Slow JOAT to China, by Jason Cawley and Verker

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This was the featured article on 10 October 2009.

Slow JOAT to China

By Jason Cawley ( and Verker


In the interests of largely theoretical stars race design considerations, but perhaps of some real interest too, I submit for consideration the following race design and testbed results. The question the design sought to answer was - how playable are low-growth HPs, particularly those leaning in the direction of spike's emphasis on late-game minerals? How low can the PGR be pushed and still get you viable speed to midgame?

  • Ying-Yang (the symbol is obvious :-)
  • JOAT
  • 3*68 wide and centered hab, 1/3 overall, eventual live-everywhere
  • 13% pop growth, 1/2500 pop eff.
  • 15/7/25 3G factories
  • 12/3/18 mines
  • weapons cheap, rest expensive
  • no start at 4 box
  • Leaves 0 points

While 12 mine eff is less than spike recommends, this race also takes MA and has eventually live-everywhere hab. While the minerals from MA won't be important until quite late, after year 100 typically, they do give a longer "tail" when everyone runs out of stocks. Especially so given the huge max planet size of this design - 5478 resources. And it only costs about what 1 extra click of mine eff does.

The YYs were tested alone in tiny dense. They managed the following respectable resource track, even with only 13% pop growth rate- 2000 at year 20 (almost all of it HW), 4400 at 30, 10k at 40, 19k at 50, +9k each of the next 4 decades essentially, slowing after year 90 at around 60k. That was from the use of only 16 worlds out of the 40 in the testbed - more were not used as all MM was stopped at year 30. 1/2 the planets were then low pop, the other half (settled earlier, teens rather than 20s) were decent size.

In terms of the growth characteristics, they are passable. They are short on the resource goal at year 50, and got Arm BB tech with all roundouts at year 67 not year 60 - but on both counts that amounts to being 7 years behind, which I consider a livable "time-gap" when combined with a strategic defensive stance. And it does reflect the use of a relatively small number of worlds; continued MM should better the performance by making the most of the pop.

The year 50 econ performance works out to achieved pop growth slightly over 8%. Out of a 13 PGR, that is quite good. The reason of course is that with huge planets, wide hab, and a low growth rate, crowding is a much smaller drag than it is for most higher-growth races. Still grow less than the highest growth races, but not as far behind with the extra space as one might think. I did terra 5% per year after 500 resources on the large 1/2 of the worlds (the smaller ones went to green autobuilds before getting there, having <120k pop or so when they went green).

The G output of the homeworld is very high. Combined with the low growth rate, that allows the factories to catch the pop relatively soon and relatively easily (cost 7 factories helping on that score too). From the early 20s on, the HW was spitting out 750 kt of G per year to the colonies, twice as much as continued pop exports at the 50%, 660,000 hold level (38100). Thus the solid year 40 performance, for example. And the relatively slow growth thereafter, since by then virtually all places are "maxed to pop" and waiting for the slower pop to grow (thus the 6.6% achieved economic growth in the 40s, all pop basically and on 51% average hab-n-crowding, vs. the faster 8.6% growth in the 30s and 8.2% in the 20s, some of which is the factories catching the pop).

For the later-game mineral assessment, I did two things. First, I went to year 100 buying tech, and recorded the mineral stockpiles achieved by then. Then I added auto MA at the bottom of the Qs and gen'ed another 50 years.

At year 100, the race had 276,000 kt of iron out of 16 worlds. 58,000 of that was the homeworld, with 15k average on the remainder. Decent, but not exceptional on the colonies. Part of the reason there was that the lower 1/2 of the worlds in size had only depleted down to the 20s by then - with a few in the 30 concentrations and a few in the 10s on that 1/2 the worlds. The other 1/2 were 10-ish at year 100, some a little higher some a little lower of course. At that point, continuing mineral income from mining was 4200 kt iron year; with the first year's MA added, another 2400 kt/yr on top of that, give or take, giving 6600 total.

Spinning ahead to year 150, the race had 555,000 kt of iron. 109,000 of that on the homeworld (double the year 100 figure, as was the overall total), plus 30,000 per colony world. By then most worlds were in the low single digits; the "smaller" ones in the upper single digits. Only a few actual "1's" though, besides the HW. Continued mining was then 1900 kt per year, plus 2800 from MA for 4700 total.

Thus, with the MA, the minerals gained between years 100 and 150 were fully as large as those gained years 0 to 100, an impressive result it seems to me. Naturally far more than 555,000 kt could be gained by using the other 24 worlds, too.

What would I change about the design after playing it? Well, I think 15% pop growth would be useful. Not essential, but getting to all the lowest greens and yellows would be pop-intensive at first and there would be more available for those needs with 15% PGR. And the smaller worlds getting big faster would help the year 100 depletion and mineral performance, as well as the resource one, since there was definitely room for improvement there. I like the MA for this sort of race, though year 100+ strength is a long way off to be sure. I might "sac" the cost 7 factories, settling for cost 8 ones, since the "tuning" was such that the factories caught the pop relatively early with 13% and cost 7. That only pays for 14% and some change though; to get 15, the first two ranges might be narrowed slightly, accepting a little less than live-everywhere. Space was abundant after all. But that is another test :-)

How low can you go? 13% with true HP factories and JOAT planet sizes is playable. A slow boat to China, but a lot when you get there...


Jason Cawley

Verker's reply:

Jason Cawley wrote:

How low can you go? 13% with true HP factories and JOAT planet sizes is >playable. A slow boat to China, but a lot when you get there..

Depends on what you want to buy for the lower growth rate; you've already pointed out that you like to go for some xtra minerals when playing -f races, and it is obvious you're trying the same with this HP race. The combo of 1in3 hab and a max planet size of 5478 seems a little inconsistent to me. Also, this race will be a little behind tech wise, especially if it has quickstarting HGs or good -f's close.

Yes, low grow HPs can buy you a lot of things - but what is best to buy?

13% for biimmune hab?

15% for awesome tech?

Well, if you also consider my point below (reply to Joseph), you can already guess that I wouldn't go as low as Jason. I've had quite good results with an 16%, facts cost 6, HP IT (yes, I know they cost extra points), which can also buy 3 cheap techs and a 1in4 hab. Thats everything I would want, basically. Considering that IT is one of the most expensive PRTs (considering NAS PP+SS can be even more expensive) I don't see a reason to go any lower to be honest.

I would also expect everything below 15% (13% for the real cracks like Jason maybe) to be non-competitive in real games (expect HE ofc). And before those AR-gurus tear me apart: I lack the experiance with that race.

Joseph Oberlander wrote:

I think population growth is overrated.

Sorry Joseph, but I completely disagree. I remember very well, that one of the first hints which I got when I was a Stars! newbie, was the following by Omonubi, who ran the wonderful Stars-r-us site then. Quoting:

"Growth rate vs. other factors - High growth always is the key. I have a SD race design that I believe can take on the best of them - 19% growth rate. There has been no other combination of factors that I can tell effect the game nearly as much and with the same points/gain ratio."

After all that time I've spent with the game, I still think he's right. That s why 95% of the races I've used had 18% or more growth. I can imagine to use 16 or 17% in extreme cases, such as Jasons +minerals+planet size+hab case, but I wouldn't recommend it, especially not for inexperienced players.

just IMHO ofc,