By Curieus, Leftie & Tweetybird
Experienced players are probably more interested in the Strategy and Tactics section. First time Crystal players or Newbies are advised to read also the first chapters. Advise to ALL players: When in doubt set up a game and test (more experienced players should already know this :-) )
I would like to thank the people that have contributed in creating this guide, even if more often than not unbeknownst to themselves :-). Their contributions to discussions in the newsgroups, to discussions on IRC (#vgaplanets) and last but not least the few crystal guides, enabled me to improve my strategy and tactics when playing the crystal people. The following list is not comprehensive and if I have forgotten to mention someone who clearly sees his ideas in this text, I apologize, and in a possible upgrade of this guide I will (try to remember :-) ) to add his name to the credit list.
Mark Wilmot for sending me his collection of articles and guides
Mike L. Maurer, Glittering Webs: A guide for playing the Crystals in VGA planets, V1.0
Bondservant, Crystals 101
R. van Rees and W.E. Kooiman for beta-reading and some constructive criticisms.
Special thanks to Tim Wisseman for creating this game
The Crystal People
1. Playing Style
Go around in a "if I see it I kill it" manner and you will lose greatly. Fleet composition, web mine management and economical development must be judiciously considered. If you dont want to do that and still want (must) play the Crystal people then do so, but expect to be massacred by any opponent worth his salt. If you just want brute force go look somewhere else.
2. Race Characteristics
Grow best on hot planets (host option default, may be switched off!)
More planets are inhabitable for the crystalline then for any other race, depending on the host version and host settings one of the following situations is valid (Crystal Desert Advantage is assumed in both cases)
Linear temperature dependency
Max population = T/100 * 100.000 clans
Max growth = T/100 * 5 %
Only planets with a temperature of 0 degrees are uninhabitable for you. On all planets (even arctic ones) you get some growth, provided that it is 1 clan or more.
Sinusoidal temperature dependency
Max population = 100.000 * sin (T/400 * pi)
Max growth = 5 % sin (T/400 * pi)
Planets with a temperature of 15 or higher can sustain a population according to the formula above. On colder ones (the arctic planets) you can only sustain just as many colonists as most other races can.
Can lay Web mines (next to normal space mines)
Web mines do less damage than normal mines (default 10%), but have a higher hit chance (default 5% per LY). The hit chance is the same for cloakers and non-cloakers. Webmines have the ability of draining fuel from ships. When a ship hits a mine it is stopped at the location where it hit the mine and it loses 1/6th or 50 kt of its fuel (whichever is the most). If a ship is in one or more web-minefield, it loses 25 kt of fuel per webminefield it is in.
Can Tow Capture fuelless ships
Whereas the other races must tow a fuelless ship to a starbase to have it surrender, you (AND the privateers) can lock a tow on fuelless enemy ship, and the next turn the ship will be yours.
It is important to keep in mind that if you tow capture a ship the crew on the tow capturing ship is halved (at most). Ships that are low on crew are easily captured in combat, therefore restock the crew on both your tow capturing and tow captured ships (Use the "Fix ship" mission of a starbase).
Important aspects of a ship will be mentioned. But a precise ship list will not be given. That can be found in [The Firm, E. ten Brink, <email@example.com>].
Tech Level 1
Small Deep Space Freighter
Dont use this freighter, it is too small to be useful transporting cargo, it is too heavy to use as a money transport. As an early game scout it is too expensive because often it will be captured and used by the enemy. As a slot filler it has too little uses, and you have a better one in the Opal Class Torpedo Boat
Tech Level 2
Opal Class Torpedo Boat
1 torpedo tube
This is the ship of choice for an early game scout, cheap, expendable, stronger than some other races scouts, and able to get away when warned (lay a small web). In this role at least fit it with mk4 torpedoes. This ship is also very important in its function of webtender, with a high tech launcher (mk7 or mk8) it is a highly efficient ship to lay and maintain small web field. An added bonus is that it is a good guard ship against rebel or fascist hyperdrive raiders (provided the fascist can obtain a HYP ship). If you need a slot filler, this is the ship of your choice, you can always use one more.
Tech Level 3
Medium Deep Space Freighter
This ship has its uses, usually though the build turn can be used better. With its cargo hold too small for colonization purposes, its main purpose is in system mineral transport, from poor planets to a nearby starbase. This ship can be used to increase the efficiency of your cargo transport by using it at the fringes of your trade lanes. But remember, at cargo loads over 400 the Large Deep Space Freighter (Ldeep) is more efficient
Rationale: for 200 - 400 kt you need to fly twice, thereby transporting 120 kt of hull mass, if time is not of essence, this is cheaper than using an Ldeep. For 400-600kt you need to fly thrice, thereby transporting 180 kT of hull mass. Note however that this makes the Ruby and the Emerald on full load almost as effective as freighters as the Medium Deep Space Freighter (figure this out yourself).
Neutronic Fuel Carrier
Fuel Carrier, Money transport, Tow (capture) ship
When you need to transport fuel, over long distances, no ship does it cheaper than this one. This ship is essential to keep your attacking fleets stocked up on fuel. Use this ship also to store the excess fuel of attacking ships that run a great risk to be destroyed. Because of its low weight it can travel 81 LY without burning fuel (1 kt fuel required in the tanks), this makes it possible to transport money without cost. This last fact is only a bonus but hardly ever a reason to build this ship.
Because of its two engines it can be used to tow capture enemy fuelless ships (I wouldnt know what would happen at your second tow capture though)
Ruby Class Light Cruiser
Armored freighter, Low cost flagship for web operations, Tow (capture) ship
2 torpedo tubes
This ship is number two on your road to the Echo Wide Web. This ship is capable to lay large webs. Its large cargo and fuel capacity enable it to operate several Opals for web actions away from planets. Dont use the ship for combat operations, too light and too lightly armed, it is easily outgunned. Keep it out of reach of the enemy and it will do great. Because of its two engines it can be used to tow capture fuelless enemy ships. When using the addon Fhost this ship can produce fuel when in orbit over a planet.
Topez Class Gunboat
Waste of resources
This ship serves only one purpose: to use your resources where you dont need them. In a battle it will be captured. As a slotfiller you are better served by the Opal. DONT build it unless the addon Aliens is used, then this ship can sterilize world from aliens
Tech Level 4
Armored freighter, scout
Dont build this ship, the Opal is a better scout, the Small Deep Space Freighter is a better freighter which you shouldnt build either.
Tech Level 5
Sky Garnet Class Destroyer
Web tender, Tow (capture) ship, Fighter killer, Slot filler
1 torpedo tube
Although this ship isnt as useless as some people claim, its uses indeed are limited. It can be used as a guard ship against fascist and rebel hyperdrive raiders, every turn over a planet it can lay and build 7 torpedoes. Those are only gradual differences with the Opal. The main advantage of the Sky Garnet is that it has two engines, i.e. it can tow. This makes the ship suitable to tow capture enemy fuelless ships. It is questionable whether this function is reason enough to build it. Another reason to build it is to use it as a sacrificial ship in a starbase assault. This ship should destroy between 14 and 21 fighters, by first using two of these to strip a starbase of its fighters you make the base soft enough to kill it with a Diamond Flame. If you have the resources to spare and need a slotfiller, this ship would be a great replacement for the Opal.
Tech Level 6
Large Deep Space Freighter
Unarmed Freighter, Tow (capture) ship
This freighter is the mainstay of you transport fleet. It will always be available, even in times where your Emeralds and rubies are not (because of war). It can quickly transport great amounts of colonists and minerals. (Almost always) Whenever you need a freighter this will be the freighter of choice. Build lots of them. Because of its two engines it can be used for tow capturing fuelless enemy ships
Emerald Class Battlecruiser
Armored Transport, High end flagship for web operations, Torpedo resupply transport for rubies involved in web operations, Planet killer
3 torpedo tubes
This is the ship of choice when you need to transport goods through a contested area. Most cloakers will refrain from attacking this ship: although they will damage or kill it, chances are that they themselves will be killed or damaged. This ship is your heavy hauler on the way to the Echo Wide Web. Like the Ruby it can perform sustained web operations in conjunction with Opals and even for longer periods, or with more Opals.
