Fledging Admirals Hints & Tips by Altruist - Mar 2007

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This was the featured article on 27 March 2011.

Since the Fledging Admirals serial is aimed at beginners to lower intermediate as well as rusty oldtimers, I'll email around some hints & tips from time to time. Some of those emails I'll also post in here.

Those hints & tips are quite basic ones but will hopefully help you a bit to boost your early career at the Space Fleet Headquarter, let's say on your way from cadet to 3rd mate.


About race design

Here some very helpful links:

Take it as hints and inspiration, never follow it to the point or believe everything what you read in the articles. But some stuff is really good and helpful. Remember that you need to adapt what you read to our specific game settings.


up-/downloading orders - Stars files - Stars shortcut

How to up-/download your orders:

Stars! files:

Stars uses several files for a game:

  • admirals.xy (Universe definition file)
  • admirals.mZ (turn-file where Z is your player number)
  • admirals.xZ (order-file where Z is your player-number)
  • admirals.hZ (history-file where Z is your player-number)

Best is you create a new sub-directory called admiral. In this you copy the .xy-file. Whenever autohost generates a new year, it writes the data refering to your empire in a .mZ-file and sends it to you via email. Copy this file into the directory admiral.

Now start Stars and open your m-file.

Voila! You see your empire, it should be year 2400.

If you have protected your racefile with a password, you must type in this password to enter.

Make your orders. When you are finished, go to the top menu FILES and choose SAVE AND SUBMIT. Now Stars creates the file admirals.xZ in which it stores your orders. At the same time Stars creates the .h-history file where all your collected planetary info is stored.

Upload your orders:

Go to the auothost game-website (see above) and on the top right click the UPLOAD TURN link, search on your harddisc for your x-file, type in your password and submit. That's it. If you make changes to your orders, you can just repeat the process and update your orders. The password to upload your x-file is NOT the pasword of your racefile but the password you got from autohost.


Hint I: Creating an archive

When I am playing it is sometimes important to look up what happened for example 2 turns ago. The easiest way to create an archive is, before you save your next m-file (for 2401 for example), create a sub-directory 2400 and copy&paste all files in it. If you do so for every year, you have a fine archive.


Hint II: Regaining .m or .x-files

If for whatever reasons you are missing your m-file, you can just go to the autohost-admiral2-site and click onto the m-file. You will be asked for your password and can then download it again. Same with your x-file.


Hint III: Stars shortcut

Stars is able to handle many command-line parameters. A nice and fast way to open your game of Fledging Admirals with just one click:

1) Make a shortcut of Stars to your desktop

2) Edit this shortcut:

directory\stars.exe -pPASSWORD directory\GAMENAME.mZ

Example for player 11, playing Fledging Admirals II and who uses the password: uglu and Stars is in C:\games\stars\

C:\games\stars\stars.exe -puglu C:\games\Stars\admiral2\admiral2.m11


Production - Research - Scouting

Production Queues

Stars offers a great way to reduce micro-management: auto-build orders for the production queues. Best is probably to use something like this:

Factories Up to 500
Mines Up to 500

The beauty of it: whenever you haven't got enough germanium to build factories, Stars will automatically switch to produce mines. It will never produce more factories or mines than you can run with the colonists you have got on the planet. In the Stars Help file you can get additional infos, search for "Create a Production Template" to learn how to make standard orders which will be automatically appliad to all newly colonized planets. If all possible factories and mines are built with the autobuild function, the planet will show up in your reports with the message Planet xy has finished all orders.


There is one more important advantage. With the following similar looking order:

Factories 500
Mines 500

Stars will try to build all 500 factories before building the mines. If you haven't got enough germanium, most likely you haven't, Stars will built as many factories as it has germ for and than the production is stuck and ressources the planet hasn't used up are lost and will not be transfered to building mines or any other following production orders with the exception of the auto Alchemy order but that's a (too) costly luxury. So, whenever you do not use the autobuild function, check wether you have got enough minerals avaiable. The same applies for ships. The minerals a planet can use are the ones on stockpile plus the ones which will be mined during the year.


