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Critical Mass Tactics

Posted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 5:05 pm
by EA6B
I love battle tactics, and I haven't read many messages detailing
tactics for this game. I'm leaving this message in hope that people
will reply with tactics they've discovered, and that others will find
this a useful tactical resource when they play "Critical Mass". The
following is an organized list of tactics I've learned when playing
"Critical Mass". There may be some mistakes in them, and they are
open to comments, but these tactics serve me well. If anyone knows
any tactics not listed here, please post them. The following strategies are written for version 4.0


I: Attack Missions - Attack missions are easier than defend missions,
because you only have to destroy the target (convoy, turret ring . . .
ect.), and not the enemy squadron. The exception to this is on the lower levels -
Old Man Johnson wrote: . . . I find its much easier to do Defend missions early on, as you tend to run out of missiles in Attack missions (especially missions like Attack Transmitters or Attack Fuel Depots). Likewise, the enemy ships in Defend missions sometimes run out of missiles . . .


A: Interceptors - Interceptors in attack missions are not worth the
credits they cost. A squad of bombers and scouts can usually locate
the target, destroy it, and hyperspace before enemy interceptors can
do too much damage.

B: Bombers - Bombers are imperative in all attack missions except
"Destroy Crippled Ship" missions, in which case bombers can be
exchanged for interceptors.

C: Scouts - If in an attack mission, you know the precise location of
the target or if your bombers have good radar, scout ships are
unnecessary. Otherwise, it is important to have at least one scout on
each wing.

D: Tactical Maneuvers - If the target is static, or if you know it's
starting location, approach it in a round-about way, to evade
the enemy squadron. Otherwise, approach it from the front. When aproaching the target in a round about way, keep your squadron in a tight column formation. This makes it less likely that you will be detected by the enemy. Be sure to give the enemy squadron plenty of time to reach the target, and start searching for you all over the board, before you move in to attack. When you move in to attack, spread your squadron in a loose or open line formation. This maximises your chances of finding the enemy.


II: Defend Missions - Defend missions are harder than attack
missions, because you must defeat the whole enemy squadron, and do
it quickly - before they destroy the objective.

A: Interceptors - Interceptors are vital in defend missions. Daycorn
missiles and high turning ability are vital to incapacitate enemy ships
quickly before they can reach the objective.

B: Bombers - Bombers do not have daycorn missiles or good turning,
and so are not very useful in Defend Missions.

C: Scouts - In attack missions, scouts are better than bombers, but
not as good as interceptors.

D: Tactical Maneuvers - Position your squadron between the
objective, and the enemy squadron, so as to fight the enemy as far
away from the objective as possible. NEVER fly in circles around
the objective, waiting for the enemy to attack. Even stumbling blindly
around in space, hoping to run into the enemy, is better than waiting
for them to attack. The only exception to this is when you are
guarding a turret ring. Turret rings often provide more protection for
your squadron, than your squadron could ever provide for the turret
ring. Try to keep the distance between your squadron and friendly
squadrons on the sector map about 1/10 of the map's width. Normaly, in defend missions, disabling enemy bombers is your first priority, but if you are playing missions such as Protect Coloniser, or Protect Wormhole, you may want to disable the enemy's scouts first. Scouts are needed to locate targets with high stealth. If the enemy can't find the target, they can't destroy it.


III: Major Battles - In the game, you may occasionaly find yourself fighting a massive space battle. Perhaps you created a mission with twenty large squadrons on each side, or ten large squadrons and ten large turret rings on each side. In these massive battles, organisation and sinchronisation become key. The ideal distance between two squadrons, or two turret rings, or a squadron and a turret ring, is 0.2. This is 10% of the width of the game area. Squadrons should be arranged in a box formation, and turret rings should be arranged in a filled circle.

A: Interceptors - In massive battles, interceptors are useful for destroying individual, scattered squadrons, or for manuevering evasively at the perimeter of the battle, sniping at enemy ships. Thrust becomes more important than stealth in these massive battles. Daycorn and Drachan missiles are imperitive. Armour also becomes useful. Interceptors should be used in the rear of a fleet, or in battles where friendly and enemy squadrons are dispersed amongst each other.

B: Bombers - In massive battles, bombers are useful for blasting through groups of tightly packed enemies, or launching vollies of plectrons through an enemy fleet. Shields become more important than stealth. Thrust also becomes more useful. Bombers should be used in battles where the enemy has large numbers of turret rings. Bombers should also be deployed at the front of a friendly fleet that is about to make contact with the enemy.

