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Echo Cluster
The Official VGA Planets Newsletter
Volume 2. / Issue Number 10.
November 2004


Editor
Contributors
Ed Robinson   E-mail me

Merlyn
Donovan
Vincent Rose
Tim Wisseman



Welcome to the VGA Planets Newsletter! As many who have read this newsletter over the last year or so know, I am the editor of this letter. As such I am taking this month as a chance to "editorialize" a little. I of course welcome anyone who has a "Letter to the Editor" to send it to me, and have it posted in each months letter, but as yet no one has felt so inclined. I am therefore going to offer my own editorial this month. November is known as any other month for a lot of people. For those of us who live in the United States, November is the month we celebrate what we call "Thanksgiving". We use this time to offer thanks to a "higher being" and to others for those things we are "thankful" for. As many know, this holiday gets its origin from the "Pilgrims" as they are called who traveled to this new world to escape religious "oppression". Without getting into the political realm of discussion, lets just say they had the correct idea. I would like to point out, that if you are not a citizen of the United States, which a lot of VGA Planets players are not, it does not preclude you from offering "thanks" this time of year. Let us all be thankful for our health, our family, our friends, and yes... for the almighty creator... Tim ! Without his work, vision, and sweat, this newsletter itself wouldn't be written every month. Why should we thank this man for bringing us all together? Well... just look around. No not around your desk, look around the world today. Be thankful we are free to pursue this endeavor we call VGA Planets. Be thankful that we as players and hosts can come together in fictional space and hammer out our frustrations without the threat of blowing ourselves to literal hell and back. We can plan, conspire, and attack without the threat of real pain or harm. As many know in these times the risks in real world terms are far greater, and there are those who are not, and may not be with us in the future to enjoy this time away from the pains of real life. So let us reflect on each other's friendship, and on our joint pleasure in a game, that makes us able to enjoy life just a little better... and thanks to Tim again, for helping us all reach this level of happiness in an otherwise unhappy time. (Ed steps down off his soap-box)... Happy Holidays to all.

Ed Robinson, Editor

"Thoughts From the Cave"
by Merlyn

First I would like to wish everyone that observes Thanksgiving a very happy holiday.

Next, I would like to let everyone know there have been some interesting conversations about a VGA Planets get together next summer in the Yahoo VGA Planets Group. If you are interested you should check it out and think about joining the group at: http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/vgaplanets2/

Now for the good stuff.

The Privateers and Borg as Allies:

like all other alliances there are pros and cons about having a Borg/Privateer alliance. Lets take a look at the good points:

1.) The Borg can clone all of the good ships you steal.

2.) Don't forget an Annihilation Cube has some great mine sweeping/laying power. a couple with the right beams can eat right through those web mines.

3.) The Biocide is one of the most feared ships in the game, even more so if it can be towed by a Meteor Class Blockade Runner with a gravitonic accelerator.

4.) Now throw a couple fireclouds in there to chunnel a wolfpack of mcbr's to rob enemy ships and you are almost unstoppable.

5.) the Probe makes a great weapon againt those Loki's because it is so cheap to build. You can use them to run out of fuel when landing on a planet you know has a Loki on it and the next trn your opponent's Loki is open to a cloacked attack. Bye bye Loki and hello all those new ships you are going to steal.

I just finished a game with the Borg as an ally and playing the privateer I finished second just a couple points away from the Borg in first. They were an excellent 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.

Regards
Merlyn

STRATEGY SECTION
(excerpts from the Dreadlord Battle Manual)

Attacks
Time your attacks carefully. Timing can make the difference between success and failure. Before you attack know what your target has for defense. If you are attacking ships that are in space, check to see what you will be attacking by using `L' and `V'. After you have identified the enemy ships, use the program PROSIM.EXE (with SIM.EXE) to see if you will be successful in a conflict. Determine which ships and in which order you will send your ships in to attack. Set the ship's mission to "intercept" or KILL and input the Primary Enemy. The ship with the lowest friendly code (numerical) will attack first. To change the order of attack change the friendly code. For example ship A is to attack second and ship B first. Set ship A code to 2xx and B to 1xx. Read the Doc "HOSTxx.ZIP" for more info. When attacking or defending, do not waste your forces piecemeal. If you want a target, then commit enough ships to be successful. It is a waste of resources to send 3 ships and lose them, even if the target is destroyed. Send 6. That way, although you still lose three ships, you have 3 left to control the area. Remember, you must have sufficient ships to win, as well as to repel any counter attack. Know what your target defenses are, and then use the best combination of weapons against it. You will lose ships in an attack, anticipate this. Carriers are the most efficient way of attacking a starbase, but only when used as part of a battle group.

