A Tactic for People Who Want to See More Sunlight
On occasion, my wife and kids look over my shoulder, peek at my computer, and ask, “Why are you staring at those little dots?” They are baffled that I engage in such an antiquated computer game and perplexed why I am so captivated by images of circles. I also consider the same questions and ponder my reasons for my dedication. I don’t know the answer, but I’ll continue to play at least until I do.
Planets is a game loved for its interconnectedness of unequal parts; the pieces are simple, but the puzzle is complex. When they are separated, they are scribbles on a page, but together: Picasso. The intricacies of this wargame are what keep us returning for more, and yet the same complexities make our client-side actions consume a large portion of our waking moments.
A Planets competition can eat up hours of a player’s week, and this lost time multiplies when we do well. Winning means more ships, planets, and client side tasks, so the magnitude of managing a conquering empire often overwhelms us. There are, however, methods which lessen the burden and help you return to what matters most — your life, of course.
You love Planets, but sometimes you’d rather be down at the pub, out in the woods, or off on a beach bathing in the sun’s light. It’s doable. You just have to overhaul your gameplay, streamline your economy, and abbreviate your diplomacy.
Tips To Tackle Your Gameplay
Let’s start with a general overhaul: You want to do well without Planets becoming a full-time job. You want to be competitive, but you don’t want to die of old age in the middle of a game (here’s looking at you, Capricorn and Pisces!) You need to approach your turn differently.
Don’t play any race which will cut into your personal time. In my case, I find Lizards and Cyborgs require excess calculations and ship fiddling. I don’t play them as often because I know they will take extra focus. Your own mileage may vary.
Fight the urge to join more than one game at any given time, or a couple of games total. If you are in a top three position your turn is going to become time-taxing; you know this so stop ignoring your instincts. If you’re feeling the pull to click “Join” – like me! – go play another game, shut off your computer, or flee like Joseph from the temptation of that sexy Egyptian woman.
This is a big one: If you’re looking to save yourself from digital eye strain, you cannot overthink every detail of the game. Any moment where you find yourself obsessing over a single item or calculating every possibility, check yourself: Is that detail really going to change the entire outcome of the game? Let me answer: No, it won’t. It’ll be the other one you’re forgetting about.
Don’t get me wrong here. There are pivotal choices which require extended consideration. To make a sound decision, there’s nothing wrong with taking those extra seconds — or maybe even minutes, if the situation is crucial. Nevertheless, do not dwell on less-significant details like predicting ion storm trajectories, finding the perfect sweep spot, or nitpicking at each element of a diplomatic treaty. There’s better ways to use your brain stamina.
Put your energy into critical strategies like watching enemy patterns, maneuvering your warships, and supporting your allies when they need it most. The return from this is far superior than anything you could ever tap into a calculator.
This tip refers to your grand strategy. You can weave a web of lies, intrigue, and espionage, plan all manner of feints and tricky maneuvers, and plot queue manipulations up the wazoo, but this doesn’t translate into a faster turn and more rounds at Trivia Night. Simplifying your imperial march is what you need.
I advise one overarching drive for your empire: Attack until Death comes for you or your enemy. I’ve played many games where I didn’t really care about the outcome, so I tried to not focus on it. Instead, I used the principle of ‘attack or die’. I launched my battlegroups and attacked everything in sight. I kept the pressure on, pushed, and pushed some more. You’d be surprised how well I did.
Obviously, this suggestion is not for everyone. Most of us enjoy the myriad of options at our fingertips. At first glance, you might dismiss this tip, but I think you could be pleasantly surprised with the results if you put it into practice.
This one last overhaul has to do with altering the means by which you access the game: Play from the Starmap. This is a big ask for a good portion of the Nu community, because it requires you access the new user interface. While I get the desire to use the old version, you will never convince me that it makes for a more fluid operation.
We’re aiming for running your turn as smooth as a baby’s bottom, and the new interface is designed with that in mind. If you reach the point where you finish your turn from a 8 inch tablet or phone, I’d say you’re well on your way to attaining the goal of saving tons of time. It’s possible; you just have to practice.
