First boarding ship in this series. Unlike Sullla's opinion, I like the boarding gameplay in general. It's a nice change of pace, not just for the higher rewards, although that is a factor of course. What I don't like is how fragile a boarding team is. A gunship can't lose a weapon, but a boarder can lose its entire muscle to one bad moment. There are so many ways to incur an instantaneous run-losing disaster: when a ship cloaks at the wrong instant to retrieve your crew, or jumps away with them on board, or a missile hits them just as they beam back, or clone bay at the worst instant (it's been proven that on Hard enemies sometimes deliberately aim at clone bay while you're cloning), or just getting crew killed by general inattentiveness or carelessness. Avoiding that sort of thing isn't so much strategy, it's really more of a memory and attention and focus test, are you accurately measuring the enemy cloaking timer or jump-drive charging in your head? The higher rewards are necessary to compensate for such losses... and in the cases where you never do lose any crew, then you end up as an overpowered behemoth indeed.
I like the boarding gameplay in general, but I'm also not fond of the micromanagement tricks. Like kiting slow Rocks around the ship, or running in and out of shields to yank the AI's puppet strings. Tricks like that are neat to see, but even as much as I like micromanagement, I can't keep that up at full intensity and focus for four hours.
Achievements needed to unlock Mantis B: Take no prisoners: kill the crew of 20 ships by sector 6; Avast, ye scurvy dogs: kill 5 enemy crew in a fight without taking hull damage or losing a crew member; Battle Royale: kill the last enemy with your last crew member on their ship. The last is stupid but the first two are easy.
Sector 1: first fight was an autoscout with a Burst 2, scary, but two of the three missed on its first volley and then my small bomb connected to knock it offline. First 50 scrap to shields, and got an evasion trainer, even though the trained pilot would be a Mantis that I intend to replace later to add him to the boarding team. Then that very same ship yielded a Rock to be that pilot, boo yah, and the very next ship served as an evasion trainer for him too. Easy going, took only 2 damage the whole sector, boarding gameplay tends to start strong, killing enemy crew fast before a missile gets more than a shot or two.
Sector 2 Nebula over Abandoned of course: got a Zoltan from a nebula event, nice. Store had a Pre-Igniter on sale, but smarter to just buy a Burst 1 to have some offense. Nothing exciting happened.
Sector 3 Rebel over Engi: A major advantage of boarding is that you can win fights like this one, where I have zero actual offense, my 3 projectiles cannot get through two shields and the defense drone. But the crew is squishy and vulnerable. It's really important with a boarding ship not to get complacent about scenarios like this. You may win several fights, but eventually it will fail, you can't go an entire run relying exclusively on crew, the flagship in particular shuts that down hard, you need to be able to operate as a gunship as well. Breach II bomb dropped, and also a 4-shot Charge Laser, both adequate but unexceptional. At the next store I configured my weapons like this, at weapons level 5 can use either the lasers or the breach bomb as necessary. That store also sold Long-Ranged Scanners, so now we're in for one heck of a profitable run. Then a HALBERD BEAM dropped, although this isn't exactly the perfect loadout to use it, it still works well enough, I do prefer that over the breach bomb for hitting medbays, and it's the most effective punch in the galaxy for when I do have to play gunship.
Sector 4 Pirate over Nebula: some fights, weapons to 6 to use the charge laser + halberd. Got the crystal stasis pod event, usually I take the weapon, but already got plenty of weapons, maybe we can actually get the crystal unlock? Store dumped Mantis Pheromones in order to make room for an Automated Re-loader, but no systems on sale, that's what I need, still lack all of cloaking/drones/hacking. But now shields to layer 3 with the scrap not spent on those systems. Touchy spot right here - killed the enemy crew while a flak volley was in flight, it's about to hit my teleporter room with crew low enough to get killed - but notice that the FTL is charged and I can jump away right right right now!!! And very next ship MCed that weak mantis right away, so I smartly just killed it as a gunship rather than risk boarding. Overran the exit for three extra beacons, engines to 6 to beat the ASB on the way out.
Sector 5: picked Zoltan over Rock, both for the possibility of the crystal quest and because I can't deal with Rock missiles. Stupidly got one of my Mantis boarders killed in trying to micromanage a battle that was close at low health, replaced him with the mantis that had been manning weapons. Store (still no systems) decided to buy a Slug crew, both for a replacement weapons guy and for the sensing ability to know how many enemy crew there are (that would have saved me the lost mantis.) A Flak dropped (holy crap on this weapons luck), as good as the Breach Bomb is, I just don't need it, weapons to 7 now for Flak + Burst 1 + Halberd as the loadout (swap out the 4-shot charge laser because the other stuff is faster.)
