General Strategies and Tactics
Table of Contents
- Keep Your Eyes Open
- Map Control
- Picking Your Battles
- Running and Chasing
- Using Weapon Range
- Cloaking Devices
- Mining Harassment Strategies
- Harassing Around Yards
- Critical Mass
- Countering the Federation Warp-In
- Killing the Cube
- Nebulae Tactics
- Base Operations
Keep Your Eyes Open
Always Scout! Always. If you don’t scout you will lose because you won’t know what ships your opponent is building/hiding and where his/her shipyard, mining, and starbase(s) are being built. Usually it is wise early game to set your scout to a “fleet” of its own, and then use the minimap to set it exploring so that you can pay attention to it at the same time as building your base (as you will also be able to quickly access it by tapping the correct fleet number).
It is preferable to place scouts (equipped with a cloaking device or not) in a place where your opponent will not think to look, or locations that are difficult to get at. For instance, the corners of nebulae, the peripheries of asteroid fields (especially sharply concave areas), and the crook behind your opponent’s base are perfect places to hide scouts. Generally players do not use cloak detect in these places or scout out these regions often enough as well. Even if your opponent does manage to spot your scout, it is difficult to see or target it onscreen before you can move the vessel, as these scouts tend to blend in with the surroundings due to their small size. Even on the minimap, a single pixel of [insert color] is quite hard to pick out when there is a large green/blue/red nebula blob or grey asteroid field practically on top of the scout. Lastly, place your scouts on “green alert” so they do not immediately dart off and attack your opponent if his or her ships fly nearby.
If you use cloaked vessels for surveillance, it is often a good idea to move them from sector to sector or have those ships patrol some area as it will make revealing them with mobile cloak detectors much more difficult. You can also use cloaked scouts to shadow your opponent’s vessels (this can be made easier by using the guard command) to extend the sensor range of your other warships, but be wary of some crafty opponents who will move their ships through nebulae to decloak your scouts! Scout constantly and use your unrivaled invisibility to keep tabs on your opponent's build orders, research options, and locations of vulnerable mining, wayward vessels, and of course oncoming fleets.
Arguable one of the most important aspects of any real time strategy game, deciding when to attack can often determine the entire course of a match. If you can keep your opponent on the defensive, damaging expansions without incurring losses and keeping him or her guessing where you will attack next, your adversary will likely never even leave the confines of the base. This will undoubtedly give you the time to construct additional freighters and mining facilities with little risk of repercussions.
Of course, always be careful that you are not too aggressive. If you are wasting short ranged ships needlessly when you could simply build artillery to shell your bunkered opponent from afar, you will end up conceding your advantage. Attack enough of the time to confine and starve your opponent, but do not do it in a pyrrhic style (a victory where your forces are left depleted). Remember that veteran units can sway the course of a battle, so if you are losing forces just to kill that last miner at the expense of leveling up your opponent, you are doing something wrong.
Teching up rapidly can cause you to lose the initiative (if you ever had it). If you don’t have enough ships to keep your opponent fearful of an attack (the mere promise of that big bad battleship isn’t enough), it leaves your mining facilities and other structures to the mercy of your opponent’s forces.
Although that it is best to be the first to attack in a given match (so you can determine exactly where a battle will take place), you must temper this with judging how quickly your opponent is producing units. If that adversary can outproduce you early on, there is a good chance that if you attack them, they will either be en route to your own defenseless mining facilities (pyrrhic victory), or cloaked and waiting for you to strike (leaving you at the mercy of superior forces).
In the end, attack often, but minimize your losses. If you can save a ship, do it. Don’t leave heavily damaged or disabled enemy warships floating around - they might be repaired and it isn’t wise to wound what you can’t kill. Take your time: the rush to win often ends up denying you that very prize.
