recently i was asked to prepare an article on base building. i was actually quite surprised by the request. normally i am considered merely a good scripter and much less a tactician. however, i do know a thing or two about it and i am glad to write for whomever will read. since this is about base building, i will leave the finer points of base defending to someone else, keeping in mind that the two subjects overlap somewhat. also, since the basics of planetary citadels, fighter odds, quasar efficiency, etc. are discussed in detail elsewhere (e.g. i will let the reader do his own homework on those subjects.

i suppose the best way to go about this is to recount the evolution of my own thinking and practice when it comes to base building. keep in mind that when i say ‘evolution’ i mean it in the scientific sense. most people think that ‘evolution’ is the continuous improvement of something, e.g. a species or a theory or a society. however, ‘evolution’ merely indicates change. for example, species evolve, but it is natural selection that determines which of the new species will survive. in fact, the quality of the dominant species may be more brute and primitive than the previous. say for example if stronger but stupid apes evolved at the same time as weaker but smart apes – the situation may be such that the stupid apes could exterminate the smarter apes. evolution is no guarantee of improvement. natural selection tends to produce some improvement, but there is a certain amount of luck involved, and a great deal of opinion about what ‘better’ is. so i say all of this as a disclaimer to my article. the ‘evolution’ of my thinking and practice of base building may not be an improvement at all, so i leave it for you to test.

when i first started playing tradewars, i preferred to build bases in deadend bubble areas. just briefly, a ‘bubble’ is any group of sectors that can only be accessed by means of one entrance – naturally this means that there are usually deadend sectors inside a bubble. assuming stock planets, i took the good advice of better players and built type H, O, and L planets at the same time in any given sector, often in more than one location to improve the chances that one of the bases survives. the type H is a slow builder, but it is invaluable for defensive purposes later. the type O is a bad planet defensively, but it makes organics at 2:1, which is great for cash if you have an organic buying port in the same sector. the type L planet is a fast citadel and early defender, but i didn’t get much use out of it other than that. playing this way, i won very few games.

after a while i began to understand the use of warpable planets (level 4 citadel). i started writing scripts for planet-drop and planet-warp-photon – tactics that helped me start winning more games. the basic idea is to bring the awesome power of your planet to bear upon players hitting your fighters, and make them take quasar blasts if possible. it wasn’t until much later that players started getting good at beating planet-drop tactics (with good macros) and exploiting planet-warp-photon by making me use a lot of fuel ore and eventually by landing on my planet when i warped adjacent to photon them. i also learned that when games are MBBS mode, you can make a pretty penny doing megarobs and buydowns. basically the concept is to move your planet over a port, buy all the products off of it and rob all the credits back – voila, free products! look for more information on this in another article.

another trick that is very important is the citadel beamer. once you have a level 1 citadel, you can install a beamer. with a beamer it only costs you 1 turn and 10 fuel ore per hop to fly your ship anywhere in the game. that means if you are colonizing in your imperial starship, you can get to terra for only 1 turn instead of 4. this is a huge savings – take advantage of it early.

back to base building – like i was saying, i didn’t win a lot of games. what was the problem? well here’s a few for starters: 1) i put a lot of colonists on the planets. why is this bad? well it isn’t bad in and of itself, in fact it’s good, just not good for you! if you load up a planet with a lot of colonists, but you cannot defend it from invasion, then you are in effect, colonizing for someone else – the player who takes your planet! trust me, 5000 sectors is not a very big universe – you will be found sooner or later. 2) i spent a lot of effort working the type O planets for organics. type O planets have almost no defensive ability because of low fuel ore production and long citadel times. in addition, you can make almost as much money – if not just as much – selling fuel ore off of the type H planets you are building, with the added benefit that the fuel ore has a defensive quality in level 3+ planets if you decide not to sell it. 3) i was building in large bubbles. the problem with building in large bubbles is that your opponent no longer has to search 5000 sectors to find you, he only has to search 100 or so. your base is a needle in a very small haystack. chances are your opponent will find you quickly!

so i started building in 1 or 2-deep bubbles, i.e. bubbles that are very small. i also stopped building type O planets altogether, and i started winning more. why? well first of all, it’s easier to defend two planets than three – no more H-O-L – just H-L. second of all, the list of 1 and 2-deep bubbles is a lot longer than the list of larger bubbles, making my base a needle in a larger haystack. third, i only brought in enough colonists to start the citadels. often, i wouldn’t even bother bringing in enough colonists for both the H and L – i would bring them in for the citadel on the L, then move the colonists to the H and start the citadel there too. why spend lots of turns and fuel ore running to terra for them, when you have enough on another planet in the same sector?