FUCK FUCK FUCK THEN I LOST BOTH MY MANTIS BOARDERS! In an asteroid field fight. I Halberded the shields plus medbay... without realizing I was delivering critical damage overall to the hull, and then enough asteroids hit to destroy that ship while my two mantis were aboard! Then took a pounding (12 hull damage) at a pulsar fight where my weapons got ioned eleventy billion times in a row and the enemy had a missile that just would not go down after tons of flak at their weapons room. Man, this run was starting to look weak...
... but here's a run-saving event: got the CRYSTAL CREWMAN out of the stasis pod! Him plus the Rock (on piloting) are good enough for a boarding team, so now rotate that poor Engi back onto piloting (who got trained on piloting skill about four hours ago.) Store FINALLY got defense drone control, and put to use a hull repair drone that had dropped, had plenty of drone parts to spare with 24. And the Take No Prisoners achievement did trigger.
Sector 6 Rebel Stronghold: Got a map reveal... the empty beacons aren't really oriented well to look for the flagship construction event, the southern path will take me to the exit too soon, so went north through all the fights instead. Got a replacement Mantis from the piloting-explores-nebula event, whew again, okay swap the Rock back to piloting yet again. Store sold the Burst 1 to buy a Flak instead, and decided NOT to buy Hacking, really want to hold out for cloaking instead.
Sector 7 Civilian (eh, no rock homeworld for crystal quest): Store still didn't have cloaking but did have hacking, decided to take what I could get (the missing slot is the backup battery that I bought before the screenshot.) Because of this also: the same store has a SECOND HALBERD BEAM on sale. Then there WAS one more store that DID sell cloaking, fuck you, but check out what that store also has, a PRE-IGNITER! Loads of fights in this sector, and also finally picked up the Avast Ye Scurvy Dogs achievement (kill 5 crew in one fight without taking damage) that I'd forgotten about. Bought one more Mantis from an event cheap, good for backup. Collected an asston of scrap from plenty of fights, entered sector 8 with over 500 to spare.
Sector 8: Added 300 more scrap here too before the flagship. Took weapons to 8 to use a loadout of Flak plus DOUBLE HALBERD BEAM. Double beams (preignited, even) shreds ships like absolutely nothing else... but it is 100% reliant on hacking shields. I don't want this setup for regular fights because there are times you can't get a hacker through and it consumes too many drone parts to do all the time. But we know it will work on all three flagship phases, and in a hurry. Rest of the scrap went into maxing just about everything else as well.
Flagship actually hacked my defense drone, so two of the first missile volley hit (the hacking wasn't fast enough to drain the shields before the missile weapon launched), but then the twin Halberds shredded everything. And the hull repair drone restored the damage. Phase two, hacked, shredded the missile weapon with my preignited volley, won on the second stroke long before the drone surge. Phase three, stripped the super shield with the preignited volley plus two more flak shots (dammit the first extra flak shot missed the super shield by 1 tick, but from there, better to wait for one more flak charge than one more halberd charge.) Sent boarders to the missile weapon with the crystal lockdown to break it -- this was fun, I didn't need to care if the boarders never came back! The laser surge decided fuck my evasion and actually triggered Astronomically Low Odds dealing a pile of damage, but all I needed was my hacked shields and the double halberd swipe again to win.
7400 score, 2500 scrap, both monster numbers indeed.
Time to do one of the gimmick ships. Well, you don't really need to; the anti-bio beam is cute, but the real strength of this ship is the Dual Laser that's even better in terms of damage/power/speed than the vaunted Burst 2; just add any other laser to that and you can easily play regular gunship. The bio beam is a fun accent but you don't really have to rely on the gimmick.
Achievements to unlock Slug B: We're in position: have vision of every room on the enemy ship without functioning sensors; Home Sweet Home: jump to 30 nebula locations before sector 8; Disintegration Ray: kill 3 enemy crew members with one shot from the Anti-Bio Beam. The last is easy, the first requires a teleporter which I mostly don't want to add to ships that don't start with one (the system slot for cloaking/hacking/drones is more important), which leaves the 30 nebula locations as doable, requires three nebula sectors or two with a bit of luck in others.
Sector 1: Well, the anti-bio beam doesn't help against autoscouts, now does it. But then this became an evasion trainer! Autoscouts can't repair breach damage, so a breach bomb shut down the drone permanently, and then I can train evasion against the single remaining laser. Didn't put first 50 scrap into shields since I already had the evasion training and also because there was a store, where I could afford drone control and a separate defense drone by selling the slug repair gel, never too early to get a defense drone running, missiles are always the greatest threat in sectors 1-2. A Chain Laser dropped from a mercenary event, actually pretty good when I have to play gunship, speeds up to match the dual laser. Then shields to layer 2 at end of sector.
