VGA Planets Super Site

Nuke This!
NUK traps: how to use them and how to beat them
revised july 15th, 2000

Note: with the release of host 3.22.027, Tim has disabled the NUK trap. In this version of host, planets will not attack any ships if they have zero defenseposts. So they will need defenseposts to begin with, then NUK the first enemy ship that comes along, be defeated, lose all their defenseposts and will not NUK the ships of the race who set up the NUK trap afterwards.
If you are 'lucky' enough to have a host who uses 3.22.026 or older, read on.....

An often recurring subject in the newsgroup is the infamous NUK-trap. Some people wonder what exactly a NUK trap is, some consider it to be a bug because it is so hard to defeat, and others have thought of ways to beat the NUK trap. This article will explain what NUK traps can do, why they are sometimes necessary, how to set them up and –most important of all- how to possibly beat them.

1. Introduction: the why
The infamous NUK trap is by nature a Privateer’s tool for successful robbing despite of Lokis in the enemy fleet, but NUK traps can also be used by various other races. Since it’s use is most common to the Privateers and the effect the most dangerous when set up by the Privateers, throughout this article the Privateers will be considered the race setting up the NUK trap. Later on, uses of this tactic for other races will be handled.

The Privateers have a very dangerous specialty: robbing. If you happen to end up at the same location as a Privateer ship or wolfpack, you can basically kiss your ship(s) goodbye. There are a couple of effective countermeasures against the Privateers, mainly (web) minefields, glory devices and Lokis. Webs and minefields offer great protection against attacking Privateers, as do Lokis and glories. However, when you are attacking the Privs and need to go to their planets, minefields won’t help you a bit. Many people have successfully taken down a Privateer planet or even starbase, only to have their attacking ships robbed and captured the next turn by the cloaked Privateer ships that were orbiting the planet. In the very early stages of a game this might be worth the price (take out a homeworld in trade for one or two surviving heavy ships), but later on taking out one of thirty Privateer bases at the expense of a couple of heavy battleships is not a good trade-off.

So while there seems to be a reasonable defense against Privateers who are on the attack (MBRs just don’t like minefields, let alone webmines), attacking the Privs is a really awful thing to do. The Priv commander will likely see you coming with a big fat grin on his face, knowing those ships will soon be his. All he has to do for it is wait. He might lose one starbase for them, but that’s about it. In return his cloaking ships will rob you and take control of your ships.

But when you are bringing Lokis, all this changes. The Loki decloaks the awaiting Privateer wolfpack, while the rest of the fleet destroys that wolfpack. Sure, the Privs can take out one Loki per time by cloaked-intercept (assuming the attacker is smart and only has one Loki with fuel, plus one or more fuelless ones), but that still does not save his wolfpack. So in this rob-immune system, we will surely take out the entire Privateer stronghold, won’t we? Well, not exactly. The Privateers have a really nasty way to counter this possibility: the infamous NUK trap.

2. Setting them up: the how
The NUK trap uses a few of VGA Planets’ groundrules to the fullest extent:

  1. Fuelless ships can not be attacked (by other ships)
  2. A planet set to NUK will attack all enemy ships in orbit, whether they have fuel or not
    2a. First, ships with fuel are fought in Order of Battle, based upon the friendly code and other settings
    2b. Then, fuelless ships are fought in a modified battle-order, an order I call the Alternate Order of Battle

When a Privateer sees your fleet proceeding towards him, and knows or even suspects your fleet to include a Loki, he does three very simple things: he gathers a bunch of ships at one planet, dumps all their fuel at the planet and sets the planet to NUK. Then he simply waits for your fleet to hit that planet. Then the rules kick in….

