Donovan's
VGA Planets Super Site

Ship Build Queue & Tips
By Timo Kreike


Note: when reading this article, read it carefully. Timo has been around a long time, and as you can see this article was (last) updated in 1997. There are basic tips in there which still apply, and some specific to old host versions. Those are usually clearly described in the text ("For host v3.22.006 and older" for example....). I decided to keep all those tips in the article, because they're fun to read and Timo's excellent work wouldn't be complete without them.

Donovan


INDEX

(click on topics)

>>> Updated 04/04/97 <<<
Crawling the Ship Queue

>>> Updated 04/04/97 <<<
Timo's Top Ten Tips

Tip 11 - The OK System
Special Offer - Tip#12

Crawling the Ship Queue
(A step by step guide to a better understanding of the Ship Building Queue)

Introduction
I'll start by assuming you've read the docs of the current version of host.exe (3.22.012) and that you're familiar with the concepts of the 'Ship Building Queue' and the '500 Ship Limit'. If you're not, you should first read the docs that come with Host.exe.

In this article I'll try to share my little bit of knowledge about the Ship Queue with you. First I'll give a description of the building and cloning of ships and how it works precisely. I'll introduce the Priority Build Points, and after that I'll describe the odd behaviour of the Ship Queue. Finally I'll give you ten tips of how to use your new knowledge of the queue to the uppermost level of devastation...!

Ship Building and the Mission Ordering
Before anything else you'll have to know where exactly the building of new ships happens between all other commands processed by host.exe. The following is taken from the most recent version of Infolist, v 3.1 (1).

    Auxhost 1
    ....
    Ion Storms
    ....
    Starbase Fix/Recycle functions
    New ship building                  (1)
    Cloning starships
    ** Federation Super Refit mission **
    Ship surrendering
    ...
    Movement
    Intercept missions
    Glory Devices
    ...
    Star Base missions
    Colonize missions
    COMBAT! Ship to Ship
    COMBAT! Ship to Planet
    ...
    Planetary production
    New ship building                  (2)
    ....
    Auxhost 2
    ....

As you can see there are two moments where new ships are build. I've numbered them phase 1 and phase 2. What's the difference between those two phases? Well, phase 1 is the same as the 'regular' building phase of host 3.1x. Phase 2 has been added since the coming of host 3.2x (and the Ship Queue). Hmmmm, what does this exactly mean?

The difference between Phase 1....
When there is a free ship slot when the host enters phase one, a ship will be build.
All ships will be build in phase one until the game hits the 500 ship limit. Simple as that. When there are still free ship slots left after all queued ships have been build in phase one, ships can be cloned. When all queued ships have been build in the first phase the second build phase won't be used.

.... and Phase 2
In between phase 1 and phase 2 there is the COMBAT phase: ships will be destroyed, and there will be some free ship slots again. When there are still queued ships left host.exe will build those in phase 2.
After the ship limit most ships will be build in the second phase. This means that in most cases YOUR SHIPS WILL BE BUILD AFTER COMBAT WHEN THE SHIP LIMIT HAS BEEN REACHED, and not before..... (This could be important when your starbase is under attack...)

See also note (2).

Free Ship Slots after the Ship Limit
To make the difference between phase 1 and 2 I'll give some examples of how ship slots are freed and when they are used. The game has reached the ship limit. (Or else phase 2 wouldn't be used, remember?)
Take a look at the extract of the Mission Ordering of the Infolist above, and examine this:

  • When a ship is destroyed in a ship to ship battle, a new ship with the same ID as the destroyed ship will be build in phase 2. (Combat happens between phase 1 and phase 2.)
  • When a ship is recycled, a new ship with the same ID as the recycled ship will be build in phase 1. (Recycling happens before building phase 1.)
  • When a ship is colonised, a new ship with the same ID will be built in phase 2. (Colonising happens after movement.)
  • When a Glory Device sets of, a new ship with the same ID as the exploded ship will be build in... right: phase 2.

In general:
The ship slots that are used in the first phase after the ship limit are the ship slots that are freed by:

  • recycling ships at starbases;
  • ships exploding in Ion Storms;
  • every event that destroy ships in Auxhost 1;
  • idem Auxhost 2.

Host addons will destroy their ships in Auxhost 1 and 2. Think for example of ships captured by alien marauders, destroyed in wormholes, lost performing a Quadbenium jump or crashed on a planet by a Rebel boobytrap. (3)
The ship slots used in phase 2 include the ones freed by:

  • ships exploding in minefields;
  • the Colonise ship mission;
  • Glory Devices;
  • Combat.

