Finding Balance on my STO Away Team

March 11, 2010

I had no idea how awesome this screencap would turn out when I hit "Prnt Scrn".

Ground combat has gotten a lot more interesting to me since I made Captain in Star Trek Online. And it’s a giant celebration on my ship every time I gain a new rank, because it means everyone else also gets promoted. At the moment, I’m struggling to work out my ground abilities for my away team as more skill slots have opened up.

I’m always curious as to what other captains have done with their away team set up. Thus far, I’ve been been using  a good mix of BOs, designating “roles” to them which has served me quite well. There are some abilities that I just can’t do without, like Medical Tricorder, and I personally love Chroniton Mine Barrier (yay for cute little Roomba thingies that move around with you and explode!) My current combination is far from perfect though. Despite the mines, my engineering BO currently feels a little useless, and makes me wonder if that slot would be better off filled by another tactical officer. Other abilities feel a little lackluster (Motion Accelerator? I don’t even think I’ve ever seen it used!) and I wonder if I’m missing out on some good ones…or maybe, I’m just overthinking this entirely.

My current away team consists of:

Myself  as a Tactical Officer – Fire Team kit (Ambush, Plasma Grenade, Suppressing Fire, Focus Fire)
Tactical Officer #2 – melee and grenades (Photon Grenade, Plasma Grenade, Leg Sweep, Motion Accelerator)
Science Officer #1 – crowd control and buffs (Neural Neutralizer, Tricorder Scan, Gravimetric Shift, Anesthizine Gas)
Science Officer #2 – heals and cleanses (Vascular Regenerator, Medical Tricorder, Hypospray – Masiform D, Hyperonic Radiation)
Engineering Officer – shields and defense (Medical Generator Fabrication, Phaser Turret Fabrication, Chroniton Mine Barrier, Cover Shield)


  1. I haven’t had the time as yet to write about it, but on my list.

    The game does get more fun as you advance upward to eventually Admiral lvl. As well from my experience getting there I did go through a significant amount of ground missions that was combat oriented and some weren’t but a good deal that were. So much so that by the time I made Admiral 5 I was in all Blues (Kit, Shield, Armor, Weapon). I had about 7 BO’s assigned and “all” my BO’s had on green gear that was my Away Team and my reserve BO crew both. I saw that much ground combat and picked up that much gear to outfit my BO’s all with that gear. Absolutely nothing I got from the exchange. A bit of that was due to “Explore Missions”.

    Upward to Admiral my usual away team was 2 Tactical, 2 Engineer, 1 Science. Myself being Tactical. Worked well for me. My BO’s Team have somewhat a agressive style towards away missions. Engineer mines like you mentioned above works well for me and do like. I think I wear a Fire Team Kit as well and have grown to like it’s skill use. It did take me a while to get used to getting the most out of that Tactical Kit. But once I really made the effort to focus on really using my kit I found I got more out if it using the skills. That took some practise as well.

    I can tell you ground missions though overall easy, ground combat missions do get a bit harder. You just have to pay attention more. One the things I always did was to equipt my BO’s with any extra Hypo’s, Energy Cells, Shields and of course a Tribble each. That keeps all that stuff out my inventory and on my BO’s.

    Kinda funny but the more you learn to play and engage with your BO’s in ground combat the easier it gets when you actually work as a TEAM. Sounds funny to say but for me it helped. They still have a mind of their own as well.

    Try to learn how and when to use the Rally Point ability. Early in the game I used it a few times but didn’t really like to use it, so I never did for a long while. Eventually almost to Admiral ground combat got harder, especially with species 8492. I think I got the number correct. But anyway I needed new tactics and one was using Rally Points when you were in a jam and your BO’s weren’t close by for effects, buffs and protection. I found it helped a bit. Eventually got better at using it. Helps to try using most of your skills to see how they work over time and adapt.