C: Scouts - Scouts are not especialy useful in massive battles. There are so many ships on both sides that no ship has a place to hide, so there is no need to find them.

D: Tactical Manuevers - Before contact has been made with the enemy, bomber squadrons should be in the front and center of the box formation. Interceptor squadrons should be in the back and on both sides of the box formation. After contact has been made with the enemy, bombers should converge on the thickest part of the enemy formation, and blast their way through groups of tightly packed enemy ships. Interceptors should work their way around the outside of the enemy formation, and manuever in and out of the battle, delicately picking off individual enemy ships.


IV: Interceptors - Interceptors are ships designed for fighting other
ships.

A: Characteristics of Interceptors - The Characteristics of
interceptors are as follows, listed by order of importance - daycorn
missiles, good turning, stealth, thrust, radar, two or more missile
launchers, shields, repair bots, and command centers. Turning,
stealth, and thrust are so vital for interceptors that other objects
should be reduced to a minimum, or not included to save space on the
ship.

B: Combat Maneuvers for Interceptors - Keep your interceptor at
high speed. Try to get behind enemy ships. Try to stay on the outside
of the battle, so as to surround your enemy. Avoid head-on collisions
with bombers at all costs. If the enemy has not detected you, don't fire until you have a good shot. When you fire, you will give away your position - likewise, when an unseen enemy ship fires, you can guess its speed and direction by the path which the missile/s follow, upon being fired.


V: Bombers - Bombers are ships designed for destroying targets
such as convoys, or turret rings.

A: Characteristics of Bombers - The characteristics of bombers when
attacking turrets are as follows, listed by order of importance - yatari
missiles, radar, stealth, thrust, four missile launchers, shields (esp.
front), repair bots, command centers, and turning. The latter three
should be kept to a minimum. The characteristics of bombers when
attacking targets other than turrets are as follows, listed by order of
importance - heavy missiles (plectron or yatari), four missile
launchers, good turning, stealth, thrust, radar, shields, repair bots,
and command centers. The latter two should be kept to a bare
minimum.

B: Combat Manuevers for Bombers - When attacking turrets, slow
down as you approach. When the turrets are in range, stop and open
fire with yataris. Stay out of range of the turrets' missiles, or at least
the turrets' radars. Try to avoid flying around in side the turret ring,
getting shot at from every direction, although you may have to do this if the turret ring is in an asteroid field, or if your bombers do not have good radar, or if there are enemy ships present. When the turrets are distroyed, hyperspace immediately. Otherwise you will be in danger from enemy ships. When attacking targets other than turret rings, approach at high speed. If attacking a single target, aim straight at it and destroy it with a stream of plrectrons. If attacking multiple targets, fly in circles inside the group of targets, and fire one or two yataris at a time. If the enemy has not detected you, don't fire until you have a good shot. When you fire, you will give away your position - likewise, when an unseen enemy ship fires, you can guess its speed and direction by the path which the missile/s follow, upon being fired.


VI: Scouts - Scouts are ships designed for locating enemy ships and
targets.

A: Characteristics of Scouts - The characteristics of scout ships are
as follows, listed by order of importance - radar, stealth, shields, a few Orik missiles, drachan missiles, turning, thrust, missile launchers,
repair bots, and command centers. Radar, stealth, and shields are the only vital components of a scout.

B: Manuevers for Scouts - Keep scouts spread out to maximize
search capabilities. Launch orik missiles into open areas in space to
detect enemy ships at long range. Wait for a message that says you
hit an enemy ship, and then look around the sector in space for the
stardust created by exploding missiles. Since missiles explode when
they hit a ship, this will give you the location of the enemy ship/s.


VII: The Three Kinds of Ships - For those of you who don't know, there are three different classes of ships - interceptors, bombers, and scouts. Each class of ships has a separate use in the mission. Some ships such as Breezes and Whirlwinds have dual uses, but most are designed for a single use, and this is generally better. A ship that is designed for just one task, will usually succeed at that task, but a ship that is designed for two tasks, will usually fail at both tasks. Heathens, Savages, Barbarians, and Warriors are capital ships. They are so large they can usually function as both interceptors and bombers.


VIII: Choosing Your Ships - When choosing ships for your squadron, if you have 400 or less credits, take the three best ships you can get, and put them in the first three ship boxes. When you have over 400 credits, buy interceptors of about 140 credits each, bombers of about 160 credits each, and scouts of 100 or less credits each. Always get the best possible ship for yorself, and make sure it will be capable of performing the type of mission you are playing.


IX: The Races - The Rykurn are the most powerful race, the Zyan second, the Merikon third, and the Straylian fourth.


