First Turns: The Robotic Imperium

Most games are won or lost in the first few turns. This series concentrates only on those critical few turns leading up to the Ship Limit as a key to achieving long-term goals necessary for victory.

Overview:

The Robots have a powerful and unique, yet limited, ship list. They are remarkable not only for having not one but two effective heavy carriers, the Golem and the Automa, but also for their ability to control vast swathes of the battleground using their mass minelaying advantage by way of their lone minelayer, the Cat’s Paw. The inexpensive and relatively low-tech medium carrier, the Instrumentality, is the cherry on top.

The primary early advantage of the Robot is the massive minefield, whereas in the mid to late stages of war it’s instead their free-fighter ability. A single ship can impede enemy mobility across large portions of the battlefield, forcing a disproportionately expensive response in terms of sweeping capacity. The Robot can move relatively freely through the space thus dominated, capturing at will while fortifying as they advance. Meanwhile, enemy concentrations moving to oppose the advance will betray their presence either by sweeping or striking mines.

For Robotic commanders to be effective late in the war, they must expand efficiently during the opening turns, ideally using their Pawn bioscan to allocate targeted resources. Then, before the Ship Limit hits, they should have constructed at least four alchemy ships (preferably more, including one or two Refineries), several freighters and Cat’s Paws, and as many carriers as practicable. Barring luck or incompetent enemies, it is unlikely for even the most skilled Robot commander to have a fighting chance if the Ship Limit is reached before Turn 30.

Rules Of Expansion:

Robotic admirals require access to vast concentrations of Duranium, massive amounts of Supplies, and if at all possible Ghipsoldal and Humanoid native worlds to develop for ship construction. Low-tech production hubs can also be used to profitably generate Q-Tankers before the Ship Limit, to use as fighter factories. A Siliconoid base can be exploited for Cat’s Paw minelayers, which can be towed if need be.

Note that the Q-Tanker has a sizeable cargo hold (though smaller than an MDSF) and can construct fighters in space. They’re light enough that, when empty, even low-tech engines are sufficient, meaning they can be built with a minimal investment at secondary bases.

“Free” fighters aren’t free; they cost minerals which otherwise could be used for more ships or starbases. They also require copious amounts of Supplies, so be certain to build massive numbers of factories both near your homeworld and along every likely axis of advance.

Building ships to transport parts between bases is difficult for the Robots, who are unable to construct the NFC and have no lightweight hulls with significant weapon emplacements aside from the Cat’s Paw. However, it is still well within the realm of possibility; the Q-Tanker has two engines and a sizeable cargo hold.

(Remember that in Classic, one can bank a maximum of 20 PBP before the Limit.)

One final note: Many commanders waste their early resources on nonessentials, such as starbase fighters and Defense Posts where they’re not needed. While a degree of secrecy ought to be maintained by concealing your initial expansion from your neighbors, if you develop aggressively, they will encounter your minefields very early on, after which their own plans are somewhat immaterial.

Gambits:

  1. Economic: Your best bet for early success lies in early native detection and exploitation. Therefore, your early builds should include at least one Pawn Class along with Large Deep Space Freighters.

    Only after local minerals and native potentials have been found sufficient should one consider an instant Starbase-In-A-Box. Absent a large local Duranium supply, local starbases are, in large part, simply unproductive resource sinks. Instead, the canny Robot needs to focus on finding enough Duranium for an early Merlin as well as stockpiling sufficient Supplies to give it something to work on.
  2. Full Body Headshot: When an enemy is confronted with a sudden massive minefield covering 100+ LY of their home territory, much of the fight will leach out of them even before the first Golem appears on the scene. In order to make this happen, one of two alternatives can be employed: First, a pair of Cat’s Paws can be constructed and filled at the homeworld and flown directly to the border; second, a pair can be sent out empty of all but cash and Colonists to develop the border enough to generate full loads of torpedoes — or, perhaps more easily, to scoop a central field laid later on. This last method is both far more elegant and highly conducive to Merlin production at the homeworld.

Construction:

Remember the initial goals: four Merlins and two Refineries, several support ships, and then a massive number of Golems to make up the bulk of your combat fleet. Your support squadron should contain several Q-Tankers and at least one low-engined heavy carrier to act as storage and escort; it can also have Cat’s Paws to use as designated scoop-and-lay minefield relays. The first Merlin is simple enough if one hoards Duranium and hauls it back on empty freighters, and after that it’s just a matter of delaying the Ship Limit as long as is practicable.

Clogging the ship queue is, unfortunately, easier than keeping it free. In Classic, half the cluster will be spamming SDSFs at secondary starbases; you should do the same, but remember to recycle more than a few in order to bank your 20 points. Setting up a Ghipsoldal Q-Tanker factory and a Humanoid base to produce low-tech alchemy ships and towable Golems is an efficient method for getting your fleet up to strength in time. Most of the minerals will be too far from the homeworld for all construction to take place there, even if one could build multiple ships per base per turn — which one can’t.

Conclusion:

The Robots are a highly unforgiving faction even if well led; against the Cyborg, Crystals, and Federation, they generally have little power in the late game and require a significant material advantage to overcome this. Their minefield technology provides them with the ability to control battlefield mobility early on, and must be fully exploited in order to balance the flaws in the Robotic fleet.


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