Sector 2 Civilian: little happened, weapons to 4 to use dual laser + breach bomb + either chain laser or anti-bio beam.
Sector 3 actually picked Rock over Zoltan, I can handle missiles better than z-shields. Got a human crew to man weapons, nice, and got a fight where I could do weapons training for him, the chain laser at 7 seconds is very nice, plus could also fire the bio beam dealing no damage. Weapons to 5 to use the dual laser + chain laser + bio beam all together. FUCK YOU GIANT ALIEN SPIDERS! Whoa, I didn't even know you could get that outside the crystal sector, interesting but doesn't actually help anything, just sold it at the next store to buy Long-Ranged Scanners and we should be in good shape.
Sector 4 picked Pirate over Zoltan Homeworlds: FUCK lost one of my slugs when he was at low health fighting a boarding drone and a sun flare set medbay on fire just as he got there! Shields to layer 3, but a pulsar fight wrecked the holyfuck out of me when it ioned both my shields and weapons twelveteen times in a row all the way down to 5 hull; good news, that fight yielded a HALBERD BEAM! Got an evasion trainer to move that human crewman onto engines to replace the dead slug. Weapons to 6 to use Dual Laser + Chain Laser + Halberd together, with the Anti-Bio Beam still on loadout to use if possible; had to swap out the Breach Bomb for lack of slots but running too low on missiles anyway. Engi crew from a slaver, big whew, even came with weapons skill, then a human from another slaver.
Sector 5 Mantis over Rebel: FUCK got the OTHER slug killed during a boarding event with stupidity too galactic to mention. Worse, now with no Slugs, I can't see enemy crew to hit with the bio beam. Finally limped into a store for repairs, no crew on sale, but did buy hacking, so alright forget the slug gimmick, now I'm just a classic gunship doing hack-pop-gash.
Sector 6: Slug Home Nebula or Rock Homeworlds. Problem is too low on drone parts to handle rock missiles, so gotta go into the teeth of the slugs. Weapons to 7 to add the breach bomb back in to dual laser + chain + halberd. Saved up 280 scrap (still got LRS) and finally got cloaking, same store also bought a Burst 2 and a Rock crew for piloting, whew, now we should be set, though did sell off the bio beam to pay for repairs. Ha, here's a new kind of trainer, for both COMBAT and REPAIR skill! The enemy ship can't threaten me (just one laser then all beams, vs 3 shields), but it has MC at only level 1... each of my guys when MCed would damage his system one bar then repair it! I grinningly let that run overnight just because I could, to max everyone's combat and repair skills.
Sector 7 Civilian: Bought two more crew, one at an event and a Mantis at the store, should have enough to hold out against the last flagship phase, then also got one more rock from a slaver. Some fights but not a huge amount, did upgrade engines to 6 and weapons to 8 to use Dual Laser + Chain Laser + Burst 2 + Halberd.
Sector 8: Got four fights for good scrap before the flagship, upgraded hacking to max, and lots of power bars. Phase one, same plan as always: cloak past the first missile volley and break it before the second, hack shields, aim Halberd at piloting first, to make all the projectiles hit everywhere, even had enough spare projectiles to aim some at cloaking. Smartly held off the killing Halberd stroke for a moment to see two crew in the shields room die to fire. Sneaked away from the base for one extra fight before phase two, wanted the scrap to upgrade drones, to use d-drone and anti-personnel at the same time in phase three.
Phase three: Actually had no trouble fighting off boarders (level 4 doors really help), but did jump back to base to reset the fight, after my first three volleys all missed a ton of shots and failed to get through the super shield, and one missile hit my weapons at 98% (!) cloaked evasion when my engines guy was MCed. Second try, my volley did a lot better (maybe because no crewman on engines?), stripped the super shield in the first halberd shot plus second shot with the faster lasers, cloaked past laser surge, hacked shields, crippled the flagship with the second halberd shot and killed on the third with plenty of hull remaining.
Solid run, despite my stupidity getting crew killed, this illustrates the right way to play the game for win percentage: forget gimmicks like the anti-bio, the king of win rate is bursts-and-beams. Build up any ship with enough lasers and a good damaging beam and it won't lose. 2000 scrap is high, also 102 repairs thanks to that skill training trick, that record will stand for a while or at least until the next time I do that. Although I half-forgot and half never really had the opportunity for the achievement for 30 nebula beacons, and so didn't unlock Slug B, so will have to redo this one later.
Everyone hates this one, but it is one of the skill-testing ships, if you know what you're doing a good player can squeeze a win out of it most of the time on Hard.