Because all the Privateer ships are fuelless, your ships do not fight them. Your ships do fight the planet however, either because they have set a KILL mission and/or have the Privateer as their primary enemy, or because the planet NUKs them. After that battle, the planet is owned by you, but still set to NUK. The planet then goes on to attack all fuelless ships in orbit: it attacks a Privateer ship. Ofcourse, having already lost a battle this hostrun, the planet has no more defenseposts so the ship easily wins without getting damaged. So the - now Privateer again -  planet goes on to see if there are enemy ships with a higher (Alternate) Order of Battle in orbit. If one is found, that one is fought, and the planet will be yours again. It then checks for a Privateer ship with an even higher (Alternate) Order of Battle and fights it, and so on and so on. Basically, the one who has the fuelless ship with the highest Alternate Order of Battle usually ends up owning the planet. All the Privateer has to do is make sure he is that person, and the trap has sprung.

At the beginning of the next turn, the situation is that your ships are orbiting a Privateer planet, accompanied by a number of Privateer ships. Because the Privateer owns the planet he can simply load one unit of fuel onto each of his ships. All he has to do then is set his ships to rob, uses some ships to towcapture your ships and he's got himself a nice addition to his armada. At your expense.

3. The nitty gritty: the specifics
After this short description, it’s time to discuss some of the less pleasant details of the NUK trap.

3.1 Order of Battle: normal and alternate
Planets set to NUK fight ships in two phases. First, all ships with fuel are fought, based on their Order of Battle. Then, all fuelless ships are fought using the Alternate Order of Battle.

In the VGA Planets universe, ships have a certain Order of Battle, often referred to as battle-value. This order is based on their friendly code, whether they have a primary enemy set and whether or not their mission is KILL. During the hostrun, there are four battle-sequences. First, all ships with cloaking devices attack their intercept targets. Then, all ship vs. ship battles are fought in Order of Battle. Third, all 'normal' ship vs. planet battles are fought in Order of Battle. If a ship has a numerical friendly code (a friendly code consisting of only numbers, like 418), that value is also his Order of Battle. A friendly code with one or more non-numbers (an alphanumerical friendly code) gives the ship a basic Order of Battle of 1000. In this case, having no KILL mission set adds 10 to that value, and not having a primary enemy set adds another 5. So the maximum Order of Battle a ship can have is 1015. If two ships have the same value, their ID is considered a decimal value to that code (for instance: ship ID 215 would get 1015.215). Put more simply: in such cases the ship with the highest ID gets to fight last.

When it comes to planets set to NUK, there is a fourth battle-sequence: the planet NUKs fuelless ships in Alternate Order of Battle. This Alternate Order of Battle is determined somewhat differently from the normal Order of Battle. The influence of the friendly code is eliminated; A ship with a friendly code of 418 will have the same basic value as a ship with a friendly code of 'jql'. Let's assume this basic value is 2000, to make it clear that it is higher than that of any ship with fuel. Having no primary enemy set adds to this value, we'll assume this is 5, just like in the normal Order of Battle, but the key is that ships with no primary enemy fight after ships with a primary enemy. Basically, ships with a primary enemy set have a value of 2000 and ships with no primary enemy set have a value of 2005. Since all ships are fuelless and can't have a mission, the KILL mission is of no influence. If two ships have the same AOB-value, the highest ID fights last.

3.2 Only the last fight counts
Often, the fact that with similar battle-values the ship with the highest ID fights last is concluded as "the highest ID ship gets to fight the planet last", but that is not entirely correct. The fuelless ship with the highest Alternate Order of Battle gets to fight last, and the highest possible Alternate Order of Battle can be achieved by the highest ID-ship. But the mechanics of a NUK planet fighting ships are so that if ship #498 has fuel, it will still always fight before ship #104 if it that ship is fuelless - regardless of anything else. The ship that will fight last is the one with the highest Alternate Order of Battle: of all the fuelless ships with no primary enemy set, the one with the highest ID number.

