There are a ton of articles on ways to build a proper economy, what to do about cloakers and Ion Storms, battle tactics, and a thousand other details. But if you’re new at the game and all that seems too complicated… well, that’s because it is, at least for right now. To start you off, this might be a better question to ask: Which race should I play?
Unless you’re planning to play several games at once — and don’t do that unless you have TONS of time — you should start with an easy race, and ideally one that suits your personality. I’ll list them off for you, along with a quick note on the advantages of each. Once you’re ready, you can click on each race’s name to open a more detailed description and perhaps get some advice on how best to start.
(TL;DR: Click here.)
The Solar Federation is known throughout the cluster for their ability to collect extra tax money — twice as much as any other race. On the down side, Federation mines only generate 70% of the minerals as normal mines. The Feds can build powerful ships with lots of beam weapons and torpedo tubes but only have one medium carrier in their ship list. They can produce the Eros and Bohemian terraforming vessels as well as the Loki-class destroyer, a ship that can de-cloak some enemy vessels. Finally, Federation crews are extremely well-trained and can fight their ships better than crews of any other race.
The Lizard Alliance builds a wide range of vessels, including a couple of small cloaking ships, one terraformer, the Loki-class destroyer, a decent light battleship, and a medium-heavy carrier. Lizards are exceptional at ground combat; a comparatively small invading Lizard force can annihilate populations many times their own number. This native toughness also extends to their ships; Lizard ships fight on until they’ve taken half again as much damage as would destroy vessels belonging to any other race. Finally, they also have an excellent tax advantage.
The Empire of the Birds have the most technologically advanced cloaking vessels in the game, including a cloaking battleship: the Dark Wing. They are masters of stealth and diplomacy rather than brute force, and their ships are designed for surgical strikes instead of lines of battle. The Bird “Super Spy” mission can be incredibly powerful if used correctly.
The Fascist Empire has excellent ground forces — second only to the Lizards in hand-to-hand. Their navy is designed around light and mobile vessels with lots of short-range beam weapons; they can also build a handful of cloaking vessels. Their battleship, the Victorious, is fairly lightweight. The saving grace of the Fascist fleet is the Glory Device, a self-destruct mechanism on two of their light vessels that does massive damage to any ship in the same location — and which can be set up to detonate if an enemy cloaking ship is present. Fascists have rapid recharge on their beam weapons and the ability to Pillage a planet, stealing supplies and damaging ground structures. Their ships are immune to planetary attacks, which turns their Pillage ability into an excellent advantage.
The Privateer Bands have the unique ability to rob the ships of other players, stealing them outright if they run out of fuel. Their primary ships are the Meteor, which can travel twice the speed of standard vessels, and the Bloodfang, a medium carrier. They can also build the Lady Royale, a gambling ship that produces cash on the fly (and, incidentally, has massive fuel tanks).
The Cyborg build the Biocide and Annihilation, two of the heaviest and most deadly ships in the game. They can also construct the Firecloud, a vessel capable of moving itself and any ships with it instantly to any other Cyborg Firecloud. Their major characteristic, however, is their ability to convert native populations into Cyborg citizens. This has the effect of permanently stripping value from a conquered planet; it is also extremely effective for creating distant outposts using Hyperspace probes.
The Crystal Confederation is unique in being able to lay web mines. These devices are highly effective at stopping enemy ships instead of merely causing massive damage. They also slowly drain the fuel from any ship within them, after which the Crystal fleet can tow the stranded vessel in order to capture it. This advantage makes up for the light nature of Crystalline warships.
The Evil Empire can build the massive Gorbie, an extremely effective supercarrier. They can also build the Super Star Destroyer, a vessel so powerful that it has only to drop ten clans on an enemy planet to capture it. The Empire also force-builds defensive fighters at every starbase without having to pay cash for them, which can be a tremendous advantage in skilled hands. However, the sheer mass of their ships requires a huge price in both construction materials and fuel, and the lack of effective variety in the Imperial fleet is also quite unpleasant. To make up for this, the Empire has the ability to sense details about enemy planets within a certain range, and their Hyperspace probe is an excellent spy.
The Robotic Imperium can construct a wide variety of highly effective carriers, each of which can build fighters in space from raw materials. The Robots also have the ability to lay vast minefields using only a quarter of the torpedoes as any other faction. Much like the Empire, however, their fleets tend to be quite massive, which often leads to fuel shortages.
The Rebel Confederation can build the powerful Rush supercarrier and the highly useful Falcon, a Hyperspace-capable armed freighter. Rebels also can build fighters in space, but their major advantage is the Rebel Ground Assault, a sabotage mission that eliminates populations and ground structures while inciting revolution among enemy citizens. This, combined with Rebel immunity from planetary attack, encourages an enemy to send their fleets in at a time and place of the Rebel’s choosing.
The Missing Colonies of Man can build the Virgo, a powerful supercarrier, as well as the fuel-generating Cobol and Aries. The Cobol creates fuel by flying, making it an extremely valuable part of Colonial logistics and a highly sought-after trade. The Colonial ability to construct fighters in space pairs with their ability to send those same fighters out to sweep enemy minefields. These advantages all combine to make the Colonial fleet both efficient and powerful.
Whatever race you do choose, remember that your adversaries will always have something you lack, and that there’s always going to be someone out there that can beat you like paper wraps stone. It’s a tough universe out there, but if you pick a faction that suits your personality, I’m confident that you’ll do quite well.