    Play your BO’s to their innate strength and set your team as you need. BO’s have skills in stealth, exploit damage or increase exploit/expose % crit/damage. Play them to their strength if you can. As well equipt them to their weapon advantage with team balance.

    Getting to Admiral you start getting lots of Rare BO’s. They all have superior ground combat skills and various. You can shuffle your team a bit with some of them with superior skills on your away team.

    I’m still working on my away team and bridge team. Managing 10 BO’s is like a mini game all on it’s own as well as trying to managing them all.

    • Thanks for your insights. I admit, I haven’t been using the rally point ability at all. I’ll have to play around with that in the future. The other thing I admit is that I haven’t been paying much attention to the exploit/expose characteristics of my weapons. I’ve been giving weapons randomly to my BOs, just briefly scanning over their tooltips to make sure I had a good mix. That already tells me I’m probably not getting as much as I can out of my away team. Argh, you’re so right about how managing BOs is like a minigame in itself.

      Oh, and thanks to your information about Tribbles, I’ve followed your advice and all of my officers carry one now 😀 I haven’t been as lucky as you in terms of equipment or gear though. My BOs are still far from being all in greens and blues.

      Also, I do see that missions are getting harder. It’s not so much the enemies are getting stronger though, more the fact there seems to be more of them to fight. Perhaps it’s an indication that I’ll need more CC abilities like rooting and stunning.

  2. The rally points are great, I also use the “Y” key (“fire on my target” or something) a lot. Just like in WoW or other MMOs, each mob that you take down is less damage your team is taking, so have your BOs concentrate on the same mob you are targeting. I have also experimented with setting up ambushes and crossfires using individual rally points. I don’t know how much of a difference it makes in the fight, but it does help me feel more like a team leader and less like a warlock with four pets out. 😉

  3. Tactics: Like in WoW know who to kill and who to watch for threat and who can ruin your health. It’s like having a Swordmaster in your face is really bad news if you get what I mean and he loves to chase you down or be stealthy.

    Always have 2 very solid weapons ( green/blue) in your slots Expose/Exploit. Use a Expose weapon as your main weapon to expose targets. Having one or two other BO as their combat strengths dictate that can expose targets as well.

    Expose targets you want so you can Exploit them for MASSIVE damage and CRITS. One good Exploit shot is a totally dead vaporized target. You can switch weapons with “Z” key or back and forth. Exposed enemy have a yellow looking bullseye on them mostly. Got exposed targets even if it’s not your main target? Hit “G” key auto switch you to that target for a kill. But make sure to switch weapons fast to Exploit target fir massive damage. Be aware that those weapons have ability cooldown when used to be aware of. If you on cooldown other tactic is have your BO’s focus target the exposed target with “Y” key. Whichever BO you have that can Exploit will do that enemy huge damage if it’s not dead already.

    Makes a huge difference when your facing a group of 10 and in first few seconds you get Expose proc on targets to quickly eliminate 1 or 2 of them fast.

  4. You both are awesome…thanks for the “Y” key tip, I’d been wondering FOREVER if there was a hot key.

    I just gotta make sure to have an exploit weapon in one slot and an expose weapon in the other then…I think I’ll also have 2 BOs with expose weapons and 2 with exploit for a good balance.

    So I guess it’s not so much about the skills but more about knowing when and what to shoot…

  5. I’ve read a lot of complaints about ground combat, but I have a lot of fun with it, tho I look forward to improvements. This is my first character, so I’m sure I’ve made mistakes and continue to make them.(Woot for the upcoming skill respec). I’m far from a hardcore, expert player. I’m not a theorycrafter, I’m just looking for something fun and interesting.

    I’m Tactical, only a Commander 4 at the moment, but being Commander gives me eight boffs, enough to have dedicated Bridge and Away Teams.

