VGA Planets Super Site

-=DREADLORD=- Maxims
Winning with Blitzkrieg

By Ramutis Giliauskas
[email protected]
23 Dec, 1999

VGA Planets is a wonderful game that simulates military conquests and the psychology associated with human conflict. Economics are an important factor; so most players focus on planetary development during the first 20 turns. Yet, there is an alternative: The Blitzkrieg strategy. The purpose of this article is to enable players to launch early offensives. Effective intelligence gathering of homeworld locations, coupled to building a small powerful fleet and an aggressive offensive policy can lead to rapid conquests. Let the others concentrate on mundane economic development while expanding their pathetic existence to nearby planets, we will conquer their homeworlds and plunder their labours.

War is decided only by battles. Conquests can only be assured by offensive actions and this can lead to brilliant successes. A defensive policy is only good for allowing the build-up of resources to launch an offence.

During the early part of the game, you will never have sufficient resources to build a perfect fleet, but then neither will your opponents. Using ALL of your current resources, it is possible to build a small, powerful fleet that can destroy your enemy's homeworld and capture his resources while he is at his weakest. Then, with the captured booty you can continue your policy of aggressive expansion.

Perfect set-ups for this strategy are Invasion Scenarios as they are time limited. Once an enemy homeworld is captured, the countdown begins towards a rapid conclusion of the game. A 30-point invasion scenario will usually terminate in 40 to 50 turns, considerably less if one of the players takes two or more homeworlds. Yet, this strategy can be used effectively in almost any game set-up.

Here is how you can do it:

1.    Determine the necessary attack force
Most races can build an invasion force by turn 5. Armed with X-rays and about 80 MK4 torps or 90 fighters an enemy homeworld can be assaulted and destroyed before turn 10. Using PILLAGE or RGA, a homeworld can be weakened sufficiently, so that less ordinance or ships may be required. If your largest ship has only 6 torpedo tubes build a higher MK (eg MK7) and carry 40 torps.

  • Feds: One or two Diplomacy Cruisers, one Missouri Class Battleship
  • Lizard: One T-Rex, lots of Lizard Class Cruisers
  • Birdman: One Dark Wing, two Resolutes, Swift Heart Scouts
  • Fascists: Two Victorious Class Battleships and several D7 Coldpain Cruisers
  • Privateer: MBR's for towing an ally's heavy battleship or carrier or robbing an enemy battleship/carrier.
  • Cyborg: One Annihilation, two Fireclouds, lots of B200 probes with tech 1 to 5 eng. and x-rays, blasters or Positron beams
  • Crystal: One Diamond Flame, Emerald Cruiser and several Ruby Class Cruisers.
  • Empire: One Gorbie, two Super Star Destroyers, lots of PL21 Probes with tech 1 to 5 eng. and Positron beams.
  • Robots: One Golem and two Automas or Instrumentalities.
  • Rebel: One Rush, two Guardian Class Destroyers or two Patriot Carriers, lots of Falcons with very low tech eng. (tech 1, 2 or 3) and x-ray beams. These are ideal for hyperdriving onto enemy planets with the mission pre-set to RGA. Also works for Fascists with mission set to PILLAGE.
  • Colonies: One or two Virgo's, two Cobols, two Patriot Carriers

Several of the races are unable to build a heavy ship capable of effectively destroying a homeworld, while others are initially restricted because of the large amount of resources required for the hull. In these situations it is necessary to co-ordinate ship building with an ally.

2.    Place your economy on full war production immediately
Megacredits, supplies and minerals sitting on a planet's surface do not win battles, they must be converted into ships and used as rapidly as possible. In turn one it is necessary to find out what your total resources are for each of the next 10 turns. With the knowledge of knowing how many minerals, supplies and money you will have, you can now plan a fleet that will optimise your resources. This fleet is a compromise, mixing light, cheap scouts with heavier, higher tech hulls. The choice of equiping the ships with low or high tech engines, beams and torps is also a compromise based on the resources available.

Each turn takes only about one minute to complete for each ship, planet or starbase, i.e. turn one with two ships, one planet and one starbase will take about four minutes. This generally holds true throughout the whole game. Yet, the planning of each turn can add hours. Do not be conservative. It is essential to obtain as much out of your economy in the shortest possible time to build a small powerful assault fleet by turn 5. Increase your mines and factories to the maximum. Set your tax rate to a level that by turn five happiness is at 40. (They start to riot at less than 40.) VGA Planets Assistant is useful for this.

