WELCOME to Gooseberry's Stellar Crisis School.... HONK HONK!!!
These tips are designed for both the novice player and the advanced player. I would like to present some basic concepts that most advanced players have learned, but few have committed to words.
First, let us discuss what is meant by the word tactic. A tactic is a maneuver intended to secure an advantage over the enemy. In Stellar Crisis, this advantage can only come in three forms: an econ edge, a tech edge, or a map edge.
There are, however, desirable positions which you can strive for, and if the map is kind to you, you might find yourself in a winning position through sheer luck. The question is, can you turn your good map into a win?
ON THE NATURE OF ADVANTAGESIn the game of chess, a player named Steinitz revolutionized the game by showing the world that you can win not through flashy tactics, which amazed the players of the past centuries, but through careful accumulation of small advantages, one by one, until your position is preferable to your opponent's.
Likewise, Stellar Crisis is a game that can be won by the accumulation of small advantages, or "edges." I have identified three advantages, and I believe there are none other. These are:
THE TECH EDGEA word about a technology edge: while it is a powerful advantage early in the game, as the game progresses it becomes less important. This is for several reasons. First, the opportunities for reaching a certain BR before your opponent thins out--instead of happening at 9, 16, 25, 36 (about every 10 turns) they happen at 81, 100, 121 (about every 20 turns) and of course it gets even worse. What's more, the relative value of the ships starts to become about even. While a BR 3 ship is 225% stronger than a BR 2 ship, the BR 11 ship is only 21% stronger than a BR 10 ship.
For this reason, keep in mind while playing high-tech games that in these games, long term technology advantages are quickly eroded. If you are ahead in tech and behind in econ, your only hope is to mount an immediate attack. If you are behind in tech and ahead in econ, do everything you can to delay the major confrontations until later in the game. If you want to win by a tech edge you must do so in a timely manner, for if you wait too long, your advantage will disappear.
How does one gain a tech edge in the first place? Well, there are lots of ways to gain tech on your opponent. Here are just a few:
THE ECON EDGEThis is the biggest edge of all. None of the other advantages can overcome a whopping econ edge. For this reason, experienced players all agree that to win, you must colonize, and colonize, and colonize.
THE DOUBLE ATTACK
This is the first and most elementary of all positions is what I call the double attack--or, to borrow a chess term, a "fork." This can happen in a map like the one pictured below.
Here we see the poor Goose getting crushed by his purple opponent. The reason for my woes in this game is that his planet, Crux, is attacking both my home world and System 62,61.
If he presents me with an army at Crux (perhaps stargated in, or simply moved there) I cannot simply move an army into my HW, because he might choose to go after 62,61 instead. My only hope, apparently, would be to defend with mobile attack ships placed at 62,60 so that I could defend either planet that he attacks.
Suppose he has an army of 10 attack ships and 2 minesweepers at Crux, and I have 7 attacks at my HW. I could then respond by overbuilding at 62,60. Since I don't need sweepers to defend, I can afford to build a bigger army than him.
I press END-TURN thinking I've got the situation under control. But wait--there's a problem! The scoundrel did not move his entire fleet into either of the two planets, no--that would be too easy. He moved one minesweeper into my home world, and the other sweeper to 62,61. The 10 attack ships are hanging back at crux! Now he is poised to nuke either planet, but I have no way of knowing which one will strike. He has a double attack.
The interesting thing about this scenario is that I might be able to nullify his threat by getting really lucky. He will ultimately have X ships placed on my home world, and Y ships placed on 62,61, where X+Y=12. I have 14 ships, so if I can just guess how many ships he will assign to each planet I could negate his attack. In fact, I have a small margin of error to play with because of my two extra ships. Since I only need to move 11 to my HW, perhaps a logical choice would be to send 3 to the builder. Surely, though, he has thought of that, and that's why he might move enough to the builder to overcome my 3, and forgo the nuking of my home world. So perhaps I should send only 1 to my HW? I'm in a difficult situation, because I have to resort to guessing to stay alive. No matter what I guess, it might be the wrong answer. The fewer ships I assign to my home world the bigger the chance of getting nuked on the spot. There is no "right answer" as to where my opponent should move his ships--if there were, I would simply make the "right response" every time! Both nuking my home world and nuking my good builder at 62,61 both have appeal to my enemy, who will gladly settle for nuking the builder if he is sure I can and will defend my home world. In fact, a good method for my purple opponent to use would be to come up with a random number from 1-10 and move that many ships to my home world. The more I defend one planet, the greater the odds of losing the other, and so I would have to tend toward losing the builder and staying alive.
