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Echo Cluster
The Official VGA Planets Newsletter
Volume 2. / Issue Number 8.
September 2004

Ed Robinson   E-mail me

Tim Wisseman

This Months Featured Site

Star Port - A VGA Planets website

Visit Star Port Today!!

Welcome to the VGA Planets Newsletter! This is the September 2004 issue of The Echo Cluster, a continuing extra of VGA Planets. There is the monthly contribution by Merlyn, along with our featured site for September, Star Port, an all new hosting site for VGA Planets. This month there is an article on details of a new Tournament taking place at Battlestar Command Bridge. 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.

Ed Robinson, Editor

"Thoughts From the Cave"
by Merlyn

Before I start this months article I want welcome aboard a new VGA Planets Host.

Site: Star Port
Location: http://www.star-port.org
Owner: S. J. Murphy (I hope I got that correct)

Pro's: He has been asking many question in Ed's VGA Planets Group and seems very enthusiastic! Pays attention to detail and seems very ambitious about hosting.

Con's: Does not have a link to The Last Domain on his site yet.

Lets all welcome Star Port and sign up to play at his site.

Now, more on my continuing thoughts about the Privateers.

The Privateers and Crystals as Allies.

Erik Westa once wrote:
The Crystals are an often over-looked race, brushed off as weak and not much of a threat. That is, until one either plays them, or one runs into someone who KNOWS how to play them!

I would like to add one more thing to that:
Until they team up with the Privateers!

Basically the Crystals are not a very strong race and neither are the Privateers but a meeting of the two can be a very deadly combination. A Web Minelayer that can cloak and travel with gravitronic accelerators mixed with the robbing power of the Privateers so you can steal ships before they get any damage from the web mines can be devastating.

Together, the two races could strip every other race of any ship they want! Cloaked Privateer ships can tow enemies into web mines for robbing and if there's some fuel left over after being robbed, the web mines may be enough to finish draining the fuel away!

I have been testing this scenario in one of the games I am currently playing and it has proved to be a very deadly combination.

Next Month:
The Privateers and Borg as Allies

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.




(excerpts from the Dreadlord Battle Manual)

Basic Conservative Strategy for the New Player
The following is what can be referred to as standard practice. It is not necessarily recommended; it is just standard, conservative play that you can use as base for more complex, innovative, and effective strategies and tactics. Make sure that you also read the section on Convoy and Battle Groups.

A. On the First Day

1. Race Choice
For the novice player, a cloaking race such as the Lizards or Birdman would be a wise race choice. Cloaking ships have the advantages of usually being low-tech, as well as forcing you to become a better player. Cloakers can also get away with low-tech engines easier than most other ships. The Robots would also be a wise choice, especially in a short game.

2. Home World Development
Bring your defense posts to 21: guaranteed to not be detected by a bioscanner or a sensor sweep.
Bring your factories up to max: supplies can be sold for money and are needed to colonize. Free fighter races also need supplies to build fighters.
Bring your mines up to max: this will let you get a quick start on colonizing as well as in defense/small raids.
Bring your tax rate up to 9%: you can usually increase taxes to the first level of "They are angry at you" without any adverse effects. Money is needed to get a quick start in the game.

3. Home World Defense
Do not bring your starbase defense level to 200 right away. Doing so will waste 1800mc, and 180 Duranium, a precious commodity early in the game. Neither should you bring your starbase fighters to 60. This will waste more money than you can spare this early in the game. If you are a free-fighter race (Robots, Rebels, and Colonies) you should bring your fighters up to 60 with caution, always making sure that you will have enough minerals for the ships you will soon be producing.

Later on, as minerals become more common, colonization less important, and the threat of attack more menacing, you will likely want to raise your Home World defenses as much as you can. However, do not totally neglect defending your HW (Home World).

During the first two weeks, while building ships, increase your planetary defense posts, starbase defense strength, and add fighters. Work toward getting the number of fighters on your starbase to 60 (max) and the planetary defense to max within 20 to 25 turns. This is your last line of defense. Always make sure your defense posts are 100+ so that your planet's industrial activity is guaranteed to be shielded from long range sensor sweeps. Obviously, if your HW is closer to your enemies, defense will be more important sooner. A starbase with 30 fighters, 100 planetary defense posts, and 100 starbase defense strength is equivalent to a carrier with a mass of 300kt, 40 fighters, and 6 phasers (section 2.4 and 4.1 docs).

