By now you all should have recovered sufficiently from last month's class regarding Economics / Logistics so I know you're eagerly awaiting my next words of wisdom. Hey, you..Yeah, you in the back there! Stop the laughing!!
This month's column will be a short discussion of playing the big three carrier races...the Robots, the Rebels, and the Colonies. Why, you ask, don't I include those other races that have big carriers too? Because I don't want to, so there!
Actually, I didn't include the Empire, the Borgs, or the Crystals for one reason. They can't build fighters in space. This means they can't build a couple carriers with enough fighters to make a difference vs. the big three who can build A LOT of carriers with LOTS of fighters. You'll see why as you read on.
So, if you've been paying attention, you've already seen the reason why the Robots, Rebels, and Colonies have a big advantage. They can build fighters in space!! What's the big deal about that you say? Well, compared to the rest of the races, it means the Big 3 can build fighters at 1/20th of the cost. Now if you don't think that's a big advantage, you probably ought to get a job in the Pentagon purchasing department. What building fighters in space allows the Big 3 to do is spend only 5 supplies to build a fighter rather than the 100 MCs it takes at a SB. It still costs the same minerals (3 Trit & 2 Moly) but the 1/20th cost allows the Big 3 to really load up those carriers.
If you've ever come up against these race's big carriers, you know from bitter experience that if they are loaded with sufficient fighters, they will consistently take out 2 of any of the biggest Battleships the other races can build or one big Battleship & a StarBase. Why, you ask, do the big carriers consistently take out the big BB's? Because the big carriers can launch fighters faster than the BB's guns can shoot them down and fighters never miss when they fire while torpedoes sometimes do. Put that together with the huge mass of the big carriers and you'll begin to see why the carriers are so tough. Yeah, the carriers will still get shot up pretty good, but the other race's BB's will be pixels, which just about anybody knows, makes 'em kinda hard to repair.
The other big advantage of being able to build fighters in space is it allows the Big 3 to reload fighters as they advance thru their enemy's territory. Any other race's carriers have to hightail it back to a SB to reload fighters or have another carrier bring out replacements, either of which can really slow a campaign down. All the Big 3 need to do is take a planet that has some factories on it and a few minerals. Remember, there's no way to stop a planet's factories from producing supplies or mines from producing minerals. So, you'll always get at least one turn's worth of production when you take a planet. A torpedo ship race can replace their torps as they go by using the friendly code "mkt", but they're looking at having to find up to 54 MCs/supplies per torp (the cost of Mark 8 torps) while the Big 3 needs to capture only 5 supplies per fighter. If you glance thru the ship logs of the Rebels & Colonies, you'll find they have a ship that is particularly well suited as a "fighter factory", the Gemini Class Transport. It looks pretty wimpy, what with only 4 beams & 1 launch tube, but it's not meant to get into fights. It's advantage is that 400 cargo capacity that allows it to produce 40 fighters per turn(5 supplies + 3 Trit + 2 Moly = 1 fighter). Keep moving those fighters off to your carrier, and at 40 a whack (or more if you think to build more than one Gemini) and you'll soon fill your fighting carriers. The Robots aren't quite so lucky because they don't have a big cargo ship with launch tubes to produce fighters. The best they have is the Q Tanker, kinda a combination fighter factory & tanker ship, with 160 cargo capacity (or 16 fighters per turn). For this reason, the Robots will probably do a lot more of their fighter building aboard their carriers that will do their fighting.
Further examination of the ship logs shows each race has a good "light" carrier and a "kick your enemy's butts" carrier. For the Rebels & Colonies, the light carrier is the Patriot. It's cheap & has a lot of launch tubes (6). Loaded with fighters it will take out most small to medium sized ships and any planet that doesn't have a lot of Defense Posts.
The Robots ship in this class is a little more expensive, but can also take, as well as deal out a lot more punishment. It's the Instrumentality Baseship. Now the Robots have a lot of different Baseships (heck it's all they really have), but if you look at the cost in both MCs & minerals vs the number of launch tubes you get, the Inst gives you the most bang for your buck.
The big boys for each race are the Golem (Robots), the Rush (Rebels) and the Virgo (Colonies). Get ready for some real bad news if you see a few of these heading your way. All of them are expensive to build in both MCs & minerals, but they're all worth the price. This brings us to a small controversy within the community over whether any big carrier race is at a disadvantage economically because of the cost in minerals & MCs to build and arm those big carriers vs the torpedo boat races which "appear" to be able to build cheaper battleships. It just ain't so. The problem with the torpedo boats is loading up those torps so they can do something against the carriers. A load of 50 Mark 8 Torps costs 2700 MCs by themselves (not to mention the cost of the tubes themselves), which is a heck of a lot more than the 600 supplies it costs to load a carrier with 120 fighters. It does cost a few more minerals to build and arm a carrier, but when you consider a probable 2-for-1 loss rate, those torp boats will end up costing a lot more MCs & more minerals than the one carrier.
Another mini controversy is...how many fighters to put aboard the carriers. I don't see much point of putting many more than 120 fighters aboard any carrier, maybe 150 tops. That gives you more than enough to take out any 2 battleships, and if you come up against a third, you'll most likely go boom pretty quick anyway. Do you really want to spend your supplies & minerals on fighters that will go boom inside you carrier? That's about the same number you'll need if you take on another big carrier too.
Who wins that one is kinda up to variables within the program, but the survivor will be so shot up that if your opponent has another decent ship to back up his dead carrier, your carrier will be toast. Now some folks claim that the more fighters your carrier has, the faster it will launch. My personal experience is that's some wishful thinking that ranks right up there with higher tech beams recharging faster. I haven't seen any hard evidence to support either contention and until I do, I just can't buy that snake oil.
So, what do you do to combat the Big 3 (or any big carrier for that matter)? If he's coming in well loaded with fighters, about all you can do is bite the bullet and sacrifice some of your BBs. If there's ground you can afford to give up, use your planetary def to whittle away at his fighters. Or you can use small cheap ships that have lots of beam weapons to knock down his fighters before the BBs go in. The best thing you can do is, try not to leave supplies laying around on planets he may take. Also, deny him the minerals he needs to build those fighters. If you're going to have ships defend a planet, and you're reasonably sure they will die, load them up with Trit & Moly before the carriers arrive so the minerals he needs go boom with your ships. Other than that, my best advice is (which is true against just about any race), get to his planets before he gets to yours. I think it's always better to fight in someone else's backyard than my own.
I guess that didn't turn out to be so short after all. Nobody ever said I had a problem talking my head off anyway, so whaddya expect?
Next month's column I'll discuss the joys of Phost and why you may want to politely ask the good folks at SpaceNet to consider setting up all future DOS-based games with it.