If I do get lucky, and nullify his threat by guessing right, I'm still not out of the woods. He merely mounts another attack, and next time, I might not get lucky. Assuming the econs are about equal, it's really just a matter of time before he gets to nuke something.
One might argue, "but what if Gooseberry didn't overbuild at all? If he just built some attacks at 62,61 the attacker would have lost his sweepers and then Gooseberry would have the upper hand." This is true, but again, that would only be guesswork. He never was forced to move the lonely sweepers in at first, perhaps next time, he will simply rush my home world in a straightforward manner, in which case the suggested defense would cook my goose. There's no way around it, you can get lucky for a while, but you just cannot overcome a double threat.
THE MAP EDGEEvery player knows about the econ edge and the tech edge, but what other advantages are there? Only one: the map edge.
The double-attack is an example of a map edge. And if my purple enemy was able to build at Crux, his situation would be all the sweeter. Well placed builders are another important element of a map-edge.
Note that the econ-edge and tech-edge are always results of your playing, but the map edge is usually not earned. It's typically bestowed upon you by the grace of the SC Gods.
Here, we touch upon one of the great uses for engineers: they can give you a map edge, by creating double attack on enemy planets and removing a double attack upon yours.
Another example of a map edge is a configuration of resources such that terraformers are not needed.
A well-explored map is yet another map edge. Don't forget: exploring your enemies home world is a necessary condition to winning the game. Also, having seen your opponent's back planets allows you to engage in cloaker mischief and distraction threats as well as well.
THE SECRET OF THE TROOPSHIPHere's a few things about troopships which are not very well documented.
Suppose you want to troopship a planet, but your opponent has cleverly used the unbeatable troopship defense: he manipulated the population of the planet far beyond the reach of your troopships. There you are, with a fleet of attacks, troops, and sweepers... all dressed up and nothing to do but nuke.
Don't be so glum, chum. Put the nuke command in, and the invade command in, both at the same time. If you nuke it and the troopship lives you will also invade the planet, no matter how weak the troopship became. This is because a nuked planet's population is 0, and troopshipping happens after battle. Perhaps this was originally intentional, or perhaps it's a bug, but it's worked this way for so long it's become part of the game.
The next turn you'll have the planet with 0 population. You'll own it, but the population will be 0. (Weird, huh?) Don't worry, it will turn into "1" next round and then proceed from there. What's really wacky is this: in some older versions of SC (and maybe some of the newer ones too, I don't know) you can actually colonize the planet you already own! Evidently, colonizing doesn't worry about whether or not you own the planet, just whether the pop is zero?!
ON DUBIOUS TACTICSI call a tactic dubious if it can spell your demise more easily than your victory. These ploys usually involve a strategy for the first few turns of the game, in order to get a quick advantage or hopefully a quick nuke. They don't always win, and when they don't, the player who attempted will usually get punished. Nevertheless, I like them, for it keeps even the best players on their toes and makes the game far more interesting.
Moreover, I don't pay much credence to the "score." Since it doesn't
take into account who you play, it tells very little of the strength of the player.
And so, hurrah for dubious tactics! They allow the smallest David to knock-out the biggest Goliath, and all you need is some guts and a little bit of luck.
THE EARLY OVERBUILDHere is a tactic that more players use than admit it. It works very well, but if you follow the FAQ to the letter, it will tell you to avoid it. I call it the Early Overbuild because it's an overbuild on round one. The idea is to position yourself for a pop-trick and at the same time present your enemy with a threat so that he cannot pop-trick.
There are many recipes, so I'll just give you one which might work in a small 3 or 4 system game: build 4 science ships and 2 colonies all on round one. You'll be in the stone ages on round 2, not able to build anything because "you have insufficient technology to build ships." But your three science ships might clobber an incoming science ship, and you're clearing the way for your colonies.