I like to characterize the Rock cruisers as the boarding ships that forgot to start with a teleporter. I rarely buy a teleporter for a ship that doesn't start with one. The 90 scrap is a big cost that takes a long time to pay back, and it consumes a system slot that requires passing up one of hacking/drones/cloaking. There really are few situations where a teleporter is going to be the swing in win expectancy that makes you win a run you would otherwise lose. Boarding tends to be win-more. Boarding can't win alone, you have to be able to operate as a gunship as well, to cover cases boarding can't handle like autoscouts and zoltan shields and of course the flagship.
But the Rock ships do tend to be the ones where a teleporter might make the most difference. Rocks are good fighters of course, Rock A's Artemis is fine at breaking medbays, our own medbay is right next to the teleporter room for quick recycling, and overall Rock A of course needs whatever kind of offense it can find that doesn't consume a million missiles.
Rock A in particular has to go with a teleporter anyway because of the achievements to unlock Rock B. Is it warm in here?: have your crew kill a burning enemy on their ship; Defense Drones Don't Do D'anything: destroy an enemy ship which has a defense drone deployed using only missiles; Ancestry: find the secret sector. The first requires a teleporter, the second is much easier with one (teleport in and break drone control), and the third is a total crapshoot so we're going with the first two.
Sector 1: Important thing to shoot with Rock A is evasion, to make sure each next missile hits. The mini beam hit me on its first shot, but then I should be safe from that pair of weapons for a while: the 9-second charge of the heavy laser will not line up again with the 12-second mini beam for several cycles. The first fight dropped an Adv FTL Navigation augment and the second a Drone Recovery Arm, both better to just sell. First store I sold all three of those augments and the hull missile to buy Long-Ranged Scanners, and also a Flak and even defense drone control. Great start, should be able to win this. ANOTHER drone recovery arm? Anyway now shields to layer 2.
Sector 2 Civilian: Map reveal, surprising amount of fights for a civilian sector. Slaver yielded a Mantis crew, very nice. Evasion trainer. Late store had a backup battery but nothing else interesting (systems on sale were clone bay/MC, not cloaking/hacking/teleporter), bought the battery to make room for the other systems in the future. Slaver gave a Rock crew, I'll take it but could really use somebody more mobile for repairs.
Sector 3 Engi Homeworlds over Zoltan Homeworlds: Free Ion Blast, that's useful, not for the ion effect but just to pop 1 shield on 1 power, weapons to 4 to use it. Then did get an Engi crew. Not much else happened in the sector, never found a store, there were a lot of dead-end beacons I didn't get a look at.
Sector 4 Engi again: Now I found a store and did buy the teleporter. Good scrap income, though nothing to buy with it, two stores both had junk, least-bad item was a Hull Laser 1 (2 shots) but that's not really good enough to want to buy. Spent the scrap on shields layer 3 and engines 4.
Sector 5 Pirate over Slug Home: Got a second Mantis, nice, to make a pair for the boarding team. Offense feeble but barely functional against autoscouts: Artemis to break the evasion, then one ion and three flak projectiles can deal damage through three shields. Boarding still won everything else solidly though.
Sector 6 Engi over Civilian, civilian is usually slightly preferable, but that sector would direct into a nebula as the only choice for the next sector beyond. Store finally did get Cloaking, yeah I do want that over hacking, although still need to find some offense to work against the flagship. Next store: bought a Fire Beam. Because very low on missiles now and needed to swap out the Artemis anyway so need some kind of offense in the slot. I don't exactly like the fire beam, but I do need it for that achievement, so may as well make use of it. But I still had terrible offense in fights like this: the only way to do any damage is to teleport over the Rocks with enough health to hold their breath for 20 seconds while they slowly break down the shields. Kept winning all the rest of the fights with boarding, ran into no med/clone bay the whole sector (and not even any actual Engi ships.)
Sector 7: FUCKING AMAZING RESCUE AT 1 HEALTH! A missile hit my teleporter while the Rocks were holding their breath. I smartly had the two nearby mantises start repairing it for the few seconds until the Engi got over there, and that made the difference, finished the repair in the instant tenth-of-a-second nick of time!! Then this fight still took a stupid long time to win as the rocks teleported back and forth about fifteen times slowly dealing damage by breaking the drone and weapons systems over and over, until I could finish it with a single Artemis. Store bought a 4-shot charge laser, again not great but we need some kind of offense and it will have to do, I guess the loadout of Ion 1 + Flak 1 + 4-shot Charge isn't all that bad, it is 8 projectiles, plus we'll add the fire beam when we can get weapons to level 8. That happened and I did pick up the achievement for killing an enemy on fire. Then swapped out the fire beam for the Artemis again instead, in hopes of getting the "defense drones don't do anything" achievement. Then a Swarm Missile dropped so swapped that in instead.