This ship can resupply two Ruby web operation groups in one run. 265 torpedoes per Ruby will allow those groups several turns of extensive operations. This ship is perfect to restock the supply of your low cargo battleships (Diamond Flame). Any planet without a starbase (possible exception some Borg worlds) is easy meat for this ship. Its 8 beams can easily destroy 16 fighters (256 Defense Posts) and its three tubes and high mass make it practically invulnerable for the planetary defenses. When in doubt, just put some 50 kT of supplies on board, instant 10% repair. This ship is the mainstay of your men-o-war. When the addon Nemesis is used these ships can convert minerals to other minerals or money
Tech Level 8
Onyx Class Frigate
Terraformer, Web Tender, Tow (capture) ship
1 torpedo tube
The main purpose of this ship is to heat up planets. Build them in pairs, one with cheap low tech engines, the other with high tech engines (opinions differ from warp 7 to 9). When heating a planet it can build and lay 2 torps every turn, this is a reason to put mk7 launcher on this ship. The high tech engine ones can be used to tow capture fuelless enemy ships (the low tech ones too ofcourse, but first see that you get them on location :-) ) When using the Addon Nemesis this ship can heat a planet by 50 degrees in one turn by burning 1 full tank of fuel.
Tech Level 9
Diamond Flame Class Battleship
Heavy Hitter, Tow (capture ship)
6 torpedo tubes
This is the first of your heavy hitters, and (probably) the most common one. Whenever you need to take out a heavy target (ship, base) use this ship first, sometime followed by a Crystal Thunder. This ship can be used to tow capture fuelless enemy ships, beware though, because your crew levels will fall and when in battle with diminished crew it will often be captured.
Neutronic Refinery Ship
This ship is essential to keep you economy on line. It can produce the fuel necessary to move your minerals and naval vessels. If you dont build them you need to be very lucky with very much fuel on your planets, or you are dead. Dont build them too early though, for they are a drain on your minerals. The only alternatives for this ship are in colonial hands (the Cobol Class Research Cruiser (ramscoop) and the Aries Class Transport (advanced refinery). Dont skimp on the beams for it is a good guard against light cloakers, or any hyperdrive vessel when equipped with proper beams. Dont put transwarps in it, but lower tech, again opinions differ, some say warp 1 to some, warp 6.
Tech Level 10
Super Transport Freighter
Unarmed freighter, tow capture ship
This freighter has the best cargo capacity/mass ratio, nonetheless you will not need many, usually one is enough, often enough you dont need them at all. But with four engines on this ship, the Ldeep often is a good and more versatile alternative. Only build them when you have a specific task for them, for instance: quick colonization of two good native worlds. It can tow capture.
Crystal Thunder Class Carrier
Medium Carrier, mop up ship
8 fighter bays
The second of your heavy hitters. Since you have to buy fighters at a normal price (100 MC), outfitting this ship is expensive. Not using this ship is more expensive, for when fighting against a heavy carrier, a Diamond Flame/Crystal Thunder (in that order) combo will almost always kill the carrier. If you do not use the Crystal Thunder up to three (four if unlucky) Diamond Flames may succumb to the carrier.
Merlin Class Alchemy Ship
This ship is a must in low mineral games, and even in high mineral games they can come in handy. It can produce each mineral you want from supplies. Dont build it too early for it is expensive mineralwise. However given enough supplies present it will pay itself back in one or two turns. When you discover a good Bovinoid planet in a mineral poor or normal game, consider building a Merlin as soon as possible, to get that second base in the air. Later on in the game you usually have one Merlin per Bovinoid, unless the bovinoids are close to each other, then less Merlins are sufficient. Like the Neutronic Refinery Ship, dont skimp on the beams, and decide which engines you want.
4. Torpedoes and Minefields
Torpedoes are your main weaponry, you use them both for battle and for minelaying. Therefore choose your launcher carefully. A short lay down will be given of the three launchers most suited to your needs, their pros and cons will be explained and their comparative cost of usage will be shown by computing the cost of laying a 1000 unit minefield (normalized, e.g. if I must lay 13,23 torpedoes for 1000 units, I will lay 13,23 torpedoes).
Mk4 - This is the most cheap torpedo moneywise 13 a piece and tech level 5, this torpedo should be minimum equipment on all your torpedo ships. When money is low and minerals are high this is the torpedo of choice for minelaying. In battle often better torpedoes are required.
Mk7 - This will be the torpedo you use most. It is the most efficient torpedo for minelaying. Sometimes in battle more power is required, but mostly this torpedo will do the job, or the ship is dead anyway. As compared to the mk4 a substantial increase in starbase techlevels is needed to produce mk7 launchers (tech level 8)
Mk8 - This torpedo is both the most expensive for minelaying and most expensive per torpedo. It is a tech level 10 torpedo and therefore requires even 1700 MC more investment in your starbases than the mk7. However it gives the most explosive power per salvo and with a minelaying ability that is 23% higher than that of the mk7 it offers the most concentrated power.
Torpedo usage costs per 1000 mine units
Please note that the number of mine units a torpedo produces isnt the square of the tech level but the square of the slot number (just count where it stands in your starbase build list)
Torpedo type Money investment Total minerals used Total equivalent supply cost
Mk4 361 83,3 (3 * 27,8) 611
Mk7 444 37,05 (3 * 12,35) 555
Mk8 540 30 (3 * 10) 630
Usually your mk 7 will be the torpedo of choice. The mk 8 only gives minimal extra strength in battles. And it will be great enough a task to top of all your Rubies and Emeralds using mk7 torps.
The size of a minefield is dependent upon the number of torpedoes you convert (How is that for stating the obvious :-) ) The radius of a minefield (web or normal) is the square root of the number of units that it contains. Our 1000 unit example minefield would be 32 LY radius. Any minefield you lay, be it web mines or normal mines will decay by a host determined percentage. The percentage usually are the same for web or normal minefield but can differ.
A separate sweeprate and range is given for both web minefields and normal minefields (default normal:4, webs: 3). The number of units a beam destroys is the square of the beam slot number times the sweeprate. Of course the sweeping beams (usually a on ship) must be in range of minefields (default: normal mines within 25 LY, webs within 0 LY i.e. inside the field)
It is important to know that mine decay happens before sweeping and sweeping happens before web drain. So if you want a ship drained you should take care that you lay enough mines to keep the ship inside the field. If you cannot manage that, then dont lay those mines.
Allies are a must in order to be able to win a game against competent players. It is not necessary that the same people are your ally throughout the game, however do not backstab too often for you will get a bad reputation, which will lower your chances of ever winning again......(Oh HE is my neighbour....) [Sounds of torture instruments being sharpened.........]
The descriptions below are indicative of the worth of an alliance with such a race, all things being equal. However usually you dont have as much choice as youd like and have to take on what comes along. Also a good working alliance with a less favorite race is MUCH better than a difficult one with a favorite. At least get a border agreement and a non-aggression pact. It will allow you to develop economically.
The federation is not the best possible ally but not bad anyway. Each of you can help the other but you do not complement each other enough to make it a stable alliance on race properties alone. Both of you have mainly torpedo ships. The ships you are interested in are the Diplomacy and perhaps the Missouri (cheap replacement of your Diamond Flame) or the Nova. He will be interested in your Crystal Thunder and perhaps your Emerald.
