all rolled into one. It's a completely self-sufficient mobile city-state, and, like Total Annihilation's Commander, the seed for all your forces and the point of focus for your enemies. Quite simply, losing your Mothership usually costs you the game, unless you've squirreled away a Carrier or two somewhere for safety's sake. Even then, its usually all downhill unless you can pull off some seriously clever strategy. This leviathan's size is measured in kilometres, completely dwarfing all other units around it. It provides all flight crews, resources and production facilities until you start delegating some of those functions to other shipping. In the single player campaign you can't move it all, but in a multiplayer game it can be relocated, albeit extremely slowly, anywhere on the map. It can often take the duration of an entire game to cross the map. If you can expend sufficient Resource Units you can actually hyperspace it and its fleets across the map in a single jump.

The primary role of the Mothership is to manufacture your and service your fleet. It receives resource shipments from your harvesters, and its docking bays repair or refuel most spacecraft Frigate sized or smaller. It is the only vessel that can produce the biggest hull sizes in your build tree, the Super-Capital Class ships: Destroyers, Battlecruisers and Carriers. These heavy units emerge from an impressive floating bay door on the Kushan Mothership. On the Taiidan version they emerge underneath from a giant, open bay.

While titanic in size, the Mothership doesn't seem to have the corresponding number of hit points to go with it like other capital ships do. Your heavy hitters can take an amazing amount of damage, but the vast Mothership seems to collapse at the drop of a hat by comparison. It also has a woefully inadequate point defences that are overwhelmed by anything greater than a small fighter squadron.
It can be quickly destroyed in a matter of moments by any serious engagement. Even a modestly sized capital class fleet can severely knock it around, so its vital that you protect it. While the Mothership can repair itself, this process takes forever; and even repairs by squadrons of Support Frigates can take ages.

This can be a real problem: if there's sufficient attackers, they can safely ignore any defenders standing in the way and just blast the Mothership out of existence before you even slow them down. If you've let the enemy waltz up to your Mothership in force, then you're a bit of a dill. This also presents Homeworld newbies with a potential game stopper: there's a cheese strat where you can simply hyperspace your entire fleet on top of someone else's Mothership and demolish them before they can do anything to stop you. Its the beginner nightmare in most RTS games: spending an hour building up a beautiful fleet only to have some smart arse take you out within the first minute of real combat.

And yes, the Kushan Mothership does look like a big banana. The Taiidan one is sometimes called The Toaster.

Science Vessel
Science Vessel
This is an unarmed, modular vessel/station that lurks by the Mothership. Science Vessels are made up of six symmetrical modules that automatically join together to form a circular space station, although its rare you'll ever need to make enough for a complete ship in the course of a typical Homeworld netgame, unless you have resources coming out of your ears. Each separate component allows you to pursue a single line of research, so having several modules lets you research several streams at once, or pool their expertise to research a single line of technology faster.

Its as simple as that: Homeworld's tech tree isn't sophisticated at all. Science Vessels look sort of interesting when the parts dock together, but the only thing that this feature really offers you is a bit of extra speed in gaining those valuable tech's. This really only helps in fast games on smaller maps. On huge maps most players accumulate everything they need (if not hit their population cap a few times over) by the time they get down to the serious mid to end game battles. The other major use for a Science Vessel is as bullet soak: some people fly these unarmed craft into the middle of a map to distract fire away from their fighters or resourcers.


There are only two resourcing units: the Resource Collector and the Resource Controller.

Resource Collectors follow the tried and trusted formula you might have first seen all those years ago in Command & Conquer's Harvester. Its a large, unarmed loner with a far bit of armour that roams the map, automatically seeking out edible asteroids and dust clouds, returning to base with a full load before setting off again. Once given the Harvest command, these ships run entirely automatically, although letting the default AI do all the work is rarely a wise thing to do. Collectors base their next harvesting decision on the resource nearest to them, regardless of how valuable or how dangerous it is. Its not unlikely that a nearly full Collector will wander off to chase pebbles at the distant fringes of the map instead of richer pickings nearby your current base of operations. Or worse, they'll blunder into hostile territory and get picked off by a roving wolf pack.

Receiving precious ore
The Resource Controller is the equivalent of a regular RTS game's Mine or Woodsman's Hut - except it can move. Resource Harvesters will unload their mineral hauls at a Controller rather than wasting time trucking all the way back to the Mothership. The best move is to station Resource Controllers near rich points on the map, and then micromanage your Harvesters to mine those rich points.

