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When preparing for the inevitable ground combat or boarding action, it helps to have a strong away team that can handle any challenge. In this I will share my own personal strategies for this as well as exploring the various options on how to custom tailor a team to your needs.
What do you want to do for a living?
The kind of Captain that you create is probably the most important aspect of your away them, even if your captain is never going to be part of it, because that is going to determine the sort of foes that your away teams are most likely going to face over the course of the game.
By this I mean that a Bounty Hunter or Pirate is naturally going to be facing mostly other humans in ship-to-ship combat, while an Explorer or ExoTrooper is more likely to be facing Xenos, and usually on the ground, which are best delt with differently.
Whether or not your captain intends to join the front line is another major consideration. If he/she does, then you’re going to need some kind of combat Job in the secondary or tertiary position. If not, then don’t bother with anything that offers pistols, sword or rifle skill since you won’t be needing them.
There are pros and cons to bringing your captain along, so let’s consider them:
Pro: The captain has potentially the best attributes of anyone on your ship, especially if you made a custom template that placed attributes as the top priority. Strength really only matters if you’re taking a sword as a weapon, because for extra hitpoints you’re better off putting your points into Fortitude, or better yet how about not getting hit at all and cranking up your Evasion and staying in the back line (4th position) as a Sniper?
Pro: The captain has potentially higher skill levels, depending on where you placed that on the template. These are skills that go above and beyond whatever your jobs give you, allowing you to eventually surpass even top level characters of the more normal variety.
Pro: At normal difficulty levels, the captain is immune to permadeath.
Con: Losing your captain in a boarding action can end the entire battle as a loss, even if the enemy ship was barely functional at the time.
Con: Unless you heavily invest your skill levels in those combat jobs, the other, more specialized crew will leave you behind in terms of ability. That detracts from your other skills, which you may need to be using more often. This is especially true of merchants, spies and smugglers.
Con: At high difficulty levels captain permadeath is a thing, so you risk losing the game entirely with every battle.
Chose your weapons
Even if you’ve (wisely) elected to keep your own precious butt away from enemy gunfire, this is still important. So here we go:
1) No matter what your playstyle is going to be, buy a gottverdammen A5 Weapons Locker immediately. This should invariably be the first ship upgrade you get. Period. This will give all your crew access to level 5 armor and weapons. Yes, you can buy better individual pieces from special Contacts, but that’s for later down the road. This will get your started and makes a good fallback for when you have to send some peon in to fill an empty space in an emergency.
2) If you’ve playing a dedicated ship combat class, such as Pirate, Bounty Hunter or Commander then it may be wise to invest in at least one contact who sells special equipment. These can be devices, weapons or armor, and these items – while expensive – can go beyond level 5. Naturally only your real fighters will need this stuff unless you just have oodles of cash to burn and don’t know what to spend it on. This will give you an extra edge in the long run. If you don’t start with those contacts, or you’re playing a more peaceful route, don’t fret too much as you can be introduced to them later if you’re willing to toss money at the right people or have the right talents.
3) Do not mix and match on one character unless you’re doing a combo swordsman/pistoleer officer. Under no cirmumstances should any one character, you or your officers, have both pistols and rifle skills. There is no point to this at all because you can only bring one or the other. Or swords and rifles. The only exception is, again, an officer whom has pistol and swords can bring both into battle at once. Everyone else just pick one thing and stick with it.
4) Don’t forget your weapon options. By default, every Soldier will be given a light machinegun, which can only be used from positions 4 and 3. If you have the A5 locked there will also be the option for a heavy machinegun, which is basically the same only slower firing (lower initative) and has a decent enough higher damage output that you should definitely be using it (until you can buy something level 6 or higher, at least). Of course it may be handy to keep around a soldier or two armed with snubguns, which work from position 2 and 1. This is handy in case one of your swordsmen or pistoleers go down and you need to fill the gap in a hurry. Since you can’t change weapons while in combat, having this done in advance is a good idea. And of course every team should have their #4 slot filled with someone with a sniper rifle, even if you can’t find/afford a proper sniper just yet. They hit harder than even machine guns, and with an A5 locker you can often knock out most lower level foes in a single hit.