Sector 8: Still really shaky on offense. STORE wow that weapon selection is like all the newbie traps, those are all terrible, no you can't beat the flagship with the bio beam or ion 2. It did have a combat drone that I bought, will help get through one shield and also the super shield. Hey, finally got a ship with a defense drone at the last possible chance to go for the achievement! And it doesn't have much offense so I've got some time to play around. Can the Swarm do it? Started by firing the swarm at med bay, and even got a breach, time enough for my mantises to go over and kill off two crew. Then I shot the swarm at shields to distract one of their crew for my guys to kill one more. Then I shot the swarm at drone control, and even got a fire! From there I kept shooting at shields so the last crewman wouldn't repair drones, and did indeed get the achievement!
This is my loadout for the flagship. I want to use the Swarm, except that I only have 12 missiles which will run out over the three phases. So for phase one I switched in the fire beam. Plan: teleport my mantises into the beam weapon as usual, then shoot my projectiles to clear the way for the fire beam to hit the missile weapon, then park my fireproof Rocks in the missile weapon while on fire... all that may buy me a lot of time to kill off some crew. Retrieved my Mantises, sent them to break the ion weapon, tried to shoot out med bay but didn't get enough damage, had to shoot out the missile weapon again... and then did shoot out med bay and set it on fire! I parked my rocks in the flaming med bay to completely block it out -- then sent my mantises again, who now could absolutely FEAST on the weakened crew. This was FUCKING SATISFYING. I killed them all - that is the best way to go when you've got the power to do it - don't worry about the auto-repair AI - it's way better to clear out everything so your boarders can go break everything unopposed in the later phases.
This looks like the best case scenario and payoff for using the fire beam -- but no, this is NOT how you want to approach the fight when you don't have to. What if the fire beam was a halberd or pike instead? A damaging beam would have been able to JUST KILL AND WIN in the space it took to do all those fire shenanigans. What's better than an enemy ship on fire? An enemy ship that is ALREADY DEAD. Yeah I killed off crew which was fun, but that's just not necessary when you have offense good enough to win phases two and three directly.
Phase two, swapped in the Artemis missile, actually better damage/time than the swarm and I should have enough ammo, and swapped out the fire beam now that it did its job, no crew left to kill. Sent my boarders to wreck the missile weapon then a second pair to drones, cloaked past the drone surge twice, and polished it off. (Those fires aren't even the fire beam, that was just set from the charge laser then spread, auto-AI can't put out fires, and the flagship has high level oxygen system to keep them burning.) Phase three, autofired all four weapons and the combat drone until they broke the super shield in about two volleys (no pilot to man evasion), dodged the first missile volley with evasion and d-drone, sent boarders to break the missile weapon, cloaked past the laser surge twice, fired everything at shields, and won, zero damage taken on phases 2 and 3.
1900 scrap is high but expected with LRS and boarding. That run was so super satisfying, high skill cap all the way, switched around complicated weapon loadouts correctly several times, did just about everything just about perfectly, including the two tricky achievements.
The Stealth ships are my favorites in the game, the most skill-testing, the biggest gap between average players complaining about unfair losses and what an expert can show 'em how it's done. The Mini-Beam is highly underrated: it's the second best weapon in the game after the Halberd, actually an even better ratio of damage-per-power-second, the absolute best in the game by that metric. And it's the fastest beam, which matters a lot too, because a beam works instantly, the mini beam can often connect and break a weapon before it ever fires, notably and particularly against an enemy Burst 2.
I'm 8-for-8 on victory runs going into the Stealth ships here, including one of the difficult ones in Engi B. I'm still not expecting to get through all 28 ships (plus some redos for unlock achievements) without a loss, but I'll be happy if I can get through all of Stealth A-B-C with no more than one death which would keep up a 90% win rate. (This isn't my first attempt at this series and streak; a couple previous attempts did incur enough losses, often with stealth ships, to make me abandon the whole thing. I've been trying this streak about once per real-life year for about the last four years.)
Achievements needed to unlock Stealth B: Bird of Prey: destroy a ship at full health during a single cloak; Phase Shift: avoid 9 points of damage during a single cloak; Tactical Approach: get to sector 8 without jumping to a beacon with an environmental danger. Bird of Prey is easy when done the right way: all it requires is maximum cloaking to get two mini beam shots during the same cloak. Tactical Approach either happens or it doesn't, but Phase Shift is usually automatic on the flagship's laser surge.
