There are very few Planets races designed to dominate the cluster alone. Those with the strongest ships are vulnerable to cloaking races; those with the weakest ships have secret weapons which, properly used, add balance. And every faction must be played differently, with a precisely balanced economic system designed specifically to support the advantages — and correct for the disadvantages — of each race.
One of the great balancing tools that protects the economies of Rebels, Robots, and Colonies from the expense attending their own massively powerful carriers is the ability to construct ‘free’ fighters in space. The same minerals are used, but instead of 100 megacredits per fighter, ships can use 5 Supplies. The savings is, of course, enormous.
And when a free-fighter race is allied with any other, the savings can be passed on. For a fair consideration, that is.
Rebels and Colonies each have the advantage of a light, cheap fighter factory — two, in fact; the Gemini and the Sagittarius. I’m a Saggit fan; it’s much lighter (which saves fuel), costs less to build (which saves resources), and dies instantly to a single mine-hit — making it tough to capture and easy to suicide.
Now, imagine if you will a fleet of three ships, two of which you own. (In the past it might have been two; they’ve messed with the Host Order since those days.) One is a freighter; the second is a cheap carrier; the third is a Saggit owned by your loyal friend and ally, the Colonies. The Saggit is set to Build Fighters and code BTF (Beam-Transfer Fighters), so every turn it will send as many fighters as possible to your own carrier.
Now, an empty Saggit has a cargo hold of 300. If you transfer in 150 Supplies, 90 Trit, and 60 Moly, that will fill the hold. During the next Host run, these materials will be converted to fighters before foreign cargo transfers, and the fighters will then be beamed over to your accompanying carrier. Meanwhile, you can send in 270 more materials (thirty fighters, remember, are taking up space, so 135 Supplies, 81 Trit, and 54 Moly) for next turn’s production. And your friendly carrier can deposit its new fighters in a friendly starbase you’re passing, or in any other carrier you might own that’s on its way to the front lines.
Just to complicate matters: Fighters transferred through BTF will go to every available ship that can receive them, divided evenly. The Colonial Saggit will send 13 to a passing carrier and 14 to your local tender (or vice-versa) every turn it’s at full capacity. Make sure you allow enough cargo space or the transfer will “bounce”, with somewhat unpredictable effects.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to tow the Saggit factory around, your Colonial friend needs to do very little to give you a massive advantage in starbase fighter defense.
So be sure you trade well for the privilege, eh? A less committed friend might instead choose to hand you, say, a single vessel crammed with fighters as trade goods. This is a powerful tool, and it shouldn’t be undervalued.
One last item: Some of you may prefer the Gemini; some others may have a Robot as their boon companion, and either find themselves with a low-output Q-Tanker or hauling around an extremely massive Golem. Tastes vary, but math does not. You’ll find it a great savings of time to work out your numbers well in advance and to keep detailed notes; fortunately, every ship in the game has a Notes pane.2