Donovan's
VGA Planets Super Site

My impressions about VGA Planets
by Eduardo Fonseca


1.0 Overview
My name is Eduardo Fonseca, or if you prefer: Edy. I am 30 years old, a musician and a graduate in communications. I live in Belo Horizonte MG, Brasil and my E-Mail address is: fonseca@inetminas.estaminas.com.br

I realize the time spent writing these words could be used for studying music or other things, however I know I can contribute a little of my experience and "know-how" to other VGA Planets players, from novices to experts. I have been playing Planets since March 1994 when I saw it for the first time. During this period, I’ve been learning as much as I can about this wonderful game. Now, as I have collected a little VGAP knowledge, I have decided to detail what I have learned.

I do not intend to teach you how to play VGA Planets. My goal is give you a little help in key areas .. without it, you could spend a lot of time only to arrive at the same point. Let’s take a good sense to use only your own resources. It is very easy to play 5 Meteors, 2 Falcons, 4 Fireclouds, 1 Darkwing, 10 Virgos etc, right .. FORGET THEM. Here we will use only our own race ships and HCONFIG defaults.


2.0 My philosophy
1. Don't be fooled into thinking you know everything about VGA Planets
We play with human brains and they are all brilliant, providing lots of new ideas and tricks. Everyday new ideas are discovered .. new players showing their style. This game is continuously changing .. it never stops. If you don’t read or only play in same place with same players, you will never learn new things. You stop in time and may be destroyed when a new different opponent with new strategies appears against you.

2. Don't play for score.
If you play for points, you cannot build your needed battlecarriers. You are wasting money and minerals while you should be building warships, fighters and torpedoes. At the end of turn 40, I typically have about 20 to 30 Virgos with 100 fighters each. At least 1 of my opponents was destroyed and I started a new attack against other. "The Higher you fly, the deeper you go" -- John Lennon.

3. Try to avoid playing more than two games at the same time
Planets is a "way of life" .. focus yourself to do the best you can. If you play lot of groups you divide your energy. You play the first game well, the second so so while neglecting the details of the others. Two games are enough. A great Commander manages only 1 or 2 armies .. why should you have more?


3.0 The first turns
The first turn is one of the most important turns of the game. In general there aren’t a lot of things to do. Yes .. you are right .. in this turn you decide which planets to colonize and where you should or should not go. In the first turn, you build your strategy of colonization.

At my HomeWorld, I build factories and mines, continuing to build until the world has reached 300 factories and 400 mines. I need duranium quickly .. the typical concentration of 15% makes mining too slow hence I look for this ore in nearby planets.

With the StarBase. I increase the Hull to tech level 6, the Engines to 10 and both the Beams and Torpedoes to 4. (What!! You’re not a Registered player? Why not? What are you waiting for?)

The 2 small ships: Don’t reveal yourself and don’t go recycling your 2 small ships .. they are very useful. Explore those planets close by and transfer 5 to 10 (necessary) clans, 5 - 10 supplies and sufficient $$$ (3 times the supplies) .. you need to control these planets quickly. If you need to travel through deep space in order to explore new planets, accelerate your ships to warp 7, 8 or 9. You have to know your neighborhood to decide which planet you’ll colonize first. Always, take care with your fuel (although as Colonies this is less important.) Then, return with your ships. The 10 first turns are crucial. If you do well in the first 10 turns, nobody will stop you. See table 1 for thoughts on the best way to tax your clans.


4.0 Colonization
The first 2 ships will show what you have nearby. You should only carry the necessary clans to colonize these planets then return to the HomeWorld. For example: if you have 10 nearby planets, you should carry only 10 clans dropping 1 clan in each planet before returning home. Don’t be crazy traveling through deep space getting all planets you can .. return home bringing back Duranium. It is much better to colonize planets with 100 - 1200 clans each time than to own a lot of planets but never return to them.

