Making the Grade: Introducing Prowess

“The public supports war until the body bags come home” was a persistent thought meandering through my mind as I was writing these articles. I wanted to evaluate each race’s capacity for killing, and something in the back of my mind made that topic feel… uneasy. When I continued to hesitate putting it into words, I eventually recognised that my struggle existed because of the nature of what war games reflect. It also occurred to me that the trend of “winning games by making friends” surfaced, in part, because many of us were conflicted about aggression in competition.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

First Turns: The Solar Federation

Most wars are won or lost long before the fighting starts. 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 Solar Federation fields a wide variety of top-end battleships, battlecruisers, and utility vessels. They lack a heavy carrier, but their diplomatic advantages, broad ship list, and above all crew combat bonus more than make up for this.

Continue reading

Threat Assessment: The Evil Empire

This is the tenth in a series of anonymous reports that mysteriously appeared on the Editor’s desk. These redacted versions were approved by the Senate for immediate publication, to be read by commanders of each respective race so they can review their own vulnerabilities in the face of the unknown external threat that commissioned the studies. In this dispatch we focus on that faction known as the Evil Empire: its strengths, its weaknesses, and how best to defeat it in battle.

Overview

Ease Of Command: Veteran
Difficulty To Defeat: Moderate
Playstyle: Slow

Continue reading

Intelligence Briefs: Fascists

This Articles of War document was decrypted and translated as a study model for Echo Cluster strategists. These intelligence briefs describe employable tactics and complementary ship combinations for the eleven races.

The underlying purpose of the this series is to encourage commanders to consider what happens before the game transitions to the end game. We often build our fleets with one thing in mind: maximum power, all the way — hooyah! Beyond theory, the majority of actions which lead to victory are done within the first forty to sixty turns; moreover, eight races have their best chance of winning if they gain a significant advantage before the transition to the final slog. Those first fifty turns can be used for more than just building ships and whipping the local indigenous populations. It’s the perfect time for Tech 1-9 to go forth and shine.

Continue reading

The Balboa Quality — PART ONE

It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa

Rocky – (1976) screenplay by Sylvester Stallone

Energized by a recent online conversation (Commander Koski, 2022), I set out to answer the question, “What makes a good sacrificial ship?” I found a good brunch spot and filled a notebook with statistics, thoughts, and ship specifications around this topic – Yes, at that time in Earth’s history, people still used pencil and paper; this writing exercise was referred to as a scrambled brainstorm. Somewhere between the bacon and the coffee, I noted the factor which defined a good sacrificial option was, what I called, the Balboa Quality (BQ) – the ability to take a beating and deal significant damage. This article provided an overview of a system for determining the value of this type of ship. The BQ system proved capable of determining which ships were economically and militarily efficient in sacrifical situations.

Continue reading

Fleet Stacks: The Missing Colonies Of Man

Articles Of War, Supplemental

In this series of brief supplements, we examine not ships as individuals but when working together as a machine, in task groups or battle formations. These articles presume familiarity with the concepts of Battle Order and Left vs. Right Combat.

The Colonies, like four other races, field a heavy carrier that can take on any single vessel in the Echo Cluster on relatively equal ground. The Virgo has the further advantage of being cheap to build (minerals-wise) and arm (free fighters). However, the rest of the Colonial fleet is composed largely of vessels too lightweight to be allowed out on their own.

In consequence of this, in an appendix to the Dreadlord Manual of antique fame, Doug Suerich proposed grouping a Patriot with a Little Joe and a Cygnus. When employed properly, he contended, this trio could be deadly against most foes. Unfortunately, what was true in 1994 has not withstood the test of time; against cloakers, who can select their targets through Intercept, such a group can gain no advantage from stacking, and against even medium carriers, battleships, or battlecruisers, they’re often simply flying to their deaths — a gift to any adversary who chooses to seize it.

Instead, we shall focus on ship stacks that function in a group as greater than the sum of their parts.

Continue reading

First Turns: The Privateer Bands

Most wars are won or lost long before the fighting starts. 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 heaviest warship buildable by the Privateer Bands is the Bloodfang Class Carrier, a passable medium warship but hardly a vessel designed to stand in the line of battle. The Privateer’s preferred venue is in fact elsewhere, in the area of speed, mobility, robbery, and ship capture. Thus, uniquely among the Eleven Races, the Privateer is in a very real sense less dependent on their own economy than their neighbor’s.

Continue reading

On Luck In Practical Warfare

The following essay is an excerpt taken from Col. South’s upcoming book, his commentary on “The Art Of War”, and is exclusively available to readers of the Planets Magazine. The original essay was based on the text of a speech delivered before the Federation War College on Charmed World shortly before the first League War.

I’ve been studying Sun Tzu my entire professional life, from the Academy on. He’s the ultimate authority on the art of war, and in crisis after crisis in which I’ve found myself, his “Art Of War” has held the answer. Thirteen short chapters, less than twenty thousand words, dating from long before the age of space flight — and yet it is as valid and useful today as when it was first written.

If there exists a factor in warfare which Sun Tzu neglects, however, it must certainly be that of luck. I’ve seen too many people die due to random chance, too many attacks fail due to the influence of the unforeseeable, to neglect the power of luck in combat — and yet all he ever observes on the subject is that to rely on it is to lose. 

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading