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Echo Cluster
The Official VGA Planets Newsletter
Volume 2. / Issue Number 9.
October 2004

 Ed Robinson   E-mail me

Vincent Rose
Tim Wisseman

Welcome to the VGA Planets Newsletter! This is the October 2004 issue of The Echo Cluster, a continuing extra of VGA Planets. This month features first installment of new fiction by Vincent Rose. The Strategy section is excerpts from the Dreadlord Battle Manual to tell new players how to start their empire. VGA Planets continues to be the largest PBEM (play by email) strategy game on the market today. There is some new announcements in the Bulletin Board also.

Ed Robinson, Editor

(excerpts from the Dreadlord Battle Manual)

B. Expanding your Empire with Planets

1. Colonizing
You will often want to send a small scout ahead of you so that it can find good planets and you can plan ahead for them. For example, if your scout has found a planet that can generate a lot of money is only a bit farther on, you may want to hold off on colonizing the in-between planets so that you can tax this high-revenue planet sooner. You will want to put 100 clans on most planets that you colonize. The reason for this is that 100 clans can sustain enough mines for most planets as well as build 100 factories. Over 100 clans, you can not build 1 factory for every clan.

For most races the best colonizing freighter is the Large Deep Space FREIGHTER. Remember to include about 25 supplies and 100mc for every 100 colonists. If resources are scarce, you can go to 10 supplies and 50mc. Planets that have natives (other than Amorphous ones) can generate their own money, and you do not have to supply these with mega-credits to get started. Try to make the warps between planets in one turn so that you will not be seen. This is especially important if everyone knows that you are a rookie. If you are experienced, they may assume that you believe you are strong enough to repel an attack.

When you have a ship over an unowned planet do a mineral survey. To do this, select the ship that is over the unowned planet. Then press F4 and the F5. You can now unload some colonists onto the planet. If there are natives (other than Amorphous ones) you need only to unload supplies and colonists and your freighter can move to the next planet in the same turn. If there are no natives, your ship will have to wait there until next turn when you own the planet so that you can give it some mega-credits. The reason it does not need mega-credits if there are natives is that you can tax the natives and the planet will generate its own mega-credits. You may have to stay in orbit, even if there are natives on the planet. Your ship may be short on fuel, in which case, you can gamble that there will be enough fuel on the planet's surface to get you to the next planet. To gamble like this, set your mission to `G'ather Neutronium and before you leave the planet's orbit, your ship will automatically beam up all the neutronium on the surface. You may be forced to wait at the planet until another ship can refuel you or until you have mined some neutronium from the planet.

2. Development of Planets
When colonizing, do not neglect planetary defense posts on newly-owned planets. There are three primary types of defense--capital ships, planetary defense, and mines, usually in that order of importance. Of the three, planetary defense will be the most important defense against small scouts with 2 X-Ray beams that wander into your territory looking for unguarded planets. In order to prevent small scouts from taking over your precious new planets and destroying many of the factories and mines as well as stealing any money on the planet you need about 13 defense posts.

It is generally safe to let a planet go without 13 defense posts for the first few turns that you own it. After that, you will want a minimum of 13 defense posts to defend from small scouts or small hyperdrive ship attacks. The 13 defense posts should be increased by a couple every turn. Don't build mines until you have maxed out the number of factories you can build (unless you urgently need some minerals). By the time you have about 25-50 mines built (if you have decided that the planet is worthy of that many) you should have your planetary defense to max, or almost there.

3. Building a New Starbase

a. What for?
Do not think that you will never have to build another STARBASE. If someone attacks and destroys your Home World, you will need another base to survive in the game. A starbase can also be used as added defense for a valuable planet. You may find that your Home World starbase is overwhelmed by the need for new ships in your empire. You may need ships to be produced nearer to your enemy's heartland. Maybe you need a supply of torpedoes or fighters closer to the action.

Moving minerals from far away to your Home World is also very wasteful of fuel, and a starbase nearer to high- production planets will save fuel and effort. Once the 500 ship limit is reached, he with the most starbases has the best chance to win. Do not build a starbase simply for the sake of building a starbase, though. Whenever you build a new starbase, have a specific purpose for it in mind that is part of your over-all strategy.

b. About Building a Starbase
You may need to build a Large Deep Space Freighter, to transport any materials and colonists required to the chosen planet. To defend the new starbase you will need one to three capital ships, at least until it has full defense posts and max fighters.

For building a starbase you need the following:

900 mega-credits
402 Tritanium
120 Duranium
340 molybdenum

A Large Deep Space Freighter or a couple of capital ships with a lot of cargo holds can deliver these minerals. The ships can also be used to deliver additional colonists and minerals after the starbase is started. You will also need supplies and more mega-credits to build factories, mines, and defense posts. Do not leave only 100 clans on your starbase. A cloaking race (especially the Lizards) may find this out and beam colonists of their own down. Suddenly, they'll have your starbase for free! You will need at least 500 clans to be fairly safe. Before you can feel really secure, you should have several thousand clans on your starbase.

C. Defense of your Empire
With hyper-drive potentially in the hands of any race you can be attacked from a 1000 light years away only a few days after the start of the game. Get your HW (Home World) defense posts above 100, keep your ships hidden and don't lay a minefield until it is absolutely necessary (minefields can be detected from a large distance away). Every day check to see if any other ships are orbiting any of your planets. Always be watching for any sign that your enemy (or your ally) is planning an attack. Always be thinking about how you would attack if you were your enemy. Prepare your defense for this. You can second-guess yourself forever. For every tactic there is a counter-tactic for which there is a way around by using a different tactic. Choose the type of attack you expect and prepare for it. Do your best to prepare for every possibility, though. The Parker Bros. game "Risk" was called so for a reason. You can't play without being aggressive, taking risks, and gambling and still hope to win.