After checking out these planets, the second step is colonize them properly. You should build 2 medium sized war ships in turns two and three, your first Large Deep Space Freighter (LDSF) the fourth turn. Set your ship’s primary enemy to Rebel (to avoid any disgusting Rebel Ground Attacks) and drop those initial clans, supplies and $$$ at the nearest planet as you build a second war ship and return home with all minerals, mainly Duranium, to scout your LDSF.

Don’t be a "penny pincher". Drop lots of supplies and $$$ to quickly mine clean the planets, building all factories, mines and 16 defense posts at least to hide your colony. This investment in planets has a quick return. If you have rich planets, build as many mines as possible. If your natives become upset, find the best number of factories and mines. A well colonized planet provides everything you need: Supplies, minerals, $$$, clans, StarBases, defense posts, the works.. I see lot of players building only 100 mines over the planets... fools!!!!!

Try to build colonies in close planets. The HomeWorld provides the initial clans, but soon, the fuel becomes scattered and it becomes very difficult to return home. I often see ships stopping without fuel as they return to their HW. The best procedure is to drop your clans in order to build other Home Worlds (CyBorgs being the exception). Try to leave your HW quickly unless you have very good planets near it. In most of my games, I finished with more clans in other planets than in my HW. As these colonies grow quickly, you can later use these clans as a source for colonizing other planets.

Remember: Don't leave your freighters alone. The freighters are not explorer ships. They do one of the most dignified missions .. carrying your clans to other planets. Use warships to explore the starchart.


5.0 Hints and Strategies
I love my WINPlan. (Have you ever looked at VPA? It is a freeware product without some of the glamour of WinPlan but I find it much easier and quicker to do things, especially work between ships and planets or building on starbases!). It gives me everything I need. I love it’s BMPs, Wavs, Mids etc. Strategy, that you have to develop yourself. Nobody can teach you how to think.

You must read a lot, learn from other players, monitor your opponent’s movements and study, study and study. A great commander has lots of experience, fighting lots of battles in lots of situations. Winning and loosing battles. Don’t play only in front of your computer. Most of the good ideas appear when you are far away from your PC.

A good player never shows the ship’s bearing. If you must stop in deep space, stop halfway between planets. Your enemy will never know from where you came or where you’re going. Stopping halfway, you could be saving fuel too.

Try to imagine what your opponent is thinking. If you know what is in their head you have nothing to worry about. So, don’t be obvious! Try to confound your enemy when you are in their territory. Stop in a place in the middle of 2 or 3 planets when you prepare your attack. Your enemy will not know which planet will be attacked. Stop 4 - 6 LY from a planet and attack other one. IMPORTANT: A single ship won’t win the war .. you must arrive at least, with 6 - 8 war ships (2 or 3 Battlecarries, 2 Mediums War Ships, 2 Support - with fuel/supplies/torpedoes/fighters) to defeat your enemy.

When you enter an opponent’s territory you must take clans and supplies.
There are 2 ways to do this.

  1. Keep them as cargo in the offensive fleet. This is dangerous due to the excessive use of valuable cargo room. You attack the enemy planets, beam down the clans then build defense posts using the supplies and $$$. But this is dangerous as you will likely lose ships in battles and, unfortunately, you lose those valuable clans as well.
  2. The better strategy is to carry the supplies and clans in a background fleet. This background fleet has 1 or 2 battlecarriers and some medium ships. After battles, some ships will be damaged .. it would be prudent to quickly build a StarBase to fix any damaged ships. You can do it arriving with your support fleet carrying the necessary minerals. (I like to have what I call ‘A Base in a Can’ .. a LDSF with the minimum minerals and cash required to build a base so I don’t have to rely on finding the minerals on the surface! Drop everything on the planet and build the base that turn...pickup what you can when you move on.). You can fix them using supplies, but they are not as readily available as you would like.