Small Capital Ships for Defense

One of the other tools for defending your starbases should be several low-cost ships with beam weapons and torpedoes. When a carrier attacks a small ship, the small ship will usually get to fire off two salvoes of beam weapons and two salvoes of torps before it is destroyed. So, if it has 4 beams and 2 torp launchers, it will shoot down 8 fighters and do a little damage to the carrier. Several of these expendable capital ships may weaken the carrier sufficiently that the starbase to survive.
Use tech 1 engines with one kt of fuel on board. Put X-RAY LASERS on board, and use the most explosive torpedo that you can afford but load only 2 or 3 torps per tube.
4. Starbase Tech Levels

Hull - tech 6
I find that this level gives a good complement of ships. The ideal freighter being the Large Deep Space Freighter.
Engines - tech 10
Most fuel efficient on all ships.
Weapons - tech 3
The blaster offers good explosive damage for its cost, use in minerals and cost in tech level.
Torp - tech 5
The Mark 4 in all weight ranges is the best bang for the buck. On ships with only 1 or 2 tubes the Mark 8 or the Mark 7 offsets the disadvantage of few tubes and the 35% chance of a miss.
5. Planning and Calculating Ahead
You can plan for most games to last about 40 to 60 turns. The first major battles will likely occur around turn 20 to 30 with a couple races knocked out. Turns 30 to 50 usually see a few more players knocked out with the game winding down after turn 50. Prepare your strategy. Even before you begin the game, review your race's advantages, and plan a strategy that you will use. Then, be sure to stick to your strategy. You will likely have to wait until you know who your neighbors are before you can get too specific about your strategy. Also, be sure to leave room for change in your strategy. Do not leave it so open-ended that you fight an undisciplined war, but do leave room for change. This is easy to forget as you progress in playing ability.

When following through with your strategy, use aggressive tactics that are specially designed and customized for the task at hand. As an example: if you are planning to distract the enemy and then launch an attack to his side the following tactic could be used to distract the enemy... (example) Object: To put the enemy into a defensive and frame of mind by disrupting freight lanes and through the use of a sudden, large number of attacks (sweeping a minefield can be considered an attack in this case).

Birds as offending race, Robots as the defending race.

5-10 Swift Heart Class Scouts with X-Rays.
4-7 Resolutes with Disruptors (one Resolute sweeps 800 mines per turn), Heavy Disruptors (one Resolute sweeps 1984 mines per turn), or Heavy Phasers (one Resolute sweeps 3200 mines per turn).
Explanation of Requirements:
The Swift Heart Class Scout is a cheap cloaking ship that you can sacrifice for the purpose of taking out a freighter along with you. You may want to use beams with a smaller crew-kill factor. The number of Resolutes needed depends on the beam weapon used. Disrupter, Heavy Disrupter, and Heavy Phaser are the levels to consider upgrading your starbase tech level to for the purpose of minesweeping. Disrupter is the minimum to equip your minesweeping Resolutes with. Remember that if you spend a large amount of money on a tech upgrade to get full use out of it.

Line up all your Resolutes as close to the border of the Robots existing minefield as possible. On one of your Resolutes, have enough torpedoes so that you can drop a minefield of your own as a quick way to remove the Robot's minefield. It is possible that you can achieve the same quick-removal effect through regular sweeping, but that method is limited in the area that can be cleared of enemy mine.

When all the Swift Hearts and Resolutes are as near to the minefield as they can safely get (they're all cloaked, of course!) you will drop a minefield from your Resolute prepared for that purpose. This same turn that you dropped your own minefield move your Swift Hearts (cloaked) to, or as near to a planet as they can get. You will also begin the following with your Resolutes. The Resolutes are used to mine-sweep when Robots drops mines. The main purpose is to put the Robots into a defensive frame of mind. The Resolutes must cloak and move a few light-years, and then uncloak in order to mine-sweep. They then cloak and repeat. Be sure within reach of the Robot's mines, and to always have at least two Resolutes uncloaked and sweeping mines so that the enemy knows he is wasting his resources laying mines, and also so that he knows that if he stops laying mines, the Resolutes will sneak in and attack (they would attack using a tactic similar to the one the Swift Hearts are currently using).

