There is more to the art of trading safely and efficiently than just knowing a good route and having 1000 relations with that race. I’m not going to address the basic principles of trading at this time (maybe in the future if I feel motivated and if I feel like it will benefit us). If you have any questions about any of the concepts or terminology I talk about in here, just ask me.
First and foremost you should be extremely knowledgeable about that galaxy that you are trading in. You should know off the top of your head, or have written down in front of you, the following sectors:
That last item is very important because speed is your greatest asset, as well as your best defense. The faster you can trade, the less time other traders have to drain your ports. The faster you trade, the less time you are exposed to attack.
Another way to increase your speed is to avoid using the course plotter. The course plotter takes time to program and you are blind while you are doing it. If you are trading on a 3x3 route, you should know the route and be able to manually click on each sector you want to move to. With 1000 relations you can trade without ever having to enter a number.
If you are using a longer route that isn’t as easy to manually navigate, here’s a tip that I use. As soon as I arrive in sector, before I go to the port to sell my goods, I plot the course to the next port. Then I drop into the port, sell and buy goods, and when I come out of the port the course is already plotted. Nothing to think about, just punch the next sector button and I’m on my way. This can be a life saver if you are attacked while in the port and you’re blind. Just hit ‘current sector’ and punch the next sector button to get the hell out of there. When you think you are safe you can plot to Fed Space.
In addition to being fast, using your intelligence will keep you alive to trade another day. Being able to identify less than inviting trade situations before you leave Fed Space will keep you safe, save you from wasting turns, and save you from having to spend money to replenish shields lost to the hunter that was sitting at your port waiting for you.
Every time you log in, you should read the news. All of it. Even if there are a hundred entries. What you want to look for are killings that happened in your trade galaxy, and especially killings that happened at the ports you trade at. Pay attention to both parties involved. Get to know who the hunters are and know who the traders are and keep this list in the back of you mind (or write it down). Of course, the most important news entries are the ones that have occurred within the past half hour in your trade galaxy.
After reading the news, look at the Current Player List (CPL). If you see a hunter on that you know patrols your galaxy, it’s not a good time to be trading. If you see a known trader on, he’s probably drained your routes and it might not be a good time to trade.
But then there is the problem of lurkers. It’s possible that a hunter is sitting at one of your ports, or somewhere in the galaxy, and is not on the CPL. He may have scouts set out to alert him of anyone using the known trade routes and is refreshing his messages waiting for the signal to move. There’s not a whole lot you can do to ascertain this situation from Fed Space. The recent news will tell you if there was a killing recently in the galaxy, and you can assume the possibility exists that the hunter is still in galaxy, but there really isn’t any way to know for sure.
You could take the time to check the CPL while you are trading to see if any hunters have popped up-and you should- but it slows you down and makes you blind while you’re studying it. So before leaving Fed Space, open the chat window and resize it so that you can fit it on your screen next to the game window. Get into #crew and ask someone in the room to watch the CPL for you while you trade. Tell them the specific hunters you are looking for. Then while you trade just watch chat to see if anyone gives you a warning. Of course, people do get wrapped up in chatting and don’t watch the CPL as closely as you might like, so it’s good to still check it yourself once in a while.
If you have someone watching the CPL for you make sure you relay them the names of the owners of any scouts that you trip. If you trip a hunter’s scout and they come after you, they will show on the CPL and your ally should be able to warn you.
Now for some tips on the more tangible things that will keep your butt out of a pod.
The first consideration is what ship your are piloting. Generally speaking this debate is null and void if you are Alskant. But for the other races, the neutral trade ships are far better than the racial trade ships available. And the general consensus is that the IST and the PSF are your two best options. The IST has half the holds of a PSF and accumulates turns almost twice as fast. Therefore the PSF has a slight edge in potential experience and profit earned per hour. But the snail’s pace at which it accumulates turns is enough to drive a professional chess player crazy.
The IST, on the other hand, gives you unequaled flexibility and practicality. The extra turns allow you to go to the bank frequently, travel a greater distance to reach a route, and vary your route to avoid scouts. The number of holds (300) is more practical than the PSF (600). Quite often a port will have between 300 and 600 of the important good and there’s no sense in buying less than a full load in a PSF. You might as well save your turns and go home. But the IST can make a run with a full load and still have turns to find another route to trade on. One other advantage to an IST is that it supports a jump drive. I have not fully investigated the potential benefit of a jump drive so I’m not going to comment on it here.
The Achilles heel of the IST is it’s lack of defense. With only 375 shields and 250 armor and 15 combat drones, an experienced hunter can pod an IST with one shot, two at most. Hitting one mine in an IST is cause for concern because the 20 shields you just lost might be the difference between life and death if you’re shot at. So there is a high degree of vulnerability and upkeep that comes with the IST. You’ve got to keep it at full defenses at all times, and in order to keep it fully defended, you need to visit a CA as well as an UNO.
The PSF causes no such concern. It carries 500 shields and 1000 armor. Expensive to equip, but no need to refill after hitting a few mines here and there. It also takes 2 solid shots to kill in best case scenario. More likely it takes 4 or more shots. So shelling out for a PSF could be worth it in the long run. Especially if you have a slow connection or you are still learning. The bottom line is, pick the ship that suits your trading style and expertise best.
Once you’ve picked your ship and you are on your way trading, how can you increase your chances of staying out of a pod?
That’s all for now. I’m sure there will be updates and things added as I learn more and get some feedback. Happy trading!