By: Shawn "Novsh" Gilroy
It was a dark day for the Crystalline Confederation. The truce was broken and war was upon them at the worst possible moment in their race’s known history. Three spectral vessels had appeared in orbit around their HomeWorld. Although the unchristened diamond flame that had just been constructed launched to meet the uncloaking warbirds, without a load of torpedoes it was not match for the Dark Wing battlegroup.
It was a bloody space battle, but in the end millions of Crystalline voices cried out and were silenced as the third of the spectral battlegroup liquidated the planetary defences and slaughtered the inhabitants of the Confederation’s HomeWorld.
The knowledge that I am about to impart to you here, could have been used to stop this travesty. But alas, it was too late for the Crystals. Pray that you have received this in time to stop it from happening to your people.
This is how you gut an Echo Cluster as the Birdmen.
The topic of starships is one that seems to be the one that everyone and their dog has to say something about on the strategy forums, and all of them contradict one another. So which ones are wrong and which ones are correct? All and none.
Let me explain.
As Dave Killingsworth says in Complete VGA Planets User’s Guide, "Without them you are NOT dangerous." By and large, I have found that when people spout off an essential ship-list for any race, many of their strategies are specific to the game that they are presently in.
There IS no essential ship-list. However, each given scenario has an essential ship-list that if you deviate from it you are lost. And guess what? Only hindsight is 20/20.
When playing the Birdmen, there is a lot more room for potential error than when you play, say, the Colonies. There are two universal ship-building strategies that I work with when playing the Birdmen.
The first rule that I work by is: Build a fistful of swift heart class scouts with transwarp drives. Then, as the name implies, use them as scouts. It is often more comforting to know who your neighbours are and how close they are.
The second rule is: If it doesn’t cloak, don’t build it. There are two exceptional cases to this rule:
- Freighters are desperately necessary. But make sure you planet-hop. No sticking your neck out.
- If it will help your overall situation, and it doesn’t cloak, discard rule 2.
- Your ships are smaller. This is an overlying theme of your entire fleet. Never get too attached to anything, not even a Dark Wing.
Proportionate to your fleet’s lack of overall mass, they have guile. This means several things. Primarily, it means you have to be aggressive. The Avian Empire that waits for the other race to come to them is the Avian Empire that falls.
However, I am not telling you to be stupid either. You don’t have the fleet mass to charge through someone else’s empire like a mad bull.
All of your ships have qualities that make them worth using. Here are some of the things that I’ve found them useful for.
|The Swift Heart
||One of the wonderful things about this vessel is it can go cloaked forever before refuelling. It can be used with limited success to raid freighters. Due to its ability to last so long without refuelling, it is ideal for sending it around an opponents colonies to size up the situation.
|Neutronic Fuel Carriers
||With a load of 5 Kt of Neutronium, this vessel can go from one end of the star map to the other. This starship is ideal for intra-Imperial cash transfers. Its not to wise as a scout though, too easy to see.
|The White Falcon
||Both this vessel and the Fearless wing are very similar in design. Both are ideal scout/re-supply vessels. There is a key thing to remember when sending this ship into battle, however. It has 150 crew members. When the e-s bonus is on, that means that attacking another ship of similar size with it is practically giving it away to your enemy. This ship is more scout oriented. It is also ideal for laying big minefields in your enemies’ space <g>.
|The Bright Heart
||The Bright Heart does its shining as a disposable torpedo battery. It really doesn’t have the fuel capacity to get around much, nor the mass to stand up to a larger warship. The e-s bonus usually manages in getting it captured like the White Falcon. However, the Bright Heart is both cheap and has four torpedo tubes. The trend seems to be (and I agree with this) to make a bunch of them with high-level torpedo tubes and low level stardrives and about eight to twelve torpedoes. Then tow them to fringe planets and leave them cloaked to give any invasion force a bloody nose first off.
|The Fearless Wing
||This ship is the White Falcon’s double crew, six beam counterpart. The significant cargo/fuel capacity of this vessel make it another quality re-supply vessel. Especially if you don’t have a secure economic base within the enemy’s territory to make more torpedoes and refuel (all of this is true about the White Falcon as well). The major difference between this ship and the White Falcon is that you can consider the Fearless Win a small warship.
||This ship’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t cloak. It could be reasonably useful as a Birdman warship if it had a cloaking device. This ship is marked, like that of most ship designs that the Privateers also have by a 250 Kt cargo capacity. However, this ship has more than one torpedo tube.
|The Valiant Wind
||The Valiant Wind is another vessel that doesn’t cloak, but it is a carrier. In fact, it is a good middle-sized carrier. The real crippling factor is that it is a carrier. If you’re really sold on using carriers, then perhaps you should ally yourself with a fighter building race. Otherwise, this ship represents a significant drain on your resources.