X: Radar - Radar is not so important for interceptors. Radar only increases visibility on one side of a ship, whereas stealth hides you from ships on all sides. This makes stealth a much better tool for interceptors. When flying an attack mission, it is usualy important to have at leats 1 ship with good radar. Otherwize you may never find the target. Radar is usualy not important on bombers, except when attacking a turret ring. Then, high frontal radar can allow the bombers to bomb the turret ring from a distance, out of the turrets visibility.


XI: Stealth - Stealth is important for bombers, and vital for interceptors. Since it is more eficient at hiding you from the enemy, than radar is at discovering the enemy, it is a valuable tool for any ship which will engage in combat with enemy squadrons, or turrets.


XII: Your Commander's Career - Don't eject or hyperspace until the missions is completed, or you are certain you will be killed if you stay. If you flee at the first sign of trouble, you will not advance very quickly in the game, and eventualy somone will kill you before you have the chance to flee. (You'll hit an asteroid, and falcon will send four Plectrons into you backside.) If you stay and fight as long as there is hope for victory, you will hopefully advance to the point where you cannot be killed without being severely damaged first. Then when you see that you are severely damaged, you can hyperspace.


XIII: Using Junk Ships - Often, after you select the ships for your squadron, you have a few credits left over and are tempted to spend them on a junky ship such a bug or drone. These ships aren't very useful, but they're better than not having an extra ship, right? Not always! These ships have no stealth on them, and often give away the position of your squadron. This isn't too bad on a defend mission, but on an attack mission, they may lead the enemy squadron too you, whereas you would otherwise be attacking the target in reletive saftey.


XIV: Alternative Method of Attack - Sometimes, especialy on the lower levels, you run out of missiles when attacking the target. You spend too much money on stealth and turning for the protection of your bombers, and can't afford enough missiles to finish the mission. There is an efective but dangerous tactic to fight off the enemy squadron, far away from your own ships. This is a very efective tactic, but it is very dangerous. It requires that you be a good sniper and dogfighter.

A: Ship Selection - Find the best interceptor possible, and select it as your personal ship. Fill the rest of your squadron up with ships that have nothing except yataris, missile launchers, and some radar.

B: Maneuvers - Fly far ahead of your squadron, and locate the target. Fly in circles around the target. When the enemy ships arrive, it will be hard for them to fight you because they will have to be carful about not hitting the target.

C: Combat - Find the leader of the enemy squadron (usualy the biggest ship in the enemy squadron), and destroy it quickly. Be carful not to get shot in the back by smaller ships. Afterwards, the rest of the enemy squadron should hyperspace. If they don't you can probably pick them off easily, without the protection of their flagship. After the enemy squadron is gone, just call your squadron over to wipe out the target. It's best to stay far away from the battle at this point, or you may be killed by friendly fire. If you mission objective is to destroy the enemy squadron/s, and you run out of missiles before the enemy is destroyed, you may still win by drawing back, and hiding somewhere for a while. The enemy ships may give up looking for you, and hyperspace. The computer counts this as a victory.


XV: Mathamatics - There are a set of mathamatical equasions that will let you calculate the precise movement of ships and missiles, in the game. This makes them much easier to avoid.

A: Missile Movement - The fomula for a missile's speed when it is fired is as followes, Current missile speed = (Maximun speed of ship / 2) + Current speed of ship. Missiles will not excelerate until they lock on to a ship. The maximum speed of a missile is 150% of the maximum speed of a ship.

Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 1:39 am
by BoxZone_Author
Option D: "None of the above"

Fly through the turret formation at full speed, ahead of your wingmates.
The turrets all turn to point at you, but their missiles can't keep up.
Your wingmates lay into their soft exposed back-sides.

You don't get many kills yourself this way but turrets aren't worth much in terms of medals so your missiles are better used on other targets anyway.

Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 4:00 am
by EA6B
Athor, I tried your strategy and my ship was blown up from the front by a hail of drachans and plectrons that was too thick to maneuver through. Not one of the sixteen light turrets was destroyed. Granted, I was using cheap ships, and a new commander to test your strategy (I wouldn't want to loose one of my best commanders by using a strategy I wasn't familiar with.), but even so, I would expect to have done much better using my own strategies. Perhaps I was using the wrong kind of ships for that strategy. What kind of ships do you use when attacking turrets, Author?

Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 2:40 am
by Old Man Johnson
I pretty much just head in with a load of Plectrons and start shooting. This usually gets me severly damaged...

