I absolutely do not believe in wishy-washy recommendations. Read this article only if you like strong opinions. I start with a chapter on the War Monger's biggest advantage, our ship hulls. If you want to find out if the War Monger PRT is right for you, jump to Chapter Four, on Diplomacy. If you want to start playing right away, check out the sample race in Chapter Seven.
(Don't worry--these chapters are short.)
For reasons I'll talk about later, the technique for playing a War Monger is, from year to year, more difficult than most PRTs, but the overall game plan is usually simpler and pivots around a few natural times to initiate offensives. One comes early, using your initial lead in weapons tech. Others are at Con 10 (featuring Battlecruisers), at Con 13 (featuring the 300kt gate, heavier Battlecruisers, and escort Battleships), and at Con 16 (featuring Dreadnoughts). Pick the ones you want and execute. The game plans of other PRTs often seem wishy washy and confused compared to how clear and rigorous this is.
From their race description, you'd expect War Mongers to have better weapons than anyone else, but this isn't true. The two special weapons we have are nothing great: a mid-range gatling and a top-of-the-line range-zero weapon, the Blunderbuss. The gatling comes at a time in the game when any ordinary beam weapon gives you all the mine-sweeping you need. The Blunderbuss has all the limitations of a range-zero weapon. There's one good trick I know to do with range-zero weapons, but nothing in the world is easier to design against than these guys, so using them is just that: a trick, that you can pull out of your hat probably just once in a game. I'll talk about it later in the section on Battlecruisers.
So where are the chief advantages of War Mongers? If you look at the natural times for us to attack, you'll notice how important Construction tech is. And in fact it's not in weapons, but in hulls that we WMs have our chief advantage. There are three in particular that are better for us--they range from the smallest to the largest warship hulls in the game.
Frigates have several weaknesses. The worst has to do with their scarcity of slots compared to other ships--one 2-item Shield slot, one 3-item General Purpose slot. Most beamers live or die by their jammers and their speed, but a frigate warship must be unjammed, and it has no room for jets or thrusters. With slow, unjammed beamers, the only thing you can do is build more and more of them and hope you have enough.
But the War Monger +1/2 speed bonus directly solves one of these problems. It's even possible for War Mongers to build luxury-class frigates with 2 1/4 move--the magic movement rate necessary to ensure that a ship with range 3 beamers will always fire on the second round of combat--and no other race can do this. But the engines required to achieve this movement rate in frigates (the first engines fast enough are the Trans-Galactic Drive and the Prop 9 Ramscoop) are too expensive for a class of ships whose only advantage is a fabulous shield to resource ratio. The usual candidates for a horde engine are the Daddy Long Legs 7, the Radiating Hydro Ram Scoop, and the Fuel Mizer, all because of their low cost. The DDL7 is the fastest of these on the battle board, but is hard to move at better than warp 7. The chief advantage of the Radiating Hydro Ram Scoop over the Fuel Mizer is its lower cost in iron. If you want to go faster than these drives will take you, you'd better have Cheap Engines, Bleeding Edge Technology, and a lot of Prop research for miniaturization, or you'll be sacrificing battle efficiency.
Relying on horde ships much past Con 9 or 10 requires a lot of planning, dedication, and appropriate race design. The two LRTs just mentioned are good choices, and of course Regenerating Shields (RS). But for most races, heavy use of horde ships is a phase they pass through on the way to bigger hulls, and this creates a problem--what to do with the "leftover" horde ships you have laying around? Unless you're committed to building huge numbers of them, out-dated horde ships aren't much good for anything but chaff later in the game. And expensive chaff at that!
The usual thing to do with out-dated warships is to recall them for scout- and freighter-hunting duty, but most race's hordes are too slow on the battle board to catch unarmed ships. For War Mongers this naturally isn't a problem. You'll lose these frigates through gradual attrition, but it's a more useful fate for them than burning up in some huge inferno of a battle somewhere.
The other big weakness of frigates is their low armor. If you're fighting beam ships this doesn't matter, but torpedoes always apply 50% of their damage directly to ship armor. Back in the days when I was young and innocent I once built a fleet of frigates with maximum shielding and maximum weapons. The poor things had 5 times as many defence points (dps) from shielding as from armor, and when they went up in a puff of dust under a barrage of Beta torps, they still had 22,000 dps of shielding left.
I've found it works best to put one shield and one weapon on a horde ship. War Mongers, with their cheaper weapons, might put on two. Three is too many for anyone. The general course of a horde battle is that if your ships can get in range and fire, the battle is over. If they can't, then they all die, and the battle is over. So the first thing you want to do is build enough shielding and armor to get them into the fight. The exception to this discussion is IS. Their Croby Sharmor will keep the shield:armor ratio balanced, so they can more fully load their frigates.
Horde frigates have several other disadvantages. They have to be used in inflexibly huge tokens or they're no good. For this reason they're better on those mono-maniacal attack runs than when you're cobbling together a defense fleet from half a dozen production centers. They're particularly susceptible to sappers. Since they have inexpensive engines, they're hard to move at high warp across the galaxy, and this might be a blessing in disguise, since they can't take even one mine hit without exploding. One thing that helps make up for their slow warp speed is that they're fully gateable through even the smallest gates.
What they fail to notice is that the BC gets twice as many shield and electrical slots as the Cruiser. And it's a fantastically more flexible ship. This small hull can hold as many jammers as a Battleship, for instance, or can carry 11 shields, or can be 93% cloaked. With modest tech it's possible to build a BC that can kill missle Battleships resource for resource, and after you do this just once you know exactly how David felt when he conked Goliath. Battlecruisers get more fuel than Cruisers, which makes it easier for them to "carry" bombers and other heavy ships. Furthermore, if you don't put any armor on the things, they can tip the scales at just under 200kt, which allows you to optimize the building capacity of your Space Docks, for those of you who like Improved Star Bases (ISB). But before we get carried away, lets start with a simple beamer design that can blow a Cruiser out of the water.
