Falling Fire

Number 2

Issue two in the log of the unauthorized Wing Commander Clue Book -- Copyright 1983 Stephen R. Marsh

Useful Notes, Details

General Notes and Reminders

Asteroid Fields are best penetrated at 250kps.

Mine Fields can be penetrated at 200kps+ (I've used 280kps and done well).

The following information is important! (Watch your range so you don't waste power).

Laser Range 4,800.

Mass Driver Range 3,000.

Neutron Range 2,500,
best inside 2,000.

You can use the range differential. If your enemy has short range weapons, keep in your range and out of his.

Dumb Fire Range 10,000,
best used inside 2,000,
speed 900 kps,
ESK 11,000.

(Note: if you are going faster than your missiles, you can run into them and knock your own shields down).

Heat Seeking Range 9,000,
best used inside 6,000.

Friend/Foe Range 12,000,
best used inside 8,000,
speed 800 kps ("slow"),
ESK 9,500.

Image Seeking Range 8,000,
best used inside 6,000
(same as heat seeking).

TCS launched 2644. You are in the far future.

Ralari 18,000 tonnes.

Fralthi 20,000 tonnes -- bigger than a Ralari, but not by that much (10%),
28 cm armor.

Dorkir armor not significant.

Salthi are light fighters. They work in teams and strafe in pack action.

Dralthi and Krant are medium fighters with only lasers. Krant have better armor.

Gratha are really heavy fighters compared to human equipment.

Jalthi are really super-heavy fighters. 12 hits kills most ships. A Jalthi gets in 12 hits in two volleys vs six volleys for a Krant.

What do you mean by a "seam" ??

The best use of the word "seam" in mainstream English is in football games. The word is interchanged with "crease." The "seam" in football is an available path for a running back to travel and obtain good yardage. The seam in Wing Commander is the optimized path or route for the character to travel to maximize kills/victory conditions.

Of course not all football plays have a seam set up so that even the best running back has plays where good yardage is not obtained. Not every running back hits even the best seams perfectly.

Wing Commander missions have randomizers built in to some action spheres. Those randomizers result in seams appearing from time to time. When the random choice of offense and the random location of the enemy starships matters (often the randomizer makes no difference), that creates the possibility of a seam.

Seams that make a difference generally occur when you must rescue a friendly ship that is under attack when you enter the action sphere. Ideally you move up to maximum speed, strafe and taunt the enemy on the way to the ship and then go head to head with the ships on the other side.

Ideally enemy ships run on full afterburners away from your missiles (thus taking them out of the fight for a while) and come back at normal cruising speed. Ideally firing a missile causes the enemy ships to break off (that is the general rule -- though not always) for a moment and ideally you don't miss on your head-to-head strafing run.

The optimized run against heavy fighters (vs Dralthi or Salthi where you just blow them all up...) ideally lets you hit them while they are pounding at different parts of the ship's shields. Your wingman peels one off in a dogfight. One runs from your missile. One breaks to your taunt and one is your target to kill as it breaks off (natural veer response to a missile) and then goes back to the primary target. If it breaks away, you let it go.

You then focus on causing whoever is attacking the target to veer off by head-to-head engagements and missile use (hoping they'll either run or go into a wobble and recover). Your wingman and the remnants of the ship's escort finish off the attackers.

Sometimes it is easier than that (e.g. with Angel vs. the Jalthi in S4 M1, the Gimle System). Lock a Spiculum on a far target and fire, causing it to avoid. Then focus on the nearest target, knock down the rear shields, send a heat seeker up their tailpipes (let blaster build up), then go on to intercept (Spiculum, Pilum) whoever is pounding the target or who has come back while Angel kills one. She'll kill two Jalthi and you'll get two.

If the randomizer sets up, it goes almost effortlessly. The first time I played it I was chewed up by the Salthi (ouch), lost some guns and such, and still won -- receiving my first medal. Getting chewed up, coming in and saving the day anyway really made me feel like a hero. Since then I've come through in perfect condition and lost. It all depends on the "seam" -- the opportunity randomly created in the scenario's set-up.

(Note that a Seam differs from a flaw that can be exploited or a designer's mistake. Seams do not need to be random, in which case they just need to be recognized. However, most of Wing Commander's seams are set up or affected by the program's randomizers.)

And yes, I've saved the Ralari several times. Alas, I've had it blown to bits even more times.

Post Scripts One -- Bhurak Starkiller

You can also get Bhurak by hitting him incoming with a volley of mass driver blasts and a Dart and then locking a heatseeker on him while he is temporarily "spun" by the Dart. That finished him off on a pass -- I'd thought it was possible, but was still surprised to do it.

