OK, you picked a strategy, right? No seriously, go here and decide what you want your ship to do.
Now that we have that taken care of…
Like AI, the best ship designs are ones designed by you. If you understand all the pieces and how they are put together, you’ll know best how to improve them when your ship comes up against something you can’t beat. The best thing you can do to improve is rewatch “even” battles that you lose (if you lose around 20 trophies, the opponent was at your trophy level). Try to determine why you lost and if you can improve your ship to prevent it. For example, the enemy focus fired your android room and you died quickly. Did you not have enough crew coming to repair the room? Edit your crew AI. Did the crew take too long to arrive? Move your android room to a more central location, or have closer crew repair it. Did the crew repair but it just took damage too fast? Try to add more armor.
A warning against “hull rushing”:
When you start playing, it is very tempting to advance your ship level as fast as possible. Higher levels are better right? However because the PvP matchmaking matches you with ships near your ship level, if you upgrade your ship and have very weak rooms and crew, you will do very poorly. You’ll be a ship level eight with the room levels of a level six ship, fighting ships with rooms that are at the max for ship level eight. It’s counterintuitive, but waiting to upgrade your ship level will mean you will have MORE RESOURCES since you’ll be more successful in PvP, and higher trophies give more resources. Also, the max crew level is four times your ship level. Wait to upgrade to the next ship level until your crew is maxed. (Research is slightly more flexible and doesn’t need to be maxed. So long as you have done the research for the strategy you are using, you are good. Just know that switching strategies will be difficult if you don’t have the research.)
Here are ship design principles. The ones at the top are the most important, make sure these are satisfied before moving on. The ones at the bottom are my personal preference; you will find successful players who ignore them.
All rooms that have HP (the green bars) need to be accessible by crew
For crew to travel between rooms, the bottom of the room must align with another room, a service vent, or an elevator. Having rooms that are not accessible means your crew won’t be able to repair them, so the opponent can focus them and receive easy hull damage.
The gym and academy should be placed so that your crew can reach your HP rooms. Crew AI still works while training, so your crew will leave the training room to help in battle if there is a path. If you’re not actively training crew, then the gym and academy don’t need to be on your ship.
Rooms with HP need armor, in inverse proportion to the amount of HP they have
Imagine that the opponent is shooting your reactor, which has 7 HP. It takes time for them to damage the reactor down to 0 HP and start doing hull damage. In that time, it is easy for your repairing crew to walk in and spend three seconds to repair it to full. In comparison, if the opponent is shooting your BT, there is only one HP and they will start doing hull damage very quickly. Unless your crew is standing in the BT to repair it all the time, a lot of hull damage will get through. For this reason, rooms with lower HP need more armor, which mitigates both system and hull damage. Also, valuable rooms that are targeted more need more armor, such as your shield, teleport, and android rooms. Lastly, all rooms, even reactors, need some amount of armor to reduce the damage from penetrator missiles if you fight someone using pen spam. The order of priority for armor is:
- BT, AA, Med rooms, and Android rooms should have 4+
- Shield rooms and teleport should have 5+
- Lasers, missiles, and engines should have 3+. Give priority to any 2 HP lasers like MLZ, MG, and PP to give them 4 armor if possible, then 4 on missiles, then 4 on other rooms if the below rules are met.
- Large HP rooms like hangar and cannons should have 3 armor
- Reactors should have 3 armor
Your ship shouldn’t consume more power than it generates
Every room you include on your ship should be fully powered for the majority of the battle. The exception are rooms like AA and security gates that are only on some of the time; you can turn other rooms off to power these when needed. If you have many rooms that all run at 75% power, then you are having to armor and repair all of them. Focus your strategy and stay within the power that’s on your ship, so that the rooms you do have can run at 100% power.
After you get to ship level 10 or 11, you can think about breaking this rule. You’ll have more armor and space, and a better understanding of the role of each room. You may want to give power to rooms during different phases of the battle, or based on the rooms your opponent has, or as a backup if other rooms are damaged.
Remove gas and mineral collectors
Passive collection of gas and minerals is OK, but the tiny amount given by the collectors is not worth having them on your ship. If you can have one more crew room, or a slightly better armored layout, you’ll win more battles and the win bonuses will be worth more than the amount from collectors.
Travel time between rooms should be minimized
This will help your repairers get to damaged rooms quickly and keep them functional. Elevators are slow! Two levels connected by elevators is great, three is OK, and four levels is poor. A few short elevators are better than one long elevator (I’m looking at you Qtarians).
Rooms without HP, like bedrooms, do not need any armor
Rooms that are not targetable with AI have innate armor, which you can see by looking at the room profile. Armor touching rooms without HP is not useful – try to have as little of it as possible. The implication of this is that you should group all of your HP rooms together in part of your ship, and have your non-combat rooms in the rest. Efficient armor usually means stacking room, armor, room so that the armor touches two rooms with HP on top and bottom in an “armor sandwich”.
Rooms of the same type should be grouped where possible
This is to improve your repair AI. If you have a crew that is set to repair your shield room, but your shield generator and shield battery are across the ship from each other, the crew will take forever to arrive and lots of hull damage will get through.
The only exception to this may be reactors. Reactors are a common boarding target, so it can be beneficial to spread them out to prevent the opponent’s boarders from just walking between them. My preference is still to group them, to make the repair and defending AI easier.
Modules should be added to rooms
Use sandbags (craft with silicon) in all offensive rooms. Use proximity mines (craft from scrap) in reactors. Add a sprinkler (craft from scrap) to any rooms that are hit with fire missiles a lot – usually shield, teleport, and hangar. Note that mines and sprinklers are disabled by EMP, and will no longer work for the duration of the battle. Modules can be re-equipped between battles by paying a small amount of minerals.
Rooms that are targeted often (shield, AA) should not be placed directly next to elevators
Crew that come to repair the room will be stuck there waiting for the elevator to leave and will continue receiving damage – the point of having a home room on your crew AI is to avoid taking damage by leaving the focused room whenever possible (see repair AI). You can avoid having key rooms right next to elevators by putting a vent next to the elevator, or having a room of a different type act as a buffer.
Last, remember that crew will try to stand on the left side of rooms first. This means that rooms you expect crew to have to repair should be on the right side of the ship, so that crew don’t have to run across the room to repair them. Or, set up your repairers so that they enter the room from the left.