The Swift Hearts will attack anything they can damage, destroy, or steal every turn until they are gone. The Resolutes can continue sweeping mines ad infinitum, or at least until they run out of fuel. When you feel that you have the enemy playing the most defensively, you will launch your attack with properly designed attacking ships. (end of example) Try to always have a 7 day plan. Be aware of the cost in mega-credits and minerals for the fleet you are building so that you will not be caught short. See the section `Documents and Utilities' `BUILD1_1' for more information on fleet planning and design.

Once you own more planets, take a look at the mining surveys and calculate the number on minerals you will have in 7 days, 14 days and 21 days. By looking ahead you can see where your weakness in minerals is, and when you might run out. You will also see which ships you will and will not be able to build. First determine what you would like and how much it will cost.

For example, to build 10 WHITE Falcon Class Cruisers consider:
Cost of raising the hull tech level to a minimum tech 3.
Cost of raising the beam tech level to a level desired.
Cost of raising the TORP tech level to a level desired.
Cost of raising the ENGINE tech level to maximum.

Cost in mega credits and minerals for 40 beam weapons.
Cost in mega credits and minerals for 10 torpedo launchers
Cost in mega credits and minerals for 20 engines
Cost in mega credits and minerals for 10 hulls
Cost in mega credits and minerals for 100 torpedoes (10 per ship)

Amount of fuel required for 10 full tanks: 4300 neutronium.

Now, from the mining surveys you can determine if some of the minerals you are short of can be transported from other planets. Or maybe your ships can be just as effective with tech 1 beam weapons which are cheaper and use less minerals than higher tech beam weapons. Maybe tech 2 torpedoes could still perform in the role required, but are cheaper than higher tech torpedoes. Maybe have only 3 beam weapons instead of four, or no torpedo launchers instead of 1 on board. As your resources improve you could plan a fleet replacement and purchase the ships you truly desire.

Whatever your strategy is, plan for 7, 14 and 21 days ahead and ensure you have the resources in supplies, factories, minerals and mega credits to fulfil it. Whatever you plan, be innovative, cunning, and read up on tactical warfare. Strategy by B.H. Liddel Hart and How Great Generals Win by Bevin Alexander are but two of the many excellent books available at your local library. Field Marshal Rommel's tactics with the Afrika Corps in North Africa can be used here with astounding results.

6. Ships

a. First Ships
Unless Home Worlds are close together, you should first build an LDSF (Large Deep Space Freighter) for colonizing. After building this, you may have to rest a few turns to let your Duranium stores build up again. In the case that Home Worlds are close together, you may want to build a suitable capital ship or two first. If possible, build one with a large cargo capacity (350 or more) so that it can act as a freighter.

When Home Worlds are close together, you do not want to risk losing a valuable freighter to a scout with only 2 X-Rays. If you cannot build a capital ship that can act as a freighter, always be sure to escort your ships. If you are playing in a game where many of the planets you find will not be worthwhile, you may want to build an MDSF (Medium Deep Space Freighter) so that you can scout out the good planets. Once the MDSF's job of scouting has been finished, it can be colonized or put to use in small cargo transport.

If you plan to colonize it you may choose to build a Smallie (Small Deep Space Freighter) instead. For the first seven days you should likely build the cheapest craft with the highest number of cargo holds. This is usually the Large Deep Space Freighter. Consider using the Large Deep Space Freighter for colonization, and the Medium Deep Space Freighter for mineral movement at this early stage in the game. Do not forget that you may have a capital ship that will function in the role of colonization or mineral movement more effectively than these two freighters.

