The Privateers must be played as a highly-tactical race. While they have the biggest mobility advantage in the game, with the Gravitronic Accelerator ships, they also have the weakest warships, and must steal other races’ ships to have any appreciable combat power. That said, their ability to rob other ships of fuel, and tow-capture fuel-less ships makes them a feared race to play against, and a fantastic ally for any race.
It is said that an expert Privateer player is rightfully feared, but an inept player is mere food for other races.
- Double-speed ships: the MCBR, BR4 and BR5 ships all move at double-speed using their Gravitronic Accelerators (GAs).
- Rob mission: any privateer-owned ship can rob other ships of fuel and other goods. This mission occurs before movement.
- Cloaking ships: many privateer ships can cloak, including all the double-speed (GA) ships.
- Easy to make friends: everyone wants your ships, or even for you to tow their ships for them.
- Best harassment in the game: no one can disrupt an economy like you can.
- Very weak warships
- Difficulty in destroying enemy starbases
- No economic advantages
- No terraformer or climate advantages
- Vulnerability to mines*
* Privateer ships are low-mass, and tend to move long distances, meaning that they will typically die if they ever pass through a surprise minefield.
BR4 Gunship: while I would much prefer an MBR, this ship, with Tech 7 engines, is still highly mobile, and can be built at new starbases while you’re still trying to tech up. It’s very cheap, and is often the go-to ship when used for sacrificial towing.
BR5 Torpedo Boat: your very first GA-minelayer. The MBR is still far better, but almost twice the Moly (depending on armament).
Meteor Class Blockade Runner (MCBR or MBR): The main reason why you play Privateers. This ship has everything you need – speed, cargo, fuel, and decent armament. It is NOT meant as a combat ship, but rather as a raider and robber. It works well as a minelayer, and should be equipped with Mark 7’s when possible.
Lady Royale: If short on good native life for taxation, the Lady Royale becomes a decent money-maker. Do not build this instead of an MBR, but a secondary (humanoid) starbase may be perfect for this type of investment.
Dwarfstar Class Transport: This ship has among the most beams (6) of any ship in the Privateer arsenal, it cloaks, and has almost double the cargo of an MBR. While I’m not convinced that 2 additional beams is worth a GA ship slot, it could make an effective mine-layer or sweeper. You could also build it with low-tech engines, and tow-and-drop it to act as a surprise mine-layer, when you can’t afford an MBR.
Bloodfang Class Carrier: You may scoff at this ship, but it’s the heaviest thing that the Privateers have, and several of them together can be used for both defense and offence when you just really need to blow something up. It doesn’t cloak, and it only has enough fighters for 1 combat against a battleship, but it’s a lot better than trying to defeat battleships with MBRs…
Ship Building Strategy
As the Privateers, you NEED to build a ship every turn, at every starbase. Your ships are cheap, and you will lose some. Ideally, you want to build an MBR every turn, at multiple starbases, equipped with Transwarps, Heavy Phasers and Mark 7 torps. However, a weapon-less MBR is almost as useful for many tasks (robbing and towing), and IMO should be built instead of a BR-ship whenever possible.
While the Privateers are unlikely to stand up to massive carriers headed their way, they can prevent most races from ever getting to the point where they can field many large ships. Constant, early harassment, and minefield superiority is one of the keys to victory for Privateers.
Despite lacking economic bonuses (other than the Lady Royale to make credits), the Pirates can expand faster than any other race, at least initially. They can also planet-hop better than any other race (tow your LDSFs if you need to), so they will remain unseen until a scout comes along.
Early Strike Option
Although not quite as deadly as the Lizards or Birds, the Privateers rival the Fascists as an early-strike race. Four or more MBRs will easily take out a starting homeworld, and that “headshot” can often cause the player to drop out. Better yet, the Privateers can find and reach a neighbour’s homeworld much sooner than most other races, making a turn-8 early strike a realistic option (MBR x 4, scout, strike).
Early Second Starbase
I discuss the merits of early second starbases elsewhere, but the Privateers could use an early Ghipsoidal or Humanoid world to create either BR4s or Lady Royales to further their expansion. However, in low-mineral games, like most other races, the Privateers’ focus is usually to build a Merlin to fuel high-tech ship building.
Lacking heavy ships of their own, the Privateers love making allies with heavy carrier races, such as:
Almost everyone is willing to be the Privateer’s best friend. However, unless you’re really, really sure about your ally, DO NOT let them sit warships around your starbases, or have mine-layers skulking around your freighter routes. The safest ally is one where YOU go to THEM, and not the other way around. Fear the backstab!
Privateers also benefit from allying with their worst enemies (below), who usually have special abilities that the Privs sorely need.