Controllers can also refuel and repair Corvettes and Strikecraft like a Support Frigate, but on a far smaller and slower scale. They usually form the heart of a mobile expansion, covered by Support Frigates, a few Capital Class vessels and a standing squadrons of Corvettes and Strikecraft to keep the enemy at bay. Some players order their Controllers to Guard one or two Harvesters, so they will follow them all over the map, and then guard the Controller with armed vessels. This is okay, if you don't mind surrendering your command decisions to the game AI.

These civilian units are both unarmed and highly strategic targets. Losing them won't cost you your store of RU's but will seriously hit your economy. Its no surprise to find in many multiplayer games, small raids on enemy resourcing quickly escalate into ongoing battles that dominate the game.

Support Frigate repairing and refueling Corvettes and Strikecraft
Without any doubt the most useful ships in the game are those that support your fleet. Support vessels in Homeworld come in two sizes: the Repair Corvette and the Support Frigate. Repair Corvettes can service and repair a single fighter or corvette or focus a repair beam on a damaged target and slowly restore its armour points. Support Frigates can service up to ten Strikecraft and four Corvettes simultaneously, wield a far more powerful repair beam and also pack a single turret. Both ship types can repair capital class vessels.

Best of all, when assigned to guard a group of other ships, they will initiate any repairs automatically. This alone makes them one of the most valuable assets in any fleet, and many players will fire on support first before attacking the rest of the fleet. Their usefulness is their biggest drawback: these ships are simply too useful and too dangerous to ignore, so they invariably die first. Certainly the game AI seems to prioritise them first during a fight, regardless of how many other ships there are in the battle. Keep them heavily guarded and at the rear.

Support is absolutely critical in Homeworld, especially for refueling Strikecraft and Corvettes. Without it, your high speed fighter wings will eventually grind to a halt, unable to escape any enemies. When you begin deploying squadrons across a big map, you will need to establish forward supply bases made up of Support Frigates and their defenders.

Running off with the enemy's Resource Collectors
The other useful ship in Homeworld is the Salvage Corvette. Salvage Corvettes can actually hijack enemy shipping and return them to the Mothership or the nearest Carrier to be turned to your side - or recycled for the RU's. The number of corvettes needed to nab a ship depends on its hull size. Frigates and Resource Collectors can be grabbed by two Salvage Corvettes, while bigger classes need three or more. Even Fighters and Corvettes can be nabbed by a single Salvager, although it'll be extremely lucky if it can chase one down. Motherships are simply too big to hijack.

Once snared, the enemy ship becomes supine and ceases to resist, but until that point your corvettes are in grave danger - the opposition can rescue any snared craft by zapping your corvettes. A half grabbed ship will spin in slow circles, unable to do anything until rescued.

Salvage Corvettes are great against unescorted capital ships and especially potent stealing unattended Resource Collectors, but being unarmed and unable to escape enemy fire, sassy foes will blow them away first. At the very least they can be a useful distraction but require considerable micromanagement and covering fire. They can deprive your foes of their powerful capital craft right when they least expect it, and at the very least, will keep their major shipping out of the fight during the salvaging process.

Kushan Probe
There are three different classes of spotters in Homeworld, coming in small, medium and large sizes, and each performs a particular role. At its smallest, the Probe is a one shot satellite that can extend your sensor coverage in small pockets and let you keep a discrete eye on remote regions of the map. They're cheap as chips, travel at very high speed and can give you a quick overview of the map as soon as you start a game. However, once in place they can never move again so they are prone to being shot to bits by passing Scouts.

Far more useful is the medium sized Proximity Sensor. This is a proper ship and not a one shot probe. Packed with sensor gear, it can detect invisible units nearby and effectively counters the Cloak Generator and Stealth Fighter. Its simply an unarmed eye in the sky though, but its always wise to keep a few guarding your fleets, especially near support or resourcing units. There's nothing worse than being sprung by a force of invisible ships you can't shoot back at...

The ultimate radar system in the game is the giant Sensor Array. This effectively lights up the whole map. Again, its unarmed and extremely slow, so Arrays tend to be left hanging around the Mothership. While lacking any kind of defence, they are still incredibly tough. Some players use them as temporary bullet soaks for the Mothership to buy time against any attacks until help can arrive.

Opening rounds amongst the Scouts
Strikecraft are the infantry of Homeworld: small, fast, and highly manoeuvrable snub fighters that swarm and dogfight their way in and out of trouble. En mass they are like a cloud of hornets: highly mobile and with sufficient numbers, packing a substantial wallop. Their drawbacks come back to their tiny, light size. Their manoeuvrability and ability to get around the map is offset by the large amount of micro management and support they frequently demand. They suffer high attrition rates and frequently run out of fuel. At the start of any Homeworld game they're usually the first units to get going, and are often used to harass Resource Collectors or field other fighter swarms. In large numbers, focus firing a cloud of Strikecraft at a single target can be as effective as using capital warship.

