Falling Fire

Number 4

The Phoenix Ship Rutter for Privateer, Part 1 -- Copyright 1994 Stephen R. Marsh

Privateer Rutter

Pre-Plot, Part 1

In the pre-plot time period you can spend all of your time in the Troy system. This is the time to sell your missiles, then the launcher, buy dual meson blasters and a torpedo launcher (with torpedoes -- enemies early on fly straight at you). With the extra cash you can buy iron, tungsten and gems (at 920 or less) to take to Helen and food, lumber and furs (at 280 or less) to take to Achilles.

At this time you upgrade your engines, upgrade shields, move up to tachyon blasters, buy a cargo expansion and get practice fighting various ships (mostly Talons). While you can't "win" missions with invulnerability on, you can trade (and make a profit) and get the hang of the game and mechanics. Think of it as a flight simulator.

You join the Guilds, buy a full set of maps, upgrade equipment, and invest heavily in your Tarsus. The more cash you have, the more opponents you draw in random missions. As a result, you need to shelter cash in things like gemstones, ship upgrades and radioactives. Note that on the up side, more opponents means more payment on missions.

Unfortunately, for the most part, your sale price for ship upgrades is 60% to 75% of the purchase price. On the other hand, the upgrades tend to make life easier. Also, the maps, jump drive and scanner follow you when you buy a new ship. Buy a Hunter 6i early on, but go for the best as soon as you have the money. (See the appendix).

Save the game every time you land. I saved with Alt1 when I landed and Alt2 when I had a full load of missions and cargo. If I had made a mistake (happened the time I ended up hunting Kilrathi medium fighters in a Tarsus light scout...), I could cure. Also, if the commodity exchange was really bad, or the missions worse, loading Alt1 up again let me have a new randomized slate (the same result as you get by taking off and landing -- only quicker). I used it three or four times, but it made me feel better to have the option.

If you measure the reward to the time consumed, it is probably best to stay in the Troy system. One shuttles between Nav 6 (Helen) and Nav 2 (with an occasional jaunt to Nav 4). Always take at least two or three missions, in system, as you shuttle back and forth with trade goods. Gems one way, furs and wood the other way. Avoid Kilrathi encounters while you are in the Tarsus. If you have one, run, sliding, to a base.

Which will teach you the first key to winning, probably by accident (I got sucked into a base just before I finished off a lone pirate on a mission). If you get into the automatic landing zone and don't immediately pull out of it, the base will pull you in to safety. You can have a pard of Kilrathi, a flock of pirates and a gaggle of Retros on your tail, and when you launch, they'll be gone.

The second key is to always check your Nav computer for the mission guidelines. Often a Defend mission will have "go to" in red, with the rest in yellow. Only the red instructions count. While I do not recommend it, I have seen players launch into a defend base, run away, zoom through all the Nav points on a scout five, and then zip into a base they were supposed to defend. They got all the credits. (I generally do not advocate tooling a game too much because it detracts from the fun of play).

The third key is to learn how to use missiles and how to resupply. You will find that not all bases have ship's dealers. This is especially true of pirate bases. When traveling, find out and note in your log just where the dealers are. They are the only ones who will sell you missiles and the only ones who will repair "externals" (stuff on the hull -- i.e. your blasters, missile launchers and tractor beam the repair robot can't reach).

When you buy a new ship it does not come "stock." It is only a frame to hang things on. (A Tarsus is a 5,000 credit frame, a Centurion is a 200,000 credit frame). Not only all weapons, but engines, all armor and shields have to be bought new. Which means you have to have a fair amount of cash. Which while increasing the number of opponents on missions, also increases the amount of money a mission pays.

Pre-Plot, Part 2

You do not need to hit the bars a lot -- just enough to keep posted on the rumors. Most relate to plot events. The rumors will upgrade and change as the plot progresses. An interesting quirk is that almost all the bartenders and the ship dealers are modeled from the same facial stock as your character (broader, older, balder, etc.). I took it as a moral play on what happens to Privateers who do not succeed.

Eventually you will want to be in a Centurion, Tachyon Cannon, twin missile launchers, a turret (with tractor beam) and a level 3 scanner. B&S Omniscience is the way to go on the scanner (and a warning of expenses to come).

Depending on your combat style, Ionic Pulse Cannon on the inside slots are a good idea. Otherwise Neutron Guns or Tachyon Cannon in that slot. For the rear turret, eventually you'll want two Plasma Guns or two neutron guns.

