Strategy: Imperial Logistics

By Sharkman

Logistics is the aspect of war that deals with the supply of military goods and war material. Yeah so you may think it’s boring and dull… listen up pal, this ain’t Doom, you gotta have some brains if you wanna have the guns to blast everyone else! Logistics is particularly important if you play carrier races like I do, for two reasons.

  • First, you need more MC, more minerals, more supplies, more everything than the torpedo races. Your ships are far more expensive and building enough fighters for any battle with some sort of substances to it will surely eat into your mineral reserves in a big way. You will be rewarded for good logistics because your ships are more powerful than theirs, you can take out a sizeable chunk of their fleet with a single monster carrier of yours (obviously you wouldn’t normally send out a carrier like that by itself however), and anything less than a battleship probably won’t even make a dent in your flagship 🙂
  • Secondly, you don’t have cloakers, they probably do, so you need to take extra care that your valuable material isn’t going to get stolen. Obviously the best response to this would be to fight a war in their space, but you will still be vulnerable to freighter raids. And the cloak intercept rules along with the huge fuel cost make escorting with heavy warships rather costly, although this is sometimes necessary.

The first step to planning your logistics is knowing where your resources are. It’s surprising how the most basic of ideas can be very effective – if you use Winplan, simply plot each world with a color in the starmap window according to what it’s best at producing, ie. Blue = Tritanium, Green = Molybdenum, Yellow = Duranium, Cyan = MC, that funny beige-like color = Supplies etc… (It may be possible to do this in VPA as well, I’m not sure, seeing as I don’t use it, or maybe some player utils like Echoview, but again, I just use Winplan, and keep track of everything in my head, so I have no need of external utils.)

What you are doing is this. You are giving yourself a nice broad view of where your resources are, and which ones you are lacking / have an excess of. Note that if a planet can specialize in more than one resource, mark it WHITE (or some other bold, easily noticed color) – you want to guard that one really well! Eg. A planet with 9 million bovinoids and 10K+ of a mineral, or something like that (if you have as much luck as I did in my last game as the Rebels, you might even find an Insectoid Representative planet with 8 million natives plus 10K moly and 9K Fuel!)

How do you decide what a world is specializing in? Ok, first thing, some planets won’t be able to specialize in anything! A fair proportion of your worlds will be these useless piles of dirt with < 1K of each mineral in them at lousy concentrations. If this is the case, don’t color it anything! Average planets in the same way, don’t get a color either. To be a “specialist” planet, it should have over 5000 KT of the mineral at a concentration 50% or better (concentration doesn’t really matter if you’re the Lizards, and similarly the amount in the planet’s core doesn’t really matter if host has set Isotope TUDR at something really high, like 100). “MC Specializing” planets should be able to make at least 500 MC a turn on the maximum yellow level. Of course, you won’t be setting the tax on the maximum yellow and just leaving it like that – see the previous article, Managing your economy for details.

An important aspect of this game is to know yourself (and know your enemy, too). What I mean is you will have to figure out what you desperately need. As a general view, if you’re the Empire, you need moly, and lots of it, heaven help you if you don’t find a good moly planet within 200 lys of your homeworld. A Colonial will find themselves looking for Tritanium, as well as moly, unless you like having lots of sluggish nova-drive battlestars. The Rebels are fairly balanced, although they tend not to need too much duranium. Surprisingly, you’ll find the Robots are quite well balanced in their mineral requirements – look at it this way, fighters don’t use any duranium, and you’ll need lots of fighters, you’ll have more tritanium and moly available because all those baseships won’t consume all your trit and moly, so you’re fairly well off!

Decide on what exactly is going to get supplied. If the cluster is near your homeworld, well, it’s obvious. But no-one can survive on just one starbase alone. As soon as you’ve explored the closest dozen or so planets, think about where base number 2 is going to be (note that if you’re the Empire, just build bases whenever and wherever you can, believe me, you’re going to need all of ’em, except if you’re lucky enough to ally with one of the true fighter races).

Now I don’t have any formulas, strict numerical guidelines, or anything like that to help you with your logistics (yes I hear the disappointed groans… sorry, but it can’t be helped) it’s pretty much up to your intuition as to what you do. But there are several well known components to good logistics.

