Part I - Abilities, Ships, Weapons
After reading countless articles on strategy and tactics for VGA Planets, I've noticed that one race that gets little attention and even less in the way of proven tactics is the Solar Federation (affectionately known as the Feds). Since I've had to learn their race tactics the hard way, I feel its my duty to share my experiences (including standard and games with add-ons) and save you the pain of making the same mistakes I did. For you veteran Fed players, I hope I may add to your repertoire of tactics and pave the way to more Federation victories.
Why the Federation?
While most races have specific abilities that define them, the Federation has a grab bag of lesser abilities which provide them with unique features. The Federation may not be able to cloak, pillage, rob or assimilate, but their abilities, used properly, can become a potent force in building your Imperial Federation. In the Fed's case, the whole is greater then the sum of the parts.
Federation Racial Ability Analysis:
Super-Refit: This ability, as described in the WinPlan help file, allows the Feds to replace old tech engines, beams and torpedoes with new ones. This can be done at any starbase and with as many ships at a time, as long as you have enough parts built at the starbase. This is by far the most potent tool at the Federation's disposal. With super-refit you can build hulls and collect ship slots faster than any other player and then after the 500 ship limit has been met, refit them as needed. (Note: This ability will be given to each race in the upcoming VGAP 4.0 per latest update)
2X Income/70% Mining Rate (Disadvantage): Taxing at 200% (default configuration) gives the Federation a large money making ability, especially later in the game. This partially offset's the lousy mining rate of the Federation. Use you excess cash to raise your tech levels, build additional starbases, and buy other cash strapped race's ships. Your 2X taxing rate will offset you lower mining rate by allowing you to build more mines then normal and then taxing natives 1% - 3% lower to keep them happy. This should only be done on planets where the mineral content is more significant than the income potential.
Crew Bonus: This allows Federation ships to fire all their weapons even when damaged (although undamaged ships will still fire first) and give a 25% boost to their shields between combat. Though on the surface this seems like useful ability, it really only benefits your larger hulls (Missouri and Nova) since the smaller ships tend to be turned into scrap metal quickly when damaged and facing an opponent with high tech torpedoes or over 4 fighter bays. The other part of the Fed crew bonus is the 2 additional fighter bays on all fed carriers with 7 or less fighter bays. For example, the Federation Kittyhawk, which has 6 fighters bays, actually fights like it has 8. What this does is turn mediocre carriers with decent masses such as the Super Star Cruiser (4 bays), Madonzilla (5 Bays) Cybernaut (5 Bays) into superior fighter vessels. Officially, the best carrier which gets enhanced by the Fed crew bonus is the Robot Instrumentality (7 bays). Why Officially you say? Well, from my experience the Fed 2 bay bonus effects carriers over 7 bays also. An example of this was a battle between a Fed Automa (560mass/8 bays) I had and a Colonial Virgo (625mass/8 bays). In the hands of the Robots the Automa will get waxed, succumming to a lower mass and less beam weapons. In the hands of the Federation, my Automa destroyed the Virgo handily, coming away with only shields reduced to 25%. I have not had the chance to fight with a Fed 10 bay carrier yet, but if the bonus holds true you will effectively have a 12 bay carrier, making Federation carriers the most powerful ships in the game, mass not withstanding. [ when time permits I am going to try this theory in a few test games].
Terraforming: Your terraforming ability is unique, since the Federation is the only race that can raise or lower a planets temperature to 50. Thus, races will come begging for these ships (except the Crystals) and you get the ships you need in return. Also they are handy in changing those Boviniod Unity planets with a temperature of 5 into a usable production center. Additionally, every terraformer you put over a planet will increase the rate of change of a planets temperature by 1. Any starbase with a temperature less then 40 or greater then 65 should have a terraformer over it (with cheap engines and cheap beams only). Also, don't be afraid to build them cheaply (i.e. low tech engines) and have them towed to their destination. They won't be going anywhere for awhile so mobility is not an issue. Last but not least they are great ships to build at minimally productive starbases and grab slots away from other races. (Only to recycle them after the limit is reached. This is not an easy tactic to get away with, but works if you keep track of the build queue).
