Artemis is a wonderful co-operative PC game, wherein a small group of players simulate a starship bridge crew, fighting off hordes of over-agressive aliens, while protecting their Starbases. The players must interact with each other (usually in the same physical room) to coordinate the efforts of the various bridge stations.
I find the psychodynamics of the interactions almost as much fun as the game itself: watching how different people play different roles, especially the “Captain” role. I love to host Artemis parties, and swap people into the Captain’s chair and see how they do. It’s particularly interesting to see how “quiet” people can step up and take charge when they are given the commanding role: there’s a doctoral thesis here, just waiting to be written!
Nonetheless, I’ve developed some thoughts about the game play that I thought worth sharing: I welcome any questions or feedback on the same. The following notes assume that you are basically familiar with the game (or have read through the website). Everything here is merely my opinion: YMMV.
- Physical layout
- One room. Don’t even consider trying to play ‘over’ the network. The “togetherness” is critical, and so much more fun!
- Helm, weapons, and Captain should be close. Helm and weapons have to work together intimately: it’s best if the Captain can see one of their screens. Pretty much everyone else can communicate easily by voice.
- Wired network. Even though Artemis is not super-heavy on the graphics, it can still seriously load the local network (causing many drop-outs). I bring a WiFi box and an ethernet hub, and a bunch of cables, and cable as many of the player PCs together as possible. (The rest can use the WiFi network.) I don’t even connect the WiFi box up to anything: we don’t need the Internet, just a LAN devoted to Artemis!
- Big screen. It’s really, really, nice to have one big screen as the master viewscreen. Even though it provides surprisingly little information, it still raises the ambiance and makes it more fun.
- The Captain decides strategy. But the Captain should not micro-manage the tactics. If she says “attack that group of aliens”, she should leave it up to the helm and weapons to decide precisely how. She might advise on a combo of tactics, but don’t “rudder-order” the helm while he’s dancing around a cluster of enemy vessels.
- Of course, the Captain gets to change strategy in a heart-beat. If something’s not working, or Comms tells you a Starbase is under attack, the Captain can say “get the hell out of here” and change plans.
- Incremental damage. Remember, you don’t need to destroy every ship in a cluster all at once. Kill some, run home, reload, and come back. (Shields also seem to regenerate faster when you’re docked.)
- Listen to your Starbases. When they offer something, take them up on it.
- Tactics. I’ve developed a couple of code-phrases to help Helm and Weapons coordinate on a particular style of attack.
- One-two punch. Come up to a cluster of aliens, aim for their center, and drop an EMP, followed shortly by a nuke.
- Up-close. Really powerful alien ships can blow up your torpedoes before they arrive, or teleport away when they’re hurting. Dive right next to the enemy ship, drop an EMP. If you’re not getting clobbered, drop a nuke and warp out. Otherwise, run away, then come back again and nuke ’em (up close again). The idea is to give the enemy the shortest amount of time possible (so that they can’t stop your torpedo or ‘port in time), without killing yourself with your own weapons.
- Hail Mary. Mines are just nukes that don’t move. If you’re out of nukes, plant a mine where you really want it… right next to the enemy. Start by EMPing an enemy cluster. Then fly at warp 1 right through the middle of the cluster. Just as you pass the center, drop a mine. Then warp 2 out of there. (Works best if you have a joystick with warp buttons.) You’ll take a pummeling, but if you’re quick, it won’t be too bad, and you’ll do an awful lot of damage.
- Lay an egg. A sort of reverse Hail Mary. Especially good if your front shields are bad. Point stern-to the enemy, go into full reverse until you’re a bit more than the typical mine-activation distance away from the target(s)… then simultaneously drop the mine, bang into forward, and warp out of there. Your rear shields will take a beating, but it’s usually worth it. Make sure you time it exactly right: flying backwards into your own mine is a really bad idea!
- Save the bases. When a Starbase is under attack by a single high-powered enemy, fly right under his nose and toss a few beams and torpedoes at him. Get him to follow you (away from the base!). Then just keep ahead of him long enough to either fight properly, or run back to the base to quickly reload. The higher level games love to have a very few, really powerful, ships just pop-up next to your bases while you’re off fighting the cannon-fodder.
- Kill the fighters. In the higher levels, carriers toss collections of fighters at you. Get them to follow you, then drop an EMP and a mine on them. (They’ll follow you pretty blindly until they get scared and decide to run home to Mama.) Usually you can get a batch of them with one mine. Otherwise they will eat you alive!
- Back and turn away from torpedoes. When the enemy fires torpedoes at you, run and turn. When you get roughly “edge on” to the torpedo track, keep turning but go into full reverse. I.e. now you are pulling away from the torp(s) while you continue to turn to get your beams to bear.
- Engineering tricks. (Scotty is under-rated as a Commander. Read The Kobayashi Maru to learn how Scotty handled the “no-win” scenario, and destroyed more simulated Klingons than any other cadet!) Take the time to pre-program a couple of engineering presets (as below), with matching coolant levels. Then establish some clear signals that Helm can give engineering:
- Tight turn. Helm can save the day with a quick tight turn if Engineering gives them a few seconds worth of 200-300% power on maneuvering. Just remember to have a clear signal to tell engineering “OK, that’s enough”.
- Boost shields. Pretty obvious, especially after a few Hail Marys or eggs laid.
- Boost beams. Sometimes, when you’re low on torpedoes, but you’ve nearly wiped out a powerful adversary, you just need to hang in there and slug it out, toe-to-toe. Put everything into your beams (tuned by your science officer) and forward shields, and just hang on!
- Run silent. If you run out of energy in the middle of the galaxy… and you don’t even have any torpedoes to convert back into energy… don’t despair. Shut everything down. Your ship has some sort of reactor on-board that generates energy… slowly… and within a minute you should be able to notch up impulse and start heading for a Starbase.