The Beginner's Guide to MOO3
By Chaos Avatar

Master Of Orion 3: First Game Tutorial

Congratulations! You are now a proud owner of Master of Orion 3. You've torn off the plastic wrapping, opened the box, and gazed lovingly at the CDs, the manual, and the assorted advertising materials that inevitably come with computer games. You've even popped the CDROM into your drive and installed the game successfully, and double-clicked the shiny blue-black icon. Oooh, pretty intro movie... But, you might ask, what happens next? Here's a quick "beginner's guide" to starting the game. It won't cover all the details of a full campaign throughout the sector, but it will get your empire off to a decent start, and let you see what you're facing. DISCLAIMER: This is not meant to be a "end all and be all" to starting the game. This guide is merely for the player who is starting for the first few times, and hasn't really studied the manual or strat guide or in-game mechanics with mathematical precision. Once you learn all the complexities of the game, you'll realize that this humble guide is like a mere "cliff's notes" to a real beginning. You'll also realize that different races will require different starting strategies, and that this guide is simple generica intended to lead you in the right direction.

"Choose... But Choose Wisely!"

Choose your race. Or roll a d16 and let it choose for you. Don't worry about customization for now. Some other smart guy will write that guide. As for the game options, the default settings aren't too bad. For a quick, simple starter game, though, cut down the number of AI empires to three or four, make it a medium cluster galaxy, set it on easy (yeah, I know, you're no wimp; just take a practice run here), many short starlanes (to avoid getting sealed off), and go to town.

"Do You See What I See?"

You start in the galaxy view. Behold the Orion Sector. Behold your home system in the center of the screen (its name is written in your imperial color, as opposed to white for neutral systems). Behold the Masters' Notes in the lower left corner. You can read those now, if you wish; they do give a decent run down on what's available to you in any particular screen. Besides the map of the sector (use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out so you can get a "big picture" of what the sector looks like), there are three items of interest in this view. On top of the screen is the game toolbar, with six separate functions. The Game button brings up various game options (load, save, new, settings, quit); the SitRep button will bring up the SitRep (I'll get to that one later); the turn indicator can be cycled to display turn number, Galactic Cycle, real time, and (in timer games) how much time is left in a turn; the finance counter shows your current income and overall surplus or debt; the Encyclopedia brings up a plethora of technical details regarding the game; and the Turn button will end the turn. Don't click that last one yet.
Second is your imperial productivity statistics, located at the top of the galaxy view. These numbers represent your empire's overall stats on food/mineral produced/needed, industrial output, and research. They will change over time to reflect the increased needs and output of your empire. Finally, there are eight control tabs lining the bottom of the screen. All of them are important. Only a few are really important at the beginning of a game. We'll get to those shortly.

"Now Go Do That Voodoo..."

There are three ships in your home system- two scouts and a colony ship. If you single-click the ship icon near your home system, you'll pull up a panel allowing you to command your task forces. Click on an individual scout task force, and then click on a system you want it to explore. Off it goes. If you want multiple task forces to go to the same location, shift-click on each task force until you've selected all the ones you want, and then click on a system you want them to travel to. Click on deep space (somewhere empty on the galaxy map) if you want to close the task force command panel. Double-clicking on your home system will zoom in to the system view. Now you can see all the planets in your home system. Clicking on each one will tell you a bit about them. Take note of any planetary specials, as well as any Sweet Spot and Green worlds in the system. Double-clicking on your home world (again, indicated by having its name in your imperial color) will zoom in to the planet view. Quite a few menus and numbers show up for your information. Take special note of the numbers for "Food produced/needed" and "Minerals produced/needed"; these numbers will be very important in the earlier part of the game. Resource shortfalls equal trouble. The panel you'll be most interested in here is the Economics panel (lower left). Single-click on the "Economics" bar to bring up the full details. This panel tells you how your colony's money is being spent- what military units are being constructed, what planetary improvements are underway, how your DEAs are being developed, whether you're terraforming or not, and what you're spending on research. There is a checkbox here asking if you want the AI to handle this or not. Trust me: LET THE AI HANDLE IT. You can toy with it later. Do take a moment, though, to look at your military production queue. The AI might be building a lot of colony ships. Do you want them? Or do you want a few scouts to explore more? Or perhaps your home system has a nice Green One world that you want to claim quickly with a cheaper system colony ship? By clicking on the Military button you'll bring up the Military Build Queue. You can remove items from the queue by double-clicking on their icons, and add items to the queue in the same manner. Note that, for building ships and troops, you have the option of building one, five, or ten at a time. This can be useful in various stages of the game. For now, though, make sure you have at least one colony ship (or system colony ship, if there's something juicy in your home system) under construction. The other panel that's worth perusal is the Planetary Infrastructure panel. This will show your planet's regions, what DEAs have been built, what DEAs are under construction, and any enhancements that are in place. You can, if you wish, micromanage DEA construction. Or, you can allow your viceroy to take care of that. The viceroy can be influenced by your development plans. But that's a story for another day. For now, note the numbers- industries consume minerals to make production points; your population consumes food, which comes from bioharvest DEAs, and mining DEAs produce minerals. The government DEA reduces unrest, among other things, and the research DEA produces research points. The remaining panels are not entirely vital to the beginning of the game, but can still be reviewed for information. The Planetary Classifications panel is vital when you begin to apply your development plans. The Military panel tells you what forces are available at this colony. The Demographics panel will give you a population breakdown of this colony, as well as describing the current state of unrest. The Environment panel will show how close this world is to being a "sweet spot" for your people, and will eventually show your terraforming progress, if any.

