Power Management

When I first started playing SFC2, my idea of power management was to leave my power panel settings all at 5, turn all defensive tractors on, and start overloading weapons. I guess it's no wonder the AI often handed me my hat and showed me to the door....

Power Management 101

Proper power management is about using all your systems to tune your ship in a way that allows you to fit the current battle situation with the current ship you are using. With proper power management, you should never be wasting even .1 energy. While it seems very complicated at first, once you get the basics you can tune your ship for virtually any situation.

The three areas that I look at when considering my power are the Power Panel (hot key "."), Power Status bar (bottom, middle of HUD), and Phaser Capacitor (top, middle of HUD).

Power Panel:

The power panel has five basic groupings and five priority settings for each.

Movement - Speed is life, but it also uses a lot of power. If you plan on going spd 31 all the time, expect movement to eat up most of your energy. The option to "speed is life" is "slow is life" or starcastling. This means that you no longer consider going fast the smart thing to do and instead are using the energy you would have spent on speed for other things like shield reinforcement and weapons overloading.

Weapons - Besides movement, weapons are also power consumers. And if you weapons aren't getting all the power they need, they aren't charging and will never fire. If your weapon is sitting and not charging, check the power panel weapons option to see how much power they are receiving. Note: the "weapon is charging but the charge status doesn't update" bug is still present. Click on that specific hardpoint and you should see it charging correctly. If it isn't, check the power panel to see if all weapons are getting power.

Shields - This is the amount of energy you are putting into shield reinforcement. You don't need to put any energy into this panel to keep your shields up, but as they take damage and go down, this is where you put energy to get them back up again (hot key "K" for shield reinforcement panel). Most players use shield reinforcement as a dumping ground for extra power so that it is not wasted.

Tractors - This is a controversial setting. Some make the argument that it doesn't matter what setting this is on (tractors always have priority). I like getting into good habits in case Taldren changes something, and set my tractors to priority 1. Others will tell you that any setting you use will not make a difference. Up to you.

ECM/ECCM - This is the amount of energy being used by ECM/ECCM while you are fighting. Some players also use this as a dumping ground for extra power.

Under these five options are a few more settings:

Other - This is for housekeeping and life support. It also goes up when you use such systems as Probes and Deep Scan. It's a catch-all for other systems. We'll get into tuning this in a bit.

Excess - Excess is an important number. It lets you know what energy you are not using (i.e. WASTING!). It should always be at 0 unless you're charging your battery.

Cloak - Not all ships have this setting. It lets you know if you're putting power into cloak (the power itself shows up under "other").

Battery - Toggling battery allows you to gain extra power when you need it and exceed your total power usage (but only for a little while). It can give you the extra edge you need when in the thick of things.

Power Status:

If you don't have your power panel up (and mine is most of the time), the power status bar in the lower middle of your HUD will let you know what is going on. At a glance, it shows total power of the ship and total power being used. Again, the numbers should usually match.

Phaser Capacitor:

Think of the capacitor as a pool of energy the phasers can all draw from. That means if a phaser is ready to fire, it doesn't matter if the capacitor is just barely full or completely full, at least one phaser should be able to fire. The capacitors charge rate determines how fast it reaches full.

In my example here, I'm flying a Romulan NHK. At full charge rate, the capacitor uses 9 energy to charge itself. If I turn the rate down to 50%, I can still fire my phasers but the amount it now draws to charge is 4.5 energy, a substantial savings that I can use for other systems.

Generally, speaking, it's a good idea after the capacitor first charges to turn it down to either half or a quarter full charge rate.

Tuning a ship for battle:

Now I'm going to walk through how I tune a ship like the Romulan NHK for battle. Note: These are my settings, other players have theirs, and these setting are for this specific ship in a battle situation. Other ships and situations call for different settings.

Go to red alert.

Target nearest enemy.

Set speed to 10, turn away from enemy.
(This ensures plasma will charge before they close).

Pull up power panel and set energy priorities:
1 - Movement (Speed is life)
3 - Weapons (I want them to charge but not at expense of ECM)
5 - Shields (A dumping ground for extra power)
1 - Tractors (see above for comments)
2 - ECM (No matter what, I don't want my ECM to fall below my setting)

Pull up ECM panel, set ECM to 4 (will check back later when enemy is closer).

Pull up Shields panel, set some or all shields to reinforce.

Set phaser capacitor charge rate to 50 percent. (It should be full by now)

Decision time:

Do I fire a probe? (It uses 1 point of energy while charging and I only have 5)

Do I start creating a weasel or suicide shuttle? (Each uses 1 point energy to create and hold. What ship did the enemy have again?)

