From: The Big Nowhere
Personally, here's how I design and use my ship classes:
Escorts: I don't use this design at all early game. Mid-late game, I make these into combat reconnaissance ships to locate pirate starports, locate and destroy pirate mining stations, and generally keep an eye on pirate/rival empire ship traffic. Module emphasis: many more fuel cells, slightly more weapons, fewer shields. Key modules: Long Range Scanner, Energy Collectors
Frigates: My defensive design used to garrison any at-risk systems. Always the first ships I build and I continue to upgrade and build them throughout the game. Module emphasis: slightly fewer fuel cells, slightly more engines, thrusters, and armor. Key modules: none
Destroyers: My most generic design, and the one I'm using as a baseline for this post. These ships are my assault and general combat ships. I build these once I have enough frigates to cover what I need to defend and expand my fleet as necessary.
Module emphasis: none - these the baseline. Key modules: none
Cruisers: A specialty ship I add to my assault fleets mid-late game, usually one or two per fleet. It's job is to prevent the enemy from escaping into hyperspace. Module emphasis: many fewer weapons, more shields and fuel cells, slightly more engines, thrusters, and armor. Key modules: HyperDeny
Carriers: My true capital ship - why use the capital ship design when this one can be 50% bigger, and its weapons have unrivaled standoff range? Late game each assault fleet gets one of these. Module emphasis: more fuel cells, many more shields and armor, no conventional weapons, all available space filled with fighter bays. Key modules: Long Range Scanner, Fleet Targeting, Fleet Countermeasures
Capital Ships: I have no use for this design because of the advantages of the Carrier. I guess if a game ever ran super long I could try making some doomsday ship to try taking out small colonies single-handed.
Just to show how flexible the game is I'll show how completely opposite of you I operate:
Escorts: Backbone of my fleet. Max size is about 300 and I build lots of them. 1 Assault pod on them. Some get put into fleets to escort the troop tansports, but most are left to roam free and do all the mundane tasks expected of them. And I like them fast, speed 50+. I have had as many as 250 to 300 of these in a open ended sand-box game before.
Frigates: Almost as numerous as escorts. Max size between 350 and 400. Unlike escorts I allow frigates to have a hyper deny and multiple assault pods. They work great for capturing enemy ships. Again, some as tranposrt escort, but most left to roam free.
Destroyers: These make up the bulk of my attack fleets. Max size around 500, with many guns and torpedoes. I build these in the ratio of 6 to 8 destroyer to 4 to 6 cruiser to 1 BB (capital ship) in a fleet. This is the largst ship type I build from the start. No troop module, these are not meant for planet invasion. Destroyer, cruisers and capital ships are for clearing defenses, capturing bases/ships, or commerce raiding. however I will put a few of these ships in with the troop transports to add some firepower to the invasion fleets. High value planets get a permanent Destroyer Division assigned to them (8 Destroyers) on permanent guard duty (range set to system, stance agressive). Sometimes I stick a few frigates or escorts in for additional firepower.
Cruisers: Late game for me. Size anywhere from 600-800 depending on tech. These are the first ships that I assign fighter bays to. They are heavy armor, heavy shields and high fire power. 4 assault pods minimum. Cruisers are used as firepower in assault fleets, but also as command ships for other fleets.
Capital ships: I don't build many of these. I also design to around size 1100 which is why I don't build many. They are only found in assault fleets, and only 1 per fleet. They are command ships and damage absorbers (very heavy shields and armor). They also carry 3 fighter bays. Again no troop modules.
Carriers: I tend to keep these relatively small, though speed matches the rest of the fleet at 32+. 6 Fighter bays, a couple of graviton beams 1-2 PD guns, armor and shields. I use them only in fleets and only at 4 per fleet. Size is anywhere from 500 to 800 depending on tech levels. I purposely keep these as small as possible while maintaining the 6 bay design
Troop Transport: Really, is there any other way to use these? I keep them at 300 or less size and add in a couple of guns and assault pods along with the troop modules.
My usual fleet types and composition at end game:
Assault Fleet: 1 Cruiser, 6 destroyers, 4 frigate, 4 Escort, 4 carrier, 6-8 troop transports
Attack Fleet: 1 Capital Ship, 4-6 cruisers, 6-8 destroyers, 4 carriers
DesDiv (Destroyer Division): 1 cruiser, 8 destroyers (4 each frigate/escort if more guns needed)
Attack Squadron: made up of any mix of high tech salvaged ships, however, they are grouped into fleets according to hyperdrive speed (IE the derelicts/located ships). Any world destroyer I salvage ends up in one of these fleets, as they ships that make it up are generally all level 7 tech.
Imperial Guards: 1 fleet only. this is the fleet that sits around the capital: 1 Capital ship, 4 cruisers, 8 destroyers, 8 frigates, 8 escorts, 4 carriers. It's only job is to keep the capital from being attacked, and gets added to from the start.
Distant Worlds Fan
'When in doubt...attack!'