"It Is The All-Seeing Eye..."

There is a lot of information available to you at every step of the game; however, not all of it is critical to your initial progress. At the bottom of the screen are eight tabs that bring you to various aspects of your imperial management. Among the more important of these is the Technology tab. Here you can see what your imperial wise men are working on, and what's on the horizon. Some decisions have to be made now- is there a particular technology coming up that might prove vital to your beginning strategy? Cybernetiks and Geodics might look to the Physical Sciences branch for improved mining tech, as mineral deficits can seriously hurt their empires early on. Many will look to Mathematics for starters, for that branch leads to improved interstellar engines, which means faster expansion. Warmongers might look at Energy, where lots of weapons can be found. A focus on one or two disciplines would be reasonable, followed by then a spread of research points to the other disciplines to keep them moving. Use the Matrix to see what will soon be available, and then allocate your points accordingly in the Research panel. Note that, during your first turn, you may not have produced any research points yet, and therefore your research sliders will not yet be mobile. That will happen in turn two. You'll also want to look at the Foreign Relations tab, especially if you're in the Senate. Meet your neighbors. Try to communicate with them- double-click on their picture (or single-click and then select Initiate Diplomatic Contact) to bring up the list of diplomatic options. Try to establish research and trade treaties with whomever you can. If you're in the Senate (indicated by having the Orion Senate panel illuminated), see what bills, if any, are on the table (any proposals appear in the column to the right; click on one to see what it's about, and to see its status; if it has not been seconded, a "Second This Proposal?" option will be available; if it has been seconded, voting options will appear above the bill's description). Or be proactive and propose your own bill (click Propose New Bill button, and a number of options appear- play around a bit). There's no harm in doing so, and if you're lucky, you might even get what you want. If you're not in the Senate and have no neighbors, the Foreign Relations tab will be completely unnecessary until you do meet somebody. The Personnel tab is important at the start for one main reason: spies. If you're in the Senate, or have neighbors, start making spies now. If not, well... you could pass on the spymaking expenses, but it's better and safer to have a cadre of agents waiting to be assigned, since spies do take time to train. Select the Espionage panel, click on the spy selection menu, and choose one of the six spy types. In the beginning, I would recommend Political spies, since they are faster to build and protect your leaders and seats of government. Once you've chosen a spy, click on the Train Selected Spy button and queue up a few spies (you can put four spies in the queue at a time). Later in the game, when you gain the services of a leader, their information will appear in the Leaders panel. The Finance tab brings up your empire's economical data. The Ledger shows your income and expenses for this turn. Obviously at the game's start this panel is mostly empty. But that will change. The Budget panel lets you actually spend some of that hard-earned cash. The sliders available are for research, military, unrest, and planetary grants. In the beginning, unrest is zero, so there is no need to adjust that. If you want your starting colonies to build up their infrastructure quickly, you could increase the planetary grant slider. On the other hand, if you want to crank out a war machine ASAP, then some extra spending in the military slider will help you out. Note that colony and outpost ships are considered military, so if you want a quick fleet of expansionistic vessels, the military slider will help there as well. Watch your money indicator in the game toolbar- as you allocate funds, the numbers will adjust to reflect your future financial status. The other tabs are slightly less important during the very founding period of your first games, the possible exception being the Empire tab. Development plans can really help the AI make important decisions. But that's a tutorial in itself. The Planets tab lets you sort and view all the planets that you have explored. Again, in the beginning of the game, that's not saying much; later, when you have a vast interstellar and multiracial empire going, you might want to look into what worlds are good for what race, and where they are. The Ship Design tab will soon be useful, but at the game's start, you don't have very much technology with which to design any ships, and the default designs available are enough to start you off. Finally, the Victory tab will give you a ranking, as well as show you how close you are to reaching the game's victory conditions. At turn one, the answer is Not Very. You have now learned the basic stats of your fledgling empire. You have dispatched your scouts to explore distant space, and gotten your homeworld to build what you think will be needed for future development. The time has come at last to hit End Turn.

