Planets Without A Subscription: A Guide

There are several rules to playing Planets Nu without paying for a subscription. I’m going to start with the first one.

Rule 1. Don’t.

Most things in life, you can maybe cut some corners and save a couple bucks here and there, and it’s worth it. There are some exceptions to this rule, for example: Durable, comfortable shoes tend to cost more than the cheapest, but the difference in price pays for itself in a couple of years because they won’t be worn out by the time you’ve replaced the plastic junk ones twice over. Plus later in life your back and legs will thank you. On this same list can be found such items as a good mattress, the right toilet paper, tea that isn’t made from dust and sweepings, filtered water for your coffee, and Planets Nu.

Subscription fees work out to about $30 a year; it’s not much, and the money actually goes toward game development. If you can’t afford that, you probably also can’t afford to Buy Me A Coffee for all my hard work writing Planets guides, so why am I bothering to give you free advice? …I’m just a sucker, I guess. Either that or I enjoy being useful.

Rule 2: Refer to Rule 1.

Actually, now that we come to mention it, there’s an alternative to paying. If you’ve got friends you want to get into the game, give them your Referral Code. You can find it on the “My Subscriptions” link under the Accounts tab on your main Planets page. It looks like this:


Using someone’s referral link gets both you and them free days automatically, the first time you pay for even one month’s subscription. So the first trick to playing without a subscription is, sign yourself up using a referral link; the second is, send your own link to your friends. If you’ve already got an account, you can send an email to the Admins and they can manually link you to the person that referred you. It feels like you’re cheating the system, but really you’re not; the more people that play, the better off the whole community ends up being. They encourage this, and for good reason.

(NOTE: If you decide to use the above trick but don’t have someone to refer you, use one of us instead. We don’t get a paycheck to write these guides; if you can’t afford to donate, this is your way to pay us back. G+TS)

Rule 3: In Case You Missed Rules 1 and 2

OK; sometimes cash is just too darn tight, or you’re miserly by nature. Or maybe you just enjoy a challenge. Whatever.

Playing without a subscription places you at a huge disadvantage. Your homeworld can be used for Tech 10 construction, but later in the game you’ll need to build ships in more than one location in order to remain competitive. Still, this can be accomplished; you’ll simply need a powerful economy with a very flexible logistics system. Alternately, you could pay for one month at a time — and only when you desperately need access to tech-ups. But that’s a lot like work (and considering the time involved, it’s low-paid work at that).

It also helps to be lucky with natives; each planet with one of the following native race gains Tech 10 on the associated technology at any new starbase built there:

  • Humanoid – Hull
  • Ghipsoldal – Engines
  • Amphibian – Beam Weapons
  • Siliconoid – Torpedoes

(More on this later.)

There are presently two build systems in the game; pre-Limit, there’s little difference. In Classic, after the Ship Limit hits, ideally you’ll need to queue a build on every planet; in Standard (the New Nu Queue), you’ll need several worlds where useful builds can be assigned, but it will be rare you’d need much more than a massive resource stockpile at your homeworld. The danger, of course, is that this makes your homeworld the ideal target for anyone who wants to take you out of the game (even more so than in most games), but that’s something you knew going into this; suck it up and deal.

In Classic: You’re operating at a disadvantage. To make up for this, you’ll want to spam starbases at every secure world. Every base that can’t be used to construct a useful hull, you should make something small and recyclable, like the Small Deep Space Freighter. Before the Limit, you can (and perhaps should) bank up to 20 PBP through recycling; after the Limit, you can recycle saved SDSFs one at a time to advance the Queue and build useful ships with Priority Points. You can also use Merlin Build Control or similar.

In Standard: You’re still operating at a disadvantage, though it’s not so bad. You still want to spam starbases pre-Limit so you can bank up PBPs. Once the Limit hits, however, while they’re still useful as defensive strongpoints, your own underdefended starbases make for excellent targets for enemies who steal 2 PBP from you each time they destroy one. Still, it’s important to have Humanoid bases for Merlin Build Control or under-engined heavy carriers post-Limit, and so on.

Rule 4: Secondary Starbases

Humanoid: Humanoid worlds are particularly valuable, in that they can be used both for top-level carriers and alchemy ships; the engines and guns might stink, but you can tow them around. You can also send components here by recycling ships.

Ghipsoldal: This is where you build engines. Eight of the standard Eleven Races can construct a Neutronic Fuel Carrier (NFC), a 1-point vessel that holds two engines. In Classic, you can build these for a single point, fly them to their Humanoid destination, and recycle them there to get your point back (Robots, Feds, and Cyborg can use SDSFs, which is slower but still doable). In Standard, you take a 1-point loss per hull, which is painful, and the only TL7 or lower ships in the game with four or more engines are too expensive to save enough points-wise.

Amphibian: Beam weapons are built here. Usually, the need for Tech 10 beams isn’t so pressing that their lack would be crippling; Heavy Blasters are available everywhere, and do quite a bit of damage. However, if you’re fighting against Crystals, Robots, or a late-game skilled opponent with a massive economy, you might want to invest in a few dedicated sweepers whenever spare PBP drift your way. In Classic, several races have access to a 1-point hull that can transport beams, but it’s a lot of work for the return.

Siliconoid: While replacement torpedoes of any tech can be constructed in space, tubes cannot — and, unlike beam weapons, torpedo tubes are usually only found on high-mass ships. Still, if you’re playing one of the battleship races, it’s difficult to avoid the added expense; Mk8 torpedoes are significantly more powerful than Mk6es — sufficiently so that it can be deadly to field under-armed warships.

