November 2010

SFB Tactic of the month [continued]


Your two Stinger-2s are three to eight hexes from the enemy ship, and you are faced with a common dilemma: fire the fighters' weapons at a range where they are ineffective, or hold fire for a better range and risk losing the weapons before they fire. While many variables will affect your decision, including the empire of your opponent, his current arming status, the position on the map relative to your ship, and so on, the decision will ultimately come down to one of three cases:
    1. If you know he is going to destroy the Stinger-2s, they should obviously fire everything before they die.
    2. If you know he is going to cripple the Stinger-2s, they should probably fire everything. You might consider holding back a phaser-3 shot from each, as they will retain that when crippled. However, it usually will not be worth letting him finish off the cripple at close range just to get that phaser-3 shot, so you might as well fire it all.
    3. If you know he is not going to fire, or his fire will not cripple the Stinger-2s, they should hold their fire unless exceptional circumstances (down shield facing you, your ship is firing, they can land next impulse, etc.) dictate otherwise.
    The problem is you seldom know for sure what his intentions are. And what if you believe he will cripple or destroy one of the fighters, but do not know which one? We will examine some of the numerical factors that can help guide your fire decision.
    First, let's look at what a Stinger-2 can do. The expected damage at four to eight hexes range is five points, increasing to eight points of damage at Range 3. At Range 2, damage jumps to twenty points. Obviously, you would like to fire at Range 2 or less, and your opponent will be working to prevent this. Note that a crippled Stinger firing its phaser-3 will average one point at Range 3, three points of damage at Range 2, and about four points of damage closer in. This means that an uncrippled Stinger at Range 8 will average more damage than a crippled one will at Range 0. On the other hand, one uncrippled Stinger at Range 2 or less will do more damage than two uncrippled Stingers at Range 3 or more.
    Now let's look at what the Stingers are facing. Occasionally, heavy weapons will be used against the fighters, but we will not consider them in depth here; we will simply note that heavy weapon use against fighters usually means your opponent intends to avoid engagement with your ship, and you must be prepared to take advantage of the situation. Against most opponents, the anti-fighter weapon of choice will be the phaser-1. Phaser-3s are occasionally used to clean up crippled Stingers, but are usually not a factor outside of Range 2 against undamaged ones. Against the Klingon, you might face ADDs or phaser-2s at Range 3, but for purposes of the analysis below, you can consider these weapons equivalent to phaser-1s at that range. Thus, we will focus our analysis on the phaser-1.
    Note that a single phaser-1 cannot cripple a fighter outside Range 2. The tables below show the effect of two, three, or four phaser-1s.

      Two phaser-1s versus a Stinger-2
      Range   3       4       5       6-8
     Not Crippled    3%      22%     36%     86%
     Crippled        69%     67%     61%     14%
     Destroyed       28%     11%     3%      -
      Three phaser-1s versus a Stinger-2
      Range   3       4       5       6-8
     Not Crippled    -       <1%     <1%     49%
     Crippled        <1%     14%     27%     41%
     Destroyed       >99%    85%     72%     10%
      Four phaser-1s versus a Stinger-2
      Range   3       4       5       6-8
     Not Crippled    -       -       -       21%
     Crippled        -       <1%     <1%     39%
     Destroyed       100%    >99%    >99%    39%

    For simplicity, we can say that at three to five hexes range, two phaser-1s will cripple a Stinger-2 and three will kill it. Firing four or more phaser-1s at a single Stinger-2 at this range is probably overkill, but does (almost) assure success. At six to eight hexes range three phaser-1s will disable a Stinger-2 half the time, and four phaser-1s will disable a Stinger-2 most of the time, but nothing is guaranteed.     Let's pull this data together, and look at several situations:
    A. The Stinger-2s are at three to five hexes range, but will not be able to get closer because the enemy ship is (or will be) moving away too quickly.
    B. The Stinger-2s are at Range 3, and if not crippled, will be able to close to Range 2 or less on the next impulse.
    C. The Stinger-2s are Range 4, and will jump to Range 2 on the next impulse.
    D. The Stinger-2s are at four to five hexes range, and will be able to close to Range 2 or less in a few impulses.
    E. The Stinger-2s are at six to eight hexes range, and will be able to close to Range 2 unless the enemy ship turns away.
    For case A, if the enemy has two or three phaser-1s to fire at the Stingers, he can shoot down one of them. The question becomes whether maintaining the threat of a single, loaded Stinger is worth giving up five to eight points of damage. If not, both Stingers should fire everything.
    If the enemy has four or more phaser-1s to fire, both Stingers will likely be disabled, so they should fire while they can.
    For case B, if you are facing two or three phaser-1s, hold your fire. You will probably lose a Stinger, but unless your psychic powers have told you which one he will be shooting at, both should hold their fire, so that whichever one reaches Range 2 can blast him. On the other hand, if you believe he will fire four or more phaser-1s, both Stingers should fire everything. At least they will take down half a shield before they die.
    For case C, if you are facing two or three phaser-1s, again, hold your fire. If you are facing four or five phaser-1s, then fire the fusion beams, but hold the phaser-Gs. The fusions do not gain as much damage potential by moving from Range 4 to Range 2 as the phaser-Gs do, so it is worth a gamble that a fighter will make it through. If they are both destroyed with their phaser-Gs unfired, you only lose a couple points of damage scored.
    If he has six phaser-1s to fire at them, go ahead and fire it all - the odds are too slim that either Stinger-2 will get a later shot.
    Case D is more situational, and more complicated. If the fighters will be making a jump from Range 5 to Range 3 next impulse, he will probably fire at them. If the range is closing more slowly, he might hold out for Range 4, or fire some phasers this impulse, and then follow up based on the damage scored, possibly adding in some phaser-3s. If you believe he will fire this impulse, follow the same advice as in case C, factoring in the phasers you expect him to fire on subsequent impulses. If you think he will hold his fire, then you should hold your fire as well.
    For Case E, the enemy would be unwise to fire on the Stingers at this point, unless he plans to turn off. There is no point in the Stingers firing in reaction to the threat of enemy fire, unless the following three items are true: 1) The enemy is positioned to shoot at the Stingers and then turn off. 2) The enemy has four or more phaser-1s to fire. 3) There is no significant gain to be had from maintaining the threat of a fully loaded Stinger.
Of course, other factors may prompt you to fire at six to eight hexes range, such as the potential to score some damage and then land the Stinger-2s before they reach the effective range of the enemy phasers. Here, as in all the other cases, we are only addressing whether it makes sense to fire in reaction to anticipated enemy fire.
    One final note for all cases: It never makes sense to have just one Stinger fire while the other holds fire, UNLESS you happen to know that he is only going to shoot at one Stinger, AND you happen to know which one he is going to shoot at. Normally, either the expected outcome is best if both the Stingers fire, in which case both should fire, or the expected outcome is best if they hold their fire, in which case both should hold their fire.
    In the end, the trick then becomes to figure out how many phasers your opponent is planning to fire at the Stingers, and whether (and how quickly) the Stingers will be able to get to Range 2 or less. Knowing how many phasers he has in arc (and how many are likely to be powered) is just the beginning. You need to assess his plan for this battle pass - destroy the Stinger-2s and only minimally engage your ship, or focus on your ship and avoid the Stinger-2s? And what is YOUR plan? Presumably, the Stinger-2s did not just blunder into this range, but are there for a tactical reason. Executing your tactics, while figuring out and reacting to those of your opponent, are the core of the game, and no simple formula can provide all the answers.
    Hopefully, though, the guidelines above can help you make a few decisions in the heat of the action.