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I'm a fan of capturing enemy ships intact if possible, due to the greater rewards involved. With a teleporter, a couple of Mantis "spare" crewmates and an S. Bomb, this is very effective.

However, I wonder if there are any remotely effective techniques for destroying the crew while leaving the ship intact, if you don't have a teleporter? (Or equivalently, if you have one but no feasible boarding party.)

I've managed to asphyxiate the crew once before, but in general I find this to be very difficult - it's hard to keep the O2 system down without causing extra damage to the ship's hull. And since it's a waiting game for the O2 levels to drop, it's likely necessary to disable the enemy weapons/drone systems too, causing further "collateral damage" to the hull.

Could ion weapons be a feasible way to do this, or would it take two or more (i.e. an unlikely number to find) to pull this off?

Are there any other approaches that would work - fire, for example? Has anyone had success with using fire bombs/beams to specifically target the crew? Did you have problems with rampant fire causing damage to systems and thus destroying the hull?

In any non-boarding case, I recognise that you almost certainly need to know where the enemy crew is, so I'm assuming that upgraded sensors, or a Slug crewmember, is a prerequisite.

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Not a full answer: Even with no sensors, you can see doors open/close - if you target and damage a system, when the doors open you can probably guess which room they just walked into. :) –  Allen Gould Oct 4 '12 at 20:10
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Breach bombs damage systems and crew, and cause cracks, but don't hurt hulls. Alternate bombing the medical bay and the O2 generator. Put priority on whichever one the crew is trying to repair. Eventually they'll have so little health they won't try to repair things, and you can just wait. If the ship doesn't have a medical bay it's even easier - just bomb the O2 generator until they stop trying to repair it.

If you're taking this tack, it helps to upgrade your own shields (and maybe have a defense drone) so you can sit and wait them out without having to waste missiles bombing their weapons as well.

Ion weapons can help, but it's hard to get enough of them to punch through 3-4 shields reliably, while you are still getting shot at. If you have them, great, but don't prioritize them.

You are correct about sensors. Don't even bother trying to kill crew without damaging the ship until you have the first sensor upgrade or a slug crew member.

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Ion weapons work, but you need at least two of them. In the game I won, i was using the Torus, and i had two attack drones and three ion weapons. Once the drones had done enough damage to two sstems i wanted down, i would switch them off, and keep the ship ionised until everyone died.

Note that if you focus on upgrading your shields, and have some decent dodge from pilot/engne, you can basically oak many opponents without even disabling their wepons. This leaves you with 3 targets that need to be on lockdown from fire or ions: Medibay, Oxygen, and also very importantly shields, because if shields are not kept down at all time you will spend your ions redisabling them forever. focus the shields frst, then set some stuff on fire, and keep those 3 elements (or only 2 if they lack a medibay) on lockdown and you can just get the opponents over time.

Alternately, use advanced sensors or simply a slug (ltho you wont see hps) do some damage to the ship, and use anti-êrsonal bombs to kill the damaged crew members. Once there's only one or two left and they are damaged, it's fairly easy to prevent them from repairing, especially if their ship is on fire.

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I've asphyxiated crew before with the Torus starting Ion weapon vs a 1-shield ship. They couldn't damage me through my shields, so I set the ion to autofire on their O2. It took a long time, but it was firing fast enough to do about 2 ion hits to O2 for each 1 hit to shields. After a few minutes, the fight ended. I didn't have sensors 2. –  Daenyth Jun 25 '13 at 17:09
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I use the Engi cruiser. I havent beaten the game yet, but early game, using the ion cannon II is really effective to capture intact ships. Any ship with one shield can be captured easily by just leaving the ion cannon hitting there o2 room. As long as youre not taking damage... a defence drone is handy here.

This takes a bit, as the occasional miss allows there o2 to regen a bit, but has the added bonus of leveling your crew. You can easily get a extra star for all 4 crew members per engagement!

against tougher ships the firebomb is very effective in conjunction with the ion cannon.

after sector 4 this no longer works, as many ships have too many shields to keep the o2 offline.