If you have designed a factoryless race, you obviously don't want to bother building factories but mines you'll still need.


As usual ARs are different, they don't build mines nor factories. But usually the AR ability to mine isn't sufficient to answere all the demand, thus ARs might find it more necessary than other PRTs to produce ships with mining robots. And only the AR can use these ships for mining own planets.


Research

Stars default setting for research is 15%. This is by no means ideal. The ideal would be to 0% and spending only leftover ressources on research once your production queues have run green (or you stop the production of factories and mines on your HW for a while when 25% are reached). Any leftover ressources from a planet will be automatically spent on research, even if your research settings are 0%.


But as true as it is that in the beginning your ressources are best spent on producing factories and mines, there are exceptions:

  • Scouts: Producing scouts will be important or you will be blind and neither find other players nor other good planets for colonization.
  • Important Tech Items: The other early exceptions are tech items you judge important to have, eg elec 1 for the Rhino-Scanner, prop 2 for the fuel mizer, construction 3 for medium freighters (or con 4 for privateers with a longer range) which will become important once your colonists grow to 25% of the total number which can live on your planet and to ferry that pop to new planets. Those tech researches are usually best done in jumps.

For ARs which don't produce mines and factories, researching energy is vital. The level of energy tech has a direct influence of the ressources your weird lifeforms are able to gather.


Scouting

If you have the fuel mizer, you will surely want to outfit your scouts with it. The fuel mizer is cheap, low-tech and together with a fuel-pod allows scouts to move around at warp 9 most of the time.


Scouts with other engines will consume quite much fuel when ordered to move faster than the max speed of the engine. It is quite often to your advantage to do it nevertheless. Faster scouting doesn't only mean faster information about your surroundings and possibly less scouts you need to produce but also less or no time at all for your scouts in open space where they could be seen by other players.


Saving some micro-management:

If you direct your scout to a planet and give it the order to colonize and then direct it to other planets afterwards, Stars will automatically choose the fastest speed. After arrival Stars will give you a warning that you forgot to bring colonists, this warning you can just turn off.


Guessing the design of ships:

Only Warmongers know the exact designs of ships as soon as they spot them. All other PRTs need to engage those designs in battle to determine the exact design. But there are 3 important infos Stars will give you always about foreign designs in the fleet window:

  1. the total weight of a fleet including cargo
  2. leftclick gives you the number of different ships in a fleet (if there is more than 1 ship)
  3. rightclick allows you to view either the design or at least the type of ship hull and always the weight without cargo.


Sometimes you can figure out a complete design by pooling your info about another player. And when subtracting the weight of the ship-types from the total fleetweight, you have as a result the cargo which is carried by the fleet (sometimes quite handy if an unknown freighter is heading for one of your planets and you expect a pop-invasion).


Further reading:

The Stars! FAQ article base[4]


Colonisation

First some catchwords:

  1. Purpose of colonisation: economical - strategical
  2. When to colonise: 25%: greens - 33%: yellows - 42%: filling up low-hab planets
  3. How to colonise: in stealth - with speed - in force

Purpose of colonisation

The purpose of colonisation is obviously to keep up your growth of pop, factories and mines... for economical reasons. If you find a good green planet above 80%, jump for it, the terminus for such a planet is "breeder" since it can play the same role as your HW. And they allow follow-up-colonisation of planets too far away for your HW but perhaps rather near to your breeder. Other than that, the same rules and numbers of growth apply to breeders as to your HW. In fact, you can call your HW your best breeder.

To gain the best growth, you usually colonise your planets in a strict order of best hab to worst hab.