BC: engine = Prop 9 Ramscoop or Alpha Drive 8. Add two Manuevering Jets, 6 of your best shields, and 9 range-3 weapons. This ship moves at 2 1/4 and will always fire on the second round of combat--whenever I build a ship with these characteristics, I call it a "Killer" ship. It weighs about 190kt, and has low tech requirements--Prop 7 or 9, Con 10, Weap 10, Energy at whatever you can afford. If you have Elect 10, it's a good investment to replace 2 shields with 2 jammers so the ship will age better. Compared to a Killer Cruiser, the basic Killer BC has 300% more shielding at only 50% more cost.
So much for Cruisers. What's a real challenge is to build Battlecruisers that compete well in the age of Battleships (BBs). There's a lot of incentive to do this because of the BC's lighter weight. They can be fully gateable, and if you have ISB and can design a viable BC, then you can save thousands of resources by doing a lot of your ship construction at Space Docks.
Battlecruiser beamers have 2 chief combat advantages over Battleships: it's easier for them to get a Killer 2 1/4 move, and they have a greater amount of shielding. In fact, it's possible for BCs to achieve shield:resource ratios that rival frigates. If I open up my latest game and quickly build a pure Killer BB beamer to compare to my pure Killer BC beamer--leaving off any jammers for the moment--here's what I end up with:
BB: 6 sappers, 14 Colloidal Phasers, 8 Wolverine Shields, 6 Energy Capacitors, 1 Manuevering Jet, Trans-Galactic Drive engines, armor slot empty. Move 2 1/4, mass 375kt.
The BC is the Killer design I gave above, with 6 Wolverine shields, 3 sappers, 6 Colloidal phasers, and Prop 9 Ramscoops. Move 2 1/4, mass 189kt.
Here's my favorite way to compare ships:
The column on the left is the cost of a BB. In the middle, the cost of a BC. On the far right, how much you can buy in BCs for every BB, resource for resource. The columns to compare are the BB column and the "Comparo" column. For instance, for the same number of resources, you can get 2545 points of armor on a BC, or 2000 points of armor on a BB. Since I'm comparing these ships based on resources, the row of equivalency is the "resc." row, both at 616, and the multiplier of 2.545 is placed there. In this article, all my comparisons are based on resource:resource, but it's easy to modify for iron:iron. Naturally, the actual costs will vary depending on how much miniaturization you've achieved, but the important thing is the comparison.
What you'll notice from this is that the BC gets 90% more shielding and 25% more armor, but only 65% of the combat rating. The BC is also fully gateable through the 300kt/500ly gate, can be over-gated through the 100kt/250ly gate, and can be built at Space Docks. In part it gets such good numbers relative to the BB because in order to get the Killer 2 1/4 move, the BB has to use the expensive Trans-Galactic Drive; with the Prop 12 ramscoop, the BB numbers would improve. If memory serves me correctly, the resource multiplier goes down to 2.4 or so.
In practice, you're unlikely to build a Battleship with six Energy Capacitors; more likely, you'd fill those slots with jammers. And this is one way that BCs can't compete. A BC with maximum jammers compares well against a BB in every category but one; they have about the same armor and shielding, and exactly the same jamming, but the BC only has half the weapons. Putting armor on your BCs is another way to make them compare poorly to BBs. Their weight doubles, their shield advantage goes away, you can't build them at Space Docks, they don't get much more armor than an unarmored BB, and they have a poorer combat rating.
Because of their weaker jamming compared to Battleships, standard Battlecruiser beamers probably aren't worth building past Con 13 unless you have lots of Space Docks, need to gate numerous times to get to where the fight is, or are fighting mainly against beams and torpedoes.
Still, the things you can do with these little ships are astonishing. Here's an example of a more radical design, a missle-boat killing BC whose chief advantage is very modest tech requirements, particularly if you have Regenerating Shields (RS): Prop 7, Weap 7, Con 10, Energy 10, Elect 10. Building one involves using the range-0 weapon trick that I mentioned in Chapter One. Put on Alpha 8 drives, 2 Manuevering jets, 2 Jammer 20s, 4 Bear shields, and 9 Blackjacks. I call this ship the "Black Bob". It works great against the first missle-boat BBs that everyone rushes to build. You know the ones--they have max Jihads, 7 Battle Computers, and 6 plates of Neutronium armor. If the missle-boat has Bear shields, then the BCs will take 25% casualties or so before wiping out a stack of BBs that took the same resources to build. This isn't bad for a ship with something like half the tech. And as an absolutely free added bonus, the Black Bob has a combat rating of 666.
The reason this trick works is that missle-boat Battleships are painfully slow. A fully decked-out missle boat will typically have a move of 1/2 or 3/4, and that means they're prime for range-zero weapons. It's almost like they're a starbase, and the same techniques can be used to attack them.
The worst thing about Black Bob is that it's very easy to design around him. All a missle boat needs to trash him is a move greater than 1. Even a move of exactly 1 is pretty good, since that will chop in half the number of times a range-zero weapon can fire. But at move 1 1/4 the range-zero weapon will never fire at all. And Bob's a sitting duck against beamers, so he needs good auxiliaries. All these reasons are why I call this ship a trick. You'll only get one good ambush with him. But if that one ambush involves 50,000 kilo-tons of enemy iron, then he's worth the trouble. And in engineering this ambush, you can really play on the supreme confidence people put in their missle-boats and the general disregard for the BC hull.
I've made a few desultory attempts to build a similar Cruiser for all those poor non-WMs, but without success. Meta-morphs might have better luck, but I've never tried. Honestly I haven't exactly broken my back working on Cruisers. After playing with Battlecruisers for a while, no hull in the game looks more pathetic than the Cruiser. When I switch PRTs I miss the BC much more than the Dreadnought.
