VGA Planets Super Site

Economics 101 - an introduction to VGA Planets
By Lord Raptor
(aka: Don Baldwin)

Welcome to the Universe of VGA-Planets (VGAP)! This article is designed to acquaint new players (called Newbies) with some of the basic concepts of game play. VGAP is a multiplayer, turn based game, that pits 11 races against each other. These 11 races can be played by humans or by a rather crude computer player (C-Player). The fun behind VGAP really hinges on the human players, though.

It is very important that you read the documentation files that come with the VGAP game. These files describe key concepts and terms that you need to understand in order to successfully play VGAP. The following is a brief summary of some of these key terms that will be mentioned:

  • Minerals - These consist of Neutronium (Fuel for your ships), Tritanium, Duranium, and Molybdenum. Minerals are removed from the crust of a planet by building mineral mines. Minerals are used to construct Starbases and Starships.
  • Supplies- These are produced by factories.
  • Native Life- These are the original inhabitants on a planet.
  • Colonists- These are your citizens. The number of colonists you have controls how many mineral mines, factories, defense outposts, and how much tax revenue you can collect.

In addition to the documentation files that come with the game, there are also several help files available through the Internet. SpaceNet offers some of these files in their Starter Pac which also includes registered versions of VGAP and important player utilities. If you have not yet purchased one- do it! If you don't, you will be at a disadvantage since your opponents WILL be using these utilities.

When reading the documentation and help files it is very important to keep in mind that these files have been created over a number of years and over a number of major changes to the game. Some of the information may no longer reflect some of the recent changes in the VGA-Planets game.

The main goal in VGAP is to build an armada of ships and annihilate all of the other races. To accomplish this, a player needs resources in the form of minerals, fuel, supplies and money to build ships. Minerals and resources are found on planets. It's a good idea to collect a lot of planets. This is where the ships come in. In VGAP there are two basic types of ships: Ships that shoot (Warships) and ships that carry the things to build more ships with (Freighters). Ships that can both shoot and carry large amounts of cargo are a good investment. Warships come in many shapes and sizes. In VGAP, unlike real life, all combat is conducted on a one on one basis. This is frequently a problem for many Newbies. No matter how MANY ships you have entering a battle- they will only fight one at a time. This is why economics is a critical aspect of successful game play. The best way to win a fight is to have bigger ships than your opponent. In other words- you need to build quality and not quantity. Big, high quality warships are very expensive in both mineral resources and in monetary costs. So if you want to be a force to be reckoned with, you need a strong economic base that will let you build better ships.

Now for a comment on game tactics and strategies. The ideas contained here are rather basic. They do not necessarily apply in all circumstances or for all races or at all times. The purpose of this article is to acquaint Newbies with the basic building blocks of game play. As you gain experience, you will gain a better idea and instinct of how to use these basic building blocks in dealing with your opponents. An important thing to remember: There is often a counter tactic for each tactic that you come up with. Some of the ideas presented may need to be modified accordingly.

Economic strength is dependent on tax income, mineral mining, supply production, and population growth. Of the four, population growth is by far the most important- Especially the population growth of YOUR colonists. This is the primary focus of this article- How to increase your population so that you can maintain a strong economy to support your expansion.

The ability to raise taxes and build structures (Mineral Mines, Factories, and Defense Posts) is directly tied to how large your population is. Your population (Colonists) will grow faster when your population is happy and will slow down as they become unhappy. As the "happiness" level decreases your population growth will begin to decrease until it finally stops. If your population gets really unhappy it will begin to decrease (and in the event of rioting, will decrease rapidly while destroying your defense posts and factories).

When deciding how many structures to build, the following numbers provide a good foundation:

  • Mineral Mines 25 - 30
  • Factories Maximum number possible
  • Defense Outposts 26

These numbers provide a good foundation over the long term by allowing your population to remain happier at higher tax rates. These numbers should be modified according to your needs and to fit the current situation.

There is a strong temptation to build as many structures (Mineral Mines, Factories, and Defense Posts) and Starbases as possible- as soon as possible. To complicate matters, the scoring system used by the game tends to encourage rapid building of ships and Starbases by awarding the same number of points regardless of actual strength and technology level. To illustrate this point- A Tech 1 Scout Ship armed with a single Tech 1 Laser is awarded the same points that a Tech 10 Battleship armed with Tech 10 Heavy Phasers and Tech 10 Mk VIII Photon Torpedoes. A brand new Starbase with no fighters, no defensive armor, and only Tech 1 Hull, Engine, Beam, and Torpedo levels is also awarded the same number of points that a fully developed Starbase gets. When you are building your empire- don't build anything unless you have a reason for doing so. Resources and money need to be spent wisely. You can easily exhaust both within the first 20-30 turns- leaving you in a seriously weak position for the rest of the game. An offshoot of this "score chase" is that your population may not be growing since it is upset at the number of structures (New York city vs. a small house in the country side) as well as being over taxed.