    My current AT, 3 Tact, 1 Doc, 1 Eng:

    1. Me, Tactician: Grenades! Gosh, I luv my boombs. I equipped a photon/smoke grenade kit fairly early on, and haven’t looked back. It’s a Mark II iirc, and I’m still looking for an upgrade
    2. Tactician: Protection warrior: Draw Fire, Suppressing Fire, Overwatch, Stun Grenade at Commander
    3. Tactician: Grenades! Photon and plasma, plus Focus Fire, Motion Accelerator at Commander
    4. Science: All doctor, heals and cures. Looking forward to the nanite AOE heal at Commander.
    5. Engineer: Shield generator, mines, phaser turret. Fuse Armor at Commander, I’ll likely retrain, maybe a medical generator or something damagey, I haven’t yet looked into what’s available

    Two of my AT Tactical boffs have Motion Accelerator at Commander. It doesn’t look very helpful: even though all of my AT except me and my doctor have increased threat, I’m still usually the center of my enemies’ attention, and it’s me that gets Held most times. I think I’ll retrain their Commander ability to something else, after I ding Captain and promote them. Maybe boombs…

    The first thing I try to do in preparation for battle is set a rally point for my Engineer to keep her and her shield generator in one spot, so I’m not chasing the generator all over the map. I try to pick a rally point that protects at least one flank. I manually have my Engineer set up her shield generator and mine field, and I Crouch in the shield bubble behind the mines and stay put. I throw a photon grenade, wait for it to land then hit Y. I let the non-Eng boffs run around all crazy-like as is their wont. If things get too hairy, I’ll rally the doctor back to me to look after my health. When the enemy quits scrambling and settles into their attack positions, I lob a smoke grenade into a crowd of them (I’m not sure how useful the smoke grenade actually is, but at least the effect looks cool). I choose my target by tabbing and my base attack autofire is on, set to tab/change target stops attacking. Until reading this forum, I didn’t know about the G key (thx!)

    All of my AT boffs use Expose weapons. I use the only Exploit, so I keep my eyes open for exposed enemies. I miss out on a lot of exposes because of cooldown, so I’m thinking of giving one of my Tacticians an Exploit weapon, too, tho I think he’ll probably just fire it off at random and it’ll go to waste. My boffs lean toward phasers and disrupters to eat shields for better grenade damage.

    I don’t equip my AT boffs with consumables, like hypos and batteries and food and such (tho tribbles are fun), because they use them unnecessarily and I’m better off with the cash (I’m Ferengi). I also like keeping boff device slots empty, for emergency inventory space if I get full. In part because I have a dedicated doctor on my AT, nobody ever dies, anyway. For myself, I keep a tribble that gives four one-hour buffs, and full stacks of hypos, shield charges and power cells.

    I have mixed feelings because I think my Engineer is working well and contributing to the team (albeit with some micromanagement), but I recently got rewarded with a new blue Tactician boff candidate, and it looks like she has awesome ground abilities: threat and damage buffs with some resistances for survival. I think when I ding Captain I’ll commission her to replace the Engineer on my AT, try four Tacticians and a healer. I’m hoping for a substantial increase in overall team damage: hopefully I’ll kill fast enough that I won’t miss the shield generator. It’ll be a completely different play-style. If the experiment doesn’t work, I’ll happily go back to my Engineer.

    • I found some great tips and advice in your comment…I too run with a “doctor” science officer, with medical tricorder and debuff removers. It just makes it so much easier on you.

      And I also realized that one reason I might not be finding my engineering officer as useful is that I haven’t been taking advantage of the rally point ability like you or others. Like I mentioned before, it’s something I’ve never used and I think I have to start working it into my tactics somehow.

      How do you like the ability draw fire? I used to run with that on my other tact BO but I didn’t find it too effective, like you said, I kept drawing threat from all the enemies. Oh, and I’m the same as you, I like my bombs 😀 I just changed from a fire team kit to a grenades kit too!

      • I have thinking about a martial arts kit for my Tactician Captain, along with trying to acquire a bat’leh for my self and my martial tactical BOff. She shoots al lot and I almost never see her use her hand-to-hand abilities, but it may just be that they’re not flashy.