If the BB missle boats get the Super Battle Computer (SBC), then Bob needs to have the next level of range-zero weapon, the Weap 13 Bludgeon, in which case the results are similar, about 25% casualties and no roaming Jihads left. This is a strange battle, though, because both ships have more offensive punch without any more defense, so these battles tend to be all or nothing. If Bludgeon Bob fires once, he wins. Otherwise, he loses.
But if you have this kind of tech, then you can design a Jihad ship yourself. Here's a Jihad BC that will kill the 7-SBC Battleship resource for resource: Prop 9 ramscoop, 4 SBCs, 4 Bear shields, 6 Jihads, 3 Jammer 20s. I call this the "Pocket Battleship." You can build about 2.5 of them for every non-WM Jihad BB, and best of all they come in at about 380kt, so they're over-gateable through the 300kt/500ly gate. In fact, the Pocket Battleship is the best gateable missle boat in the game (a statement that will hold up as long as there are no biting comments from Interstellar Travellers.) They'll do even better with 4 jammers and only 3 Super BCs against the 7-SBC missle boat, but one big disadvantage compared to the Typical Jihad Monster is their susceptibility to _being_ jammed, so I like to go with more computers. The worst disadvantage of the Pocket Battleship is its high cost in Germ. If your game plan calls for building a lot of these ships, then Germanium, not resources or Iron, will be your production bottleneck. Remember this when designing your race.
Since War Mongers can build Battlecruisers that compete with Battleships, we have more options in our early tech research than other PRTs. Instead of having to make the usual bee-line straight for Con 13 and Weap 12, we can afford to work on Energy, Electricity, Prop, etc. (Not the least advantage of doing this is better leverage in tech trading. But that belongs in another chapter.) Particularly important for designing a good BC is Electricity. They need good jammers and good computers to compete. Having good Battlecruisers also means that War Mongers can get good warships--ones that age gracefully--earlier than other races.
If the great flexibility of the BC is the best thing about it, this flexibility also means that it's incredibly easy to build a bad ship. I'm absolutely positive that I still haven't maximized the advantages of this hull. I've always had the idea that some game-breaking Battlecruiser design is just out of my reach, and that someday I'll find it. This mythical design is the Holy Grail of War Mongering.
The natural ship to compare it to is the Battleship. But forget the armor, shield, and weapon advantages. The biggest plus the DN has over the BB is its 3 extra electrical slots. You have room for 10 battle computers on a DN, but even only 8 of them will guarantee you first shot against any BBs with similar tech.
Eight computers still leaves you with two General Purpose slots in the Dreadnought's nosecone. I think it's important to put thrusters or jets here. A missle boat DN can carry so much iron on it that movement slows to 1/2 (before the WM adjustment). If you sail into a fight with these, then your opponent will have the privilege of two separate battles. As a WM, your escort ships go roaring across the board at 2 1/2, engage the enemy, and the dust from that fight has settled and dissipated by the time your missle boats, wallowing along at move 1, even get in range. But put a couple Overthrusters in the nosecone and your missle boats will move at 2 or better, enough to keep up with those escorts. Maybe another reason I like doing this is that it's one of the few cases where Overthrusters aren't wasted on a WM ship. The other obvious option for the nosecone would be jammers.
DN beamers don't get as much advantage from their elecrical slots as the missle boats. There's not that much difference between 8 jammers and 6. As a matter of pure whimsy, if your opponent gives up on missles, then one thing you might do is put 10 Energy Capacitors on the DN. These increase beam firepower by 260%, 70% more than a BB can do.
It is, however, much easier for DN beamers than BB beamers to achieve Killer movement (2 1/4 speed) because there's only 1 slot on a BB for a jet or a thruster. The earliest a BB can get Killer speed is at Prop 9, with the Trans-Galactic Drive, and these things are _expensive_. An efficient Killer Battleship has to wait until Prop 12 or for the magical Mystery Trader to hand out Multi-Function Pods. Poor non-WMs need an Overthruster with the IS-10--another expensive engine--or the Prop 16 ramscoop.
What happens when you want to build a cloaked ship? A BB with 7 Super Cloaks can get 93% cloaking. This is very so-so, as any Super Stealth can tell you. But a DN with 10 Super Cloaks can get 98% cloaking, which is 3.5 times as good. Before the invention of Nubians, War Mongers are the only race besides Super Stealth (SS) who can get maximum cloaking on a good warship. Would you have thought that War Mongers were the 2nd best sneaky race going? Would you have thought that there was most definitely a 2nd best sneaky race at all?
How do DNs compare to Nubians? I'm frankly not the biggest expert at building ships this late in the game, but there are a few things I can point out.
At Con 26, the hull costs of the two ships are almost the same, but there are two big differences: first, the Dreadnought has almost twice as many slots. Second, the DN has a built-in +8 initiative advantage. A Nubian designer who wanted to guarantee that his ships would have first shot against a DN would have to add 13 computers--an unfortunate number, since Nubians have 3-item slots. So a poor Nubian builder has to dedicate to computers 5 of his 3-item slots, and he only has 12 of them altogether. Would you feel happy about building a ship that's 40% computers?
And think how much fun it would be to design a DN against this ship. It's rare that we War Mongers get to build counter-punching Dreadnoughts.
By far the worst thing about DNs are their icons, which are the ugliest of any warship. When you finally assemble that first proud fleet, your enemy's initial reaction will be to recoil in horror and say, "Oh god no. He's going to Remote Mine me until I die."
Cheer up, friend! Con 13 gives you another special gift, the 300kt/500ly gate, which makes even your heaviest Battlecruisers gateable. So you'll be able to build powerful warfleets that are more flexible than most PRT's. And remember that you still have 25% cheaper weapons than anyone, which means that resource for resource you can build more ships.
Also, one weakness of BBs is that they only have 1 mechanical slot. Because it's easier for you to get good speed on your own Battleships, you have design options that other PRTs don't have, such as the gateable Jihad BB or your ability to make better use of short-range beam weapons. But this chapter is already too long without adding a section on War-Monger BB design.
