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Note: The opinions and observations herein are strictly my own.
Sometimes they'll be right, sometimes not. Please let me know if the latter is true.

Nov. 30, 1999       

Racial Overview: Klingon Empire     (Updated Dec. 6, 1999)
     Today we'll focus on the Klingons, and what makes them unique in the SFC universe. They have a number of advantages, but the various checks and balances within the game ensure that the Klingons are no "master race", to be sure.

     The first, most obvious advantage the Klingons possess is their enhanced turning capability. Klingon ships in general turn much faster than their alien counterparts. If you are in a Klingon ship, fighting another race's ship, you will be able to out-turn him on almost every occasion. This is great for zeroing in on that weak shield that the enemy is trying to protect. It's also very good for "last ditch maneuvering", such as getting out of the path of a mine or asteroid.

     Klingons use Disruptors as their Heavy Weapon, and Missiles as their secondary weapon. Disruptors are basically a diet version of the Photon Torpedo (just one calorie...not evil enough). It does half the damage, and takes half the time to arm. Disruptors are much more accurate at longer ranges than Photon Torpedoes. Disruptors are not the end-all and be-all of heavy weapons. In order to use them efficiently, you need to fire them whenever you can, because they really don't do an awe-inspiring amount of damage. It also helps if you can maneuver into a position facing a weakened shield. Take advantage of the disruptors' quick recharge time, and whittle away at your enemy's shields. Like all heavy weapons, Disruptors take a relatively hefty amount of power to charge, and can be overloaded for twice the damage (and twice the power expenditure). In a small ship like a Frigate, where energy is scarce to begin with, this will have a serious impact on your speed, ECM, and other stuff unless you time the charging properly. Overloading your disruptors in a Frigate takes a pretty decent chunk of power, so I like to spread it out a bit. Charge them normally, and once they're charged, switch to overload. You'll only draw the same amount of power you would if you were charging normal disruptors, but it will take twice as long to charge them. The upside is that you can maintain a decent speed while doing it.

     Overloading is tricky business, so you have to make decisions. Sure, you will pack a punch, but look at the larger picture. In order to fire an overloaded weapon, you must be within Range 8. So, you get in close, fire your disruptors, and then what? Well, your disruptors start to recharge, which take a huge chunk of energy. If want them to continue to charge quickly, you will be moving very slowly, and in perfect range for a retaliation. The only real way out of this is to take your disruptors offline and make a run for it as your phasers charge. This will open up your tender rear shield (more on this later), and will leave you in dire straits. In bigger ships, this isn't so much of a problem, but in Frigates, overloading should be carefully monitored because your power is pretty limited (and your forward shields won't hold up too well to the repeated feedback damage). Don't fret, though. Once you get a feel for your ship's capabilities, this will all be second nature, and you'll be able to overload without worrying about stuff. You'll work on instinct, and Klingons always trust their instincts.

     Another cool thing about disruptors is that they can be used in Disable mode. Photon Torpedoes simply won't fire when you activate Disable mode, but Disruptors do. Sweet, huh? So when you get the bad guy's shield down, you can lay loose with every weapon (except missiles) in disable mode, without fear of destroying him.

     Klingon missiles are the same as Federation missiles, so it would be redundant to repeat how cool they are (see the last installment). However, now that we've been talking about power expenditures, it seems like a great time to mention (again) that firing missiles requires no power. Some Klingon ships, most notably the E4D Frigate, completely remove the power-hungry disruptors in favor of a rack o' missiles; 4 of em, to be exact. Since there are no disruptors to leech power, and missiles take no power at all, what you have is a very fast, extremely maneuverable ship which can use a lot of ECM and deal a tremendous amount of damage. Also, in Frigate-to-Frigate engagements, the sheer number of missiles in the air will likely overwhelm any defensive tractors and point defense the enemy has to offer. The only thing you have to worry about is running out of missiles, which can and will eventually happen. If you're gonna use missiles, make sure you have fast and powerful ones, and most importantly, as many as you can buy at the spacedock.

     Another advantage the Klingons possess is the strength of their boarding parties. Klingons are more effective in Hit-and-Run raids and capturing than most others (probably because they tend to have more transporters and marines, especially on bigger ships).