"Now For Phase Two..."

Anyone who's played TBS games knows that patience is a virtue. Not everything happens quickly here. And MOO3 is no exception. If something has happened, however, you'll learn about it via the SitRep. Anything and everything that happens to you in the game will be covered by the SitRep- research discoveries, construction projects finished, task forces launched, systems explored, battles won and lost, Senatorial incidents, you name it. But, in the beginning, not too much is going on. The SitRep can be seen at any time by clicking the SitRep button in the game toolbar or by hitting space bar. Note that most events in the SitRep are hyperlinked to the location in which the event takes place. The turns following the first will be the slow and occasionally uninteresting growing pains, as DEAs are built on your homeworld and your scouts boldly go where no <whatever you are> has gone before. Within several turns your homeworld will have built all the DEAs available to it, which means more money will be allocated to military development and research. Depending on how far away the nearest star system is, your scouts should have some exploration data for you in a few turns. Again, look for planetary specials and Green/Sweet Spot worlds. Keep moving those scouts along the star lanes. Send your colony ship out the moment you find a good world. The details on colonization will be issued shortly.

"Dispatch War Rocket Ajax..."

It will be several turns before you read in your SitRep that glorious message: you have built a new ship. So what do you do with said vessel? You create a task force. Important note: The AI will not create task forces for you, with the exception of Colony and Outpost task forces. If you have marked any planet(s) with the Send Colony or Send Outpost buttons, then the next Colony/Outpost ship that you build will instantly be deployed as a task force and sent out to that planet. Important note: If you have created a system ship (orbital, system defense ship, system colony ship), you will not need to create a task force. They are automatically assigned to their duties. To deploy a system colony ship, see instructions below. First off, single-click on your home system from the galaxy view. A panel will appear containing some basic system information and two buttons. One says "Deploy Task Force." Click that one. The Task Force Creation screen comes up. To your right is a list of all ships in your reserves- this is where new ships go when they are built. At the moment, you'll have one ship here- the one you just built. The left half of the screen is the task force construction window. The two buttons there allow you to determine the size and function of the task force. Since you only have one ship available, select "Detachment" from the Fleet Size menu. Now, what kind of ship did you build? Was it a scout (reconnaissance)? A colony ship (colony)? An Eagle attack ship (long range attack)? Choose the appropriate type from the Task Force menu. Now hit the auto-build button. The ship that was in the reserve window now moves to the task force window. Click "Done" to accept the construction of this task force. You return to the galaxy view. Where's my task force, you ask? Being assigned right now. It will appear at the start of the next turn. As the next turn is processed, your SitRep will tell you that a new task force has been assigned at your home system. Again, from the galaxy view you can click on the ship icon, select the task force you wish to order (in this case, with only one task force present, it is selected by default), and click on the system you wish to send it to. Off it goes. We'll talk to it again in a few turns. "All These Worlds Are Yours..." Ah, your first colony ship. The beginning of your complete and utter domination of this sector. Now how do you get the bloody thing to land? Here's the manual way. Once your colony ship (or system colony ship) reaches the system where the target planet is waiting, go into the system view (double-click the star from the galaxy view). Single-click the planet where you wish to establish a colony, and then click on the "Forces" tab. The panel will display all ships currently in the system. Select the (system) colony ship's icon. A new button will light up: "Colonize Planet." Click there. The colony ship has now been assigned a target, and in the next turn you will see a message in the SitRep stating that a colony ship has landed on . Here's the slightly less manual way. You've created your colony ship task force and sent it off to a target system, where a juicy world awaits. As mentioned before, you can use the "Forces" panel on a planet to "Send Colony". When your colony ship arrives and stops at a system where a planet has been tagged by the Send Colony button, the colony ship will receive new orders, and on the following turn will colonize the selected planet. Here's the almost completely automated way. Before the colony ship is built, do the "Send Colony" thing as mentioned above. The moment the next colony ship is finished, it will automatically receive orders to go to a planet thus ma rked, assign itself to a task force, launch, arrive, land, and colonize. Say, that's neat! Note, however, that if you've targeted multiple worlds with the Send Colony function, the next colony ship will target the best of those worlds; this does not always translate into the nearest of those worlds. So be forewarned.
Here's the completely automated way. It's just like above, except that, in the Empire control tab, you've turned Auto-Colonization (the first setting) on. This tells the AI to send colony ships out automatically to planets that it deems worthwhile. You don't have to use the Send Colony button at all. You let the AI build ships for you. And the viceroy will manage the planet when it's colonized. Can't get much easier than that... There are probably a few things I might have forgotten, and there are probably a few things I might have worded unclearly. If you have questions, here's the place to ask. Enjoy, and good luck!

