How To Jam The Queue – And When

We now have three different queue systems where this topic is applicable, and the thought of jamming the Queue is becoming more and more confusing. What’s getting stranger even than that is the curious circumstances of the newest Queue (if you keep track of them as they go by), in that it can sometimes be a greater advantage to keep it flowing smoothly at one time, then paused, then flowing again; or, if you have several bases all ready to build at once, you might well prefer a one-time massive construction surge.

Who wants what when, and how to make it happen, is always a matter of the same simple factors, but if it’s done without understanding, you might as well be tossing dice. So here are some basics, by race:

The five heavy carrier races — Robots, Colonies, Cyborg, Rebels, and Empire — each have economic advantages combined with the ability of their fleets to perform ideally in fairly uniform large stacks of carriers. In the late game, they are served best if they can keep the Queue running smoothly, particularly since they’ll each get the greatest benefit from a single build. Any support ships they need, they can always build from earned Priority Build Points.

The three hybrid races — Federation, Lizards, and in part the Crystals — perform best when they engage in fleet combat using mixed stacks of battleships and carriers. As such, they do better with a sporadically surging queue which permits multiple simultaneous builds. Where the Empire needs to stockpile minerals for several turns to make a single Gorbie, lighter ships cost less as a rule, permitting the establishment of multiple builds at once. Priority Points are often expended on light carriers while the heaviest battleships are built in turn whenever the Queue moves. Care must be taken for these three races to get more builds per turn than those with heavy carriers; otherwise, they will inevitably be left far behind.

The Birds and Fascists rely on stacked battleships combined with special factors to make up their disadvantages. Birds can best afford to target mainly support ships, starving enemy fleets of fuel, ammunition, and eventually bases. Fascists, on the other hand, rely on the offensive power of the Glory Device fired as a guided missile to help win fleet battles.

The Privateers, and to a slightly lesser extent the Crystals, rely almost entirely on ship slot denial: Every friendly vessel means one that no enemy will have as a heavy carrier. Similarly, the Fascists can use their Glory Devices in a manner that will grant them Priority Point advantages that likewise jam up the Queue. Birds and Lizards can use their cloaking vessels to capture rather than merely destroy enemy logistics vessels, similarly denying ship slots to their adversaries. The Federation has no such weapon, and must survive based on combat advantages combined with pure Queue manipulation.

How each race is best to do these things depends entirely on which Queue system is being employed.

Classic: In this system, Priority builds come first, followed by sequential construction in order by Starbase ID number. Success in Classic comes from arranging to have builds ready at the next bases in order before they come up; attacks are often directed at the enemy’s next starbase in the queue to prevent their construction in turn. Merlin Build Control, SDSF construction and timed recycling to move the Queue along, and so on are the methods to control construction logistics.

Standard (PQ): Here, random builds are generated at each starbase in the queue. When there is no build at a base, the owner gains 2 PBP — better than nothing, but the build then moves on to the next base and the next. Success comes from efficiency in logistics; the player who can schedule the most high-end builds at all their bases will gain advantage over time. The most likely to manage this are the heavy carrier races, since technology costs alone will restrict those who rely on torpedoes. Again, Merlin Build Control, SDSF construction at empty bases, and above all using excess PBP to absorb ship slots are the mechanisms for success for non-carrier races.

PPQ: The “New Nu Queue” grants similar advantages to the heavy carrier races. Since builds are assigned based on planet count, in any normal situation the advantage is likely to trend toward the player who expands fastest, but even then a free-flowing queue only helps those who can cheaply construct high-end ships at each of a handful of bases every turn. Contrariwise, periodic floods of builds — achieved by timing fleet battles or coordinated mass recycles — can, by virtue of Herculean effort to establish a large number of valid builds, benefit those who rely on lower-tech vessels as part of their fleet stack.

Let us consider the same hypothetical situation in the light of each of the three queue systems: There is a powerful, wide-spread Cyborg player dominating the early game, and a coalition of three smaller races comes together to oppose him. The Cyborg, with his native advantages, wants the Queue to flow freely as long as he holds a majority of productive worlds; the others will always benefit by clogging the Queue and fighting on ground of their own choosing. For the sake of the example, we’ll take the part of the cooperative alliance; the Cyborg, of course, will desire the exact opposite.

In Classic, Merlin Build Control and SDSF construction are used to prevent the Queue from ever moving unless the next several builds are held by the coalition. Massive fleets are thus painstakingly moved within striking range of any of these next bases controlled by the Cyborg, and everywhere else alliance forces play for time and local or tactical advantage.

