OK gang, after the excitement of reading all about how the Pirate's work, you now get to experience the joys of the basic framework of playing VGAP.....ECONOMICS!!!! Try to keep the cheering down to a minimum please. Alright, I know it's kinda boring, but this is what is going to win or lose the game for you. So, get that cup of double expresso or pop a No-Doze and read on.
Actually I prefer to call it LOGISTICS. Logistics is getting what you need, where you need it, when you need it. Keeping your logistics running is the most important thing you can do. One of my favorite quotes is "Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics!" Don't get me wrong, tactics are important. Proper tactics will win you many battles, but good logistics will win you the war.
Now if you expect to see some specific recommendations here on how many factories I should build or whether I should build a lot of StarBases, go read some other know-it-all's ideas. There are just too many variables in this game to allow yourself to get bogged down in set rules. About the time you say to yourself, "this is the way I'm always going to do things" is about the same time somebody comes along and cleans your clock.
So now that I've probably bored you to death with the intro, let's get down to it.
Your most important asset is your colonists. They allow you to get the stuff required to build all those wonderful things you need to go blow up pesky neighbors. You want to concentrate your colonists on those planets that have either a lot (I'm talking multi-1000 KTs) of at least one mineral or has a big, developed native race (more about that later). If you can find either or both of these on a planet that also has a good climate (around 50 deg) so your colonists reproduce quickly, consider yourself blessed. You should still colonize & develop planets that don't fall in this category (they will have some useful stuff) but concentrate on the good ones. Don't forget to bring along some supplies & MCs with your colonists, because I'm sure you know you must have both of them if you wish to build any structures on the planet. If you don't know that, please request that you be a neighbor of mine in any game I'm in. Thanx.
So you've found a planet that has lot's of minerals on it & maybe even a few natives. What next? You'll want to build factories first so that planet will start producing it's own supplies for further building. Most of the time, you'll want to avoid carrying around a lot of supplies. They take up space in your ships & weigh a lot, which causes your ship to eat up more fuel as it travels. Planets you can probably forget about building factories on are the ones that have Bovinoid natives. These critters produce supplies according to how many colos you have on the planet, so why waste MCs on factories when the natives produce supplies, right?
How many factories should you put on the planet? As many as you need of course. I know that answer kinda sounds like something you'd get from your local Congressman, but you've got to decide that according to the situation. Build enough to give you the supplies you need to build the other structures you want. Remember that the number of factories effects what the natives think of you & therefore effects how much they will pay in taxes. Then again, you may need the supplies to help you generate more MCs (you can sell 1 supply for 1 MC) especially when you're on a planet that doesn't have natives or natives with lower rated govermentsts. In general, build your non-native planet factories to the max, limit the factories on native planets to only what you need.
Next come your mines. These allow you to pull out the minerals that are in the ground. How many mines you build depends on the concetration of the mineral(s) you wish to pull out. There's ways to look up the exact percentage efficiency each mine will have for each mineral (the new 3.5 version will tell you right on the window when you ask for a survey). In most cases I say, why bother? Read section 2.2 in the Docs for an idea of how fast your mines will pull out minerals according to concentration. Once you're a few turns into the game, build only as many mines as your freight carrying capacity will handle. If you can only get 1 Medium Freighter there every 4 turns, there's no point in pumping out 200 KTs of Moly per turn is there? Of course, if the planet happens to be one of your Star Bases, pump that stuff out as fast as you can. Remember to plan ahead for your freight ability. You'll want to fully load that shiny new Large Freighter when it arrives, so you may have to build up mining capacity before it arrives.
Mines will also effect what your natives think of you, so be real careful about building mines on those planets. Also, no matter what the concentration, there's not much point in building a lot of mines on a planet that only has a little bit of minerals. You'll find better things to waste your MCs on than building 100 mines on a planet that will run out of minerals in 10 turns. And finally, don't forget that when you play the LIZARD race, you mine at double the rate or that Reptian natives also double your mining. (that's quadruple for Lizards, zowie!)
