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A Guide to Playing the Colonies
(for the unregistered player)
by Sammy


This guide is aimed at unregistered players, but registered players may find many parts useful too.

Important note: If you are an unregistered player playing in a game with registered players, either get out now to save you wasting your time, or register quickly. These notes are aimed at games where all players are unregistered. Tactics vary immensely between the two types of game (I play both, and personally I think registered play is the easier of the two.)

So why would anyone choose to play The Colonies? At first glance, they don’t seem to have a lot to offer, but hopefully this guide will persuade you that this isn’t the case. The first thing a Colonies player must realize is that their strategies must change as the game progresses. They start weak, but it is a mistake to attempt to gain fighting strength as quickly as possible. Watch a good Colonies player’s scores, and you will notice that they languish towards the bottom of the table until the mid-game, and then suddenly shoot up towards the top. This is because they are biding their time, consolidating and building a stable, well-defended empire. When the time is right, they will strike. Judging the right time is all-important.

Let us first assume that you start with four planets, a Small Deep Space Freighter and a Taurus Class Scout. You will probably have the same ships in storage as hulls, along with a few low spec engines, beams, tubes, and torps. These will all have uses later, but let’s forget them for now.


Gameplan

It is a good idea to have an overview of how you are going to run the game. This may obviously change depending on how aggressive other races are to you, but at the start, this could be your game plan.

  1. Build Cobols at your homeworld.
  2. Using those Cobols, set up supply routes from your local planets to your homeworld, so that you can. . . .
  3. Build more Cobols.
  4. Using the Cobols’ bioscanners, locate a Ghipsoldal planet, and build a starbase.
  5. Set up supply routes from nearby planets to your Ghipsoldal world.
  6. Use the Ghipsoldal world to build Neutronic Fuel Carriers with Transwarp Drive - five initially.
  7. Find an Amphibian planet, and build a starbase.
  8. Set up supply routes from your local planets to your Amphibian world.
  9. Use the Amphibian world to build Little Joes with Tech 10 beams - two initially.
  10. Find a Humanoid planet, and build a starbase.
  11. Set up supply routes from your local planets to your Humanoid world.
  12. Recycle the Little Joes and Neutronic Fuel Carriers
  13. Build a Virgo with tech 10 engines and tech 10 beams. Load with at least 100 fighters. (*)
  14. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

Before you rashly step ahead with point 14, make sure you are ready for war, and also make sure you know who you are fighting against. But don’t wait too long. The Colonies are an attacking race. Any war fought on your own territory will be difficult for you to win. Your main race advantages come when you are fighting a war in your opponent’s space - minesweeping, unlimited movement, free fighters built in space, bioscanning, the Virgo. Your defenses amount to very little, so don’t wait for enemies to come to you. You will lose.

(*)    Some say it isn’t necessary to have tech 10 engines on a Virgo. You can tow it around with a transwarp Cobol or Neutronic Fuel Carrier. I say have at least one involved in any attack against a cloaking race, and store excess fuel generated by your Cobol in the Virgo’s tank. A clever cloaker will do a suicide intercept on your Cobol, destroy it, and leave your Virgo to get home before the tank runs dry. The slower the speed, the easier it is for the enemy to organize resistance or drain local planets of fuel. Also, you can’t tow and intercept at the same time, so a Cobol towing a low engine tech Virgo is incapable of intercepting. Further, a previously cloaked enemy can more easily tow a Virgo if it isn’t set a Warp 9.

Some also say it isn’t necessary to have heavy phasers on a Virgo, because fighters do all the fighting. True, but if you get unwittingly stuck in a webmine, a Virgo with Heavy Phasers will sweep 3000 mine units per turn, a Virgo with lasers will sweep 30! Another good reason is that a Virgo deep behind enemy lines (where it is most useful) will eventually run low on fighters. 10 heavy phasers will hold off an attack by some fairly heavy ships, and your Virgo will still survive to build up its fighter stock.

If you need such a Virgo, you don’t want to have to wait 10 turns or so before you can build one. Have one ready as your flagship, and keep the transwarp engines and heavy phasers flowing to your Humanoid world.

Once you have built your flagship Virgo, don’t just sit back and relax. This will be your priority warship to build on that Humanoid world from now on. To that end, further steps should be added to your gameplan as follows:

  1. Beef up the population on the nearest Bovinoid world to your Humanoid world.
  2. Build a Merlin (low-tech engine and beams).
  3. Tow it to the Bovinoid world and have it produce minerals. If it isn’t producing at full capacity - import more clans until it is (it’s unlikely that  you will produce 2700 supplies per turn, but aim high)
  4. Shuttle the minerals from your Bovinoid world to your Humanoid starbase with a fleet of Transwarp Cobols, dumping excess fuel on your Humanoid world.
  5. Make sure your Humanoid world has an orbiting Sagittarius/Gemini for fighter production.

If you are in receipt of a Transwarp Neutronic fuel carrier each turn, you should be able to build a Transwarp Virgo with heavy blasters, fully fuelled and with a respectable compliment of fighters every five turns. You may even be able to supplement that with the occasional Virgo with HeavyNova 6 engines.


What to do on Your First Turn.

First Visit to Your Homeworld
Colonist Tax: OK, so you have a ton of money in the bank and plenty of minerals, but these won’t last long, especially because the first thing you must do is set your colonist tax rate to zero! Yes, go on, do it now. Your colonists will grow fastest on a 50 degree planet when they have 100 happy points. You are unlikely to find a planet that is exactly 50 degrees other than your home world, so this is the nursery from which you populate other worlds. If they grow elsewhere, then that is a bonus. You may need to tax colonists on the homeworld if money starts to dry up, but do so for the bare minimum, and for as short a time as possible. Do not build factories/mines or defense posts just yet.

Friendly Code: Set it to ATT (unless you are playing in a PHOST game). If a freighter/probe/scout blunders into your planet, you may just capture it. If you destroy it, your opponent will see it as his bad luck rather than an act of war. If you see a warship heading your way, do the SIM on VCR a few times (at least 5), if you can’t build enough defense posts to kill him, set the friendly code back and pray he’s just having a quick friendly looksee.

Don’t do anything else for now. You will visit your homeworld again before you finish.

Your Other Three Worlds
Natives: There is a chance that you will have a Humanoid, a Ghipsoldal, a Siliconoid, or an Amphibian world among them. Mark these down as potential candidates for starbases. If you have a Bovinoid world, plan to get a lot of colonists there fairly soon. If you have an Amorphous world, set your native tax at zero.

Taxing natives is a balancing act. They are a very good source of revenue, but be careful. Below 69 happy points and their numbers won’t grow. Increase the tax level until no more can be collected. If this is less than 20%, set it to the lowest level that brings in the maximum, otherwise set it to 20%. This will probably cause their Happy Points to plummet, but from then on you can lower and re-raise taxes to keep them above 70 happy points in the early stages of the game - you can turn the screws a bit tighter later in the game, if you need the cash. There is a lot written about how to maximize native growth, and so return the maximum taxes over the first 40 turns. This is all well and good if you survive beyond turn 40.

Temperatures: If clans are dying, give priority to rescuing the surplus clans before you start the exodus from your homeworld. Plan to leave just the maximum number there. Tax them from your first turn. The tax level should initially be set to the point where no more money can be made. In subsequent turns, try to keep their happy points around 50, but certainly don’t allow them to drop below 40, because then they will start breaking things. In practice, you will be lucky to get 1mc from a arctic or desert world.

Defense Posts: If there are already 15 or more, add one. If not:

    1. If you have sufficient cash/supplies, get it up to 15, this will stop you being detected.
    2. You have no option but to allow nearby races to see you - build one extra. Do not be tempted to go mad with defense this early on in the game.

