"David Moen's Newbie Tips" by David Moen 1999-10-20

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Moen’s Tips for New Players

By: David Moen

Editor’s Note: This article was written as tips for beginners in a game David Moen was mentoring.

The tips were included on selected turns by the host with the covering message that accompanied the .m file sent to the players in the game "A Third Small Step".

This was a game intended for people who had never completed a game against humans before, had PPS, no AccBBS, and Max Minerals, a tech 10 ceiling and was 80 turns long. Players were restricted to using one of the 6 canned races.

The tips may not be appropriate for all other situations.

The tips are presented in the order they were given. On some turns, especially later in the game, no tip was given.


Things to do and not do on the first turn of a Stars! game:

- Move all your ships with scanning ability, plus any mining ships, to scout nearby planets. Feel free to give orders for several years of movement. Your longest range scout ship (the one with a fuel tank) should be given a course to scout the planets that come close to a straight line between your home world and the farthest system in the universe. Mining ships will scout a planet on the year they first mine it. They should be used on nearby planets that won't be on the paths of scouts you build later. Shorter range scouts should be given a course that has them scouting several planets and ends at a system you would like to get continual reports about for some time. Transports with scanners should be given a course to scout local planets and then return to base.

- Set your production queue(s) for your planet(s). A good queue should have auto build factories at the top. Only auto build mines when you have run out of minerals for factories and defenses. One possible production queues is:

auto build 500 factories

auto build 100 defenses

auto build 500 mines

auto build 100 terraform

Once you have a queue you like, set it as the default queue.

- Look through the Others' Fleets Summary Report (hit three times to see this report. Get used to looking at this for any early contacts with other races.

- Set up your research. At the beginning of the game, it is probably best to set the percentage of resources used to 0. Do set the current and subsequent field values, so that any unexpected surplus resources you happen to get in a few turns will be spent in the right place. If you don't have Improved Fuel Efficiency and enough Propulsion tech to build either the Fuel Mizer engine or the Daddy Long Legs 7 engine, you might want to consider starting your research in the Propulsion field. You will need good engines to move your population around once you have enough people on your home world. Generally, adjustments to research should be the last thing you do each turn, so changes in population and production arising from your manual loading and unloading of ships, and changes to production queues, don't cause an unexpected drop in research.

- Don't build new ships. You need to re-invest all you’re output into your economy, building factories and mines.

- Don't send silly messages to all the other players. People will judge you by what you say, so don't say anything that will give a bad impression. Consider saying nothing at all until you meet someone, or until you have something important to discuss with the universe.

- Don't start colonizing other planets immediately. If you can, wait until your planet's population has reached 25% of capacity before moving population off of it. You economy will grow faster this way. Sometimes you may need to move some population before you reach 25% of capacity, but this would be in response to something another player is doing.


Most races grow their economy fastest if they don't send any population away from their home world until it has reached 25% of population capacity. However, once they reach that point they continue to grow fastest by not letting the HW population grow larger than that. They control the population by shipping it to new colonies. To do this efficiently they must be prepared to move colonists efficiently as soon as they reach 25% of capacity. Preparation includes having fast capacious transport and having found worlds to settle. This usually means researching Construction and/or Propulsion tech to get a reasonable freighter design, and building more scouts to find habitable planets. However, all of this work should be delayed as late as possible, so as to minimize the cost to economic growth. It matters _when_ you make an expenditure because of the compounding effects of growth.

To figure out when to do research or when to build scouts, you have to figure out how long it will take to get the work done and count backwards from the year you will need it.


The year before you surpass 25% of population capacity on your HW, you should put into the production queue enough transports to move the population you will have in excess of 25% of capacity. The transports should probably be based on the privateer hull with three fuel tanks and an engine that is good enough. If you have Improved Fuel Efficiency (IFE), then the Fuel Mizer will be a good enough engine. If you don't have IFE, you should try to get the DDL-7 engine or better. For short runs, you might make do with the LH-6 engine or a transport based on the medium freighter hull with one fuel tank.

You will probably have to research Construction and Propulsion to get these items, so be sure to start the research early enough to get it done before you need to build the ships. Don't start earlier than that, though. You can temporarily crank up the percentage of resources going to research to be a large number, to get this research done quickly. Don't forget to turn it back to 0 when you have what you need.

You might also find that you are using up Germanium so much that you will run out just when you need to build ships. If this is the case, insert a batch of (not auto build) mines in the queue for a year.

