I had a really enjoyable experience my first time through Endless Sky. I made a lot of discoveries and had a lot of fun. As I reached the endgame, though, I was a little dissatisfied with my Bactrian and its fleet of Beetle escorts. Sure, we were practically invincible (except a couple of times when we were ambushed by four or more Marauder fleets). Sure, we had enough cargo space and bunks to fulfill practically any mission, any time. Sure, we had dominated all the Pirate planets, and a few others who dared to attack us during the war. But the salaries I was paying just seemed... wasteful, somehow.
I calculated that it would take thousands of jumps for the salaries to eat through my credit, assuming I never made money every again. But I was still dissatisfied. I wanted a powerful fleet with minimal expense. The Universe should work for me, dang it!
Enter John Connor.
Warning: This post contains spoilers!
John Connor started with a fighter. Bad choice; it takes too long get to better ships. Next time, I'll try a shuttle. John christened it the Johnny 5 and ventured out to seek his fortune.
He wandered the galaxy, making money for my first ship. With his fighter, he mostly ran escort missions; luckily, especially at low levels, he didn't actually need to fight anything. I felt a little dirty, but I just refused to hold down the 'J' key, ditched the escorted ships, and went straight to the destination. Any pirates lying in wait went after John, but he was too fast for them: he just circled around, letting other ships pick at the pirates, or kiting them away from the landing zone, until his escort finally arrived. Then he landed quick. Very little danger of losing an escort.
Finally, with 3M under his belt, John went to Tarazed (in the far South of the Galaxy, near the Eastern edge) and picked up a Blackbird. Its 60 cargo and 28 crew make it ideal for boarding many ships. There are even pirate planets nearby. A quick visit to Nunki, in the central South, got him the Fragmentation Grenades needed to make boarding more feasible. In just a few months, John had 10M and a small fleet. He was still paying exorbitant (not really) salaries and occasional death benefits, but he managed to pay them off in full at every landing.
He used his 10M to buy the Skynet, an Osprey, on Tarazed. It was going to be the backbone of his strategy. But he needed one more thing: a Jump Drive.
John took missions leading him North, out of The Dirt Belt, and into The Core. He continued boarding low-risk ships to add to his fleet, and looting the more difficult ships for their high-value outfits. He considered a brief stop at Alpha Centauri for a Star Queen: its 112 bunks would make capturing ships even easier. That would be the easy path to financial security, but money wasn't his goal. If it were, a trip to the Deep for a Bactrian, with 245 bunks, would have been a better choice.
Instead, John went through Ruchbah, in the center North of The Core, through Sheratan, to Zaurak. After a quick refuel, and emptying his cargo hold, he was ready for the critical phase of the plan: fighting the Korath at Durax.
Avoiding the pirates at Alcyone, John jumped to Durax and told his fleet to hold position at the outskirts of the system. The Johnny 5 skirted around the edges of the battles, waiting for a Korath raider to jump in. A couple of them were utterly destroyed before John could move in to board and loot. Finally, he caught the attention of a raider and kited it towards his fleet. After a minute or so of shooting, the Johnny 5 was carrying a Jump Drive in cargo. One more kiting, and a fortuitous boarding, and he was carrying three.
John jumped back to Alcyone, paid the ridiculous landing bribe, and sold off his entire fleet besides the Skynet. This Osprey would be his home for a long while: the vagaries of the RNG would dominate his life soon. The little pirate planet had lots of weird outfits in stock now, the castoffs of his impromptu fleet; he installed one of the Jump Drives and the A255 Atomic Steering.
John departed Alcyone and leapt directly to the isolated system to the North, Kashikt. Here he met the Quarg and the Kor Efreti. He bought two Ramscoops and ventured North, eventually finding himself in Hai space. John sold ALL his weapons, traded his thruster for a Bufaer, and upgraded his reactor to a Boulder. He invested heavily in defense, installing a Hai Diamond Regenerator and a Chameleon Anti-Missile turret. Now he was weaponless, but the Skynet could outrun practically any missile with its 1181.3 max speed and 569.64 acceleration. The 54.3 turning was a drawback, but the Skynet wasn't intended for dogfighting: it was a smash-and-grab scavenger.
John left Hai space Southeastward from Da Ent, returning the Kor battlefields. After a quick landing at Kaliptari (to save his progress), he spent some time visiting nearby systems and getting accustomed to the Skynet, learning that if he was moving when the Kor Mereti ships arrived, he could usually simply accelerate to escape them. He found the limit that the enemy ships were willing to pursue him to, and discovered that his Ramscoops could collect fuel even there -- albeit slowly. He developed a strategy of baiting the ships, running in close to the star, and flying in circles just outside their weapons range as he refueled. Taunting, he would then dash outside their pursuit perimeter to decide on his next jump.
John jumped to Eshkoshtar, set his destination to Kaliptari, and started circling the sun. The Kor Mereti arrived, far too soon for his comfort. He led them in circles as his Ramscoops topped off his fuel tanks -- until the Kor Sesti arrived. The Kor Mereti broke off pursuit and attacked the Kor Sesti. The void filled with mines, fighters, and weird long-range plasma bursts. John circled the battle, watching; nobody seemed interested in his little toothless Osprey.
