"Stars! Blitz Strategy Guide" by Omnivore 1997 v2.6/7
Stars! Blitz Strategy Guide
Blitz games are what we play on irc, typically using 4 year turn generations until 2440, then 2 year turn generations until 2460, finally dropping to 1 year turn generations after that. Each turn is played in 5 to 10 minutes, sometimes less. Generally a timer is used that gives you 5 to 10 minutes maximum after the first player submits their turn. If you miss the deadline, you get forced. These games are fast paced, often finishing a tiny packed 6 player game in less than 6 hours, and small packed in 12 hours. Truthfully, the small packed games are about the maximum that can be played in one setting with any hope of completion.
Your biggest enemy in a blitz game is mm (Micro-Management), approached in the wrong way and it can eat you alive, causing you to miss turns, make really stupid mistakes, etc. In order to blitz successfully you need to design both your race and your playing style to fit the 'speed chess' environment. You also need to be aware of 'blitz tactics', tricks that wouldn't work very well in a normal pbem but can be devastating in a blitz game.
Race Design For Blitz
While highly optimized races will outperform 'normal' races in blitz just as they do in pbem games, there are a few special considerations for blitz race design. As you are designing your race, keep in mind the mm burden that you will be inflicting upon yourself with it during blitz play. For this reason the LRT NAS is generally a bad choice, also the CE LRT can cause you problems. Another point is to take the OBRM LRT since you won't have the time to deal with remote miners for the most part anyhow. As a newbie blitzer you'll also want to avoid the more mm intensive PRTs, SD is a good example. although the new (with v2.6c/2.7a) enhancements help a lot for SD, managing the detonating minefields can still be quite a chore.
Medium growth races are generally a bad idea in blitz since you'll have a rough time finding the time to do much pop-balancing. For games with closer start positions especially in tiny universes, consider taking -50% energy tech since the multi-year turn generations have the effect of making packet attacks more effective early on. As you grow more experienced with blitz play, you'll find that you can more easily manage the mm burden and may decide to start violating some of the above 'rules of thumb'.
MM reduction techniques for Blitz
While in general you need to reduce your mm burden as much as possible, certain types of mm are very worthwhile. For the first 30 years or so you should pre-load your homeworld's production queue rather than relying upon auto-build orders. Load the factories and mines in by hand for each year and build your ships on the _last_ year(s) of the multi-year turn. This accelerates your development significantly.
Another necessary MM task in blitz is scouting. You will want to have explored nearly the entire universe with your scouts by year 30 or so. Not only does this take quite a few scouts, but it requires that you set their waypoints as optimally as possible in the time allowed. One trick is to set waypoints for 1/3 of your scouts ending 8 years later, the next 1/3 ending 12 years later, and the remainder ending 16 years later. This staggers your mm burden across many turns rather than just one or two.
A good way to reduce the mm involved with colonization is to completely abandon the 'traditional' technique of colonizing with colonizers alone and then dropping off minerals and pop with frieghters. Instead use 'crash and burn' colonization fleets. Merge the frieghters with the colonizer and colonize with the entire fleet. 75% of the minerals used to construct the fleet will be recovered for use by the colonists. The medium freighter is actually better for this purpose than the privateer since the privateer costs way too much ironium and resources. The higher germanium cost of the medium frieghter is offset by the fact that much of it is recovered for use by the colonists.
A caveat to the 'crash and burn' technique is that it is less effective after about year 24 or so. You will have most likely colonized all the suitable nearby worlds within a 12 year one-way travel time radius of your homeworld by that point. From that point onward, your long distance colonization fleets are more likely to find their target worlds already colonized. If a colonization fleet arrives at a target planet and finds it occupied, by default it will just sit there. This can be really bad if it happens on the first year or two of a four year turn gen. It may sit there just long enough for a couple of beta torp destroyers to show up or until the enemy reinforcements arrive to drop additional colonists.
Send your colonization fleet instead with colonization orders to the target planet, setting another waypoint a short distance away in deep space as a no-action waypoint. Then have it return to the planet and drop all colonists. This 'auto-pop drop if colonized' order helps to make more effective use of your colonists without adding too much mm.