But since you aren't playing Simcity and completly on your own but Stars and compete with some other really mean humans, there are also strategical considerations. Those are plenty and I'll mention only some

  • cluster control: You see a nice cluster of let's say 5 stars. The first player to establish a presence there, will most likely control the cluster and can keep other players away.
  • claiming territory: If you manage to establish a cordon of colonised planets, you can control the space within and keep other players away. Afterwards you have the time to colonise the planets within. If you do it the other way around, those cordon or border planets may be taken by other players meanwhile, perhaps threatening even your core because they managed to establish a wedge into your territory.
  • a wedge into (possible) enemy territory: Well, you can do, of course, exactly the same, colonising in a way that it is like a wedge into another player's territory which gives you a splendid future position to threaten and attack his planets. Since this might be not very much liked by the other player, make sure to secure such planets.
  • denying an opponent the space to grow: This strategy is obvious when you are for example in the NW corner and then discover that there is another player located even more in the corner. Cut him off by colonising, shoot down his ships which try to break thru. Since you deny him space to grow, his growth rate will decline in comparison to yours. Soon you will view the cornered player as a fruit to pick at will (mostly when you have gained a comfortable advantage in tech and ressources).
    This tactic can be applied not only against players in a corner. Sometimes the same result as a corner occures due to several hostile neighbours.
  • Gates: can have a mean effect. If, for example, you manage to establish a colony within 1-year travel time to an important enemy planet or even his HW, once you get up a gate, all of your fleet (which fits somehow thru gates) is actually just 2 years away from orbiting the enemy HW: 1 year for gating, 1 year for moving.

Needless to say that the best planets are those which you colonise for both reasons: economical and strategical.


When to colonise

The growth of your population is connected with:

  • hab value of planet
  • capacity of planet or rather to how much it is filled up

Your population growth rate is multiplied with the hab value of your planet. Your HW is always a 100% green for you and thus your pop will grow at the full rate. It is unlikely that you will find another planet starting with 100% (except you have chosen the very expensive 3-immune settings for your race). Here your pop will grow best.

But it won't grow at the best rate forever. After your planet is filled to 25%, the growth rate will decline. An example:

Pop growth with 19% on 100% planet, no OBRM, no JOAT:

pop....cap%..growth..growth%
250k...25%...47.5k...19.0%
333k...33%...50.0k...15.0%
420k...42%...47.5k...11.3%
500k...50%...42.0k....8.4%

You notice that the total growth of your pop is highest at 33%, and surprisingly the same at 42% as it is at 25%, although your percentage growth is a lot less and best at 25% filled capacity. The reason is, of course, that even the lower percentage growth of 15% multiplies to more with 333k than 19% with 250k.


Why not letting your HW grow straight to 42% before colonisation?

Let's see what happens when 420k pop are split up on 2 planets and assume for the show of it that both planets are of 100% value:

pop....cap%..growth..growth%
250k...25%...47.5k...19.0%
170k...17%...32.3k...19.0%

It adds up to 79.8k pop growth per year. That's quite a lot more.


Conclusion:

In the beginning it is best to move your pop above 25% to other breeding places. The exception of the rule: to move your pop you need to build ships, further on your pop is idle while in space. If the planets you have discovered so far are really lousy ones, it might be not worth to spend the costs to colonise them but to wait until you find better planets.


When to jump your HW to 33%, 42%...:

After you have colonised all the green planets nearby and built as many factories and mines as your 25% HW pop can operate, you let your HW grow. Usually you do it in jumps to 33%, 42%, 50%, stop. Let your factories and mines follow up and meanwhile colonise your secondary and tertiary choices of planets (bad ones and yellow ones). Even afterwards you probably won't let your HW grow completly freely but want to use the HW-pop to fill up those planets with really bad growth rates.


How to colonise

Colonisation is important. No surprise then that other players might try to make it difficult for you (you are probably trying the same for them). Thus, what will most likely happen when you send out your colonisation fleet at warp 6 on a journey of 5 years to a planet 160ly away? Right, everybody who notices this, starts thinking about intercepting your fleet.


Stealth

Stealth is quite helpful and your cheapest defense against interception. But most races, especially in the beginning, can't make their ships nearly invisible like the super stealth race. Wrong! Planet hopping serves the same purpose. If it is necessary for planet hopping, sometimes it is even worthwhile to make the travel time one 1 year longer to avoid open space where everybody can see your fleet.


If it is not possible to planet hop, try to disguise your true colonisation target. Aim your fleet to another planet and change your course to your true target planet in the last year.


