"Balancing Planets" by Jason Cawley 1997 v2.6/7
by: Jason Cawley
> I'm a fairly new stars player and i'm starting to try to balance
> my planets correctly with minerals and colonist's...
K. Good question BTW.
Three issues really. One, how to manage your population. Two, what you can do about mineral balancing early on (while most of your planets are still building factories about as fast as they can). Three, some balancing ideas/targets for later on, on your bigger "production center" worlds, so you can build lots of good ships when you need 'em.
There are a lot of posts/pieces out there on balancing population. You might look for them if you want more detail about this stuff. But I'll give you one "program" that works pretty well in my experience, and is close to what the more detailed stuff says one ought to try for.
The main reason to balance population is to keep your overall population growth high for a long time, to fill your available space. Population growth is reduced by "crowding", which sets in after a planet gets to 25% of its maximum size. For a 100% hab world, thats 250,000 pop for most races, but +10% or 275,000 if you have OBRM (only basic remote mining), and +20% for JOAT (jack of all trades) races - 300,000. Course, 330,000 for JOATs with OBRM. For lower hab places (most planets), it starts earlier, at hab % times those figures. You can see the current % of capacity on the planets report screen, listed next to the habitat %.
Crowding has a minimal overall effect up until about 50% of capacity though, for various "trade-off" related reasons. And it doesn't matter so much what % of cap you are at for lower value worlds, since the amount of pop growth they contribute is small anyway.
Early on, the only planet where crowding is going to be an issue is the homeworld. Try managing the HW pop level this way - up to 25% of capacity, don't send out new people (the initial colonizer if you want I guess). Then send all the pop growth each year to new colonies after you get to the 25% "hold" level, without using the main pop. So you get 25% of capacity, growing at your best possible rates, to send to your colonies (more about how much to send to them each later).
Then at some point your HW will about finished the factories and mines it can operate at the "held" pop level (if you have a standard "autobuild" order, like lots 'o factories then lots 'o mines, you'll see one or the other of those lines turn green at this point). When that happens, stop sending people from the HW, and just let it grow up to 50% of capacity or so. Then off-load the grown pop there too, assuming you have places to send the people left to do. At the higher, 50% "hold" level, you'll want to "clear the q" - meaning stop building factories and mines for a bit, after you have all the population can operate at the 50% level.
Later, when you run out of places to send pop to, you can let the HW keep going up again (or even fill it all the way to the brim using growth from your other good worlds, or putting pop in freighters in orbit until you have enough to fill the place).
That is a decent procedure to follow for the HW, and not hard to get used to or too much work really. It is also the model for what you can do for your better worlds later - worlds that will be 80% or better after they are fully terraformed, say (people call those "breeders" :-). You can run them pretty much the same as the HW, except usually it is straight to the 50% hold level (cause they need bases and terraforming and things before they start off-loading pop, usually).
OK, but how much to send to new colonies. Well, 21,000 - 25,000 pop can work fine, just letting the pop grow after that. Especially for high growth rate races (like 18-19%). For slower growers (like 15%), you might want 42,000-50,000 say, depending on how much space you have and whether you are under enemy pressure, of course. Certainly you don't need to send new people to a colony with over 100,000 pop on it already, early on - that's a bit of a waste if you have other places you can send them. Why? Well, because going from say 25,000 to 50,000 might speed things up by 10 years on a 50% habitat world if you have 15% pop growth, but going from 100,000 to 125,000 on the same place would only make about 3 years difference - 1.075^3 = 1.24 times.
Later on, when you have settled your available space and have to win wars to get more planets, higher "balancing" levels can make sense. Because then the sort of alternative use of the population to speed up some other world more isn't really available. In that case, 250,000 pop is a good target (assuming the planet is big enough, habitat-wise, to fit them). The idea is, when that much pop builds all the factories they can operate, they can then terraform the place ands get the pop decent. When the hab turns decent from the terraforming, the growth will go up, and then it is sort of like the breeder situation above - and being at the 250,000 level is a decent place to start that from. 250,000 pop also lets a world operate the maximum number of planetary defenses. But don't try to get everyone to 250,000 until after the colonizing period, for the "speed up time" reasons given above.
