VGA Planets Super Site

Ruling through fear
The definitive strategy guide to playing the Empire

Version 1.02, Last edited July 5, 2000
Additional editing October 3rd, 2002 by Maurits van Rees

By Sharkman, the Dark Lord


1. Summary of Empire advantages and abilities
2. The Imperial Dilemma
3. What do the Empire's advantages really mean?
4. Overcoming the dilemma : two heads are better than one
5. The Starbase Paradox
6. Phaser diplomacy and the full circle
7. Deception, probes and the early game
8. Starbases and the Imperial ship building program
9. Ruling through fear (and deception) - how to realise the Imperial power
10. Befriending the aliens
11. Eradicating the terrorists and insurgents
12. The Empire - a "good" race or a "bad" race?
End note

Before I begin I would like, if I may, to start with a disclaimer of sorts. Strategy guides are really nothing more than an collection of the opinions and ideas of one guy (or gal, if any of them write this kind of thing... or two guys, or however many guys that it took to write it). These opinions are formed as a result of the writer's exposure to game and battle experience, combined with his natural attitude towards various things and whoever's strategy guides out there on the net that he might read. Depending on the first two factors, he may believe everything the guide says. Or, the stuff he reads might cause him to stop, think about it a bit more then adjust his views... or he might treat whatever he reads with a healthy dose of doubt and skepticism. That is how I want you to treat what I am about to write here. Read it, think about it, then decide whether you're going to accept it, discuss it, dispute it, or ignore it.

Note : Most race-specific strategy guides on the net begin with an overview of that race's ship designs. You will _not_ find such a section in this guide, as I have a separate page which reviews and analyses the Imperial fleet. Therefore you should read the Imperial Fleet Review before reading this strategy guide.

1  Summary of Empire advantages and abilities

(taken from VGA Planets help file)

The Evil Empire (auth. note : we are not Evil! Kindly refer to us as the Galactic Empire - we don't spread Evil throughout the galaxy, we seek to restore peace and order to make it a safer place for all citizens!) depends heavily on fighters for attacking enemies. They have only one ship type that can launch torpedoes. Most of the Empire's ships are very large and expensive. The Empire's battle carrier is the largest and most heavily armored fighter carrier in the universe it has 10 beam weapon banks, which is most impressive for a carrier.

The captains of all ships in the Evil (ahem, Galactic) Empire can use the "Dark Sense" to detect enemy colonists living on planets within a configured range. The "Dark Sense" is never wrong! Nothing can hide a planet from the power of the "Dark Sense."

They can build the Super Star Destroyer assault ship that can take over enemy planets just by dropping 10 clans onto the planet.

The Empire's advantages:

  • Build free fighters at each starbase, host sets the number of fighters that will be built per base. Fighter construction still requires the standard 3 tritanium and 2 molybdenum.
  • Dark Sense ship mission, allows the all-seeing Emperor to know who is living on all the planets within range and what kinds of resources they have on the planet. There is no way of avoiding the Eye of Palpatine!
  • PL21 Probe, a HYP capable ship which is very useful for extended range colonisation and information gathering, especially early in the game.
  • Super Star Destroyer, the Imperial Assault ship. Can drop 10 clans on an enemy planet and completely overrun it, starbase included, if the Star Destroyer is not damaged.
  • Can clone captured enemy ships (for 2x the MC cost and equivalent minerals. Tech levels at cloning starbase must be at least the levels used on the cloned ship.

2  The Imperial Dilemma

At first glance one might look at the Empire fleet and say hmmm, look at all that power in there, this must be a get out and bash everything down kind of race. The Imperial Commander who does that, more often than not loses quite quickly. You have to be patient and build up your forces slowly as the Empire. Compare them to the Psilons, for those of you that have played Master of Orion 2. To attack early would be foolish, you must slowly amass your strength and do your best to fend off whatever gets thrown your way while you're powering up.

One cannot draw similarities between the Empire and the 3 true fighter races (Cylons, Rebels and Colonials). On the one side, the Cylons in particular are the most unsophisticated, low subtlety, raw power race you will ever see - just load up your carriers and blow up anything that moves. Hardly any economic management or logistic skills whatsoever are required to play this race - their ships are cheap, heavy and pack quite a wallop (not that these are bad characteristics - these are exactly the reasons why I really enjoy playing the Cylons!) The Empire is not like that, the Empire is a race where you must plan carefully and consider the costs - both economic and strategic costs - and possible outcomes of your actions. Your intelligence reports provide the tools necessary for careful planning, so do it!

The early "SSD rush" is more a myth than a reality. There are some stories around of how Empire commanders have pulled this one off. The basics of the SSD rush include - PL21 probe out quickly, perhaps two of them, HYPer out to either side to sniff out the homeworld of your closest neighbour, then a hastily assembled Super Star Destroyer, with the best beams one can afford at this early stage, probably Positrons or Heavy Blasters, load on all the fighters your homeworld base has built (usually about 40 - enough so that you can take out any cheap low level warships your enemy has built) fill the remaining space with clans, and jet it out towards the enemy homeworld, planethopping as much as possible. As mentioned earlier, more a myth than reality. You will not pull this off against an experienced player, period. And if you can't pull this off, then you can't attack early, because almost all the other races, okay make that all the other races except the Borgs develop faster than Empire.

The Imperial dilemma relates to the strategic predicament of the Empire. You can't attack early because you're slow developing. That means a wise opponent will force the war to be fought in your backyard. You are more efficient on defence, since that means shorter fighter supply lines, but that means that enemy raiders can disrupt your freighters and again, the war is in your backyard. You'd like to have the "z The Imperial dilemma relates to the strategic predicament of the Empire. You can't attack early because you're slow developing. That means a wise opponent will force the war to be fought in your backyard. You are more efficient on defence, since that means shorter fighter supply lines, but that means that enemy raiders can disrupt your freighters and again, the war is in your backyard. You'd like to have the "zillions of 200/60 bases" defence strategy, but unfortunately that too is largely unavailable because fighters are scarce and they are all needed on board your carriers.

Possible solutions to this dilemma later. In the meantime, having provided a rather grim overview of the Empire's situation, we'll first discuss the racial advantages the Empire is given.

3  What do the Empire's advantages really mean?

Free starbase fighters
This is actually more a disadvantage than an advantage. Why? After all, according to Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson, "the best things in life are free" :-) Well it's a disadvantage because it's such a poor substitute for the build fighters in space special ability that the other carrier races have. As Empire, you'll never have enough fighters, and you certainly won't have more than the true fighter races, at least, not until you start hammering them into spacedust. But the main handicap is often a psychological one. The fact that you are receiving five free fighters at each of your bases every turn makes most novice Empire commanders loath to spend any cash at all on extra fighters. This is a huge mistake. I have seen Empire players with huge wads of cash lying around, yet not buying fighters because "in a few turns I'll have them all for free and save the credits". Those that think that way often fail to realise this - in a few turns, if the base is burned to rubble you won't have them at all! Experienced Empire commanders are always aware of the option of paying for the fighters if they are needed. It's not pleasant, but it's a fact of life as an Imperial. They're expensive at 100 MC a pop, but you need them. Besides, the Borgs have to pay 100 MC for each fighter on their biocides, and they have to use biocides because annihilations simply lack the punch needed in the late game. You're just getting a paltry amount for free at your bases to compensate, albeit poorly, for the Borgs economic advantage. If you desperately need to equip your warships and an attack is impending, BUY THE FIGHTERS! Not many things give you a more sinking feeling than losing a battle you would have won if you had not ran out of fighters in the middle of it! And I know that from first hand experience! I have long been a supporter of the notion that the Empire does not get enough fighters to be competitive, so as a result in all games hosted here at the Sharkman Empire, the Empire will get 10 free fighters a turn.

Dark Sense ship mission
It's not the greatest special ability going around in the game at the moment, but it will have to do. It fits in well with the Empire mentality and the Imperial Assault capability of the Super Star Destroyer. Pity it can't detect cloaked ships or ships in orbit. But nevertheless, you can put it to good use, aiding your allies in determining the location of key enemy worlds, and assisting you identify which planets are rich and which ones are not worth fighting over. Plus you gain the locations of enemy starbases, which helps you to plan for Super Star Destroyer terror missions. See the Imperial Fleet Review sections on the PL21 probe and Super Star Destroyer for more tactical info sections on the PL21 probe and Super Star Destroyer for more tactical information.

Note : dark sense occurs before movement, so don't expect to zip out and immediately gather intel on all your enemy's worlds. And don't hang around either once you do land in the thick of his planets, hyper straight back home. Also remember that if you don't detect anything, it may mean that either no one has colonised the area (you'll only detect owned planets) or that the REBELS are present!

PL21 probe HYPerjumping ship
A ship advantage, not a racial advantage, but it is still an ability your race has. This ship is a long range dark sensing tool. It compares poorly to the Rebels' Falcon for colonising, but nevertheless you can use it to drop 1 clan on planets all over the galaxy to act as listening outposts, then suck up all the fuel on the planet and move on. Makes colonising the area a pain for the enemy because his colonising LDSFs (not all players use these as their initial coloniser, but most do) have no fuel on the planet's surface to beam up, and sometimes they might have to head back home to get some more! With 180 KT fuel tank capacity, the probe can suck up all the surface fuel on most planets. It's also useful for constantly gathering up to date intelligence on enemies without the fear of being intercepted and destroyed, although this becomes costly in fuel after a while. Again, see the Imperial Fleet Review for tactical use of this ship.

Super Star Destroyer
Another ship advantage, but generally only the Privs and Crystals will be able to capture one off you, while anyone can take a stray probe. This is the key terror weapon of the Empire and is quite possibly your biggest advantage. The Privs and Crystals may be able to capture one or two off you, but you are the only one that can build them, so you will have many, whilst they usually won't. This gives you more options: you can keep the enemy guessing, use one or two as distractions, or if you have the forces, use a fork - not the 4-pronged variety that you might use to prod the enemy with should he be seated next to you, but the chess variety where you attack many vital points, too many for the enemy to deal with all at once.

Cloning ships ability
This is more a handicap for the Privs and Crystals (they cannot clone) rather than an advantage for you, but the strategy guides of another VGA Planets website, I can't remember which one, mentions this in the Empire summary so I have included it here for the sake of completeness. You won't get to use it much unless you find an ally early or you join a game with a friend, because you can only clone before the ship limit is reached, and in games with veteran players in a reasonably mineral rich universe it is reached really fast, around turn 20-25. Considering the time it takes to set up the alliance, arrange a trade of ships and actually get the ship to be cloned to a capable starbase, you'll be lucky to get out even a couple of clones. So, not something you'll be using too often.