Factories: Use every penny you have left to build factories up to the maximum level. Don’t be tempted to build mines or extra defense posts until factories are maxed out. The exception here is for worlds where your clans are dying. In this case, maximum factory levels should be taken as 5 less than actual.

Mines: Be careful when building mines. Use Echoview to predict how long it will be before all 3 minerals (other than fuel) are mined out (less than 10kt in the ground). If this happens less than 7 turns into the future, you are wasting your money, and unnecessarily making natives unhappy. Otherwise, max them out.

Friendly Code: Set it to ATT (not in a Phost game). If a freighter/probe/scout blunders into your planet, you may just capture it. If you destroy it, your opponent will see it as his bad luck rather than an act of war. If you see a warship heading your way, do the SIM on VCR a few times, if you can’t build enough defense posts to kill him, set the friendly code back to a random number, and pray he’s just having a quick looksee.

On Your Starbase
Defense: Don’t be tempted to invest money in your starbase’s defenses until after you have maximum defense posts. You will achieve more defense per mc investing in planetary defense. Starbase defense is just the icing on the cake.

Tech Levels: Only increase your tech levels as and when you need to.

Primary Orders: Ensure that the primary orders are set to ‘force surrender’. This means that as your ships roll off the production line (with no torps/fighters), they won’t be refuelled, and so cannot be attacked.

Hulls: The time has come to build your first ship, and you want to know what to build. "Easy," you say, "I build a thundering great big Deep Space Freighter, pack it to the gunnels with colonists and sail off into the wild blue yonder to colonise every planet I can find." Wrong. Remember, your numbers will be growing faster on your homeworld than anywhere else. You need to carefully plan your colonisation, taking planets you need first, targeting the right number of colonists there, and putting an appropriate supply chain in place.

So you build a Cobol.
This ship alone is one of your greatest race advantages. This is partly because of the bioscanner (reports native races and temperatures of planets close by), but mainly because of its Ramscoop. The Ramscoop collects interstellar dust and converts it into neutronium, which it transfers to the fuel tank at the end of the jump. This happens at a rate of 2kt per light year travelled. This means that with careful planning, fuel should not be a problem for you throughout the game. Your entire supply chain should be run using Cobols (alone initially, and later towing freighters). So, increase your hull tech level to the point where you can build Cobols (Tech level 4 and no further), and build the hull.

Torps: Plan to put at least 10 Mark 4 torpedoes on each Cobol you build. This means that if you anticipate problems with cloaking races, you have a fleet of ships, hopefully spread around your key planets, which can all drop a small but respectable minefield at short notice. Within one turn, your empire will become a place where Mr. cloaker would prefer not to be. It is unlikely that you have Mark 4 tubes or torps in storage, so up your tech level to the point where you can build Mark 4 tubes, and build two. Don’t build torpedoes yet. In fact don’t build anything to go into storage that you can build as and when you need. Remember, you may need to change to a strategy that would make it useless and you will have wasted your money and minerals.

Beams: You should have 4 x-ray lasers in stock. Use these. This will save you the initial cost of increasing your beam tech level on your first go, and will also give you a ship with the capability of capturing freighters/probes/scouts without making toast of them (don’t forget to use the ‘ntp’ friendly code where appropriate.) A useful addition to your fleet.

Engines: This ship is being created for a specific task: To shuttle between your homeworld and your nearest planet (or that where the colonists are dying). Nothing else. It will take colonists outwards (if necessary) and bring minerals (and eventually money) back. Whilst it is doing this, it will also be bioscanning, ramscooping, and protecting your homeworld when it is there, but these are a bonus. So, given that it will be doing this for most of its working life, don’t waste money kitting it out with engines that are over the top for this task. Allow me to explain: Let us say that your target planet is 35 light years away. This is one jump at any warp factor above 6. One jump at warp 6 burns exactly the same amount of fuel for a HeavyNova 6 as it does for a Quantam Drive 7. So if your ship is never going to travel faster than warp 6, why spend 234 more megacredits (and precious minerals) giving it Quantam Drive 7 engines. Especially since you may have some HeavyNova Drives in stock at the beginning of the game. The same goes for distances of more than 83ly (one warp 9 jump). Calculate the lowest required warp to do the trip in two jumps, and then kit up with the appropriate engines.

Jobs For Your First Two Ships
You will no doubt be provided with a Taurus Class Scout and a Small Deep Space Freighter, each with HeavyNova Drive 6 engines. The scout has 2 blasters, but these are next to useless and can be disregarded. These ships are a bonus, so don’t be tempted to use them for the sake of it.

What you do do with them very much depends on the layout of your nearby planets. Go to EchoView, and show all connections at warp 9. Hopefully, there will be several unowned planets joined to your homeworld by a chain. Hopefully, if you have a planet where clans are dying, that has a link to your homeworld as well. Why? Remember that even the best ships you can build early in the game (say a Patriot) are usually (if not always) beaten by the following ships (and many more besides):

  • Lizards - Lizard Class Cruiser
  • Birds - Deth Specula
  • Facists - Ill Wind
  • Privateers - Meteor Class Blockade Runner
  • Crystals - Emerald Class Battlecruiser
  • Empire - Super Star Destroyer.
  • Robots - Instrumentality

All these are available to your enemies from turn 2.

To summarise, there are seven out of ten races that could make your life miserable if they chose to do so at the start. Therefore, it makes sense to stay hidden if at all possible, at least for a few turns. If you are in a cluster of a dozen or so planets containing a Humanoid, a Gipsoldal, and an Amphibian world, so much the better. This gives you the potential to build a fully tech 10 Virgo without anyone other than the Evil Empire even knowing you’re there. Imagine your opponent’s surprise as a Battlestar appears from nowhere, sweeps his minefields, and then takes out his homeworld (no matter how well defended a planet is, such a Virgo can take it out.)

In such a cluster, the jobs for your scout and freighter are clear.

  • Priority one - do not move into deep space on your first go in any situation. If there is no alternative, at least wait until turn 2, having seen who else is in the immediate area, and take the appropriate action at the time.
  • Priority two - rescue dying clans. Colonise them further down the connections if possible, otherwise bring them home.
  • Priority three - colonise warp 9 or less connected worlds.

If you are sending your ships out to colonise on your first turn, you won’t know what the temperature/native race of your target world is. Therefore, choose the first two based on the following priorities:

  1. Can dying clans be rescued en route?
  2. How many jumps does it takes to get there?
  3. How many more connected planets does it have?

You may change your mind in future turns based on the following criteria:

  • Surface fuel - You may be stranded until enough has become available to move on.
  • Native Race - Planets with Amorphous or no natives can only be productive through factories and mines. Your colonists may be more useful elsewhere (e.g a Bovinoid world where they collect taxes and supplies).
  • Temperature - On low or high temperature worlds, your colonists won’t grow in number. Use EchoView to help you work this out.

If you are colonising, load your ships with cargo in the following ratio: 4 clans :1 supply :3 megacredits
That way, you can build a factory for every four clans you drop, which is a reasonable ratio early on.

How much fuel you load very much depends on where you are going. If you are lucky, and have several planets connected at warp 6, you shouldn’t need to take too much fuel. It is more likely, though, that your first jump will be a warp 8/9 jump which will burn up a ridiculous amount of fuel, and leave you stranded. If this is the case, consider reducing the cargo load.

Two last things before you send out your ships. Always give every ship a mission. In most cases it will be ‘Mine Sweep’ for fighter carriers, and ‘Sensor Sweep’ for everything else. The ‘Sensor Sweep’ mission will report back any industrial activity in the immediate area. Secondly, set your primary enemy. For all freighters it should remain as ‘unknown’. This will ensure that they don’t accidentally go into combat (and obviously, lose). Any armed ship’s primary enemy should initially be set to Privateer, as this is the only race almost guaranteed to be aggressive from the very start. To the Privateer, accidentally knocking out one of his freighters is as much an act of war as simply being there.

