By Andrew Burns
Fighter races tend to be the most powerful races. They can build fighters very cheaply and always have a good range of carriers to use them with. The question is, what do you do if you're a fighter race, the Rebels, Colonies, Robots or Empire, and you don't have free fighters? (i.e. Those fighters built at starbases, or those built in space by carriers. They're not strictly free, but many players seem to call them that.)
Is it unfair? Yes, certainly. Do the fighter based races stand a chance? Only a small one at best. However, I'm writing to try to help maximise that chance. It's slim, but since when has anything easy been fun? Some my suggestions are theoretical, some is what I've observed, and some I've actually done . Most of the tactics suggested can work in normal games too. It's centred on the Rebels, which I played in a no free fighter game, but I've put down my thoughts for the other 3 races. If you don't agree with any of the points made, then don't pay any attention to them (g). I wouldn't ....
So what if it all goes wrong? You need to start looking for alternative ways of fighting, without using fighters, or at least not as many. Each of the individual races has it's tips shown below. But there are some general ones...
- Find a high income world and tax it like mad. It sounds obvious, but a high income allows you to build fighters at a reasonable rate anyway. Robots and Colonies shouldn't have too much problem with this - use a Pawn or a Cobol Research Cruiser to scout for likely candidates with it's bioscanner. Finding such a world is more of a hit and miss affair for the Empire and Rebels - just scout quickly and hope you find that Insectoid Unity. Once you've found it you can colonise it heavily and start taxing. It's now a matter of sitting there and taking the taxes. However, I have heard of a Rebel tactic for getting cash that's supposed to work quite nicely. It goes like this...
- Put a Large deep space freighter full of colonists in orbit of the world to be taxed. Colonised the planet and start taxing at a very high rate.
- When the natives start to get angry, which they should in a short time, beam up most of the colonists and get the freighter to Rebel Ground Assault. This should make the natives very happy, but will annoy whatever is left of your colony.
- Beam up the rest of the colony before dropping them all again next turn. When the planet is recolonised the natives should be happy, despite the heavy tax you had previously, and the colonists should be calm.
Also, the Colonies Lady Royale Cruiser is good for getting money. Just build one with tech 1 equipment, fill it with colonists and leave it in orbit of a planet to gain money.
- Try to trade for Torp ships. This is described in detail for each race below, but normally every non-fighter race is willing to trade for a good carrier.
- Make friends with a torpedo based race. Hopefully they'll trade with you, or give you help if you need it.
- Avoid war at first - let the others attack each other and then, when you've had time to build up, start fighting with the rest.
- Whine, moan and scream at your host to give you cheaper fighters, or a 200% tax rate, or some other method of getting money.
The rebels probably adapt to not having fighters better than most races. The Rebel ground assault is still a good weapon, and used right can wreck an Empire. They also have some torpedo ships of decent quality.
The Rebels should try to use their ground assault to force an opponent to keep his fleet around his planets, and so spread out, while the more concentrated Rebel fleet captures one planet at a time. You can carry out these rebel strikes in 2 ways...
- Use a Falcon to HYPerspace directly to a planet and ground attack it. You can use HYPerspace jump planning utilities to plan the jump so that you land directly at the planet. If you have you mission set to Rebel ground attack when you make the jump then the Falcon will ground attack the planet as soon as it gets there. The only way this can be stopped is if the race being attacked leaves ships orbiting it's planets with the primary enemy set to Rebels. This really saps a fleets resources when half of it is having to sit there and wait for an attack that may or may not come. All the Rebel fleet has to do is defeat the remainder of the fleet, and then capture the enemies planets at will. Having attacked the planet you can then jump straight back out!
- Get a CLOAKER! In my opinion Rebel cloakers are some of the best ships in the game. You should try to get a cheap ship (which doesn't have to be well armed, as a badly armed ship is cheaper to clone) with good engines and a fairly large fuel tank.
The best ships are the Privateer BR4 and BR5. The Meteor is quite good and has a long range, but isn't very cheap to clone. The Birds also have several good ships, notably the Swift Heart (Cheap with a good fuel tank), White Falcon (Long range and 1 torpedo tube to lay mines with) and Fearless Wing (Good range, powerful warship for surprise attacks against ships). The Lizards Lizard Cruiser is okay, though a bit massive and the large cargo hold is a bit unnecessary.