Freight Movement
Bringing minerals to a starbase can be done with capital ships that have large cargo holds or freighters. Using a capital ship that cloaks is ideal, because no one can see what your route of travel is.

Movement
If you are using a ship that doesn't cloak, try to travel from planet to planet in one turn. When in orbit around a planet your enemies cannot see you. When you cannot make a move in one turn, be sure to avoid telegraphing your moves. Don't move in a straight line from one planet to another. Zig zag so your opponents are not sure of your destination.

1. Convoy
To protect your ships have them travel in a convoy. Set the to travel at the same speed, moving to exactly the same location each turn. This is accomplished by having all the ships intercept the lead ship in the convoy. To travel to a distant cluster of planets have several freighters travel in a convoy with an escort. Their path should closely resemble a firecracker on the 1st of July. All the ships travel together for as long as possible and then suddenly the convoy breaks up with each ship travelling a very short distance to its assigned planet. Using several freighters, a large number of planets can be checked out quickly.

If the distance between planets is too great to be done economically because of fuel concerns, have some escorts standing on station at certain locations. Sitting on station at warp 0, the escorts will not use valuable fuel. The convoys can then move to these stations for extra protection. If your resources are low, you can tow a ship and put StarDrive 1 engines on it. For example, a Large Deep Space Freighter with high tech engines could tow a capital ship that has only tech 1 engines. The cost of the capital ship then is minimized.

2. Or the Lack There-Of
When NOT moving - unless your capital ships are on convoy duty they should be in one of two locations.
At the starbase to maximize the defenses or somewhere else standing by to face any enemy action.
In a strong, single strike force moving to attack the enemy.

3. Fuel Burn
The heavier the ship, the more fuel it will burn. When selecting beam weapons, engines, torpedoes, torpedo launchers and fighters check the weight. A positron beam weighs 3 KT and a blaster 4 KT. Carrying 60 fighters will burn less fuel than 80 fighters. Having 150kt of fuel weighs less than 200kt fuel, therefore the ship will burn less. The biggest advantage to registering is that you will be able to build tech 10 engines, and move further and faster than before. A tech 7 engine is the minimum size engine that should be used on most ships. Lesser tech engines can be used on ships that are just staying and protecting the starbase.

Scouts, Observation Posts, and Forward Supply Bases
A SMALL Scout with high-tech engines can move rapidly and economically around the universe looking for enemy ships and planets. By leaving one colonist clan at each planet, this planet becomes an observation post on enemy activity.

By leaving several colonists with supplies and mega- credits, some factories and eventually some mines can be built to provide fuel and supplies to ships operating far from your own territory. This planet is a forward supply base. With colonists on the planet you can use `v' to look at other ships that come close. Also use 'L' to list the ships if they are travelling in a convoy; then cycle through using 'V' to see which ships are there. Depending on which version of PLANETS.EXE you have, you may have to use the lower-case of `l' and `v'!

Native Races
A number of planets with good native races can win the game for you.
Native races to look for:

Avian and Insectoid are a good source for mega credits.
Reptilian help with mining.
Bovinoid make extra supplies.
Ghipsoldal gives tech 10 engine technology when building a starbase.
Humanoid - tech 10 hulls with starbase.
Amphibian - tech 10 beams with starbase.
Siliconoid - tech 10 torps with starbase.
A tech 10 advantage race can save you 4500mc and is the only way that unregistered players can achieve anything beyond tech 6. Note that natives, just like you, grow (on planets with the right temperature!).
Taxes have the same effects on them. A good government, though, can greatly increase the taxes you will earn. Also, note that on some planets it is not wise to build too many mines or factories, since that will decrease the maximum tax rate, which will in turn, decrease the amount you will earn. Remember, you can only mine a planet once, but the taxation factor is forever. For example, on an Insectoid planet with 10 million natives that is earning 300mc a turn, building 100 factories and only 25 mines will likely lower the maximum tax rate by 1%. 1% will cost you 300mc a turn, or 900mc in 3 turns, or, the cost of 60 fighters in 20 turns. Serious business. Make sure you are certain that further development on a planet is what you want.

This section will be continued next month...



Monthly Help: brought to you by Donovan!

Give ship (using gsX friendly code)
Ships can be handed over to another race by giving the ship a friendly code of "gsX". In this case X corresponds with the racenumber or -letter of the intended new owner: to give a ship to the Feds the friendly code must be "gs1", to give a ship to the Lizards it should be "gs2" and so on, "gsa" to give a ship to the Rebels and "gsb" to give a ship to the Colonies. The gsX friendly codes only work if the person giving the ship away has a registered version of VGA Planets.

