Cloak Intercept: A Feature Badly In Need Of a New Name

Ships with a cloaking device have a special feature built into them. Any time they have a primary enemy selected, and are intercepting something belonging to the primary enemy, they get to trump the battle order. Friendly codes don’t matter, nor do the kill mission or primary enemy settings from the opponent. The ship with the cloaking device enters combat against the ship it is intercepting before any other combat occurs.

If you’ve studied Chasing Carriers, you know that if you’re playing one of the stealth races, you must hit your opponents where it counts — you must attack the ships that are supporting their operations because your ships are not strong enough to fight their big ones.

Analyzing the Threat

Here’s an example from one of my completed games. My opponents, a Lizard and Crystalline alliance, saw two of my ships coming through their area: ship 125, a Cobol Class Research Cruiser, and ship 402, a Virgo Class Battlestar.

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If you were my opponents, could you figure out what I was doing? I had set a short waypoint so I was not showing my heading. But they had seen these ships farther away before, and now these two ships were nearing their space.

The Cobol Class Research Cruiser is the single most useful ship that the Missing Colonies of Man can build – it has a bioscanner, it can lay mines, and most importantly its ramscoop device allows it to create its own fuel while traveling.

If you see two ships together, one at warp 9 and the other at warp 0, it’s very likely that one ship is towing the other. Why would it make sense for a Cobol to tow a Virgo? Because the Cobol creates its own fuel and only requires two engines. The Virgo has six engines, so quite often players put low-grade engines on them and tow them around.

So if you were my opponent, seeing this in your space would be a clear indication: the Cobol is towing the Virgo, the Virgo has low-grade engines, and the Cobol is the fuel source for this two-ship battlegroup.

Eliminating the Threat

My Lizard and Crystalline opponents had several options to deal with this threat, not the least of which would be to lay webs. But what other options are available?

They could simply intercept the group with strong ships and attack it. But if they had sent a T-Rex or Diamond Flame Class Battleship to intercept this pair, they would have entered combat against the USS Death, a Virgo Class Battlestar.

Screen shot 2013-10-16 at 11.03.30 AMAnd any of those battleships would die a very painful death upon fighting that beast. This monster would smash any of your little torpedo thingies to smithereens. Sending a big battleship out to fight an even bigger carrier is not a good plan.

Here’s another choice that is an excellent plan: to use cloak intercept, that feature badly in need of a new name. My opponents could choose one of their Lizard ships with a cloaking device (such as the Lizard Class Cruiser or Saurian Class Light Cruiser) and mark 7 or mark 8 torpedoes, set its waypoint to (2089,3192), primary enemy to the Colonies, and mission to intercept ship 125, the CC Enterprise.

After the host runs, what would the results be?  My opponent’s Lizard Class or Saurian Class Cruiser would first attack the CC Enterprise, a Cobol Class Research Cruiser.

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And of course, their cloaker will easily win the fight and destroy the lowly Cobol. The next combat would pit the Virgo against the cloaker, and the cloaker will be destroyed. So using this feature involves the sacrifice of a cloaking ship in order to eliminate one specific ship in the enemy fleet first.

What would happen next? Well, the location of this pair of ships was far away from my nearest fuel source. Due to its low-tech engines and very heavy mass, it cannot travel very far or very fast with just 954kt of fuel. The destruction of the Cobol which was both towing and supplying fuel, would cause this large battlestar to be stuck behind enemy lines, rendering it no longer a threat to any planet it can’t reach or to any ship that can outrun it.  The Virgo Class Battlestar USS Death would become helplessly handicapped by its lack of mobility.

The Battle Order

Notice my friendly codes in the two above ships. The Virgo’s friendly code of 112 would assure that it would fight before the Cobol if the pair were attacked in spite of its lower ID number, right? Yes! The ship with friendly code of 112 always fights before the ship with friendly code of mkt unless an enemy ship with a cloaking device makes use of that special feature that allows it, by using the intercept mission, to trump the normal battle order.

