Strategy: Playing the Privateer

The Privateer can be one of the most fun races to play in VGA Planets. If you examine their unique abilities, you’ll begin to appreciate why. No other race is quite so capable of making off with an opponents resources & ships as the Privateer.

The Privateers most potent weapon is the ROB mission. Any enemy ships occupying the same point in space as a Privateer ship can be robbed (remember, only those Privateer ships with beam weapons can ROB). What happens during the ROB is the Privateer will take all the fuel it can until either the target ship(s) are drained dry or the Privateer is filled. Next the robber will take any Mega-Credits available. Finally the Privateer will take, in order, any Moly, Trit, Dura or Colonists until its cargo bays are full. Combine a few robbing ships together & you can see how devastating this can be to your enemy’s logistics. This also comes in very handy for capturing enemy ships. Remember that a ship with no fuel cannot defend itself & it won’t be able to attack you while you are towing it. Haul off that ship you have just drained dry to your Star Base that just so happens to have it’s mission set to Force Surrender and voila, the ship joins the proud ranks of the Privateers.

Now, to plan your ROB missions, there are a couple of things that have to be considered. One is you can bet your opponents aren’t going to be too thrilled about letting this happen & they WILL have their primary enemy set to Privateer once they see you are in the area. You’ll want to keep your robbers CLOAKED so your targets can’t see you coming & can’t force you into combat. This makes robbing ships in deep space difficult. Since you can’t set your ship mission to INTERCEPT & remain CLOAKED, you’ll have to guess which point in space your “target” ships are going or risk combat (not a Privateer strong point) by uncloaking. Good luck!

So, if you gotta remain CLOAKED & can’t INTERCEPT in deep space, from where do you ROB them? At planets of course! If you pay attention to your maps, you’ll be able to figure out to which planets your target keeps going. Get your cloaked ships there & wait for some juicy targets to show up. The ROB mission is the very first ship mission to occur (which comes in handy for preventing some pesky missions like LAY MINES or even movement). It also happens before movement, so you have to be waiting at the spot you want to ROB. Once you set your mission to ROB, you will uncloak. So you’ll most likely want to move off the planet or risk tangling with planetary defenses.

OK, you have your ships at the planet & some targets have been kind enough to show up, what next? Hopefully you’ve made sure that your robbers have plenty of available fuel capacity & empty cargo bays. If you go in with everything full, why bother right? When you ROB, you will ROB the lowest numbered ship first. If you take everything off that ship & still have available capacity, you will then proceed to the next lowest numbered ship and will continue until you either fill all your robbing ships or all ships at the site are emptied. If you use more than one ship to ROB, your lowest numbered ship does the robbing first. A problem that can arise here is if you are attempting a ROB mission at a planet that has more than one race’s ships in orbit. One of them may be an ally. Unfortunately, VGAP does NOT allow you to designate ROB targets. You’ll ROB your friends just as readily as you enemies. You’ll still begin with the lowest numbered ship, no matter who owns it. So, when dealing with allies, you have to be careful & make sure communication is kept open so that you won’t leave them dead in space too.

The obvious use of the ROB mission is to simply make off with with some of the things you need to succeed in the game. Wouldn’t you feel better using HIS minerals and supplies to build up YOUR bases & ships? Just think of the warm feeling you’ll get when you discover which one of his planets is pumping out thousands of MCs that you can quite nobly give to the nearest charity (most likely located on the Privateer homeworld). And while you’re busy putting his resources to good use, he won’t be squandering them on his own ships & bases.

However, a far greater way to use the ROB mission is so you can liberate the ships your opponents have so kindly built for you. Since the Privateers don’t have any real heavy fighting ships they can build naturally, this is the best way to get some. It will also give you some serious taunting ammunition with which to chide those foolish enough to attempt aggression against the mighty Privateers.

The best way to haul off those prizes is through the technique I call the “Snatch & Run”. Here’s how it works. You are sitting over an opponent’s planet with your pack of 3 to 4 cloaked ships (it’s always best to operate in packs if you can). A target has appeared that you want to add to your fleet. You have enough of your ships move away from the planet with their mission set to ROB so that your “target” ship will lose all it’s fuel. How many ships you use depends on a number of factors such as: how many enemy ships and what type are present, what the fuel capacity of those ships is, the ship number of the one you want (lowest numbered ships get robbed first), and the remaining fuel capacity of your robbing ships (you can find the fuel capacity numbers in the docs). These numbers are important because you want to make surveyor “target” has no fuel left. Remember that a ship with no fuel cannot engage in battle.

So, you use enough ships to drain away all the fuel (the “snatch”) and then have one of your remaining ships tow off your “target” on the same turn (the “run”). Since ROB happens after transfers between ships & planets but before movement, your “target” won’t get the chance to refuel and thus can’t attack the towing ship on the trip home (there is a way for the target to get around this, but I can’t give away all my secrets, right?). Meanwhile, what you do with the ships that robbed depends on what you made off with. If you happened to snatch away some nifty stuff, like a few thousand MCs, they might as well head home too. If not, just jettison the stuff you don’t want, re-cloak, and head back in for another visit.

The Privateers also have the ability to fine tune their beam weapons so that you can kill off those pesky crew members who so selfishly wish to keep you off their ship. Privateer beam weapons receive a 3X bonus vs. life. If you examine the beam weapons you’ll notice that 2 of them, the Disruptor & Heavy Disruptor, already do quite heavy “life” damage. Combine these with the 3X advantage and you get a very powerful weapon. Buy these beams for your ships.

When you plan to capture a ship via combat mode (i.e. using the 3X advantage), the smart Privateer will remember that before you start to kill off the crew, you must knock down the ship’s shields first. This brings you to the dilemma of having to use your torps to knock down the shields while trying to keep from blowing the ship up with the torps after the shields are down. That’s why I only recommend using combat to capture freighters or lightly armed transports.

You can disable your ship’s torps by setting your friendly code to NTP (case sensitive, and BTW, this will also prevent your fighter carriers from launching fighters) and since freighters don’t carry weapons, you can use just the beams to knock down the shields and then polish off the crew at your leisure. Never try to capture any kind of decent warship this way! With your torps disabled, his torps will quickly kill your ship before your beams can bust through the shields. You might consider it with a heavy captured ship that can soak up damage, but the ships that the Privateer can build just don’t stand up well to heavy combat.

Finally, a word on which ships the Privateer should build. METEOR CLASS BLOCKADE RUNNERS. Alright, so that was four words, but the MCBR is the best ship the Privateers have. The BR4 & BR5 ships also have uses since they too can cloak & have the Grav Drives. However, the ship that can best accomplish the ROB mission is the MCBR. It has the decent fuel and cargo capacity necessary to make robbing worthwhile. Build as many of them as you can and put the best weapons you can on them. Yeah, I know, they don’t stand up well in a fight. But if you are forced to fight, you might as well be ready to do as much damage as possible. Who knows? You may get lucky and all his torps could miss. Looking at the rest of the ships, you can pretty much figure out for yourself what uses can be made for each one. In my next column, I’ll discuss the economics of playing VGAP (kinda boring, I know. But when the boss makes a request, whattya gonna do?)

Editor’s Note: If ya think you can get this kind of info anywhere else, I’d sure like to know where! Good Stuff, Steel Rat!

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