Speed

Speed is your next line of defense. In the above example we had a fleet moving 160ly at warp 6, needing 5 years for the distance. Well, with warp 9 the same distance could be crossed in 2 years. Usually too short a time for another player to react. All you need is enough fuel and you can raise your speed:

  • the medium freighter can be equipped with 1 fuel pod
  • the privateer hull can be equipped with up to 3 fuel pods

The fuel mizer is a great low tech engine for early warp 9 travel. And at warp 9 the mizer uses less fuel than the Long Jump 6-, Daddy Long Legs 7- or the Alpha 8 engine. But even with standard low tech engines you can do the deed when you use some fuel boosters:

  • a simple scout with a fuel pod
  • a destroyer with 2 fuel pods,
  • a frigate with 3 fuel pods,
  • an empty privateer...

and those fuel boosters don't need to travel the whole distance: split them off, transfer the fuel and send them back asap to refuel and to accompy your next fleet.

Sometimes you can save fuel by adjusting the speed. If a planet is 145ly away, you can reach it

  • in 2 years at warp 9
  • in 3 year at warp 7

or in 2 years at warp 9 for 1 year (=81ly) and at warp 8 the other year (=64ly), which adds up to 145ly and costs considerably less fuel than warp 9 all the way.

Another reason for speed: your pop is idle in space and thus you want them to arrive asap. Investing 100 ressources into fuel boosters to make a fleet of 100k pop arrive at its target 1 year earlier I would call a bargain, especially since you can reuse the fuel boosters.


In force

Sometimes you see players sending out lots of single small colonisers, Santa Marias, to colonise planets. They might even call it "laying claim to the planets". That's always great... for you to see it. Those planets have only 2.5k pop and are easy prey for you to conquere with a freighter by pop invasion. It saves you the cost to build a coloniser and you might even gain some tech.


Actually this "laying claim to planets" with just 2.5k pop is a common newbie mistake and it usually results in quite some trouble. Every planet "claimed" this way is very weak and an invitation for conquest. And even your allies won't like it if you lay claim to planets they, too, would like to colonise... only to watch how you easily loose those planets to enemies and in this process giving the enemy tech, your ally has possibly just traded to you.


The best is to colonise in force. 21k pop should be the minimum to send to a planet. Important planets like breeders you better fill up to around 10% asap. For strategic planets which might get under attack rather soon, send enough pop to enable the planet to build a dock or fort to defend itself (you might even want to send the necessary minerals).


Colonising in force gives you strong instead of weak spots. Colonising in force speeds up the colony's development, good in a fast paced game where you need full-fledged colonies, now called production centers, rather soon.


Further/alternative reading:


Diplomacy

I am myself not very good at diplomacy and often lack the patience. Luckily Scott Phelps wrote some really superb articles about diplomacy:

Sharing p-files'

When you have got an ally, the problem arises how best to share information. For this purpose Stars allows to share your planetary and fleet data. To do so, go to "REPORTS" => "EXPORT" => UNIVERSE, PLANET, FLEET DATA. The most helpful is the export planet data function which writes all your knowledge about planets into a file called "admiral2.p".


If you modify the stars.ini file (which can be found in your windows directory), all the exported files get your playernumber attached which is quite helpful to keep them apart from your ally's. Just insert the line newreports=1 in the section [Misc]


To visualize those data, there are 2 tools which are probably best suited for the task:

  1. Utilities/In-game information processing and sharing#Stars! Notebook!Stars! Notebook (258kb)[7] by Andrei Romanov
    Hint: You need to type the race names in their singular form.
  2. Xtreme Borders
    The software can be found in the submenu "The Hangar" at the website Pirates Retreat.
    The direkt link to the Xtreme Borders install program: dlXB.zip[8] (2.6 MB)
    After installing it, you should add the latest update: dlXBupdate.zip[9] (106 kb)

Both programs come with handy mapping funtions and statistics about your own and other empires. As an example how those maps might look like and why they are helpful, have a look at another game with similar settings to Fledging Admirals II: Infight.


