Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Star Wars: Empire at War - Imperial Space Units

Star Wars: Empire at War - Imperial Space Units
This is a hint / guide for Star Wars: Empire at War. The index of all our guides for Empire at War is here.

I like to run space battles with no unit losses (unless they are "free" units that are from, for example, space station garrisons), so you won't see tips like "keep calling for reinforcements".
I also like to arrange fleets myself so I don't get the luck of the draw that can happen when you have a fleet that exceeds the 20 unit maximum and leave it up to the computer to determine your initial fleet on the battlefield. Unlike ground assaults (where you start with one unit and can choose the rest at the initial reinforcement point), you do not have control over what you start with in a space battle (although you do tend to get a mix of the types of units in the invasion fleet).
Arranging fleets yourself may mean that you are bringing no reinforcements with you, however.

In the Empire Campaign, as planets become available, some are immediately under Rebel control, and given enough time (or sometimes right away), they will send raid fleets or beseige a system. Typically, you can head both of these off by quickly invading and controlling space. You just need to blockade a planet to prevent them from building ships or preparing raid fleets. Pirate systems never proactively attack, so are not an issue. Once the space above all Rebel planets is controlled, you can take your time with the other planets.
Raid fleets are annoying because they could theoretically attack any planet, they ignore your orbiting fleet, and you lose your space station if you lose the planet.
Because of this, instead of trying to garrison every planet with a fleet and ground forces, you can just have a few fleets ready to attack, one strong army of ground units to take planets, and garrisons only on planets near those that are not yet revealed (since they might turn out to be Rebel-controlled and ready with raid fleets).
If you are worried about unexpected attacks taking key planets (like a planet with multiple factories that can take long time to rebuild; or one of the four shipyards that can make capital ships), maintain a garrison at just those planets.

Tartan-Class Patrol Cruiser
I hardly ever use Tartans because they lack the staying power of the Acclamators which are available at the same time, and also do not have the firepower to really take down anything useful. In theory, their greater maneuverability suggests it might be possible to make blitzes using large groups of them, but even a group of 10 (which total 20 units, the maximum you can field at one time) can't quickly destroy a Nebulon-B frigate and at least one might be shot down in the meantime. In a firefight, you will likely end up having to micromanage a retreat.
You could use them defensively against fighter swarms, but in such a case, going for an Acclamator instead gives you additional firepower and TIE garrisons.

Acclamator I-Class Assault Ship
Your basic invasion fleet ship until Victory Star Destroyers and Broadside Cruisers. Around the time this is available, your invasion fleets can be 19 points: One Fleet Commander plus six Acclamators. Later on, swap the Acclamators for Victory Star Destroyers as they are both weighted at 3 population units.

Keep the TIEs close by as you don't have many of them. If, at the end of a battle, all that are left of the enemy are starfighter wings and you don't have any starfighters of your own, it will take a very long time before the Acclamators gun them down.
Bombers are basically useless to send into battle because they tend to beeline for the target, during which time enemy ships can apparently very easily project their movement and cut them down. Sending them on long trips like this is also suicidal against anything that uses missiles, because when missiles explode, they take whole wings of fighters with them.

Acclamators are also the first of the cruisers that give you Bombing Runs, which are important not only because they can destroy almost any building in one run if directly targeted, but they are carpet bombing runs that can clear units or other buildings along their path. Also, after the first bombing run, you can usually see the other buildings on the planet shaded in on the map. By their outlines, you can often sort-of guess what type of building it is.

Victory-Class Star Destroyer
These take the place of Acclamators as the basic invasion fleet and work more or less in the same way. In the late game, the Rebellion tends to have a lot of corvettes hunting for your Broadsides, so in the early invasion they are actually escorts for your Broadsides until those are exhausted and the Broadsides can commence bombardment of the space station. Charge Marauder missile corvettes, as there tend to be quite a lot of them and they fire outside of your weapons range.

Broadside-Class Cruiser KDB-1
To understand why the Broadside Cruiser is so powerful, you need to watch what happens with its missiles. When you target a location to Barrage or a particular ship, it will fire missiles. These missiles can hit anything that gets in their way and damage them with an explosion. Those missiles that reach the location targeted (even if a ship was targeted and has now moved away) will explode. Explosions have an area of effect and can destroy clouds of fighters.
Individually, the missiles are dangerous but a ship with strong shields can hold them off. It is when an area is barraged or a target takes a lot of hits that you will see shields torn down very quickly.

When these become available, you can arrange your fleets with one Fleet Commander, plus four Victory Star Destroyers and three Broadsides (19 points), or five Victorys and two Broadsides (20 points). Add a TIE Scout as soon as they are available.

There is an incredible amount of area firepower here, and it can operate outside of regular visual range. However, the Rebellion (especially during Space Station sieges, where they have endless corvettes) will send Corellian Corvettes on suicide runs against your Broadsides, and will position their own missile-firing ships to attack your own (somehow detecting you beyond the usual visual range).

You can use a TIE Scout's Ping ability to momentarily reveal space and in that second or so designate a target for the Broadside's Barrage ability. Typically, however, this puts you dangerously close to a station and you have to be quick to pull them back if they are charged by even a Corellian Corvette.

