VGA Planets Super Site

Waging War in VGA Planets
by Maurice Bernsen

Part 1. Basic War Concepts

Part 2. VGA Planets Tactics

Part 3. Race Specific Tactics and Defenses

1.    Basic war concepts

If you are experienced with any sort of war games, you know that there are only a handful of rules you really need to know.

    1. Be there first
    2. Be there with the most
    3. Use all your resources (could be part of #2)
    4. Pick your battles wisely
    5. Pick you objectives wisely.

Be there first
It is often easier to defend than to attack. If you can achieve a defensive capability, you can weather a storm and counterattack. If your opponent has spent his resources coming to you, he or she is vulnerable. If you deplete a planet before your enemy gets there, it cannot be used against you. If you own the planet first, you are in a better position to use it for intelligence, for hiding, for logistics. In order to get there first, you often need the best engines. You may need to forward plan to make sure the right ships get there at the right time with the right materials. The planets you want to get to first are the good native planets and the planets close to the border with your enemy.

Be there with the most
The ships in this game exist for 2 purposes. One is to move colonists and materials out to your empire. The second is to protect those freighters and expand your empire. Warships sometimes have special missions, but generally a warship exists to exert an influence on the space around it. It has a Zone Of Control (ZOC). The bigger and faster the warship, the larger the ZOC. It is possible to have warships that exert no ZOC. This occurs when they are near more powerful enemy ships.

A typical strategy is to send ships out as far as they can go until they are stopped. Unfortunately, when they are stopped (defeated in combat or forced to retreat) you have lost the ZOC and your enemy will take back territory. The time lost in getting another better ship or fleet out to that point is an important factor and a kind of expense. That is why you should send out ships capable of surviving and capable of beating anticipated threats. Anticipating threats is a critical skill. Because you are expanding in all directions, you need to know which directions to send your power to. If you choose well, you gain and hold territory with minimum loss of ships.
If you choose poorly, you are overrun while your ships are elsewhere, or you take heavy losses because you are outclassed.

Use all your resources
Successful players know they have to be resourceful. You must learn the best ways to use each ship. You must know how to eek every ounce of production out of planets and bases. You must develop priorities for spending that suit your needs of expansion and protection. Example: Can you use minefields? You can if you have ships with the appropriate types of tubes, and if these are in the right place, with a supply of torpedoes. If you fail to plan each of these factors, it will not happen. If you have planned correctly you can lay minefields, but this will be at the expense of other things you could have or do. Developing good priorities is an art and comes with experience. Another example: Ships often can perform multiple tasks. Know when to use each mission, when to have enemy set, and how to use all the special friendly codes. In a single turn, a single ship can tow an enemy to a waiting wolf pack, transfer fuel to it to make sure it will fight, kill another race's ship when it gets there, beam up  fuel and materials  from the planet you are orbiting, and make torpedoes for the combat you expect. Learn to consistently get the most out of your ships. Yet another example: Find a way to get additional starbases built and producing. Build useful ships every turn. Failure to find a way to build your share of ships may cost you the game.

Pick your battles wisely
There is usually not sufficient reason to throw away ships at an implacable target. And it is similarly unwise to defend a planet when you cannot hope to win. Better to conserve your resources. A dead ship cannot lay mines, scout, tow (from cloaked concealment), raid enemy freighters, recapture planets, perform special missions, sweep mines or move materials around. It is important to win the battle and still have enough power to create a ZOC.

You cannot always be in 2 places at once. So if you are going to play defensively, you must anticipate your opponent. Good defensive play often allows you to beat a superior force with minimal losses. This ability also comes with experience, knowledge of the particular player and knowledge of each race and how it operates. Often it is better to be offensive rather than defensive. This at least allows you to control the target and to focus your ships in one place. If you never go on the offensive, you will never win. Either way, if you can find a way to beat your opponent's warships, you can walk through his territory. Be prepared to drive your ships into the vacuum (absence of enemy ships) as soon as you create it. That means a good counteroffensive should immediately follow a successful defense.