Lokis: Another crucial ship which strikes fear into the heart of the cloaking races (except those pesky lizards who cannot be decloaked by the Loki). Build enough of them to cover key starbases and to include in your capital ship task force. They don't need to be built with Tech 10 engines always, as they have a low enough mass to be towed by larger ships. Also, make sure you are familiar with the order of actions. The Loki will decloak ships a couple of times, which means even if a cloaker resets his ship to cloak at the beginning of a turn, a Loki within 10 ly will decloak it again before it can move (and it will stay decloaked). Lokis are a very hot commodity for other non-cloaking races, giving you another ship to trade off for that carrier. Best of all, if you ever get you hands on a cloaking ship, the Loki will not decloak it.
BioScanner: I don't use the Brynhild often, but early in the game sending one out to poke around can help you target key planets to colonize and let you avoid those lousy amorph planets. Since you only have a 20% chance of detecting with the Bioscanner, you might have to wait a couple of turns before you get useful information. I recommend that you only build one, maybe two max and then send them planet hopping towards big clusters.
Cloning: Not a unique ability, but one which works more efficiently in Federation hands. When getting ships from other races, make sure they are built with the lowest tech equipment as possible (even low tech engines if you have a ship to tow it with). The reason is that you then can clone it cheaply and more often, then super-refitting it out later. This will save you cash and minerals while putting starbases with lower tech beams, torpedoes and engines to good use.
The Starships of the Solar Federation have the best mix of torpedo ships in the Echo Cluster and their single carrier is cheap and effective despite its size. As with all the torpedo races, the Feds are at a disadvantage when coming up against large carriers. Thus, The Feds must have the right mix of hull types as well as superior numbers to conduct an effective campaign against any carrier race. When your primary enemy is another torpedo race, your ship building strategy will change accordingly (I will go into more specific race strategies later). Here's is an overview of each starship at the Federation's disposal:
Outrider Class Scout - This ship is good for one thing only, scouting in the opening turns of the game. In the default host setting, this will be one of the ships you get. As of yet I have never built a second one during the game.
Nocturne Class Destroyer - This is the cheapest offensive weapon the Feds can deploy. In the first 15 turns of the game the Nocturne is an effective ship for patrolling, scouting, and planet defense. After the other races have began to put out larger ships, the Nocturne should be used in a secondary role, such as a convoy escort. In most games I only build a couple before switching over to a heavier hull.
Bohemian/Eros Class Survey "Terraformers" - These two ships are essential to the Feds, since they provide the means to put every available planet to good use. The Bohemian heats and the Eros cools down 1 degree a turn until the planet's temperature reaches 50. This effect is cumulative, so the more terraformers you put over a planets, the faster the temperature will be altered (i.e. 3 Bohemians will raise the temperature 3 degrees a turn till 50 degrees is reached). These ships are cheap (except for the two engines) and I will build as many as necessary, depending on planet conditions and other races interest in obtaining them. If you build a starbase on a planet with a less then ideal temperature, a terraformer should be the first ship you build under most circumstances.
Vendetta Class Frigate - Though at first glance this ship seems to be a firepower on the cheap, the Vendetta suffers from a fatal flaw - low crew. This means the ship can be captured under most circumstances and therefore should be avoided.
Nebula Class Cruiser - The workhorse of the Fed fleet, the Nebula has excellent cargo, fuel, mass and weapon capacity. In the early stages of the game the Nebula excels at long range colonization and protection of the borders as well as the ship of the line in shareware games. In later turns the Nebula, outfitted with high tech torpedoes, becomes the best fed minelayer around. You cannot build too many Nebulas because of their multi-purpose nature, which means I usually have 5 to 10 of them in my inventory.
Banshee Class Destroyer - A two engine version of the Nocturne with a bit more mass, a lot more expense and no extra weapons. In other words, don't bother.
Brynhild Class Escort - Since this is the only fed ship with a bioscanner, it's always useful to have one exploring the edges of space in the colonization portion of the game. This way, you can save some time by not going to Amorphous planets first and getting those bovinoid before you neighbors do. Otherwise, this ship has very little use in the long run. One, maybe two if your neighbors are a ways off and you have lots of room to expand.
Arkham Class Frigate - The Arkham is a situation type ship. It's fuel tanks is a bit small for long treks into enemy space, but its dirt cheap to build and with six beam weapons and three torpedoes, excellent for wearing down a starbase or light carrier's fighter cover. In attacking starbases you'll want to use low-tech engines and tow the Arkham into battle.