     UPDATE: A couple days ago, I received word from Erik Bethke regarding the apparent superiority of Klingon forces versus boarding parties. It was, indeed, my imagination. Klingons, Gorns, and Lyrans simply have more marines on their vessels. They do not have any built-in resistance to boarding parties other than the number of defenders onboard. I have altered the above paragraph to delete my mistaken thoughts on the subject. Thanks, Erik! You are the man!

     Above, I mentioned the "tender rear shield". The Klingon's greatest weakness is a generally substandard defense across the board. Klingons are aggressive by nature, and as such, their ships are designed for head-on assaults. Durability takes a back seat to speed, maneuverability, and (to a lesser extent) weapons. Since a Klingon considers retreat to be a sign of weakness, their ship designers have made it so that retreat is not really a tactically prudent option. On almost all Klingon ships, the aft shields are extremely weak (or, at least weaker than all the rest). Luckily, with their enhanced turning capability, Klingons should be able to keep that tender shield out of the enemy's arc, but in practice it doesn't always happen that way. In addition to their weak rear shields, Klingon hulls can't take the battering that their alien counterparts can. Once those shields are down, internal damage is a bitch, and quite crippling. A third Klingon vulnerability is that they generally have fewer defensive tractors than Federation ships. So, when using the Klingons, it's wise to rely on high speed, quick turns, and ECM to avoid taking internal damage whenever possible. Does that qualify as a "duh-statement"?

     Some Klingon ships (very few indeed) are capable of cloaking. I'll give a more detailed description of cloaking when I get to the Romulans, because really, it is their invention. Might as well give those green-blooded bastards some credit. But, I just wanted to mention that, yes, some Klingons can do it. These ships generally are pretty weak weapon-wise. So, there is a trade-off there. A trade-off which is decidedly not shared by the plasma-wielding Romulans. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

     Have I mentioned how cool this game is? Just checking, because I don't think I've said that yet today. And the 1.02 patch makes it even sweeter...

     One thing which could be mentioned as a disadvantage for the Klingons is that, at least in earlier eras, they tend to use more Phaser-2's than Phaser-1's. In later eras, some ships are retrofitted with Phaser-1's. Now, the Phaser-2 is not a "pathetically weak" weapon, but it seems to follow the same philosophy as the Disruptor; fire often, aim at the same shield if you can, but pick and pick at those shields 'till they go away.

     I've heard of one Klingon tactic over and over again, and I eventually had to buy an SFB manual just to find out what the hell people were talking about. I feel I would be remiss (and heavily flamed) if I didn't mention it. The tactic is called the Klingon Sabre Dance. Basically, it's a medium- to long-range firefight using disruptors. The idea here is to keep the enemy out of overload range (which is Range 8, by the way), and continually pelt his shields with disruptor fire. If the enemy is overloading his heavy weapons, he will not have the speed to catch you, nor will he be able to fire his heavy weapons at such long range. His only option will be to drop his overloads and come after you. Now, as I mentioned above, Disruptors tend to be more accurate at longer ranges (let's say between Range 10 and Range 15... just an estimate) than Photons or other heavy weapons. Keep in mind you will NOT do a lot of damage with this tactic, and it will take an agonizingly long time to do. Plus, due to the real-time nature of Starfleet Command, I've heard people complaining that it is very hard to keep the enemy at long range. They often find a way to catch up. Eventually, one of you will get very bored, and try for a full assault. That's when the fur flies.

     Another tactic at which the Klingons excel is called the Oblique Approach. This involves approaching the enemy with either your #2 (forward starboard) or #6 (forward port) shield facing the enemy. Actually, the optimum position is to have the "corner" of the shields (between Shield 1 and Shield 2, for example) facing the enemy. This is an approach that gives you various options up to the last moment. At around range 10, you can choose either to rush into the enemy or turn away. This is called the Oblique Option Point. If you rush in, you can hit him with overloaded weapons. You can also hit him with standard disruptors (for decent damage and accuracy) and then turn away, making sure to protect your aft shield (be careful here). In some cases, you can even maneuver right behind your enemy, given your enhanced turning capability, but this is rare because your enemy will try and keep you in front of him. In any event, the Klingons do this well because of the way their weapon arcs are laid out. The Klingon can fire most (if not all) of his weapons when the enemy is facing either the #2 or #6 shield corners (especially disruptors). For example, even the starboard-mounted disruptor can hit a target which is ahead and to port.