Important Game Limitations
VGA-Planets currently is limited to 500 planets and 500 Starships. Once 500 Starships have been built, the only way more can be built, is to wait until some ships are destroyed. A large number of small ships can be decimated by just a few large ships because the combat system will arrange the ships like ducks in a row. The ship in front of each row will fight the opposing ship until one, or the other, is destroyed. The side that has any ships left wins. Unlike real life- only one ship can engage one other ship at a time. Chasing the game score by building a lot of Starbases and small Starships takes away vital Resources that could have been better used for building large Starships with high Tech engines (more fuel efficient) and weapons (to inflict more damage).

You will usually have 20 to 30 game turns before the 500 ship limit is reached. What this means, is that your position will significantly hinge on how well you planned your economy to support your long term goal of expansion. As you expand, you will run into other players, which in turn, leads to combat. Combat means that you will use up both Torpedoes and Fighters. Torpedoes and Fighters require Resources to build. One Torpedo costs 1 unit each of Tritanium (T), Duranium (D), and Molybdenum (M) plus 1 to 54 Mega Credits (MC's) depending on the Torpedo Tech level. One fighter costs 3 units if Tritanium plus 2 units of Molybdenum plus 5 units of Supplies (S) and, if you are not able to build fighters in space or on your Starbases for free, 100 Mega Credits per fighter.

1 Torpedo = 1-T + 1-D + 1-M + X-MC's (X is a value dependent upon Tech level)
1 Fighter= 3-T + 2-M + 5-S + 100-MC's

As the game progresses these "expendables" will use up vast amounts of Resources, Supplies, and Mega Credits. The original starting planets will often be exhausted of minerals by this time which makes economic strength a critical factor in Strategic capability. To offset the lack of minerals later in the game it is essential to build a Merlin Alchemy Ship as soon as possible. Next, a Neutronic Refinery ships should be built. These two ships will allow you to keep expanding your empire by providing a new source of Minerals and Fuel. The Merlin Alchemy Ship converts Supplies at a rate of 9 supply units into 1 unit each of Tritanium, Duranium, and Molybdenum. Supplies are built by factories, which in turn are limited by a planet's population. The higher your population, the more factories you can build, the more supplies you will have to convert into Minerals. The Neutronic Refinery Ship can in turn convert 1 unit of Tritanium, Duranium, and/or Molybdenum plus 1 unit of Supply into 1 unit of Fuel (Neutronium).

Merlin Alchemy Ship: 9-S -> 1-T + 1-D + 1-M
Neutronic Refinery Ship: 1-S + 1-M -> 1-N (M = Any Mineral- T, D, and/or M)

It is a good idea to have several ships of each class built (A _VERY_ good idea!). Your ability to produce new fuel and minerals will be critical to your survival. So make sure you build a Merlin Alchemy Ship as soon as you can and follow it up with a Neutronic Refinery Ship. Several of each ship will help ensure that you do not run out of vital Minerals and Fuel.

Starbase and Planetary Construction
So far we have covered only the basics of VGA-Planets economics. Next, we will cover some more advanced aspects of economic management. Specifically Starbase construction and when to build more Mineral Mines and Defensive Outposts on a planet.

Starbases are the source of new Starships and should be built on planets that are rich in minerals and close to other planets that can supply minerals. Usually 4 to 5 planets can supply enough Minerals and later Supplies to be converted into more Minerals and Fuel when the local planets are mined out. Ideally, you should seek out Bovinoid worlds to build Starbases over since they will generate enough supplies to keep an orbiting Merlin Alchemy Ship busy making new Minerals. Another important consideration is to build Starbases over planets that have certain native life present since the Starbase will get an automatic Tech 10 in certain Technologies:

Natives Starbase Tech Bonus
Humanoid Tech 10 Hull Technology
Amphibians Tech 10 Beam Weapons Technology
Ghipsoidals Tech 10 Engines Technology
Siliconoids Tech 10 Torpedo Technology

Whenever building a Starbase, it is very important to consider both the ability to supply the Starbase as well as Strategic positioning. Keep in mind the location of nearby planets as a means of supply. Don't build Starbase too close to each other- It wastes valuable Resources that could have been better spent on making Warships. One Starbase can use up enough Resources that could have been used to build several first class Capital Warships. Also, Starbases can't move- they are fixed defensive points. A determined opponent can eliminate them and even capture them merely by dropping enough Clans on the planet. Build big Warships, not a bunch of weak Starbases. Warships win battles and carry the fight to the enemy. Only build Starbases where they can contribute to your overall strategy while keeping in mind race advantages and Strategic position.