The sure fire way to ensure that you win a battle is to pick favorable ground in the first place. If your adversary is lurking in a nearby nebula or even in fortifications, lure out your opponent’s vessels with long range attacks, special weapons, or quick forays (making sure to take minimal damage in the process). This will usually succeed in drawing out stragglers and force your opponent to keep cycling his or her ships through a repair yard – or to come out and attack you. Usually it is best to engage in battle where there are no enemy structures - it doesn't matter if these base structures can't fight back - because any ships that are out of range of your quarry will fire upon these facilities and waste their normal and special weapons (especially those that have limited total effects) and vessels in range can be blocked by the structures.
Similarly, choose where you fight in relation to what gives you an advantage. If, for instance, you have long ranged weaponry and there is a narrow corridor, you can pound your opponent’s fleet for longer before they get in range of your own vessels.
Running and Chasing
Occasionally a battle might not be going as well as you’d hoped, and suddenly you've found yourself in the death grip of faster and superior enemy forces. Obviously your best bet is to run in the direction of your fortifications, friendly fleets, or into the welcome arms of a nebula for a quick respite. If you do so, attempt to retreat your fleet as one big blob, that way any chasing vessels can get hit by massed fire, instead of picking off your scared ships one-by-one. However, if your opponent has enough warships and you are too far away to get to the tender arms of your Negh’vars, it is unwise to send all of your ships scrambling to get there, as they will most certainly never make it. Although it is up to you to get a feel for how far you can run before you will be pulverized, if you do realize you are facing an unsalvageable situation, split your forces.
If you are playing as the Borg with few numbers of vessels, sending the attacked vessel in one direction, and the other ships in an opposite path will force your opponent to either expend more effort to split his forces to follow your two groups, or to continue chasing after the one vessel. If your adversary chooses to split his or her forces, your opponent will likely loose many more forces due to the strain of micromanagement and might not even be able to kill any one individual ship because of the split firepower. Even if he or she chooses to simply pursue and destroy that one damaged vessel, your other ships will likely escape (when before they would have not).
Other factions can also take similar precautions, although it is usually only wise to split your forces into two groups to allow you some chance to defend your retreating vessels. Remember to pay attention to movement speeds when you decide which vessels to group together.
If on the other hand you are the pursuer, it is up to you to pay attention to which vessels are being damaged, and to “peel” them off your chasing fleet once their shields begin to flicker so that they can be repaired. If your repair bays are located in the direction enemy forces are heading, don’t be a fool and hit “R” so that they get shot to pieces. Just select the unit in question and hit stop (or if you have more micromanagement skills, send them one by one into the nearest Crystalid Nebulae to recharge shields).
Tractor and Holding Beam Prowess
Even the lowely tractor beam from a construction vessel can be used as a weapon. Enemy vessels with disabled or destroyed engine subsystems can be tractored into range of defenses or your fleet - especially if you are desperately fighting at a main base location. Likewise, you can use the constructor's tractor beam to grab damaged vessels and fling them if you quickly turn on the tractor beam at range, and turn it off once the unit has been nabbed: the momentum of the grab will cause the tractored unit to fly to - and far past - the tractoring vessel.
While Holding Beams and Combat Tractor Beams are best known for preventing an enemy from escaping, or simply capturing foes, these weapons can also be used to execute a retreat. Since both weapons cause enemy ships to remain stationary, by engaging the beam and retreating, you ensure that the enemy vessels stay put at least until you reach the maximum distance of the weapon.
In Fleet Operations, military units with the lowest Defensive Value will be targeted first if weapons are not player controlled. What this means for fleet composition is that if you can out micromanage your opponent so that they cannot take the time to target high priority units (such as vessels that are countered, or valuable support vessels) it is wise to have your lowest Defensive Value units also be your most durable. In other words, your opponent's firepower will be wasted on targeting ships you can surely retreat, or which take the most punishment before dying and thus let the rest of your fleet put out the most damage possible. Likewise, if you are retreating, it is always wise to micromanage these more durable vessels to the back of your high-tailing fleet, that way they will be hit with the AI-controlled weaponry and let your more fragile vessels escape.
