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.