Missouri Class Battleship - One of the main capital ships of the Feds, the Missouri is almost the equal of the Fascist Victorious and Crystal Diamond Flame, yet is only a tech level 8 ship. The Missouri is an essential part of your fleet and should be built in numbers. The main disadvantage of this ship is its small fuel capacity, limiting the range. Best often used in combination with a Nova for planet, starbase or heavy carrier busting.
Loki Class Destroyer - The Loki is not a combat ship, but a combat support ship that will decloak any ship within a 10 ly radius of it (except a lizard or federation controlled cloaker). The sight of a Loki strikes fear into hearts of privateers, birds and fascists everywhere. Use them to protect your fleets, your starbases and your allies. They can also be traded for other ships you require and may even be leveraged for a much needed carrier. Build as many as necessary, depending on the tactical and strategic situation.
Thor Class Frigate - The Thor packs more firepower than any other ship of its size. They are fairly cheap and can be used in a variety of roles. Because of it's single beam weapon, it is not a good ship to use against large or medium size carriers (though with an engine/shield bonus of 50% or higher, it will get a couple of volley's off) or starbase. Engagement against torpedo ships is where the Thor excels, damaging even the largest battleship before succumbing. When used in hunter/killer groups of three or more, they become deadly to even Annihilation class Cubes at half the mineral cost. Build Thors in force when confronted with other torpedo races on your border or if the E/S bonus is at least 30%.
Diplomacy Class Cruiser - An often overlooked Fed ship, the Diplomacy is versatile with excellent range and armament. They provide the Federation with a Cruiser that can take on anything in its class. Use this ship to patrol borders, minefield sweeping and as an integral part of your capital ship task force. You cannot build too many of the Diplomacy class!
Kittyhawk Class Carrier - The Federations only carrier is by far the best in it's mass rating class. Since the Feds have to pay for their fighter's, the decision to build Kittyhawks depends on your money situation. The Fed's crew bonus give the Kitty effectively 8 fighter bays, but their low mass makes them ineffective against large carriers or well stocked starbases. I usually build Kittys when there is an E/S bonus of 50% or more, which turns it into a real scrapper.
Nova Class Dreadnought - The second largest torpedo ship in the game, the Nova is a critical ship to build, since it provides the Federation with its best offensive punch. I've heard a few rumblings on the Internet about the cost of the Nova in relation to other ships its size. Unfortunately, the Feds must build as many as they can afford or be stuck as a copy of the Fascists without cloaking or pillaging. By the time you hit 300 ships in the game, you better be ready to start building as many as possible. If you have too, just build the hulls and super-refit after the 500 ship limit is reached.
Based on my research and experience, there are only a couple of beam and torpedo combinations that are actually economical and useful to build. Use the configuration best suited to your game configuration and your tactical/strategic situation.
Cheap Weapons - X Ray / Mk IV
Standard/Low Cost Configuration - Disrupters / MK VII
Optimal Battle Configuration - Heavy Blasters / Mk VIII
Mine sweeping/Counter-Mine Laying - Heavy Phasers or Disrupters / Mk VIII
The Federation doesn't always have the best mineral output, so don't arm small ships with hi tech weaponry unless you have extra resources. The Minesweeping Configuration should be used on the Missouri, Diplomacy, Arkham and Nova only. All other ships should have the Optimal configuration if you can afford it. Remember, you can super - refit you ships so putting on cheap weapons in the beginning is a way to put combat ships into play. Torpedoes are the life blood of the Feds, so try not to skimp on them unless you absolutely have to. Anything less then Mk IV Torps isn't worth the money you put into them and the MK V and MK VI are not cost effective in either minerals or money. In the long run your fleet should always be equipped with MK VIII torpedoes.
Part II - TACTICS and STRATEGY
Fighting against carrier races requires a different strategy than fighting against cloakers or the Crystals. I've included specific comments about fighting each race, as well as the best ship combinations to use against them. Because each game is different, you must continually modify and adapt your tactics to fit the current game. Above all, you must be familiar with the way the host runs a turn (order of actions), the add-ons present, as well as your opponent's race order of battle.
Run winplan VCR sims before every combat to optimize your ship order and find the enemy's weakness. (Note: Each strategy assumes no Engine/Shield bonus and default host settings.)
Lizards, Birds, Fascists, Privateers, Cyborg, Crystals, Empire, Robots, Rebels, Colonies.