He can clone for you (and keep a copy of it) any ship you capture, he has money to provide both with an abundant supply of torpedoes, he can super refit any old designs of yours, be it captured or own build. You can only provide webs. In this way it is a skewed alliance, nice for you if it works out, but dubious whether the feds will want to stay allied. The alliance becomes a lot more stable if the feds are neighbored by a strong lizard (or bird with bird Loki immunity). Now you can offer him safety from cloaked intrusions. If you both have invasion plans the alliance also becomes less skewed, because you can offer his fleets passage, safe from intercepts of nasty cloakers or heavy carriers, allowing you (two) to dictate the location of the battlefield.
However allying with him has also the advantage that he will not offer beam upgrades to your enemies (see also the "enemies" section). When close to the ship limit an alliance with the feds allows you to build empty hulls for refitting at a later time. This can increase your ship output greatly in those turns.
The Feds and the Lizards have the Loki Class Destroyer. This ship can decloak cloaked vessels that ore neither of Federation, Lizard or (host version dependent) Bird origin. This can come in handy when attacking. Let a Loki accompany your fleet and make sure that when you attack a planet (most of) the present cloakers are decloaked and killed. For defense against cloakers your webs should be enough.
An alliance with the lizards offers some nice advantages. The lizard can provide you both with money and minerals for torpedoes, he can hiss your planets, and you can safeguard his area from cloaked intrusions. But most importantly the lizards can provide you with a *cloaking* minelayer (The number one item on your Sinterklaas wish list), while they are interested in your Crystal Thunder. They also can clone captured ships for you (and keep a copy).
The Lizards and the Feds have the Loki Class Destroyer. This ship can decloak cloaked vessels that ore neither of Federation, Lizard or (host version dependent) Bird origin. This can come in handy when attacking. Let a Loki accompany your fleet and make sure that when you attack a planet (most of) the present cloakers are declared and killed. For defense against cloakers your webs should be enough.
The birdmen are nice allies, next to the privateers probably the best, they are vulnerable to webmines, and vulnerable to lizard of fascist groundattacks against which they do almost nothing. You can offer him protection from those ground attacks, and yet at the same time be reasonably safe from the effects of a cancelled alliance (backstabbing, when done properly is a different story of course). Both of you will need to work hard on your economy so no advantages there. If he has a good tax planet he most certainly will be interested in the Crystal Thunder, you of course are interested in a resolute or fearless wing, something that *cloaks* (again the top number on you Christmas list), has a big cargo hold, and good legs. He can safely assault inside your webs. He can provide you with cloaked heavies. The birds also can clone ship designs you captured (and keep a copy).
The fascists are no great allies, their cloakers have to little cargo room and they have no other ships you really want. Still, they do have cloakers, they can clone captured ship designs, and do need protection from (especially bird) cloakers. They too could use your Crystal Thunder, and you could use their glory ships to soften up bases you are going to attack.
The privateers are actually very good allies (perhaps even the best), between the two of you, you have a monopoly on fuel drain and tow capture, furthermore he has cloaking minelayers, with not to great a cargo capacity but very fast (MBR), you have the heavy ships he needs to protect himself in case of attack. And attacking a privateer through webs is something no-one should think lightly of. Sadly enough neither of you can clone. And do insist on a reasonable share of any robbing spoils :-)
The Cyborg can be a great ally when co-operating closely, nay when intermingling your economies, when even sharing Fireclouds (IMPORTANT: you get your own FCCs!) If he is willing to work that close he is a great ally, no problems with colonist transport, any natives worse than tribal (and not Bovinoid) become Cyborgs, all other natives exploited by you (he organizes the colonists), business is booming! Your webs protect him from the privateer (at all times his worst enemy) you can provide him with heavy ships early on, he can provide you with Biocides. If he (or you) doesnt want to co-operate that closely he isnt such a great ally. You can trade with him, clans for some webs, but there is not much more in it for you. He can clone your captured ships for you (and keep a copy)
A Carrier race that sorely lacks in the torpedo department. You can perfectly fill in that gap. You can protect him from cloakers (esp. privateer) and he can give information on where your enemies starbases are. He can provide you with a HYP ship for fast money transport, a SSD for imperial assault and a Gorbie to please your fleet admiral, or perhaps even with fighters. He can clone your captured ships for you (and keep a copy)
The robots make for a great ally, they can provide you with fighters, with heavy carriers, and can cheaply lay mines (in his ID though) as an added danger to your webs. You can provide him with some torp ships he lacks (Emerald, and Diamond Flame) and with webs early for cloaker protection. If the host options Mines destroy webmines is ON, first shoot the host :-) , then suck up to the robots (even if it is doubtful whether he will need you then). He can clone your captured ships for you (and keep a copy)
Like the robots the rebels are good allies, because they too can provide fighters, they have a HYP ship that is good, and have the heavy carrier necessary to kill what you only could kill with heavy losses. You can provide him with anti cloaker protection and some medium weight ships. He can clone your captured ships for you (and keep a copy)
The colonies too are good allies, again because of cheap fighter provision. Like the rebels they need a medium level torpedo ship, Unlike the rebels they may see a use for your Crystal Thunder (if you manage to sell it right). It is a somewhat downsized (less beams, less cargo, less mass) but much cheaper Virgo. You are interested in their Cobol Class Research Cruiser (preferred) or else their Aries Class Transport. They need your webs for anti cloaker protection (who doesnt, it is getting boring :-) ). He can clone your captured ships (and keep a copy for himself).
Since he can sweep with his fighters, his (and your) fleet cannot be stopped by normal mines. You keep his home area safe against surprise attacks, allowing him to field more ships for the attack. His fleets traveling in webmines can only be stopped by brute force (or perhaps a smart and lucky privateer). If fighters destroy webs, be sure to punish the host and to stay on their good side, or have them killed (I know difficult).
Enemies are a nuisance that one cannot prevent. Yet in way they are your stepping stone to supremacy. If everybody would be your friend you could not wage war and stay honorable. Enemies provide you with a way to do both :-)
A dangerous opponent, his ships are better than your counterparts (Kittyhawk/Crystal Thunder excepted). He has money enough to lay huge minefield in order to hinder you in your web laying. This will force you either to put high tech beams on your ships (expensive) or to blow those mines away with mines of our own (also expensive). He can super refit all his ships with high tech beams, thereby making him more dangerous with time. Perhaps even more dangerous, he can also upgrade the beam tech of your other enemies ships.
Whereas the lizard have (perhaps) an even greater advantage in the money department, their ships are smaller and less dangerous. With the exception of the T-rex you can kill every thing he throws at you with ease. Because of his 150% damage ability killing a T-Rex is expensive, this ship will often first destroy your Diamond Flame before succumbing to his 100%+ of damage (host dependent, some hosts allow 100%+ lizard ships to survive after battle). And his T-Rex is much cheaper than your Diamond Flame. Fighting the lizards also has a possible rich reward, chances are you will capture a few Lizard Class Cruisers or other torpedo carrying cloakers.
You are one of the birds worst enemies, he relies on cloaking to infiltrate undetected and on Intercept Attack to pick enemy battlegroups apart. Your webs deny him both. He must uncloak to sweep them, and an intercept attack through webmines is nothing if not presenting a brand new ship for your fleet. Fighting the birds makes it really probable that your will "appropriate" a cloaking minelayer. Still a well played bird will be a formidable opponent, his Darkwings are dangerous opponents in combat. If your webs fail, dont count on winning a head to head battle. His Resolutes have large fuel tanks and many beams. This makes them excellent sweepers.
The strength of their ships does not make them your most feared opponent. For most of their ships, you have better. The use of his main weapon of softening up targets, using glory ships as guided mines, is denied to him thanks to your web mines. Although not the best of cloakers, he has them and may be persuaded to "relinquish" them to you. However do not make a mistake of underestimating him, as his ships have a high beam number count, he can very efficiently sweep your webs. If he starts doing this, kill his sweepers with your heavies, dont try to capture them.