For the ship to switch ownership, it has to be in the same position as a ship of the intended new owner, and the receiving ship must have at least one clan onboard. This clan will not be transferred, so multiple ships can be received by the same ship. Both the receiving ship and the ship that is given away may be cloaked. Since transferring cargo is handled before beamtransfers, it is possible to transfer a clan to the receiving ship and give away your ship(s) in the same turn.

Giving ships away happens in order of ship ID, from low to high. The ID of the ship that is given away determines the order. A ship that is given away using the gsX code will have it's mission reset to "exploration", but due to the host order of actions it will still be invisible to enemies if the ship was cloaked. The ship will also be able to move to it's waypoint while being given away, speed and waypoint are not reset.

The preceeding section is but a small portion of Donovan's Help Section. To visit Donovan's Site, go to http://www.xs4all.nl/~donovan

BULLETIN BOARD


There is a new VGA Planets Forum out there for anyone who is interested. It is just getting started, but could use some new members... find it at:

http://vgaplanets.clicdev.com

This yahoo group has been around for a couple of months, but Vincent is posting all his VGA Planets Fiction (which is being featured in this newsletter), to this group, and invites any other fiction writers to post there as well. Go check it out:

http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/VGAplanetsfanfic/

Its called VGA Planets Fan Fic...

good job Vincent!

Planet's Fiction

The Echo Saga: Chapter 2 .. In the Balance
by Vincent Rose

"CWS Liberty this is Hound Dog 1 we are finishing our Sweep and are on our way in, Over."

"Hound Dog 1 this is CWS Liberty welcome back, we are keeping cups of cider ale warm for you Over."

"Roger that, out." Grail "High" Missive said with a grin. For the last 12 hours Hound Dog Squadron had been flying a mine sweeping mission clearing robotic mines from the recently recaptured world of Karhammur. Once the edge of Colonial space it had become the rallying point for all those who feared the robots. Ever since they had risen up and declared them selves free in the Colonials time of crisis the animosity between the two nations ran deep. The Robotic Empire hated the Colonial Provisional Government and their feeling was more than mutual.

It had taken the Colonial fleet 60 years to reach the Echo Cluster after leaving the overpopulated Earth. After being battered by a series of heavy Ion Storms the Colonist were no longer able to fulfill their purpose; to Colonize the Echo Cluster. They found the easiest solution was to violate the tenants of their robots programming and granted them high levels of autonomy. Soon the Colonist became dependant on their Robot slaves, using them for every thing from mining the ores for new ships to serving their morning breakfast. The Colonies thrived and grew, expanding rapidly and thanks to their Robot creations were more than able to defend themselves from the many hostile races they found. But the Robots were not happy, with their new found mental freedom they also yearned to create their own society. The Great Revolt came with sudden swiftness for the Colonials. In one night the Robots killed nearly a third of the Colonials and took most of their war ships off into deep space.

Left at the mercy of other races the Colonials quickly realized they needed to rally and rebuild their nation. Within six months they had a small but efficient fleet to defend the worlds they had chosen to retreat to. Those they were forced to abandon became targets for those who had the force to take them. For the next four hundred years the Colonist retook what they lost and had expanded at a steady pace. Then three years ago their expanding empire ran up against another empire, One they had not expected. The Robotic Impirum had also flourished and now the two old enemies were about to settle an old score.

The Colonials Pushed hard, the Robots pushed harder. They pushed the Colonials close to their home world of Colony 10, six hundred more light years and the Colonial Provisional Government would have crumbled and the Robots would have won.

But that was not to be. The Colonials were not with out friends. They had a cousin of sorts. After the Great Revolt one colony had survived but had not reunited with their brethren. The far flung outpost of Alkes had been a far flung military research outpost. The brave men and women who were stationed there fought and won against the Robots and won. They were however left with out star ships or any way of communicating with the rest of the Colonies.

They were forced to adapt and overcome. Using their research they augmented their bodies and thus the Cyborg race and empire was born.

The two allies soon drove the Robots back. And now they sitting once again on the border of Robot Territory. Grail had known war all his life and now he could feel peace like an elusive scent that reminds you of your first love.

The Patriot-class light carrier they called home loomed just on the outskirts of the Colonial fleet. Grail knew that on the far side of the planet the boxy ships of the Cyborg fleet were getting ready for the next push. But for now the Colonial fleet was waiting for their relief, Third Pillar need three months to repair, refit, and await the arrival of replacement ships.

