is a game that revolves around colonies. You can choose to spend most of your
playing time fighting players and NPCs, living the pirate life, or making your
fortune trading among the stars. However, if you ever want to crack the top 10
on your galaxy, sooner or later you're going to have to do some colonizing.
That's where this FAQ comes in. I'll explain what the benefits of a colony are,
how to build one, where to build it, and give a few pointers on how to defend
Note: The strategies in this FAQ are for non-PAX games only. PAX games require much less strategy in planet selection and defense, and I'm not even going to begin to cover them here.
Colonies have the ability to provide you with anything and everything you need. First off, colonies are the best way to make credits. As soon as you drop your Biodome, you can immediately begin earning some tax revenue from your colonists. Colonies set to Harvest can supply you with an endless cache of resources to sell at starports, or you can sell them directly through the Commodities Market.
Colonies have a variety of other benefits. When set to Construct Experience, colonies have the ability to provide you with up to 500 experience every hour (though creating a colony capable of producing that much experience is very difficult). Colonies can build you flak cannons, mines, negotiators, and nukes, all free of charge. Colonies with positive population growth can even produce more colonists so you can make MORE colonies. Well-defended colonies can even provide you a fairly safe place to log off, free of charge.
There are only two real resources that colonies cannot directly provide you. First, colonies can't replenish your shields. Second, colonies can't generate warp fuel for you, though some can make spice for you to jettison.
Spiceant had a terrific post describing the various planet types, but it seems to have been deleted. So I guess I'll duplicate his work. Each type of planet has something different to offer the enterprising colonist. Every planet type has different rates of population growth (or shrinkage), pollution speed, resources available for harvest, and each planet type has its own unique structure that you can build. Some planets are clearly more desireable than others. Here's the rundown:
Arctic: Arctic planets are usually considered the best planets, hands down. Arctic planets feature a SLIGHTLY negative population growth; you'll lose maybe 1 colonist per hour per 1000 colonists on your planet. No big deal. Arctic planets produce a moderate variety of resources, and will supply you with TONS of Oil. The Arctic planet's unique building is the Heater Core, which increases productivity on the planet by 50% (used to be 100%, changed 2/1/05). That means your other buildings will build 50% faster, and you'll generate Experience 50% faster also. Arctic planets provide the most Experience per hour of any planet type in the game. Arctic worlds are the only planets that can produce close to 500 exp/hour.
Volcanic: Volcanic planets feature a sharply negative population growth, so you'll have to replenish your colonists every few hours until you get some medicine in the refinery (more on that later). Volcanic planets provide you with a healthy dose of metal ore and equipment, some anaerobes, and not much else. What's the advantage? The Lava Mill doubles the production of your Weapons Factory, meaning Volcanic planets produce twice as many flak cannons and nukes as any other planet type! Your Volcanic world will be your arsenal, and will serve you best by cranking out flak cannons to defend all your other colonies.
Desert: Desert worlds are harvesting worlds. They have a slightly negative population growth, but they produce every resource available. The big draw of Desert worlds is their incredible spice production... Desert colonies produce spice at an astounding rate. The Spice Mine doubles the already excellent spice production rate, but you might not even need to go that far. Other than spice production, Desert worlds offer very little; so if you're building colonies near a starport that sells spice and you can spare the cash, you can easily live without a Desert colony.
Mountainous: Mountainous planets have a slightly negative population growth rate (I guess colonists fall to their deaths a lot?). Mountainous worlds only harvest three resources... metal ore, uranium, and a little anaerobes. What's the point then? The Atom Smasher building lets you convert one unit of any resource into one unit of any other resource, at the cost of half a unit of uranium. So if you put in 2 units of metal ore and 1 unit of uranium, you end up with 2 units of spice. And the metal ore/uranium harvest rate on these worlds is INCREDIBLE... with 5000 colonists on 100% harvest, you can pull almost 500 units of each per hour. Then you crank those resources through the Atom Smasher, and fill up your other colonies with whatever resources they need to grow. But like Desert worlds, if you don't need a harvesting center, then there's little reason to colonize a Mountainous planet.
Greenhouse: Greenhouse worlds feature a sharply negative population growth. They produce primarily anaerobes and metal ore, with some medicine, oil, and uranium. Nothing special so far, but the Ion Tower will completely hide all traces of your colony's existance from passing players with neutrino scanners. In other words, you can hide greenhouse colonies all over the galaxy, and it's likely that they'll never be found once the Ion Tower goes up. Deception is a thin shroud, however, and once your Greenhouse worlds ARE discovered, they turn into mediocre experience factories with no other redeeming value.
Oceanic: Oceanic worlds give you a slightly positive population growth, which is nice. Oceanic worlds are also coveted for their resource yields... Oceanics produce every resource in the game, and they are the only planets other than Desert planets (and Paradise worlds) to produce spice. The unique building (the Deep Sea Explorer) doubles the research rate on the planet, which is less useful than some of the other unique buildings. Oceanic planets make good "first" planets, their positive population growth and bevy of resources makes it easier to build additional colonies in the same system.
Rocky: Rocky worlds have a moderately negative population growth. Rocky worlds spit out a little bit of equipment, but you mostly get metal ore and anaerobes if you try to harvest one. The draw for Rocky worlds is the Artesian Well, a structure which increases the morale of the planet. Morale doesn't matter much until you get to Unity status (more on that later), but a Rocky colony at Unity can produce as much experience as a non-Unity Arctic world with a Heater Core. Getting to Unity requires some sacrifice, but the return is definitely worth it.
