Strategy: How to Attack with the Privateers

By: Jan Klingele aka Sirius

It is well known, that our beloved Orion Space Traders (or Pirates as some people call them falsely) are a race who has a difficult time if they have to confront an enemy in an open large scale battle. Unless they have „organized“ heavy warships, they just lack the necessary firepower to confront a strong opposition. This is especially true in games without an engine-shield-bonus, because the low mass Privateer ships are especially poor combatants (especially against fighter carriers) without an engine-shield-bonus. Therefore it is usually the best strategy for our peace-loving green folks from Orion (who prefer dancing anyhow) to avoid any major fighting and to stay hidden.

If the Orion Space Traders have to defend an specific important planet against an determined attack, it takes careful planing to intercept the incoming enemy at the right places, to break up his battlegroups by towing some of his ships to hidden waiting defenders and to render the attacking ships helpless by robbing their fuel. Some clever hints about this tactic can be found for example in Dr. Dorn Peterson’s contribution as cited in the Dreadlord battle Manual.

But there are times when you as an Orion commander cannot wait for the enemy to come to you and when you do not have the possibility to choose the location of the engagement, because you really want to attack a heavily fortified planet. Due to your movement advantages you should have a sound economy with plenty of starbases and enough minerals and money at each of them. In other words: you should have a clear superiority in numbers. But you still lack the real muscles, since your race just cannot turn resources into great combat vessels. And if you cannot get such ships from somebody else, you have to overwhelm the enemy by sheer numbers (and maybe by the surprise due to the lighting speed of your gravitonic accelerated battle groups).

The following battle report is from an still ongoing game (TH1 hosted by Tim Hofstee in CompuServe’s PBM Forum) and shows how the Privateers can attack a strong enemy homeworld even without any foreign technology. It also shows that unexpected events can bring doom even to the most sophisticated battleplans. I hope that some of the readers will learn as much from reading my report as I did from planing and fighting the attack.

The Crystals had started a war against the people from Orion by attacking a planet and killing all innocent colonists there. In addition to that the Crystalline web mines posed a great threat for the Orion trading lanes, and therefore the council of Orion had to decide to extinguish this Crystalline danger completely from the Echo cluster.

During the beginning of the war, the Orion activities concentrated on disrupting the Crystalline economy, harassing the border planets, destroying freight traffic and isolating the productive starbases from their supply of minerals and money. Over time, the Crystalline war fleet degenerated and the Crystals run out of resources to keep a full coverage of web mine fields around their core planets. So the time had come for the ultimate decisive battle: the attack onto the Crystalline homeworld.

The Orion council had developed a fine battleplan and prepared everything for a long time. Starbases were specifically set up, ships custom build for the attack, planets taken and supplied as intermediate staging areas and then a fleet of a total of 14 ships (which was a big fleet then given the fact that it was still relatively early in a resource poor game) launched to fly the attack against the Crystalline homeworld.

The Crystals (or anybody else) did not see anything moving into position and could have been warned in advance only by the fact that their defending ships had been towed away by Orion ships for several turns. The Orion fleet appeared in attack orbit around the Crystalline home world without prior detection by the defenders. All ships came in either cloaked or towed by meteors directly from the staging area at a planet some 150 light-years away.

The plan was that the Orion fleet should split into four battlegroups and attack in four distinctive waves:

  • Group 1 (the Scout Lance) had the primary role to sweep the area free of Crystalline webmines, which were deployed as a large barrier around their homeworld. They had also captured some defending ships earlier and flew a supporting attack against a secondary starbase nearby. All scout ships had already moved to their positions cloaked and were equipped with high tech beams and plenty of supplies (to repair possible web mine hits).
  • Group 2 (the Combat Lance) was to take out (or capture) any newly arriving defending ships, if they were to be build at the starbase just during this turn or coming in from other planets. It was their purpose to protect the third group from enemy ships. Therefore they fought first with their high tech torpedoes and went in cloaked, so that they could not be reached by the planetary defenses.
  • Group 3 (the Anti-aircraft Lance) had the sole purpose to shoot down the fighter compliment of the starbase. This group consisted of cheap expandable ships with enough beam weapons to handle the base’s maximum load of 60 fighters.
  • Group 4 (the Command Lance) was then to fly the final attack against the planet and to destroy it with a lot of high tech weapons. They carried a substantial amount of Mark VIII torpedoes.

Unfortunately the plan did not work out fully and the battle turned out to be very costly for the attacking Privateers, although this was not caused directly by the Crystalline defenses.

So what went wrong? Just in the moment when the brave people from Orion launched their forces into the orbit around the Crystalline homeworld, another race – the Fascists – appeared and attacked the Orion fleet. Here is what happened “in slow motion“:

The Scout Group swept the webmine barrier away, which allowed not only the friendly ships, but also the Fascists to move in (had the Fascists tried to move there any earlier, they would have gotten stuck in the webmines badly, which had happened to them at another location earlier in the game). Then some of the scout ships flew their supporting attack against the second starbase.

The Combat Group blew the only newly arriving Crystalline ship in orbit to pieces, but these ships did not fight the Fascist, since the group was cloaked (to avoid the planetary defenses) and not set to Fascist as primary enemy, since they were supposed to attack Crystalline ships.

The Anti-Aircraft Group was now attacked by the Fascists and entirely destroyed, because these ships had never been designed to fight other ships and were totally lacking any long range weapons.

Only after the Anti-Aircarft Lance was gone, the Command Group started to fight the Fascist and were able to destroy the Fascist opposition (which was out of ammunition at this point of time) immediately.

Now the Command Group proceeded to fight the planetary defenders. But the starbase was still filled with fighters and those fighters were able to destroy most ships of the Command Lance. Being ships of Privateer design, none of them had the mass (there is no Engine Shield Bonus in this game) or the high number of beam weapons to withstand a serious fighter attack long.

Thanks to their high tech weapons, the remaining Orion ships were eventually able to bring down the starbase and planet, but only under high losses. After the loss of the homeworld, the Crystalline opposition collapsed rapidly.

The high losses during the attack could have easily been avoided, if the Orions had just added one ship to the Combat group, with primary enemy set to Fascist. That would have killed the Fascists (who did not come with strong forces, since they stumbled onto the battle field by pure chance) in the very beginning and protected the Anti-Aircraft Lance until it’s ships would have been able to shoot down the defending fighters. But the Orions just did not expect a Fascist attack against them over the Crystalline homeworld. So the lesson is, always be prepared, that somebody will surface (come out of cloak) totally unexpected to screw up your plans. Be prepared for this possibility!

Contributed by Sirius ([email protected])

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