The easiest race for the Privateers to take on is actually the Cyborg. While the Privateers may have trouble killing Cyborg planets, they pretty much prevent the Borg from getting any kind of decent start, which pretty much dooms the Borg. The Privateers are also easily able to reach the center of the map, where the Borg often puts “emergency second homeworlds”. Containing the Borg is a big factor in destroying them permanently, and Privateer-mobility is a good asset in that quest.
Another easy-kill race is the Rebels (who don’t have good minesweepers or any anti-cloaking abilities, and many of their ships have small fuel tanks and are easily robbed, like the Cygnus and Patriot, normally staples of the early-Rebel fleet).
Among the Privateers’ worst enemies are:
- the Lizards, who get a fast start, can cloak, can take planets by ground attack, and have Lokis.
- the Fascists, for similar reasons (Glory Device instead of Lokis)
If not dealt with early, the following races can be terrible for Privateers to deal with as well:
- the Feds, due Lokis, and also that all their ships will eventually have Heavy Phasers for sweeping, and they’ll also have lots of money for minefields
- the Crystals, due to the Privs minesweeping limitations
- the Robots, against because of minefields restricting movement
- the Colonies, because once they can afford to drop large minefields, the Privs cannot easily counter-mine and must sweep.
Do you see a theme here? If another race achieves minefield dominance, the Privateers’ options become much more limited. While large capital ships can often carry a few supplies and simply fly through minefields, the Privateer fleet just doesn’t have that option. Thus, if you don’t capture a few good warships, you will have a hard time fighting anything.
Like most other races, the Privateers need an ally. While a superior Privateer player may be able to pull out a win on their own, the number of anti-cloaking and mine-laying abilities of many other races (Feds, Lizards, Fascists, Crystals, Robots) make it difficult for the Privateers to go it alone in the late game, or even the mid-game depending on their closest enemies. However, with the assistance of an ally, the Privateers become a much more dangerous opponent.
I personally prefer the Privateers paired with a heavy-carrier race or slower-start race, because the end-game becomes much easier when the X-plus-Pirate alliance can simply smash the fleets in their way, rather than having to play minefield wars or bait-and-rob.
One very important subject for Privateer players is minefields. I’ve seen far too many beginner Privateer players lose ship after ship to minefields, because they just send their ships into enemy space at full speed, without even thinking about minefields. Even while cloaked, the distance that Gravitronic Accelerated (GA) ships can travel in a turn make mines their worst nemesis. To succeed, you need to lay offensive minefields, in enemy space, where you intend to do your robbing. Thus, even “surprise” enemy minefields will be neutralized by your minefields, and at the very least, you’ll have less mines to travel through. Thus, instead of using all your ships for robbing, save one ship for minelaying. MBRs with Mark 7’s are good for this task.
Privateers should be familiar with all the sneaky cloaker tactics, and may also consider using sacrificial BR4’s to tow ships to wolfpacks for robbing.
The Lady Royale Gambit
One less-known feature of the Lady Royale is her huge fuel tank. The gambit, in this case, is to tow an enemy ship to a fuel-less Lady (or two), who is accompanied by a pack of cloaked MBRs. The MBRs give fuel to the Lady and then all ships will Rob. If you are feeling that you have excess robbing capacity, you can even attempt a tow-capture on the same turn.
As robbing comes before minelaying in the host order, you are safe from the ship itself laying mines, but other ships in the area may drop mines to attempt to catch your towing ship in the minefield.
A Privateer should eventually capture a heavy carrier of an enemy. However, instead of towing his carrier around, I suggest towing enemy ships BACK to this carrier. This prevents other races from easily being able to target and destroy the carrier, compared to if it was towed to the front lines, and also allows you to maintain good minefield coverage around your carrier’s position. The only time you will need a carrier at the front lines is to destroy enemy starbases, and hopefully you can do that with additional stolen ships once your enemy’s fleet has (mostly) switched allegiance…
Because Meteor Class Blockade Runners (MCBRs or MBRs) are so fragile to mine-hits, the Privateer needs to achieve minefield superiority over any area where he wishes to operate. However, the Privateers have a decent advantage in money because of the low cost of their ships, and due to their initial speed of development, should be able to amass a decent store of torpedoes for such a task.
This tactic was used on me recently, and I was impressed at the patience exhibited by this player. The Privateer leaves one or more cloaked ships at a border planet where they suspect you will eventually send an exploratory ship. Edges of the map with “unprotected” planets are very good for this purpose. When the ship arrives, the Pirate has the option of robbing and/or towing.
Countering the Privateers:
Here’s a tip I found buried on the Planets.Nu forums, posted by Paudolf
“Just one last thing I use to do: have clans inside your attacking ships. If he plans well his defense, will have cloaked ships with clans at planets you conquer, so he takes control on them again and avoid you beam up fuel. Si, if you leave clans on each conquered planet you’ll avoid this. Also, as issden said, change fcodes when capture planets ans SET THIS FCODE ON SHIPS BEAMING UP FUEL; so, if he retake planet, you’ll can beam up fuel too.”