NOTE: PPQ is an experimental system, still in development. Joshua has mentioned that he’s not satisfied with some aspects of it and intends to make a few changes. So this should not be considered an authoritative guide, but rather a collection of logistics tactics and stratagems that anyone can read and use. That way, we’re all facing what could otherwise be an intimidating innovation on a relatively equal footing. That’s the intent, anyway. -G
Well, it’s official: We’re using the New Nu Queue in League games as well as in some private ones, and a lot of you will have run into it by now. That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone will be equally familiar with how it works and how best to take advantage.
The new system is officially referred to as the “Planetary Production Queue”, or PPQ for short. There are four different versions of the Queue in play right now, and each has some possible variations; properly speaking, this new version is merely a variant of the Production Queue, presently used in most Standard games and largely distinct from the original Classic Queue. And then there’s PLS, or the Planets Limit Ships system, which is entirely its own animal. So, to keep things straight, I’m just calling this one the New Nu Queue, NewNuQ or NewQ for short.
During the early game, this is identical to the Production Queue (or “Old Nu Queue”? Nah. Too confusing. -G). Starbases without builds produce 2 PBP until you reach the Ship Limit, and the points can be spent on priority builds. Unlike in Classic, this can be done to get more ships than the Limit at any time.
The revolutionary aspect of the NewQ lies in the semi-random distribution of post-Limit builds: a minimum of ten ships are constructed at once — more if there’s enough open slots, say if there’s a big battle — and they’re divvied up based on the percentage of planets each player owns. Any remainder is sorted randomly, each player taking turns, with any leftovers again being awarded according to percentage. The player with the most planets thus gets the most hulls, all else being equal.
The system is designed to work so the occasional combat loss (or well-timed recycle) will drop the number of ships below the Limit. At that time, a minimum of ten builds are authorized, and handed out semi-evenly to all parties. It’s unlikely that any one player will need more than three or four top-end ships ready to build at any point, so supply logistics are kept fairly simple. And battles can be held frequently without crippling an empire, so there’s less need of maintaining a reserve force to guard against the unexpected.
Any player with a substantially greater number of planets will gain extra builds relative to his rivals; any race that can’t build heavy carriers will have a disadvantage (see below). Likewise, each base that builds top-end ships turn after turn will require a massive supply of minerals, cash, and (don’t forget!) fuel handy.
Just as in any other system, those that build heavier hulls gain more each time they’re awarded a random build. The five heavy carrier races therefore have a built-in direct advantage, with the five battleship builders handicapped accordingly. Privateers are, as is usual, not at all favored by uncontrolled queue movement. (The Horwasp are their own thing entirely, and thus are not covered in this article. -G) Expansion is essential (and covered below), but in this system even more than others it’s apt to make a player into a target.
This direct advantage accrues, therefore, to the races in the following order: Cyborg/Empire, Robot, Rebel, Colonies, Federation, Bird Man, Lizard, Fascist/Crystal, Privateer.
The secondary advantage always goes to those who can cheaply construct useful warships with earned PBP; due to the 1-point penalty on each build, this is less in both PQ/Standard and the NewQ than it was in Classic. Fascists get the d19b, the Ill Wind, and a variety of mid-range ships including the Deth Specula, for example, while the Empire is limited to… well, nothing, really. The Super Star Frigate is nearly useless in a fight and the Super Star Cruiser and Carrier are each horribly expensive compared to their combat utility. Only the Robots are worse-served by their ship list, though they do have access to the Instrumentality.
Secondary advantage is relative to player and position, but roughly proceeds thus: Privateer, Fascist, Lizard/Bird, Crystal, Federation, Rebel/Colonies/Cyborg, Empire/Robot. Only the Empire and Robot are at a significant disadvantage here.
Tertiary advantage exists to those races which benefit from a static situation; dynamic play is given to those with initiative, which can only spring from advantage. Crystals and Privateers can only win by dominating ship slots; Fascists likewise benefit from sheer numbers, plus can conquer through Pillage and clan drop as readily as via Fast Beam Vickies. The Empire and Rebels can capture even the toughest starbases easily using racial abilities, and the Lizards have the power to cloak-drop even on populations of up to a million with some success. The Cyborg have a massive logistics advantage, plus can, using a B41 softener, defeat 200/60 starbases relatively safely. Birds can use cloaking to pick their battles but otherwise are somewhat lacking in this respect. The Fed combat ability is only a minor factor here, and the Robots have zero tertiary advantage apart from early-game massive minefields.
Thus, it can be seen that this system will benefit moderately skilled players in general thus: Cyborg mainly, then Rebel and Colonies. Empire and Robot gain some, but not much, advantage over the others. Fascists, played well, are aided and harmed in equal measure relative to Classic and Standard; Lizards, Feds, and Birds are at a moderate disadvantage. Privateers are heavily crippled, and so are the Crystals.
This is not to say that the Cyborg will automatically win in most New Nu Queue games and that Privateer and Crystal will automatically lose, however. Instead, it indicates that non-carrier races will be at a grave disadvantage unless they can disrupt or dominate the new system. Others, especially the Cyborg, will do quite well letting it proceed smoothly, all else being equal.
Tactics and Strategems
Some of these, you’ll be familiar with from older versions of the game; a very few are unique to this. As well, it’s worth mentioning that even here at Planets Magazine we won’t know everything, so if you’ve got one we don’t mention, leave a Comment.
