Dancing with the Spider

This is a general strategy guide for fighting against the Crystals on Planets Nu.  Most players have had some experience with the Crystals.  However, most players do not have a good idea of how to fight them efficiently. Now that Nu has its first Crystalline Emperor (congratulations Spacesquad) it is about time to reveal some tactics that will even give our Emperor quite a headache… This guide assumes the host order and ship designs in use at the time this article is written. As in many other games, you need to know the basics before you can be victorious. The host order is one of these fundamentals, so save it in your favorites or print it. Even the most experienced players need to refer to the host order from time to time.  Many of the strategies described here can be used by any race.

The Crystals are one of the eleven playable races on Planets Nu. They have strengths and weaknesses like any other race. Knowing these can help you to win the war. That is why we should have a look at a few things before we focus on explicit methods in concrete situations. I strongly recommend reading the following topics even if you are just looking for a quick fix for your current problems with the Crystals.

Race Facts

  • The Crystals like hot worlds, but they grow more slowly on cold worlds. A Crystal homeworld is 100 degrees to provide maximum growth. Even though they prefer hot worlds, they can survive better on ice planets than most other races.
  • They do not have any specific ground combat bonus.
  • They do not have a bonus on money generation or mineral extraction.
  • They do not have any cloaked ships in their shiplist.
  • They have a terraformer that can heat planets up to 100°C, 1°C/turn for each ship.
  • They do not have hyperjumping ships.
  • They cannot build fighters in space.
  • They cannot clone ships.
  • They do not have a bonus for laying mines.
  • They can steal fuelless enemy ships by simply towing them away.

Webmines

The Crystals however are the only race that is able to lay Webmines. Hitting a webmine will deal just a tenth of the damage as a normal mine. Damage dealt by a webminehit is the quotient of (1000/m+1), where m is the mass of the ship’s hull.

A ship inside a web is drained of 25kt of Neutronium fuel at the beginning of each turn.  When a ship hits a webmine, it loses additional fuel.  First it loses the amount of fuel it would have used had it completed its journey, then in addition it loses 50kt of Neutronium or one-sixth of the amount remaining in the ship’s tank, whichever is greater.

Any ship hitting a webmine will stop immediately and its speed is set to 0. If the ship is cloaked it will immediately uncloak, even if the damage is being repaired automatically by using supplies.  Unlike common mines, webmines cannot be swept from a distance. You have to be inside the web in order to sweep it.

Shiplist

The Crystals’ shiplist has quite a few useful ships.  In a typical Crystal fleet, you will most likely see Opal Class Torpedo Boats, Ruby Class Cruisers, Emerald Class Cruisers, Onyx Terraformers and a few Diamond Flames and Crystal Thunders. Also you will see freighters, Merlins, Neutronic Refinery Ships and Neutronic Fuel Carriers.

Rubies and Emeralds can be used as a freighter with fairly good combat power but their main purpose is laying webmines and bringing clans, minerals, supplies and cash to the planets.  They have two major combat ships: the Diamond Flame and the Crystal Thunder. As these ships are very expensive the Crystal player usually does not build too many of them.  Instead, the Crystals’ main goal is often to capture enemy warships and use them against their enemies.

Strengths

  • Webmines (offensive and defensive)
  • Capturing enemy ships
  • Fighting cloakers using webmines
  • Heating up planets and therefore making them hardly usable for anyone else
  • Fear (Webmines)
  • Well-arrmed “Freighters” with big cargo room and the ability to lay webmines

Weaknesses

  • Most ships have low mass and therefore cannot survive heavy combat or more than one minehit
  • Cannot clone ships
  • Heavy dependence on credits

Phases of the Game

A) Opening (first 5-10 turns) – Early on, the Crystals are not necessarily weaker than other races. They may not have big carriers for a big blow but when needed they can lay some small webminefields or capture enemy planets using the Emerald Class Class Cruiser. Like all races however, the Crystals are most likely to be most wounded at this stage of the game. They do not have enough cash to lay big webminefields and likely have not captured any cloakers or big warships.

B) Early Game (before reaching the ship limit) – Still a good time to hit them but beware that they may have a good cash income already.  This means that you need more sweepers yourself and better preparation with your supply routes.

C) Mid and Late Game (after hitting the ship limit) – The Crystals are one of the deadliest late-game races in VGA Planets. With endless money and minerals they can lay endless big minefields.  This makes attacking them a real pain and requires masterful logistical and tactical planning.

