(written by Tom N)
Part of your reward for a well-played early game can be ownership of 100 planets, 100 ships, and 50 starbases. Good job! But managing these assets takes a lot of time, and if you’re like me you enjoy playing four or five games as different races to keep things interesting, and the homework can get overwhelming. In this article, I’ll show how I manage to keep up with it all, and share some time-saving tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
First of all, it helps to set a routine and stick to it. After looking at the VCRs and the scoreboard I tend to go next to “Reports”. It only takes a couple of minutes, but ignoring messages about riots and large meteor hits can be costly. The last report I check is “Starbase” to see what was built. I keep track of the regular build queue and note which bases are next due for a build. I suggest you devise a special friendly code for the next base due for a build.
My next step is to work on my starbases. Those bases that are next in line to build get attention, and I’ll send nearby ships to help them get cash and minerals for the best build possible. I generally don’t spend time on bases that are more than 30 ID numbers away and will visit them when their time is near. This is adjusted depending on the game, of course. After working on the regular queue bases I set my PB1, PB2, PB3, etc. and will usually build small (under 50 mass) ships with top level parts to recycle later at the ‘regular’ queue bases. A quick way to verify your PBx bases are all set is to visit the starbase page and click on “FC”. Scroll down the list and see all your PBx bases in order and what they are building. A similar visit to the planets page with a click on “Hp” will make sure your natives are at or above happiness 40.
Next I go through my ships, and finally my planets. There’s a feature I learned about recently that wish I’d known about all along: the little grey box to the right of the ship’s name. It’s a big time saver! Click once in the grey box and you’ll see one checkmark. Click again for two checkmarks. One tells the system you’ve given orders and are done with that ship or planet for this turn. Two clicks tells it you don’t need to visit it again for several turns. This all works with the buttons at the top of the starmap, just to the right of that checkbox. They’re labeled “first”, “all or idle”, “ship 1 of 100 etc”, “back”, and “next”. It’s the “all or idle” that eluded me for several months, but switching from “ALL” to “IDLE” will help you cycle through your un-checked planets, ships and starbases (although I don’t spend time on all starbases as I mentioned before). Once every few turns I’ll set it from “IDLE back to ALL” to visit the ships or planets with two checkmarks. For a comprehensive explanation go here.
Working on my planets is the last priority and the part I find least fun. I use Big Beefer’s excellent add-on script called “Auto Tax Assistant”. It allows several options to deal with taxing natives and saves a LOT of time I’d rather spend elsewhere. That said, I still like to micromanage the planets most recently acquired and those near combat zones. Once my taxation is set up I usually go to the planet’s “Build” screen and enter 300 for a factory target and 50-200 for a mines target. Once entered these planets are fairly self-managed and if I don’t visit them for a while it’s not a huge deal. The “Target” box is another nice time saver that might get missed by new players here at Planets.Nu.
Some players like to set starbase orders to “Unload All Freighters”, which is a time saver but I don’t use it. If I do, I lose track of why that empty freighter is there and prefer to just unload it manually. Remembering why a certain ship is where it is can be a pain at times, and I recommend another add-on script that makes “History ON” the default. Another time-saver is to hold the shift key down and set several waypoints for your freighters to visit.
A couple other time saving scripts are “Improved Hover Text Box” and “Load Known Ships into VCR“. These are just a few of my favorites, but there are others to be found at the old “Forums” site, may it always be available ;-). If you are new to installing mods, there’s an excellent article by dtolman here on Planets Magazine.
Hotkeys can help speed things up. I tend to use the “X” a lot to switch from one object to another. The “+ and -” to zoom in and out (mouse wheel if you have one). The “i” and “o” keys are great for going back or forward a turn to check enemy ship movements, and the spacebar to cycle to the next ship or planet. Holding the shift key can help set waypoints for your freighters to make several stops (thanks Thin!), and colors can be added to planets (or ships) to remind oneself of needed attention. I personally use different colors sparingly as too many give me a headache.
My messages to allies are mixed in to the above routine as I see fit, but you get the idea. I find it is also helpful to zoom OUT on the starmap at times and try to take in the big picture. What are the long time goals? Where are my enemies most vulnerable? It’s easy to get lost in the usual routine and lose track of what the long term goal is.
I hope that helps save a bit of time, and thanks to NU and all the developers for making this great game even better!
Regards, Tom N