Maximizing Efficiency in Collaborative Play

Successful players generally must collaborate with others in the sector in one way or another, whether through alliances, intelligence agreements, trading agreements, or collaborations toward a common goal.  This article will give you some tips on how to make your collaborations as efficient as possible.

In this article the word “ally” applies to full allies as well as unofficial allies, collaborators, trading partners, or anyone else working together in any way.

The need to communicate clearly and thoroughly is intrinsic to this game.  Certainly it is necessary to communicate about war and politics in the cluster.  Everyone needs to know who their friends and enemies are.  Allies must agree on common position or construction goals, as well as choosing targets together.  Whether making alliances, making deals, or working together against a common opponent communication is essential.

Unfortunately it’s not enough for your communications to consist of something like “Let’s go attack the Robots together.”  If that is the extent of your communication, you are less likely to succeed than if you collaborate about details and pool your resources.

Communications do not need to be long, well-drafted essays in paragraph form.  They can be concise lists of requests.  Here is an example of a set of requests I gave to my ally in one of my completed games (click for larger version):

Screen shot 2013-05-12 at 6.00.09 PM

As a basic rule, always try to refer to objects on the map by their ID number.  Also when communicating with an ally, use present tense when referring to your actions on the present turn and past tense when referring to things that happened when the host ran.  When referring to plans for a future turn, always use the turn number rather than a more ambiguous statement like “four turns from now”.

 

Intrinsic Difficulties in the Game that Allies must Overcome

The turn-based nature of the game presents a roadblock to sharing resources in some circumstances.  There is no clientside beam transport from an ally’s planet, so if a ship wants to take something from a planet before movement, a gather mission (mission to beam up fuel or minerals or supplies) is required.  Planets do not have the power to beam minerals or supplies onto ships.

There are also a number of other limitations, such as the restriction to one foreign ship-to-ship transfer at the same point in space, with jettison counting as a ship-to-ship transfer target also.  These difficulties can be overcome but it requires careful communication.

The critical thing to learn for efficient collaborative play is how to do simple actions together without wasting extra turns in the process.  Here are some very common examples of turn-wasting:

  1. Spending an extra turn refueling.
  2. Delaying the unloading of cargo to an ally’s starbase by one turn by using ship-to-planet transfer instead of starbase unload.
  3. Giving ships without moving them the same turn.
  4. Giving ships at the wrong time, such as when a ship mission (particularly minesweep) is more important at the moment than the transfer itself.
  5. Using gather missions to compensate for a lack of communication.  Beaming up fuel or cargo prevents a ship from being able to cloak, lay mines, minesweep, or tow, and this often results in having to wait an extra turn before moving away from the planet.

 

How to Refuel your Ship at an Ally’s Planet

If the ally has a starbase, you should match friendly codes and have the ally order the base to refuel.  You must communicate with your ally that you need fuel and you must request a friendly code before you arrive.  Remember that starbases’ actions on ships happen after movement, so if the host has already run, it’s too late.

If the ally has a ship in orbit, you can ask the ally to use ship-to-ship transfer to refuel your ship.  Nu allows “double-loading”, so you can refuel a ship with a large fuel tank by transferring several times from a small ship.  Note that ship-to-ship transfer is limited to one foreign target per turn.

If the ally has neither a starbase nor a ship in orbit, your last resort is to use the gather mission (beam up fuel).  This impedes you from being able to cloak, minesweep, intercept, tow, etc. on that turn.

 

How to Make Deliveries to an Ally’s Starbase

If you are delivering minerals, supplies, money, or clans to an ally, you should match friendly codes with your ally and have the ally order the base to Unload All Freighters.  Since unloading freighters happens after movement, you must inform your ally of your arrival before the host run, and always confirm that your friendly codes match as you approach.

Often you will have multiple ships approaching an ally’s base and you want to give the ally some but not all of the materials you are carrying.  It is easy to unload exactly the right amount when you have more than one ship approaching, because you can transfer your cargo and money between your own ships, and then set the base’s friendly code on the ship(s) you want unloaded.  Leave a different friendly code on the other ships and they will keep the remaining cargo.  (Hint: move some clans over to one of the non-unloading ships.)

It is especially crucial to communicate with an ally when you are making deliveries using hyperdrive ships.  If you are delivering money or minerals to an ally via hyperjump, you should ask them to change friendly code to HYP and orders to Unload All Freighters.  If you fail to do this, your ally will have to wait a turn for you to use ship-to-planet transfer, and that extra turn could prevent your ally from building the ship they wanted to build.  If you are delivering money to the ally and you didn’t communicate, you can’t jump away with your hyperdriver while beaming down money because in order to jump your friendly code must be HYP and not bdm.  In short, if you deliver to an ally with a hyperdrive ship and have not informed them to set the friendly code and base orders, you have essentially wasted two turns!