        Does anyone have experience with hand-to-hand tactics?

      • Adventure Historian always tells me in game how much he loves melee with his tactical officer. I bet he has some great insights.

      • I don’t know if Draw Fire is doing much. The boff usually fires it off first thing in a battle, when he’s too far away and no one has really started their attacks yet, so I think that use is wasted. Beyond that, I need to heed Galo’s advice and pay closer attention in the heat of battle to this particular ability. I do know that, even with Draw Fire maxed out and enhanced by my ground skills, Narley doesn’t function as a World of Warcraft-type tank: I’m still the aggro-magnet. It didn’t help to send him in first and let him build threat, so I gave up on that. After paying attention, if I think Draw Fire isn’t working as expected, I’m open to retraining this. It’ll be nice if the upcoming respec option includes refunding boff skill points.

  6. In response to TamsBeast above but more generally to the other comments on the newer players leveling and still leveling and learning.

    To TamsBeast reply in response to not giving your BO’s devices to use thats a personal choice whether you personally do or if you don’t. Your BO’s can’t personally use what you don’t give them and thus have no capability to enhance their tactic if you don’t. Mine is a personal choice in that i will give my BO’s ever ability for them to succeed and I will equipt them as such and i’m quite sure many other players over time will. I also equipt device slot items on my Captain as well. When he has not much device slot items usually a Hypo or extra Shield device he has and a few my other has 2 Tribbles equipt. What the hell for? One Tribble Heals or Regenerates and the other Tribble Buffs Damage! I dont micro manage my BO’s but they have them to use and its fun when your running down a room and you look at a few your BO’s and wonder what the hell is that buff some of them have. You mouse over and look and it says anywhere from 0-60 mins buff for damage and smile. Your BO’s AI are not as dumb and you can sometime think despite the next time they get caught on a door you do wonder.

    However the cost to equipt your BO’s will Small/Medium/Large Personal Shields, Hypo’s Energy Cell is a tactical and individual Officers choice again. Yet I don’t go and you don’t have to ever go out your way to do so either. I have the benefit from experience as well. All these devices items are not items you purchase, they are items you pick up on loot from round missions all the time and whenever you do them. In my experience i’ve found the cost of these items insignificant.

    Insignificant as well to the cost of all the other junk, white junk weapons, space white junk stuff you pickup thats peddle trade for higher value. The cost to give or issue these to your BO’s is relatively minor in the grand scheme of energy credits. Use them! If I didn’t use them I would probably sell them to a vendor for like all the other junk for pennies of energy credits. So better to find use for them.

    Yes your BO’s will use whatever you give them. Give them food and a Tribble will probable gobble that food down immediately or soon after lol. It eats everything almost lol. One other advantage their devices make room in your inventory but thats another thought as well. But anyway some ground missions cant get touchy in the late game and i rather have my BO’s with everything for tactic use than rather not have them.

    If they are out of devices to use so be it, but its not because their Captain have stuff they can use and deny them their use. If they don’t have stuff to use for tactical advantage its because their Captain have no supply and they will use what tactic without them as well. My school of though is I will supply my personal BO’s to succeed if i have the tactical means to earned though the course of normal missions. As a personal thought I never buy anything from the exchange ever other than ships parts so any device that can be equipt on a BO comes all from ground missions and I’ve seen many. Thats my school of thought and It have served me well on ground missions to Admiral.

    I play the game from the point that I play, I watch, I learn and I adapt. I play a Tactical Officer. Its often easy to ask what is useful, what is better etc. But i have learned its good to use abilities like on ground combat and while using them visually see what abilities are useful and how they work in “actual” field combat. Its often use in such situations that give you insights into other ability and how they are useful to a BO with the same abilities that you use as a Captain in your Armor Kits. From one Kit set to another you can see how abilities are useful and how they have other tactical uses.