5) Don’t forget to upgrade your armor, especially after you got that A5 installed. Yes, the heavier stuff causes an initative hit, but it’s well worth it for the added protection. Light wounds can be healed by Combat Medics on the fly and Doctor talents between ship rounds. Because of this it’s better to take two light wounds than risk one heavy wound that knocks you out of combat entirely.
Officer or Enlisted? The importance of chosing the right jobs.
Picking the right people for the team is essential, and whenever possible you want to put an Officer in that role rather than a regular crewmember. Officers get higher attributes which always helps in combat. They can also split themselves into three different jobs, which allows you to bring more useful talents and skills into battle.
Now on smaller ships this isn’t always an option, as the Scout Cutter, for example, only allows for two officers besides yourself, and while your starting Doctor can cross train just fine, using your starting Quartermaster isn’t so efficient. In the long run you’ll want to either upgrade your ship to something with more officer room, or just fire your existing quartermaster and replacing him with a regular crew member type quartermaster (from a contact) in order to free up that officer bunk. Of course if you start with a better ship this is moot.
Ideally your entire away team should be officers, but since that’s not likely to happen unless you’re flying a Titan-class, let’s break it down by priority.
1) Cross-train your starting Doctor officer as a Combat Medic and Pistoleer, in that order. In the end you’ll want a build of at least 8 levels in Doctor and 8 in Combat Medic, and the rest in Pistoleer. The order you do that with is up to you, just keep in that if you slack on Pistoleer too much you’ll become a priority target because the AI prefers hitting the easier, weaker targets first (and that will be this person). Best kept in position #3.
2) Use your contacts to aquire a Sniper or ExoScout and cross train them as both. No third class is needed, here. Even if you’re not planning on fighting a lot of xenos, there are ExoScout talents that will turn your sniper into an unholy terror. You’ll only need 1 rank ExoScout to unlock those talents, too. Feel free to dump all the rest into Sniper if you’re not planning on fighting xenos at any point. If you are, however, go ahead and raise ExoScout to 11 and then put the rest into Sniper. Obviously stays in position #4.
3) For the front line position #1 you can get some pretty devestating combos with an officer who has Pistoleer/Swordsman/Assassin. First, that’s the only way to unlock pistols and blades together. Second, the number of tactical options go through the roof. Third, their damage output will be almost as high as your sniper. I’ve heard rumors of Swordsman/Assassin/Zealot but honestly, I’ve never found a real use for zealots as other job types do the same things and usually better.
4) If you’ve got lots of space, you can add a fourth officer combo in to position #2 with Pistoleer/Military Officer. You can rank up that MO rank to 15 if you want to unlock ship capture, but at 75% cost you’d probably better off just hiring a proper Pirate who only has to pay 50% the retail value for captures. Most of the MO talents are kind of lackluster unless you’re playing a very law-abiding style of gameplay (unlikely), but it does help in combat a little and pairs up with Pistoleer just fine. You could even add a third job of your chosing,
5) If you don’t have lots of space for that last officer, that’s fine. Put a soldier in position #2 with a snubgun. Not pistoleer or swordsman, just a soldier with a snubgun. No point in doubling up and talent cards you already have elsewhere. Just have them focus on those short-range attacks and be happy with it. It works just fine if you stick with it.
6) Though I haven’t tried it personally, you could even promote and cross train your Soldier as a Bounty Hunter and get even more handy combat talents to pick from. This may be a good even if you have no intentions to bounty hunt at all, and especially good if your do. Or if you’re a dedicated xeno hunter then go ahead and make them an ExoScout on the side as well. It can’t hurt, that’s for sure.
Talents and you.
Now the fun part. Picking the best talents by job type and why they’re important.
