"War Strategy - Part I" by Matthias Dellaert 1997-09-24 v2.6/7
War Strategy - Part I
by: Mathias Dellaert
PART I : PREPARE .... FOR WAR
We all saw Star Wars (at least I assume we have) and of coarse we are fascinated by the heroism shown in that movie.
Send in some fighters to destroy that starbase, destroy some installations and see the thing blow up behind your victorious fighters.
May the force be with you.
Eh ... not quite.
Actually, destroying a death star is relatively easy, but useless. It doesn't really help you. Sure your enemy has lost a starbase and it might take him some years to rebuild it (in the case of an AR this is certainly true, because with the base their colony goes).
War needs a lot of preparation. A warlord needs to think tactical, respond quick, but not hasty, have a lot of good sense and know exactly what his opponent is going to do.
The last thing is probably the most difficult. You need to anticipate that they will anticipate your anticipation of their anticipation. Get it ? Let me dissect that a bit :
They will anticipate your attack so you need to anticipate that they will be ready, therefor you will do a surprise attack. However, they are not stupid, and they will expect a surprise attack, they are anticipating your anticipation of their anticipation. Your job is to anticipate this.
Of course, a lot is easier if you prevent them of suspecting the attack, don't let them know that you are going to war.
I-I : not letting your enemy know you are going to attack him
There are 2 main methods to do this :
1) Walk on your toes, don't let him notice... be quiet
Probably the most used method, but also the harder of the two.
It's very hard not to be noticed, especially if you have Public Scores. Fortunately, Public Scores isn't a very popular option (except in Blitz games).
Still, even without Public Scores, hiding your manoeuvres isn't easy. You need to produce a lot of ships (which takes a few years) and then, you need to get them at your attack port.
There are 2 methods you can use for this : You can send ships as soon as they are build, in small groups over a pretty long period or you can send them all at once, big groups but only in space for a couple of years and hope he doesn't notice them (in Blitz you can use the 4/2 year generation scheme to do this, unfortunately most games go to regular generations when things get interesting (around 2460 in most blitz's))..
Both (sub)methods have a couple of advantages, when sending them all at once, your enemy might grow suspicious when big groups of ships suddenly seem to come to him. He only needs to click the ships once and see ... Battleships.
The advantage of this method is that your ships will only be in space for a few years and you have a pretty good chance of your enemy doesn't notice, also if you don't send your ships directly in his direction, he might think those ships are going somewhere else and don't see them as a possible threat.
When you send them in small groups, you can hide your ships in existing freighter paths (with big fleets the high ship number would get your enemy's attention).
If a scout happens to visit some of your planets, they won't find unusual big groups (except at the attack port).
Disadvantage is that your ships are longer in open space and there's a lot more Micro-management.
I prefer the small groups methods above the other one but you are entitled to your own opinion.
A final note : When playing IT, you have a great advantage : the only thing you need is a stargate at your attack port and you're set.
2) We are powerful, get used to it
The second method you can use is not hide your military power, but show it. Let them get used to warships cruising through your space. This is a bit harder to set up, you need to build up a military power in tens of years, this costs much resources and your ships often won't have the latest technology.
Advantage is that you have a lot of ships to protect to possible attacks and that your enemy won't notice when you are getting ready to attack.
Of course, people aren't going to trust you, they will be worried by your strength and might forge alliances against you. It's never good to be too strong.
This is a dangerous tactic, but when played correctly a very good one. Just make sure that people don't get afraid of you. Although it might seem to be a good thing that they are afraid, it isn't. Remember, a dog won't bite, unless you scare him.
Also it might be useful to have multiple attack ports, but more about that later.
I-II : Ships and fleets and how to build them
For big attacks, I use fleets that are composed out of the following ships :
- Warships (preferable Missile battleships)
- Bombers (not needed when attacking AR)
- Mine Sweepers (optional, depends on strategy, see later)
- Super Fuel Xports (to refuel and more important, to repair damage).
- Galleon's (to transport colonists/minerals, optional)
For my warships I prefer Missile Battle Ships. I also prefer Battle computers above jammers. Why 's that ? Well if you get the first shot, you don't care much about their response. Battle computers not only reduce inaccuracy but also improve initiative.
