By: Steel Rat.
Now that you've read last issue's column on how the ROB mission works, I'm sure those budding pirates out there are dying to know how to put it to good use. Pull up your chairs and gather 'round your kindly Uncle Rat now. He may just let a few hints slip (especially if you promise to NEVER use these against him).
The obvious use of the ROB mission is to simply make off with with some of the things you need to succeed in the game. Wouldn't you feel better using HIS minerals and supplies to build up YOUR bases & ships? Just think of the warm feeling you'll get when you discover which one of his planets is pumping out thousands of MCs that you can quite nobly give to the nearest charity (most likely located on the Privateer homeworld). And while you're busy putting his resources to good use, he won't be squandering them on his own ships & bases.
However, a far greater way to use the ROB mission is so you can liberate the ships your opponents have so kindly built for you. Since the Privateers don't have any real heavy fighting ships they can build naturally, this is the best way to get some. It will also give you some serious taunting ammunition with which to chide those foolish enough to attempt aggression against the mighty Privateers.
The best way to haul off those prizes is through the technique I call the "Snatch & Run". Here's how it works. You are sitting over an opponent's planet with your pack of 3 to 4 cloaked ships (it's always best to operate in packs if you can). A target has appeared that you want to add to your fleet. You have enough of your ships move away from the planet with their mission set to ROB so that your "target" ship will lose all it's fuel. How many ships you use depends on a number of factors such as: how many enemy ships and what type are present, what the fuel capacity of those ships is, the ship number of the one you want (lowest numbered ships get robbed first), and the remaining fuel capacity of your robbing ships (you can find the fuel capacity numbers in the docs). These numbers are important because you want to make sure your "target" has no fuel left. Remember that a ship with no fuel cannot engage in battle.
So, you use enough ships to drain away all the fuel (the "snatch") and then have one of your remaining ships tow off your "target" on the same turn (the "run"). Since ROB happens after transfers between ships & planets but before movement, your "target" won't get the chance to refuel and thus can't attack the towing ship on the trip home (there is a way for the target to get around this, but I can't give away all my secrets, right?). Meanwhile, what you do with the ships that robbed depends on what you made off with. If you happened to snatch away some nifty stuff, like a few thousand MCs, they might as well head home too. If not, just jettison the stuff you don't want, re-cloak, and head back in for another visit.
The Privateers also have the ability to fine tune their beam weapons so that you can kill off those pesky crew members who so selfishly wish to keep you off their ship. Privateer beam weapons receive a 3X bonus vs. life. If you examine the beam weapons you'll notice that 2 of them, the Disruptor & Heavy Disruptor, already do quite heavy "life" damage. Combine these with the 3X advantage and you get a very powerful weapon. Buy these beams for your ships.
When you plan to capture a ship via combat mode (i.e. using the 3X advantage), the smart Privateer will remember that before you start to kill off the crew, you must knock down the ship's shields first. This brings you to the dilemma of having to use your torps to knock down the shields while trying to keep from blowing the ship up with the torps after the shields are down. That's why I only recommend using combat to capture freighters or lightly armed transports.
You can disable your ship's torps by setting your friendly code to NTP (case sensitive, and BTW, this will also prevent your fighter carriers from launching fighters) and since freighters don't carry weapons, you can use just the beams to knock down the shields and then polish off the crew at your leisure. Never try to capture any kind of decent warship this way! With your torps disabled, his torps will quickly kill your ship before your beams can bust through the shields. You might consider it with a heavy captured ship that can soak up damage, but the ships that the Privateer can build just don't stand up well to heavy combat.
Finally, a word on which ships the Privateer should build. METEOR CLASS BLOCKADE RUNNERS. Alright, so that was four words, but the MCBR is the best ship the Privateers have. The BR4 & BR5 ships also have uses since they too can cloak & have the Grav Drives. However, the ship that can best accomplish the ROB mission is the MCBR. It has the decent fuel and cargo capacity necessary to make robbing worthwhile. Build as many of them as you can and put the best weapons you can on them. Yeah, I know, they don't stand up well in a fight. But if you are forced to fight, you might as well be ready to do as much damage as possible. Who knows? You may get lucky and all his torps could miss. Looking at the rest of the ships, you can pretty much figure out for yourself what uses can be made for each one. In my next column, I'll discuss the economics of playing VGAP (kinda boring, I know. But when the boss makes a request, whattya gonna do?)