Use the Warp Wells.
VPA is useful here. One of its functions is to automatically use Gravity Wells...you set your waypoint to a planet and VPA corrects it to the minimum distance to acquire that well. Neet! Fuel is one of most important components of the game. Without it you cannot be attacked (except by planets with NUK of course), but you cannot do most missions. Your ships will be vulnerable to tow capture, could surrender at any StarBase, and, without fuel you STOP. All ships with warp set to more than 1 is affected by Warp Wells. When a ship is going to a planet, set it’s waypoint 3LY short. You could be saving 1 or more units of Neutronium per ship. It seems like nothing, but when you have a total of 100 ships in your fleet you will be saving 100 Kt fuel. Which planet build it every turn? Imagine the situation: A Super Transport Tranwarp with 2.600 cargo towing a full Merlin (2.700 cargo). Traveling 80LY from a planet to another using warp wells, you are saving about 20Kt Fuel.

Use of the Borg Chunnel
It’s very easy to see when a Firecloud will engage the Chunnel in the deep space. In general Borg keep the ship at warp 0, or there are always other ships at the same point. If you want to run the risk to catch ships arriving at shields 0% or to travel into a chunnel go ahead. There are 2 ways to an enemy ship travel trough a chunnel: The Cloaked and Warp 0 ships. The cloak one okay, but how can I arrive there with warp 0? Easy: Tow your "voyager" with another ship. In one of my games I had a Virgo towed by a Cobol. I was fighting against the Borgs and I saw a Merlin at the same point of a FCC. They were trying to escape to save his Merlin but my Cobol towed the Virgo to the same point he engaged the chunnel. In the next turn, I destroyed 2 FCC, the Merlin and took over the Planet.

"I play the Borg a lot. I frequently have multiple FireClouds at planets. The turn before I chunnel, I move at least 1 Cloud with sufficient fuel outside the planet’s gravity well. The turn I chunnel I move whatever other ships are to go over the Cloud while setting it’s FC to the target ship and it’s warp to 0. This way I can select which ships will be chunneled. Having multiple Clouds around a planet allow me to select multiple locations or simply to confuse the enemy. I leave a Cloud around the planet to allow return-trips. One of my first strategies is to move out with a Cloud, find a decent planet then chunnel ships with what I need (often a ‘Base in a Can’) before moving on with the Cloud. I like to keep a group of Biocides with a Cloud for rapid deployment to those hot areas.

To be safe, I typically set inactive FireCloud Fcs to numbers greater than 500 to avoid an accidental Chunnel. The first time this happened to me I was really confused but the feeling didn’t last, nor did that fleet which chunneled"!

(Michael "Whump" Patrick)


6.0 Taxes and Rates
This is a general rule for all races, except for Lizards (Hissss mission) and Federation (2 times MC rates). I build in the first turn all mines and factories and keep them for all turns. (Okay...I’m lazy! I use a product call Randmax to build as well as to set taxes for both natives and clans. Randmax has many options although I find the standard ones work quite well. It will automatically adjust rates to maximize returns without messing up the happiness levels. Look into it!)

Race 1 - keep the safe rate to 8%.
Race 2 - rate 25% when Happiness arrives at 100%

TABLE

    Race 1       Race 2    
Turn Rate Happ. Clans $$$ Rate Happ Clans $$$
02 8% 82 3.127,2 13.950 0% 88 3.221,6 13.705
03 8% 82 3.187,3 14.200 0% 94 3.387,7 "
04 8% 82 3.248,6 14.455 0% 100 3.551,8 "
05 8% 82 3.311,1 14.715 25% 86 3.581,4 14.593
06 8% 82 3.374,8 14.980 0% 91 3.760,5 "
07 8% 82 3.439,7 15.250 0% 96 3.948,5 "
08 8% 82 3.505,8 15.525 0% 100 4.145,9 "
09 8% 82 3.573,2 15.805 25% 86 4.180,4 15.692
10 8% 82 3.641,9 16.091 0% 91 4.389,4 "
13 8% 82 3.856,1 16.982 25% 86 4.879,6 16.839
17 8% 82 4.161,4 18.251 25% 86 5.695,9 18.251
21 8% 82 4.490,8 19.621 25% 86 6.648,6 19.899
25 8% 82 4.846,3 21.099 25% 86 7.189,6 21.689

