The Amazing Small Deep Space Freighter

Tom Graves started a great thread about the many uses of the Small Deep Space Freighter (SDSF) on the news feed at Planets Nu. He has now given us permission to edit and publish his post on Planets Mag for all to see!

NOTE: Certain aspects of this article reference the Priority Build Points system.

In Tom’s words: Small Deep Space Freighters are likely to represent 10-15% of your fleet at the time the Ship Limit hits. Is this portion of your fleet sitting around unproductive? If so, reconsider the power and glory of the Small Deep Space Freighter.

Players often build the SDSF with StarDrive 1 engines as space-fillers. But since the SDSF has so many uses, players should consider giving them mid-grade engines for more versatility when possible.

So what can you do with a SDSF? Here are some ideas from Tom Graves:

  1. The Radar: Set your SDSF to warp 0 and intercept enemy ships to track them. This is especially effective for tracking enemy freighters to build a shipping pattern. This also gives you some insight of the skill level of your opponent. For instance, does he appear to be going to one planet, but then goes to another? Does he fly only a few light years from his origin planet and 81ly from his destination planet to make you think he is going in the opposite direction? Assessing the skill level of an opponent is an important step in establishing diplomatic relations in the cluster.
  2. The Fuel Pod: Does your ship have small fuel tanks or a long way to go with no fuel?  Towing an SDSF allows you to bring 200kt more.
  3. The Cargo Pod: Does your ship have a small cargo bay? Towing an SDSF will allow you to carry 70 supplies, 23 of each mineral, or 70 clans. If you are in a late-game situation where you have attacked a player with a large amount of money remaining on the planets, your SDSF will let you take another 10.000 megacredits home as you run away.
  4. The Super-Pillager: As a Fascist pillaging a planet, you can carry away an extra 10.000 megacredits for each SDSF you have in tow.
  5. The Spy: Send it to an enemy planet and make sure it runs out of fuel as it hits the warp well. Due to the Treaty of Nimbus 7, you will then not be attacked by any ships and the planet will only attack if its friendly code is NUK. This allows you not only to see what ships your opponent has at the planet, but also to intercept them if necessary.
  6. The Trip Wire: Place an SDSF on perimeter worlds with zero fuel. An invading fleet might use weaker lead ships to disguise their strength, but with the Trip Wire SDSF you will know the exact makeup of the invading fleet. This is very useful in large clusters of contiguous planets where the enemy can approach invisibly. This also allows you not to risk valuable warships on the front line where they could be surprised and overtaken.
  7. The Queue Control Device: Recycling an SDSF opens a ship slot and grants one PBP.
  8. The Torpedo Shield: An SDSF can be placed in the battle order before your carrier or planet goes into combat with an enemy torpedo ship. It can then absorb a few torpedoes before the planet or carrier fights. This is not useful if you are fighting with a torpedo ship, because you may have to fight it yourself if it is captured, thus offsetting any advantage.
  9. The Light Cargo or Money Transporter: If you have equipped an SDSF with mid-grade engines, they can move cargo and money between planets that are relatively close together.
  10. The Rebel Ground Attacker: Even freighters can carry out the Rebel Ground Attack mission.
  11. The Cobol Fuel Pod Dump: A Cobol tows an SDSF and fills it with fuel.
  12. The Anti-Theft Device: An SDSF with a low ID number can be used to prevent Privateers from robbing higher ID ships of fuel. Three low-ID SDSFs full of fuel can completely mitigate the ability of two Meteor Class Blockade Runners to rob.
  13. The Mobile Invasion Support Pod: Allowing a large number of SDSFs to trail an invasion fleet can allow you to bring lots of extra fuel and clans, supplies for repairs, or materials for building torpedoes or fighters in space. This can turn your invasion from a quagmire into one with just enough initiative to break through to the other side.  Later you can use these to haul captured minerals and money back to your home planets.  If using this technique, it is important to keep the SDSF fleet at least 100ly away from the front lines.  If the enemy tries to attack your SDSF fleet, use the warp wells.

Ideas from mjs68508:

  1. The Empire Mineral Transport Vessel: For the Evil Empire, small amounts of tritanium and molybdenum often need to be moved around continuously to maximize fighter production. If an SDSF is equipped with mid-level engines, they will serve this purpose well.
  2. The Debris Disc Runner: On a Stellar Cartography map, an SDSF with low-grade engines can be very helpful in building mining bases and in transporting minerals out of a debris disc. Since the debris discs hold very large amounts of fuel, it is feasible to overdrive the engines.
  3. The Death Camp Commandant: If you have a planet with a hostile climate but good revenue-producing natives, you can park some SDSFs in orbit filled with colonists. Every time the planet’s population falls below the level where you want your tax revenue to be, kick a few more off the love boat.
  4. The Guerilla Band: When under attack, fill an SDSF with colonists and go into the warp well. If the invasion force passes, head back to the planet to try a ground assault. This works especially well for the Fascists who are immune to planet attack and have a ground attack bonus.

