Basic Race Design by Art Lathrop - Revised: 1st Aug 1999
This article forms the basis for the Race Design page.
Basic Race Design
Author: Art Lathrop
Revised: 1st August 1999
Please note this advice is for new players playing solo in medium universes. Some of it is less valid for smaller or larger universes and team games. This article is partially color coded. The things in red are particularly important. Other colors are just to make the article more legible.
Just as important (if not more important) than your primary racial trait (PRT) is your design philosophy. Here are the major ones. You need to have one of these ideas in mind when you play.
HP - Hyper-production races try to maximize their growth over the long term. They often have narrow habitat ranges (1 in 6 to 1 in 10), total terraforming, a slower growth rate (16% or 17%), advanced remote mining, and high factory settings. The danger of playing an HP race is that you need to survive with most of your planets until the late stages of the game.
HG - Hyper-growth races try to grow as fast as possible. These are the races that achieve 25k by 2450. They usually have wider habitat ranges (1 in 4 to 1 in 6), only basic remote mining, high growth rates (18% or 19%), and more moderate factory settings.
Hybrid - This is a race that mixes the characteristics of HG and HP. It is important to mix the right characteristics or you will come up with a race that is not effective. Most of the successful hybrid I have seen/played, use HG's growth and habitat settings, while using HP's resource settings (factory and colonists per resources). The hybrids I have used tend to start off slowly and then grow very quickly catching up with other races by 2430 to 2440.
Tri-immune HE - This race used to be quite popular; however, between a change in the rules and players discovering monsters, it is no longer viable. This HE uses a low growth rate (4% or 5%), immunity to every environmental factor, the best factory and mine settings, and all cheap technologies. While it is not bad, this race will not hold up against more advanced players.
-F - Factory-less races are a type of hyper-growth race. The idea is to set the factory settings to the worst possible and use those points to improve other fields. They have the advantage that they do not need to worry about spending resources (mineral and production) on building more factories - instead they can sink it into more mines, more ships, and technology. Likewise building ships early on does not hurt this race's overall growth. The disadvantage is that these races are "low density," that is they needs a lot more planets than other races to get the same amount of production. -F races should be very fast growers (some advise using 20% growth rates) and have wide habitats. Also, they should have OBRM since they do not need as many mines and because they will want to settle everything, if possible. Often -F races are CA so they don't have to worry about terraforming.
Monster - Monsters are races that can achieve 25,000 resources by 2450 in a test bed (no AI's, beginner: maximum minerals, small packed universe, and accelerated BBS). In advanced games, this is almost considered the minimum performance for a race (definitely a requirement for HG races). The monsters you see in advanced games will be able to get 25k by 2450 in much less ideal situations (human opponents, planets spaced out more, and no maximum minerals). The best time to stop a monster is before it is fully developed. Of course, it is even better to be a bigger monster. A particularly easy monster to play is the gravity immune CA monster. If you see someone complaining about CA, it was probably this kind that provoked the complaint. While races with a single immunity are easier to play and often have their planets usually have higher values than races without one immunity, immunities are quite expensive so other sacrifices have to be made.
QS - Quick start races are a special type of HG race, best used in small and tiny universe. They take very inexpensive factory settings of seven or less. QS races typically have poorer maximum growth potential than a normal HG.
In my opinion you can break up the PRT's into three groups - economic, war, and special. Economic PRT's have advantages that will give them higher resources than other races. War PRT's have no particular advantage for resources, but do have advantages that will help them fight their enemies. Special PRT's are just that. They don't fit into my other categories because their economies differ significantly from the other races. The economic and war PRT's are arrange below in order of the potential size/speed of their economies. Please note that the war PRT's all have the same basic economic advantages (well, PP does have a second planet), so the only thing I am paying attention to for them is the base cost of the race.
CA - Claims adjuster is the king of resources. The automatic terraforming means that planets are automatically the best they can be and that the race can spend its resources on building factories and mines instead of terraforming. In shorter games the 1% chance of permanently altering a planet will help some, but it really helps in long games. The easiest monster to make is a CA monster.
JOAT - Also a very strong contender for monsters. The larger population and free penetrating scanners help make JOATs very fast. JOAT races should ALWAYS take no advanced scanners, since this does not affect their natural penetrating scanning ability. Note that doing this effectively makes JOAT the cheapest PRT by a considerable amount.