I suggest playing from the Starmap because of several strong reasons:
- It’s nearly seamless to move between the dashboard and the map. The dashboard’s lists of planets, ships, and bases assist many logistic and tactical operations, and you can sort everything to meet a variety of needs. Having all that information at your fingertips rapidly increases your ability to process a turn. Also, hopping back and forth between the map and the Visual Combat Recorder (VCR) speeds up the transference of the specifics of each combatant. Accuracy in the battle setup is attained much quicker when you use this view. Lastly, there are many applications of the ability to swap between diplomatic messages and the visual representation of the current – and past – situation. It’s like having “boots on the ground” or “an eye witness” in a developing military operation.
- You can mark up the map to remind yourself of all the minutiae thrown at you; for example, you can make notes where to bring critical resources, draw lines that represent a border or enemy territory, and place circles which depict travel distances and the edges of star clusters. The drawing mechanisms can be customized to enhance your personal approach and help you sort it all out.
- Finally, there’s a variety of tools which enable you to navigate and survey your empire on a grander scale. There’s check mark boxes, automatic use of warpwells, measuring utensils, and economic toggles; plus, the “Next” and “Previous” buttons allow you to briskly slide through your ships, planets, and bases.
In the initial stages of exploring the planet map and the modern UI, you may experience frustration and even a drag in your efforts. Nonetheless, this is a learned skill and it does get easier — much easier, over time. It takes time to develop the habits and awareness needed to operate from this perspective; however, it is well worth the investment if you’re looking to rework your turn routine.
Try these five tips and your gameplay is bound to speed up.
Tricks to Tailor Your Economy
A second method for picking up the pace is to streamline every aspect of your economy. This one may hit a nerve because it’s not as precise as it could be, but picking at that one planet adds 60 seconds and picking at 100 planets accumulates 6000 seconds. Remember that we’re aiming for a straightforward and uncomplicated design to help you get through your turns faster. Note that these are general rules and not perfect for every situation (for example, Lizards will need fewer mines, and Crystals may want more factories).
Use the same number of production facilities for every planet. For this to succeed, you have to discipline yourself. You must refrain from tweaking each planet in the hopes of attaining an optimum. The first time you colonize a planet, set it to auto-construct the resource buildings you want and leave it alone (double-check the box). Return to it only if absolutely necessary — say, if you need to add defense posts.
Here’s the setup (don’t think about it):
- 200 mines for resources found in abundance
- 100 mines for planets with a mediocre amount of minerals
- 50 mines if there’s only a small chunk of rocks
- 100 factories if you have no plan to tax the natives
- 50 factories if the indigenous folk are numerous and generous
This trick requires the use of the new UI and it’s about setting your taxes to the same thing on every planet. For all your natives (except Amorphous), use the Growth auto-tax option and plant those two checks. For your own colonists, never tax them and use manual Growth Taxing on your homeworld.
Drop the same number of clans on every planet you come to. Filling freighters with standard cargo amounts is easier to accomplish than calculating detailed loads.
Here’s the suggested drops:
- 200 clans on all amorphous planets
- 1200 clans on planets which will produce large amounts of MegaCredits
- 200 clans if you need to bump up mining facilities
- 100 clans on every other planet
Limit your decisions. To do this, you need to find a pattern and stick with it. You can accomplish this by doing the same actions in the first 15-20 turns and by always using the same equipment on your starships.
In every game, start with these maneuvers:
- On Turn 1, launch 200 clans to the planet with the most connections and build a Large Deep Space Freighter.
- Next, bring a starbase-in-a-box to the newly colonized planet and immediately construct a second space dock.
- For the following 10-15 turns, make that base produce Medium Deep Space Freighters with Nova Drive 5 engines.
- Use medium freighters for mineral movement and large ones for clan movement.
- Attack until Death comes for you or your enemy. (read Tip #4)
When you design a new ship, repeat the same Tech layout for weapons and engines:
- If you are short on cash, use Mark 4 torpedo launchers. When more MCs are available, increase to Mark 7.
- If you are short on molybdenum, use X-ray Laser beams. If you have a steady source of duranium, upgrade to Disruptors. When you have Merlins fabricating molybdenum, increase your beam Tech to Heavy Phasers.
- Use Transwarp Drive engines for ships which need to move fast. Use Nova Drive 5 engines for everything else.