Planetary Construction Concerns
Next we will cover when to build more Mineral Mines and Defense Posts on a planet. On most planets, the Minerals will be exhausted fairly quickly and the extra structures will only contribute to making the population, both Native and Colonist, unhappy. If a planet is very rich in Minerals and/or has Bovinoid Natives it is a prime candidate for both a Starbase and for additional Mineral Mines and Defense Posts to supply and protect the Starbase. In general, 100 Mineral Mines should be the maximum number built except for unusual situations. Also, it takes over 100 Defense Posts before a major benefit is obtained in Planet vs. Ship Combat. For instance, it takes 181 Defense Posts for a planet to have 13 Fighters and 8 Planetary Beam Weapons. Also, it takes 181 Defense Posts to have Heavy Phasers. Building a Starbase and increasing the Starbase Beam Tech Level will also increase the Planetary Defense Beam Tech Level to match, but the Planetary Beam Level will not allow a Starbase to build higher Tech Beam Weapons than it has the Tech to do so. It is much better to build Starbase Tech Levels to suit the type of ships that you need to build.

Look at your overall Strategy, consider your Race advantages, consider the race advantages of your neighbors. Take a look at how your planets are arranged in relation to each other and in relation to your boarders. Look at the tactical situation. If you are in a fight you may need to push your economy to gain a short term advantage to prevent defeat. But you must always weigh the short term gains from the long term consequences. In Strategy, you must be flexible and stay on the offensive. Most actions have a counter action- the trick is to try and stay one step ahead of your opponent.

The final portion of this article deals with a subject dear to the pocket book- Taxes. Taxes raise revenue which in turn can be used to purchase implements of destruction, Structures, and other things a young budding Conqueror finds useful in eliminating the competition. Revenues can also be raised by converting supplies into Mega Credits as well. An important source of revenue is derived from Native populations:

Natives Tax Benefit
Avians Can be overtaxed without becoming upset
Insectoids Produce twice the tax revenues

When considering tax levels, keep in mind that a low population of Colonists will not collect much from the Natives. Also, until you have a large population of Colonists, taxes (at any level) will not raise much revenue. Higher tax levels will also contribute to a lower happiness rating. When your own Colonist populations are small, consider setting their tax rate at Zero Percent (0%) so that they will stay happy and increase in size faster. A large Colonist population is also required in order to raise more tax revenues from the Native population.

Two player races have an advantage in raising taxes:

Feds - Tax at 200% of the normal rate without affecting Happiness levels,
Lizards - Can use their Hisss Mission to make both Native and Colonist populations happy.

The Hiss Mission can be performed by any Lizard Starship that is armed with at least one Beam Weapon of any type. The Lizard Hisss Mission can also be used on planets that belong to other players as well. The default setting is to lower the unhappiness level 5% for each Starship that is Hisssing at a planet. This is an effective way to stop riots on a planet. Only Lizard owned ships can Hisss.

Taxes and revenues are very important in building, and maintaining, an empire. One important area where tax revenues are critical lies in the building of Torpedoes for use in laying minefields. Minefields protect and interdict your opponents shipping and re supply. As the game progresses this becomes a very expensive but necessary tactic for survival. Although this is only one example, a steady supply of Mega Credits is important in maintaining your empire's strength.


A number of ideas have been presented in this article. As you play VGA-Planets you will learn and develop and then modify your style of play. As you meet new opponents and new situations you will evolve your style. It is difficult to lay down solid rules of play since it is very often the case that for each Strategy you develop, another player will find a Counter-Strategy. The elements covered in this article, though, should get you thinking about some of the important aspects of playing VGA-Planets. Good luck, and good hunting.

File originally hosted at Spacenet, posted at Donovan's with permission.

Copyright © 1998-2017 unless otherwise specified. All Rights Reserved.
This website may not, in whole or in part, be sold, reproduced, published or redistributed in any medium, directly or indirectly,
for any commercial or non-commercial purpose without the express written permission of the owner. is owned and operated by and all inquiries should be addressed via the contact link.
All other material © of their respectful owners.
This fansite is not affiliated with VGA Planets or Tim Wisseman.
VGA Planets is Copyright © 1992-2017 Tim Wisseman