3.3 Happiness
Where in chapter two of this document it says "usually ends up owning the planet", that basically means "unless someone or something kills the remaining colonist clan on it". Whenever a planet is captured through combat, all colonists living on the planet are killed and one colonist clan of the new owner is placed on the planet. Sometimes, when a planet changes hands a considerable number of times in one turn, the natives on the planet grow so unhappy they start a civil war. During that war, all colonists kill eachother off and the planet ends up being unowned. In such a case, the NUK trap has failed because the Privateers can not manually load one unit of fuel onto each of their ships. The only way for the Privateer ships in orbit to get fuel (which they do need to set the ‘rob ship’ mission) is to use the ‘beam up fuel’ mission. And since that is done in order of ID, if you have brought some low ID ship(s) you can beam up all the fuel from the surface, leaving the Privateer ships fuelless. You might even end up in a position to tow some of those fuelless puppies home....

3.4 Privateers ally their way into a successful NUK trap
There is one devious way for the Privateers to enlarge the chance of success for their NUK trap. It will guarantee them a minimum number of fights, leaving less chance for the planet’s native population to start a war. If the Privateers set you as their ally (even when the alliance is not completed by you), this has a rather nasty consequence: the Privateer-owned planet will not NUK any of your ships. So unless you actively engage the planet (Primary Enemy and/or KILL) there is no planet-ship battle.

Typically, when your fleet arrives it fights the Privateer planet during the phase where the planet fights it out with all the ships with fuel. After this (you own the planet at this point), the planet starts fighting fuelless ships. So it fights a Privateer ship and loses: the planet ends up Privateer again. But here comes the nasty part: in this phase, only fuelless ships are fought. And since the Privateer planet regards your ships as "allies", it won't fight your ships anymore. Setting the Privateers as a primary enemy on a fuelless ship will not help: since it's fuelless, the ship won't actively engage the planet.

End result: with only two battles fought, the Privateer has his way. He ends up owning the planet, there's no chance of a civil war unless the natives were already rioting before you arrived, and apart from doing some possible damage control -see chapter 5- you can kiss your ships goodbye.

4. Surviving the nuke: the countermeasures
Ofcourse, I'm not just about to tell you how great the NUK-trap is without suggesting a couple of countermeasures. Some work better than others, some don't work at all or are at least easy to negate by the Privateers. But either way, not even trying to counter the NUK trap is just making life easy on the Privateers. So without promising too much effectiveness, here are nine possible ways to counter a Privateer NUK trap.

4.1 Having the ship with the highest Alternate Order of Battle
The normal defense against a NUK trap would be the old-fashioned way, by having a fuelless ship with the highest ID and no primary enemy set. But this is risky at best, and if the Privateer you're facing has also read this it is even useless. The Privateer might have an even higher ID ship or, as seen above in 3.4, he could simply offer you an alliance to spoil this option once and for all.

4.2 Minefields and webmines
Another 'old-fashioned' anti-Privateer measure: minefields and webmines. However, since you are doing the moving and the Privateer may just be waiting for you, don't count on too much effectiveness.

Just to mess up the (possible) NUK trap, laying a large (web) minefield the turn before you set course to the planet (which is two turns before arriving there) can sort some nice effect. There is a chance that the Privateer doesn’t have the wolfpack waiting already but is flying it to the planet two turns before you arrive. He can be really brave and gamble arriving without fuel the same turn you arrive, but that’s not very likely. If he still has to get to the planet, there’s a good chance a large minefield or webmine will take out some Privateer ships which could seriously spoil the trap. However, he'll surely be waiting for you at the next planet then....

Laying normal webmines to drain fuel of all Privateer ships that are already orbiting a planet is useless, since the entire point of the NUK trap is for the Privateers to leave their ships fuelless anyway. They can even load one unit of fuel onto one or more of their ships each turn, and sweep some of your webs. As long as they make sure the ship is out of fuel when you actually arrive, there is no risk for them. So they can either count on the webs to drain them, or better yet do this on a ship with lousy engines, using a warpwell waypoint (explained in more detail later) to burn all it's fuel should they unexpectedly not be drained by webs (because they sweep them or you scoop them) that turn.