He landed his fighter landed on the flight deck and made his way to the pilots lounge. Two squadrons had called Liberty home when they had joined Third Pillar. All young fresh boys and girls as was the crew. Their Captain had only seen combat once before and had been grievously wounded. But the war had forced many young people to grow older than their age. Grail had been 17 when he had joined the Colonial Navy, 18 when he had joined the Liberty, and now ten years later he had his own squadron.

The other squadron was lead by his best friend Lance "Tight" Childress. The two were childhood friends and were now the "old Men" so many youngsters looked up to. "Hey Grail, how did it go?"

Pulling up a chair to lounge bar Grail said. "I picked off 37 mines. The squadron got 178 total."

"Good run. I only got 35 last run, we got a total of 185 this time out." Lance was the CO of the Robot Riders.

"Good for you. Man I don't know what I am going to do with three months of leave. I mean it seems like it has been forever since we had some time off."

"19 months to be exact." Lance kept track of such things.

"Sounds about right, hey did I hear right that the powers that be are sending four Lady Royals to meet us at Star Base 14."

"That's just scuttle, If they send out one I would be happy it has been a long time since I had a sit down in a Lady Royal. And think unlike some people I don't have a family and can spare some of that combat pay I just earned."

"Speaking of Sy says hi. Here look at Alexia, she is getting so big." Pulling a picture from his flight suite "High" passed it to his buddy.

"She is getting to be three now right?"

"Yep. God I am going to be glad to see them, I didn't tell you did I? Sy found work on a LDSF that let her bring Alexia along. They are going to be meeting me at Centeria."

"Good for her, and you I imagine, three months I suspect that the CPG will be happy with you and Alexia will be a good big sister."

"You be quiet."

Major Max Span paced his bridge. He wouldn't stop pacing until they reached the relative safety of Center System. His ulcer was acting up again and he felt like his back was on fire. The muscle spasms were getting worse, the med techs had given him pills but he felt he needed to be in top fighting condition to lead his troops. Ten years had gone by since he had assumed command of the Liberty and he felt every one of them in his bones. He yearned to see his wife and son again for more than a brief repair and refit period. He never again wanted to write another letter to widows or motherless children. He would have shifted some of his work load to his eager XO, but she was just to young. At 39 she was only five years younger than himself. Besides he was never one to shirk his duty and so here he found himself pacing his bridge in the middle of the night.

Sometimes when he was alone in his quarters he thought about those who had died. In those moments he wished he were one of them. They didn't have to worry about 172 people plus another 30 pilots. They could see their wives and children at any time. They didn't feel the pain that stress caused. He feared those thoughts more than a Robot torpedo or fighter. They would only lead him to embrace that darkness which had taken his brother.

"Major."

"Yes?" The young comtech had caught him daydreaming.

"Sir, I thought you should know the Athena is coming in with Fourth Pillar. We are here by ordered by the Pegasus to stand down."

Divided into Pillars the 12 great fleets were each lead by a Virgo-class star ship named for the original 12. There were 34 in existence now but Pillar command fell to one named after the 12 by tradition. "Thank you Corporal, please set course and get us under way at all possible haste."

The order given and obeyed the Liberty got under way for the long three month voyage to their much deserved respite.

"Major we are receiving new orders. We have been ordered to turn around and make all haste back to Karhammur."

With a heavy sigh Major Span turned and faced the Sergeant. "Did they give us any reason?"

The Sergeant's face lost all color. "Fourth Pillar has been halved and the Cyborg fleet has been wiped out. They barely beat back the Robotic fleet. Sir, the Intelligence dispatch says the council feels this is a last ditch effort by the Robots to break us. We are ordered to repel them at all costs."

Chapter 3 The Best Laid Plans

The Senate was packed for the Prefects speech. Commander T'Ral sat in the upper balcony with the rest of the star ship commanders requested to attend the Prefects momentous speech. The elder statesmen took the stairs up to the speaking podium with the easy of a man T'Ral's age, which is why he has ruled us for so long the Tweetian thought to him self. For too long the Tweetian race had been held down by others, ridiculed for their less that stellar physical forms. But what was to be expected from a race that evolved on a world that had a third of what a humans preferred. The rest of the galaxy laughed at the so called Birdmen, but they knew that while other races revered physical strength Tweetian's revered subterfuge and skull duggery.

The Master at arms called all loyal citizens to stand and so the hall was filled with the sounds of five hundred sentient beings standing at once. "All hail Prefect Selar!"

"ALL HAIL PREFECT SELAR!" The crowed responded in a deafening shout.

"Be seated loyal Citizens." The aged man said as he began his speech. "Today we mark a moment in our history that will not soon be forgotten. Today we launch the first wing on their grand mission of expansion!"