Back to Your Homeworld
Now that you have all the clans/supplies that you will be taking away safely stowed aboard ships, and all money spent that is going to be spent, it’s time to spend money on your homeworld.

  • Factories: Max them out. You should still have enough money to do this.
  • Defence Posts: Increase by five (aim to do this each turn on your home world).
  • Before we talk about mines, decide how much money you will need on your next turn.

A few quick questions to test that you’ve understood what I’ve being saying so far:-

  • Which ship will you be building next go? That’s right - a Cobol.
  • What job will it be for? That’s right - to shuttle to one of your nearest planets, or from the second connected planet to the first.
  • What beams will you be fitting to your Cobol? OK, I didn’t tell you that, but you ought to be aiming for blasters at the moment. These provide the best balance of cost vs power at this early stage. If you have X-Ray lasers in stock, feel free to use those.

Therefore, you know how much cash you will need next go:

  • Cost of a Cobol hull.
  • Cost of beam tech level upgrades to allow blasters to be built. (Unless using up X-Ray Laser stock)
  • Cost of 4 blasters. (unless using X-Ray Laser stock)
  • Cost of Torp tech level upgrade to allow Mark 4 tubes to be built.
  • Cost of 2 Mark 4 photon tubes.
  • Cost of an engine tech level upgrade if necessary.
  • Cost of two engines (appropriate for the task in hand - see if there are any in stock.)
  • Cost of 10 mark 4 torpedoes (for the Cobol that will be waiting for you next turn.)
  • Cost of a 5 extra planetary defence posts (aim to build at least 5 each turn.)

Tot these up, and then see how much money you will have available to you next turn from:

  • Tax income.
  • Factory output.

If you can build ten mines, do so. Aim to build ten mines each turn (only on your mineral rich homeworld) until they are maxed out (if funds are available.) However, this isn’t a priority in the early stages when you still have a good mineral stock.


What to do on Your Second/Early Turns.

Firstly, do your factories/defence posts/mines/starbase/ "build and load 10 torps" that you will do pretty much each go. Then it’s time for your first strategic decision.

OK, so far you haven’t shown your face to the other races, but worst case scenario is that you have no planets nearer than 84 light years (a warp 9 jump + a planet’s warp well), and so the time has come when you have no option. There are 2 possibilities: you can see another race’s ships or you can’t. Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there, but many players will send out their small freighter and scout first go, so it’s a risk we must take.

If you can see them, who are they? If they are Rebels, Feds or Cyborg, don’t worry unduly, they are unlikely to attack you directly. Otherwise, assume the worst, and prepare to defend yourself by building a battlefleet and fighters.

The Colonies Battlefleet.
The Colonies battlefleet consists of a Patriot Light Carrier (with 30 fighters on board) and a Cygnus Class Destroyer (with at least 12 mark 4 torps on board, but no more than 30). Of all the ships that your enemies can build at this stage, few will survive an encounter with these two combined, and most are more expensive to build. The trick is to send them into battle in the correct sequence. As a default, it would be Cygnus first, followed by Patriot, but VCR sims will be needed if you know which ship you’re going into battle against. Against most ships, your first will be destroyed, and the second will finish the job. This being the case, send your Cygnus in first, as it is the cheapest, and will inflict most torpedo damage.

Always set the mission of the Patriot to Mine Sweep. Once a battle is over, get the remnants of the fleet back to a star base. A Patriot needs a full compliment of fighters to be useful, and a Cygnus needs 12 torps. For this reason, the battlefleet is best used to defend your empire. To be an attacking force, a swarm of the above ships would be necessary, with the numbers slightly favoring Patriots. In addition, three or four Cobols should be used to keep the ships well fueled up.

It is important to get the Patriot fighting on the appropriate side of any battle. As an example, in SIM, put a Patriot against a Deth Specula, then swap sides and repeat. You will notice that the right side always wins. As a rule, if fighting a torp ship, keep your friendly codes as low as you can get them. Against a carrier, those in the know say that the left has an advantage, so keep them high.

A small and very cheap addition to the battlefleet could be a Little Joe armed with six lasers. Send it in first against a fighter carrier, and it will strip off a good number of fighters before being destroyed. Worth building if you’re a bit short of cash/minerals.

Fighter Building - The Sagittarius/The Gemini
The ability to build fighters in space is one of your key race advantages, so exploit it. Only pay for fighters if you need them by the next go. If not, a Sagittarius is the cheapest ship that can build and store them quickly (30 initially, or each go if you remove them). This is plenty fast enough to keep your starbase topped up, supply Patriots as and when needed, and stock pile them.

The Gemini is a little over the top to use for this purpose - it can build 40 fighters per turn, but needs 200 supplies to do this. If you have a Bovinoid world near your starbase, then that is the place to put a Gemini (tow it there - it has low-tech engines.) Also, later in the game when the action starts, a Gemini is a handy mobile fighter builder. Fitted with higher tech level engines, it can travel with a battlefleet, and strip enemy planets of fighter minerals and supplies.

If you can’t get these fighters off, continue to build and store as per the table below.

The job for the fighter building ship is to orbit your starbase and build fighters. Nothing else this early on. It is unable to launch fighters quickly enough to be a threat to any ship with beams or fighters of its own, and will likely be destroyed by a couple of volleys of torps. Therefore, save yourself money and only equip it with the lowest tech engine you have in stock. Even tech 1 beams (Lasers) will take fighters out, which is the only offensive job this ship can perform successfully, so if you have some very low tech beams (not x-ray lasers) in stock, equip it with these, otherwise equip it with lasers. Don’t leave it totally defenseless, as then it will appear as a freighter on the scores table. Set its primary enemy to Privateer, give it an Alpha friendly code so that it will be the last ship into battle. (Setting the friendly code to ‘lfm’ will automate the process, but you lose the control of how much you spend each turn, and also the battle order.)

If there is no immediate threat, build ten fighters a turn. Fill your Patriot with the first ten, and the twenty from your starbase. Then, fill your starbase (up to sixty) with ten per go. Lastly, keep building them (as a very low priority) so you have a stock of around sixty on your Sagittarius, ready to top up other ships or your starbase, as necessary.

This table illustrates how a Sagittarius can be loaded to build fighters:

Turn

Free

Space

Supplies

Trit.

Moly.

Fighters

This Turn

Total Built

1

300

150

90

60

30

30

2

270

135

81

54

27

57

3

243

120

72

48

24

81

4

219

105

63

42

21

102

5

198

95

57

38

19

121

6

179

85

51

34

17

138

7

162

80

48

32

16

154

8

146

70

42

28

14

168

9

132

65

39

26

13

181

10

119

55

33

22

11

192

11

108

50

30

20

10

202

12

98

45

27

18

9

211

13

89

40

24

16

8

219

14

81

40

24

16

8

227

15

73

35

21

14

7

234

16

66

30

18

12

6

240

17

60

30

18

12

6

246

18

54

25

15

10

5

251

19

49

20

12

8

4

255

20

45

20

12

8

4

259

21

41

20

12

8

4

263

22

37

15

9

6

3

266

23

34

15

9

6

3

269

24

31

15

9

6

3

272

25

28

10

6

4

2

274

26

26

10

6

4

2

276

27

24

10

6

4

2

278

28

22

10

6

4

2

280

29

20

10

6

4

2

282

30

18

5

3

2

1

283

31

17

5

3

2

1

284

32

16

5

3

2

1

285

33

15

5

3

2

1

286

34

14

5

3

2

1

287

35

13

5

3

2

1

288

36

12

5

3

2

1

289

37

11

5

3

2

1

290

38

10

5

3

2

1

291




Turn 2 - So You’re Still Alone in the Universe

If you can’t see anyone, or just the less threatening races, or you can planet hop, save the building of a battlefleet until after you have a good supply chain in place from your three original worlds. Then build (for example) Patriot, Cobol, Cygnus, Cobol, Sagittarius, Cobol, Lady Royale, Cobol.

