Is there ever really a reason not to board?

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MANtisB
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Oct 21, 2012 6:55 am

Is there ever really a reason not to board?

Postby MANtisB » Sun Oct 21, 2012 8:15 am

[[SPOILERS - they'll appear much later in the post]]

n.b.: When I say "board" I mean as your overarching strategy for handling the game, not your specific plan of action in every single encounter.

I've logged about 50 hours on this game and unlocked all ships' model A and six of the ships' model B. (Missing Stealth B, Zoltan B, Slug B.) I can't for the life of me imagine going back to a conventional weapons-heavy strategy; ever since I first got two Mantis and a Teleporter on the same ship I've been using a boarding strategy, sans very specific special runs. (ex: getting Engi B, a run where I only needed to kill a ship with just drones and activate three drones simultaneously; due to the nature of the run there was no reason to spend 75 scrap on a Teleporter and spend time hunting down Mantis when the game would have ended by Sector 4 anyway.)

The advantages of boarding
1. Scrap. I admit that to this point I don't have precise data, but based on my observations during the logging of those 50 hours, I'd estimate that boarding ships yields 1.7 to 2 times the scrap that destroying ships yields after normalizing other relevant variables (current Sector, Scrap Recovery Arm), and before factoring in other relevant costs that further tilt the scales in favor of boarding (higher hull repair costs from longer battles without boarding, purchasing newer and better weapons to keep up with enemy ship defenses, price of missiles and drone parts). Well-executed boarding runs frequently leave me asking "Okay, what do I spend this scrap on now?" In a game where limited supplies should force the player to ration scrap and upgrade frugally, I've found myself making an odd number of what I would consider "luxury" upgrades (e.g. 2nd level oxygen/medbay/bridge, 3rd level doors), not because I make bad choices on upgrading (say, buying those upgrades while still having 1st level shields) but because I've already met all the important needs for my ship.
2. Luck normalization. A conventional run is dependent upon finding (and buying - see first point) newer and better weapons to keep up with improving enemy ships. In most cases one can certainly adapt to what is available, but the concern here isn't whether one *can* win with a weapons focus; the concern is whether one can win more easily and frequently with a board focus. Assuming that one is going to put together a strategy that maximizes one's odds of winning, then, we're wanting to find what strategy does that; the question with specific respect to luck, then, comes down to determining which strategy involves less luck. I think the answer is pretty clear. Almost every ship starts off with the capacity to defeat other ships for the first few sectors just fine. After that it's a constant struggle to improve your weapons to keep up. Meanwhile, as long as you have two non-Engi/Zoltan crew members and 75 scrap, you have almost all the offense you need to purchase for the whole game. (Notable offensive upgrades one should look to get in a boarding strategy: a bombing system, some laser or missile system, and 2nd level teleporter - combined cost approx. 200 scrap.) The "luck" involved in this strategy is achieved simply by starting with any of most of the game's cruisers (sans Engi and Zoltan cruisers, all are staffed with sufficient candidates for fighting from the start, along with aforesaid laser/missile system for dealing with automatic ships - all one has to do is find a bombing system, upgrade the teleporter and if possible acquire better fighting crew).
3. Speed. Briefly touched on this in #1 about hull damage. Most ships are only staffed with 3-4 crew. An experienced fighting crew and rudimentary working knowledge of AI behavior in response to boarders should lead to the deaths of the enemy crew rather quickly. Even assuming four crew and a 1st level teleporter, the deed can more or less be done in a matter of a minute or less, accounting for teleporting your crew back, healing them, and sending them in again. More realistically, the enemy will probably have three or fewer crew, which you can handle in a single round of teleportation with zero casualties pretty easily. That's about 30-40 seconds, which is the time it takes to kill most ships early in the game (more time, of course, being needed as the game goes along, owing to slower charge times on stronger weapons needed to take down stronger enemy ships). Mantis make this faster, and are not hard to find. The benefits of speed should be clear, quicker battles = fewer enemy salvos = less potential damage taken. Most of my early upgrades are focused on shields and engines. It's not uncommon to get through several encounters virtually if not entirely free of hull damage when your enemy has at most three salvos to punch through 2nd/3rd level shields while targeting a ship with 30+% evasion.