Still got it? Simple question: When a game hasn't reached the ship limit and a ship gets destroyed, when will an other ship fill that ship slot? (4)

Cloning Ships
You can clone a ship before the ship limit, and you can't clone a ship after the ship limit has been reached. Why? Simple: Cloning happens right after the first building phase - and before the ship limit there are still free ship slots when the host processes the Cloning phase. After the 500 ship limit all free slots - if there were any - will have been filled by queued ships in the first building phase.
If you want to clone a ship after the 500 ship limit you will have to take care that there are enough free ship slots in the first building phase for all queued ships and your clone. You could do this by doing one or more of the following:

  1. cancelling/withdrawing of all queued ships on most (if not all) starbases;
  2. freeing lots of ship slots before phase 1 by recycling ships;
  3. using KillRace.exe.

As you can see this is quite impossible in a game with other players: they too will have to withdraw their ships from the Ship Queue (or else they would use the ship slots that get free by recycling your ships). In short: Impossible.

Priority Build Points
I'll introduce the use of Priority Build Points (PBPs) here. If you don't know what they are, read the docs. In general you earn PBPs when you are the player freeing a ship slot.

You will get PBPs for:

  • Destroying an enemy ship in a ship vs. ship combat (1 PBP for every 100 kt of enemy hull mass, rounded up);
  • Capturing an enemy ship in a ship vs. ship combat (1 PBP)
    [host 3.22.008 and older];
  • Recycling your ship (1 PBP);
  • Colonising your ship (1 PBP)
    [host 3.22.025 and older];
  • Setting off your Glory Device (1 PBP);
  • Destroying an enemy ship using Glory Devices (1 PBP for every 100 kt of enemy hull mass, rounded up).

An example of the latter: when you set off two Glory Devices with 'pop' and you hit two Cobols (115 kT hull mass) and a Cygnus (90 kT hull mass), you'll get 2 PBPs for the 2 Glory Devices, 2 x 2 PBPs for the Cobols and 1 PBP for the Cygnus: all together 2 + 4 + 1 = 7 PBPs.

You won't get any PBP for:

  • Surrendering a ship at a starbase (without fuel or with matching Friendly Codes).
  • Giving ships away using the 'gsN' Friendly Codes.
  • Destroying an enemy ship in a ship vs. planet/starbase combat.
  • Destroying an enemy ship in a minefield.

The first two should be clear: as no ships are destroyed nobody gets a PBP bonus, right? The third and fourth options are just 'features' of the game. :-)

Using Priority Points
You'll start using your Priority Points when you've got more than 20 PBPs. (This holds true for everything mentioned below.)

So if you've got 21 or more points and there are free ship slots you will use your priority points. This means that before the game hits the 500 ship limit you can't accumulate priority points with the intention to collect an enormous stockpile of points and use them after the ship limit. That won't work.

The rules for using PBPs are simple: the player with the most PBPs will get the first free ship slot. When that player has his new ship, his PBPs are recalculated. Then again the player with the most PBPs will get the next free ship slot. This could be the same player, but it could be another. Etc.

In older versions of host.exe, these rules could result in two nasty situations:

  1. When the player with the most PBPs doesn't use them, no other player can use his PBPs. Of course ships will be build, but without using priority points. This can be extremely annoying when this player is a Computer Player. This is fixed in host v3.22.006: If the player with the most PBPs doesn't build any ships, the player with the second to most (but still more than 20) PBPs will get the next free ship slot etc.
  2. The Ship Queue could skip one of the queued ships on your starbases. This is fixed in host v 3.22.11 - the regular queue (i.e. that queue that won't use PBPs) isn't influenced by the other, PBP using queue.

Crawling the Queue
Thus far all rules and features I've described are 'logical' and they can (easily) be understood. I've kept away from linking the behaviour of the Ship Queue to starbase IDs. I'll try to describe the (odd) behaviour of the Ship Queue and how it selects the starbase IDs to build ships.

Priority Build Friendly Codes
As of host v3.22.011, Tim has introduced the Priority Build Friendly Codes (PBFC). These codes are planetary friendly codes and regulate the Priority Build Queue only. The codes are 'PB1', 'PB2' .... to 'PB9'. They work very simple: if you have more than 20 PBPs and there is a ship slot free, a ship will be build on the starbase that carries the lowest PBFC. This build will cost you PBPs.