Once you start moving population off your HW, you will need a place to put it. The ships you had when you started will have found a few habitable worlds but you will need to keep looking. You will need to build enough scouts to find worlds fast enough for you to fill them up. If you want to put about 100,000 colonists on each new world and your HW is producing 50,000 colonists in excess of 25% each year, you will need to find a new habitable planet every two years. If your hab is 1 in 8 and your scouts will take an average of 1.5 years to reach a new planet, then you need 6 scouts working. (The faster your scouts go, the fewer you will need.) Time the building of these scouts so they start working about the time you exceed 25% of capacity on the HW.


Hyper-expander (HE) races should be getting close to 25% of capacity on their home world now. They should be getting ready to move people off. The hyperexpander is one race that doesn't need to use fuel mizers or privateers. The Settler's delight engine can be used on the mini colony hull to produce three ship types: the mini-colonizer, the mini-transport and the fuel tanker. Besides the engine these have a colony pod, a cargo pod and a fuel tank, respectively.

Non-HE races have a few turns to go yet, but since they produce about twice as many colonists in excess per turn, and don't have the nifty engine or hull, they need to do ore preparation to move. By now you should have figured out on which turn you will surpass 25% of capacity on your HW, when you need to build scouts, what tech you need to research, and when to build freighters and colony ships.


Most races need to do scouting to find habitable worlds. There are some exceptions to this. In a universe with maximum minerals, tri-immune races such as HEs based on the Silicanoids don't really need to scout - all planets are equal to them

Warmongers need to scout more than other races. Not only do they have to find habitable worlds, they also need to find a target to attack (with their economic settings, they'll never win by just keeping to themselves). The defensive weaknesses of Warmongers also make them more reliant on thorough scouting. Because they have no minelayers and minimal planetary defenses, Warmongers should always attempt to defeat enemy fleets in enemy or unoccupied territory. They need to detect those fleets before they reach the WM's planets.

Races with the No Advanced Scanners LRT will eventually have to build scouts or some sort of presence to place at all uninhabited planets near their territory, to detect planet-hopping invaders.


(Ask Doctor Dave is an intermittent feature of the turn file cover message. Doctor Dave gives advice to Stars! players that's worth at least what you pay for it.)

>Dear Doctor Dave, I have been holding the HW on 25%

>but I have only discovered one habitable planet


>Since it seems likely that I will struggle to find habitable

>worlds, I was thinking about building the home world up to say 33% to gain

>more economic production at the expense of some pop growth. Does this seem

>wise to you?

The fact that you haven't found a habitable world yet may indicate you haven't been scouting enough, or it may indicate you have been unlucky. How many worlds have you scouted so far? What portion of worlds do you expect to be habitable for you? If you only expect to find one inhabitable world in the number you have scouted, then you should be scouting more. You have to be prepared for a slightly below average planet draw.

You could let the HW population rise, but if you have a second planet there is a better choice. You could ship all excess pop to your second planet. This will minimize the loss of population growth, while still growing your economy. (This assumes that your second planet has a lower value than your HW.)


As contacts with other races increase, you might want to consider checking that you’re diplomatic settings (F7) and your battle plans (F6) only lead to conflicts you intend.


When colonizing planets which are more than 3 years away, it can make good economic sense to use a colonizer ship based on the privateer hull, colony pod and two fuel tanks, rather than a colony pod on a colony ship hull. When you colonize planets one or two years away a colony ship hull is better. At three years, either will do.


At this stage it is important to avoid overcrowding your colonists. You should be trying to keep your home world population down to 25% of capacity. (Races with high growth rates (18%+) and narrow habs (1:10-) may have to put up with 33% or even 50% but that is an undesirable compromise.)

If population is higher than 25% of capacity, figure out why, and fix the problem. If you don't have enough transports, build them. If you don't have enough minerals to build transports, build more mines. If you don't have enough habitable planets to which to ship colonists, build more scouts, or ship more colonists to planets you already have.

If you are going to overcrowd a planet it is best to fill up the small value planets first. This minimizes lost growth.


Which planets to settle?

As many as possible, as long as you can defend them. None that will offend your neighbors, unless you want to offend them. The biggest value ones first, or the ones with the most important strategic location first.


A wounded bear is more dangerous than a dead bear. If you are going to do harm to another race, make sure you do it enough harm that it cannot hurt you back.


Remember that building ships slows down investment in your economy. Try to plan you empire's expansion so that it requires a minimum of shipbuilding. This can be accomplished by making short runs, or runs to only a few planets at a time.


A lone race does not fare as well as a race with allies.


Now that Public Player Scores are visible, you can get an idea of how you stand relative to the other races. Any one who asks can get a private assessment from me of how they got there, and how they are doing.


You only need to scout a planet once to tell whether it is habitable, but you need to keep checking to see if it has become occupied. WM races especially, because of their vulnerability on defense must constantly scout to prevent the enemy from gaining a foothold close to the WM's territory.