Addendum One:

"Cry Havoc! And Let Slip The Dogs Of War!"

Your very first space battle is likely to be one of the following scenarios: 1) your scout meets enemy scout 2) your colony ship meets enemy scout, or vice versa 3) your scout/colony ship meets enemy planet, or vice versa 4) your scout/colony ship meets a Guardian What to do? First of all, the combat scheduler screen appears and indicates that you are in conflict. It will list the players involved, the number of ships, if any, and the location of the battle. You will have several options available to you (as always...). Cede Control- If you choose this option, you allow the computer to resolve combat for you. You see nothing and the battle (if any) is done within a few seconds, with the results displayed for you. Watch Combat- Just like cede control, except that you get to watch the space battle (if any) unfold before you. If you want to see how the AI handles things, this would be a good tool. Control Combat- You step in and take charge. You will control all aspects of the battle. Assault Planet- If the battle takes place around an enemy colony, you will have this option available to you. This means that the battle will take place in orbit around the enemy colony. If you win, you will then be taken to the Ground Combat Scheduler. Defend Planet- If the enemy is attacking you, this option will be available. This orders your ships to fall back to the selected planet and defend it (thus allowing the planet's defenses, if any, to participate in the battle). If the enemy chooses to Hold Position or Blockade, no combat will occur. Intercept Fleet- If the enemy is attacking you, you can choose to intercept the attacking ships with your ships before they reach the planet. Hold Position- If you don't want to fight, or you want to draw the enemy fleet away from the planet it might be protecting, use Hold Position. If the enemy does not come to you, no combat will occur. Blockade Planet- Move your ships into orbit without attacking the planet. If the planet has defenses, or enemy ships are in the area, they will fight. If not, then no combat will occur, and you will not be taken to the Ground Combat Scheduler. Important Piece of Advice: If your opponent is called "Guardian", I recommend the option "Blockade Planet". You will still go to combat, but you'll have a better chance of getting out with your ship intact.

"By Your Command..."