what did this do for me? well now i can build bases with minimal effort, saving me turns to go hunting or cashing or better yet – support my red corp-mates in their efforts to cash. with the planets harder to find, they would survive long enough to be defendable, and due to my extra turns cashing, i had fighters to defend them with. if they did get invaded, then at least i didn’t lose too many colonists. once my planets got to level 2, i immediately put fighters on them! it will cost your enemy about twice the fighters to take your planets once they are level 2 – so even if you lose your planet, it will cost your enemy more fighters than it did you. you might even have enough fighters elsewhere to go take the planet back.

but wait! that’s not all. as i began to play against better players i started to figure out ways to find them – and ways that they found me. first of all comes the ‘blocked port’ trick. picture this: you went out exploring the first week of the game and you know that there is a port in a certain deadend bubble. later you look in your port cim data and discover that the port is not listed anymore – aha! someone has put a fighter over that port, maybe they have a base there! this is one of the most common ways to get found. that is why i started building bases in deadends without ports – a major stealth improvement.

then, against even better players, i discovered that it’s pretty much impossible to hide in any deadends for long enough to have level 4 planets. so you can either 1) defend them – which i did most often – or 2) find better hiding places. so i thought about it and i came up with this: since most players expect you to hide in deadends, you could probably do better by hiding somewhere else – but where? i started building in sectors with only 2 warps out – sectors that were nowhere near any bubbles. chains of 2-warp sectors are what a lot of players call ‘tunnels’ and they are very good choices for early bases, just be careful that you don’t choose a spot near high traffic areas like the major space lanes, stardock, and class 0 ports.

since most great corps have at least two red players to bring in the cash, it is also a good idea to make your base location one of your sdt ports. the benefits are threefold: 1) you can have your red players steal the products you need for planet upgrades; 2) you get increased defenses for your reds as they work; and 3) the beamer on your planet will save you a lot of turns furbing.

finally, my latest and greatest lesson of all i learned in BOTE 2002 this year. normally i would build three or four bases and hope that the planets might make it to level 4 so that i can move them if they are found. the problem is that it is very hard to defend four locations. say that you have 200k fighters – if you want to defend all four of your bases equally, thats eight planets – you can only put 25k fighters on each planet. what does this mean? it means that all of your planets are easy to capture! what is the cure? you have to accept the solemn task of destroying your own planets! do you see? you started four bases in hopes that at least one of them survives to be defensible, right? what if three of them survive? you have to destroy at least one more of them – so you can divide your 200k fighters among four planets instead of eight. or – what if you think your opponents have way more fighters than you? you should decide which one of your planets has the best chance of getting to level 4 and kill the rest – it is better to have one planet with 200k fighters and keep it, than to have four planets with 50k fighters and keep only one – or lose them all to multiple opponents! why let your opponents take easy planets? trust me – you can make a lot more money megarobbing in MBBS mode or planet trading in TWGS mode with that one single planet under you than without it, and why should your opponent get to start megarobbing with your planets? spend all your effort filling that one planet up with fighters and shields – then you will have a fighting chance to take other peoples’ planets. make them colonize for you!

the result, my friends, is that now i spend my base building efforts early in the game to get one level 4 type L planet and cross my fingers that one of my type H planets gets to level 4 also. what do i do with the rest of my turns? load up my type L with fighters and shields! hunt for other players’ planets! if you can kill their planets before they get to level 4 – or to level 2 for that matter – then you are putting yourself in a better position to win.

like i said before – this is just the ‘evolution’ of my thinking and practice when it comes to base building. it might not work for you. experiment yourself with different approaches. if you are losing a lot of games, think about what you are doing. if you are winning alot of games, stick with what you have been doing, but try to find better players to test it against.

one final tip – a freebie that i learned from dr. bad. it’s more of a philosophical question really: “what’s in a base?” think about it. is your base sector 1234? what makes sector 1234 your base? if you are out trading in your planet and you finish up all that you have to do, why should you move your planet back to sector 1234? what is special about it? it is just 1 in 5000 sectors, right? to paraphrase the old adage, “home is where the heart is,” “base is where your planet is.” why waste the fuel ore to move your planet back to sector 1234 without a good reason? if the reason is just that you like that sector, then you need to think again. you may have good reasons to move your planet back to sector 1234, e.g. your planet is part of a defensive setup protecting other assets. i’m not saying it’s stupid to have sector 1234 as your base – i’m just saying that you should think before moving your planet back there and make sure you have a good reason to spend that 15 hops times 400 fuel ore per hop – which will cost you 15*400/250=24 turns in a colonial transport to replace. (just remember, moving a planet may take 0 turns, but it’s costing you 400 fuel ore to move 1 sector, which is at least 1.6 turns in a colonial transport to replace – don’t be deceived by the 0 turn cost.)

I want to Thank the reverend for taking the time to write this great article