The Lady Royale
At some stage, it would be daft not to have a Lady Royale orbiting your starbase world (and any future starbase worlds). It will pay for itself in two turns. The beauty of a Lady Royale is that if you put 160 clans on board, they will provide you with 160mc each turn - for nothing. If you get strapped for cash, you may even consider building more. Obviously, this should have tech 1 (or low tech from stock) engines and beams, for the same reason as the Sagittarius. You should also have proton torp tubes in stock - use one of these. The reason for this is that you also have a number of proton torps in stock, and at no cost you can lay a small minefield around your starbase whenever another race gets too close. You will need to temporarily drop a few clans to accommodate the torps, but don’t worry, you still receive the mc that turn.

You can set the friendly code of the Lady Royale to ‘bdm’. This saves you bothering to drop the cash down to the planet each turn, but because the host beams down money before the cash is generated, the cash is left on the ship until the next turn. NB This may be a friendly code only available to registered players, as I haven’t got it to work yet.

Supply Chains
Plan to set up your supply chains such that Cobols meet each other at a planet, and you don’t leave clans or minerals on a planet for later collection. There are four reasons for this. Firstly, it ensures that very few of your Cobols will be drawn into battle alone. Secondly, a Cobol is a tricky ship to capture. It usually either wins, or is destroyed along with its cargo. Therefore, your opponent can only steal your clans/minerals/cash if they are on a planet. Thirdly, clans may die on hot/cold worlds while waiting to be picked up, so they should be transferred directly from ship to ship. Lastly, torps can only be transferred from ship to ship, and not left on planets for later collection.

Colonising
One of your unlisted race advantages is your ability to get large numbers of colonists into your empire. This is because fuel is not a problem for you. Your initial Cobols should be scouting and pre-colonising. As soon as is practicable, this first wave colonisation should be matched by a second using LDSF/Cobol combinations. Using EchoView, you should be able to see what the maximum number of colonists on a particular planet is. If this is less than say 150 clans, no amount you drop will form a colony able to grow, so 1 clan will suffice in the Cobol wave, aiming to be topped up to maximum in the LDSF wave. This should be supplemented by one supply on non-Bovinoid worlds, and 3mc on no-native and Amorphous worlds, which cannot be taxed for the cash. If the maximum is more than 150, it is a safe bet that 25 or more clans will grow.

The exception is Amorphous worlds. If the maximum is less than 150, it is probably a useless world, as the population is unlikely to last too long. Some time in the future, plan to drop 6 clans and strip all surface minerals (especially fuel) next go. Then pick up the remaining clan and leave it alone. It’s no good to anyone. If the maximum is more, you will need to establish what size colony is needed to ensure growth outstrips the 5 clan reduction per turn due to hungry Amorphous worms. The best way to do this is with EchoView. During the LDSF wave of colonisation, drop 40 clans, close down the WinPlan ship window, reload the turn in EchoView (F4), and advance the turns in the planet window. If the numbers drop, add 10 more colonists, and repeat until growth is achieved.

In the second wave, planets to concentrate on are

  • Bovinoid worlds
  • Potential starbase worlds (especially Ghipsoldal) and those nearby
  • High mineral worlds
  • Mid temperature Amorphous worlds (if they are taken off you, they soon become available again, but anyone knowing its native race is unlikely to touch it anyway)
  • Mid temperature worlds (high population growth)
  • Avian/Insect worlds.

You will want to aim to have a growing (or maximum) population on all worlds within your empire, as this makes it difficult for cloakers to penetrate without you knowing about it.

The next phase of colonisation is with Super Transport Freighters, but that is much later, when your homeworld population is about to reach 10 million.

Laying Mines
Minefields will deteriorate 5% per turn once laid, and will also shine out like a beacon to any race who cares to run a minesweep mission within range. Therefore, it is important to know when to lay them, and how many torps to use. In the early part of the game, you should have the ability to drop a minefield constructed from 10 torps around all your planets within 2 to 3 turns. You may also have a Lady Royale orbiting your homeworld from which you can lay an additional minefield from the lower tech proton torps you were given at the beginning. These minefields are not impressive by any standard, and the chances of, say, a Privateer MBR being destroyed getting to your planets is relatively small. However, he will possibly sustain damage, which will disable his cloak and render him vulnerable to attack by the planet’s defenses (you had your friendly code set to ATT, didn’t you?) and also any Cobol in orbit (you had primary enemy set to Privateer, didn’t you?). Also, if he minesweeps occasionally (which he will do, especially once he has encountered his first minefield on your patch) and sees the sheer number of minefields around, he will look elsewhere for a softer target. If he persists, you have the ability to move torps out via your supply routes with surprising speed, and ‘top up’ your existing minefields.

This torp supply route is all important for the following reasons:

  • A minefield constructed from 10 mark 4 torps will not take out many ships, (especially as your planet is in the middle, so an attacking ship only needs to travel through half of it.) As you become more cash and mineral rich, you can increase the stock of torps on each Cobol to ten, twenty, etc., very quickly. Then, if the need arises you will be able to lay ‘real’ minefields around all your key planets.
  • Once your Cobols have laid their mines, they are vulnerable. Remember, a Fed ship, even when 99% damaged by mines, will fight at full strength. He will be able to fire torps at your Cobol, which will be defenseless until within beam range. By that time it may well be too late. Therefore, restocking Cobols is a priority.

If you have a Cygnus guarding a planet full time, use that as the mine layer, and only store between 10 and 30 defensive torps on Cobols servicing that planet. A Cobol will rarely use more than 10 mark 4 (or greater) torps in any battle before it either wins or loses.


Later Turns

It won’t be long before your Cobol logistical supply chain becomes insufficient to cope with your cargo needs, and you need to supplement them. Anticipate this stage before it happens, and start to build the occasional Large Deep Space Freighter. These can be used to ship colonists off your homeworld, (which by turn 10 or so should be a priority task) and also to strip a mineral-rich planet clean. It is unlikely that each planet will need to be serviced by its own LDSF, more likely that one LDSF can cycle round a few, giving mineral stocks chance to build up between visits. Build your LDSFs with StarDrive 1 engines and team each LDSF with a towing Cobol. That way, any enemy capturing your LDSF will find it only of limited use. Keep each LDSF with a Cobol. Like swans, LDSFs and Cobols mate for life.

Once the first or second shuttle LDSF is in place. Your next LDSF would be used for colonisation. You should already have Cobols out there scanning and putting small (but growing) colonies on planets. The LDSFs can follow these up and put sizable amounts of colonists on prime worlds, where their populations can grow quickly.

Things to bear in mind with using LDSFs are that they are a prime target for your enemy to hit/steal. Use a zig-zag path at all times, to avoid attacks by cloakers or hyperjumpers. Also, bear in mind that a fully loaded Quantam7 LDSF (or Cobol towing a LDSF) cannot make a complete warp 9 jump, and a warp 8 jump nearly empties the tank. Therefore, you will often need to jump from your homeworld into open space. Your enemy will recognise a new ship, jot down which planet it came from, and attach a note saying ‘homeworld’. Be sure you are ready for this to be common knowledge. (Evil Empire would know it already). If possible, put them off the scent by jumping to a connected planet, and out into space from there.


Defending Against Specific Enemies

Because of your top ship (Virgo), its minesweeping ability, and your ability to run it around indefinitely, your race is one that is difficult to defend against. Therefore, a clever enemy will know that to defeat you, he will have to wage war on your turf. For this reason alone defense should be a priority. Early in the game, the backbone of your defence will be Cygnus/Patriot battlefleets, and the ability to drop mines quickly. For specific races, see below, and also read up race-guides on the particular enemy against whom you are defending. These are the tactics they will use.

