Stars!-R-Us Article

MT part guide: Using that cool toy you just got
by: Walter Pullen

I've seen a number of spoiler lists for the Mystery Trader (MT) items around.  But what I haven't seen is a more detailed strategy guide describing ships one might use whatever item in when they get one. Here is my attempt at such a document.  To be controversial, and hopefully get comments from experienced players on their own ideas for things to do with the toys, I've even ranked the 12 MT parts in order from what are the ."best." or most significant or ."game winning." items to have, to the least useful (all IMHO of course).  This counts as a simple MT part list, with all abilities and costs recorded from test games, although note some of my mineral and resource costs might be lower than when you first get them due to miniaturization at the time I got them, but at least the ratios are correct.

#1: Mega Poly Shell

Type: Armor
Tech: Ener 14, Cons 14, Elec 14, Bio 6
Cost: I=14,B=5,G=5,Res=52 Mass: 20
Abilities: Armor=400, Shield=100, Cloak=20%, Jam=20%, Scan=80/40

Comments: This item is incredibly powerful.  It's the second strongest Armor in the game.  It has the same dp as Valanium, but you get it 2 Cons levels earlier.  It weighs half as much too, and we all know how important weight is in getting those Cruisers and Nubians under 300kt.  Mega Poly has a shield component, so you can have the advantages of shield stacking without having to waste a slot on an actual shield.  It's also has other very useful goodies, such as a decent cloak, and a 40 ly pen scanner which is great to get when you have NAS.  However the best thing about it is the built in Jammer 20.  This allows you to get very high jamming without having to waste Elec slots (which are better used on computers) on actual jammers.  Fill one armor stack on your SB's and start with 73% jamming! This is a great thing to hold you over the big gap in Cons tech until you get Superlatanium and Jammer 30's, and even then you lose some of the advantages this gives you. 

#2: Enigma Pulsar

Type: Engine
Tech: Ener 7, Prop 13, Cons 5, Elec 9?
Cost: I=6,B=7,G=5,Res=18 Mass: 20
Abilities: Cloak=10%, +1/4 Movement

Comments: This engine is great!  Only the Trans-Star is better, and even then only arguably: The Trans-Star is cheap and uses half fuel, but it lacks the goodies of the Enigma, and who wants to research Prop 23 early, especially with NRSE? Anyway, the Enigma is like the IS-10, and only requires a little more tech.  However it travels at warp 5 free, is cheaper to build, lighter, has a small cloak, and most importantly a built in maneuvering yet.  This is great for those heavy BB's where you get four free jets, great to ensure all your Cruisers move 2. 5, and is the engine to use for everything, at least with NRSE. 

#3: Alien Miner

Type: Mining Robot
Tech: Ener 5, Cons 10, Elec 5, Bio 5
Cost: I=4,no b,G=1,Res=10 Mass: 20
Abilities: Mines 10 kt/yr, Cloak=30%, Jam=30%, +1/8 Movement

Comments: This can be a game winner for the simple reason that one 5000kt investment can negate the disadvantages of taking OBRM.  Building massive fleets of mini-miners with these will actually pay off very quickly, and you can strip mine all those unused worlds in your space and keep the BB's churning out in the mineral short late game as fast as those ARM types.  The Alien Miner is very cheap to build, it's very light, and a Mini Miner with these is actually gateable.  The built in Jammer 30 (!), cloak, and half jet is at least semi-useful in helping keep your new mining fleet from being seen or destroyed. 