IT - Interstellar travelers are probably the third most powerful economic power in the game. Because of their gates they can manage their populations instantly (and not lose growth from travelling). IT is an expensive PRT so you may have to deal without some of the gizmos. Of all the races, IT is hurt the least by no ram scoop engines and cheap engines. IT's second world does give them a slight population advantage.
IS - Inner strength is the weakest (in terms of total economy) of the four economic races - though it may be as powerful as IT in some cases. IS colonists grow in ships, which reduces the negative affect on your economy of transporting colonists. It also has a wide range of toys with which to play. The most infamous tactic of IS is the "flying orgy." By building fleets with large capacities players can keep their planets populations topped off (the extra colonists from the fleet are automatically moved to the planet below). They can also drop huge numbers of colonists on their enemy's planets (remember, no matter how good your defenses are, they only stop up to 75% of an invading army). IS is not used as often as the other economic PRTs.
SD - This is the least expensive PRT (unless you count the NAS JOAT as a PRT). SD's detonating minefields make it a difficult race to attack. They can also use those fields to keep enemy colonizers away. Their ability to travel 2 warp speeds faster than the normal limit allows them to travel more than twice the distance through enemy minefields that other races could move. The main disadvantage of SD as it can use up a lot of time to complete its turns due to micro-management.
WM - War Mongers are master fighters for the early and middle part of the game. Early on their warships are cheap and their weapons tech is high. In mid-game they get the dreadnought, which is the most powerful warship until Nubians come along. The disadvantage of this race is that in the later parts of the game, its advantages don't help that much. WM are very vulnerable to packet attacks because of their reduced defenses. They also are at a great disadvantage if they cannot trade and get minelayers from other players.
SS - Super Stealth is the race that most players hate to fight (IS does have effective tools against them though and SD's minefields can spot SS also). Many, if not most, players use SS as an HP race, since many of its advantages come into play in the latter part of the game. SS's 98% cloaked ships can make any enemy's life miserable; however, the PRT is expensive and therefore often SS are not as large as their opponents are. If an SS is close in size to its opponent, it is not hard for the SS to beat the other race. SS do best in galaxies with wide spaces between planets. Despite its advantages, SS tends not to be a popular race.
PP - Packet Physicist is a race that is rarely seen in games; however, there is perhaps no race that is more dangerous to have a planet near. An HP PP's warp 16 packets will kill any nearby planet. Packets also act as scanners and terraformers, which can also be quite useful as a weapon.
AR - Alternate Reality is definitely a unique race. They should always take advanced remote mining and very quickly they will be able to supply the minerals for themselves and their allies from their home world alone. The biggest problem with them is that their bases are quite vulnerable to attack. If a second race can successfully attack AR's high population bases, it will hurt the AR very badly. These attacks can be setup in such a way that it is almost impossible for the AR to be able to defend against them.
HE - I consider hyper-expansion a special race because its low population means that it does not perform economically in the same way as other races do. HE must grab a huge number of planets and keep moving masses of people to stay competitive. While the tri-immune HE was popular before, I don't recommend it now. It is possible to make a monster with HE; however, micro-managing it is a pain.
Lesser Racial Traits
It is important to remember that you are penalized for taking five or more LRT's. The penalty is not too bad at five, but I would not recommend taking any more LRT's than that.
IFE - Improved Fuel Efficiency is almost a must for all races wishing to grow quickly and even those that don't need to be that fast. I strongly recommend this.
NRSE - No ram scoop engines is a good choice to take with IFE. As long as you have IFE, you will not miss ram scoops that much. I also strongly recommend this.
TT - Total terraforming is expensive and best only used by races that have long term growth in mind. A CA with TT can be truly frightening.
CE - I recommend that if you are thinking about taking cheap engines, you chose something else. Cheap engines greatly slow down your fleets. If there is any race that can bear CE, it is IT.
ARM - Advanced remote mining is good for races that plan to inhabit fewer planets and are using an HP strategy. AR should always take this.
OBRM - Only basic remote mining should be automatically taken for any race with a really wide habitat and fast growth. AR should NEVER take this. In case you missed all the other reminders, do not mix ARM and OBRM.
ISB - Improved starbases is most valuable for the space dock. Almost any planet can build one very quickly and they allow for easy refueling on top of being able to produce smaller ships from them. Personally, I think the ultra- station is a waste (except for AR), since it is not hard to augment a fleet that can take down a starbase so that it can take down an ultra-station. IT benefits little from having IT because of its gating advantages.
