Chapter 6:Early Resource Management
In this chapter
In the early game, your assets are meager and easy to deplete. You start the game with a yearly income of about one hundred resources and a few hundred kilotons of each mineral. To use these meager assets effectively, you’ll need to consider how to balance what you need to accomplish with what you want to accomplish. With each step you take in the first few years of the game you should be thinking, "What effect will this action have on my resource growth?"
To research, build and expand your empire, you need resources. This makes the creation of resources the most important element of your early game strategy. Since people (and factories) create resources, increasing your population growth rate should be a main, and ongoing, goal.
Although your race’s standard growth rate is already set during the race design process, the actual growth rate for each colony will depend on the habitability and population for that colony world. Both low-value worlds and worlds with many colonists will grow at a rate lower than the standard (or maximum) racial rate. Once your homeworld (or any world) reaches 25% of population capacity, its growth begins to slow. At 30% capacity, that world will grow people less rapidly than it did at 25% capacity, but will still grow people faster than most other worlds you will find. However, your homeworld will probably be the only world at the beginning of the game that starts with a habitability value of 100%. Here is a chart of growth, comparing the homeworld's growth rate at different capacities to worlds of lesser value:
|If your homeworld
|It will grow at the rate of a
world with a value of:
- Display the population capacity of all of your worlds by pressing F3 and opening the Planet report.
This chart doesn’t give us quite enough information to play with, so let's look at an example. Say you have two worlds. One of them (your homeworld) is a 100% value world, and the other is a 50% value world. You have 1 million people (the normal maximum number of people for any world) to spread between the two worlds, and a 10% standard growth rate. Here's another chart, showing the growth per planet, and the growth in total, of your two-world empire with the population split between the two worlds:
|Homeworld Capacity / Population||50% World Capacity / Population||Excess Population1||Homeworld Growth||50% World Growth||Total Empire Growth|
|100% / 1,000,000||0% / 0||0||0% / 0||0% / 0||0|
|90% / 900,000||20% / 100,000||0||0.2% / 1,800||5% / 5,000||6,800|
|80% / 800,000||40% / 200,000||0||0.7% / 5,600||3.2% / 6,400||12,000|
|70% / 700,000||60% / 300,000||0||1.6% / 11,200||1.4% / 4,200||15,400|
|60% / 600,000||80% / 400,000||0||2.8% / 16,800||0.35% / 1,400||18,200|
|50% / 500,000||100% / 500,000||0||4.4% / 22,000||0% / 0||22,000|
|40% / 400,000||100% / 500,000||100,000||6.4% / 25,600||0% / 0||25,600|
|30% / 300,000||100% / 500,000||200,000||8.7% / 26,100||0% / 0||26,100|
|20% / 200,000||100% / 500,000||300,000||10% / 20,000||0% / 0||20,000|
|10% / 100,000||100% / 500,000||400,000||10% / 10,000||0% / 0||10,000|
- 1Excess population loaded onto freighters in orbit.
For purposes of this example, after the 50% world reached 100% capacity, the extra people were left in freighters so they would not die. Note that, even with 200,000 people in holding bays in space, not reproducing at all, growth was actually highest at 30% Homeworld capacity. If you consider each world separately, highest growth on each was at 30% capacity (actually, at 33%). Therefore, to achieve the highest possible growth for these two worlds, each year 300,000 people should be on the homeworld, 150,000 people should be on the 50% world, and 550,000 people should be in freighters (or, even better, on other worlds), with any excess each year loaded onto freighters:
|Homeworld Capacity / Population||50% World Capacity / Population||Excess Population1||Homeworld Growth||50% World Growth||Total Empire Growth|
|30% / 300,000||30% / 150,000||550,000||8.7% / 26,100||4.35% / 6,525||32,625|
In simpler words, when trying to maximize your growth, don’t export people to other worlds until the homeworld capacity is somewhere between 30% and 40%, because the people will simply grow faster on the homeworld than they would on almost any other world.
- Wait to export people until the source world’s capacity is somewhere between 30% and 40%,
Here are some rules of thumb for population growth:
- Colonize and ramp-up a world that has a habitability value of 90% or greater immediately. If you have the same amount of people on both the homeworld and the 90% world, they will grow at almost your maximum rate, until each world reaches 33% capacity. This gives you, basically, 2 homeworlds.
- A world with a habitability value of 50% or better should be ramped up before the homeworld capacity is over 35%.
- Worlds with a habitability value of less than 50% should wait until all other available worlds are filled, and should not be filled until the homeworld is over 33% of capacity. Generally, homeworld capacity should never go above 40% in the early growth years.
If you can’t find nearby worlds with a value greater than 50%, you should consider going back to your race and fixing whatever is wrong with the habitability settings. Be glad you found this in a testbed instead of a real game. (You are still in the testbed stage, aren't you?).