Before we start, I’ll just go through a little tip that may help against cloakers. On the fringes of your empire, and on any other planet where it seems prudent, leave just one mc, and set your planetary friendly code to ‘bum’. This friendly code causes all cash on a planet to be beamed up to enemy starships in orbit (even cloakers). That way, if you suddenly discover that your 1mc has gone, you will know that a cloaker was at your planet. You may then be able to more accurately target your minefields. Ideally, your enemy will notice that he has suddenly gained 1mc, and reckon that the game is up. Further, a cloaking ship can only Intercept whilst uncloaked, so can only intercept you by predicting your next position. So make sure you zig-zag slightly if in open space.

Make sure that you have at least one clan on every planet in your space. That way, fuel is unavailable to a cloaking ship without you knowing about it.

Feds
Only large minefields are useful against the Feds, but he has relatively weak ships early on. That said, he will build Nocturne Class Destroyers and Nebula Class Cruisers for offence, both of which will trash a Cobol. The Nocturne will be easily destroyed in its second encounter with a Cobol, but the Nebula will take on almost as many Cobols as you can throw at it. Planetary defenses need to be over 250 to successfully defend against the Nebula, which isn’t feasible this early on. So if the Feds are looking threatening, they know where you are, and they have Nebulas, there is only one thing you can do, and that is station a few Patriots at strategic locations. They will take him out very nicely.

Lizards
This race is probably the most difficult to defend against early on. He has a number of ships which will knock your Cobols for six (even in pairs), at least one that will toast your Patriot, and to really rub it in, they can cloak. In the case of the Lizards though, don't worry too much about his cloaking ability, because you should be prepared for an attack long before you see him coming. The only answer, and it's an expensive one, is to put a number of Cygnus/Patriot battlefleets in strategic locations. If he knows where you are, it wouldn't hurt to let him see a few, and if he does his SIMs, he'll know that in all out war, he will lose more money and minerals.

The other little trick the Lizards use is based on their ground attack advantage of 30:1. They drop a few clans on your non-homeworlds using cloakers (immune to ATT or NUK planetary friendly codes), and the planet is theirs. Minefields are the answer here, but no need on high population worlds. If he uses 3 Lizard Class Cruisers (and he would have to be pretty determined) he can take a planet of 3,510,000 soles. Also, to make his life a little more difficult, make sure you maximaise the number of defence post you have, as they will reduce his ground attack advantage using the following formula :

(Defending clans * Racial Factor * (1 + (0.05 * Defense Posts))

Lastly, if you need to battle a Lizard ship, do it at a planet. Lizard ships receiving over 100% damage when in planetary orbit will fall apart AFTER the battle. In practise, this means that if you lose, you may take him with you over a planet, whereas in deep space he would have survived.

Birds
If the Birdmen are being played properly, they will be using Superspy missions to rob you blind. Mines are your best defence, but if you see the Birds early, and they are reasonably close, you may find it prudent to build a couple of battlefleets and try and wipe him out before his ship numbers grow. An offensive battlefleet is complemented nicely with a Cobol, which can keep it running indefinitely at warp 7.

Fascists
The Ill Wind is the ship to fear in the Fascists’ fleet, but a Cygnus /Patriot battlefleet should do the job most times (Cygnus first). Because he is a cloaking race, minefields should also be seriously considered. This is doubly true because of the Facists’ nasty habit of Pillaging your planets. He will sit a ship above it (immune to planetary defenses), and start to kill your population (20% per turn,) and pinch your money/supplies before dropping a few clans and taking it. Best not to let him get near your starbase worlds, and if you do end up getting pillaged, get a battlefleet there quickly.

Also, be very careful of the Fascist Glory Device. When one of these is triggered, it will damage any of your ships to the value of one mine hit. One of these popped in the middle of a swarm of Patriots and Cygnuses will take out the lot, and leave any Cobols with 86% damage. Feigning attacks, and then retreating beyond 81ly of him is the best bet. Your only ship that has little to fear from them is the Virgo (16% damage). Even then, beware of being towed to one of his large fleets by a cloaker.

The other Fascist attack strategy is to ground attack by dropping clans and taking advantage of his attack ratio of 15:1. Given time, he will probably reduce the number of clans first by using the Pillage mission. Whilst defence posts will not attack a pillaging Fascist ship, they will reduce his ground attack ratio according to the following formula:

(Defending clans * Racial Factor * (1 + (0.05 * Defense Posts))

Privateers
A number of tactics must be employed when playing against the Privateers. A good one is to have your ships missions set to ‘Beam Up Fuel’ when visiting, or about to leave, a planet. That way, if the Privateers drain your ship of fuel whilst in orbit, it is immediately replenished leaving you able to attack. Secondly, travel in pairs. A Pirate must then have two ships to take you on.

An MBR can only rob 284kt of fuel. This is more than enough to drain a Patriot or a Cygnus, so ensure that they are paired up. Calculate how much fuel will be left in your Cobol after a jump (Current fuel, less fuel used, plus 2x light years traveled) and ensure this is greater than 284 where possible. This will mean that he cannot disable it, and so it can retaliate. A Cobol doesn’t often beat an MBR, but it will leave it very badly damaged and unable to cloak. You can then get another ship to the scene in time to finish the job.

As discussed earlier, minefields protecting planets help a great deal. The Pirates will principally be after your ships, but in your case, the vast majority of your ships will be spending very little time in deep space.

Lastly, you may decide offence is the best defence, and go on the attack early on while they are weak. If you succeed, you will become an instant hit with the other races, who will be happy to see the Privateers out of the game.

Cyborg
In the early part of the game, the Cyborg’s best ship is the Firecloud. More often than not, this will beat a Cobol, but such an encounter will leave it over 90% damaged and vulnerable to planetary defenses. Fully armed, it will easily take a planet with 150 defence posts. Therefore, when defending against the Cyborg, there is no real need to splash out on too many mines or battlefleets, just ensure that if you see him coming, get at least one Cobol to the planet he’s heading for. You should be able to do that within a turn, and if not, park a Cygnus on that planet. However, if you do become aware of a Firecloud near you, make every effort to damage it pronto. Their chunneling ability means that where there was one, there may suddenly be a large fleet.

The Cyborg are another race that you may consider taking out of the picture early on, while they are weak. But watch out. There is an enduring legend that a Cyborg player escaped from such a rout with one clan on one probe, and went on to win the game. This may or may not be true, but if you give a Cyborg an inch, they’ll take a mile. Don’t hang around in taking out even his SDSFs.

Crystals
The unique race ability of the Crystals is the web minefield. You have excellent mine sweeping abilities, but not for web mines. The Crystal can lay a web minefield over your planet, effectively putting it out of the game. If your ship is near a Crystal ship with minelaying abilities, it can lay a web minefield that turn before the movement phase, and you are stuck in it before you even knew it was there. This is how the Crystals capture ships from a distance (200 mark 5 torps lays a web minefield 200 light years in diameter). Steer clear of Crystal minelaying ships. The best way to keep Mr. Crystal out of your territory is to lay mines. Waiting in ambush is another tactic. Stay at a planet until he is within range, and then intercept. Hopefully, he won’t know you are there, and so won’t lay a web minefield.

Always keep your eye on the mass of a Crystal’s ship. Early in the game, assume he has X-Ray lasers (4kt each), 1 kt of fuel, and that the rest is in mark 5 torps. That way, you will know the maximum radius of a webmine field he can drop.

The only way to deal with a web mine is to top up with fuel, get stuck in it a short way, and sweep it with beams. A Little Joe with high tech beam weapons is the natural choice, as it is the cheapest minesweeper - but beware its small fuel tank. A Neutronic Fuel Carrier will be destroyed by one mine hit. A Taurus Class Scout can go in with the Little Joe to keep the fuel tank topped up. If you have two ships together in a web mine, keep transferring all but 1kt of fuel onto one ship. That way, only 26kt of fuel will be drained (25kt off one and only 1kt from the other), rather than the full 50kt. By the same token, if you can park the minesweepers above a planet, you can drop all your fuel to the planet, and only beam up 1kt per ship. Once you are in a web minefield, keep your speed at warp 0 to avoid running into further web mines.