Sector 1: First couple fights, took a little damage from a missile and a mini beam but won. Then this fight, fucking shuts down this ship's one good starting area in the engines, and even has a flak; decided this is the sort of case where you have to pre-cloak to get first strike on the weapons (rather than cloak to dodge the first volley, which means counting on evasion of only 70%), luckily shut down the flak and even got a fire in weapons to win from there taking only one hit from the heavy laser. With two consecutive fights to come, yes go cloaking to level 2, spend the scrap now since we'll accumulate more before any store. Good call, next ship was an autoscout with a fire drone, yes gotta precloak for that (when the drone is about to fire.) Hacking aimed at my weapons is another time to precloak! After those two fights, decided to go cloaking all the way to max, still nothing else imperative to spend on, plus needed for the Bird of Prey achievement. Slaver gave a Mantis! Decided to give up on Tactical Approach, any other path to the exit (3 jumps then overrun) wastes a potential beacon, also hoped the asteroid field would be a good chance to grab Bird of Prey (but the ship had 10 health, too much); probably wasn't the greatest idea, took 4 hull damage in the fight. But it caused this breach that I decided to just leave there, easier to vent.
Sector 2: picked Nebula over Abandoned, probably could do either but don't have any particular need to try to get a Lanius crew. Failed to get Bird of Prey in like five tries -- apparently just dealing the last point of damage isn't enough, the cloaking has to last all the way until the ship finishes exploding -- one of the failed tries came when a missile hit my weapons at 90% evasion during the cloak! But then finally did get Bird of Prey against a shieldless autoscout. Saw NO STORE the entire sector! Good scrap income, but worried about attrition, down to half hull.
BTW here's a trick: make sure you pause at the exact instant a laser pops the last shield, then aim the beam at piloting, so it hits first to break the evasion just before all the rest of the lasers impact! (Works better with a Halberd that can break a 2-power system, but the mini-beam doing this still works vs 1-power piloting.)
Sector 3: Zoltan or Zoltan were the options. Z-shields aren't a big problem, these fast weapons strip them quickly. Map reveal, oh that is BEAUTIFUL, tons of fights punctuated by stores exactly when we need them. Engines to 5, early for that, but that's the only place to spend scrap that helps at all! - we'll be getting more before the stores. Slaver gave another Mantis, we'll take it. 2-shield ships are now a major problem, dual laser needs to hit both shots or we deal zero damage. Got a cool crew kill when I broke oxygen and killed a zoltan crew with laser shots and the oxygen stayed broken long enough to suffocate. Store, really big question, buy shields or a mediocre weapon in the hull laser... I decided hull laser, offense is more important, that much offense with the cloaking should mean I can break enemy weapons every time before they shoot, I've won shieldless before, oh yeah and z-shields in this sector definitely demand offense.
Sector 4 Rebel over Zoltan: Some fights then a store where I did buy shields. Damn, right before this asteroid field fight - when the shield did little good as it got hit right away by a drone that continued to ream me for 10 hull damage! But I got things under control once the cloak recycled. And another fight I took a pounding then barely won: had to hit all four of my projectiles to get past the three shields and overcharger - was going to run away right after this volley if it missed - but that (about my fifth volley overall) did hit all four projectiles to clear the shields and the mini-beam wrecked from there, broke both a shield layer and the overcharger drone. Shields to layer 2 after that fight.
Exit beacon WHOA ! HOLY ! FUCK ! FREE ! VULCAN ! Wow, that's one heck of a question. I'm fully aware of what a newbie trap the Vulcan is. But I think I have the absolute best scenario to use it here. I'm starved for offense, my 4 projectiles are unreliable against 3-shield ships. The Vulcan packs flagship-killing power into a single gun, good for a ship with only three slots. I already have max cloaking for the best way to buy the Vulcan time to spin up. I have the fast and efficient dual laser to help the Vulcan punch down shields all the way, and the mini-beam to punch in damage once they are. So yes, we will be using a loadout of Vulcan + Dual Laser + Mini Beam as soon as I can get the weapons up to level 6. And that is enough to beat the flagship and we can save upgrading the weapons any higher than that.
Sector 5 ouch, Slug Nebula or Rock Homeworlds, hate both choices, but Slug is less bad, can't deal with Rock missiles. Black Raven yielded up a Burst 1, useful faster swap in for the hull laser. Critically low on hull there, and actually avoided one fight with a "cloak to stay hidden" blue option, then blessedly came to a store for repairs. Next store... bought Hacking, but oh this is one heck of a choice, there is a Halberd on sale. I love the Halberd... but I think in this situation it's just barely not quite worth paying for compared to the Vulcan loadout that I already have. I don't quite have enough projectiles to rely on the halberd, and may never get them, while I know the Vulcan loadout has everything it needs. (Why not both? Vulcan plus Halberd are not really friends, Halberd wants to gash its eight damage at the 17 second mark not 40, and costs a lot of power compared to the mini beam.) Finally, I'm not above throwing a little cockiness into the decision; I use a Halberd every other game but I don't often get a chance to run with a Vulcan.