    For example if your Tactical Officer your various uses of Kits Sets have abilities when you use them you learn to figure out what they are useful for in abilities each. Your same Tactical Officer BO have the same ground combat abilities. Thus you will have field tested those abilities in a Kit of some kind. It is there that you can find insight into what is useful or not as useful. But until you use the abilities and figure out their tactical use its harder for a person to find why a ability may be useful or not or more useful to someone else using unconventional tactics. I’ve never been a Engineer Officer, so I can’t exactly from personal experience why Motion Accelerators are useful in what situation. But I’ve heard tactical their use against the Borg in Combat has very good tactical use as in “Infected” Raid when finding the nodes which are hard to find and escape from after if you have to retreat back to a position fast.

    Experience is the best teacher to how, why, when or for what reason you do anything or for unconventional tactics. It is not always easy to explain why. But some experience comes from failure or difficulty in completing a task or observing what’s is happening in actual combat for feedback. At some point you figure out that switching tactic to something else works better. Sometimes that is harder to explain to another person. I can only try to give a person a idea that you have to sometime often Think Outside The Box.

    Another comment I saw above with Expose tactics. Which ever choose is a personal one, they all work to various degree. FInd the one that works for YOUR personal Tactics. It CAN probably a better choice to give your BO’s a mix of weapons each or to match their strengths but have a MIX Team with both Expose/Exploit ability weapons. Who you do that in what combination is a personal choice. As Tactical I use Expose/Exploit weapons both. One other BO has a Exploit weapon. As well that other BO has ground combat traits that Buffs the use of Exploit damage. Most the BO’s that have Expose weapons have some % increase to get a Expose Hit, Buff duration or some buff of the sort. Logic is why to me my BO’s have such weapon vs a Exploit weapon. Im sure one can see the logic there.

    But Exploit ability have cooldown and you can’t exactly hit every expose target as that is like a proc as well and have a time limit. But if you have a mix of BO’s one other or 2 maybe its a team effort when all your BO’s is focusing on a target or can direct them to such target as needed while you personally may be switched to another. That gives you a change for them to possibly use their ability when yours are on cooldown. At times one have to pay attention to ground combat to see during firing what’s actually happening and what damage occurs to see advantage of a mix team with weapons.

    When you mouse over your BO’s individual Ability you will also find that BO’s have various Buffs to ground combat ability on Expose/Exploit both, % increase on buff and duration.

    Use all that knowledge to your advantage, pay attention to ground combat, adjust and adapt to what happens. Figure out what skills work and how they work to YOUR personal play style.

    Personal experience can teach so much what it takes another so long to explain.

    • Thanks for the tips, Galo. To clarify my comments about equipping AT boffs with consumables: I never buy hypos, charges, cells, food, etc, I just take what drops. By being better off with the cash, I meant that there’s surely a Rule of Acquisition against letting the employees eat up the profits. I prefer to vend the drops instead of giving them to my boffs, because:

      I’ve noticed that my boffs use them too often and too soon, and the items are just wasted. It’s mildly annoying to me to see an officer eat a plate of food designed to replace 75% health when s/he has only lost 5 health points. Add this to the fact that no one ever dies and seldom gets into any serious danger on my away missions, I figure I’m better off vending this stuff instead of giving it to my boffs. I plan to own many different ships, just because ships are cool – they’re a big reason I play this game. It looks like ships for sale (in addition to the ones you get for getting promoted) cost some serious money.

      I agree wholeheartedly with observing and adapting. That’s led me to, among other things, not equipping my boffs with consumables 🙂 If ground combat becomes more challenging in the future, I’ll certainly rethink this decision.

      It’s true that discussion in forums is entertaining and enlightening, but there is no one formula for game play. You do have to try different things to see not only what works for you, but also what’s fun. It turns out grenades are a lot of fun for me. Is wearing a Mark II kit the best choice for a Commander? Probably not, I have my eyes peeled for an upgrade. Are grenades themselves the best choice? I don’t know, but they give me pleasure. Maybe it’s because I’m a 5′ tall Ferengi male, and I like to see the bigger folk get knocked on their butts. 🙂

    • I give my BOs devices too, for similar reasons as you. Just because some of it sells for so little anyway, might as well make use of it. For my healer and my tact officer, I like to give them extra shield charges and hypos just in case, because I can’t afford to have either of them go down. I’m not micromanaging my BOs that much either, though I’ve recently switched to the alternative view for my party frames so I can have some control over what they do if the situation calls for it.