In Standard, the coalition has a tougher time of it. Only once Cyborg space has been trimmed down such that the logistical advantages lie with the alliance can they permit the queue to flow freely. Since a single Biocide can kill any two stacked Lizard ships (all things being equal) the ratio of productive bases must be greater than two to one in favor of the Lizard. Other carrier races may make up some of this number, but Birds, Fascists, Privateers, and Crystals rather detract from even two to one odds. The logistical advantage here is solidly in favor of the Cyborg otherwise.

In PPQ (the New Nu Queue), things are simplified slightly in that planets need only be owned and not necessarily productive to influence future builds. Here, each partisan to the coalition must still hope to build more than the Cyborg individually, but unless the total worlds (not merely constructive starbases) held by the Cyborg is outnumbered at better than two to one, the best results obtain with maintaining a permanently clogged queue.

The Stranglehold

In an ideal PPQ game, the advantages lie so heavily in favor of the heavy carrier races that an early-game logistical alliance between as many of the six other factions as practicable should all but guarantee one of them to have a chance at final victory. The goal ought to be to clog the queue at a fairly early point, and to do so in such a fashion that the queue can remain clogged through the entire mid-game. By so doing, the carrier races can be restricted from ever building a top-end ship, and certainly not after the first thirty turns of the game are run.

This can be accomplished by a pact between these factions to do the following:

  • Build every ship needed to maximize early expansion, with special attention to an early Merlin, to facilitate starbase construction.
  • Spam starbases, banking from them the 2 PBP per turn whenever practicable. In order to maximize this PBP bank, avoid constructing unnecessary light ships — Neutronic Fuel Carriers, terraformers, et cetera — until after the Ship Limit.
  • If, near the Ship Limit, the top-end builds of the carrier races are less than one per turn per race, and if the coalition’s total starbase count is greater than the opposition’s by a factor of at least two, it may be wise even to delay the Limit by recycling the occasional small vessel or freighter.
  • Once the Ship Limit hits, the coalition should spend PBP on all those light hulls which had been left unbuilt until now (or recently recycled). In this fashion, the total ship number can easily be brought above the 600 range.
  • Care must be taken to prevent these more numerous yet fragile fleets from destruction, or worse from falling into enemy hands. As such, conflict between those with the most ships and points should be avoided until the greater threat of the carrier races can be reduced or even eliminated.

Please note that this tactic will also work in a Standard game, though that version of the queue will occasionally permit other methods of achieving victory.

For the carrier races, defending against queue-clogging is also a fairly simple matter. You’ve read the first parts of this article; these are the factors your adversaries require. Your mandate is to deny them what they need.

The easiest method is often diplomacy; if you can befriend a small-ship race, you can possibly remove them from what would otherwise be a successful coalition to smother your production. This can be especially beneficial in terms of timing mass recycles to create shipbuilding surges. Of course, you must make it at least partly in their interest to move the queue at your behest; sharing a portion of the heavy carriers thus produced can do this in a way mere free fighter production will not.

Another tried-and-true method is invasion: If it’s to your enemy’s advantage to stockpile ship hulls, starbases, and PBP, it is to yours to deny them these directly. Send in a massive invasion force at your earliest convenience and you will force them to choose between losing territory or ship slots in combat. Bear in mind that your invasion gives them the advantage of selecting the ideal time to engage in fleet battle; moving unpredictably can deny them this.

The logistical method can and will trump either of the previous when practicable. If at the Ship Limit you have managed to construct as many starbases and banked as much PBP (whether in Classic in the form of SDSFs and Merlins, or in Standard by collecting the 2-point bounty) as the entire rest of the cluster, the control of the queue lies in your hands rather than theirs. Bear in mind that by doing this you will make of yourself a natural target; thus it becomes imperative to be able to demonstrate massive military strength in order to convince would-be invaders to choose other targets.

Of course, the bottom line here is exactly the same as it was before Planets warfare developed to this point: The final advantage lies with the player who has the greatest advantage not just in terms of racial abilities but also diplomacy, logistics, tactics, and strategy. This has not changed, and it will not for as long as the game remains viable. (Granted, it no longer holds true for Crystals in Standard, thanks to their absurdly terrible trade list combined with the new Web nerf.)

Planets is, fundamentally, a game between players; given uniform grasp of general principles, the advantage lies with the person who can adapt when these change — as they have done with the New Nu Queue.

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