At first glance, a Hyper-producing (HP) WM might seem to be a good idea. Your economy really comes on line about the same time you get Dreadnoughts. And your initial lead in Weapons tech will keep people from jumping on you straight away. My very first race design against the AI was one of these, and it was fun to build 30 DNs a turn with only 9 planets. This is an incredibly classy way to blow up Spore Clouds.
But humans are a lot smarter than any AI, and I quickly dropped the thought of playing an HP WM against people. Without mine-layers and good planetary defenses, you'd have a hard time in the middle game. You'd have to rely on good allies, and until you could pump out lots of ships you wouldn't have much to offer in return.
So I usually go with a fairly conservative Hyper-Growth (HG) race. I take something like 1/3 hab with 3-wide, or 1/6 hab with 1 immune. My growth is 18 or 19%. My economy is in the range of 10/9/13 factories, 10/3/13 mines. This is a marginal economy for an HG, but that's okay, because that's all it has to be. You're not trying to compete factory for factory with a JOAT or a CA. No matter what you do, they're going to have more people and better economies. And that's okay.
These races have a bottom-line. If you want to know how well a JOAT is doing, just open up the scoreboard and take a look. Those numbers--particularly the resources total--tell you everything you need to know about their success.
But for a WM, or for any non-economic PRT, there is no bottom line. All you have to do is stay in the same league as the big CA next door, and you can win. Nowhere on the scoreboard is reflected the better gateability of WM warships that follow naturally from your movement and hull advantages, or your ship-scanning ability that guarantees you can run a simulation of every battle before it happens. You can have an economy that's only 70% what the CA has, and worse tech, and still be chortling because you have him just where you want him.
But I'll explain in more detail later. Let's start at the beginning: how to hide your PRT. I'll tell you WHY you want to hide it in a few paragraphs. Here's HOW to do it: SCRAP YOUR ARMED PROBE ON TURN 1. Do it. Scrap it. You'll be sending out a mess of scouts soon, by 2405 or 2406, so it won't help you much. Do you think you can get in a few quick years of scouting with the thing? Don't. A Super-Stealth with NAS begins the game with a 300ly scan, my friend, and the JOAT starts with pen-scanners. As soon as they see that Armed Probe, they'll have a huge clue. If they see your Yakimora Phaser, they'll know. Scrap it. If it's still there in 2401 it's like leaving the murder weapon on the coffee table with fingerprints all over it and the blood still drying. If you're getting the Gadfly and the Stalwart Defender, scrap those too. Wait 4 or 5 years to do any scouting, and then send out a bunch named "Smaugarian Peeping Tom."
When will people find out that you're a WM? If they're observant, they'll know the first time they see your scout on a battle board. 1) click on your scout. Mine has a Fuel Mizer. No Fuel Mizer moves at 1 1/2--unless you're a WM. But this they might not notice--in my experience, only WMs carry engine battle rates in their head. Something about the continual calculation, however quick and easy, that's required to determine battle speed during ship design. Unfortunately, there's another way to tell. 2) With your scout still highlighted, click the "?" button. You'll notice on the ship design box that pops up that the movement rate is listed as 1, while the figure on the battle board says 1 1/2.
Most players won't notice this difference. I don't know why. They'll spot a 75% cloaked SS scout from across the room, but they won't see this movement bonus. Nonetheless, it's generally bad policy to assume your opponents are stupid. Note, however, that you can be sure of fooling JOATs longer than other people, since their scouts tend not to go into orbit.
But you're really out of the closet when you build your first Battlecruiser hull. Your allies might try to persuade you to stick to Cruisers in the hopes of keeping people in the dark until Dreadnoughts, and wouldn't THAT be a nice surprise? But it's awfully hard to play with a hull as pathetic as the Cruiser when you've got something twice as good, and all on the off chance that the guy you're trying to fool is too lazy to notice that your ships move faster than they're supposed to.
I usually have Fuel Mizer Privateers by 2409. If I don't take the Fuel Mizer, and have to research engines, then I don't build colony ships until 2413 or so, with the DDL7 and the Privateer. The effect is the same--if you're floating Privateers that early, with those engines, it's amazing how consistently people will think you're an Interstellar Traveller (IT). In my first game against people, all three neighbors made that assumption independently. This is not a bad thing. Most players are unlikely to run screaming into their dugouts and arm the militia when they find out they're next door to an IT.
But why hide your PRT at all? You didn't become a War Monger so that you could skulk around, right?
Wrong. For one thing, the War Monger is one of those PRTs with very distinctive weaknesses. Advertising these any sooner than you have to is bad policy. More importantly, you have a lot of diplomatic work to do before your PRT goes public. You have a stereotype to overcome. People's natural inclination is to think of a WM as a brain-eating barbarian who kicks children and burns up their dogs for fun, and on top of that is anti-social. And it's true the PRT tends to attract more Neanderthals than most PRTs--and this might explain why the WM PRT isn't more popular, since Neanderthals don't do well in Stars!, and the WM does worse than other PRTs with this style.
So the point of hiding your PRT is to give yourself the time to build another image, one that lets the other players know that you're reasonable and dependable. The fastest way to do this is to set up another stereotype, one that directly contradicts the slavering brute image. I like to go with the Honest, Hard-Working Joe. This is easy to do, but has the pitfall that people might think you're stupid. Another option is the Wide-Eyed Naif. Its pitfall is that people might think you're an ignorant pushover. A third is the White Knight, whose danger is that people will think you're a prig. You can avoid over-doing all of these roles if you pick the one that's most natural to you, unless of course you really are a prig or an ignorant pushover. ;-) In any case, it's important that you spend those first few years before your scouts cross paths with other races to establish yourself as an okay guy.
