Full Thrust tactics guide
Who am I to write a tactics guide? Who cares? No-one else has written
one yet, so I might as well.
Keep in mind your objectives. If you need to kill enemy ships, do that.
If you need to get your convoy off the table, get it off. If you don't
need to preserve your ships, don't be afraid to expend them if it will
help you achieve an objective.
Target choice is critical to effective fire. My own experience suggests
that concentrating fire against a small number of targets is most
effective; if you do 10 points of damage against two cruisers, you might
gain a threshold roll against each; but you could wipe almost any escort
off the map, and remove its firepower completely from the battle.
Look on the bright side - at least it isn't Star Fleet Battles, with its
Mizia- concept attacks and Kaufman Retrogrades.
Beam battery tactics should be simple enough - just point them at the
enemy and fire, right? Well, almost. Don't be tempted to use up your
fire control allowance on beams if other systems will be more effective.
If you're under fighter or missile attack, consider carefully how to
deploy your C batteries. Employ them against missiles rather than
fighters; expect to use about two to have a 55% chance of a fighter
kill. You may do better to let the fighters through and kill a nearby
wounded escort instead.
Pulse torpedoes need careful attention, particularly since you will
often have to allocate fire control between torpedoes and beam
batteries. Against an unscreened target, a torpedo has higher expected
damage than an A battery out to 6", and higher damage than a B out to
18". Screened foes give the torpedo a further advantage; level-1 or -2
screening gives the torpedo better damage than an A to 18" and better
than a B to 24", while against a level-3 screened ship the torpedo is
superior to an A to 24". On the other hand, you will usually have more
beam batteries than torpedoes. In general, save torpedoes for the heavy
If pulse torpedoes are being used against you, there isn't much you can
do about it; the range envelope is your main advantage. Some like to
push their "sacrificial" escorts forward while keeping the beam-equipped
heavies out of range. If you have superior manoeuvreability and an A
battery, there isn't much reason to take damage from pulse fire.
Needles are very tricky to use well. They have short range, so the
platform must be placed close to the target. They usually need several
volleys to cripple, so the platform must survive; and their arc is
The main decision in needle use is which system to target. Fire control
is always a good bet, especially on smaller platforms; destroying a
target's offensive capability is usually easier that destroying his ship
completely. Drives are another option, but this should mainly be used
prior to a boarding attempt. FTL is rarely used except in special cases,
since a fleeing ship can certainly be considered a "mission kill".
Screens might seem tempting, but a platform that can reach needle beam
range should be able to fire enough pulse torpedoes or submunitions to
keep the heaviest ship busy. Special systems (reflex fields and cloaking
fields) are definitely good targets; sensors are normally not worth the
bother, unless just one specialised sensor ship is used.
The trick with submunitions is, of course, working out when to fire
them. There's usually no bonus for finishing the game with submunitions
unfired, but it's always tempting to try for the close-range shot.
Resist the temptation: most submunition carriers have the structural
strength of a cornflakes packet and will explode as soon as they're hit.
Once your enemy realises what he's up against, they will be hit.
Launch the submunitions as soon as you get into range, then get clear
(though if you have no other weapons, you should no longer be a priority
Try if possible to accelerate so as to move from outside effective range
to within 12" in one turn.
If working against submunition platforms, try to hold long range; force
the enemy to fire early or lose the opportunity to fire at all.
Mines cannot normally be used offensively. Their primary purpose in the
tactical game is to deter pursuing ships; if you have time to place
mines before battle begins, they can form good outer defences (to
scratch incoming screening ships before they reach weapons range), and
last-ditch inner defences (to try to cripple damaged ships before they
can attack a static target).
Bear in mind that a single mine is almost useless to damage enemy ships.
They should be deployed in depth, in overlapping fields; and their
purpose is not to destroy ships, but to slow them down, and allow you to
attack them in a known location.
If working against mines, protect your minesweeper by placing forward
escorts just outside the mine's kill zone to distract and damage enemy
ships. If you can go around the mines, do.
It's big, it's ugly, and it leaves you defenceless when you fire it.