Additional:

  • This is valid for both build phases.
  • The 'PB0' friendly code doesn't work.
  • When there are duplicate PBFCs (for example when you have set the FC 'PB1' on two starbases) the ship will be build on your starbase with the lower ID.
  • A PBFC on a planet (without a starbase) will be ignored.
  • If you don't use these Friendly Codes (STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!) your priority builds will happen at your first ships in the Regular Queue.

Two Queues
Since host v3.22.011 there are two queues: the Regular Build queue that keeps on cycling from base ID #1 to base ID #500, and the Priority Queue that jumps to the starbases where you've set the PB Friendly Codes.

  • You can't put a ship in a specific queue other than by using the PB friendly codes.
  • Before the ship limit
    All ship ID's will be completely randomized. All ships will be build in phase 1.

    After the ship limit
    The Regular Queue cycles from the starbase with the lowest ID to the starbase with the highest ID, no matter the owner of the starbases. After the starbase with the hightest ID (500?) comes the starbase with the lowest ID (1?) and the cycle continues. The Regular Queue keeps remembers the ID of the last starbase in a cycle that built a ship - whoever the owner of that base is. When there are ship slots free and the Regular Queue starts cycling again, it will recall that last starbase and start cycling at the next starbase. The Queue visits only that number of starbases with queued ships every turn as there are ship slots free.

  • For host v3.22.005 and older see note (5).
  • For host v3.22.006 to v3.22.011 see note (8).
  • Rumours about the Ship Queue
    Before I'll give my ten tips of how to tackle the Ship Queue as described above I have to eliminate some rumours about the Ship Queue, rumours that keep popping up in the alt.games.vga-planets newsgroup.

    1. A rumour from the host docs: "Newly built ships are given a random ID number." This is true for phase 1. In phase 2 however the starbase with the lower ID still gets the ship with a lower ID.
    2. Replacing a ship in the queue by another ship won't affect the Ship Queue at all. It doesn't matter if you replace for example ship type A with type X lasers by ship type B or by ship type A with type Y lasers. The Ship Queue doesn't remember the ship type, but looks every time there are free ship slots for starbases with queued ships.
      (It does however matter for Phost. Read the Phost docs for more info.)
    3. The amount of PBPs you need to build a ship is not always calculated correctly. For example for a Fearless Wing Cruiser having an hull mass of 150 kT you should use 3 PBPs but you'll need 4 PBPs. (You'd better build Resolutes anyway.) This is fixed in host 3.22.006 and higher. (Not mentioned in the docs.)
    4. A rumour: "When a ship has been build at a starbase, next turn the Ship Queue will start on the next starbase with a higher ID." This is not true for host 3.22.005 and older. Due to a feature/bug in host.exe you will be allowed to build two ships on the same starbase in two turns in sequence (after the ship limit of course.) This has been fixed for host 3.22.006 and higher.
    5. Next rumour: It is said that when you've got enough PBPs you can clone and build a ship at the same starbase in the same turn. This can only happen before the ship limit. (I've explained cloning is almost impossible after the ship limit.) And you'll need more than 20 PBPs - if you don't have enough PBPs you will clone the ship and the build order will be postponed till a next turn. If you do have enough PBPs the ship will be build with priority first, so when the queue scans the starbases for ships to be cloned it will only find a queued clone.
    6. Building (lots of) ship parts won't affect the Ship Queue in any way.
    7. Refitting ships (by race 1 - the Federation) and Fixing ships won't affect the Ship Queue either. You can REFIT as many ships as you want any time.
    8. Not exactly a rumour but more a nasty glitch of Winplan: it's not always possible to cancel a build order and to withdraw the ship from the queue.. I don't know why, but the cancelled ship keeps popping up in the next turn. This is finally fixed for Winplan v3.52.003.
    9. There might be a bug in the techlevels you need for cloning ships. The docs state: "The starbases' tech levels must be equal to or greater than the ship being cloned."
      Well, not necessarely so..... Read this:
      I managed to clone a ship with Heavy Nova drives (== tech 6) on a Starbase with an engine tech level of 5. I didn't do this only once - I did it two times. Of course this was before the 500 ship limit.
      Host 3.2 beta 3J was used for this, but as Tim told me he didn't fix this bug, you could give it a try...Why not? Let me know if you succeed!

