Currently, any ships left behind 'leadership' limit enters combat from the edge of map near the player's starting point, and have to maneuver all the way to where battle is taking place. While it is nice to have a reinforcement as tactical option, the implementation seems bit lack-lusting. I've detailed the issues I noticed below.
I have thought about possible improvement, and thought, "How about having reinforcement ships Micro Warp Jump in, instead of navigating from map edge near player's starting point.". I've detailed possible implementations and penalties below as well.
1) The issue I observed.
Against AI (mostly in Extermination mode), players can easily wait until hostile fleets come near their starting line, overwhelm hostile fleet and then proceed to cut off remaining straggling 'reinforcement' one by one, while enjoying almost immediate reinforcement themselves. (this becomes more severe if AI opponent is slower faction like Orks) This effectively makes opponent reinforcement ships not so threatening, or even redundant in some cases. Although can be be easily avoided by players by engaging AIs more aggressively, more sensible alternative would be always welcome.
On the other hand, when players are going on offensive, reinforcement ships take too much time navigating half (or even more when you are pursuing Aeldari) of the map to make a huge impact in ongoing battle, while remaining forward ships gets hammered.
Ideally, it would be good to fall back and regroup ships, but with many ships having long range weaponry and falling back only gives opponent more opportunity to attack you in the back, the battles are usually resolved with remaining forward ships fighting till either they get annihilated or they annihilate hostiles, all the while reinforcement ships are slowly approaching. (Not to mention you HAVE TO manage their movement if some lethal environment events are taking place as well.)
With vanilla leadership value mostly stays around about 1.5 times fleet points, not even the most of 2nd fleet's ships gets to participates in battles. This makes having 3rd fleet deployed as backup redundant, and even worse, a wasted opportunity. Unless you are expecting catastrophic losses from first two fleets that is.
2) Suggestion : Reinforce through warp jump
Ships participating as reinforcement isn't really coming from afar (they are already in system), and allied ships already in the field could zero them in through the warp, should they need. So why not make tactical jump to help fellow in need?
At the very least, it would look nice seeing fresh participants jump in, guns blazing to reinforce their allies. That aside, it can make both retreating (either through emergency warp jump or retreat function) and reinforcement more tactically viable option to have. This would also make both player's and AI's additional fleets more threatening presence in battle, and avoid additional ships being crushed one-by-one as they slowly join in.
While this can make battles bit hectic or even chaotic, and difficulty slightly rising with having to contend with more ships in quick succession, I'd think it would bring more interesting results than detriments. I've thought about two possible implementations.
3)A penalty needed?
I'm guessing fresh new enemy ship jumping in like nothing happened could be pretty annoying sometimes, and it seems reasonable for joining ship to have some sort of penalty, making it commanders choice either to have a ship quickly join in to add additional firepower (or cannon fodder) with this penalty or have them brought in safely through a normal means.
The thing I have though about is having a ship marked and it's shield disabled for sometime after jumping-in. The motif is from the novel "Execution Hour" and in that sense it's lore friendly as well. I'll just quote a sentence from it. Exact time should be worked on, but I guess that's more of developers role.
"A ship was at its most vulnerable in the moments immediately after re-entering normal space, when its power levels were still in flux and the energy burst of its warp exit broadcast its existence and position to any other vessel in the system."
If this seems bit too much game-play wise, simply disabling skill usages for sometime would also work, forcing it to use it's normal weaponry only for a bit and avoid this being exploited as free mwj-skill combo.
4) Possible Implementation
Implementation A - Having a ship jump in near ally ships
Similar to MWJ skill we already have, just making it one-time only use for reinforcement ships. This method would go nicely with possible penalty above, as you either have to withdraw some ship to create safe warp point (this also could be serve as additional tactical benefit for having escort ships present), or suffer consequences of warp jump near enemy.
Implementation B - Making new 'reinforcement warp zone' near center of map
I guess this would be more 'safer' option with minimal gameplay difference, simply making center line a new deployment zone after battle starts. This would also encourage player to take the middle of the map more aggressively.
This can reduce necessary movement distant for reinforcement ship have to make (if you have made a breakthrough toward hostile line) or hit the enemy from rear (if you are pushed toward your starting line). As long as ship is marked as I suggested above, the opponent could identify, assess and react to the threat accordingly.
This could also create some interesting tactical situations, like having reinforcement ship go after rear capture points in domination (capture zone) mode, or reserving reinforcement ship to counter hostile reinforcement instead of joining main fleet, as opposing reinforcements could actively engage each other easily in this method.
Any ideas would be welcome.