First Turns: The Missing Colonies of Man

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 Colonies have a powerful yet limited ship list, remarkable for not only its low-cost heavy carrier, the Virgo, but also the fuel-generating Cobol. They lack low-cost endgame sacrifice ships and their best shield-scratchers are the Cygnus (against battleships only), the Tranquility, and the Iron Lady, which sets them at a late-war disadvantage against any powerful foe. However, their ability to sweep space mines from a distance with fighters alone balances the entire field in their favor.

Colonies need never construct a Refinery; the Aries is far more effective. Better yet, sending multiple Cobols along with every battle fleet should generate plenty of fuel for operations.

Because the Colonies are at a disadvantage in fleet combat, they must construct as many Virgos as practicable before the Ship Limit, even those with low-quality engines. Because they can profit from having a large support fleet, it is also well worth their while to bank PBPs before the Limit; thus, a moderate number of early starbases is essential. Unlike the other carrier factions, the prepared Colonial can survive and even prosper under an early Ship Limit provided they are sufficiently aggressive due to the low minerals cost of the Virgo hull.

Rules Of Expansion:

Colonial commanders require access to large concentrations of Tritanium and Molybdenum, massive amounts of Supplies, and if at all possible Ghipsoldal and Humanoid native worlds to develop for supplemental ship construction. Tertiary, low-tech production hubs can also be used to profitably generate Lady Royales, Aries, Saggits, and Geminis before the Ship Limit. A Siliconoid base can be exploited for fleet minelayers, which can be towed as easily as a Virgo in the early stages of a war.

For minerals concentrations, only direct exploration will do. However, the initial wave of Cobols can be set to Bio Scan, and enough working together can reliably detect all the useful natives within range, making colonization much more efficient.

“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.

Because you rely on top-level engines for your Cobols, you’ll want to seek out a nearby Ghipsoldal world for early production. A Humanoid starbase can be invaluable for the construction of pre-Limit alchemy ships in addition to low-engine Vickies. In Classic, one might profitably send engines between them on recyclable NFCs or, with an excess of minerals, the Scorpius (its best use).

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

One final note: While a degree of secrecy ought to be maintained by concealing your expansion from your neighbors, if you develop properly, you should be able to advance in force before any other carrier race — and, ideally, before most cloakers.

Gambits:

  1. Economic: Your best bet for early success lies in early native detection and exploitation. Therefore, your early builds should include Cobols 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 Tritanium supply, local starbases would require far too many minerals that otherwise could become Virgos. Instead, the Colonies need to focus on finding enough Duranium for an early Merlin as well as stockpiling sufficient Supplies to give it something to work on. Further Merlins can be towed about with Cobols in order to maximize economic development without worrying about fuel consumption.
  2. Headshot: Of the five races which rely on heavy carriers, the Colonies alone are capable of an early aggressive power assault. A pair of low-engine Virgoes towed by two Transwarp Cobols and followed by a single minelayer (cloaker protection) can dive into enemy territory confident of defeating most early defenses and challenges. In order to accomplish this without crippling their own early production, the Colonial commander need only achieve a very few objectives.

    First, the location of early massive Tritanium and Molybdenum stocks are essential; massive Duranium can be substituted for these with the construction of an early Merlin or two. Second, in lieu of early standard freighters, towing Cobols might be indicated. This, combined with low-engined Saggit or Gemini construction at forward bases, will permit fighter construction in forward zones as the towed Virgoes progress toward the front. And, third, a long chain of heavy factory and mineral mine construction along the path of advance is vital.

Construction:

Remember these initial goals: two to three Merlins, sufficient freighters, several Cobols, and then a massive number of Virgos to make up the bulk of your combat fleet. Your support squadron should contain at least a couple of Saggits or Geminis, and possibly an Aries or two (though you may not need those). 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, for you, 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 Cobol factory and a Humanoid base to produce low-tech alchemy ships and towable Virgos is the key to getting your fleet up to strength in time; later you’ll have the points for Patriots and shield-scratchers. 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 Colonies are a highly forgiving faction even if poorly led; when properly developed, they have the logistical potential to dominate even the most experienced commanders. Their fuel advantage provides them with vast capability in tactical maneuver, free fighters give them a significant defensive advantage, and their fighter minesweepers grant them at least partial control of most battlefields. Aside from minefields, however, they have no cloaker defense.


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