3.    Know your neighbours
By turn three, you should have a fairly good idea of where your neighbours are located, who they may be and the route to follow for your invasion. With the various mapping utilities available, it is possible to obtain a good visual picture of the Echo Cluster and have a rough idea of the location of most players. Practice setting up a few host games to see where the computer places the homeworlds for the various scenarios.

The homeworlds in a circle is a common set-up. The key is to determine where is the centre and what is its radius. With an ally, you will know the location of two homeworlds and the diameter of the circle will cut close to both homeworlds. Usually by turn three an enemy ship is sighted and based on his warp, direction and type of ship, you will have a rough idea where he came from. Now you can guess at the possible locations of the other enemy homeworlds and be able to send scouts to verify.

4.    Never allow the enemy to see any ship.
If your neighbour can see you, he can prepare a defence against your race's capabilities, or plan an offence. It takes only one or two turns for a player to determine where your homeworld is located once he sees your ship travelling from planet to planet. Even the movement of fleets throughout the game must be hidden, so that your opponents must guess at your location and intentions. With a low-tech engine take the fuel penalty and overdrive the engine at a higher warp to avoid being seen.

Sometimes you will be unable to reach a planet in one warp. In this case, plan your ship movement with several ships so you will minimise the number of turns your ships are seen. Move the ships to a position that is equally distant from several planets AND the planet you are leaving, so it is difficult to determine where you came from or going to. Always make your enemy work to obtain intelligence on your ships. If he isn't using scouts and he cannot see your ships, then he is guessing on what your intentions are.

5.    Use lightly armed and cheap scouts for recce.
Never attack blind - know what your enemy has. The more you know about his fleet, the better you will be prepared to deal with it. (VPA and Fleet Evaluator can do this). Scouts are used for obtaining intelligence on enemy ships and finding the location homeworlds, not for combat. If your enemy does not see the scouts, he probably does not know you are there and may let his guard drop. They must be cheap, fast, expendable and capable of putting up a defence against other scouts, but easily destroyed rather than captured by larger ships. This is to prevent them from being cloned.

Hyperdrive probes are excellent for scouting. Tech 1 to 5 eng. and x-ray to Positron beams is all that is necessary for these ships. If you do not have any, buy or capture one for cloning, because with hyperdrive they can move 340 to 360 light years per turn. Movement should only be by hyperdrive and not by regular warp movement. Any of Privateer's Gravatonic Accelerated ships are excellent scouts, as well as the large selection of cloakers.

6.    Attack and capture or kill the enemy HW as soon as possible.
Generally, it is possible to attack and destroy an enemy homeworld as early as turn seven. If you know the location of your neighbour's homeworld, you can build an assault force that will destroy anything he has. Two to three powerful ships are all that is needed. If your enemy is a mine-laying race, you may have to use higher tech beams for minesweeping than if your enemy makes fighters cheaply. The mix of ordinance and tech levels for beams, torps and engines will be determined by the resources you can squeeze out of your economy.

The very nature of blitzkrieg is a massive attack which often takes the enemy by surprise and this contributes to the psychological defeat of the enemy. In this operation the key is to break the enemy's will to fight rather than his ability to do so. An enemy homeworld is the centre of his empire and the capture of it will normally cause a player to drop out of the game in a couple turns because he is no longer prepared to continue the fight. The loss of a homeworld early in the game sends a chill throughout the Echo Cluster. To all the other players you now have the appearance of a powerful force and this is more important than its reality.

7.    Always check the scores.
If a player is just building freighters, he may think himself secure and not be anticipating an early attack. Watch this player, eventually he will have a strong economy. Kill him early, otherwise he will be a problem. During the first 10 turns most players produce one ship per turn. If someone doesn't make a ship or decreases the number of ships in his fleet, check to see which player with only one starbase had his fleet increased by two ships. Don't assume that the ship was captured in combat, they may be allies. Hypothesize on what strengths the two races have combined and what tactics they may use. When ships are destroyed, determine who lost it, the type and its location. Study the game set-up configuration carefully. If you forget them, set the friendly code "con" to one of your planets to receive the host configuration files again.

8.    Allies
To survive, recover and launch a counter offensive, it is necessary to have an ally. Unless you are Cyborg, recovery with one ship and one colonist is extremely difficult without a friend.If you are going to ally with someone, be prepared to communicate frequently and co-ordinate your efforts. An alliance is most advantageous if you co-ordinate your efforts well and share your knowledge of your surroundings. Along those lines, if you ally with someone, never stab them in the back. In all games, I always have one trusted ally that I have played with before. Even with the smallest of ships, every race has a special ability, or unique ship that will enable their partner to be more effective. There is always someone willing to co-ordinate efforts and share information.

