The importance of staying hidden

It was early in the game, turn 3 to be precise, and the Colonies were expanding rapidly, putting all of their resources into building freighters and sending them forth. He could spy a cluster just out of range of a one-turn jump with his warp 9 engines.  To reach it hidden would take 2 turns and he really wanted to continue pushing his planet count upwards. So early in the game, what are the chances that someone would see his Medium Freighter crossing that void?

Turn 4 at the headquarters of the Empire of the Birds, Commander Bacchus peers over his latest reports.

“Commander, our Southern Scout has made contact with the enemy, we have remained undetected, and have extrapolated his course which has given us the coordinates of his homeworld with 99% certainty. What are your orders?”

“Ensign, order the Scout to take on fuel and head directly for the Colonial homeworld. Set spies on the planet to assess the defenses we will face and await reinforcements”

Turn 4 the scout spots the errant freighter.

Turn 4 the scout spots the errant freighter.

Commander Bacchus knows that an early strike such as this will cost him dearly in the early development of his economy, but the opportunity to remove such a nearby neighbour is difficult for a Birdman to pass up. The timing is critical.

In much the same way as Pearl Harbour could easily have been detected by several early clues, on turn 13 the rouse was nearly given up when two Colonial freighters had strayed too close to Bird planets, both were captured without incident. By this point the Birds had succeeded in placing a Deth Specula in orbit around the homeworld as well, and with a Resolute and Dark Wing inbound, time was running out for the Colonials to prepare themselves. On turn 14 the Empire of the Birds attacked and captured an outlying Colonial planet, and yet still no military response indicated preparations. By this time the Resolute had joined orbit and the assault was prepared.

The Battle for the Colonial Homeworld began on Turn 15, the Colonial officer had been producing fighters with his Gemini so it was assumed that we would be facing a fully loaded starbase with the entire 60 fighter complement on board. Of course, our spying could tell us that the planetary defenses still remained at 20. With that knowledge, the Deth Specula silently locked a tractor beam onto the Gemini and towed it into space, where the death screams of the crew could not be heard. At the same time, the Resolute and the incoming Dark Wing began their attack run.

In war, casualties can be expected, so like any good military leader Commander Bacchus had anticipated losing his mighty Dark Wing. The Dark Wing’s crew were flying with life pods at the ready so they could escape at a moment’s notice. They knew that their Resolute partner was close behind, ready to finish the job that they started, they also knew that the Swift was flying high cover, ready to intervene should the need arise, ready to pick up survivors should they fall short in their great charge.

Decloaking as close as possible to the enemy starbase, the crew of the Dark Wing caught the defenders unaware. Quickly, fighters began to launch as the defenders ran to their stations. Who was this attacker? Where did they come from?

On board the Dark Wing our loyal crew pushed their hearty ship to maximum impulse speed as we closed with the imposing star base. We could see specks of light as the defending fighters began to launch, driving toward our great ship. Our beam weapons lanced outward, leaving death and debris with every shot. The first wave of 10 fighters were destroyed as they left the bays. The second wave of 10 were destroyed before they reached the half way point. Now our beams were charging, having spent their stored energy, as the third and fourth wave of fighters swept across our sides. The small beams of the fighters did not do much damage each, but in union they easily ripped the shields from the great and proud ship. At last, we had reached Torpedo range! Our crews frantically loaded and re-loaded our Mk4 Torpedoes as explosions wracked our great ship. Fiery explosions fountained from the starbase as her shields vanished under the blistering attack of our torpedoes. Then finally, the 18th torpedo fired found a weakened point of armour, it crashed through the starbase’s exterior and finished in an enormous explosion scattering highly radioactive debris across the entire planet’s surface. All life on the planet had been eradicated, leaving over 2.5 million Colonial colonists dead from the radiation from their dying starbase.

You can see the incoming Dark Wing and the ship list at the target planet.

You can see the incoming Dark Wing and the ship list at the target planet.

