aelius wrote:Don't take this the wrong way, It's not snark just an honest curiosity.
I have never understood the need for a limit to ship classes. Maybe its because I came up with Imperial Starfire, but if I want a new class then I design a new ship and put it in production. Especially considering how much of a pain it seems to be to make sure everything necessary is available at the right place on the charts for each empire.
I could see it as an optional rule or for a campaign where the player is the admiralty instead of the emperor. But if the emperor wants a ship why shouldn't he get one?
Honestly, I think you are in some ways right. There's not always a good reason for pre-generated ship lists and they do take a lot of effort. The main reason they can be interesting is that they represent a chance to build theme and strategy in at a very early step. One power might have a ship list that emphasizes the Disruptor special ability while another might emphasize Stealth, for example, which would add a layer of strategic challenge to the game for the players.
However, I think a lot of people want more flexibility in ship design, especially given how hard tech advances are to get in VBAM in terms of time - it can feel less than thrilling if there's no ship to advance to that actually fulfills your strategic needs at the moment.
One option is to simply abstract the system we're talking about here. So, for example, the Empire has a current TL of 1 across the board, except for having a TL 2 for its Cruisers. It can use a "cheap" tech advance equal to 1x its total EP income to design a new TL 1 corvette, destroyer, battlecruiser, battleship, or any other unit. It can also use a "cheap" advance to design a TL 2 light cruiser or cruiser.
Or, it can use an "expensive" tech advance equal to 2x its system income to advance one unit group (escorts, capitals, supercapitals, orbital bases, fighters, ground) to TL 2. It may also use a MORE expensive tech advance with a cost equal to 3x its system income to advance its cruisers to TL 3.
This would make tech advances flexible (as you said, why should the space emperor have to settle for "the next ship on the list") but also meaningfully differentiated and valuable each time you get one.