Friday, 23 December 2016

Elite Dangerous Space Bar - The 2016 Eagle Races

Hey space cadets what is going on? I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the Space Bar. This week we'll be talking about the social highlight of the month... The Eagle Races!

The event was hosted on the NULL discord channel and a lot of fun was had all round. The route took us in a loop around the farseers base on Decait. Simple as the route looks from above, there are more than a couple of hazards to face. Starting with the four bridges at farseers... and ending with the sportsmanlike conduct of the evil eagles dropping mines and missiles.

Aside from some ganking pirates in Frame Shift near the sun, we all made a good arrival. After the first heat, the race was covered by a friendly Corvette who happened by - Nothing like a bit of muscle to make you feel safe during a murder race.
A well done has to be given to Loner Haddock who manages the bridge of death in his Corvette... At a fraction of eagle speed but he still boosted through.

Thankyou, Cmdr Loner Haddock

The Eagle has landed

The eagle races was a great event, and a great chance to talk smack with the jive turkeys from NULL. Despite my affinity for my Orange python, I managed to squeeze into a little eagle, but seemed to be the only pilot opted for "The Blue One" With a variety of racing red, jet black, and sporting stripes showing all round.
Just as varied as the cosmetics was the engineering that went into the racers. Sandpup has specified this was a murder race, and each heat slowly dissolved into a free for all where the last man standing became more important than the first across the finish line. This makes the choice of shields and hardpoints

I went for a "stock" Class-A Eagle, with sub-spec class-Ds in every slot I didn't need, like FSD. Every component was picked for low-mass high-speed... and then I added shields and hardpoints.
My hardpoints of choice was missiles, because I knew I wouldn't have the fastest thrusters on the grid so there should always be a ready target in view - and if there wasn't, I was winning. Three missile impacts can really ruin your day in an eagle and it was a good pick, but eagles are hard to hit.

If it was an Eagle speedway, obviously I'd lose the hardpoints and consider Bi-Weave shields. You are likely to hit the canyon walls a little and having that faster regen may well be better than having the higher strength. I feel my Shield Cell Bank was wasted ... It's a lightweight component but you really have to have your wits about you to pop a shield in a canyon murder race. There was talk of running shieldless - the insurance companies must love us.

Discussions were had on dirty-drive vs clean, which maybe make more of a difference on the speedway then the murder race. Being able to outrun your opponent helps, but staying alive is tip-top important and I found myself taking heat damage on a couple of occasions without the drive tuning.

Whether you were there for the racing, the murderising, or the comradeship, the Evil Eagle murder race had something for everybody - even a little bit of chase-the-SRV action going on while we were waiting for network instancing to sort out.

This is commander TwingTwang signing out from a night well spent at the NULL Evil Eagle Murder races! Whats the fastest ship you've flown and where do you stand on the Shields+Guns or lightweight+fast scale?

Fly Casual Everybody.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - The Mighty Python

Hey space cadets what is going on?
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the outfitters

In this article we'll be talking about the Faulcon Delacy Python. The python is an often overlooked ship that I think you can have a lot of fun with.

Full disclosure here: I've pretty much ignored the python until now and dismissed it as not having a well defined role but after putting in the flight hours over the past few weeks I've got to say the python is more of a luxury cobra than a budget anaconda.

The fly-off-the-forecourt Class-E python isn't much to write home about, but no ship is until you really make it your own. Like any of my builds, I wanted a slimline refit to get a good jump range before I equip and engineer so after flying around outside the station to get the feel of it I went for the all-round Class-D with the A-Rated FSD.

This slimline refit is usually a good starting point for a build but for the Python it's worth going into a bit more detail because you have options.

The 7D power plant gives out 22.5MW and weighs in at 32T. Replace this with a cheeky 6A which provides slightly more power at 25.0 MW, weighs only 20T and has better heat effeciency. OK, so the 6A is going to cost you 16MCr but it's a good base if you can keep the power draw down. The class-A heat efficiency is strongly recommended and the 6A is a lot cheaper than the 7A if you are buying your first python.

You can't quite pull the same trick with the Distributor - the 6A is better then the 7D but does add 8T to your weight and you have to choose what you pay for so you have to choose where to compromise. If its just jump range you need, then stick with the 7D, which was my starting point until I'd flown for a while and gotten used to the ship - more on that later but this is a component I upgraded fairly quickly.

Keep it slim
I actually didn't mind the 6D thrusters when I started flying, so I kept D-Ratings on everything else except the FSD, which is obviously the 5A and will give you a jump range in the 18-19 LY range depending on what else you fit.