    Notes

    1. The Infolist is compiled by Eden Tan. Eden's homepage is not available anymore, his Infolist can be found here
    2. When you take a look at your messages you can see whether your ship is build in phase 1 or in phase 2...
      The sequence of messages is the same as the mission ordering:
      - host + player messages
      - configuration messages (from host) ...........
      - building of new ships (PHASE 1)
      - combat messages (long range scanners reporting explosions + battles won + battles lost)
      - planetary production (messages from planets about clans dying of extreme temperature)
      - building of new ships (PHASE 2)
      This sequence can easily be observed in DosPlan, Informer etc. In Winplan you'll have to look at the number of the message (in the upper right corner of the 'Read Messages' window).
    3. You can anticipate on the ship slots freed in Auxhost 2 in the next turn....
    4. Just like any other ships before the ship limit: in phase 1. Not in the same turn of course, but in a next.
    5. In host version 3.22.005 and older the Ship Queue tend to stick the same starbase when Priority Points are used. Often, but not always: When a starbase can't build a ship a turn (-), the Queue skips that base and continues to the next. Sometimes it could happen that a starbase with a lower ID puts a ship in the queue that unexpectedly gets built... Odd, very odd, but it happened...
    6. In a game using host 3.22.006 and older I have build about 55 ships in the 45 turns since we've hit the ship limit. I've got about 10 productive starbases. When the Ship Queue would function correctly this would give an average of about 5 newly built ships per starbase.. NOT! My starbase with the lowest ID has build 10 ships, the second to lowest 7 and all others are in the range of 3 to 5 new ships.
    7. I like to scare people, but I think you've already guessed that. :-)
    8. For host v3.22.006 to v3.22.010 - where there is no Priority Queue nor a Regular Queue, and priority ship builds still influence regular builds: When the Queue lets a player use his PBPs, that player will build a ship with priority on his next starbase as seen from the starbase that build the last ship. This will generally mean that the queue will skip bases of other players. When all PBP scores are below 21 and there are still ship slots free, the Queue will continue building free ships - starting at the last starbase that build a ship with priority. So when you don't have enough PBPs to build with priority, you'll end up with ships having relatively high IDs. (Of course this is depending on the IDs of the ships that are destroyed that turn.)

    In closing, I'd like to say.....
    Have you ever thought about the Queue? I mean like in: when you're playing offensive/aggressive you've got the advantage? If you win a confrontation with your enemy, you will get (his) low ID ship slots.

    The low ID ships, they are the best!
    They will: sweep enemy mines first (before your enemy can scoop them up) scoop your mines first (before your enemy can sweep them) gather minerals first tow enemy ships first even fight first (when they have the same FC as other ships at the same location).
    In short: the will do *everything* before all other ships, and that's a real advantage.... keep it in mind.


    Thanks to Sirius/Dr. Jan Klingele" (100441.3504@CompuServe.COM) for careful reading and pointing me at a few errors.


    Timo's Top Ten Tips
    Updated for the Queue of Host v3.22.011


    Personal note:
    Since v3.22.011 I can't think of a way to 'fool' the queue. The Ship Building Queue of host v3.22.011 and higher are therefore considered to be TIMO-PROOF, and it is generally believed (by me) that these new versions of host truely enhance 'fair-play'. :-)

    Nevertheless, if your host still persist in using older versions, there are still many things that can brighten up your miserable live. Read about the OK-system on this page for host versions v3.22.008 and older, or check out my special offer for host versions v3.22.009 and v3.22.010.

    1. Build lots of Starbases
    This is indispensable - see tip 2 and 3.
    Of course you will have to keep an eye on your resources: don't build too much starbases. You'll need some minerals for your large battleships, right? You will have to defend some starbases - building fighters, buying starbase defence.
    Don't buy all the techlevels to up to 10/10/10/10 on all your starbases. Use starbases with lesser resources only to build low tech (useful!) ships - like Fireclouds, Fearless Wings, D19b's, Emeralds. Only build ships with Transwarp engines.

    Take care to build your starbases on starbases spreaded out along the 500 ID's: don't build all your 15 starbases on planets with ID's between for example 200 and 300. If you do, you might have to wait a *long* time to build ships.... A constant supply of new ships is the best, right?