So, in the beginning, sit on your homeworld building factories and (if you run out of Germanium) mines, waiting for your population to become ripe for expansion. Send out your scouts and find those high value worlds, and then wait. Once you colonize a world, send enough people to increase its population to 25% of that world’s capacity, so it can start industrializing itself and, possibly, act as a seed (or breeder) world for new colonies on yet more worlds. This way your high value worlds serve as "little homeworlds" that provide new bases for expansion.
However, the needs of your empire's expansion and claiming of territory may end up being more important than simple maximization of growth. Remember that the universe is full of other races that want those planets as badly as you do.
Building your Resource Base
People also aren't the entire story. Your main resource supply is your number of Factories per world. There are three key factors that govern factory production: Population, Other Factories, and Mines.
The more people you have, the more factories you can build (because those people create resources) and the more factories you can run in a year. As a general rule, you should always have enough people on a world to run all factories already produced. Otherwise, you’ve wasted the resources used in their creation.
The more factories on a planet, the more resources your planet will have to build more factories. This is known as the "compounding effect of factories"—a very powerful effect. Using the default settings in the Race wizard, one factory produces enough resources to, by itself, build another factory in 10 years. Those two factories will then, together, build another factory in five years, for a total of three after 15 years. About three years later, you will get another factory, and two years later another. Now, you have five factories after a mere 21 years, all produced from the resources of that first ancestral factory. Those five factories can build another factory every two years and each factory immediately goes into production building more. Therefore, for every factory you do not build early on (or that you build, but do not run) is sacrificing one extra factory 10 years down the road, five factories 21 years down the road, or ten factories 29 years down the road. It just gets worse from there.
Of course, if you run out of minerals, factory production will halt immediately. This is where mines (local and remote) come in. You need Germanium to build Factories, and you've got to pull a lot of it out of the soil to build the number of factories a fully-industrialized world needs. While you may temporarily have to pull resources from building factories to build your mines, mines cost no more resources to run. Once a mine is built, it will pull minerals from your world until the end of time (though the mineral concentration of the providing world will slowly decrease).
Managing Your Production Queue
It's time to consider your world's Production Queue and, in particular, your Default Production Queue. What is an effective production queue? What should it contain, and in what order? How are all the different things interrelated?
Here is a simple Production Queue:
- Build Up To 500 Factories
- Build Up To 500 Mines
- Terraform Up to 10%
- Build Up To 10 Defenses
This production queue tells your world to do the following:
- Build factories until you either run out of resources, or you run out of Germanium. If you've run out of resources, great. Stop there.
- If you have run out of Germanium and have left over resources, build mines so you can have more Germanium for next year's factory production.
- If you've built the maximum number of factories and mines that can be run by the current population, then the limiting factor is not Germanium or Resources, but People. Terraform the world so that more people can live there, and so that the current inhabitants can reproduce faster.
- If the world is fully industrialized, build a few defenses, just in case.
- If you still have resources left over after getting all the way through this list, allocate them into global research.
Most of your worlds would start a queue like this with just the first item being done each year. As Germanium runs low, the first two items will start to be done each year, and your world will be on it's way to industrialization. Once Terraforming begins, your world will be ready to consider either building ships or devoting itself to research. Once Terraforming finishes, this world will probably be able to build ships and still contribute to research.
Sometimes, however, you will be stuck on a world with low Germanium. This world will never seem to have enough factories, and will therefore be a low resource world. Instead of relying on the planet's own Germanium content, you should seriously consider finding other sources.
Managing Your Minerals
Your first critical mineral is Germanium. Every world will need it, and no world will have enough. About the time your fledgling colonies start to require a lot of Germanium, your homeworld will be running out of its own supply. Where are you going to get enough Germanium for all your worlds?
Just before you would start to run out of Germanium is where Remote Mining shines. While your homeworld cannot supply Germanium, it can usually spare some Ironium (the main ingredient in most ships, and especially Remote Mining ships). By building remote mining ships, your homeworld is effectively trading some resources and Ironium (plus a little Boranium and Germanium) for a nearly endless supply of Germanium from worlds that your race wouldn't be using anyway. While those resources could perhaps be used in the building of more mines or factories (going against the dictate of 'Thou Shalt Not Compromise Thy Resource Growth,') these remote miners, if built at the right time and in the right number, will increase your eventual growth rate a few years down the road.
Next, your empire will experience its first Ironium Crunch. While the problem with Germanium affects how fast you can build your factories, the Ironium problem affects your growth in more subtle ways. Without adequate Ironium, you will have trouble building your remote miners, in turn affecting your supply of Germanium. Also, without the Ironium, your planets will have trouble building the colonizers and freighters (especially Privateer colonizers and freighters) needed to move your people and minerals around. To solve your Germanium problem, you needed either miners or very rich worlds. To solve your Ironium problem, you need planning.