Supply routes that the enemy doesn’t know about
If you’re in the corner, you’re pretty much well set for this bit. The keys to this involve planet hopping, and if this is not possible, then, and I cannot emphasize this more strongly, hide your waypoints! What I mean is, sometimes you’re unlucky enough to appear in space with tons of territory between your planets – set your waypoint to something less than one turn’s travel, so at the end of the turn your ship is just sitting in space, headed nowhere. This confuses the enemy and it is such an elementary tactic it baffles me as to why so many players reveal their ship heading of ALL their ships. With warships, this can be useful to bluff your enemy and then change your destination at the last possible moment (take note, Super Star Destroyer commanders!) but with freighters, I can’t see the point of showing your waypoint, because he may not be sure as to where it’s headed, but he definitely knows where it came from and if it’s full, he might think…oooh, now there’s a planet with lots of goodies, I think I might terrorize it!

Supply routes that are difficult and often risky for the enemy to terrorize
Heavily armed freighters are the best way of achieving this, but unfortunately, you aren’t the Crystals and you don’t have the Emerald Class Battlecruiser, so there’s no use in dreaming about that. The next best thing is a combination of mines and heavy warships waiting at the important destinations. Robots should find this pretty easy to achieve but any of the other races will have to make important decisions as to how much funds to devote to mines. In any case, the best solution is to take the war to the enemy’s backyard, unless he’s really good, he will find a huge carrier rush hard to beat.

If the route is on your border, you must consider escorting your LDSFs with a heavy warship. That still is no protection against a cloak intercept, because the cloaker will target the ship he’s intercepting (ie. Your LDSF!) and fight that first, only then can your heavy warship enter the battle. The warship, with the right PE set or mission KILL, will likely waste his cloaker then recapture the LDSF (since it will only have 10 crew when it’s captured by someone else, and the fighters will strip the crew while only doing 10% damage to the hull) but if he’s smart, he won’t fall for that, he will equip his cloaker with beams like Positrons which will destroy the freighter rather than capture it. Sure he doesn’t gain anything, but you lose a heck of a lot : a massive freighter filled to the hilt with minerals and other goodies in exchange for some puny scout. So minelaying here and there would be judicious.

An efficient supply route
This means that all its waypoints are essential ie. It is picking stuff up or setting stuff down at that waypoint. The best example of this is the circular resupply route where all the planets along it are producing stuff and the freighter is simply taking it all aboard, dumping it at a starbase planet, then going around again. But sometimes, later in the game, you will have to pass through planets that aren’t doing anything, this just can’t be helped.

The bidirectional linear route
A method I use at the beginning of the game is the bidirectional linear route. Usually, when you first explore a planet, it should have at least some minerals sitting on the surface. I will decide right then and there the priority of putting a starbase on it. If yes, I will leave the minerals there, if no, I will make a note to come back and pick them up, and continue. Usually I will be able to plan out the linear route before my LDSF even leaves home, since I like to send warships out first rather than LDSFs which I feel is risky (if I’m the Borg, Empire or Rebel, I will use HYP ships to expand my borders faster). Then I will send the LDSF headed out along the linear route, dropping off clans, supplies and MC to develop the worlds. If there is a threat, I will send a medium warship along with the freighter (typically, a Super Star Carrier if Imperial, an Instrumentality if Robotic, or if Rebels or Colonies, I will send a Cygnus/Patriot combo).

Now I should mention another benefit of using a warship to explore planets first. Not only is it more secure and intimidating, it lets you know what to bring on your LDSF. If I find piles of natives I will bring more clans and less supplies. If I find more lifeless worlds more supplies less clans are required. Think : 1100 clans, 100 supplies if ALL worlds with natives, 600 clans and 600 supplies if NO worlds with natives. For in-between – you do the calculations!!! 😛

When I reach the end of my linear route, I will simply head back along it (either home, or if later in the game, toward my nearest starbase) collecting minerals. Now, the matter of deciding the end planet, lets call it the terminal world. This will be a good planet, with good starbase potential, it will likely have natives and good mineral content, or no natives but bloody excellent minerals. And, it MUST HAVE A GOOD CLIMATE! I will leave the warship there while the LDSF continues back. The warship will be set to KILL, unless I have a non-aggression pact with my neighbor, which I usually get, since in every single game of mine except a couple last year, I have quickly shot up to the top of the score chart or very near it, which makes for good intimidation value). In this case, it will just guard the planet in case any of the said sneaky cloaking types decide to pay it a visit.