    2. Build lots of ships
    Use ALL your starbases to build ships BEFORE the 500 ship limit has been reached.
    Your main starbases will build decent (large) ships with high tech engines and beams/torps.
    However on all your other starbases you should be building crap ships: ships you can Colonise/Recycle when you need the PBPs. You don't have to spend money on beams, torps and high tech engines: a Small Deep Space Freighter with tech 1 engines will give you 1 PBP, same as for example a Super Star Frigate with tech 5 engines. (Every recycled/colonised ship will give you 1 PBP - no more, no less.)

    You even gain resources recycling SDSFs with tech 1 engines! See article "Reverse Alchemy" by Sirius in the fifth issue of the Planeteer!

    3. Use the Queue
    Try to build decent (== useful) ships on all your starbases after the ship limit had been hit.
    When in a battle for example 10 ships with a total hull mass of 2600 kT are destroyed by a player, this player might get about 26 PBP's. When these PBP's are used to build two large battleships - Nova's for example are 13 PBPs each - there are eight ship slots free for all those patient players with lots of starbases and lots of ships in the queue! You'll be very happy to build three free Gorbies in one turn without using PBP's!

    As a general rule: you will be able to build half the number of ships you destroyed in battle. The other half are for free ships in the queue....Use that other half to the max by putting lots of ships in the queue!

    Since host v3.22.011 every starbase will get to build a ship at some time. This ship is free, i.e. you won't use PBPs for it. So you might as well build Small Deep Space Freighters with tech 1 engines: you'll get the ship for free, and you will get 1 PBP when you recycle the ship. You could consider it as 'buying' PBPs - after the ship limit you've got enough minerals and MCs, but PBPs are rather scarce...

    4. Recycle old ships at the right moment
    Recycle your old starships only then when YOU are the one to fill an empty slot using your PBP's! Otherwise it's just like giving away shipslots.You will have to work (==fight) for them to get the slots back.

    All the same of course for crappy ships: colonise them with caution. Anyway there will be ship slots lost for you: you've build those crappy ships to be colonised/recycled by dozens, right?

    There is a distict difference between Recycling and Colonising with respect to Prioriy Points. When you're recycling ships you will get your points before the first build phase. This allows you to manipulate the queue: you can actually build up your PBP score to be sure you will build a ship in the first building phase. (Use the PB FCs.)

    Colonising happens after Movement, and you will get your priority points after Movement. As those points will be used in phase 2 after Combat, it doesn't let you guide your ship building as recycling does. Combat happens to yield a lot of priority points and ship slots.

    5. Supply your low ID Starbases better
    For host v3.22.006 and older: As I still think that your low ID starbases get to build more ships than your high ID ones (6), your main starbases with low ID's should have more resources: minerals and MC. More freighters, more supplylines etc.

    Why? Because you might get to build two or more tech 10 battleships in two or more succeeding turns on that low ID starbase, that's why! When you've got the resources ready waiting on the planet, you'll be able to put the next in the queue almost immediately.

    Don't forget a better defence: your enemy might know this too...

    When you've got a low ID HomeWorld (let's say with an ID between 1 and 150) you could consider yourself lucky. When you're not that lucky, start looking for a planet that's almost as good. (Temperature, Natives, Minerals etc.) At the moment you've got that starbase, don't start building starbases on planets with even lower ID's - and if you do, use them for defending that planet and not for building lots of ships. Unless those starbases have lots of resources.... you get the picture?

    6. Use cloakers for gathering PBPs
    Use your cloakers to destroy/capture small enemy vessels. This way you can gather PBP's bit by bit. Take out the easy preys: the freighters, the no-tube and the one-tube ships. Pick the ships that are defending your enemies starbases. The moneymakers (Lady Royale). The fighterbuilders (Gemini, Q-Tanker, Sagittarius). Find and destroy his crap ships. Or capture them and colonise them on your own planets (=captured enemy planets).
    Use cloakers with a couple of high tech tubes and beams to destroy enemy Merlins and Refinery Ships: those are 10 and 8 point ships, and darned usefull to your enemy! And to you in a different way.....
    You will force your enemy to use his ship slots for replacements for his destroyed ships, preventing him from building large ships. You will get yourself PBP's and the empty ship slots. What more do you want?

    7. Predict the Ship Limit
    Be prepared to hit the 500 ship limit. KNOW WHEN it's going to happen. When you're using Winplan with unblanked scores life will be quite easy: Winplan will calculate the number of ships in the game. When you're using the DOS version you will have to make a small calculation now and then.

    There is a small technique that will work for host version 3.22.002 and lower: look at the ID number of the ships you've build last turn. When the highest ID comes near 485, 490 you will hit the ship limit almost for sure next turn.

