A boarding action is when either you or your opponent uses a Teleporter to beam onto another ship. While the crew is on the opponents ship, they can fight personnel and damage systems and subsystems.
Teleporting onto a ship ignores normal shields, making it an effective weapon against enemies with high shields. Teleportation is blocked by the Zoltan Shield, equipped on most Zoltan ships, until that shield is battered down; however, the Advanced Edition offers the Zoltan Shield Bypass augment which completely ignores Zoltan Shields in similar cases.
Advantages & Uses Edit
Teleportation can bypass basic shields, meaning that if no alternatives are present, it is possible to use a boarding party to attempt to damage or destroy vital ship systems - such as weapons and shields. Depending on the skill and species-specific capabilities of a boarding crew, it can be much quicker to simply overwhelm the crew of an enemy ship through boarding actions rather than use weaponry to destroy the ship through hull damage. Furthermore, some events and quests in FTL require ships to be captured intact.
It is sometimes a good idea to postpone teleporting until after your opening volley, so you can target your shots at the rooms the enemies are in, and deal some initial damage, making the combat faster and safer once your crew does teleport in. Since your boarding party takes damage when in a room hit by your ship's weapons, it's also a good idea to be careful what you target with ship weapons during boarding actions.
Boarding is especially effective against the The Rebel Flagship, as its weapons are in disconnected rooms with a single human crew member inside (unless in hard mode with advanced edition where the two artillery rooms near the shield room are connected by a 2-square room on either side). Once you've killed the crew member and destroyed the weapon, it won't be repaired until the next stage - provided the ship is not empty of crew and cannot auto-repair itself over time (this will only happen if no crew is remaining in the Rebel Flagship). Note, however, that if your crew is still in the ship after you end a stage, the crew will be lost when The Rebel Flagship warps away (this works the same for any ship with a charged FTL drive jumping).
The best crew members for boarding are Crystal (25% HP bonus and devastating lock-down ability), Rockmen (50% HP bonus and immunity to fire) and Mantis (50% damage bonus). Lanius (drain oxygen from room) can prove effective against non-Lanius combatants and meeting enemy Boarding Drones or Intruder Drones without fear of the hull breach that the drone caused.
Human and Slug have moderate combat performance, but the Slug allow you to view the interior of adjacent rooms, which gives you a slight tactical advantage when you have no level 2 sensors or are fighting in a nebula.
The least effective races for boarding operations are Engi (50% attack penalty) and Zoltan (30% HP penalty), however one can take advantage of Zoltans exploding on death and damaging nearby crew using a Clone Bay - an unorthodox tactic which is capitalized on in the Federation Cruiser C layout. Simply let the attackers kill off your Zoltan, whereby they will explode and do damage, wait until they are cloned back, rinse and repeat.
Typically, the most practical choice for an offensive boarding party is between Rock and Mantis characters. The "Classic" version of FTL had no Clone Bay and since the life of your crew members is so much more important than dealing some extra damage, Rocks easily won out (especially as they also have much easier time picking off shields and engines from unpressurized automated ships). With the Clone Bay, Mantis can be seen as the superior choice. In advanced edition, the Lanius can be viable boarding crew, but only in a boarding party composed exclusively of Lanius: their air-draining ability will function too slowly to be effective if they are sent without another Lanius to emphasize their ability, or conversely, the Lanius air-draining ability be an equal threat to any of your own non-Lanius crewmembers you send to support them. Crystal are still useful because of Lockdown, but the extremely rare occurrence of Crystal crew members means that it is unconventional to assume that they will be available outside of the ship compositions that start with them.
- Be careful when firing at an enemy ship that you've boarded - weapons hitting a room will damage your crew as well as the enemy!
- The intruder drone's ion-stun pulse does not affect friendly crew members. This means that fighting in a room when a player-controlled intruder drone activates will give the player's crew members an opportunity to deal extra damage to stunned enemy crew.
- Do not destroy an enemy ship while your crew is on it, or else those crew will be killed.
- Also, be careful of fires burning while you're boarding, as they cause additional hull damage when they damage systems, and can destroy the ship accidentally.
- If the enemy is able to jump out while your crew is on board, they will take your crew with them. The Clone Bay will not revive them since they technically didn't die, and Federation law states having multiple clones of the same person is forbidden.