Cloakers are extremely useful for a Rebel fleet as it means that they can approach the enemy undetected, scout out the enemies planets and, if they find an unprotected planet, they can attack it at will. It would be very difficult for an enemy to cover all his planets, and all you have to do is keep scouting until you find an unprotected world. When this is used with idea 1 as shown above it is very effective - the Falcons attack deep into enemy space while the cloakers strike closer planets.
There are a few ways of stopping this. Firstly is to leave picket ships at each planet to protect it. This is not very practical, even when you only protect important planets. It uses too many ships. Secondly, to stop cloakers, get a few Loki Destroyers and use them to protect your planets, uncloaking the rebels and attacking them as they approach. Thirdly, lay lots of mines to stop cloakers. Crystal Web mines are easily the best if you can get them. Finally, to stop the Falcons, if you can, get 2 Crystalline minefields laid so they overlap over a planet then if the Rebel player attacks it you'll get his ship; he'll have used some fuel getting to the jump point, then used 50kts for the jump, lost 50kts to the minefields, and so doesn't have enough fuel to jump away again.
Of course, it's very likely that you will be attacked by some ships. The best way of defending against this is to load your large carriers with as many fighters as you can afford and use your smaller torpedo ships to destroy all their small/medium ships and then bring in the large carriers to destroy and battleships or carriers. That way you avoid wasting expensive fighters on ships that could be taken out by your torpedo ships.
The Rebels are fortunate enough to have a few torpedo ships. The best of these is the Cygnus, which is low tech, cheap, and when armed with 4 mk7 torpedo tubes is a fearsome ship. The Tranquility makes a good minelayer, but isn't very good as a warship. It's an okay transport to. The Guardian isn't very good as it carries to few torpedoes and has too small a fuel tank, but it can be a good one shot weapon. Finally the Iron Lady is okay against fighters, but isn't good against ships with lots of torpedo tubes - it gets blown away too quickly.
Whenever you're attacked it's best to accept the loss of a few planets. Fall back a short way and take all the fuel off the planets you're letting you opponent take. Then start to strike at the planets behind where his ships are, using cloakers or Falcons. This will disrupt his fuel supply, and as long as he is attacking you will be ruining his Empire. Unless you have few Falcons and cloakers, or he has lots of resources to lose, he'll probably start to divert his attention to stopping your attacks. Then mass a fleet of beam and torpedo based ships supported by what carriers you can afford to fill and then retake the planets you've lost, destroying his fleet (which should be a bit short on fuel, and may have been split up to defend planets). You might lose some warships in fending off his attack, but he should have his Empire rioting around him.
When it comes to trading, as you don't have the free fighters, trade is somewhat harder. However, it is still possible to sell carriers to races that don't have any good ones of their own - e.g. Rushes to Privateers. You can also offer to use your Rebel Ground Attack in exchange, for instance, a number of strikes in exchange for a cloaking ship.
On the offensive, however, life is more difficult. Harassing the enemy will stall them, but for you to attack you will need to be sure of having enough of your valuable fighters, and lots of ships with high tech torpedoes. It's a simple case of attacking in overwhelming numbers. Not neat, and you'll suffer too, but with perseverance you can beat other races (I did).
The Empire doesn't have the same level of fighter production that the other three fighter races have, but they are still dependant on fighters for almost all of their ships. However, as normally they have to survive with only a few cheap fighters each turn, this has the advantage that there is less change from the normal pattern of Empire play.
Most importantly, get a good tax world, and tax it like crazy. To keep level with the position you'd be in a normal game you need to get 500Mc per turn per starbase. This will take a couple of planets with good natives on them, but this can be made easier by asking the Lizards to Hiss! at some of your worlds, in exchange. As starbases don't get you free fighters they are less important, and so it is probably a good idea to build less starbases and maybe build some ships to sell instead - Super Star Destroyers are quite popular, but make sure that they won't get used against you later. Then use the money from these ship sales to buy more fighters. Finally, sell Dark Sense information and buy fighters with that, an age old tactic, but if you can find enemy homeworlds you'll become very popular amongst other less well informed races. Use PL21 Probes to find this kind of information out - That way you can discover all sorts of things ....
