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Echo Cluster
The Official VGA Planets Newsletter
Volume 2. / Issue Number 7.
August 2004

Ed Robinson   E-mail me

Tim Wisseman

This Months Featured Site

CYBERSPACE-a VGA Planets website

Visit CYBERSPACE Today!!

Welcome to the VGA Planets Newsletter! This is the August 2004 issue of The Echo Cluster, a continuing extra of VGA Planets. This issue features a strategy guide for the Colonies by Cain. There is also the monthly contribution by Merlyn, along with our featured site for August, CYBERSPACE, a website that is a featured Italian language website. VGA Planets continues to be the largest PBEM (play by email) strategy game on the market today.

Ed Robinson, Editor

"Thoughts From the Cave"
by Merlyn

(Hosting is a thankless job - Until you quit!)

There was a time when you wanted to get into a VGA Planets game you would have to take time out to decide which host you wanted to play at. They all offered a multitude of selections and times, you could always find two or more games waiting to start that appealed to your personal playing preferences. Now if I asked you how many Host's do you know, how many could you name? four, five or maybe even six and one of the first ones on your list would be BattleSatr Command. We almost lost BattleStar Command's site this month but due to a man with a great heart and the best hosting site on the internet along with a multitude of requests from players and friends Ed Robinson will continue hosting his great site.

It takes a lot of dedication, patience and knowledge to be a host, not only from the hosts themselves but also from their family and friends as they support the host in a never ending 24/7 job that they perform for free. If you are reading this and you are thinking about being a host be warned, you can not be a good host unless you are willing to give up much of the free time in your life you currently spend with your family, friends and hobbies.

The other aspect that makes VGA Planets Hosting different is VGA Planets is a PBEM (Play By Email) game and with the current state of the internet between spam and virus infected email it is a never ending battle. for every 1 good email you can plan on 5-10 pieces of crap. It is extremely difficult to maintain a clean system. Now just think about all the email a host must answer on a daily basis. If you email Ed you receive a prompt answer and it usually covers everything you need. Where else do you get that kind of service for free?

Now there is the monetary aspect. some of the costs for hosting include software and equipment to maintain the host. Remember most hosts run their services for free and I am not sure about Ed but we have spent a few thousand dollars in the last couple years to keep our host running including purchasing a firewall to go between the router and the network along with software firewalls on each machine. There is also email server software, spam blocking software, virus software, your high speed connection and much more. Believe me, hosting can be a drain on your pocketbook.

There are times when everything can get to a host and he has to make the decision if they want to continue or take their host down. I have had to make that decision a dozen times in the last couple years so I know it was a tough decision for Ed. Ed has decided to keep BattleStar Command alive and I want everyone to remember it is not just running some pre-made software without doing anything else. Hosting is a thankless 24/7 job that never ends.

Ed also runs the largest VGA Planets Group on the web along with the monthly newsletter and many more VGA Planets services. The next time you receive your RST file or the automated response about changes in your settings or receiving your TRN, remember how much work Ed has placed into his host for this to happen.


I am currently playing 5 games on your site and want to take this time and opportunity to thank you and your family for the great service you have brought us. I believe when a site becomes as dependable as yours and everyone just take your services for granted is a tribute in itself. It shous how reliable your services are and what a fantastic job you have done for the VGA Planets community.

[Merlyn wipes a tear from his eye]

Thank You Ed!

Next Month: It is hard to win without an Ally

See you in the Echo Cluster!

If there is anything you would like discussed or you agree or disagree with anything in our column send us your comments at: Merlyn@thelastdomain.com and we would be happy to talk about it or post it in the upcoming months.




This month the strategy section is the second part about playing the Colonies of Man, by Cain.