Be sure to equip your first ships with tech 10 engines so that they can remain out of sight of the races that have hyperdrive ships (Cyborg, Empire, Rebels). These ships can be aimed at your planets (see section on the Hyperdrive) to capture undefended freighters from you in less time than it takes to send a capital ship to save your freighter. You will also have to make sure that you produce enough capital ships to defend a minor exploratory attack on your growing empire. Unless you're planning a sudden surprise attack, stay away from large expensive ships that will hinder your colonization. Large expensive ships also have the disadvantage that they can only be in one place at a time. An attack may strike just far enough away from your large expensive ship that you could be wiped out, even if you currently own the most powerful ship in the game. Take note, Cyborg.

b. More Ships

i. Criteria
Whatever ship you select, KNOW what role you will use it for and build it with the weapons that will be most effective in that role (taking into account your resources, too, of course). Having 7 similar ships is easier to plan with than having 7 non-standard designs of the same ship. When you start building battle groups keep them standard as well. A battle group is a collection of ships that complement each other in fulfilling a single role. ALL ships are designed for a specific purpose, and when used for that purpose are very effective. Do not ignore any particular ship because it is traditionally not used, or seems to be too wimpy. Even the most useless seeming ships can sometimes have valuable purposes in your empire. Also, see the section on battle or convoy groups for a list of important criteria for general-use ships. Also, see the section on Battle and Convoy Groups, which contains useful criteria for selecting ships. From turns 7 to 14 you should start building your main capital ships. If you empire is running smoothly, you should be able to produce almost one every turn, so that by turn 14 you have a fleet of at least 7 capital ships. Between turns 21 and 28 you should have developed an effective fleet.

ii. Outfitting

x. Engines
It is important to remember that this is just basic strategy. If you are daring and plan to win, you will have to be more innovative than this, have enemies that play poorly, or just be very lucky. If you are registered, put tech 10 engines (the Transwarp) on all of your ships. This is the most fuel efficient, will allow you to easily chase down enemies, and let you spend less time in space while en-route to your destination.

xx. Weapons
There are two primary theories to weapons. One is to use the most powerful weapon you can (ex. Mark 8), and the other is to use the most efficient weapon (ex. Mark 4). The best solution is a combination of both. The reasoning behind the biggest BANG theory is that if your ship survives because you spent more on weapons, then the extra money was worth it. The reasoning behind the most efficient weapon theory is that by using cheaper weapons, you can produce so many more ships that it's worth losing a few more battles. The best solution has to be tailored to your particular circumstances (enemy, abundance of minerals, abundance of mega-credits, race) as well as to your playing style. For a more detailed discussion on weapons see the appropriate sections.

(next month will continue with strategy on beginning your empire)

Monthly Help
brought to you by Donovan!


Ships which have a cloaking device built into their space frame can cloak by setting their mission to "cloak". Cloaked ships do not show up on enemy scanners and are protected from enemy attack. The host person can implement a chance of failure for cloaking devices, the default failure rate is 0%.

Most ships burn fuel to cloak or stay cloaked, this is host-configurable. The amount of fuel that a ship must burn is based on the hull mass of the ship and the cost of cloaking as set in the Hconfig. The amount set in the Hconfig also serves as the minimum cost of cloaking: ships with a hullmass below 100 kilotons burn this amount of fuel. Heavier ships burn an amount of fuel that is equivalent to their weight.

The formula used to calculate the amount of fuel burned:
FuelUsed = MAX[CloakCost, (TRUNC( (Hullmass/100)*CloakCost) )]

The fuel is actually burned in the phase where the Host program checks for cloak-failure. If a ship is decloaked by a Loki before that check or when the cloak fails, no fuel is burned. When a cloaked ship is burning fuel to stay cloaked and it does not have enough fuel to remain cloaked, the ship will decloak and not burn the fuel.

The Resolute and the Darkwing have advanced cloaking devices .They do not burn any fuel to stay cloaked, although they do need as least one kiloton of fuel onboard to activate their cloaking device and to keep it activated. They can cloak in an Ion storm; they are the only ships that can cloak inside an ion storm.

Birdmen ships with a cloaking device that have their mission set to "Super Spy" will automatically cloak, the same rules as above apply. The Loki Class Destroyer when it has fuel on board automatically emits a Tachyon field that disrupts the cloaking devices for all races but the Federation, Lizards and Birdmen.

