The Blue Meanies

Force Composition for Silent Death Fleets

by MXsavant 04/21/2005

Meanie Blizzards

When I started playing Silent Death, I probably made more mistakes in assembling my squadrons than in any other area. But since it was only one of many areas where I raised the art of the screwup to new heights, it took awhile to understand the problems and advantages of wise force selection.

A number of years ago I decided to do an experiment to test the effectiveness of a fleet consisting only of stock ships from Silent Death: The Next Millennium and Silent Death: Operation Drydock. I wanted to examine claims from some quarters that the newer house ships then becoming available were too big and bad for stock ships to have a chance of winning. Force selection turned out to be one of the key elements in this enquiry. Eventually, the experiment evolved into a “mercenary” force that acquired the name “The Blue Meanies”. Here is a breakdown of the ships comprising this fleet:

Meanie Epping

Force Breakdown:
Blizzard 16x
Kosmos II 8x
Nighthawk 4x
Epping 2x

The remainder of this article will explain why I choose this mixture of forces, and how these principles can inform your fleets as well.

When you choose which ships to use, remember that your squadron must act as a unit. This is a lot easier if you restrict the number of ship types to a minimum. You also need to be absolutely clear about the role each type of ship is going to play. Different kinds of fleets will lend themselves to different kinds of tactical situations. The Meanies use a kind of pincer tactic in which the Blizzards peel off on both sides and close on the enemy flanks before releasing all of their torpedoes en masse. The effect is to create a very large kill zone that is extremely hard on larger, slower, but heavily armed gunboats and heavy fighters that often make up the nucleus of an opposing force.

Because your unit must fight as a team, you need to engineer it so that it will resist scattering. One way to do this is to try to keep the speeds of the ships as close as possible. The Blizzards have a Drive of 18, the Kosmos II has a Drive of 17. The Nighthawks are a little slower at Drive 15 and the Eppings even slower, but they have a different role to play, which we will discuss later. The reasoning here is that if you have fast ships and slow ships, in the heat of a game you will be tempted to move your fast ships, well, fast. It is very easy for your ships to sort themselves across the table by their speeds.

Another consideration is the kinds of weapons you use. I decided to be consistent with lots of disruptor guns, which are easy to field in large numbers thanks to the low point costs of the Blizzard and the Kosmos II. Both of these ships also have a decent load of missiles or torpedoes. Torpedoes, especially, are extremely handy for disrupting an opposing force (you can read more about torpedo tactics in Silent Death: Fighter Tactics Manual).

A third factor is to engineer your force to incorporate a “one-two punch”. In practice, what happens is that when using the main force the Nighthawks draw most of the fire, at least at first, which allows the Blizzards to set up their kill zone almost unnoticed and the Kosmos IIs can lay down missile barrages with less resistance. But, if an opponent decided to concentrate on my flanking Blizzards or lurking Kosmoi, four Nighthawks in formation with sextuple splattergun mounts supported by two Epping gunboats could cause plenty of trouble. The idea is for one portion of your force to play the feint and the other the knockout, but if circumstances require, you should be able to throw the knockout punch with the feinting arm.

Meanie Kosmoi

One final note. Get the best pilots and crews that circumstances will allow. However, keep in mind that a pilot with top piloting and gunnery dice need only cost 16 points (Pilot 7, Gunnery 9). This does give up some on the initiative roll, but if you have at least one pilot with higher piloting skills, you can make up for this shortfall.

So, how did the experiment work? As of this writing (April 2005), I have never lost using the Blue Meanies, and each win has been pretty convincing. Give some time and deliberation to your squadrons. Take note of what works and what doesn’t. Most players don’t have a clue about why they choose what they do, or they don’t consider all the angles. Try these ideas and see if it doesn’t give you an edge in your next game.