It’s no use tax your colonies with the safe tax. At the end of turn 17 you’ll have the same money but 21% less clans. At turn 25, we have 48% more clans (The Borg will never get more than 20% tax rates. If you set taxes to more than 20% (say 50%) you get the returns of a 20% rate but the negative happiness adjustments for the higher value! Very bad!! )


7.0 The fleet
This is one of my favorite parts. As I have played many times with the Lost Colonies of Man (LCOM), I’ll describe little things about them. LCOM is a fighter race, however you need to build some torpedo ships .. Cobol (of course), Tranquility and Cygnus. You have to lay mine fields and frequently the torpedo ships are very useful against other warships, planets and StarBases. Remember: The Colonials sweep with fighters, so you DON’T need high tech beams .. X-Ray Lasers and Heavy Phasers are the same against fighters.

Taurus
Good Fuel room, but not so useful. With Disrupters, it’s good to avoid HYP ships. You can build a few and leave them as a "watch dog" over a planet.

Cygnus
Very good torpedo ship. This ship I use for the 2nd combat after Virgo. With mark 7 - 8 you easily destroy a planet and other medium warships.

Cobol
They are my "Crown Jewels". NEVER trade them, except with allies. Your enemy stops when they run out of fuel, you...NEVER stop. In my opinion, this is the most important ship of The Lost Colonies of Men. Tech 4, very cheap, good cargo room (250 Kt), build fuel while towing other ships - mainly VIRGOS. The LCOM must have lot of these ships. As a Bioscanner ship - do you want more?

Patriot
Ship for 1 combat. Cheap ship with terrible fire power. LCOM must have lot of them to patrol, to protect freighters and attack enemy ships.

Tranquility
Nice ship. Good fuel and cargo room. It is very good to lay mines and transport and build torpedoes. Never go into enemy territory without them.

Aries
Redundant ship. It’s very good to trade with other races.

Gemini
The best fighter building ship. With 400 cargo room it’s good to transport minerals

Sagittarius
Do you like to waste your money? ‘Nuff said!

Lady Royale
Gambling ship. You can use them in conjunction with your "watch dog" ships while it earns $$$ for you. You don’t need to move them. Beam up 160 clans, set Fcode to "bdm" and let them work!

Little Joe
Well I never built this ship, because I never saw it’s use, so...no opinion.

Scorpius
The same of Little Joe. Massive ship, use 231 tritanium...

Virgo
The Battlecarrier. It is a very expensive ship with 8 engines. If you use Transwarp in the early stages of the game you are wasting money. Build them with Nova drive 5, Heavy nova drive 6 or Quantam 7 and tow with Cobol. (I would even go as low as tech-1 to tech-3, towing them around as re-enforced rocks!). You can build them with low tech beams. You’ll se there is only a little difference of X-laser from Heavy Phaser. (With those large fighter carriers, I seldom put more than minimum tech weapons on. Most of the battles these ships have should be handled by the fighters they carry .. if the fighter bays are empty the ship isn’t likely to last too much longer! As you point out, a laser is the same as a phaser against a fighter...zap...poof!). In my games, near turn 70, I have at least 50 Virgos of all kinds (Transwarps, stardrive, X-laser, Heavy Disrupt, etc). There is no enemy able to destroy your fleet. In combat you never use more than 120 fighters.


8.0 Appendices
This is my first attempt to document my impressions of VGA Planets. There are lots of things I missed, but slowly, I’ll add them to this document.


9.0 Thanks to:
Antonio Castro - my teacher, Bernardo and Bruno Veo, Helbert Cesar, Luiz F. Fonseca, Auro Lessa - great commander, Eduardo Amaral, Carlos Luis Santos, Guilhermo Vidal, Michael "Whump" Patrick - for his comments and revison, and all VGA Planets players and Mr. HOSTs.

Special thanks to: Tim Wisseman, Dan and Dave.


Eduado "Edy" Fonseca
Belo Horizonte MG, Brasil - 30/11/96
fonseca@inetminas.estaminas.com.br


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