#4: Jump Gate

Type: Mechanical
Tech: Ener 16, Prop 20, Cons 20, Elec 16
Cost: no i,no b,G=38,Res=30 Mass: 10
Abilities: Allows ship to jump from space to planetary stargate

Comments: Realistically, this item often appears too late in the tech cycle to be useful, and its actual uses are somewhat limited.  However I'm ranking this as high as it is to make a point that is often overlooked with it: Ships with the Jump Gate can gate cargo.  With the Jump Gate, you basically become an IT, or at least can annoy the heck out of that IT player because you've negated many of their advantages.  Put one of these on a freighter, and you to can quickly send colonists and minerals across your empire.  Note it basically takes you two years to ."gate." cargo from planet to planet, as you have to move away from a planet into space first before jumping, because while at a planet a ship will always attempt to use a planetary gate.  Ignore the ."never." sign on the warp dial if one appears, your ship and its cargo will arrive where you send it!

#5: Langston Shell

Type: Shield
Tech: Ener 12, Prop 9, Elec 9
Cost: I=6,B=1,G=4,Res=12 Mass: 10
Abilities: Shield=125, Armor=65, Cloak=10%, Jam=5%, Scan=50/25

Comments: Other than going in shield slots, this is basically a small Mega Poly Shell, with less expensive tech so you can start building with it sooner.  It's clearly the third best shield in the game, with 15 more dp than the Gorilla Delegator, and you get it 2 Ener levels earlier too.  A 25 ly pen-scanner isn't that good, but if you have NAS you'll still be glad to have it. 

#6: Genesis Device

Type: Planetary
Tech: Ener 20, Weap 10, Prop 10, Cons 20, Elec 10, Bio 20
Cost: no i,no b,no g,Res=5000
Abilities: Randomly resets hab and mineral concentrations

Comments: This is useful in the very late game, and as such often never plays a role as the game is over long before it becomes efficient to use this or even before you get the requisite tech.  The power of this is that it basically gives you a free planet: You can convert that low 20% hab planet with mineral concentrations of 1 in everything, to a 100% planet with tons of minerals.  Or at least you can reset a planet so you can remote strip mine it again, making it so you can never run out of minerals in your empire.  As it does destroy all factories and mines, it's more useful for AR races as they don't have to rebuild anything.  A CA (especially with TT) will have a much better chance of a high value or even a 100% planet from the start after a planet rebirth.  The 5000 resources to set one off once is a bitch, especially for a normal race trying to make a green out of a red, but in the ."my stack of 3000 Nubians can beat up your stack of 2000 Nubians." stage of the game when tech is maxed and minerals are scarce, it's certainly more productive than Alchemy. 

#7: Multi Function Pod

Type: Electrical
Tech: Ener 11, Prop 11, Elec 11
Cost: I=4,no b,G=4,Res=13 Mass: 2
Abilities: Cloak=30%, Jam=10%, +1/4 Movement

Comments: This is another small item that you can build early.  It's basically a maneuvering jet, but with a small cloak and jammer.  It's useful when trying to make a 2 1/4 speed ship be 2 1/2, say a beamer BB where an Overthruster is overkill for that front slot, and where this gives you more than just the ordinary jet.  It's also an Electrical item, so you can still speed up your ships if you want to use a Mech only slot for something else. 

#8: Multi Contained Munition

Type: Beam Weapon
Tech: Ener 21, Weap 21, Elec 16, Bio 12
Cost: I=5,B=32,G=5,Res=32 Mass: 8
Abilities: Damage=140, Range=3, Initiative=6, Cloak=10%, Torp accuracy +10%, Scan=150/75, Bomb=2% Kill/5 instal Destroy, Lays 40 mines/yr

Comments: Wow, what a mouthful! This item can do almost everything, although that doesn't mean it's actually better to use than the more focused items.  It's first and foremost a beam weapon, which has twice the fp of Blasters, but is a little shy of Disruptors, the next class up.  It is range 3, although if I have Weap 21, I might prefer to just research one more Weap level and go with Mega Disruptors, or use normal range 2 Disruptors for half the mineral cost.  As a bomb, it's about as good as an M-80, although it does have the advantage of being not much more heavier than any beam weapon, so you can load a BB with these and have a gateable bomber that packs quite a bit more punch than those two slot Mini Bombers.  Perhaps it's best use is as a pen-scanner for NAS races, where 75 ly of yellow is very good.  One might be able to load a Nubian or some other ship with these, and have a multi-purpose SB killing, planet bombing, mine laying to secure the area capital ship.  They say that the only way to get a capital ship in the limited to tech 10 demo is by getting the MT Lifeboat (which has these on it). 