The only obvious cons that come to mind are dealing with automated ships early in the game, Zoltan shields throughout and the final boss. It's probably best just not to engage automated ships with your teleporting team; if you can acquire a laser or missile system then that's your ticket, and given that you'll be really wealthy in terms of scrap, it's okay to skip a few battles as they come up. This is one area where the board strategy is more susceptible to luck than weapons, but it's worthy of note that most automated ship encounters can be skipped without a battle (since one has options to strip the ship of scrap or ignore the ship altogether in some cases). Zoltan shields will eventually go down with any weapon system, but it does take more time if you're not focusing as highly on weapons. No doubt a weapons build has the advantage here vis-a-vis the board build, but since Zoltan shields are comparatively rare, it's better to take the build that is more successful against non-Zoltan-shielded ships than the one more successful against Zoltan-shielded ships. And then the final boss is actually not difficult with a board build at all - in fact I've used boarders with substantial success vs the final boss. You'll need a bombing system to take down the medbay and something to punch through the Zoltan shield in pt. 3, but otherwise a boarding squad can easily take out most of the crew and trash the enemy systems without trouble.

I conclude by pointing back to the question in the thread title - is there really a reason not to use boarding as the primary strategy?
doomeater54
Posts: 15
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:02 am

Re: Is there ever really a reason not to board?

Postby doomeater54 » Sun Oct 21, 2012 8:41 pm

one reason I can think of is if the ship could jump away making you lose your crew. Also if you use the federation cruisers and the the artillery beam on as your crew might die. same thing if you fight close to a star or in an asteroid field.
Kenshkrix
Posts: 51
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2012 9:00 pm

Re: Is there ever really a reason not to board?

Postby Kenshkrix » Sun Oct 21, 2012 9:50 pm

If your weapons plan is to light everything on fire you don't really need to board the enemy ship, but the strategy in question is taking enemy ships intact, which is simply the best choice whenever possible.
MANtisB
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Oct 21, 2012 6:55 am

Re: Is there ever really a reason not to board?

Postby MANtisB » Sun Oct 21, 2012 10:17 pm

@doomeater: All rather situational instances that are easily countered within a boarding build. Personally I've never, across a dozen boarding runs, had people die from an FTL jump. The only times you should even be reasonably threatened with an FTL jump is if the ship tries to jump from the start, in which case you can bomb its bridge and proceed normally. Otherwise you shouldn't do enough damage to the hull to trigger a jump. Power down the Artillery Beam when your crew is on board and that isn't a threat. Solar flares shouldn't be a threat because the enemy crew should be dead by the second flare on a given map, and then asteroids... You could get really unlucky and have so many hit the ship that it blows up before you can warp your guys back, but typically asteroids are not lethal unless the enemy doesn't have a shield system.

@Kenshkrix: The general strategy is taking the enemy ship intact, yes, but the specific boarding angle, in my experience, has been superior to the fire-starting angle. Three simple and quick reasons that actually make a nice parallel to the three opening points in my OP.
(1) Upkeep. You have to find and buy the fire weapons. They're rarer than a teleporter, easily.
(2) Luck normalization. A fire setup just plain won't work on Rockmen and automated ships at all. While the boarding strategy tends to be pretty poor against the automated ships, one *can* actually kill them with boarders; you can't do it with fire. In this respect I prefer boarding because it's less luck-dependent in terms of what enemies I fight. (Also less luck-dependent in finding the right equipment, see (1).)
(3) Speed. Fires are much slower to kill the enemy crew than boarders. The result is that you potentially suffer more from enemy salvos than you might with boarders.
spacecadet13
Posts: 126
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2012 2:10 pm

Re: Is there ever really a reason not to board?

