In Empire: Total War, a Frigate is a a small- to medium-size warship. Typically classified as a 5th or 6th rate, they carry anywhere from 28 to 50+ guns and carronades of varying sizes. Their small size reduces their usefulness in pitched fleet actions; but they were nonetheless essential elements of historical navies. Acting as scouts, raiders and escorts, frigates were said to be so versatile that "no admiral ever had enough of them."
Throughout the course of the Grand Campaign, frigates are remarkably useful vessels. Early on, frigates are among the most powerful vessels afloat, capable of overmatching sloops, brigs and Indiamen in open battle. This initial superiority allows them to successfully defend trade routes and ports, as well as servein battle fleets. As time progresses and larger ships make frigates obsolete for frontline service, frigates remain valuable assets, capable of scouting ahead, acting as commerce raiders and protecting larger men-o'-war from potentially fatal flanking attacks.