On this page:
- 6.1.1 Terminology and campaign structure
- 6.1.2 Objectives and rewards
- 6.1.3 Artifacts and upgrades
- 6.1.4 The AI problem
- 6.1.5 General notes
6.1.1 Terminology and campaign structure
Three different timings are given – pre-mission, duration, and next mission. The pre-mission time is the time between receipt of orders and the mission events starting. However, if you arrive in the starting location early the mission will start when you arrive, regardless of how much time you have remaining. If you happen to already be in the start location when the orders arrive, the mission starts immediately. If you arrive late, the mission events will start anyway. Some missions will be impossible to complete if you arrive late. Mission duration is the time assigned to complete the mission. In many cases you will be able to meet the objectives in far less time: The excess time can be used as down-time – time to conduct repairs, etc. Time till next mission is the official down-time between missions. This time can be skipped by requesting the next ACM early from the main command menu.
Time spent in-station being repaired may be used to slow down the ACM. If the time spent repairing exceeds the current mission timer, the next mission event will be delayed and triggered on launch. For example, assume you dock during 5 minutes of pre-mission time and undertake 3 hours of repairs on-station. When you launch the current mission timer will be exhausted. However the next mission timer, the mission itself, will not be started until you launch.
6.1.2 Objectives and rewards
ACM objectives are often not particularly clear from mission briefings. I have listed those objectives which have rewards or penalties attached to them, and divided these into primary and secondary objectives. Failing primary objectives will earn you violation points and/or significant reduction in experience points. Secondary objectives may be failed without serious long-term consequences, sometimes a small experience point reduction – in most cases secondary objectives not met simply result in no additional reward. Completing primary objectives will normally earn some form of reward. This is not always the case with secondary objectives. In short, if you are trying to retain an unblemished career, ensure you meet all the primary objectives and look on the secondary objectives as bonuses to be picked up if possible.
Rewards are those specific to the mission. Additional experience points may be awarded for simply destroying enemy ships, in addition to mission-specific experience. In some missions rewards are only given if *you* destroy a particular ship or station, rather than the ship or station just being destroyed (by anyone). I have not been able to confirm any of these rewards – in all cases I made sure I got the kills by piloting my battlecruiser, but BC3K only recognised that the target had been destroyed, not that it had been destroyed by me. Derek Smart writes: “Remember, if the ship is under AI, you are not in control, that also includes the BC. If you want to get the recognition for this command, the craft taking out those targets, has to be under your direct control. So, hop into a fighter or take the BC off AI and do it yourself.” Your mileage may vary here. While jumping into a fighter may seem simple, most of these targets are not particularly easy to destroy in a fighter. Fortunately most are secondary objectives, so can be ignored without serious consequences.
6.1.3 Artifacts and upgrades
The campaign contains artifacts. Playing the ACM is the only way to gain artifacts other than using cheats. Some artifacts you will recover in the course of following missions, others you will need to go out of your way to procure. Without any of these artifacts it is very hard to complete every part of the campaign: You will probably reach the end, but you may miss objectives, and spend a disproportionate amount of time with a stressed-out crew and a damaged battlecruiser. The walkthrough below generally assumes you are picking up all the artifacts.
Artifacts are better than the best upgrade one can buy, and don’t cost anything beyond the difficulty in recovering the artifact. Descriptions of each artifact are given in the manual’s Appendix C. Descriptions of how to get each artifact are included in the walkthrough below. Here is a summary of artifacts, where to find them, and what they do:
- Hyperion Subspace Device: Probably recover during TOD1 M1/5. Instant travel between systems.
- Tacyon Anagram Shield: Recover during TOD1 M5/5. Shield upgrade.
- Celestial Orb: Probably recover during TOD1 M5/5. Crew become less stressed and heal faster.
- Enhanced Nav Module: Recover during TOD2 M5/5. Use hyperdrive with no fuel or recharge time.
