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On the offensive speed is absolutely key. You have the advantage of setting the time of battle, ensuring all your personnel are in position and readying your ships for combat. Ideally you can deprive your opponent of all these things and with the initiative you should or you’ll be cut to ribbons by a prepared fleet[1]. Even if the enemy is somehow alerted, you still have an advantage with setting the direction of arrival and a massive force advantage on your attack vector, and technically you should be able to defeat a fleet of roughly similar sizes.

The Jump drive is, of course, your primary source of strategic speed and so you must learn its use well. Any spacer can burn their engines and send their fleet on a straight line to the opposition, but this will negate any advantage you have with attacking as they’ll know your coming and from which direction. A gravity sling round an airless moon, a double Jump[2] or arriving out of attack range and burning towards the target, will all serve you far better than arriving gift wrapped on their doorstep.

Likewise, you can also use the Jump drive to deprive the enemy of information. Leaving reserves to Jump in a few minutes after the battle is engaged can trick your rival into over committing their forces. An evolution of this tactic, nicknamed Blinding Bombard, creates a situation where as your reserves Jump in your mainline Jumps out[3], does a few spot repairs and rearms, then Jumps back in, just as the reserves Jump out. It allows you to limit the amount of damage your ships take, at the cost of halving your firepower at anyone moment. This tactic is not universally useful, but many commanders swear by it for an extended campaign.

Blinding Bombards are also a very good example of fighting a battle on a timetable, which is an incredibly effective tactic when everything goes well, but a scarily bad if anything throws off the plan[4]. Like most timetabled battles they also require quite a lot of information to be effective, and more than a few nasty surprises have been sprung on fresh commanders thinking the opponent’s will behave as fairly as the sims’.

More popular are massed attacks on a flank, particularly when the enemy outnumbers you. This allows a focusing of fire on the weak areas of the formation and the destruction of enemy vessels before they, or their wing mates, can respond effectively. From then, you can either press the attack if they’re reeling, or Jump through their formation[5] to escape the counter attack if they’re responding reasonably competently.

In battle attempt to hit outliers, command vessels and anything that holds still long enough to inflict maximum damage but it is generally not wise to try and micromanage the whole battle[6]. If your captains are competent they will only need targets of opportunity pointed out, so your orders should be limited to ‘attack…’ ‘run away from…’, ‘fly to…’ and maybe ‘Jump!’ if it’s all going badly. Feel free to control your own vessel, but controlling other ships tends to get them in over their heads as you captains generally know the situation around their own vessel best.

Master plans for tactical domination are all well and good, but you’d be surprised how rarely it’s the commander who bites the bullet when if all goes to hell.

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[1] If you have the time a nasty physiological war can be waged by having your ships appear to be ready to attack, when actually you’ve still got a few more days to go. Eventually the constant state of alert will wear down on the opponent’s attention and moral and their crews will fight far less effectively than if you just tried an upfront attack.

[2] A Jump to another location in the system, then Jumping to the battle before

[3] This assumes a fairly even split between mainlines and reserves, though you may not have enough ship for this, and it is recommended for when you outnumber the opponent.

[4] Something always throws off the plan.

[5] Do make sure you captains check their vectors are clear before Jumping; otherwise they and your opponent may have a kiloton ding.

[6] Even though you can.

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