Strikecraft are organised similarly on both sides. The Scout is the lightest fighting ship. You can churn these out the moment the game starts, and in fact, large clouds of Scouts swarming the map are not uncommon sights in many online Homeworld games. Scouts sacrifices armour in favour of high speed and manoeuvrability to check out the map and tackle anything in a hurry. In longer games they tend to get replaced by Interceptors, the standard issue fighter of Homeworld. Interceptors live longer in a fight, and compromise speed for better firepower, armour and refueling times. Large groups of Interceptors fill out most forces, dealing with any gaps in your defences that bigger and slower ships aren't best suited to deal with. Fighter screens also distract any enemies by presenting dozens of hard to hit targets.

Small ships tend to be a little insubstantial against Capital ships, unless deployed in ridiculous numbers. Regular fighter swarms take forever to bring down even a single Frigate, and by the time they've worked their way through one target, help has usually arrived or the attackers are seriously running low on fuel. Attack Bombers get around this to some extent.
Art? Or RTS?
They are specialised anti-capital ship assault ships that fire a single "photon torpedo" or Plasma Bomb against slow moving heavy targets. The Bombers' speed and agility compared to their lumbering victims gives them an advantage, but these specialists are eaten alive by Interceptors and any basic corvette force, and a lot of online players regard them as effectively useless in a typical netgame. Their powerful forward weapon shoots a relatively slow, single bolt that rarely hits anything smaller than a fighter. Attack Bombers are used for special offensive missions rather than just thrown around everywhere like Interceptors, and always require fire support. They've been radically overhauled to be almost indispensable in Homeworld 2.

Defenders on the other hand, are Strikecraft that are little more than a slow moving Strikecraft with three modest turrets. They're far too slow for attacks but used instead in small clouds to defend capital ships and anything unarmed against fighter raids. Defenders suffer alarming attrition rates, but they can be thrown together in a flash for last ditch defences. Large numbers of them can hose down small targets in a blaze of small arms fire.

Taiidan forces get a second specialised defensive unit, the Defence Fighter. These odd ships have no offensive weapon except a weird laser beam that actually shoots bullets out of the sky. Scattering these fighters through your Taiidan fleet cut down the amount of small arms damage substantially. They're fantastic when mixed with Taiidan's lesser Defender if you're fielding enemy fighter swarms - but lacking any offensive weapons themselves, are utterly useless on their own.

The Kushan get to use their own unique Cloaked Fighter. This is essentially a slower moving and less nimble Interceptor that can actually turn invisible. They're much more expensive, run out of fuel a little faster, and if spotted lose all their stealth advantages and get blown clean out of the sky. As a result not many people tend to use them unless your worthy foe has forgotten to build Proximity Sensors.

Taiidan Heavy Corvettes in formation
Corvettes are small gunboats that bridge the gap between the high speed Strikecraft and lumbering Capital ships. In decent numbers they can take on small forces of Capital ships like a school of piranhas. They're not as nimble as Strikecraft, but they have adequate manoeuvrability and can access to most parts of the battlefield in reasonable time. Their versatility gives you a number of armed Corvettes, and the smaller support units mentioned earlier: Repair Corvettes and Salvage Corvettes.

Light Corvettes are the first you can build once you've got the first Corvette tech under your belt. They're often outclassed once the mid game gets underway, but in the opening battles they comfortably outlast fighter battles simply because of their heavier armour. In fact, Interceptors have better firepower, but Light Corvettes demonstrate that better armour can trump a Homeworld fighter battle - provided no bigger ship classes have joined the fray.

Kushan Multi-Gun and Heavy Corvettes
Serious Corvette fans, though, get into either the Multi-Gun Corvette or the Heavy Corvette. The multi-gun version has six independently controlled turrets that are fantastic for engaging fighter swarms while the heavy version is a little less than half an Assault Frigate. Heavy Corvettes tend to be clunkier and easier to hit with Capital class units, but the good thing about them is that they can take a great deal of punishment. They're an excellent mid-level force and their presence generally makes life a little easier for your other vessels. Their heavy armour will see them outlast other Corvette classes and Strikecraft, covering smaller targets that Frigates have difficulty reaching and adding some substantial and mobile backbone for your Strikecraft.