Cloaking does not work in the following circumstances:

Presence of a Loki within 10 lightyears before or after movement (does not apply to Fed, Lizard and Birdmen cloakers). Before movement, the Loki actually decloaks ships before the cloakfail check. If a ship is decloaked by a Loki before movement it will not burn any fuel.

Damage is greater than 'cloak prevent damage': by default, ships with 1% damage or worse can not cloak and cloaked ships suffering damage beyond this point will immediately decloak. Ships can be damaged through battle, Ion storms, hitting a (web) mine or getting hit by an exploding glory device.

Ion storms: apart from the Darkwing and the Resolute, ships can not cloak inside an ion storm.

Cloak failure
Sometimes, regardless of circumstances, the cloaking device of a ship simply malfunctions. How often this occurs is configurable by the host person. By default this is 0% in which case cloaking devices will never "fail".

It is at this point in the Host order of actions where the fuel used to cloak is actually burned, if the cloak does not fail. If the cloak fails, no fuel is burned. The owner of the ship attempting to cloak does not receive a message if the cloak fails because of fuel-shortage. If the cloak has already been disrupted by a Loki, no fuel is burned either. In that case the owner of the cloaker receives a message about being decloaked by a Loki.

There are some other reasons why ships attempting to cloak might not actually cloak. Note that those reasons all disturb the cloaking device on a moment other than the "check cloak failure" phase.


The Delphi Tournament is a series of games played on Battlestar Command Bridge by players who want to play in games, and advance from phase to phase to find out who the best players are. There have been some special ribbons made up for the winners of each round of these phases, and a ribbon for the top players in the final game. This tournament has no special rules except:

1. No Allies Allowed *There are some limitations to this

2. No player is allowed to play in more than 1 Alpha Level Game.

3. The only universal addon used is Sphere(wrap around map). As each level progresses, other harder addons may be included.

4. Itascore will be used for scoring in all games.

5. Each game will use a custom starmap. Each Alpha level game will be setup with the same set of universe settings. As players progress to each level, the settings will be more complex and difficult.

6. There will be NO delays or rehosting of any games, unless it is due to host problems. There will be no delays for Holidays, Vacations, sicknesses etc. (except those of the host). Do not ask for pauses or delays, they will not be granted except under EXTREME circumstances. If you miss a turn, you miss a turn. The usual restriction for missing turns is in effect, so any player missing more than 5 consectutive turns will be dropped, and KILLRACE done IMMEDIATELY. Substitute players are permitted for SHORT periods of time, at the discretion of the host.

7. Each game, on every level will be set to run when all turns are submitted for the duration of the game, allowing for faster play if desired.

8. All other site rules remain in effect also.

There are 5 Levels of Play... as described below. (from top to bottom)

Epsilon Level (1 Game)
5 Drop
Top 6 players stay to fight next set of winners in Delta Level

Delta Level (3 Games)

1st Place Climbs
1st Place Climbs
1st Place Climbs

+ 2 Best Players Climb
9 players drop to Gamma Level (bottom 3 in each game)
All others remain at this level to play again.

Gamma Level (4 Games)

1st & 2nd Place Climb
1st & 2nd Place Climb
1st & 2nd Place Climb
1st & 2nd Place Climb

+ Next Best Player Climbs
16 players drop to Beta Level (bottom 4 in each game)
All others remain at this level to play again.

Beta Level (5 Games)

1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb

+ Next Best Player Climbs

30 players drop to Alpha Level (bottom 6 in each game)
All others remain at this level to play again.

Alpha Level (8 Games)

1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb
1st, 2nd, & 3rd Place Climb

+ 6 Next Best Players Climb

All others remain at this level to play again.
Or can chose to drop

Games Description:

Alpha Level -
Beginning Level games. 8 games of 11 players. 60 Turns, hosted 3 X per week.

Beta Level -
5 Games of 11 players. 70 Turns, hosted 2 X per week.

Gamma Level-
4 Games of 11 players. 70 turns, hosted 2 X per week.

Delta Level-
3 Games of 11 players. 80 Turns, hosted 2 X per week.

Epsilon Level-
Top level of game play. Top 6 players always here. Challenged by players from Delta Level. 90 turns, hosted 2 X per week.

For further details on this tournament, visit the Tournament website and subsequent page at Battlestar Command Bridge:



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