Ship Profiles (Campaign): Medium Transport – A Logistical Miracle Worker

Reading the subtitle, you likely believe I am being a bit hyperbolic. Fair enough; you’re correct and I absolutely am.

However, allow me to explain why I believe this ship has some value, and perhaps you’ll consider adding it to your fleet.

For those who aren’t aware, the Medium Transport [henceforth called the MTRN] is a Planets Nu upgrade to the Small Transport [STRN], which can be researched and built by the Birds, Fury (formerly Fascist), Privateers, and Crystals. The ship has the same costs as the un-upgraded Small Transport at 25 MC, 2 Dur, 2 Tri, and 20 Moly. It also shares its mass of 30, fuel tank of 180, crew of 15, weapon suite of two beams, single engine requirement, 0 Advantage Point cost, and has no special abilities:

Medium Transport [MTRN]:
Tech: 4
Engines: 1
Beams: 2
Mass: 30
Crew: 15
Cargo: 180
Fuel 180
MegaCredits: 25
Duranium: 2
Tritanium: 2
Molybdenum: 20
Alchemy All-Supply Cost: 97
Advantage Points: 0
Nu Campaign Research Cost: 250
Special Abilities: None
Compatible Racial Abilities: Super Spy (uncloaked), Pillage, Rob, Hide In Warp Well
Mission Profile: Light/Medium Freight, some Missions, [extremely] Light combat, Towed Cargo Trailer
Buildable By: Birds, Fury, Privateers, Crystals

The key difference that makes it valuable is the cargo capacity. The STRN can only carry 50, 20 less than even a SDSF, while the MTRN has a cargo capacity of 180, only 20 shy of the far more useful MDSF. The original thought behind the STRN seemed to be as a competitor to the SDSF that trades cargo and fuel capacity for a light defensive armament, but it largely fails in that capacity since 50 cargo is too small to do much of anything. The 2 beams don’t really make it THAT much more survivable anyway. In comparison, the MTRN is a serious competitor to the MDSF, with some useful tradeoffs that actually make it a good choice quite often.

But back to the MDSF: Let’s take a moment to compare the MTRN with the MDSF itself.

Medium Deep Space Freighter [MDSF]:
Tech: 3
Engines: 1
Beams: 0
Mass: 60
Crew: 6
Cargo: 200
Fuel 250
MegaCredits: 65
Duranium: 4
Tritanium: 4
Molybdenum: 6
Alchemy All-Supply Cost: 72
Advantage Points: 0
Nu Campaign Research Cost: 0
Special Abilities: None
Compatible Racial Abilities: ???
Mission Profile: Light/Medium Freight, Towed Cargo Trailer
Buildable By: All Races except Horwasp

While the MDSF has a larger (250) fuel tank, the mass of 60 means the empty hull traveling around burns roughly twice the fuel an empty MTRN does. Moreover, while the MDSF has a longer range, it’s rare to send either of these ships alone half-way across the Sector, and either is able to Beam up Fuel as they go in any case. At 30 kt mass, the MTRN can also take advantage of a few special rules (such as Hide In Warp Well (Priv/Rebels)), and overdriving engines is less cost prohibitive. Having two beams, it can also execute some special missions such as Pillage or Rob Ship, which the MDSF cannot, and can technically even clear mines or potentially take out weak enemy scouts (HYP probes, Falcons) or even very weak enemy planets. These are all things the MDSF cannot do. And in the case of the Fury, specifically, remember that it benefits from 2x beam charge rate.

The MDSF’s cost profile is 65 MC, 4 Dur, 4 Tri, and 6 Moly. While astute observers with Merlin alchemy at their disposal might note the MDSF has a total Supply cost (if using Supplies for both alchemy and selling for MC) of 72 vs the MTRN’s 97, note the specific cost profile:

The MTRN costs less MC, less Dur, and less Tri; all three things you’re often short of in the early game as you save for you first Merlin, which will set you back a lot of both MC and Dur. And while Dur and Tri on the average homeworld start at low density percentages, Moly, while often rarer in long games, is abundant in the early game. A mere handful of mines on your HW will be supplying you with ample Moly to churn out MTRNs, including ones with good engines.

This means that when materials are stretched the most thin other than Moly – exactly the case in the early game – the MTRN is more affordable than the MDSF while sacrificing only 20 cargo capacity. While not insignificant (that is 10% of the MDSF’s cargo hold), the overall advantages easily make it a strong competitor.

It otherwise can be used in very similar ways to its pacifistic cousin for light to moderate courier duties or built with low tech engines to be hauled as additional cargo behind a LDSF or similar – a duty it performs slightly better than the MDSF owing to its lower mass and admittedly light defensive armament.

A similarly praiseworthy ship is the Rebel exclusive Deep Space Scout [DSS], so I feel it’s worth comparing it with the MTRN as a point of reference.

Deep Space Scout [DSS]:
Tech: 3
Engines: 1
Beams: 4
Mass: 30
Crew: 10
Cargo: 200
Fuel 450
MegaCredits: 190
Duranium: 1
Tritanium: 1
Molybdenum: 29
Alchemy All-Supply Cost: 283
Advantage Points: 0
Nu Campaign Research Cost: 0
Special Abilities: None
Compatible Racial Abilities: RGA, Hide In Warp Well
Mission Profile: Light/Medium Freight, some Missions, [extremely] Light combat, Towed Cargo Trailer
Buildable By: Rebels

Compared to the MTRN, the DSS has two more beams, 270 more fuel, matches the MTRN’s 30 mass, 20 more cargo, costs 1 Dur and 1 Tri less but 9 Moly and 165 more MC. While the DSS clearly wins on fuel and edges out in cargo, the 190 MC cost makes it less affordable in the early game. The slightly higher Dur and Tri costs (1 each) are more than offset by both the 9 higher Moly cost of the DSS and the 165 higher MC cost. Note a Quantum Drive 7 costs 170 MC, 3 Dur, 3 Tri, and 15 Moly, meaning the amount a MTRN saves vs a DSS is nearly enough to equip its engines, the single most expensive component of the build. Neither are “true” combat ships (no special combat missions or secondary weapons like Torps or Fighters), so the 2 extra beams aren’t a huge make-or-break factor in most situations. (The Rebels often shoehorn DSSs into their fleet for Minesweeping duties owing to the low beam counts on their ships, but the Birds, Fury, Privateers, and Crystals all have other options for sweeping duties.)

Back to the MTRN itself: There is the issue of research cost, but it’s an extremely affordable 250 super-MegaCredits. And did I mention it requires 0 Advantage Points to activate? Because if I didn’t mention that, I’m mentioning it now – it’s AP free. The Devs are practically giving you the research and ship for Campaign games.

Indeed, the only true downside of the MTRN is that it’s not available in Standard games. (Perhaps we could start a petition.)

Oh, and don’t forget, they count as “Warships” instead of “Freighters” on the scoreboard, potentially throwing off enemies trying to gauge if you’re a weaker target.

In summary:

-The MTRN offers better use of limited resources in the early game or on peckish new bases.
– Its beams allow some use for special missions (Pillage, Rob, Mine Sweep, etc)
– Its low mass makes it economical to move or tow.
– It otherwise matches favorably in cost and capability to both the MDSF and the DSS or similar ships.

Overall, while perhaps not a miracle worker that will make all your logistical needs and wishes come true, it is a useful ship that can do most things the MDSF does at comparable cost, but with some advantages worth considering. If you’re going to build an MDSF in a given situation, it might pay to consider if a MTRN may be worth your ship slot.

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