4  Overcoming the dilemma : two heads are better than one

Having acknowledged our natural disadvantages, especially when compared to the true fighter races, it is time to take the first steps towards galactic domination. Being innate handicaps, it is extremely difficult to overcome such disadvantages by oneself, therefore, the solution is diplomacy. But don't just simply offer a Super Star Destroyer for friendship, you'll have to approach diplomacy more thoughtfully (you wouldn't be giving away SSDs at all anyway, unless you are in a really close alliance). That doesn't leave much, but you have to be persuasive. Convince your diplomatic target of how useful dark sense could be to their current position. Ideally, you would be trying to talk to not your neighbours, but your neighbours' neighbours. That way, if you're lucky, or charismatic, or both, you might get them to invade the guy next to you, giving you room to expand later, and taking the immediate heat off you.

Don't wait until diplomatic discussions proceed, OFFER him a sample of dark sense information (you should really have a fair bit of intel fairly early on). And do not ask anything in return, but make it clear that it is a sign of goodwill. Generally it would be foolish to reveal the location of your mutual neighbour's homeworld straight away, that would severely put a damper on your relations with that empire for the rest of the game and restrict your options. Instead offer something like - "As you know, during our travels through the galaxy we have acquired certain top level information. For example, did you know that Ursa Beta has over 10,000 moly?" or "There is a certain matter disconcerting for Imperial strategists at the moment. We have detected 25,000 MC on the Lizard planet Ikaal, which in time could surely be spent creating a formidable fleet." I have found in my experience that such initial dialogue works pretty well. You wouldn't come out and say these first thing, you'd greet the intended diplomatic target first, and do the starfaring-diplomacy-equivalent of small talk initially, just to see their reaction, testing the waters so to speak.

On the subject of Super Star Destroyers - don't offer it yourself, wait for him to ask for it. And when he does, do not be so quick to dismiss his requests. Some ships ARE worth trading an SSD for - the best examples include the Loki, the Firecloud (make sure you can clone it or at least trade for a couple, one by itself is totally useless!) and the MBR. Best to trade them after or close to the ship limit, when you can be sure that he cannot get any more SSDs. Just make sure that your trading partner can be trusted! So sign a full alliance before agreeing to trade ships, or at the very least, a non-aggression treaty with a possibility to attack a mutual enemy if the need arose.

A few notes on the MBR - it may not be so obvious as to why this ship is so valuable to you. Cloaking - cool, gravitronic accelerators, they're also cool. But put them together and it gives you another option in combat. You can use this ship to cloak, head for an enemy battle fleet, and tow away a single target, let's say an Annihilation, since the only times I have pulled this off was when I was fighting the Borgs. You can tow it greater than 81 ly with the MBR, so that it is surely cut off from the rest of the fleet. Then you can either gang up on it, if it's too strong to take down with one ship (eg. Biocides) or just destroy it outright without fear of having to fight again (eg. Annihilations). So if you tow away an Annihilation, you can simply tow it to a lone Gorbie and rid yourself of this menace with only minor damage to the Gorbie. If you had fought it the usual way, the Gorbie would have likely died to the Biocide which was following the Annihilation.

Let's say for example you are facing a fleet of 6 Biocides (a fleet that was thrown at me a few games ago by the Borgs) it still works, simply tow one biocide to a SS Cruiser/Gorbie combo, taking precautions to try and force the SS Crui Let's say for example you are facing a fleet of 6 Biocides (a fleet that was thrown at me a few games ago by the Borgs) it still works, simply tow one biocide to a SS Cruiser/Gorbie combo, taking precautions to try and force the SS Cruiser to fight from the right, and the Gorbie from the left. You would not want to put just one Gorbie against it, because there is a significant chance the Bio will win. Even if you have a 2nd Gorbie following the first one, and it destroys the Bio, the aim is not to force an exchange of ships like 1 Gorbie for 1 Bio. The objective here is to force a FAVOURABLE exchange of ships, like 1 SS Cruiser for 1 Bio, which will almost certainly occur if you follow the above advice. The SS Cruiser will seriously deplete the fighters on the Bio, since it has 8 beams and a decent number of bays, and the Bio won't have enough to fight the Gorbie. It may even have been damaged a bit by the SS Cruiser. And I have seldom seen the Borgs put more than 130 fighters on their Bio's, since they have to pay 100 MC for each one. True they have a huge economy, but we're talking 13000 MC per ship here! In this particular game, I was actually playing the Cylons, not the Empire, but I was able to wipe out the Biocides for the very reasonable cost of one Instru sacrificed for each Bio killed, using Instru-Golem combo's on each one. Better to target, tow away and destroy the Fireclouds if they are seen with the fleet, however this Borg was quite shrewd and chunnelled to a point slightly behind the front lines, keeping his Fireclouds out of range. If you notice some ships travelling at warp 9 and some going at warp 0, it goes without saying, tow away the ones going at warp 9, so you can maroon the warp 0 "sacrificial lambs!"

Be aware that this tactic isn't viable against only cubes. You can use it to tow away the key ships in those annoying grand "destroy the Gorbie" plans your enemy is devising - in particular, for towing away pesky Kittyhawks, Madonzilas, Crystal Thunders etc. from the rest of the battle group and destroying those with a single Gorbie (1 Gorbie will win every time against Kittys and Madonzilas, and only very rarely loses to a Thunder). If the Gorbie is on the left, the enemy's chance of winning is basically nil.

Another important use of a cloak ship is in conjunction with your Super Star Destroyer. Have the cloaker travel along with the SSD, obviously remaining cloaked. Pick an enemy starbase and fly the SSD towards it (watch for mines - it may be better to TOW the cloak ship with the SSD so it will not be hit and hence lose its cloak capability). Make sure the SSD runs out of fuel when it gets to the starbase - for this reason you may want to set the waypoint slightly beyond the planet (but still within the warpwell) to ensure that it does. Next turn, transfer fuel to your SSD from the cloaker, drop your 10 clans and get the hell outta there! This is sure to cause infinite frustration to your opponent. Before you ask "what if he's got his base on force surrender?" don't worry - base surrender occurs long before movement in the host sequence so the SSD will never surrender to the base.

You might be thinking, well why all this discussion when I don't even have the MBR in my fleet and I won't be able to get any of them in most games. That is true, it is difficult to secure a trade for an MBR especially since the pirates can take you out pretty easily. But for one thing, it's a tactic your ENEMY might use to try and dispose of your Gorbies without suffering grievious losses! (watch out for Lizards, who will tow Gorbies away to T-Rex/Madonzila/T-Rex or T-Rex/T-Rex/Madonzila combos). And for another thing, the only sure way you miss out on trading is if you believe you cannot secure any ship trades. Intel intel INTEL! Do not under-estimate dark sense. As I said right at the beginning of this section, it isn't the greatest special ability going round, but it is still useful. I have gotten MBRs, Lokis, Fearless Wings, Falcons, even a couple of Tranquilities in games of the past, and this is in intermediate/experienced games too, all done through diplomacy! (although I did have to trade medium sized carriers for them in some cases)

Finally, let me say this. Diplomacy is an art. No one can be perfect at it. I am not willing to say that I am a good diplomat, because I am not one. But I have got results. There are other aspects to diplomacy than flowery words (which is just as well because I don't know very many flowery words anyway, let alone how to use them). But for now, we will move on to discuss starbases, the Empire's starbase paradox and the Imperial ship building program, and then see how this ties in with diplomacy.

5  The starbase paradox

Okay, I know you're curious about this "starbase paradox" since for one, it sounds weird and you've never heard it before (I'm sure you've never heard it before, because I know it's not written anywhere else - I invented the term!) so it goes as follows. The penalty, or cost, of not building a starbase is 500 MC a turn. Pretty straightforward - if you don't build the base, you don't get the free fighters, so in order to get the 5 fighters that the base would have built, you have to pay 500 MC somewhere else. The second part of the paradox is this - if you do build the base, it is only worth 25 supplies a turn. This is also straightforward - that's what the 3 true fighter races have to pay for 5 fighters. You get the fighters without paying the supplies, and it costs the same minerals for everyone. In this regard, the Empire must be compared to the fighter races, because you've only got one torpedo ship, and it's a lousy one at that, and you do rely on fighters to do most of the damage like them, so the comparison has to be drawn.

Now the third part of the starbase paradox is the opportunity cost of building the base, that is, for those of you that are unfamiliar with economics, what the resources that went into building the base could have been spent on. This opportunity cost is somewhere between 1/2 to 3/4 of a Gorbie. In 2 words - pretty steep. So if one analyses this paradox, one arrives at the theory that if the Empire builds a base, it forgoes 1/2 to 3/4 of a Gorbie, and it only gains what could be made by 25 factories in return (discounting the ship building and repair facilities of the base for the moment). Yet if the Empire does not build the base, it is losing 500 MC a turn, which require a decent amount of natives with a decent government type to produce! This means basically you are lost if you don't have a good amount of bases and if you do have a lot of bases, you have been ripped off! It is this alone that makes the Empire a difficult, and often frustrating race to command.

6  Phaser diplomacy and the full circle

In view of the starbase paradox, what to do? This is even worse than I thought, you might say. It sounds bad, but once again diplomacy is the solution. It turns out to be a neat circle. Diplomacy helps your starbase and ship building program, and the starbase and ship building enhances your diplomacy. In the first case, diplomacy gives you a friendly face or at least a non-hostile presence out there in the galaxy, which helps to provide the room needed to expand and grow your Empire. In return, having a high starbase count and warship count helps with an aspect of diplomacy, considered as a derivative of phaser diplomacy - not many players will have the guts to go after the guy who's way above them, and quite possibly, above everybody else, at the top of the scorechart.

The key here is deception, and you have the advantage of secrecy on your side. Unless special utilities or tracking addons are being used, the enemy does not know the tech levels of your bases or what kinds of warships you have, he only knows HOW MANY. If he is experienced, he does know that the Empire naturally needs a lot of bases to produce fighters, but he will be hesitant to assume they're all useless bases designed purely to make fighters (instead, he'll assume they're useless bases designed purely to make probes! :-) ...just kidding). Your task is to put more doubt in the minds of your opponents (not necessrily enemies at this stage). You have to make them think - hmmm he does have a lot of bases, and look at all those warships - they're probably mostly probes, but what if... what if he's got quite a few heavies there, boy I'd get thumped if I tried attacking those... The best way to achieve this is by having lots of planets. Players will figure - the more planets, a bigger economic base, therefore potentially more resources, hence the funds needed to build and maintain a large fleet. This objective is more easily achieved if you're dealing with someone who's not an immediate neighbour, as he's in no position to attack or judge your fleet, so he has to take it at face value. If you're targetting an immediate neighbour, perhaps a few "show of power" wargames are in order - not too threatening though, even the simple tactic of flying an SS Cruiser or Carrier along with your LDSFs may work. He might think - "Wow if he can afford to spare major warships for escorting freighters, he must have a pretty big fleet" but he might also think - "There must be something valuable on that freighter, I'd better watch where it goes".