Likewise, if you have a fleet composed of one class of ships, automatic firing will (usually) preferentially target the most severely damaged ship. This can override the difference between Defensive Value at a certain point, so be careful just how low you let the hitpoints of your mainline ships get.
Note that due to passives, there is no set list of "most durable vessels", and thus it is important to plan accordingly for each battle. Pay attention also to defensive abilities, such as regeneration capabilities or high hull durability, to make decisions about which units you want taking the brunt of enemy firepower. Nonetheless, a few incomplete examples will be laid out below to explain the topic:
Borg - Early Game
- The Probe: While this ship has no unique defensive capabilities, it is the only small sized Borg combat vessel. With a Defensive Value of 18, it will be the first to be targeted and is usually fast enough to get out. This combination means that when torpedo fire preferentially targets the Probe over your larger sized Borg ships, your opponent will be wasting proportionally more firepower.
Borg - Late Game
- The (Regeneration) Sphere: While not weak defensively, this vessel can be pushed into your opponent's face and provide an irresistible target, despite its less than formidable weaponry. It has a lower Defensive Value than many Assimilate Directive Assimilators as well as being lower in defense than all higher tier Borg vessels. Its regenerative capabilities make it quite easy to 'dance' and thus cycle in and out of combat.
Dominion - Early Game
- The A-20 Attack Destroyer: Although the vessel has no particular intrinsic strength, it will take 30% less damage from medium ranged ships, which is usually a large contingent of fleets. It is also fast, which means that you can usually get it out of the battle in time.
Dominion - Late Game
- The C-17 Siege Cruiser: With a low Defensive Value compared to all large-yard vessels but the T-15, as shields get low it can simply activate its Phase Shields (boosting Defensive Value to 100) - and you can usually be assured that opponents will surely want to kill such a weakened vessel.
Federation - Early Game
- The (Hyper Impulse Drive) Saber: With the lowest Defensive Value of the Federation fleet, its excellent pulse and torpedo avoidance along with its speed insure that it will take disproportionately more firepower to corner and kill this small destroyer than many other Federation vessels.
Federation - Late Game
- No true late-game tank: A small late force of Intrepids can serve as a tank however, as they will take reduced damage from medium-ranged ships and are quite fast and thus can be used to misdirect your opponent's firepower nicely.
Klingon - Early Game
- The K'beajQ: With its excellent subsystem durability, yet comparatively low Defensive Value (19), it will take fire (and handle it!) before most other Klingon warships (the B'rel, Veqlaragh, and K't'inga are exceptions).
Klingon - Late Game
- Qaw'Duj: The Qaw'Duj has one of the lowest Defensive Values of the higher tier Klingon ships. However, with Imperial Stance (which can be used continuously), the ship becomes near immune to disabling weapons as well as taking less special weapons damage - and on top of this, it has an excellent System Value to soak up enemy fire meant for your more mass-produced vessels.
Romulan - Early Game
- The (Phase Plate) Rhienn: With the lowest Defensive Value of the Romulan armada, this will always be the first vessel to be auto-targeted. When equipped with Phase Plates, which significantly lowers damage received from all of your opponents vessels, this Rhienn can safely tank for around half a minute.
Romulan - Late Game
- Generix (Specter Refit): With a lower Defensive Value than her warbird counterparts, this Generix variant takes reduced damage from low damage weaponry and has strong enough armor to cloak out in the midst of battle.
Using Weapon Range
Weapons have different ranges for a reason. Usually it is best to engage all targets at a maximum distance to take the least amount of punishment and to allow yourself the chance to flee. However, if you are trying to prevent your opponent from escaping, then it is best to engage from the closest possible distance. This is especially important when using cloaking strikes because of the partially reverse reasoning involved. When decloaking on an inferior opponent (in terms of fleet match-up) it is often wisest to decloak at point blank range so as to bring maximum firepower to bear and to keep your vessels within weapon range at all time (especially when you are using slightly slower warships). However, when decloaking on a equal or stronger opponent, it is often best to decloak slightly out of range so that your unshielded hull does not take a large amount of punishment from an attentive opponent (who might give the order to fire on that giant shieldless warbird!) as well as giving you the chance to escape and / or micromanage your vessels out of range more quickly as they get damaged.