Sector 6 Civilian: Bought drone control at one store, even though it didn't come with a defense drone, because it was adjacent to another store, hoped for and did get the defense drone there, nice. Now winning fights with the Vulcan loadout, although it does take longer to work than I'd like - even if I cloak past the enemy's first shots, it still gets a second volley before the vulcan gets up to speed. What I need to solve that is max hacking -- hack the weapons, the hacking and cloaking can cover each other's cooldowns and the enemy never gets to fire. But before that I did take shields to layer 3.
Sector 7 Pirate: Pew pew pew went the Vulcan, up up up went my scrap total, got a map reveal showing an average amount of fights. A Flak dropped at the exit beacon... yes, that is an upgrade from the dual laser, we can afford the extra weapon system power.
Sector 8: Four fights and a repair node before the flagship, good, bought all the damage buffering on oxygen and medbay and drones and all. Flagship phase one: still hacked shields as usual, pre-cloaked to buy the Vulcan 15 seconds, destroyed the missile weapon on my first volley, re-broke it on my second after the flagship's second cloak, and won from there, did manage to shoot to death one or two crew in the shields room. No damage taken. Phase two, same deal, hack shields (combat drone is very good for helping drop them while being drained), break missile weapon, though I did take some hull damage when the triple laser synched with the beam weapon, but then the Vulcan started executing crew in the shields room before they could break down the hacked doors, killed three of them at once!
Upgraded doors to max for phase 3 although there turned out to be only one boarder left anyway. Took some damage again from the missile weapon, but to uncritical systems (medbay, battery, and the MCed guy just broke oxygen.) Combat drone, flak, mini beam got through the super shield well enough. Cloaked past laser surge to get Phase Shift achievement as expected. Hacked shields, another flak blast and the combat drone stripped them down almost instantly, Vulcan broke the missile weapon posthaste, mini beam dealt more damage, won as the second laser surge launched and still had plenty of hull.
1800 scrap is about average with Long-Ranged Scanners. Like Rock A just before, this was also a really satisfying run, high skill cap, pulled lots of timing tricks with cloaking and hacking and weapons, and was never really in danger of losing anywhere from sector 5 onwards.
Sector 1: First fight, won with 1 damage when a laser hit me through 80% cloaked evasion. Second fight, no damage, cloaked past one laser shot and killed before a bomb fired. Third fight had one laser and one missile, cloaked but again took 1 damage anyway then won in one stroke. Fourth fight, OH FUCK, BEAM DRONE AND ANOTHER BEAM. LET THE DRONE SHOOT SOMETHING INCONSEQUENTIAL, then cloak when it aims at something more important. HOLY FUCK WHEW WHEW WHEW that 1 damage came from the mini beam and stopped an INSTANT short of hitting my weapon! That brought me to the 50 scrap to upgrade cloaking to max. Remember this trick: while the cloaking is on cooldown, walk the Zoltan in and out of the cloaking room which puts his power into the system and then can pull it out even while on cooldown! Slaver yielded a human crew. Another dangerous fight - again let the drone shoot at something unimportant then cloak when it aims at weapons. Won three more fights in the sector all by pre-cloaking as usual. Exit beacon gave me a free repair.
Sector 2: Engi over Rock most definitely. On ships like this, remember to hit shields first to break it first before the beam continues swiping, that deals 2+3+3+3 damage to the four rooms and kills 11 hull in the one swipe. Good news got a weapon, bad news it sucks terribly alongside the Glaive. But no, that ion blast is important! Here we go with an interesting proposition: this ship with only a single laser, I can use to train weapons skill! With the ion blast, I can keep knocking that laser offline over and over, it takes 5 seconds of ioning plus 9 seconds of charge to recover, enough time for the ion blast to hit shields then weapons over again, actually it even gets 3 shots in that time so can handle one of them missing. On the rare occasions I miss enough shots for the enemy laser to charge and shoot, I can cloak. I can do that long enough to max weapons skill, a BIG help on the slow Glaive!. And I rarely do this, but I actually also trained a second crewman on weapons skill as a backup. This is probably my only good chance at weapons skill - this situation won't occur again, and weapons skill is hard to come by for a ship that kills in one beam blast every time. Anyway then there was a store and I did have to sell the ion blast to buy shields. That's probably enough to win the game -- and THAT is DEFINITELY enough to win the game.
