The Problem

Right now it almost never makes sense to send ground-unit-carrying transports along with a primary attack fleet, especially when fighting another player. Transports are too vulnerable to defenses, don't fire back at attackers and are a priority target for counterattack by enemy ships. The attacker is likely to lose much of their invasion force even if they win the space combat handily.

In Old Anacreon there were attacking and defending groups, and enemy forces trying to get to your transports in deep space would have to get past attacking and defending groups first, often taking heavy casualties in the process. In new Anacreon it's much easier for ships to slip through and savage the transports without any counterattack because orbital regions are large and wings won't make a meaningful effort to keep orbit with and defend transports. If there are a lot of defending ship wings involved in combat, one of them will probably get at the transports. Even a small fleet of explorers can seriously mess up a transport wing.

Instead, it's usually better to send transports in a second transport fleet:

  • If you are attacking a planet within jumpbeacon range, you can keep this fleet wherever you want until the attack fleet clears away defenders and in practice it will probably be completely safe, especially if the enemy is AFK and you have a couple minutes in which you know the enemy won't reinforce. (Reinforcing is unnecessarily risky for the enemy right now but that is a separate issue).
  • If you are attacking a more distant planet, you can bundle your transports with a couple of gunships and have this fleet "hover" outside of attack range by bringing it within a few watches of arriving at the target planet and constantly issuing new destinations for it in opposite directions. This keeps the fleet close to the world without actually being on it.
  • Once your attack fleet has cleared the defenses, you can send the transport fleet to the target world and it arrives quickly.
  • The enemy never has a chance to attack the transports separately from the attack fleet because they are always in open space until they arrive.

The problem with two-fleet strategies is that they make warfare unnecessarily convoluted. Game resources (e.g. the description of autocannon constellation) seem to think that transports travel with attack fleets, and it makes intuitive sense that transports would be "defended" by escorts, but in practice it is almost always better to keep transports apart from attackers.

A Solution

Unless combat is radically revised so that other units actively protect transports, I think it would be better from a gameplay perspective if:

  • Transports do not count towards space forces and are unarmed.
  • Transports start in extremely high orbit, like 50 Mm
  • Units can't target transports during combat unless the transports are on a landing approach. When transports go on a landing approach (either automatically or through manual orders), all defending wings/planetary defenses target them.
  • Transports can be captured in space. Performing a successful fleet attack (not defensive combat or an ordered attack by planetary defenses only) against an enemy fleet that includes transports orbiting one of your worlds or a third party world (but not belonging to the transports' sovereign) results in some or all transports and their contents getting captured. If the fleet is orbiting the defender's world, the transports land. Maybe some units are better at capturing- for example, a "pirate" doctrine might build units that are very good at capturing transports.