"Mineral Excavation" by Omonubi 1997 v2.6/7
Robert M. Ashcroft
Robert Croson Jr.
Remote Mining. Is it worth it? If so, just how much? What designs work best? The purpose of this article is to help answer some of these questions. If you have any comments or suggestions, please, let me know.
Philosophy: IS remote mining actually worth it? In my opinion, yes, depending on the characteristics of one's race design. Advanced Remote Mining (ARM) is an expensive LRT, but can pay off enourmous dividends in minerals. This is very good if you find your planets constantly running low on Ironium, but can be a waste if your race does not take advantage of resource efficiency.
This whole concept is based around what I call the "Resource Production Limiter", or RPL. If a particular race does not produce enough resources, it can find itself with mineral reserves far in excess of what can realistically be applied to ship construction. Of course, these excess minerals can always be "offloaded" as packet weapons. However, packet weapons are very "expensive", not only to operate but also to build. That 4000kt packet of Boranium could build alot of beam weapons.
A good way of measuring RPL is in Capitol Ship Units, or CSUs. A nice goal is to be able to build at least 1 capital ship from each major shipyard per turn. This would be a CSU of 1. Two CSUs per turn is ideal, and very hard to achieve at any one particular location, at any one time. I have seen many races with lots of minerals, but a very low CSU, due to race design limitations imposed in the Resource Efficiency section of the Race Wizard. This leads to piles of minerals that can easily be captured by your enemies and used against you. Remote mining under these circumstances can become a liability in this respect.
There is no easy way to determine a balance between mineral excavation and RPL - it just takes practice and experience. In my games, it seems to be better to be short on minerals, with a low RPL, rather than the opposite. What good are all those minerals, if you can't use them? Every slot you use for mining hulls is one less that can be used for other types of vessels. In addition, races with a high RPLs (less resource efficiency) also suffer from slow technology advances. This can lead to literally hundreds of vessels in each class, making it much harder to micro-manage fleet resources due to commitments of older designs in strategic deployment.
Colonization vs. Mining:
One of the biggest factors to consider when building remote mining vessels, is the simple question of which is better? Mining planets with your own people, or relying on vulnerable mining ships for the job? Of course, if you are AR, this is not a problem, but for the rest of the PRTs, this MUST be taken into account.
Consider that, with mining efficiency set to the standard 10/5/10 (see below), a population of 100,000 colonists can mine 100kts of minerals (assuming maximum concentrations), at a cost of 500 resources to build those mines.
In comparison, it would require approximately 12-13 mini-miners, equipped with mini-miner robots, to accomplish the same results at a cost of over 2,000 resources (plus minerals). This makes remote mineral excavation 4 to 5 times more expensive. Just imagine if you improve your races mineral efficiency.
What, then, are the advantages of remote mining? Mobility of operations and Immunity from planetary environmental factors. Mining vessels often find themselves deployed around worlds that are very inhospitable to colonization. Even small "green" worlds require far more equipment and materials to place 100,000 colonists on than simply deploying a small group of remote miners. While miners require military protection, their ability to move makes them a renewable resource, in this respect.
Factor in the larger, more cost efficient mineral ship designs possible and remote mining begins to make alot of sense.
But what if you are HE with tri-immunity? Do the math - you may still find remote mining more profitable than colonizing every world you can. With a mineral efficiency of 12/3/16 (see below), a population of 1,000,000 can remote mine 1200kt of minerals per year, at a cost of 3000 resources to build said mines. An Ultra Miner, equipped with Ultra Robots can excavate 300kts for a cost of 600 resources, plus minerals - they're cheaper. By the way, it costs 50 points during race creation to get the ARM used in this example, and 225 points to get the 12/3/16 stats used.
ARM vs. OBRM:
Choosing the Only Basic Remote Mining LRT is a great way to score some extra points during race creation. If your race design fits with this choice, go for it, but at least test the race in a practice game before commiting it to a test against humans (who are so much more brutal). If you find your race chronically short on minerals at year 2450, just imagine how things will look in 2550. Usually, the best application for OBRM is to apply it to a lower resource efficient design, where mining efficiency is usually raised (HE with immunities is a prime example of this). Once again, the cost to increase mining efficiency for the race is going to be higher than the points gained by taking OBRM, but in cases of high habitability (immunities especially), the free growth rate of the local population at any one prospective planet can become an overwhelming factor in these equations.