You ARE the privateers NIGHTMARE. In a battle against an early privateer (one that hasnt appropriated heavy ships and sweepers from other races) you control the battlefield. Sure his ships are faster, but you deny him movement, sure he can rob, but he needs fuel for that, and he has no sweepers of any name. Put a 100 LY web around his homeworld and the death bell starts tolling for the privateers. MBRs with W7 engines or better are a good addition to your fleet, with or without tubes. One point of attention though, dont limit your web laying to the privateer border, also web your heart land, those ships of his ARE fast, they may appear at the other end of your empire by flying around, skirting the borders.
While any ship he has, but a Cube, is no match for yours; while your Emerald is the planet killer of choice for those high population Borg planets, still he is very dangerous to you. This is because of his ability to resupply his ships even in the middle of your webs (Fireclouds). You need remove any Fireclouds from all webbed fleets, a difficult task, especially against a seasoned player. His ships (but the Cubes) suck, but his cubes have both large fuel tanks and many beams.
Like the Cyborg Cubes, the Imperial Gorbie is a high beam ship with a large tank, making it a great sweep ship. The Super Star Cruiser is also a good sweeper, but the Super Star Destroyer has to small a fuel tank to be used in this role. If the Imperial player uses his SSDs in a sweep role, be sure to web them quickly and heavily, then tow capture them <EVIL GRIN>. The Imperial player hardly has any torpedo ships to hamper your web campaigns, and no ability to resupply in your webs (unlike the Cyborg), this makes him a lot less dangerous. He has the advantage though that he will know where to strike.
A war against an equally well developed Robot is likely to become the space war equivalent of trench warfare. He has better combat ships but no good sweepers. He has his minelaying advantage, but you have good sweepers. His minelaying will seriously hamper your web operations. Therefore, despite their relative harmless appearance, hunt and destroy any Cats Paw Class Destroyer you see. If you manage to keep his Cats Paws away from the battlefields (difficult) you stand a good chance of winning, otherwise it is a matter of the longest breath, and the robots have a slight but not decisive advantage in that department.
The Rebels have a good sweeper in the Iron Lady Class Frigate. At the same time that is their weak point. The Iron Lady is unable to operate alone, it must be defended by better ships, for in combat it usually will be captured. The Rebels rely heavily on battlegroups for offensive and defensive power. Those groups must remain stacked, and a web mine hit stops the ship that gets hit, thereby splitting the battlegroup. Furthermore every ship more in a battle group is a ship more that gets drained. The Rebel strong-arm ships, the Patriot Class Light Carrier and the Rush Class Heavy Carrier have few beams. They do have a good minelayer (Tranquility Class Cruiser). Be sure to keep ships stationed over important planets with primary enemy Rebels set, to protect you from Falcons on a Rebel Ground Assault mission, an Opal with mk4 usually will do.
Like the Rebels the Colonies depend on battlegroups, however they have some advantages going for them. Because of their Cobols and Aries they should have plenty of fuel. Their heavy carrier, the Virgo Class Battlestar, has 10 beams and is a good sweeper. A possible weakness of them is that often the colonial player economizes on beam technology, because they rely on their fighters to sweep mines. Against the crystals (under default host settings: Fighter Sweep Webs = NO) this is a fatal mistake.
Basic planet properties:
Planets can be found having various properties:
Temperature: Too cold, medium and Lovely hot.
Minerals: Hardly any minerals, some minerals, and much minerals.
Natives: Amorphous, Low government, high government and Bovinoids
Basic economic use of planets
You should populate, or at least claim (1 clan) all planets in your area. If possible dump at least 100 clans on every planet, that will mean 100 factories per planet minimum (Up to 100 clans there will be 1 factory per clan). Assume that an average empire will have 44 planets of which 8 planets will be good, 16 will be average, and 20 will be bad. If you can build 100 factories on each of those 20 bad planets they will produce 2000 supplies per turn. This is either 2000 MC per turn extra, or two 9 million Bovinoid planets (there will be factories on that Bovinoid too).
If the planet you populated has few minerals, then only build about 20 mines, and with increasing minerals increase the mines. Mineral rich planets should have a population of 200, to allow for 200 mines (up to 200 clans there will be 1 mine per clan).
Natives. Always have enough natives to collect your taxes. For low level government natives but not bovinoids, dump just slightly more clans than the highest green level tax (for people familiar with Randmax: Safetax). For High level natives with growth potential, try to dump at least thrice the number of clans necessary to collect the highest green level tax (Randmax: Safetax). But do not tax at that level. Tax as much as you can collect without having the happiness drop below "calm" (70 happypoints). Then set the tax to 0% and let the happiness regenerate to Happy (100-90 happypoints), now tax again. In the turns you dont tax the native population will grow. This way is of taxation is called Growth Tax in Randmax. For more information on the ins and outs of taxation, read the Randmax documentation, or the article "The Joys of Taxation" by ?? (who can tell me?). For bovinoids, always use the Growth tax option, you want that population to grow because you want those supplies!
Temperature: if you can maintain a high enough population for the tasks that need to be done at a planet (see above) there is no hurry to increase the temperature of the planet, sometimes though it can be more effective to raise the temperature of certain planets (see below: Strategy and Tactics, Onyxes and temperature management of your planets).
Order of Colonization and what planets to concentrate your early efforts on.
While colonizing two goals should be kept in mind:
Expand your empire, and bring far planets, (that is not immediately next to your HW) into production as fast as possible. Keep your Homeworld in production, let it not fall short of minerals.
On the basis of those two needs the authors would define the following priorities:
Bring clans and supplies to that good native planet nearby you just found
Keep scouting (but not with your Ldeeps)
Bring those nearby planets, all of them into production (i.e. minerals) so your base can continue to produce, the medium mineral planets with high mineral concentrations (a.k.a. mineral extraction rates) first.
Concentrate your colonization efforts on a cluster by cluster basis, for example not 6 Ldeeps in 6 directions, but in three directions two Ldeeps each. This is intended to get a cluster (and preferably a new base) productive as soon as possible. Clusters coming online at turn 10, 20 and 30, have a much bigger impact than 3 clusters coming online in turn 30. Within clusters, go for a similar order: natives, good minerals, bad minerals
Where to build bases? Only build bases you can sustain. Do not go for that extra bases if it means that your old base cannot build for several turns AND IF you actually only have the minerals to operate one base.
Plan bases preferably on native planets, and fly in the minerals. But if you find a planet with a lot of each mineral (say a large meteor impact) and no native planets near, better build the base on mineral planet and fly in the money (Money has no mass, as opposite to minerals).
Assign a supply area to a base, i.e. planets that are destined to deliver minerals to that base. This will allow you to manage your mineral flow for each base individually, without having to check whether you have conflicting demands for two or more bases. Also it will allow you to estimate, how much minerals of a certain kind you might have to import (fly in from outside the supply area) if you have need some special builds (Merlin, Neutronic Refinery Ship) or rush jobs (I need two more Diamond Flames here ASAP).
As a crystal the need for Merlin Class Alchemy ships is even bigger the need for it of some other races. All your ships require Molybdenum in great quantities. The Merlin will allow you to produce them. A Cobol would be handy, but a Neutronic Refinery Ship is a MUST to keep your economy and your war fleet under steam.
8. General game phases
The advise on playing style given in this chapter is based on default host settings and personal preferences.
First a general layout of the turns is given as envisaged by Curieus, then a more detailed report of an actual game is given by Leftie. While these persons differ on the point of scouts, they are in agreement on most of the important points. Interested readers are advised to read first the general story and then the actual one.
General layout of a promising game.