Also during that late era of initial expansion, the distances are great enough that you need the privateer hull with two or three fuel tanks in order to make the trip in decent time. As stated earlier, crash and burn with privateers is generally much less desirable. One solution is to use a privateer design with two fuel tanks and a colonizer pod filled to only 33% capacity as your colonizer. Follow up with privateer based freighter designs having three fuel tanks that arrive a year later and drop all colonists.
After you establish colonies, you'll want to protect them from pop-drop attacks as soon as possible. To do this, design a really cheap starfort with either no armor/shields/arnament, or with minimal components. Then every turn use the planets list sorted in reverse order by resources, go to the first planet in the list and then close the list. You can use the 'next planet' button to step through the list even though the list is closed (it remembers the sort order). This allows you to see which planets are most vulnerable and build/upgrade starforts/starbases and defenses accordingly without requiring too much time.
When designing starbases or ships, don't try to invent your design on the spot. Use stock designs that you've developed before hand instead. Also, as a newbie, don't try to give them pretty pictures or neat names. When building ships, try to build only one type of ship per starbase per multi-year turn. This allows you to just hold down the control key when you press the add button and stick 100 of that design at the top of the queue. In the late stages of the game, when your planets are already mostly fully developed, don't bother removing the remaining unbuilt old designs from the queue, just stick the new designs at the top of the queue. For frontier/endangered planets, put an auto-build 100 defenses at the top of the queue and leave it there.
A great way to reduce mm caused by new vessel construction is to use the route feature. Just set the route from planet to planet toward the area where the ships are needed. It makes it _much_ easier to assemble fleets. Another nice capability is to assign small fleets of destroyers a repetive loop jumping from planet to planet returning just often enough to refuel. This can raise havoc with enemy scouting, colonization, and pop-dumping attempts. You can also use relatively short range repeating patrol orders for interceptors based at your starbases to take care of pesky scouts/minelayers/minesweepers.
Another good use of repeating orders is to assign your minelayers to a number of waypoints (including at least one starbase for refueling) with the orders lay mines for one year. This works especially well when used with short range repeating interceptor patrols.
The key to population and mineral balancing in blitz, is to not only use repeating orders but to use a set of custom orders each doing a set waypoint to xxxx. You can set up a custom order for each mobile resource (ie. pop,iron,bora,germ) before the game starts. Then just assign each frieghter fleet to a repeating flightpath with the same orders at all inhabited planets on its path. It has the effect of balancing pop and minerals to the desired level. A rather odd side effect of this is that later in the game you'll automatically have freighters full of troops and minerals. The troops can go with your main warfleets, and the mineral laden frieghters can be used for MT trading.
When you have many fleets, managing them can be a difficult task, although the auto orders, routes, and repeating orders all help, you will still find times that you need to do something with a bunch of fleets and/or vessels. The best way to do this is with the fleets list. If you make use of the different sort conditions you can quickly locate the fleets that you need to manage.
There are some techniques that work in blitz that you wouldn't normally use in pbems. Most of these are based on the multi-year turn generation feature of blitz.
1) Invisible 350ly packet attack: at Warp 10 you can cover a lot of ground in four years. To make best use of this, invest heavily in energy tech early, or alternatively, design your race with cheap(er) energy tech.
2) 364ly planet hops... At warp 9 with IFE and plenty of fuel you can cover a lot of ground unobserved. Great for early suprise attacks.
3) The 'that huge minefield wasn't there last turn' tactic. Works best when combined with #2 above on the prior turn. Basically, you can lay minefields in unexpected places much more effectively than with 1 year turn generation.
4) Sensory overload.. cover your fleet movements with lots of one ship fleets headed in all different directions at the same speed as your attack fleet. Works best if your attack fleet is not headed directly at the enemy's planets.
The four above ideas, all blitz proven, should get you thinking in the right direction. Basically you can exploit the fact that your enemy can only see one out of every x years and then only has ten minutes or so to absorb the information and take action. But, bear in mind that you'll be operating under the same disadvantages.
Stars! in the blitz environment is an exciting game with drawbacks and benefits beyond the normal Stars! pbem games. You can rapidly evolve your race designs and playing style, testing out new things in a few hours while having fun playing at the same time. Once you learn to deal with the mm monster, you'll find that you can gain the equivalent of a years worth of pbem experience in a few weeks.
Hope to see you on my battle VCR,
Brian Price aka Omnivore on #Stars! channel Starlink irc