Try to pick a name to play along with the image you want to create. Don't, for any reason, be the Screaming Bloody Battle Axes. Also don't be anything too cute. If your race is named the Wee Wuzzy Fuzzies, then when people find out you're really a War Monger they're likely to think you're laughing at them prior to stabbing them to death. I like something modest. The House Sparrows, say, or the Blue Bicycles. If you're going to make up a name, don't use anything that begins with V or X. The Vartakak or the Xortokon are going to have a lot harder time making friends than the Munchmen.
All this is important because War Mongers, more than any other race, are genetically designed to make allies. They have game-breaking advantages that are unique. They have crippling disadvantages that anyone can fill. If you've done your image-building job right, most players will be delightfully surprised to find out that their potential ally, the sane guy next door with the decent economy, is a WM. You'll notice the tone of their e-mails suddenly become more respectful, and their long-term strategies will get more ambitious.
Your PRT lets you gain big diplomatic points because you can afford to be honest, and in fact even honorable. So diplomatic relations with your enemies can be as important as those with friends and neutrals. Don't let your enemy find out that you're attacking him when you blow up a border starbase and drop half a million kilotons of colonists on him. Instead, make a formal declaration of war several years beforehand. You don't need to be sneaky to win, you have the best ships in the game, and this simple act of respect keeps communication open and relieves a surprising amount of rancor. In fact, you can afford to treat everyone in the game with respect, no matter how weak they are, or whether you're doing your best to wipe them off the map. If you do this, then you'd be surprised at how often the favor is returned, and the game becomes more a matter of statecraft and less like a brawl.
Why is this particularly important for a War Monger? Because this is the kind of game you want--where borders are agreed upon with clear treaties, where players negotiate contracts and keep them, where war and peace are both clear and open. You want a well defined space, good relations with everyone, and one war at a time, preferably centering on someone else's starbase. You want the kind of game where people declare war by slapping each other in the face with white kid gloves and making a date the next day to kill each other. This is the kind of game where a War Monger does best. If you get into multiple-front wars, extensive guerilla actions, and dispersed fighting, then your weaknesses on defense are going to become more important. And because of these weak defenses, no one in the galaxy suffers more damage from backstabs or sneak attacks. All of these reasons mandate that a successful War Monger is also a diplomatically active one. If that's not you, pick another PRT.
If you have to vent at an enemy, one technique for staying on good terms is to send e-mails in two voices, one "in character" and the other "out of character". Suppose someone backstabs you and blows up one of your colonies. In the first part of your message, be official and outraged and do your venting, and in the second be chatty and compliment the guy on the effectiveness of his attack. Something like this:
The mighty race of the Munchmen are astonished by your brutal act of cowardice. From today into eternity, we are at war. Prepare yourself to face the full might of Munch warships. Hide your younglings and instruct your nurses to cease laying eggs, because all of your race from this day forward will be born with lives doomed to quick extinction.
*out of character*
Wow! perfect place and perfect timing. Another year and I'd have had a 300kt gate up there, and you'd be toast, pal. By the way, your new sapper Battleship works great against my frigates--good design. Just wait until Round 2.
It costs you nothing to keep lines of communication open, whether you're attacking or defending. Be the Honorable Enemy--it's fun, and for pragmatic reasons it works well with the War Monger PRT. Also, talking about Stars! is a blast, and no one else is going to have as much interest in your battles as the other guy who's there. Don't give up--keep dropping chatty notes. Compliment or gently critique the ship designs you're busy blowing up. Congratulate him on his successes. When the M.T. comes through, drop your enemy a copy of the M.T. FAQ. You'll know that you're handling your diplomacy right when you feel comfortable giving out your ENEMIES as references to any future potential allies. Amazing what a good reputation this will give you. If you're fighting someone and they're genuinely truly pissed off at you, then either they have the wrong personality to be involved in war games, or you've played badly.
Try to find a Strong Ally. This is someone you communicate with every turn, trade tech with every year, and don't waste a lot of time determining tit for tat. Give a WM one Strong Ally and the galaxy is in trouble. If all you can get is one of those people who insist on keeping an exact record of who got what from whom, then be sure to engage in early tech trading wisely. You start with tech 6 in Weapons, and Weapons are *always* the most relevant tech. If you trade level for level with a JOAT, you're likely to get Construction 4, Electricity 4, and Biotech 4, while he gets Weapons 4, 5, and 6. Who got the better deal there? It's smarter to trade tech on a resource for resource basis. But otherwise trade as early and as often as you can. It's amazing how many people don't know that with Wolf/Lamb trading, you can swap tech with anyone starting in 2401, no matter how far away they are. Learn how to do this. If you're not doubling your research by trading, then you're missing out.
Super Stealth (SS): since as a WM you have no mine fields, you're the most vulnerable race of all to cloaked fleets. To discover them, you have to rely strictly on scanning, and they can come at your planets doing full warp. This is a good reason to either wipe out the Super Stealth next door, or ally with him. An SS-WM combination has just too many ginchy keen toys of such completely different natures for one enemy to cope with. If you get the chance to acquire some fully-loaded Stealth Bombers (8 bombs, 4 Ultra Cloaks) jump on it, since these ships are so heavy that it doesn't take many to give you 90%+ overall cloaking for your whole war fleet.
Particle Physics (PP): because of the bad planetary defences you have as a WM, you're more vulnerable to packets, so you have to rely on the other methods of avoiding them. Learn these--there are some good articles. But since any race can build packets, you have to take special precautions, anyway, particularly if you intersettle. If you don't absolutely trust the other person, and if you're in any position to do so, insist that no packet throwers be built in inter-settled space. Do this up front, when it won't sound untrusting, and explain in a matter-of-fact way that this is always part of your inter-settlement agreements. Having a bunch of close planets, all with packet throwers, is a lot like a Cold War with nuclear weapons: there's a big temptation to strike first and keep hammering away until the space is no longer inter-settled. As a War Monger, this is one kind of war you're going to lose.
