"On the Subject of Strategy" by Dog (warppuppy) 1999-04-02 v2.6/7i

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On the subject of strategy

by Dog (warppuppy)

I'll be covering a lot of ground with this message, and it's unlikely *anyone* will agree with all of it. I'm writing in a direct way to save bandwidth, please don't take offense :o)

(I'm trying to spark some conversation on the topic of Stars strategy for my own nefarious purposes)

On the subject of strategy

IMO strategy is a parent to the subjects, of tactics, diplomacy, and race design.

IMO plan needs to be pretty bad before it's worse than no plan at all. Thus, I always have a plan.

Some will claim that this makes me predictable. I arbitaraily assert that the 'fog of war' in Stars is sufficiently opaque to offset this.

Also, any good chess book will remind you to re-evaluate your position after every move and be prepared to change your strategy at a moment's notice.

Strategic Decisions

1: The first strategic decision to be made once you've selected a game is how you plan to win.

The likelihood of victory via a particular strategy will be largely determined by the game parameters and the skill level of the players.

***Personally I reckon all you need is an *average* race to win most PBM games of stars!***

(This is because diplomacy and strategy is usually paramount in games of more than 2 players!)

e.g. I think it would be fair to say that a game with more than a few players will be hard to win against similarly skilled players with a simple expansion plan.

2: Ongoing strategic decisions

Every turn a player finds themselves making decisions re alliances, ship movements, designs, and so forth. With a little luck there's a plan behind it all... So how do you come up with the plan?

Here's how I do it...

  1. If I'm not at war with someone I communicate with them, often and usefully.
  2. Get lots of scouting data, and fill the gaps by trading PLA files (See note).
  3. Make a map using 'Stars Notebook'
  4. Draw lines all over the map showing borders (real or guessed)
  5. Dump the map to a bitmap and graffiti it with numbers showing how powerful players are (and how fast that's changing). (Tee hee hee, now I have a battle-map)
  6. Work out where's the game's going.
  7. Look at your resources and position, and what you know of the other players and their motivations and alliances.
  8. Play 'what if?'
  9. Come up with a cunning plan.
  10. Chat with people to gather the additional information necessary to decide if it'll work.
  11. Decide on a course of action, and review it all again next turn
  12. Does this seem long and involved? The mapping takes about 10 minutes and gives you something to e-mail people or gaze at adoringly on the bus. Compared to MM it's a positive joy! :o)

Note: Giving away your PLA is a security risk, but swapping PLAs is extremely useful. I start the transfer gradually by using 'Information Trader'. I send a seriously stripped version of the PLA, and await the same in return, then increase the level of detail, and await the same in return. It takes a few e-mail messages, but saves stress.

Strategy & diplomacy

You usually won't be in a position to smite the combined strength of every other player in the game... So you *have* to count on other players for help (or at least non-intervention).

It's unreliable to guess what every other player is going to do. My opinion is that the best insurance is simply to ask them! Though maybe not directly :o(

If you are on chatting terms with another race you should hopefully be privy to information about how they're doing, how diplomatic relations are with their neighbours, and whether they're itching for a fight or looking for a period of consolidation. This is the sort of information a friendly race will swap with you, and is exactly the sort of information essential to planning.

Feeling reticent about chatting with me? Don't be, if I know you're friendly my plan will centre around our mutual benefit... Heck, I'm hardly gonna plan to help and count on a race who *won't* talk with me am I? :o) *And* I'm hardly gonna try to convince you my plan is a good one if it doesn't give you some benefits! Of course it's pretty safe to *always* assume that I have some dark ulterior motive (like winning for instance), but then, so do you :o)

Questions to remember to ask yourself

  • "What will be the strategic position after this action is complete?"
  • "Will I be the new 'big threat' once this next stage is complete?"
  • "Do I have a possible fallback plan if it all goes wrong?"
  • "How long will each existing war / alliance / stalemate last?"
  • "Who are my friends? Do they have better friends?"
  • "Can I seal it with a formal treaty?"

And now a few questions to end the message cos it's late...

  • If I'm playing a factoryless race, what kind of universe conditions will influence my chances?
  • Does an SS benefit from no Public Scores?
  • What other tools are people *actually using* to help them with strategic planning and communications?
  • What ace-in-the-hole winning strategies have people come up with? (e.g. building 95% of 5000 Capital Ships and then completing them all on the same turn, thus making the win condition)
  • I'd be most interested in people's wisdom re their perception of trends in the interaction between race-design and game-parameters.

Anyway, that was my 2c on strategy. I look forward to reading other people's takes on the matter.

On the net nobody can tell you're a dog

Peace & Mung Beans