TL: DR; They must have some merit, I wish to rediscover it in the current megagame. Specifically tech1 hulls (with an eye to the cheaper faction ones too). Trying not to depend on links/pirate implants but by god they're potent even when not max skilled/best hulls/HGs.
+ Insurance may have been nerfed, but at least prices are updated for this quarter now, you can get 75%? of hull cost back via platinum.
- Large guns and the number of T2 modules usually fitted makes the fit itself another 50-100mil. Also ~10mil per armour rig vs <1mil shield ones. Also absolute isk value of ship makes minor 10-20mil modules justifiable as being <10% of the cost. Yes, sunk cost fallacy but fit value creep happens.
- Initial outlay: Ships are 80-240mil for the hull alone. WTB tiericide this 12month period, realistically that isn't on the announced plans.
+ 800-1200dps from only 1 or 2 damage mods, aka while not gimping the fit, the most from sub-caps. Options to get to 1400+ before implants from gank fits. Enough to kill T1 ships under 1 logi unless resist fit, but probably not T2 or 2 logi. Sentry guns still adds 25-30% to what you can do which is significant.
+ Damage also covers at least all tackle range(ignoring tracking up close), and optionally out to ~50km/unlinked unpimped recon tackle ranges with short range guns + T2 ammo, except blasters.
- Tier 3s, unchanged for over half a year now, are better for dps. Almost always packing at least one more TE for the same other damage stats.
+ The most, with generally good coverage of all racks and expectations that highs/lows can be used for utility/tank without sacrificing core dps. Nothing amazing though.
+ 3 rig slots and full 400 calibration too. Navy ships being 50 less but still 3 slots. Standard tech1 then.
+ Drone bay, always at least room for a flight of lights, usually mediums too/2 sets of lights. Some ships manage 4-5 heavies/sentries which is when they first become reasonable to field and a couple have far beyond this. Rivaled only by the Gal sub BSs, and carriers.
- Not many more slots than some tier2 BCs, tiericide is years away. Especially minimal improvement if you need a slot or rig for fitting.
Unique modules/general raw fitting stats permit the following considerations:
+ Heavy neuts/any neuts that go beyond 13km without pimpage. Of any ships ingame, only the Curse can also do this. Said neuts may not be great but they do cover all unheated unbonused unlinked tackle range and volley cap at the start of cycle, usually enough to shake 1 frig's tackle in 1 or 2 cycles, and similarly prevent classic nano ships from mwding if they stick around for that long.
+ Large smartbombs. EM ones will volley light ECM drones. Cap intensive and a bad situation if bombing DPS drone swarms is going to be worth the cap vs mwding/repping/shooting.
+ Heavy cap injectors. T2 ones fitting 5 regular or 6 navy 800 charges. Surely at least 4x the power of medium injectors after factoring in reloads. 1 injector being enough to perma-run any buffer fit with any reasonable prop mod/utility high usage.
+ 1600mm plates. Piece of piss to fit, usually downgrading 1 gun by 1 tier will do it, or a cap injector to meta4.
± That stupid new target breaker ecm burst thing. Useless on a pvp fit afaik.
- No shield equiv of 1600mm, stuck with just Large SEs. A point emphasised by the existance of Slaves but only Crystals. Shield BSs can't buffer easily.
- Speed & agility: Shit. Worse than anything subcap. Macharials still need nerfing nbs. With an even start, the rest of them won't warp off before being run down & tackled by anything sub-BS with an mwd & long point. You actually have to consider a frig can now jump past you (say you aggro it when stationary or it decloaks on the gate), get back to gate & wait out the 10s session timer, jump back, and still tackle you if you didn't start aligning when it landed.
- Scan res: Shit. Beyond insta-locking arty fits, you cannot even just longpoint frigs, cruisers, HACs/T3s before they can warp/close range. BCs you have a hope, more so if they're shield-tanked. But a sebo/targetting rig is not worth fitting. Edit: to expand, this is because it'd only bring you to BC levels, and a BC can out-maneuver you to evade tackle/close in if it's going to. Really you're depending on them spawning/landing nicely.