Postby spacecadet13 » Sun Oct 21, 2012 11:27 pm

Boarding is the way to go, no question, but you do have to have the right crew to start with, or acquire them. Rock/Mantis/Crystal are the only viable options for boarding - anything else, even if fully leveled up, is just too vulnerable, especially in the later sectors, epsecially vs Rocks & Mantis. I've had some runs planning to use boarding wherever possible, only to 1) Not get enough crew, 2) Get enough crew, but no Rock/Mantis/Crystal, 3) Get such a good weapons setup that boarding is redundant. 4) Make a total balls-up or just get unlucky and lose that fully ninja'd up mantis team :evil: (Faceplant into keyboard. And repeat) Boarding is time consuming & needs constant micromangement, but the scrap & resource rewards over just blasting ships to smithereens makes it worthwhile
Madhax
Posts: 77
Joined: Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:52 pm

Re: Is there ever really a reason not to board?

Postby Madhax » Mon Oct 22, 2012 5:54 am

Bad luck, getting cocky, or making a mistake is a lot more costly with a boarding strategy. I consider myself pretty good at this game, but I've managed to screw up and lose my boarding party in many, many ways...

-Fire takes out a system, causing the last point of hull damage.
-Accidentally left auto-fire on, destroying their ship.
-Artillery beam! /wrists
-Enemy FTL jumps while my boarders are still on board
-Miscalculated just how ridiculously powerful the Glaive beam is, bye-bye boarders.
-Boarded an AI scout, forgot they don't have air.
-Boarded an AI scout, remembered they don't have air, forgot to power the teleporter enough to bring them back before they suffocated.
-Boarded an AI scout, fully prepared to pull them back in time, scout cloaks just as my teleporter comes back.
-Try to board an AI ship, accidentally send over four crew instead of two, can't bring back both in time
-Meant to send over 2+ crew, sent one instead, got swarmed by mantis.

Sure, all of those are avoidable incidents. However, for someone who isn't experienced with the game, or someone like me that frequently plays while fighting insomnia and/or intoxicated, they happen quite often.
prime
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:38 am

Re: Is there ever really a reason not to board?

Postby prime » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:39 am

Yeah, there is - it's boring.
Agent_L
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Location: Poland

Re: Is there ever really a reason not to board?

Postby Agent_L » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:59 am

Madhax wrote:Bad luck, getting cocky, or making a mistake is a lot more costly with a boarding strategy. I consider myself pretty good at this game, but I've managed to screw up and lose my boarding party in many, many ways...
- boarded AI ship, did everything right, but the asteroid hit the room they were in. That bit of extra damage meant they suffocated before lvl2 TP cooled down.
CIA maps of Portugal Please God, don't let Portugal to go to war with USA!
OmegaJasam
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 12:58 pm

Re: Is there ever really a reason not to board?

Postby OmegaJasam » Mon Oct 22, 2012 12:08 pm

My /most/ successful bording run to date was actually with the /engi/ cruiser. Early ships don't tend to have med bays, (or the ones that do don;t have a lot else threatening). So bording with two engies and retreating a couple times is fine. THough once again it's a little more reliant on you finding *something* to aid your bording. (Though ion on 02/medbay can work).

It's also worth noting that the teleporter gets you some blues that get you extra crew. And bording the very common slave ship results in you getting the same reward as you would of from paying them (getting to pick from 3 races).
Kenshkrix
Posts: 51
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2012 9:00 pm

Re: Is there ever really a reason not to board?

Postby Kenshkrix » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:33 pm

OmegaJasam wrote:My /most/ successful bording run to date was actually with the /engi/ cruiser. Early ships don't tend to have med bays, (or the ones that do don;t have a lot else threatening). So bording with two engies and retreating a couple times is fine. THough once again it's a little more reliant on you finding *something* to aid your bording. (Though ion on 02/medbay can work).

It's also worth noting that the teleporter gets you some blues that get you extra crew. And bording the very common slave ship results in you getting the same reward as you would of from paying them (getting to pick from 3 races).

Boarding the common slave ships usually results in you getting the choice reward.
Unfortunately, sometimes you just get the usual boarding finish result, since the slaves all died somehow.
That said I'd never pay a slaver unless all I had left was a single Zoltan, I had just teleported away from a solar flare, my door controls are down, and my shields, weapons, and drone bay are all on fire... (This was not a good run)

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