Pick your battles wisely
When you plan for war, you should be thinking of an objective. What territory do you need to control? How much force do you need to take and hold it? Is it worth it? How safe is your remaining territory while this is going on? Sometimes there is no real opposition to your offensive. But sometimes you will need all your strength. How much of the enemy's territory can you bite off? If the answer is "all of it" than you should plan on doing so. If only "part of it" than which part? Is there an enemy base which supports their activities in that area? Would destroying it make it easier to defend the area later? How long before your opponent has the capability to strike back? Do you have the support ships ready to follow up the warships, transporting colonists and materials for your own base?

To sum it up, do not squander your forces piecemeal against random threats. Focus them on a specific, manageable, worthy objective. Try to fight wars on a single front. Avoid being at war with 2 players at the same time. Plan your building so that at a specific future time you will have all the elements you need to wage war. Then carry out your plan.

2.    VGA Planets tactics

This is a very complex subject. Players with years of experience are still learning new techniques. I will try to touch on some of the major points.

1. When does a ship fight?
2. How can I control the battle order?
3. Why would I want to control the battle order?
4. What are the best ways to move ships?
5. How should I configure my task forces?
6. How should I use and avoid minefields?
7. Cloaked Intercept
8. Tow-kill and wolf packs
9. Starbase and Planetary defense

When does a ship fight?
A ship fights when you want it to. Or when an enemy forces it to. I'll explain. You can cause your ship to attack an enemy by either setting your mission to KILL!!! or by setting your enemy field to that particular enemy. In either event, you will attack unless you have matched his friendly code or you have set him as your ally, or he is out of fuel. Similarly, you may be attacked by an enemy. You may avoid this combat by dropping your fuel, moving your ship, matching his friendly code, having him set you as an ally, or cloaking.

How can I control the battle order?
Friendly codes can be used to determine which of your ships will fight first. Numeric friendly codes take precedence over non-numeric friendly codes. So "001" will fight before "010", which will fight before "mkt". In the event that both ships have non-numeric friendly codes, the one with the lowest I.D. number will fight first. These rules apply whether you are attacking your enemy or whether he initiates the combat. Therefore, always keep your fleets in appropriate battle order even if you do not plan to attack.

Why would I want to control the battle order?
This is getting to the heart of the matter. If you do not want your freighters to fight, you want them set to a non-numeric friendly code while their defenders have
numeric friendly codes. You may also want a certain ship to fight first or second. A big ship might be more likely to survive as the first ship in combat. A small ship might need to go first to shoot down enemy fighters. A torpedo ship might need to precede a carrier in order to bring down a large enemy ship because good torpedoes are usually more effective in reducing shields than fighters. Fighters are usually more effective at destroying a hull than torpedoes. This is especially true against big ships. In addition, carriers want to field the left side in VCR combat against other carriers, but want to be on the right side against small and medium torpedo ships. Lowest numeric friendly code gets the right side. In the case of 2 combatants with non-numeric codes, lowest I.D. gets the right side.

What are the best ways to move ships?
Generally you do not want to be seen; and if seen, you do not want to telegraph your intentions or give away your past. Competent players will take the extra time to move via planet hops wherever possible. Unless the enemy has a ship over the planet you move to (or owns the planet,) he will not know you are there. When it is not possible to move via planet hops, you want to move in short moves of under 81 ly (if you are traveling at warp 9.)  Do not set longer way points unless you are cloaked (and cloaked failure rate is set low by host) or you wish to mislead your opponent. Long way points tell your opponent where you have been as well as where you might be going. Try to select a way point between several planets so that it is impossible to tell which one you came from or which one you are going to. Do not move in a straight line. An enemy who moves in straight lines with long way points is easy to beat because you always know exactly how many ships you need to beat him and where to send them.

How should I configure my task forces?
That depends greatly on your race and the ships at hand. Some races have solid battleships and good carriers. These races would like to lead with a battleship against tough opponents. The carrier would follow and cleanup. This means they would lose more battleships, but save expensive fighters. In a long combat, they would alternate battleships with carriers. BB, CV, BB, CV, BB etc. So for these races, a battleship or 2 and a carrier make a good lance.

Other races have fine heavy carriers, but poor torpedo ships. If the Engine Shield (ES) bonus is turned on and set to about 30 or more, these races can often use destroyers and cruisers instead of battleships in front of their carriers. Otherwise, they use their carriers to shield the smaller support and mine laying ships. Still other races have poor carriers, but decent torp and beam ships. Against enemy carriers, they would want to lead with a ship that can reduce the fighter compliment of the enemy carrier, possibly doing some shield damage as well. This can save battleships.