9.    Mistakes
"There is many a slip between the cup and the lip". As the number of ships, planets and turns increase so does the probability for mistakes. Do not be discouraged, accept them as part of the game. Screw-ups happen in real battles. Some common errors:

  • Missed turns due to forgetting when host run, out of town, stale file.
  • Forgetting to move or load a ship, add enough fuel.
  • Building ship incorrectly.
  • Waypoint set incorrectly (mouse bumped)
  • Forgot to re-set the Friendly code of ship or planet.

When the RST is sent to you, read the message to see who has not played. The fewer ships and planets you own, will mean fewer errors and the faster your turn can be completed. You will also have more time to analyse your position. It is very rare that you (and your ally) will not make any mistakes. It is to your benefit to minimise your mistakes and to exploit the one's your opponents make.

10.    Escape Pod
Sometimes things go wrong! Yet, it is possible to recover from defeats and still be a threat to the conclusion of the game. To prepare for this unfortunate occurrence have a small, fast ship with colonists, supplies and $1500 ready. About turn 6 move this ship about 300 light years away from your nearest neighbours, look for a planet that has natives on which a starbase can be built that provides tech 10 hulls or tech 10 engines. This small investment will ensure your survival.

Develop the alternate starbase early so that when you need it, it will have a strong economy. Also, there still is hope if things look really bad: You have no ships, your homeworld is a couple of turns from destruction, there is no money left and you have no allies. Use an unregistered version of VGA Planets for the next turn. This will convert your registered tech levels to unregistered and the difference in money will be deposited in your treasury. Now build a ship and run with the money so you can start again in another location.

If you have no ships, only one planet and one colonist left, have someone send a ship to the planet to drop supplies, minerals and beam down megacredits (bdm) so that a starbase can be built. Build the starbase and force surrender the ship. Now your ally can give you ships (gsN), colonists, etc. Unfortunately, many weak players do not stay with the game to the end when they see victory slipping away. When they lose their homeworld or several large capital ships, they drop out seeking new and easier conquests in other games. That is stupid. Only by staying around, they can learn from experienced players and avoid repeating their current fate in future games. They also learn to play effectively with the minimum of resources and minimum number of ships, while providing the other players with a competitive player that no computer player can simulate.

By playing to the end of the game when your empire is crumbling, you will learn through practical experience to become a more resourceful and competent player. You will be forced to become innovative for your survival because you will have fewer ships and options available, but most of all, you will cause your conqueror a lot of grief. Moreover, in your next game you will be a much more experienced and dangerous player.

11.    Learn the game
It's fun to devote yourself to playing one race and learning all of its weaknesses, advantages and capabilities. However, the deadly players have played all the races at least once. Then they come back to playing that race they most enjoy. In this way, you are better prepared to fight the other races. Competent players PRACTICE, SIMULATE and READ. Practice playing your race against the computer. Simulate the battle before you fight it. Read the docs for the game you are in - be aware of what the settings are for your cluster and the add-ons used there.

12.    Study the tactics of the great generals
It does not take long to learn and understand the common threads for victory. For real examples of how to fight against superior odds study the battles of Alexander's conquest of the world, Caesar in the Gallic wars, Hannibal against Rome and Napoleon's early battles. Here are a couple of excellent sources of military ideas:

  • Marshal Maurice de Saxe studied the Roman methods and modernised their lessons for the 1700's in "My Reveries Upon the Art of War".
  • Frederick the Great was an admirer of Saxe and breathed only the offensive. He wrote a practical guide based on real experience entitled "The Instructions of Frederick The Great for His Generals, 1747".

In addition, when an opponent is slicing through your defences and ravaging your planets, watch and learn what he does and the errors you made. Even Alexander the Great was never too mighty a King, that he would not learn from his enemies. He would also turn a defeated enemy into a staunch ally to protect his rear. The Romans trained and filled many of their legions with the same methods.

This aggressive policy does work. Depending on your experience and whomever you attack will determine how successful you will be. Sometimes these tactics will work flawlessly and surprise you and your enemies with your brilliant victories. Other times you will be fighting for your very survival. In every game you gain experience and no matter what the outcome you become more competent and capable of exacting a higher price for every ship and planet you lose.

For their ideas, contributions and feedback my thanks to:

David Pickerell aka Lord Firefall
Dirk Fischbach
Doug Carmichael
Larry McCarthy
Steven Davis

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