Stars!-R-Us Article

Tech Theif SS
by: Jason Cawley

> Todd Rogers ( wrote:
> : When playing SS I'll usually use an HP design (it seems most SS's do that).
> The key word here is *most*.
A quick start SS is not especially
> hard to build, and fairly effective taking out it's first HW.  The main reason it's
> not done more (IMHO) is because of diplomacy: after this first demonstartion of power,
> everyone would be out to get you.

Just some stuff about SS race design ideas.  As Martin points out, it is not hard to make SS races that start fast.  While some of those are more involved ideas, one way of doing that is just to take typical HG style settings, including most tech expensive (except for weapons). Sure, that makes the spying bonus resources less useful, but those still make such an SS race better at tech than most HGs with most tech expensive.  Those races are solid, playable designs.

The other common way of designing SS races is as Todd mentions to make them HPs.  Those can typically afford the better tech to go with the spying.  They start slower as HPs (which can have certain diplomatic advantages, as you two have been discussing) but if they get established they can be much better at the tech race (as well as having all the neat toys and resulting warfighting advantages) and thus do well.

But another idea has occurred to me, and I am sure to some others as well.  Is it possible to make a "tech-thief" style race with a HG style econ? Most of my tests on the subject have been less than promising, but there are some ideas that can work better when trying to do that. That's what this post is really about :-)

If you take good tech and decent LRTs, there aren't a lot of places left to get points.  Either you can choose a hab-n'-growth scheme which is less powerful than most HGs take, or you have to spend less on the econ screen than most HGs, or both.  I find that lowering the growth much really kills an HG style econ; lowering pop efficiency likewise. That leaves the narrowness of the hab and the strength of the factory and mine settings to play with.  Some stuff can be done on the LRTs, though - e.g. LSP is livable with 19% pop and good tech, because you won't start with much tech anyway, making moving earlier hard without LSP.

You can get good hab for an HG style econ with fewer points spent by using a one-immune two-narrow setting, then moving the ranges closer to the edge.  That means fewer yellows to use; and two-narrows typically need those yellows.  But the greens, which are the eventually 100% worlds, are of course unaffected, and that is where the ramp-up speed mainly comes from.  There are other interaction effects here too.  With grav immune, expensive propulsion and NRSE (along with IFE to be sure) are more attractive.  That helps gather points.  Also, the rest of the tech being good (normal energy for example, plus spying) helps get the terraforming tech sooner, which is important for such races.

On the econ screen, there still won't be enough to spend to get the good standard HG settings.  But with this sort of race, there are some work-arounds possible there.  Being narrow hab, it is a good idea to be able to remote mine.  Not too many minerals in the rocks for your initial greens.  So, borrowing a page from the HP "remote ramping" thread, one idea is to make a fair number of the remotes in the 20's or early 30's and use them to get G.  Then the mines needn't be great, just decent (for the early settling drive).  And the G box can be avoided. That's a substantial point pick-up all told (true, not compared to OBRM, but with 1/10 hab that would be a problem anyway).

Another interaction effect also enters here.  With narrow-immune hab and good pop efficieny and pop growth, it is thematic to terraform quickly.  Like, after 100 resources, 1% max terra at the top of the q; then more added at 300 resources, and each additional 100 resources, say (leaving 100-199 resources to go to the factories and mines after 300 resources).  Can also go whole hog with 5% max terra once places are base size, to get them set up as exporting breeders soon after 500 resources is hit.

Now, notice some things about what that sort of terraforming scheme does.  It reduces the resources going to the facts + mines compared to what most races do, and leaves the amount spent on that roughly constant on each world, after a little bit of initial development.  That means a lot lower demand for G overall.  Just don't need it as fast as when doing factories first.  The world will tend toward having enough mines to bring in enough G to make the few factories each year from the resources left after terraforming.  Won't make more until the terraforming is done, basically - and with narrow immune, that'll mean rapid pop growth at that point and a decent planet size.  It'd help if G imports arrived right when the terraforming was finished too (that's the link to the remote mining idea).

