Here’s Johnny! – Shining the Light on Enemy Homeworlds

Be proactive

There is something terrifying about having a warship show up at your door on Turn 7. If you did not see it coming, your empire is in grave danger. At the very least, you will be crippled for a long time and have to beg for help from other players. This early-game maneuver is known as “The Headshot”, and – if it wasn’t obvious – the goal is to remove your head.

This tactic can be prevented by a variety of actions, but perhaps the strongest defense – or at least it is the boldest – is to axe down your neighbour’s door before they come calling. To do that, you need to know the location of your enemy’s homeworld. Here’s how:

The Pie Method – Part I

For regular Planets games, homeworlds are placed around the map in a jagged circular pattern, and the map setup is designed to evenly space them apart, usually about 300 to 500 LY from one to the next. In part one of this method, you will draw a circle which will guide you in finding the planet clusters most likely to harbour homeworlds. By doing this, you will narrow down your search parameters.

  1. Find the centre of the map. It does not have to be the exact centre. (yellow)
  2. With that point as the centre, draw a circle with a radius of 825 LY. (white)
  3. Study the clusters around the map, and highlight any large clusters of planets which are close to that circle. (red)
The red circles above are highlighting potential home clusters. The jagged circle is an oddity – a cluster with only 4 planets.

The Pie Method – Part II

In part two of this method, you will divide the map into equal triangular sections, so that you can define over which planets each homeworld has influence.

  1. Find the centre of the map. (yellow)
  2. Draw a circle with a radius of 825 LY. (white)
  3. Divide the circle into 11 triangular parts. (green)
The green lines are highlighting the sphere of influence of each homeworld.

The Three Rings Method

Method 1 gives shape to your map, but you need to know precisely where other homeworlds are located. The Three Rings has a high percentage of success, often helping you to narrow down the exact homeworld location to one or two planets. In this method, you will use your own homeworld as a point of reference. Based on certain host settings and the planets in your home cluster, you can determine the probable locations of the homeworlds of both your immediate neighbours.

  1. Draw a circle around your homeworld that has a radius of 81 LY. (white)
  2. Draw a circle around your homeworld that has a radius of 162 LY. (yellow)
  3. Draw a circle around your homeworld that has a radius of 431 LY. (blue)
  4. Look in the host settings for these two map setup features:
    • “verycloseplanets” – This is typically set to 3. This setting requires that there will be a minimum of 3 planets no further than 81.5 LY from your homeworld.
    • “closeplanets” – This is typically set to 12. This setting requires that in the region ‘81.5 LY from your homeworld to 162.5 LY from your homeworld’ there will be a minimum of 12 planets.
    • EDIT: I am not certain on the exact numbers, but the verycloseplanets distance is somewhere between 81 and 82, while the closeplanets is somewhere between 162 and 163.
  5. You can verify this by counting the planets around your homeworld.
  6. Near the edge of the circle with a radius of 431 LY find planets which are on or close to the line. Test these planets to see if they match the host settings. Typically, your neighbour’s homeworld should have 3 planets connected to it, and it should have a minimum of 12 planets 82 LY to 161.9 LY distant.
  7. Once you find your neighbour’s homeworld, you can then determine the homeworld of his neighbour, then his neighbour, and so on – though with decreasing accuracy.
The circles highlight the two settings: verycloseplanets and closeplanets. The enemy’s homeworld will be somewhere near the blue circle.

The Bloodhound Method – Part I

If you put a starship into deep space, it can be scanned by any planet or starship within 300 LY. If you reveal a ship within the first few turns, it is highly probable that you are giving away your homeworld location. In part one of this method, a player who scans your deep space traveler will be able to track your movements back to your homeworld.

For the first few turns of any game, ships will be built in ascending ID order. If we are playing an 11-player game, 11 ships will be built each turn. Ships built on turn 1 will have IDs 1 to 11, ships built on turn 2 will have IDs 12 to 22, and so on. In Classic games, they will even build in order by Planet ID, which provides a very compelling clue.

Imagine that it is turn 5 and you spot a ship with ID 24. You know that it was built on turn 3, and that it has made 2 moves. You can now trackback its 2 moves by counting planet connections (Warp 9 jumps). The planet two moves back is likely the homeworld.

This method can easily be thrown off if there are too many planets in the cluster, if players miss a build for some reason, and if players build more than 1 base. Yet, even if the trackback is imperfect, spotting a ship within the first few turns of a game provides a major advantage to the unseen neighbour.

This ship ID 4 was visible on Turn 3, so it made 2 moves. The blue circle indicates the homeworld’s likely position. The orange X indicates a planet that is too close to you to be another homeworld.

The Bloodhound Method – Part II

Before the ship limit, starbases build in ascending ID order. The first build will go to the player whose homeworld has the lowest ID. In part two of this method, an early visible ship enables the homeworld ID to be determined by tracking it in the build queue.

If your first ship has ID 6, then you know that your homeworld has the sixth lowest ID number. In the case above, ship ID 4 told you that your neighbour had the homeworld with the fourth lowest ID.

As an example, let us assume your homeworld ID is 151. This means that your neighbour’s homeworld has an ID less than 150. If you use the trackback method in part one, you can now eliminate any planets that have IDs 152 or higher. This enables you to narrow down the possible planets which could be your neighbour’s homeworld.

Based on backtracking the ship’s movements, the planet which fits the build queue is ID 139.

Target locked. Course plotted. Engage.

You can now stop throwing your ball against the wall and go find your axe. You now know several methods for finding your neighbour’s homeworld, and you are ready to chop through his door. Take care to remember that none of these methods is perfect. The semi-circular pattern of the map setup can be thrown off by things like map size, certain game features like star clusters and asteroid fields, and by other variations from the classic game. If you employ a combination of these tools, however, you will be able to make a very educated guess on homeworld locations.

Don’t forget to have your catchphrase ready! (“Here’s Johnny!” is already taken…twice.)

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the journey! – TS

Many commanders have been using similar techniques for decades, but I hope this article finds its way into the hands of commanders who can benefit from it; we were all innocent ensigns at some point in our Planets careers. Thank you to Thinlizzy for his insights and Glyn for suggesting the number 431 (He may use 437, but they are close enough.). It is “oddly specific”, but it works! -TS

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2 thoughts on “Here’s Johnny! – Shining the Light on Enemy Homeworlds

  1. Pingback: A Guide to Knowing Everything | Planets Magazine

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