If your race possesses a low habitabilty (1 in 4, or worse), or if you are an AR PRT, OBRM can really be a mistake. Your only hope is that the Mystery Trader will swing by and give you Alien Miners for your hulls.
Advanced Remote Mining (ARM) is the oposite. By expending some points, your remote mining ability increases dramatically, and the cost of remote excavators drops dramatically, really producing an advantage over colonial excavation. Additionally, with ARM, it is cheaper to build midget-miner hulls and robots than any other design, until the advent of ultra mining. This easily eliminates extraneous ship designs by providing superior remote mining ability in only two designs.
Additionally, if "2 class" ARM plan is followed, Bleeding Edge Technology (BET) can provide the race in question with an insideous mining edge. Since a standard Midget-mining hull is produced for a long period of time, BET can dramatically further lower ship production costs, allowing literally hundreds of miners to be constructed in a short time.
Of course, the third option in all of this is to choose neither - always a safe way to go. In fact, the flexibility in excavator desgin is so much better over OBRM, that it seems better to almost always opt for standard mineral technology, rather than grab the 80 or so extra points during race creation.
Now on with the details of the equipment:
GMU = Galactic Monetary Unit: A method of equivelating minerals and resources into a rational galactic-wide standard.
1 GMU = 1kt Ironium/Germanium = 1 resource = 3 Boranium / These figures are purely for comparison purposes and do not reflect any sort of intrinsic value to an individual player.
TYPE ABIL MASS IRON GERM RES LRT COST (in GMUs)
Mini Miner 4kt 240kt 30kt 7kt 56 OBRM 23.25/kt mined
Miner 12kt 240kt 30kt 7kt 60 - 8.08/kt mined
Maxi Miner 18kt 240kt 30kt 7kt 68 - 5.83/kt mined
Super Miner 27kt 240kt 30kt 7kt 88 - 4.63/kt mined
Midget Miner 5kt 80kt 14kt 4kt 26 ARM 8.8/kt mined
Ultra Miner 25kt 80kt 14kt 4kt 50 ARM 2.72/kt mined
Alien Miner 10kt 20kt 7kt 2kt 17 MT 2.6/kt mined
In ranking, from highest to lowest, based on GMUs cost / kt of mineral mined: Alien, Ultra, Super, Maxi, Miner, Midget, and Mini (which is 2.6 times worse than the Midget robot).
The Alien robot is the most efficient to build and deploy and definately worth using over almost all other models. The Ultra robot may be a better choice, as it allows smaller groups of ships to do more excavating (at a slightly increased cost). This is simply a matter of cost vs. micro-management.
COMMENTS by Mr. Ashcroft:
>The costing strategy (GMUs) is in my view misleading. Better
>investment ratio is to examine the Ironium cost as it is the highest
>investment cost after resources. Hence I use the measure Mining Rate
>/ Ir cost. After all it is the production of Ir that becomes the most
>important element in the game near the end. For the AR production of
>Ir is always the major issue. There is never too much of this stuff.
>IMHO, Ultra robo miners provide a better return on investment when
>hull costs are included. You will find that an ultra miner hull with
>ultra robo miners provides a better return for the mineral investment
>costs when compared with an Ultra miner hull with Alien Miners. So
>while the miners may return the above mineral returns, the total cost
>of the package should be considered as a whole rather than in parts
>has has occured here. For example.
>Warning the following costs are after tech max out and assume 100%
>concentrations of minerals.
>Ultra Miner with Trans-Star 10 engines and 12 miner robots.
>Miner, Ir, Bo, Ge, Res, Mining rate, Ir return (Mining Rate/IR cost).
