after just a few posts here with mostly newbie questions I have gone quiet for a long time. But back then especially MatGB helped a lot with his answers and I got sort of hooked on the game. As I have played a few games in the mean-time, I figured it might be a good idea to write down my experience in the hope that it will benefit others. So, I give you all
My personal strategy guide
This guide reflects my personal style of play, which I have developed over the course of (estimated) about 50 games. The version I play currently is "v0.4.5 [build 2015-09-01.f203162] CMake", although I think any reasonably recent version of the game will do.
I think this game is simply amazing. It is therefore my intention with this guide to help others really get into the game. I try to pick up where the quick play guide left off. The quick play guide shows you what you can do and how you do it, whereas I try to point out what is beneficial to actually do.
All this has been tested on the following settings:
- Stars: Between 15 and 30 per player. Pick what you like.
- Galaxy shape: elliptical
- Galaxy age: mature
- Starlane frequency: medium
- Planet density: low
- Specials frequency: low
- Monster frequency: high
- Native frequency: none
- Max AI aggression: maniacal
- Species: human
Please note the "flaws" of this guide: So far I have only played as humans. Also, this guide is biased towards the robotic hulls, see below. I might add notes about other species or about organic hulls (both living and non-living) later. But for now I consider this good enough.
My aim in every game is to build a superior economy. You can of course choose, say, high starlane frequency, no monsters, no specials, no natives and play some sort of deathmatch. But this is not my style of play and I will not go into this. This guide is about economy.
One more thing before we really get started. I find myself checking the following graphs roughly every 10 turns:
- production output
- research output
- rough estimate of total military strength
The bulk of this guide is devoted to the early game. Here is the reason why. The galaxy is a dangerous place. There are all sorts of monsters and warships of competing empires roaming the starlanes. So, you have to build up your military just to survive and stay in the game. With the game settings I described above this concern becomes so pressing, it will eat almost all of your economic output at game start. On the other hand you want to expand and reasearch new technologies to create a huge and lasting empire. To do so, you somehow have to squeeze out some precious research and production points. Phrased differently, you have to create something out of nothing. And the key to archieve this lies in the early game.
The early game: how
For the early game I have a rather specific order to do things in, both in terms of production and research. We cover production first, because it is rather simple. At game start produce:
- outpost ship
On to the rather long list of research projects:
- Algorithmic Elegance
- Planetary Ecology
- Mass Driver 2
- Subterranean Habitation
- Mass Driver 3
- Robotic Production, Military Robotic Control (just pick the latter; the game will automatically add the former)
- Mass Driver 4
- Nascent Artificial Intelligence
- Nanotech Production, Adaptive Automation
- Orbital Construction
- Fusion Generation, Orbital Generation
- Microgravity Industry
When it comes to colonization, you need at this point of the game a good or adequate planet for your species. But beware of the eccentric orbit special on too small planets. If in doubt check the planet suitability. Also, try to secure systems with a gas giant or asteriods. But do not overextend yourself to do so. There will be time later on for that.
There are two exceptions to the above lists. The first one are monster nests. If you happen to find a Snowflake or Kraken nest, build an outpost ship ASAP and research Domesticated Mega-Fauna as soon as necessary. Snowflakes are harmless at first. But for Kraken you have to secure the nest with your Battle Fleet (the Frigate I from game start and the Cruiser II you built). Otherwise a Kraken will pop out the turn your Outpost Ship hovers above the nest. Trust me, I tried this numerous times.
The second exception (but not as important as monster nests) are growth specials. You want them and you want them right now. So, colonize ASAP and go for growth focus.
Speaking of focus, I have rather simple rules for that. Keep your homeworld on reasearch (until the time comes to switch to growth). For any additional planet, if the system contains a gas giant and/or asteriods, go for industry, otherwise research.