The battle raged on, limitless energies warping the very fabric of space itself (and making quite a ruckus on my headphones). As a new group of reinforcements arrived, the tide coursed Westward, leaving behind a giant minefield -- and some disabled Kor Mereti ships! John boarded a Model 16, which self-destructed immediately. A quick touch of the 'B' key moved the Skynet towards a Kor Sesti drone, which was quickly captured! With nowhere to dock, it rushed to its suicide in the knot of larger ships, but John now knew that the Kor ships were capturable.
The Kor Mereti finished off their enemies and focused on the Skynet. John bolted for the pursuit limit! The Kor Mereti ships couldn't keep up. As he drifted away, John realized that the ships were clumping: the smaller Model 16s, 32s, and 64s in one group, and the larger Model 128s, 256s, and even a couple of 512s in another. John started moving in great circles just inside the pursuit zone, stretching the gap between the ships... then reversed and shot between them! Moving in a figure eight, he clumped all the ships together outside of the main star system, bringing them all close to the edge of their pursuit threshold.
With plenty of time on his hands, John starting running through the list of ships in the system with the 'N' key. (The 'B' key only selected the nearest disabled ship, often a useless Kor Sesti drone or fighter.) He discovered a giant Kor Sesti Kar Ik Vot 349 among the disabled. It was pointing almost due Southwest, so John continued circling and clumping the Kor Mereti ships together, leading them gradually Southwest, until they were gathered near the pursuit limit. Then he broke east and dashed for the prize!
Nearly there, the SkyNet reversed its course and started decelerating. Even the Model 16s were far behind; John had plenty of time to board the ship. RNGeezus was with him: he captured the heavy warship! Barely functional, the ship couldn't stand against the entire Kor Mereti armada. It didn't have the speed to evade them long enough to reach the safe zone. It seemed this momentous conquest would be Pyrrhic after all. Discouraged, John activated his "escape hatch" jump to Kaliptari: he was already stationary, so the jump should occur immediately.
As the SkyNet faded into the fourth dimension, John saw his new prize jump away as well! It had been pointing directly at a hyperspace link!
They met at Kaliptari, where John landed to rename his prize the Saberhagen 1 (and saved our progress). He repeated the process several times, capturing various models of Kor Sesti and Kor Mereti ships. John would escort smaller models to the pursuit perimeter and command them to hold position. If he was ever disabled, there was a chance -- however slight -- that the ship could come and repair him. After capturing some Kor Sesti carriers, he even commandeered drones and fighters. As long as he was careful to avoid the main combat, scavenging only the outskirts, there was no risk in capturing a ship, only gain. After capturing heavy warships, he would jump away Sabriset or Kaliptari, commanding the entire fleet to gather and meet him. Kor Sesti ships were named after Saberhagen; Kor Mereti after Asimov.
John escorted the whole fleet back to Kashikt. The carriers were far too slow to be useful, and John wasn't interested in weak fighters and drones; he (counter-intuitively) outfitted the carriers with Jump Drives, then escorted them to the nearest shipyard in Mirfak to sell them. The SkyNet became even more defensive, with hull repair from a medium System Core, power from a Plasma Core, and a Large Heat Shunt for cooling.
Still, the SkyNet's 9 crew seemed like salary overkill. Back on Kashikt, John removed the secondary weapons from a Kar Ik Vot 349 and equipped it with a cabin and some bunks. The power of the warship (and its 87 cargo space, double the Osprey's) were his to command! The hull even had built-in Ramscoops. He scavenged some of the other ships in his fleet to reconfigure for defense, with an extra System Core and a Chameleon Anti-Missile turret, shifted the engines for the fastest speed available (sacrificing turning), and rechristened the new ship the Qwib Qwib.
Unfortunately, the Qwib Qwib wasn't a very good ship for John. The fleet wasn't large enough to withstand the large armadas that inevitably gathered in hostile systems, so rampaging through the Kor sector was still in the future. As a Heavy Warship, the Qwib Qwib attracted too much attention to board disabled hulks near ongoing rampaging: a part of the main armadas would break off from fighting to go destroy him! The sight of the Heavy Warship boarding a tiny fighter was fairly amusing, but John needed a larger fleet.
Switching back to the SkyNet, John continued his smash-and-grab tactics. He discovered that coming from a 90-degree angle would still allow him to board a ship before the pursuing fleet could arrive, and leave him positioned to flee and circle if the capture failed, or run for the safe zone if it succeeded -- in most cases. Sometimes a pursuing fleet would simply disable his new prize, giving John another chance to pick it up. In this way, he captured several capital ships in a single game day, escorting them to safety where they could regenerate hull and shields.
After amassing a fleet, John outfitted his three strongest ships with his three Jump Drives and returned to Durax. There he jumped Southeast to Kor En'lakfar, where Korath Raiders were plentiful. He collected Jump Drives until he could outfit his entire fleet.
John has taken over Alcyone already, and is experimenting with the various ships to decide which will be his flagship. The Heavy Warships turn and accelerate too slowly; possibly a Model 128 will be his choice to receive the Cloaking Device.
He has yet to capture a Model 512.