Ok, now lets jump ahead a little. You have gotten colonizing started, and you have yourself a little force of ships that are colonizing and defending.. I wouldn't even think about being in a position to attack much before turn 20.. unless you have a hostile neighbor breathing down your neck. For your first 20 turns, you should build your Cobols, a couple of Patriots, and a few Lady Royales. The Lady Royales are built at your homeworld (since that's where your clans are), and load them with 160 clans each, this will give you 160 mc every turn per ship... this is where our money comes from since your aren't taxing your clans... REMEMBER? Ok, now the Lady Royales I usually build with low tech Engines, and low tech beams.. And low tech torps.. these ships only have 1 tube each anyway... and why waist money and minerals on a ship that all you are using it for is a money maker anyway? You might say since the LR has a cargo of 160, why not use it as a Torp ship? Well, let me tell you why. Because you have a Cruiser called the Tranquility, which will fill that function. You should have at least one of these Tranquilities built by now, with at least Tech 7 Torps on it. (Tech 7s are better yield for the money/minerals) . The Tranquility is your ULTIMATE torp ship, with 2 tubes, and a HUGE gas tank (460) and can carry up to 380 cargo, so you can carry a mixture of torps/supplies/clans, or whatever. This baby is very valuable, because it is your minelayer. Use these for this purpose.. they come in really handy. So you should have at least one built, and thats what he has been doing, laying protective minefields around your area. Lets see.. what else? Oh, ok.. I would hope that you would have at least one more starbase, if not two, built by now. Also by now you should have found a good Bovinoid world to colonize, and there is a reason for this, its called the GEMINI CLASS TRANSPORT. Find a Bovinoid (remember the Bioscanner?) world, and colonize the hell out of it. Then build a Gemini at one of your starbases, and tow it to the Bovinoid world. Why do this? Well, your GEMINI isn't used as a transport... its used as a Fighter builder. The Gemini can hold up to 400 fighters.. since its armed with 1 fighter bay. Take this ship to a bovinoid world, which is generating supplies every turn, and set its friendly code to "lfm" LOAD FIGHTER MINERALS... then every turn the Gemini will build you its maximum number of fighters which will supply your carriers. The Gemini has the capability to build 40 fighters a turn, provided you unload the 40 it builds every turn onto a Starbase or a carrier. So imagine what this does for your fighter production... very nice. Oh, and don't forget to set the Gemini's mission to "Build Fighters", that would help too.

Ok, so you have a good fighter production going, you are making money every turn, and have a good economy, and you should have LOTS of clans on your homeworld. So lets talk about what you need to be thinking about later on.

Further into the Game

As you have gotten further into the game, you have built Patriots, Tranquilities, Lady Royales, (just enough to make money), Geminis, and LDSFs. What about the other ships.. well lets talk about some of those other ships for a second…

Small Deep Space Freighter:
Don't build it!

Taurus Class Scout:
With two beams and no tubes, I really don't see a function for it.

Cygnus Class Destroyer:
This ship only has a 50 cargo room, thus it doesn't due for laying mines, and with only one engine, in most games it can't tow.. so why have it?

Little Joe Class Escort:
same as above, but it doesn't have torps.. the only thing I may build this ship for is transporting money back and force in my homeworld areas.

Aries Class Transport:
This ship is basically a transport with beams.. Has a medium (260) cargo hold, so it has some use as an armed transport.. and it also generates gas from minerals... so it has some minor uses.. I don't build a lot of them though. The Cobols are much more efficient at making gas, and have just as much cargo room.

Sagittarius Class Transport:
Has good cargo room, (300), and has 1 fighter bay and 2 beam weapons, so it has some use, it can make fighters for you in a pinch... and it has some uses in other Addons, but I don't make many of these either.

Scorpius Class Light Carrier:
The only thing this ship has going for it is that it has a higher mass than the Patriot. But three patriots have just as many fighters, and aren't as expensive.. This ship with 4 Engines is just too expensive to make to justify its existence. You are better off saving the money and making a Virgo.

Gemini Class Transport:
The Gemini is one of the best Colonial ( and Rebel) starships available. This ships power is derived, not by is ability in combat, but for its ability to make large amounts of fighters very quickly. The Gemini can be built cheaply and generate a huge fighter stockpile. If a Bovinoid world can be found that generates a great deal of daily supplies and minerals, the Gemini could be built with tech 1 engines and weapons, and be towed to this planet, and once there, could survive the game over this planet and never move. The Gemini will generate 1 fighter for every 3 Tritanium, 2 Moly, and 5 Supplies held on the Gemini a turn.. for a maximum of 40 fighters made a turn... if the fighters are offloaded to another ship. With this ship, there is no reason why the Colonies should ever need to spend a single MC on a fighter.

Iron Lady Class Frigate:
With 8 Beams weapons and 2 tubes, this ship would make a good minesweeper.. however being the colonies, a Patriot can sweep just as many, if not more mines per turn than this ship. It has a very low mass (150), and low cargo, (60), so it really doesn't serve a function unless you want an expensive escort for your freighters.

Virgo Class Battlestar:
Here is the workhorse and backbone of your fleet. These ships with their large cargo bay to hold up to 290 fighters, and their 10 beams, are very valuable to you. You team a Virgo up with a Cobol and you have an excellent attack force.

Now that I have talked about the ships, by the time you are into the mid-point of the game you should have built a Virgo or two. The Virgos play an important role in your conquest/defense. The Virgos can make fighters in space and do very well in combat. The Virgo however doesn't have a good combat record against other Races' heavy carriers. The Virgo is best used with right around 190 - 200 fighters, and use the empty space to store supplies to repair damage. A Virgo can use its fighters to sweep mines up to 200 lys away, which can really damage someone like the Robots or other minelaying races. You get a Virgo equipped with good mid-level beams and it's a good attack force. Early in the mid-point of the game, Virgos should be set with your Gemini's, and the Gemini's and Virgo together can "Build Fighters", with the Gemini transferring its fighters to the Virgo every turn... in a few turns the Virgo is ready to go.