The Cygnus is also useful in this respect, due to the much larger fuel tank. Unlike the Little Joe however, they are useful elsewhere (to both you and the Crystals). If you find yourself stuck in a web minefield and are running low on fuel, lay a minefield - it will hinder any effort to capture your ship. Also, jettison cargo - why let the Crystals have it?

Evil Empire
The Evil Empire has some very nasty abilities that make them an uncomfortable race to be near.

  • Darksense - If the Evil Empire is near you at the start, you lose your advantage of being hidden. Assume they know where you are.
  • The ability to build some very hard ships early on - Your worst nightmare being the Super Star Carrier. They will also be able to pack it full of fighters very quickly. A minefield may work, but it would have to be a sizable one. If you are unable to do this, don’t waste your money. If this ship wants one of your planets, convert all your supplies to cash, and remove cash, neutronium and all clans (with that priority). If you have to leave clans, set both tax rates to 100%, and let him have it. If this ship wants your homeworld early in the game, you will have to get every ship in your fleet there as quick as you can, build as many fighters and torps as you can, and find religion.
  • However, your saving grace could be that he may choose to use a more subtle (and cheaper) approach to taking your planets, viz. - The Super Star Destroyer. Using its Imperial Assault mission, it is immune to any planetary defence, and can take your planet intact (including starbase), merely by dropping 10 clans. It will survive an attack of around six Cobols, but a Cygnus followed by a Patriot (or a 2nd Cygnus if you still haven’t sufficient fighters) should finish him off. Even a Cygnus alone is likely to leave him with damage, thus ending his ability to take your planet, and also leaving him at the mercy of the planetary defenses. A minefield may do the same job, but without the certainty of a Cygnus-lead battlefleet. If possible, get your clans off. A neat trick is to fully load a Cobol with them, then travel away from the planet at warp 1 in any direction, thus staying in the warp well. Move around in the warp well, and you are all but uncatchable, and he knows it. He will not waste an expensive ship waiting you out, so he will take as much as he can carry and ship out. Then, when he goes, drop the clans back on the planet.

Robots
At the start of the game, the Robots only have one ship that will defeat a Cygnus/Patriot battlefleet, and that is the dreaded Instrumentality. This ship’s primary offensive weapons are its fighters, of which it can launch eighty very quickly. Unless you have three Patriot/Cygnus battlefleets on the spot, forget it. Deal with it in the same way as the Evil Empire’s Super Star Carrier.

Also, in the early part of the game when your minesweeping abilities are limited, beware minefields laid by a Cat’s Paw. Robot minefields are huge. Keep your eye on the weight of the ship to get an idea of the size of field he can drop. A Patriot is the natural ship to take a Cat’s Paw, with mission set to minesweep.

Rebels
The Rebels are your twin race. They share many ships, including Patriot and Cygnus. If they are attacking you, mines would be the natural defence.

You may consider changing the planetary friendly code of your starbase worlds to ‘HYP’ and the starbase mission to Force Surrender. That way, the turn after he has performed his groundattack, if he tries to Hyperjump out again, you earn yourself a free Hyping Ship (very, very useful)


Useful Facts about Cobols

Here are some things you should know about Cobols:

  • A Cobol with Quantam 7 engines carrying 30 torps can travel indefinitely at Warp 9.
  • A fully loaded Cobol with Quantam 7 engines can travel indefinitely at Warp 8.
  • A Cobol with Quantam 7 engines and 30kt of cargo/torps can escort a fully loaded Large Deep Space freighter (Quantam 7) indefinitely at warp 7. Just top up the LDSF to 75kt of fuel per go. It should also be able to tow it, but then you lose the ability to use the Cobol’s bioscanner.
  • Arm a Cobol with 20 mark 5 torps, and it will reliably take out a planet with up to 120 defence posts.
  • A Cobol with 14 mark 4 torps and 4 blasters will reliably take out the following ships with similar armament:
  • B222 Destroyer
  • B41 Explorer (Probable Capture)
  • Bohemian Class Survey Ship
  • BR4 Class Gunship
  • BR5 Kaye Class (Probable Capture)
  • Brinhild Class Escort
  • D19b Nefarious
  • D7a Painmaker
  • Deep Space Scout (Probable Capture)
  • Dwarf Star Class Transport
  • Eros Class Research
  • Falcon Class Escort (Probable Capture)
  • Little Joe Class Escort
  • Little Pest Class Escort
  • Mig Class Scout (Probable Capture)
  • Opal Class Torpedo Boat (Probable Capture)
  • Outrider Class Scout
  • PL21 Probe (Probable Capture)
  • Reptile Class Destroyer
  • RU25 Gunboat (Probable Capture)
  • Sage Class Frigate
  • Sagittarius Class Transport
  • Serpent Class Escort
  • Sky Garnet Class
  • Small Transport
  • Swift Heart Class Scout
  • Taurus Class Scout
  • Topaz Class Gunboat (Probable Capture)
  • Watcher Class Scout
  • White Falcon Class Cruiser

Ships

Here is a discussion of each ship available to you, and its possible uses to you.

Small Deep Space Freighter (SDSF)
This ship is of limited value, especially the one given to you at the beginning of the game (low tech engine). Start of game uses have been discussed earlier. Some players immediately set the mission to ‘colonise’, but it is best to use it to augment an existing supply route by shuttling a few colonists out, and a few supplies back. Most especially between planets less than 37.5 light years apart (one jump at warp 6).

You will also be given a hull in storage. If you’re short of cash or minerals, you may as well use this hull as not. If you have a second supply route as described above, give it a HeavyNova drive and set it to work. Otherwise, give it a Quantam 7 and augment a longer supply route, or give it a StarDrive1 from stock and tow it perpetually behind another ship to act as increased cargo capacity and torp fodder (friendly code ‘000’.)

It is a good idea to build a SDSF with StarDrive1 engines if you cannot build anything else. There are two reasons for this: Firstly, when all the ship slots are used, you can colonise one, freeing up a slot and given you a priority build point. Secondly, it will at least take out a torp if your starbase is attacked. Thirdly, it is a slight advantage to transfer ownership of these to an ally. Then, if a Birdman Superspy mission changes your planet’s friendly code to (for example) ‘bum’, at least some of your money will be given to your allies.

The only other possible use I can think of for a SDSF is to use it as bait for a trap, but few players will be bothered to go after such a small target unless it is owned by the Cyborg, or for priority build points.

Taurus Class Scout
The Taurus Class Scout is another fairly useless vessel. If you are going to build one, put X-Rays on it. It can then be used to capture freighters. Its one saving grace is its large fuel tank. This allows it to be used for colonisation, (though the Cobol is a better bet for this.)

Other uses would be to be towed around by Large Deep Space freighters as extra fuel/cargo capacity (though a Cobol escort is a better bet for this), and also, to drain Neutronium from planets, and so hindering attacking war fleets.

It can tow a Little Joe into a web minefield to supplement a very small fuel tank and will help a little in the minesweeping.

It will tow.

Lastly, it makes a slightly better cargo carrier than the SDSF.

Cygnus Class Destroyer
Part of the battlefleet…..Very cheap…..Minelaying…..Possible web mine sweeping.

Also, armed with Gamma Bombs and Disruptors, it is a very cheap ship to use to try to capture enemy warships. Do the SIMs to determine the appropriate number of torps to use (usually a full hold).