Begin: Exploration and Colonization
The First Turn
In the first turn you raise the engine tech level to 10, the hull tech to 2 or 3, the torpedo tech to 5. Your first build order will be a scout. Depending on the host settings of your homeworld (HW) this should be a Opal or a Ruby. Personally, for scouting purposes, I prefer the Opal, for not all of your scouts will return, and the Ruby is much more expensive but still easily outgunned. Build them with transwarps and mk4 torpedoes minimum.
The starting ships at your homeworld, if any, can be used for exploration. If you can move undetected (planet hopping) from one planet to the next, use the Small Deep Space Freighter for scouting else colonize it (mission 6). The Opal (with mk5 torps) can be used for web management, but dont lay that webmine field yet. It will tell your neighbours from far away where your HW is located. This is an easy way to put up a sign HIT ME, BEFORE I GET TOO STRONG.
The Second Turn
Your first real scout (warp 9) has been built. If an Opal load it up with 3-6 torpedoes and fill the rest with clans, set it on its way to go where no Crystal went before. When it reaches an uninhabited planet, (without Amorphous natives) drop one clan and move on, keep doing this until all clans have been used. Build your second scout.
The Third Turn
Your second transwarp scout has been built. Deal with it the way you dealt with your first one. If the first scout has discovered a good planet build a Ldeep, else build your third scout
The Fourth Turn
If you just built your third scout, well you know the drill. Now build an Ldeep.
If you built an Ldeep stock it up with 1100 clans, 100 supplies, and 300 MC and send it on its way (precise cargo content may vary, but transport mainly clans and enough supplies and money to build one factory from each supply). Now build your third scout or build a Ruby (mk4).
The Fifth Turn
If you built an Ldeep, deal with it as described above.
If you built a scout, deal with it as previously.
If you built a Ruby (mk4) use it to haul mineral from planets, to build torpedoes in space and to safeguard your budding planets.
Now if possible raise your torpedo tech level to 8 and build an Emerald with mk7 launchers. Only do this when it wouldnt impede ship building in the following turn(s), otherwise build a mk4 Emerald, or a Ruby.
That Warp 6 Opal you received as a starting ship still is sitting at your starbase (if you didnt have something useful for it to do, like money transport). It still has 19 mk5 torps on board. The moment you suspect a cloaker is in the neighborhood, drop those 19 torps in a webmine.
At turn 5 you should have built several scouts and at least one Ldeep and one medium warship (Emerald) for damage containment. For damage containment it is also possible to build a Ruby, and have it lay mines (pay for it from taxes from natives).
If you dont have the money to keep building those high tech engines and wouldnt be able to build a ship with them, then it is also possible to build a W1 Ldeep, tow it to its destination by a Ruby or Emerald and colonize it there. Since you wouldnt have built this turn anyway it isnt a lost build turn.
Turn 6 - 10/15
Was it in the first turns mainly the condition of your homeworld that was of importance, now the condition of the rest of the Echo cluster becomes important. Is it a rich or a poor universe, or something in between. Are there natives, and where, and which, and how many, and what government, those are factors that become important now. Also look at your map, and try to find strategically important planets or clusters.
The turns 6-10/15 should consist mainly of scouting and colonizing planets. Colonize planets with good natives early, you need the money. Dont ignore the other planets, just drop 100 clans, 30 supplies and 90 MC and let them develop on their own.
Aim your scouts to be at strategical important planets and clusters as soon as possible, but always try to stay hidden (planet hopping). If that means that you bypass some planets, so be it, you will get there later. The question remains, what are strategical planets when you dont know anything about them?
Well you do know something about them, you know their location (unless playing with explore-map) and thereby you can define their strategical importance. Once you have set yourself some boundaries as a goal, look for planets that fulfill one of the following conditions:
If you own them, they screen other planets from attack, unless the attacker comes through open space, where you can see him and have one turn of warning. If the enemy owns it, he has a good starting point for an attack on you and the only warning you will have is some heavy sweeper diving in your undersized webs.
If you own them they give you a good starting point for an attack on the enemy. You can mass a fleet undetected at that planet and select from multiple target planets where to attack.
A planet that no-one can get to undetected (unless cloaked).
Possession of this planet denies a cloaking race a fuelling point near your space. They will have to bring their fuel from further away, and therefore have a shorter range. Furthermore this planet serves as a forward observation post.
When you come into contact with your neighbours try to negotiate a border that incorporates your projected area. Usually this will not be possible (if it is, your projected area was too small), then you need to trade away planets for peace (and so will he), however keep those strategical planets in mind, do not relinquish planets that conform to condition 1. Preferably also not the other ones, but condition 2 planets are more readily tradable than condition 3 planets (especially against cloakers). Of course planets can fulfill several conditions simultaneously.
Your builds in these turns should be mainly Emeralds/Rubies and Ldeeps. If you find a cold planet with good natives, consider building an Onyx (with high tech launchers, and x-rays).If you expect no fighting then build mainly Rubies with only a few Emerald interspersed. The Rubies are cheaper and as good in web laying as Emeralds. And 4 Rubies can cover a greater area than 2 Emeralds. If you do expect war, build relatively more Emeralds, at least they can fight.
You should aim to have your second base in the air (and operative) around turn 10, by turn 15 you definitely should have that second base operative.
Between turn 10 and 15 you should start webbing your world, just drop 10 torps and fly on. Your neighbours probably already know in what general area you live. Do it too late and you will suffer for it.
The early midgame consists mainly of creating an economy able to produce 300 mk7 (10000 MC/turn) torps per turn without impeding ship building. In later turns you are going to need that ability sorely. In an invasion at least take 1000 torps with you, preferably MUCH more. (I invaded with some 1800 torps (mk7) in the front line, and a resupply of 880 (1 Emerald, 1 Ruby) coming right behind that). You will not need all those torpedoes for webs, you will also need them to blow up normal minefield to allow safe travel for your ships quickly. THAT really eats torpedoes!
When your economy is rolling, start cranking out those Diamond Flames and Crystal Thunders, do not fill the Thunders yet, unless you are at war and need them, or unless you have access to cheap fighters.
Build the DF and CT only with Laser, or perhaps Plasma Bolts, usually they will only shoot at fighters (depending on your neighbors of course). Build only a few DFs with better beams for sweeping purposes, usually that task can be accomplished by your Emeralds, either by sweeping mines, or by blowing them away.
If you can make a deal with someone to squish a third party, do so, and help him the way you can do best, by webbing the said victim, let your partner do the fighting, he probably is better equipped for it anyway.
If you have survived the first 20-25 turns without getting involved in a war, congratulations! You will probably survive to the end, and collect some points on the ladder, even if you do not win the game. It is almost IMPOSSIBLE to destroy a well-entrenched Crystal player, unless 3 or more races combine in a war that will cost them a lot. The fact that you are not at war means you have border agreements with your neighbours. You might even have some allies. All this means your economy should be ramped up to the max, turning out warships from all your bases each turn.
Well, you survived this far, and if you survived intact and have the economy to produce at least 300 mk7 torps per turn, you are a force to be reckoned with. You cannot easily be dislodged from your position, at least two people need to gang up on you, but then, you need help to efficiently beat up someone else. This is where your diplomacy can bring in its ultimate reward (NOTE: Curreent diplomatic relations are based upon the diplomatic acts you performed earlier) . Go offensive!
Colonization and layout of an actual game as done by Leftie
Start with one HW and two ships (SDSF and an Opal)
HW has 30000 clans, rich minerals and 15.000 MC
Universe is poor.
Addons: Explore-map and Pwrap
Great starting point: One ship can planet-hop across lots of planets (to North West). In the South and the East few planets are visible (so developing must occur mostly to the North and West).
Mines up to 200, Factories to Max. Defense to 101 (so no sensor sweep allowed).
Small Deep Space Freighter (SDSF) filled with 20 Supplies, 50 Clans and 150 MC and set to fly on a NW-course.