- Weapon tracking AND SIG value. Tracking formula hates you, well flown BCs can get under your guns while webbed with no AB/snakes. I did this to a Nightmare in an armour Harbinger ffs. More generally you'll be lucky to get a shot on a frig between locking it and it being constantly missed even with it using lol Eve AP orbit. Thankfully if they don't do something, you can still blap them but usually when they're not tackled. Only the 90% web hulls get around this, and then very well at that, but they aren't cheap.
+ Sensor strength: not bad. Still ECCM is generally not worth it, terrible mechanic, use a smarty and/or DIAF when jammed. Unless you know you're going against ECM, then a tier3+heated ECCM can work, I believe.
+ HP: Raw buffer+DC2 is at fitted tier2 BC levels. Fitted EHP is 2-4 buffer BCs' worth depending on fit. Armour far more so due to 1600mm plates. So even active tanked fits are hard/impossible for 1 set of large guns to alpha, probably 2 in the case of armour.
+ Active tanks: >2k with T2 modules + links/implants, before being in hulls bonused for it. T2/sub30mil faction fits on bonused ships can push 4k with heat and drugs. The only things BSs are good for now?
+ Raw capacitor quantity (& thus regen too). 5-8k GJ with an MWD fitted, several minutes to be capped out by 1-4 t1 regular fit sub-BSs neuting you when not moving. Additionally due to the near-mandatory nature of mwd, historic prevalence of neuts & cap-intensive utility highs, at least 1 cap injector is very justifiable to fit.
± Cargo hold. Only ~25% more than BCs, again with some variation. Basically I expect 12+10 regular 800 charges + ammo/drugs/paste, using a medium can and making work for yourself fighting the new inventory UI. Navy charges take this to 16+12+more ammo space iirc. Still only a couple of minutes at full use.
- Nominally Fat/BS class. Can't go in smaller gated PvE sites (to gank or to set up the engagement), can't go through C1 wormholes and require consideration going through half the other classes. Can't be moved via Orca (I think, but can via carriers?).
What does all this leave us with as a strong combo?
* You can put at least 2 nanos on kiting BS fits and have a slower, fatter BC that has ~3 times the tier3 EHP (or 1x ~tier2 BC EHP) and can probably cap inject to prolong kiting if you're not tackled, a heavy neut to shake 1 tackler, OR a smartbomb to deal with x ECM drone swarms. You won't do any more dps than a tier3 though, and they can manage range & transversal far better (Fuck Machariels again). Basically requires a desire to kite, a frigate/HAC-light environment, and a stream of non-Drakes to kill. Similar to a BC you don't have all that much buffer. An active tank element would remove the cap injector advantage (or not buy you any extra time with just 1 ASB), and resists are poor so absolute tank values are 1 tier2 BC at most.
* A utility-orientated brawler ship fit. Non-tier-3 BC levels of DPS along with 2-3 heavy neuts/large smartbombs. Trusting in perhaps 1 ECCM or just base sensor strength + drone auto aggro to deal with a single ECM ship. Enough to crack locally tanked (active or buffer) sub-BSs while being hard to shake/jam if you can catch them. A buffer or bleeder fit is best here, cap is scarce to perma run any tank while also driving the highs, as well as mids being given over to sufficient tackle & perhaps ewar. The tank only buys you time to gank 1 and then deaggro, or try gank 2-3 smaller ships at most, or neut off a couple of uninjected/no-nos points at most. More than a couple of regular BCs/1 other BS left on grid/in range when you try the gank could burn you down before you kill even 1 BC, the split buffer+rep tank being very weak outside of a small window, though the situation really depends on who has links/implants & their fits. Had some lowsec success with this approach but depended upon plenty of intel via killboards as to what the targets had fitted & logged on nearby. Not something to roam freely with IMHO, though in theory it's the strongest focus on the best BS-specific advantages.