When a unit can use its superior range to destroy pursuing (or fleeing) units it is known as kiting. Often units that don't appear to be counters to another unit can turn out to be such if they are used to kite effectively. For instance, even if a short ranged unit might do additional damage to a medium ranged unit, perhaps the medium ranged unit is slightly faster (or the same speed) and can just barely manage to stay out of the way of the weapons of the short ranged unit. In Fleet Operations there are a few of these sorts of "soft-counters". Consider this carefully when comparing vessel ranges, speeds, and passives, since just because a unit deals extra damage to another does not mean that a skillful opponent might not use these non-intuitive differences to trap and crush you.
Another example of kiting using weapon range is slightly more complex and intricate to execute. By "blobbing" units together and swinging them around in tight circles, it is possible to thereby force all selected units into a small, tight-knit ball. This 'feint and approach' manner (move away from the enemy, swing back around, while concentrating all ships toward the center of the ball and thus making sure most firepower is available together) is very feasible with non-limited arc units. However, beware of using units that can only fire in a particular direction, as this tactic will be much less successful.
Cloaking is a great advantage that the Klingons and Romulans have (as well as the Dominion Breen Cruiser). Cloaking ships can be used to spy on your opponents and to make surprise attacks - especially on fleets that are faster than yours. Cloak can be used for cunning ambushes, map surveillance and escaping from battle. After cloak detection is researched, cloak will not become useless by any means, but it will limit the possibilities, as retreating from battle under cloak will become more difficult. Likewise, when you have been playing a game for a long time, hit and run attacks on mining and shipbuilding operations are not often as feasible because cloak detection has probably been researched by then so use your scouts very carefully to determine the weakest points of attack. After decloaking, reengaging the cloaking device will take 15 seconds.
One weakness that cloak has is that it is possible to use the Intelligence Report to ping cloaked vessels from a sensor station (or the Borg Probe and the Romulan Talon Refit), which will show you the positions and numbers of all cloaked vessels (without making them targetable). However, the Intelligence Report ability costs a significant amount of resources per use, which limits its viability.
Take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves: if you see a cloaked fleet that is not moving, attack it before the ships get a chance to decloak and regain shields.
Romulan ships may recloak almost immediately (2 seconds, or 1 second with the upgraded Tavara), but Klingon ships take 4 seconds to recloak (and the Breen Cruiser takes 3 seconds). Remember that cloaking damaged ships to get them out of an engagement is usually a wise course of action once shields drop to roughly zero (that way you get the most amount of firepower before you start to lose subsystems). Most Klingon ships can take more punishment than their Romulan counterparts, so you can usually keep fighting until they have begun to lose some of their hull. Be sure not to stay too long though, otherwise you risk losing subsystems. As you can imagine, it is best to start moving your ships away from battle as they begin to lose shields, that way you minimize the amount of incoming weapons fire when you finally do cloak them for a retreat.
Remember that cloaked ships do not regenerate special weapons energy, so be sure to move these vessels off to a secure location to decloak them and yet not give away your position to your enemy.
Often it is possible to bait your opponent with a few uncloaked ships (such as artillery vessels like the Veqlaragh or Serkas) while keeping the rest of your fleet cloaked in ambush. An opponent usually will not pass up such a wonderful opportunity to kill some juicy low-health vessels (or they will feel that the lone K'beajQ is just free experience) and thus they will leave the relative safety of an expansion or nebula to chase that particular ship, only for your own fleet to decloak right on top.
When researching cloak detection, always consider your resource situation as well as your current battlefield position. For instance, if you have confined your opponent to his or her base or your opponent is always on the defensive, it is unlikely that you will need to research or construct any form of cloak detection. Each faction has a unique mobile detector(s) that can be used to decloak vessels or stop ships from becoming fully cloaked. Hotkey and micromanage these vessels well so that you will have access to them when they are needed.