Until you have made several worlds productive, the main source of Ironium will be your homeworld. You’ll start with enough Ironium for quite a few transport, scout, and mining vessels. If, however, you build too many of one type, you will quickly realize that you don't have enough of another. If the type of ship you don't have enough of is your scout, you will potentially lose your eyes on the universe. If you can't build enough transports, you will sacrifice much of your growth. If you can't build your miners, you may not be able to build scouts or transports either. Every year, you should consider the available minerals, and decide what is most important to build.
Build as many remote miners in a year as you can afford, while still allowing your homeworld to increase its factories and mines at a decent rate. Next you will need to build a few freighters to haul your mineral wealth home. The homeworld will need enough freighters to set up a round trip to at least one nearby planet being remote mined. A one-way trip of one year will need two transports (so one is always on its way out, and one on its way back), and a two-year trip will need four transports, in order to get minerals flowing from the miners to your homeworld as fast as possible. Once these ships are under way, you may not have to build more for a few years (when you may need more freighters to send colonists or minerals to other planets). During this time, you should also build one or two scouts every year, first to send out exploring, then to patrol your space. Remember, you will not have current data for any world that is not either being orbited or within your yellow penetrating scanner circles, so your scouts should be constantly re-scanning any nearby planets (that you haven’t colonized) for other players' colonies and incoming ships trying to sneak up on you.
Managing your Boranium supply is easy compared to the other two minerals. Generally, you will not need to manage it at all, for it isn’t very important early on in the game. A world that is very low in Boranium may need one small (less than 50kT) shipment, just so it can build a space station and possibly a few freighters. Also, if you need to build a lot of beam-weapon attack craft, you will have to do so on worlds that have a decent Boranium supply. Other than that, you can usually ignore Boranium.
Building Only What You Need
Until you have built the core of an effective empire, you need to constantly monitor what you need to build, and find a way to build it as quickly as possible. Generally, you should build a ship, or a starbase, only if you can do so in one year's time. For Starbases (but not Space Docks, for those of you with Improved Starbases), the production time can be spread over two years. For ships, two years is too long. A ship that takes two years to build halts all factory and mine production for that first year, greatly slowing down your growth.
It is important to note that, unlike colonizers, freighters are reusable until their design is made obsolescent by higher technology (and even then, they are still useful, but take up a ship design slot). Once your homeworld stops sending people to nearby worlds, the freighters formerly dedicated to that task can be turned to exporting people from your well-established or breeder worlds to neighboring worlds, or to collecting and distributing minerals. This strategy allows you to slow freighter production after the initial investment. You can also move some of these older freighters to worlds with low mineral content, saving your minerals and resources on those worlds for tasks other than building freighters.
Scout production can eventually be halted completely. Once you have explored the edges of the universe, and you have enough scouts to cover every planet within your borders (and, preferably, beyond your borders as well), there is no need to build more.
Remote miners, however, can and should be built in any quantity. The more you build, the more minerals can be pulled eventually from uncolonizable planets.
Once you have built enough of these three types of ships (or, at least, enough of the Freighters and Scouts) you can turn your attention to other things like building your minelayers and warships, and perhaps even doing a little research on the side.
Research? Until now, you will notice that no mention has been made, except in very special cases, about your research. With a very few exceptions you should avoid performing research early in the game. Any resources your planets have available should be put into more important things, like mines and factories, so that your economy will grow. Only after all mines, factories, and ships are built should you take the time for the luxury of research.
The exceptions are few, but important to note. Each field of research has a breakpoint or two for the early game. Your race may start the game past the breakpoint in one field, but will need to reach it in others. Sometimes, you can avoid the need to reach these breakpoints with your race design. However, each breakpoint gives you something that will help your economy eventually grow at a much faster pace than it would were they avoided. Here are some important breakpoints (growth-related and otherwise), and the levels that are needed to reach them:
- Level 1 (and 1 in biotech as well) is needed to get Temperature terraforming (+/- 3)
- Level 2 (and 4 in biotech as well) is needed to build a minelayer. It is also needed (along with Propulsion 3) for the Maneuvering Jet. Along with Propulsion 6, it is needed for the first ram scoop engine, the Radiating-Hydro Ram Scoop.
- Level 3 (along with 7 in Electronics and 2 in Biotechnology) is needed for the first Penetrating scanner.
- Level 5 (along with Biotechnology 2) is needed for Temperature terraforming +/- 5
- Level 6 is needed for the Wolverine Diffuse Shield
- Level 1 (along with Biotechnology 1) is needed for Radiation Terraforming +/- 3.
- Level 5 (along with Electronics 6) is needed for the first LBU bomb, which destroys planetary installations, and (with Biotechnology 7) for the first Smart Bomb, which kills people, leaving installations standing. It is also needed (with Biotech 2) for Radiation Terraforming +/- 7.