While you can toggle weapons off for power management, it is extremely rare for that to make any kind of sense. Usually the extra punch is more important that having more chances to hit. On the other hand, being able to toggle down shield levels is important. With engine level 3 and shield 3, you can run out of power on afterburners. Toggle down to shield 2 and you can rid the afterburners non-stop and regenerate power at the same time.

You don't use the rear turrets, but two Plasma Guns can always be sold for a lot of credits (120,000 to be exact). They also swallow a lot of damage if anything penetrates the rear shields. You want Neutron guns or plasma guns in those rear slots on the Centurion for the sole purpose of soaking up damage. You need rear guns back there to swallow damage. Also, while it is rare, sometimes pirates eject or leave cargo behind when their ships are destroyed. A tractor beam does not really break even, unless you count the fact that it also swallows damage (quirk: a tractor beam can be mounted in the place of a missile launcher, but not vice versa. Drat). Tractor pirate wreckage in (if you have space. Generally they do not have stuff as valuable as your cargo).

Don't run a lot (if at all) and take advantage of random Retros to practice your combat skills. Talons are a small ship and hard to hit (compared to hitting things in Wing Commander). You will also get some good multi-opponent experience of fighting without a wing to cover you, and fighting nimble opponents who try and wedge you. You'll learn a good deal about missiles.

I prefer IR missiles since you can fire them head on and you can count on them to chase the designated target. In any combat, you generally want to destroy your enemies one at a time. Lock on one, kill that one, and then lock on the next.

Pre-Plot, Part 3

Final notes.

In a Centurion, always set your speed to 500 except in asteroid belts (where 200 to 220 works better). Combat at 500 is markedly different than at 250. Ride the afterburners. From time to time, practice using the F8 (function key 8) chase view to run through asteroids). In Wing Commander I never found the chase view to be of any advantage (the algorithm for the meteors was such that the "arcade" view did not do much for me). In Privateer, for a critical point in the plot, the chase view is critical. You can double your safe speed in asteroid belts (and yes, it is not a visual illusion, asteroids really are attracted to you based on speed, and they do chase you some times. Interesting algorithm).

When you finally buy decent shields, learn to crowd Talons and to ram or brush them. Your shields are reduced, their's are blown down and they take structural damage. Fly the Centurion not only enough to upgrade it for the plot, but also enough to get a good feel for it in combat. The number of missions it takes is a good number for training.

The Galaxy and Orion are pretty useless. It would have been much better if you could have bought a Demon instead of the Orion.

Before the plot begins, get a feel for Kilrathi (a Centurion is a fine ship to nail some in, vs a Tarsus which with twenty missiles can't count on taking two of them). The Kilrathi ships fly differently in perspective, especially from that of a humble scout ship. A heavy fighter is a different story.

Finally, learn to gauge energy usage, afterburners and shield levels. At times you will want to run with enough shield to protect against random hits and enough energy for full afterburners and shield regeneration. (The ideal would be an engine level four or five in the Centurion -- not an option, but an ideal combination).

Finally, give in to the hints, the rules book, and the rest and head for New Detroit System (with attention to cargo loads, you can make a real killing hauling radioactives and gems to refineries and refinery planets) and go into the bar, looking for the most famous fixer in the plot, the infamous Mr. Sandoval.

Sandoval A

This is a simple mission, no real tricks. You'll get to experience long jumps, look at some ares the plot goes over, and deal with fixers who pay you when you return to the original base, not on delivery.

This starts the plot for you. Don't ever bank on the money from a job from a fixer (only the guilds guarantee, though mission computer work rarely fails to pay off). Keep those rear guns and some cargo to make a buck and to sell to buy more missiles.

Tayla A

Then, the plot gets hot ... smuggling contraband -- a shoot on detection offense in Gemini.

You have to take this job to get into the plot. Sorry. Be warned, while Tayla promises you immunity to pirates, pirate immunity lasts only within the appropriate system and only on the legs of the mission where you are carrying pirate cargo. Any mission computer foes will not observe immunity (you can get jobs scouting the Nav points you have to jump through, but they are not necessarily safe).

Tayla B

(In the clue book it says you'll probably have to run this one more than once. Not so. You just have to follow the basic rules).