First Impressions
When I first took the Python out for a spin, I maxed it at 212T of cargo space and flew it as a "Tons & Guns" delivery truck doing missions and flying a gold run without fear of interdiction.
I used the Python for the Tutumu Community goal - hauling 200+ of Gold hundreds of light years out, and it earned me 20M credits in no time at all as a long-distance freighter. As my flight time increased, I got more and more drawn to missions and pretty much stopped trading. So it didn't take me long to go back to the outfitters and start pimping my python.

Four 0A Shield boosters is a good start, but what I've found is my shields hold out for a while but my hull is getting torn open in seconds so - and hold your breath - I'm strongly advising military composites on the Python. It's not so bad in a wing, but when you are flying solo things can go South quickly. The problem really is how crazy strong the shields are compared to the hull, usually when my shields dropped I knew it was going to be an insurance payout.
Military composites cost a cool 50M on the Python - it's not a cheap ride compared to all the flight time I've put into space superiority starfighters, but the extra durability feels like it's needed and at this point I wasn't hauling long distance freight so the extra weight didn't hurt the jump range

As far as hardpoints go, I started with three large burst lasers and two medium multi-cannons. This was a power-draw compromise but not a great choice. Combat against almost any ship became a rhythm of me taking down their shields quickly but not being able to finish the job, so I switched to two medium lasers and three large MCs.
Overall, I found the MCs suit the python a little better than the fraggers that I preferred on the Vulture and Viper builds. They can be on gimbals to make up for the less responsive turning circle, and still do reasonable damage. In the end I replaced one of the MCs for a missile but in general I don't find missiles too reliable because of countermeasures so I don't think I'll be keeping it long term but it was worth trying out. With a bit of tweaking, higher dps short-range burst lasers and MCs with corrosive rounds this is quite a formidable bounty hunter.

Combat encounters are going to upgrade you to the big 7A power couplings, and I'd recommend these right off the bat if you can afford them. I didn't feel the thruster upgrades made a huge difference until I'd flown it around for a while, but once I had them I wouldn't go back. You get about 10% more on the turn and ~50m/s more on the boost, but if you are spending the money anyway then it's worth picking them up.

Price it up
And this brings me on to the price. Upgrading the Python feels super expensive, especially if you are used to smaller ships and there is a huge difference between a small ship that you can Class-A for 16M credits and a ship like the Python where each individual component costs 16M. Each. This isn't a ship you should buy on a whim and not something you can knock together cheaply but now I have it ticking over just so its a ship I've got a lot of affection for.
You can outfit a reasonable Python for just under 100M, but will pay a fair amount more once you have that top-tier Class-A refit.

(Image credit:

I'm going to touch on engineering briefly, although this is such a personal topic that I can't really give recommendations - you tweak the way you want to go. Always pay attention to how your ship is performing and use the engineers to nudge it the way you want it.  I AM going to say that loss of accuracy on your hardpoints really annoys me, you should prefer charge rate to capacity on your power couplings and raw dps over large ammo counts. I'm not building a warship to sit in a conflict zone for hours, I'm building a wing fighter with a sting in the tail so that you can seal the deal quickly and collect the bounty.

If you are engineering for jump range, there are plenty of lightweight components and obviously the drive tuning of your choice.
The Python is a good hunter, miner, and mission runner so collecting engineering components isn't going to be that hard for you.

I've had people recommend Pythons specialized mining, and you could easily dedicate a hardpoint and the internal capacity. I think I'd be tempted to have a mining refit, and then switch back to general purpose rather than carrying a little bit of mining gear around all the time but there is space to keep a refinery at hand all the time if you wanted to. For me, just adding a SRV was enough for me to drop planetside and mine some materials for engineering but I can see the attraction of full on mining.

I guess the roundup wouldn't be complete without touching on skimmer missions. They seem on-vogue at the moment. Obviously you can hunt skimmers in a Python and it'll do the job just fine if that's the way you roll. It's overkill for that sort of thing, but a rock solid weapons platform with a good jump range so well suited to the task.

Closing thoughts
Overall the python is super versatile. I started out by saying I'd overlooked it as a poor-mans anaconda and I had low expectations of the ship but it feels like a super luxury cobra. Its a mission runner, it's a trader, its a smoker, it's a midnight joker and it's a space cowboy that I'm looking forward to flying for a long time.
So far it's not come up short in any area - sure the Asp can jump further and the Type Nine carries twice the cargo, but its a similar gunner to the FDL and the Python has been great for running missions, gaining faction rep, collecting engineering components, and I've used it to haul kilotons to Community Goals and put thousands of light years on the clock - and it has done all of that with gusto. 

"The Python cruiser: Freedom in a box from Falcon Delacy" Five stars, would fly again.