Either way, a good deep penetration task force will have some capability to lay minefields and pull damaged ships to safety. A good border patrol task force will need the flexibility to deal with any kind of threat.  Good engines are important unless your ship will be based at a planet or towed. While torpedoes can be manufactured deep in enemy territory, only 3 races can make fighters away from home. For the other races, fighters are reserved for ship to ship combat or taking starbases. They are not to be squandered in situations where a good torpedo will do the job. Torpedo ships are needed for everything. So your balance is going to include more torpedo ships than carriers. In the late game, after the ship limit is reached, that balance shifts towards the biggest, meanest ships you can build.

How should I use and avoid minefields?
Minefields can be defensive or offensive. Laying a minefield in front of an unsuspecting opponent can cause serious problems for him. Ships that are damaged do not fight as well as undamaged ships and may be slowed down as well. They may lose some special ability too. If an enemy knows about a minefield he will probably either go around it or attempt to sweep it. Either way, he is slowed down. Occasionally he will try to go straight through it, perhaps towing another ship. If he has supplies aboard the ship, he can repair damage from mine hits before combat.

If you see pairs of ships with at least 1 large ship in each pair, watch out for the tow. This enemy will come at you full speed despite minefields. If he is the robot, or has a large supply of torpedoes, he may countermine. That is laying a minefield that is big enough to destroy all your mines and perhaps leave one of his own in place. If he is the Colonies, your minefields will not survive long unless they are very big. Then they might last 2 turns. So don't waste torpedoes on mines in the face of Colonies carriers. Try to lay minefields that are out of sweep range of your opponent's beams.

You can control the size of the minefield using the mdX friendly code where X is a number from 1 to 0 denoting multiples of 10 torpedoes. 1= 10, 0= 100. Rather than give you the formula for the size of a minefield, I suggest you get the latest version of Echoview. It has a minefield utility that takes into account the weapons, missions and friendly codes of all your ships. And you can set up missions for your enemy's ships as well. Have a lower I.D. ship on hand to scoop up minefields before the enemy ship can. Remember that mine laying comes first, then mine sweeping, then mines destroy mines. All occur before movement, which is before combat.

Lay overlapping minefields for a stronger defensive posture. You can even lay minefields in the name of your ally using miX friendly code where X is the number of your ally. This is handy to create very dense minefields. Be aware you cannot scoop these. Keep all decent beam ships on mine sweep mission to minimize the effects of your opponent's minefields and to spot small fields before you run into them. Pick up or scoop your minefields and reposition them. You might as well. The enemy is either going around them or preparing to sweep them. This keeps him off balance and conserves mines.

Cloaked intercept
A ship that is capable of cloaking is capable of the cloaked intercept. Cloaked intercept is really just the intercept mission, but cloakable ships that perform this mission can attack their intercept target in a special combat that precedes normal combat. After this combat is resolved the surviving ship can participate in regular combat as well. Cloaking races use this technique to kill escorted ships.

Possible defenses to the cloaked intercept are

  1. minefields
  2. remove fuel from potential victims so they do not fight. Allows escort to kill the interceptor during normal combat.
  3. enter a planet's warp well. Interceptor will be pulled to planet where the escort waits.
  4. minefields, remember the interceptor travels uncloaked.

Tow-kill and wolfpacks
Cloaked ships are likely to be used to tow an unsuspecting ship to its doom. They simply decloak, lock tractors and drag it off. They can split enemy fleets up this way into smaller, more digestible portions. This is likely to happen at a planet. In between planets it should be too hard for them to manage to be in the same place as their intended victim. And it will be if your moves are not straight-line. Some cloakers rarely need assistance killing their victims. Dark Wing battleships are wolves. But any ship with heavy disruptors can drag off a super freighter and capture it using friendly code NTP to disable its torpedoes.

Others tow the victim to a waiting group of ships called a wolf pack. The wolf pack may kill the victim at the end of movement, or allow the victim to kill the tow ship (sacrificial lamb) knowing the victim will be captured next turn (pirates rob and tow capture) before it moves. If you suspect cloakers are nearby, lay minefields. If you have a Loki, or a pop ship, use it. You can try setting the escort ships to intercept suspected target in the hope of thwarting the raiders, but this is likely to end in a worse situation.

