You need to be a little careful here. With beams only, as soon as one race has higher speed and longer ranged beam weapons, he can't lose. While
This is one of the reasons I restrict beam ranges (in addition to the light-speed issue). As they have unlimited ammo, they can easily destroy any opponent with shorter-ranged weapons. Even if the opponent is faster he may still be in trouble unless he can get in range reasonably quickly.
, at least in the case
of two ships fighting with no other consideration, this isn't quite as clear cut as it first appears.For
example, assume equal research points between two empires, with the first having a 1-2 tech level advantage in engines and beam fire control range. Due to how research costs increase greatly for each tech level that leaves the second empire with a load of research points. Say those points were put into ECM and shield regeneration techs. In order for the first empire to take advantage of it's longer range, it has to be maintaining long range and so will have low damage and low accuracy. The improved shields and ECM of the second empire mean that the first is now unable to drain the shields of the seconds ships before they reach the firsts colonies and land troops/use a meson bombardment.
A second example, assume a similar setup to above but this time the second empire puts its extra research into boosting its industrial/shipyard capabilities, and designs ships that utilize a higher percentage of tonnage for engines in order to beat the first empires speed. While it will prove expensive in resources and crew the second empire could then overwhelm the first through using sheer numbers to get into range.
A different alternative would be to use tactics such as luring the attacking ships by withdrawing those under attack while sending out flanking forces to envelop the faster ships. Alternatively bait the faster ships to follow through a jump point where a network of ships is set up to catch them whichever range they jump in at.
In the case
where two empires do not have an equal level of research, it generally will make sense that the disadvantaged side will have a harder and harder job matching the superior until the gap is wide enough that it simply can't be bridged.
Basically, I believe that having the option offers the opportunity for interesting conflicts and scenarios. Can it be gamed against the AI? Certainly, but so can the current system.
N.B. Italics aren't emphasis, merely a counter to the forums overzealous anti-scripting. I I hope that gets sorted out soon, it was a pain finding out what was causing the 403 errors.