This is Delacy "Tango-Whisky-India" signing off, until next time, fly Casual everybody.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Elite Dangerous Pilot Academy - Be a good Wingman

Hey Space Cadets what is going on?
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the pilot academy.

Today I'll be taking a new slant on a topic as old as the stars - how to be a good wingman and talk about a couple of different roles in the wing. 

First off, the obvious thing about flying in a wing is sticking together. Whether you are in a conflict zone or shipping lane, the wing gives you strength in numbers and we are stronger together. All of us are stronger than any of us.

What follows is a bit of an explanation of the roles I've seen. Somebody asked me why I use these terms in the blog so I think they deserve their own post. In general I think all of the roles are situational, and I rarely fly in a wing where we assign jobs and stick to it. More often we assume a role ad-hoc and it's proven more effective to work as a team.

Since I've put a couple of hours into the shipping lanes lets talk about the stockbroker. The role here is find good trade runs and plot the route that nets the wing the biggest loot. This is going to be measured in Millions of Credits per hour, which you'll see referred to as MCr/H or sometimes M/H
Your two options are just to state the expected MCr/H figure, or give it in MCr/H per 100T, and let the other commander multiply up for their hold. TBH, your wing is likely to be similar sized large ships so I tend to quote for *my* full hold and let others fly what they will.

You'll have to plot a route that suits your whole wing - some people don't want illegal smuggling, others aren't set up for long-distance rare runs. You need to make sure there are Large landing pads at each stop if your wing needs it.
There is money to be had in Imperial Slaves, but who wants to get into the slave trade?

If you want to be a good stockbroker, have a trade run in mind and make sure the money is good.
If you want to be a good freighter commander, whether you are the stockbroker or not, ALWAYS have good shields and max out on shield boosters, and the biggest FSD you can afford. Nobody wants to put up with your 9LY jump range - you'll spend the whole evening in hyperspace.

Other outfitting advice - your CAG might ask that you have full hardpoints. Even a Type-Nine war cow can be fitted with cannons or missiles and be ready to unload as soon as the shields go down.

Your stockbroker will also be the guy who plots out community goals. At the time of writing, the Tutumu community goal just finished and that was an easy 10 or 20 MCr for anybody who flew out there. Being able to direct commanders to local ports with a supply of cargo comes with the territory.

In general terms, trade wings are a good way to go and a relaxed atmosphere to sit back and talk turkey while you fly in a straight line for money. The profits aren't astronomical but its a social way to play.

Executive officer (XO)
The XO is the next role we'll talk about. It's the XOs job to coordinate the wing when they are in flight. Often the XO and the stockbroker is the same ship, but it's usually easiest to have the ship with the shortest jump range to be the XO but anybody can do it if you pay attention.

If you don't have an XO, the wing can rely on wingman nav-lock to jump in convoy but TBH this is pretty terrible and you waste a fair amount of time. A good XO will act as a navigator, coordinating with the stockbroker and plot a route and call out the jumps, making sure there are fuel stops if required. Second to this, a good XO go through the jump checklist and make sure all ships have reported in:
  • Launch
  • Out of mass-lock
  • Throttle to zero
  • FSD fully charged
  • Aligned with destination
Once everybody has reported in, the XO will call the jump and everybody can throttle up boost at the same time. This jumps you all at the same time and you'll arrive at the destination system together, with an excellent chance of seeing each other on your scopes.

If you want to be a good XO, make sure everybody is ready to jump and can jump together. If you are in a fighter wing heading out to a conflict, you can be more lenient and meeting at the destination is most important. If you are coordinating a trade wing, then keep everybody together as much as you can.

Captain of the Air Group (CAG)
While the XO is in charge of coordinating the fleet, it's the CAG who takes over when the fur starts flying. The CAG should call the shots in a conflict zone or interdiction, coordinating focus fire on hostile targets.

Your CAG might be the same person as your XO, but doesn't have to be. Like any of the roles you can ad-hoc decide on somebody to listen to, or you can arrange in advance how you are going to play.

Since we tend to XO from the biggest trading vessel, it'll be the strongest fighter who calls the shots in combat. If your crew are four anacondas, well, you can kind of pick and choose who does what but having a chain of command that allows you to focus fire a single target so I'd still recommend it.

A good CAG pays attention to their radar and checks the Contacts panel for threats. Keep an eye on your wings shields and who needs support - you can bait and switch to give your wing buddy time to rebuild his shields.

If you are flying with traders, let them know if they should boost away from a fight to stay safe or retreat back and have missiles ready. 

It's also the CAG who will call fight or flight. Keep a level head, understand the odds and know if this is a fight you can win. Better to jump out and repair than having insurance payouts. Be aware of the cash investment of your wing - if people are flying their primary ship they will be more risk averse. If they are taking a weekend Viper out for a spin then they might not mind a few scrapes and are happy to fight to the death.