The Multi-Gun Corvette tends to be a little more popular online thanks to its versatility and slightly faster rate of fire: you have the option of firing in all directions against fighters at once or aiming everything at a single target. Its lighter and faster, and while it shoots rather insubstantial individual shots, bullet speed is almost instantaneous, guaranteeing more hits. Numbers count: six high speed, omni-directional turrets on a dozen Multi-Gun Corvettes stacks up quickly.


Frigates bring you to the small end of the Capital Ship classes. Everything smaller than a Frigate needs refueling; but all Capital ships are completely self-sufficient - barring battle damage of course. Assault and Beam Frigates provide the mainstay of much of your forces.

Taiidan Assault Frigate wolf pack
Assault Frigates are the fastest and most agile of the Capital craft. They're your basic, medium sized brawler. A gang of these guys can smash up just about anything, especially when backed up with a few Beam Frigates. Everything from Strikecraft, Corvettes and even Destroyers think twice when running into a wall of these guys. Granted, it takes time for them to nail bigger ships or chase smaller ones down, but they're worth their weight in gold. Assault Frigates get four medium size turrets, and two forward facing Plasma Bomb launchers. Their turrets can fire in most directions except backwards, and their Plasma Bombs are upmarket versions of the Attack Bomber's. A large group of these guys spells trouble, and they're definitely the Homeworld all-weather, don't-leave-the-Mothership-without-one workhorse. They counter Corvettes - even ones covered by Support Frigates.

Kushan Beam Frigates
Ion Beam Frigates are the common companions to Assault Frigates, and provide some extra heavy duty death ray action to quickly polish off any heavy targets. Unlike most Capital ships, they only have a single, forward facing weapon: the Ion Beam. Ion Beams are the most powerful weapons in the game, burning large amounts of damage into shipping with long, lingering shots. The Ion Beam Frigate packs the smallest version of this fearsome weapon, but they are slow, cumbersome ships that are little more than a Cannon surrounded by an armoured shell with an engine tacked on the back.

Even in smallish numbers they can melt large vessels in short order, but their low manoeuvrability means they are helpless against Corvettes and Strikecraft. Certainly a pack of them can deliver substantial damage to a target, and they're tough enough to withstand a cloud of fighters long enough to do their work. Other than their thick hide, they have no defences or any other weapons. They're best used against the biggest targets on the field, provided they are looked after.

There are a few unique frigates for each side. The Kushan Drone Frigate releases a spherical cloud of small floating gun turrets that can blast away at a swarm of small targets like a formation of strike craft or focus on a single one. They're excellent for mine clearing and make for a good anti-Strikecraft unit, since the cloud can shoot in all directions.

By contrast, the Taiidan Shield Frigate emits a giant force field that helps reduce enemy fire. It extends an invisible sphere around the ship, blocking something like 80-90% of all incoming enemy fire except for Ion beams, space mines and missiles. They're like a formation of Defence Fighters, except without the messy micromanagement. Being unarmed, they're vulnerable to heavy attack, but they make good support for Carriers or lightly defended outposts. The field allows any out-going small arms fire to pass through without being blocked, allowing the Taiidan defenders to return fire uninterrupted.


As the hull classes get larger the number of unit types you can build drops sharply. Destroyers belong in the Super Capital class, and can only be produced by the Mothership.

Destroyers are Capital Class raptors, designed expressly for savaging other Capital class ships. They're huge but lean; powerful ships packing massive cannons and a pair of huge ion beam turrets, all on a highly manoeuvrable chassis - almost as nimble as a regular Assault Frigate. This is the second most destructive vessel in the game. Destroyers are the equivalent of two Assault Frigates and two Beam Frigates fused together at half the price. You get the all-weather, multi-purpose brawler, but one that can focus enormous amounts of firepower on a heavy target. The only downside is the severe unit cap imposed on these powerful units. Ironically, they are so effective and so dangerous in a fleet fight that they nearly always die first in spite of their power because they are simply too dangerous to be left alone.

The Missile Destroyer is another nasty piece of work that packs four self-replenishing batteries of homing missiles that can wipe out clouds of snub fighters or seriously dent other Capital Ships. Missile Destroyers have an internal weapons factory that replaces fired warheads, but this takes a little time. Initially they launch two streams of self propelled death at their enemies until they run out ammo. Then their rate of fire drops sharply to match the speed that they can make them. This makes them substantial threats at the beginning of a big fight, but as the missiles dribble away they end up as large bullet soaks, becoming little more than a snub fighter harassment or a slow Salvage Corvette repellant. Nevertheless, Missile Destroyers used in cross-fire are utterly lethal to small ships, and a force to be reckoned with. Give them a short breather and they're back in business again.

