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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.

Dec. 13, 1999       

Racial Overview: United Federation of Planets     (Updated Dec. 15, 1999)
     Okay, so the Federation isn't a race, per se, but try not to let that bother you. The Federation is a melting pot of races and bla, bla, bla. I'm a tactician, not an anthropologist. Anyway, the world has been cheering these guys for the past three decades, so I might as well cover them now, while I'm in a transitional period.

     The Federation has the most well-rounded ships in Starfleet Command. They have strong weapons and evenly-powered shields. Beneath these shields lies a durable hull. Since Starfleet is in essence a scientific organization, their ships generally carry more probes with which to assess the capabilities of enemy vessels. Unfortunately, Federation ships can't turn as sharply as some of their alien counterparts, and their devastating Photon Torpedoes are about as accurate as a blindfolded Mugato playing "Pin the Tail on the Tellarite". In a rainstorm.

     The Federation captain has to walk that fine line between "optimum range" and "too close for comfort". If you're too far away, your Photons will miss, and if you're too close, you'll get feedback damage and your opponent will almost certainly be able to outmaneuver you if it comes to a knife fight. Everything in Starfleet Command is a delicate balance between risk and safety (with a healthy amount of guesswork), and the captaincy of a Federation ship is no exception.

Photon Torpedoes
     As has been mentioned above, the thing that makes the Federation unique is its employment of the Photon Torpedo. A very powerful, yet woefully inaccurate weapon, the Photon Torpedo is one of the deadlier heavy weapons in the game, if used correctly. Federation captains must always keep an eye on their opponents' ECM readings, and should always be mindful that his ECCM cancels it. Unlike most weapons, where an ECM shift will merely reduce damage, the Photon Torpedo is an "all or nothing" device, and therefore must be fired only in optimal conditions. This means close range and adequate ECCM. Photons are a huge investment. They take a large amount of energy to charge, which reduces the user's speed and leaves him potentially vulnerable. Once armed, they are capable of a considerable amount of damage. Logic dictates that the captain employ every resource at his disposal to assure that these powerful weapons hit their mark.

     The first thing to do is check your ECM levels. Do this automatically whenever you're flying a photon-armed vessel. If your opponent knows you're using Photons, he'll probably dump a few points of power into his ECM, just to cover his butt. Photons are a vicious weapon, so he'll want to keep them from nailing him. So, make sure your ECCM level is equal to his ECM. No more, no less. Second, you'll want to get in range. Now, if you're using overloads, you'll probably be reduced in speed, so it'll be easy for him to get out of range. It's a fine line. If he's overloading his heavy weapons as well, he may be slow enough to nail.

     So, we've established that these suckers are power-hungry and very inaccurate. One might wonder why he even arms them at all, with all the disadvantages. When you score a double hit with overloaded Photons, you'll understand why. Photons do an impressive amount of damage when they hit; the trick is to actually get them to hit. Only fire Photons within Range 8. Even then, you have only a 50% chance of hitting.

UPDATE: Dirk Pitt offered the following tweak to my incorrect "optimum range" theory:

"Feedback damage only occurs at range 0-1. So, the best range to fire Photons is range 2, when they have 83% chance to hit."

     Proximity Photons do a relatively decent amount of damage at long range (don't try to do it any farther out than Range 30). By "relatively decent", I mean that few other weapons do a consistent amount of damage at such range (about range 15 is optimum). A prox Photon does 4 points of damage, and the enemy will invariably be on top of you by the time your torps re-arm, so once you've fired proximity photons, immediately switch them over to standard, because the next time you can fire, you'll be too close to use Proximity. Nothing's worse than having a PERFECT photon strike ready, and not being able to fire because you forgot to switch to standard loads. This takes a critical second that can make or break your day.

UPDATE: Michael Hedt had the following accolades to bestow upon the Proximity warhead:

"I think that Prox torps are underrated, sometimes in 1vs1 scenarios, and definitely in fleet engagements. True, the beauty of the photon torp is crunch power, but if you come across a skilled Klingon who knows his sabre dance well, normal (or overloaded) torps will just sit in the oven waiting for something to shoot at. Sometimes the prox torp is the only thing you have to give him a (admittedly soft) kick in the ass. One-turn, fast-load proxies on a #4 shield will get the attention of your enemy IF you can manage the energy cost, and IF you have a Klingon captain who likes to fart around at medium-to-long range between disruptor strikes. Those are two big "ifs", but it's something to keep in the back pocket if the opportunity ever presents itself :-) Even though you only have a 50% chance on proxies at, say range 15, a Fed ship with 4 photons can reasonably expect to land 8 points of damage, assuming the enemy ECM can be kept in check. Compare that damage with the damage that a ship with 4 disruptors at a similar range can expect to inflict, and the numbers don't look all that terrible. It can be done, but energy management is a bear, the Klingon captain has to be a bit sloppy, and the Fed has to be extremely patient."

     Michael brings up a point that I haven't mentioned yet. There is something of a moderate bug (I suppose) in Starfleet Command, which lets you "fast load" heavy weapons. To do this, you switch to overloads, charge them halfway, and then switch them back to Normal or Proximity. This allows them to charge in half the time than they charge normally. The same holds true for disruptors and other heavy weapons which have an overload setting. I have no information on whether or not this has been (or will be) corrected in the v1.02 patch, but it is a fairly common trick to use, so don't be ashamed to do it. Thanks for the reminder, Michael!

