"Warfare 1 - Know Thy Enemy" by Todd Rogers 1997 v2.6/7

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Warfare 1 - Know thy Enemy

by: Todd Rogers

What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge. . . . Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained from other men. -Sun Tzu

Every general must have good intelligence to make good decisions. In Sun Tzu's statement it is assumed, and in the context it is clearly stated, that knowledge comes from one's own spies. But what happens if you control what your enemies know? What of disinformation? If you can control what they think and you know your enemy well enough, you can control their actions. This is the first of several articles I plan on writing to deal with warfare. In this article I plan on dealing with the subject of getting to know your enemy.

I have a friend that I can always beat at chess. He has a critical weakness; if he loses his queen he panics and plays bad chess. I know that and so when I want to beat him I concentrate on taking his queen. Even if taking his queen will cost me greatly I know that I can do it and still beat him. The same thing applies in Stars! if you know your enemy you can predict his actions, and if you know him well you may be justified to take great risks or even losses to put him into his weak spot. If you always play with a few friends you can quickly come to know them and use this knowledge against them. However, most Stars! games are played via e-mail against people you've never met, or maybe you know one or two other players at most. So our goal is to glean as much information about the other players as possible, and use it against others.

The first knowledge we should have consists of a few generalities that apply to 99% of all Stars! players.

1) All Stars! players want to go to war. Maybe not now, but they're building resources, researching tech, mining mineral, and exploring all in the hopes to some day build big bad killer ships. And what's the point of having big bad killer ships? To destroy the enemies ships, bomb his planets, and take his planets. Or in other words go to war.

2) A Stars! player would rather win a war than lose a war.

3) No Stars! player likes losing worlds. That leads to less resources and minerals to use to go to war. It also leads to losing wars.

4) A single Stars! player doesn't want to take on the whole universe unless they have a chance to win.

A corollary to this is that Stars! players often form alliances.

There are also a few generalities that apply to most Stars! players.

1) Most Stars! players are playing mainly to have fun and their world won't end if they lose.

2) Most Stars! players don't like micro-management.

3) In most Stars! games there are a few players that are outclassed and that make easy pickings.

4) Most Stars! players will try something new every game (e.g., a new ship design or a new strategy)

These are some basic informations that are givens. In my other articles I'll talk more about how to use them to your advantage.

Now on to specifics. Several important things to learn about your enemy include his PRT, LRTs, tech level, resource level, fleet size, and ship designs. If you have public player scores much of this information is available at the press of F-10, but not all. IMHO the best source of knowledge about your enemies is the battle VCR. Watch the battles you can learn his PRT, many LRTs, ship designs, battle tactics, and more. For example your 5 "Armed Scouts of Death" runs across the enemy's "B- 52." You read the message and find out you destroyed his 1 "B-52" so you don't watch the battle you already know what happened right? Wrong. Let's watch the battle. First you check out the number of ships he has and their design. The single B-52 had 1 slot with 3 galaxy scoops, 2 slots with 4 peerless bombs each, slots with 4 cherry bombs each, 1 slot with 2 complete phase shields, and 1 slot with 2 robber baron scanners. What did we learn? 1)PRT = SS, 2)LRTs = IFE, and he does not have NRSE, 3) he has at least tech 22 in energy, 22 in weapons, 20 in prop., 15 in cons, 15 in elect., and 15 in bio for a total of 109. You look at the player scores and he has a total tech of 115 so you already know about what he has in each field. Now you let the battle play. You notice that as your armed scouts shoots their heavy blasters at the B-52 it's shields keep regenerating; bingo another LRT. You can find out many other things from the VCR. Look at the ship ratings. Is it a capital ship? Does that mean that his 2000 capital ships are just frigates with 2 armageddons like this one? Do his 5000 escort ships all have a rating of 1999 like this one?

OK you've looked at the battle VCR and have found out a lot about the enemy. What next? Look at the public player scores. Does he have 600 planets? Then he probably has a high habitability range. Does he have 10k resources, but only 3 planets? Then he has good factories. Is his resource curve flattening out? Then he probably won't get much more powerful than he is now until he takes more planets. Now look at his planets; find his habitability range. If you find his HW you know his habitability center (also you're likely to have a battle and find out about his starbase if you send a scout to his HW). Did he have 2 starbases on turn 20? Probably PP or IT. Keep looking as if you're trying to squeeze water from a rock.

Now you have the cold facts, but not the soul of your opponent. You can divine a bit of it from his ship designs, fleet size, PRT, and the other facts, but not enough. Again I have what is IMHO a best tool to get to know your opponent. It's called the message board. Write to him. Read his messages. Does he boast? Do his boasts seem inflated? Does he speak to all players? Does he ignore you? Here are a few generalities I've found.

1) If they talk to you chances are they're friendly, or at least willing to be.

2) If they boast they're weaker than they let on.

3) If they publically criticize you they are either recruiting help to destroy you if you're more powerful or they want to justify their attack on you so help doesn't rally to your side.

Another use of massages is to exchange information. Ask the other players about their races, HW, etc. The worst thing that can happen is they'll say no (that and form a coalition against you). Also, allies tend to tell all kinds of information about themselves to each other. You should know plenty about your allies. If you don't mind being known as a back stabber, it's good to get your enemies to think that you're an ally.

Another great source of information about your enemy is other players. Buy information from the local SS mercenary. Talk to your enemy's enemies. Talk to your allies.

The last way to learn of your enemies soul is to watch him act. Does he have mine fields and feel his home is secure? Does he mass one huge fleet and send it against you? Does he try to blitz splitting his force into the smallest units possible to get the job done? Does he try to flank you? Does he send in kamikaze armed scouts to find out about you? Watch the player as much as you can. Push him. If you send a scout into his territory does he destroy it, or does he let your battle fleet pass through as long as you don't attack him? (Note: when testing your limits don't push too far unless you want war. Remember the first time you go too far you can claim it was an accident and make restitution, but the tenth time you "accidentally" bomb his HW he's not likely to believe your story.) Try to figure out why he did something. Learn to predict him. This is something of an art form and is part natural ability and part skill. Anyone can improve. This is IMHO the most important knowledge you can gain about a player; if you know his actions before he does you can circumvent them.

That does it for this first article. Know you have more information about your enemy than you can shake a stick at, more than you can use. You need to sort out what's useful and what's not. To do this you must know the value of each type of information; you must know what to do with this knowledge. That's the subject of the next article