Generally, when you’re a cloaking race, you’re not going to have the biggest ships in the fight. This means that you have to get creative with your cloakers so that you can win battles.
Here are some tactics to help you.
Any cloaking race MUST send in cloaked scouts prior to revealing the presence of his attack fleet. You need to be able to run the numbers and determine your optimal battle order before engaging the enemy fleet. These cloakers may also allow you to lay minefields to counter enemy mine laying (more on that below).
The Sacrificial Tow
If you are trying to destroy a key enemy starbase, but you’re not sure you’ll win the fight against the defending fleet, use one or more cloakers to tow the biggest enemy ships away from the planet. You will probably lose the cloakers, but as long as they aren’t captured, it’s worth it to be able to kill the Starbase.
Tow to Empty
Set a waypoint such that your towing ship will run out of fuel before the end of its movement. The fuel-less ship will not be attacked, and you can deal with the enemy capital ship at a later time, and then go pick up the fuel-less cloaker. The downside of this is that your opponent might simply leave the area with the capital ship, and tow the cloaker with him! He can then force it to surrender at any starbase, and then use the ship against you!
However, this tactic can save you a lot of trouble if you’re trying to destroy a key starbase, and don’t want to have to fight a heavy carrier in the same battle sequence.
If you don’t want to waste fighters or torpedoes on lesser ships, but you’re forced to run your bigger ships early in the combat order “just in case”, why not simply use cloakers to tow away the lesser ships, so they don’t participate in the main combat? If you’re using powerful medium-sized cloaking ships, such as a Resolute or Lizard Class Cruiser, your cloakers will easily destroy or even capture the lesser ships. You may even want to use this tactic by grabbing enemy freighters, so you don’t waste a pile of your battleship’s torpedoes on them. Use the “NTP” friendly code to disable your cloaker’s torpedoes against freighters.
Tow to Wolfpack
This tactic is simple – you have a cloaker sitting at the same location as the ship you want to destroy. The cloaker tows the ship to meet your waiting group of ships, to isolate and destroy that one ship, rather than having to face the whole enemy fleet.
When using this tactic, it is often better for your wolfpack to be located as far away as possible (up to 162 ly away), and meet the towing ship halfway. This gives less chance for the enemy to prematurely see your group of ships and take countermeasures (such as laying mines of their own).
You can also combine this with the “tow to empty” maneuver, so your towing ship cannot be killed even if you lose the engagement due to interceptions (i.e. if there are multiple ships intercepting the ship you are towing).
The one easy mistake in this tactic is to forget that the ship you are towing may change in weight, and leave your tower out of fuel before it reaches the wolfpack. Do your fuel calculations assuming that the ship may have maximum mass – and then leave a bit of fuel left over.
Tow to Wolfpack with Minelaying
You add mine-laying to the tactic above, using a second cloaked ship, so that if any enemy ships are intercepting the ship that you are towing (a common anti-cloaker tactic), they have to travel through the minefield on their way. Thus, even if you end up with an extra ship to fight, hopefully it will have taken some damage, and that the mine-hit damage will allow you to win the battle regardless.
One of the most common defensive tactics is to lay mines as the enemy ship is just about to move into them (i.e. on the turn that you would arrive). This works especially well for the defender when the attacker has to show himself in open space, giving at least a 1-turn warning of the attack. To minimize, or even eliminate this threat, have a cloaker waiting at the target planet, or near the target fleet, and lay a large minefield of your own that same turn, such that even if your opponent deploys mines, your minefield will destroy his (note: in most games, with standard host settings, this does not work against the Crystal’s web mines. In this case, instead of laying a minefield, have several cloakers with decent beams perform mine sweeping that turn – although having them sit there preemptively in web mines may not be feasible).
See also: The Two-Cloaker Carrier Chase