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Timo's Top Ten Tips + 2

Timo Kreike

Personal note:
Since v3.22.011 I can't think of a way to 'fool' the queue. The Ship Building Queue of host v3.22.011 and higher are therefore considered to be TIMO-PROOF, and it is generally believed (by me) that these new versions of host truly enhance 'fair-play'. :-)

Nevertheless, if your host still persist in using older versions, there are still many things that can brighten up your miserable life. Read about the OK-system on this page for host versions v3.22.008 and older, or check out my special offer for host versions v3.22.009 and v3.22.010.

1. Build lots of Starbases

  • This is indispensable - see tip 2 and 3.
  • Of course you will have to keep an eye on your resources: don't build too much starbases. You'll need some minerals for your large battleships, right? You will have to defend some starbases - building fighters, buying starbase defense.
  • Don't buy all the tech levels to up to 10/10/10/10 on all your starbases. Use starbases with lesser resources only to build low tech (useful!) ships - like Fireclouds, Fearless Wings, D19b's, Emeralds. Only build ships with Transwarp engines.
  • Take care to build your starbases on starbases spread out along the 500 ID's: don't build all your 15 starbases on planets with ID's between for example 200 and 300. If you do, you might have to wait a *long* time to build ships... A constant supply of new ships is the best, right?

2. Build lots of ships

  • Use ALL your starbases to build ships BEFORE the 500 ship limit has been reached.
  • Your main starbases will build decent (large) ships with high tech engines and beams/torps.
  • However on all your other starbases you should be building crap ships: ships you can Colonize/Recycle when you need the PBPs. You don't have to spend money on beams, torps and high tech engines: a Small Deep Space Freighter with tech 1 engines will give you 1 PBP, same as for example a Super Star Frigate with tech 5 engines. (Every recycled/colonized ship will give you 1 PBP - no more, no less.)
  • You even gain resources recycling SDSFs with tech 1 engines! See article "Reverse Alchemy" by Sirius in the fifth issue of the Planeteer!

3. Use the Queue

  • Try to build decent (== useful) ships on all your starbases after the ship limit had been hit.
  • When in a battle for example 10 ships with a total hull mass of 2600 kT are destroyed by a player, this player might get about 26 PBP's. When these PBP's are used to build two large battleships - Nova's for example are 13 PBPs each - there are eight ship slots free for all those patient players with lots of starbases and lots of ships in the queue! You'll be very happy to build three free Gorbies in one turn without using PBP's
  • As a general rule: you will be able to build half the number of ships you destroyed in battle. The other half are for free ships in the queue....Use that other half to the max by putting lots of ships in the queue!
  • Since host v3.22.011 every starbase will get to build a ship at some time. This ship is free, i.e. you won't use PBPs for it. So you might as well build Small Deep Space Freighters with tech 1 engines: you'll get the ship for free, and you will get 1 PBP when you recycle the ship. You could consider it as 'buying' PBPs - after the ship limit you've got enough minerals and MCs, but PBPs are rather scarce..

4. Recycle old ships at the right moment

  • Recycle your old starships only then when YOU are the one to fill an empty slot using your PBP's! Otherwise it's just like giving away shipslots.You will have to work (==fight) for them to get the slots back.
  • All the same of course for crappy ships: colonize them with caution. Anyway there will be ship slots lost for you: you've build those crappy ships to be colonized/recycled by dozens, right?
  • There is a distinct difference between Recycling and Colonizing with respect to Priority Points. When you're recycling ships you will get your points before the first build phase. This allows you to manipulate the queue: you can actually build up your PBP score to be sure you will build a ship in the first building phase. (Use the PB FCs.)
  • Colonizing happens after Movement, and you will get your priority points after Movement. As those points will be used in phase 2 after combat, it doesn't let you guide your ship building as recycling does. Combat happens to yield a lot of priority points and ship slots.

5. Supply your low ID Starbases better

  • For host v3.22.006 and older: As I still think that your low ID starbases get to build more ships than your high ID ones, your main starbases with low ID's should have more resources: minerals and MC. More freighters, more supply lines etc.
  • Why? Because you might get to build two or more tech 10 battleships in two or more succeeding turns on that low ID starbase, that's why! When you've got the resources ready waiting on the planet, you'll be able to put the next in the queue almost immediately.
  • Don't forget a better defense.: your enemy might know this to...
  • When you've got a low ID Home World (let's say with an ID between 1 and 150) you could consider yourself lucky. When you're not that lucky, start looking for a planet that's almost as good. (Temperature, Natives, Minerals etc.) At the moment you've got that starbase, don't start building starbase's on planets with even lower ID's - and if you do, use them for defending that planet and not for building lots of ships. Unless those starbase's have lots of resources... you get the picture?

