FTL diary: one desperate battle in a brilliant spaceship management game

Tom Francis at

I send everyone I can spare to the large room outside the cockpit, and have my pilot Jill flee to lure the mantises there. They don’t bite. Or rather they keep biting, the cockpit.

While I’m distracted, an ion blast hits our shields, disabling them. Immediately, heavy lasers hit the medbay and the shield generator, breaking both. This is going badly. There’s a very real chance I may need to run, and that’s going to be hard with space-mantises in the cockpit. I send my weapons expert Maxim in with Jill to fight the insect problem.

I check my halberd charge: so close. Engi Matt is using his superior repair skill to get the shields back up, but we still don’t have enough for one layer. And that’s when an ion blast hits my weapons systems.

Oh hell.

An ion blast temporarily reduces power to the system it hits, which in this case takes the power-hungry halberd beam offline.

This is a disaster. It took 17 agonising seconds to charge the halberd, and now it’s back offline without ever firing. The burst laser is still ready to fire, but there’s no point. I have to wait for the ion blast to wear off, then charge up the halberd from scratch, all while being slammed with heavy lasers and ion blasts and praying nothing else hits my weapons systems and oh by the way my shields are down.

I am boned.

The mantises are twice as powerful as any human: they’ve almost killed Maxim and Jill. I send them out to the medbay, which they might as well fix while they’re there. I tag-team Aisha and Aki to tackle the foe, both with a fresh bar of health.

In the shield room, Matt is almost killed by the hammering the shields are taking as he works. My life support systems are destroyed, my engine is disabled again, and the shield generator catches fire in two different places as Matt – badly injured – tries to repair it. I can’t win, and I can’t run. Even once I get my engines back, I still haven’t taken my cockpit back from the mantises.

Miraculously, my weapons are never hit, and the halberd finally charges. I take a long, hard look at the enemy ship, figuring out where to hit.

Their shields and weapons systems are nowhere near each other, so I can’t hit both with one beam. But the real problem is how totally dead I am. Their fire is so ferocious, and when everything’s getting ionned, I just can’t keep my head above water. I can’t take any more. I have to take down their weapons.

All three burst lasers hit, taking down their shields 1-2-3. The instant the third goes down, the instant before the first comes back up, I fire the halberd. It’s precision angled to hit their weapons instantaneously, then cut through an empty room to finish on their engines.

It’s a great hit: major damage to their weapons and engines, plus about five points off their hull. It’s going to be a while before I can hit again, but I’ve taken the sting out of their tail: everything but their ions is taken offline, so as much as they can screw with me, they can’t deal real damage until they repair.

At this point, the mantises kill Aisha. Fuck.

I pull Aki out of the fight just in time, and run her to the medbay. The mantises are on their last legs, but the medbay’s only just come back online, so I have no healthy crewmembers. They chew through my helm controls, then scuttle into the drone room and start ripping that system apart too. Much of the rest of the ship is on fire. My hull is critical. Everyone’s holed up in the aft, trying to get their strength back, while the mantises gnaw freely through the front half of the ship.

My burst laser is charged, but again, I’m patient. I’m not firing until the halberd’s ready to follow through. Again, I could go for shields, but again, I just can’t risk their weapons getting in another good hit. I punch down their shields and cut the same line through the same systems, doing serious damage and keeping them weak.

It’s time: the mantises flood the shield room, where the injured Matt has just got them back online. They go for him, but he just walks out. In through the same door storm Jill, Maxim, Aki and Nathan, all at full health, and pound the shit out of them. There’s nothing left but bits.

Jill takes the helm, Matt heals up in the medbay, and Maxim gets back to his post in the weapons room.

The second he gets to the controls, my charge bars show the benefit of his expertise, and in seconds all weapons are ready to go. Finally, I go for their shields. My burst laser takes them down, then the halberd gets a direct hit on the generator, then cuts through two more rooms.

I don’t even wait for the halberd: the second my burst laser’s hot again, I target their weapons and fire. Three direct hits, all weapons offline.

The halberd is up. This is it. Maxim: go for their life support.

The beam destroys their cockpit. The beam kills their pilot. The beam takes out their oxygen. And then the beam destroys their ship.

That scene in sci-fi, where the crew all whoop and even the normally reserved captain cracks a smile – this was not like that scene. This was the scene where a captain chair-dances in his bedroom alone.