VGA Planets Super Site

Reverse Alchemy
by Jan "Sirius" Klingele

Every player of VGA Planets knows how to turn supplies into minerals - with the use of Merlin Class Alchemy ships, this is a simple task. But did you know, that there is also a way to convert minerals into supplies? And that you can achieve more supplies than you need to replace the minerals in the process?

How the "Colonisation" mission works
The secret to the Reverse Alchemy is based on an often overlooked and only poorly documented mission: the "Colonisation" Mission. Tim Wisseman’s documentation says the following about it:

"The colonise mission orders the ship to disassemble the starship when it reaches an unowned planet and to use the ships parts to make supplies for the colonists after unloading any colonists, cargo and fuel on the ship to the planet's surface."

"Starship have a recycle rate. The Host person can set the recycle rate to any thing from 0% to 100%. Default setting is 75%. The Host person can set the recycle rate using HCONFIG."

"This is the percentage of the minerals that are recovered from a starship that colonises a planet. The minerals that were used to build the hull and weapon systems are transformed back into minerals and laid out on the planet's surface. Money spent to build a ship cannot be recovered. Fighters are recycled."

Unfortunately the excerpt from the documentation is at least misleading, because the only fact totally clear is that you loose all the megacredits spent on the colonising ship. However it is not correct, that you can recover the recycling rate of all the minerals used for the ship’s components. The truth is (at least for host versions 3.21 and 3.22), that you get the recycling rate only of the minerals used for the hull, the engines and the beam weapons back. You do not get any minerals for torpedo launchers or torpedoes on board, but you receive, surprisingly enough, the full minerals for the fighters the colonising ship is carrying.


In any case it is evident that you lose during the "Colonisation" Mission a certain portion of the minerals and all the money used for the construction of the ship. These losses of the "Colonisation" mission deter most players from using the mission on a regular basis.

The profit of the "Colonisation", which are the supplies gained, on the other hand is only briefly mentioned and there are no quantities indicated. So, how many supplies do you get? Experimentation with host version 3.21 and 3.22 has shown, that you get the following amount of supplies: one supply for every Kt of hull mass plus one supply for every engine plus one supply for every fighter plus one supply for every torpedo on board. You get no supplies for beam weapons or torpedo launchers.


Example I: the Small Deep Space Freighter
Now how can we use this? To get the best results from the "Colonisation", we are looking for a ship, which costs a minimum of megacredits (because you loose them all), which uses few minerals to build (because you loose about a quarter of them under the default settings) and which has a high mass (because the mass generates the supplies).

By checking all the ship designs, we find that many ships are not suitable for a profitable "Colonisation" Mission, because their hull alone costs already more than the supplies are worth, which we could get from the mass of the hull. The best relation between hull cost, minerals used and hull mass is in fact the Small Deep Space Freighter. Fitted with a Tech 1 Engine, this ship costs 7 tri, 3 dur, 3 moly and 11 MC's. From the "Colonisation" you receive 31 supplies, 5 tri, 2 dur and 2 moly. In other words, for 2 tri, 1 dur, 1 moly and 11 MC's you get 31 supplies.

2 T + 1 D + 1 M + 11 MC's ---> 31 S

Even if you are short in minerals and have to use alchemy to regenerate them and have to sell supplies to replace the megacredits, you still end up with a profit of 31 supplies - 11 supplies (for the 11 MC's) - 12 supplies (for the alchemy of the 4 Kt of minerals) = 8 supplies. Well, that is maybe not a profit to get really excited about, but at least it works.


Example II: The Ruby Colonisation Cycle
But let’s see, if can do better than this. The Deep Space Freighter is the best suited hull type to "Colonise", and it is pretty obvious, that we shouldn’t use any better engines than tech level 1. But we get supplies also for the torpedoes on board and this is a possibility to improve the process. The cheapest torpedo is clearly the Mark I Torpedo, but even Mark I's cost one MC and one of each mineral, if we build them directly. But we all know, that one Mark I torpedo is equivalent to one mine and mines can be laid far more efficiently with the high tech torpedoes. Mark VII'ss are most efficient to generate mines, under the assumption, that minerals are limited (if minerals don’t matter, then Mark IVs are best) (see also the article "Table Talk" by GammaMark in issue 2 of the Planeteer for more details about this).

