We of the Cyborg Feudality are justly renowned for our unmatched Cube ships. The Biocide is as deadly a carrier as any in the game; the Annihilation is the meanest battleship ever built. Both are massive engines of pure destruction. Each is designed to dominate in combat; each is the perfect example of its class.*
Were it possible to conceive of a flaw in the Feudality’s war machine, it would have to be the weakness of our light and medium warships. The Quietus serves admirably as a minelayer and the B222 is an ideal minesweeper, but it is true that neither works well in the traditional role as ‘sacrifice’, or softening up a hard target prior to assault. The sole Cyborg medium ship is the Firecloud, which is used more traditionally for its Chunnelling ability. It does, however, make an excellent (and inexpensive) sacrifice if used judiciously.
Novice commanders frequently misuse the Firecloud, or at the least employ it inefficiently. It often takes quite some time to realize that, while two Fireclouds are needed for a single Chunnel, it takes three to repeat the jump, and more to do so efficiently using the method known as Cloud Stationing. In order to demonstrate, let us consider the Merlin.
Traditional Planets production logistics doctrine tells us that we will eventually run low on mined minerals unless we use the Merlin alchemy ship to create more from supply stocks. The Merlin is an expensive ship and quite heavy, so most races will have only a few and will move them only to nearby planets in a single cluster in order to conserve fuel. With the Firecloud, however, one can move a Merlin to even the most distant planet for a nominal fuel cost.
The most time-efficient method, I have found, is to assign a single Firecloud permanently to service each Merlin. This ship should have Transwarp engines (though only moderate armament is likely to be needed) in order to tow the Merlin from point to point within a cluster in order to (for instance) help set up new starbases. The Chunnel destination point will be a standard production starbase; this will need a Firecloud in orbit. These station Fireclouds need only nominal armament and low-grade engines, since in a properly-managed empire one is unlikely to have enemy ships attacking one’s means of production.** Once the Merlin completes its task***, the station ‘Cloud can shift into the Warp Well in order to permit the shuttle ‘Cloud to transport its Merlin to the next destination; after transit, the station ‘Cloud should return to orbit and await its next Chunnel.
This method is applicable in most logistical circumstances. Heavily-armed shuttle ‘Clouds can move new Cubes from production stations to the front lines; moderately-armed shuttle ‘Clouds can escort whole fleets of freighters in order to move millions of colonists at a time from planet to planet. It may be useful to adopt personal naming conventions that permit one to distinguish between classes of Firecloud at a glance (ie Station 063 or Armed Shuttle 425) but it must be remembered that the enemy can read names as well as you can; here as in most other cases, care and caution are warranted.
The major down side of this method is that any outside observer can pinpoint Firecloud stations within your network by monitoring traffic in your Warp Wells. It is possible to employ more advanced techniques using high speeds and the Warp Well; alternately, one can simply move one’s station ‘Cloud to another planet between jumps. A little experimentation will tell you which methods work the best, but it should be remembered that even a minor error can have disastrous consequences – accidental chain Chunnelling or removing your Chunnel link to a vital area to name just two – so be careful when you’re experimenting.
With respect to this, it is also wise to protect oneself from cloakers that may choose to follow a Firecloud back from the front lines. There are many tactics; Chunnelling from the warp well when in a danger zone or “washing” your Fireclouds through a friendly minefield are both quite acceptable methods to maintain reasonable safety.
Another difficulty is that the most efficient Firecloud network will eventually have nearly as many ships as one has planets; chunnelling is, in most cases, far more efficient than standard movement****. They are easily and cheaply built at low-cash starbases, but most of these slapdash ships will be unable to move. Over time, one may find that two Cloud stations with decent propulsion can serve an entire cluster as well as can half a dozen with StarDrive 1 engines. Poorly-equipped Fireclouds that become redundant in the later game can be recycled for a single PBP; however, a replacement will cost three, so replace judiciously.
It is also worth noting that no ship should travel empty when it can profitably travel full, especially when using flat-cost Chunnel transport methods. With judicious transfers, one can establish fuel stocks where needed or remove resources from an endangered area with relative ease.
One final note: It should by now be apparent that an efficient Cyborg fleet will have far more Fireclouds and freighters than dedicated warships. This is true of most fleets, in point of fact, but in the Cyborg fleet it is disproportionally so. Most importantly, though, a properly-deployed Firecloud network will permit the skilled commander to construct new bases at any point and new capital ships at any base once the Ship Limit is reached, which not only helps obviate the preceding observation but also makes the Firecloud arguably the most important logistical advantage possessed by the Feudality of the Cyborgs.
I bid you good hunting, fellow knights of the Cyborg. And remember: Resistance Is Feudal!
* – There are those who say that the Evil Empire’s Gorbie-Class Battlecarrier, being larger, is a better ship than the Biocide. The standard argument states the Biocide costs a bit more and masses a bit less; both are true. However, one must not forget that the Biocide has additional cargo space, needed for our racial ability to collect and repurpose materials from our enemies. The additional mass is of only nominal import in carrier combat. The Gorbie’s sometime ability to destroy a planet is comparitively insignificant; we have a quote from Darth Vader himself to that effect.
** – Paranoia is a survival trait. As such, I personally try to arm all of my Fireclouds with at least moderate weaponry, meaning that every ship must have its full complement of weapons and have some torpedo loadout at all times. Behind-the-lines attacks are a common practice for the cloaking races, and while the Firecloud would have difficulty facing a well-armed Lizard or Resolute, if one can inflict significant damage on the attacker one can prevent it from re-cloaking. Then too, if an enemy penetrates the outer defenses with a capital ship, even a nominally-armed Firecloud can cause enough damage to permit a defended starbase to survive a subsequent attack. This decision must be made relative to local and empire-wide economic demands.
*** – Merlins convert minerals at a constant rate. They don’t much care where the supplies come from so long as there are plenty. Quite frequently, I’ll send one on a circuit, converting supplies from planet A while enroute to B, from B while moving to C, and so on until we finally get back to A in a dozen turns or so. This is fine so long as nothing urgent is planned at A; in that event, of course, all you’ll need to do is make A your second stop.
**** – As implied in the preceding note, efficiency here is maximized in both fuel and time if one plans to Chunnel every logistics fleet every turn that it can be profitably shifted. When one considers for example the new limitations on the ‘Tow-drop Chunnel’, every scrap of movement is vital and every turn invaluable.
This article is copyright 2013 by the writer, J. Millard Simpson. Permission is granted to Planets Magazine and its editors to publish this and to reprint excerpts for purposes of publicity without compensation. Ownership and all other rights are reserved.