#9: Hush-a-Boom

Type: Bomb
Tech: Weap 12, Elec 12, Bio 12
Cost: I=1,B=2,no g,Res=2 Mass: 5
Abilities: Bomb=3% Kill/2 instal Destroy

Comments: This is just a bomb, which is kind of like a Smart Bomb, in that it's very good at pop killing (better than a Cherry, and almost as good as Enriched Neutron) but not so good at installation destroying (only as good as Lady Finger).  The special thing about this, is that it's very cheap and light.  Light means ships other than Mini Bombers are gateable, and cheap means (especially with a non-NRSE race where engines aren't expensive) vast hordes can be churned out without eating up valuable minerals or resources.  You get it pretty early tech-wise too, before bombs of comparable firepower. 

#10: Mini Morph

Type: Ship Hull
Tech: Cons 8
Cost: I=8,B=2,G=2,Res=28 Mass: 70
Abilities: Armor=250, Fuel=400, Cargo=150, Initiative=2

Comments: This is the hull that the MT Scout and Probe are based on.  It requires 2 engines, and has 10 General Purpose items total (1 slot of 3, 2 slots of 2, and 3 slots of 1).  This basically gives it the same capacity as a Cruiser, which also has 2 engines and 10 other items.  The Mini Morph may have more flexible slots and have 150 free cargo, but the Cruiser has more fuel and nearly 3 times the base armor.  The Mini Morph at least might make a good cloaked Scout, or a more versatile larger Colony ship than a Privateer. 

#11: Multi Cargo Pod

Type: Mechanical
Tech: Ener 5, Cons 11, Elec 5
Cost: I=10,no b,G=2,Res=20 Mass: 9
Abilities: Armor=50, Cloak=10%, Cargo=250

Comments: The Multi Cargo Pod adds a lot of storage capacity to whatever ship.  Each one of these is 2x 5 Super Cargo Pods or a free Privateer.  With a few of these you can easily make a Galleon have more capacity than two Large Freighters (or make a Nubian be more than seven Large Freighters.  :) This may help in shuttling the massive minerals your massive mining fleets generate.  However, I usually don't care to use up a valuable ship slot, and I'll just built twice the number of Freighters if I have any heavy duty transportation needs.  Note that this is the only Mechanical or non-Armor or Shield item that adds dp.  So if you say wanted to make the toughest Destroyer possible, put one of these in the Mech slot, and you'll not only be tougher, you'll be able to scoop up some of the minerals of the ships you snipe (no, I'm not recommending that as a ship design. :)  Note this is also a Mech item like the Jump Gate, where Mech is the only item category to have two MT toys for it. 

#12: Anti Matter Torpedo

Type: Torpedo
Tech: Weap 11, Prop 12, Bio 21
Cost: I=3,B=8,G=1,Res=50 Mass: 8
Abilities: Damage=60, Range=6, Initiative=0, Accuracy=85%

Comments: About the only thing this is good for is tech transfers of biotech, as no other item in the game requires a higher bio level.  Actually, it's a medium strength torpedo, that's very light and cheap to build.  As such it might be useful in a horde fleet, although I'd probably still use normal capital missiles myself, and save the Boranium for the Anti-Matter Pulverizers, especially since I rarely have bio at such a high level.  No other torpedo has a higher base accuracy, making this about like a Rho torpedo or Juggernaut missile.  It's range 6 too, like only the top two cap missiles, which combined with its lightness would make a good 2. 5 movement sniper to get those pesky 2. 5 movement scouts before they get away. 

** Walter D. Pullen * * **

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