So, with all that preliminary stuff explained, here is a sample race that tries to use these ideas -

HG style tech thief SS

Orion Pirates
Grav Immune, 64/184 C, 66/96 mR
1/10 overall (~1/4 to ~1/5 yellow or green with full terraforming)
19% pop growth
1/1000 pop efficiency
10/9/16 factories
G box *not* checked
10/4/13 mines
Weapons and Con cheap, Bio and Prop expensive, rest normal
Start at 3 box *not* checked.

Might also consider NAS in return for say 10/3/14 mines or 11 factory efficiency and only 12 mines.  Personally I think the better advanced scanners are worth a bit more than that (only 41 points for SS races) since the chameleon isn't great range and the robber baron comes later and is expensive to use just for scouting.

The planets are small by the standards of most HGs - 2600 max planet size.  High habitat values and getting to higher % of cap from 19% pop and the good values helps with that, but still somewhat low of course. Not a heck of a lot of 'em either - you aren't going to win with econ alone with this sort of race.

But consider the race's strengths.  It will get the same sort of achieved pop growth rates as other one-immune HGs (non CA); somewhat better from getting the terraforming tech sooner, possibly.  It can remote mine and has cheap construction tech (plus spying), so it will get plenty of minerals later on and can get decent remotes working pretty fast.  The tech is very good - the two cheap fields are in the ones that most people will spend the most on; the other warfighting ones are normal plus spying.  The bio isn't needed beyond 4 or 7; prop isn't needed beyond 12.  Working up the yellows is fairly easy with the good pop; - 5 or better you can just start terraforming right away after sending 50k pop; -6 or worse you'll want to send 250 G or so too and do factories until you have 100 resources, then terraform 1% per year.

Don't want too many worlds and ought to be quiet about getting to them. The diplomatic potential (from spying info, tech trading, minerals from remotes, giving away toys, etc, etc) seems very strong to me.

And unlike the HPs, not a particularily slow starter, nor vunerable early, nor (another thing I have found tends to follow from those too often) more or less tied to one region of space.  Because HP planets take longer to develop, they can't defend themselves as well as HG ones can, and rely more on bigger neighboring planets in that regard.  Send a cloaked large freighter or rogue to a green far away, and it can be terraforming an already high-value place on arrival (100k pop -> over 100 resources -> 1% max terra right away) with this race.

ISB would add to this effect, but I didn't find the points for it :-( Well, one way to get it is add NAS, ISB, move the ranges to 1 from the right edge.  Give up the better scanners and some of the good yellows that way.  Might work in a bigger galaxy.  Certainly the ISB too is more thematic for pirates - could call the docks "Cove" :-)

So how well do the Orion Pirates do is tests? Mixed results.  I have done only one test, which suffered from some bad hab and G draws and less than perfect play on my part.  The terraforming before the factories also tends to push back the peak growth performance somewhat - pushing the capacity up, rather than realizing it all up front.  They still got 10k by year 40, but had only 19k in year 50.  Year 60 they were up to 32k, year 70 46k, peaking out around 60k.  I used few of the yellows and not all the farther greens in the test; in a real game, you'd want to use all the yellows too.  With the lower econ, didn't make the year 60 arm benchmark - had doom BBs then.  But then didn't having spying in the test either.  The later tech stuff was fine, though - omega nubs by year 80 for instance, even with no spying.

How did I arrive at this sort of design? A curious tale, actually.  I started with the idea of just a pure factoryless SS race, but then decided the small planets weren't really going to be powerful enough. Modifying from factoryless to better econ rather than starting with an HG and "dumbing it down", the result just seemed more promising :-)

Whether it would really work in a real game, not sure.  The test doesn't suggest it is a blow-out approach of course (econ results borderline playable), but it might be a fun sort of race to play.

For what it's worth...

- Jason Cawley

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