The Joy Of Spam

Wall Of Spam Surrounding Homeworld

In Classic we spam SDSFs; in Standard we spam starbases. The point of either is to bank PBP for later — while, potentially, removing the potential for future builds from your opponent’s fleets. The only format these tactics are useless in is PLS.

Not every player does this, which is fine. Some prefer to expend the cash and minerals on hard assets to be used immediately; to them, the conquest of a dozen or so extra worlds in the early game is far more valuable. Others dislike leaving free loot around to tempt nearby enemies, and that’s a solid point too. A few players simply can’t be bothered, which is an error.

The name of the game is Planets, but from a certain point of view it might as well be “Ships”. There can be only just so many, and if you own them all you’re going to win.

In Classic, there’s a tremendous advantage to be gained by having already reached 20 PBP by the time the Ship Limit hits: It means you can recycle ships for parts without penalty, pseudo-teleport light vessels instantly across your entire empire, and so on, all of which are convenient. More importantly to my mind, it means that your first combat victories pay for themselves immediately. You don’t need to win a dozen times to make your fleet grow; you only need to win once. And the most painless way to make this happen is to, before the Limit hits, recycle 20 SDSFs that you built almost for free.

In Standard, of course, it’s different; PBP convert to ships more directly. Every vessel should be a useful one; there’s precious little space in your fleets for useless ships. Lizards still have HISSers; Feds still terraform en masse; Birds may stockpile Swifts; Robots stack up Qs; Rebels build tons of Falcons — but they’re all useful, each and every one. They produce wealth, concentrate logistics, and represent actual power.

But whether in Standard or Classic, one principle always holds: Every freighter takes up a ship slot that could instead be occupied by a heavy carrier. When the Empire has fifty Gorbies, they’re just about unbeatable — and the simplest way to make sure they don’t have such a fleet is to squeeze them out by owning a ton of ships of your own. Sure, you can kill them in honorable battle, but it’s so much easier to only fight the first handful that got built and never have to worry about replacements.

There are a lot of Empire players who have gotten strangled in this manner, and who might feel that this is an unfair way to fight a war. To them I’d say that, if that’s how they feel, they should try fighting a game with battleships for a change and see how they like it when the overwhelming firepower is on the other foot.

Long ago I was asked about the origins of the gaming term “Spam” by a non-native English speaker, and I could only respond by showing him the Monty Python sketch. And yet in Planets the parallels are far more literal: Spam is unhealthy, some find it disgusting, and eventually you’ll end up with a lot of empty tin cans lying around.

You can’t order the lobster every meal, after all.

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Spam. That’s what my ex-wife called me: Cold meat.

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