Now let's talk about Defense Posts. Yep, they're expensive and sure don't seem to stand up well whenever any sort of decently armed ship comes along. But they are important, especially early in the game or on the planets where you plan to build Star Bases. Remember that the square root of the number of Def Posts on your planet determines the number of fighters & launch tubes your planet has. The more launch tubes you have, the faster you launch those fighters, including the ones you build on your Star Base (which adds 5 more launch tubes). Your Def Posts also determine how much damage your planet takes before it goes boom, how many beam weapons it has, and the tech level of those beam weapons. And finally, Def Posts will help repel troop assaults from those cowardly races who attempt to capture your planet by dropping a lot of colonists on top of yours. Every 5 Def Posts decreases the attackers ratio by 1. So, if you have the Lizard doing what he does best by dropping colonists on your planet hoping to take advantage of his 30-to-1 attack value, by having 100 Def Posts on your planet you will drop his advantage to 10-to-1. Fortunately, Def Posts have no effect on how happy your natives are.
And now, a word about natives. Natives will be your primary source of MegaCredits. Act like a Democrat & tax 'em until they start to complain. Big populations of natives give you a bigger tax base and more advanced gov'ts will pay more as well as put up with a higher tax rate. You also need a lot of colonists there to collect the tax. As long as the natives stay "undecided" about you, you're in good shape. You can study those "happiness" points things if you're a nerdly type who reads his program manuals cover-to-cover before even loading in the program (only the Lizards really have to worry about "happiness"). For most folks, just so long as your natives arn't angry or hate you, you're OK.
Now that you've got your colonists settled & growing, have built those mines & have the minerals out that you need, & maybe even put up a few Def Posts for protection, you've got to decide where to build your Star Bases. First consider your natives when thinking about Star Bases. Section 11.0 of the Docs will tell which four of the natives will give you tech level 10 upon construction. This saves you 4,500 MCs!
These natives also provide a tax base to give you more MCs for further development or ship building. Second, consider your mineral situation. The planet should be loaded with at least one of the minerals & be nearby other planets that are loaded with the others. This is where logistics really comes into play. If you can't get the minerals & MCs where you need them (ie your Star Bases) in sufficient quantities, YOU WILL LOSE! So you want to make the job easy by having as much of want you need as close by as possible.
How many Star Bases should you build? You should build as many as you can that fit the above situation. This will allow you to build a lot of ships quickly if you need to, or at least give you more slots in the ship queue if the 500 ship limit has been reached. Beyond that, it all kinda depends on the situation. If you have the resources to waste & nobody is really bothering you, why not build some up? If nothing else, that Star Base will add a lot to the defensibility of the planet as well as give you plenty of taunting amunition for those points laggards. Just so long as it doesn't interfere with your ship building activities, having a lot of Star Bases can't hurt.
Finally (go ahead, breathe that sigh of relief) we come to ship building. Each race has a few ships that are truly worth building, a couple more that are OK, and a bunch that are worthless. Look the ship lists over & you can figure out which are which pretty much by yourself. Just remember that you need freighters to move your minerals & other stuff around. And you need warships to do your fighting.
Some races have warships with sufficient cargo capacity to do double duty in a pinch. All I'll say about ships are, build the best ones you can, put the best weapons you can on them & always, that's ALWAYS, build transwarp engines. The only two ships I'll talk about specifically are the Fuel Refinery & the Alchemy ships. These ships come in real handy when you start to run out of either fuel or a certain mineral around one of your Star Bases. They use supplies to make them for you. Since they use supplies, you'll want to put them over your planets that have Bovinoids for natives (remember the supply production they give you?). These may be the only ships you could consider not putting transwarp engines on. They probably won't do a lot of moving around anyway, so why bother?
Well, that's about it. Like I said, there's plenty of specific situations that can change these ideas around (not the least of which being what type of victory conditions you are playing under). But this will give you an idea of what you should be considering.
Next article, I don't know yet. Hopefully it'll be something a little more interesting (which should just about be anything I or my editor can think of).