The Empire usually has many bases and many warships due to the probes, so it is the perfect race to try this method of diplomacy. Apart from my first game as the Empire, which was my very first game of VGA Planets, I have usually had more bases than anyone else in the game from an early stage, and kept that lead for most if not all of the game. And these weren't "pick on newbies" games either - these are games where most players were veterans with at least 5-15 games experience! The reason for this success? The "full-circle" that I described above, plus judicious diplomacy, nothing more! Even in the most recent game that I joined as Empire, which is still active at the time of writing (hope none of the other players in that game are reading this article!) I have more bases than anyone, and I involuntarily gave everyone else a 5 turn head start since by the time I heard about the game and decided to join, it was already in turn 6! This DOES NOT always mean I have the biggest fleet, by the way.

In one now completed game, I thought I was doing well as we approached the end-game phase around turn 60-65. I had about 25-30 Gorbies, plus about 70 other warships which were made up of a variety of SS Frigates, Carriers, Destroyers and Cruisers, and of course quite a few PL21s, 90-odd planets, 50-something bases. Then there was this rampaging Colonial who was in all probability a far greater player than I am, I found he had about 50-60 Virgoes, yet was well below me on the default scorechart. I thought: ah crap, I'm really dead now. But again, in this time of peril, I turned to diplomacy for the answer, and allied with the Borgs to form the most evil of coalitions (Evil to everyone else, but not to us!), they were able to contribute about 20 assorted cubes to the war effort against the Colonials.

7  Deception, probes and the early game

The problem for the enemy boils down to this; he is thinking - does the Empire have probes, or does he have big warships? And if so, how many fighters on them? To influence his thoughts a little, you should send out probes at the beginning of the game, but don't let him see too many. Maybe one or two, in deep space, in his empire, is enough. Send the others out in another direction, or in the same direction but HYPing right onto the planet. This is done by selecting a target planet, then drawing a 350 ly circle around it using the Starchart HYP function. Then move your probe in the normal manner onto the closest point on that circle, and HYP the next turn. Early in the game, chances are, it's unowned, and no one will see it. So you can beam down your 1 clan, scoop up the fuel and move on. Through your neighbour's area, through his neighbour's area, and right across the galaxy. Since each opponent only sees one or two probes, he will assume most of your ships are warships, because it is too dangerous to under estimate a potential enemy. In addition, you are dropping annoying 1 clan "listening outposts" everywhere. Not only do these let you see what the enemy is getting up to, they are also a pain to track down and eliminate! I've had outposts that I planted in some obscure region all the way on the opposite side of the galaxy to my main area still remain standing by turn 50! (and still with only 1 Imperial clan on them!)

Your aim in these early stages is to stabilise, grow and start diplomacy. Resist the urge to come out slugging. You are not an early attack race. Try to expand rapidly but carefully, and be peaceful and amicable in diplomacy. Don't make too many aggressive moves; just mind your own business and focus on your economy. The others WILL fight, don't think that all of them are also expanding with gay abandon (on second thoughts strike that word, (on second thoughts strike that word, in this day and age people get heckled all too often when they use it!) . In all of my games, I have always heard explosions by turn 10 or at the very latest by turn 15-20. Besides, so what if they grow their economies and don't fight, apart from the Borgs you are the race that benefits the most from time in peace anyway, and others, such as the Lizards, get significantly weaker the later in the game it is.

The freighter of choice here is the LDSF. Common opinion says that this is the best all round freighter, decent cargo, low enough dead weight, without putting too many eggs in one basket a la the Super Transport freighter. I fall in with common opinion on this subject. I am not going to explain the principles of economy and expansion here, that will be in the Initiate's Chamber section of this website, when I get around to writing it, and there are also numerous other guides written on economic development out there on the net. But in brief, you want to prioritise good native planets, and planets with decent amounts of molybdenum, so send initial probes exploring the fringes of your empire (~350 ly from the core) to survey all the planets within range. After surveying a certain sector, beam up fuel and HYPer out even further, into neutral territory or territory of other races (>700 ly from the core) and continue your probe exploration and founding even more listening outposts. Build and send out new probes from the core to the areas along the 350 ly circle that you have not explored yet. Direct LDSFs to the high priority planets as described above - that's the best way to develop your economy as fast as possible. Depending on circumstances and your neighbours, you may want a warship escort for the LDSFs. Just because you can't spare the fighters does not mean you can't use a warship escort - enemies will most likely account for fighters, and if they don't have anything strong enough to tackle say a SS Carrier (the escort you'll probably be using early in the game) then they won't go after it. The SS Carrier is quite a decent ship early on, in that it is heavy and powerful enough to swat aside the early built patrol ships and destroyer class ships of your enemies. Then again, he might call your bluff and blast the Carrier - don't sue me if you lose a warship (and a freighter) trying to pull this stunt, you were warned!

Finally, just a comment on the effect of dropping all those 1 clan listening outposts. Again, secrecy is your best friend. The enemy does not know where your planets are or how well developed they are (assuming standard scoring only is used). He only knows HOW MANY you have. This assists you in diplomacy and gives you more options with regard to making claims and show of strength. You wouldn't take a guy seriously if he only had 25 planets, but if he has say 60, 80 or even more by the time you only have 35, you are more likely to assume that it is true he has the industrial base necessary to support a large empire, so you'd be more inclined to take his words at face value. This factor will help you achieve the strategic objectives that I have set out above. Well... not always, if the enemy is a veteran, or maybe if he's read this article, he might be aware that a lot of your planets could be simple outposts. BUT!!! He cannot be 100% sure. The uncertainty is still there - this doubt in the enemy's mind would not be present if you only had 40 planets! You'll probably lose a lot of these as the game proceeds, but it's too late for the enemy, they have done their job - they have cast doubts in the enemy's mind over how powerful you really are and have temporarily bloated your score, buying you a few critical turns in which to build extra fighters and ships!

Another possible effect of this is that you may bluff too well. To clarify : the said enemy empire will notice your very high planet, starbase and warship count and perceive you as such a great threat he may seek a co-operation with another race in order to combat the apparent might of the Empire. At first this sounds like a dire situation for you, but it is not all that bad. He could have been attacking you, but instead during that time he has been battling with his own indecision and trying to work on convincing another race of the threat the Empire poses. Because he is doing these things and is not seriously attacking you, this gives you the breathing space you need to kick off your economy and become a real powerhouse. When the eventual combined attack starts, you may be taken by surprise, but keep your composure and once again, if it's too tough to handle, turn to diplomacy. Explain your situation to a third race (and perhaps, a fourth and fifth) that are prepared to listen. Mention that the two invading races will gain all your (massive) territory and thus will have more resources to turn their forces on THEM after you are gone. You must convince them that they need to help you fend off this "evil alliance" otherwise they'll be next in the firing line. Once one, or both of the invaders is distracted by an attack on their other frontier, the invading forces will split and disorganise, becoming easy for you to pick off. If this third race is unwilling to assist you directly, then see if you can get a ship trade. A ship with special abilities may be able to help you turn the tide of the war (read the section above on tactical use of the MBR). But you may not need to resort to diplomacy - if you built up really well, perhaps got lucky with a few nice planets, you might be able to take them both on by yourself. I have never taken on two enemies at once as the Empire, but I have once when I played as their mortal enemy, the Rebels, who develop much faster than the Empire and can afford hundreds of fighters really easily - I fended the klingons off whilst he was conducting small annoying raids and starting talks with the feds, at the same time powering up my economy. Then when they both attacked, I pounded them both to rubble. There wasn't much they could do against 40 Rushes, especially since they were attacking from opposite sides and couldn't bring a combined attack force to bear...

8  Starbases and the Imperial ship building program

Of course, bluffing, deception and wild statements can only get you so far. Sooner, but preferably later, you are going to need the muscle you have been claiming to have. Biologists might tell you that there are two types of muscle, with their "red fibre" and "white fibre" crap, but for Imperial purposes there is only one type of muscle, and it is in the form of big, mean, spherical ships bristling with guns. That's right, the Gorbies. Those are your only ships capable of dishing out as well as absorbing heavy damage. Heavy armed 200/60 starbases do not count as muscle because there is one problem : you won't have any. Almost all the fighters they make will need to be shunted off to your carriers, except for when the game is really advanced (after turn 50-60 or thereabouts) when you might have so many bases that you are actually making more fighters than you need, a situation that will hardly occur earlier in the game.

There isn't any space available in this guide to go through the finer details of the Imperial fleet specifications; for that, go to the Imperial Fleet Review . When you get back here, read on for a brief overview of the economic and strategic aspects of the Imperial ship building program.

As I mentioned under the above section, you are going to need both LDSFs and PL21s to grow your economy and give yourself a very high planet count respectively. Your homeworld base should be constructing as many LDSFs as you can afford - you can make one or two with crap engines, so that you can put the transwarps on a warship, and tow those LDSFs around with the said warship. The typical building plan involves putting out an SS Carrier when the base has reached 55 fighters, so that the full load of 60 can be shunted off to make room for more. At no stage should you end the turn with ANY base on 60 fighters, because then they won't build any more next turn. Not even in situations where you calculate that you'll need the base to finish off the last ship in an attacking fleet - starbase build free fighters comes before combat, so you'll have the full 60 by the time the enemy attacks. You'll find bases fare very well against Rushes and Golems, but still to be safe, you'd want the base to have full fighters, which give it a better than even chance of beating either of those two.

A rarely used variant ship building program includes an early Super Star Destroyer. Used against a newbie neighbouring race, it can be the most effective way to defeat an enemy early and secure loads of extra expansion room, IF you manage to pull it off. You may also use an early SSD to patrol around edges of your empire, on the fringe of another empire, maybe even do a few feints to get him worried. Load it with whatever fighters the base has managed to produce. But don't attack things with it, it's only meant to show that you mean business. The fighters are there in case the enemy sees it and tries to attack it with his early patrol ships. They won't win - the enemy may simply be trying to damage it so that it can't pull an early Imperial Assault on his homeworld. This strategy again belongs to the school of phaser diplomacy. I personally don't use it much, I prefer a more conservative pattern of development.

The ideal situation would be to find a decent planet close by to put up your second base. It doesn't have to be perfect, just as long as it has decent concentrations, and some sort of native life. You'd like a ghipsoidal world, as engines are very important early on, but even if the natives don't give any tech 10 advantages, a base is still viable. You'll be using it to pump out probes at first, much like the Birds do with their Swift Hearts and the Rebels do with their Falcons. But unlike the Birds, you do not need tech 10 engines! Tech 4 or 5 will do, since the probes will be hyperspacing most of the time anyway, and when they do have to reach a planet, you can overdrive the engines, as you can always beam up more fuel.

After you have got the industry cranked up in your core area, do not blindly devote all your LDSFs to spreading clans to frontier areas and expanding further. You must note the planets that are producing minerals at a fast rate and start to use the "base in a can" strategy with abandon. If you have not heard of this, it is basically filling an LDSF with all the materials needed to build a starbase (120 duranium, 402 tritanium, 340 molybdenum, 900 MC), often filling the rest of the space with clans, then sending it to the planet where you want to have a base, dropping all the resources and building the base next turn. As Empire, you don't have to be too picky where you build them. Ideally, you'd like to have them over either humanoid or ghipsoidal planets, but often the prevailing mentality of the Empire is, if it is a planet, it can have a base. If it doesn't have many clans, no natives, but is deep in your empire, or perhaps on the edge of the map, and the minerals are not needed immediately for ship building - pop a base up! You can always bring more clans later. In the meantime, the base is making fighters and an SS Carrier can be sent to scoop them up when it is almost full.