     For extra bursts of speed, the Federation captain may choose to deactivate Photons completely, letting his powerful Phasers (usually Phaser 1's) and increased speed make up some of the difference. Of course, it depends on the situation, as do all things. Phasers don't do a tremendous amount of damage, and again, the recent developments in shield repair make that damage total even less reassuring. Since each shield facing regenerates at least 1 point per turn, and phasers can only fire once per turn, these phaser passes must happen at relatively close range to do any lasting damage. Multiple phaser hits on the same shield over consecutive turns should do it, albeit slowly.

     Another option for saving power is to activate only one photon hardpoint (assuming you have more than one, which most ships do). This reduces the power drain but also gives you the option of firing a photon if you need one. You can do the same with overloads. Since overloaded weapons drain more power, you may want to switch only one hardpoint to overload while leaving the other at normal. Since photons are only useful within range 8 anyway, just fire them all off when you get in optimum range (about 4-ish). If you're lucky, the torpedo that hits will be the overloaded one. Now, run away and recharge those suckers.

     One final note on photons. Since they are the heaviest-hitting weapons on your ship, you want to use them efficiently. Try very hard to hit the enemy on either his #1 or his #4 shield whenever possible. These two shields are the most important (as detailed in the Defensive Systems section). In all likelyhood, you won't be firing your photons as much as other weapons (as they take a while to charge), so make them count. Use them on the enemy's most critical shields, and use your phasers whenever those shields present themselves. If you want to give chase, whittle away on the rear shield. If you want to discourage him from using his heavy weapons, try to take down the forward shield. Quite often, the temptation will be there to fire photons at a side shield. Try to resist that temptation unless the shield is already damaged. It only takes a second or two to get right behind an enemy who's approaching from an oblique angle, and that aft shield is the most vulnerable. Remember, every point counts, and photons deal a nice amount of points.

     On the topic of phasers, Federation ships are generally armed with the top of the line Phaser 1's, which combine decent range and excellent damage potential. In addition, Federation side-mounted phasers (mounted on the extreme port and starboard of the saucer) have the ability to fire directly backward, which can provide a nasty surprise for a tailgating enemy. By the same token, most aft-mounted weapons (usually phaser 3's), can fire forward as well. So, Federation ships generally have superior phaser arcs, just as the Klingons have superior turn arcs.

     Federation ships, like Klingon ships, employ the use of missiles, or drones. In small quantities, these drones can provide an annoying distraction to an enemy. In large numbers, they provide an extremely effective offensive option for absolutely no energy cost. Ships like the CAD series or the NCD series completely remove the Photon Torpedoes in favor of large drone racks, capable of launching groups of 6 powerful drones at an enemy. Though limited in number, these drones inflict serious damage and are inherently accurate, if unhindered by enemy defenses. In addition to the benefits of this "drone swarm" ability, these ships also lack the energy constraints of Photon Torpedoes, allowing them to sustain greater speeds and divert more power to secondary systems like ECM and defense. In a world where energy is everything, this adds up to a powerful advantage. The disadvantage, of course, is the limited number of missiles a ship can carry. Buy a lot of them and make every salvo count.

     As a result of their use of missiles, Federation ships can also carry Scatterpack shuttles. Note that only ships with missile racks aboard can fire a scatterpack. Ships that can't fire missiles independantly cannot launch scatterpacks. Bummer, huh?

A Scientific Organization
     Since Starfleet is a scientific group, rather than a military one, they have more probes than other races. Probes can be used as long-range scanners as well as close-range weapons. See Section 6 for more details on probes. Also, Federation ships have more labs aboard than their alien counterparts. Now, labs are something that you never actually see in the game, but they're there, in the background. Presumably, this is what you repair at the spacedock when you are paying for repairs but have no idea what you're fixing (when all of your weapons and secondary systems are fully repaired). So, what are labs good for? Well, under the new v1.02 rules, a ship with 4 or more undestroyed labs will regenerate 1 extra shield point per facing per turn. That's a powerful asset. So, not only do Federation ships have better, more uniform shielding, but they can generally also repair those shields faster. Fed ships also tend to carry more shuttles than other races.

     Federation ships tend to have fewer transporters than other races, most notably the Klingons. As such, it's generally harder for a Federation ship to effect captures, but by no means impossible. It just takes longer. Another side-effect of this comparative lack of transporters is that fewer t-bombs can be laid at once. No big deal, really.

     Well, that's all I have for the Feds at the moment. Most likely we'll see some Federation tactics soon, as die-hard Fed players email in with their insights. This page will be updated accordingly when that happens. So, what about next time? I'm going to try something I did with my old Beta Reports back on STGC. I'll open the floor up to questions and requests. If there's a question that's been bugging you, or if you really want to see a certain subject covered here, let me know! It may take a few days to compile all of the information necessary, so there may be a bonus installment sometime in between now and then, just to keep you all interested. If you'd like to submit a question or request, just email me at and lay it on me! Until then, Keep on Trekkin'!

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