Stars!-R-Us Article

Multi-Player Strategy
by: Jason Cawley wrote:
> I am a slow player, I take a while to build a powerful empire, then I
> move out. This works great in computer games, but my first human game
> I got killed quick my TWO enemy advance forces. How did they build
> these up and still be able to build strong planets and
> infrastructures?

Well, I don't know how they did it of course, but I know how I do it :-)

Some general timing things.  Assume an Acc BBS start, thus more starting colonists.

The fastest races, econ-wise, will be ones with high pop efficiency (like the default 1/1000) and high pop growth.  In Acc BBS, you start with 120,000 colonists with a 19% growth rate for example.  Pop growth is free, so such races get a lot of econ growth even if they spend their resources on other things.  Can also help to start out with decent tech for things like shipping (e.g. IT, or JOAT, or expensive construction tech with the start at 3 box checked) - or with cheaper construction expense if you don't have that.  Either way, you can get decent shipping fast.  Also helps to have IFE, since then you can start with or quickly get the great fuel mizer engine.  With enough fuel, those are quite fast (warp 8-9 for settling runs e.g.).

Then some stuff about starting play enters.  Like first 4 turns just build factories, scouting with the starting ships.  Then one turn building scouts all out, to scout just about everything fast.  When the starting G runs out, one or two turns buildling mainly mines to get enough G (and iron) for shipping demand.

Then by around turn 6 or 7 you are good to go :-) You have scouts finding new worlds, enough mines to bring in minerals for shipping, which you already have the tech for.  Your pop will have just entered the "crowding" range on the homeworld - like 250-330k pop say.  Leave that pop on the homeworld and export the growth to the new greens found.  Loop the freighters back to carry more pop loads, saving iron. When you have enough of those to take the growth each year, buy con 4 if you don't have it already and switch to privateer colonizers and transports, with added fuel pods, for the farther out places. Everything not going to shipping is buying factories then mines (Auto lot's 'o fact, auto lot's of mines in the q).  Research is 0 except when you need a particular level, then dial it up for the HW only to get what you need in a turn (or two), then back to zero.

That'll typically run until the late teens.  Around that time, you'll usually see on of the autobuild lines (factories or mines) turn green - meaning "to be completed the following year".  This happens pretty fast with all the pop growth leaving the HW.  When it does, stop exporting pop and just let the HW go up, building factories and mines the pop can operate as soon as the pop grows there.  When you get to around 50% of capacity on the HW (years 20-25 typically, at 500,000-660,000 pop for most races) clear the q and put in whatever remaining factories and mines you can operate at that level of pop.  Start exporting the excess pop growth again, along with the Germanium.

With the HW q clear, it'll do research by default.  Can get things like weapons 6-8, con 6 sometimes, bio 4.  Then you can make decent early warships - DDs with bazookas, say, or shielded beam frigates.  Those ships are real cheap - 50-80 resources typically, skipping extra armor on the DDs usually.  A 1/2 sized HW might bring in around 1500 resources a year, give or take.  One or two turns making those light warships gives you a decent fleet for the era - 25-60 light beamers.  Some can do "gunboat" work, keeping out enemy scouts and colonizers, raiding shipping, and the like.  A big stack or two ("horde") can go after a slower enemy's HW, especially one close by.  Or back up pop invasions, etc.

On the colonies, some other things can sometimes get them going faster too.  If you have ISB, they can build a simply spacedock for around 80 resources.  Then they can build ships to add to a horde when needed, make minelayers and settlement shipping, etc.  With ISB and good pop efficieny, can have several worlds in that category (dock, ~200 resources or more, able to help out with shipping etc) by year 20 typically.  Without ISB, a little slower - but can get an extra base or two in the 20's certainly.

Now, sometimes it can make sense to hit someone even sooner - e.g. if you are a warmonger you start with decent fighting tech sometimes; if you are close to someone and he looks vunerable, can try an early HW strike as a gambit.  Idea is just to blockade him on his world (or wipe him out if he's AR); then his pop can't move and his growth gets messed up, while you can try to invade his colonies etc.  Maybe he breaks the blockade fairly soon (after getting weapons tech for a decent base e.g.) but the delay will hurt him a lot.  For these sooner hit ideas, can try launching them in the teens, say, once you have the minerals for it really.  One common attempt is a few beta DDs before other people have them to put on their own bases.  But that's really just a gambit.  But anyone with the HG econ settings (1/1000 pop eff, 19% pop growth e.g.) can get off a little horde attack in the 20's in Acc BBS.

The idea of those early ships is mainly air-control.  To let you settle farther in the colonization phase, while keeping others from doing the same (with an occasional success crippling one neighbor possible).  The thing that makes it work is a tightly run first 20 years culminating in a fully-developed 1/2 size HW (without sacrificing the settlement of other places).  It's the "free" resources ("disposable income") from that HW hold that pay for the whatever the early attacks need - tech, ships - with some modest help from the bigger developing colonies with bases or docks on 'em.

To get the hang of this, I recommend two things.  First, try running just the first 30 years in a game alone in tiny packed, using an HG style race (pop eff and growth as above).  See how fast you can get that HW hold, pick out an early ship design, and make the actual ships you'd use for an early attack.  Then try it again with 1 AI and see how fast you can get a blockade over it's HW - his base dead and a fleet in orbit that can kill the new bases.  You'll get a sense of what the opposition can throw at you when that way.

One [additional] thing, the sort of HG style races I am thinking of typically take cheaper factories and mines, in order to get them up sooner/faster compounding.  Often use OBRM too, for the added planet size (with a lot of cheap planetary mines and decent hab, that works fine mineral-wise until fairly late).  Often paid for with expensive tech in the non-weapons fields, but with cheap weapons.