Loading a freighter with supplies (to make it expensive to tow), but without fuel (so it will not fight), is effective against inexperienced players. They do not realize they should transfer 1 unit of fuel to each ship they tow to make sure it will fight. They may also tow the ship too far not realizing it will weigh much more than planned and use up their fuel - making them a sitting duck. If Privateers are the problem, beam up fuel from the planet to make sure they do not leave you with empty tanks when they rob you. Engage the services of your Crystal neighbor. Web mines are the best anti-cloaking device in the game.

Starbase defense and planetary defense
A fully stocked starbase is able to beat the best ship (singular) in the game. But not much more than that. Try not to give your cloaking opponents the option to ground assault you. Keep plenty of clans there and buy some planetary defense posts. Not only do these make the ground assault more difficult, but they increase the number of beams your base defends with. Lay minefields around the base. Keep a battleship there with a lower numeric friendly code than your other ships and enough torps for a battle. If you know your enemy, set your enemy field to attack him so you can use your mission for something else. Get tech 10 beams on the base.

Be careful about your mission and friendly code. If no allies are around, the best Starbase mission is usually force surrender. Pesky cloakers belonging to inexperienced players can sometimes be captured by matching their friendly codes. Hyperjumping ships that try to jump away from your planet, or that do not get their friendly code changed can be captured by setting your base friendly code to HYP. Beware that you may give  your enemy a free ride through your minefields by matching the friendly codes. In the early stages of the game, the NUK friendly code is great for killing hyperjumping probes. But later, it causes problems with minefields.

If your enemy knows you are using NUK or ATT, he has a 50% chance to ignore your minefield. Watch messages for signs that Bird Men are tampering with your friendly codes. When this happens, or when an enemy captures one of your planets, make sure you change all planetary friendly codes.

For planets without starbases, 21 defense posts is usually sufficient. This gives you enough to beat any probe, and makes it impossible to get sensor readings off the planets. Use NUK or ATT to kill hyperjumping probes. But when you have a nearby minefield, know which planet controls it and set the friendly code of that planet to something else. Closest planet controls the code.

3.    Race specific tactics and defenses

Bird Men

Feds get 200% tax. This eventually translates into high tech ships and large  minefields. It also leaves some left over to buy fighters. Feds get an extra 50 kt of hull mass added to their ships when those ships have an original hull mass of under about 340 kt. Feds get to fight with three extra fighter bays. So a ship listed with 3 fighter bays would fight as if it had 6 bays if it were owned by the Federation. Feds get to restore 25% of their shields between successive combats. And they enter the next combat with all weapons available, regardless of their damage. Feds have a fine selection of torpedo ships and a useful carrier. Finally, Feds get to use Super Refit. This lets them build a hull and install or upgrade components on it later. This is extremely useful in racing towards the ship limit of 500 or 999 ships per game, allowing the Federation to compete favorably with heavy carrier races.

If you are the Feds, you should get your economy going quickly and get  a couple more bases up fast. Don't build junk hulls. But you can build some stripped down ships for later use. You should be able to build something at every base every turn.  Your Diplomacy, and Missouri make good lead ships for the Kittyhawk. The Nebula is the classic cruiser. It is perfect for exploration, cargo and minefield work, taking planets.  The Nocturne is a great early game explorer. The Brynhild will find the good native worlds. Your ships should carry at least 10 times as many torps (15 if you can find the space and money) as they have tubes. Most races cannot afford that. But this gives you the ability to fight multiple battles and lay small tactical minefields. Try to fight with your biggest ship first, since that takes the best advantage of your 25% shield bonus.

But when up against a large enemy carrier, try not to use your big ship until you think it can win. Do some simulations and see which ships you must sacrifice to keep your battleship or Kittyhawk from being destroyed (damaged is OK.) In this manner, Federation can win a war of attrition against any race except a well equipped carrier race. Against major carriers, you want to trade battleships for carriers. You do this by leading with a battleship and following up with a Kittyhawk. You will need plenty of fighters to restock the Kitty, and you should attempt to isolate the enemy carriers and fight them one at a time or your Kitty is toast, along with the next ship in your battle order.

