I've seen individuals spend endless hours talking about starfleet hypotheticals. Honest! It was alittle mind boggling but true.
They just published an entire supplement devoted to hypotheticals: "Ships That Never Were." I've always found it interesting that in this game based on a ficticious future, there are references to ships that actually exist, and those that are purely conjectural. It seems to me that they are all conjectural.
The game itself has a very detailed "future history" or storyline that has developed over the years. It consistes of the various historical scenarios (over 200 of them, and they usually list a setup/what really happened for each scenario), the strategic level game Federation and Empire where you control each empire (Fed/Klingon/Rom etc.) and how many of each ship type you build based on various limits.
This means that of the many many ships created for the game, most were actually built, either as regular production (lots of them) or in limited numbers.
Some ships/technology were not built in the listed "History", but are obvious things that could have been if "History" had been different. They often then get published as conjectural or unbuilt variants for players to use in campaigns where they make different choices than what was done "historically". For example, only the Coalition (Klingons/Romulans/Lyrans) actually had Mauler techonolgy (a really big gun that you don't add to a ship, you build the ship around it). The Alliance (Feds/Kzinti/Gorn/Hydran) never got this technology, but sometimes in a campaign you might give it to them as a balance factor, or allow them to "steal" the tech from the enemy if you capture a mauler ship, thus there are alliance maulers in module THE SHIPS THAT NEVER WERE in case players want to try them.
Then there are ships that violate the technology or other design principles that the game is based around, these sometimes exist as failed design ideas and such that can be used if you want to see how they would have worked. Heavy PFs from the Stellar Shadows module fit this pattern.
So you can play with the "historical" ships and run a game that matches the game's established storyline. You can run an "alternate history" game where some ships/designs that were not built did get built. And you can run a "computer simulation" to see what some impossible technology might have been like.
The game is a simulation of a fictitious history, but it is a history that had within it simulations of fictitious things that never happened in the fictitious history!
See, it's all perfectly clear.
I've been Banished to Oregon... Gaming in Corvallis, living in Alsea... Need gamers willing to try new things...
The Splattered Imperium
Ships in SFB fall into several categories:
Core ships - Fed CA, DN, DD, SC, TT; Kl D6/D7; Rom WB/WE, KR; Thol PC; Kz CS
(These are all stuff from SFTM, TOS or TAS)
Basic Expansion to Reasonable fleet: CC, CA, CL, DD, FF, Pol designs for everyone except Tholians and Orions
Racially specific stuff: Romulan overlapping classes WE/KR/SkH, KE/FH, Rom, Lyr & Kl Maulers, PFT's vs Fed heavy-fighter carriers, Klingon BB's
"Conjecturals" for people running "free campaigns" using Fed Space or F&E: Non-Klingon BB's; Fed PFT's; Fed, Gorn, Kzin, Hydran Maulers; all the missing "should have been there but SVC & SPP decided that that race's designs board had this blind spot"
Small Races - WYN, LDR, Seltorian, Neo-Tholian. Stuff that gives the timeline/setting some texture.
Non-main era (outside Y150-180):
Y - Y60-140 era stuff... shorter ranges, slower speeds, armor.
Q - Y1-Y60 (not in current eds) Sublight combat, and non-tactical warp using the impulse engines
X - Post 180 "advanced" ships - think "Uprated to Movie Era"... but SFB never adopted the movie era look, for legal reasons...
F - alternate "Advanced" ships with speed boosts on the strategic and tactical scales
and then the alternate setting stuff... "Omega Sector" line.
You'll note that the majority of the Conjecturals were originally published during commander's era, for people playing campaigns. There were constant calls for Fed PF's and Alliance Maulers, and non-klingon BB's, so those were done up and labeled conjectural. There were 3 really good Fed FFB designs submitted, so the most consistent one was selected, while another was listed as conjectural but is implied it may have gotten as far as a first ship built but not accepted after trials.
Over time, SFB has moved more and more to a hardline "Here's the timeline" mode, and more and more conjecturals were added to support campaign play outside the "replay the timeline" mode. Even well into Commanders Ed, almost no conjecturals were present in the game, tho' a bunch of "only one of these was ever made" designs were in various places.
That's the great thing about SFB, modifying the ships and the game to play out variants and hypotheticals, and also try out HOUSE RULES. Something you mostly cannot do with computer games.
Back in the early '80s, my high school SFB club would design and play out all manner of hypothetical ships and rules. Some ships made from the drawing board with black felt tip pens drawn on blue line graph paper. When you are done, photocopy it with a light copy setting and the graph paper lines are (mostly) gone. Or just mark up an existing SSD photocopy with what you want.
Lots of these were made to go along with campaign games, such as the guys fighting out all the battles in the strategic Federation Space game, but using the streamlined and fast Intro/Cadet Rules. They replaced the carriers and battle pods with fleet repair ships (tugs towing pods filled with repair and supplies).
Other ships were fun experiments. A Romulan Hawk destroyer with the G plasma torpedoes replaced with Phaser-IVs, a Planet Killer that can only be attacked from the #1 shield side (2-6 are protected by her invulnerable neutronium hull), etc. Lots of experiments with such stuff kept interest in the game.