Strategies to use against the Crystal Confederation

Some of the following tactics will work against the Crystals in all phases of the game but you are most likely to have trouble with the Crystals in the endgame.  Remember, there is a counter to almost any strategy, including those that I am going to suggest here.  Every game and every enemy player is different.  Preparation, adaption, experience and creativity are what distinguish excellent players from good, average, and lower-skilled players. When fighting the Crystals you will need ships with very good beams, supplies for repairs and a lot of fuel.Although these strategies can be used seperately, their combination is what even experienced Crystaline commanders are very much afraid of.

Again, I recommend reading the host order again, checking the shiplist and considering each race’s strengths and weaknesses.

Discipline

Fighting the Crystals cannot be done quickly. You need to plan everything in detail. Supply routes, ship movement, ship positioning, ship equipment and countless other things. In fact, opposing an experienced and well-prepared Crystal probably is one of the hardest battles you will have to fight in Planets.  You must progress slowly when you know there are several Crystal ships waiting for your fleet to jump into the spider’s net.  You must strike quickly if there is an easy chance to take out ships (but be careful about traps) and fortify your planets.  Crystals have no easy way of taking out well-armed bases.  There will be times when you will lose ships in the web.  Sometimes, nothing can be done against this, especially when you are caught by surprise. The best thing you can possibly do is not to panic. Panic drains blood from your brain to your hands and feet and you will less likely find a quick solution to your problem. Even the most “talented” and experienced players experience some very bad turns. But they do not panic. Instead, they take a break from the turn and will come back to it later when their head is clear again. Panic leads to bad decisions and bad decisions lead to more ships lost to your enemy which in the long run might make you lose. The Crystal and Privateer are the races that benefit most from opponents’ bad decisions. Your loss of ships is a direct gain for them. After these general thoughts let’s finally go for the strategies and kill some Crystals!

Flying in dry

I am calling the following strategy “flying in dry” because you will lose less fuel and maybe ships when following this advice.  There is no way of flying around in webminefields if you want to attack the Crystals.  If the Crystals are attacking you, you need to get rid of these webmines because they limit your movement.  You should send in ships with low fuel that are towing fully-fueled ships with a high amount and quality of beam weapons.  The towing ship should set a course as far into the webminefield(s) as possible while just having enough fuel to reach its destination. If it reaches the destination, it will not have any fuel left. If it hits a webmine before that, it will be fuelless too.  If you fly in with full tanks you will lose a lot more fuel.  Always make sure you have backup ships waiting for emergency sweeping.  You also need fuel, fuel and even more fuel, best protected by big warships waiting to advance forward.

Pulling teeth

This tactic is designed to counter the Crystals most feared weapons, the webmines, before they can be used. The Crystal’s most commonly-built ships (Emeralds, Rubies, and Opals) have relatively low hull strength.  If they are hit by a mine they are either destroyed or heavily damaged.  As the Crystals do not have to fear other players’ webmines and can lay minefields against enemy mines they (caution: this is my assumption based on personal experience from countless games against Crystals) most likely do not have strong beam weapons themselves.  So basically you should lay several overlapping 150LY minefields yourself. The Crystals then will have to lay minefields themselves to counter yours.  So they are “wasting” their torpedos for laying mines when they instead could be laying webmines. They simply have to if they want to bring in more resources and ships to the front lines.  In a nutshell, this means that you will have to face fewer webmines.

Waiting for the storm to pass

If you are in the heart of a Crystaline spiderweb, make sure you have your ships over one of your planets.  When several overlapping webs are covering your ships, you will lose 25kt fuel for each web.  In other words, the fuel-draining effect is cumulative.  If you load only 1kt of fuel on each of your ships those ships can all sweep webmines because according to the Host Order, minesweeping happens before webmine drain. If you had more fuel on your ships, the webmines might have drained more.  The next turn, make sure to refuel your ships and repeat this. The Crystals will at some point probably run out of money (maybe not, depending on their logistics…). As I said, each tactic can be countered.  If he manages to capture your planet while your ships are fuelless, well… you can say goodbye to those ships.  As another benefit, if your ships are hidden on one of your planets the Crystalline player cannot estimate the amount of fuel in your ships based on their masses, so there is basically no information available about the status of your fleet.

There are several more tactics and I encourage all players to share their tactics with the community.  I would also like to point out that there are anti-Crystalline guides all over the Internet. So go read and rethink them over and over again. Also, you may want to try out playing the Crystals yourself. Changing sides will give you a truly new experience.

