Borders were a big improvement in Legends, because the battlefront has finally been reduced to something more manageable. Because of the way empires build up, it is now far more practical to create defense in-depth. Knowing how to use Automation correctly is key, here, and I feel from reading many posts on these forums that some people are mistaking a complicated system for a broken one.
For all of that, we have Fleet Posture. Which in my opinion is the best improvement in the Legends expansion. By mixing fleet posture with automation and advisor settings, you can create any number of redundant and effective schemes at any desired level of micromanagement. There are a million right ways to use Fleet Posturing, and the only wrong way is to not use it. If DW ever gets a multiplayer component, understanding how to coordinate your armadas with the Fleet Posture tools will be key.
Personally, I don't like to micromanage. I only like to do as much as I have to do to make sure that my unattended fleets are behaving themselves. Before Legends I would usually leave Fleet Automation on auto, and war and attacks to suggest. This would ensure that my fleets were usually actively engaged in something productive, but also allowed me to pick and choose from dozens of little fleets to control, and then only press automate when I want to hand it back over to the AI. Fleet Posture allows you to do this in a much more elegant way, by telling you how to give your AI focus. Before, it was like trying to tell someone who speaks a different language that they really "needed to not do that, please, and instead do this." Now, you can do exactly that.
For the game i'm going to use as an example, I'm playing a 1400 Star 10x10 Varied Clusters map. Everything else is normal. Ship Design is on auto, fleet formation is manual, and war and attacks are set to suggest. I got dealt a rough hand in this game, because it started me right next to some angry Slukens, who took their first opportunity to declare war on me very quickly. They almost had me, but then my Kiadian neighbors joined in on my side. Now, the Slukens are not really a threat, and I have practically unlimited gas from the gas clouds in Kiadian territory. I waged a brief war against the (pink) Ugnari, but got a peace deal pretty fast since they were at war with their Mortalen neighbors (who for some reason have Way of Darkness government). I really like the way this game has turned out so far. Consider the map of me (red) and my immediate neighbors (Kiadians are blue):
So how do I get my fleets to handle all of this efficiently? In RotS, unless you wanted to micromanage, your only real chance at success was to build way too many ships. Now, that's still a good idea (wish the AI was more aggressive about it) but with fleet posturing you can refine this process considerably on a very large scale, very easily. Did you see all the good spots in that last picture that really looked like they're just perfect for having a fleet sit on top of them? I did too.
Each one of those circles represents a fleet that looks kind of like this:
Notice the numbered buttons? I'm going to explain why they are so important:
1.) Set Home Base. I like to do this directly from the fleet screen right after I queue ships up for construction, but if you need to change home bases in a pinch this is a much better way to do it. Simply click the button, then click on anything even remotely base-like that you own. This important, since most of the fleet posture functions work off of your home base.
2. Set Attack Target. This is not to be confused with manually clicking attack on a target. When you set an attack target, and an appropriate range, your ship will kill everything within that range of the target whenever it is not doing anything better. If I'm going to attack someone with an attack fleet, I first hit button number 3 so that it shows the sword icon (meaning the fleet is in attack mode), then I manually tell my fleet to attack the planet, structure, or fleet that I want destroyed, then I hit the automate button which ensures that after the mission is done it will continue to look after itself (and follow the directive issued by the attack posture/range) while I tend to other things.
3.) Flips between Attack/Defend modes. This is important. If your ship is on auto, it will always look after itself. But that's not to say that it will best look after the needs of the empire. If you have a fleet on auto, make sure you differentiate between attack and defend, and appropriate range. It affects how your ships act in your absense, which is very important.
4.) Range. Most of the time i'll use Sector, but there are plenty of specialized situations in which you might want something smaller. I usually set my transport fleets to attack posture/attack target only, so they don't get mixed up in other affairs while shuffling reenforcements to the various planets I'm invading.
5.) Automate. For the most part, this button is self-explanatory, but it is very important. An automated fleet will take the initiative at times, but to properly direct that initiative you must use fleet postures. If you're not the kind of person that uses automation at all, then fleet posturing is probably not that big a deal to you--but the impact it has on being able to multi-task in war is incredible.
So, knowing what we know now, we could send a fleet to cause trouble in the Ugnari heartland. Notice that since the fleet is on attack posture, and the range is set to nearby systems, and my attack target is set to that Ugnari world in the middle of my red "Attack Zone" that we get a nice red circle showing our limits of engagement, and a red dotted line showing the base from which my attack is originating.
But we don't have to stop there... I'm playing an Atuukian Fuedalism in this game, which means numbers are what I have! Let's try something more comprehensive....
Hell, the Kiadians have my back, right? Why not send everything!
I suppose before Legends I always found using my fleets on a truly strategic level to be the hardest thing about Distant Worlds. Now, with fleet posturing, it's as easy as an overlay, and the galactopedia entry is pretty lacking (it's got about two sentences for itself under fleets). My hope is that new players might read this and be a bit less intimidated or confused.
< Message edited by Gelatinous Cube -- 12/9/2011 2:08:44 PM >