Star Traders: Frontiers

Star Traders: Frontiers

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Surviving early game ship combat in Hard
By matt
Having trouble surviving early game ship combat? This guide has tips that will help you survive and thrive during those first few years.
Ship combat in Star Traders: Frontiers can be tough. There are a lot of variables, and it's not always clear how they interact with each other. Some of the advice you read online is also dated back to pre-release versions of the game. On the lowest difficulty levels, you can probably survive ship combat in any ship. However, as you progress through the difficulty levels, it becomes more important that you understand, at least at a basic level, how the game works.

Dice pools
The game's use of dice mechanics[] are a bit complex, but it boils down to this: "strong dice" are good, and "standard dice" are better than nothing. However, a very large pool of standard dice can carry you through difficult checks and even dwarf the results of your strong dice.

Useful skills during ship combat
In ship combat, long range is distance 4 and 5. Short range is distances 1 through 3. At long range, engine speed is important to attack and defense. At short range, engine agility is important. So, a fast engine is important to surviving early ship combat. You really don't want to get pummeled for two turns because you started with a slow ship that has to advance to short range to use its weapons.

Other important statistics are navigation, pilot, electronics, and gunnery skills. Accuracy is increased at long range by navigation and at short range by pilot skill. Gunnery skill, though it uses standard dice, always boosts your accuracy. Pilot and electronics increase your defense at any range, though the lower skill uses weaker standard dice. One quirk of ship combat is that your bonuses are capped. Any values above 100% in the ship status screen are ignored.

This ship has 51/40 electronics and 35/24 pilot. That means the electronics skill contributes 40 strong dice to defense, and the pilot skill contributes 24 standard dice. Remember, values over 100% are ignored during ship combat, and values over 200% are ignored everywhere. Some of the crew are getting fairly skilled, and it may be time to upgrade to a larger ship.

Your secret weapon: command and tactics
The other major source of attack and defense are your tactics and command skills, respectively. Unlike the above skills, these are always standard dice, but they're uncapped, which makes them very attractive. On a large ship, you can hire a dozen military officers to get the benefit of their standard dice. On a small ship, the captain's starting bonuses become more important because you can't rely on hiring so many recruits.

One useful strategy is to watch your crew's skills. As they gain levels, they start to hit the game's caps. For example, you can fire some gunners once you've surpassed the 100% cap because gunners never get any bonuses above that. If you replace these gunners with military officers, you'll give yourself a couple bonus dice to roll in combat.
Creating a template
You should create a custom template. The templates I suggest here will be optimized for ship combat, not crew combat. You should adjust them as needed. If you don't have the unlocks necessary, you can launch the mod version of the game, which disables unlocks.

Most of the unlocks aren't strictly necessary, so you could replace them with comparable alternatives. The only unlock that I'd consider irreplaceable is the FDF Commander. To get this unlock, all you need to do is complete Call of the Strong[] in normal difficulty. You can save scum to do this.

The Longbolt Commander
Unlocks required: Longbolt, Commander, FDF Commander, Weapons Smuggler, Ex-Spy
A: Skills
  • Tactics 10
  • Command 10
  • Intimidate 3
B: Attributes
  • Strength 14
  • Quickness 14
  • Fortitude 14
  • Charisma 30
  • Wisdom 30
  • Resilience 20
C: Contacts
  • FDF Commander
  • Weapons Smuggler
  • Ex-Mercenary
  • Ex-Spy
D: Ship
  • Longbolt
E: Experience
  • Commander
Why? This is a fairly rounded template that's oriented toward surviving the early game and setting up a successful mid-game. The Longbolt is a cheap ship, but it has good electronics and navigation dice, making it a survivor at long range. The engine's agility and speed are also competitive. The captain's bonus skills should make combat reasonable starting pretty early in the game. The contacts will give you a variety of missions, recruits, and gear. Once you've made some money through missions, you can buy a more powerful ship, such as the Sword Cutter or Vengeance Class.

The Palace Pirate
Unlocks required: Palace Interceptor, FDF Commander, Weapons Smuggler
A: Skills
  • Tactics 10
  • Command 10
  • Intimidate 3
B: Ship
  • Palace Interceptor
C: Attributes
  • Strength 12
  • Quickness 12
  • Fortitude 12
  • Charisma 24
  • Wisdom 18
  • Resilience 24
D: Contacts
  • FDF Commander
  • Weapons Smuggler
E: Experience
  • Pirate
Why? The Palace Interceptor is a great starting ship. Its fast engine means that you can easily control the battle regardless of strategy. The large dice pool boosts from the engine and starting skills should make combat easy from the start. Your attributes are oriented toward blockading, but you should be OK in any card game. The Weapons Smuggler sells weapons and gives black market access, but you could replace him with anyone, really. The Wolf Vector or Sword Cutter are powerful small ships you can upgrade to if desired. Or you could save up for a big endgame ship.

If you want more starting contacts, you could switch your attributes and contacts. Having so few points to spend on your attributes is a little painful, but it's not a big deal if you spend most of your time in ship combat, where the captain's attributes don't really matter.