Other Strategic Uses of this Feature

Big Beefer referred to the cloak intercept feature in his article on Loki Logic. Indeed, the Loki Class Destroyer is a prime target for interceptors because of the Loki’s decloaking capability. Privateers and Fascists, and others who hold cloaking ships, often want the Loki destroyed before anything else.

The Firecloud Class Cruiser, the most feared weapon of the Cyborg, is also a prime target for interceptors. Destroying the Firecloud can often break a critical link in an approaching battlegroup. “Critical link” is perhaps an understatement, since the Firecloud is the ship that can bring dozens of huge carriers into anyone’s backyard instantly.

These are the most popular targets for this intercept feature, but it opens numerous tactical possibilities. Cloaking races must study enemy fleets to understand what the enemy is doing, and when the target is easy to hit, don’t piddle around! Hit the target!

Let’s say you are playing the Lizards and you see an enemy warship driving by, towing a Neutronic Fuel Carrier that weighs 910kt. The Reptile Class Destroyer with 2 plasma bolts that you have sitting on your planet hissing can intercept that fuel carrier and destroy an enormous source of fuel for your enemy!

Timing is very important. I recently saw a Bird player lose a game on Planets.Nu because of one tremendous mistake. He had Dark Wing Battleships sitting around guarding planets, and all had access to fuel and torpedoes. Suddenly a BR4 towing a Firecloud appeared from outside the map. He saw it coming, and he was in reach of intercepting the Firecloud as it approached. In this particular case, he would have easily destroyed both the Firecloud and the BR4, so an intercept would not have even involved a sacrifice as it usually does! But he made a tremendous mistake and thought it would be better to sit and guard his planets. By not intercepting the critical ship at the right time, his neighborhood was suddenly filled with cubes, and he was soundly defeated. Resistance is futile if you don’t intercept at the right moment! When faced with something frightening, our first impulse is watchful waiting. But when you have a chance to intercept, do not wait one turn to see what happens. Kill the Firecloud. Kill the Loki. Kill the Cobol. Eliminate the threat.

One Bizarre Quirk

What happens if you have two cloakers intercepting the same ship? The cloaker with the highest ID number fights first. We are accustomed to host actions going from low to high — this is an exception.

A Feature in Need of a New Name

A ship with a cloaking device has a special feature connected to its intercept mission that we have tended to call “cloak intercept” or even “cloaked intercept”. It’s terribly confusing to new players to present them with this misnomer that has nothing to do with cloaking.

I’d like to propose “priority intercept” as a possible addition to our Planets lexicon. The intercept mission on cloaking ships is a special one, so any time a cloaking ship is intercepting, we could say it is on a “priority intercept” mission because it gets to fight first.

What do you think?  Does this feature need a new name?  Leave your ideas below!



19 thoughts on “Cloak Intercept: A Feature Badly In Need Of a New Name

  1. When I saw your article title, “priority intercept” is exactly what I thought of. Priority Intercept is a term I’m going to try to use from now on.

  2. Huh, didn’t know about the battle order when two ships are making a priority intercept. FC really doesn’t matter, only ID? Thx, ECV!
    The new name is ok and far better than cloaked intercept.

  3. Portable Host refers to this tactic as “Intercept Attack”. At the very least, it makes more sense, because your ship does not have to be previously cloaked (or even have its cloaking device operational) to successfully override the battle order. The cloaking device only needs to be remotely present.

  4. +1 for intercept attack. It expresses better that is an attacking manoveur than priority intercept.

  5. You know how, in the Nu client, when a ship has a bioscanner, it has Bio Scan available as a mission in place of Sensor Sweep?

    I’d love to see in the client a similar change for ships with cloaking devices. They could have “Priority Intercept Attack” as the name of the mission in place of “Try to Intercept”. That would clear up the confusion once and for all!

  6. I disagree with cloaked intercept needing a new name. This tactic requires a cloaking device to work, and is one of the most powerful and important ways of using the cloaking device as a weapon. It’s easy enough for any noob to understand that the ship does not remain cloaked after the intercept. But if you remove “cloaked” from the name, it could cause confusion in other ways. None of the other suggestions imply that the tactic uses the cloaking device.