The bulk of your early military will be the premade Robocruiser I design. This is already a descent ship. Two or preferebly three of these can take down a Maintenance Ship in a reasonable amount of time (head back to the Orbital Drydock for repairs, if necessary). Also, two of them are good enogh to overpower a sentry. So, make sure to get at least two rather quickly. Dyson Forests are annoying, but rather easily taken down. Stay away from all other guard monsters at this stage of the game.
Try to alternate your production between the production of warships (Robocruiser I) and Outpost Ships for new colonies. So, make one warship, then one Outpost Ship, another warship and so on. That way, you expand safely, but still reasonably quickly. But delay all this for Outpost Bases on gas giants and asteriods. You want these to be in place before the Orbital Generation and Microgravity Industry techs arrive. When the Orbital Generation tech arrives, make Gas Giant Generators everywhere. At strategically chosen points make a Basic Shipyard and an Orbital Drydock. They are reasonably cheap, but take a few turns to build. So, start early and put them high on your production queue.
One last thing, there is one threat in the galaxy which can really ruin all your efforts: a Juggernaut nest. If you happen to have one of those nearby, do the following. Make at least three, preferably five or more Robocruisers to secure the area. Kill every roaming Juggernaut you can handle. Then let your Robocruisers hover above the nest until an Outpost Ship takes it. Remember to research Domesticated Mega-Fauna. Do all this ASAP and delay even your expansion. It is that important. For if you hesitate and let those Juggernauts mature, you are toast. I mean it.
So, that was how to play the early game.
The early game: why
Why do I do all this stuff in this order? Well, like I said above, you essentially have to create something out of nothing. And the way to do so is to exploit all the flat bonuses the tech tree has to offer. The key techs are Nascent AI, Adaptive Automation, Orbital Generation and Microgravity Industry. And they are so powerful that we delay everything else to get them.
With what I have described above you will have descent reasearch and amazing industry to fuel your military production and expansion. Put that to good use. Colonize and put pressure on your enemies. And most importantly, be patient and stick to the plan. It can feel like a long time before the Adaptive Automation tech arrives. And while waiting for that it can be tempting to set your homeworld to industry focus to fuel your production and get some room to breathe. Resist that temptation at all costs. Be patient, build the necessary military to keep your enemies at bay and expand safely. You will soon enough be able to reap the benefits of this.
My focus on monster nests is mostly a denial strategy. You do not want all these monsters roam your empire. So, take their nests sooner rather than later. Also, Snowflakes make very good early game Scouts. You can essentially keep your whole border under permanent surveillance with just two or three of these critters. Monsters are also the reason to prioritize the research of Mass Driver 2 and 3 and the production of a Cruiser II so early. Taken together, the Frigate I and the Cruiser II have the necessary firepower to actually kill, say, a roaming Drone and give your Outpost Ships a save passage.
One more tip about tamed monsters: park them in places where they mature. Every monster type has a specific type of planet they prefer. Check the pedia. If you cannot put them to good use elsewhere, just leave them at their nests. When they reach their highest level, use them to guard your border or let them just go on rampage on their own. In one game I played, I took out an entire enemy empire with just two Great Juggernauts and the necessary supply of ground troops. These things can be devastating if used correctly (read: patiently). This is also the reason you want to tame them soon. Otherwise they will destroy your empire.
So, this is my early game. Get the flat bonuses ASAP and get the monster threat under control. It really is as simple as that.
What I miss in most strategy guides for all sorts of games are actual numbers to measure my performance. To do this right in my own guide, here are some milestones.
- Adaptive Automation: about turn 35-40
- Orbital Generation and Microgravity Industry: about turn 55
- By turn 100: roughly 100 PPs/turn and 40 RPs/turn
The economy we have created so far has one very important flaw. It is essentially hollow. By that I mean, it is based on flat bonuses rather than actual population to make a stable and long-term growing economy. So, our next step is obviously to correct this mistake. From here on I will change to a more loose description of things rather than a specific order to make things in.