Later Stages of game
Once you are into the later stages of the game, you should have a good mixture of ships in your fleet, but the backbone should be little task groups of Virgos and Cobols together. You may think about having your Cobols tow your Virgos around, thus not having high tech engines on your Virgos... well rethink it. A good opponent will target your Cobols, and if your Virgos don't have good engines, and your Cobols are suddenly gone, you simply have a big mass of Tritanium floating around. The Virgos are gas hogs though, so you may have need to have two Cobols with your force. These groups are what you are going to be using to fight with. I will combine two or three Virgos together with 2 or 3 Cobols, and may through in a Gemini, to help restock fighters. At least one of your Cobols should have tech 7 torps on it and be loaded with torps, to help lay minefields. The "drop and scoop" method of laying mines comes in handy while this group travels to deter any cloaking ships from "shadowing" this fleet. This fleet will be able to sustain itself into enemy territory without need of supplies of Neutronium. Thus this task force can reek havoc in an enemies territory because it has no need to take planets rich in gas to sustain itself. The backbone of this force is your Cobols, so protect them. Don't let them get into fights with other ships, that's what the Virgos are for. You have no worry of minefields, since your force can sit outside and minefield and watch it disappear!.... much to the frenzy and madness of the player who laid them.. it quite fun actually watching this…

Late in the game, since you have not been taxing your homeworld, you should get the maximum population on your homeworld quickly. By this time you should have built some Super Transport Freighters. They serve the function of taking your 2600 clans off your homeworld every turn, and populating your surrounding planets with them. You can do this every turn and come back and find your homeworld full of clans again. You can even tax them a little and get some extra cash. Couple the Super Freighters with a Cobol to keep them in gas... and you will see your homeplanets populating very fast. Be sure to keep some ships, like a couple of Patriots or Tranquilities in your rear area just in case a wayward cloaker shows up to try to disrupt your supply lines or other stuff... they can handle it.

With you populating your other planets, (the Bovinoid planets are good to populate)... you can build a massive supply of fighters for your Virgos, and have money to build torps for your Tranquilities to lay minefields for defense. By this stage of the game you should be a very awesome military power... and can project your power similar to the great Aircraft Carrier Task forces of the United States Navy... where they go they rule. Its very good for diplomacy too.

General Information and Strategy

The Colonies strengths and the value of their special abilities are not as obvious as those of the other races. One of the big strengths of the Colonies is their mine sweeping capability. The Colonies are the only race that can sweep minefields using their fighters. The Colonials have developed the ability to sweep mine fields in this manner. To keep their fighter pilots in practice, the Colonies developed the tactic of letting their fighter squadrons fly out up to 100 light years from the carrier and use their fighters to attack and destroy enemy mines.

Another ability that the Colonies have is the ability to build fighters in space. They can use free space in their carrier's cargo holds to build fighters. To do this the starship needs at least 3 Tritanium, 2 Moly, and 5 supply units for each fighter they wish to build. The primary mission for the ship must then be set to "Build Fighters", and the next turn the resources will be replaced with fighters.

Grand Strategy Overview

So lets go over some of the points I have made.

In the beginning of the game, the Colonies.. ( like everyone else) is pretty week. The first ship you should build is the Cobol. Load him up with Colonists and supplies and send him out. Use the ships Bioscanner to look for good native worlds to colonize. If you are starting out with a lot of money that is good.. If not, then I suggest building a Large Deep next.. Load it with Colonists and send it out also, following the Cobol with colonists to boost your colonies. Then build a couple of Lady Royales.. It is not necessary to build tech 10 engines or beams on them.. All you will be using them for is money.. So put 160 clans on each of them and leave them where they are... if you build 4 or 5 of them, you will have enough money generated every turn for whatever you want. I say this because you SHOULD NOT be taxing your homeworld at all... Set the tax rate to 0% and watch your clans GROW. In a matter of several turns you will be maxed out on population and sending clans out at 2600 per turn to other planets.. This is where your other ships come in.

Build groups of Super Transport Freighters.. And couple each freighter with two Cobols. These groups stay together.. The Cobols providing fuel for the Freighters.. And the freighters taking your colonists out to other worlds.

Now task groups are important for the Colonies... I am not talking about task forces of destroyers and cruisers and carriers. I am talking about task forces consisting of Cobols and Virgos. Here are your heavy hitters. For each Virgo you build.. You should be building one or two Cobols. These Cobols stay with the Virgos everywhere they go. It won't hurt to put a Gemini in there too. Have one of the Virgos tow the Gemini if you want... but this task force has an unlimited fuel supply and a big , steady supply of fighters. Thus these task forces can run independently and be used to harass an enemy's rear areas and supply lines without you worrying about having fueling locations. Usually a group of Two or three Virgos is good to have. It isn't a bad idea to have one of your Cobols loaded with torps too.. That way as they travel they can lay mines behind them.. To discourage any following cloaked ships.

