Wisseman’s Fighting Planets

The following VGA Planets strategy guide was originally Published in CGW #119 (June, 1994):

Wisseman’s Fighting Planets

An Intelligence Briefing On Racial Characteristics In VGA PLANETS Tactics

by Ted Foster

Each race requires a very different style of play. It is this diversity that keeps VGA PLANETS interesting and challenging over many games.

The Solar Federation:

The Federation’s Nocturne-class destroyers, Nebula-class cruisers, and Missouri-class battleships can be used as pseudo-freighters, giving you lots of transporting capabilities with well-armed ships. The early use of these classes of vessels will give you an edge when you reach the Phony War (see last month’s article for an explanation of the “Phony War” phase).

The Nova-class Dreadnought is one of the best battleships in the game with 10 beams and 10 torpedo tubes. However, be aware of its limitations, since even if fully armed with tech-10 weapons, a single Nova will be destroyed by a large fighter-carrier. The Nova will cause some damage, but it will lose nonetheless, so send these ships out in packs whenever possible.

Use your excellent medium-sized ships to give an opponent grief during the Phony War. Since all of your ships carry torpedoes, use them frequently to lay mines to keep other ships out—especially those that are cloaked.

The Lizards:

This race has a good array of medium sized vessels, with my favorite being the Lizard-class cruiser. Be careful when using the Serpent, Reptile, and Vendetta-class ships, as they are easy to capture when their shields are knocked down. The Madonzilla carrier can end up being too large to be used as a light carrier and too small to compete with the other large carriers in the game. Fighters are very expensive for this race as well, so use this ship with caution. The T-Rex battleship, however, is one of the best battlewagons for its size available. Few enemy battleships can get it to 150% damage before succumbing themselves.

The improved ground combat of the Lizard race is very valuable as it allows them to take worlds without necessarily having to fight for them. Because the attack ratio is usually set to 20:1 or better, this means that a mere 501 lizard clans (50,100 colonists) can conquer an enemy world of 1,000,000 colonists. Since most starbase worlds are about that size, Lizard troops are exceptional for taking worlds with starbases intact, inheriting whatever tech levels and defenses already established by your foe.

The Empire of the Birds:

Nearly all of the Feathered One’s ships have large crew complements, making them very hard to capture. Additionally, almost all of them can cloak, creating some difficult defensive problems for your opponents. Two of the best vessels are the Fearless Wing cruiser, with its ample cargo space, and the Deth Specula- class frigate with its tremendous firepower.

Similar to the Lizards, the two carriers that the Bird Men can build are generally not worth the cost. The Dark Wing-class battleship, on the other hand, is a fine capital ship, the only Dreadnought in the game that can cloak. Imagine an enemy commander who looks at his own worlds and never really knows if a cloaked Dark Wing is there waiting to strike. The only drawback of this deadly ship is its relatively small fuel load, which limits its range.

When the fighting starts, use your ships to choke off enemy supplies and to lie in wait until the perfect time to take a ship or colony. Use your battleships in wolf packs to invisibly penetrate enemy lines and deliver heavy strikes to starbases. Be wary if the cloaking fail rate is set to a high percentage (20% or higher) as you run the risk of detection when crossing large distances.

The Fascists:

Utterly evil, these beings seem to exist only to cause pain and suffering to neighboring empires. The aptly named D7a Painmaker and Little Pest scout are ideal raiders, while the cloaking D7 Coldpain and Deth Specula frigates can make mincemeat of other medium warships. A masterpiece is the Ill Wind battlecruiser, which manages to cram 10 beams and two torpedoes onto a tech level 5 hull, making it one of the most potent cruisers in the game. The Victorius-class battleship is an average Dreadnought which should be used with caution, especially if fighting alone.

Especially in a mineral-poor game—PLUNDER! It’s a quick and easy way to turn natives (or colonists if you can afford it!) into supplies and cash. Be careful—it is all too easy to over-plunder a world into ineffectiveness. Use your fine raiders to greatly upset your enemy’s backfield, preventing him from re-stocking the warships at the front lines. If you keep the war in his interior, victory shall be yours. Kup’Lah!

The Privateer Bands:

The Privateers don’t win the game by defeating you with their fleet. Instead, they defeat you with your own fleet. Of the many ship types they can build, the Meteor blockade-runner is the top performer. I recommend you build them in groups of five or more, so that they make more efficient pickpockets. Your larger cruisers and carriers are generally too small for extended combat, so build them only as a last resort.

Have BR4 and BR5 ships cloak near enemy lines and wait for a freighter to come within 162 light years. They can hit it, wipe the crew, capture the freighter, and be gone before help can arrive. Beware of the Privateer’s Achilles’ heel—large minefields and situations where the cloak failure rate is higher than 0%. The Meteors are ideally suited for obtaining a fleet for you. Sent out cloaked in wolf-packs, they can rob a large ship of fuel. Within 1-2 turns the ship will be helpless and ready for towing to the nearest Privateer starbase. These ships are so fast that they can actually tow a carrier or battleship faster than normal ships can pursue, making them deadly foes indeed.

The Cyborgs:

The only race to have both an excellent battleship and carrier, Cyborgs are the strongest race in the game offensively. The main limitation for the Cyborgs is their inability to build automatic fighters as other races can. The Fire Cloud-class cruiser is one of the better medium ships, and the B222-class destroyer has seven beam weapons, incredible for its small size. Other ship types such as the B41 Explorer, Quietus cruiser, and Iron Slave base ship, are too small to be very useful, so hold off building them in favor of the larger ships and freighters.