With a total of only 8 kills on the first two missions (only 3 on the second), the character gets both the silver star and the promotion to first lt. At mission 5 (The Bhurak mission), a total of only 26 kills and both the silver star and the promotion to Captain. With more medals and kills, Captain can come as late as mission 8 (the Dakhath mission). If your mission results are "wins," then promotions seem to be mainly weighted against the amount of damage your ships take when you fly them. Low damage, fast promotions.

Postscript Two -- Saving the Ralari

Excerpts from Counselor's Mission Log

Kurasawa System (S9 M2)

You launch 74,116 km from the target. Immediately set to 450kps. You've plenty of fuel so hit the afterburners right out of the launch bay (do not engage autopilot at any time) and keep your speed at about 1100 - 1200 kps.

Somewhere between 51,138 and 48,001 km to target the radar picks up four Salthi immediately followed by an asteroid encounter. Veer slightly and hit the afterburners. Keep the slant and then tuck in (in a partial slide) towards the Salthi, locking on a target (to avoid losing the target in the traffic) and killing the Salthi one at a time.

The slide also keeps the processor/stack load down so that the computer will register your "fire" commands. If you just go straight in, the program will fail to pick up that you are firing about 75% of the time because of the way it handles the stack. In that situation, the Salthi pound you and you don't get to shoot back!

The asteroids are not really a hazard as long as you watch for them. I've run this encounter probably at least fourteen times and never hit a rock -- using afterburners full out every time. (I have seen Salthi explode on the rocks, so I know it can happen). Do not drop your speed below 450kps, use the afterburners freely. You should be able to kill at least three of the Salthi before Bossman kills one. You may get all four.

When the last Salthi blows up, hit N and fire the afterburners to push the ship towards the Ralari. Keep the afterburners punched. At about 30,000 km the last of the asteroids is gone and at about 26,000 to 24,000 km the autopilot light goes on. Do not engage the autopilot!! Engaging the autopilot loses the sequence.

Somewhere between 12,748 km and 15,124 km the Ralari, a single Rapier escort and four Gratha appear. Distance seems to make a difference with 12,000 km being bad and 15,000+ km being good. 14,000 km is ok.

I've tried targeting the closest with a Spiculum and telling my wingman to attack my target. That has never worked. Also, for some reason, on this encounter only, Major Chen may not attack without directions to break and attack. Make certain to issue a break and attack order and also double check to see that he has done so.

(Few things match the frustration of blowing the last Gratha simultaneously with the last Gratha killing the Ralari on its final volley and then to hear "confirm my attack sir" from the wing man).

The Gratha are in two wings. The far wing is engaging the Ralari's escort. The near wing is heading in to strafe the Ralari. You will attack the near wing (you can find the near wing easily because the autotarget identifies one of the Gratha in it as your current target). Afterburner, break and attack. Head for the near (blinking target) Gratha, then tuck in to hit the Gratha from behind. Knock down shields and then launch a Pilum for the kill. Repeat on the other Gratha. Guns to blow down the shields, missiles to kill the Gratha.

Then break off for the other two Gratha, engaging the nearest. Hit the shields and use the Spiculum (or a Dart) as you close. With luck the Spiculum will hurt it bad or kill it from a front hit.  Regardless it will "spin" it (which is kind of like a stun and stops it from firing for just a moment). If the Spiculum has not killed it, pull in behind and gun it down. If the pass and the spin has put it front on, use a Dart.

Then head for the last Gratha. Kill it, watching out for your "help" (so that your wing men don't gun you down). Generally your wing will already have killed the last Gratha at this time.

Alternatively, on a winning series, the first Pilum takes off (before a tailing position -- in order to "spin" the Gratha and make it miss a couple shots) and I start hammering the first Gratha. It continues on and the second Pilum is ready to fire about the time the rear shields drop. The Pilum blows that Gratha away and I'm on the tail of the next. By the time the Spiculum locks, the rear shields are down and some damage is done. The Spiculum kills the second Gratha.

Going head to head on an intercept, a couple of volleys are followed by a Dart at close range, blowing another Gratha. Then it is a dance to close with the last Gratha which the other two Rapiers have been hammering.

Now that I have the method down, I save the Ralari and get the six or more kills necessary for the silver medal (why wasn't this a gold medal??) about 50% of the time (unless I hit a bad string of 12,000 km appearances). Collisions with Gratha have killed me more than anything else since I worked out the seam. Occasionally, when things are tight, I'll ram a Gratha (if it is damaged and your shields and armor are at full strength, a ram will destroy a Gratha while only damaging the ramming medium fighter -- which loses armor, some weapons and has its shields knocked down by the encounter -- better be desperately tight).

Venice, Starbase

Counselor finished the series with 2 Bronze, 5 Silver, 3 Gold medals, one Golden Sun and the "medal of honor" equivalent.