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I was talking in zone chat a little while ago about some strategies for outfitting weapons onto my heavy escort. I hadn't paid much attention to turrets before, but just noticed that they can fire in any direction, so I asked if it was a valid strategy to put a beam, torpedo, and turret up front, and a beam and torpedo in the back, as this would give me equal firepower on either end of the ship.
I was told by several other players that no, I should not do that; rather, I should put two turrets in the back, two cannons and one torpedo up front, face the target head on, and thus be able to fire all weapons at the target at once.
At first, that sounded like a great idea.
Then I started thinking...That doesn't really seem to be how escorts are intended to fight. At least, not to me. The narrow 45-degree firing arc of cannons is very limiting. It seems that with such a narrow arc of effective fire, one would have to either try very hard to stay on one side of the target, or else fly past it then quickly turn around. I know escorts can turn quickly, but during this part, your firepower would be very limited.
Look at episodes of ST:DS9 with the Defiant. Did the Defiant sit still, pointing directly at its target, firing everything? Or fly toward it, firing everything, until it overshot, then doing a quick about-face? This isn't how I remember the Defiant in combat. I remember it using its small size and quick reflexes to advantage, moving quickly to make it a hard target to hit, and firing effectively at almost any aspect to its target. Now consider the fleet actions in which the Defiant or other similar small heavily-armed ships fought. Again, the small ships fought like I just described, while the larger ships, the cruisers, were more about "broadsiding" the target, presenting whatever aspect toward the target that provided the greatest firepower against it, and moving slowly, just enough to maintain that aspect.
Against a target that isn't going to move much and isn't going to fight back much, sure, two turrets in the back, two cannons and a torpedo in the front would be the greatest amount of firepower that an escort can muster. For more realistic combat, however, an escort should, in my opinion, be outfitted with weapons that give it the greatest firepower from almost any angle on the target, allowing the escort to keep moving at high speed, darting to and fro, buzzing around like an annoying mosquito.
Theoretically, the only way to provide equal firepower regardless of aspect to the target would be to use all turrets, but that would probably limit overall firepower too much to appeal to most players. A torpedo should be kept for when you need kinetic damage. I haven't figured out yet what would be a good combination, but I think any form of cannons would have to be out, since they are only effective within a narrow margin. I would think a beam, torpedo, and turret up front are a given, for this style of combat, and a beam in the back, then either a torpedo or turret. The turret would be better if you find you can orbit the target effectively, but the torpedo would be better if you find you have to do a lot of retreating.
Now I'm still fairly new to this game, this being my second week playing it. I'm sure I'm going to take a lot of flames for this idea, since several people were in favor of the two turrets in the back, two cannons and one torpedo in the front idea, and nobody disagreed with that or had any other ideas, when I asked about turret placement on Starbase 1 earlier. And I guess that so far it does seem fairly true that this game doesn't really require a lot of real thinking and strategy and tactics, so maybe this all doesn't matter, anyway. Well, I've got the two turrets in the back for now, I'm going to try it like suggested, and see what happens...