Types of Cloak Detection
Graviton-Tachyon cloak detection nets ping every 10 seconds, can detect a maximum of 25 units with a failure rate of 1%, and lasts for 10 seconds.
Tachyon cloak detection nets ping every 10 seconds, can detect a maximum of 25 units with a failure rate of 10% and lasts for 10 seconds.
The Adaptor/Scout Cubes' EM Field pings every 1 second in combat, can detect a maximum of 4 units with a failure rate of 10% and lasts for 6 seconds.
The Adaptor's Intensified EM Field lasts for 25 seconds and reveals all cloaked ships within short range for as long as they are in range.
Klingon Manual Targeting fires every 3 seconds, has a hit chance of 50% and lasts for 7 seconds with a successful hit.
Note that this list does not include types of cloak detection that involve knocking out the weapons subsystem to achieve their effect.
Mining Harassment Strategies
A good strategy, although cruel (so refer to etiquette) is to simply attack your opponent’s mining and leave without having a firefight with enemy ships (use your scouts to ensure the coast is clear!). If you are planning to raid some of your enemy's mining operations, the main objective should be the destruction (or distraction) of your opponent’s mining vessels. Often this is best accomplished with your interceptors - your fastest vessels. If you succeed in destroying all of the freighters, it will take quite some time for your opponent to recover, because the income of your opponent has been decreased and building new mining vessels takes time and resources. While destroying a mining station can seem like a delectable goal, if you need to get in and out quickly, this will be too much of an encumbrance.
Remember that vacant mining stations act as a magnet for freighters, so leaving the station in one piece can often entice your opponent to send his or her vulnerable miners to be annihilated once again. This style of strategy will give you superior resources, as it forces your enemy to rebuild, without losing your own fleet. You can imagine that this is best performed with factions that can cloak. The Dominion can recover a bit faster than other factions because they can change their construction vessels to mining vessels.
This tactic can also work against you, as you will be sending your ships out to attack leaving your own research and mining defenseless. Consequently, when you expand to a second set of moons as a non-Borg faction you should usually build one or two defense platforms surrounding each moon. This especially holds true if your opponent has access to cloaking units and thus has the power to easily strike where you are not. Early in the game, any faction’s defense platform can handle several destroyers and because you are limited on ships (and perhaps not on resources), you can often not afford to spread ships between your expansions and wherever else you’d like your fleet to be. Thus the defense platform - while a static defense - offers you the chance to protect your mining and discourage your opponent from attacking with weakly shielded units until your fleet returns.
If your mining is attacked without warning and you have no nearby defenses, cause your miners to all head in different directions to maximize the probability that some will escape. By the time your opponent is done chasing after them, you should hopefully be in range of his or her forces to wreak some devastation of your own.
Splitting Up Attack Forces
Splitting up forces is most advantageous if there is the chance for hit and run attacks on vulnerable positions (in the majority of cases, these are mining facilities), since you will not be able to rely on brute firepower to overwhelm static defenses or your opponent’s fleets.
To come away with the fewest losses when using this strategy there are several different tactics that can be utilized, but all rely on the fundamental ability to distract your opponent.
The first, and most basic tactic, is to simply send a lone destroyer or two (hopefully a cheap and thus fairly expendable unit) to your opponent’s mining expansion. Expansions are not always protected by turrets, and in most cases they are far enough from repair facilities, as well as further from the main focus of attention (your opponent’s main base) that freighter kills are usually guaranteed and often ignored until it is too late. Attacking an unguarded expansion with some cheaper destroyers also means that you can, for the most part, ignore the warships you sent there.
