MegaWars III Ship to Ship Combat

        The third in a series of articles about how to play MegaWars III
                              by Admiral Starbuck
      If there is  anything that  discourages a  new player  more than  getting
 killed  ten times in as many minutes when first entering the game, I sure have
 never heard of it!  Yet this is a common occurance.
      Although most of  the players in  MegaWars III  hold to a  Code of  Honor
 and  do not  attack new  players, there  are some  who prey  upon the helpless
 novice players with a vengeance.  Also, neophytes may be attacked by accident,
 through mistaken identity, or merely the confusion of a battle.
      This  article is to help you learn  how to defend yourself and your ship,
 and how to effectively  counter-attack. I will also  cover some more  advanced
 offensive and defensive strategies for ship to ship combat.
      Your ship has three kinds of  weaponry - Lasers, Torpedos, and  Missiles.
 While  missiles do heavy  damage, and are  target-seeking, they are expensive,
 and a beginning ship will not have  any. Torpedos do the most damage, but  are
 often difficult to aim.  Lasers can only be used in normal space (near a star)
 not in Hyperspace, while Torpedos and Missiles can only be fired in Hyperspace
 although Missiles will follow their target into normal space.
      Your  ship begins with 25 torpedos and three torpedo tubes, none of which
 are loaded.  You must first load a torpedo into a tube before it can be fired.
 This  is done with the LOAd command. Type  LOAd  to load a torpedo into
 a tube (for instance "LOA 1" to  load tube#1). Loading a torpedo tube uses  up
 50 units of fuel from your ship.
      To  fire a torpedo, you must be  in Hyperspace, and your target must also
 be in Hyperspace, within 35 lightyears of your ship.  The command is:
      TOR ,[direction]
      If you do not specify a direction, tubes 1 & 2 will fire straight forward
 (course 0), or tube 3 will fire straight behind you (course 200).  If you have
 more than 3 tubes, the last  (highest numbered) tube faces backward, the  last
 two  if you have 6  or more tubes. Any  tube can be fired  in any direction if
 you specify the direction to fire in.
      Directions are in gradians -  400 grads to a circle,  so 100 would be  to
 your  right, 300 (or -100) to your left, 200 behind you, and 0 straight ahead.
 Your screen should display any enemy  ships in range, with their Heading  from
 your  ship - that is the direction that  they are in at the moment. You should
 remember that both you and he are moving, so it takes a bit of practice before
 you can learn to aim well enough to hit.  Also, it is very possible to hit the
 wrong target by accident, so be very careful with torpedos in a crowded area!
      Torpedos do heavy damage -  200 to 500 units  of energy worth of  damage.
 If  you hit,  your enemy's shields  will have  to absorb that  damage, and any
 additional damage that the shields cannot  absorb will damage the ship.  Since
 shields  cannot  be  more powerful  than  400,  a torpedo  almost  always does
 significant damage if it hits.
      Your ship begins the War with no Missiles, and it will probably be  quite
 a  while before you can afford them -  they cost 150 units each! However, your
 planets may produce some within the first two days, or you could get lucky and
 gain a few some other way.
      Missiles  are devastating weapons. You  can fire two at  a time, and they
 will hunt down and  hit their target  all of the time!  They do slightly  less
 damage than torpedos, but firing two at once you can do more damage total.
      Missiles  must be  fired from Hyperspace,  although the target  may be in
 normal space.  However, the farther the target is from you, the more fuel will
 be  used firing the missile.  Missiles travel at a speed  of Warp 10, and lose
 their target (and are wasted) if the  target ship gets further than 200  light
 years  away from the missile,  if the target enters  Drydock, or if the target
 leaves the game.
      Missiles can  also be  destroyed  by defensive  fire.  A laser  hit  will
 usually  destroy a  missile, and a  torpedo hit always  destroys one. However,
 each hit destroys only one missile - two hits are needed to destroy a salvo of
 two missiles.