One point to watch. A Cygnus is totally destroyed by a glory device/mine hit. You are unlikely to meet with minefields, as you will have a Patriot nearby with its mission set to Mine Sweep 99% of the time, but glory devices can be your worst nightmare. Allow me to illustrate. If you had a fleet of 50 Cygnuses, it would take a fleet of 5 Gorbies, each with 100 fighters, for the Evil Empire to take it out. It would take one (yes one!) Nefarious for the Fascists to do the same job.

Little Joe Class Escort
For carrying Heavy Phasers from Amphibian starbases to Humanoid starbases, this is the cheapest ship.
It will sweep small web mines quickly if equipped with Heavy Phasers, but its small fuel tank means larger ones are beyond it. Taking a Neutronic Fuel Carrier in with you is not a good idea, as a single mine hit usually destroys it. A Taurus Class Scout stands a better chance, and can tow the Little Joe, thus shielding it from mine damage.

Neutronic Fuel Carrier
Cheapest way of transporting Tech10 engines from a Ghipsoldal starbase to a Humanoid starbase.
Can be used for towing, but beware of minefields. One mine hit will destroy this ship. A Cobol is better for this purpose.
Can be used to strip Neutronium from planets lying between yourself and a hostile neighbour.

Medium Deep Space Freighter
The only thing to say is, it’s a slightly better version of a SDSF. Build it if you’re desperate for a freighter, and can’t afford (or don’t have the hull tech for) anything better. (See Aries Class Transport).

Cobol
The merits of this ship have been discussed at length elsewhere in this document.

Aries Class Transport
If you are planning on building a MDSF, consider building an Aries instead. It is only more expensive in terms of minerals (10 more Tritium and Duranium, and 20 more Molybdenum), but with an extra 60kt cargo space, will make up for that on its first cargo trip. Beam weapons would be next to useless on it to defend itself, but you could put X-Rays on to capture freighters and knock out fighters. Note that in the registered version the Aries will automatically convert all minerals in it's cargohold to fuel.

Sagittarius Class
The fighter building abilities of a Sagittarius have been discussed earlier.
When full of fighters, it makes an excellent minesweeper.
It is also useful to carry and build fighters to keep Patriots/Virgos topped up on long excursions, but Gemini is the first choice for this.

Lady Royale
Other than the gambling advantage, the only uses a Lady Royale has is by way of it’s large fuel tank and position. Mostly, Lady Royales are built with low spec engines, and stay over starbase worlds, so can be best used for defending them. If all your defenses are going to be overwhelmed by hostile forces, and the planet will be captured, dumping the planet’s fuel stocks into your Lady Royale will mean that they are lost to your enemy (especially if you get out into the warp well). It can also lay a minefield from 160 torps very quickly. Other than that, it is a very expensive fuel tank when compared to, say, two Taurus Class Scouts.

Large Deep Space Freighter (LDSF)
This is the freighter of choice if you can afford to build one. Do not forget that it can still be an offensive weapon if used to drop clans on enemy planets without defence, but you must be very sure that that is the case, as this is a valuable ship to lose (it is often captured). On longer excursions, a LDSF with Quantam 7 engines, can be kept going indefinitely at warp 7 by escorting it with a Cobol and topping the tank up to 75kt each jump.

Tranquility Class Cruiser
It’s hard to think of a specific reason for building one of these. It is a good all rounder, but there are better alternatives for all of its uses. It can lay the biggest minefield of any Colonial ship, but two Cobols at the same point in space could lay a larger one, and very large minefields tend not to be as useful as lots of smaller/overlapping ones.

Teamed up with a Cobol of the same torp type, you may like to pack it full of torps, transfer them 50 or so at a time to the Cobol while the Cobol lays them. This way, you can lay 13 respectably sized minefields without the need to return for fuel. If you are rich, and in conflict with the facists, consider building this ship instead of a Cygnus, as it will survive a glory device.

Patriot Class Light
The Patriot is a deadly little ship, especially when paired with a Cygnus Class Destroyer, which can go in first to knock down sheilds/damage beam weapons. Be aware, though that if it is not carrying 30 fighters, you will probably lose it in a fight. Keep it topped up. Another point to note is that there is a vast difference between how this ship performs on either side of the battle. Please see ‘Colonies Battlefleet’.

One Last point to watch. (I know I said this about Cygnuses, but I’ll repeat it here). A Patriot is totally destroyed by a glory device/mine hit. You are unlikely to meet with minefields, as you will have its mission set to Mine Sweep 99% of the time, but glory devices can be your worst nightmare. Allow me to illustrate. If you had a fleet of 50 Patriots, it would take a fleet of around 5 Gorbies, each with 100 fighters, for the Evil Empire to take it out. It would take one (yes one!) Nefarious for the Fascists to do the same job.

Gemini Class Transport
A rich man’s version of the Sagittarius.

Scorpius Class Light Carrier
The main advantage of a Scorpius is its hull mass and high crew compliment. Basically it takes a lot of killing off, giving the fighters chance to do their stuff. But compare this to a Cygnus/Patriot battlefleet, which is a lot cheaper and carries one third the fighters. A Scorpius will occasionally take out an Ill Wind, whereas a battlefleet will usually take it out. If you have one shot at building a defensive ship at your starbase before the enemy arrives, this is the one to build. Remember it would then take a second go to transfer fighters from your Sagittarius/Gemini.

Iron Lady Class Frigate
This is another ship that there is no good reason to build. 8 beams can web minesweep and take out fighters well, but not as well as 2 relatively cheap Little Joes.

Neutronic Refinery Ship
Do not build this ship. If you are running short on fuel, you haven’t built enough Cobols.

Super Transport Freighter
You have to ask yourself what job a Super Transport Freighter will do. They are more efficient to build in terms of tonnage they can carry, but few planets will need to have 2600kt of minerals lifted from them. Later in the game, however, you will want to get your colonists out to other planets from your homeworld (say when the population has topped 9,500,000). You will probably find that even with one of these, you still can’t shift clans as quickly as they grow. It needs a transwarp Cobol to tow it when fully loaded.

Virgo Class Battlestar
This is your main offensive weapon. Load 90 fighters, and it will take out anything in the game other than Biocide, Gorbie, or Golem, and matches a Rush fairly evenly (with the slight advantage to the Rush). The fact that it is the lesser of the big carriers is more than balanced by the fact that minefields may just as well not be there, and teamed up with a transwarp Cobol, can travel indefinitely in enemy space. A Gorbie will usually trash a Virgo, but run away from it at warp 9, and you will almost hear the rush of fuel draining from his tank if he chases you.

Even though it is an expensive measure, try to equip at least one with Transwarp Drive and Heavy Phasers (the latter is essential if you are attacking the Crystals). Remember, because of cloaked intercept, towing a low engine tech Virgo with another ship (other than a high engine tech Virgo) is a quick way to end up with a Battlestar that can’t get home. Don’t even consider engines less than HeavyNova 6, and those only when desperate. Set its mission to mine sweep, and don’t forget that you can build fighters on it by simply setting it's friendly code to 'lfm' (while sweeping mines, for example).

Merlin Class Alchemy Ship
A Merlin is a useful (but expensive) ship to build. However, the minerals (especially Tritanium) on worlds around your main starbases WILL dry up, so you will need at least one eventually. The key is in anticipating the need, and having one available around a high population Bovinoid world in advance of mineral problems. There is nothing stopping you building a Merlin earlier on in the game, but make sure sufficient supplies are availble to your fighter production lines. (See the extended gameplan, above), and also that minerals/money you use in its construction are not required urgently for something else (e.g a Virgo).


After the 500 Ship Limit

Beware! You are a prime target for other races building up their priority build points (PBPs). This is due to the nature of your defenses (i.e. lots of expendable small ships). The Cygnus especially is a prime target, because it’s mass is just over 100kt (115kt). This will give the attacker 2 PBPs (1 PBP per 100kt or part thereof). It is not relevant to your enemy that the Cygnus may be part of a fleet of 20 Cygnuses and Patriots. He will gladly sacrifice one ship for the opportunity to build a much bigger one.

