(written by KSB)
This article is intended for the novice Colonial player, mostly because I am a novice Colonial player. If it is useful to those more advanced then that is a happy coincidence, or perhaps you’re not actually that good, or maybe I’m just a hidden talent. I’d like to think that all of these things are true 😉
The Virgo is the bad boy ship of the Colonies. I’ll get down to some brass facts shortly, but first lets just admire its form and beauty. It is weaker than some of the other carriers in the game, but who cares? It clearly carries the most attitude, and despite the facts it would seem that non-Colonial players fear them far more than any silly doughnut or sugar cube.
Cobols Lead the Way
You’ll be anxious to get Virgos out from the start but don’t jump the gun. To sustain production you’re going to need a number of decent starbases and a good economy. Also because of those pesky stealthing races, you have to pay close attention to guarding your planets and ships from intruders.
The ideal beginning for the Colonies is beyond the scope of this article, but I can offer a few tips. The most important task at the beginning of any game is to find natives who will generate revenue, and then to move colonists away from the homeworld and onto the planet with the natives to start collecting taxes. The Cobol is the first ship you will build, because its bioscanner will help you to find those natives quickly. Not only is the Cobol helpful at the beginning, but it will serve you well throughout the game. The Cobol never runs out of fuel, and it is handy for laying minefields to protect planets and/or to ward off cloakers trying to intercept you. Finally, it can tow your Virgos around, or at least accompany them to battle to replenish their fuel tanks. In short, the Cobol is your most versatile support ship.
So, whilst you will need freighters (mostly the large ones) and Patriots (really fun ships and very annoying to other players), you’ll definitely want to produce a good number of Cobols. Personally I try to have 5 or 6 of them kicking around by turn 12, depending on how many starbases I have by then. Also I try to make sure they all have at least mark 4 torpedo tubes (mark 7 is ideal).
So you can see where we are driving to here: once you have a core of planets, starbases, freighters, and minefields, it’s time to start making Virgos and pairing them up with one or two Cobols (minds seem to differ on this, I reckon one). It’s also worth noting that the production of fighters is essential and the Gemini is your friend in this respect.
It’s important to consider that when you start to build a Virgo fleet, there is also value in packaging a Cygnus or two depending on your target race. If you can begin combat by firing off a few torpedoes, then your Virgo will face a ship whose weapons have to recharge, giving you an important edge. Suffice to say the key to the Virgo is strong early economy, Cobols and optimized fighter production. This’ll give you plenty of ships to fight off those sugar cubes (most of which I’ve encountered seem to lack a decent amount of fighters anyway).
As mentioned the Cygnus is a very useful ship. I tend to make them with lasers and mark 4 torpedoes to start with. This keeps them very cheap, and they don’t all necessarily need to have Transwarp Drives. Arm your Cygnus with about ten torpedoes and give it a low friendly code to ensure that it fights from the right-hand side of the VCR.
The idea is to use the Cygnus as a sacrificial ship. It will plow in and with four lasers should be able to shoot down enough fighters to get in torpedo range, and then with four tubes will get one salvo fired off before the ship is destroyed. That should be enough to dip the shields a little if not actually do any damage.
After the Cygnus is destroyed then your Virgo should be up next and will face enemy ships whose weapons are recharging, delaying their usage and helping minimize the number of fighters needed to cause damage.
It doesn’t always work that way. As the game progresses, your foes may be using the same strategy but when it works you can do some really handy things such as taking out large carriers without losing a Virgo.
There is probably a decent amount of debate over this, but I tend to load each Virgo with around 200 fighters and fill the rest of the space with supplies, I find this handy for minor repairs after a battle and if you’re successfully taking planets you can make more fighters on the fly. Stick in a reasonable amount of fuel as you may want to send your Virgo ahead under its own steam now and then so your Cobol can lay mines, not to mention the chance of being towed away (you don’t want to be left stranded). Also you may, like me, forget to set the tow mission every now and again 🙂
I tend to kit out the Cobol with ‘some’ torpedoes, generally 40 or so, I’ve found this level plus the Virgo load means I can tow without losing fuel. Again, you can make torps as you capture planets and lay some lovely minefields to slow them Colony-hating baddies down!
If you end up tipping the scales a little too much then you can transfer fuel from your Virgo to your Cobol before you end the turn.
You need your Virgo to take the left-hand side of the VCR in battles, so set an alphanumeric friendly code and make use of the primary enemy setting whilst avoiding the more costly and generic ‘kill’ mission. This is only crucial against other fighter ships. If you’re up against something that might benefit from fighting on the right-hand side then for sure try to take it from them by setting a low friendly code. With a numeric code the kill mission and/or primary enemy have no added effect other than actually to prompt your ship into battle.
A further and, I think, interesting pastime is to look at the mass of an enemy ship. This can help you estimate how many fighters or torpedoes the ship may be carrying. Naturally this is an imprecise measurement as they may be carrying a lot of fuel, minerals, colonists, or supplies too, but if it’s curiously low then it’s usually a good indicator that they are poorly equipped.
I think the Virgo is an excellent ship to enjoy playing. It’s fairly cheap to produce in comparison and with the correct support ships and mindset it can prove a deadly asset.
Just to remind our avid readers and players this article is written by a novice aimed towards other new players and even then I realize there are nuances which have been left out, but that’s kinda the point.