A minor and often forgotten aspect of base building - the construction of free fighters comes BEFORE minerals are mined. So you will actually need 417 tritanium and 350 moly on the planet before building the base, otherwise you are going to rob yourself of a few fighters. Fighters are precious! Value them! Also bear in mind that eventually, you are going to have to ship tritanium and/or moly to starbases, unless Isotope TUDR is a decent level.

As far as shipping minerals, etc. for building ships, just use the strategies you normally use when you play other races. But remember that molybdenum is heavily needed by the Imperial Navy, so find those moly dumps quickly and plan your moly supply route early. Depending on the availability of minerals and natives, you may need to shell out for a Merlin. Do this when a lot of supplies have accumulated on the worlds close to the core, or if you are lucky enough to run into a Bovi planet. Don't do it too soon, because you will need the minerals, and only build one if you have the industry to keep it fed. Don't assume you'll get a good bovi planet no matter how many planets you've got - at the time of writing, in my current Empire game I have 65 planets - out of them, ONE is a bovinoid planet. It is nowhere near my homeworld and is only making 300 supplies a turn anyway - so I have to feed the Merlin with supplies from factories. Usually duranium and tritanium are plentiful, moly is a bit harder to find. More often than not, the Imperial commander refers to the ship as a "Merlin Class Moly-Making Ship".

You won't have to sell off supplies as often as most of the others because - the probe is an excellent money runner. You can get from A to B in no longer than two turns (unless your Empire is really huge and spans more than 700 ly!) so if you plan your expenditure on ship building, you will know where the cash is needed. This really helps because usually if I run into an outstanding native world a distance from the core, I will drop every clan that I have left on the LDSF, and head for home, picking up minerals on the way. Now it will be a while before that outlying sector becomes productive shipwise, but with a lot of clans, it can generate valuable cash that can be shipped back to the homeworld for more ships. Probes are also great for backing up the "base in a can" strategy with your LDSFs - lot of times I find that some planets have put out a lot of minerals, but the credits are missing, perhaps because the area doesn't have many natives, or the credits were already shipped off back home. So pile the minerals into your base in a can, and jet out the credits from a rich native world - and put up the base! I also like using probes to shunt a few hundred MCs to mineral rich planets to speed up the construction of mines.

Whether you focus your expenditure of resources on bases, or on ships, depends on your situation. If you managed to buy yourself some breathing room, build ships not bases. You can always put fighters on them later after the ship limit is reached. If you need extra clout on the scoreboard, or need more fighters to fend off raids, then build bases not ships. In any case, you should have your second base out early, at least by turn 10, and have minimum 5 bases by turn 20 in the standard rich galaxy with high starting resources. At turn 30, in most games the ship limit will have already been hit, and you should have at least 10, but preferably 15-20 bases by this time, depending on the planets you find. If the galaxy is mineral poor (which makes life for the Empire tougher than it already is, by the way) you will have to lower your expectations regarding base building accordingly.

Never slacken off in your base building spree, keep putting up new ones, especially if you're playing in a mineral rich galaxy. They will really pay off. My first game aside, I have always been close to, if not over the 50 base mark by turn 50 every time I played the Empire, which gives 250 fighters a turn at the default setting of 5 fighters a base. This means your fighter production rivals that of the true fighter races! (For comparison - in my last game as Rebels, I had 82 bases on turn 80. Aboard ships I was building maybe 360 fighters a turn. Had I been the Empire, those bases would be making a total of 410 fighters a turn!) But even so, it is important to realise that your fighter production is spread out all over the place - they are not being built where you need them, unlike the true fighter races, who can build as much as they need WHERE they need it, and none where they don't need them. So even though you may be making 250 fighters a turn, be prepared to spend cash to buy a mass of fighters where you need them rather than stalling your campaign by sending small carriers to fly around and pick them up from the bases - I just shuttled in 16,000 MC to purchase 160 fighters for loading a newly built Gorbie - the frontier where this particular invasion is to be launched only has a couple of bases, and waiting a dozen turns for them to produce an adequate load is unacceptable. In the same vein, if you have ships on a frontier where the enemy is pressing forward, you cannot wait for the bases to pump out the fighters - use your PL21s to shuttle in the funds, and BUY however much you need!

Generally, don't rush your first Gorbie too quickly. Such a ship drains a lot of resources and reduces your ship building options for the next few turns. Make sure you get out at least a couple of frigates early. I don't like building these at the homeworld - the homeworld base should have maximum tech for hulls and engines, upgrade beams to say tech 5 or 6 early on, and don't touch torp tech at all. Although you cannot assume anything in this game, chances are you should find either a ghipsoidal or siliconoid planet somewhere not too far from home. Put a base on it! If it's Ghipsoidal, you can put out mark 4 SS Frigates at first, upgrading to mark 7 versions when funds allow, and on turns where you can't afford a main capital ship, put out a probe and jet it out somewhere remote. If the planet is siliconoid, build mark 7 SS Frigates straight away, even if you don't have the engine tech - they can be towed. If funds are short, put only 1 torpedo tube on them - the role of the frigate is mainly minelaying, but they can selectively enter combat if necessary. Stick to building carriers, LDSFs, and maybe a Merlin at the homeworld. (If engine shield bonus is on - do try and get out some transwarp equipped mark 7 SS Frigates - with 3 tubes, not 1! You can use these as fairly decent lead-in torpers in battle - not to quite the effect of a Cygnus or Guardian, but they'll still get the job done). Also note that you should never use the mark 8 torpedo - always mark 4 or mark 7. Mark 4 is the best "economy rate" torpedo - in terms of damage:cost ratio and minelaying cost. Mark 7 is used for more power - it is far better than mark 8 considering damage:cost ratio and mines laid. The mark 8 costs 50% more and only does 15% more damage. You can't afford to be wasting credits like this - you need the credits for upgrading tech levels of your many bases; and you need the credits to buy the fighters if you desperately need more of them for battle!

When your mining worlds have amassed surplus minerals and you feel the time is right to start seriously supercharging your fleet, put the base building projects on hold, and ship vast quantities of resources to your homeworld or to a humanoid base (minerals on LDSFs, credits on PL21s). You'll want to build the Gorbie, but you'll want to keep your ship building options open and still be able to build a decent carrier the next turn. For each of your major bases, you'll want to calculate how much resources you'll have available next turn, and the turn after (it's hard to plan further ahead than that but some players insist that they are able to do it!) and organise these figures in table format. Once you have done this, then decide on your ship building program that best fits in with the resources. Remember, necessary credits can be hyperspaced in. The most limiting factor, from my experience, will almost always be moly. When you're low on homeworld resources, you can build an LDSF or if really necessary, a probe, in the meantime while freighter convoys are on their way. LDSFs do not all have to be built with transwarps - a stardrive 1 LDSF uses next to no moly and can be towed by a warship during peacetime. If the warship is needed, you can leave the freighter in a warp well and collect it again when a warship becomes available. There's little harm in building a low engine LDSF that is hardly used - duranium, the main mineral used in its construction, is often the most plentiful mineral.

I have found that there is a prevailing attitude amongst most players which states that "a ship without transwarps is not a ship". This is INCORRECT. You will be bankrupt if you insist on building transwarps on everything, since they not only cost 300 MC, they suck down 35 moly apiece. Even the Cylons, whose ships need hardly any moly, cannot afford to put transwarps on everything because firstly their baseships need heaps of engines and secondly they need the moly to make fighters. If they can't do it, then you, with your moly-heavy ship hulls, can't seriously expect to either. And if you put off building a particular ship until you can afford transwarps for it, you won't claim as many ship slots while the ship limit has not yet been reached and you will be seriously outnumbered when it is.

For starters, PL21s should rarely have transwarps. And you can afford to build a few stardrive 1 LDSFs - they still have 1200 capacity, and they'll be better protected, since you'll be forced to escort them with a warship. Whether you build transwarps on the other ships depend largely on the host settings. If engine shield bonus is on, then you really need transwarps for the Super Star XXXs - but you might be able to get away with quantum drive 7s, since these provide enough power to push the Super Star Carrier/Cruiser above the 320 KT battle mass.

A couple of players after reading this guide have asked why is 320 KT so important - so I will add a brief explanation. Against ships whose battle mass is less than 320 KT, a single fighter hit will do at least 2% damage to shields and hull, resulting in the ship being killed twice as quick (and quite probably dishing out half as much damage). At a battle mass of 320 KT, fighters can only inflict 1% damage to shields and hull. Apart from E/S bonus there are only two ways a ship with a hull lighter than 320 KT can get past this all- important battle mass. One is the Fed Scotty bonus which is obviously unavailable to we Imperials. The other is getting the right side of the VCR and praying - any ship on the right, when facing an enemy carrier, has a 60% chance to gain an extra 360 KT of battle mass - but it's fighters tend to fare worse in the dogfighting.

It is still better to put transwarps on the SS Carrier/Cruiser in case they are to be used against a torpedo race. The extra 150 KT battle mass (assuming the typical E/S bonus setting of 50%) makes them fairly tough opponents for torpers. For SS Frigates - transwarps mainly, but you can make a few with low tech engines, and tow them around to LAY MINES, they are not to get into fights. SSD always needs transwarps because they are terror weapons and they need to move fast to surprise the enemy - they lose much of their impact if they have lesser engines. Especially if used as distractions - in this role they will have nothing available to tow them. Finally the Gorbies - requiring 6 engines, you certainly cannot afford to build all of them with transwarps. If you are able to build them with inferior engines (stardrive 1, or nova drive if you can afford it) without too much reluctance then you'll be able to build more before the ship limit hits. If you manage to turn out at least half your Gorbies with transwarps and the other half with crap engines, this is a good result. In a game of the past, by the time the ship limit was reached I had 3 times as many Gorbies as the Rebels had Rushes, and the Rush costs far less. The reason : he built all his Rushes with transwarps, while some of the Gorbies had stardrive 1s or nova 5s. If engine shield bonus is on - that shouldn't change the choice of engine on the Gorbie, it is so heavy that it doesn't need it! Except in those rare games where E/S bonus is set to 100% - a transwarp Gorbie will only take 1% hull damage from even a mark 8 in these games, so it may be worth it to try and build more Gorbies with transwarps then.

9  Ruling through fear (and deception) - how to realise the Imperial power

It is in the late middle to end game that the Imperial power can be unleashed. So far I haven't really said anything about how to use your Imperial fleet or combat tactics; well don't expect to find information on that here - check out the Imperial Fleet Review for that. This section will examine the economic management and strategic aspect of the late phase Empire.