So what can you do? Firstly, you must always have plenty of ships in the build queue to take advantage of any freed up ship slots. Unless there is a special need, these should be top of the range Battlestars. Therefore, switch the emphasis of your defence to mines where it can be done easily. The time has come to use your Cygnuses as minelayers, laying mines to protect your supply routes. Now more than ever, your Virgoes should be used for attack. Anticipate the ship limit approaching and prepare your tactics in readiness. The end of the game is fast approaching, so prepare for all out war.


All Out War

You are an attacking race, so once you judge that you are sufficiently strong to wage war, don’t hesitate, or you may find your enemy takes the initiative first, and fights on your patch. But be prepared for a long and bitter battle. By the time you’ve built your first Virgo, any enemies left in the game are likely to be fairly strong. Do not underestimate the time it will take to beat him.

Something would have gone drastically wrong if you wait for the ship limit to be reached before picking a fight with your neighbour. Diplomacy is all important here. I find a nice trick is to make peace with your neighbour, and then launch an all out offensive when he least expects it. Resist an alliance with the closest race just because they are closest. Best to just agree a mutual border. This is also important because you don’t want to be fighting a war on two fronts. Try to work out which of your neighbours is the weakest, and where his strategic planets are:

  • Obviously, try to locate starbases by ship movements.
  • Planets surrounded by minefields are protected for a reason - sweep and attack.
  • Bovinoid worlds.
  • If he’s sending a lightweight LDSF towards a planet, you can bet it’s mineral rich. Attack the planet before he reaches it, and take on board fighter minerals.
  • Planets which act as advance look out posts. These are usually poorly defended, and can be taken out by any ship with weapons (e.g Taurus)

It doesn’t matter that they are a long way into his space. You have the power of indefinite travel, and so can reach any of his planets in time. Borders are often well defended, so remember that you are fighting a war of attrition. This is an especially useful tactic against big carrier races, where in chasing you, they will burn significant quantities of their fuel reserve.

Prepare for war by massing plenty of Cygnus/Patriot battlefleets along your border worlds, then launch them all at the same time towards his nearest planets. This is to keep him occupied while your Cobol/Virgo combination(s) push through the front line to pick up the best targets deeper in. Once the fighting dies down along the border, you may have gained more territory or not. This doesn’t really matter, as the real work is being done by the ‘deep raiding’ Cobol/Virgo fleet. If you have secured a new area, try not to think of it as an extension of your empire. Strip it clean of fuel, and use the Moly/Trit/Supplies to rebuild fighter stocks. Following the initial wave with a Sagittarius/Gemini or two (accompanied by Cobols full of torps) helps in this respect. Also, think very carefully before moving colonists into the area and building a starbase. If it was a well developed area, there should still be plenty of factories around. These will produce supplies for fighter building (they only decay at one per turn). Building a starbase can be used as a tactic to strip minerals from a threatened planet.

If all has gone well, you will now be in a situation where you have an area between you and your enemy with very little fuel and fighter minerals on them. There will also be the remnants of some battlefleets, some Sagittarius/Geminis, and some Cobols. If your enemy has retreated to deal with the more immediate threat of the deep raiding fleet, you can now enter a consolidation phase while your ‘deep raiding’ Cobol/Virgo(s) do their work. Use the Cobols to reload Cygnuses with torps, and refuel in general. Use the Sag/Gems to top up Patriot fighters. If your enemy continues with the attack, do not despair. Keep moving new battlefleets into the area. Remember, you don’t need that area of space, and Patriot/Cygnuses are expendable. You are merely keeping him busy while his infrastructure is devastated from within.

Your deep raiding parties are still vulnerable. You will need to top up your fighters at every opportunity. Discretion is the better part of valour once the numbers of fighters on board your Virgo drops below, say, thirty. Obviously, strip any planet you take of fuel, cash, supplies and fighter minerals, and build fighters ‘on the hoof’, but don’t be afraid to retreat for a rendezvous with your Sag/Gem, or stay at a planet 2 or 3 turns. Always carry a couple of clans on your Virgo or Cobol (or both, for flexibility), so that you can occupy planets which have been evacuated, and always take clans off planets you have finished with. He cannot then retake them without bringing clans, and few players will just happen to have a clan handy on a battleship.

When resupplying the front line with battlefleets, spread out the routes they take as they move through your territory. This has a number of advantages. Firstly, they defend your empire whilst passing through. Secondly, an enemy will find it harder to locate your starbases when ships come in from all angles, and thirdly, fuel in your empire is used more evenly.

A good tactic when towing a Virgo into your enemy’s space with a Cobol is to keep transferring excess fuel onto the Virgo. This is doubly useful when attacking cloaking races, because it allows you to use the following tactic that I have used successfully several times. When you get within range of your intended target (say a homeworld), transfer all fuel to your Virgo and tow the Cobol with it. A clever enemy will attempt to take out the Cobol with a cloak-intercept, hoping to leave you Virgo stranded. The Cobol will be fuelless and so immune to attack, while the Virgo mops up the hapless cloaker.

I have also fought against cloaking races that leave empty ships in space. Presumably they hope to be towed away, and refueled by a cloaking companion at an appropriate time. This is a clever tactic, because if you take the bait, you have to split up your Cobol/Virgo team, and he escapes eventually. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Fly your Virgo to them, transfer 1kt of fuel over, and take him out.


Alliances

Because you are a very independent race, alliances add less value for you than other races. They all have their own race advantages that could be useful, but here are other factors that you may consider when deciding to ally.

  • Location - Any race would make a good ally if they can attack the opposite side of your neighbour’s empire, and share losses.
  • Threat to you - If you think you may lose to an aggressor, offer an alliance against a common enemy. This may buy you time to build your forces up.
  • Hard to beat - For example, the Crystals can be a very tricky race to wipe out. Join with them, and the game may be over before the need arises. Also, early on, the Privateers can be a real pest. Keep on their good side until you’re strong enough to wipe him out.
  • Your Enemy has an Ally - It would be a confident player who took on two allied enemies on their own. Out of interest, I am currently playing in a game where two power blocks have emerged consisting of four races each. It will be fun to see how that one pans out.
  • Ship swaps - Be careful with ship swaps. There are only a few ships out there that are useful to you.
  • The Falcon is very useful, but not probes, as they tend not to last too long in a battle situation.
  • A good cloaker (especially one with gravitonic drive) to help with your war of attrition.
  • A Super Star Destroyer, for taking those starbases intact.
  • Fireclouds for resupplying and adding to your deep raiding parties (get at least 3 at a time, otherwise they are only useful infrequently).
  • Loki are useful if a cloaking race is waging war on your turf (not Lizards).
  • Nefarious - the glory device can be popped over an Amorphous world, leaving plenty of supplies for fighter production.
  • Terraforming ships are of limited use - unless you have a specific planet with unusually large amounts of minerals, don’t bother.
  • Remember, you don’t need any of these. So if you do swap, get a very good deal, and try to swap for something other than Cobols. An alliance based on swapping, rather than giving, ships is one that will likely turn sour later.

And finally

Just remember that the above is not an instruction manual, but a guide. All games are different, and all opponents are different. In general, if you’ve survived long enough to build your first Virgo, you’re in with a fighting chance.

One last thing: don’t play for points. You don’t need the number of starbases that, say, the Cyborg or the Feds will be building. You need those minerals for fighter building.

If you have anything that you could add to this guide, have seen any errors, or strongly disagree with anything herein, let me know. In fact, if you have any interest in playing the colonies, drop me a line anyway. I’m always happy to discuss Colonial tactics with a fellow Colonies fan.

Sammy.

(sam.roebuck@pharma.novartis.com)


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