Terry O'Carroll asks: Ken Burnside wrote, in a tournament report: "I specify that one of the drone racks is half empty (a cheesy trick to load the second ECM drone in one turn, rather than a turn spent unloading and a turn spent reloading)." Can someone tell me which rule allows this? I thought ships always started the game with full racks?
ANSWER: I am unaware of any rule that allows this with the exception of (FD3.45) for type-D drone racks and (FD3.85) for starbase drone racks. The applicable rules seem to be the following: (FD2.31), (FD2.422), and (FD2.451), none of which allows the partial unloading of a drone rack at any weapon status. Rule (S4.13) might seem to allow a partial exception in that you can have launched one drone from each rack during Turn #0.
Andy Vancil asks a follow-up question: I suppose at WS-III you could say that the drones in your scatter-packs came out of the drone racks, rather than the reloads? That would leave space in the racks to put special drones from storage in without delay.
ANSWER: Not if you are playing in accordance with the rules: (FD7.212) The drones used for a scatter-pack are drawn from the reserve stocks (FD2.44) or the drone racks of the ship which prepares and launches the scatter-pack. Drones loaded onto an scatter-pack at the start of a scenario under WS-II or WS-III are drawn from the ship's reload stockpile (FD2.44) and do not cost any BPV since they were paid for under (FD2.45). Any drones in the reload stockpile not prohibited by (FD7.12) can be loaded in the scatter-pack at start without regard to availability (FD10.6).
George Duffy asks a follow-up question: With regards to unloading drones from a drone rack. Is not the loading/unloading of a rack and the transferring of drones to/from a storage area done by drone-rack crews, while the tranferring of drones to/from the storage facility to either a fighter ready rack or a scatter-pack done by deck crews? [Based on what it says in (FD7.25).] If so, then could not the drone-rack crews unload a drone from the rack and place it the storage facility, while the storage facility was being pilfered by deck crews trying to load a scatter-pack at the same time? Could this be done during WS-II?
ANSWER: There is, to the best of my knowledge, no rule allowing you to begin a scenario with partially unloaded drone racks, except for some "special scenario rules" reflecting unusual circumstances. Unless such a rule is found (I have looked with no success), the answer has to be "no".
John Trauger asks a follow-up question: Could a ship start with voluntarily reduced rack loads if one accepted appropriately reduced reloads?
ANSWER: There is no rule that allows this, nor is there a need for such a rule. The only thing we can figure out is that you're looking for a way to reduce BPV cost and doing it that way is just not something that would be under the control of the ship's captain (or the player).
Tos Crawford asks a follow-up question: Rule (FD2.422) allows you to unload a drone from a rack into a scatter-pack. Note that it is reasonably clear that this is referring to an in-game action rather than a pre-game action. However, when combined with (S4.12) "One shuttle may be prepared for a special role (SP, WW, SS)", the rule could be interpreted as allowing for the pre-game drone to have been supplied using the (FD2.422) method. Consider the case of a type-G drone rack with four type-Is loaded and reloads of four type-Is and eight ADDs. Rule (S4.12) says I can have one shuttle prepared as a scatter-pack. In order to complete that preparation it could be presumed that I used (FD2.422) to do so. If (FD2.422) can be interpreted in this manner for a ship light on reloads, why not for a ship that has plenty of reloads?
ANSWER: The cited rule about scatter-packs makes it quite clear that (FD2.422) does not allow you to unload drones from a drone rack prior to a scenario beginning; this is very explicit beginning with the second sentence of the cited rule. Your ship can have a short scatter-pack, or could convert some of the anti-drones to type-VI drones (or could purchase some extra reload drones with its Commander's Option Points, or use drones provided for an MRS shuttle if it is eligible to purchase one), but it cannot start the scenario with drones already unloaded from its drone rack.
The same argument would apply to a Klingon F5 (or E4) prior to Y175 (and prior to Y165 it would not even be able to convert ADDs). It would have one type-A drone rack, giving it just four reloads. The same argument could be made for any ship with two shuttles and two type-A drone racks, i.e., it could not have two full scatter-packs because there are only eight reload drones. The argument is already settled by (FD7.212), i.e., at WS-II or WS-III you can have a scatter-pack, or two scatter-packs (assuming two shuttles), but the scatter-pack can only be loaded with drones from reload storage (with the noted exceptions of type-D and type-H drone racks with multiple magazines). Whether that reload storage is for its own drone racks, or for its fighters (if any) or PFs (if any) is irrelevant. It cannot be drones unloaded from the racks prior to the commencement of the scenario.
Tos Crawford asks a follow-up question: Let's try two more examples. A lone Kzinti tug is running away from an Orion force long enough to achieve WS-III, but the Orions eventually catch him. Is the tug (two type-D drone racks, no reloads) allowed to prepare a scatter-pack pre-game? By the current logic the tug, having no reloads, would not be allowed to load a scatter-pack. I am fine with this ruling as it is consistent, but in the similar case of a starbase (FD3.84) this ruling makes it impossible for a hypothetical starbase with no Commander's Option Points to load a scatter-pack.
ANSWER: Specific rules override general rules; the Kzinti tug (and bases and other units with type-D drone racks, like the Kzinti fast battlecruiser) are specifically allowed to have unloaded enough drones for a scatter-pack under (FD3.45). Starbases have a similar specific rule under (FD3.85), but neither of these rules allows other types of drone racks to be treated in this manner.
Ken Burnside asks: I have two type-G drone racks on my ship, and drone percentages of 25% and 10%. As a cost-saving measure, I take all type-IV heavy drones. Now, I have clearly got 25% restricted modules. That means I get one "space" worth of restricted drones in each rack and two drones in each rack. Can I legally have two type-IV drones with a half payload space of armor in them? I am not using more than one payload space of restricted drones. Note that this also implies my reloads are all built this way. Rule (FD10.641) says "All percentages are based off of 'warhead spaces' of drones in drone racks, and fighter ready racks and launch rails (FD2.45). Round fractions of 0.49 down and 0.50 up." To me, the bone of contention is in the second sentence. If it is treated as a modifier to the prior sentence, it merely indicates that a lone type-B drone rack gets two warhead spaces of restricted availability drones, and zero warhead spaces of limited availability drones - assuming 25% and 10%, respectively. This also means that that same type-B drone rack with all type-IV drones could easily have three drones with a half space of internal armor, since that is fewer "warhead spaces" of drones than is required. If it is not treated as a modifier, then any drone with a half payload space of armor is treated as having a full payload space of armor for availability restrictions. I have been looking for over a decade for a ruling that closes the "half space drone module" cheesy loophole, although I seem to recall that it has been ruled legal every time I have brought it up.
ANSWER: See (FD10.66) which resolves your question. That scatter-pack has already been launched.