Perhaps the easiest race to do this with is a JOAT.  WM's and IT's can also be quite good at it; but JOATs have a lot of points to throw around and the bigger planets make for more pop growth at held level, etc.

Here is a sample race that is good at the "fast out of the gate" stuff, with a minor variant.

1/4 hab - 0.51/4.64g, -96/144C, 26/86mR
19% pop growth
1/1000 pop efficiency
12/9/16 factories, G box checked
10/3/15 mines
Weapons cheap, rest expensive and start at 4
4 points left surface minerals.

The variant would be to drop the factory efficiency one click to 11, then use the points to widden the grav range to 0.25/3.92g.  That gives 1/3 hab.  Slightly smaller planets when fully developed, and factory compounding a little slower, in return for more planets to live on.  If you are more comfortable with the better hab, say, or in a smaller game.

Either of those will give oodles of pop growth, big planets when fully developed (3643-3854 max planet size in resource terms), and super-fast out of the gate.  Start with the ability to make fuel-mizer privateers for instance, plus 40 LY penscan to scout rapidly.  Econ growth will be stellar, especially early on.  The cheap mines go up soon enough and there are enough of them to not have any mineral problems until fairly late.  The cheap weapons lets you run high there with the huge economy pushing.

Once the HW is at it's 50% held level (660,000 pop) with the facts and mines done, you've got 1800-1925 resources a year to throw at early tech levels and nearby enemies.

The only real weakness in the expensive tech in most fields. If you get enough space early on, that won't be too big a problem - just get a big econ first then power up (can also trade tech some o' course).  But you do have to grab the terrain, so your economy will be able to afford that expensive tech.  You ought to be faster than most races, though, so just have to use that to win early conflicts and establish the space you need.  Well, one other weakness later on - can't remote mine - but not a biggie with the decent hab and lots of planetary mines per planet.

Other things one might try with this idea - working in ISB somehow (e.g. 11 fact eff and narrower hab, and/or only 18% pop growth say) to get secondary worlds into the game faster and more cheaply.  But ought to be pretty darn fast even without that.

Just an example race that is designed for a rapid start.

- Jason Cawley

COMMENTS: by Pipster

I sympathize.  Everyone expects human players to be tougher, but when you go from wiping the floor with the AI to getting unceremoniously slammed in your first PBEM game, it can be a bit bewildering.

Jason has provided an excellent model of things you need to do to get out of the blocks quickly and efficiently.  This is nitty-gritty stuff that once mastered, will make you a contender.  I thought I might try to address some of the more general issues when making the transition from solo to PBEM play.

The typical player may lose a couple of games to the AI when starting out, just getting a handle on how the game works.  Pretty soon you have your first victory and you can quickly ratchet up the difficulty until you can smash 16 expert Robotoid with ease.  Once you have figured out the AI's "modus operandi", you can build a solid defensive shell in the early going, and when you are ready, go out and stomp your enemies, even though they may have a considerable resource advantage over you.  This can be highly entertaining, because it give the "bad guys" a bit more of chance, and you can play the valiant underdog.

Okay, the big problem is, though it's a lot of fun, you aren't learning anything about playing real competitors, people who want to win as badly as you do.  To do that, you have to make a fundamental shift in your approach to the game, a transition that often requires you to "unlearn" some habits you picked up in beating up the AIs.  Here are some basic things you need to integrate into your style of play to avoid being just a piece of cheap meat in your next PBEM game.

Build what you need, need what you build:
You no longer have the luxury of building extra ships so that you can have them handy whenever you might want them.  It turns out to be extremely expensive to have a bunch of nice interceptors that aren't doing much intercepting.  On the other hand, if something is vital to your growth, don't fool around; make sure you can build what is necessary.  You can't afford to be short of transport when your planets start filling up and new colonies are begging for reinforcements.

Find out what's going on out there:
You need to scout far, far more aggressively than you are used to. Sure you need to know where you can colonize, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Information is your life-blood in the early going.  You need to find out where and what PRT everybody is, where are likely threats to come from, who might be able to help, wormholes, juicy planets on your periphery for your "second wind", good mining planets, etc.  A lot of this stuff doesn't matter too much in playing against the AI, but against humans, you can't afford to be blind.

Time is of essence:
If you are not spending the majority of your time at warp 8 or 9, you are doing something very wrong.  Dawdling around at warp 7 just doesn't cut it.  Your efficiency at scouting, colonization, pop balancing, retrieving minerals, intercepting the enemy - all comes down to speed. After playing a few PBEM games, your days playing against the AI will seem like slow motion.

You need friends:
The whole aspect of diplomacy makes it a new ballgame.  The friend/neutral/enemy triage is over simplified.  "Friendship" runs the gamut from solid game-long alliances, to tech trading, mineral trading, ship exchange, various "marriages of convenience", non-aggression pacts, treaties, etc.  Enemies also come in different flavours, from minor jostling for planets at a fluid border to crazed, rabid attacks at every opportunity.  It will take time to absorb the nuances of this part of the game, and indeed the dynamic is never the same twice, but the important things are to keep snooping, and keep communicating.  You have to ask yourself, how come those guys knew I was weak, how come nobody came to my rescue, could an attack on them from somewhere else have made a difference? It may have been interesting to take on all comers in your solo games, but without friends, your are a dead duck in PBEM.

You are bound to get your quota of frustration and aggravation as you deal with this new way of thinking in your first couple games.  But it gets easier, and the rewards of experiencing the incredible richness and complexity of Stars! makes it all VERY worthwhile.

Good Luck!


Back to the Article Main Page.