Lizards get 150% mining and can hiss over good native worlds for extra cash. Hiss allows them to preserve supplies for their Neutronic Refinery or Merlin. Lizards should expand quickly and have extra bases in production early. Lizards should build mostly Lizard Class Cruisers (LCC.) They use these versatile ships for exploration, freight, escorts, minefields, and ground assaulting enemy planets. They also use them to scout ahead of their main fleet and to tow enemy ships to their destruction.

Lizards should build about 3 T-Rex for every Madonzilla. The T-Rex will lead the Madonzilla in combat against enemy heavy ships. So it is expendable. That is why you need more. In addition, T-rex is cheaper to build and load and can make new torpedoes in the field. It will do most of the fighting. And with decent beams, it is a great minesweeper. Because of the Lizard 150% damage capability, the T-Rex can beat or seriously damage any Battleship in the game. The 150% damage capability means very little against fighters though. This is when you really need a Madonzilla as a backstop. But do not throw away your fighters against undamaged enemy heavies or against smaller ships that you could kill as easily with torpedoes.

Your LCC fleet should be able to split the enemy forces, allowing you to plan the battles. Try to take enemy bases with the ground assault. If you succeed, your enemy could be looking at having his base used against him very quickly. Lizard should try to carry at least 10 times the number of tubes (15 is even better) in torpedoes. Liz can afford them, and LCC can lay surprise tactical minefields, allowing them to kill large, superior enemy ships (after they take mine hits) deep in enemy territory. There are few more dangerous ships on solo deep penetration missions than an LCC with a load of torps and clans.

Bird men
Bird Men have 2 great ships. The Resolute BC and the Dark Wing BB. Superspy is sometimes useful, especially in determining and changing planetary friendly codes, but your opponents will catch on quick and begin to reset them randomly. Birds have no economic advantages. But in combat they can shine. Birds are a much better offensive race. This is because they cannot easily win a war of attrition against an invading carrier race. But in enemy territory, they can chop the enemy off at the knees by raiding shipping and capturing unprotected planets. Keep your presence hidden for as long as possible. But once discovered, go for the throat. Ideally, you will have positioned yourself to deal a knockout blow as the first sign of your presence.

If you are a Bird Man, you would like to build as many Dark Wings as you can. Not only is this a fine battleship with 8 tubes and 10 beams, but it cloaks. And it can stay cloaked deep in enemy territory indefinitely since it uses no fuel to cloak. You will want to carry at least 80 torpedoes. A Dark Wing without enough torpedoes is likely to be shot up. And the next ship in the battle order will suffer as a result.  The rest of your cargo should be supplies in case you hit a minefield. You will want to use Disruptors or Heavy Disruptors to capture ships (an economic advantage) and sweep decently. Your favorite tactic will be to split enemy fleets by towing them with or to Dark Wings. But you will also need to cloak intercept certain pesky ships. Resolutes carry extra fuel, torpedoes and supplies to support the Dark Wings. They are also good for towing enemy ships, deep recon, mine sweeping and mine laying, front line cloaked freighter work, and retrieving damaged Dark Wings for repair. Resolutes make a good ship to trade to allies.

If you are using TKF (The Killing Fields fleet combat add-on), your cloaked ships can mass together and beat more powerful enemy ships without taking any losses. But in VCR (Host's default combat system), you can count on losing several Dark wings per major carrier. This is bad. So as the Birds, you want to avoid that kind of direct engagement, especially after the ship limit is hit when you cannot build 3 battleships per carrier. You should attack enemy freighters, scouts and picket ships (gaining PBP (priority build points) and capturing ships to build your navy), and take away all the uncontested enemy planets you can. Remove fuel from the planets close to the enemy. Lay surprise minefields. Damaged carriers are much easier to beat. Use the cheap cruisers you built early in the game to lead your battleships against carriers and starbases. These ships have enough beams to kill some fighters.

As the attacking Bird Man, you are the master of your fate. You decide when and where combat occurs. It is a rare player that can survive a well played Bird Man assault. However, there are races that are better equipped to deal with you. One is the Lizards. They can fight you toe to toe. And they can cloak. You will not get off to a better start than Lizards. And their ground assault makes capturing their planets a revolving door. Crystals lay those web mines. If you can beat them early they are a pushover. Later, though, you need to have good beams and patience. You cease to be a cloaking race and must use brute force. Get an ally to deal with them.

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