Vs the AI I prefer beam weapons over missiles. The AI just seems to typically stack those anti rockets or ecm jammers or point defense weapons to take down missiles, but they rarely have high beam defense. Also it greatly simplifies your armor tech choices since there are so many other valuable techs in the chemistry tree than missiles. So keeping that in mind, there are two paths to take with beam weapons- physics or force fields. Let's break it down for non creatives. The weapons available in force field tree are mass drivers and gauss cannons, beam weapons which have a flat dmg rate and lose no dmg from range dissipation. This is a big deal because these weapons basically have physics counterparts, similar weapons in terms of dmg at the same tech levels, but one is the fusion beam which suffers double range dissipation. Thus it makes the play style of mass drivers vs beams extremely different. When you take mass drivers I have found it works extremely well to have a battle scanner and build big ships with a bunch of heavy drivers and just sit back and snipe enemies before they reach you. If they reach you and get a couple shots off it's no big deal cus your battleship won't sustain enough dmg to die. You can build a bunch of destroyers with just 1 or 2 heavy mass drivers but some might be destroyed each fight for more attrition. When you take fusion beams I prefer smaller ships that are fast and can get in close so the fusion beams do full dmg. But the downside is of course those small ships can't take much of a beating. In general I have found fights to be so much easier taking mass drivers over fusion beams. Ideal techs to build your first real assault fleet for both would be battle scanner, tritanium armor and battle pods, though you may possibly need to tech up to positronic computer if you go mass drivers and the enemy has high beam defense like the alakari or just for some weird reason. It's not needed for fusion as you can go CO mod. So equal points spent for both to get battle scanner, then fusion beam path needs to spend 900 more to get the ENV mod for fusion beams and the mass driver path needs to spend 650 + 900 to get Auto fire and armor piercing mods. Clearly the mass driver path takes more, but you also can grab internal stabilizer as you go which is a very useful tech. The choices of stuff you give up, well fusion beams not much. Just fusion rifle. Which is nice, but not totally necessary. On the mass driver side you lose out on ecm jammer or I guess shields. Rank one shields are pretty bad though. So it really depends on if you need that missile evasion or not. Just from personal experience I've found my fleets to be far more effective with AF, AP HV mass drivers than a fully modded fusion beam due to the range dissipation. You can shred entire enemy fleets before they get close enough to do real damage. Same with star bases as you can stay safely out of their beam range. On paper maybe fusion beams are more effective but I've never found them to be so in practice. Also the AI almost never gets heavy armor so AP tech works wonders vs them. Later you have a similar debate between gauss cannons and phasors, but phasors are a very different animal from fusion beams since they get shield piercing. That can make it very context specific. Some may be concerned about not getting class 5 shields to get gauss cannons, especially since almost everyone will go radiation shield over class 3 shields, but I wouldn't be, because to get that auto fire mod on your gauss cannons you need two levels which will get you class 7 shields.