Let's say that your overtures have led to an encounter on the battlefield of deep space. The combat screen is an isometric grid. Your unit(s) appear in green pentagons. Enemy unit(s) appear in red pentagons. Pretty straightforward. There are five command buttons in the lower left part of the screen (unless the combat task scheduler is hidden- click the bar in the lower center of the screen to bring it up if it is): Attack, Move, Patrol, Stop, Retreat. If you have a warship (i.e., something with weapons), click on it, then click on Attack, then click on an enemy unit. Your ship will continue to attack this target until it or the target is destroyed or otherwise eliminated. If your poor unarmed colony ship has accidentally stumbled into a den of armed and angry individuals, you can click on it, then click on the Retreat button. In a few seconds, it will vanish into hyperspace and go back to wherever it came from. If you want one of your ships to move somewhere first, click on it, then click on the Move button, then click on the space where you want the ship to go. Off it goes. If you have a number of ships in play and you want them all to retreat, you can click on the General Retreat button. This gives the retreat order to all of your units on the battlefield. This is useful if you stumble onto a Guardian-held system- you won't have time to find your ship, click on it, and click on the Retreat button. Hit General Retreat and hope for the best. Important Note: System Ships, Orbitals, and Planets cannot retreat. The buttons are tools to assist you; in the end, combat functions much like any real-time strategy game's combat mechanics do. Select your units, right click on enemy units, and they'll start fighting. Select your units, right click on empty space, and they'll move there. Click and drag the mouse cursor to select a group of units, and then give orders. And so on.

"I Say We Nuke The Site From Orbit..."

You are victorious! Maybe. If you are lucky enough to take orbit around an undefended enemy colony, or defeat its defenders, you will be brought to the Ground Combat Scheduler. Here you can choose to land troops, soften up a colony's defenses, or glaze a planet like a donut. Granted, in the beginning, most of those options will not be available to you. Your scout does not have the firepower to do any real damage to a planet's population or infrastructure, so "Bombard Planet" will simply be you venting your frustrations on a defenseless opponent. In the future, you'll have the options to land troops and even, dare I say it, destroy a planet! Muaaahahahahahaaaa!!! But that time is not now. Go home and build up some Indirect Fire task forces and bring them to the party. Now you'll see some bombardment.

Addendum 2:

"The Ants Go Marching One By One..."

Perhaps instead of bombing your foes into dust, you would prefer to make them productive citizens of your burgeoning space empire. This means invasion. Which means armies. Which means a few other things that I'll detail now. Ground combat starts with your planets building troops and support units. The viceroys will frequently put ground units in the military build queue, so as to keep a constant supply of troops entering your armed forces. However, the viceroys cannot select the x5 or x10 options, therefore if you wish to create a large army quickly, you may have to go into the military build queues yourself and order up a batch of Mobiles, Psy Ops, and whatever else you might want. The other half of this equation would be Troop Transports, which will carry your army to their target. The viceroys will also put transports in the build queue themselves (with, admittedly, great frequency), and therefore you should have an ample supply of transports to carry your armies. If you are designing your own transport, keep in mind that one troop pod carries four units. Once you have transports and ground forces built, you can assemble an invasion force. Select the "Create Troop Transport" button on the Task Force panel to begin. First you'll be asked to assemble your army. There are three size classifications, and several experience classifications. Choose the primary unit in your ground force, choose a size, and choose an experience level. The AI will attempt to auto-build what you request. You can tinker with the AI's proposal (the prerequisites will be listed at the top of the screen), and when you're done, click on the Done button. Now you'll be asked to assemble your troop transports into a task force. If you do not have enough transports in reserve to handle the size of your army, this procedure will be cancelled here. Otherwise, the AI will again propose a TF composition, which you can again adjust as needed. Once finished, click Done. Next turn, your task force will appear where it was created. Send it to the target world. Wait for it to arrive. Make sure the transports are protected, escorted, or that you've taken steps to neutralize any hostile activity in the target system. Once the system is secure, you can begin the invasion. In the Space Combat Scheduler, choose the planet you wish to target, Control Combat, and Assault Planet. Once the assault is concluded, the Ground Combat Scheduler will come up. Again, Control Combat and Assault Planet. The Bombardment Screen comes up. You can bombard if you wish, or you can land some or all of your troops. If you choose to land some/all troops, the next screen will be the Invasion Screen. You can select an attack strategy, the intensity of combat, how much collateral damage you find acceptable, and whether or not you wish to use forbidden NBC weapons. Once ready, click done, and you'll see how your troops do. The world may not be won or lost in a single outing; sometimes your troops will establish a foothold, and then continue to fight until they've secured the planet completely. Once you've landed troops, the task force will be disbanded and put back into the reserves for later use. Once you've successfully invaded a planet, the troops that survived will still be stationed on that planet. To return them to your reserves for future use, click on that planet's Military panel, then Ground Forces, and disband the stationed armies.



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