Sunday, 13 April 2014

Tactical Scouting in Wormhole Space

This post will be looking at scouting for targets in wormhole space; it will not be looking at whether engaging those targets is a good idea or not, but at the mechanics of how to find them and get into a position to attack them.

On entering a new system

After entering a new system and bookmarking the way out, a scout should hold their jump cloak and do a directional scan. The d-scan results need to be assessed quickly and some key pieces of information gathered from them:
  • Are there any player owned stations? If so, are they active
  • Are there wrecks present? If so, someone is either currently running or has just finished running sites in the wormhole
  • Are there ships present?
If there are no ships visible, the scout should immediately break their jump cloak and turn on their normal cloak; this ensures that if any ships get into range afterwards they won't have a chance of catching the scout on their directional scanner. Prior to launching any probes, the scout should check if the system has celestial bodies or sites outside of directional scan range, and if so warp around them system and verify that there are no ships present there.

If there are no ships active in the system, then it's on with the task of scanning out any further links or sites of interest. If there are ships active, then it's time to work out where they are in the system. There are a loose set of rules for quickly identifying where ships are likely to be given their type and other:
  • If wrecks are on scan, someone has been running a site. Use directional scan on the solar system map or in the world using the system sensor overlay to determine which site the wrecks are at. If the wrecks are at a position that is not co-incident with a cosmic anomaly, scan probes will be needed to find it - if the site still exists. This will be covered in more detail in the 'Finding targets at a cosmic signature' section.
  • If a mobile tractor unit is on d-scan someone will have been, and may still be, running a site - even if there aren't wrecks visible. Many people will use a mobile tractor unit to collate wrecks to salvage while they orbit it and kill sleepers with longer ranged weapons.
  • If there are any Mining Barges or Ventures on directional scan, use a narrow-band scan to verify whether they are at any ore sites.
  • Use directional scan towards planets and moons to pin point the position of hostile player owned stations, and verify if there are any ships at them.
With some practice (and assuming a reasonable number of signatures) it is perfectly feasible to do this all within the 60-second limit imposed by the jump cloak timer. Bear in mind that the spawning of the inbound wormhole into the system may well have alerted the people inside the system.

Finding targets at a cosmic signature

The harder part of finding targets is when they are at a de-spawned site, or at a cosmic anomaly. If the site that the targets are at has de-spawned, combat probes will be needed to scan down their location by getting a hit on the ships in question. If the targets are at a cosmic signature, core probes can be used to identify their location. In either case, the key is to have your probes visible on directional scan for as short a period as possible.

The best way of having your probes on directional scan for as short a time as possible is to identify the position of the targets without having your probes out at all. Use the directional scanner to identify their position in space, progressively narrowing the angle and altering the range to get a solid fix on their position. It can help to warp to multiple places in the system to help triangulate the target's location. When you think you have a reasonable fix, hit the 'scan' button, and hopefully you'll have a solid hit on the target's location in the first pass. Time taken to verify the target's position before hitting the scan button is well invested; if two (or three) scans with probes are needed to narrow down the target's position, they will most likely be long gone. As soon as you have a fix on the signature the targets are at or one of their ships, either warp the probes out of directional scan range in the system, recall them, or self destruct them.

Getting eyes on the targets

Once targets have been found the safest way to get into a position to attack them is to warp the signature of the site or ship at 100km. This will not be in warp range, as it will be too close, but you can bookmark the position 100km off, then warp back to your original position and warp to you 100km bookmark at 100km. This should easily put you beyond the minimum warpable distance - 150km - and allow you to select a location to warp to in order to end up in point range of the target. Wrecks make excellent warp destinations, especially if the target in question is salvaging as they go - although it should be noted that you cannot warp to a wreck that currently has a tractor beam active on it.

And now you get to find out whether that target is a trap or not!

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