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Early Game Ship Design Strategy
by NotoriousPraetorious

The following describes a technique useful for early, easy conquest of computer opponents. I've also had great luck using this against humans. Although shields are beneficial, most of the things you want for early conquest are found in the physical sciences hierarchy, which also includes mining advances. Therefore, this strategy is especially suited to physical-science savvy, mineral hungry races like the silicoid, meklar or cynoid.

To cut to the chase, here's an example of an effective combat vessel you can start building on the very first turn:

Light Cruiser
Zortrium, Light Armor (100 hit points)
5 nuclear point defense missiles (3 shots)
3 nuclear rockets (2 shots)
7 nuclear rockets (1 shot)
Detection System (Special)
combat speed: 250

Obviously the vessel can be improved with better armor, bigger missiles and especially shields, but three of these will enable you to conquer an enemy homeworld if you can crank them out fast enough. The detection system may or may not be preferable to a few extra PD rockets (YMMV).

In detail:
You'll want a light cruiser. Use the heaviest armor and the largest shield you have (this means you may have to replace the small shield generator the computer likes to put on, and upgrade the armor). Drop the ship's combat speed; 250 is quite sufficient since you never move. Note that these missiles are very expensive, so the cost-savings for stripping off the armor is never worth it. Use your best defenses.

For armament, you want 1 shot of your most advanced missile on a rocket chasis (light missile if you have it, but personally I can't get light missiles to shoot at fighters, see below) and a separate rack, somewhat smaller, with 2 shots of the same missile. If you have missile shields or armor, use them.

Don't fill up all your space with ship to ship missiles. Use some of the remaining space for point defense - interceptors do work, whatever weapon you have is fine, use fighter shields and armor if you have them. If you have the point defense gun, you can use that, instead of interceptors. This armament is purely to be used against enemy fighters, and if you use your best armor and shields, you won't need much of it. If you use point-defense missiles, make sure to pack more volleys of these than you do of ship-to-ship missiles, since the first point-defense volleys like to target enemy ships.

The basic idea is to build indirect fire ships capable of taking out all of your enemies immediately. These boats can be built without the benefit of advanced technology, although of course you should always use the best that you have - without shields you will lose an occasional vessel to enemy fighters and you may want to compensate by raising the ratio of interceptors/point defense you carry.

These ships are very vulnerable to enemy stealth - you can counter this by piling on ECCM or having reonnaisance ships escort them, but in the early game don't worry about it. I find that minimal sensors are still worth it.

Keep the following things in mind:

a) A single volley of missiles can never harm more than one target. A planet is a single target, as is a single task force of ships or flight of fighters. Therefore, a typical enemy planet will be defended by planetary defenses, defensive ships organised into one task force, up to two orbitals* and possibly an interstellar task force that simply happens to be in-system. This means you need to take out five targets plus the fighters, which means you need at least three vessels; enemy planets may require an extra volley, so bring four if you can muster them. Organizing your missiles into a single shot means you need 5 or 6 vessels, which is much harder to muster early in the game.

* However many orbitals a planet has, I've found that only two fight at a given time. This means it may take multiple turns to invade the planet; be patient.

b) Point defense doesn't really work. This may change with the patch (let us hope), but at present, the first volley you fire is superior to subsequent volleys. Make it large. The computer is somewhat more able to use point defense than you are.

c) The missile volley of an enemy planet, with a missile base, is extremely powerful. EXPECT to lose a task force every time you attack an enemy planet with a missile base. This means your task forces should be composed of single ships (see above). This limits you to ten ships per combat, which can be a problem against human opponents, but the computer is stupid. This also means you will have to replace a vessel whenever you attack a missile base. Human players, who generally build slightly fewer planetary defenses than a computer opponent, CAN be easier targets. They will also be more of a threat later so viciously attack people with these ships if they leave themselves vulnerable.

d) If you use rockets (the second-smallest chassis of missile) you can take out fighters with those. Pack 3 volleys per ship if you plan to do this. However, it is difficult to do if you control combat yourself (the ships often refuse to fire at the fighters). So, I recommend interceptors, point defense guns, point defense missiles or the like.

e) If you don't control combat yourself, you can't control bombardment (again, hopefully this will change with the patch). These missile vessels utterly frag enemy planets when the whimsy strikes the bombardment AI, so be careful.



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