"Bombing, Packets, and Invasions" by Shane Kearns 1997 v2.6/7
Bombing, Packets and Invasions
by: Shane Kearns
This article is intended to give players new to stars an indication of the capabilities of the different ways of capturing/destroying a planet, and when each method is appropriate.
(Lady Finger, Black Cat, M-70, M-80, Cherry)
These bombs kill a moderate amount of colonists, and destroy a moderate number of installations(factories/mines/defenses). They require only weapons technology to build. Since most people have high weapons tech, the Cherry bomb is the most common of these in multi player games These bombs are the most affected by defenses
(Smart, Neutron, enriched neutron, peerless, annihilator)
These bombs kill a lot of colonists, but leave installations intact. They use the lower (red) curve for defenses in the tech browser, so defenses are less effective, however they will not kill everybody - the more smart bombs you have the less effective each one is. These bombs require biotechnology as well as weapons. Since most players have expensive(+75%) biotechnology, you will most often see neutron/enriched neutron bombs
(LBU-17, LBU-32, LBU-74)
These bombs are fairly ineffective at killing colonists, but they destroy a large number of installations. Unlike the other bombs, they require germanium to build. They require electronics technology as well as weapons. You will most often encounter LBU-32 and LBU-74 bombs - the battle supercomputer at electronics 11 falls between these two, and is a place a lot of players stop on electronics and research something else.
Special Bombs and bomb-like effects
Retro Bomb (claim adjuster special part) This bomb deterraforms planets. It is useless, as the lower tech orbital adjuster is better
Orbital adjuster (claim adjuster special part) This mining robot terraforms both friendly and enemy planets. Enemy planets are terraformed away from their optimum. Friendly planets are terraformed towards it.
Hush-a-boom (can be got from the mystery trader) This bomb is very cheap, and kills more people than the cherry bomb, however it does minimal damage to installations. It suffers the full effect of defenses, but is is additive (if you put enough if them in a fleet to get 2000% kill (42 B-52 bombers full), you can destroy a planet in a single year. Their main use is as a cheap (and mostly better) alternative to cherry bombs.
Multi-contained munition (can be got from mystery trader) This device acts as a beam weapon, minelayer, bomb and battle computer all rolled into one. Since it goes in a 'weapon' slot rather than a bomb slot, its main advantage is that you put it on battleships rather than easily killed bombers. Its bombing ability is not that good (about the same as a black cat bomb), but still a useful item.
Population invasion ("pop-drop", "baby-bombing") This can be the cheapest way to get a planet - simply fill a freighter up with colonists, and unload it on an enemy planet. Defences will kill 75% * the defence percentage of the colonists (e.g. 95% defences will kill 71% of the invaders). In most cases, whoever has the most colonists on the ground after defence kills will get to keep the planet (along with all the factories and mines). The invader also gets a chance to gain a tech level. If the defender is Inner Strength, each defending colonist counts as 2 If the invader is a warmonger, each invader counts as 1.5
Mineral packets This is the most expensive (in minerals) way to hurt a planet. However, mineral packets can fly up to warp 16 even through minefields - the victim has less warning of the attack Also, they can kill a planet even if it has a starbase (with all other methods, you must destroy the base first). It is effective if the target planet has no defenses (or few defenses) and/or no mass driver. If you are Packet Physics, your better mass drivers and reduced decay make this form of attack more effective. Alternate reality races are immune to packet attacks, since they live in starbases. Also, anyone with warning of the incoming packet can intercept the packet and steal the minerals, or 'dodge' - load all the population into freighters and colonise the planet again next year. Packets don't destroy factories and mines, but they do destroy defenses. Some of the minerals in the packet will be left on the surface.
Which attack to use in which circumstance: Poorly defended, low population - mineral packet or invasion (you can lift the survivors back off the surface). If the planet has warships in orbit, use a packet.
Useless to you, well defended - Unless you have much better mass drivers than them, packets will be largely inneffective. You will need to destroy the base and defending ships. Then use a 50/50 mix of LBU and standard bombs. With LBU74/Cherry, 20 B17 or stealth bombers is enough. Even through 95% defenses, the LBU bombs will destroy all the factories/mines/defences. The following year, the standard bombs will kill the population. Even if you have to flee a counterattack, the first year's bombing will cripple the planet's economy, as no factories means no resources, and no mines means no minerals. If possible, take all the minerals from the planet. If you are super-stealth, the robber baron scanner lets you take them the year you arrive (upshot: the planet can't rebuild their defences/base). Otherwise, colonise the planet and unload all minerals/colonists the following year (it is important not to leave the 2,500 or 25,000 colonists on the surface as they make a tempting target for invasions which means giving away tech to your enemy).
Useful to you, well defended: Ideally, you want to capture the planet intact. This means using smart bombs and waiting until the population is low enough that you can invade. Once the population is below 250,000, they won't operate the full 100 defences, so the defence value will fall. If you have orbital adjusters, they are an excellent backup to your smart bombs. Firstly, when you lower the planet value, the maximum population the planet will hold drops, so people will die from overcrowding. Secondly, if you manage to lower the planet value below 0, only 50,000 of the colonists on the surface can operate factories/mines/defenses, so the defence percentage should drop sharply. Once the population/defences are low enough, you can invade. This sort of capture takes several years, as opposed to the two for LBU/standard bombing. As a result, the defender has more chance to counterattack. You may want to stick to standards/LBU for faster damage to your enemy. Also if you have no hope of keeping the planet once captured then use LBU/standards
Hit-and-Run attacks: Sometimes you want to do maximum damage to an enemies economy with minimal risk to yourself. There are two options here: cloaked fleets or mineral packets. With cloaked fleets (by far the easiest for super-stealth), you need to make fleets with warships and bombers. Use plenty of LBU bombs, especially if your enemy relies on factories for their resources. Sneak around until you find a weakly defended planet and then go in, hit it hard. If theres nobody who can counterattack you, stay for the second year and kill the colonists. Otherwise move away. Super stealth should use robber baron ships as well. With mineral packets (by far the easiest for packet physics), you should launch mineral packets at highest possible speed against as many targets as possible all in the same year. After the first packet attack, the enemy will be sure to build defences, so make it count. If you are forced to retreat after bombing enemy planets, remember that when your enemy re-colonises them, they have to rebuild the defences. This gives you a window of opportunity for another packet attack.
Packets through defences: Sometimes, it is worth making that 25000kT mineral packet to kill a planet despite its defences. If the planet is exceptionally important. A prime example of this is "one world wonder" races. In tiny/sparse games, a lot of players design races that have habitable ranges so narrow they can only live on their homeworld. If you can destroy their homeworld under the feet of the dreadnaught fleet they're building to come and kill you then its worth whatever amount of boranium you have to put in the packet. I know, I've been at the receiving end of it once :)