Changes to Air.
Fighters toned down.
This was done in several ways and the changes appear at different time zones. First off, the T3 rush with a follow up of fighters to raid the enemy got two serious shots against it. While this may sound upsetting to folks, what was really done was balance the ability to strike mech raid with fighter raiding. Prior to the expansion, fighter raids were really the only way to go for a couple of reasons:
When you hit T3, the resource that is most precious is carbon. It allows you to (a) drop a new command center (b) build military structures (c) build farms, which you will need to produce food. Fighters cost only nova/food, which is relatively easy to come by. Strike mechs on the other hand require a great deal carbon (100C) so it is hard to get any decent force together quickly.
Fighters do significantly more damage to villagers than strike mechs do. In the old version of the game, fighters did a whopping 15 points of damage vs a worker with basic training, whereas strikes did a meager 3pts of dmg to a worker with basic training. In the expansion, figthers now do 9pts and strikes to 5pts, which balances the units out a LOT more.
While the damage ratios of the two units are not equal, they are now about equal in terms of their ability to be used as early T3 raiding units as fighters are a bit easier to counter than strikes are. So while fighters are slightly more effective as raiding units because they can be massed easier, traverse distance quicker, and do more damage to workers, anti-air troops do a better job of killing fighters than grenade troopers do of knocking down strike mechs. This is even more true now that AA troopers move faster.
Fighters took a second knock down in their ability to be an effective massed fighting force by increasing the strength of their counters. As mentioned previously, AA troopers move faster which is a large boon to stopping the hit and run early strikes, but not as powerful in topping a massed group of fighters. The AA Mobile on the other hand was a fairly effective counter to air based armies in BattleGrounds. In Clone Campaigns, they are even more effective for three reasons:
Decreased Build Time Mobile AA now build in :30 rather than :36
Lower Cost - Mobile AA now cost 100C/50N rather than 150C/50N
Able to absorb more damage - fighters now do 4pts of damage to Mobile AA, whereas in BG, they did Xpts. Although this is a small change, it really adds up when you are facing 20+ fighters with a slow fire rate. While all of them are relatively small, they add up significantly when combined. They still however pale compared to the defensive power of the AA turret. Even with a slightly increased cost (150ore/20C rather than….), this is still the unit of choice to stop large hordes of fighters.
The cost issue is really marginal as you can generally use the market to purchase whatever ore you need at the stage of the game when massed air is on the field. This is why I have by in large been opposed to balancing late game by altering unit costs.
Fortresses also got a boost against air units, but more on fortresses later.
Bombers generally played a role in late game, but were by and large ignored in the early game which is a shame. They are extremely effective in tactical runs against powercores which can cripple an opponent early; preventing them from massing units quickly. The real problem with bombers was not the bomber, but rather with the extreme effectiveness of the fighter. Due to the immense power of the fighter as an early raiding unit, top players kept their airbases busy cranking out fighters. By the time they would build bombers, they were often ready to build a transport and drop a pummel on the enemy instead. With the recent changes to the power of the fighter though, a window may open for bomber production in airbases. This will certainly be aided by the decreased build time for the bomber which was reduced from :40 to :35 in Clone Campaigns.
I personally wonder if we will be seeing T3 armies of strike mechs and bombers in Clone Campaigns. At first glance, they appear to be a strong combination of units. Time will tell though.
A number of players (myself included) were always a bit puzzled by Flight School. Much like so many parents who send their children off to Universities, we figured it did something, we just weren't quite sure what once our shiny fighters came out with that diploma. Likewise, we often spent the resources to send them to Advanced Flight School with similar puzzlement on exactly what they were getting out of it. Lucas has now made it a bit clearer for us, by increasing the line of sight by +1 for each "degree" that our fighters earn at Flight School. To make it even more pleasant, the cost of "tuition" just dropped by X%. Now…if only Universities were that clear….
The Wookies were one of the more powerful civs in Battlegrounds and as such one of the more popular picks for players. One of the key components to the Wookie strength was their powerful Air Force, which when combined with a powerful infantry line and very powerful artillery line was a bit too much. To balance this, the Wookies have lost Efficient Manufacturing - a key technology given the large cost of building an Air Force.
The Empire had a strange oddity with their air units where they had a decreased build time. That has now been rectified as Empire Air units now build at the same rate as other civs. They cost 5% less, but that amounts to about 3F/3N and is in my opinion fairly negligible. You would have to mass 20 fighters before you really see much, and quite honestly the Empire should be massing mechs not fighters.