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Fire beam is moderately effective. In many cases, the fires destroy the ship before all of the crew dies, but often not. Coupled with ion something to keep the shields down and sensor upgrades to see the crew and fires, it is decent.

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The fire beam is really effective against Mantis-only crews, who don't put out fires or repair quickly. In order to keep the ship from dying, the hull needs to be the number of non-destroyed subsystems + 1 (each subsystem destroyed by fire/boarders takes off a hull point). Occasionally you get lucky and the crew snuffs it before the last subsystem, depending on whether their O2 goes down. –  deworde Dec 13 '12 at 14:13
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Anti-bio Beams are incredibly good at killing enemy crew, if you can find one. They need the target's shields to be completely down, but will kill most races in 2 hits and have enough range to hit 2 or more enemies most of the time. Arguably the fastest, safest and cheapest way to kill enemy crew. I used anti-bio beams and burst laser 2 throughout the game (on easy), only switching to other weapons to deal with the boss and unmanned ships.

The Slug ship is great for this, as you start with Anti-bio Beam, Breach II and Dual Lasers. Use breach II when you need to keep multiple systems suppressed until you find some better rapid fire weapons. Get a Defense drone Mk 1 to protect yourself from enemy missiles and you are golden (just completed a run on easy with this setup - maxed out every possible subsystem, bought a bunch of stuff and still had scrap to spare).

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Anti-Bio beams are almost as slow as Breach II, and don't damage systems at all. This means you need something else to take out any medical bay, and to keep shields down, or they can heal up significantly during the cooldown time. Breach II does almost as much crew damage (3 vs. 4) and also destroys systems and leaks oxygen. They're also less rare. –  user2640 Sep 17 '12 at 9:59
    
@JoeWreschnig your starting weapons are likely more than sufficient to deal with all of these tasks, and not having to rely on expensive missiles more than makes up for the inconvenience. Since adopting this strategy, I've had a nearly perfect record of killing enemy crew without destroying the ship. –  kotekzot Sep 17 '12 at 10:16
    
The problem is that you need to take down the shields or the beam does nothing; you also need to keep the med bay down so they can't heal. You need at least two weapons to do that, and the timing is awkward if you need to ensure that you're taking down the shield at the time the beam works and taking down the shield at the time you need to re-disable the med bay. If your "nearly perfect" record doesn't include ships with med bays, it's going to start failing "nearly always" by sector ~5. –  user2640 Sep 17 '12 at 10:54
    
Let's say the difference between a bio beam and a breach bomb per se come out in the wash. But to make this strategy work, you need a good ion weapon, plus a good burst or ion weapon, plus the energy to run all of them, plus enough luck to deal with their evasion because any misses and the beam hits the shield and they're healing and fixing for another 16 seconds. A breach approach, by contrast, needs only missiles. Those are comparatively easy to come by, especially since this strategy by its nature produces missiles as loot. –  user2640 Sep 17 '12 at 11:00
    
@JoeWreschnig the nearly perfect record includes all ships I have encountered throughout the game save for automatics and the boss. Pulse Laser 2 (starting weapon for the starting ship) is perfectly sufficient for ships with up to 2 shields. Not having to waste scrap on missiles you will have more than enough to upgrade your ship to the max by the end, and surely enough to juice a second laser by the time 3-shield enemies start showing up. –  kotekzot Sep 17 '12 at 12:38
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Some ship layouts have a disconnected O2 system. If you can take that out, the enemy crew will be totally unable to repair it.

Fire beams/bombs can also be cheap and effective but you have to be careful - as you mentioned fires can damage systems, leading to hull damage. However, fires spread, and cause severe damage to the crew. Aim for the med bay so they can't heal themselves, and as long as they aren't rockmen they'll eventually burn to death or asphyxiate (fire eats up O2 really fast - speed this up by keeping their O2 system down.)

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