How to Equip your Ships


Beginners may have trouble figuring out, from all the tables and charts provided, that there are certain breakpoints where ship components get much better for their cost.

Recommended Tech Levels:

Starting Tech

  • Tech Hulls to 6 (for LDSFs)
  • Tech Engines to 10 (Transwarps)
  • Leave beams at 1
  • Tech Torpedoes to 5

Mid-Range Tech

  • Tech Hulls to 10 (Battleships and Carriers)
  • Tech Beams to 5 (Disruptors)
  • Tech Torps to 8 (Mark 7’s)

Cost of Tech

What you need to understand is that MOST of the go-to weapons are available at Tech Levels 5 and 8.  From an un-upgraded Starbase, it costs:

  • 1000 MC to get from Tech 1 to 5.  You get a lot of good weapons at Tech 5, both Disruptors and Mark 4 Torps.
  • +1800 MC for Tech 8 (total of 2800 MC) .  Since you can build a whole ship for 900 – 1500 MC, it’s a significant additional investment over Tech 5.
  • +1700 MC for Tech 10 (total of 4500 MC).  This level is generally only researched when you don’t have anything better to do with your megacredits.

Hulls:

It’s difficult to talk about hulls without talking about a specific race, but regardless of your race, you need to build at least a few of your largest ships before the ship limit hits – this means you might have to compromise on other components to afford to get your tech level up, and also to build ships.  This limitation can be especially true for the Crystal People, whose ships use a ton of Moly, and thus competes with ship components for that rare mineral.  By contrast, the Lizards, although their ships are smaller, usually have lots of minerals and money, and can afford to equip their ships with the best components.

The large carrier races (Cyborg, Empire, Robots, Rebels, Colonies) tend to build a few large carriers with cheap engines (even Stardrive 1’s) and tow them to where they are needed.  However, I advocate no less than Nova 5’s on any warship, as they can easily be stranded in space by enemy cloakers (see cloaker tactics).

However, it’s a situational decision you must make when you can build either a lower-tech hull with good components, or a Tech 10 hull with lesser components.  For example, if you are the Birdmen, and you need a ship that can sweep mines, it might be better to build a Resolute (Tech 7) with Heavy Disruptors (Tech 8) rather than a Dark Wing (Tech 10) with Disruptors (Tech 5).  In this example, there are other factors at play here, since a minesweeper ship should have supplies for repairing itself, and a decent range (both of which the Resolute has).

The Fascists might equip their Glory Device ships with Warp 5, 6, or 7 engines, knowing that they are just going to destroy the ship when they use the special ability!  HYP ships are often only sent out with Tech 5-7 engines, simply because they are cheap to overdrive (see below), and generally only hop using Hyperjumps.  Other utility ships, like the Privateer Lady Royale, might be stationed in orbit for most of the game, and thus don’t need good engines.

A further exception to hulls-vs-weapons is the Federation.  Their super-refit ability means that they can build the best hulls possible, and then add or upgrade ship components later.  Thus, their priority is building good hulls over all else, and then upgrading them after the ship limit, or as needed.

Engines:

Beginner Tip:  Put Transwarps on all your ships.  Tech Engines to 10 from the start, and build nothing but Transwarps.

Okay, that’s the simple answer.  Here are a few other considerations, starting with how engine speed actually works.

What you need to understand about engines is that their “efficient maximum speed” results in a distance per turn of the square of their name-number.  That is, HeavyNova 6’s (Tech 6) move 36 ly per turn efficiently, and Transwarp 9’s (Tech 10) move 81 ly / turn efficiently.

You really want Tech 10 engines (Transwarp 9’s) whenever possible, simply because they are so much more useful.  If you must compromise, then matters get more complex:

Stardrive 1 – cheap.  Think stationary defense platform, large carrier (towed), or utility ship, and nothing else.  These are massive fuel hogs and are always towed.

Superstar 4 – a cheap engine, but can be overdriven to warp 7 or 8 at a high, but not impossible cost.

Nova Drive 5 – cheap like the Superstar 4, but twice as efficient at Warp 7 and 8.

HeavyNova 6 – cheaper on MC than 7’s, can be overdriven to warp 7 or 8 like the Nova 5’s.

Quantum 7 – much more expensive on MC than 6’s, at the same mineral cost, but allow very-efficient Warp 7 travel, and same as 6’s for Warp 8 overdrive.  Often used for short-hop freighters.

Hyper 8 (tech 9) – mostly to be avoided, except on 1-engine ships. Wait for warp 9.

Transwarp 9 (tech 10) – THE engines to build.  You cannot achieve Warp 9 at a realistic fuel cost without these engines, especially on larger ships.

On the low-tech engines, you can see that the SuperStar4 and Nova 5 can be overdriven to Warp 6, 7 or even Warp 8 at increased fuel cost, but it’s not as ridiculous of a cost as it would cost with the Star 1 through Star 3 engines.  Thus, there’s really never any reason to build Star 2 or 3’s, but the SuperStar 4 offers some savings, although the Nova 5 can be overdriven to Warp 7 or 8 at a much better cost, so it’s your cheapest go-to.