- Be wary of ships with Cloaking capabilities, as you can neither teleport through reinforcements nor recover critically injured crewmen while their cloak is activated, and without adequate sensors it is difficult to say when the cloak will end.
- This is especially dangerous when paired with enemies' upgraded Doors, as your crew cannot run around the ship to avoid damage while waiting until the cloak runs out. It is therefore recommended to destroy the cloak, or target the doors subsystem before or during boarding to avoid sticky situations.
- Alternatively, a hacking drone can be used to make all doors on the enemy ship lock up, forcing enemy crew to blast their way through their own doors, as well as provide a boarding team with free reign across the ship.
- Some enemies, such as Rock or Mantis ships, are difficult to successfully board due to their high HP and high combat damage.
- Boarding an automated or Lanius ship is not recommended, as their rooms have no oxygen. However, Lanius are perfect against drones, or working beside them. Crystal and Rockmen crew can survive asphyxiation long enough to wait out the 20-second cool down of a level 1 teleporter. A level 2 teleporter will reactivate fast enough to save all but Zoltan crew from dying. A level 3 teleporter cycles fast enough to rescue anyone.
- With 4-man teleporter ships like The Basilisk, unless you have a level 3 teleporter and no Zoltans in your boarding party, it is not recommended to beam in a full party, as you'll have to recover them from separate rooms, meaning the teleporter must cool down twice.
- If you have boarders in your ship and jump away before the enemy ship surrenders or explodes, and end up in a beacon with another neutral ship with a teleporter, the boarders will teleport away.
Once all enemy crew have been killed, the battle is over. Winning a battle through boarding or wiping out the enemy crew typically yields higher scrap rewards than blowing up the ship. There is also a chance that your crew will find either a hostage (who will then join your crew) or an intact weapon.
There are several ship layouts that are either described as being intended to carry out boarding actions, carry utility weapons or systems to assist boarding actions, or otherwise improve specific species traits to provide an advantage during boarding. These ships include the Federation Cruiser C layout, all Mantis ship layouts, the Slug B layout, the Lanius B layout, the Rock B layout, and the Crystal B layout.
In general it is useful to know about how the enemy AI works so that this can be exploited. Enemy crew will be assigned a task, and once assigned often do not change what they are doing. The priorities appear to be;
- Heal - The enemy AI will stop fighting and go heal if it can, the only exception being if the room it is in is already locked down then it will fight to the death. Once in an active healing room, a hurt AI will not leave for any reason until it is fully healed.
- Defend/Repair the shield room - Unless actively healing in the Medbay, the AI will always drop what it is doing and go and defend or repair the shield room. For example you can keep the enemy crew running between jobs and never fighting by positioning one person to attack a system on one side of the ship, and another crew repeatedly enter and leave the shield room (from an empty room or lower priority target than the first). This will cause the enemy crew to switch between attacking person 1 and running to defend the shield room from person 2, who leaves before they get there causing them to head back to fight person 1, all the while allowing person 1 to destroy the system.
- Pathing - if the AI has decided to move somewhere, then it will often not change its mind until it gets there (the exploitable exception to this being mentioned above). This can be exploited with Lockdown and/or Hacking (to lock doors) along the path of the AI.
A very effective boarding ship is the Crystal B ship: with 3 crystal crew members and their "lockdown" ability you can teleport into a room and "lockdown" the room, meaning that crew can neither enter nor leave. This will let you destroy systems and sub systems or kill individual crew members easily, without their friends coming in to help. It also makes it much easier to board a ship with a Medbay, as you can prevent the enemy crew from leaving combat to go heal. On that note, it is sometimes best to teleport into the medbay itself, use "lockdown", and completely destroy the system; this prevents enemies from potentially escaping once the "lockdown" barrier fades or is destroyed, as they have no place to run to. However, beware of System Repair Drones, as they will repair the system regardless of whether or not they themselves are under attack, and if not destroyed quickly, can repair the system from right under you. If an enemy ship is equipped with a drone control system, also be wary of possible anti-personnel drones, which more often than not prove to be a significant problem for boarding parties.
With the enhanced versions, when controlling an enemy crew member via the Mind control bay, you can teleport it into your own ship while mind control is active, isolating them from receiving support from enemy crew. It can be a useful tactic against ships with a Medbay.