UPDATE: HerrDave2 had the following to say about Sabre Dancing, Oblique Approaching, and the upcoming 1.02 version of SFC:

"I have to agree that saber dancing is a valid approach, but for version 1.01 and under. This tactic worked but game durations were considerable (like 1/2 hour) before victory was gained. And at that the rear shield was exposed most of the time due to the opponent racing at you. The 1.02B release has a feature which counters the Sabre Dance.

Shield regeneration is FAST, so the little points you inflict on the opponent (2 or 3 per disruptor at a distance) is ineffective. A unreinforced shield will rebound to its former state by the next time you make a pass. There is more to make this a pain. A downed shield can be raised FAST.... simply reinforce it and it pops up FAST.

The Sabre Dance takes on oblique attack patterns (the most effective attack a Klingon can make considering the firing arcs) and by the time you turn around in front of your opponent - your disruptors are charged. All the opponent has to do is go slower- crank up ECM to 6 and reinforce his front shield. The ECM will lessen any damage you may try to inflict and the energy pumped into the front shield will heal anything you inflict. Coupled this with FAST and natural shield regeneration- you might as well go to the movies and come back and continue (if this game could go on autopilot - oh maybe not since Mplayer would have crashed it by then -hehehehe)

. In 1.02b the Sabre dance really bites it in face of the plasma boats (Gorns and Roms). They can time your oblique attack (the most effective attack a Klingon can make considering the firing arcs). Sometime before the Klingon ship is about the reach the firing point- the plasma boat can fire plasma and lots of it and the Klingon ship will fly right into it. Damage may be reduced due to the nature of the oblique attack/hit-and-run tactic, but the plasma strike will leave the Klingon with more damage than the opponent. This requires good timing- but so does the oblique attack.

I hope the shield regeneration thing bites it soon... it leaves the game unbalanced..."

     I agree that Sabre Dancing is seriously affected by the advent of shield regeneration, but I also can't deny that I really like the new shield formula. It is a tradeoff, and unfortunately the Klingons get the short end of the stick on this one. We'll see what comes of it if there's another patch. Thanks, HerrDave2, for your input!

     So, when playing the Klingons, remember that your advantages are speed and maneuverability, and your disadvantages are "substandard" defenses, particularly in your aft quarter. A typical engagement has two ships moving toward each other, firing everything at close range, passing, then turning around and doing it again. Bo-ring. Not only that, but it's deadly to a Klingon, because as the ships pass, you leave yourself WIDE OPEN to his aft-firing weapons. When you take into consideration that Federation ships' side-mounted phasers have rear-arc capability, it's a very dangerous plan. He could just hold his weapons until you pass, and nail you in the butt. Or, he could perform a 180 degree High Energy Turn and completely splat you with overloaded heavy weps. If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to consider an HET immediately before you pass him. Just click on a 90-degree HET button at about range 3 (less or more depending on your speed... this takes practice). Then, once the turn is underway, you can fine-tune the turn as the HET energy bar dwindles away (or just click the "Follow" button on the helm panel to save time). Make no mistake. He will be DYING to hit you in that aft shield, and if you present it to him for even a moment, he WILL fire with whatever he has. Keep it away from him at all costs. Nimble maneuvering is the key. Also remember that your phaser arcs are generally not as vast as some others. Some Klingon phaser arcs are really goofy. They have an almost 360 degree arc, but about 45 degrees are taken out of really odd chunks. KNOW the phaser arcs of whatever ship you use.

     Well, that just about does it for the Klinks. Tomorrow, or the next day, (whenever I get to it... but it will be very soon) we'll cover the various defensive systems in SFC. We'll discuss shields, ECM, point defense, erratic maneuvers, and all that other stuff that keeps you nice and safe. There's a lot of stuff to cover there, so I'll probably be buying a 2-liter of Mountain Dew this evening. Are we having fun yet? See ya then.

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