Sharing m-files

Another very direct way to share information: you can share your m-file with your ally. You might even give away your up-/download password for autohost. The latter should obviously be only done when there is quite some trust between allies and perhaps also only when you consider the alliance to be lasting for the entire game. If nevertheless your alliance splits apart and you judge it important to change your up-/download password for autohost, send me an email (host can change those passwords).


Type of alliance

Before you start to exchange information with another player, think about the nature of your alliance: is it only a temporary one, is it supposed to last only for the task to bring down a certain player or is it an alliance to last all-game to share vicory (or defeat). Mostly it is wise not to give out everything in a rush but in a process over time in which trust can be built up.


Defining a way out of the agreement

Always allow a way out of an alliance or a NAP. Include a subclause how and with what time schedule it is possible to cancel the agreement. What's true about marriage, should be also true for a game: a way out without backstabbing. When the time comes that a treaty needs to be cancelled, mostly you'll discover that some things become important but you hadn't thought of it when making the agreement. Be generous and allow additional procedures for a satisfying end of the alliance for both sides. It pays off because it's a game and you do it for fun. And the Stars-community is small, you'll most likely see each other again. A properly cancelled alliance with no hard feeling on both sides and next time you might be both happily allying with each other again.

If you have already made a NAP or alliance without agreeing on a proper procedure how to cancel it, make it now!... even if this is the only clause in your alliance, NAP or whatever.


Public Player Score

In 2420 the public rankings are turned on. And now probably half of you feel like being somehow marked, may it be because you are ranked high and expect everybody to gang up on you or the contrary: being ranked low and expect everybody to see you as an easy target. Well, that's one of the reasons why public rankings are not used very often. Another important reason is that the public rankings give you information which you usually should have tried to gain yourself by scouting. And all those scouting efforts (and investments) are rendered a bit superfluous by public rankings.


But this is a beginner game and thus I thought it nevertheless helpful for you to get a feeling for a game which you aren't anylonger playing alone with some AIs but to evaluate your endeavours and race design in contest with other human players. But expect this to be your last game with other human players in which the public rankings are on. In most other games they are off.


And then, of course, there is the problem that the rankings are often enough quite misleading. Do not look on the rank alone but carefully try to analyze also the other infos. A factoryless race will most likely be never leading the ranks in ressources but may nevertheless be the strongest player in the galaxy. While you are still investing 80% of your ressources into building more and more factories, the factoryless race can invest nearly everything in tech and producing ships. Which might lead the factoryless player to the conclusion that he better attacks you BEFORE you are ready with building all your factories.


Often enough you see players with low ressources leading the ranks in tech, what could this tell you? Or there is a player who neither leads in ressources nor tech but is ranked first, often enough because he has the most planets. This is because many of the points given by the Stars ranking system are connected with the number of planets you own. But does it make you really the strongest player if you have 40 planets of which 30 are small and very difficult to defend?


By the way: a simple scout with a x-ray laser is already considered an escort ship. The ranks showing a player with 40 escort ships is a scary thing, especially if you yourself have just 2 armed ships. But it would be helpful to know wether those are x-ray scouts or cruisers with bazookas...


Stars ranking point system:

  • Planets: 1-6 pts, 1 pt for each 100,000 colonists
  • Starbases: 3 pts each (does not include Orbital Forts)
  • Unarmed Ships: 1/2 pt for each unarmed ship (up to the number of planets you own).
  • Escort Ships: 2 pts for each Escort ship (up to the number of planets you own)
    (An escort ship has a power rating greater than 0 and less than 2000)
  • Capital Ships: (8 x NumCapitalShips x NumPlanets)/(NumCapitalShips + NumPlanets)
    (A Capital ship has a power rating of greater than 1999)
  • Tech Levels: 1 pt for levels 1-3, 2 pts for levels 4-6, 3 pts for levels 7-9, 4 pts for level 10 and above
  • Resources: 1 pt for every 30 resourceshttp://stars.arglos.net/articles/getting-started.html

For more infos about the Stars public player score, use the Find option of your Stars! Help and search for "Score Sheet". If you haven't got the FIND-option in your help, update your help-file (see e27ihelp.zip there).

In general, while ranks are always interesting to look at, don't overrate them.