August 2009

SFB Tactic of the month [continued]

Suicide freighters can be powerful weapons, but are limited by the ease with which they are disabled. All that is usually necessary is to disable the freighter's engines - an easy task - and it will be dead in space, even if most of its "cargo" (warhead) is still intact. However, when attacking a base in orbit, the planet's shadow can be used to protect the suicide freighter from the base's weapons. You will need a large freighter, or a small freighter equipped with one of the various bolt-on modifications that adds a tractor beam. Warning: There are a lot of "ifs" and this won't work in every situation.

Assume a planet in hex 2215 and a base in counterclockwise orbit, currently in hex 2214.

Approach the base from the opposite side of the planet, so it shields you from the base's fire. Bring another ship with you, within tractor range. Time your approach so you will be in the appropriate hex (2216, in this case) on Impulse #30. The consort ship will need to be moving at a speed fast enough that, if the freighter is tractored, its pseudo-speed will still be at least seventeen (so it will still move on Impulse #31). You can get by with a lower pseudo-speed if you are willing to give the base more than one Impulse to fire on the freighter, in which case you would also need to move the entire schedule ahead one Impulse.

On Impulse #30, have the freighter tractor the consort ship. Of course, you could tractor it sooner, perhaps to keep the two ships together.

On Impulse #31, the consort will move and push the freighter into the appropriate hex (for instance, if the base is orbiting counterclockwise, that would be hex 2116). Release the tractor, and use the freighter's transporter or shuttle to evacuate the crew. At this point the freighter will be locked on course to the base. This is the only opportunity the base will have to fire at the freighter, and it will be on Impulse #31, an extremely inconvenient impulse for firing. The base has likely already used most of its weapons, and if it has not, it will be under weapon recycling restrictions for the first six impulses of the following turn.

The freighter at this point will assume a seeking course, and hit the base on Impulse #32 when it is eligible to move, just as the base orbits into hex 2115.

As an added bonus, the consort ship that pushed the suicide freighter into position will be right there on Impulse #32 (or Impulse #1 of the following turn) for a follow up Mizia strike.

The base can defeat this tactic by tractoring the freighter on Impulse #31. However, it may have already used its available tractor and reserve power. The freighter will have the opportunity to allocate most of its current Turn's power to tractor, as it only really needs to move at speed one. The tractor auction would be at Range 2, giving the freighter an advantage. If the suicide freighter's approach is combined with a large salvo of drones, or plasma torpedoes (enough to force the base to use a wild weasel), the base will not be able to use its tractors defensively (or fire at the freighter). The suicide freighter would not be affected by the wild weasel.

Rated the best paper in this issue of Captain's Log.