Don't bother building those smaller ships, like the Cygnus or the Little Joe Escort. They don't really serve a function in a protracted game, and you could spend your resources on better ships. A couple of Patriots around your home worlds is good.. Just for the occasional cloaked raider or spy floating around. It is good to have a couple of Tranquilities also.. these ships would be the main mine laying ships of your fleet, with their large cargo hold, and torp tubes they can travel around your home area and lay massive mine fields.

Another note.... use the Virgos to their best ability... they have the ability to sweep mines from a distance of 100 lightyears using their fighters... with 290 fighters this is awesome... especially with two or three Virgos together... they take down a minefield with little effort. So don't go putting Virgos into a minefield to sweep it.. It isn't necessary, and too big a risk.. Sweep them from afar.. This really irritates other races when they see their nice big minefields reduced to nothing in one turn!!

Keep in mind. All the other races will wish an alliance with your or in the least a trade. They want your Cobols. Be careful how you give these away.. They are one of your most valuable tools against other races. Use them wisely.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to strategy for the Colonies.. but it should give you a head start. Good luck.

Build fighters in space

This is a so-called 'mission 9', a race-specific special mission. All special missions (rob, hiss, build fighters, selfrepair, dark sense) are executed in order of ship ID. That is to say that Host checks each ship from ID 1 to 500, and per ship checks if that ship should perform a special mission or not. So Lizard ship #16 would hiss before Privateer ship #237 would rob it, but that Privateer ship #237 will rob Lizard ship #418 before that ship would get around to hissing.

The Rebels, Robots and Colonies of Man are all by default able to build "free" fighters in space by placing 5 supplies, 3 Tritanium and 2 Molybdenum units for each new fighter that they want to build on a ship with at least 1 fighter bay.

"build fighters" mission fighterbuilding
The Robots and Colonies of Man can set their ship mission to "Build Fighters In Space" in order to build the fighters, and manually load the resources onboard the ships. The Rebels can just load the appropriate resources and then do not need to set a particular ship mission to build fighters - the Rebels don't even have the "build fighters" mission, they have RGA instead- which leaves the ship free to perform some other mission while the fighters are being made. As with any mission a ship needs fuel onboard to perform the "build fighters" mission.

As can be deducted from the host order, it's possible to beam fighters that have just been built to other ships in the very same turn. Since this requires a special friendly code this can only be done if the fighters are built through the "build fighters" mission (or ofcourse from Rebel ships) and if the resources are loaded manually during the client-side phase of the turn.

"lfm" fighterbuilding
Rebel, Robot and Colonial ships with a friendly code of 'lfm' will automatically load the minerals and supplies onboard the ship to build as many fighters as possible and build fighters, regardless of the ship's mission. Even when the resources to build fighters are loaded manually, a friendly code of "lfm" is enought to build fighters - the "Build fighters in space" mission does not have to be set with this friendly code. Here too, to build fighters, ships need to have fuel onboard.

The code "lfm" can be used over a planet that has you set as an ally, or at least if an official alliance is offered through the ship alliance friendly code by the player who's planet will supply the resources. To be able to use the "lfm" friendly code over an allied planet, the alliance does not have to be complete. As long as the races owning the planet has offered an alliance the "lfm" friendly code will work. The

If for example the Rebels want to build fighters over a Birdmen planet, only the Birdmen have to set an alliance with the Rebels. The Rebels don't necessarily need to ally the Birdmen for this to work. Once an alliance has been offered, the planet's friendly code does not have to be "lfm". It is impossible to use the "lfm" friendly code to beam up resources to build fighters with from enemy planets, even when both the planet's and the ship's friendly code are "lfm". The "lfm" friendly code will not work over unowned planets.

This month's featured site is CYBERFEST. CYBERFEST is an Italian website, with VGA PLanets hosting in Italian! So Italians can find this site and play here! Consider it a native VGA Planets site for Italy. You can find CYBERFEST at:



Akseli said in the newsgroup:

"OK, let's face it. I'm a FAQ addict. I woke up only because I remembered it was time to send this.

No changes this time except for few minor URL changes, but I noticed that the HTML version had errors. Some lines were missing, like the 0.3 section only had one line instead of the three it was supposed to have. Which suggests that there might be others, lots of them perhaps. Managment is investigating the matter, when sober enough."

alt.games.vga-planets FAQ

http://www.akseli.net/~akseli/vgap/alt.games.vga-planets.faq.html (HTML)
http://www.akseli.net/~akseli/vgap/alt.games.vga-planets.faq (text)


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