Sector 3 Engi again: Store had nothing useful, declined to buy an Engi crew, need to get weapons to 6 ASAP. That happened at the end of the sector.
Sector 4 had to pick Zoltan over Lanius, can't deal with Lanius boarders, but z-shields shouldn't be too hard to handle, the flak gets two shots at it before the glaive fires. Did have to do that in about four fights. This one is particularly nasty, z-shield, 3 regular shields, and look at that array of weapons -- and the missile aimed at my own weapons so I had to cloak that before the BL2 fired, then the BL2 hit my shield and the Pike gashed me -- smartly realized I had to run the hell out of there -- except I was rebel diving, had to pray things held together at the exit beacon -- had to cloak past a big volley, but miraculously the ASB missed of its own accord and I got out of there intact. (Nearly fatal error was that I hadn't upgraded shields to layer 2 yet. I got the numbers in my head crossed up, somehow thought it costed 100 scrap instead of 50, so didn't spend that yet trying to keep an ample amount on hand for the next store. Stupid, then I did upgrade shields right after this.)
Sector 5 Mantis over Zoltan again: More fights, shields to layer 3, also upgraded doors, got low on hull (4) but repaired at a store, but that store had nothing else useful. Starting to hurt on offense again, flak isn't very reliable against 3-shield ships. But then got a Small Bomb drop, very nice indeed, can use that to clear either piloting or one shield level. DISASTER here: that crewman is at low health from fighting off boarders and about to die to that missile impact, he can't possibly get out of the room in time and the FTL is a fraction of a second too slow to jump away... WHEW FUCKING YES IT AIMED AT DOORS INSTEAD!!!!
Sector 6 Engi: Distress beacon gave an Engi crew, nice, needed that, even came with shield skill. Store bought defense drone control and a second Flak!, although kept the loadout at Glaive + Flak + Small Bomb for a while until could afford weapons to 8 to use the second flak. Next store also an Automated Re-loader, this is very important, this along with max weapon skill gets the Glaive's charge to 19.23 seconds which lets it charge and fire before the flagship's (or any ship's) cloaking recycles.
Sector 7 Rebel over Slug Home yes please: Lots of fights lots of scrap. Last store, unfortunately no systems available, so no Hacking -- but I did sell both Flak guns to buy a Flak II instead! Since the flaks will be waiting for the Glaive anyway, it's fine to go with the slower version, which is one more projectile on one less power, and also one less slot to let me swap back in the Small Bomb after all. Also bought one more human crewman and an anti-personnel drone as insurance against the boarders, since my crew had no combat races.
Sector 8: about four fights for extra scrap, good, also found a store right before the base, still no hacking available, will settle for MC, does help to kill off crew in phases 1-2 and counter enemy MC in phase 3. Also alertly sold Long-Ranged Scanners, don't need that now. Flagship: Phase one only has level 2 engines compared to level 3 piloting, so set the small bomb at that, indeed it broke the system and evasion completely! As planned, Flak popped the shields and the Glaive fired just before the second round of cloaking to wreck the missile weapon. I MCed the guy in shields in hopes that would draw a crowd to kill him -- it did (dead body visible) -- and also very satisfyingly accurately timed a bomb to kill another weak crewman just as he reached med bay! Second shot of Flak + Glaive won of course. Phase two: pre-cloaked 5 seconds, which I knew would line up the Flak + Glaive to break the missile weapon before it fired, although the drone surge started early and caught me for 3 damage just before the cloaking recycled.
Phase three: two sets of boarders landed in easily vented rooms and easily held off by the anti-personnel drone; no need to jump back to base to kill off boarders. Meanwhile, the first flak + glaive + small bomb volley stripped the super shield. Withstood the first missile volley for 1 damage (d-drone got 1 and 1 missed), then cloaked to dodge second missile volley and the laser surge together. BAD, 5 out of the 7 flak shots missed, but decided to still fire the Glaive for the 4 damage it could get. Next Flak + Glaive volley did hit for full damage and break the missile weapon (small bomb helped too), and one more flak shot and we got the win.
So there you go with Stealth B. The criticism focuses on the risky early game, which is certainly true... but once it gets past that to get shields, it's a powerhouse and should always win from there. Stealth B does not lose by attrition. LRS makes sure of enough income for upgrades and repairs. And it doesn't lose to a single disastrous fight; cloaking avoids big stacks of damage, and the Glaive kills everything before that can happen anyway. Stealth B even hardly needs luck on equipment, just a couple projectiles to pop shields for the Glaive to work. 1800 scrap is right on average with LRS, and I didn't get any great value in drops, but didn't need any.
10 games, 10 wins so far!