D. Attacking the Enemy
Always plan out your attacks. Avoid an all-out battle of attrition. Use your forces with daring and stealth. See the section on hyperdrive ships. See the section on battle Groups. Battle groups can make effective forays into enemy territory that can put him into a defensive mood, as well as destroy valuable ships and resources, especially when used in an organized and thought-out manner.

1. Your Enemy
See the section on team-work. Avoid a two fronted war by having one enemy at a time. Negotiate with the others for an alliance or truce so that you can use your forces on a single enemy. In this way you can concentrate your forces against one opponent. If possible, use your ally to help destroy the enemy. Two against one is always better than one on one. Working in a team is even better. With your resources pooled you will be more effective. If my race cannot build fighters cheaply (i.e. just use 3 TRI, 2 MOLY and 5 supply, no mega-credits) then I will build ships that carry torpedoes.

Unless I can do a quick kill on their starbase, I will avoid conflict with races that can build fighters cheaply. Instead, I will aid another race by providing some ships/credits to do my "dirty work" for me. This is similar to the strategy the Byzantine (500ad) and the British Empires (18th century) followed. Be ruthless and aggressive to effectively carry out your plans of universal domination. An opponent who isn't completely destroyed can rebuild. Spare no one. The U.S. Navy in World War II had a motto--"HUNT THEM, FIND THEM, SINK THEM!".

Even if your opponent has a fleet stronger and larger than yours, never despair. All the great Generals in human history won their battles with forces that were greatly outnumbered and outgunned. How? They concentrated their forces and struck at their enemy's weakest areas. Attacking where least expected and with more forces than your opponent has in that area will allow you to survive, and eventually turn the tide. Never do what your opponent expects you to and never be where he thinks you are. In any situation, determine what is most the most obvious course of action to follow and what is LEAST obvious. In most cases, do the least obvious. Always mystify, mislead, and surprise your enemy. Never underestimate any player. Always be sure to correctly estimate the effects of your attack on your enemy.

2. Targets
It is usually best to try and avoid head to head conflicts involving the loss of ships. Attack the resources that supply, build, and fuel these ships. By avoiding battles against large ships you can commit your resources to smaller capital ships and have economy of force. Remember to try and do the unexpected, but at the same time be sure to keep in mind that certain operations are simply more worthwhile than others. In order of importance, here are the primary targets.

Home World
Whenever possible ALWAYS destroy your opponent's HOME WORLD. As well as being his source for building ships, mega-credits, supplies, and colonists a blow here can also knock him out of the game. Psychologically the loss of the Home World can cause a player to give up and stop playing.

Control of the Battlefield
If you can take control of the battlefield, you can call the shots. Bully the enemy if you can. The safety that freedom of movement generates will usually pay for itself.

By capturing enemy planets you deny him observation posts. This can be done by unloading colonists onto the planet for ground war. Watch enemy movements with cloaking ships, as well as from a distance. See if you can find his primary planets. Attack a couple of these over a spread-out area can weaken the enemy greatly. Attacking lesser planets that the enemy is using primarily for the 100 supplies per turn it generates can also force him to either spend a lot of money on a minefield (which you will just sweep), force him to spread out his forces, or force him to lose these planets. If he decides to sacrifice these lesser planets, you can use them as FORWARD SUPPLY BASES.

Destroying enemy freighters denies the enemy the minerals needed at his starbase.

Capital Ships
Destroy enemy capital ships ONLY when your losses are minimal and his losses are maximum or when it gives you a commanding control over the battlefield

Hyper Jumping

There are three shiptypes equipped with a hyperdrive, able to perform hyperjumps through space:

PL21 Probe (built by the Evil Empire )
B200 Class Probe (built by the Cyborg)
Falcon Class Escort (built by the Rebels)

A friendly code of "HYP" will cause a hyperdrive equipped starship to initiate hyper jump if it has a warp setting (1 or higher), a waypoint beyond 20 light years and at least 50 units of fuel. If a ship set to hyperjump does not have enough fuel to perform a hyperjump, it will move normally.

To use the hyperdrive set the ship's waypoint to a point farther than 20 light years and set the friendly code to "HYP". The ship will jump about 350 light years and burn 50 units of fuel. The ship will come out of hyperspace at speed zero and with no waypoint set. Ships in hyperspace avoid all minefields. The hyperdrive can not be used to escape a tow. Hyperjumping can not be combined with the intercept mission. A ship using its hyperdrive can not tow another ship. Upon completing the hyperjump, the ship's warpspeed is set to zero and it's waypoint reset. Hyperjumping ships are only influenced by warpwells if they end up within a box (-2,-2)-(+2,+2) from a planet.

If the player sets a waypoint to any point that is between 340 and 360 lightyears away, instead of jumping about 350 lightyears the ship will jump to this exact point in space. Waypoints shorter than 340 or longer than 360 lightyears will result in a 350 lightyear hyperjump in the direction of the waypoint, using the following formulas:

Xmovement = INT( Xdistance * ( 350 / (SQR (Xdistance^2 + Ydistance^2)) ) + 0.4999999)
Ymovement = INT( Ydistance * ( 350 / (SQR (Xdistance^2 + Ydistance^2) ) ) + 0.4999999)

Ships that have made a hyperjump are only pulled into orbit by the planet's warpwell if they end up within a box (-2,-2)-(+2,+2) from the planet. If a ship lands outside that box but still inside the warpwell, it will not be pulled in since it's warp is reset to 0 right after the hyperjump.


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