Super Capital Class
Destroyers and a Battlecruiser making  short work of a raiding party
At the big end of the build tree, there's only two units available to you: the monstrous Battlecruiser and the Carrier.

Where Destroyers are Number Two in the destruction stakes, Battlecruisers are quite clearly Number One. They're as subtle as a brick to the head: nothing else matches these monstrous dreadnoughts for sheer, blundering firepower. A cruiser is somewhere between two and three times more powerful than a Destroyer, but only as fast and nimble as an iceberg. They pack six huge kinetic turrets and two twin Ion Beams. Battlecruisers absorb and deliver extraordinary amounts of fire while remaining at full fighting strength right until the bitter end. The two drawbacks to using a Battlecruiser is the sheer amount of time and resources needed to build one, and their glacial speed. Once built though, they are a serious obstacle that cannot be ignored. On their own can easily demolish a Mothership and seriously wreak havoc on the backbone of an opposing fleet.

Focus fire can bring them down too, so don't make the mistake of thinking they're indestructible. Like all prized naval assets, they need their escorts and you need to keep an eye on them. Something you've invested so much time and expense in really has to be looked after, and these bad boys take forever to repair. For best results, keep escorts nearby to handle the lighter targets so it can focus on what it does best: demolishing big targets like itself, helping to swing the battle in your favour.

This Super Capital ship's colossal guns and ponderous moves make it completely impractical for killing Strikecraft. You might score some lucky head shots on some Corvettes, but using these huge vessels against small ships is extremely inefficient. There's nothing more annoying than watching a big monster getting completely distracted by a single corvette running rings around it. Battlecruisers, like all capital ships are even vulnerable to massed Fighter swarms - but I mean, massed. If your micro management skills and graphics card can handle flying a hundred fighters in a swarm - and I'm assuming you've turned off Unit Capping in your game settings so you can actually do this - then surprising amounts of damage can be unleashed against even the biggest targets.

Kushan Carrier in repose
Carriers are smaller versions of the Mothership and act as self-sufficient mobile bases. They have all the Mothership's functionality, except they can't store as many ships and only produce Frigates or smaller. They have anti-fighter point defences, but these are fairly pissy, like the Mothership's. Carriers are expensive, sitting near the very end of the build tree and requiring a lot of resources and time to produce. If you want to establish a forward resourcing base, you're better off sending off a Resource Controller covered by Support Frigates and escorts. Carriers are really only useful in long games on large maps, where travel times of replacement forces is an issue or you think your Mothership is about to get destroyed. They're far more useful and better implemented in Homeworld2. In a small skirmish map you'll either never get enough resources together or the game will have been resolved long before you get to them.

Most Homeworld players never seemed to want to use them; the amount of micromanagement required switching between your production shipping and sorting out all your docked ships in multiple places made them awkward and clumsy to use.

You can opt to remove Motherships from a netgame entirely by playing a Carrier Only game. Hull sizes are thus limited to Frigates or smaller, and unless the map includes some extra big ships at the start, all your eggs are placed in one basket: your Carrier is your one and only factory.

Special Weapons
The Kushan Gravwell Generator
There are two weird and powerful weapons available to both sides. The Gravwell Generator is a strange contraption that emits a powerful gravity well that completely incapacitates Strikecraft and Corvettes. Once switched on, any enemy Fighters or Corvettes that have strayed into its operational range become trapped, unable to move, steer or shoot. Tumbling helplessly, they become cannon fodder for even the slowest of your forces. Generators use up a battery charge when switched on and only run for a short time before needing some serious recharging time. The nice thing about a Gravwell, is that there is no counter to it, save for it running out of juice or having a squad of Capital ships on hand to bludgeon through its armour.

The other is more tricky but not as potent: the Cloak Generator. Anything friendly within a Cloak Generator's radius becomes completely invisible. Having one or two Cloaks guarding a fleet can prove devastating, since it becomes difficult for the enemy to select anything to shoot at if there's nothing to be seen. Weapons seem to fire from empty space and it becomes eminently possible to sneak a sizeable force up to their unsuspecting victims. Like the Gravwell Generator, they have a short battery life and need plenty of recharge time. Cloak Generators are not as popular as Gravwells, because they are so easily countered by Proximity Sensors.

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Last modified Fri, Mar 25 2005 by Lindsay Fleay.
Page polished Mon, May 9, 2011 by Lindsay Fleay.