CMDR David Waywell on Twitter asked for a guide to Combat and Bounty hunting in the game, so here goes.
Okay, so I am assuming you have done the basic tutorial missions. You haven’t? Well, do them! No arguments. They teach you the basic basics. What’s the difference between this and those? The same difference between driving lessons and road experience. One gets you a licence, the other keeps you alive afterwards.
First, you might want to read my “Shields and Armour” and “Guns and Ammo” articles – you don’t want to leave the station unprepared.
In addition to a mix of energy and kinetic weapons, depending on your budget, you need a Kill Warrant Scanner. This can often double the pay out on any bounty. It looks up the target ship in the galactic police database and flags bounties in other jurisdictions. If the pirate has been bad in this system, chances are they’ve been just as naughty elsewhere.
Obviously as you get more credits, some can be used to tough up your ship with better shields, armour, reinforced bulkheads and reinforced modules. You may also unlock some Engineers and have them polish your guns and systems making improvements.
Another couple of handy equipment items are shield cells and shield boosters. I've explained how they work in another article, but in simple terms if your shield is a balloon, boosters make the balloon thicker and shield cells are like cans of helium to re-inflate the shield in an emergency.
Taking out another ship – first principles
In combat, you want to kill the other ship as quickly as possible, leaving them little opportunity to recover or strike back. However, you need to do things in the right order.
First, scan the ship (i.e. get them in your cross-hairs for 10 seconds). This will establish if they are “wanted” or “clean”. You don’t want to shoot the wrong ship obviously.
THIS IS VERY, VERY IMPORTANT: Until you have minimally scanned the target ship and established they are wanted, do not shoot them, or you will become wanted yourself!
Second, you want to scan the ship with your Kill Warrant Scanner.
Bind this to your secondary fire, or on another fire-group you can quickly switch to.
The scan has a progress meter and says “complete” when finished. If you look in the Contacts TAB, you’ll see the bounty on the target ship increase when this is done.
Thirdly and finally, kill ‘em dead.
Use (primarily) your energy weapon(s) to take down their shields, then switch to kinetic (e.g. Multi-cannon, missiles, etc.) to destroy their hull. If your weapons capacitor can take the strain, hit ‘em with everything or if not, alternate. When their hull reaches zero, boom!
Other tactics to use; bigger ships are harder to kill, but a less agile than smaller ships. A Cobra can waste an Elite Anaconda, simply by staying behind/below the ship and avoiding its line of fire. Don’t go head-to-head with a ship with bigger guns. Keep moving, use Chaff and try and get behind them as much as possible.
Remember that your ship turns fastest with the throttle at 50% and using manoeuvring thrusters speeds your rate of turn.
If the other ship's shields are going back up and the shields are pulsing, then they are using shield cells. Shields (even with shield cells) charge poorly if under attack, so don’t let up. Also, shield cells make a lot of heat, so if you add to that with lasers, they might just overheat their ship and blow up! Worst case, their modules might start to fail and weapons go offline.
Big ships like Anacondas can have a LOT of hull to destroy, but they also have a weakness. Their power plant. If you target their Power Generator module, you can take this to zero well before the ships hull is gone.
To target sub-systems, open your Target Panel and view the Sub Targets TAB (with the enemy ship targeted) and scroll down (or up) to "Power Plant". When you do this, the sub-system's health indicator is added to the target view. You will see a red square target reticle added to the HUD on your target ship. Aim for this to inflict maximum module damage.
Worst case scenario is they are left floating dead in space for you to kill at leisure, in many cases the chain reaction causes the whole ship to explode.
If you are in a [LOW] or [HIGH] RES with police around, you can "assist" them with their kills. Always be careful not to shoot the cops, but any ships you tag give you the full bounty, even if its the police that finish them off. For a lone player or a player in a relatively weak ship, it is a good way to make some easy kills, using the police as your Wing.
Where to find people to shoot
While combat can occur anywhere, you’ll have better luck going to the right places if you want to claim bounties on those pirates.
For bounty hunting, you can always find a few likely targets at the Nav Beacon in any inhabited system - this is "combat light" as there are mostly going to be clean ships just passing through and only a few targets will be wanted. It's a good place for a new CMDR to learn the basics of bounty hunting and also for any player to "test fire" their weapons in a low risk situation.