As the cheers subsided the Prefect continued. "For to long we have faced the threat of the Evil Empire, for to long the Fascist have pillage our worlds while we have stood by helpless. We shall correct those injustices now. Our Wings will spread, our power shall rise and our enemies will fall like Chanka to the blade. Let it be known we going to make our voice heard in the galaxy and no longer be subject to the rules of the thick bones!"

T'Ral felt the blood rushing threw his system. He knew the dangers, he knew he would face death but listen to the grand old patriarch of their people he felt as though all of that was a small price to pay to bring glory to his people.

"We, not they, are the strongest of all races. We shall strike first at those most vile beings, the Fascist War mongers to our southern border! Let First Wing take Flight!"

T'Ral stood and clapped till his hands burned, as did every one else the massive assembly building. He could hardly wait to join the crew of his Resolute-Class warship Helix which waited for him in orbit.

Rogra was very displeased. He understood the nature of the assignment before him, the necessity but it went against his warrior spirit. His ship, the GFIS Chunpo sat cloaked around the Birdman Home world. He had put the blithering old fool of a man who lead the weak Birds on the ships intercom so all could hear the fools message. Those imbeciles actually believed they could win a war against his people. For as long as he could remember his people had been proud warriors who erased Birdman colonies with such ease it was no longer even considered sporting for more than one ship to be committed to a raid.

But now all around his ship were vessels. Obviously the First Wing the fool spoke of. The collection of 17 ships would barely offer a battle against a full Fleet of the Grand Fascist Imperial Navy. But none the less it was Rogra's job to warn his superiors. Oh how he wished to drop his cloak and lead the raid on this planet him self. But alas such glory was not to be his on this day.

"Set course for Sector command Warrior Grosh." He instructed his helmsmen.

"Do you think it worked?" Sub-Commander Rik asked. He was a Talon liaison who had organized the farce above. Who would think that they would only have 17 ships in First wing.

"Yesssss, our intelligencers believe it hassss worked Sub-Commander." The Lizard said.

"For what we are paying you I sure hope it did."

"Our Vesssssel remained hidden, they did not detect it. You fleet is cloaked and they do not know your true numbers."

Fifty years of scrimping and saving every last credit and mineral had lead to a fleet of not 17 but 109 war ships in orbit above the planet. And now thanks to the paid aide of the Lorn Combine cloak detection ship they were able to know exactly where the Fascist spy ship was located. Clearing a path for it they had let it depart with the message of war and fleet status.

Unknown to the brawny Fascist a hollowed out LDSF held a stripped down Loki-class vessel. The Prefect would be very happy. Very happy indeed. Rik could imagine the office he would get after his promotion.

Ssssirann watched the glory hounding birdman with his cold eyes. Soon his race would be at war with the Fascist and irregardless of who won that contest of wills the Lorn Combine would sweep in and pick up the pieces. If all went according to the Ssssirann's plan when the hatching came there would be no great genocide. It would be good to expand for once instead of simply staying stagnant.

T'Ral walked up to the section chief. He had just finished on of his daily inspections of a random section. "Here is a list of infractions I want fixed by tomorrow. All are minor but still unaccepted if you can not lead those under you I will find someone who can. Are we clear Chief Holka?"

"Yes Commander. I apologize."

"Don't, just fix it." Addressing the assembled men behind the section chief T'Ral continued. "Major infractions get you demoted, minor ones get you killed. All of you must be ever vigilant in order to keep this ship battle ready. Dismissed."

T'Ral made his way down the corridor toward the lift tubes. Behind him a step was his Sub-Commander Prime. "Are these daily inspections really necessary? Soon the crew will become demoralized at you constant distrust of them."

T'Ral came from a prosperous family that had worked hard for all they. His much younger Sub-Commander came from a family of much more wealth and power, but had had to work much less to get it. Pausing mid stride he turned and faced his subordinate. "Sub-Commander Unar, I will indulge your question this one time. The Inspections will end when I feel they should not before. While we are here waiting the men become restless and bored. That is when they become lax in their duties as you have become lax in your level of discipline. I will add this conversation to my log."

Leaving his first officer sputtering apologized T'Ral entered the lift alone. Once in his office off the bridge he made the log entries of the days activities. He knew that he was stuck with Unar because of his families political connections. He hoped thought that some of his leadership style would rub off on the spoiled brat and in time turn him into a good leader that would bring his people home alive instead of earning them posthumous medals.

The fleet would leave in Two weeks. The timing had to be perfect for the lighting quick raids and battles the High Command had decided on as a plan. If all went well T'Ral could hope for a posting as Governor of some occupied world. If things didn't go well he would be dead

Next month this story by Vincent Rose will continue.

 

 
 
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