When you're fighting starbases however you might want to use jammers, because starbases can get much more initiative than your battle ships. Maybe the best solution is to use both, or use jammers and torpedo's instead of missiles.
It all depends on the designs of your enemy, the problem is, when attacking, he has the advantage to be able to counterdesign your ships.
Ah, the old Smart Bomb vs. Standard/LBU bomb discussion. Some of you might remember this discussion from a couple of months ago. Let's take a look at the pro's and contra's of Smart Bombs and Standard/LBU bomb combinations.
They kill a lot of people, don't damage any installations and defences have less effect on them.
They don't kill everybody, you can easily take over the planet, use the undamaged installations and possible even get a tech increase.
They are slow, very slow
They don't kill everybody, you need to have colonists with you in order to kill all enemy colonists
STANDARD/LBU combination :
They are very quick
They kill everybody and destroy everything
They kill everybody and destroy everything
From what you see now, you might think that Smart bombs have more advantages then standard/LBU combination. The speed is a very important factor though. Defences might be less effective against smart bombs, they still are effective. With the LBU bombs you can destroy all defences the first year and kill all colonists the next year.
I once went to war against an IS AI (if you could call it war, I attacked he did nothing). I originally started with about 80 enriched neutron B52 Bombers. Still it cost me 8 years to get enemy population down enough to send colonists. At that moment he had about 250 000 colonists left on the planet and I was getting tired of bombing him with almost no result, so I dropped a million colonists on his planet.
I have always been told that few colonists only can manage few defences, they never told me exactly how few though. The 250 000 remaining colonists seemed to be able to keep 63% defences working, killing 630 000 of my colonists, the remaining 370 000 were completely wiped out by the Defending IS troops. I lost 1 million, he lost less than 200 000.
Of coarse, this is an extreme, he was inner strength, a defender king. I'm just showing you what could happen.
Anyway, after that defeat, I stayed over the planet, bombing it and after another 3 years, population was finally low enough for an invasion with the 200 000 people I still had on freighters.
Before moving to the next planet, I build a fleet of LBU bombers and merged it with my other bombers, results were astonishing, I wiped out the complete planet in 2 years, where it would have taken me more than 12 years and many colonists to take over that planet with smart bombs.
Against IS : use Standard/LBU combination or smart bomb/LBU combination
Against WM : use Smart Bombs, War Mongers have low defences
Against other races : choose for yourself
3) Mine Sweepers
Whether you are going to need separate mine-sweepers depends on whether you are going to build beam weapon Warships or not. Even if you use Beam weapon warships, you might be able to use separate mine-sweepers.
Mine-sweepers are armed with good beam weapons (preferable of type Big Mutha cannon). They have battle orders set on disengage and are cloaked. You send them in either a year or 2 before your invasion fleet or at the same time.
There are situations when you don't want to sweep mines, but those cases are discussed later.
I-III Pre-war Diplomacy
Now, you have build your fleet, got it where you wanted without to many people noticing. You might think that's enough preparation. Again ... not quite.
A lot of other things need to be taken care of before attacking. Your main concern is your safety. Never leave your Worlds undefended or you victorious fleets might return and find out that all that's left of their race are a few minor planets and ash, a lot of ash.
You need to defend your worlds on 2 manners. A physical manner and a diplomatic manner.
The physical manner is the easiest. Just build some good starbases and leave a few ships in your empire to "serve and protect".
The Diplomatic manner is a bit more complicated. This is a good time to bring up my favourite Stars! strategy subject : Diplomacy.
I am not going to repeat everything I said in my previous article "Basic Diplomacy", I suggest you read it if you want more information on how to be diplomatic in Stars (It's in the foreign affairs department of The Generals Room).
Diplomacy in this stage is very dangerous, but needed. There are 3 diplomatic tasks to be done before going to war :
1) I could use a hand
If you have an ally that you trust completely or you know an enemy of your enemy that might be willing to help you, ask them. You can need all help you can get. An attack is twice as effective if he comes from 2 or more sides. Explain them your grieves against the race you are going to attack and ask for their assistance.
You need to create these "alliances in war" before you finish building your fleet so they have time to build a fleet of their own.
