This series of articles is designed to support the “Master Class” games, a supplement to the Master vs. Midshipmen environment.
In this section, I wish to address opening moves in the context of playing the game to win.
Look, we’re all here to play a game, right? It’s supposed to be fun, and part of that fun is learning more about the game. I’ve been playing off and on since the 1990s, and I’m still learning.
But if you don’t start the game prepared to win it, you’re very probably going to lose.
So here’s what you’re going to need to do in order to play to win:
Before The Game
Before you even start a new game, make sure you’re not going to self-destruct doing it. You need to be certain that you’re going to have enough time in your day to play a new game. Allow a few minutes for it every day. Set a watch alarm at an hour before Host time if you want, but do whatever it is you have to do to get your turns done and done right.
Take a minute to figure out who the other players are. Look at their histories and other games if you have time. See if you know any of them, and if you can, try to predict which other players will ally and which will fight each other.
Remember: This game is not about ships and planets — well, it IS, but it’s more about people. Keep your eyes on that and you’ll prosper; forget it and you’ll fail.
The First Turn
You start off with a homeworld. On your very first turn, you want to make sure you don’t have to worry about maintaining it every single turn. Build the structures that you know you’re going to need for the rest of the game and then set autobuilds so you don’t have to keep building more every turn. Personally, I like to max out my homeworld factories most games; all else aside, the supplies you build there can be turned into cash, and you’ll need a ton of cash. I also like to start off by building mineral mines there, but not the max the planet will hold; I usually pick a number somewhere around 150 — higher for Feds, lower for Lizards, and always bearing in mind whether I’ve got a race of heavy ships (more minerals) or light ships (less minerals, more cash).
Once you’ve done that, you’ll be running low on cash. My approach to this is to tax the hell out of my colonists for a single turn — I set a tax rate that knocks them down to 70 happiness, which is the unhappiest they can be while still producing more colonists. It’s important to keep making more; you need colonists to populate your new planets, to collect taxes for you, build factories — and so you should never overtax your homeworld for any length of time if you can help it. (Please note: A Cyborg player can profit from a 20% tax rate at most. Don’t waste happiness.)
There are two more things you need to do this turn: build a new ship (usually a Large Deep Space Freighter), and send your MDSF out to explore nearby planets (and don’t forget to load it up with Colonists, some supplies, and a bit of cash. 140/60/60 is a decent mix.)
Pick A Goal
The first turn is a bit early to be deciding exactly how you’re gonna go about winning the game, but some people do just that, right off the bat — and succeed.
This game, I want you all to play to build up your local area as efficiently as possible. You’re looking for (1) a good local native planet (NOT Amorphous!), (2) a prime site for your second starbase (which may or may not be on (1)), and (3) enough minerals on your homeworld to construct a Merlin. (This means you’ll want to haul Duranium back home on any empty freighters. Remember that for later.)
These are some examples of short-term goals that work well, and I’ll ask you to AVOID THEM during the start of this game:
- Privateers: Build lots and lots of Meteors and go out immediately to rob your neighbors blind. This will cripple them while giving you a ton of early planets.
- Lizards: Build a fleet of Lizard Class Cruisers, load them with (mostly) Colonists, and drive straight to a neighbor’s homeworld (cloaked). If your neighbor is lazy and doesn’t build any defense posts, you can drop all these colonists at once and capture his starbase intact. It’ll take half a dozen full LCCs if your neighbor (a) isn’t a Fascist and (b) doesn’t build any defenses. On the other hand, you might instead choose to ambush all his freighters (see below).
- Any Cloaking Race (Birds, Lizards, Fascists, Privateers): Build cloaking vessels and send them in both directions. Use them to kill or capture enemy freighters and planets, refueling off the enemy. This tactic will buy you time to expand deeply into their territory, crippling their expansion from the outset.
- The Birds: Build a Resolute and a Dark Wing as your first two ships, and immediately drive them (cloaked) against a neighbor’s homeworld. You’ll probably be able to kill it, and him, somewhere around Turn 8.
- The Rebels: Build Falcons and send them through hyperspace to likely homeworlds of your neighbors. Use your Rebel Ground Assault ability to cripple their economies and jump away before their ships can kill you.
- Robots or Crystals: Build a minelayer (Cats Paw or Emerald) as your first ship, and aim it at your neighbor’s homeworld. Get as close as you can undetected and drop a surprise field. Good chance you’ll catch half of their merchant fleet and cripple their economy.
Remember: Do NOT use these tactics in this game! First, we’re all here to learn, and it’s tough to learn when you’re dead. Second, as you’ll see later in the class, most of these are excellent tactics but really lousy as grand strategy. Bad mojo; don’t do it.
Instead, make a note and try them NEXT GAME if you want. :o)
This is a lot to take in on your first turn. Most of the class lessons will be shorter than this one, but then again, most of them will be less important.
If you don’t understand the “what” or the “why” of these things, that’s OK; that’s what questions were designed for. Don’t be shy about asking.8