6. Use cloakers for gathering PBPs

  • Use your cloakers to destroy/capture small enemy vessels. This way you can gather PBP's bit by bit. Take out the easy preys: the freighters, the no-tube and the one-tube ships. Pick the ships that are defending your enemies starbases. The moneymakers (Lady Royale). The fighter builders (Gemini, Q-Tanker, Sagittarius). Find and destroy his crap ships. Or capture them and colonize them on your own planets (=captured enemy planets).
  • Use cloakers with a couple of high tech tubes and beams to destroy enemy Merlin's and Refinery Ships: those are 10 and 8 point ships, and darned useful to your enemy! And to you in a different way...
  • You will force your enemy to use his ship slots for replacements for his destroyed ships, preventing him from building large ships. You will get yourself PBP's and the empty ship slots. What more do you want?

7. Predict the Ship Limit

  • Be prepared to hit the 500 ship limit. KNOW WHEN it's going to happen. When you're using Winplan with un blanked scores life will be quite easy: Winplan will calculate the number of ships in the game. When you're using the DOS version you will have to make a small calculation now and then.
  • There is a small technique that will work for host version 3.22.002 and lower: look at the ID number of the ships you've build last turn. When the highest ID comes near 485, 490 you will hit the ship limit almost for sure next turn.
  • Know how many operational starbases (== starbases capable of building ships) there are in the game by calculating the number of ships that are build every turn. Knowing this makes it easier to predict when the ship limit will be reached.
  • When you know when the game will hit the ship limit, you can adjust your ship building strategy. For example you might want to clone a particular ship a couple of times - after the 500 ship limit cloning will be very hard to do.

8. Get PBPs before the Ship Limit

  • Another important thing: make sure you've got PBP's when the game hits the ship limit! About 15 to 20 will do the job. This makes sure you will continue building ships in the first turns right after the limit!
  • You could _wait_ for the Regular Queue to deliver you a free ship, but when there are many starbase's in the game, and you're not a majority shareholder you'd better take some action.
  • When you've killed just a couple of enemy ships before the 500 ship limit and you've gathered a mere 6 PBP's, you're in a very bad position when compared to other players who are at 16 or 18 points. You will have to fly to your enemy and kill a lot of ships before you can build a ship again.
  • This means that your bad logistics will postpone your new ships maybe for more than four turns. You will lose ships that won't be replaced until you've got enough PBP's. Bad, very bad. You will have to hunt for enemy ships for PBP's postponing your new ships for more turns. In the meantime your enemies might build lots and lots of ships.... Nice, large ones.... Bad, very bad... for you!
  • So get those 20 PBP before the ship limit!

9. Keep track of the Queue

  • Use a spreadsheet to keep track of the starbases which have built a ship. Write down the starbase ID, the ship ID. Make a note of the building phase the ship has been built in. Keep track of your total PBP score, the PBP's you've received by killing/capturing/recycling/colonizing ships and the PBP's you've used for building of ships. (My self-written util TYRANNY does this for me!) Try to figure out which ships were built using PBP's and which ones are simply build in the queue.

    Why? This sure means a lot of work... Well, because it can give you a variety of information:

    Enemy starbases: When you keep track of the number of capital ships and freighters per race, their number of PBPs and all explosions etc. you could pinpoint enemy starbases just like that. Keep track of all ships that are destroyed that turn, compare those with the ship you just build and figure out what ship IDs are missing. Next step: try to track the enemy starbase that build that ship having the missing ID.

    Enemy ship types:
    When you keep track of the PBPs of you opponents and the number of new ships he/she build, you'll also be able to make a good guess of what ships were built.

    Also: when you have cloakers and you see for example a low mass Nova called "NOVA CLASS SUPER-DRE" all in capitals orbiting a Federation starbase, you know for sure the ship queue just passed this starbase. Take a look of the ID of the ship and the starbase and figure out whether the Fed player used PBP's for this ship or not and whether this is one of his low-ID starbases... (Off-topic: don't forget to try to calculate the beam type/torp type!)
  • Or share this kind of ship queue information with your ally. Two know a lot more than one! Just a thought. Use it with caution - don't spoil the fun of your former ally of discovering where your starbase's really are. :-)

10. Give up

  • Don't play in the same game as me. Give up. Get yourself another game. Otherwise you will lose anyway, you're just making it a little more difficult for me to win. Read my lips: difficult, not impossible. You really don't want to play against me, you really don't. Unless you like losing... Perhaps then...
  • You really want to play against someone who could think of all this? I don't think so, I really don't. And there is even more I won't tell you. Give up in advance. Please, don't even try to beat me. Don't make yourself ridiculous.
  • I will give you the last tip, tip#10: play in a game of a pay-to-play host. That's all. Why? Because I won't play a pay-to-play game. Never. It will never cross my mind, I won't even think of it, so you'll be safe from me then! Go for safety and real player-satisfaction: get yourself a pay-to-play host, so you will have a chance to win and you won't have to beat me! :-)