1) Combat Medic is the most important class you’ll be wanting to bring with you, and there are three main talents you’ll want them to have. They are E-Suture (1), which gives light healing to the whole team. BioToxin Slugs (1) add a DoT effect to every one of your shots. LifeLine (8) provides a massive heal to one crew member.
If you’ve cross-trained as a Doctor (and you have) this will add even more points to all your healing effects as well as unlocking the option for Field Surgery (1) which is a good low-level heal for one person. A top level officer with Combat Medic and Doctor crosstrained can pretty much heal almost any amount of damage as fast as it comes in. Just keep in mind that the AI will most likey make them their favorite target, so keep them safe.
2) Your Sniper/ExoScout combo has plenty to work with, too. Most sniper talents require stealth to use, which wastes an action to activate, so I honestly rarely even bother with that. A sniper’s base damage output is already high enough as it is and frankly rarely needs that kind of elaborate effort to get kills in.
From the ExoScout tree we’ll want to pull BioAgent Flechette (1) no matter what, as this adds DoT to all your shots for no extra cost, which is good for when you hit someone and they survive with only a few hitpoints left. No need to follow up, then, they’ll fall dead at the end of the turn anyway. Also note that while BioAgent Flechette looks like BioToxin Slugs and does the exact same thing, they are not the same power and thus can stack together for double the effect. That’s very handy for xenos with their high hitpoint pools, letting you work with your Combat Medic to double-tap them with poisonous death.
If you’re not fighting xenos then most of the ExoScout tree will be of little intrest to you past that, except for Steady Mobility (1) which gives you free buffs (and really good ones at that) while taking a regular shot and does not have the annoying stealth requirement.
If you are fighting xenos then yes, things like Burrowing Shot and Plas-Charge Slugs can be useful. Either way, though, there is no reason to take ExoScout past level 11. Throw the rest of your skill levels and talents into whatever Sniper stuff you enjoy the most.
3) Your Pistoleer/Swordsman/Assassin in the front row will end up with so many versatile tools at their disposal the hardest part is chosing which horrible way you want to screw the enemy this round. Luckily they’ll end up getting plenty of actions per turn due to having pistol-level initative combined with sword-level damage output.
From the Swordsman branch:
Bravery Line (1), a free buff that costs nothing
Sharp Counter (1) which gives you free counter attacks on anyone who attacks that person.
Devestating Charge which comes in handy for when an enemy pushes you back a slot as it turns that “debuff” into an advantage on your next move.
Blade and Hilt (11) lets you hit the first two opponents at the same time.
From the Assassin branch:
Smoke Bomb (1) debuffs the first two targets and grants stealth. Sometimes handy, as this unlocks…
Hitman Rush (1) a free buff that requires stealth.
Venemous Blade (1) adds a free DoT to your regular stabbing attacks.
Arterial Slash (8) is more powerful version of the above but requires stealth.
Dissection (11) basically ends the first two enemies but, again, requires stealth.
From the Pistoleer branch:
Raining Steel (1) is nice, and another free buff.
Fading Shot (1) can set up for a Devestating Charge if the enemy won’t do it for you.
There are other useful pistol talents but I’m going to skip those because in the end you’ll be doing far more blade attacks than pistol attacks, because Assassin buffs your sword skill and not your pistol skill. The real reason you’re taking the pistol job is to keep padding your evasion skill to eventually make you virtually untouchable and to unlock the combo weapons.
4) Your Military Officer, while the least useful, is still useful none-the-less. Damning Aim (5) is good for softening up heavily armored foes. Boarding Rush (11) is free buff. Steely Authority (8) is a good enough buff that it’s actually worth spending an action on. While not directly combat related, Call for Surrender (5) as a between-battles ship action can seriously fark over enemy morale, making it that the next wave might all start completely broken and demoralized into helplessness.
