Have you ever sat down to a game full of excitement, played out the first dozen turns or so, and been suddenly and entirely frustrated by the absence of decent natives? In how many of these games were you forced to compromise on shipbuilding entirely too much, sacrificing engines or torpedo and beam tech to produce a second-class fleet?
Let me put it another way: Did you ever win without native luck?
In competitive Standard, it’s usual to see the Ship Limit at Turn 25 and an unbreakable queue lock in effect for sixty turns thereafter. You desperately need every scrap of scarce resources you can generate in the early part of the game, and yet you’re also required to fund expensive expansion, dig mineral mines across fifty planets, and oh yes! set up enough Defense Posts to conceal your outlying colonies from nosy neighbors. Surely there must be some way to provide for all this.
It turns out there is: It may surprise you to learn that fully half the potential income of your empire, even in the short run, comes not from natives but instead the taxation of Colonists and the production of your Factories. Every Factory built pays for itself in four turns of production, and every Colonist clan is sustainably taxable at a rate in excess of .02 MC/turn — not much with a single clan, but once they number in the millions, your natives gradually become insignificant by comparison. This is the economic advantage that drives the Cyborg war machine, and it’s the bottleneck that so often cripples the Bird Men and Crystals.
So, a rule of thumb:
— If you’re short on cash, put 100+ Factories on (almost) every planet. —
There are specific variations for each of the Eleven Races, all unique. Your own mileage may vary — and, since victory depends on flexibility, it had better vary.
General principles common to all:
- Every close planet must be fully exploited, even if at great cost.
- Some planets fund themselves. These are rare.
- Most planets require attention, in the form of investment and visits from tender ships.
- Border worlds need to be developed while you’re advancing, but not where you’re vulnerable.
- More natives will generate more money over time; more colonists the same. But there comes a point where coddling them to ensure future growth has no real benefit.
The Feds earn bonus amounts of tax money. Balanced against this is the expense of building extra mines. As such, it’s reasonable to stockpile Supplies for the first Federation Merlins rather than convert them to cash. Close planets, therefore, must max out factories while establishing enough mines to build the first Merlin.
Hissss! Lizards use low-grade hulls with no other purpose but to Hisss natives, permitting vast overtaxation. Their mining advantage permits a reduction in the number of mineral mines they are required to build. Eventually, the planets will run out of materials and Merlins will become necessary, but until then expansion is more important than maximizing local construction. It’s just a matter of having the spare starbases to pump out more Hisssers.
It’s pointless to headshot a player when you can’t follow the kill up with conquest; all you’ll manage is to enrich the far neighbor. Early and sustained production is essential, and the Birds are notoriously cash-poor, especially since they need to max all four techs. Therefore, max out factories on every planet as early as possible. As Bird ships require fewer minerals, you might be able to scrimp on mineral mines.
Fascists also need to max all four techs. Like a Bird, the Fascist should max out factories on new colonies while scrimping on other structures. Pillage should only be used on large low-grade native populations; if you’re earning less than 200 per turn pillaging, you might as well colonize and build factories. Large Amorphous worlds can be Popped for a massive cash influx, but several turns of Pillage might be a better option.
Secrecy is absolutely essential until the first wolfpack is assembled and hunting. As such, Defense Posts on colonies are not a luxury. Fortunately, they neatly hide maxed factories. Eventually, you’ll steal your neighbor’s Merlin anyway, so it won’t matter that you can’t build Tech 10 hulls before the Ship Limit. Remember that the Lady Royale will also be useful as a large-tanked rob ship in the mid-game, so building a few for the extra cash isn’t a waste.
Taxing native populations to death while converting them to new Cyborg citizens is not the acme of economic advancement, but rather the very least you can do. Several years ago, I wrote an article about farming natives for fun and profit. Read it. Also, max out factories on every world near your starbases; you’ll need both Merlin supplies and mass influxes of cash.
You need to mass-produce factories and mines while maximizing all four technologies and stockpiling torpedoes; to add insult to injury, your colonists only grow at about half the rate of other races. Factories are the least of your needs — so don’t neglect them on any account. On the plus side, you can produce lightweight early ships with substandard engines and have them remain relevant throughout the game… but that’s not much of a plus.
As a carrier race, you’ll need less cash than most to produce decent ships (by which I mean Gorbies. And more Gorbies.) Your fighter production not only doesn’t require cash, it’s free even from supply consumption. All you need is obscene amounts of minerals at every starbase… which means stockpiling tons of supplies, a few Merlins, multiple Gorbies, and (to feed your over-massive ships) multiple Refineries.
Like the Empire, your fleet will demand massive quantities of minerals, fuel, and supplies. Max out factories on most worlds, construct multiple Merlins, and rely on Refineries to move. One savings is on Defense Posts, since even in the early game massive minefields are accessible to you, effective as both offense and defense.
Rebels gain little by secrecy and a ton from aggressive Hyperspace scouts. Eventually, extra supplies can be converted into minerals for top-engined Rushes, and given plenty of funds, Mk7 Tranquility minelayers are entirely within reach. There’s no harm whatsoever in maxing factories. (They can also abuse their own natives gratuitously, relying on periodic self-RGA to restore their happiness.)
Much like the other free fighter races, stockpiles of supplies on random worlds can come in handy for in-flight arming. Maxing factories is something that generally doesn’t hurt and might help.
Some Common Tactics:
- InstaColony: As Talespin mentioned in his article on first-turn loadouts, sometimes you’ll want to send out your initial MDSF with 100 Colonists, 100 Supplies, and 700 MC. The first world will thus have 100 instant Factories and, the next turn, 100 mines. I might tweak this to 99 Colonists, 101 Supplies, and 707 MC, on the theory that seven out of ten planets will permit your Colonist population to grow between drop and construction.
- Freighter Seeding: It’s not uncommon to send out a scout first that drops minimal colonies, following that immediately by a large freighter that, at each colony with natives, contributes colonists, and, at those without, drops max colonists, supplies, and cash for just long enough to build 100+ factories. Afterward, it picks most of the colonists back up and continues on its merry way. On its way home, it converts extra Supplies back into cash and grabs any handy minerals. The initial loadout on this Large could well be 600 Colonists, 600 Supplies, and 1800 MC.
- Cash Collectors: Nine of the eleven races can construct the Neutronic Fuel Carrier, the only vessel in the game light enough to travel indefinitely on a single drop of fuel. While these carry little cargo, they can accrue the same 10,000 MC as any other ship. Dedicating one or more to the task of bagman can free up other vessels for grander purposes.
In general, max out factories anywhere near a production starbase that doesn’t have temperamental natives. It can’t hurt and it might help.
In specific, send cash and supplies out, and continue to invest in new factories, up to four turns before the Ship Limit and you’ll earn your money back in time to use it.
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