4.3 Rebels and Fascists
While NUK traps at themselves are somewhat easier against the Rebels and Fascists (they arrive, fight the planet, the NUK planet fights the Privs and after that the Priv planet does not NUK anyone since Rebels and Fascists are immune to NUK), they can both spoil any NUK trap. The Rebels can Rebel Ground Assault the planet after all the battles have waged, killing the remaining clan. The Fascists can do the same with their Pillage mission. In both cases, the planet ends up unowned so the Privateers can not rob but need to use the 'beam up fuel' mission as described in 3.3. As a sidenote: ofcourse the Rebels and Fascists can also RGA or Pillage at the request of their allies....

4.4 Glory devices
These nasty suicidal ships are a nice and effective way to counter most NUK traps: the most favorite Privateer ships, the MBRs and BR-series, die a certain death from the explosion of just one glory device. In the Privateer shiplist, only the Bloodfang, the Merlin and the Neutronic refinery ships are rob-capable ships that can survive two glory-explosions. So at a first glance, setting off a glory device will most likely rid you of any Privateer threat. However, once the Privateer has gotten his hands on some of those heavy carriers, you better start popping a LOT of glory devices in order to destroy all the waiting Privateer ships. Damage alone does not prevent the Privateers from robbing.

4.5 Cloakers
First, a word of caution: if you are not the Feds, Lizards or Birds, having both a Loki -making the NUK trap necessary- and a cloaker is not a good combination, if the two start or end a turn in the same location (or even within 10 lightyears from eachother).

The main purpose of cloakers is to detect NUK traps before arriving at one. One often-heard suggestion to use cloakers to pass fuel to the fuelless Privateer ships the turn before arriving at the NUK trap, so the ships will fight upon arrival, often will not work. The turn before the enemy’s arrival, the Priv ships (usually MBRs) are still cloaked. In the same hostrun that your battlefleet flies to the trap, they drop their fuel and with that their cloak. But before then, there is no chance to transfer fuel to them since they are still cloaked.

The only possible ships to pass fuel to are the "rob-tanks" they might have there: Lady Royales, Merlins, Neutronic Refineries and possible other non-cloaking ships. The good thing is, these are often there because of their large fueltank, so unexpectedly killing them can be a serious blow to the Privateer’s robbing capacity at that planet. However, the Privateers can counter this by setting a waypoint three lightyears into the gravity well. Lady Royales, Merlins and Neutronic Refineries often have very bad engines. Moving such heavy ships three lightyears will often burn the fuel (usually just one kiloton) that is passed to them. After movement, the gravity well pulls them back to the planet.

Which brings us to the next possibility: tow away one or more of those "rob-tanks". Now, if your planning this, you can either try to tow that ship all the way home and force a surrender on it, or pass it some fuel and blow it up. The ship will not be likely to break your tow, because it will usually have less than 25 kilotons of fuel -making it impossible for him to break the tow- and it's waypoint will be in the warpwell (as seen above). Be aware that large ships like Merlins and Neutronic Refineries require a lot of torpedoes to kill. If you keep them fuelless, you can keep towing them. Be sure not to stay at the same position in space for two turns, or a cloaked Pirvateer ship will sneak up on you and your victim, and turn the hunter into the hunted once more.

But sadly, the countermeasure for the Privateers to make sure their ships don't get towed out is brutally simple. Load one unit of fuel, set mission to 'rob ship' and set a waypoint into the warpwell to burn that one unit of fuel so the ship will end up fuelless in orbit of the planet, ready to rob the fleet that has just arrived. There is one risk here for the Privateer: if he actually does rob any amount of fuel from your ship, he won't burn all of it yet still end up in the warpwell and then at the planet - where the attacking fleet will kill it. But yes, even this can be countered: he sets his waypoint just outside the warpwell. If he only burns the one fuel he won't get out of the well and arrive fuelless at the planet again; if he does rob fuel from you, he'll get out of the warpwell and be safe. He can even set the waypoint so far that he'll surely burn any amount of fuel he might rob, leaving you no chance to intercept and kill him. All you'll be able to do is intercept him and possibly end up in the same deep space spot as a fuelless Merlin or something of the likes. The chance to tow it back to one of your bases is slim to say the least, and passing fuel to it so you can kill it will cost you a lot of torpedoes. So apart from taking a bite out of the Privateer's robbing capacity, there is very little to gain there.

