A short summary is that most ships can be used for piracy, but some ship upgrades are required. At a minimum, you'll need a tractor beam and some form of cargo hold. It has also been mentioned that destroying an enemy has a chance to release his cargo as debris that can be tractored in. Boarding or capturing the victim ship tentatively requires (see my piracy questions post) a docking collar and a ship with multiple crew slots. EVAs could make this more flexible, but we’ll need to wait for more detail before factoring in.
So, with those basics out of the way, what is the value of each of the known ships in Star Citizen to all you ne'er do wells?
- Aurora - by itself, not much. Some tractor beams have been listed as Class 2 (Cutlass announcement), so you’ll likely be able to tractor booty with an upgrade. That said, actually destroying another player’s ship will be a challenge in this ship. PvE piracy or big groups would likely be your main avenue of swashbuckling in this ship if you really must. Lifetime insurance may make this craft useful as cannon fodder (battering ram or damage sponge), but players that only own this class of ship will likely be more successful pirates as members of a boarding party on someone else’s ship.
- Origin 300i - probably the real minimum for an aspiring scallywag. The 300i is well rounded (fast with ‘decent’ armament) and likely a contender during battle in a skilled pilots hands. That said, this is not a high-end ship and you’ll be at the mercy of equally skilled pilots in better or more specialized craft. In the world of piracy, this ship looks to be a nice knife. Just be careful not to take it to a gun fight.
- M50 - The fastest ship around, but with limited armament and next to no hold. Likely useful as a scout or in some strategic capacity, but dog fighting will take the most skill hands. Outlaw fleets and guilds may take advantage of this speed, but no room for booty means most pirates will likely not bother.
- Hornet - excellent fighter, but has little room for swag. For piracy, it will likely be used in a group as a front line fighter with a heavier ship on tractoring or boarding duty. The heavy weapon loadout and great maneuverability could make Hornet the premier ship disabler.
- Freelancer - With less fight and way more freight, the freelancer looks to still be a good pirate option as it can hold its own and hold a bunch of swag. Since it can also hold a crew member, the Freelancer can participate in boarding maneuvers and ship captures. Typical lower-tier trading vessels should be easy pickings, but pilots tackling dedicated fighters 1 on 1 (Hornet or Vanduul) should be mindful as the Freelancer has less armaments and is likely less maneuverable. As with most cargo-heavy ships, the Freelancer may will likely fair best with a little fighter support to help fill that hold.
- Vanduul Scythe - Another top-of-the-line fighter with likely little cargo capacity (unknown at this point). This ship sounds like a mixed blessing for a pirate as it is very fast and maneuverable (12 thrusters), but its ramming capability may make accidental kills fairly likely. More details are needed, but this sounds like a tool for the most skilled pilots and a necessity for any pirate gang claiming battle superiority. Another benefit is that the Scythe is may be just a bit slower than the M50 (depending on what is decided on mass and engine upgrades). So, even in less skilled hands, the Scythe may make a good combination fighter / scout in a pirate fleet.
- Cutlass - A real purpose-made pirate vessel with a decent cargo hold (more than the Hornet, less than the Freelancer) and fighting capabilities. The Cutlass can also hold a second crewman to support boarding opportunities. If you got this ship as part of the crowd-funding (via Avast Mateys! or in the Pirate Package), the Cutlass comes with a docking collar and tractor beam, making it the perfect pirate starter craft and the only fighter ship (not counting the Caterpillar) that will be able to jump back into the game with no insurance cost (possibly perfect for piracy in Risk Level 5 areas). Generally speaking, the Cutlass is a Hornet-like fighter that trades out some armament and an upgrade slot for piracy essentials. My guess is that these will be most effective in groups that attack and board larger targets in tandem. Since the Cutlass is a pretty even compromise, I don't expect a mix of craft is really necessary in a pirating raid unless you are going for really high-end prey.
- Gladiator - A bomber that sounds like it may be a good pirating choice: Two crew, big hold, and nice weapons. Overall, this sounds like a beefier Cutlass without the pre-packaged piracy upgrades. It's speed and maneuverability are the downside, so traveling with a faster fighter may be needed for disabling prey.
- Constellation - The ship of choice for bigger operations: 4 crew, armed to the teeth, and an miny snub fighter. This ship has all the hallmarks of an excellent pirating backbone. Like the Gladiator, speed and maneuverability may be the only issue, but the snub fighter may negate this concern with an extra pair of hands. Paired with some Cutlasses or other fighters, the ‘Stella’ will likely be a pirating staple.
- Drake Caterpillar - Where the Cutlass is a pirate’s comprise on a fighter (eg Hornet), the Caterpillar is a compromise on a Freelancer. Being lighter on weapons and upgrades, but big on armor and crew, the Caterpillar looks great for pirate boarding operations. That said, the maneuverability likely means she’ll need significant fighter support to disable the target (at least for any target that takes four crew to capture) and protect her during boarding. Also, just like the Freelancer, I expect that trade vessels and mid-level craft will be easy pickings, but pilots should be wary of higher-end fighters or military craft.
- Starfarer - A fuel tanker with little offensive capabilities. Strategically, a pirate fleet or large raiding party could utilize a Starfarer to jump farther and faster than normal, but the loss of what could otherwise be fighting ship is a heavy cost Secondary accounts may influence its use, but we'll cover that discussion in a later post. Likely, this is a ship that will need to be evaluated in-game to ascertain its pirating potential and reevaluated as new strategies are devised.
- Retaliator - This is a big ship with a nice crew size and a heavy armament that, at first, looks great for holding boarding parties. It's only downside is that all of its default armament is missiles and turrets which ‘may’ be cumbersome for disabling prey ships (so far as we currently know). Upgrades could change this, but this ship will be a hulk war vessel no matter how you load it out. Thus, more so than other big craft, the Retaliator will likely need a significant fighter compliment to be useful to pirates. You’re more likely to be fighting Retaliator escorts than flying them into combat.
- Idris Corvette - The only information we have on this ship is that it is just smaller than a capital ship and holds a small number of some form of fighters (unknown if the are specialized craft like the Constellation or existing craft). This is obviously of some use to a pirate tactics, but we don't have enough info to see exactly what yet.
- Other capital ships (Bengal carrier, destroyer, etc.) - These bigger ships will likely be useful strategically as mobile bases and for large scale events. They are probably not all that useful in the traditional tactical elements of piracy.
So, those my opinions. Do you disagree or have something to add? Please use the comments to let everyone know.