The Opal flies south (It will take two turns to reach the closest planet). Drop all Torpedoes and fill with 16 clans, 3 supplies and some money.
Building: Transwarp Large Deep Space Freighter (LDSF) 1
Engine Tech to 10, torpedo tech to 8 and hull tech to 6.
The taxation level on the HW is reduced to 0% to increase population growth.
Found no Natives on the first planet the SDSF explored, so drop 1 clan to mark it a Crystal planet. Sending SDSF one planet further.
Opal is now in deep space (without a heading point) and continues to fly south.
Sending LDSF 1 filled with: 300 Supplies, 900 Clans and 600 MC to the northwest (flying to new explored planet).
Building Transwarp LDSF 2
The Opal found a planet with Humanoid natives and lots of Molybdenum(!) at 82 ly of the HW
The SDSF has found Reptilian Natives.
Opal flies west now (heading west). She will be visible again next turn. Drops only 1 clan at every planet she stops to mark the planet as crystalline territory.
SDSF drops everything and flies back to HW for another pickup. Reason for this is that it is to costly to fly any further with this ship because the distances between further planets are big enough to warrant overdriving the tech 7 engine.
LDSF 1 drops 20 supplies, 50 clans and 60 MC (to make 20 factories), flies on in north westerly direction, but not via already owned Reptilian World.
LDSF 2 is filled with 300 Supplies, 900 clans and 600 MC and goes south to Humanoid world.
Building LDSF 3 (havent spotted a enemy ship yet).
Found a dirt rock with LDSF 1, flying further after dropping one clan to claim it.
LDSF 2 is at Humanoid planet, drops enough for 100 factories and 100 mines in two turns (tax natives) and is sent to a cluster in the southeast.
LDSF 3 is sent to a cluster to the southwest (at least three planets very close), at two turns distance.
SDSF is flying back to HW with Duranium and Molybdenum (need that stuff at HW).
Building Transwarp Ruby 1 (with X-ray and 1 MK-7 torpedo tube to spare duranium).
Taxing homeworld colonists to Happiness 71 (were at 96). Do not need the money yet, but very soon.
Found two planets and colonizing with LDSF 1, 2. Also trying to find new planets with Opal (remember the addon EXPLOREMAP does not show the complete map, you must explore it).
LDSF 3 is hanging in midspace without a waypoint and is given the order to continue its journey southwest.
Ruby is towing SDSF (extra cargo and precise money-drop) to cluster northeast. At least three planets are spotted there.
Building Ruby 2 (X-ray and 1 Mk-7 torpedo tube).
Just colonizing with LDSF 1-3 and Ruby 1
Ruby 2 is flying to Humanoid planet (with clans) for gathering minerals.
Set the taxation level of the HW back to 0 again
Building Ruby 3 (X-ray and 1 Mk-7 torpedo tube)
Colonizing with LDSF 1-3 and Ruby 1
Ruby 2 flies back to HW with stuff (especially duranium)
Ruby 3 is loaded with clans to colonize new planets but first it has to fly to the border off course (currently it is on the HW).
Building Opal 2 (X-ray, M-5), because lack of material
Colonizing with LDSF 1-3 and Ruby 1
Ruby 2 again going to pick up some stuff around HW
Found some good native planets, so have to fly around with clans.
Building LDSF 4
First Contact: A Federation LDSF is at a newly colonized planet. The aim is to stay on friendly footing with the feds and to colonize further in that area.
Colonizing with LDSF 1-3 and Ruby 1
LDSF 4 and Opal 2 fly to cluster with Avian, Bovinoid (and unknown planet), for clans and Web-mine. This cluster is two turns flying from HW.
Building Ruby (with X-ray and Mk-7 torpedo tubes)
Colonizing with LDSF 1-3 and Ruby 1
Federation LDSF is above an Amorphous planet (together with a LDSF of mine).She drops 250 clans in order to be able to beam up the fuel and fly further on.
Ruby 3 is also around this place (in the neighborhood), so she starts making some torpedoes to stop further incursion by the Federation freighter in two turns or so.
Building Emerald (X-ray, Mk-7 torpedo tubes)
The Federation has reacted, and they too do not want any hostility. Our freighters are still at the same planet (Luckily with temp 98), so further colonizing with LDSF 1-3, Ruby 1,3.
Ruby 3 is dropping a small minefield (warned the Federation), so he retreats and the planets are mine.
Ruby 2 is still transporting minerals to my HW.
I am spotting the Colonials to the west of my Empire.
Flying with Emerald and clans, to keep HW filled with stuff etc. I have a decent money-planet nearby and am bringing 500 clans to that planet.
Building Ruby (X-ray and Mk-7 torpedo tubes)
Colonizing further on with LDSF 1-3, Ruby 1 and 3
The rest of the ships are transporting clans to important planets. I am planning the building of starbases while keeping the HW stocked with enough minerals.
Building Ruby (X-ray and Mk-7 torpedo tubes)
Just further colonizing.
Have contact with Federation about dividing the planets, so we agree on a border.
Building: Nothing, Emerald (X-ray,M-7) and two Emeralds (Disruptors, M-7).
Doing pretty much the same.
Colonizing, bringing clans to important planets. Figured out what planets needed starbases. Built my first Onyx, to heat some planets.
Building Neutronic Refinery (Transporting clans eats fuel), Diamond Flame (for a rapid reaction force).
Building Starbases and let those bases build whatever they can (to start with Onyxes), Opals, Rubies, Emeralds.
General remarks by Leftie
Just colonize as much as you can and fly to any side of your HW and as far as you can.
Sometimes you have to leave planets uncolonized, colonize them with other ships, those in the second wave.
Do colonize Amorphous planets, maybe not immediately, but you can use those planets to, those 5 clans per turn are not a problem if you drop enough clans to outgrow these losses. Do not forget your HW. It needs minerals for building decent ships.
Only Build Large Freighters (Medium freighters can be replaced by Rubies and Emeralds).
Do not start a war, but try to negotiate peace in the first stadium of the game. With this in regard, dont be too greedy if a strange races scout is trapped in your webs. More often than not it pays off to release the ship, so they get it back. And if it doesnt pay off, well it was only a small loss for the diplomatic gain possible.
I think scouting is not necessary. You loose time building that crappy ship (i.e. an Opal). Also a Ruby doesnt cost much in minerals and Money. So you can "scout" and drop clans with that ship. The planets you have been will start developing much faster and certainly better.
9. Strategy and Tactics
Strategy: The process of determining the place and time of combat.
Tactics: Devices used to maximize the possibility of combat resulting in victory.
It is not always possible to clearly distinguish between the two cases, for often both are present when deciding upon a course of action. However, it is necessary to distinguish between them, for a player without a strategy is like a bullet without an aim: likely to miss.
The Crystal cannot fight one-on-one with the big shooters. So you MUST use your webs to break up fleets into easily managed units. This means you end up adopting a defensive posture most of the time - it is impossible to attack a well-stocked base with several carriers defending it. (Unless you have cloakers to tow out one ship at a time into your tender embrace.) But if you can confine an enemy to his planets, you will win. He does not have enough ships to defend each of his planets, so you end up picking up all his "minor" planets. When there is nothing else for you to do, you can force his surrender by brute force. (You might even have a few big ships yourself by that time, courteously donated to you by your opponent :-). )
Preferably you have to make them to come to you. This can be done by the odd sneak attack on a planet or freighter, or just old-fashioned insults broadcast over the subspace band. A wise player will not fall for such bait, but you want the unwise to step into your parlour first.
When preparing or just planing defenses you will be building Diamond Flames (with Lasers, since they only ever shoot at fighters), Crystal Thunders (ditto the lasers), and Emeralds with heavy blasters or better. The odd Fuel Tanker will be a good idea as well. The Emeralds will always accompany the Carrier/Battleship combination, to supply fuel and reload torpedoes, as well as webbing and sweeping. Build 2 Diamond Flames for each Crystal Thunder, with at least 1 Emerald per carrier. If MC or minerals are tight, one of the battleships has T1 engines, and is towed by the other.