>Ultra 118kt 0kt 33kt 422 300Kton 2.54kt (ARM)
>Alien 58kt 0kt 21kt 170 120Kton 2.07kt (MT)
>Maxi 106kt 0kt 33kt 386 216Kton 2.04kt
>Super 178kt 0kt 45kt 614 324Kton 1.82kt
>Robo 106kt 0kt 33kt 386 144Kton 1.36kt
>Midget 58kt 0kt 21kt 230 60kton 1.03kt (ARM)
>Mini 106kt 0kt 33kt 386 48Kton 0.45kt
>My Rankings for Ultra Miner Hulls is Ultra, Alien, Maxi, Super, Robo,
>Migdet and Mini.
>Other hulls will change the investment return ratios slightly but you
>see the general results here.
>If you have ARM then Ultras with Ultra miners are the "mineral
>cheapest" option for end game production.
>If you do not have ARM then the Alien miner from the MT is the best
>At other points of the game the cost of production must be considered.
>In this case return on investment must be considered in terms of
>resources to produce the mineral extraction rate. Here comparisons
>with mines on colonies must be considered as well.
>For the AR they don't build mines so the workings are simpler.
>From my experience, I find that for ARM LRT midget miners with Midget
>robo miners are the best alternative until the Ultra Robo miner is
>available. So my strategy is Midget Hulls + Midget Robo miners, then
>Midget Hulls + Ultra Robo Miner, then Ultra Hulls + Ultra Robo Miners.
>For non ARM, the issue is how critical is the mineral shortage?. Then
>it is cost of the least expensive in IR and resources. This makes
>Maxi robo miner and Robo miner configurations much more attractive
>until the MT Alien miner becomes available.
COMMENTS by Mr. Crosswell:
>Probably my favorite two ways of measuring remote miners are the equivalent
>mine cost and the return on ivestment (ROI) of Ironium.
>For instance, if you build a ship that costs 300 resources and it can
>mine 100kT/year on a 100% planet, then thats the equivalent of having
>a Mines Cost 3. The ROI for Ironium is simply how many years it would
>take that ship to mine as much Ironium as it took to make it. For
>example, if the above ship took 200 kT of Ironium to build and can
>mine 100kT/year, then its ROI for Ironium is 2 years. After that, >everything else is profit.
>If you plan on mining at a lower concentration, say an AR at a 30%
>homeworld, then the ROI is 3.3 times longer since your mines are
>less effective at the lower concentration.
>Using the base cost of the items with no miniaturization, a typical
>Ultra-Miner with 12 Robo-Ultra-Miners costs 823 resources. With a
>mining capacity of 250kT/turn, this gives an equivalent of Mines
>cost 2.7 with an ROI on Ironium of .77 years. (I used the Trans-Gal
>fuel scoop and three Super Cloaks.) With typical midgame tech this
>quickly drops to less than 2.5, and with maxed tech it drops to
>something like 1.14 with an Ironium ROI of .3 years with 100%.
>Those are some pretty cheap mines. And they much more effective than
>planetaries because they can move to where the minerals are.
>For regular miners the cost never gets quite that low. The Maxi-Miner
>and Robo-Super-Miners at the basic cost start at Mines cost 4.5 and
>an ROI on Ironium of 1.3 years with 100% conc. and ends up somewhere
>around a mines cost 1.3 and an ROI on Ironium of about .4 years.
>The main benefit of ARM is that the _initial_ miners are so much more
>effective than anyone else's, and they weigh so much less. You can get
>started with a much lower investment. And a non-IT can even gate them.
>As soon as the ARM people get the Ultras, then they again get back the
>big advantage. However toward the end of the game the normal mining
>equipment starts to catch back up. It never quite gets as effective
>as the Ultras, but it comes close. Although you still can't gate
>the darn things if you're not IT. >
>And for OBRM, the cost per mine for remote miners starts at _35.6_ with
>an ROI on Ironium of about _12 years_ at 100% conc. and eventually drops
>down to mines cost 9.1 with an ROI on Ironium of 3.1 years with 100% conc.
>Pretty abysmal, and only the most Iron rich society should ever bother
>with it. And even then only if you have a LONG time to get back some
>returns, and are desperate for other minerals along the way.
>One thing a lot of people overlook is the effectiveness of the Alien
>Miner. They see the low mining rate and think: That sucks....