Bear in mind, that an attack of this sort must be done after you have begun a large and very visible massing of your forces near your opponent’s main base (or another expansion) or a direct engagement that threatens something more substantial than some simple miners - provided these actions force your opponent to make a choice between saving the expansion or sending warships to engage your own main fleet. This means that the expansion you will have attacked with your lonely destroyers is usually in the most inconvenient spot possible for your opponent (either far away, or located somewhere where micromanagement for pathing would be heavily needed). Thus, not only will your opponent be likely distracted by your large fleet, but also unwilling to send a few ships to deal with that far-off menace.
The second tactic is simply to test the waters - engage one mining operation with your interceptors, and when attacked, pull out immediately and have the rest of your fleet destroy a separate mining operation (if you are skilled enough, this can even be accomplished in the same base, provided moons are separated enough). This tactic relies heavily on keeping your ships moving, so it is essential that if you are facing a cloaking faction that you keep your second attacking fleet in position, but moving so as not to get ambushed and piecemealed.
Bear in mind that a human player can only do so many things at once - while it is possible to attack in two, and even three places at once, if you do not have the micromanagement skills to pull it off without having each division suffer from your lack of attention, do not attempt it. It will just end up costing you far more ships than if you had used a single undivided force.
Strategic Refinery Placement
Depending on the distance from home base moons to the initial starbase, there are a few strategic decisions that can be made that will limit the effects of harassment on your miners.
For the Borg, Resource Assimilators have such large capacities that one can usually get away with placing the Resource Nodes as close to the starbase as possible to limit harassment, without affecting resource intake.
For non-Borg factions, following the same recommendations as in the Economy section, it is often possible to place mining stations close to the starbase, limiting harassment against the stations and any docked miners. However, note that occasionally this makes the miners more vulnerable, as auto-targeting weapons will not have the opportunity to hit the stations instead of the miners. Be careful when you use this setup however, as if the mining station is too far away, it will slow down your resource accumulation. Try to lure non-micromanaged ships that are attacking your miners by sending them as close to your starbase as possible.
Harassing Around Yards
When coming up against a yard with several repairing vessels, if you have enough firepower to spare, you can choose to keep at least one warship firing upon the hostile vessel that is attempting to repair in order to stall the queue, while allowing the rest of your starships to destroy the vessels that have formed a line behind it. Most players however are sophisticated enough to hit "stop" (S) to eject the repairing vessel and save the next in line, which is where the next piece of advice comes into play.
Often times, it is far more efficient to let a repairing vessel actually exit the queue of the yard (especially if it was barely damaged). Since all vessels entering a yard must pivot and turn to get into the repair queue, by letting vessels end up at the wrong end of the yard, you ensure that you have much more time to destroy them. This holds especially true for freighters, which are quite slow and can usually be destroyed easily before re-entering the line.
Strategic Yard Placement
To ensure that you are able to protect your weak freighters, place your non-Borg shipyards close to your expansion moons, making sure to carefully note where ships will enter for repairs (so as to better position your shipyard). By carefully placing shipyards in such a fashion you can repair your slow freighters (and even defending destroyers) when they are attacked with little fear of them being outright destroyed. Yards at the main base can also be placed above mining stations to allow freighters to repair quickly, however this means that later in the game the yard may be in a precarious position (as it will not receive starbase support when attacked). Putting a shipyard way out in front of your starbase may seem like the quickest build pattern due to the production exit of starbases, but it means that not only is the yard easier to attack, but it also cannot readily aid your defenseless mining.
Usually when building a second yard (your proxy, or secondary yard) it is best to place it at your expansion to allow an easier defense against rushes as well as a forward repair facility. Since you can continually cycle your ships to repair at the facility and attack again as well as repair freighters and construction vessels in the field, a yard at such a location is a tremendous boon. As non-Borg shipyards have strong shields, usually there is little worry that your opponent’s destroyers will be able to destroy it this early in the game. In far off expansions against the Federation Warp-In or against cloaking faction, this strategy contains severe risks due to the powerful units that will arrive, unless you always have a small defending force.