Dropping clans to take over the planet by groundattack won’t work either, because the planet will still hold the NUK friendly code the Privateers have set and thus attack the fuelless Privateer ships. In fact, doing this will even help the Privateers, since it means the planet will only be involved in one battle. Dropping clans and beaming up all the fuel will only help to some extent: you'll beam up all the fuel the Privateers have dropped, but not the fuel that is mined in the turn of the trap. So unless you're lucky and the planet doesn't mine much fuel per turn (in which case only a few Privateer ships will be able to rob or tow next turn), this doesn't help. Ofcourse, with the previous paragraphs in mind, you know that switching your mission to 'beam up fuel' exposes you to being robbed. So, yet again, what might be a good tactic (take all the fuel from the planet) might backfire in a horrible way, if the Privateer is a smart player.

Perhaps the best use of cloakers is to have them attack the planet, instead of the visible battlefleet with it's Loki. This holds true especially for the Birdmen with their many cloaking battleships (the Dark Wing ofcourse being the best choice). The Lizards and Fascists can use their cloaked ships to drop clans and take over planets without even attempting to fight them. Though this does not spoil a NUK trap, it does make them kind of useless: the Privateers lose every starbase they have except for their homeworld, and get to keep their less useful planets. Not much fun in that for the Privateers. Using a pack of Dark Wings to take out the Privateer homeworld is relatively safe. Each Dark Wing either dies (no gain for the Privateers) or survives; of the surviving Dark Wings only one will have fought the base and won, the rest won't have fought at all. Net result: Privateers out of their homeworld, and only one Dark Wing vulnerable to being robbed - if the battle with the base has damaged it so much that it cannot cloak anymore. Ofcourse, before it is robbed, it will pass all of it's fuel to the other Dark Wing(s) at the same location.

4.6 The really long shot: pray for a large meteor
If you get really lucky, the gods of the Echo Cluster might come to your rescue. If in the same turn that you fly to the planet and the Privateer drops all his fuel onto the planet that planet is hit by a large meteor, there is a good chance the entire colonist population is wiped out. If the impact doesn't wipe them out, maybe the civil wars -helped by at least two planet vs. ship battles- will do the trick. Anyway, just by luck there is a really really really small chance that mother nature spoils the trap. In such a case the planet ends up unowned which lets you off the hook, as described in 3.3

4.7 Allying your way out of a NUK trap
Risky, ballsy, possibly stupid but certainly daring: ally your way out of a NUK trap. When flying to a Privateer planet, set them as your ally! Use the same sneaky mechanics as described in 3.4 and use them to your advantage.

What will happen is you arrive at the planet, since you have set the Privateers as your ally you will not attack it, but since the planet is set to NUK it will attack you. Since all the Privateer ships are fuelless, none of them will retake the planet in the normal Order of Battle. And once the planet is yours, it will not attack the fuelless Privateer ships during the phase with the Alternate Order of Battle, because they are "allies" - this even works if those fuelless ships have you set as their primary enemy. This makes it much easier for you to have the ship with the highest Order of Battle, since there will be no fighting against fuelless ships with their Alternate Order of Battle.

But don’t laugh too soon, there are two sick and twisted ways for the Privateer to counter this move.

The first is to just cancel the NUK trap. If the Privateer just keeps all the fuel on their ships, make sure they have no primary enemy or kill mission set, make sure the planet is not set to ATT or NUK and wait for your arrival, you're doomed. You arrive, but since you’ve set the Privateers as your ally you won’t fight his ships. He ofcourse won’t fight your ships either, he’ll just rob you blind the next turn. The only thing that will protect you against this countermeasure is that the Privs cannot gamble on it: you'll only set them as their allies the turn you arrive at the planet, so they won't know if you do or do not set them as allies before it's possibly too late. If you don't set them as allies and they cancel the NUK trap, the Privateer ships are dead meat.