NAS - Most players despise no advanced scanners except in two cases. The first is JOAT. Every JOAT should take NAS. The second is questionable in my mind; however, SS can also survive with NAS because two of its special scanners act as penetrating scanners.
GR - General research should only be taken in a PBEM game if you have TT and even then it is generally considered to be a bad idea since it slows down your ability to research one area quickly. It also makes it more difficult to make tech trading worth the effort.
LSP - I do not recommend low starting population, especially in smaller galaxies. In a huge, sparse galaxy, I would not have a problem with it; however, the faster the game, the harder it is to make up this difference.
UR - Ultimate recycling is nice, but I think the points are better spent elsewhere.
BET - I am a bit negative on bleeding edge technology. The real problem I see with it is that Nubians will never get cheaper and early on when you are "just" completing enough research to get a certain item, it will be considerably more expensive.
MA - In general, I think most players feel this is not worth the points; however, after planets have reach maximum technology, MA allows alchemy to be performed much more efficiently. So in a game where technology has maxed out and minerals have been depleted, this could be a great asset.
RS - Regenerating shields are pretty good early on and not bad at the end of the game. In the middle of the game it is a pain because your battleships will be much weaker than everyone else's will be. Another problem is that since humans tend to use sappers a lot, regenerating shields are not as effective as they could be.
Depending on your design idea, the growth rate should generally be between 16% and 19%. -F races can consider 20% while HE should definitely pick much lower growth rates. Many AR races have lower growth settings than other races - sometimes as low as 13% to 14%.
HG races should pick habitats that are around 1 in 4 to 1 in 6. HP should look at 1 in 6 to 1 in 10. Races with TT of course should have the narrower habitats. Races with narrow habitats will usually need to also have a single immunity. A single immunity is expensive, but can help a lot. One immunity and having a 1 in 5 or a 1 in 6 habitat is probably every bit as good as having 1 in 4 and no immunity. Monsters with immunities are much easier to play than those without. Most people like taking gravity immunity since if you have IFE, then you do not need to research propulsion in the beginning stages of the game.
When you set up your habitat, remember that radiation is randomly determined. Because of that, you can slide the radiation habitat around and gain points without statistically costing yourself anything. Remember to keep it at least 15 clicks (30 if you have TT) from the edge, if possible. This will guarantee your use of the maximum number of planets. Sliding temperature and gravity is not as good of deal since gravity and temperature distributions are weighted towards the center.
Factories and such
If you are using an HP or hybrid, you can set the colonists/resource to 2500 or so. Otherwise, the general opinion from players seems to be you should probably leave this alone.
If you are using a -F race, set the factory settings to the worst possible level. You might consider slightly improving colonists per resource; however, that can be expensive.
Most races should automatically set factory cost at 9 or even 8 (this is more expensive though). In general increase the total number of factories more than the output of each factory. The germanium box should be checked in most cases (though obviously not for -F).
Typical factory settings for an HP are 15/9/25, while a typical HG will have something around 11-13/8-9/14-17.
Mines should cost three in almost all designs. This is critical to getting faster growth. Most players recommend this also for -F races. Personally, I lean towards a cost of 4 for -F since this will not slow down your economic growth; however, most people feel that 3 is a better choice (though perhaps only marginally). A common mistake beginners make is to reduce the quality of their mines. It is very important that you do not reduce the output per mine nor reduce the total number of mines. Efficient mines are very important for your early growth and late in the game, mineral production is actually more important than total factory output.
Don't think of the base research settings being everything normal. Instead, think of it as everything expensive, except for inexpensive weapons. Cheap weapons are critical in all but the slowest games. If you think about taking anything else as not expensive, ask yourself what level of technology you need to get in that field, how critical is that field to you, and what will you lose by doing so. For example, even with SS that has lots of electronic goodies, I do not take cheap electronics. This is because the highest tech item I NEED is the battle nexus (tech 19). That is not that high (and it is not even an SS item), so I don't feel that I should take cheap electronics (or even normal electronics). Construction on the other hand is a field that many will take as normal or cheap. While this does not help your habitability (like cheap weapons can), construction is usually the second field that needs to be researched to tech 26. Having this cheap or normal helps tremendously.
Please note that AR, definitely should take -50% for energy. -F races may need cheaper technology since their overall production will be lower than other races.
The most recent edition of this article can be found at the Stars! Directory. It is under "A Few Extra Things."