Lizards - Interlocking minefields are the only defense against lizard cloakers, but their capital ships are not the most impressive despite the 150% damage bonus. Hit them early and hit them hard before they can solidify their infrastructure. Don't let them take the battle to your planets since you have little defense against their troop dropping. Thors, Missouri's and Nova's are your ships of choice. Lead your with Thor's when attacking multiple capital ships (not the Madonzilla though) and with your Missouri's when attacking planets and starbases.
Birds - Build Loki's and keep them with your fleets and key starbases. Don't send out unescorted freighters and lay inter-locking mine fields. The Darkwing is a tough ship so don't engage one unless you have a Nova to back you up. Thors, Novas, Missouris, and Diplomacys will be your best build. Take the fight to the bird's territory as soon as you can and don't waste time chasing down super spying scouts ships unless you can spare the forces.
Fascists - Pillaging and the Glory device can be bothersome, but your ships are superior in most ways. As with the birds, you want Loki's over key planets and starbases as well as with your fleets and freighters. Don't get caught playing cat and mouse with the Fascists by trying to hunt down D7's that wander into your space. Your best bet is to take the fight to their planets as soon as possible. When attacking Fascists planets, never give away your heading and make your opponent guess which planet you are attacking. This should help you avoid those painful glory devices. Again, Thors, Diplomacys, Missouris and Nova's are your main combat ships (Usually a Nova will destroy two Victorious class ships and damage the third.)
Privateers - The race everyone loves and hates with equal passion. The Feds are in a better position than most to deal with them by building Lokis. The Privs hate Lokis as much as web mines, which means you need to build them early and often. As soon as your Lokis are ready, starting sending out patrols to Privateer space, laying mines along the way. Again, attack the Privateers early and hard before they can deploy a large amounts of meteors or start capturing capital ships. The key to defeating almost any race is destroying their infrastructure and the privateers are no exception. Use mainly Diplomacys, Nebulas, and Novas with Lokis because of their higher fuel capacity.
The Cyborg - The now classic confrontation between the Feds and the Cyborg is just like the series....you'll lose a lot of ships for each cube you toast, especially the Biocide. The Cyborg are weak in the early to mid-game which means you'll have a numbers and hull quality advantage on them. Take advantage of this to knock them out before they can build cubes in force. If you are forced to fight them later, use two Missouri's and a Nova to take out Biocides (which results in the Nova surviving) and two Thors and a Nova for an Annihilation (same result). Use Diplomacys and Nebulas to search and destroy Fireclouds. Play a defensive strategy against a well heeled Borg player, with large overlapping minefields and engaging their ships one at a time instead of within a larger fleet. If you destroy his Fireclouds the Cyborg will not be able to reinforce themselves and if you strip your fuel, they will be stuck with what they brought with them. Nothing will bring a Cyborg offensive to a grinding halt faster than losing their Fireclouds and finding no fuel at conquered planets.
Crystals - Another of my not so favorite races to play against as the Feds. If you are going to wage war against the crystals, do it soon or don't bother, especially in a game rich in minerals. You have a better chance than most since you can refit you ships with the best beam weapons, but since most Fed ships have mediocre fuel capacity and no carriers, you'll have a hard time keeping you fleet fueled. This race develops slow so again you have to hit them early or look to make them an ally. If a late game fight does happen, fight with only the Nova, Diplomacy and Nebula. Carry supplies with you to repair damage, and lay a lot of mines. This will hinder the movement of the crystal player since their main mining ships take a beating from regular mines, forcing them to either sweep and run or stay and lay. Make sure you have enough sweeping power to sweep the mines around you and any new ones the crystals might lay. Last but not least, advance slowly into the minefields and when you get close enough, make a run at their ships (don't try to travel more then 12 light years in any web.). Starbase+ games will make your life even more difficult, since they don't even need ships in the area to lay web mines.
Evil Empire - The Empire player will usually make a run for early game dominance (if they are skilled and have good positioning) by sending out Super Star Destroyers. The nice part about that is that a Fed Diplomacy equipped with MK VIII will take one out every time. For the SSC, you'll need a Missouri. The lesson here is that a hostile Empire player will have to beat you with the Gorbie, nothing less. So take them on early if possible by crippling their ability to build starbases. Hit freighters, lightly defended planets, etc. To deal with a Gorbie you'll need the standard two Missouris and Nova fleet with a Nebula behind carrying supplies. You'll lose the Missouris but the Nova should just make it out alive (thus the supplies and ship to tow you home). Since the Empire will know where your starbases are located, you can lay all sorts of fun traps for an Empire fleet. Remember, the Gorbie is the ultimate fuel hog, so defend high fuel planets and strip anything in their path of advance.