      Oh, and ever since I started paying attention to expose/exploit, ground combat has become about 300% more fun. It gets more hectic than I would have expected.

  7. I, for one, hope that it remains difficult to figure “the one best way” to play/equip/etc. One of the the things I dislike about WoW is that someone has figured out all the best setups, and if you don’t follow it, you’re seen as just a nub (by some).

    If you’re having fun, then you’re playing correctly. If not, there are hundreds of other games.

    • Hallelujah, Sunsage. There often comes a point in a game where the built-in expectations of the game take over your character. I’m not greatly interested in end-game content for this reason. When certain specs and certain pieces of gear become mandatory, I don’t feel like it’s my character anymore; it belongs to the game. I don’t like feeling like I have to be channeled down a certain path to have fun and be useful. I detest the end-game gear-grind. Usually, when I max out a character’s level, I retire it and start a new one.

      • I understand what you mean, Tam. I am endgame raiding for the first time in WoW and I’m not really fond of it. But I can’t retire my main, I’m too attached to her.

    • Agreed, Sunsage…it’s why I made the note that I might be overthinking things. It seems there are many ways of playing efficiently on the ground, much more so than playing in space where I only have a limited number of slots for each station and I’ll immediately go for the handful of “must have” abilities.

      The discussion here has been enlightening, however, and I realized I’ve been completely ignorant to a significant part of ground combat by not taking advantage of expose/exploit weapons or paying attention to what can increase the proc chance. It’s a lot more complex than I thought, and here I was sort of just mindlessly shooting away this whole time. It’s not like I was having much trouble before, but as always, it’s a lot more fun when I’m at my most efficient and playing at my best. Thank you Sunsage, Galo and Tamsbeast.

      • That’s one of the reasons I didn’t understand some of the criticism of STO on the forums and in reviews. Too chaotic? Too Simplistic? It depends on your personal style I guess. I don’t find the combat (ground or space) any less enjoyable than WoW. I think it’s partly because I have seen the “dice rolls” behind the animation for quite a while now.

        In WoW it doesn’t really matter whether you are a mage or a rogue, the dice roll still determines the damage you cause. I’m not saying each does not have different strategies, I mean the end result is the same, a dead mob after you’ve pushed a bunched of buttons. So you’re left with “That looked cool!!” And that’s what makes the game fun. You get out no more than you put in.

      • Yes, complexity depends on personal style and how you play. There’s always two sides to the story. On the one hand, you can say a game is easy because you’re sitting there yawning while beating down a mob until it dies…which anyone can do. If you’re into theory-crafting and min/maxing though, then it gets complicated. I always like to use the example of the WoW feral druid, because that was the class I played and I know for a fact it can be a complicated class to play. Others can say, oh it’s easy, spam ______ or what have you until mob is dead. But try doing that in a raid and you’ll never get anywhere near your potential. I was a tank spec’ed feral that was able to pull off top damage in heroic groups while in cat form, because I understood some of the complexities behind rotation/gear/etc. Of course, now that type of gameplay has worn me out.

  8. I’m glad that some understand thats its important to have fun among all else, which is so important. I like to tell others that there are many different styles of play and possible in STO. Everyone has a personal play style and tactics in how they play which is all possible. Thats why i like to say after explaining something play to the style thats fits you in STO and have fun. Yet its also good to be aware learning things thats makes you better, which comes from learning. But though being aware play to your style or strength.

    STO gives you enough range that you can play in different styles or as in ground combat. Yet learn what makes you better while having fun. But play to your style and have fun.

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