But unfortunately, the most dreaded way for the Privateer to counter you allying him is to simply complete the alliance. What will happen then, is you arrive at the planet of one of your official allies. Nobody will do any fighting, and at the beginning of the following turn the Privateer simply drops his end of the alliance and robs you blind. Even if you don't set him as your ally, setting you as an ally is very beneficial to the Privateers (see 3.4). In fact, if your Privateer opponent has read this article, he will have already set you as his ally so making him an ally is not even an option for you.

The only possible way to counter that counter-counter (still with me?) is to arrive at a planet with two races, where one allies the Privateer and the other doesn’t. Which ofcourse can easily be countered again (that would then be a countermeasure to the countermeasure which counters a countermeasure to a NUK trap) by the Privateer, by just allying the both of you, which makes it easy for him to end up owning the planet (see 3.4 again).

4.8 Hostile Chunnel
Enjoy it while it lasts, this one and only way to totally eliminate the NUK trap and even gain a few Privateer ships in the process. It utilizes the so-called "drop-chunnel", where a ship tows the Firecloud (thus making the chunnel impossible, in theory) to the planet where the trap is set, but runs out of fuel upon arriving. When running out of fuel, the tower immediately drops the tow so the Firecloud is free to chunnel. And when the Firecloud chunnels, all enemy ships that are either cloaked or out of fuel chunnel along (even if their warp is not set to zero). Pretty neat to chunnel a fuelless Privateer wolfpack to one of your starbases so they are forced to surrender to you next turn, ain't it?

A few words of caution: be careful when doing this. Make sure you decloak any Privateer cloakers he may have left in orbit of the NUK planet. If one or more cloaked Privateer ships do chunnel along, the Privateer will be able to pass fuel to all those fuelless buggers the next turn, upon which they will not only not surrender, but rob you silly as well. And once you've brought them into your backlands this way, you're in deep trouble. Also, be very sure there is no cloaked Privateer ship already present at the location you are chunneling his fuelless ships to (have a Loki or glory device set to 'trg' at the destination), or the same thing will happen. Also, be sure to run out of fuel with the ship that tows the Firecloud. If you don't, you'll just be giving the Privateers a Firecloud. Finally, make sure the base you are chunneling to is not set to NUK or you'll blow up all those lovely ships.

Sadly, many people consider the drop-tow to be a bug, and unfortunately Tim Wisseman agrees with them. It works up to and including Host 3.22.026, but Tim has reported he will fix this in Host 3.22.027. So either hope he won't release that update for quite some time, or only play at hosts who do not update their host versions very regularly. Or try to use other ways to overcome NUK traps. Sure, the seven ways mentioned before may seem useless, but there must be something left, right?

4.9 Be unpredictable
Hmm... probably not exactly the holy grail you were hoping for, but it should be mentioned. The Privateer can't go on setting up traps everywhere, so make sure he doesn't know where you'll hit next. Don't follow a straight-line string of planets, or he'll get you at the third planet at best. Move through deep space, towards a pack of planets, and hit a random one of them. Since the Privateer won't know which planet you will hit, this will give you the chance to take out some of the Privateer's planets. Also, because he won't be able to set up traps at every planet, he will be forced to just pick one or two planets and wait for you there. The planets he will leave unprotected won't exactly be his most important ones, but at least you have an opening in his defense. Once you've conquered a planet, leave a Loki in orbit and make it your safe haven in Privateer territory (not to spoil the optimism, but there are ways for the Privateers to get to that Loki). Also, b sure not to totally clear out a pack of planets this way (come from deep space, hit a random planet in a pack and from there hit the other planets in the pack one by one) or you'll certainly be walking into a big fat trap before you've cleared half the pack..

5. Damage control
Okay, now you've attacked a Privateer planet, but much to your horror you find out you only fought the planet itself once or twice, and now Privateer owns the planet again due to a NUK trap. Even worse, there are a dozen Privateer ships in orbit with you. Surely, he'll rob you blind and towcapture your ships. Anything you can do to minimize the losses? Not really, if your enemy is smart. But here are some suggestions anyway.