      To launch missiles, type:
      MIS [,2]
      If  you do not put ",2" at the  end of the command, only one missile will
 be launched. (For  example, typing "MIS  1234,2" will launch  two missiles  at
 ship  number 1234. "MIS 1234"  or "MIS 1234,1" will  launch 1 missile). If you
 discover that you have fired at the wrong target and wish to abort the missile
 before  it hits, you can type "MIS".  This will detonate the missile whereever
 it is  (and  waste  it).  The  game  will  ask  for  confirmation  by  saying:
 "Detonate missile?".  Type "Y" to destroy your missile.
      Only  one missile (or group of two missiles)  can be in flight at a time,
 so you must  either wait until  your missile(s)  have hit, or  else abort  the
 missile(s)  before  you can  fire  again. You  may  use other  weapon systems,
 however, while missiles are in flight.
      Lasers  can be used  only in normal space,  unlike missiles and torpedos.
 Your ship has two lasers, one forward and  the other aft (on the rear of  your
 ship).  The forward laser can fire at any target that is from -125 (or 275) to
 125 heading from  you. The aft  (rear) laser can  fire at any  target that  is
 from  -75  (or 325)  to 75  heading from  you. Therefore,  any target  that is
 coming towards you (or retreating) from the side can be hit by both lasers.
      Lasers must first be locked on target, using the LOCk command:
      LOCk [,ship#]
      If you specify only one  ship#, both lasers are  locked on to that  ship.
 You  may specify  two ship numbers,  the forward  laser will be  locked on the
 first ship, and the aft  laser on the second.  Lasers, once locked on  target,
 can be fired using the FIRe command:
      FIRe [laser]
      FIR 1  would fire the forward laser only,  FIR 2  would fire only the aft
 laser,  and just  "FIR" would  fire both.  Lasers do  as much  damage as their
 strength. Your lasers each start with 200  power, and can be built up as  high
 as 500 power.
      Lasers  are more  effective at close  range, generally best  at ranges of
 under 10 AU, and broadside attacks (hitting with both lasers) from short range
 can  quickly destroy  even a large  ship. However,  it is difficult  to keep a
 lock on any target  which is either  jumping in and out  of hyperspace, or  in
 orbit  around a planet  (to lock onto a  target in orbit, you  must also be in
 orbit. When in orbit, you  cannot lock onto any target  which is not in  orbit
 also.  Targets in orbit are also periodically hidden behind the planet.)
      In any combat situation,  one of three conditions  exist. Both ships  may
 wish to fight (dogfight); you may be attacking a ship which is fleeing, or you
 may be attacked and wish to flee.
      In a  dogfight situation,  both ships  usually manuever  to a  convenient
 position  (either in hyperspace or normal space) and blast away at each other.
 Alternately, they may continue to manuever around each other, trying to get  a
 good  attack angle, while  keeping the opponent offbalance.  There is also the
 tactic of  jumping into  hyperspace,  launching a  missile, and  returning  to
 normal  space to attack  with lasers while  the missile is  in flight. This is
 the most common dogfighting tactic among the better players.
      In an attack situation, you must constantly be sure to maintain range and
 heading with the enemy ship.  If you are traveling too fast, you will overtake
 and pass  him, quickly  going out  of  range. If  you are  too slow,  he  will
 escape.  And if you are not heading  directly towards the enemy ship, you will
 slowly separate, getting farther  and farther apart  during a running  battle.
 After each two or three attacks, you should adjust your course and/or speed to
 maintain a reasonably close range (5-15 ly) and heading with your target.
      When you are trying to escape, remember that your aft shield will be most
 exposed  to enemy  fire. You  should dodge  often, so  that the  enemy will be
 forced to  adjust  his  course  more,  and  get  off  fewer  attacks.  Another
 excellent  tactic, once  your ships  are both traveling  at high  speed, is to
 suddenly reverse direction, heading towards the enemy ship.  Once you pass him
 (very  quickly usually), you  will be heading in  opposite directions until he
 adjusts his course - and you may get far enough away to be able to jump into a
 star system and hide (or leave the game temporarily).