In the recorded matches you might have noticed that later in a game the term “critical mass” is often bandied about in reference to larger battles. When engagements become very big (or when lag becomes particularly intense) the amount of ships in the arena becomes great enough that individual warships will blow up before you can get them out of the field of battle to be repaired and recrewed - a critical mass. Depending on the exact amount of ships present and how quick your reflexes are this can vary of course.
Nevertheless, at a certain point, ships will be blown out of existence more rapidly than you can control them. These facts will thus affect two critical components of gameplay - namely the use of special weapons and of using a cloak retreat to save your ships.
If you are feeling particularly lucky, setting your fleets of ships on full weapons autonomy after you’ve begun using special weapons at the beginning of a battle can be wise, as you will likewise not recognize those ships that have enough special weapons energy before they are blown up.
Since there is a huge amount of firepower streaming toward your ships usually, it is very rare that turning your ships around and cloaking out of a battle will actually give you a ship that is mostly intact. More often than not, that will simply hasten your demise, as you lower shields while photon torpedoes are already on their way as well as removing that firepower.
Remember to reset special weapons autonomy to low and to start retreating vessels (under cloak or not) once the situation becomes more manageable.
Countering the Federation Warp-In
Note that while paying attention to passives and weapon types is important, there are also a few general recommendations which can usually be followed when faced by a Warp-In attack.
Go for killing Teutoburg first because they will do the most damage to buildings with their special and normal attack, but are relatively weak compared to the other Warp-Ins in terms of defense. Nebulas should be killed next because they do not have any passives to protect themselves with. Kill Excelsiors after because although they have a relatively weak attack, they attack the fastest and killing them will reduce your opponent’s firepower faster. Last go for Galaxies as they do the most damage through torpedoes, but which will often miss your ships and the freighters. Against the Ambassador-class, pay close attention to the defensive value of this vessel. If it suddenly increases to 45, do not attack this cruiser, but concentrate on the other Warp-In ships until the Ambassador’s defense drops back down to 30 (to allow easier destruction). If it is a Descent, it is pretty self explanatory: just kill it! Take advantage of the fact that your opponent most likely is not micromanaging these units so that he can keep building, so cycle your ships into repairing, and trick your enemy into letting his ships fly next to your starbase by taking the freighters/ships he is attacking, and retreating them into range of the starbase. Note, that although this is a risky maneuver, you can also try to capture these vessels after their shields goes down by using any nearby base structures to transport crew.
Remember that in fleet engagements, killing your opponent's Warp-Ins will cause him or her to lose supply (each Warp-In vessel sucks up substantial supply upon its destruction).
Killing the Cube
As a general rule of thumb, destroying the weakest vessels in a fleet first is usually the wisest course of action. That allows you to remove as much firepower as possible in a very short amount of time, and thereby increase your chances of success. When a Cube is involved - especially a Tactical Cube - this rule can change somewhat depending on the circumstances. If a Borg fleet is composed of several Spheres capable of rapid regeneration, destroying them can be quite tough, as not only will they try to escape (as they are relatively fast), but they will be constantly regenerating, making their defensive capabilities extraordinarily powerful.
Thus, if you have a relatively small fleet and are engaging a single Borg fleet, the Cube can often prove to be a nicer starting target, since you start the battle with the most firepower available to you and a Tactical Cube is most likely to survive if there are less ships on the field (since it can regenerate fast as well as take less damage from weaker ships). If you are spending all that effort to kill the damned thing, only for it to survive with one or two Defensive Value, your entire fleet was wasted. Consequently, if the only other Borg vessels in the area are regenerating Spheres, the Cube should be your first target as it will undoubtedly be unable to get away. The destruction of a Cube is also a great psychological weapon to your Borg opponent.
If you want to get a look in a nebula without sending all of your ships within it, simply place a scout in a periphery of the nebula. Of course, this works both ways: you can put a scout on the outside of a nebula that disables sensors in order to increase your sensor range to allow you to target ships outside of the nebula. Note that the purple Mutara Nebula causes all ships firing from the outside of the nebula to be unable to actively target the ships inside (phasers, torpedoes, and pulse weapons will simply miss), even if you can see those vessels. Area of effect weapons will obviously still damage ships within these nebulae. The ships in these nebulae will have no trouble killing those on the outside however, so you must either draw the ships out or risk going into the nebula yourself.