5.1 Have an allied cloaker there
Fueltransfers between different races are only handled after the 'rob ship' mission has taken place. Since cloaked ships can not be robbed (by default), if your ally passes you some fuel from a cloaked ship, the Privateer will rob all of your fuel after which you'll receive your ally's fuel. Instead of towcapturing you, the Privateer tows you. At the end of that tow, you will ofcourse blow that Privateer ship to bits because you still have your primary enemy set to Privateer. Too bad cloaked ships can only transfer fuel to one foreign ship per turn.

However, any Privateer player worth his money will towcapture your ships to a second wolfpack in deep space, just to be sure. So if you fight and kill the towing ship, the next turn you will be robbed again and this time you will be captured. Net result: Privateer loses a ship, but gains your ship in return. And that is probably a good trade for the Privateer, since your ships are almost by definition better battleships.

5.2 Have support ships in the area
Knowing the Privateers are going to try and towcapture your ships, have support ships in the vicinity to lay some (web) mines. Yes he will get your ship, but will probably lose the towing ship in a minefield or webminefield. If you combine this measure with an allied cloaker passing you fuel, you might even get to keep your own ship! Unless ofcourse the Privateer sees your minefield coming, and simply tows your ships (to a wolfpack) into the warpwell of the planet.

5.3 Beam up fuel
It's a long shot: if you match the planet's NUK friendly code (surely the Privateers will change it just to prevent this) AND the Privateer does not remove all the fuel from the planet, you could beam up some fuel. This is done after you are robbed, in which case the Privateer would end up towing you instead of towcapturing you. But as with having an allied cloaker providing you fuel, a smart Privateer player will make sure he can rob and towcapture you the next turn. In fact, any Privateer with half a brain will make sure you won't get to beam up any fuel: he will take all the fuel from the planet and change it's friendly code.

5.4 Fuel in the tractorbeam
If in the turn you are being robbed you beam down fuel and set your mission to gather fuel, the fuel you beam down will be dumped onto the planet and won't be robbed - rather, unless the Privateer prevents it, you will beam the fuel back up after robbing. The first purpose this serves is to make sure the Privateer doesn't get all your fuel scott-free. If he wants it, he's going to have to tow you to a wolfpack in deep space - since you won't be fuelless, he'll lose the towing ship. And once he's towed you out there, you'll jetisson the fuel rather than letting him get it.

However, in order for you to beam up that fuel again so you don't get towcaptured but get to fight your tower, you either need to match the planet's friendly code or own the planet. Matching the planet's code will be hard, since the Privateer will change the code just to prevent this kind of thing. So you have to take over the planet by groundattack, which means you must have brought a good number of clans with you. Unload them all, also drop your fuel, and set your ships to 'beam up neutronium'. Unfortunately, beaming up fuel happens in order of ship ID so even when the Privateer does not take actions to counter this, it will probably save only the lowest ID-ship you have there, or a few low-ID ships if you drop a lot of fuel. Knowing that, the Privateer may decide to towcapture only your highest ID ships. You can make it harder for him by having your lowest ID ships not set to beam up fuel, so your higher ID ships have fuel to beam up and he'll end up towing ships that do have fuel.

And ofcourse, there are ways for the Privateer to spoil all this. First of all, he can drop a lot of clans too -during the clientside part of the turn- and even build defenseposts. Chances are he'll win the groundbattle, and you won't beam up anything unless you match the planet's friendly code. And the Privateer will change that code. Another way to spoil your 'beam up fuel' mission is to beam up fuel himself: if the Privateer has one or more ships with low ID numbers, he'll be the one who beams up most if not all of the fuel.

6. NUK traps: their use for other races
Although not with such horrifying prospects as the Privateers, other races can use this tactic to their benefit too. Not everyone will be able to pull it off, and the benefits are different. However, apart from specific Privateer aspects as robbing and towing to wolfpacks just to be sure, similar mechanics as described earlier in this article apply. So the tactics and uses described below may or may not be countered with the tactics described above, I'll leave that to your own imagination.

