This is a simplified account of the hours and iterations that went into this shipperino, a zepplin-type bomber.
The very first model of the Stormcloud was based on one thing- protect the balloon. Didn't matter that the decks gave room for boarders on essentially the entire ship, because they have the same weight and price and hit points as struts, but gave more hit points to nearby modules than struts.
The morning after I made it, I realized I overengineered the thing to an absurd degree. So I started trimming fat off the design. Pulled out the firepoint, because it was very heavy and the Suspendium tank is usually shot out before any fires can break out. This cut costs and raised my service ceiling quite a bit (which was a weakness of the first model).
Pulling off the firepoint also lowered the crew requirements and ship supply, so I went ahead and took out a crew quarters and supply hatch too, raising the service ceiling to a respectable height. With the freed-up ship material, I went ahead and surrounded the pressurized suspendium tank as well so it'd be less prone to blowing up.
Now I wanted to see the absolute least investment necessary to make this kind of bomber, so I stripped down the design even further. I removed a heavy sail, pulled the ammo storage out to the left so I could use its ladders instead of getting corridors (also so I could simplify the bomb bay area in general).
This is the point where I come to the realization that any spot that a deck can be, other modules can be too, so the other modules start to crawl over the Suspendium tank, replacing the decking and making the airship even lighter and even cheaper. With all this weight lost, I was almost light enough to take out the pressurized Suspendium tank (along with its supporting modules), so I took out a bomb bay. It's called 'Mean' in the sense of 'lacking or scarce'. "The pickings here were hard and mean."
At this point I thought I went too far with the Mean design, so I tried adding the Pressurized tank-nose back, to mixed success. The result is too expensive for my tastes, as a budget bomber.
Here I am again- new changenotes for the Stormcloud line of ship designs.
As it turns out, the Stormcloud Mean design was not the last word in economy bombers. After a great deal of testing, I found that the Stormcloud Mean was too heavy to reach heights that I wanted (out of range for dragons), and when it was in pitched battles, it was always shot down before it could run out of ammo; every downed ship in the Stormcloud line had dozens of wasted shots inside, burning in their wreckage instead of landing on enemies.
Now, other ship designers, they'd increase the survivability of the ship. Layer armor on it, add Suspendium chambers, put more bomb-bays on it so it can chew through ammo faster... but that ran counter to the design principle of the Stormcloud line. The decision was simple- I had to cut even more. Small ammo store replaced the vulnerable, sticking out ammo store from the Stormcloud Mean. The smaller, more flexible small ammo store module was small enough to place amid the bomb bays, reducing the delay between bomb drops.
Four bomb bays was a bit excessive for a ship with only 20 ammo, so I was more than glad to cut out a bomb-bay, raising the service ceiling even higher. In extended skirmishes these ships run out of ammo now, but that's a nice problem to have, since they rarely stay in the air long enough for that to be a problem.
With the reduced crew requirements from the lost bomb bays, I cut out the maintainence-heavy Berths (since this is a ship I'm employing en masse in Conquest I need to keep maintainence down at all costs!). I made a few more miscellaneous changes like adding a corridor at the bottom of the ship in the place of a deck to reduce vulnerability to boarders, swapping out the steel supply hatch with a nifty wooden one from the new update, and moving the supply hatch over to the already-compromised upperdeck.
While this is not the absolute least I can spend on a 3-bay bomber that completely encapsulates a Large Suspendium Dust Tank, it's pretty close, and any further design cuts will make it weaker (ie: moving the supply hatch to the bottom will make it more vulnerable to boarding, moving the sails to the front and shaving a deck off the schematics would look janky as heck and leave the sails utterly vulnerable).
This will probably be the very last entry in the Stormcloud design series, but it won't be the last bomber I make. I've named it the "Stormcloud Lean", because there's nothing unnecessary stuck into this ship, no fat on it. Hell, if you look at its outline without the dust tank, it's just a one tile long line all twisted up. Stormcloud Lean
Well I've had a look;
I'm advising a change in usage for the Deck. It's a Capture vulnerability, and you're linking it to places that are "Dead Ends", therefor Sailors aren't employing it. The Deck's usage is "Faster Destination", they will run across it. So, with how it's being used, they're capture runways. Here they are being employed as struts, and since they have the same price as struts, are more likely to catch fire, and can be captured - you're better off replacing them, strategically, with struts.
The price would be identical.
That being said;
Your most explosive element, the Ammo Store, is the least protected element. Adding some spacing to the design may help alleviate this, but now having seen the interior, my first instinct would be to ram the ship - since ship-to-ship explosion damage isn't in-game yet and would liekly result in instant chain-destruction.
I agree, the decks are vulnerable bits, especially to fire and boarders, but with the Stormcloud Lean (the only design in the Stormcloud line I'm using), the only part that it's exposing and leading to is the Supply Hatch, where boarders will be getting into anyway.
The major problem with this ship is its survivability, but I build around that; limiting ammo to what it realistically will be able to offload, cheap armor because it's very unlikely to get hit anywhere but the balloon, cutting as much weight off as I can to keep it high in the air and out of accurate range, etc. It drops like a mayfly under any kind of concentrated fire, the thing is built more to buy time in the air than anything else. Struts are versatile and useful modules, but they give less neighboring-module HP than Decks or anything else, which is a big part of the main focus of this ship- trying to keep a Suspendium dust tank in the air as long as possible.
EDIT: Oh, and thank you for the feedback! ^./^ I agree the ammo could use some burying under modules, but when every weight unit is at a premium, what could I cover it with? :/p
I prefer smaller designes that use mass instead of class, but because of that, i got pretty good in cutting cost.
I sugest a single change to the Lean: Flip it.
When you put the corridor and the Sail in the front, you can use one Deck less.
That cuts the cost from 284 to 281, lowers weight by 2, raises the service celing from 296 to 297 and speeds up the commanding from one order all 3 seconds to a order all 2 seconds.
As you can see, we can mace the 'Stormcloud Lean' into a 'stormcloud lean'.