The Future Of The Planets Nu Merchant Marine

or, On Operational Mobility

There’s an old saying: that sergeants and captains think about tactics, colonels about strategy, but generals obsess over logistics. We here, safe in our virtual universe, we imagine logistics to be a matter of keeping diesel in the tanks, gas in the trucks, bullets in the guns, food in the kitchens — that sort of thing. But we have only the vaguest inkling what the problem must be like with an army in the field unless we’ve been there. Continue reading

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On Grand Strategy

It is said of Hannibal that he won every battle but lost the war. The same has been claimed for other historical conflicts with more or less justification: the American conflict in Vietnam, the campaigns of Gustav Adolf den Store of Sweden, and even that Pyrrhus of Epirus from whose name the very phrase “Pyrrhic victory” comes.

But how is this possible? Is war not, more or less, a succession of battles which creates a metaphoric path over which the winner ascends to eventual victory?

As it happens, it is — and then again, it isn’t. Continue reading

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On The Pursuit Of Victory

There are a lot of articles out there on the mechanics of the game – how many mines you can get out of a Mk6 torpedo, how much an X-Ray Laser masses, that sort of thing. And there are several articles on good general strategies, opening gambits, the best way to defeat a Privateer ambush et cetera. But not much has been written on the big question: How do I win?

Perhaps this is because flawless generals are few; as such, it would require a good deal of arrogance to claim enough expertise to offer a definitive Continue reading

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Getting To Second Base: Comparing Tactics

Before you get too excited, this article is about neither sex nor baseball. Keep your shirt on.

In both the early PBP and the modern PQ systems, it’s highly advantageous to construct a second starbase early in the game. Many players believe the best move is to use their homeworld to produce the needed minerals, loading them up on a Large Freighter and shipping the whole “starbase-in-a-box” kit out to the first prime native world they discover. It’s a solid move; it creates a potential source for new vessels early on, generates an advantage in the PBP/PP race, and Continue reading

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Master Class 6: The Ship Limit (Turn 33ish)

Disclaimer: I’m writing this article while motion-sick and insomniac on a cross-country train ride. Amtrak uses cutting-edge 1965 technology to transport people and provides a true example of that lauded American technological superiority in non-military applications that we’ve all grown to know and love. As a corollary, the language and clarity of this article may have suffered somewhat, for which I do most sincerely apologize. After all, one cannot expect any writer to do other than revel in the sybaritic luxury available to those of us that ride Coach.*


By now either you’ve noticed the vastly increasing number of ships relative to the Ship Limit or you’ve read chatter on the subject in the message feed. (In case you haven’t, I’m going to suggest that you start paying closer attention to the Scoreboard.)

These games are played in the “Production Queue” system, which is at the same time more and less forgiving than a Classic game, insofar as the Ship Limit is concerned. On the plus side, if you’ve Continue reading

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Master Class 5: How To Kill (Turn 25-ish)

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: If you’re going to go to war, first make sure you win it. Then you can go fight it.


Most people, if they think, “Gee, I’d like a million dollars,” will drift from there to what they’d do with the million, and where they’d go, and incidentally what’s on the television and what’s for dinner tonight and what time is it anyway? Some will devote serious thought to the problem, examining things like compound interest Continue reading

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Master Class 4: Who To Kill, Who To Preserve (Turn 14)

By this point in the game, if you’ve been expanding steadily and your neighbors have too, you’ve probably got a decent idea who’s where — at least near you. If you’re the diplomatic sort, you may even have concluded peace with one or both neighbors. The more proactive may already have found a “weak sister” and arranged with their far neighbor to help cut off escape.

Before things escalate too much, it’s a good idea to take a look around and see what Continue reading

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Abusing the Military Score

If you look at the Scoreboard, you’ll see a column entitled “Military Score”. During the early part of the game, when there’s a limited number of starbases in play, it’s quite possible to use that score to analyze the enemy fleet. Even in the later game, it’s quite possible to use it to figure out builds and ship trades by your enemies.

Here’s a short description Continue reading

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Master Class 3: When To Attack (Turn 10)

I’ve been asked questions about my game model, and in particular about my goal to build a Merlin. After all, why build a Merlin in the early game? It may make sense as the ship limit approaches, but at this stage you do not have masses of factories churning out surplus supplies.

It’s an excellent question. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a simple answer, or even a single answer. The truth is, there are as many ways to play this game as there are races — probably more. So let’s Continue reading

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Master Class 2b (Or Not 2b): Side Notes For Extra Reading

You’ve played in other games before, so I presume you’re all familiar with the “early host run” that happens when everyone hits End Turn early. It gives us a nice advantage in that it stores us up a few spare hours before we have to submit the next turn. Keep your eyes open, though; sometimes, if we collect enough spare hours, the next host time will simply advance a day. We’ll never have fewer than 24 hours to complete any given turn (unless something is bugged), but there’s no guarantee once you’ve submitted your turn that you won’t have to come back before Host time.

Since you have all that extra time, I’d like to suggest some extra reading: Continue reading

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