If you obtain a two engined cloaker it can be used to tow enemy ships (deeper) into your webmines. Make sure the cloaker is out of fuel after the tow, so it cannot be attacked. Since he has to sweep mines in order to get back he probably will not tow you. If he does tow you, you will get an easy drain. Be sure though to keep the warpfactor on you cloaker at warp nine and the waypoint setting further away than 81 LY, so if he transfers fuel and tows you to kill your cloaker, you will break free. Be wary to use this tactic against the privateer, for he may try to tow capture YOUR ship
Another possibility is to tow the target ship with one of your cloakers to another cloaked ship of yours. This would enable you to resupply the now fuelless towing cloaker and reuse it immediately again. The downside of this tactic is that there is a severe risk that your towing cloaker will end up with some fuel in the tank and therefore will be killed by the towee.
11. Strategical use of Webmines
Lay a small web field around each of your planets, (say 10 torps mk4, mk7 or mk8). First of all it makes all your planets almost impenetrable to cloaked intrusions, secondly it denies the enemy knowledge on which planets are important. Thirdly if you get attacked, he will have to stop and sweep that web for every planet he attacks.
Lay webs in midspace to provide safe stopover points for you freighters by making it dangerous for other races to intercept you.
Let Opals do minelaying runs between planets that are further than 84 LY apart. Load the Opal with minerals and money, and set the friendly code to "mkt". Set a waypoint somewhere in the open space between two planets. When you arrive there, let it drop all its torpedoes (mission 9) in a webmine field, and set the waypoint to a planet. Once there, repeat the procedure. In this way you will make navigation in the open space between your planets hell for those dastardly cloakers, or any invader.
In perceived threatened areas let those minefields overlap. Lay minefields just big enough so that after a sudden sweep action (by the single heaviest sweeper your enemy has) the field is big enough to shield your planets from a direct attack. Also alternate the sizes of the fields, by having them grow (lay torpedoes) and shrink (minescoop). Have several Emeralds or Rubies stationed in this area. If you discover your mines are being swept, jump past the (supposed location of the) sweeper and web him with multiple webminefields.
Try to prevent battles (except the ones you plan for by intercepting or towing single ships). Those are not your forte, your webs are your strength.
When you are being attacked by to a large fleet for you to stop at your borders, then do not try to stop him at the edges of your empire. Let him take the battle to you. But you decide where he succeeds in sweeping your webs. Empty all planets in the path of his attack of fuel, load up any colonists you can in Ldeeps and allow him to kill your planets only if needed of course. Once he is deep enough in your territory, spring the trap, lay webs in his rear and front, on his left and right. Isolate his assault fleet from resupply and web him in multiple webs. Drain him of fuel, "correct" the owner status of his ships ( :-) ), retake your planets and repopulate them with the clans you pulled of them previously.
Keep the following conditions in mind:
You should have enough minelaying capacity to succeed at draining him.
Only let him kill planets that you cant prevent.
maximum incursion between 162 and 100 LY.
NOTE Beware of the Cyborg with their Fireclouds
When you are being attacked by groups of heavy carriers and you have enough strength not to give up territory, decide which groups to kill and which to ensnare in your webs. If you can isolate them from their supply and ensnare them all then do so, however if not, kill a selected few with Diamond Flame/ Crystal Thunder combos, and concentrate your webbing efforts on the rest. Watch closely their sweep efforts and determine which ships are the best sweepers, target those with your combos.
Every player has to have a history of his game, and the wise ones use it. For a crystal player it is imperative to know the sweep capacity of your enemies ships: what are his big sweepers, and which beams are they outfitted with. Knowing these facts will reduce enormously uncertainties when webbing your opponent.
Usually your webs are being swept by battle groups, stacks of ships, in which at least one serves as fuel depot, and the other(s) will sweep. There are several reasons why your enemy uses this tactic:
It is much more difficult to web three T-Rexes in one spot, than three T-Rexes in three different locations (or any ship for that matter), because of the more concentrated sweeping power
If all ships would carry fuel all would get drained 25 kt fuel per web they are in. Even worse, if one hits a mine it would lose an extra 50 kT or 1/6 of his fuel (whatever is most), and all ships run the risk of hitting a mine. When you let one ship tow another, only one ship of both can hit a mine, thereby reducing the possible maximum fuel loss. You can also put just enough fuel on the towing ship to let it arrive on it destination, if it hits a mine, well, the fuel loss is minimal.
Depending on the tactics and ships the enemy uses there are several possible countertactics, all differing in efficiency.
If your enemy uses a heavy ship to tow a sweeping fuel carrier (not the Neutronic Fuel Carrier but a good sweeper with a large tank) and has the habit to let the heavy ship run dry, intercept the sweeping group. You will only fight the ship with fuel, and the other one is ripe for tow capture. This can be a very efficient tactic, but against a smart player this will work only once (if ever). His countertactic will be to put enough fuel on the towing ship that, barring a minehit, he has fuel left after webdrain. But hey, at least you now get the drain you deserve.
If you note that the towing ship has fuel left after webdrain (note the difference in mass when he does hit a mine), then create enough extra overlapping webminefields to suck him dry, then intercept the group, and again the towing ship is ripe for capture, the other must be killed. The key to success for this tactic is unexpected minelaying, cloakers would help greatly. His only counter is to put even more fuel on the towing ship, to counter possible extra web drain. But hey, if he hits a mine now, he loses a lot of extra fuel.
Together with the privateer you will be the only races thankful that the ship limit is reached. You no longer have build those (relatively expensive) ships anymore. You can concentrate on webbing, creating the Echo Wide Web. Only really (do lay those smaller webs to defend your planets) start webbing after the ship limit has been reached, for before you do need those minerals to build your ships. After the ship limit you can have lots of fun with webs, but try to be patient.
12. Tactical use of webmines
While it may seem smart to divide web tactics into defensive and offensive ones, it will only create the false illusion of two different sets of tactics. The webmine is a mainly defensive weapon that can be used offensively. Usually your battlefleet will be the weaker of the two, be it weaker in power, or much more expensive (trading Diamond Flames one-on-one with T-Rexes or Victoriouses is bad economy). When attacking you will first try to isolate the battlefield and break it up in several sieges. Your aim will be the same as when you get attacked. Isolate ships, drain them, capture them. Therefore no clear distinction can be made on a strategical level between offensive and defensive actions
The key to successful web warfare is surprise, dont be too regular to allow your opponent to guess your next move. Be regular (yes I say regular), but only just enough to fool him into thinking he can predict your moves and just when he thinks that, change your tactics. Cloakers can help you to achieve this surprise as he wont see them coming. However, even with cloakers you can be predictable. Nonetheless do almost anything to obtain a cloaker with decent torpedo launchers, so you can lay those unexpected webs.
When attacking, it can be useful to lay one or two big minefields, just to isolate the target of your attack from the rest of the enemy empire. Within the isolated area proceed with smaller webs.
Dont web an enemy fleet over its own planets. He will load up 1 kt of fuel on all ships and set them to sweep. He will sweep your webs. If after sweeping the fleet still is in your webs it will be drained of a staggering 1 kt fuel per ship. Lay them always just 4 LY short of the planet. If the edge is closer than 4 LY to the planet he can sweep your webs from the warpwell, thereby evading any intercept you could do on his sweepers.
In one situation you can lay (multiple) webs over a planet. You need to know whether the planet is almost out of fuel and it will therefore not produce enough fuel to counter the fuel drain. Let your heavies trail their coats in plain sight of the planet and closer than 84 LY. In this way he is forced to keep fuel on all his ships to defend the planet, for fear that if he puts less than the webdrain on them you attack the planet and capture a fuelless fleet over the planet.
