by Mike Haslam
I am a fairly new player to VGA planets, and I am still surviving in my first (a beginners) game as the Federation player (due more to luck and good allies than my planning, I'm thinking <g>). I have heard and read a lot about the weaknesses and disadvantages of the Federation race as a position, and I must admit, a lot of them are true. But I would like to stress a most important asset or advantage in the game - the SUPER REFIT capability. This gem can come in handy in various ways and in various stages of the game, and take the sting out some of the disadvantages of the race.
During the initial turns of the game where you are exploring and expanding, this benefit may seem worthless, since everything you are building is probably for immediate use and a specific function. However, down the road when you are starting to build some new starbase's, is one place this capability can be a major asset. This will take some forethought and advance planning, but can save you a lot of MCr and mineral hauling.
Most starbase's are built in order that you may build more ships per turn than the initial 1 you started with, and gain a numerical advantage over the other players.. However, the MCr expenditure in increasing the tech levels in 4 separate areas (3 if you are lucky/wise), is enormous, especially at multiple starbase's. In addition, the logistics, time and expense of hauling minerals to every starbase that you want to build at, can be very frustrating. With the Feds SUPER REFIT capability, you can do something like this:
At the best planet that has, or can be supplied with minerals for building, and also is fairly centralised, make that your primary starbase. Around this, plan your secondary, feeder starbase's that have an decent amount of minerals and MCr to build Hulls. You maximise your primary starbase tech levels, and bring most minerals and MCr to that location. The secondary ones you only need to maximise the Hull tech level (and later maybe the Engine level) and have adequate supplies/MCr to cover the cost of the Hull you need, plus minimum engines. You then build the Hulls at the secondary starbase's and tow them (or under its own power if you want to increase the Engine tech later) to the primary. You may then SUPER REFIT the ships, adding the desired engines, weapons, and torpedoes. As the game progresses, you can set up several of these starbase "clusters", in various areas of your empire, as well as around your homeworld. There is a cost in the amount of time used before you can use your "finished" ship, so plan accordingly. But the savings in MCr alone is worth it!
Second, and a most obvious benefit, is the upgrading of your older ships. When you first start the game, you are usually (depending on the scenario) limited on your tech levels and amounts of MCr/minerals available for your initial builds. As you generally want to build a ship every turn at your beginning starbase, it gets very hard to build the ships (mainly warships/escorts) with the maximum tech you would like. Then down the road, they are outclassed and outgunned by the new higher tech generation of ships. In the later stages of the game, you will want and need the highest tech torpedo launchers on your ships (the Feds main weapons), and depending on their use (anti-ship vs. anti-fighter), beams as well. Also if you have any initial ships with less than tech 10 engines (which you should maximise in the game ASAP!!!), you will want to improve those to save time and fuel. With the SUPER REFIT, you can do this.
Third, as you approach the dreaded 500 ship limit, players are building as many ships as they can, to get under the wire. Due to limited factors of minerals and MCr, a lot of these ships may be not exactly what they wanted, and not equipped with the engines and weapons that they would have liked. With the Federation, you can just build the Hull and minimum engines, and worry about adding the rest later, giving you an edge in this department. Of course, you will have a bunch of worthless ships on your hands for awhile, and if you're currently under attack, they are not going to of much benefit. But, if you are not hard pressed at the time, go for it. Again, you need to plan this out in advance and have enough starbase's, minerals, MCr on hand for the mad rush.
Last, the SUPER REFIT is a service you can offer your allies. It is one of your main bargaining tools to offer to potential allies, and a benefit to the alliance in the game. One way of using this for other players, is to build a "refit" starbase on the border with the intended race. He would peacefully surrender his ship to you, where you would refit the ship to his specifications, and then move it to a starbase of his, and surrender it back (or he could tow it back). He could supply you with the necessary minerals and MCr as well. As you can see, the amount of time to do this may be long if the ships have to travel a long way, or what if the ally is not close or bordered with you? This will take some planning and a lot of trust, but you could get a starbase in the midst of his empire. Send a ship to a planet of his choosing, and take it over from the ally, then build your starbase in his territory to be his "refitting" station. He could supply all the minerals and MCr needed to run the outfit. (This also allows you to build ships in his territory that he may need but doesn't have, i.e. terra-forming ships, etc. This is for any race, not just Feds). Or he can build the starbase, but keep the planets defence and populations low, and you could capture the planet with ground forces, and take over the starbase that way .... I believe this can be done, thought I have never seen it in the game ... correct me if I am wrong (You're not - Ed!). You then can upgrade his ships as needed in the midst of his empire.
Being fairly new, and with no completed games under my belt, I may be stating the obvious, or be off base with a couple of ideas. Also, some things may have changed with the upgraded 3.20 rules as well, which I have not played yet. However, I wanted to state one advantage in playing the Federation. This may not outweigh some of the weaknesses, i.e. no fuel carriers, no good fighter carriers, mining half rate, and a few others I've read but forgotten, but with planning and some choice allies, can make it a viable position.