Friday, August 24, 2018

Weaponizing Geometry Part 2

Kyle Shuant pointed out he had already established what it took me some bathing and an online geometry number cruncher to figure out: it sucks to practice pirating anywhere near a main world.

In SF terms it is the equivalent of the daylight bank robbery in a western. In the movies you see the desperadoes rob the bank and get away where as in real life they would probably be shot to pieces the moment they went out the door. Yes, I know that historically most Western towns didn't allow open carrying of firearms but that didn't mean people couldn't get to them quickly and send the desperadoes to walk the streets of Glory.

I digress. There are spots for piracy of course. Star systems are not a main world plus an encounter table. There are belters seeking their fortunes, more marginal worlds that have inhabitants for various reasons, defense installations and administrative facilities (prisons!) They all need to be supplied. For that matter ever since CT we knew there were gas giants!

If you know this blog at all you know I have a love hate relationship with gas giants and wilderness refueling. I think one trip through a high gravity, radiation spewing cyclone that makes Hurricane Katrina look like a bug exhaling would be enough for any sane individual to STFU and pay the 100-500 cr. a ton for fuel at a nice starport (which usually has amenities like shopping and restaurants and not frying your ship with lightning strikes)!

then this whole thing about covering ships from pirate attacks came up so let's run some numbers. Say we start with a gas giant comparable to Saturn. That's 75,000 miles in diameter. To put it another way, that's 7-8 range bands in ship combat. So jump radius is 7,500,000 kilometers. That's750 range bands. It will take a ship making 6 gees 22 combat turns to get clear to jump. That's six hours. The surface of the sphere defining the jump limit has an area of 235 trillion square kilometers. Going with a 6 gee missile boat fro my previous post you'd need about sixty such response craft to cover all quadrants. Oh and gas giants are usually far enough away from their star for the primary's cup shadow not to matter so you pretty much have to cover all the quadrants.

If we drop the orbits of the task forces to half the jump limit things get better. We'd need a quarter the number of ships or about fifteen and the task forces would need 14 turns to get to either the jump limit or close orbit in case some naughty pirates are lurking in the depths or a ship needs a some rescue. 

Fourteen turns is plenty of time to board,  loot, and wave 'bye to a merchant. In addition most planets will not have the resources or the need to stick most of their Patrol around a gas giant. Smart pirates will lurk around a gas giant look for a quick intercept and leave while the Patrol tries to close and curse in vain.

How does the {patrol deal with this sort of problem. First they realize that destroying or capturing a pirate ship is not necessary. What you want is to convince them to go elsewhere. There are several ways to do this. 

Convoys: Group your merchant chips in large formations and provide an escort. This is a much more effective use of forces. The problem is pirates can group their ships as well. All they need to do is cause one merchant to drop out of formation, then the Patrol craft have to decide whether to split their forces to guard the crippled vessel or push on and let it fend for itself.

Q-ships: When is a merchant ship not a merchant ship? When it's a Patrol vessel with a bunch of hidden turrets and a hold full of fighters. Pirates practice this sort of thing all the time, sauce for the goose and all that.

These tactics are also very effective around the main world.