- Karanian Mark IV Reactor: Recover during TOD3 M2/5. Reactor upgrade.
- Trans-Matrix Cloaking Device: Recover during TOD3 M3/5. Cloak upgrade, including use whilst firing/launching.
- Phased Array Ion Disruptor: Recover during TOD3 M5/5. Battlecruiser gun upgrade.
- Just Another Cyborg: Probably recover during TOD3 M5/5. Automatic system repairs without repair materials.
- RANDOM and RANDOM Decoder (both required to operate): Probably recover during TOD4 M1/1. Destroys planetary populations.
At the start of the ACM remember that your battlecruiser still has the worst reactor/engine combination. If you retain this for long you will run out of fuel.
Unless using station repairs as a way of raising AI (see below), avoid using stations to repair. System Engineers are quicker for light repairs. More importantly, you can often use System Engineers to conduct repairs whilst undertaking a mission or travelling.
6.1.4 The AI problem
You start with a crew of rookies, with very low AI levels. This problem is not unique to the ACM. However, during the ACM you will not have much time for your crew to gain experience. While an inexperienced crew can often be countered by a competent commander (you 🙂 ), certain artifacts have officer AI requirements. This does not apply to all artifacts, but those it applies to are rather useful. For example, both the Hyperion Subspace Device and Trans-Matrix Cloaking Device require your Research Engineer to have an AI of 75 or more.
Keeping officers on-station for as long as possible will improve their AI, but if you play through the ACM normally it is unlikely that AI levels will exceed 30 or 40 by the end. The most obvious method of improving AI is to place your crew on-station during repairs made at stations. Aim to make the repair take as long as possible. As described above, you can often do this without missing the next mission. I think the easiest system to damage is your hull. One collision is normally enough to damage it by 1%. If you repair the hull in-station it might take a few minutes. Instead, replace the hull in-station, which will take more than three hours. Do this at least once, twice where possible, in between each mission and officer AI approaching 70 is achievable by the end of the ACM. This replacement trick can be done at Galcom HQ for free. Elsewhere you will have to pay. Care needs to be taken, since a few missions require you to remain at a location until the end of the mission, and others require you to make use of the pre-mission time.
Whether you do this is your choice. I think it is a slightly artificial tactic. But then being able to use all the ‘toys’ is nice too.
6.1.5 General notes
It is quite common for BC3K to run very slowly between minutes 10 and 15 of the first mission – see Why does BC3K start to run slowly or suffer frame rate reduction at certain points in the game? below. Many parts of the ACM are very processor intensive. There are times when either the frame rate drops dramatically or the CPU feels like it is about to overheat. If possible delay battles for a few minutes. Normally if you do nothing but wait, the activity causing the extra processing will die down, and the game will become playable again.
I strongly suggest you take regular saves using different save slots. BC3K is not a perfectly stable program, particularly in ACM mode, and may occasionally crash or corrupt old saves. Some parts of the ACM are best played with the benefit of hindsight, so a range of saved games is useful if you wish to retry a particular mission. Indeed, I think TOD2 M3/5 and TOD2 M5/5 are impossible to complete successfully without hindsight.
The walkthrough assumes knowledge of basic techniques covered by the Tutorial above. It is highly recommended that you learn the basic concepts and techniques within BC3K before attempting this ACM. Although the ACM is quite relaxed to start with, you need that time to prepare and upgrade your ship, not to learn the basics of playing BC3K.
The ACM takes a *long* time. Missions typically last an hour or more of game time. Additional time will be spent docked or managing your operations with time frozen. The experience is best likened to ‘real’ military naval operations: Mostly at sea with nothing much happening, interspersed with short but exceptionally deadly battles, the scars from which you may still be dealing with long after the battle is a distant memory. Unlike many games, BC3K’s campaign will continue regardless of whether you complete the objectives or not. Completing the ACM is a strange form of psychological warfare. Good luck 😉 .