There is more than one way to skin a cat. Military operations are not the only way to achieve an objective.


Before the battleship era, it is usually (but not always) a waste to add armor to a combat ship's design. Shields and firepower are more important. Exception to this rule might be made for special-purpose ships, like minesweepers, which will act alone and encounter repeated small threats.


You can frequently save one turn's travel time by adjusting a fleet's speed when it is part way through a multi-year trip. For instance you may not have enough fuel to get to a waypoint that is 110ly away by traveling at warp 8 all the way. However if you travel at warp 7 for one year you might have enough fuel to travel the rest of the way at warp 8, thereby saving one year.


One reason to leave armor off your early combat ship designs, is that ships with armor are so heavy that they can be too slow to intercept scouts and colonizers, even when armed with torpedoes.


Wars are usually a net cost to both sides.


Q. You recommended that I fill up my colonies to 25% and then build a Starbase to allow further colonization from there. Building a Starbase seems to take a very long time. Is it better to allow the planet to build up resources first even if this means going over the 25% mark?

A. It depends on the reason that it takes so long to build the starbase. If it takes so long to build the starbase because the base's cost in resources is many times what the planet produces each turn, then yes, build up the resources, and let the pop grow while you do this. If the reason is that the planet has a shortage of minerals needed to complete the base, you should ship in the required minerals from your home world or another nearby planet and build the base as quickly as possible.


Think about upgrading your defenses.

The original Starbase design is vulnerable to torpedo attacks.

Planetary defenses are effective against bombs, invasions and packets.

Minefields usually make an attack move slower, giving you more time to react.

Planetary scanners and scouts at advance locations give you an early warning of any approaching threat.

By the time you are under attack, it is too late to build these things. You must build defensive measures before you need them.


Q. What would you view as an appropriate mix of torps and beam weapons to mount on a base, and also shields or armor or both? Computers?

The appropriate mix of torpedoes, missiles beams and sappers varies as technology advances. When beams are only at range 1 or 2, it is important to have some torpedoes to be able to reach enemy ships armed with torpedoes. If the enemy only has range one beams, you might want to include some blackjacks on your base. When you have range three beams and sappers, you might be able to leave torpedoes off entirely, until your enemy gets missiles. Once your enemy starts attacking with missiles, you need them too. When his jamming gets high, switch to torpedoes. However, by that stage in a game, a base isn't really able to defend itself. It needs a fleet to help.

Whenever you have torpedoes or missiles, you need enough computing to win the initiative and counter any jamming. Any other slots can be used for jamming. For beam-only bases, use capacitors.

I frequently balance the shield strength with the armor strength. Often this means three stacks of shields and one of armor. This is most useful when facing missile-armed ships, whose damage doubles when shields are down, or when you expect to be subject to repeated attacks which you can hold off, (the shields replenish after every year, armor takes longer to repair). Of course if you can more then double your defensive strength by using armor instead of shields, it can be a better choice.


Try to fill up your small worlds and your HW before filling up any other larger worlds.


Try to avoid fighting battles you cannot win.


Think about who should be your friends and enemies.


Sometimes lots of little cheap ships can be more effective than a few big, expensive ones. Other times the opposite is true. Look at the costs and the benefits.


Q. If I build chaff, do they have to be at least as fast as the ships they protect to be effective?

A. Their battle speed needs to be fast enough that the ships they are protecting do not enter the enemy's range before the chaff, but slow enough that they do not enter the enemy's range before the ships they are protecting.

Chaff is usually only effective against torps and missiles, BTW.


Combat ships with beams are generally stronger at this stage than same tech missiles.


Q. What orders do I give a fleet intercepting the mystery trader?

It doesn't need a waypoint task where it meets the trader. It just has to get to the same spot as the trader, with the trader specified as the waypoint.

Remember that all ship sin the fleet will be absorbed unless the fleet is carrying less than 5,000ky of minerals as cargo.


Napoleon said "Force equals mass times velocity". One thing to learn from this is it is important to concentrate ones forces.


It is better to run and live than stand and die.


A major war can easily last for the rest of the game.


When designing warships, keep the following tips in mind:

Ships with range 3 beams should try for battle speed of 2 1/4 or 1 1/2. This covers the entire board in 2 or 3 turns, respectively. Ships with range 2 beams should try for battle speed of 2 or 1 1/2. This covers the entire board in 3 or 4 turns, respectively.

Attack shielded frigates with torps.

Attack large shield stacks with sappers.

Use shields against an enemy who doesn't have sappers.


One disadvantage of the attack is that you have to build your attack fleet before you get to your target. If the defender can discover the composition of your fleet, he might be able to build counter designs for defense.


Try to avoid fighting a battle unless you know you will win.