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Defence is boring, but we all have to do it at some point. As has been drummed into you it is always preferable to have the initiative, but every so often you will be defending a convoy, star base, or maybe even an asteroid with a good seam and things will go bad. When this happens you must always remember not to panic, panicked commanders make bad decisions.

First, consider if it’s actually worth defending the target. If it’s a transport carrying widows and orphans you should probably stick around. If they’ve got supplies for your forces you should definitely fight unless you have no option. If it’s a hunk of rock and you even suspect you might not win the engagement, you should Jump out and fight on your own terms.

Second, make sure you can’t run anyway. Star bases you’ll need to stick around and make a fight of it. Transports can probably Jump with you though and unless you’re specifically searching for trouble your commanders will thank you for not denting their ships.

Finally, make a confident call as to whether you’ll win, and if you won’t, be damn sure you’ll actually make an impact on the war. Heroic last stands are all well and good, but if you weaken your own side more than your enemies then you’ll be remembered a fool rather than a hero.

When a fight is inevitable you’ll want to put yourself between the target and the enemy. This is generally less effective than most people would imagine as unless you have some very big ships indeed you’re not going to block all the angles of fire onto the target and so if your enemy wants it destroyed it pretty much will be destroyed. What you can do is make them pay for that. While they are firing at an overly distant target your ships will be right up their noses and inflicting maximum damage while they try to kill some civy target. With a bit of luck this can win the battle for you right there, just don’t tell whoever you’re guarding that this is your plan.

A competent commander is going to see that you are the primary target however, while in the area your fleet can and will inflict atrocious damage to his ships and disrupt any operations they can perform. Or at least, this is what you should be doing. When fighting this kind of battle treat it as any other combat exercise, keep your ships tight, guns hot and don’t stop yelling at your captains. With luck you’ll make it through and win the day.

However, the enemies attack vector is rarely known, and worse you can’t tell if they’re planning to attack on an odd vector until they make their Jump[1]. If you don’t know where the attack is coming from, set up a defensive perimeter around the target, but make it so that only enough ships are there to force them to engage. The rest should be kept in reserve to deploy as soon as the enemy plays their hand.

Also, as the defender you can prepare the battle field a little. A load of missiles left in deep space to cool off a little can take the enemy by surprise and win you the initiative, if you place them right. Commending cargo ships is pretty much standard form for defenders[2] and who’s to say that, even if your target starts off unarmed they have to remain that way.

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[1] Generally, if they’ve been preparing the Jump for more than a week they’re going to do something fancy. Before then a wall between you and the target is more effective than a sphere as, while the sphere prevents you being weak from a vector, it does not create a vector where you are strong like the wall.

[2] Which is why you rarely see a merchant vessel near an active war zone.

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