This mission is pretty easy, really. Just run for it as fast as you can. Don't wait to see what kind of craft the hostiles have, just run. Hit the Nav points at a set speed of 500 with afterburners roaring. Do not slow down until you head for the asteroid field in Pentonville.

Make sure to arrive with a full stock of missiles and a load of trade goods. On the way back to New Constantinople you are fair game for pirates. Remember that if you can slide into a base's "landing zone," when the autopilot takes over you are safe.

Tayla C

Brilliance to New Constantinople and then return to Oakham.

Start: Pentonville/Oakham (no ship dealer, no repairs or missiles!) Nav 1 at 200kps (asteroids) to hidden (shift to 500 kps) to Nav 2. Jump to 119CE. 119CE Nav 4 (all encounters either Retros or Military) to Nav 1 (Retros & Military)

Jump to Junction; Junction Nav 6 to Nav 5; Jump to New Constantinople; NC Nav 4 to Nav 5

(Alternate routes:

All begin with Pentonville to 119CE.

119CE to Junction

or 119CE to XXN-1927 [remember this route]

Junction to NC XXN-1927 to ND, ND to NC

XXN-1927 to NC

XXN-1927 to Metsor to Newcastle to NC

The Best route, with the fewest asteroids is 119CE Nav 3, jump to XXN-1927 Nav 6, XXN Nav 6 to Nav 3, jump to NC).

Run for it, do not fight. Confeds try to kill you as soon as they detect the drugs (they take drug running seriously), but just slide past them on afterburners. Watch for the Stilettos. You'll hit heavy Confed intervention no matter which route you take. The bribes? Hah! The Confeds do not take bribes. Do not slow down to find this out, just run and count on your engines to save you.

It is possible to try and dump your cargo, pass the scans, tractor beam it back in and go through that routine regularly. In a Galaxy or an Orion you will have to follow this course.

Tayla D

This time you have a secret compartment to fool the Confed scanners. If you didn't kill any military craft, you are ok with them now. They keep track only of those privateers that kill a Confed ship. However, it isn't all roses. In the asteroids, as you leave the base, you are intercepted by William Riordian (Tayla's ex-boyfriend in a Centurion). While he talks, get a missile lock on him. Then ace him immediately, using missiles freely. If you wait, he first attacks with three Talons. If you survive and he isn't toasted he eventually shows up with five pro aces in talons ... You can take your time while returning (stop and pick up trade goods for Oakham/pirate base).

It is tempting, if you have a use for the money (I did, as I started the plot without all the upgrades I suggest) to take a delivery mission to NC and a Scout Mission for a Nav point on the way. This earned me a substantial sum, but also resulted in mission opponents in addition to the plot and the random encounters. Locate bases, try out the Pleasure Planet, work trade goods, listen to rumors (time for a new crop). Reload on missiles.

Roman Lynch A

Tayla splits on you and tells you that Roman Lynch is the guy you have to see to find out what she promised to tell you. You have to make it to NC from Oakham, with all pirates hungry for your cargo and you. A full load of missiles will help you get out of Pentonville and away from the asteroids. (Fighting multiple Talons in an asteroid belt is a no joy situation).

Roman's job is for you to deliver message to a pirate at Pentonville Nav 2. The pirate will attack you for delivering the message. You can ace him when he attacks or jump out and leave him hanging. He will attack you and the dialog is interesting.

Roman Lynch B

In this you need to deliver a legitimate cargo in the face of a mercenary who will try to stop you. Time to remember that Demons carry photon torpedoes. NC to Siva (Rikel Nav 3). NC to ND (Nav 9 to Nav 6) to Rikel (Nav 1, asteroids, so slow down to 200 or so before the jump. At Rikel you will go to Nav 3 after your encounter).

Do not practice pirate and retro killing on the way to Rikel. Don't fall below sixteen missiles or so. (I had to rerun this one because I had only ten missiles left, had a little bad luck and barely lost to the last battered merc).

At Nav 1, get a target lock during the dialogue and then unload everything on Kroiz, while remembering to always avoid head-ons with Demons & their photon torpedoes (tail them or at least avoid head-on patterns). Rikel 4 has a base to reload missiles at.

Remember, after a plot mission you can use invulnerability to move on down the road. This will come in handy later.