 

More on Starbase Orders

When working with an ally, do not keep your starbases on Force a Surrender by default.  In general, you should probably only use Force a Surrender for ship transfers or when trying to get an enemy ship to surrender.  The best default base order is probably Unload All Freighters because it allows your own cargo to be unloaded before certain other actions happen, particularly combat.  But for the most part, when an ally’s ships are traveling through the area, your bases should probably be set either to Refuel or Load Torps Onto Ships.

Due to terrible documentation, base orders have long been poorly understood.  Many versions of the official documentation were patently wrong about the placement of base orders in the host order.  In the standard game (Host 3.2 and Nu without campaign features), all the base orders happen after movement except for Force a Surrender.  To set the record straight: Force a Surrender happens just before movement.  Unload all Freighters, Refuel, Load Torps, Max Defense, and Repair base all happen at the same time, after movement but before combat.

To reiterate: you must communicate when approaching an ally base to request a friendly code and tell the ally what you want the base to do.  Any time you click an ally’s starbase as your ship’s waypoint, you should ask yourself what, if anything, you need to do there.  If you are making a delivery or if you need fuel or torpedoes, you must immediately communicate with the ally so that the orders will be submitted and the friendly codes match before the host runs.  If you fail to communicate this, you could be wasting turns.

 

Giving Clans to an Ally

Giving clans to an ally is tricky because if you perform a ship-to-planet transfer to an ally’s planet, your clans will attack.  The best way to transfer clans to an ally is by matching friendly codes and ordering the starbase to Unload All Freighters.  You also can transfer clans through ship-to-ship transfer or by giving ships full of clans directly to your ally.

 

Giving Ships to an Ally

There are two ways to change a ship’s ownership: surrendering at a starbase or giving it to a ship with clans.

To surrender a ship to a starbase, the friendly codes should match and the receiving base orders be Force a Surrender.  The ship cannot move when it surrenders.  However, if the ship has a pre-movement mission such as minesweep, lay mines, hiss, dark sense, build fighters, etc., it will perform that mission before surrendering.

You can also give a ship using a gsX friendly code to give a ship (X stands for the player’s unique identifying number or letter).  The receiver must have a ship with clans at the same point in space in order to receive the ship.  Note that a ship can move on the same turn as it has been given away, and it retains its primary enemy, waypoint, and speed.  However, a ship that is being given using this method can perform a limited number of special missions: cloak, sensor sweep, super spy, rob, hiss, repair self, dark sense, build fighters.  Other missions such as minesweep will be ignored.  After a ship has been received, its mission will always say “Exploration”.  If the giving player had set the mission to cloak, the ship will be cloaked even though the mission will say “Exploration”.

If you are dealing with enemy minefields, be very careful when giving your heavy minesweeping ships because they will not be able to minesweep while changing owners using a gsX code.  Also remember that you can set a waypoint but any attempt to tow or intercept will fail while changing owners.

Using a gsX code, the receiving ship must have at least one clan on board in order for the transfer to happen.  If the giving ship has clans but not the receiving ship, the giver can use ship-to-ship transfer to beam one clan.  The ship will be passed to the new owner in the same turn, assuming the receiving ship has cargo room to receive a one-clan transfer.

In summary:

  1. If you want to give a ship to your ally and you are alone at the ally’s starbase, match friendly codes and have the ally set Force a Surrender.
  2. If you want to give a ship to your ally and you are not at a starbase but at the same point in space as an ally ship with clans, use a gsX code.  You can then give it a waypoint and if it has a cloaking device it can cloak.
  3. If you want to give a ship to your ally and you have clans, but your ally whose ship is at the same point in space does not, transfer one clan and simultaneously set a gsX code.  You can then give it a waypoint and if it has a cloaking device it can cloak.
  4. If you are at an ally starbase and your ally has ships there, you have two choices:
    1. If you want the ship to move away from the base, use a gsX code.
    2. If you want the ship not to move but to do a useful mission like lay mines before it changes owners, match friendly codes and have the ally set Force a Surrender.

Some players keep one clan in all ships all the time so that transfers can happen anywhere.  That is a good habit to be in.

 

Conclusion

In collaborating with allies, the key to success is to avoid wasting turns doing things that you could do immediately by yourself.  Since you depend on the host to resolve any team actions, remember that ships do their beam transfers before movement while starbases carry out their orders after movement.  Also remember that ships can only do one mission at a time, so don’t waste a valuable turn beaming up fuel if you can avoid it by having it already refueled the previous turn after movement.