The Empire has only got 1 torpedo ship, the Super Star Frigate, which isn't up to much, so it's not worth concentrating on building more torpedo ships.
So with the Empire, simply try to make money anyway possible, and buy fighters so you can play as you would normally.
With the Robots it is vital to expand as rapidly as possible. Grab planets early in the game, so that you have room to build up an industrial base to give you the money to build fighters. Don't go to war with anybody, but lay lots of minefields to protect your borders. Anybody trying to attack you will be impeded by the mines, and while the Colonies can sweep very well, they don't have many fighters to sweep with, and will probably be trying to avoid war until they've got lots of fighters too.
To aid trying to find good planets use Pawn baseships as part of the early exploration. The ship you should be building normally is, of course, the Cats Paw Destroyer. This is the Robots only torpedo ship, and so it's needed to lay all those minefields. The Cats Paws should be fitted with Mk4 Tubes, as they are the cheapest in MC per mine. You should try to build a couple of big carriers (Automata, Golems) and slowly fill them up. The minefields, while useful for defending, are really just a stalling tactic to slow down the bigger ships - very few major warships, and certainly none of the battleships or large carriers will be seriously damaged by mines. However, the will hopefully delay the other races long enough for you to build more fighters.
One point is that the Robots cannot trade with other races offering use of their x4 minefield sizes. It doesn't work - minefields laid in another races ID are normal sized. However, with the advent of minefield friendly codes and, under the latest host, the mf* code, it might be possible to be paid for laying mines in enemy space anyway....
For trade the Robots will have very little to offer. If you meet the Cyborg early on in a game then try to sell the some Pawns - that Bioscanner is very useful for an expanding Borg Empire. Apart from that, the only ships you have to offer are large carriers.
Oh dear. The Colonies are especially badly hit by a lack of fighters - not only can't they fight as well, but their minesweeping ability is impaired too. To be honest, of the fighter races I believe the Colonies have the smallest chance without cheap fighters.
The Colonies do have some torpedo based ships to attack with - they have the Cygnus (which as mentioned above, is okay), the Cobol (which with its fuel scoop and bioscanner is a very useful ship to explore early in a game), the Lady Royale (best used for it's money making abilities), the Tranquility (more like an armed freighter than a warship) and the Iron lady (which isn't a top of the line warship), but none of these ships are really able to fight very well - the Cygnus can be very useful, but it can't fight the heavier warships well.
In terms of trade, the Colonies have some interesting ships to trade. Most players are interested in getting their hands on a Cobol, especially early in a game, during expansion. The Aries is a good ship to sell to races that can end up with fuel problems later in the game - it's alchemy is better and it is cheaper than a refinery ship. The Lady Royale can be sold to races that are after more money. And finally, you might well be able to sell some carriers - Patriots or Virgos.
If you have enough fighters available, you might then be able to sell your minesweeping ability, but until you have those fighters that is not going to be possible.
Expand like mad. Avoid war during this.
Only attack one race at a time, and only when you're sure you'll win.
Harass the enemy, using whatever special abilities you have (tricky for Colonies)
I've heard of a couple of no cheap fighter games, one of which I was in. The fighter races seem to pretty uniformly had problems, but this didn't stop them surviving fairly well. In the game I was in the Colonies were destroyed fairly rapidly, with little to protect themselves. The Empire became quite strong, but was caught between the Lizards (who were easily out-producing everyone, and simply left his empire unable to build enough fighters) and the Birds, and this war on two fronts was not a good idea. The Robots quietly expanded as best they could, but they too were coming under pressure from the Lizards towards the end. However, they were the second strongest race left at the end of the game. Finally, the Rebels spent most of the game in conflict with the Cyborg, using Falcons and cloakers to raid his planets, and eventually, using a fleet of Cygnus', with a Rush, to capture his homeworld, and then start to take his Empire apart.
Most of these tactics can be applied elsewhere, though. I am currently in a team game where a Rebel players is using Falcons to seriously impede the growth of two of the other empires. I've also seen another rebel player gain massive amounts of money by Rebel Ground Attacking his own planets. I'm also in a game currently where the Robots seem to be trying to delay my movement with mines, and I have had the Empire try and bribe me with promises of information.
So I hope this has been useful, even if you're not in a no cheap fighter game....