After Microgravity Industry I usually research Active Radar and Symbiotic Biology next. They are both very useful and reasonably cheap at this point of the game. Also, we have delayed them for quite some time. That had a good reason, but now is the time to get them. Active Radar is necessary to see all the roaming Small Snowflakes before they mature. So, if Snowflakes start to randomly appear out of nowhere, research Active Radar and you see why. But don't get shocked if your empire is suddenly flooded with monsters. They are still harmless. And it would be a good idea to kill them before that changes. Also, Active Radar unlocks the Scanning Facility. Place these at strategically important locations just like the Shipyards to keep your enemies under surveillance, mount effective defenses and put pressure on his weak spots. Good intelligence remains important throughout the entire game.
Symbiotic Biology is the first step in a transition to an economy which is actually based on population. If you manage to secure a planet with a growth special, this can already allow you to colonize poor planets. Note that the growth special can be on a poor planet itself. Just set the planet to growth focus and start colonizing poor planets as well.
The next step is usually Laser guns and Zortrium armor. At some point the enemy will show up with shielded ships on your doorstep. When that happens, you need an additional punch. Laser guns do the trick. With Laser 4 and Zortrium you unlock the pre-made Robocruiser III design. And in all the games I play I rely heavily on this ship. The Robocruiser III is a really good ship and it will serve you well for quite some time. So unlock it soon. Note however that especially Laser 1 has a very low RPs/turn limit. So, the order I usually research (after Microgravity) is this.
- Active Radar
- Laser 1
- Symbiotic Biology
- Laser 2, Laser 3
- Indutrial Centers
- Zortrium Armor Plating
- Laser 4
With Active Radar, the Robocruiser III, Symbiotic Biology and an Industrial Center the door is wide open. You are now (roughly turn 75) in a position to secure your empire against any threats and still expand it. At this point I would like to propose five good options to pursue. Note that these can of course be combined.
Option 1: More effective expansion
I assume you are by now able to colonize poor planets. That can happen in one of three ways: with a growth special, with your homeworld on growth focus or with the Xenological Genetics tech. The growth special is definitely the preferred way. The two other ways cost you RPs in one way or another. Take your pick in that case. But if you have no growth special yet, maybe one of the other options will be better suited for you.
When you have a lot of planets available to colonize, things are rather simple. Research Lifecycle Manipulation and expand like crazy. Lifecycle Manipulation is key here, because it significantly lowers the time for new colonies to pay for themselves. For the actual colonization keep up the pattern: industry for gas giants and asteriods, research elsewhere.
Option 2: Magnifying your industry
At this point your industry is already very impressive. But if you wish to deliver an additional punch, you can most certainly do so. Just research Solar Orbital Generation and build a Solar Orbital Generator in a system with a white or blue star. If necessary, make a new outpost for that. The next step (if you want to take it) is the Greater Industrial Centers tech.
With that industrial capacity you will easily be able to produce what you want, when you want it. I prefer to organize my build queue like this:
- most buildings; usually they require only a few PPs/turn
- warships for roughly half your total PPs, repeat 99 times
- Outpost Bases for gas giants and asteroids
- outpost ships/bases for new colonies
- warships for the remainder of your PPs, repeat 99 times
Option 3: Improving Research
This is almost a no-brainer. Beeline for Quantum Networking. Note that this ties in with your population. You should have a good population to make the best use of Quantum Networking. On the other hand, when you get there, an opportunity presents itself to shift the burden of research from your homeworld to other planets. So, this might be a good time to switch your homeworld to growth focus. (See option 1 above) But remember to take the opportunity costs into account. When you switch your homeworld, you will loose the RPs of its twenty-something population. Make sure that you have enough planets on the research focus which can benefit from the homeworld supply.