By now, diplomatic relations are relatively firmly set. A couple of the weaker races have been eliminated. The really seriously big biffo wars are on-going. You have a lot of bases, and a large fleet. So do your enemies, but fortunately so do your allies. If you, as Empire, have managed to struggle through the earlier stages and make it this far, you are going well. The Empire is very definitely a late developer, and now in the late game you can reap the rewards of all your earlier efforts.

What you reveal to allies and enemies is important. Bluffing is an integral part of this game, like poker. I'm surprised that most strategy guides I have read so far hardly give it a mention, given its importance. I'm sorry to offend all you "honesty is my virtue" people, but it's a fact of life. Besides, these are guys that are quite willing to blast you to atoms. Don't you think that a little "stretching of the truth" is justified? And similar to poker, there are circumstances in which you want to create the illusion that you are stronger than you really are, but there are also different circumstances in which you want to dupe others into thinking you are weaker than you really are. Early on in the game, the aim is to convince the opponents that you're more powerful than you really are, as detailed above. However as the game reaches its climax, the situation may require that you be humble - to appear weaker than you are. In the mid-late game, races may be getting concerned that the guy up top is getting too powerful. If it's you, which it should be (don't be happy with anything less) then watch out and be aware. One method I use is to complain about my "lack of funds that I need to upgrade all my bases - yeah, sure I have 40 bases, but I'm really no better off than you, 30 of those are bases that I only use to make fighters". Another good method is "letting slip" what your opponents believe to be a "secret" that was not supposed to be leaked out, but in reality is a carefully crafted lie. Such as understating the strength of your fleet, or making out losses to be greater than they really were. Sometimes, you may get into a "casual conversation" with the leader of another race, maybe over IRC or ICQ - probably not an immediate enemy, but certainly not a formal ally yet - which makes them a "potential enemy". This is the best place to put out those carefully crafted lies - especially when he tries to trick you into revealing Imperial secrets with his part of the dialogue. An example, say from a game in which VGAPTS scoring system is used (reveals the total hull mass of all players in the scorechart) -

[ Enemy leader ] "Gosh you've got a lot of warships, how the heck do you manage to load them all?"

[ You ] "Well I'm having a few problems at the moment, I'd like to have 10 more bases than I do right now, since they only make 5 fighters a turn, but I'm all out of moly. Lot of my SS Cruisers are wandering around with only 50 fighters; the Gorbies barely have twice as much. And I can't find enough supplies to keep my 3 Merlins fed!"

(Auth. note : you wouldn't reveal all that in the one line of dialogue - if you did, an intelligent enemy would think that some of it is lies. You'd reveal it bit by bit during the course of the conversation, dispersed within various "small-talk" like discussing the climate of the game, certain gripes you have with the rules, complaining about how Tim short-changed your race, etc etc etc. But you would eventually reveal something along those lines - for the sake of brevity and clarity I have put all these "facts" in the one line of dialogue).

In reality : your SS Cruisers have 70-80 fighters, the Gorbies 130-160 each, and you only have 1 Merlin - the "other 2 Merlins" are actually 2 Gorbies unaccounted for by the enemy! Due to the use of VGAPTS, he will then cross 2760 KT (920 x 3) off as "non-threatening hull mass accounted for" whilst in reality it's 920 KT of non-threatening hull mass, and 1960 KT of very threatening hull mass!!! If you're lucky, he might even reveal to another race his own conclusions of some "classified Imperial intelligence that I have stolen". You're all familiar with the children's game called Chinese whispers in which the accuracy of a message is inversely proportional to the number of heads it has passed through - this principle certainly applies here, each person who receives some facts and passes it on introduces a variable amount of errors and inaccuracies into it. Who the time your neighbour gets it, it may have degenerated to "the Empire is really struggling - half his Gorbies don't even have any fighters, he's all out of credits so he can't build anything else, half his warship count are PL21s and his tonnage isn't really that frightening, it's just been bloated by half a dozen Merlins!" Consider yourself lucky if events even remotely resembling this happens! The enemy who attacks you under-estimating your power is one of the easiest victories you can secure. So by all means, get into "friendly" casual conversations with your fellow players, and if none initiate any, then consider starting one yourself. A lot of players are talkative, some more than others, but most are willing to talk nonetheless. Having said all that - if anyone who's in the same game as me have read this, they'll probably be shaking their heads and thinking - "aha! so that's what's going on!" - hence my final piece of advice - don't do it all the time! In some of your dialogue, actually tell them the truth, but make sure it isn't a critical piece of intelligence. Or perhaps let slip a true, critical piece of intelligence, but you're capable of handling it if the intelligence reaches the wrong hands. Unpredictability and flair are what gives the thinking commander his advantage - predictability is what makes the AI in other computer strategy games such as the Warlords series and Age of Wonders easy to defeat! Always keep your opponents guessing!

Another of my favourite "dupe the others" tactic is to jet out stardrive 1 probes with a KILL mission set and a name like "SUPER STAR CRUISER 3" right onto the planet of either a friendly race (informing them of what I am doing first, and requesting them to play along with the charade if a third party asks them if they're attacking the Empire), or even an enemy, in an attempt to fool other races that I am suffering serious losses. I have found out that even if the enemy is destroying probes called "SUPER STAR CRUISER 4" he usually won't tell ALL the others what is really going on - couple of times I have even got queries regarding who was giving me a hard time and offers to help out - from races that were below me on the default score chart due to my quantity of bases! If they do, don't tell them what's really going on, keep up the charade! You're going to have a lot of disposable probes anyway, since you have got zillions of bases that you're using to build your fighters, and unless you are doing exceptionally well, you won't have the credits to upgrade all of them much higher than that.

And if you're having your probes blown up by a friend, the others in the galaxy will either; think you're heavily involved in a war with so-and-so, and launch an attack on you based on the 2-vs-1 principle - imagine his surprise when your "enemy" suddenly turns around and attacks him! Or, the others will believe that you are actively engaged in war, and therefore you're not building up quietly whilst the others are fighting and losing ground, so they may go after someone else (this is the more likely scenario the higher up on the scorechart you are). If you are at the top of the scorechart, hopefully he'll think that, well, at least someone's keeping the Empire busy, I'll go after a smaller race. This second scenario is preferable - you won't believe how often this ruse will work, and it will give you substantial breathing space to really power up your economy! Of course, it requires you to actually HAVE a friend in the galaxy, but surely your diplomacy isn't so bad that all 10 of the other races hate you?!?!

Which leads us on to the final topic of discussion in this section; the ship queue, and more specifically, how to clog it up and why you should. This guide is already longer than I had planned so I certainly don't have the space to explain the principles of the ship queue and how it works; there are excellent articles elsewhere on the net dealing with all this. But I will offer a couple of pointers on how to manipulate the queue into promoting the greater glory of the Empire!

Because your race naturally needs a lot of bases for the free fighters, you have a lot more clout than others when it comes to influencing the queue. When the limit is almost reached, clog it up! Order builds on all your bases, except those where it would halt fighter production due to lack of minerals (if you plan well this shouldn't happen!) Some commanders advocate clogging the queue up with all your bases even before the limit. This is great but bear in mind yours is a slow developing race, the later the ship limit is reached, the more big carriers, in particular Gorbies, that you can spit out (excuse the pun). It works well if you can spare the resources, as it gives you a greater presence regarding the scoreboard, but in any case you must keep in mind the possibility of recycling those ships you clogged up the queue with. Clogging the queue is essential for you - inevitably, a lot of your bases WILL be fighter making bases only, you won't have the credits to upgrade all of them. If you order nothing there, you won't be alerted when the queue passes it. By ordering crap ships on ALL 1/ bases, SDSF or PL21, when one is actually built you will know that the queue just passed this base, and this gives you a more accurate estimation of where the queue is, enabling you to plan where to build future bases and ships.

In the latest version of TimHost, you no longer receive PBPs for colonising ships. Dang, now I can't use the colonise Stardrive 1 SDSF tactic for cheap PBPs, I hear you lament. Not totally correct. You can't get the cheap PBPs, but you can definitely keep churning out those stardrive 1 SDSFs! Why? Picture this situation. The ship queue is about #100. You have a whole string of high tech bases with good mineral supplies between #150 and #250. In addition, you can quickly build a starbase on some new planets around the #220-#300 range, and fly in the credits with PL21s to upgrade hulltech. The queue is going slowly. You, and perhaps an ally, plan a big fight against the evil Federation. 10 ships destroyed. And on top of that, you colonise about 20 SDSFs. Ideally, you might catch the others off guard. Sure, their bases near #100-#150 will get a build. But they may not have planned that far in advance of the queue - which now, because of all those ships eliminated, has moved beyond #300. And of course, no one can know exactly where the ship queue is, they can only make an estimate, the accuracy of which is proportional to the number of bases that empire has. You however knew before that the queue would be moving along rapidly, built bases far in front of the queue, and ordered ships on those bases. The net result : a bunch of crappy SDSFs has magically turned into a fleet of shiny new warships! This works really great with Starbase+ because you can ship all the high tech components to bases prepped in front of the queue, and only need to upgrade hulls!

BUT - this tactic can backfire. In a game where I, as Rebels, were allied to the Borgs, we amassed a combined total of about 40 stardrive 1 SDSFs. We then set as many of our bases as we could to build Rushes/Biocides respectively, then in one turn we recycled the lot freeing up 40 ship slots. To my disappointment I only managed to put out 6 new Rushes plus some smaller warships, and the Borgs only got 4 or 5 Biocides. To our horror, we found that the Bots, the third superpower in this game, had put out about 12 new Golems! The rest of the builds went to other minor races.

A note on PBPs. You get these by sinking enemy ships, something that you won't be doing very often early in the game. Later on, PBPs are valuable and are to be hoarded. The rules are that he with the most PBPs will get the first opportunity to force a Priority build. The second rule is that if you have over 20 PBPs, you'll use up PBPs with your next ordinary build. Don't waste a whopping 20 PBPs on a Gorbie that you would have built in the normal build phase anyway! If you are over the top regarding PBPs, or are going to be over the top after a battle, then order your bases that are as far away from the ship queue as possible to Priority build SUPPORT WARSHIPS. Read : NOT GORBIES, but Super Star Whatevers (use the planetary PBx Fcodes). This way, you'll spend less PBPs building a ship "out of order" of the queue - the base that did the Priority build will still get a normal build when the queue comes around to it!