The high-tech engine graph shows that the Nova 5, HeavyNova 6, and Quantum 7 all do Warp 8 at about the same efficiency.  If you have a frequent 36 or 49-ly hop that you need to make with this ship, then the Heavy6 or Quantum7 engine might be appropriate, but if you are only going to make a sudden burst to Warp 8, then you might want to stick with the Nova5 and save yourself some resources.  Especially for very light ships (35 kt or less), the absolute fuel cost of overdriving is quite reasonable.

Beams:

Beginner Tip:  Use Disruptors on most of your ships.  They do decent damage at an affordable cost, can be used to capture freighters, and mine-sweep quite well.

Beams are actually very situational choices – some ships only need X-Rays, and others need Heavy Phasers (if you can afford it).

Tech 1: X-Rays:  Use these instead of Lasers – for NTP captures, fighter-killing.  Tech 1, and while terrible minesweepers, they do so better than Lasers for the same cost.

Tech 3: Blasters: Much higher beam damage, low cost of tech.  Best for cheap, beam-only ships where you want to destroy your target, especially scouts and HYP ships.

Tech 5: Disruptors:  These are the best general-use beams before the Moly cost gets really high.  Cost almost the same in minerals as Blasters, but are much better for mine-sweeping and allow you to capture enemy ships (usually just freighters).

Tech 6: Heavy Blasters:  High structural damage at lowest of the high-damage beam technology.  Much higher Moly cost than Disruptors, and almost as much destructive power as Heavy Phasers.

Tech 8:  Heavy Disruptors:  cheaper and almost as effective for sweeping as Heavy Phasers.  Often the limiting factor between these and Heavy Phasers is the tech level.

Tech 10:  Heavy Phasers: the best of the best, for sweeping, damage, crew kill – but hellishly expensive in minerals and money.

“The smaller mass the ship, the more that the beam weapon damage matters, and the greater the absolute increase in damage for higher torpedo tech” (from “Master at Arms” article on Donovan’s).  

This means that if you intend to have your medium warships fight other medium warships, it’s worth increasing their torpedo tech as high as possible, and if they are on the heavy side (120kt or more) and might survive the torpedo barrage long enough to get into beam range, then good beams (Heavy Blasters, usually) are worthwhile.  Other than that, the only reason to have anything better than X-rays on small ships is for mine-sweeping, and Disruptors are the usual candidate because Heavy Blasters are so much higher in mineral cost (Moly).

Torpedoes:

Quick version:

  • Early game: use Mark 4’s
  • Upgrade to Mark 7’s as soon as possible without slowing ship production
  • Use Mark 8’s on your Battleships (combat) after the ship limit.
  • Stick with Mark 7’s for mine-laying (it’s cheaper)

Detailed Explanation:

While you can use the torpedoes in the tech levels between the ones I highlight below, and higher-tech torpedoes ARE better for damage, they aren’t as efficient as the ones listed.  That is, it CAN be worth using Mark 5 or 6 torpedoes, but there’s also value in standardizing your torpedo types, and conserving your resources.

Tech 1:  Mark 1’s – These are terrible for combat, but great for wasting minerals at a starbase that’s about to be destroyed in combat.  The torpedoes are destroyed when the starbase is destroyed (I think – must confirm).

Tech 3: Gamma Bombs – These are a specialty torpedo, for specially-produced Battleships, and nothing else.  They are used when you want to capture really good medium warships from your opponents (Resolutes, Fireclouds, etc), and you have a Battleship.  Do not put these torps on medium warships!  They will either die to other medium warships, or simply not need the Gamma Bombs at all against small ships (such as to capture Probes).  If you need to capture a small ship, just use the NTP friendly code to disable your Mark 4 or 7 torps, and use your X-Rays, Disruptors, or Heavy Disruptors to capture the ship.

Tech 5: Mark 4 – The most efficient torpedo for its MC cost, both for mine-laying and damage.  I would go as far to say “don’t build torpedo ships if you can’t build them with at least Mark 4’s”.  One of the best torpedo types if you need to use the spoils of war to replenish torps, because minerals are usually more plentiful than money on captured planets (it’s easier to move the money away).

Tech 8: Mark 7 – The go-to torpedo for all-around use.  Almost the same damage and a much lower cost than Mark 8’s, and still lays a decent size minefield.  It’s the most efficient Torpedo for mine-laying when you consider both MC and mineral costs.

Tech 10: Mark 8 – Highest damage torpedo, and most efficient mine-laying (low mineral cost) when money is no object (Lizards, Feds, and owners of 10 million pop. Insectoid planets, take heed!).  It is worth noting that even if you have a Siliconoid-starbase, you probably still want to equip ships with Mark 7 launchers most of the time, because of the significant MC cost of loading ships with Mark 8 torpedoes.  However, Mark 8’s make a big difference when used to fight, and should be added on non-mine-layer battleships, especially for any ships built after the ship limit (before the ship limit, you should be punching out the largest hulls possible, even if only equipped with Mark 4).

Tips and Tricks:

  • You can scoop up mines and turn them back into torpedoes using Mission:  Mine Sweep, and Friendly Code “msc” (minescoop).
  • You can convert low-tech torps into higher-tech torps (or the reverse) in this way.  This trick is handy when you have more money and less minerals, or vice versa.
  • See Minefields for more on using mines to best effect.

Afterword

Thanks to Geofoxy, Marklein, Gnerphk, Glyn, Major Tom, Halion, Hucekes, and Whisperer for their comments on this article.

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