Confessions of a Queue Controller
Advanced Strategy: Merlin Build Control
Disclaimer: You may find the following obscene. It might creep into your mind – impossible to remove. But it is a real, legal and very efficient strategy which could be the reason why you rarely build ships after the ship limit.
Preface (you can safely ignore this story)
During my first career as a VGA Planets commander (15 years ago) I was completely unaware of the strategy of Merlin-build-control. Despite this I had fun and success. So you could just as well ignore this strategy. But in case you want to fight the best, you should at least know it. When my second addiction to this game began I knew much more about resource controlling – thanks to Magic the Gathering, a card game as fascinating as VGA Planets itself. After my first games on planets.nu it became clear to me that ships are the most restricted resource in this game and I started exploring Merlin-build-control. In my published game ‘46182: Orkney World Sector’ at planets.nu I used it intensly and it was tremendous helpful. I’m sure that many of the experienced players know this strategy but I was surprised that up to now I never saw an opponent using it – not even the very best Pirates I was fighting. To equal out chances I want to make Merlin-build-control known to all interested.
For using Merlin-Build-Control the following preconditions have to be met:
- You know how the ship building queue works and how to deal with priority building points (PBP).
- The ship limit has been reached.
- You have a Merlin.
- You have a ship that destroys a Merlin in battle: Best suited for this purpose are carriers because torpedo/beam hits tend to capture a Merlin instead of destroying it.
- You have a prisoner: This is a fuelless enemy ship that you keep under constant tow. You have beam transferred one clan on board this ship.
I assume you know what will happen now.
- Prisoner, tower of the prisoner, Merlin and carrier are all at one place: All ships have fuel except the prisoner.
- Your Merlin is set to gsX: X is the race number of your prisoner.
- Your carrier is set to mission KILL.
- Your Merlin is handed over to the prisoner’s race.
- Your carrier destroys the Merlin.
- You get 10 PBP.
Very simple. But have you realized all advantages of this strategy?
In general the races with smaller support or capital ships can benefit more from this strategy than the races whose biggest war ship costs more than 10 PBP. But it is very helpful for every race.
- Build many more ships: Every race has and needs some small support ships. Some races don’t rely on big ships at all, e.g. Pirates, Lizards, Crystals. But even the races with the big guns have to build a lot of support ships. Example: You are the Colonies, own the base that will build next and need a Cobol? You could build a Cobol now but you could also build a Merlin, destroy it and build 3 Cobols afterwards by PBP. The same is true for the Borg Firecloud, the Bird Resolute, the Fed Kittyhawk and many more.
- Save much money: 90% of your bases just need hull tech 10, no other tech levels. You build Merlins there with stardrive 1 and no/some beams. One or more beams you choose if you don’t destroy the Merlin immidiatly and want to use it for hissing, sweeping or shooting down the occasional Swift Heart in the meantime.
- Chunneling without Fireclouds: This is maybe the biggest advantage. If you have some Merlins in storage you can destroy them immediately in case of a surprise attack in a remote area. You need only one good base in that area and for every destroyed Merlin you can build a best equipped ship there. Example: Surprise attack of the Crystal and your HP ships are 500 LY away? Destroy a Merlin and build 2 HP Ill Winds where you need them.
- Delaying important decisions until you have enough information: There are situations where you don’t know yet whom you will fight and therefore don’t know which ship is best to build. Thunder or Diamond? Or maybe three Rubies are even better? Depends on the enemy. If you build a Merlin instead you can make this decision when you really know what you need.
How to make a prisoner – the trickiest part
- Pirates and Crystals: Obvious if you know the friendly code ‘nbr’.
- Cloaking races: Fly two cloakers to an enemy planet. Wait until an enemy ship arrives, beam over a clan, hand over one of the cloakers (fuelless of course) to the enemy and tow it away. If the enemy comes to you it is even easier.
- Every race: Attack and destroy a base the same turn it has built. You’ll find a fuelless enemy ship in orbit then.
- Every race: Meet a weak enemy ship (freighter, scout) that probably hasn’t set KILL or primary enemy with two of your ships. Don’t attack it. Then you do the same as described above for the cloaking races.
- Every race: Watch out for enemy ships running out of fuel because of miscalculations.
- The same ship can act as constant tower of the prisoner and occasional destroyer of a Merlin. As a Lizard I use a transwarp Madonnzila for this task. Load it with 50 fighters (to destroy the Merlins and defend against surprise attacks by cloakers), establish a tow lock on your prisoner and visit your Merlins throughout your empire.
- Once you have a prisoner it is wise to give an additional ship to him and tow this secondary prisoner to a safe place. It may happen that you lose your valuable prisoner either by own mistake or an enemy action.
- Take care that you never fly a ship with clans to your prisoner. If the prisoner is clever he will give you back the prison ship. gsX works without fuel.
- Be careful if you play in a game where the kill race addon is active. Prisoners of resigned races will disappear soon.
That’s it. This is no new strategy. It was there since the introduction of the gsX-codes. But it seems not many were using it. Otherwise there would have been a debate about turning it off long ago. I wouldn’t mind such a debate. If all players of small races would use this strategy there wouldn’t be much ship building after the limit. E.g., as a Pirate there is no reason to make regular builds other than Merlins in the late game. Nearly the same is true for Lizards, Crystals, Klingons and Birds.