The Deth Specula
|In shared ship designs, there is always something missing for one of the design’s holders. The case with the Deth Specula is it has the Fascist’s token lack of cargo space. This cripples an otherwise quality ship design. Therefore, there is a trick to using the Deth Specula’s. When you put together a battlegroup, make sure you pair them off with things that can carry a backup supply of torpedoes (i.e.- 2 Deth Specula’s and a White Falcon/Fearless Wing). Otherwise, your campaign will be short.
||With the advent of host 3.22.005, the resolute has been an invaluable and all-purpose large-medium warship. It has both a 420 fuel capacity and now cloaks without burning fuel. Even in ion storms. Its weakness is in its lack of torpedo tubes. With a cargo capacity of 280, it carries more torpedoes that it will ever fire before going down to another ship of comparable size. The cargo/fuel capacity of this vessel makes it a great compliment to a Dark Wing Battlegroup.
|The Red Wind
||A carrier that cloaks. Sounds good doesn’t it? What sounds good on the drawing board is often not as successful in the empirical sense. The Red Wind carries the trademark traits of many of the Birdmen ships: "not big enough." As a carrier with 2 beams, and 2 fighter bays, its a grand design. However its cargo space of eighty coupled with the cost of fighters make this a Bright Heart that wasn’t. The problem is that Birdmen just aren’t fighter oriented enough to justify spending 8000 MC on outfitting this tiny vessel. If you ally with a fighter-building race, however, these things could potentially work like, and even compliment, the Bright Heart as cheap garrisons. But as an offensive ship they are stopped at the front lines by their fuel capacity.
|The Dark Wing
||What is there to say. This is the biggest cloaking warship in the game. This is one of the ships that is feared and reviled by non-Birdmen players almost as mush as the Gorbie and the Meteor Class Blockade Runner. This vessel has a serious Achilles heal: Its fuel hold. This vessel now requires no fuel to cloak under the same advanced cloaking convention listed above for host 3.22.005 and later. The Dark Wing has the mass of T-Rex and the fuel capacity of a medium freighter. If these things don’t move in battle-groups that include Resolutes, their movement often stops quickly. There is also the interesting issue of what a Dark Wing, built without beam weapons does to a carrier. In combat against a carrier, this vessel survives longer if the fighters have to fly back to the carrier in waves instead of the steadily pummelling that a Dark Wing with enough beams to shoot down significant numbers of fighters and allow the carrier to launch early second-waves. This makes a strong argument for a B-class variant of Dark wing that is build with one beam and as many high-tech torpedo tubes as one can spare for use against enemy carriers (run the SIM’s; it works).
As the Birdmen, there are tools available to you that the other races can often see gain in procuring for themselves. However, how many of those vessels that you would like to see sent back to haunt you is up to you.
There are a few significant considerations when deciding on what to trade and who to trade it too, and what to trade it for.
When Trading vessels and making alliances (as the two often go hand in hand) it is important to consider not only short term goals, but long term ones as well. In fact this is probably the place to discuss allies. For it is dubious logic to trade warships with the enemy.
||The Federation has little to offer in an alliance with the Birdmen aside from the obviously large war vessels and the super refit capability. These abilities are hardly a worthwhile compliment to the Birdmen (unless they are your neighbours. Even then, eventually you will be building your own tech 10 stuff without the wait.) A valid position to make at this point is that any neighbour makes a good ally, no matter what the race (if you’re into that ally stuff <g>).
||Lizards have cloaking vessels so as long as you don’t give them a big one, there’s really no harm done. However, if you’re looking for an ally that compliments your racial advantages, the lizards (apart from having oodles of minerals) only share your weakness of small vessels (smaller even).