Note that the color of the nebulae and player color can be combined to be tactically useful: the dull green will hide you effectively in Crystalid nebulae and the light blue will hide your ships in a Fluid nebula (using purple is usually pointless, as Mutara nebulae kill sensors anyway). This is only really effective against a player who is casually glancing at the nebula or who relies on the minimap to see if enemy forces are present.
There are of course some general tactics that can be quite useful in the presence of nebulae. For instance, if your units are being chased by superior forces and you need to escape, dashing into a Mutara nebula and changing your flight path (usual perpendicular to your angle of entry) can provide you with enough time to either lose yourself in the Mutara nebula or to simply pop out of another side of the nebula, regain shields, and leave while the chasing forces have been left further behind as they most likely will not have anticipated your sudden course correction.
Likewise, watch strategically placed Mutara and Fluid nebulae very carefully. Your enemy might have decided to use such a map object to take a shortcut and it is on these occasions where you will be able to decimate his or her forces. As these vessels will emerge from the nebulae without shields for a few short seconds, it would be quite unwise not to take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity. As a consequence, be sure to place scouts at these nebulae (especially if you have access to cloak) to receive some warning.
Remember to read the tooltips on nebulae carefully. For instance, if you are Borg, do not stay within the light green Crystalid Nebulae that regenerate only shields, as these will put you at a disadvantage if your opponent is non-Borg. Nebulae that disable shields and cloaking are the most effective ways to ensure survivability of Borg units while nebulae that decloak and regenerate shields are best for non-Borg units. Make sure to read the tooltips for nebulae before sending in your ships and try to stay within protective nebulae or lure your opponents out of theirs.
The Klingons, Dominion, Federation and Romulans all start off with two construction ships and one scout after selecting an avatar. The Borg begin with one construction ship and one scout (the Detector). Generally this is as many construction ships that you will need throughout the game. Do not leave these constructors at un-yarded expansions after they've finished their job, where they are easy prey for mining attacks.
Research Structure Placement
Usually build your research stations as close as possible to the starbase, to allow it to defend your miners and stations. Often times it is wisest to attempt to place research structures behind your base, as it is quite rare that players will take the effort (or have the room) to attack these locations.
You should never, EVER build Mixed-Tech facilities as your first shipyard (despite the facilities being initially cheaper than a normal shipyard) as they take far too long to build, research, and finally produce units (the mixed-tech shipyards produce units slower than their normal counterpart vessels). Usually you will build a Mixed-Tech facility after you have a defensible position, as they don't even have repair capabilities! Thus, you will usually build a Mixed-Tech facility as either your second or third shipyard in your normal build order. Consequently, the early game phase of a game is typically over by the time these special units enter the stage. Factor this into your game play accordingly.
Preferential Base Targets
Once you do attack your opponent’s base, do not engage main starbases first, but try to micromanage to attack from out of range. Against the Federation, destroy Starfleet Command initially to prevent instant reinforcements. Against the Borg, destroy the Conduction matrix (no more Collective Uplinks). When attacking the Klingons, attack the central small squarish portion of the most Field Yard to destroy the entire expanded station at once. Against Dominion, try to destroy any prototypes. In general go for destroying shipyards and then research stations.
Note that when your own yards or research stations are attacked, make sure that if they are near destruction that you have emptied/halted the queues. Any items still building within the queue will deduct resources after the destruction of the structure.
Near the end of a game, if you go in for the kill, some players will ignore their dying base to attack your base and hopefully destroy you faster. Make sure that if you gamble with this strategy, you can still win. Even if you end up destroying your opponent’s base, if you don’t get all the construction ships and his or her scattered warships, that enemy might still end up winning by building another base. This holds special note when combating the Dominion, as any of their miners may become a constructor.