Pick the moment carefully, bearing in mind that a platform firing Nova
will be a prime target for all enemy whose guns can bear; fire it first,
before they get the chance to damage it too badly. Also, take
extreme care not to catch your own ships in the blast! Apart from
anything else, your opponents will never let you forget it.
The best defence against a Nova cannon is not to be there when it goes
off. Nova platforms are usually too heavy to manoeuvre fast, so keep an
eye on them and scatter if they seem to be lining up a shot. Also, once
you've scanned a Nova, break any formation you might have been using;
it's too tempting a target. The expense of a Nova tempts many naval
architects to skimp on point defences (especially since most cannot be
used when the Nova is firing).
Missiles look good, but they're easy to kill, especially in small
numbers. If just one PDAF, ADAF or C battery is available to kill the
missile, it has a 83.33% chance of getting through; against two, it has
a 69.44% chance; against three, 57.87%; against four, 48.23%. Clearly,
you need to swamp your target's defences, especially for large ships.
Arrange time-on-target salvoes, probably from multiple platforms since
most don't carry enough missiles to be effective singly.
If you're firing against missiles, it may be to your advantage to let
some through. With two defences against two missiles, the expected
damage is lower if you fire both against one (assuming they're the same
type). This is best worked out on a case-by-case basis.
Unfortunately, missiles cannt be intercepted before they attack.
However, putting ADAF platforms near your vulnerable ships can help, and
if you can tempt the missiles into an attack against heavily-protected
ships, so much the better.
This is the longest-ranged direct-fire weapon in the game. Make use of
it. Fire as soon as you can, and keep firing; the close-range damage
potential is useful, but being able to whittle away enemy ships before
they can touch you is better. Also bear in mind the overload chances: at
short range it's about one in 7.5 (13.2%), at medium range it's about
one in 13.5 (7.4%), and at long range one in 36 (2.8%). To look at it
another way, assume you take all shots at the same range. After 25
long-range shots, there's about a 50% chance that the gun will have
overloaded; at medium range, this will take 9 shots; and at short range,
just 5 shots.
Most of the comments on the nova cannon apply here as well, but wave
guns appear more often on the battlefield. It should normally be
possible to place a wave platform to minimise the amount of fire it
takes through its unshielded arc. Over 70% of the time, the wave gun can
be armed within two turns. It will only fail to be armed in thre turns
less than 5% of the time.
When defending, as for Nova cannon, break formation as soon as you
detect an enemy using one.
Not much to the tactics of this one. It's as good as a level-3 screen
for stopping damage, so you might as well leave it turned on all the
time when you don't have target opportunities. Keep switching its state
to keep your enemy off-balance; when it's turned off, don't fire the
reflex platform until it's come under fire already (so that the enemy
knows its state).
Once you know your enemy has a reflex field, take a small shot at it
early each turn just to keep him honest, and pour in fire from other
ships when it's turned off. Also, like heavily screened ships, reflex
ships are prime targets for pulse, missile and submunition fire.
Cloaking fields are among the most misused ship systems. Naturally,
they're great for escaping from battle. They're also good for sneaking
up on static targets. They cannot really be used effectively in a mobile
offensive, except to gain time for damage control teams to make repairs;
alternatively, if many ships can cloak, let them all vanish
simultaneously to regroup. The problem with cloakers is that they split
your force, allowing the enemy to go after uncloaked ships without
risking damage from the others.
Countering cloakers is fairly hard to do well. When a ship vanishes, try
to work out what he's going to do. If he's heavily damaged, he may be
trying to escape; you can't do much about that. If not, he's probably
trying for an advantageous tactical position. Work out what he thought
you were going to do, then do something different. If you're defending a
base, he may turn up just inside a range band; so put some ships 3" or
so in front of the base.
[Note that our group uses a "true cloak" rule: all cloaked movement must
be plotted when the cloak is engaged.]
Fighter tactics are deception tactics. You need to out-think your
opponent in order to get the close-range shots. It's usually possible to
predict roughly where his ships will arrive, especially if they're
low-thrust; fast ships will be harder to predict, and it may be
necessary to task multiple fighter groups to surround them.