Space Demolition (SD) and IS: naturally, both of these races make great allies because they have the best mine layers. You'll be a valuable ally for an Inner-Strength race, because if you build all the ships for the alliance, the IS turns his expensive weapons disadvantage into a bonus. Also, more than anyone else, you really want some Tachyon Detectors.
IT: Since the unique thing a WM has to trade is warships, allying with an IT makes it easy to swap them for whatever he has to trade in return.
Alternate Reality (AR): War Mongers are great at wiping out these guys early, but I like to buddy up with them instead. The reason is that they always have fantastic Energy tech right off the bat, and once they find out your PRT they're happy to trade with you instead of fight you. Befriending an AR is particularly nice if you take RS, the way I recommend, or if you're planning early-game offensives. Also, War Mongers and AR share a common hobby: the quick research of Construction past tech 13.
The reality is that any other PRT, with one exception, makes a great ally for a War Monger. They all have what you need most, and they should all be grateful for what you can supply. In theory I have a preference for other non-economic PRTs because with them I'm not so out-classed in a resource race. In practice, personality and position are much more imporant than PRT. I do shy away from alliances with Hyper-Producers, because I end up carrying them through the beginning of the game, and struggling to keep up towards the end.
The one exception for allies is another WM. You have nothing to offer each other. If you get into a fight, you're both back to being Humanoids. Not only that, but the cheapest way to kill a WM is to hire another WM. If you have one for a neighbor, be very careful. All that neighbor needs in order to have a better fleet than you do is more ships, and no one else in the galaxy can say that.
I know, I wasn't convinced at first, either. Because I like cheap Construction, I was initially a big fan of armor. No more. Remember that armor built into a hull isn't halved by RS, so this LRT will only be a disadvantage when you ADD armor to a ship. But for a WM it's silly to add any armor except Superlatanium. This is because your weapons are cheaper, which makes the weapons:armor value better. Adding full armor typically increases a ship's cost by 33% or so, and as a WM you're better off building more hulls and filling then with what you build best--weapons.
But we need an example. Let's build a missle boat DN and take a look. This is the best case I can make for armor on a WM ship. Here are two versions of a typical first-shot missle boat DN, one with armor and one without.
DN: 38 Juggernauts, 8 Super BCs, 8 Bear shields, 2 Overthrusters, 5 Prop 12 Ramscoops.
Unarmored verson: has no armor, move 2 1/4
Armored version: 8 Valaniums, move 2
So what are the important differences? The easiest to see is that the unarmored DN has 40% more firepower and 40% more shielding. The armored DN has 35% more armor. Which is the better ship? Hint #1: With a DN, you're always going to shoot first. Hint #2: If you're not planning to add armor, you can take Regenerating Shields and get a free bonus +40% shielding over what's shown here. Hint #3: When you get better missles than Juggernauts, the relative value of the design with more missles will increase.
The big disadvantage of the unarmored DN, and the reason this is the best case I can make for an armored WM ship, is that it costs 30% more iron. But missle boats are an extreme case, since the extra torpedoes you're building cost so much more iron than the armor. What I would do in actuality is spend the saved resources on more beamers. If you run a comparo of armored vs. unarmored beamers, you'll find that the unarmored ships costs less iron and blow away the armored ships for performance.
The only other possible disadvantage of unarmored DNs is that your ship designs have this funny-looking hole in the middle. Let them laugh. Then blow them all to hell.
Am I biased in favor of RS? For a WM, you bet. Look back on the section on frigates--shields. On BCs--shields. I didn't reach this conclusion on a whim, but after a long time spent trying to incorporate armor into my ship designs and throwing them out. The only place a WM can efficiently add armor is on a starbase.
Take this advantage. If you're in a smaller galaxy, take it. If you're in a slow tech galaxy, take it. If you think the game will be decided before Construction 24, take it. It's a deal you shouldn't pass up.
War Mongers are the best suited of all PRTs to take advantage of the ship-building capabilities of the Space Dock. We use frigates better than almost anyone, and our Battlecruisers can be exactly the right weight to maximize Space Dock production. What this gives you is much greater flexibility in building your fleets. On a moment's notice, you can drop everything and convert your ENTIRE ECONOMY to building powerful ships. Without ISB, you have to decide where you're going to build ships, and where not, and those places without a starbase can only contribute to their local economy and to research. And if you're not a War Monger, the best ship you'll likely be able to build at a Space Dock is a Cruiser. Yuck. The ship-building ability of Space Docks is particularly important if you're planning early offensives. The cost savings versus throwing up Starbases everywhere is more important the earlier you want to move.
WMs can arm their Space Docks with incredible ease. This is because the built-in star base bonus of 50% cost, plus the ISB bonus 20% reduction, plus the War Monger weapons bonus 25% reduction--can you spell C-H-E-A-P? This ability is only much use in the beginning and middle of the game, because before too long even Ultra Stations are dwarfed by the fleets attacking them. Also, don't hang needless hardware on your Docks, because when you upgrade the hull, you'll only get 50% value for any toys on them. On the other hand, if you're certain you're never going to change the hull, then by all means upgrade them every year. Have different versions...one for planets without much germ, another for planets without iron, etc.
There are two weaknesses of Space Docks that you should be careful of: one is that they don't have many electrical slots--just 4, so its often better to put torpedoes on them than missles. The other is that they only have one orbital slot. Usually you'll put a stargate there--and as a WM you're already vulnerable to packets, and without a packet thrower of your own it's worse.
Finally, unlike other races, War Mongers can partly justify paying the expense of this LRT because of its Ultra-Stations, which can help compensate for not having mine fields.
The doubled scanning range of this LRT is particularly useful to overcome the WM's greater vulnerability to cloaked fleets. It's this doubled range against cloaked fleets that always squashes any qualms I have about taking this LRT.
Another reason is that your game plan should include swapping with someone for mine-layers. If you're on those kind of terms with somebody, then you might as well swap for penetrating scanners, too.