    Also, I question the wisdom of sacrificing a LCC to take out the cobol in your example. The cloaking device could be used in other ways to take out the cobol without losing the LCC. I’d only sacrifice a ship like that under very special circumstances.

    I love your other excellent and very thorough articles, but this one seems to lack the depth of the others. The examples you give are just the tip of the iceburg of what you can do with cloaked intercept.

    Study question #1: 4 darkwings and 4 t-rex’s with comparable armament battle over an unowned planet. Result: 4 damaged darkwings and 4 destroyed t-rex’s. How is this possible?

  7. This article’s primary purpose was to introduce people to the topic of cloak intercept (or whatever we are going to call it), rather than actually to initiate a debate about whether it needed a new name. The truth is that it’s such a bad misnomer that lots of people (I’m willing to bet a solid majority of players) don’t know about this feature (or didn’t before this article was published). Our goal here at Planets Mag is primarily to give tutorials to help people to learn more about the game. My feeling is that the feature needs a new name, or at least that players need to broadly understand that it is poorly named, in order to understand that “cloak intercept” refers to the intercept mission, and not the cloak mission.

    Robodoc, it all depends on the circumstances. If you had a big carrier with bad engines near your planets and needed its tow truck out of the way, I maintain that a sacrifice intercept is often the best thing to do. I probably should have mentioned the crucial point that you earn PBP for the intercept. Of course, your opponent earns PBP also, but if you are winning the game materially, you want to exchange material and simplify – just like chess. If you are in a strong position, you can use the PBP to build another cloaker on the front line. Your opponent can build another Cobol, but it won’t be able to tow the stranded Virgo, would it?

    I am curious about the statement “The cloaking device could be used in other ways to take out the cobol without losing the LCC.” How? By guessing its position in advance and towing it away? By waiting for it to attack a planet and then towing it away? A Cobol with a low ID number would be very difficult to catch against a clever opponent.

  8. Yes, I was thinking of towing the cobol with the LCC. Preferably to a battleship so that the LCC will remain undamaged and can re-cloak the next turn. Perhaps sacrificing the LCC would be the best option in some situations, but I generally tend to first explore options that don’t unnecessarily end up getting my ships destroyed (or damaged). Indeed, one thing cloaking device tactics (including cloaked intercept) are great for is helping your cloaking ships survive. That is why I was a little surprised that your only examples of using cloaked intercept involved sacrificing the intercepting ships.

    Anyway, I suppose that my main point is that I think players of the cloaking races should be thinking of the cloaking device as a weapon, and should consider the many tactical possibilities that having a cloaking device offers. One set of these possibilities involves using cloaked intercept. I feel that renaming it something else like “priority intercept” would artificially un-associate it from the cloaking device. Certainly, cloaked intercept falls into the category of uses of the cloaking device?

    Your article is well-written and informative. I just wanted to offer some alternative points of view. :)

  9. Ok, well, remember that since the Cobol is on a tow mission you would have to have a cloaker with (in this case) an ID number lower than 125 in order for that to work. And you would have to catch it at the same point in space. So you would wait until it lands on a planet (sacrificing a starbase even?)

    Your tactic would involve the sacrifice of a planet, and again is hard to pull off since you have to have a low ID ship for the tow.

  10. Generally speaking, I think it’s better to sacrifice a planet than a ship (but that of course depends on the value of the planet).

    But you make an great point about the difficulty of towing a low-ID ship that is itself towing another ship. I recall your excellent article on towing posted on May 29, 2013. Thank you. :)

  11. That’s actually one great advantage of, say, a high ID # Dark Wing: That gets set to intercept the target that will be towed and it will fight (all things considered) before the tow ship. If it starts further away than a single turn’s move would take it, you’ll be safe from accidentally encountering the main ship should they move separately.

    Of course, when playing carrier races, I sometimes like to put Transwarps on everything…

  12. Robodoc, you have a good point there saying that the cloak intercept feature can be used in more maneuvers than the most common one we used here to demonstrate the feature. If you have something in mind, we would be glad if you want to write a follow-up !