Homeworlds: There are several reasons to conquer enemy homeworlds. One of them is that they can be advanced to Tech 10. Thus, an early kill can vastly increase your production — even if your prey is not courteous enough to leave you significant minerals, money, or factories. This is sufficiently vital that defeating a neighbor early in the game will probably spell the difference between a win and a loss for you.

Rule 5: Play By Races

  1. Solar Federation: Thanks to their Super Refit ability, the Feds are able to upgrade the tech on any ship at an appropriate starbase. This makes them almost ideal for the non-subscription player. They do, however, rely on their torpedo tech, and they have no dedicated fuel carrier; this causes them grave logistics difficulties.
  2. Lizard Alliance: This is a battleship race which relies on torpedo technology. However, some of their most useful vessels — particularly the Lizard Class Cruiser — are low-tech hulls. They can either be built with high-end torpedoes for fleet combat support or Transwarps in order to secretly drop clans on enemy starbases — which, incidentally, captures their tech levels intact.
  3. Bird Men: Already crippled from an economic standpoint, it is almost impossible to play the Bird Men competitively without a subscription. In Classic, they do have a 1-point ship that can be used to transport weapons and the NFC for engines; moreover, the Resolute (their second-best ship) is only Tech 7. Nevertheless, in Standard, the obstacles mount up; the Bird reliance on the Dark Wing is nearly absolute.
  4. Fascist Empire: Much like the Bird Men, the Fascists are a battleship race with a moderately crippled economy already. Their ground combat advantage is far less than that of the Lizards, but it can be used from time to time even with the low-cargo D7. However, their saving grace in Classic is that the D3 and NFC can be used to transport parts; even their battleship only has two engines. Moreover, invaluable vessels like the Ill Wind and the D19b can be constructed at low-tech bases. This makes them marginably playable by someone willing to put in extra work.
  5. Privateer Bands: With their reliance on squadrons of Meteors, B4s, and B5s, the Privateers can be played competitively without using top-end technology. In fact, there are subscribers who rarely pay for top-level engines or weapons, and almost never construct fleet carriers. The race is difficult to master, but for a skilled player it may well be the best choice without a subscription.
  6. Cyborg: Most of their travel is via Firecloud, so having low-tech engines on, say, a Biocide supercarrier is not the crippling defect one might think. However, they do lack an NFC and almost any low-tech useful ships. Perhaps worse, their Assimilation ability will destroy all natives without proper care, making them one of the most difficult races to run without a subscription. However, great skill can still use them to triumph.
  7. Crystal Confederation: Frankly, with no real trade ships and the recent major nerf, this race is already almost unplayable in Standard; adding the complication of doing so without a subscription would be utterly impracticable. In Classic, however, they’re solid enough, as they tend to rely rather on capturing their enemy’s fleets than developing their own.
  8. Evil Empire: It’s a difficult race in either Standard or Classic. However, their only torpedo ship is low-tech, and the Gorbie needs no tubes. It’s doable, particularly in Classic, thanks in part to their access to the NFC and the surprising utility of low-tech light carriers — not as combat vessels so much as in the role of fighter transports.
  9. Robotic Imperium: On the minus side, they lack the NFC. On the plus side, they can craft the Instrumentality, a low-tech mid-mass carrier that can stand in line of battle against even a Gorbie and still win on occasion. It’s a difficult race to win with at the best of times, but their reliance on fighters rather than torpedoes makes it a possibility.
  10. Rebel Confederation: The Falcon and Rebel Ground Assault are two of their main weapons; the Rush relies on space-built fighters. While the Iron Lady is a Priority Point luxury item, the Rebels can compete reliably without a subscription.
  11. Missing Colonies of Man: Even top players will use Cobols to tow around Virgo Class Battlestars. Between their fuel advantage, the NFC, space-built fighters, and their ability to construct a pre-Limit four-engine vessel at Ghipsoldal bases, the Colonies may well be the easiest race to win with absent a subscription.
  12. Horwasp: It is my understanding (though I could be wrong -G) that this race is not available to players without a subscription. However, unique among races, the Horwasp doesn’t rely on starbases or tech levels to build; as such, if a player were willing to pay for even a single month while starting their game, theoretically this might be an ideal choice.

Rule 6: There is NOOOOOO!!! Rule 6.

For the player with absolutely no sense of personal shame (or, perhaps, an adolescent with limited access to credit cards or PayPal), it can be useful to have a friend around who’s willing to tech up some of your starbases, and then hand them back to you. Slightly better is to befriend the Solar Federation in-game; they can trade you their Super Refit ability in exchange for… whatever. Be sure to give them a fair return on their investment.

Rule 7: Refer to Rule 1 (again).

Some years ago, AAA had an advertising slogan: “Sooner or later, you’ll break down and join.” (If you’re not from the United States, it’s an auto club that advertises discounts on towing; it’s a pun on “break down”.)

The same holds for Planets. I know; I’m one of the stingiest people I’ve ever met, mainly because I was raised to hold thrift as a virtue but also because my several careers have been in low-paying fields. Even so, there are some things that are worth the money. This is one of them: The game is great; the player community is top tier competition; the developers are real people who do this from love of the game rather than any desire to get rich.

Where better to spend $30?

If you’ve enjoyed this and would like to read more pieces like it, why not drop us a line and let us know? Better still, attach your message to a cash donation and you can be absolutely certain we’ll pay attention. You can make a PayPal donation, or click the button below to Buy Us A Coffee — and don’t forget to leave the note!

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