I used to think that the only reason people didn't like NAS was because they didn't want to deal with the micro-management involved. And it does involve a lot--you need to maintain scouts at every single planet in your space. All your attack fleets must have scout out-riders to use on suicide runs to check out what exactly you're fighting before your warships reach orbit, and also to check out that there aren't fleets hiding in the orbits of planets you pass close to. These requirements mandate that you set aside a ship slot for a very cheap, dispensable scout. Along with the huge luscious Galleon you have for long-range scanning, this is 1/8 of your ship slots devoted to scouts.
But there are less obvious disadvantages. One is that with NAS it becomes much harder to spy on your friends. With a pen scanner, you can casually brush by an ally's planet on the way to somewhere else, scanning unobtrusively as you go. With NAS this can't happen--you have to send a scout into orbit. If he's a good friend, he won't mind you poking around--if you're a long way from your own space, you can always explain that you needed to refuel. But most people object to these visits.
I try to mitigate this up front when I make alliances and border agreements. I'm not pushy--but I explain that I'm NAS, and that I'd like to keep an unarmed scout at all border worlds. I make a reciprical offer to let him keep unarmed scouts at my border worlds. This is a hard condition to object to without seeming peevish. You should take any objection as a good sign that you should look somewhere else for an ally.
The other disadvantage that isn't immediately obvious is that your planetary scanners stop improving after Electricity 8. This is a real drag--I can understand why NAS doesn't get the Snooper 320X, but couldn't we get the Snooper 640, without the X? In any case, you'll have to rely on ships to do your scanning, and before long planetary scanners are a waste of Germ.
Basically, with IFE, I send out Fuel Mizer scouts in 2405, and Fuel Mizer Privateer colony ships in 2409, moving at Warp 9. With the Fuel Mizer, it helps to have a lot of fuel pods on your Privateers, since moving at Warp 9, you'll need that gas.
When I play without, I take Propulsion tech at a reduced cost. In 2405 I research to Prop 3 all at once, and build Long Hump 6 scouts, and send them away at Warp 6. They can go a long time at this warp. In 2410, I start researching heavily, and can generally get Prop 5 and Con 4 by 2412 or 2413. Doing this much research early, I'm dependent on beginning surface Germ--unusual for an HG race. By 2414 at the latest, I'm sending out DDL7 privateers, and I strip my home planet from 60%+ to 45% and keep it there until I'm ready to fill it. The DDL7 is a fine colony engine if you don't mind moving at Warp 7--they can go at this speed forever. One nice thing about DDL7 Privateers is that they don't need extra fuel on them--if you ever need to go faster than Warp 7, a couple measly fuel pods aren't going to help you much. (If you absolutely have to go Warp 9, build a gazillion scouts and bundle them.) Sometime around 2417 my home world maxes factories at 45%, and the Prop tech rolls in. The Alpha 8 drive moves pretty well at Warp 8 but still has a really hard time doing Warp 9. I usually build a few colonizers with these. The Prop 8 Ramscoop is as good as the Fuel Mizer at warp travel, and the Prop 9 Ramscoop blows away the poor Fuel Mizer, going at Warp 9 for a quarter the fuel cost. Since this engine usually comes in before 2425, what you're paying for when you take IFE is an initial 20-25 years of faster colonizing.
And what do you get for all the trouble and slow start of playing without IFE? Well, 77 points, minus whatever you paid to reduce your Prop tech. There are also some nice bonuses...you're forced to research great battle engines right away, you get good gravity terraforming, and you can build the 100kt/250ly gate very early, like around 2415 if for some reason you want to.
The biggest disadvantage of doing it this way is that it's more difficult to play. I know people like the Fuel Mizer for the fast early colonization, but I think a bigger reason they like it is just for the same reason they don't like NAS: ease of play.
I tried to talk myself into taking this LRT once, and looked around for a ship design whose battle performace could be improved by sticking the Interspace-10 on it. I found one right away, I thought, in my standard early-game Killer Battlecruiser. I've given the design before, but it looks like this:
BC: engine = Prop 9 Ramscoop. 2 Manuevering Jets, 6 shields, and 9 range-3 weapons. Moves at 2 1/4.
Adding the Interspace-10 to this design does wonderful things, because suddenly you can get 2 1/4 Killer movement without wasting a 2-item slot on Manuevering Jets. You can put almost anything there. It doesn't matter--when you do a comparo, resource per resource, the ramscoop ship out-performs the IS-10 ship on the battle board because you can build 30% more of them. The only combat advantage the IS-10 could have would be better jamming. And this is virtually an ideal case, since the addition of the IS-10 clears up an entire 2-item slot.
If you take this LRT you can forget about building small warships, unless you're content putting the DDL7 on them, an engine practically incapable of going faster than Warp 7, or the Fuel Mizer, which is one of the worst battle engines in the game, and compared to later Ramscoops is miserably fuel-inefficient. Even bigger ships suffer from these expensive engines. BB beamers with the IS-10, for instance, will also cost about 30% more than the same ship with a good ramscoop. Anytime you see a warship with the IS-10 on it, you're looking at a ship that's sacrificing a lot of battle efficiency for better warp speed.
And that's not to mention that all your cargo ships, scouts, mine-layers, miners, and mini-bombers are condemned to use the Fuel Mizer throughout the game or be prohibitively expensive. A large freighter with a Trans-Galactic Drive or an Interspace-10 will typically cost 70% more than the same freighter with your best ramscoop.
To sum up, this is a painless LRT if you want to garner important points, so long as you never plan on building any warships. Since pacifistic War Mongers don't generally excel, the polite thing to say is that this LRT is anti-thematic.
The fly in the ointment is the greater micro-management involved with fleet co-ordination and irregular cargo transportation. If you glory in the fine details of micro-management, or get a gambler's thrill from not knowing exactly _when_ your warfleet will be attacking that enemy starbase, then this is a fine LRT.
Never take this LRT in a slow-tech game. This should be an obvious restriction, but I've seen it done.
