Properly played Privateers can be a terrible thing to deal with, but it’s been coming to light more and more that other, properly-played races can be an equally big problem for the Privateers, because if the Pirates can’t steal ships, they are very weak in combat. They also have a hard time dealing with 200/60 starbases unless they can capture their opponents’ own ships to deal with these starbases.
Three anti-privateer tactics
Beaming up Fuel & Setting Primary Enemy
Any turn where you have an uncloaked ship at one of your planets, especially a warship, you should be dropping all but 1 kt of fuel to the surface, then setting mission: beam up neutronium. Primary enemy should be set to Privateers. This ensures that even if the Privateers rob and tow your ship, it will still fight, hopefully destroying the towing MCBR.
Keeping Ships Cloaked
If you are a cloaking race, even if it burns fuel, you should keep your ships set to Mission: Cloak (if they aren’t doing something more important). Most hosts do not allow cloaked ships to be robbed, so it simply prevents them from getting robbed, period.
Re-Cloak after Missions
Unless absolutely necessary, have your ship re-cloak every 2nd turn, and preferably move locations as well. This applies for mine-laying and mine-sweeping, and for gather missions. Given the Host Order, ships re-cloak before robbing happens, and they only de-cloak when their other mission happens in the Host Order, so they will stay cloaked and be immune to robbing until their mission occurs. If you re-cloak them the following turn, they will also re-cloak prior to the next Rob mission occurring, and they will continue to be immune. HOWEVER, they are NOT immune to towing in this manner – tow-lock will occur prior to the re-cloaking (this is somewhat buried in the host order and difficult to notice).
Keep Cloakers Away from Planets when Decloaked
Planets are great ambush points for Privateer robbers and towers. In open space, there is only a tiny chance that you’ll end up in the same place as a Privateer, but in a planetary orbit, this chance becomes much higher. If you need to perform a different mission than “Cloak”, end your movement in open space whenever possible. Yes, it may reveal that you’re lurking about (beware some fresh minefields!), but it’s safer than losing a ship to a tow into a wolfpack.
This preference is also why Privateers and Crystals work so well together – Crystals hate ships orbiting planets and prefer to catch ships in open space, but Privateers love lurking in planetary orbit and waiting for targets.
Moving your Minefields
The Pirates are mobile enough to simply go around most minefields, although this DOES burn more fuel. What you need to do to catch a Pirate is to move your minefields around – pull some up and drop them in an unexpected location – you might catch a GA ship zooming around, and they die from a single mine-hit.
Set Starbase Missions
The ideal thing is for freighters, even if captured, to drop their loads first. Having the starbase unload the freighter occurs before combat.
A second tactic is to have the starbase set to Force Surrender, and the friendly code set to “mkt”. If the Pirate happens to have left his FC set to “mkt” (make torpedo), he will surrender his ship to your starbase! The downside of this is that a Pirate might try to beam fuel from your planet, and if the FC matches, he will get it!
Carry Minimal Fuel
On any ship, carry either a LOT of fuel (if the ship has big tanks), or carry the minimal amount of fuel to get to the next planet. One of the challenges for Privateers operating deep behind enemy lines, is to have enough fuel (and torps) to keep operating and robbing. The more fuel you can deny to them, the more often they need to either commit to attacking a planet (and revealing their location), or retreating to reload and refuel.
Carry Supplies on your Ships
Even if you take a bit of damage fighting a planet or a series of small ships, you need to be able to travel at full speed, re-cloak, or at least fight at full effectiveness. Minefields are also a big reason to carry supplies!
Change to non-Default Friendly Codes
Never use “default” special friendly codes. Capitalization can be used to differentiate friendly codes, even with the same function. For example, “mKt” is the same as “mkt” in function, but is less predictable. The same occurs for “HYP” and “lfm” – common and quite predictable friendly codes.
Don’t Send Everything in a Clump
A Robot player I once knew sent nearly all his carriers in one group towards the Privateers. The result was simply that the Privateers waited for him at a planet and robbed him blind in one swoop (using a mixture of MBRs and initially-fuelless Lady Royales). You need to force the Privateers to move through minefields, and know that the Privs cannot defend or rob successfully in too many places at once; their fuel tanks aren’t THAT big.
Don’t Let Them Fight their Way
Pirates love waiting for you at planets. They love to hang about cloaked and wait for you to send them a juicy ship. Don’t play this game. Play the game where they don’t know where you are headed, and force them to defend key planets with more than they need to. Hit them in several places at once, and go play in their freighter routes. If you have to stop at a planet, drop huge minefield that turn.
1Kt fuel, Beam Up Fuel & Set Primary Enemy
Leave a ship with 1Kt of fuel on it (and supplies to make it look heavy with fuel). Beam up fuel each turn with this low-ID warship and setting Primary Enemy to Privateers, is one of the easiest ways to ensure that if you DO get robbed, your ship will at least fight and not get tow-captured the same turn as it’s robbed.
It’s important that you use the lowest-ID warship for this defense task, as it will get robbed first, and it will also beam up fuel first. You don’t want your big Merlin or Refinery to beam up all the fuel and leave none for the warship! Although, chances are, they will just tow your Merlin instead. Which is a good reason to…
Arm your Merlins and Refineries
If you put at least Blasters on these large ships, and use “Mission: beam up neutronium”, these ships can take out a MCBR on their own. It’s also better if your Merlins have at least Nova5 engines (see Equipping your Ships), as they can then move back to a planet if they are towed away, instead of having to wait for a tow (and exposing the tower to robbing!).