Usually a single wing won't have an admiral, but if you are coordinating multiple wings then you want to know who is who. The admiral will talk to each wing leader and make sure each wing knows what the other is doing.
This can be as simple as an additional push-to-talk comms channel, so that the wing leader can choose to talk to his own wing or in the Wing-leaders channel.

The admiral shouldn't be pushy - don't let the title go to your head. You should be coordinating wings, not ordering them around or sending them to die. When the CAG of one wing says they are jumping out from a conflict zone to repair/restock then just let the others know.
If one wing drops to an interdiction on a trade run then let the other wings know - you don't have to order them to drop from supercruise and assist. 

The exact mechanics of your chain of command are up to you - these are just recommendations from an old dog and I'd love to hear the new tricks you've come up with.

That was Pilot Academy and this is Cmdr TwingTwang signing out.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Elite Dangerous Pilot Academy - When Vultures Fail

Hey Space Cadets what is going on?
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the outfitters.

Today we'll be talking about the Vulture again. Again.  

The Vulture is a space superiority starfighter that caught my eye from the day it was released. You can pick up an empty Vully for a cool five mill, and you'll spend ten to fifteen on top of that before you are ready to fly.

My first impressions of the Vulture were really good but I had super trouble balancing the power management. That little 4A Power Plant gives you 15.6MW, which should be plenty but you have to make a lot of compromises to make it work.
I found myself flying with one laser and one cannon - Personally I've always liked the Fraggers - which has a lower power draw but its limited ammo doesn't have the staying power if you wanted to sit in a conflict zone for hours.

In my Vulture first impressions, I recommended 3E Gimbal Pulse lasers which are good overall and in my revisited article I've already talked about power management and hardpoint options. I've settled on the Class-B thrusters and dual gimbal Pulse lasers and added the Military Grade Composite as standard. Partly because I have a little more cash for this sort of build now, but also because my hull was being chewed up quickly once the shields went down.

I'll put links to the old articles at the end and won't labour over the outfitting. here. For reference, I think this is the Vully that I'm launching with these days. 99% sure all the details are right but this isn't an outfitting article.

Right - preamble out of the way - on to the heart of the matter.
The Vulture has served me well for simple one-on-ones, against those bigger ships it takes a while to bring them down but you can turn on a dime and just keep chipping away. However, it failed me in a convoy. I was in a trade wing of Lakon-9's hauling kilotons of gold and had switched to the Vulture to run fighter escort. It was a follow-the-leader convoy and I was Nav-Locked to the ship in front of me - should be a routine mission and if anybody interdicts a Lakon-9 they will find themselves facing the full fury of a Vulture as I light them up.

But the problem with Nav locked jumps is there is a quite a delay (compared to having an XO call the jumps and everybody engages at the same time) So the Niner that jumped in first was a distance from me before I arrived, and when the interdiction was called he wasn't on my radar.  At this point, all you can do is follow the shipping lane and wait for the wing beacon so you can jump in.
To cut the story there, I did manage to jump in, but the Niner had taken too much damage and even as I drained my weapon banks, the ship I was supposed to be protecting opened up like space tuna and shed its glittering cargo everywhere.
Now, I was paid to protect the convoy and I just cost them I dunno five or ten million? by not being able to act in time. On the plus side, I scored revenge and earned 120K from the bounty but my good fortune somehow didn't console the freighter captain that had lost out.

And this is where the Vulture fails. It wasn't the delicate power balance, or the shield configuration. I hadn't launched with the wrong loadout or equipped the wrong hardpoints. It was the game that surrounds the game that mattered. I've replayed the encounter a hundred times in my head. I could have jumped sooner - I could have bought a Class-A sensor, maybe that would have got me in faster.
Was this a task that just wasn't suited to the Vulture? It felt like escort duty was ideally suited to a Vulture - almost guaranteed one-on-one fights, against a distracted opponent, backed up by the five turret cannons of a fat niner. Surely this should be easy pickings? Food for thought.

So on to the lesson learned. If you are flying a combat sortie, then own that mission. If you are flying escort then you are the CAG. If there is anything that compromises the safety of your mission then you are the authority. The wing might plot the route, but you are in charge of security, keep the wing together.

Bringing this round to the title - when do Vultures fail? When they aren't being vultures. Fly like a vulture, fight like a vulture, find the right role for your playing style, and bring home the bacon.

This is Cmdr TwingTwang signing off. What have you been flying lately and how has your play style changed since you started?

My first impressions outfitting article.

And my revisited thoughts after flying it a little while.