But I've never been able to convince myself that this gateability is worth 52 race-design points.
But a cloud hangs over the fate of the Fuel Mizer, so lately I've taken to desiging races without it. The following race is also fun--more powerful, but more difficult to play:
The Blue Bicycles
This race is designed for a game that will be decided within 100 years. Longer than that and the OBRM and mediocre mines will restrict ship production too much. In a longer game you should ditch the OBRM, or possibly buy better mines. If you were planning to rely heavily on Battlecruisers, which tend to have a higher Germ cost because of the toys you hang on them, then you should do the same thing, or check the Germ box. The first place to go for the points to do this is to take Prop at normal cost.
The colonization strategy of the Blue Bicycles relies on fast research of Propulsion tech. See the section on IFE in Chapter Six for my research schedule. It's an interesting job to balance Prop research (faster colonization and pop movement) against factories and mines. The two cheap fields are also the only fields you need for terraforming--what a happy fact! :-) This race will get Prop 10 and Weap 10 around 2430, which in addition to letting you build Killer Destroyers will really leverage the terraforming power of your 1-immune hab. The good pop (1/1000) is particularly important because 1-immunes need to settle a lot of yellows. By 2430 you'll routinely see worlds with something like -5% (82%). And you'll hear yourself saying, "What! Only 82%? Why can't I find any good breeders?"
You might be wondering why I took Energy expensive and Temperature immune with RS. But I don't think this is contradictory. War Mongers shouldn't add armor to their ships in any case, so RS is a bonus, and can help to make up for lower Energy tech. This LRT gives a free 10 points to War Mongers. And since you're doing a lot of Propulsion research, you don't want Grav immune. You'll also notice that I didn't take ISB, and this is because I'll be using good engines instead of the Fuel Mizer, so I don't need the re-fueling capability of Space Docks so much.
I slide my Rad far left. One thing I'm trying to do is get an atypical hab range, and Rad is the band to do this with because its planet density is on a linear scale rather than a bell curve. I could get another few points by sliding my Rad far right instead, but in my experience most human players tend to shift their hab bands right. For one thing, you get more points in that direction, particularly if you're playing a 3-wide race. For another thing, sliding right is a natural reaction in a society that reads from left to right. For a third thing, the Help file says that there are more minerals off to the right side of the Rad band, though I've never noticed a difference. But if you're in a particularly combative, Smart-Bomber kind of mood, you might WANT to have the same hab as everyone else. You're a War Monger, after all, and have great troops. The sad fact is that it's nice to have the same hab as your enemies, and awkward to have the same hab as your friends.
How does this race do in a testbed? I'm no expert at growing an economy under testbed conditions, but here are the numbers anyway: in a standard testbed galaxy (small, packed, Acc. BBS) I got 26k resources by 2450. With a CA version of the same race I got 39k by 2450, and much better tech. The War Monger had Weap 14/Prop 10/Con 5, the CA had Weap 16/Prop 16/Con 10. Their growth curves looked very similar, so that in 10 or 20 more years under these testbed conditions, the difference in their economies would be likely to remain at around 13k, though the CA will continue to have better tech because of their free terraforming. Is the War Monger PRT worth the extra 13k resources?
A snide answer is that I've quite enjoyed blowing up more than 13k annually against CAs in the past. A more honest answer is also more complicated and deserves its own chapter:
This is one reason why non-economic PRTs are harder to play than economic ones. With economic PRTs, you can practice what you're good at. Micro-managing colony growth and mineral distribution doesn't require experience and savvy so much as diligence. But learning how to catch Warp 13 mineral packets because you have poor planetary defences, or defending your home space completely without minefields against a fleet of 98% cloaked Battleships--this isn't something you can pick up on the fly.
The other reason non-economic PRTs are harder to play is that they demand more activity. An economic PRT can sometimes just roll to victory with a huge economy. But all other things being equal, non-economic PRTs are going to be playing catch-up. You'll have fewer resources, and you'll have to use your special advantages, and correctly _time_ their use, or be smothered. Every year you're sitting back and just terraforming and building factories is a year the economics are gaining on you. You can't ignore these fundamentals, but you need to have a plan of attack. If you're not a pro-active player, these PRTs aren't for you.
Another way to think of the difference is like this: non-economic PRTs do better in galaxies that are more crowded with people, and economic PRTs do better in galaxies more crowded with stars. For example, in a Huge Packed galaxy with 2 players, the CA would have every bit of that 13k resource advantage over a War Monger. On the opposite extreme, in a Tiny Sparse galaxy with 16 players, the CA would be a sitting duck while the WM would do quite well.
War Mongers are a bit different than the other non-economic PRTs because of the Dreadnought hull. I'm not saying they'd do particularly well in the Huge Packed 2-player game, but in a very long game their hull advantages are going to tell, because Dreadnoughts can beat anything. Also, since we're better at stand-up fights, we excel in any game that uses a scoring system based on fixed positions in the galaxy, like one where Home Worlds are worth a certain number of victory points, or the winner is the first one who conquers a certain planet.
So to our original question: which is better, the CA or the WM? The things to keep in mind are that the testbed is misleading, and that there is no quantative answer. The best PRT for you will be determined by your style of play. Personally I think races that concentrate entirely on resource production are over-rated as a result of the fact that they _can_ be testbedded and compared to each other. Think twice before you buy into the line that resources = win. When you have more resources, you're saying that you can overcome your other disadvantages by coming up with more warships or better tech for them, because warships are what win games. And because I think this way, warships = win, the War Monger is a good PRT for me.
The last thing I'd like to admit is that I'm a relative newbie to Stars! with only a handful of PBEM games under my belt. The title of this article tries to make clear that this is a beginning course. I'm sure veteran War Mongers know things that make this article look simple. Why are they all so quiet?
If anybody has any comments, arguments, or corrections, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone's free to reprint this article, as long as it's attributed and isn't excerpted or modified.