Perhaps this needs to be explored more, giving over more slots to ewar like TDs, but multiple tackle mods are needed to compensate for BS speed+agility+lock time. TDing something on the edge of scram isn't a convincing argument to have it not slide out of tackle. SDs won't convince anyone to come closer. Painters aren't good enough solo. Fuck ECM.
Edit: *pure buffer + dps gank brawler. Tackle mods don't scale, people are derps/unlucky.So get on their face, melt them, repeat until one side's dead/manages to run. Somewhat more likely to kill something before dying unlike the active tank choice. Also far more likely to die rather than manage to deaggro/leave as an end to every fight.
* Active tank. The most direct & simple application of the numbers. Your EHP and cap are very hard to alpha, your dps is likely to be 90-70% of any single enemy BS, with links the absolute numbers come out that you can tank 2-4 BSs or ~6 BCs until you run out of charges/burn mods out. Tackle reverts back to a 1 or 2 slot compromise, sometimes with the easily-run medium neut/risky-to-use heavy neut, and mwd, to assist with this. Dealing with ECM also reverts to trusting in hull/drones. Utility highs likely to be only 1 module, and you'll always wish you'd picked the other option from neut/smarty/more dps. Also links/implants heavily favours lowsec for 'solo' flying. Also you DIAF if you commit and they have even slightly too much dps, or can hold you so you can't deaggro before out of cap charges. Totally min-maxed a cloaky cap booster drop-off alt that perhaps also gives you a bump can solve the deaggro problem, but you still need sufficient tank. Also a minor consideration with drugs and traversing highsec to go to different areas of viable activity.
* Something I'm missing. What other solo/very small gang PvP opportunities are there for BSs? RR is the only other that spring to mind and that's certainly not solo and only useful with a handful of companion ships such that a couple of large RR would be sufficient to interfere with the enemy. I've not tried finding packs of cruisers (join FW/RvB?) but perhaps they're still fat enough to be tracked up close with some fitting consideration while squishy & short-ranged enough to draw out so as to last long enough against to kill in numbers?
IMHO Tier3s do the previously-BS-only range and quantity of dps equally, along with the superior tank of speed & agility vs raw EHP/rep amount, obsoleting BSs from the heavy hitter role. BSs can't tackle well enough to fight outnumbered vs them because tackle mods don't scale with hull size.
T2 cruisers/CSs/T3s can tank at least as well as BSs once factoring in sig and easier maneuvering, especially with DPS more-commonly coming from tier3's large guns.
ASBs make a mockery of armour tanks, the buffer advantage is weak compared to the efficient use of slots by a cheap, capless module of Pith X-type strength, ensuring that if any comparable active tank would be enough to survive, the dual ASB setup will achieve the equiv EHP with less risk & micromanagement. And as ever, shield fits have ~25% more damage + tracking + range.
Large RR just isn't strong enough because all the RR modules scale appallingly with size, aka all unbonused RR suffers from the range issue even after fitting & micromangement sacrifice. Sensor strength/ECCM also doesn't scale well enough. Heavy neuts are now actually less effective against FTOM active shield tankers because they're only using their entire cap buffer to MWD. And 'buffer' shield tankers are wanting to be outside 25km while laying down fire. Smartbombs aren't effective from a single ship in reasonable situations (yes there's that fool roaming around lowsec in a cloaky smarty mach collecting mails, nbs). Raw cargohold + dps isn't enough to gamble on full-tank active fits as mechanics allow reinforcements to get to the fight in relatively short timeframes, with hard counters.
Edit: I would put sniper fits in as a BS role, but I think they're completely dead vs tier3s, the extra slots & cost don't win out vs tier3 maneuverability, because EHP doesnt mean much and resists won't be that great. Also it's not solo, except pirate alpha-ing weak shit.
Please point out the mistakes/lack of insight, or I'll keep derping BSs of varying active tank element until stocks are empty, if that's the best use of the hulls.