Good job on the tactics guide. The only thing I might point out is that I find its much easier to do Defend missions early on, as you tend to run out of missiles in Attack missions (especially missions like Attack Transmitters or Attack Fuel Depots). Likewise, the enemy ships in Defend missions sometimes run out of missiles after fighting your ships and hyperspace. As your ships caryy more missiles later on, Attack missions become much easier for both you and your enemy, so you're right there.

Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 5:45 am
by EA6B
I like your point, Old Man Johnson. When I am playing Defend missions, the enemy ships often hit asteroids more than they hit my ships . . . You might not get damaged so much if you stay back aways from the turrets and use some form of guided missiles. I find this works better on turrets than on enemy ships though, because the turrets remain in one place, making them easier to target from a distance, whereas enemy ships close in on you when you fire on them, and you end up dogfighting.

Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 1:09 pm
by Bob Janova
For turrets, I tend to have ships with a lot of forward radar and hit them with Oriks or Plecs from where I can see them but they can't see me.

Posted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 12:16 am
by BoxZone_Author
Ahhh.
For my tactic to work you need at least 3 steath on your ship so the turrnets don't see you until you're already through them (and the missiles they fire at you pass harmlessly behind you.

Thats an important point I left out!

BZA

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 3:06 am
by EA6B
I tried your tactic again Author, using ships with high stealth and turning. I got into the turret ring this time, but was again destroyed by Drachans coming from all sides. My other two ships made passes at the turrets, but did not fire on them until I was out of the ring. By then, my ship was almost destroyed. It got finished off a moment later. Still not a single turret was destroyed, although some of them were hit. That is better than the first time I tried this tactic. What else am I missing? I was using three cheap-ships again.

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 5:49 am
by Old Man Johnson
Whoa, I just noticed you actually quoted me in your guide. Thanks! Makes me feel appreciated! :)

Posted: Wed Feb 15, 2006 3:46 am
by umeboshi110
i tried flying through the turrets and realized two things: you need to turn to avoid getting hit, and you need more than cheap ships. your wingmates need a lot more firepower and you should get a ship with some shields, just in case you get hit a few times, especially with 16 turrets, which i think is a little too many for a test like this.

and about the ship types, i mostly use fighters with enough firepower to be able to be used as bombers. i think that the fighter/bomber hybrid can be very useful, at least when the player controls it. ive also made a radar fighter, and it looks pretty cool :D
haven't really gone around to testing it though

Posted: Wed Feb 15, 2006 6:40 am
by ima_gnu
if theres no enemy fighters around? I pick a ship loaded with Oriks, and beat the hell out of em. If there are, I usually send my wingmates in and let them distract the turrets, then either sneak in and blast, or make several high-speed runs, usually breaking off before I enter the ring. The exit for me is usually lethal, unless I catch the turrets on the far side off guard.

Posted: Thu Feb 16, 2006 3:21 pm
by Fusion_power
None of the above. The listed tactics for attacking turrets is ineffective in part because you are not taking into account the type of turret. The most effective tactic with turrets is to hit them from an angle and go around the circle knocking them out. This requires that your squadron also attack the ring to help keep some of them distracted. If the turrets are MKIV's, then you will not be able to use this tactic because they have massive shields. If they are MKIII's, then you should try to catch them turned toward one of your other ships so you can hit them from behind. If the missiles get too dense going around the circle, then you can dive out to safety with relative ease.

The above mentioned problems with attacking transmitters is easy to overcome. Just position your ship close to but on the opposite side of the transmitters from your other ships. The transmitters will turn to face you with their backs exposed to fire from your wingmen. It only takes a couple of hits to take them out. You don't get kills, but you do complete the mission. With a bit of practice, you will find the safe zones so the missiles don't hit you.

Fusion

Posted: Thu Feb 16, 2006 10:19 pm
by umeboshi110
there is a way to hit the back of transmitters by yourself. you have to be a bit away, and fly towards one side of the transmitter. it will think that you will pass it and turn, while you just slow down and/or turn into it.

Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 3:57 am
by The Ranger
a tactic I have used that can very effective is flying backwards. Removes the problem of not having rear guns, you can still attack static targets (sometimes better than regular flying), and with CM 4's custom design maker, you can make effective "puller" designs. As an added bonus, ships chasing a puller ship with have to deal with not only missles fire by your ship, but also the cheapness of a lot of armor for the front of the ship, which for a puller, is becomes the back of the ship.

They ai doesn't like this tactic, and your wingmen won't fly pullers backwards, so the only person that can effectively use pullers is the human.

Gives ya'll something to think about.