    Know how many operational starbases (== starbases capable of building ships) there are in the game by calculating the number of ships that are build every turn. Knowing this makes it easier to predict when the ship limit will be reached.

    When you know when the game will hit the ship limit, you can adjust your ship building strategy. For example you might want to clone a particular ship a couple of times - after the 500 ship limit cloning will be very hard to do.

    8. Get PBPs before the Ship Limit
    Another important thing: make sure you've got PBP's when the game hits the ship limit! About 15 to 20 will do the job. This makes sure you will continue building ships in the first turns right after the limit!
    You could _wait_ for the Regular Queue to deliver you a free ship, but when there are many starbases in the game, and you're not a majority shareholder you'd better take some action.
    When you've killed just a couple of enemy ships before the 500 ship limit and you've gathered a mere 6 PBP's, you're in a very bad position when compared to other players who are at 16 or 18 points. You will have to fly to your enemy and kill a lot of ships before you can build a ship again.
    This means that your bad logistics will postpone your new ships maybe for more than four turns. You will lose ships that won't be replaced until you've got enough PBP's. Bad, very bad. You will have to hunt for enemy ships for PBP's postponing your new ships for more turns. In the meantime your enemies might build lots and lots of ships.... Nice, large ones.... Bad, very bad... for you!
    So get those 20 PBP before the ship limit!

    9. Keep track of the Queue
    Use a spreadsheet to keep track of the starbases which have built a ship. Write down the starbase ID, the ship ID. Make a note of the building phase the ship has been built in. Keep track of your total PBP score, the PBP's you've received by killing/capturing/recycling/colonising ships and the PBP's you've used for building of ships. (My self-written util TYRANNY does this for me!) Try to figure out which ships were built using PBP's and which ones are simply build in the queue. Why? This sure means a lot of work... Well, because it can give you a variety of information:

    Enemy starbases:
    When you keep track of the number of capital ships and freighters per race, their number of PBPs and all explosions etc. you could pinpoint enemy starbases just like that. Keep track of all ships that are destroyed that turn, compare those with the ship you just build and figure out what ship IDs are missing. Next step: try to track the enemy starbase that build that ship having the missing ID.

    Enemy shiptypes:
    When you keep track of the PBPs of you opponents and the number of new ships he/she build, you'll also be able to make a good guess of what ships were built.

    Also:
    When you have cloakers and you see for example a low mass Nova called "NOVA CLASS SUPER-DRE" all in capitals orbiting a Federation starbase, you know for sure the shipqueue just passed this starbase. Take a look of the ID of the ship and the starbase and figure out whether the Fed player used PBP's for this ship or not and wheter this is one of his low-ID starbases... (Off-topic: don't forget to try to calculate the beamtype/torptype!)
    Or share this kind of ship queue information with your ally. Two know a lot more than one! Just a thought. Use it with caution - don't spoil the fun of your former ally of discovering where your starbases really are. :-)

    10. Give up
    Don't play in the same game as me. Give up. Get yourself another game. Otherwise you will lose anyway, you're just making it a little more difficult for me to win. Read my lips: difficult, not impossible. You really don't want to play against me, you really don't. Unless you like losing... Perhaps then....
    You really want to play against someone who could think of all this? I don't think so, I really don't. And there is even more I won't tell you. Give up in advance. Please, don't even try to beat me. Don't make yourself ridiculous.
    I will give you the last tip, tip#10: play in a game of a pay-to-play host. That's all. Why? Because I won't play a pay-to-play game. Never. It will never cross my mind, I won't even think of it, so you'll be safe from me then! Go for safety and real player-satisfaction: get yourself a pay-to-play host, so you will have a chance to win and you won't have to beat me! :-) (7)

    11. Tip #11 - The OK System

    This awesome tactic is only valid for host 3.22.008 and older. Tim fixed this loophole in host version 3.22.009. Well, Tim called it a loophole - I called it the OK system! Here's the deal:

    1. Based on the fact that you get 1 PBP for every ship you capture, you can setup an enormous PBP producing system: the OK system!
    2. All you need is:
      A. two ships with X-ray lasers (one for you and one for your ally) and
      B. a bunch of outdated freighters.
    3. Put the two capital ships 1 turn flying from each other - for example in orbit of two planets.
    4. You let your freighters fly from one planet to the other to be captured by the ship of your ally, and your ally sends them back the next turn.

