Ships form the third leg of the tripod in ORG that begins with agents and continues on with ground and orbital facilities.
Like agents (and unlike facilities), ships are mobile. Also like agents, every ship as a single unalterable negative trait, possibly one or more fixed positive traits, and a number of open slots that the player can later slot (and re-slot) with acquirable ship traits as well.
But what makes ships different from agents? Why does an org even need them? (Or does an org need them?)
Let's take a deeper look...
Classes of Ships
Ships come in four basic types:
- Freighters: Cargo Freighters (can ship most bulk goods), Commercial Tanker (transports hydrocarbons, fissiles, Helium-3, and other volatiles), and Personnel Carriers (transports colonists, infantry, and prisoners)
- Research: Medical Ship (useful for missions-of-mercy, and can also serve as mobile hospitals in the event of agent injury), Research Ship (necessary for archaeological expeditions other than surveys and certain other experimental tasks)
- Frigates: Frigates (general workhorse useful for a wide variety of tasks including courier, agent transport, surveying, commerce raiding, and surveillance)
- Battleships: Destroyers (A.I. piloted with no human crew used for expendable or high-risk combat assignments), Dreadnought (massive ship-of-the-line used for extending a semi-permanent military presence), Super Dreadnought (dwarfs even the Dreadnought class of ship, able to act as a polity flagship and command center comparable to most orbital facilities)
Different tasks require different classes of ships; a Super Dreadnought is an amazing marvel of military engineering, but won't help you transport a hundred units of refined metals to Charon.
Some tasks are more versatile than others; for example, many military tasks can be slotted with any type of battleship. Some tasks - such as transporting an agent - can be done with almost any ship at all (though if you are transporting an agent on board an A.I.-piloted destroyer or cargo freighter, the agent will be put into cryosleep for the duration).
Primary Ship Tasks
Freighters are obviously for transporting material from one region to another. In the case of regions within the same orbit, generally this will be a very fast transfer measuring on the order of minutes. (There are exceptions; both the Asteroid Belt and the Kuiper Belt cover vast areas of space, and as such moving between regions in these orbits may be more similar to transports between orbits).
If you are focusing on other areas than Commercial and are willing to trade for the materials you need, you may well be able to do without freighters at all, especially if your org is focusing its efforts entirely on one region.
Medical Ships are specialist vessels; most orgs will not find these valuable, but they do open up a number of tasks that are notably useful for building up Reputation with polities in a way other than privateering against said polity's enemies, something that is risky, expensive, and carries with it its own diplomatic peril.
Research Vessels, like Medical Ships, are specialist vessels, and open up an array of very special tasks, including the very valuable xenological archaeological tasks that are focused on unraveling the mysteries of the remnants of what many believe to be evidence of long-dead alien intelligences that have been discovered in the outer regions of the solar system. With alien technologies as the promise, it is little surprise that many choose to specialize in the uncovering of these riddles.
Frigates are unspecialized vessels, able to be used in by far the widest selection of tasks. They are, as well, relatively cheap to build and maintain, and as such it is generally useful to maintain at least a handful of these.
Battleships are specialized for military ventures. There are actually two major ways these can be used, however.
First, an org may acquire an Order of Mark from a polity to grant it authorization to operate as a flag-of-convenience against that polity's enemies - essentially, a freelance operator in that polity's military. This opens up a large number of Military tasks that have the potential to be lucrative both financially, but also in building up Reputation with the polity being fought for, as well as the enemies of the polity being targeted.
Second, an org may simply build or otherwise acquire battleships for sale to the various polities and orgs of the solar system. Ships - especially battleships - are quite complicated and involved to build, and require extensive shipyards and resources. As such, there is a lively market for such, particularly among polities at war in parts of the solar system where "extensive shipyards" is not a particularly often-used phrase.
Ships require nothing to remain idle, meaning a ship that is not actively running a task will not cost an org anything to maintain it.
However, tasks that require one or more ships will always require additional task resource inputs in the form of Refined Hydrocarbons, Refined Fissile Materials, or Helium-3. For ships involved in military operations, Munitions will also be required at the very least, and possibly additional materials depending upon the nature of the military operation.
Generally speaking, Freighters, and Frigates will require Refined Hydrocarbons, while Research Ships and Battleships will require Refined Fissile Materials. Both types of ships can be reconfigured to operate off of Helium-3; whether or not it is worth it to do this depends on how many slots you have available on a ship and how ready your supply of Helium-3 is. Ships that run off of Helium-3 are very efficient, however, and require relatively little fuel compared to other types of propulsion.
Building ships requires a chain of tasks, each task producing a variety of manufactured and fabricated items until at last one can use a shipyard to assemble the gathered pieces into a functioning ship.
At the earlier stages, a shipyard is not required, but manufactory facilities may be.
As well, all of these items are tradable, meaning that an org can purchase, trade, or otherwise acquire intervening items rather than dealing with all of them by the org personally itself. Obviously, an org could easily decide as well to simply specialize in the production of part or all of the ship assembly process.
Building a ship begins with raw materials in the form of Carbonates, Silicates, Hydrocarbons, Metals, and Fissile Materials. These, in turn are processed into specialized facilities into refined forms of themselves.
Once refined materials are available, a manufactory can then put these together into manufactured items (e.g., hulls, capacitors, sensors) or fabricated items (e.g., ship traits such as drone bays, chaff launchers, railguns, ECCM systems).
Finally, a ship uses a Shipyard to assemble large numbers of appropriately manufactured items into a finished ship. After the ship is completed, fabricated items can be added on, depending on the item and the ship class - some items are restricted to certain types of ships.
Traits and Fabricated Ship Items
Like agents, ships have traits.
Every ship has a single fixed negative trait. This can range from issues with the engines affecting task duration time, leaks requiring regular infusions of Solars, or crews with bad reputations in various polities or other issues. Sometimes these negative traits can be worked around, sometimes not. For example, a ship with a negative trait of Notorious with the Independent Republic of Ceres can simply not be used in operations granting beneficial Reputation with the Independent Republic of Ceres - or perhaps you simply choose not to care about with Ceres thinks of your org.
A ship may as well have one or more fixed positive trait. These can range from Efficient Engines with improved task duration time to Reliable Weapons Feed with reduced Munitions input requirements for tasks, to renowned crews who when used will improve Reputation gains.
Finally, a ship may have one or more open slots that can be filled with specific fabricated ship item traits. For example, a ship with the fixed positive trait of Hangars can be slotted with various hangar-requiring acquirable positive traits such as Interceptors, Surveillance Drones, Ground Attack Fighters, or other options. Research vessels may have a Xenological Lab installed, or an Integrated Data Core, allowing for improved Data resource gains on tasks that reward various types of Data.