January 2007

FC Tactic of the month Continued

A Brief look at Suicide Shuttles

By Patrick J Doyle, Federation Commander National Champion 2006

Once it poses a threat, it has multiple uses. Suicide shuttles can be used to influence an opponent's movement to your advantage or they can be used to simply absorb an enemy's firepower. Any resources used against the shuttles will not be available for use against your ships.

If your enemy has the resources available, they are not impossible to deal with. Suicide shuttles can be shot down, or grabbed by a tractor beam. They move at speed 8, so they are easy to outrun by most ships. If at a baseline speed of zero or 8, accelerating at key moments may buy time. One other limitation is that a ship can only launch one shuttle per impulse.

Let's look at what makes a good target for a suicide shuttle. Here are a few possibilities for targets; no doubt there are others.

1. An enemy coming at you, usually chasing you, but coming at you from the front is possible if you are going slowly enough.

2. An enemy that has broken down or performed emergency deceleration.

3. An enemy held or slowed down by a tractor beam. Probably a difficult maneuver to pull off, but not necessarily impossible. This is probably a whole other tactics paper.

4. My favorite, the wounded vessel that cannot get away. Crippled vessels can be a nuisance with their one or two surviving weapons plinking away at long range. Plus, they are a hazard to navigation and must be destroyed!

5. In a multi-ship engagement, launch suicide shuttles at a stationary or slow moving cripple. If the enemy does not detach forces to help the cripple, you'll kill it. If he detaches forces from the main battle group to chase down shuttles, you will have weakened his main group even further.

6. Enemy ships that have fired all of their phasers, or have no power remaining to shoot or tractor a shuttle. Sometimes it's worth waiting until he has expended his weapons, then get in some extra damage with a suicide shuttle. Power remaining will be the great limiter in this instance.

Next, how big of a warhead should you use? An 18-point suicide shuttle launched at you is a threat that must be dealt with. But what about multiple Suicide shuttles? What if, instead of one 18-point shuttle chasing you there were two shuttles with 9-point warheads, or three 6-point warhead shuttles, etc. Multiple shuttles (possibly launched by multiple ships) would make for a more complex problem. If you include a few drones in the mix, the problem gets bigger.

A shuttle with a three point warhead might not be considered worth the firepower required to shoot it down. One point of power would be used to cause three damage points, and you won't have used up a weapon mount. Not a bad exchange. To shoot it down will require two phaser-3s and one power. But that represents 6-8 points of damage that won't be striking you.

Experience will dictate how useful suicide shuttles become, and the best ways to use them. In the fleet scale, they will require a significant amount of firepower to destroy when compared to the squadron scale, but there will be half as many. These are just some initial ideas and are at least worth trying in the right situation. The only real test is combat.