Rapid Expansion is of course its own reward. The most builds go to those with more planets, so an early bid for planet count dominance provides an obvious advantage. This can be an especial benefit for the Cyborg, Empire, Rebel, and Privateer; likewise, the Crystal and Robot can aggressively deny space to their neighbors if they choose. Particular benefits accrue to the swashbuckling style available to Birds, Lizards, and some Fascists. The sort of Colonial player who tows Warp 1 Virgoes with his Cobols will also do well here.
Starbase Spamming in the early game can grant a massive PBP advantage. It’s most useful to the player with comparatively little cash production but plenty of minerals; early Merlins also come in quite handy. Bear in mind that this is less useful — though hardly useless — for those without the secondary PBP advantages available to, say, Privateers. Additionally, it comes with a built-in disadvantage; all those points will be an unbearable temptation to aggressive neighbors.
SDSF Spamming used to be a common practice in Classic; it has its uses here as well. Players whose interest lies in queue clogging — Privateers, Crystals, and many Fascists, but also most of the battleship races — may consider it here. Lizards, with their HISSSSSSS!!! ability, will sometimes do better to spawn light warships; Feds have their terraform fleet. Rebels can pump out dozens of Falcons from lesser starbases — though, to be sure, they’re generally well-served by letting the Queue flow. And most races can benefit from having a few Neutronic Fuel Carriers lying about for various purposes.
If you’re one of the many races at a disadvantage in this system, remember the general rule: It’s always better to have a top ship than a merely useful one, better to have a useful ship than a useless one, and better to have any ship than no ship. Remember particularly that Privateers and Crystals can only win by preventing others from holding ship slots, so this is a tactic you’ll want to remember.
At the very end of the early builds, on the turns leading up to the Ship Limit, it’s possible to do a Sudden Queue Spam. This is done by spending PBP on 1-point ships like the SDSF all across your empire in order to deny the other players that last turn of free builds. It’s most useful to the light-ship and queue-control races, but can be employed as a surprise tactic by any player with an advantage in ships.
Merlin Build Control was used to great effect during the Classic era. The idea was to build spare Merlins for the sole purpose of blowing them up in order to generate PBP; those PBP would then be employed to jam the Queue. Here, it’s less powerful (due to the 1-point-per-hull bonus cost in Standard) but still effective; all things being equal, the starbase tech required for a Merlin costs 4500, whereas that for even a marginal warship is twice that. As such, some backwater starbases with unusual natural mineral concentrations can profitably be employed generating an otherwise useless early (pre-limit) Merlin or Refinery.
Mass Recycling can be extremely useful, particularly if your rivals don’t anticipate it. Best timed to coincide with a huge unexpected fleet battle, a mass recycle is designed to open enough ship slots so every player gains multiple builds — enough to overwhelm the preparations of the unprepared, who may only have two or three starbases with decent builds set up. If enough total ships are recycled, this can leave free builds and grant PBP awards to every empty starbase — brilliant for small-ship races, crippling for the unprepared heavy carrier race. (The counter-move by the heavy carrier race would be to load up any undesignated starbase with SDSF builds or the equivalent.)
The following images illustrate several races cooperating to perform an overwhelming mass recycle.
For those who prefer the smooth running of the Queue — Cyborgs, Rebels, and the like — the Artful Nudge recycle is the way to go. If the ship count is 501 and you’re about to have a small battle, dropping it to 500, you might add a single recycle. That drops it to 499 a turn earlier and generates 10 builds.
Flaws (Subject To Change)
Because this system is still being tested, the following will be subject to change. However, for the moment, they must be observed:
- When the number of players exceeds the number of builds, even a tiny planetary disadvantage can cost a race any builds at all. In large team or melee games, therefore, it is entirely possible for a small faction to completely lock the build queue.
- The impact of balance against the Crystal and Privateer is extreme. It’s arguable that removing the 1-point-per-hull Priority Build cost would reduce or even eliminate this; however, doing so would actively encourage spamming as a queue jam tactic.
- In a balanced position, it will be entirely possible for two factions to perpetually throw large fleets at one another while never losing power. Massive wars thus can continue perpetually, without the deleterious impact of starbase defense. In an endgame situation, therefore, the game may thus be prolonged indefinitely — and deleteriously.
- In a Top 6 Advance situation, this version of the Queue acts to encourage conservative play, removing much of its validity as a selection method for the War. We have, however, already been informed that this is known to the Admins and will be changed.
Like every other queue system ever designed for this game, this one is unbalanced, easily broken, and subject to manipulation by the skilled player. However, there are virtues to this design, not least of which is the reduction in importance of mass logistical development for every world in a vast empire. Played wisely, the NewQ is both a massive time-saver and a convenient way to keep every player relevant in the game. It benefits the strong, but the weak still has a random shot at a build in time of need, and at the very worst it speeds the coming of the end — a merciful way to finish the game.
The weakness of this system, like every other, is that access to knowledge about exploiting it will not be available freely to every player. It is that lack which this Guide was designed to address. We hope it proves useful. Most importantly, we believe it will only continue to do so if players add their own observations in the Comments below.
(This Guide was written with substantial contributions from Talespin. Thanks to Joshua for the design of the NewQ and for the chance to participate in Cave World.)
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