The Cyborgs’ two capital ships are both brimming with mass and firepower. The Annihilation-class battleship is equal in armament to the Federation’s Nova-class with 20% more mass, making it vulnerable only to the larger fighter-carriers. Even more powerful, the Biocide-class carrier is only a tech 9 hull, so build it frequently and often! Use your assimilation ability to quickly establish large populations and get starbases built. Dedicate several bases to doing nothing but building fighters, something they can do with no tech level increases. Use the fighters to support the Biocide carriers, then keep those supply lines open. After that it’s time to assimilate, assimilate, assimilate….

The Crystal Confederation:

Although suffering from a deplorable lack of good small vessels, this race can still be a formidable opponent. The Ruby-class light cruiser and Sky Garnet-class destroyers have good punch, but like all of their smaller ships are far too easily captured. The Emerald-class battlecruiser fares better with its eight guns and an incredible 510 unit cargo hold, making it your premier medium ship and incidentally, one of the best mine-layers in the game.

The two capital ships are similar to the Lizards’ in size. The Crystal Thunder carrier is the weakest large carrier in the game, requiring judicious use for good results. The Diamond-class battleship is a good ship in terms of power and defensive strength, but should still be used in groups to maximize its worth.

Your entire economy should be set up to produce as many web mines as possible. Employ your Emeralds to unload large minefields in both your space and your enemies. Then tow the enemy’s vessels home when they are trapped and drained of fuel. Use this technique to simply take away any fleet trying to invade and to make it your own. Your Onyx-class frigates are best used to make ordinary planets into the broiling lava balls that you like best, so use them often. It becomes another tool to deter aggression— who wants to capture worlds that are the worst to colonize?

The Evil Empire:

Our other ultimate villain has been blessed with an array of fair cruiser-size ships and an awesome knock-out punch. The PL21-class probes are hyperspace-capable to cover a lot of ground in a hurry, though they have little cargo space. The Super Star carriers and cruisers are weak in combat but make excellent fighter supply ships.

The Star Frigate is your only ship with torpedoes, so it should be used wisely as a mine- layer. The Super Star destroyer and Moscow-class escort are too small to be much use in combat, but can be an effective deterrent when fighting the Privateer or other group with many small ships. The Empire’s crowning achievement is the Death Star look-alike, the Gorbie-class carrier. It is unquestionably the strongest individual ship in the game. Build as many starbases as you can to take advantage of your “free” fighters which are made there. Keep good supply lines of fighters and fuel to your Gorbies using the Super Star carriers. Use your Dark Sense ability to gain optimum intelligence on your opponent, and then loose your “Ping-pong balls from Hell” into his most vital systems.

The Robots:

These mechanical types rely almost solely on fighter-carriers for their fleet. What an irony, then, that their only torpedo-capable ship, the Cat’s Paw-class destroyer, is one of the best small ships in the game. Heavily gunned and impossible to capture, it augments these abilities with a large cargo capacity.

Of the Robots’ many base ships, the Iron Slave-, Pawn-, and Cybernaut-class ships are too small to be worthwhile. However, the Instrumentality, Automa, and Golem classes are exceptional ships, each capable of launching large waves of fighters which will devastate even a battleship. The larger Golem carrier needs only fear packs of enemy capital ships.

Use your excellent Cat’s Paw ships to colonize and patrol your perimeter. They make great mine-layers as well, so use them to take full advantage of the Robots mine-laying bonus. Try some of your base ships as “fighter factories” to produce the many small craft you will need to make your carriers effective. Q-Tankers may be employed in similar fashion.

The Rebels:

The Rebels suffer from a lack of good medium ship designs. The Taurus and Deep Space scouts make excellent armed merchantmen, but are prone to capture by warships. The Falcon-class escort is one of the few ships capable of hyper- space travel, and should be used to settle distant regions quickly. The Cygnus-class destroyer has good guns but cannot absorb much damage.

Of the medium-sized ships, the Tranquillity-class cruiser is the best, but has much less armament than similarly-sized cruisers of other races. The Sage, Guardian, and Iron Lady-class frigates have good armament, but once their shields are down, those hulls belong to the enemy.

The Sagittarius and Gemini transports make wonderful fighter factories. Simply park them over a world and keep them supplied with minerals and supplies, and they will cheaply keep your fighter wings stocked. The Rush-class ship is a great carrier in this game. Though equipped with only five beam weapons, it more than makes up for this fault with its large mass and 10 fighter bays.

Use armored transports like your Deep Space scout to expand and to defend your early borders. Try to quickly build up to the Rush ships to make up for your lack of good secondary ships. Use Tranquillity ships as mine-layers and Gemini freighters as traveling fighter supply bases to support your carriers.

The Lost Colonies Of Man:

The Colonies share many designs with the Rebels, including a deficiency in good medium ships. The Little Joe escort has good punch with its six guns, but suffers from low mass and is unable to take punishment. Moving up to the light carrier, the Scorpius makes a good fighter manufacturing ship, and is also useful as a minesweeper during invasions. The real carrier is the Virgo-class battlestar, which actually matches up well with opposing carriers. Ten guns give it excellent punch, and its only failings are its lower mass and two fewer fighter tubes than some of the other heavy carriers.

Build fighters on your ships, particularly the light carriers and Gemini freighters, to manufacture them in large quantities for your battlestars and starbases. Make the most of your ability to sweep mines at long range. The Colonial fighter-carriers are the only vessels in VGA PLANETS able to sweep mines faster than they can travel at warp 9. If a light carrier is available, send it along during invasions to sweep mines, while keeping the battlestars ready for combat.

That wraps up this strategy guide. One sign of quality in a game is how much versatility it gives you to develop your own tactics and strategy tricks, and VGA PLANETS gives you ample room to add upon what I’ve suggested here. Now it’s time for all you would-be Emperors to find a new game at a local bulletin board near you and start building!