So if we drop one Mark VII torpedo (costing 36 MC's and 1 of each mineral), we get 81 mines, and after scooping the mines up with an ship armed with a Mark I launcher, we have 81 Mark Is. Since these 81 torpedoes will be converted into 81 supplies by the "Colonisation" Mission, we can make a profit, because the initial cost equivalent was only 45 supplies (36 sold for MC's and 9 for the alchemy).

Of course we cannot "colonise" only torpedoes, we need to put them onto a ship. The best ship for this purpose is the Crystalline Ruby Class Light Cruiser. For 58 tri, 35 dur, 43 moly and 98 MC's we get a Ruby with two tech 1 engines and one tech 1 torpedo launcher. To fill the Ruby’s 370 Kt cargo bay completely with Mark Is, we need to scoop up the mines generated from 4,57 Mark VII torpedoes, which cost 164,4 MC's and 4,57 of every mineral. During the "Colonisation" process we get 122 supplies, 42 tri, 25 dur and 32 moly for the ship’s hull and it’s engines, as well as 370 supplies for the torpedoes. In total we convert 20,6 tri, 14,6 dur, 15,6 moly and 262,4 MC's into 492 supplies.

20,6 T + 14,6 D + 15,6 M + 262,4 MC's ---> 492 S

Even if we have to sell supplies to get the MC's and to use alchemy to produce the minerals, we still make a net profit of 77,4 supplies.

We could start and maintain an ongoing process of reverse alchemy with the following ingredients:

  1. A starbase with hull tech 3 and tech 1 of everything else, building a Ruby with one Mark I torpedo launcher every turn.
  2. A ship with a Mark VII launcher laying alternating 4 and 5 Mark VII'ss as mines and making new torpedoes with the "mkt" friendly code, when necessary.
  3. Constantly three Rubies around the planet: the first Ruby is fully loaded with torpedoes and has its mission set to "Colonisation" (yes, the "Colonisation" works also on your own, already inhabited planets); the second Ruby is partially filled with torpedoes and on a "Mine Sweep" mission with friendly code "msc"; the third Ruby is empty and also on a "Mine Sweep" with the friendly code "msc". The purpose of the third Ruby is to scoop up the remaining mines, to avoid any losses due to mine field decay, since you cannot lay exactly 4,57 Mark VII'sS.
  4. If we run out of minerals, we will also need occasionally a Merlin Class Alchemy Ship to produce new minerals from some of the supplies.

Now it is also understandable, why the "Colonisation" mission does not recover any minerals for the torpedoes on board. If the recycling rate for the minerals of the torpedoes on board of our Ruby was 75%, we would get 277 tri, dur and moly for the torpedoes, but we would have spent only 4,57 Kt of each of these minerals to build the original Mark VII torpedoes. In other words, that would be a very efficient way to create new minerals out of nothing. But it still remains a mystery, why the Colonisation does not recover any of the launchers’ minerals.

By using the "Colonising" mission with Small Deep Space Freighters most races could earn 8 supplies per "Colonisation", while the Crystals could even benefit from the "Ruby Colonisation Cycle" and earn 77 supplies per turn. An additional advantage is that in both cases one priority build point is awarded every turn as well.

Nevertheless I recommend strongly not to use the "Colonisation" mission in this way. If you need supplies, go and find a bovinoid planet or build some factories, that is much easier. It is also much better to build the ships you really need and want from the beginning on, instead of accumulating priority points with the constant "Colonisation" of specially build but otherwise totally useless ships.

This article was written to show you, how to the "Colonisation" mission works with some extreme examples and not to encourage you to duplicate the examples in your games without a specific aim. Remember, the "Colonisation" mission has indeed a practical use and that is to get the economic development of distant planets faster going. You should understand now, which ships are most efficiently used for this purpose, if the necessity arrives in your game.

This article was submitted by the Editor of the, now defunct, E-Zine Planeteer Resurrection.
Other articles, fiction & humour from the Planeteer Resurrection have been submitted to the "UK Atheist & Science E-Zine

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