  13. It’s great that the article on battle order was just posted, since these two topics are closely related. :)

    Let’s have a look at the “study question” I posted above:

    Study question #1: 4 darkwings and 4 t-rex’s with comparable armament battle over an unowned planet. Result: 4 damaged darkwings and 4 destroyed t-rex’s. How is this possible?

    The answer is that each of the darkwings intercepted a different t-rex, and that the owner of the darkwings was a little bit lucky in that none of the t-rex’s won their individual battles. In this example, all of the combat occured before the normal battle order would begin.

    This illustrates the general idea of how cloaked intercept can be used to precisely control how ships fight in an ordinary fleet battle. Taking out the four battleships with no losses is quite the PBP-positive result (if the owner of the darkwings can sucessfully protect those damaged darkwings while they are being repaired)!

    Now imagine there are two more darkwings at the battle, and that the planet is owned by the lizards and has enough defense posts to be dangerous to a heavily-damaged darkwing. Let’s say the four intercepting darkwings have FC set to something like “xab”, a fifth is cloaked and has FC set to “234”, and a sixth is uncloaked and has FC set to “456”. All darkwings have PE set to lizard, of course.

    In this case the four interceptors will fight their t-rex’s first. Then, if a t-rex is lucky enough to survive the attack by an interceptor, it will be finished off by the fifth darkwing, which will not subsequently engage the planet because it is cloaked. Finally, the planet is attacked by the 6th darkwing. In this case, the battle is precisely controlled so that damaged darkwings are protected from further combat.

  14. Now let’s look at some more examples:

    Example #1: A missouri and a diplomacy head toward a pair of planets, planet A and planet B, and can reach either of them the following turn. Two darkwings are waiting in ambush at planet A, which is less than 81 LY from planet B. A nova is also nearby and can reach planet B next turn.

    The owner of the darkwings would like to intercept the missouri and diplomacy with each of the darkwings so the battle can be won with no losses. But if warp speed is set to warp 9, then the ships may end up at planet B and get destroyed in a battle with the nova (if the intercept targets go there). So the owner sets warp speed to zero, so the darkwings will only fight at planet A.

    Example #2: A large freighter and super star destroyer are traveling together and headed toward intercept range of a t-rex (with mark 7’s) and a reptile (with disruptors).

    The lizard would like to destroy the SSD and capture the freighter. Since the mark 7 torpedoes will destroy the freighter, the reptile is used to intercept the freighter while the t-rex intercepts the SSD. Since the t-rex does not cloak, it sets its FC to a lower one than the reptile so that it fights first in the normal battle order (which is after the reptile attacks the freighter).

    Example #3: A pair of novas are moving together near a group of 4 darkwings. Two of the darkwings intercept one nova, and the other two intercept the second nova. Result: two destroyed novas and two destroyed darkwings – a favorable one-to-one trade.

    These are just a few examples to give readers some additional ideas for how cloaked intercept can be used. Of course, cloaked intercept is just one way of using the cloaking device in battle. The cloaking device can be used as a weapon in different ways by different ships in the same battle, to great effect. It would be great to see someone write a treatise on cloaking tactics and post it here some time. :)

  15. It always amazes me when people say that the Fascists and Birds are weak against carrier races for this very reason. Precisely-aimed sacrifice hits can be invaluable (though, indeed, the shock value of a massed strike on a homeworld by cloaked ships can be quite delightful).

    And I agree: An advanced treatise on cloaking tactics would indeed be extremely useful. The details, of course, differ from race to race; the Birds and the Fascists are quite different from one another in ship styles and both are miles from the Privateers or Lizards. As well, there are entirely different uses for a cloaker in the hands of, for example, the Crystals (not just a minelayer).

    The individual tactics are all quite unique and many deserve special attention. Your examples are varied but it would be quite difficult to make an exhaustive study of the subject. As such, I anticipate that Planets Mag will likely roll out several more overview articles, interleaving them with new race guides and some detailed studies on specific points of strategy, tactics and logistics (like this one).

    The difficulty with a treatise, you see, is that it’s rather long. :o)

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