Once the LDSF gets back to its supply waypoint (lets call this the initial world, the first world of the bidirectional linear route), it dumps all the minerals, and picks up more supplies and clans for further development of the worlds. I will usually assign a new warship to accompany it along its next mission. If a world along the line, near the initial world end of the line, has natives, I won’t take any MC from the initial world (obviously, I need the cash on my bases for tech upgrades and ship building!) but will rather take some of the credits from the native world, which should have a surplus since I will drop a larger amount of clans on the native worlds when compared to the non-native worlds.

What the LDSF does on this route depends. It does one of two things:

  • If I either need more resources at the initial world, or the terminal world isn’t developed enough yet, I won’t pick up any minerals along the initial–>terminal route, although my LDSF will be getting emptier as it dumps clans. Rather, if the colony population on the native worlds is higher than what is required to get the maximum tax (my definition of maximum tax is the tax collected at five levels past red) I will trim down the population by loading clans BACK ONTO the LDSF, and continue. If the population on the non-native worlds has got past 200 clans, I will trim it back down to 200 clans (look at the formulas for maximum planetary structures and you can pretty much figure out why). Any world which doesn’t have enough clans (a native world which isn’t being taxed to its maximum, or a probe-colonized world which I assigned a lower priority during my initial run and which hasn’t been given supplies for development yet) will get some, along with some supplies and MC. Do NOT make the mistake of just using supplies and relying on the factories for further development, your colonies will take eons to become productive! Sure you need the MC on your base worlds, but spare just a little for developing your other worlds! I will pick up MC along the way toward the terminal world. When I get there, any spare clans, along with all the MC I collected, will be dumped.
  • If the terminal world is developed and almost ready to build a starbase, or already has a starbase in orbit, I will collect the minerals as I drop the clans. I won’t trim off clans from the worlds, I need that space for minerals. If possible I may assign two freighters to traverse the route. All minerals and MC will be dumped on the terminal world, in order to make it a productive starbase (ie. One that can make proper fighting ships) as fast as possible.

At this stage, I will decide on one of two alternatives:

  • The LDSF will be sent back along the terminal–>initial world route, picking up minerals but NOT MC (the reason will become clear later on), and simply dump the minerals on the initial world as before. I will do this if the initial world needs the minerals, or the terminal world isn’t developed enough yet.
  • I will turn the terminal world into an initial world and start using it as a production world. I take this course of action if it is sufficiently developed and has at least 2000 clans living on it. I will then load up clans, making sure the new initial world can still tax at the maximum, and send out the LDSF along a new bidirectional linear route with the warship that I brought out first acting as escort. Any warships I produce at the old initial world can fly out along the old route, picking up fuel as needed, along with any MC, and head to the new initial world to guard it. It should now be clear why I don’t take any MC back to the old initial world… it was once a terminal world itself, and therefore already has something bringing credits out to it!!! In addition, the new initial world needs the extra income to develop its tech levels, etc.

Obviously, this cannot be followed to the letter every single time, if it could, the game would become rather mundane. Planets running dry, meteor impacts, and worst of all, surprise enemy attacks, complicate things a great deal! Variety, and new and unique opponents, are what make this game so exciting! Above all, you must be flexible and have intuition as to how to form and modify your logistical routes, and react to crises. I cannot help you there, you will have to develop this knack on your own… it comes with experience. No player is perfect. We are all continuously learning and adapting!

A flexible supply route
This means one that can respond easily to unforeseen circumstances, which pretty much are all enemy attacks. Often you will either have to pull back, or your warships need supplies to repair and rearm. Having lots of freighters helps this a bit, I often have more cargo capacity than I need to resupply all my worlds.

Note that I keep mentioning LDSFs. This is without question the most practical, balanced size of freighter to use. And I am not alone with regard to that. The only reasons you would want to use any of the others:

  • SDSF – to recycle for PBPs, other than that, no practical use, too small for anything
  • MDSF – to transport components if your game uses Starbase+, they can be fairly useful if you can’t afford an LDSF just yet at one of your terminal world starbases, as they can be used to develop a small number of worlds
  • STF – to build a jumpgate if your game uses Jumpgate, and even then, you would only want to build one in total – it is just putting far too many big warm eggs in one basket!
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