The Degla Megalift Smuggler
Unlocks required: Degla Megalift, FDF Commander
A: Ship
  • Degla Megalift
B: Skills
  • Tactics 7
  • Command 8
C: Attributes
  • Strength 12
  • Quickness 12
  • Fortitude 12
  • Charisma 24
  • Wisdom 24
  • Resilience 18
D: Contacts
  • FDF Commander
  • Smuggler
E: Experience
  • Smuggler
Why? A large and expensive ship requires some concessions, but no other starting ship has so much room for growth. The engine is a bit sluggish, so combat may be a bit hairy against faster opponents. You should survive thanks to the steady stream of military officers hired from the FDF Commander. Keep hiring them until you stop getting hit.

The smuggler contact may help with your trading, but you should multiclass your captain or an officer into a merchant so you can get more contacts. Or you could replace the smuggler contact with a Spice Trader, who recruits merchants and has a chance of providing black market access. You may also want another cargo bay if you're not into salvaging.

But what if I want to play a peaceful merchant?
Well, merchants are not really cut out for ship combat. A smuggler, who receives several useful ship combat bonuses, would be a better choice if you want to survive ship combat. Merchants should probably focus more on preventing ship combat.

Some talents, such as Stiff Salute (Military Officer 1), instantly end an encounter with specific captains. Others, such as Faked Signature (Smuggler 5), reduce the hostility of enemy captains. Skip Off the Void (Navigator 11) instantly ends any encounter.

Merchants' starting profession bonus naturally reduce the hostility of lawful captains, so reducing hostility is very useful. Encounters can flip from being hostile to friendly. Keep a few talents on standby, and promote a navigator to an officer so you can quickly get Skip Off the Void as a panic button.
Combat strategies
Sheer overwhelming firepower
Your dice pools are going to overwhelm their dice pools. The objective is to blow up their ship in as few rounds of combat as possible. Every round that the combat lasts is another chance for them to get in a lucky hit.

Consider opening battles with Evasive Maneuvers (Pilot 1), then Bombardment (Gunner 1). The fewer hits you take, the less time and money you have to spend on repairs. Evasion also cuts down on morale loss and crew death. Don't panic if you take a hit or two, but hire military officers from the FDF Commander and increase your electronics dice pool until this stops happening. Other cost-effective upgrades are OK. The mid-tier weapons are very cheap, and some low-tier components, such as Nav Assist 1, can increase your ship's useful life beyond their cost.

Boarding the enemy ship can end ship combat very quickly if you're lucky. Besides the obvious benefits, this can also save your life when you're outgunned. Don't trade blows with a ship that's got better dice pools and weapons than you. Close in and kill their captain. Shock troopers and pirates receive a bonus to their boarding rolls and thus can excel at this strategy.

Engine agility is very important, but pilot skill, boarding bonus, and range change bonus also give strong dice. Tactics and command are uncapped as always, but they give a very small bonus. You'll probably depend on engine agility and talents. Of these, Thrown Wrench (Mechanic 5) is notable for its ability to target engines. Consider pairing it with a talent like Hota-Cored Shells (Shock Trooper 5) to immediately end combat.

Fleeing combat
When fleeing, engine speed is very important, and command skill contributes uncapped standard dice. Range change bonus and escape bonus both contribute strong dice. Smugglers also receive a flat bonus to their chance to escape. You don't necessarily need to depend on an "escape talent" to escape combat. Any talent that increase your range change bonus helps, but keep in mind that some talents penalize your chance to escape. Even with those penalties, they probably give a net bonus, though.

On top of all that, you also have to defeat the enemy's attempt to advance if they make one. Besides engine speed, this depends on an uncapped skill: tactics. Thus, it pays to keep your command and tactics dice pools high even if you only intend to flee. For both fleeing and range change, you need navigation and electronics. Eventually, you'll be able to buy components that increase your escape chance, but for now you may need to depend on talents. Make sure you allocate your talents accordingly.
Post-victory issues
Mitigating reputation loss
Congratulations, you won the battle! But how do you deal with the reputation loss? Hopefully, you didn't destroy the other ship if it belonged to a friendly faction.

The first thing to consider is a talent like Honorable Release (Military Officer 8) or Magnanimous Victory (Diplomat 8). These talents are not a cure-all, but they mitigate the damage. If you've betrayed a friendly faction, you'll still potentially lose military ranks and permits. You will also need other talents to blunt further reputation damage if this was a step in a mission. You should be OK if you don't blow up disabled ships and don't steal from lawful ships.

Making money through ship combat
You can make a lot of money through ship combat. Ostensibly, pirates would make their money through piracy, but salvaging destroyed ships is quicker, easier, and quite lucrative. To avoid heavy reputation penalties, use powerful weapons that have a low crippling hit chance and high critical chance, such as missiles.

Your primary money-making talent is likely to be Orchestrated Salvage (Mechanic 1). With the Vulture trait, the bonuses really add up by the mid-game. Prize ships are another possibility, but you may need to take notes on lucrative quadrants. I like to add planets to my "favorites" by starring them when I find a good spot to blockade during a Solar War.