The really rich picking are always to be found in Resource Extraction sites, which come in four flavours. The basic RES is much like a Nav Beacon, then you graduate to a [LOW] RES which will have small ships and police presence, a [HIGH] RES which will have larger ships and more frequent bandits and a small police presence and finally the [HAZARDOUS] RES where there are no police - you are on your own here - and ships up to Anacondas can (any mostly will) be hostile. This is Wing and Battlecruiser territory. Unless your ship is highly equipped for combat, the player experienced or you are in a Wing with a group of CMDRs who will watch each other's backs, then don't venture into these locations.
Where do you find RES sites? They exist in rocky and icy rings around planets (where mining is to be found). Simple check a system map for a planet with rings. When you get to within 1,000ls of the planet, the Resource Extraction Sites will be shown on your Target Panel Navigation TAB.
Combat Zones are two-factions war zones in systems in a war/civil war state and kills here reward the player with Combat Vouchers, not bounty. It can be profitable, but the rewards are fixed rate, not variable so generally Combat Zones pay less.
Don’t risk what you cannot afford to lose
Never a truer phrase was coined than "Never fly without rebuy!". If you have only a small amount of Credits, little more than your ship rebuy cost, then you should not fly into combat. Sooner or later in combat, somebody will come along and kill you. Be prepared. If you can't take that heat, stay out of the kitchen.
With that in mind, before you fly out to that RES and risk it all on the turn of a laser, dock at the nearest station to the RES. That way, if you DO die, your ship will be returned somewhere local when you rebuy.
You also want to return to station to cash in your bounties. It's no good making millions, only to lose them before you can cash in.
Too many commanders spend all their spare credits (even their rebuy) on shiny new lasers or armour then get killed and are left back in a Sidewinder. Don't be one of them!
Look before you leap
So you are just about to open up all guns on that Eagle you just scanned, when you notice something. The ship is in a Wing. Now if it is a Wing of two Sidewinders and you are in a Python, then "meh, so what?". But if you are in a Cobra and the Eagle is escorting a Federal Gunship with fighter and second Eagle escort, picking a fight with them could be suicide.
So check the ship is not in a wing and if they are, make very sure the size and aspect of the other ships in the Wing or risk having the tiger by the tail. You'll simply get mobbed and destroyed in fast order.
Brave, brave Sir Robin knew a thing or two about combat
Sometimes or maybe often, you will get your behind kicked. At this point discretion is the better part of valour. As Sir Robin would say, "run away!".
If your shields are down, don't ignore it. Fly away from the threat and wait for them to recharge. Failing that, if you are pursued or outnumbered, fold your hard-points, boost like crazy and jump to super cruise.
Live to fight another day.
I shot the Sheriff
There you are happily plugging pirates in a RES when all of sudden all the green ships on the radar turn red and EVERY ship in sight is attacking. You are wanted!
How'd that happen? You probably shot a cop, or a clean commander accidentally. Or maybe you got gung-ho and shot someone before the basic scan was complete. Trouble is, they don't distinguish between accidents and deliberate attacks, so "friendly fire" is an immediate death sentence, either way you are now public enemy number 1. Again, run away!
If you just clipped them, then you must leave the star system and come back after 10 minutes. See the countdown in your Target panel Transactions TAB. When the status turns from minutes to "On H-Jump" the wanted status will have cleared and you can go back to the system you were in and pay your fine at the station. If you kill someone, then the situation will be more dire. You can't go back and there will a price on your head for a week. If that happens, you need to relocate your bounty-hunting to another system.
Collecting the cash
Periodically, you should return to the station and hand in the bounty you've collected. When you're running low on multi-cannon ammo is a good indicator!
In the station services, select Contacts and go to the Bounty section to hand in your vouchers and collect those credits.
If you've been using your Kill Warrant Scanner as directed, you see in your transactions TAB on the Targets Panel, that you've got bounty outside your area; for example if you are in the Federation, you'll see Alliance and Empire bounty listed as unclaimed. You can either fly to a station held by these factions and claim it or find a Broker (in some stations) who will cash these voucher in with a 25% cut for them.
Good luck and happy hunting CMDRs!