Option 4: Improving your warships
If you want to pick a fight, go ahead. You have been patient long enough now. So, go for either the Contra Gravitational Maintenance tech and the Self-Gravitating hull (to stay on the robotic hull path) or switch to asteroid hulls (in any size you see fit). Only then research Plasma guns and Diamond Armor Plating. (Skip the latter, if you intend to use Rock Armor Plating.)
Why not go straight for Plasma and Diamond? Well, I like to alternate research into hulls and research into components (guns and armor). When you look at our two types of Robocruisers you can see a pattern. The Robotic Hull is just a little too large for Mass Drivers and Standard Armor. But with the additional power of Laser guns and Zortrium Armor the Robocruiser III makes a very good warship. But for Plasma guns and Diamond armor the Robotic Hull would be just a little too small. So, I prefer to get better hulls first (which then are just a little too small for Laser guns and Zortrium armor) and then mount Plasma guns and better armor on it.
Option 5: Terraforming
This is sort of an alternative to expansion when we pursue our goal of a population based economy. What to do is simple. Research Terraforming and then terraform all your planets. Start with the larger ones and work your way towards the smaller ones. This will put your industrial capacity to good use in order to increase your population a lot. Note that this is more a strategy for long-term growth. That is, it prepares your empire for the Gaia Transformation.
And Gaia Transformation is the obvious conclusion of this option. Note that you can combine the latter with the Artificial Planet tech to create Artificial Gaia Worlds from all your gas giants and asteroids. With the necessary economic efficiency techs these will easily outperform Gas Giant Generators and Microgravity Industry.
Combinations and more options
All these options can of course be combined. For example, you might want to improve your research first in order to get the necessary techs for the other options faster. Or what I like to do is to improve my military techs followed directly by an improvement of my industry. That can easily overpower an enemy which had been a real threat to you before.
Other techs I like are the following. The Neutron Scanner tech allows for much better intelligence. I prefer a highly tactical form of warfare instead of just rushing forward in bigger numbers, so this suits me well. If you consider quickly improving your economic output, the Force-Energy Structures tech can reduce delays. The Orbital Habitation tech is always a good idea, when you can afford it. Combined with a growth special or your homeworld on growth focus and the Cyborgs tech it even allows you to colonize hostile planets. If you go on the warpath, both the Spatial Flux Drive and the Nanotech Cybernetics tech will give you much cheaper ground troops. The former will also improve your scouts and is really cheap. Also, it lies on the research path to Self-Gravitating Hulls. Finally, energy hulls of all sorts are always a good idea.
Like I said in the introduction, I play without natives. They usually provide you with a very cheap and effective opportunity for expansion. And I find it challenging to deny myself this opportunity. For the same reason I do not use Exobots and instead try to colonize the whole galaxy with humans, just for fun. Also, I prefer terraforming and later the Cyborgs tech over the Xenological Genetics and Xenological Hybridization techs.
Many people like shields. I do not, because they are not cost-effective. Their effect is to virtually increase your structure points (armor) against weak weapons. But here is an idea. How about we actually increase structure points through better armor, which costs fewer RPs to research, fewer PPs to produce and helps a lot more against stronger weapons? So, no shields on my ships.
Other techs I avoid are all the organic hulls and all the stealth and defense techs. For the former, this is certainly due to a lack of experience on my part. So, I might practice to use them effectively. I consider the stealth techs relatively expensive and have not yet found a good use for them. About defense, my idea is simple. The best defense is a good offense.
I will end the guide at this point. I am sure, if your game lasts longer, you can take it from here and apply these ideas yourself, following the general pattern I have laid out above.
The key points of all this are to stay patient and to nurture your economy. It will serve you well in the long run. You might at some points see from the graphs that the AI outproduces you in the early game by sacrificing research for production. In that case, do not get scared, but put the champagne on ice, for you will have won soon.
I can play this game over and over and still have so much fun. So, first thank you to all the developers and contributors for creating it. It is my sincere hope, that this guide helps you to get into the game and have as much fun playing it as I do.
Comments, thoughts and suggestions are of course welcome.