Again, you’re real focus is to put everything past level 11 into Pistoller to make your MO more worthwhile in direct combat, and so putting talents in there will help. Since you’re not fighting from position #1, do not take Close-Range Barrage. Even Pinning Shot (1) is a better choice for newbie officers. Raining Steel (1) is natural, of course, because again, free buff. Tricky Gunplay (5) is sometimes useful. Both it’s bleed and debuff are fairly weak, but it does do both at once, so there’s that. What you really want is Rapid Fire (11) which hits both your front row targets and gives them a bleeding DoT as a bonus. Give that one to your Combat Medic, too, when you get the chance.
5) If you’ve decided to skip MO and just put a regular grunt Soldier there, we can work with that too. Roaring Barrels (1) is the default attack for your snubgun wielder in slot #2. Do not take Ferocity – it does more harm than good, yet still considers itself a buff for some reason. Likewise you won’t get a chance to use Supressing Fire so skip it in favor of Covering Fire (5) to knock around your foes and make them lose actions trying to get back into place. Full-Auto is great but can’t be used from postion #2, so sadly we’ll have to skip it (or not, see below). Frontline Brave (8) is a good enough buff to be worth spending an action on.
6) An alternate configuration for those who don’t like snubguns is to move their Combat Medic to positon #2 and their Soldier back to position #3, while giving them a heavy machine gun (from the A5 armory). This is perfectly valid, and allows you to actually use Full Auto (Suppressing Fire is completely inferior to this and should only be taken, if at all, as a filler until you can unlock Full Auto). Keep in mind, however, that doing so greatly increases the risk to your Combat Medic, as they’ll become even more of a favorite target to your foes.
So my advice would be that, even if you’d rather use the heavy machine gun option, at least start with a snubgunner until your Combat Medic has leveled up enough to handle the extra risk of being in position #2 themselves, then swap weapon on the Solider and move them back to position #3.
The rest of the crew
Even though they won’t be participating in direct combat, the rest of your crew still matters in ground combat. Here is where I explain why.
1) Your crew skills directly effect the Danger Rating of spying, patrolling, blockading and exploring. Especially of note is exploring, because bad draws there lead directly to ground combat. The best way to keep your away team alive and happy is to not get them into pointless battles in the first place.
2) Having Advanced Medical facilities on board allows crew who fall in one battle to come back in the next one with a good portion of their hitpoints restored.
3) In ship combat, your Doctor can use their Treat Wounded (1) talent to heal your team between boarding actions.
4) Call for Surrender (MO, 11) can seriously demoralize enemy ship crews, especially when stacked with the regular free demoralize crew action.
5) Boarding Assault (Gunner, 1) can let you board from range 3, but limits post-battle options (see below)
6) Unauthorized Access (Spy 5) swipes free Intel from enemy ships post boarding. Far supperior to the zealot’s Rought Interrogation, as it doesn’t cause any extra rep loss.
7) Blood Game (Bounty Huner 1) allows you to do a free boarding action from any range, but only for mission targets. Limited in usefulness, but it’s there.
8) Your pilots and navigators will need to use both their skills and talents to close ship range for boarding actions, so don’t forsake them.
A note on boarding actions: When doing a Boarding Assault from range 2 or 3 via talent, post boarding actions are limited to the talents of the away team itself. When you board manually from range 1, however, you can use all the available talents of the entire crew. This is by far the better option, so my advice is to only use the Boarding Assault talent to soften up an enemy ship (i.e. take out their four combat type crew in advance) as you close range to finish the job. If you want that free Intel via Unauthorized Access then be wary of accidentally ending fights too soon with smaller ships (with smaller crews) before you can grab it.
Dos and Don’ts
1) Use as many officers as you can spare. Make sure your ship has enough cabins for the ship limit, even if that means tossing something else out. It’s worth it, trust me.
2) Have at least one backup Soldier ready in case one of your Alpha Team gets KO’d in a fight. Two ideally, one with a snubgun and one with a machinegun, so that you’ve got all spaces covered. At least until you get confident that your away team can handle anything. Then fire them and free up the space for someone you can get more use out of.
