Units in a Strike-Force all stick together, attacking targets en-mass. They naturally focus-fire to quickly overwhelm single targets, using the ships best suited for the job.
You control your shipping at a micro-level with Tactics and Movement commands, and macromanage them at a fleet level by organising them into taskforces called Strike-Forces. Between these and Squadrons, old Homeworld formations have been rendered obsolete. In the old Homeworld, a formation was simply an 3D arrangement of ships in space, all behaving as one big "meta-ship". In a Strike-Force, its a ship's role that decides its course of action.

A Strike-Force is a self contained taskforce that uses its own Fleet AI to order its members with. Really, its just like a regular RTS formation that keeps your forces together with a few little extras tossed in for good measure. It has an overall mission (what you told it to do) but its members adopt different roles within the group. Some will openly attack the targets you specified, covered by others who only perform defensive roles, reacting to threats that attack the attacking members. That is, they're just as like to sit there as though the enemy isn't there, and only react when the members they are guarding are actually attacked themselves. Support units within the Strike-Force, like Resource Collectors, will automatically repair damaged members (and only members) without having to be asked.

The biggest advantage to a Strike-Force is that all the units within it will respond as one (following their roles in the group) to any external threats. So at the very least it'll hold a huge variety of ships together in a single group where all the members can cover for each other's shortcomings (assuming you've used the right ships, of course!) and save you a lot of messy micromanagement. Strike-Forces maintain formation when moving or standing, but break into a big messy cloud when attacking. They'll reform again afterwards, returning to the point of space they were holding before they started.

Exactly what a Strike-Force does is largely determined by what you put in it. Strike-Forces have three basic building blocks, which are simply groups of ships based on hull size: Strikecraft, Frigates and Capital Craft. These three groups assemble themselves in distinct formations and adopt different tactical behaviours depending on what type of Strike-Force you opt for. There aren't any restrictions on how many ships you can include, or which ships. You could include your Mothership if you're feeling masochistic. You could have a Fighter Screen made up entirely of Frigates, or a Capital Line comprised only of Fighters.

Bear in mind that any naval convoy can only travel and manoeuvre as quickly as the slowest member, so placing mega-vessels in a Force will make it take up a huge amount of room (sometimes a significant percentage of a small map!) and take forever to get anywhere. The bigger the force, the more cumbersome it generally becomes. You may want to keep these slow moving ships as seperate individuals, or make them a Capital Phalanx of one, with a small retinue of Strikecraft.

You get three types of Strike-Force:

Capital Phalanx (F5)

Capitals lead

Frigates middle

Strikecraft rear

This is pretty much a defensive posture, because Capital Phalanxes containing Capital Craft tend to be very slow and ponderous. Your Capital Warships do all the actual attacking using their immense firing range and firepower to savage major targets, soaking up any damage at the front with wall formations of Frigates and Strikecraft behind them, defending against any counter-attacks directly threatening the group. Your heavy hitters are doing all the work; you'll often find all the escorts will remain strangely inert even when the Strike-Force is set to Aggressive and the enemy is counter-attacking the Capitals. It may be a bug, or the Capital ships are so far apart that the enemies at one end of the force are almost out of detection range.

The only issue you might have with it is that it tends to be very directional - orientating a Capital Phalanx containing Battlecruisers severely tests your patience. Assigning any escorts to a lone Battlecruiser will see them trailing it at considerable distance. With these formations, smaller seems to work better. You're far better off with a small number of Phalanxes working side by side than one huge one lumbering forward - although a whopper with all your Capitals in it is a serious threat indeed - just not very maneuverable.

Frigate Line (F6)

Frigates lead

Capitals follow

Strikecraft interspersed through Capitals

This is a general purpose sort of group and it appears to be the one favoured by most people. Your Frigates lead the way in Wall formation, followed closely by your Capital ships with Strikecraft threaded in amongst them in a giant `T' formation. Your Strikecraft will not attack anything - unless it takes on the first two rows. The one thing you will notice is that you'll go through Frigates faster than old socks with this force, but it unleashes tremendous firepower early in those opening exchanges.

Fighter Screen (F7)

Strikecraft lead

Frigates middle

Capitals rear

This is an attacking formation that approximates a vast Claw formation when you have sufficient Strikecraft numbers. This is a much more vertical shaped force that seems to be less directional than the others and can handle threats for more angles. When you specify a group of targets, every member promptly jumps into action, whereas other Strike-Forces can often have entire groups of ships twiddling their thumbs until the right circumstances trigger a response. Pictured is the classic big Fighter Screen: a Strikecraft cloud leads the charge backed up from behind by a wall of Frigates, while from the safety of the rear, a line of Capital warships use their long range to bombard the target with relative impunity. The advantage of a Fighter Screen is that all your shipping is active most of the time, and unless you get flanked, your repairers are less likely to get blown away on the front lines in the early rounds. You can approximate the old Homeworld formations by creating Strikecraft only Fighter Screens.

The normal ship selection rules change a little to accommodate formations. Once you've created a Strike-Force, all you have to do is pick any one of its armed members, and you'll automatically select the entire Force. Resource Collectors or other unarmed "civilian" craft (like Command Corvettes, for example) are excluded from the selection, but you can rest assured they will still be part of the group, sticking with it and performing their duties as required. You have to select them individually if you want to give them specific orders. You can still have multiple numbered groups inside them too, so breaking off part of the fleet to engage a target and then reforming it again is pretty simple.

Ships have to be actively removed from the Strike-force (keyboard shortcut: F8) or be assigned to a new one. Selecting all the members of a Strike-Force and hitting F8 effectively disbands the Force into a cloud of separate individuals. You can re-assign different types of Strike-Force to any Strike-Force at any time, just like setting Tactics to a Squadron. The only caveat is that every ship will decide to shuffle around to a new position each time. This gets really fiddly if you're constantly adding reinforcements to it, especially with bigger and slower shipping.

I've also found that occasionally a Strike-Force will "forget" its original orders when you reinforce it with new ships - the order you select the force or the new elements can determine whether the original Strike-Force simply adds new members and continues on its old mission, or whether you conjure up a whole new force by selecting the new ships and then the old Strike-Force, which is "disbanded" to make the "new" one. Be careful here.

For the most part, your ships react intelligently to most threats. The entire Force will break up when engaging the enemy, dissolve into a melee during combat and then reform into its formation once the smoke has cleared. They do hold formation when maneuvering, though, so the bigger the Force, the clunkier it becomes. However, there are some perks: any Resource Collectors included in a Strike-Force will automatically service all the Frigates and Capitals in it. Its a joy to watch - although Collectors are frequently the first casualties in any engagement.

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Last modified Thu, Mar 31 2005 by Lindsay Fleay.