Finally, the whole principle of the SDSF. For those of you who are not aware of this tactic or fail to see the logic in it, the basic argument put forward by its advocates is that you would rather build a heap of junk with tech 1 everything than see the enemy turn out a tech 10 battleship, or worse yet, a tech 10 carrier. This school of thought is great and I for one agree with it. As Empire, you can pursue this objective fairly well due to sheer quantity of bases; but even more, you have an extra option. I recently thought up the theory of pumping out zillions of cheap PL21s instead of SDSFs, then HYPing them off the map where no one can get them! This seriously screws everyone else and depletes the available pool of ship slots over time, and it gives you a lot of clout regarding the scoreboard - look at all those warships! Obviously this does not work if the game is using something like Sphere. And it takes out the quick ship queue purge option. But at least you can be certain those ships are safe! I thought up this theory when I remembered this old game of mine, which was using ExploreMap (addon where you don't know where the planets are until your ships scan them). One of the other players had forgotten to turn on GRID when he was viewing his starchart. Little did he know that his initial position was in the corner - after a few turns of him sending out ships in all directions and hearing his complaints of "where are all the damned planets?" someone finally put it to him - "are you sure you're not on the edge of the map?" The end result of this humourous little episode was that his empire's growth was critically stunted for the rest of the game and eventually got wiped out by the Borgs. But thinking back over this old game of the past made me realise that yes, off the map is no different a place than on it, there is no magical barrier along the edge that pushes ships back in, I can stash as many ships as I want out there!

10  Befriending the aliens

No strategy guide would be complete without a section on your potential allies and foes, all of the guides I have read seem to have one describing a summary of the advantages of the alien race, as well as their potential as both allies and enemies, so here goes.

They get a significant taxation bonus, but they have a mining rate handicap. They also have highly skilled crew amongst their ranks - every Federation ship gains a virtual 50 KT of extra hull mass in combat, this is cumulative with any bonus from engine shield. Their ships will function with all weapons regardless of how much damage it has taken. Any carrier, not just the ones with less than 9 bays, but ANY Fed carrier gets 3 extra bays in combat. And finally, between fights a Fed ship recharges shields 25%, if damage allows (these four combat advantages the Federation gets are collectively known as the "Scotty bonus"). Due to the Feds super refit ability, it's a pretty safe bet that their ships will all have the best available engines and weapons when they are combat ready.

Not surprisingly, with all that, they are great for the Empire as allies. Having the Federation as an ally means that you can build empty hulls, just upgrade hulltech of your bases, and give the ship to him to refit it for you. On top of that, you gain valuable special ships - the Loki, to keep cloakers off your back, and terraformers to maximise your economy. An exchange of ships allows you to acquire a more well rounded fleet with high quality torpedo based ships (see Imperial Fleet Review for battle tactics regarding torpedo ships) that are far superior to your SS Frigate. In return, you can provide him with what he's lacking in his fleet - a really big, monster ship. And you can build more of them now, since you only have to make the hull and leave it to him to put the beams and good engines on it. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that beats a Federation-controlled Gorbie. In addition, especially if the two of you are up against carrier race(s), build and give your Federation allies a few SS Cruisers. This ship in Fed hands becomes a lethal, cheap killing machine - it performs with the specs of 8 beams/7 bays, it only needs 2 engines, and with their 50 KT virtual hull bonus, that puts it up to 320 KT - enough to reduce fighter hits to 1% damage each! It doesn't have as many bays as his Kittyhawk, but it also does not have the painfully small hangar bay of the Kitty. If engine shield bonus is on, your SS Carriers/SS Cruisers make great hard-hitting support carriers in Fed hands, both against torpedo and fighter races, so don't ignore this aspect of ship trade.

With the Federation as allies, I can almost guarantee you will not be short on fighters. They make so much cash that you don't even need free base fighters, you can just buy them all. So you don't need to go all out and build as many bases as you can, which would normally be the case. However if you can spare the resources, by all means build the base, and consider the free fighters it makes a bonus :-) besides, having a high base count, which you would have under normal circumstances, will pay off big time after the ship limit, when you have more clout over the ship queue than the others. The Fed will be doing most of the fighting of the alliance, due to his bonuses, so he will get more PBPs. That's fine - the Feds are a race whose characteristics require them to have a high starbase count like you, because he uses them to pump out empty hulls and refits them later, so he does have the facilities available to make use of those PBPs.

They also get a money making bonus, but it is in the form of their special mission, HSSSSS!, which forces happiness points on planets to increase. If you are allied to them, the advantage of this form of money making is that you can keep ownership of the planet, and they can HSSSS! it for you; but the disadvantage is that with such high tax rates, native population growth will be slow as molasses. Another of their race advantages is a 150% damage threshold in combat - this makes your Gorbies more powerful when under their command, although you should be aware that a Fed Gorbie performs better than a Gorn one. They can mine minerals about 3x faster than the Feds and 2x faster than you, due to an innate racial bonus, so this will really help to crank out heaps of ships and heaps of bases fast. Their final race advantage is a 30x ground attack bonus and 10x ground defence bonus.

Like the Feds, again, a great ally for you. Their strength is in economy, which is your weakness, and your strength is in ship power and quality, which is their weakness. They can also provide you with the valuable Loki design, and the cooling version of the terraformer. You can trade Gorbies to them if you are in a close alliance, in return for some T-Rexes to balance out your fleet with a good torpedo based fighting ship, and Lizard Cruisers, which are excellent minelayers.

Again, the Gorns will be the ones doing the majority of the fighting. But they cannot refit their ships! Like the Feds and you, they tend to have a lot of starbases due to their surplus of minerals, their need for quantity, not quality in their fleet and their need for numerous small ships to do their HSSSS!ing. If the Gorn commander is competent, he will be able to crawl the ship queue well and manage his own PBPs by himself. Just like a Fed/Empire alliance, you and the Gorns will be able to dominate the ship queue and gradually squeeze the other races thin.

Note: if you can get into an alliance with them early, modify your future ship building program to replace some SSDs with SS Frigates or SS Carriers. Due to their Lizard Cruiser and ground combat bonus, you won't need SSDs to take most planets - the LCC approaches unseen, while the SSD is clearly visible. You'll only need the SSD for homeworlds and the really big colonies, and Borg assimilated worlds (these will only be useful if they have lots of minerals, since he would have assimilated off all the natives - of course, you'll know which worlds have the minerals :-)

The Romulans are a stealth race relying on their cloaking abilities and the advantages of surprise. They don't get any economic or combat advantages, their main and only advantage is exactly that - cloaking. The Super Spy mission can discover intel similar to your dark sense on enemy planets, but they can learn the FCode of the planet and change it to suit them - but unlike your dark sense, which has a range of default 200 ly, they actually have to be ON the planet. And they cannot spread out as fast as you can because they don't have a HYP-ship.

On the whole, not the best ally in the world for the Empire, their economy is horrid, almost as bad as yours, and together you won't be much better off. In addition, you won't be able to exert as much control over the ship queue as say a Fed/Empire alliance or a Gorn/Empire one, the Romulans tend not to have too many bases. Like you, they fare relatively well against torpedo based races, and also similar to you, they are really bad against the 3 true fighter races, even when on the attack, as they have no decent combo to take down those Golems/Rushes/Virgo's, they just have to bite the bullet and sacrifice 2 Dark Wings (sometimes even 3 in the case of the Golem!) You OTOH do have the necessary big ships to take down other big carriers, but putting a good amount of fighters on them is a huge strain on your economy, a strain which the Romulans cannot really help you out with, unlike Feds and Gorns. A veteran Cylon/Rebel/Colonial commander might even be able to take you both on and do fairly well!

But don't turn down an offer of alliance on the basis of that alone. For one thing, it means a friendly face and one less border to defend, commodities that are scarce and hard to come by in this game. Plus they can offer you better minelayers - Fearless Wings and ideally, Resolutes. A Red Wind might even prove useful - as the only cloaking carrier in the game, it provides secure transport and carries 60 fighters, a full starbase load. In return you can provide the firepower and big ships needed to fend off their enemies. They can cloak and go in, then tow out individual enemy ships to waiting battlegroups. As mentioned above, don't immediately refuse if they want to trade for an SSD - Resolutes are very useful in your fleet, they're great minelayers and good for splitting up enemy battle groups (see section above on MBRs).

The Klingons are a warrior race of honour and glory in battle. They have a few cloaking ship designs, which assist them with their special mission, Pillage. This kills off colonist and native population and converts it to supplies and credits aboard the Klingon ship. Their cloak ships also aid them with ground invasions, as they get a ground combat advantage, although this is not as powerful as the Gorns. They possess two "Glory Ship" designs - ships that self-destruct doing heavy damage to all enemy ships and minor damage to other Klingon ships that end their movement phase at the same location. A minor race advantage of theirs is that they support minimum 6,000 colonists on desert worlds - not exactly a ground-breaking advantage, so you can pretty much forget that it exists.

Slightly better allies than the Romulans, but still not as good as Feds or Gorns. They can help to rid you of any amorphs you've run into, as well as provide ships to trade - cloaking minelayers and glory device ships to help combat cloakers. They have a slight economic advantage due to the ability to pillage worlds. They also tend to fare better than the Romulans against fighter races, as they can use glory device ships to even the odds against Golems/Rushes/ Virgo's, but they aren't as good at small raids and guerilla warfare as the Romulans. Again, don't simply turn down alliance offers, a friend out there in the hostile, cold galaxy is always worthwhile.

The Pirates are the scum of the universe. Their special mission is robbing ships of fuel and cargo, they can then capture any fuelless ships by locking a tow beam on them (known as tow-capture). To do this they have a number of cloaking ship designs, three of which have a gravitronic accelerator built in (allows ship to travel twice the distance using the same amount of fuel).

An excellent ally for you! The best thing that you get out of such an alliance is that it means they won't be harassing you and stealing your ships! But you can also trade for MBRs which are the best ship for splitting enemy battle groups, as detailed above. If he's not willing to give them to you, perhaps he can go in and tow out the enemy ships to your carriers. A word of caution, make sure he's trustworthy! It is too easy for the Pirates to sign something, then go back on their word. Therefore it is often prudent to perhaps cultivate another race's hatred for the Privs in the meantime. A Priv/Empire alliance is a shaky one at best - Empire is worried Privs will betray him and rob all his ships, Priv knows that he is the most hated race in the galaxy and gets suspicious when Fed/Gorn battle fleets including Lokis head DIRECTLY for his starbases, not even bothering to grab planets on the way :-)

A fellow "evil" race (to your enemies at least), the Borgs' main ability is to assimilate natives into the collective. Any natives on a Borg planet get slowly turned into Borg colonists. This gives the Borgs a large tax base, and it also makes these worlds near useless to the Borgs' enemies. Their other abilities include auto-repair on their ships - Borg ships that stay still and set mission to SELF REPAIR will fix 10% of damage per turn. They also beam aboard debris from enemy ships defeated in battle.

Not a very good ally for you; as they don't make up for your weaknesses or enhance your strengths. They are extremely slow to get going, probably the only race that develops slower than you. You both get horrendously powerful in the end game, assuming you both survive that far. The difference is they have a powerful torpedo based ship, you don't. But it costs a fortune. Your respective "monster" ships, the Gorbie and the Biocide, are the most powerful in the galaxy and clean up everything else. But the Borgs also have problems equipping the Biocide; they must pay 100 MC for each fighter. You can't really help them out here, you will no doubt have enough problems of your own trying to fill your carriers, let alone his. And he can't help you out either.