Robots - A nasty carrier race with an assortment of outstanding hulls. Their one weakness corresponds with their great strength - mines. Since their carriers lack ten or even eight beam configurations, you can mess their day up by well placed minefields. The catch is that those pesky Cat's paws will out lay you every time, causing your mine fields to be blown away. So what's a poor Fed player to do? Easy, use your smaller ships (The Diplomacy is well suited to the task) to intercept lone Cat's paws and destroy them. Take away the Cylons mine laying ability, and you have won half the battle. Then you can keep their carriers movement to a crawl with large and well placed minefields. If the Robot player fleets his cat's paws together, you'll have to use a decent cloaking ship (if you managed to get one) to knock them out. Otherwise, its a minefield duel which you may not win. Again, the 2 X Missouri and the Nova are well suited to take on the Golem and a single Nova will take out an Instrumentality.
Rebels - The Rebel Ground Attack is a real pain, but you can use cheap hulls stationed over strategic planets to deal with that threat (A Nocturne with X-Rays and MK IV torpedoes will do the trick). The Rebels are also weak in mine sweeping, so slow down those Rush's with minefields. Dual Missouris and a Nova will take out a Rush, an OK trade by my standards. Also, be very careful around the Patriot, since despite it's small size it packs a good punch, especially with an engine/shield bonus.
Colonies - The colonials are the perfect ally for the Fed for one simple reason - fuel. No other race can produce fuel more efficiently. Therefore, I tend to ally with the Colonials whenever I can. Unfortunately, I've had to fight them also, which is much less fun. Your minefields are next to worthless in the face of a well stocked Virgo, so you have to meet them head on. The Virgo is the smallest big carrier in the game, making the Missouri/Nova team the best choice for engaging them (though if the Missouri doesn't make enough hits, you might lose the Nova, so always come in with an extra ship for clean-up duties).
A SUMMARY OF TIPS
Ships on your shopping list: Cloakers, with at least one torpedo tube and decent cargo. Carriers of 250 mass or over. The Cobol, The Aries (for more efficient fuel alchemy) and a Neutronic fuel carrier. Get with low tech equipment and then clone and refit.
Build as many hulls as possible and super-refit them after the ship limit has reached. Fully equip only the ships you need to keep expanding and defending your empire. Since you'll lose either one or two ships against large carriers, you have to have the numbers to survive the later turns.
Terraform, Terraform, Terraform.
Always build a couple of Loki's as soon as you can produce Tech 8 hulls, whether you think you need them or not.
Don't play cat and mouse with Cloakers! Isolate them with interlocking minefields and then use fleets with Loki's to hunt them down. Sometimes the ole' bait and switch will work nicely.
Build Merlins then Neutronics as early as possible. The Feds are almost always hurting for fuel and minerals! Don't make life even more difficult by skimping on Alchemy ships.
Use you high tax rate to offset your lousy mining ability by building extra mines at critical planets, even though your tax rate may suffer a bit.
Don't be intimidated by carrier races. Find their weakness and use it against them!
Put high tech torpedo tubes on your ships as soon as possible. Don't skimp on loading those ships with enough torps either.
Fight Battles on your terms. Don't put yourself in a position where you have to react to an enemy. Make them react to you!
The Fed ability to HUD with Race Plus can benefit you in long games only. In short ones it's not worth spending the money and supplies to do so (except in rare cases).
Starbase Plus is becoming a standard. Build starbases on planets that have no ship building potential (lousy minerals, especially fuel) but generate lots of cash. Instant ATM!
Jump Gates and Wormholes go along way in overcoming your lousy fuel situation, but require new tactics beyond the scope of this article.
Asteroids should be grabbed and hauled to planets with the best mine rates.
And Tachyon beams should be put on either the Nebula or Nova and used only when you have extra fuel to burn and Lizard class cruisers tearing up your planets.
Sphere makes life more complicated, but don't be afraid to wrap with you high fuel ships and never feel safe on any of your borders.
I truly hope this has been helpful! For information on other aspects of the game, including race strategies, check out the SpaceNet archive and other fine VGA Planets web pages. Feel free to send your comments to me at
along with your name and address. Thanks. Spacenet.
See you in the Echo Galaxy ...