Also, one word about yellow worlds. Better yellows are fine, the -3 or better ones for example. The -7 or better ones, well, eventually yeh you will probably want them unless you have real wide hab or lots of room, but wait on them. When you do want to use a yellow, send 50,000 pop to it, or 55,000 with OBRM, etc. That many can operate factories and work at full efficiency on a yellow world. If it's only -1 or -2, you can have them terraform first. But if it is going to take longer, make the factories first, then terraform after they are up. You don't need to send more pop - the yellows are going to take time any way you slice it; just be patient with 'em. It can help to send an extra load of pop to them right after they turn green, though.
Well, there are more tricks to managing you pop, but those will get you decent performance.
Early minerals are a pretty simple story. With everyone building factories, everyone needs G (germanium) and there isn't enough. Well, until somebody stops building factories (or can build all they can operate every year), pretty much everyone has to use their own G. When the HW is "held" it'll start to pile up some of the stuff. Send it to the worlds that need it - low G concentration worlds, good places to speed them up, or places you want to put up starbases for example (those cost a fair amount of it). Might seem risky to have no G on the HW, but it is mining a lot typically, and early warships don't cost much anyway. The G has "time value" - the sooner you use it the more factory income you have, and that buys more factories and more mines, etc. So use the G stock until you have several held planets and autobuilds are turning green. It'll be scarce for a while.
For the other minerals, you can balance them at this stage some, but not a high priority and shipping is usually scarce. Sometimes (e.g. start with only a 30 Iron concentration on the HW) it can help to bring iron back from the colonies to the HW. After all, at the start only the HW has a base, so that is where all the ships have to be made, and iron is mainly for that purpose. If you have idle freighters and want to balance things out at this point, a decent target is 250 kt of the first 2 minerals on each colony. Not a lot, but enough for their simple bases when they are ready for them. You can also make mineral runs to places you want bigger, armed starbases at, from the HW.
Ok, third point is about mineral balancing later on, for production centers. Time of game I am talking about here is - you've got decent warship tech (cruisers, battleships, good weapons), a fair number of good sized base planets (whether still held at 50% of cap, some filled, or all somewhat bigger and growing), the big planets all have as many factories and mines as they can operate at their pop, etc. Well, here the idea is to have ship-building flexibility.
What I shoot for then is to have at least 1000 kt of each mineral on each production center planet, and if I can 2000 kt of iron rather than 1000. If your planets are bigger (in resource income I mean - more factories operated) then you might well want more by a like amount. The idea is that when building the warships, that sort of "stock" will let the place make all it can - at least for a short while. Making the biggest, heaviest missle BBs it might about run out in one year doing that, but beamers or cruisers it can make for a while. And these are minimums. The idea is, I want to be able to build the best ships at every producing planet if I have to. Then in slower times (not a war emergenecy I mean) I'll build ships with my minerals above those amounts. Course, sometimes I'll run 'em down to almost nothing in an emergency, or to launch an attack - but after, I'll try to rebuild them with waiting (not building) and moving stuff around.
That part isn't so hard, unless you are building warships all out for a period of several years. When you are, no getting around it - you are going to make a mess of your rear areas :-) 5-10 years trying to build everything you can will, even with freighters running "shortage" shipments hither and yon, still inevitably leave you with several planets low on something. Minerals coming in from remote mining can help - or send shipments from your worlds not yet at base size. But really, it will take you 3-5 years (building little or nothing while rebalancing) to sort out the aftereffects of a really big ship order. In my experience anyway. One trick in this regard is to try to get those periods (building, recovery) to "time" with tech cycles - so during the "pause" you get what you need for a better type of ship for the next "flurry" :-)
Anyway, as I said a good question. I hope this is helpful.