2) I understand you can't help me but just don't attack me when I'm gone
Many people will not help you in the attack. Commonly the reason for this is that they have an alliance with your enemy stating they will assist nobody that's attacking them. These agreements are quite common and if that person also is an ally of you, he will probably tell you as soon as he discovers tensions between you and your ally.
Just ask him not to attack you when you're hunting and leave him alone, that's all he wants, to be left alone.
Make sure you can trust the person before you inform him about your plans. Your ally will almost never inform your enemy about your plans, except if they also have an alliance with them, then they might try to improve their alliance with your enemy by warning them. You will probably know which allies you can trust.
3) Hold your fire, I'm going to attack somebody else
If you currently are in a war with somebody else, you will need a cease fire. Depending on the situation you might or might not want to tell him that you are going to attack somebody else. Even if you are able to get a cease fire, you will need to leave a strong force to prevent your (ex-)enemy to team up with the person you are attacking.
I-IV : Things You need to know about your enemy (and your friends too)
1) Where in Stars! name is he ?
This might seem obvious, but you need to know EXACTLY where you're enemy is/will be. This includes, information about the location of his planets, starbases, important fleets, minefields, ...
Ideally you should know every square light-year of his territory, but this is almost impossible without being noticed. Still you should be aware of the items listed above. When your fleet enters his space it's too late to start wondering where his big planets are.
If possible you should print a map (file/print map) and note all the important stuff on it, this will give you a better idea of the situation.
You need to know all this to find the best spot to attack him.
So how do you find this "Best Spot" ?
First, you look at your enemy's fleets, where are they situated ? Is their an area where he doesn't seem to have any fleets, or the ship density is less ? (be careful here, your information is NEVER accurate, no matter how you got it! Even if you have penetrating scanners covering his space completely there is a big chance he has some cloaked ships you can't see !). You need to attack where the density is low, don't try to be a hero, hero's make bad strategists and live short lives. Of course you don't have to attack in complete nowhere, you have to see what area has the lowest defence and attack his big planets there. (you should always go for the big ones, don't waste your time and fleet attacking unimportant planets).
The Best spot to attack is in most cases is where :
Economic_importance / Defense_estimate is highest.
OTOH, if his fleets are dangerously close to your territory, he might just attack with it while you are somewhere else. In general, you should attack his fleet if the distance to the "best spot" discussed above is more than twice the distance to his fleet.
The strategy to attack this best spot is discussed in more detail later.
2) How's his industry doing ?
Very important question to estimate the fleet he can make/have to counter your attack.
So how do you find out ?
First, look at the number of starbases he has (or you think he has). Depending on the stage of the game you may safely assume that each of these starbases is a possible production base for Warships. Then, take a look at his ship designs, how much do they cost approximately ? Then just "guess" how many of his ships he can build at one starbase and multiply it with the number of starbases he has. E.g., a good world can build 1-2 missile BB's a year, if he has 10 starbases he can build 10-20 ships in one year.
Except when you're enemy is IT you don't have to look at his complete area, just the section you are attacking (give or take a few hundred light- years).
If your campaign is going to be a long one, you shouldn't ignore them either though.
3) Technology and ship designs
Another thing you need to know are the approximate levels of research he has achieved and in conjunction with that, his ship designs.
The fields of technology you need to know about are (in order of importance):
- Weapons |Armageddon's huh ? Nice
- Energy |Plan. shields, better pack some more bombs
- Construction |That US might get in the way of things
- Electronics |Computers are a missile's best friend
- Propulsion |Hey where did THEY come from ?
As for attacking : when you are attacking you don't have the opportunity to immediately counter his designs. You need to build a ship that will win no matter what he puts in front of it (easier said then done I admit).
It's good to know his ship designs anyway though, since it gives you a fair idea what you can expect to see.
4) The friends of my enemies are ... my friends ??? It's also a good thing to know who your enemy is allying with. It's quite possible they will help your enemy and if you're not prepared for that, you're dead. His ally can either help him on the front, or attack your home positions. You have to take all this in consideration, and you might want to get an ally of yours to keep an eye on possible allies of your enemy so you don't have to worry as much.
You can never know enough about your enemy but enough is enough, let's continue otherwise we'll never get to the actual strategies.
That seems to be enough preparation for now, time to attack.
END PART ONE