If you follow these four Tricks, are you going to be the finest economic master alive? No, that only occurs with experience and concentrated effort, but it’s certain that your turns will finish sooner and you will be able to maintain a competitive level of play.
Technicalities to Truncate Your Diplomacy
It’s safe to say that diplomacy takes up as much time as client actions. In some cases, it preoccupies entire days. Reducing how much you put into this area has a huge impact on the duration of your turn-making. Unfortunately, social interactions have extreme effects on competition outcomes, so be cautious about what you cut from your negotiating menu.
People have what’s called “diplomatic energy”. That means they will only negotiate if they have the will and stamina to care. If you want something, you need to be cautious about draining the batteries of the other party. Simple language, straightforward treaties, and trustworthy actions will give you a large pool of this energy. You also have a limited capacity so be wary about pushing yourself too far.
If you want to cut down on negotiation drain, use map clusters to define borders, avoid pushing people do things, never lie and slander, don’t play mind games, ally one neighbour and attack the other, and form short transparent treaties – “I have your back. You have mine.” or “Let’s attack this guy. I will not backstab you.”
Additionally, make sure all negotiators have a common terminology. Planets is an international game and half of miscommunications occur because of language differences. Be that as it may, there are many technical terms and abbreviations which frequent diplomatic messages. Below, you can find a compilation of some of the “most commonly used” terms that surface in the game. Learn them and use them.
The following list contains the most commonly used STARMAP abbreviations:
- p = planet
- s = starship
- sb = starbase
- HW = homeworld
- mf = minefield
- T# = turn number
- 12-149-394-56 = string of planets (often used to define borders)
- s = supplies
- mc = MegaCredits
- dur = duranium
- tri = tritanium
- mol = molybdenum (sometimes written as moly)
- shortened race names: fed, liz, bird, fas, priv, borg, cry, ee, bot, reb, com, bug or wasp
The following list contains the most commonly used STARSHIP abbreviations:
- MBR or MCBR = Meteor Class Blockade Runner
- LDSF = Large Deep Space Freighter
- MDSF = Medium Deep Space Freighter
- SDSF = Small Deep Space Freighter
- STF = Super Transport Freighter
- FCC = Firecloud Class Cruiser
- LCC = Lizard Class Cruiser
- DW = Dark Wing Class Battleship
- D7 = D7 Coldpain Class Cruiser
- D19 = D19b Nefarious Class Destroyer
- DS = Deth Specula Class Frigate
- SSF = Super Star Frigate
- SSC = Super Star Carrier or Cruiser (sometimes you have to clarify)
- CP = Cat’s Paw Class Destroyer
- QT = Q-Tanker
- the first part of a ship’s name: Res, Nova, Bio, Loki, Missouri, T-Rex, Ill Wind, Anni, Vic, Ruby, Emerald, Diamond, Gorbie, Rush, Virgo, Golem, Automa, Merlin, Tranq, Cobol, Cygnus, Falcon, and so on.
The following list contains the most commonly used WEAPON abbreviations:
- m# = model number of torpedo (i.e. Mark 4, Mark 7)
- GB = gamma bombs
- L/B/D/P = laser/blaster/disruptor/phaser beams
- XR = x-ray laser beams
- PB = plasma bolts (does not refer to positron beams)
- HB/HD/HP = heavy blaster/disruptor/phaser beams
- #f = number of fighters
- #t = number of torpedoes
Diplomacy is something that can easily get away from you. I’ve had turns where I spent more time discussing alliances than commanding my fleet. When you care about your game, it’s not easy to find a balance, but these two Technicalities are a step in the right direction.
The Bottom Line
If I could offer one last piece of advice, I’d say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Those little mistakes you made did not cause you to lose that game. There’s a vast array of circumstances which affect the outcome of a match. It is not worth stressing and obsessing over the little things.
Personally, I use these methods when I don’t have the time to dedicate myself to optimizing the details, but you decide for yourself how you run your turns. I’m hoping that this article shows you a beam of light and a path toward taking control of the immense demand Planets puts on us. For some players, only a small adjustment is needed, and others may require a drastic shift in mindset. Whatever you decide, I hope you find what you need so you can at once enjoy and compete.
DTolman’s seminal work on the subject is well worth your time. Some of his recommendations are outdated and refer to the older interface, but there’s a ton of value here.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the journey! – TS
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