- Level 7 is needed for the first high-power range 0 beam weapon.
- Level 8 is needed for the first range 2 beam weapon.
- Level 9 (with Energy 5) is needed for the first high-power Pulsed Sapper weapon, which depletes your enemy's shields.
- Level 10 (with Propulsion 2) is needed for the first Torpedo with an accuracy better than 50%. It is also needed (with Biotechnology 3) for Radiation Terraforming +/- 11.
- Level 1 (with Biotechnology 1) is needed for Gravity Terraforming +/- 3.
- Level 2 is needed for the Fuel Mizer engine, if you have Improved Fuel Efficiency.
- Level 3 (with Energy 2) is needed for the Maneuvering Jet.
- Level 5 (with Biotechnology 2) is needed for Gravity Terraforming +/- 7. It is also needed (with Construction 5) for the first stargate.
- Level 6 (with Energy 2) is needed for the first Ram scoop engine besides the Fuel Mizer (only available if you have not taken No Ram scoop Engines).
- Level 8 (with Energy 2) is needed for the first Ram scoop engine that does not emit radiation (also available only if you avoided taking No Ram scoop Engines).
- Level 2 is needed for both the Mini-Miner Hull, and (with Electronics 1) the Robo-Mini miner.
- Level 3 is needed for the Cargo Pod, the Destroyer Hull, and the Medium Freighter Hull.
- Level 4 is needed for the Privateer Hull, the Space Dock starbase (only if you have taken Improved Starbases), and (with Electronics 2) the Robo-Mini Miner (only if you have taken Advanced Remote Mining)
- Level 5 (with Propulsion 5) is needed for the first stargate.
- Level 6 is needed for the B-17 bomber, the first bomber hull that can hold something besides bombs.
- Level 7 is needed for the Super Fuel X-Port, a multipurpose ship that can generate fuel and aid in the repair of ships.
- Level 1 is needed for the first useful scanner, the Rhino (the Bat scanner, available at the beginning of the game, can only pick up the statistics of its exact location).
- Level 7 (with Energy 3 and Biotechnology 2) is needed for the first scanner with Penetrating Range (they can read planetary statistics without being in orbit around the planet, and are only available to races who did not take No Advanced Scanners). Also available at this level (with Energy 4) is the Energy Capacitor, which gives more punch to beam weapons.
- Level 8 (with Weapons 5) is needed for the first LBU bomb, which destroys planetary installations.
- Level 10 (with Energy 3 and Biotechnology 3) is needed for the first planetary penetrating scanner (only available to those who avoided taking No Advanced Scanners).
- Level 1 is needed for all 3 Terraforming +/- 3% (also needs respective fields)
- Level 2 is needed for all 3 Terraforming +/- 7% (also needs respective fields)
- Level 3 is needed for Total Terraforming +/- 5% (needs the Total Terraforming trait)
- Level 4 (with Energy 2) is needed for Minelaying ability (Space Demolition races start with a smaller minelayer, however)
- Level 6 is needed for Total Terraforming +/- 7 (needs the Total Terraforming trait)
- Level 7 (with Weapons 5) is needed for the Smart Bomb.
- Level 9 is needed for Total Terraforming +/- 10 (needs the Total Terraforming trait)
In a Research Nutshell
What do these research breakpoints mean to your growing race? Well, for simple early colonization (the first few years), your race can get away with nothing better than decent Propulsion technology (Propulsion 2 if you have Improved Fuel Efficiency, otherwise you can live with the engine on your first ships). However, once your homeworld and colonies begin exporting people, your research levels should be:
- Energy 1, for the Temperature Terraforming, if you need it. If possible, level 5 gives more Terraforming.
- Weapons 1 or 5, for the same reason.
- Propulsion 1 or 5, again for the same reason. If ram scoops are available to your race, but you don't have the Fuel Mizer, Propulsion 8 could be a lofty goal, as that gives you your first ram scoop that does not kill your colonists.
- Construction 4 is critical for the Privateer hull, which uses little Germanium. If you have taken Improved Starbases, you also get the Space Dock.
- Electronics 7 gives you a penetrating scanner (unless you have taken No Advanced Scanners) to help you find worlds faster.
- Biotechnology 1 gives you basic (3%) terraforming for any of the first 3 fields that are already 1. Biotechnology 2 gives you, for any of the first 3 fields that are 5 or above, extra terraforming (7%). If you have Total Terraforming, you should try for Biotechnology 6.
This is all you should research for early on, and if you can justify not researching something, by all means do so (almost all of the above can probably be avoided, with the exception of the Privateer and the Cargo Pod, which are both available through Construction Research to level 4). This small amount of research, however, will help your race a great deal in its expansion efforts. Once your homeworld begins experiencing a glut of resources, you can turn your thoughts to more lofty research goals. By then, however, you will be well into the middle game.