(written by ECV)
Ships with a cloaking device have a special feature built into them. Any time they have a primary enemy selected, and are intercepting something belonging to the primary enemy, they get to trump the battle order. Friendly codes don’t matter, nor do the kill mission or primary enemy settings from the opponent. The ship with the cloaking device enters combat against the ship it is intercepting before any other combat occurs.
If you’ve studied Chasing Carriers, you know that if you’re playing one of the stealth races, you must hit your opponents where it counts — you must attack the ships that are supporting their operations because your ships are not strong enough to fight their big ones.
Analyzing the Threat
Here’s an example from one of my completed games. My opponents, a Lizard and Crystalline alliance, saw two of my ships coming through their area: ship 125, a Cobol Class Research Cruiser, and ship 402, a Virgo Class Battlestar.
If you were my opponents, could you figure out what I was doing? I had set a short waypoint so I was not showing my heading. But they had seen these ships farther away before, and now these two ships were nearing their space.
The Cobol Class Research Cruiser is the single most useful ship that the Missing Colonies of Man can build – it has a bioscanner, it can lay mines, and most importantly its ramscoop device allows it to create its own fuel while traveling.
If you see two ships together, one at warp 9 and the other at warp 0, it’s very likely that one ship is towing the other. Why would it make sense for a Cobol to tow a Virgo? Because the Cobol creates its own fuel and only requires two engines. The Virgo has six engines, so quite often players put low-grade engines on them and tow them around.
So if you were my opponent, seeing this in your space would be a clear indication: the Cobol is towing the Virgo, the Virgo has low-grade engines, and the Cobol is the fuel source for this two-ship battlegroup.
Eliminating the Threat
My Lizard and Crystalline opponents had several options to deal with this threat, not the least of which would be to lay webs. But what other options are available?
They could simply intercept the group with strong ships and attack it. But if they had sent a T-Rex or Diamond Flame Class Battleship to intercept this pair, they would have entered combat against the USS Death, a Virgo Class Battlestar.
And any of those battleships would die a very painful death upon fighting that beast. This monster would smash any of your little torpedo thingies to smithereens. Sending a big battleship out to fight an even bigger carrier is not a good plan.
Here’s another choice that is an excellent plan: to use cloak intercept, that feature badly in need of a new name. My opponents could choose one of their Lizard ships with a cloaking device (such as the Lizard Class Cruiser or Saurian Class Light Cruiser) and mark 7 or mark 8 torpedoes, set its waypoint to (2089,3192), primary enemy to the Colonies, and mission to intercept ship 125, the CC Enterprise.
After the host runs, what would the results be? My opponent’s Lizard Class or Saurian Class Cruiser would first attack the CC Enterprise, a Cobol Class Research Cruiser.
And of course, their cloaker will easily win the fight and destroy the lowly Cobol. The next combat would pit the Virgo against the cloaker, and the cloaker will be destroyed. So using this feature involves the sacrifice of a cloaking ship in order to eliminate one specific ship in the enemy fleet first.
What would happen next? Well, the location of this pair of ships was far away from my nearest fuel source. Due to its low-tech engines and very heavy mass, it cannot travel very far or very fast with just 954kt of fuel. The destruction of the Cobol which was both towing and supplying fuel, would cause this large battlestar to be stuck behind enemy lines, rendering it no longer a threat to any planet it can’t reach or to any ship that can outrun it. The Virgo Class Battlestar USS Death would become helplessly handicapped by its lack of mobility.
The Battle Order
Notice my friendly codes in the two above ships. The Virgo’s friendly code of 112 would assure that it would fight before the Cobol if the pair were attacked in spite of its lower ID number, right? Yes! The ship with friendly code of 112 always fights before the ship with friendly code of mkt unless an enemy ship with a cloaking device makes use of that special feature that allows it, by using the intercept mission, to trump the normal battle order.
Other Strategic Uses of this Feature
Big Beefer referred to the cloak intercept feature in his article on Loki Logic. Indeed, the Loki Class Destroyer is a prime target for interceptors because of the Loki’s decloaking capability. Privateers and Fascists, and others who hold cloaking ships, often want the Loki destroyed before anything else.
The Firecloud Class Cruiser, the most feared weapon of the Cyborg, is also a prime target for interceptors. Destroying the Firecloud can often break a critical link in an approaching battlegroup. “Critical link” is perhaps an understatement, since the Firecloud is the ship that can bring dozens of huge carriers into anyone’s backyard instantly.
These are the most popular targets for this intercept feature, but it opens numerous tactical possibilities. Cloaking races must study enemy fleets to understand what the enemy is doing, and when the target is easy to hit, don’t piddle around! Hit the target!
Let’s say you are playing the Lizards and you see an enemy warship driving by, towing a Neutronic Fuel Carrier that weighs 910kt. The Reptile Class Destroyer with 2 plasma bolts that you have sitting on your planet hissing can intercept that fuel carrier and destroy an enormous source of fuel for your enemy!
Timing is very important. I recently saw a Bird player lose a game on Planets.Nu because of one tremendous mistake. He had Dark Wing Battleships sitting around guarding planets, and all had access to fuel and torpedoes. Suddenly a BR4 towing a Firecloud appeared from outside the map. He saw it coming, and he was in reach of intercepting the Firecloud as it approached. In this particular case, he would have easily destroyed both the Firecloud and the BR4, so an intercept would not have even involved a sacrifice as it usually does! But he made a tremendous mistake and thought it would be better to sit and guard his planets. By not intercepting the critical ship at the right time, his neighborhood was suddenly filled with cubes, and he was soundly defeated. Resistance is futile if you don’t intercept at the right moment! When faced with something frightening, our first impulse is watchful waiting. But when you have a chance to intercept, do not wait one turn to see what happens. Kill the Firecloud. Kill the Loki. Kill the Cobol. Eliminate the threat.
One Bizarre Quirk
What happens if you have two cloakers intercepting the same ship? The cloaker with the highest ID number fights first. We are accustomed to host actions going from low to high — this is an exception.
A Feature in Need of a New Name
A ship with a cloaking device has a special feature connected to its intercept mission that we have tended to call “cloak intercept” or even “cloaked intercept”. It’s terribly confusing to new players to present them with this misnomer that has nothing to do with cloaking.
I’d like to propose “priority intercept” as a possible addition to our Planets lexicon. The intercept mission on cloaking ships is a special one, so any time a cloaking ship is intercepting, we could say it is on a “priority intercept” mission because it gets to fight first.
What do you think? Does this feature need a new name? Leave your ideas below!