 

Post Mortem – Moral of the story:

Hiding your ships in the early game can be a critical strategic move. Until you have made contact with your enemies, assume that you have cloakers nearby. And if you have cloakers nearby, assume that they are within your space by turn 4 (if not sooner given the speed with which the Privateers can travel). Never leave from your homeworld and travel into open space. It might seem like a waste of time, but covering your tracks can be well worth the hassle to avoid the site of a squad of cloaking ships coming in to wreck your day.

Once you have discovered a cloaking race near you, build a mine layer and start dropping mines. This attack could have been severely compromised by a minefield dropped on turn 13. If by turn 10 you haven’t spotted activity with your furthest scouts, assume that you are dealing with a cloaking race. Lay minefields and defend your starbases, because that is where they will be headed when they come in.

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6 thoughts on “The importance of staying hidden

  1. Excellent article and good advice. I’d also like to add, that if you do have to move a ship into open space, you should at least try to hide where it is coming from, which mainly means, SET A WAYPOINT 81 LY OR LESS! (assuming warp 9).

    By doing this you ship will appear on the screen of anyone else who sees it as a little dot out in space, instead of a big red line that shows exactly where you are coming from. What I usually do (if the additional fuel cost is not too high) is this:

    1. Turn on the range circle (press ‘a’ if needed, not sure why it’s not on by default, it’s incredibly useful).
    2. Set a waypoint (less than 81ly obviously) about halfway between the planet the ship is at and the destination planet.
    3. You’ll see the circle now includes both planets. Play around with moving it (by changing the waypoint) to also include as many other planets as possible. Form your opponent’s point of view, you could have come from or be going to any planet in that circle, which keeps them guessing.

    Doing this in your example, it looks like there are 7 planets the ship could have put within range, so while you would still have known the colonies were there, you wouldn’t have know the exact planet to head to, which is a big difference. I see on your map you hadn’t even investigated most of those other planets when you attacked his homeworld. If you had to take the time to do so, they might have had a chance to get up minefields or build some virgos.

  2. Like Big Beefer, I’d go farther. Its not cloakers you worry about – its everyone. Reverse the situation – its just as bad to have a few Virgo’s gunning for your HW with only a turn or two’s notice, and no ships in range.

    Information has worth.. why are you giving away the location of your SBs, resource planets, etc for FREE?

  3. Certainly it is not just cloakers that you must be careful about. However, cloakers can penetrate unseen much farther early in the game, and therefore will be within visible range of your early game ships much quicker.

    Regardless, it is important to be aware of the visibility of your ships, especially in the early game.

  4. Showing your posittion too early is one of the mistakes that i see in nearly all of my games, and often these players get beaten up badly by their neighbours. I agree to nearly all above, but find that cloaking ships are the biggest or at least the earliest problem, since a single cloaker can, even without attacking your homeworld directly, cause such a big damage to your eco that you never get into the game properly. But yes, of course there are more layers to this situation: A neighbour who detects your position early can not only go for a direct kill before the ship limit, he is also able to adjust his ship builds to your race, while you still have no idea yourself which enemy you will have to face.

  5. Good article, be mindfull that a minefield early in the game is like a homing beacon saying: “there is something worth protecting here”. So don’t put it exactly centred on your HW ;)

  6. This is good advice big B. As a Lizard, I never try to show myself until turn 20+, and then, never from my home cluster. Of course, most can guess about where your home world is at if they triangulate. We have such small ships that ANY race can destroy us. Second, I go for the economy to destroy a race. Yes, it’s slower then the home world destruction. But taking out freighters and developing planets early in the game sets a race back 10-20 turns as they try to rebuild. By then, when they send warships against you, you set the trap to destroy even the biggest carrier fleet. Of course, there is still the problem of the surviving home world, but it will go eventually if they have no empire.
    Keep up the good work and I LOVE the story telling!
    -DD-

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