||I admit that glory devices are both handy and a lot of fun to get hold of, but for the purposes of warfare, it only tells your enemy where you’re coming from because glory device vessels don’t cloak. Fascists’ got little ships too.
||I know everyone across the Internet touts the "great" meteor class blockade runner. But for the purposes of remaining unseen, nothing beats having a fleet of gravitronic accelerated vessels to tow your non-cloaking freighters. The Privateers are practically adept at keeping unseen as well.
||The Cyborg are difficult to work with as an alliance. Usually, they demand protection for the first 20 or so turns from an ally, then they will get to big to keep in check and they eat their allies (unless that ally can provide free fighters for their Biocides, which you cannot). However, being on their good side can save a lot of woe over lost Dark Wings.
||The Crystal Confederation are both slow and are restricted to primarily to defensive warfare Your strengths are really in your offensive capabilities (the old strike and fade tactic). Their vessels are solid, but not strong. Really they have nothing that you need.
|Empire, Robots, Rebels, Colonies
||Inevitably these races are all similar for the purposes that they serve for you. Brute force. These races could fill your carriers with little commitment on their part and generally pack the biggest ship to ship/planet punch. None of them have the subtlety that cloaking warships provide. They all are good as allies and have lots of middle to large vessels that are of quite convenient. What they have that you want, however is mass, firepower and fighters. (I apologise to this race’s players for the vast generalisation).
Planetary organisation for the Birdmen is synonymous with that of most of the other races. Except that you really don’t want to be seen before you have to. Because of this, I propose the side-step colonisation strategy.
The side-step strategy is dangerous, but it may save you having to deal being sighted by multiple races at once. This strategy assumes that the HomeWorld distance is set to very long in the host configuration and that you are at least within 200 LY of the star map edge.
This technique is, instead of the traditional starburst flow of colonisation, choose one of the two directions and push that way. This accomplishes two things:
- This puts your HomeWorld on the fringe of your empire where freshly built warships can charge forth to engage enemy scouts/others stuff that get dangerously close.
- If you expand in one general direction, the chances that you will encounter one race and remain invisible to the other are raised. Then you run up the white flag and sue for peace (or wreak havoc on an unsuspecting opponent, depending on the size of your fleet and his).
The dangers of this strategy rest in the fact that when the other race that you expanded away from comes around. Your HomeWorld is right there where he doesn’t have to fight very far to get to it. If you utilise the information in this article, it shouldn’t be a problem. The trick is to keep close tabs on his activities and launch a crippling attack of his HomeWorld that you have found the location of with your scouts.
Unless it directly effects your end score, or it ups your building capability, don’t spare the minerals and cash for an extra StarBase, build a ship with those resources. The reason for this that in combat you will go through so many ships when combating the races with bigger vessels, that you can wait for the 500 ship-limit to be reached before you begin to produce extra starbase’s. However you should have several starbase’s by the time the ship-limit is reached that have already cranked out a sizeable fleet. Remember that all your ships are smaller than most races’ ships and you have to work harder to make them count and be willing to sacrifice them to achieve an objective.
As I have said already, as the Birdmen, you must be aggressive. Never give your neighbour enough due time to mount an invasion. Force him to defend himself. A good standard to play by is, never attack until you know what’s there. But make sure that you know what’s there.
The beauty of having a cloaking warship is the capability to pick and choose your battles. If you are being invaded, you will eventually have to make a stand, thus reducing your options.
One of the most important thing that I have learned is move everything in battlegroups with both warships and support vessels (2-3 Deth Specula’s, 1-2 Fearless Wing\White Falcon; or 3 Dark Wings and 2 Resolutes) this insures that there’s always something left to pick up the pieces after a key battle. Also when throwing a battlegroup up against a Virgo, Rush, Gorbie, Biocide and the like if the Dark Wings have 1 or less beams weapons built into them and loaded with high-tech torpedoes, you will save yourself a Dark Wing or two sometimes.
The key to making the Birdmen work is to play smart and never give up the chance to keep a conflict on the opponent’s territory. Never Disregard a potential ally or a non-cloaking ship design entirely on the basis that it doesn’t cloak. Just remember, the next HomeWorld that my Dark Wings drop cloak over could be yours.