How it is done:

The following pictures are taken from one of my current games. I am using the tactics described above to get rid of a webminefield that caught my partners and me by surprise. Although the reality usually is more complex than this (several big overlapping webminefields) it shows how you can save fuel when attacking the Crystals. Every bit of saved neutronium will add up in the end and can make the difference between winning or losing. Trust me, there is no better feeling than victory over a good Crystal player. Let’s have a look at this example:

Turn 61

Turn 61 :

A 140 LY Webminefield (19,100 mine units) coming out of nowhere, several ships trapped. First reaction: Panic.  Second reaction: Slamming my hand on the table, waking up my girlfriend.  After a few minutes: Scanning the situation…

  • 9 Ships in the Webminefield, 6 on an allied planet
  • 1 all alone on another allied planet
  • 2 ships in deep space, immediately fuelless.
  • Center of the Webminefield is 83 LY away from the 6 ships.
  • This planet is surrounded by an allied minefield (57ly distance)

Evaluation:

  • 2 ships inside the field are most likely lost.
  • 1 solo ship has 121kt fuel left, that is 4 turns without a minehit before it is dry by turn 66.
  • 6 ships with a total of 366 ktfuel, most likely safe.

Action:

  • 5 of the 6 ships keep 1kt fuel, the rest is transfered to the best sweeper with the biggest fuel tank in this fleet.(waiting for the storm to pass tactic)
  • Splitting the 2 ships that are trapped.
  • Setting all ships to minesweep.
  • Move in additional support from the south, asking ally (Robot) for minefield-support

Turn 62

Turn 62:

Webminefield swept to 98ly radius and 9,600 mine units.
Support ships are being moved in using the “going in dry” tactic. Trapped ships
are still being split up. Ships on the planets lost 5x1kt fuel and 1x25kt (+25k
fuel for the solo ship) which makes a total loss of 55kt fuel this turn. If I
had not transfered the fuel it would have been 6x 25kt fuel = 150kt fuel.
Great!  I just saved 150-55 = 95kt fuel this turn.

Turn 63

Turn 63:

Webminefield swept again but it was reinforced. Radius is now 77LY and 6000 mines. 6 Ships on the planet are now outside the webmines. It is less likely that they will be captured but they cannot assist in sweeping mines. As they have not much fuel it would be very dangerous to split them up so be disciplined and stay on the planet. One of my fuelless ships was intercepted by a crystaline gemini. It is lost now. But the enemy has not shown his face yet. The ship(s) that are laying webmines are still on that planet.
Support group is moving in further.

Turn 64

Turn 64:

Webminefield reduced to 67ly radius and 4,600 mines.
One Ship lost (Darkwing – damn :D)
Some Ships of my support group have struck webmines. Low damage and almost no
fuel lost (going in dry). Changing resetted missions again, transfering fuel and
going in deeper again.
My lonely ship above the allied planet is still sweeping but traveling into the warp well at
warp 1 so it will not be lost.

Turn 65

Turn 65:

Webminefield reduced to 39ly radius and 1,500 mines
still moving further in, shifting fuel.
The other fuelless ship was intercepted and will be captured next turn.

Turn 66

Turn 66:

Webmines gone. My ally laid a minefield. The Gemini and the Darkwing both hit a mine and took severe damage.

Turn 67 (yet to come):

The Crystal Darkwing will be intercepted and killed by one of my other Darkwings.

I hope you enjoyed reading this guide. Feel free to comment!

Special thanks to ECV for compensating for my bad English :)

Resources :
http://www.donovansvgap.com/strategy/dreadlord.htm
http://www.donovansvgap.com/help/webmines.htm http://planets.nu/documentation/crystal-people
http://planets.nu/documentation/default-config

http://planets.nu/documentation/host-order
http://planets.nu/ships
http://vgaplanets.org/index.php/Web_mines

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4 thoughts on “Dancing with the Spider

  1. Since joining Nu I have been primarily a Crystal player. I am now terrified.

    Great job! I just hope my opponents don’t read this guide :)

  2. In the name of the Crystalline Confederation i have to formaly protest against this “propaganda”. I can only ask people to peacefully surrender if they are “protected” in webmines! :)

  3. Fantastic article Fruchtquake! I’ve fought Crystal players before and always moan and groan at the thought of what is involved to unseat them from the sector.. But this article has some great tactics to make it much more manageable! Thanks!

  4. This is a good starting guide to fighting the Crystals, but I have many counter tactics to what you have listed out.

    I have started working on a race guide for the Crystals which will detail out as many of these tactics/counter tactics/counter-counter tactics so anyone who reads it will have their head explode by the end of it.

    I would definitely enjoy having you review and discuss with me the details of the Crystalline race guide as I get them fleshed out.

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