3) Void Damage is a great way to soften up ships for boarding by knocking out their weapons and engines so they can’t fight back or run away. Radiation Damage directly hits the crew itself, weakening them for boarding actions later. Use both in conjunction to optimize your results.
My favorite tactic is to just keep pounding a ship from max range (5) with an array of fast firing Torpedo Dual-Lancer Arrays, four of them at 2RP each, until they’re completely crippled, then kick in the defense buff talents (if they have any functional weapons left – they often don’t) and close range on them for boarding. The other advantage of this is that if things go sour in this artillery duel I’m already at range 5 and can escape more easily.
4) Heal your team both in and out of combat whenever possible.
5) Buy that dang A5 Weapon Locker already, you cheapskate.
6) Buy Armored Officer Cabins and Armored Barracks next. In fact, these are the only types of ship armor buffs that don’t inhibit ship operation in some other way, and don’t take any extra slots.
7) Suck up to weapons, armor and device dealers. Most of them buy Intel, so either find some laying on the ground, sift it from orbit or just take it from enemy ships. You’ll need at least one spy or explorer on board to do this, so expanding your contacts list helps no matter what your playstyle is.
8) Hire a second doctor as a regular crewmember. For the reasons stated below, your away team doctor will never hit max level as a doctor. This new person can, and it only takes a crew bunk to do it. And adding extra points to the ship’s doctor pool is always a good thing.
Ditto for any non-combat starting skill you picked as a captain if you’re planning on having them be part of your away team, as those non-combat skills will eventually hit a ceiling. By this I mean that, if you’re a spy/pistoleer you will not be able to hit level 32 as a spy after you’ve maxed your pistoleer (which you will want to do as an away team member).
In short, an officer is a jack of three trades but can only be master of one, and if they’re away team material then that one is going to be a combat skill. A crewmember, in comparison, will eventually master their one chosen skill. So your spies, smugglers, merchants, diplomats, explorers, etc, are still good to have on board even if you’ve got an officer or captain with those skills already.
So get enough pilots, navigators, engineers, mechanics and crew dogs to keep your ship flying and no more. There is no point to having any of their skills past the 200% rating on your ship screen. The rest of those spaces should go to your playstyle specialists, such as dedicated merchants, diplomats, smugglers and spies.
1) Use any ship weapon that has neither void or radiation damage, because those will just blow up the whole ship enitrely, leaving you with nothing but debris to salvage and a bored away team.
2) Mix any officer jobs together that give both pistol and rifle. No solider/pistoleer, no sniper/swordsman or other silly mixes.
3) Put your combat medic in position #1.
4) Try to fight xenos without an ExoScout unless you’re really high level or on a really low difficulty. Yes those talents are purely situational, but this is that situation and you will most likely be glad you have them when it happens.
5) Put a Doctor out there if they aren’t a cross-trained officer. They’ll just become the prime target and the only person they’ll be healing is themselves.
6) Train secondary skills more than needed. Your sniper/exoscout doesn’t need exoscout past the minimum to unlock their talents. If you want more exploration skill just hire an actual Explorer to buff up your ship pool further.
In fact, most cross trained officer non-combat roles are actually better served by just finding the actual crew types instead (quartermaster, merchant, dipmlomat) and letting them stay focused. I mention this because the maximum level for any character is 40. For a crewmember, that will get them to the max of 32 in that job. An officer gets 39 job ranks and has to split that amongst however many jobs they have, which means if they max any one job type they’ll only have 7 ranks left over for their secondaries. So there is no real point to cross training other than the talent unlocks – you’re not doing it for the raw job/skill levels (usually, though a combat medic certainly needs the higher evasion that pistoller gets with rank).
In the end you’ll get more results from having two max level regular crew than one non-combat officer trained in two different non-combat jobs. So keep that in mind. In the long run you will most likely want to ditch your starting quartermaster for a regular crewmember type in order to free up that officer slot for something more worthwhile (read: a potential away team member)