Roman Lynch C

This time you are running an escaped felon. The Confeds are eventually on to you and treat felon running like other contraband. NC to Romulus (Castor). Nav 2 at Romulus is the hard one, filled with Confed ships, light killing Stilettos and heavy Broadswords, but hit the landing zone and you can skip the multiple confed waves. Zip and run here. NC Nav 5 to Nav 4 (Junction). Junction Nav 5 to Nav 4 (Castor). Castor Nav 2 (INTERCEPT WAVES) to Nav 1/Romulus. Easy.

Roman Lynch D

Miggs is out "resolving a personnel problem" -- i.e. getting ready to ambush you. Again, lock while he blusters, then toast him, remembering that you can ram Talons at will (if you have your front shields powered up).

After the ambush land at the Mission site. No joy there (and no payment). The next step is to go to Oxford. In this mission your flight should be NC to Newcastle (the ambush is always there no matter how you get to Newcastle so take the direct route. In this game it is a waste of time to try and find a path around an ambush. It will always be there. Toast the four Talons, use sixteen - twenty missiles and don't let them sandwich you. [Actually, it took me ten missiles, but be ready to fire freely].).


Newcastle to Metsor to XXN-1927 to Oxford

Newcastle to NC to ND to XXN-1927

or Saxtogue to Oxford

Newcastle to NC XXN-1927 to Oxford. I took the last route as Metsor has just jump points and encounters. Saxtogue does have a ship dealer, but so do the other stops.

Oxford (Masterson) A

A work for tuition program. For this one, load up on missiles. The mission is to defend a Drayman (with Salmon Rushdie on board) at Nav 3 and get it to Nav 4. Ram Retro Talons and use missiles freely. Do not land until the last Talon is down. It took me 14 missiles (but I only ran it once). The Drayman pilot won't land until you do, so it can be iffy as if a Retro is lurking, it will pop up and swat the Drayman while you land. Contrary to the usual protocol, the mission computer is useless to determine when all the Retros are down. When you've sat around Oxford long enough to get bored, it is time to land.

Oxford B

Stop the data pirates -- the Black Rhombus -- you've heard of them in the bars. They are at Oxford Nav 1. Ignore everything except for the Galaxy, which should be the target of multiple IR missiles (FF missiles can go astray in this sort of mission, hitting other targets). No need to kill the escort, just keep sliding past them, then go to Nav 2 for help to peel them off your backside or home to Oxford to hide. (The remaining Nav point has some free lancing pirates who will attack you just for fun. If you are broke, and feeling ambitious, kill them all and then use the tractor beam to pick up some cargo). It is good practice to nail the escort (which comes in waves), but not essential to the plot. Note the difference from Wing Commander where you would have to hit the escort first to have any chance of success.

Oxford C

Another escort Drayman mission, but you are the target of mercenaries in Demons (they want to hijack, not blow it up) (This is the shipment of rare books you've heard about in bars). Four Demons, then two. Ram the second group, keep away from head to heads (Demons carry Photon torpedoes). Consider heat seekers for this mission if you have trouble avoiding head to head clashes.

Oxford D

Meet a Drayman at the Nav point and defend that Drayman from five pirate Talons (they come in waves). This is definitely a missile lock and fire mission, ram at will. Stay close as the pirates will close in and destroy the Drayman if you get too far away. 13 IR missiles did it easily, but watch the NAV computer and stay close (when the mission requirement goes to dull red it is time to land so that the Drayman will follow you).

You get to go into the library. It gives you the clue you need to go on, which is...

Go to see Professor Monkhouse on Palan. (Heck, Tayla should have told you that ). Oxford (SE) to Palan (NW) (a long haul). Oxford 4 to 3; XXN-1927 1 (stop at 7 or 5 for trade) 2 (this is not a plot mission so you can stop at bases on the way); New Detroit 3 (5 for trade or save game) 8; Perry 5 (stop at 9 for sight seeing) 8 (safe); Tingerhoff 4 (Kilrathi generally found here)(ship dealer at 5) to 2 (Retros here); Palan 1 to 4 (lots of Demons, this is not the time to kill them, plot doesn't allow you to clean them all out now), abort to 5 (refinery, dealer, fixer). Go to the bar for the fixer. (I slid into Palan 4 and, being ahead of the plot, had to go to Basra anyway).