Ideally, you will have a science ship over his HW on the same turn you can perform the pop-trick. Normally you dismantle your ships before a pop-trick, but in a two player game with ships on the enemy home world, go ahead and leave the ship on "nuke." After all, if you succeed, who cares what it does to your tech level?
If all works as expected, you're building at your border with a fat econ, while he's still defending himself from afar with less econ. Even though he is higher tech than you, you're both BR 2, and your econ edge and map edge can help you nuke one of his planets, perhaps using the double attack strategy defined above.
THE BR2 BLITZHere is a dubious tactic which doesn't work very well, but it's fun. The ideal arena for it is a 3-system game where only two players have joined, especially those with 1.5 or 1.0 tech development. Instead of the usual shtick, of building two science, and following them up with colonies, you just sit there and fiddle around, then press End Turn. (Yes, waste some time in a blitz game, or your opponent will know what you're up to.)
The point is that you reach BR 2 while you're opponent still has at least 2 turns to go. In some situations you can then choose sweepers and build a small kick-butt army to go harass him. Don't build colonies--your plan is to make sure the game doesn't last that long. If things work well, you're BR 2 science ship will stomp on his colony, then go on to die in the HW. But you'll have your fat fleet waiting behind, and even though he's BR 2 as well, he won't have the time to build the fleet to defend his HW.
I make this sound attractive, but it can go horribly awry in many ways. First, if a third player joins, you may find him gobbling up the planets you never colonized. Next, after you wait the 2 or 3 turns to achieve BR 2, what if you haven't seen a ship of his yet? Building a huge BR 2 fleet in your home world might be met with a rude surprise, as even a BR 1 can inflict terrible damage to an overbuild. But if you only build a few BR 2's you could lose the vital turns required to turn this time critical tactic into a nuke.
In short, I don't advise this strategy to people who want to improve their score, but if you like scaring the pants off your opponents and getting a nuke on turn 6, this is for you!
Here's a tactic which, again, requires a bit of luck, but can result in advantages in a number of ways.
Suppose you are playing in an advanced game, perhaps of a 10 system
grudge match. Everybody seems to be BR 8, with BR 9 a long way off.
Your territory and your enemies adjoin only in two places, and for many turns you've been playing ring-around the rosy with him.
The obvious answer is "build cloakers"... which may or may not prove fruitful. After all, he might be watching for cloakers, and in some of the newer versions like Stellar Crisis: MK II a stargate is an effective defense.
I want to explain another way to take advantage of a map-edge which does not involve cloakers. All it involves is building a small fleet of ships at BR 1 instead of the maximum BR.
Why on earth would somebody do this? The idea is to create a double
attack situation by having a "real" fleet and a "phantom fleet" of BR 1 ships. Your opponent will surely look at your military rating and realize that some of your ships must be less than the maximum BR, but he will not know for sure which fleet it is.
Here is an example. Suppose you have 10 BR 8 attack ships, 2 BR 8 minesweepers, and then 10 BR 1 attack ships. You move this impossibly large fleet into one of his planets "by surprise" (the jumpgates in version 3.0 lend nicely to this) and then, he will be forced to try to defend that planet. However, rather than nuking, you split your force in two directions:
You should be able to see why this works better at the higher BR's than the lower BR's: because the cost of maintaining the BR 1 is a very small percentage of maintaining a ship of the maximum BR. At early stages of the game, even BR 1's can be rather expensive when you build them in large quantities.
There is another possibility where this strategy can bear fruit, but only against less experienced players. When they see the sheer size of your fleet, you might inspire them to overbuild beyond their capacity, and therefore have underfueled or undermaintained ships which will die easily. A good player never builds beyond capacity except in the extremely rare circumstances when it's absolutely called for.
THE CLOAKER JOKEFellow player Skai has a fun page of Cloaker tactics but here is one that he missed. Perhaps this is the most dubious tactic of all, because when it doesn't work, it almost surely spells your doom. But when it does work, it's hilareous. It will be a nuke your opponent will never forget.
Again, it works best in a small game, such as a 3 systems vs. 3 systems game. It's especially a good way for an amateur to blow away an experienced player, as it can be completely unexpected and very hard to defend against unless you are anticipating it.
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