11. The OK System

This awesome tactic is only valid for host 3.22.008 and older. Tim fixed this loophole in host version 3.22.009. Well, Tim called it a loophole - I called it the OK system! Here's the deal:

  1. Based on the fact that you get 1 PBP for every ship you capture, you can setup an enormous PBP producing system: the OK system!
  2. All you need is:
    A. two ships with X-ray lasers (one for you and one for your ally) and
    B. a bunch of outdated freighters.
  3. Put the two capital ships 1 turn flying from each other - for example in orbit of two planets.
  4. You let your freighters fly from one planet to the other to be captured by the ship of your ally, and your ally sends them back the next turn.
That's about it. For every freighter you capture you get 1 PBP. So if you've got for example an OK system with 10 freighters flying in two groups of 5 ships each, each participating player will get 5 free PBPs every turn. You are guaranteed to have a PBP boost every turn right in time for the second build phase. Nice touch eh?Additional
  • Your ally doesn't need to be your neighbor - a simple HYP probe with X-ray lasers can do the job.
  • The freighters will eventually get too damaged and won't fly the full distance any more if you don't repair them. When one of the two planets has a starbase you can fix a freighter a turn. Even a simple low-defence-everything-tech-one starbase is enough.
  • Group the freighters in equal groups to avoid fluctuating scores - your opponents might get suspicious when they see the number of your freighters go up by ten at the same time your allies go down by ten and vice versa.
  • Keep the OK system far from the front to avoid detection and destruction by marauding (cloaking) enemy ships.

Counter Actions
If you suspect your opponents to use the OK system, you could do two things:

  1. Setup your own OK system with your ally to nullify their PBP advantage.
    This sure it the best option. It will end up in a race for points, but it is also very simple to use. However it takes some time to get the entire system to work.
  2. Search and destroy their system.
    This may take some time, but once the freighters are destroyed it will take your opponents a lot of time if they want to re-setup the system. Use cloakers to find the freighters. When you endanger your opponents OK system by attacking a planet nearby, you will see a great number of freighters fleeing in groups - you've found it!

As some people will call this OK system as I've described a dirty tactic, I thought it is time for some general considerations.

  1. All rules of VGA-Planets are hard coded in host.exe and in the client application (WinPlan, DosPlan). So if you play by those rules you can't cheat - other than by messing up the data files. As the OK system follows the rules in host.exe it doesn't cheat.
  2. The OK system doesn't make use of some kind of 'hidden' or 'secret' feature of host.exe. The fact that you get a PBP for every captured ship might not be mentioned in the docs but you can find out yourself (as I did!) simply by looking at your PBP score, or you could have read it in VGAP FAQ's or at VGAP WWW sites like my own site. (I've mentioned the fact since the very first time I put an article about the Queue on my site.)
    Anyway everybody knows Tim's docs suck - blame him if you didn't know, or you might as well blame yourself for not careful reading this site/the newsgroup/the FAQ's.
  3. Every player or race can use this tactic - the OK system. There are no limits whatsoever to the user with respect to his race abilities, the version of his client application or whatever. The only limit is his own imagination - as long as the implemented rules are obeyed.
  4. Once such an OK system is in use, it can easily be destroyed by any other player in that game using one or both of the straightforward methods I've described above. The whole difference is that you can play this game on different levels - the whole depends of how well you know the game. There is a quite distinct difference between for example a player that does only know his own race abilities and a player that knows all race abilities by heart. The latter player is better equipped with information than the first and is better capable to deal with new situations. Imagine the difference between that first player and someone that knows all ins and outs of the game, the exact mission ordering and most of the ship stats...someone like me. Recall the possibility for the Robots to lay 4x the number of mines in another race's identity - the other race could scoop up 4x the number of torps the Robots laid. You could consider this a bug by saying only the Robots (and his ally) could benefit from this strategy. Or you can claim it's a hidden race ability.
    Anyway this possibility was general considered to be a bug and Tim fixed it a long time ago. I can't even recall in with host version (3.14? 3.21?).
    As the OK system can be used by everybody I didn't consider it to be a bug. Tim however considered the OK system to be a loophole and fixed it in host 3.22.009. A difference of opinion - well, it wasn't really the first and I think it won't be the last.

12. Special Offer

There is again a marvelous strategy I'm holding back. This one is even better than the 'OK system' - I really couldn't imagine there was such a thing at the time I was implementing the OK system but there is (now)! And you thought the OK system was dirty... Haha, you should better go and hide yourself! :-)
I'll put it here when the time is there.... It's just so hot it could melt the phosphor right of your monitor! :-)

If you're interested in a strategy that gives you free ships from the queue, you might try to persuade me to reveal you the secrets of this strategy. I have to admit that long before I've put all this right here I've traded the secrets of the OK system to a couple of very persuading people - people that offered me something: I've traded the knowledge of the entire OK system for some very nice pieces of information....something new, something that beautiful it caught my eye...
Good luck - you know where to find me :-)


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