One ship to seek, if at all possible, is the Firecloud. Depends on the Borg player, he may be willing to trade a couple for some dark sense info and a medium sized carrier.

An odd race, the Crystals main (and only) advantage is their ability to lay web mines. These drain 25 KT of fuel whenever a ship ends the turn in one. Hitting a web mine, odds of which are significantly higher than normal mines, cause the loss of 50 KT or 1/6 of remaining fuel, whichever is higher. Furthermore, you need to be INSIDE the minefield in order to sweep it, giving him the opportunity to dump even more mines on top of you. They also have different climate requirements than everyone else - they support 1000 clans for each degree of temperature, so they prefer 100C worlds.

A fine ally for you. They develop faster than you do. Although they do not have the greatest economy, a well executed dropping of web mines will buy you both some extra time and keep enemies from invading, at least for a while. The lack of big ships hampers them, but they can capture the ships of others. The web mines provide excellent protection from cloakers in the meantime. You can help the crystals out with fighter support, and dark sense to find out which enemy worlds are crucial to their empire. They can provide good minelayers and torpedo based support warships. The Crystal Thunder is a tad expensive, but it rates somewhere between the SS Cruiser and the Gorbie. As an alliance, you'd both probably want to bypass the Thunder in favour of the Empire's carriers. You will have to do the dirty work if there are enemy ships entering the web fields that just refuse to be drained and keep on sweeping away.

Crystals do not have a good economy, and a lot of their resources will go into making torpedoes for web mines. They will not own many bases; however crawling the ship queue is not as critical for them - they can capture the enemy ships instead. One tactic, in games with Raceplus, that has been suggested to me is that the Gorbie grav well is used to pull all the light enemy ships right through a webfield towards the crystal/Empire fleet, making it likely they'll be drained of all the fuel, and the crystals can capture it. In theory it sounds great; haven't tried it myself however.

Errrm... ooops! That's you! :-)

The first of the true fighter races. Their main special ability is build fighters in space, using 5 supplies for each one. This is way better than your method of acquiring fighters, not only can they build as many as they want on the cheap instead of a fixed number like you, they build them WHERE they are needed, whereas a big source of Imperial frustration is having to send SS Carriers etc. scurrying around from base to base scooping up the free fighters to transport them to Gorbies! The Cylons' other advantage is a 4x minelaying bonus. Like the Klingons, they have a token desert survival advantage, which isn't something that will make or break the game for them.

This race is quite possibly the strongest in the game, in terms of raw power. They are good allies for you; the problem is getting them as allies in the first place. They already have what you excel at - big strong carriers - in fact their carriers are probably better than yours based on cost. They might like a HYP-ship, but yours is not a great one and they certainly do not absolutely have to have one. All that leaves you with is dark sense, and they don't even need that - the Cylons are a bludgeon ahead, bash everything roll your enemy off the map type of race - they don't really need precise locations of key enemy worlds, they'll just take them all over! As a result, you get a lot from allying with them, they don't get that much from you. But you never know, if you're lucky maybe they might be thinking, one friendly face is better than none!

Although these guys are your mortal enemies from the Star Wars trilogy, an alliance with them actually works very well in this game. The Rebels are the second fighter race. They possess a terror weapon, the Rebel Ground Attack, which causes colonist riots and destroys a significant % of the planet's infrastructure. Furthermore, a feature of the Rebels that is important to you, all their planets are invisible to dark sense. Other than the build fighters in space ability, they don't have any other special features, apart from climactic survival advantages. Unlike the Klingon and Cylon ones, theirs is often very useful when it comes to planets with good natives that are ice cold - they can support 9,000,000 colonists on these, and although they won't get any colonist growth, they can tax the natives to the maximum. And one last advantage, which I almost forgot because it hardly ever comes into play, is that if they get a Bioscan ship, you can't fool it like you can the bioscanners of other races.

A great ally. The combination of dark sense and RGA is lethal - sniff out key enemy worlds and starbases, then transmit the co-ordinates to the Rebel. He gets ready for a hyperspace run, HYPs right onto the planet with RGA the same turn, then leaves the next turn with the planet in ruins. In view of this you might want to trade PL21s for Falcons. Slightly uneven you say? Not so. The Rebel has no way of knowing if his HYP-RGA target is defended. Sometimes they will be. The result is that the enemy captures a Falcon. Even if he uses stardrive 1 weaponless Falcons like I mention in the Rebels Fleet Review, the enemy still gets a HYP ship with 120 KT cargo, which is very useful for expansion, colonisation and quick resource transfer. Now if you trade PL21 for Falcon, you gain a better expansion ship for developing YOUR outposts (a few Falcon deliveries and they are no longer outposts, they become decent worlds!) and you can provide stardrive 1 weaponless PL21s for HYP-RGA, which are next to useless for the enemy if he captures them.

Other than the obligatory fighter building services, you might also like to trade a SS Carrier/SS Cruiser for a Tranquility and perhaps a Cygnus or Guardian or two. The Tranquility is a far better minelaying ship than your SS Frigate, and the Cygnus and Guardian much better lead-in torpedo ships. In return you are giving him something that he lacks, a good decent medium sized carrier that he can easily fill with fighters and use to conduct patrols for less fuel than using a Rush.

The last of the fighter races but certainly not the least, the Colonies' auxiliary special ability is fighter minesweep. And this is from a range of 100 ly, so in reality, this means for him it's a case of "minefields??? what minefields???"

Like the Rebels, also a good ally due to fighter building. But while an Empire/Rebel alliance is raw firepower with a dose of special tactics built in, in the form of HYP-RGA, an Empire/Colonial alliance is just good old fashioned use of force to smash the enemy to rubble. He'll be able to stock carriers of both of you during campaigns, and supply all those Gorbies/Virgo's with fuel from the Cobol. You can help balance out the fleet by adding medium sized carriers and as many Gorbies as you can spare. At first it seems he doesn't gain very much, but - you will be pulling your weight in the fighting, especially regarding the sinking of big ships. The Virgo is a strong ship in its own right, but compared to a Gorbie, it pales and begins to look quite wimpy. The Gorbie is over 50% heavier, so it fares a lot better against torpedo-toting enemies, and has 2 extra fighter bays so it's also a lot better against other carriers. And the nice effect of all this is that you'll be picking up quite a few PBPs for yourself!

11  Eradicating the terrorists and insurgents

By the same token, no guide would be complete without a section discussing the rather pleasant task of pounding the other inferior empires into the dirt, and this is it. Descriptions of each alien race are in the above section.

Depends a lot on the skill of the Federation commander, but it is not the worst fight you'll have to face. His ships are significantly weaker than yours, provided you've been able to arm yours with fighters. But if he played the early-mid game well, he'll have a lot of them. He'll come up with varied combos to take down your carriers, since his fleet is flexible. You can counter these by throwing "spanners in the works" - a surprise entry to the battlefield, for example a previously unseen SS Frigate or SS Cruiser - but - there is a danger in using the SS Frigate, it cannot take many hits without engine/shield bonus, and due to the Scotty bonus, may not inflict enough damage to count.

He'll have a lot of cash to build and arm his ships, but cash is not all that hot late in the game when there's nothing to spend it on. Ship slots are the more precious commodity. And thankfully, you will always have the kill ratio on your side. Manage your PBPs wisely and clog up the queue with your vast numbers of bases to slow down the Federation "hull" production. If you have survived until the late game and grown your empire well, the balance of power can only shift one way, and that's yours.

Again, not the worst fight you'll have to face, except if they really take off early on and attack quickly, then you are in trouble. Find an ally quickly! As with fighting the Feds, if you struggle through the early period, things can only look up. You will always get the kill ratio to favour you, and the Gorn are not as flexible as the Feds - they will almost inevitably use T-Rex/Madonzila combos to do their fighting (if the Gorns are inexperienced - you'll see just T-Rexes!) And such combos can be easily accounted for, just neatly slip an SS Frigate into the melee first up, and you'll account for one extra T-Rex than before. The SS Cruiser is a good match for a Madonzila, more so if E/S bonus is on or it fights from the right, so toss one of those in if you wish to be certain of saving the Gorbie. Clog up the queue, slow down his production of reinforcements, and eventually you'll have tons of new Lizard-skin handbags and shoes to ship back home to Coruscant :-)

Of course, watch out for LCC drops, you cannot wildly build bases if you are next to these guys. Minefields help, but not that much. The only true solution is masses of clans - 3000 minimum to be safe - and lots of defence outposts. This means early on you'll have to restrict yourself to the good climate native worlds for bases, but then again fighting the Gorn does not require as many fighters as taking on a carrier race.

An annoying foe, but not severely threatening. They might raid your shipping early on, but a military presence should scare them off. Minefields also discourage them. Against these guys, be a bit more cautious with your base building, you have to make sure the base can defend itself or the resources invested in its construction are all wasted. So you should have defence posts on the planet, plus try to increase the base defence rating too. And when you ship fighters off the base, don't move them all off, leave behind say 30-40 in case a Dark Wing shows up. You want to make sure that in case he does decloak and attack your base, at least you'll destroy one high quality ship before the base goes down.

Ship slots is something he will really struggle for late in the game, especially since Romulans have no fleet combos to speak of - if you throw a Gorbie at him, the only way to get rid of it is by losing 2 or 3 Dark Wings. Sometimes you might even take out 4 because unlike the Feds and Gorns, they do not have economic advantages and they may be forced to build some with lesser weapons.

They can be tricky. At first glance it looks like you can outgun them, and for the most part, you can. But the Glory Devices can give them the edge in combats and nullify your use of support warships. And the cloaking pillage combination wreaks havoc within your empire. The solution is to expand rapidly to give yourself early warning capability - and don't leave too much fuel lying around, this will hopefully make it difficult for his cloakers to penetrate too far towards the core of your empire.

He only has one main attack ship, the Victorious, but that's all he needs. With a combination of glory devices, Victorious' and maybe some Ill Winds, he can cripple your support fleet and gang up on your Gorbies. You have two options. Dart around and feint - which actually works quite well. First time I fought the Klingons (as Rebels) I sent a Rush fleet right towards his planet, showing the waypoint. Next turn I stopped dead and smiled as I heard the sounds of the popping ships. The next time I launched an invasion, I not only stopped before getting there, I backtracked beyond 81 ly out from the planet. As I suspected, the Klingon grew wiser and set his glory device ship to intercept. It flew out 81 ly, saw that the Rushes were not there, desperately tried to turn off their glory device but it was too late, they popped too. If you keep doing that, you make it a guessing game for him. Maybe you'll feint and backtrack, maybe you'll continue to the planet. It's a rather costly guessing game for him, as he'll lose ship slots, which are precious like they are for everyone, but more so the torpedo races.