Do I set a repel tractor and at what level? (Level/Energy - 1/1 : 2/2 : 3/4 : 4/8 : 5/16)

Finally, I go to attack speed and turn toward my enemy. With my power tuned, any excess power is dumped into shields, so with the power panel open, I look for the point where the minimum power is dumped into shields (that's about spd 27 on an NHK with these settings).

If at some point I slow with these settings - immediately - any excess power is dumped into my shields (can be a life saver in some situations).... and absolutely no power is wasted.

Special situation settings:


1 - Movement (Speed is life)
5 - Weapons (Forget weapons, get me outta here)
3 - Shields (The priority for power after ECM)
1 - Tractors (see above for comments)
2 - ECM (No matter what, I don't want my ECM to fall below my setting)

Starcastling (yes, Romulans are good castlers)

5 - Movement (Power is life, not speed)
1 - Weapons (Charge my weapons!)
3 - Shields (A dumping ground for extra power)
1 - Tractors (see above for comments)
2 - ECM (Unless a weapon needs power, I don't want my ECM/ECCM to fall below my setting)

Advanced Tuning:

I usually sit with the power panel up at all times. This lets me know at a glance what is going on. Do I need to slow to charge weapons? How slow do I need to go? What if I don't want to (or can't) slow. This is where we start juggling:

Reduce ECM/ECCM - The break points for ECM are 1, 4, 9 and 16. That means if I need extra power, I can turn my ECM down to 1 instead of 4. That gives me an attack shift of +1 instead of +2 (which is better than nothing) and saves 3 points energy.

Launch a suicide shuttle - Whether or not you are going to hit the enemy with it, launching a suicide shuttle will immediately give you 1 extra energy. You can do the same thing with a weasel, but incur an emergency stop (usually not a good idea).

Don't use defensive tractors until they are needed - I used to run around with my defensive tractors on all the time - what a waste! If missiles are near and could hit you, quickly hit the "c" key. After you are done tractoring them, turn them off again. Each defensive tractor (whether used or not) takes 1 point energy.

Use your battery - While it only lasts a little while, using the battery allows you to exceed your total energy capacity (like if you really need to charge plasma and go spd 31).

Play with the phaser capacitor - If your capacitor needs 10 energy at its full recharge rate, setting it to 50 percent will save 5 energy. Setting it to 25 percent will save 7.5 energy. Remember though, if you need phasers bad (like you're near an enemy with a downed shield), immediately put that capacitor back up to full recharge rate.

Underload/Offline weapons - For extra power, a trick many pilots use is to underload or shut off some heavy weapons. For a weapon like plasma, the trick is to downsize to a lower grade of plasma (take an S to a G or F) for both charge and hold savings. The nice thing about this is that upgrading again takes a smaller amount of time than if you shut the plasma off.

For races that use disruptors, shutting off one bank gives you that extra energy for speed. Since disruptors only take 1 turn to arm, a smart captain can literally shut off one bank, fire the other, shut it off, turn on the other one... and keep a continual stream of disruptors coming at you from both sides of his ship while he goes spd 31 with only half his heavies on at any one time.

Fire your weapons - Sounds crazy, but take the Plasma R, it takes 3 energy to charge and 5 to hold. Firing it will free up energy for something else.

Don't fire your weapons - With weapons like phasers with a full capacitor or the Plasma F launcher, when they are fully charged, they use no energy. Not firing them will keep you from using extra energy. It also gives you something to fall back on if the enemy tries to anchor or overrun.

Change from overload to normal - If you decided to envelope a plasma or overload hellbores, but the enemy has decided to go spd 31 and dance away from you, now is a good time to switch weapons back to normal and speed up.

Note: Review this chart to see which weapons these energy-saving strategies make sense for, and which it doesn't: http://cuih.speedline.ca/weapon-costs-20055.html . Thank you MagnumMan-iCoP!


Once you get the basics of power management down, your particular settings and tuning falls to personal preference and experience. Learning good power management will often be that extra edge of success versus failure.

As always, this and any other articles I post are open to discussion (I love the input and often learn something new). I realize that power settings for experienced players is often very personal and some keep them a secret. But please, no more debates on my tractor setting!

Upon review, I realize this article is heavily slanted toward a Romulan captain (although still very useful for others). K'tujHegh, you didn't do this on purpose did you? You bastard!

Good luck, Captain !