    That's about it. For every freighter you capture you get 1 PBP. So if you've got for example an OK system with 10 freighters flying in two groups of 5 ships each, each participating player will get 5 free PBPs every turn. You are guaranteed to have a PBP boost every turn right in time for the second build phase. Nice touch eh?

    Additional

    • Your ally doesn't need to be your neighbour - a simple HYP probe with X-ray lasers can do the job.
    • The freighters will eventually get too damaged and won't fly the full distance any more if you don't repair them. When one of the two planets has a starbase you can fix a freighter a turn. Even a simple low-defence-everything-tech-one starbase is enough.
    • Group the freighters in equal groups to avoid fluctuating scores - your opponents might get suspicious when they see the number of your freighters go up by ten at the same time your allies go down by ten and vice versa.
    • Keep the OK system far from the front to avoid detection and destruction by marauding (cloaking) enemy ships.

    Counter Actions
    If you suspect your opponents to use the OK system, you could do two things:

    1. Setup your own OK system with your ally to nullify their PBP advantage.
      This sure it the best option. It will end up in a race for points, but it is also very simple to use. However it takes some time to get the entire system to work.
    2. Search and destroy their system.
      This may take some time, but once the freighters are destroyed it will take your opponents a lot of time if they want to re-setup the system. Use cloakers to find the freighters. When you endanger your opponents OK system by attacking a planet nearby, you will see a great number of freighters fleeing in groups - you've found it!

    Ethics
    As some people will call this OK system as I've described a dirty tactic, I thought it is time for some general considerations.

    1. All rules of VGA-Planets are hardcoded in host.exe and in the client application (WinPlan, DosPlan). So if you play by those rules you can't cheat - other than by messing up the datafiles. As the OK system follows the rules in host.exe it doesn't cheat.
    2. The OK system doesn't make use of some kind of 'hidden' or 'secret' feature of host.exe. The fact that you get a PBP for every captured ship might not be mentioned in the docs but you can find out yourself (as I did!) simply by looking at your PBP score, or you could have read it in VGAP FAQs or at VGAP WWW sites like my own site. (I've mentioned the fact since the very first time I put an article about the Queue on my site.)
      Anyway everybody knows Tims docs suck - blame him if you didn't knew, or you might as well blame yourself for not careful reading this site/the newsgroup/the FAQs.
    3. Every player or race can use this tactic - the OK system. There are no limits whatsoever to the user with respect to his race abilities, the version of his client application or whatever. The only limit is his own imagination - as long as the implemented rules are obeyed.
    4. Once such an OK system is in use, it can easily be destroyed by any other player in that game using one or both of the straightforward methods I've described above. The whole difference is that you can play this game on different levels - the whole depends of how well you know the game. There is a quite distinct difference between for example a player that does only know his own race abilities and a player that knows all race abilities by heart. The latter player is better equipped with information than the first and is better capable to deal with new situations. Imagine the difference between that first player and someone that knows all ins and outs of the game, the exact mission ordering and most of the ship stats...someone like me.

    Recall the possibility for the Robots to lay 4x the number of mines in another race's identity - the other race could scoop up 4x the number of torps the Robots laid. You could consider this a bug by saying only the Robots (and his ally) could benefit from this strategy. Or you can claim it's a hidden race ability.
    Anyway this possibility was general considered to be a bug and Tim fixed it a long time ago. I can't even recall in with host version (3.14? 3.21?).

    As the OK system can be used by everybody I didn't consider it to be a bug. Tim however considered the OK system to be a loophole and fixed it in host 3.22.009. A difference of opinion - well, it wasn't really the first and I think it won't be the last.

    12. Special Offer....
    There is again a marvelous strategy I'm holding back. This one is even better than the 'OK system' - I really couldn't imagine there was such a thing at the time I was implementing the OK system but there is (now)! And you thought the OK system was dirty... Haha, you should better go and hide yourself! :-)
    I'll put it here when the time is there.... It's just so hot it could melt the phosphor right of your monitor! :-)

    If you're interested in a strategy that gives you free ships from the queue, you might try to persuade me to reveil you the secrets of this strategy. I have to admit that long before I've put all this right here I've traded the secrets of the OK system to a couple of very persuading people - people that offered me something: I've traded the knowledge of the entire OK system for some very nice pieces of information....something new, something that beautiful it caught my eye...

    Good luck - you know where to find me :-)


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