The second option, which can be used in combination with the first, is carry 110 supplies on the Gorbies, enough to repair the damage of 2 glory devices, and leave you with room for 140 fighters. This forces him to expend 4-5 glory ships in order to do significant hull damage, plus another 2-3 Victorious to actually kill the Gorbie. 6:1 - not a bad kill ratio! Again, clog up the ship queue to hamper Klingon production of reinforcements.

The worst enemy of the lot! You are poorly equipped to deal with them in a normal game, in the majority of cases the only solution is to get help from another race. There isn't much you can do. Minefields only get you so far; leaving your ships in deep space stops robbing since he cannot know where you'll be, but you can't keep this up forever. You must find an ally capable of eliminating these scum! Reveal intelligence, homeworld and starbase locations without hesitation. Get them to go wipe them out.

In a game with Raceplus and/or tachyon, they fear you as much as you fear them, in the late game anyway. The Gorbie's gravity well pulls in and decloaks ALL ships less than 200 KT within 100 ly, which will almost certainly be melted down to slag by the Gorbie's accompanying ships. If you travel in deep space he has no option but to run from the Gorbie, since he won't know when you are going to pull off a Gorbie SUK. The basic plan is SUK in deep space, then send other ships to destroy all his bases within the radius of the SUK. He won't have any cloakers there, unless he somehow got Dark Wings, so you'll be safe from robbing (but watch for NUK traps - if he has ships heavier than 200 KT!)

Another public enemy, people will quite readily attack the Borgs and gang up on them. In the early game, you'll know where all his assimilated worlds and bases are, and can direct the others as to where he may have jumped. You may even be able to pull off an SSD rush on him - the only things that can be certain to damage the SSD enough are cubes, and it will be a while before he gets those. But the problem is, even if you do pull off an SSD rush, it won't be fatal. He'll HYP somewhere else, start assimilating, and in time he'll grow really big again. His homeworld isn't important to him after turn 15 or so, he'll have dozens of "homeworlds" - planets with millions of Borgs and starbases orbiting them.

In the late game, he gets really powerful, but then again, so do you. They're tough to take down as their industrial base is huge, but you should be able to get others into assisting. Like the Klingons and Rebels, you won't find the many Borg 200/60 bases a major problem when invading thanks to the SSD, in fact you might even take a few of them since he cannot be everywhere at once, even with Fireclouds. Contrasting with the races discussed previously, he crawls the ship queue really well, and you won't have a favourable kill ratio anymore, so it will be a difficult fight.

You become better at tackling them in the late game, when you have bigger ships and more fuel. Compared to the other races, you're not too bad against them - the SSD and SS Cruiser have 8 beams, and can tow along Gorbies that can carry 1760 KT fuel, so that they only lose 25 KT a turn. If you can keep them in his territory sweeping away with good beams, you are literally sweeping away his minerals and credits. The Crystals don't have special economic advantages so they would be hard pressed to keep up. It's not easy for him to kill the Gorbie either, those Diamond Flames and Thunders are expensive, especially the cost of fighters for the Thunder. Don't be too greedy however, when the Gorbie being towed is getting low on fuel, head slowly and carefully back home to get more. You can only make slow progress against them, because to rush in is just asking for trouble. But you are one of the better races for taking down Crystals, so if you have a strong economy backing you up, you should prevail.

Beware of traitorous Admirals named Harkov or Zaarin! (only people who have played TIE-Fighter will get that actually.... sorry! ;-)

Expect a tough fight if you're lined up against these chrome heads. Overall, the Empire fares a lot better against torpedo races than fighter races. The Cylons are more powerful than you early in the game, and while you can peg back a bit of that disadvantage as the game progresses, the fact remains, you still cannot emulate his build fighters in space ability. You can't use your economy to overpower him either, unless your empire is a lot bigger than his, as his carriers are extremely cheap and easy to arm. You'll have to use your SSDs wisely to keep him guessing, and ideally, trade for a special ship (like an MBR) to use tactically. But if you're both developed reasonably equally, you'll never outgun him, you'll have to create a fear in his mind of your SSDs suddenly appearing on his starbases, because he will realise that you know exactly where his bases all are. Diversions are the best way - see the Imperial Fleet Guide section on the SSD for ideas.

These guys are more than a nuisance; they are a serious threat if you get on their bad side. Now, you don't have the advantage of Dark Sense, so you have no idea where his key worlds and starbases are. The Rush is really cheap and it puts up a good fight against the Gorbies. His support ships are also very cheap and they make quite a bang. Consider this : in Star Wars, the Empire had a huge economy, hundreds of worlds all producing ships and pilots, billions of citizens under their rule, and they still lost to the Rebels. If they can't beat them with all that, you can't expect to beat them easily in this game where you start with the same resources that he does. You will only beat him if your economy is seriously bigger than his - hard to achieve since he has the Falcon, with proper management the Rebels can expand faster than anyone except maybe the Borgs (me and Borgs had a dead heat as far as expansion went in our last game, by turn 75 both of us had blown out to 140 planets and 80-odd starbases each). And because he has the Falcon, he can bring clans and minerals to good frontier worlds, quickly put a base up, and before you know it, start cranking out Rushes there! Like you, he can and he will use the Falcon to bring credits where they are needed. Unlike you, he can fly in the necessary resources to build fighters aboard his Rushes if he fails to confiscate enough. Oh yes, and we haven't even considered HYP-RGAs yet, so you'll have to leave ships defending your important worlds, too. The upshot of all this is that after the Privateers, the Rebels are probably the race most deadly to you.

Like the other two fighter races, a tough opponent, better on your side than against you, but of course you can't always choose. They are the biggest threat in the early-mid game, where you haven't got a good number of bases yet. After that they still hold the advantage, but it will begin to even out as you start to crawl the queue and get decent amounts of fighters. Near the end, if you get that far and grow your empire well you will actually begin to overpower them because their fleet, a fleet that is pretty much all firepower, no subtlety, becomes severely outclassed by yours - a single Gorbie, fighting from the left, is capable of destroying 2 Virgo's in a row more often than you might think. While he can build free fighters, the Virgo is not as fearsome as you'd expect - needing 8 engines, it can get quite costly. And with only 8 bays, the difference between it and the 10 bay carriers is noticable.

As with the Rebels, you have to watch out for his cheap numerous battlewagons that can make quite a dent. He can saturate the ship queue with these, as arming his ships costs him virtually nothing. The problem here is that minefields, a great tool for swatting gnats like Cygni and Patriots, are no longer available to you. But in reality you'll only have to worry about Cygni - it's not worth it for him to throw Patriots at you, those 30 fighters do not last long against your many beams. To fight well against the Colonies, you have to fall back on your economy. Use the full circle, the bluff, or whatever, but make sure you develop your economic base well - you'll be rewarded when your superior fleet tramples his.

12  The Empire - a "good" race or a "bad" race?

This is the most obvious question I expect to get asked, and have actually been asked by players, and my answer is neither. I'll just give the standard spiel that most strategy guides give - not only to get in line with the others, but also because I believe it - any race can prevail, grow strong, and taste victory in the right hands. All the races have been given enough firepower, special abilities or a combination of both, to be capable of gaining victory. They just have to be played correctly.

But I will hop off the fence and land on one side for a moment here - unless the Empire is given additional fighters a turn or some extra taxes, they are more on the "bad" side than the "good". They really struggle a lot of the time. Five fighters a base each turn is simply not enough - re-read the Starbase Paradox section if you're still not convinced. They're a race which heavily depends on their fighters in order to dish out most of the damage, but they are not given any economic advantages at all to either help them pay for the fighters or help them get the resources required to build bases. Yet they will need to have more bases than everybody else to do well. Their only really top class ships are the SSD and the Gorbie - you can cross out the MiG, RU25, H-Ross and Moscow, those are just plain useless. Imperials only build the SS Frigate because they have no other torper - that too is a poor quality ship. The SS Carrier is a decent medium carrier - but look at all that moly and it is under the critical 320 KT, the mass where fighter hits are reduced to 1% damage each. Same deal with the SS Cruiser - good medium carrier, but only 4 bays (pale in comparison to Instru 7 bays), under 320 KT, and tech 9?!?! I mean, if the 8/4 SS Cruiser was say tech 6 or tech 7, and the Imperials had another heavier carrier design in the tech 9 slot, like maybe an 8/6 or a 9/7 carrier, that weighed say 500 KT (which would naturally be more expensive than the SS Cruiser), then that would help a lot as far getting them in line with the other fighter races is concerned.

Now to play the Empire well, one must realise that, while at first glance they look like a destroy everything pile on the carnage type race, they are nothing at all like that, they're a race where careful planning, logical analysis and crafty deception are paramount. Intelligence is your best friend, so make sure he stays that way.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't include at least one small paragraph on how to counter the Empire - since most strategy guides seem to feature a bit of information on how to counter the race they are talking about - rush at him early on and keep up the offensive, because he cannot sustain heavy fighter production for long and his logistics really suffer as he has to send numerous small carriers scurrying around to scoop up fighters for his big battlecarriers. If you leave it until too late, a competent Imperial commander can grow horrifically strong in the end game - he's similar to the Borgs - painfully weak early, very strong later - but on a lesser scale. He doesn't have the Firecloud that the Borgs have - but instead of concentrating HIS forces, he will spread and disperse YOURS - a multi-front SSD attack, targetting several critical worlds (he will know exactly where these are - unless you're Rebels) is not pleasant to defend against. If he fends you off in the mid game and does not lose too much ground, while powering up his economy, you're going to be in trouble later. Once he starts getting close to 30 or 40 bases, he no longer has any problems with fighters, even if host is only giving him five a turn. If host gives him 10 a turn (like I do) and you let him get up to 20 bases, you are asking for trouble. And once he has no problems with fighters, he's just like the other 3 big carrier races, perhaps a bit more difficult to manage logistically, but he knows where to strike, and the Gorbie is twice as bad as a Rush or Virgo if you have to use torpedoes to take it down.

In closing, I'm hoping none of the other players in my current Empire game are reading this because then they'll know what I am up to. Or perhaps I say that but I am actually hoping you WILL read it and assume that's what I am doing because I wrote it here, whereas in fact I'm doing something totally different, or maybe I'm doing some of what I say here, but other things different, or what if...? You get the idea? Deception, deception, deception! Keep 'em guessing! It's your best ally, so use it well!

Phew! Finally finished - thank you everyone who stuck with me and read through up to this point. Looks like it turned out to be fairly lengthy, longer than even I had expected. Just goes to show that I really know how to ramble on and on - skills picked up from all those boring university essays, no doubt :-p

Anyway one final comment before I go, this guide should not be taken as a complete discussion on Imperial war strategy. It is definitely not set in stone like a lot of other articles. If there's an area that I have not discussed, tell me which section is lacking, and I'll think about adding new material. And if there's a discussion either in the newsgroup, or if I have a conversation with another fellow player, I might change my ideas and this guide will change to reflect that - after all, as I said right at the beginning, what are strategy guides really, just the opinions and thoughts of the writer, nothing more!

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Related articles by the same author:
The Imperial Star Fleet
Imperial logistics

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