My own favorite use of the spare SDSF is in alliance play. Any ship can transfer unlimited amounts of fuel or cargo to a foreign ship in orbit. Keeping an SDSF on a planet where an ally needs to obtain materials gives you a way to transfer an exact amount of cargo. Since planets have no beam transporters, it is very valuable to keep a small freighter at key planets for transfers. Also, if you keep an SDSF on an ally’s starbase, your ally has an easy way to give you ships if necessary to make use of your racial advantages.

The Small Deep Space Freighter might just be the most useful ship in the game. What creative uses can you think of? Add your own ideas below!

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11 thoughts on “The Amazing Small Deep Space Freighter

  1. I tend to use the MDSF in these roles. It’s still ridiculously cheap in mineral cost, not terribly expensive cash-wise, still requires but a single engine, and has nearly three times the cargo capacity (letting it do the various cargo-related missions with more gusto).

  2. Very nice list of tricks that can be done with the SDSF. One of my favourite uses is leaving a pod with clans over a hostile planet while waiting for the supply stock to build up.

    Previously I used to build the SD1 SDSF on principle as it was the cheapest build available, but now I’ve started to build bad-engine MDSFs more, they seem to serve all the same purposes but a bit better.

  3. There is however one thing the baby freighter can do better than the MDSF: As soon as you have 20 pbp’s you can start recycling one SDSF, while using the fresh build point to construct another one on another base. Like this you can beamtransfer the ship, and when doing that you can even refit it to transwarps to either transport engines to other places or to build a swarm of cash and cargotransporters.

  4. Amazing…
    Just this turn, as the queue will be reached in my game, I have set 5 SDSF to colonize mission.
    After reading this article I quickly rebuilt my turn to spare them and give them a better use, I can dissamble them in a better moment.

  5. I’m a bit surprised that one of the most important and relevant uses of SDSFs still isn’t listed yet: PBP-Transfer to an ally.

    Example from one of my games, where I’m the Colonies and cooperating with the Fascist. The Fascists builds Popper for me which I’m using to slam through enemy main fleets. I’m gaining significant Colonial PBPs this way, but I need to get at least part of them to ship them back to the Fascist, so that he can build more Poppers for me. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    The SDSF is perfect for that. I have many bases PBP-building SDSFs which are then shipped over to Fascist bases, handed over, and he recycles them for PBP-builds of more Poppers.

    SDSFs for the Win!

  6. Yes Mentar that’s a great one!! There are a few 2 PBP ships that are so valuable that it’s worth sending 2 SDSF to an ally to recycle to build one of them. Most notably the Nefarious and the Meteor!!

  7. I want to add though that in my most humble opinion the SDSF is a ship that should ONLY be built _after_ the ship limit has hit, and only by PBP expenditure. Until then, building a SDSF almost always means that the player has made a logistic mistake. AVOID wasting precious “regular” build slots on this ship.

  8. Mentar, I disagree with your statement that the SDSF should be built only after the limit, but only in light of some races.

    The Crystals are the race that benefits most from building lots of starbases and spamming SDSF before the limit. I hate doing it, but it is the way for Crystal players to win games since they have to survive a long time before they become powerful, and in the process they need to prevent their opponents from building battleships.

    The closest thing Crystals have to a useful space-filler ship is the Opal, and I often build lots of those, but you still have to bring torp and engine tech halfway up in order for the ship to be useful. The Onyx cannot be a space-filler ship because it is so darn expensive. The campaign upgrades have given the Crystals a remedy to this problem, I think – I haven’t played with them yet.

    For most other races, yes, the SDSF is probably a mistake before the limit. Privateers need to build something that can rob even if it is a crappy ship. Lizards need to build something that can hiss. The firepower races need lots of Q/Gemini/Sagittarius factories and those are cheap.

  9. I offer another use, which is a combination of some already listed.

    If you don’t have the most PBP’s but are over 20, priority build them with transwarps. Use them for transport until you need the PBP. This offers some protection for your over 20 PBP from sudden movements in the queue.

    Once you figure you can get queue control, recycle some. Don’t be afraid to over do it. PB1 is the ship you want to build, and it might get a low ship id. PB2,3,4.. can be more SDSF is case you recycled too many. You’ll build what you want ,when you want, not when someone else lets you build (I’m not pointing any fingers :) ). The engines are not wasted, they get stored in the starbase.

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