>But, the Alien Miner is extremely effective. With maxed tech, a Midget
>Miner with two Alien Miners is like Mines Cost 1! And an ROI on Ironium
>of .45 years at 100% Conc. With the Ultra-Miner hull full of Alien Miners
>it goes down to Mines Cost .96 with an ROI on Ironium of .35 years! Even
>if you have normal mining, with a Maxi-Miner it's only just barely more
>expensive. In fact, with the Alien Miner you get _better_ mine efficiency
>than the best ARM. >
>Sure, you have to build more of them, but who cares how many ships
>you have? They cost less, they weigh less, and they gate like crazy.
>The ROI is most useful for showing the differences between OBRM, normal
>mining, and ARM. ARM miners always give an ROI of less than one year.
>That means that your first year of mining a planet with a concentration
>of 100%, you have already recouped your investment and are making a
>profit. Normal miners take almost twice as long, and that's just
>you get the good ones. OBRM simply sucks. >
>I think the most important figure is the equivalent mine cost. It tells
>you how much you're really paying for your mining ability.
COMMENTS by Mr. Crawley:
> I just wanted to second this point, from experience to back up Robert's
>calcs. In a huge game playing a JOAT with normal mining (no mining LRT)
>and cheap construction, the first MT I met gave me the alien miner.
>Within a few years I had alien maxi-miners. To keep their weight down
>for gating while using IS-10s (this was huge, after all) I just used
>only 8 robots per ship. I then made 300 of the suckers over the next
>few decades :-) I gated them wherever they were needed - even overgated
>them close to 1000 LY on occasion through 300/500's. I put first 5,
>later 10, then 20, of them on every planet I couldn't use within my
>mines - that had any decent minerals that is. One such planet was a
>comet world - I put more like 25 of them there (out of the way of many
>of my producers or I'd have sent even more of course). The largest
>problem I had running them was allies mistakenly settling the worlds
>they were working on; even a JOAT ally couldn't see them with their 94%
>cloaking. Didn't lose one.
> I never had more than sporadic and local mineral problems; the ships
>were cheap enough and handy enough I got them all built and where needed
>quickly. They let me build capital ships as fast as resources would
>allow on most of my planets (2-3 per planet per year typically, a high
>portion of them torps/missles). I ran up some impressive fleet totals
> The alien miner is a great part. Be very thankful if you get it, and
>run with it.
> Just one experience with them.
Costs on this table are based on GMUs / robot usable slot:
HULL MODUL MASS I+G FUEL RES LRT COST
Mini Miner 2 +1 80kt 31kt 210 50 OBRM 40.5/slot
Miner 6 +2 110kt 38kt 500 110 - 24.7/slot
Maxi Miner 10 +2 110kt 38kt 850 140 - 17.8/slot
Midget Miner 2 10kt 13kt 210 20 ARM 16.5/slot
Ultra Miner 12 +3 100kt 36kt 1300 130 ARM 13.8/slot
Ranking in hulls go as follows: Ultra, Midget, Maxi, Miner, and Mini. It is interesting to note the excellent cost advantages of the Midget miner vs. the Mini miner. Quite a cost difference indeed. The only advantage the Mini-miner has the extra slot - usefull for a fuel tank or scanner, but that's about it.
The data pretty much speaks for itself, when comparing different miners and equipment. But what about those extra slots on the mining hulls? What to do with those?
If you build lots of ships, placing scanners on your miners can really pay off, especially if you are fighting a SS race (or any race that uses extensive cloaking for that matter).
Fuel tanks are always a favorite - especially if No Ram Scoops is choosen.
Armor is good for durability, and the SD PRT will find it very handy to have its miners armored against exploding mine-fields.
Defensive equipment, such as jammers, thrusters, etc., never made much sense to me - but some of you may feel otherwise. For miners, either offense (deploying armed escorts to the miners) or maneuverability seem a much better resolution to a military threat than any defensive measures one could take.
Ultimately, any decision that one makes regarding this subject, can only really be based on practical experience, as every player utilizes the tools of Stars! in their own, unique ways. i hope this article was able to adequately display the differences regarding the different facets of remote mining, and that some of you may have learned something new in the course of reading it.
Comments are welcome - firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com