When you approach an ally’s starbase, be sure to communicate about orders and a friendly code.  It is probably best to give your ally at least 24 hours’ notice of your requests before the host run.

Since you will likely be passing ships between yourselves a great deal, remember to carry clans in order to use the gsX codes.  Remember that with gsX you can give and move a ship at the same time.  Also remember that while surrendering you can carry out certain ship missions, and that is sometimes more valuable than moving the ship.

Play hard, make friends, and communicate often and thoroughly!

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13 thoughts on “Maximizing Efficiency in Collaborative Play

  1. For the userscript users out there, there are a couple scripts I put together to further help with coordination between allies. Note that neither of these has been updated to work with the new version.

    The message links script adds clickable links into messages automatically to reference game objects. When both members of an alliance are using it, it can speed things up a lot because you don’t have to go to the map and look for the things your ally is talking about, you can just click the link in the message and it takes you there. More info:
    http://planets.nu/discussion/utility-script-add-links-to-inter-player-messages

    The ally information sharing script allows you to send your current orders to your ally and if they are also using the script, they will be able to see what you are planning to do this turn without you having to write it all out in a message. More info:
    http://planets.nu/discussion/utility-script-share-current-orders-with-allies

  2. Thanks for the note, Beefer!

    I tried out your scripts and they’re great (my very favorite is the map-drawing one!) but I ended up discontinuing my use of them because Firefox for OS X does not work well at all for either the old or new versions of Nu. The new versions of Java for Mac keep screwing up various compatibility issues also, and I need to keep updating them because I use Java for things besides Planets. I didn’t have good luck in getting allies to use scripts either. I do hope some folks will consider using them, and dtolman wrote a great article last week – http://www.planetsmagazine.com/?p=610 – about installing them, and he has another pending article that should come out in the next week with a full list of userscripts that are available. So everybody keep watching Planets Mag because there are still more excellent articles coming!!

    My intention in this article, of course, is to point out inefficiencies that alliances suffer from way too often and to clarify issues in the host order and show the best way to use them. Your comment provides a very valuable supplement to my article and I hope that people will try your scripts out. Windows users will have better luck.

  3. That’s a very good article ECV. It summs up the most importants aspects of working together with someone. The question which player or which race i want to ally with (and why) is slightly less important than knowing about these fundamentals of collaborative play. I just wish more of my allies knew about this but as soon as i make new friends i ll point them to your article. good job!

  4. Very good article on important topic. It could stress a bit more the importance of communication _during the turn_ instead of waiting for a new turn to bother replying. Theefficinecy of fruitfull co-operation has been hindered many times because of an ally’s lack of will or skill to communicate in clear, detailed manner and as importantly to communicate in time!

  5. Thank you for your compliments! Please do point people toward this article!

    I tend to write long diplomatic messages, but honestly it’s not really necessary. What’s necessary is simple statements like “s321 moves to p123, need fcode mdq, 50 mark 7 if possible, and orders to load torps”.

    I’m really glad you guys find this useful. There may be a “part 2” to this article at a later date :)

  6. Greetings ecv!

    This is an excellent article about the most common weakness in the Echo cluster. It will safe me a lot of explaining work when I meet my next ally. I’ll just mail a link to your article and hope …

    Have you mentioned that fuel and cargo transfer to a foreign (allied or enemy) ship won’t work if this ship sets cloak mission in the same turn? Maybe I just overlooked it. If not, it’s worth a line.

    I would be really glad if it happens that we become allies in a futue game. My ally JoeSnoffy in Cheeseball was a perfect buddy but since then I never had one like him again. We were using BigBeefer’s incredible script to share data. I hope this one gets updated for the new site. E.g., it’s so helpful to snap to your ally’s waypoints mid-turn.

  7. Excellent stuff :) … thanks for taking the time writing it down.

  8. Again, thanks so much for your compliments. The best compliment of all is to point people toward this article! Khrystalcop: that screenshot was from our Delphi game :) you were an awesome ally because you were so meticulous!

  9. Nice post :) Coordination is the most important thing to obtain 1+1> 2 and take profit of all the abilities. Also a good level of the same idiom ^_^

  10. Good stuff and thank you for sharing! Many points I never considered and will try and put into practice.

  11. I’ve turned to using google docs when I need to coordinate closely with an ally and email sharing is just not going to get it done.

    In this you can share turn to turn updates. It can be tough to set-up but considering the interface still blows for mobile devices, you can coordinate and “play” your turn even while out and about by editing the document and answering any questions your ally may have put on the document. Works great if all of a sudden you end up not being able to do your turn until an hour before host, and your ally has been done days ago.

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