Basra 1

Ten Demon class ships to fight. Watch out for the photon torpedoes. Starts with 4, then 3, then 3 more in the last wave. You'll note that waves often start when you destroy the n-1 ship (thus if it starts with 4, when the 3rd ship is destroyed, the next wave comes on) rather than the Wing Commander standard of appearing on the nth ship. 12 missiles should get you through this encounter. Keep on the afterburners and crowd them. Remember, you are fighting light fighters. They'll rip anything but a Centurion apart.

When I replayed the game in the Tarsus this was where I had to give in and buy a Centurion.

Basra 2

Stop the reinforcements. Nav 1 has three Demons. Save your missiles for the second wave. The second wave is 4 Centurions. Fanatic Aces. 19 missiles was about right, also had 3 cr. damage to armor. Centurions can be tough.

Basra 3

Break the blockade. 3 Demons, 2 Demons, 2 Demons. You have wingmen. It is easy to slide into the planet if the fight gets boring or you intersect the air space. It is ok. The survivors run for it.

Basra 4

Looks simple. Your mission is to take Morehouse back to Basra. This time he'll go with you. This mission features lots of Kilrathi. The clue book says they should come in waves, mine came all at once. You can run to the Nav point (to go around the asteroids) and then slide in at Basra. Shields at 2 allows you enough power for uninterrupted afterburner flight.

(I ran the set on a 486SX with local bus video. This scenario is one of two where the game bogged down and started dropping frames. When it drops frames it isn't any fun and so I just ran rather than trying to fight).

Next clue sends you on to Rygannon (Palan NW to Rygannon, extreme NW). Palan 5 to 3 (pirates); Xytani 3 (asteroids) 1 (lots of enemies) (Head to 30 k out of Nav 2 to bypass asteroids); Rygannon 1 to 2 (hostile bounty hunters -- they hold a grudge for the fact they lost buddies in the Palan blockade -- sore losers indeed).

Taryn Cross 1

Explore new area. You take contract work with the Exploratory Services (the guys who built all those Tarsus class ships and equipped them with lasers and mass drivers). R2 to asteroids R3 jump sphere; NAV 1 (Kilrathi random encounter possible) 2 (asteroids, four pirates) 3 (eight pirates, in waves) 4 (asteroids). I found myself wondering what sustained all the pirates who where in there.

Taryn Cross 2

Explore new area; Rygannon 2 to 3 (250kps/asteroids. no encounters); Delta 1 to 5 (just run past any encounters); Beta 1 to *2* (* means asteroids) to 3 (crazy pilot, will attack you even if you move away from him) to *4* and then home. 4 to 1, 5 to 1, *3* to 2.

Taryn Cross 3

When you finish TC2, if you go back to base and do not report in to Taryn, you can go over to the Kilrathi border (any of the Blockade Point areas or beyond) and practice killing Kilrathi. If you've killed a Confed ship, go there and kill Kilrathi ships until the Confed no longer identifies you as hostile. (You can travel because you don't have a mission until you see her again and accept). Of course, if you save the game regularly, you can go over and when you've had enough practice, reload where saved. Simulator practice. I didn't (guess I'm too lazy), but sometimes it helps.

TC3 is the hardest mission of the campaign if you have not been practicing your asteroid runs. If you can do asteroid belts at 400 to 500 kps, you'll find it easier. The mission is to explore a new area. It is at limit of jump fuel range (3 out, 3 back, 6 total). Kilrathi heaven. Reconfigure for Kilrathi hunting. (See notes at end).

R2 to *3* (safe); D1 to 5 (run); B1 to 3 (lets you run away from B1 without running into asteroids) to *5* (4 fanatical pirate aces). From 3 to 5 do not autopilot. Stop at 12000m. Lure the pirates who appear out, kill them in open space. Or, lock missiles on the closest, fire, and run the asteroids at 500kps. (You should hit the jump sphere with no damage, shields intact and 18 missiles). (It is easy if you've learned how to run asteroid belts). Jump to Gamma System (I would have called it kitten or something like that, a bad joke on what you find there). The big dust-up.

[I found it a long grind to get here following the clue book. No one I know could talk their way past the B5 pirates <the books all recommend it> and it is a long, complicated mess to ease up, lure them out, and kill them. It takes a lot of time to get to the Kilrathi in the asteroid belt you jump into. Once you get through that point intact it is fine, but what a drag getting there if you went by the book. I really wanted a save mission point at the jump sphere. -- Yes, this took me more than one try, the only mission besides Oxford D that took any real extra work--]