Space station sieges become totally different affairs once Broadside Cruisers are available: Instead of trying to survive the station's onslaught and carefully retreating large cruisers, now you can destroy support ships and reinforcements and then bombard the station from afar -- The station's level and firepower is therefore meaningless.
What makes it tricky in the late game is trying to keep your Broadside Cruisers alive and having reduced covering fire because Ion Cannons keep disabling your Star Destroyers (fortunately, Broadside Cruisers are not targeted). If you push forward, you will likely lose Star Destroyers when the larger frigates, cruisers, and capital ships of the Rebellion charge to defend the station. If you hang back, you will be whittled away by attrition.

In the late game, send in Darth Vader to keep the Rebellion busy. First, survive the initial wave of corvettes and Marauders. Send Darth Vader to take out Marauder Corvettes and DP20 Gunships. Then try to keep him close to the station, taking out corvettes. While Darth Vader is near the station, that area is of course revealed, and therefore you can use your Broadside Cruisers on it.
Hit the Space Station first and take out the Shield Generator and the Hangar. But DO NOT destroy the station -- While the station remains, the Rebellion will keep their larger ships in a Defense mode, limiting how far they move away. Once the station is destroyed, they will come after you, and if there are too many, you will probably lose ships. On Hard Difficulty, the Rebellion will use their ship's power to boost shields, which often gives them enough staying power to destroy or seriously damage a large ship before they are shot down trying to escape.
From afar, hit the frigates and cruisers. Sometimes one will be drawn out and they will charge the Broadside Cruisers. Pull the Broadside back immediately behind your Star Destroyers to let the Star Destroyers draw fire.
When there are only one or two of the larger ships left, you are safe to destroy the Space Station if you like.

TIE Scout (TIE/sr Starfighter)

  • Every fleet should have one of these as soon as they are available. The first squadron does not count toward the 20 unit total.
  • When using the Sensor Ping, you can only click on empty space. When the crosshair is yellow with a big "X" over it, it means you are hovering your mouse over some sort of unit -- either fighters, a larger ship, or a star base.
  • Because it can safely use the Sensor Ping from anywhere on the battle map to see any other location, you can accurately determine what the enemy has fielded, and retreat from battle if necessary before any combat has taken place.

Interdictor Cruiser (Immobilizer 418 Cruiser)

In the Imperial Campaign, these are generally useful only for the specific missions in which you are basically told you need one. Their Missile Jamming ability was of dubious use in my experience. Like the Gravity Well generator, the Interdictor cannot move while using it. Also, even with reduced accuracy, missiles explode and the blast radius is good enough: It can still take out flights of fighters or hurt small ships nearby, and larger ships can't evade barrages anyway unless they start moving while the missile volley is far away.

Imperial Star Destroyer (Imperial I-Class Star Destroyer)

They can only be built at Fondor, Kuat, Mon Calamari, or Sullust, so take Emperor Palpatine on tour and queue 5 at a time.
Basically bigger Victory Star Destroyers. At 4 points each, you will have to reconfigure your fleets. Having at least two Broadsides is still a fairly good deal as they allow you to stand off and make the enemy come to you, so a configuration might be 1 Fleet Commander, 2 Broadsides, 1 Victory Star Destroyer, and 3 Imperial Star Destroyers, plus 1 TIE Scout (the first of which does not count toward the 20 points in a space battle unless you bring it in as a Reinforcement).
You could also instead have 3 Broadside Cruisers and 3 Imperial Star Destroyers.

The Tractor Beam is useful when you have supporting units, as it basically prevents a small ship from fleeing. This means you can hold a ship still while Broadsides or other ships bombard it with greater accuracy since it's not moving and can't dodge fire.
The Tractor Beam also slowly pulls the ship closer, which can mean bringing it closer to your fleet, but it will also mean that eventually it is pulled above your ship, and the weapons on the Star Destroyer's bow can't fire on it.
In our games, we found that using the tractor beam on any Corellian Corvette caused some sort of game error, possibly resulting in an infinite calculation loop because the game started to slow down to a stutter, and savegames were corrupted.

Fleet Commander

A single Fleet Commander is recommended for any fleet for the increased visual range and increased vehicle health. You can have any number in a fleet and only the first one counts toward the unit cap of 20, but they will all sit in the same ship. The Fleet Commander sits in the biggest ship you have (including the Death Star, although that is a piece of the background and cannot be interacted with).

Death Star

In the Imperial Campaign, the Death Star exists on the map as part of the background and cannot be interacted with. It counts as 15 points toward the 20 point engagement limit, but comes with a garrison of 2 Tartans and 2 Victory Star Destroyers.
Whenever you enter space combat with the Death Star, you have 80 seconds before you can fire it and destroy the planet. Doing so does not destroy the enemy fleet, and once you have destroyed the planet, you cannot Retreat from battle.

In the Rebellion Campaign, after Mission 11 the Death Star destroys Alderaan, and then will usually head to either Coruscant (if you have taken it) or possibly Kuat. Unless it goes to Yavin IV (where the critical Death Star-defeating heroes are located), you will have to somehow defeat the Death Star's garrison (and escort, if any) within 80 seconds to save a planet. This is practically impossible because even if you destroy all cruisers and frigates, it could take you longer than that to destroy the TIE fighters buzzing around.

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