There is one trick in the book that may prevent effective usage of this tactic. He sets the planet to NUK and has the highest ID ship:
He loads 1 kt of fuel on each ship, he sweeps and gets drained of 1 kt fuel per ship. You come in guns blazing and kill the planet. The planet is set to NUK and attacks every (enemy) ship on the same location, starting with the lowest ID. Since the enemy has the highest ID, he fights the planet last, and of course captures it. The planet is now his. He can reload the fuel from the planet and continue sweeping. He also can maintain this action until you remove all his ships that have higher ID than your highest ID ship.
WARNING: This tactic only works in HOST (Tim Host), and not in Phost, because Phost resets the friendly code of a captured planet!
When dealing with isolated ships, lay webs just big enough to let them be drained after minesweep. Do not lay too big ones, for all ships in the field will get a chance at sweeping it.
Surprise your enemy sometimes by laying normal mines, as they cause more damage and sometimes even destroy ships. The enemy expects to hit a webmine, but suddenly he hits a normal one. He probably has not the supplies to repair in space, so he has to fly them in. Alas, for him, you have webbed his resupply route. Dont try this to often, for normal mines are swept much easier (default 33% easier) and dont try this against the colonies.
Next to the standard web mine field, lay a smaller normal minefield around your endangered planets. This makes it more hazardous for an enemy to sweep your webmines and immediately go in with a cloaker or other ship. The normal mines have lower hit chances, but larger damage. And when encased in webs he cannot get close enough to them to sweep them.
Now some advise that seems to be contradictory: Try not to drain ship of all fuel by normal webdrain........ Try to drain them by letting them hit mines. That is just MUCH more effective. This means you have to lay your webs just in front of an approaching battlegroup, so they will hit the mines without ever getting a shot at sweeping them. The next turn you scoop the mines and restart the exercise.
The following conditions should be kept in mind:
If you want to evade minesweeping all together you need to have the lowest ID sweep capable ship. That way you can scoop the mines before other ships can sweep them. This way the enemy loses fuel while you hardly lose any minerals in torps.
A more effective variant of this approach is to scoop just as much as you need to let the web field shrink outside their sweeprange.
This can be done in (at least) two ways:
Have two ships present, one ship laden with supplies and the other empty (it just laid that minefield remember). Distribute the supplies in such a way that the ship that will scoop the mines has just enough cargo space to allow the field to shrink outside his sweeprange. In Phost this trick can be performed by a single ship for Phost allows a ship to scoop a specified number of torpedoes.
13. Onyxes and temperature management of your planets
Next to the standard economic realities and problems for all races, you have the ability to heat up planets to 100 degrees using the Onyx Class Frigate.
Build those Onyxes in pairs, one with low tech engines (tech 1) and one with high tech engines (opinions differ, Warp 7 to 9) to tow the other one around. Dont spend any money or minerals on good beams, just outfit them with 8 lasers or 8 x-rays or 8 plasma bolts. Do put a decent launcher in them. In this way you can let them build torpedoes and lay webmines over the planet they are heating.
Dont heat up planets indiscriminately:
If a planet is in an endangered area and has good natives, heat it. If you get kicked out, your enemy wont be able to use it unless after much effort (using the Eros Class Research Vessel to cool it).
If the planet is not endangered, has good natives and is warmer than 50 degrees, wait till the natives have reached maximum population size and then heat it.
If the planet is not endangered, has good natives (especially Bovinoids!!) and is colder than 50 degrees, heat it to 50 degrees, allow the natives to reach maximum population size and then heat it.
All other planets can be heated at leisure, but no haste is warranted.
14. TKF combat
More and more hosts are using TKF (The Killing Floor) as a combat engine. This addon greatly alters the way of combat as compared to single ship VCR combat. This difference warrants a special section on TKF combat. This chapter is based on version Beta 9 of TKF.
TKF is a combat engine that allows multiple ship battle. This means that finally you can use to good extent that squad of Onyxes on climate duty to strengthen your defense fleet. All ships in both fleets will fights each other on one great battle field. All ships can fire on all enemy ships.
The guy with the strongest fleet wins, surprising éh :-), however the bigger the overkill the less damage he will receive. This is because the faster you kill the enemy the less time he has to fire at you, the less damage you receive.
Does this mean that this is bad for the Crystallines? For your battleship costs at least 50% more than another races battleship, therefore you usually will have the weaker fleet. It would be bad if ship costs were all that comes into the equation. However you have webs. Use them to split an enemy fleet in parts, and target the smaller partial fleets, or even individual ships. By dividing one bigger fleet into two smaller ones, you can establish local battlefield superiority.
Types of fleets and fighting them
Most fleets that will be fielded are of a mixed type. Usually though on type of ship (torpedo/carrier) will dominate the power scales of the strikeforce. One can distinguish Torpedo Fleets, Carrier Fleets and more rare Beam Fleets.
Your fleet will be mainly a torpedo fleet since you have only one carrier and need to buy the fighters. Nevertheless you need those fighters. The fleets of the races 1 to 4 will usually also be torpedo fleets. Your best bet here is either to split their fleet and go in with superior forces, or to add one or two Crystal Thunders to your force. While your torpedoes drop the enemies shields the fighters will wear down the hull much quicker than the torpedoes will. This is especially useful if you have to fight relatively heavy hulls, say battleships, Missouri class and above.
Here you have two advantages: Almost all of your ships have a high number of beams and you have a very decent carrier, use it, but use it with caution, do not engage in any one on one carrier fights with a fighter race, TKF is a bitch in that regard, it doesnt eat fighters: it gobbles, guzzles and even devours fighters For example: a fully loaded Virgo/Golem fight (1 on 1) will cost at least 250 fighters on the winning side.
Well what should you do? You have a torpedo fleet with lots of beams, so most of the incoming fighters of the first wave will not get through, and meanwhile your torpedoes will be firing at the hulls of the launching carriers. However you will receive heavy damage from those fighters that did break through. Therefore it is wise to place a CAP (combat air patrol) over your own fleet as close in fighter defense. To do this place one Crystal Thunder in a defensive frame of mind behind your offensive battleships. During the battle the Crystal Thunder will usually launch all its fighters, but that is also 80 enemy fighters less that are shooting at your battleships. By investing 80 fighters you will greatly limit damage, probably save one or two battleships from destruction or perhaps even stave off a catastrophic defeat.
Beam fleets are usually a last ditch defense, or a first try. Most ships with only beams have a low hull mass, so the trick is here not to use fighters (shouldnt be too difficult for you), but to use some heavy torpers, Emerald minimum, Diamond Flame preferred.
Main differences in power of crystal fleets versus others.
Now that you can combines ships into fleets you will usually fare better against carrier races. The high beam count on most of your ships will enable you to kill more fighters per ship that most other races. Meanwhile your torpedoes will hammer on the other ships.
Against torpedo races you stand as good, or as bad as before, you usually have less tubes per ship than them so youd need either more ships than them or split their fleets.
If you have read this guide I hope you have enjoyed reading it. I hope it will set the crystal on your map as an interesting race to play. Dont think that if you do all the things that are described in this guide, you will win, Or that the tactics will be infallible, for your enemies will read this guide too. If they are smart, that is. If they are not, then you need not to worry anyway.
Your enemy find ways to thwart your honest attempts to rid them of the worldly worries of material possession. If you have encountered such a devastating tactic, feel free to mail it to one of the authors of this guide (J.P.vanBolhuis@ITS.TUDelft.nl, or see page one for any other e-mail addresses), so that it might be incorporated (if the situation is not too particular).
Any other helpful comments are also welcome, less friendly comments will be relocated to /dev/null
J.P. van Bolhuis
Delft, The Netherlands