      Since  all hull damage is instantly repaired (for free) whenever you dock
 at an Imperial base (or any base capable of building new hulls), and all other
 ships systems are repaired to at least minimum values also for free, combat in
 an Imperial system  is difficult at  best. I have  destroyed three  Destroyers
 while I was flying a basic Scout by simply sitting on top of an Imperial base,
 and drydocking whenever damage began to reach significant levels,  immediately
 returning to space, and attacking again.
      Another  useful tactic  in normal  space is to  travel far  away from the
 star, and sit, waiting for enemy ships  or missiles to come into range,  while
 you are already positioned to hit with both lasers.  If no target appears, you
 can WARp to the system you are in, and appear (instantly) in another position,
 usually  10-15 AU  away from the  star. The  technique of WARping  to the same
 system is also useful  in breaking laser locks,  and in rapidly changing  your
 location in the system.
      All  weapons systems can  be fired once per  command. However, the system
 will not  accept  another command  until  all output  is  printed.  Therefore,
 combat  is almost always  done in COMbat  mode (TTY mode),  instead of cursor-
 controlled mode. If you have a  cursor-controlled terminal, type COM to  enter
 combat mode.  You will no longer get the "picture" of your surroundings, which
 takes time to be printed.
      Also, using  Control-O  to cancel  output  will speed  up  your  attacks,
 although  you will not see any attacks  which hit you, radio messages, or ship
 locations. I generally make two or  three such "rapid-fire" attacks, and  then
 let  the  information print  out once,  to  see what  changes in  other ships'
 locations have occurred, and what new ships have entered the immediate area.
      Since you cannot fire missiles while  a missile is traveling towards  its
 target, missiles are best used at short range, under 10 ly.  However, firing a
 missile at medium range  (10-30 ly), and following  it with a torpedo  attack,
 which will hopefully hit in the same combat round, is a very effective attack.
      Long-range  missile attacks should  only be made when  you have plenty of
 fuel. A large  ship, carrying a  large amount  of fuel, can  fire missiles  at
 ranges  of 200 ly or  more - although it  will take quite a  long time for the
 missile to travel that far.  Such "pot shots" can be useful when firing into a
 battle  that  is occuring  some  distance away,  since  it adds  to  the total
 firepower in that battle.
      In group attacks and Team battles, the major objective is to gain a local
 superiority of firepower. If you  can overwhelm one enemy's defenses  quickly,
 he will fall, and thus reduce the total enemy firepower accordingly.  By using
 several sequential attacks in this manner, a numerically superior force can be
 defeated  with  ease,  merely  by  avoiding some  of  the  enemy  forces while
 destroying a few targets with overwhelming local superiority.
      Group defense of a star  system (or a blockade)  can be a very  effective
 tactic  in MegaWars  III. Generally, one  ship should be  sitting (not moving)
 directly "above"  the star  system, in  hyperspace, watching  for  approaching
 enemy  ships. Another  ship should  be in  normal space,  directly "above" the
 planet being defended/blockaded. Two thirds  of the remaining ships should  be
 spread in normal space at the perimeter of the star system, 12-15 AU away from
 the star, and fairly  distant from each other.  The remaining ships should  be
 in hyperspace, patroling the immediate area.
      With  this configuration, any  enemy ship approaching  can be attacked by
 the ships in hyperspace with several rounds of missiles or torpedos.  When the
 enemy  ship enters normal space, he will be at point-blank range to one of the
 perimeter guards, and can be attacked by  at least three ships at close  range
 or  short range, plus any ships who follow from hyperspace (if any other enemy
 ships are approaching, ships in hyperspace should remain there to attack other
 approaching  enemies.) If  the enemy  ship approaches  the planet,  it will be
 subjected to attack from the planet  guard, plus 75% of the perimeter  guards,
 at close range.  The remaining perimeter guards (who were on the opposite side
 of the star) should spread out to guard the remaining perimeter, while  firing
 medium-range laser bursts.
      More  combat  techniques will  be discussed  in  a future  article. Until
 then, good luck and good shooting!