6.1 Usage by other races
By nature, NUK traps are prettymuch impossible to use by the Rebels and Fascists, because they will not be attacked by planets set to NUK. Almost the same goes for the Bird Men, since none of their fuelless ships with beams will be attacked by a NUK planet. And since freighters aren't exactly good in conquering planets, they will have to build specific ships for this task which do have torpedoes or fighters, but no beams.

6.2 Check out the enemy fleet
If an enemy fleet comes your way through deep space, you have a pretty good idea of what and how many ships he has. But if they come planet-hopping, the only ship of which you know it is there is the one that beats your planet. Since knowledge is power, knowing what exactly the enemy fleet consists of would be useful. So one option would be to leave a cloaker in orbit of a planet the enemy will arrive at, or if you don't have any cloakers you can leave a fuelless ship. Sadly, that fuelless ship will then either be killed by your enemy (they pass fuel to it) or captured (towcaptured or towed back to a starbase). So the best way to do such a check is to set up a NUK trap. You get to see what ships are there, you get to see the weaponry of at least one of those ships (as it fights the planet) and you end up with one or more of your ships at the same location as the enemy fleet, which offers interesting possibilities.

6.3 Towing and killing certain enemy ships
Once you and the enemy start a turn at the same position, you are free to tow enemy ships as you see fit. Now, towing a certain ship against the will of your enemy is not as easy as it may sound, and it is not my intention to handle towconflicts in this article, but the possibilities are many.

First off, you can tow the largest enemy ships some 81 lightyears back to where they came from. This will probably cost you the towing ship (you either get killed or run out of fuel; if you run out of fuel your enemy can tow you with him - but than he can't sweep mines, for example....) but it will give your enemy two turns delay (one for being towed, and another for flying back to the starting position). It will also make him burn more fuel than he had anticipated. Ofcourse, you also remove all of the fuel off your planet, so if your enemy didn't plan ahead very well it might just stop the attack dead in the water, by lack of fuel.

Second, you can tow out the smaller ships and support ships, and kill them. They are often used to scout, carry fuel or supplies, or even to tow the larger enemy ships which are built with cheap engines. If your enemy uses that last tactic (for example, Cobols towing Virgos with cheap engines), this will certainly slow down the attack. It might just stop it altogether. If your enemy is the Borg, this will give you the chance to get to his Fireclouds. It might even let you kill the Firecloud the turn he wanted to use it to chunnel in the reinforcements.

Third, you can tow individual enemy battleships to your own packs of battleships. Fighting three Gorbies in a row is really hard and more expensive than fighting three separate Gorbies on separate locations. Yes, your enemy can try to eliminate this advantage by having his ships intercept eachother, but when you tow the interceptor that won't work (his intercept mission gets reset) and if his large ships have cheap engines all you have to do is tow his ships far enough away.

7. Conclusion / summary
All this tells us that the Privateers have a very dangerous weapon with this trap. Seeing how most of the possible countermeasures can easily be negated by the Privateers, and realizing the futility of any possible damage-control, you'd almost give up all hope.Making everyone his ally is a really smart thing to do for the Privateer, and will make him virtually invulnerable. It gives the Privateers a good chance of survival in an otherwise hostile Echo Cluster, where Ion Storms, minefields, webmines, Glory devices, Lokis, cloaked ships and not to forget a common goal by 10 enemies all make life hard on the Privateers.

The NUK trap is a remarkable tactic, which can also be utilized by other races. I hope this article will answer most (actually I'm hoping all, but let's not be presumptuous) of the questions concerning the NUK trap, and will offer people new ideas and insights. I have done a lot of testing with NUK planets, the different orders of battle and allying by the Privateer or the attacking race, but if you find any errors please don't hesitate to let me know.

Copyright 1999, 2000 and the entire 21st century: Donovan.
Special thanks to Simon Jenkins for ideas, initial testing and proofreading, to Dines Petersen for pointing out the two phases of NUK-battle and to Matthias Gietl for spotting a very stupid mistake.

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