The best method of killing a fighter is another fighter. Interceptors
really only show their worth in defensive situations. Failing that,
deploy under a screen of ADAFs.
Know your ship, and your enemy's. Of course, you're aiming to get to
optimum range for your weapons while staying out of range for his. This
should not be allowed to overwhelm good sense; in general, ships do not
have major differences in range. Specialised ships (such as torpedo and
needle platforms) need special handling, and it may be necessary to
distract the enemy with more conventional ships to gain a range
Apart from obvious considerations of firing arc, I have found it very
effective to concentrate fire on specific ships (usually smaller ones),
to remove their weapons from consideration. Rear arc shots are
satisfying, but do no more damage than others; if you outnumber the
enemy, it is usually more effective to split up and cover his possible
manoeuvre envelope, to ensure that at least one ship will have a fire
Formations are generally neglected, particularly by gamers unused to
naval warfare. It is entirely possible for the enemy to shoot past
screening ships to take out the ships you are attempting to protect.
Thus, particularly if you are outgunned in convoy defence, it may be
necessary to use a loose formation, such that the outriders will be in
range of the attackers before they can bring their own guns to bear on
the core ships. On the other hand, attackers should generally use tight
formations, unless burst weapons (wave and nova cannon) are available to
the defenders. Ships with shorter-ranged weapons should run ahead, with
missile carriers behind; ideally, all weapons should acquire targets
First, choose the purpose of the ship. A ship designed for one purpose
will be able to do that one thing well; a ship designed for multiple
purposes will do them all badly.
This is a critical decision, since it will determine the tactical
deployment of the ship. The published ships only rarely exceed 40% of
points total for thrust; using much more than this seems not to be
cost-effective, though opinions differ. Would you rather have four
battleships from the book, or five with thrust 2?
Beam batteries are the basic weapon of the game, and should not be
neglected. The arguments about cost-effectiveness of different .beams
are well-known and need not be repeated here. I find A and C batteries
most useful (Cs providing fighter defence in smaller ships).
Pulse torpedoes should only rarely be fitted in preference to beam
batteries. Their damage per mass is only superior at short range against
heavily screened targets; this suggests that they should be used on (a)
agile ships that expect to engage enemy heavy ships and then be
destroyed or (b) heavy ships that can survive to close range with enemy
Needle beams are a special-purpose weapon and should normally be fitted
only on specialised platforms. These platforms should have high thrust
and reasonable survivability, to maximise the chance of getting the
needle to firing range.Extra firecons might not be a bad idea,
Submunitions should normally only be fitted to a manoeuvreable (thrust
8) ship. Their range is too short for them to make sense on larger
Minelayers and minesweepers are specialised weapons that have no place
on standard ships. It may well be worth combining them on the same
platform, though it is unusual to use both systems in the same
The nova cannon is only worth mounting on the largest ships; quite apart
from its size, the ship will have to survive an unscreened turn each
time it fires. It is large enough that most carriers will have few other
systems; concentrate on point defences.
Missiles need to be used in swarms to saturate enemy defences.
Specialised ships should carry three or four; having fewer isn't worth
it, unless you deploy large numbers of platforms.
The AA megabattery is a splendid weapon, especially at long range. It is
a good centrepiece armament for capital ships, and is small enough not
to need a specialised platform.
Wave guns, like nova cannon, belong on large ships. However, they do not
demand the same proportion of ship space as nova canbon, so they may be
found on les specialised ships.
The reflex field is a very underrated system. For a little over half the
cost of level-3 screening, it stops (on average) as much beam damage,
and has the chance of damaging the enemy as well! OK, so you can't fire
at the same time, but a reflex ship should be able to freak out most
opponents. A battleship with full screens and reflex is truly
A cloaking field should only be fitted to specialised cloaking ships;
it's too expensive otherwise. It should typically be combined with a
powerful one-punch weapon (wave gun, nova cannon, several AA batteries)
and moderate point defences.
Sensors and ECM are best deployed on specialised ships; I prefer to have
at least three sensor platforms (to stop the enemy blinding me with a
single volley), and form up under an area ECM ship; opinions vary, and
convoy defenders should probably consider individual ECM instead.
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