A hacking drone can be used to great effect to disable a ship's counter-boarding measures, or even turn the defences against the ship's crew. This is especially true if your opponent is healing their crew via a medbay. Not only will a hacked medbay heal the opposing crew members, rather than the defender's, but it will inflict damage on enemy crew. This, combined with the hacking drone's effect of disabling the doors to a hacked room, means that a medbay can be hacked and used to trap and eliminate several defending crew members in rapid succession - just be aware that the medbay will resume its normal functions once the hacking system needs to cool down.
Another useful trick is if you have a stun bomb is to use your other weapons to damage a small (2-space) but critical room, such as the piloting system. When enemy crew rush into the room to repair it, fire the stun bomb into the room. The enemies will be stunned and your boarding crew can teleport over and dispatch two enemy crew easily. If the teleporter is upgraded, the boarders can then be retrieved, or allowed to roam the ship.
The boarding party should also be micromanaged to avoid the weakest one from dying. A useful trick is to rotate the crew around within a room, by pausing, sending the crew out of the room, and then without unpausing sending them each back into the room one individual at a time (the order you do this determines their order in the room), then finally unpausing.
Defending Against BoardingEdit
Upgrading your doors to level 2 or 3 will slow down boarders, as they have to attack each door to open it. This allows the useful strategy of venting the rooms that the boarders are in, so they suffer asphyxiation damage while trying to attack your ship. This tactic varies in effect depending on which room the intruders have teleported into, as sometimes they may teleport directly into a room that has the sole purpose of being used to quickly vent areas of the ship, or they may teleport into a vital area that can't be vented without denying your crew access to other critical systems. Boarders will attempt to flee a room that has run out of oxygen (a room with hazard stripes), so this also helps protect the system they were attacking. It can be useful to vent empty rooms in your ship ahead of time, so that enemy boarders will begin to suffocate immediately (this also helps put out fires). Note that each time the boarders force doors open they cause air to leak out of the room they're entering.
If you are using the Zoltan ship, your Zoltan Shield will prevent boarding the ship but boarders caused by an event will still get through, with event text ending in, "You don't know how the intruders managed to get past your Zoltan Energy Shield!" While it is assumed the opponent has a Zoltan Shield Bypass in these instances, these events still occur without the Advanced Edition enabled.
The best place to face the enemy boarding party is the Medbay, provided it is online. The enemy can be coerced to fight in the Medbay by venting every other room in the ship. Be careful against Mantis, as their attack bonus can still gradually wear down crew, especially if the medbay is at lower levels. The Engi Medbot Dispersal augment can also give an edge to inexperienced combatants facing off against similar species, and in general makes protecting critical systems easier instead of constantly having to flush enemies into the medbay.
The alternative to the Medbay, the Clone Bay, is a bit more radical in its anti-boarding function: if you are in danger of being overrun and expect to lose a copy of your crew anyway, fully vent the ship. The beauty of it is that non-Drone non-Lanius boarders will be so busy running around suffocating they won't have spare time to actually damage your systems. You will also want to set your Bay to 1 (or even 0 if you have Backup DNA Bank augmentation) so that fresh clones arrive later, to a clean, empty, and probably already re-pressurized ship.
Most teleporting bomb weapons can target rooms aboard your own ship. If desperate, weapons like the small bomb or stun bomb can be used on your own ship to hinder the efforts of intruders, although the warm-up time for aforementioned weapons, expenditure of limited ammunition, as well as the possibility for collateral damage makes this tactic somewhat difficult to justify against less-extreme alternatives. The 'healing burst' bomb that can be found rarely through stores or events, or that comes as default equipment with the Slug Cruiser B-layout, can be used on your own rooms to heal crew members in prolonged combat, and allow your crew to out-last intruders if absolutely necessary.
For ships with a drone system installed, there is the option to use anti-personnel drone schematics. Anti-personnel drones function as a defensive version of the boarding drone, and will patrol the ship with the specific purpose of seeking out and destroying any intruders aboard the ship. Note that anti-personnel drones are impervious to air-deprivation, making them a viable anti-boarding option to use in combination with airlock venting.
Cloaking will also momentarily prevent the enemy from boarding your ship, or likewise from beaming their boarders back.