Earthlike: Earthlike planets have tremendously positive population growth, which is their primary benefit. The high rate of growth lets you keep your Earthlike colony "near-full," pulling some colonists off every few hours to populate your other nearby colonies. The resource production on Earthlike planets isn't bad either... you'll get tons of Organics, and healthy amounts of Oil, Uranium, and Equipment. Earthlike planets are easy to build and maintain, but they don't provide a necessary and unique benefit the way Volcanic, Arctic, and Desert planets do.
Medicine: The Key to Colonizing
I'm going to tell you a secret. Putting medicine in a colony's Refinery increases the population growth rate of that colony. It doesn't consume the medicine, the colony just spits out colonists faster.
Think about that for a minute.
There are two very important applications here. The first is to cancel out the negative population growth of your Volcanic, Desert, Rocky, Greenhouse, and Mountainous worlds. Once the Refinery is done, drop 500 medicine onto the planet, and your colonists will take care of themselves forever.
The other application is building what I call "people farms." Throw 2000 medicine onto an Earthlike or Oceanic planet, and you'll "grow" between 100-200 colonists per hour, depending on how many colonists you already have. This uses for this are staggering... people build colonies near Earth because of the free, unlimited colonists. But now, once you build a single planet to 5000 population, you can produce almost unlimited colonists anywhere in the galaxy.
Say you have an Earthlike planet with 5000 colonists and 2000 medicine in the Refinery. You buy a biodome and drop it on a Volcanic planet in the same system. Then, you pick 1000 colonists up off your Arctic planet and drop them on the Volcanic. What happens? In a few hours, your Earthlike planet is back to full capacity. Then you can repeat the process as many times as you want, every six to eight hours or so. When your Volcanic finishes upgrading Biodome 1, you can pick up about 1500 colonists off the Arctic, wait a few hours for regrowth, maybe pick up some colonists from nearby starports, then move the other 1000 colonists over later. The best part is, creating "people farms" costs you nothing. You could easily put 2000 medicine on every colony you own, making each one a viable source of new colonists. Once you create your first "people farm," you'll probably never need to return to Sol ever again.
Choosing a Home System
For convenience and ease of defense, it's a good idea to pick a "home system" in which to put down multiple colonies. But you can't just pick any system, you have to be a little choosey. There's no right way to pick a system, but I can tell you some of the pros and cons of different choices.
The first thing to decide is whether you want to build in a system with a starport or not. The advantage to having a port nearby is that you can cheaply and quickly build up your first few colonies by buying the resources they need and delivering them. You can also make some quick cash by emptying your Refinery and selling the proceeds at the port. If you do choose to build in a system with a port, make sure the port sells medicine. If there's a desert planet in the system, it helps if the port buys spice as well. If there isn't a desert planet, you want the port to SELL spice instead, so you don't have to harvest it.
The downside to building in a system with a port is that all of your colonies will be MUCH easier to invade. If an invader can refill his shields without spending warp fuel hopping between systems, he'll be much more likely to attack your planets until he's successful. On the other hand, if the nearest starport is 2 hops away, very few people will spend the warp fuel and cash necessary to take over a well-defended colony. However, building your first colony will be that much harder, because you won't have easy access to unlimited resources. In the long run, if you plan to shoot for the Top Five, this is the only way to go. Making your colonies a bitch to invade is much more valuable than saving 1000 fuel in the first week by having a convenient port.
If you build in a system without a port, make sure there are a few ports nearby (within 2 hops preferably). If you build out in deep space where there are NO starports, you won't be able to populate your first colony. Once you have a people farm, this is much less important.
Do NOT build your colony within 2 hops of UN space. The borders of Sol space are heavily patrolled practically 24/7. If you build a colony within 6 hops of Sol, you'd better be prepared to put 100 flak cannons on it before UN protection ends, or it's going to be taken. This also goes for systems around other major starbases, but to a lesser extent. I love to patrol the systems touching the pirate dock.
You want to pick a system with as many Arctic planets as possible. Remember that Arctic worlds are the best choice for building experience, and that's your ultimate goal. The more Arctics you have access to, the easier it will be to win. Make sure you have at least one Volcanic planet in the system as well, to serve as your weapons factory.
Everything else is pretty much optional. You do need a source of spice and equipment. Spice is not produced fast enough on Oceanic worlds for my expansion needs, so I like to have either a Desert or a Mountainous planet in my home system. Your Equipment needs are usually handled by your Volcanic planet, or a Mountainous planet if you have one available.
Finally, where do you look for a system? If you build within 10 hops of Sol, you're going to be found and harassed constantly. If you build 40 hops from Sol, you won't be able to buy biodomes easily and you'll have to travel halfway across the galaxy if you want to harass other players. I do one of two things. I either build 15-25 hops away from Sol (near, but not within 7 hops of, another major starbase), or I jump into a black hole near Sol and build 5-8 hops away from the exit.
To summarize my ideal system:
- No starport, but 3 starports within 2 hops, at least one of which selling medicine.
- One Oceanic world for population growth and initial resources.
- As many Arctic worlds as I can get.
- One Volcanic.
- One Desert or Mountainous.
- 15-25 hops away from Sol, or near a convenient black hole exit.
Choosing a Build Order
How do you decide what to build, and when? It's very simple, and most planets use roughly the same build order. One thing to understand is that the more colonists you have on your planet, the more you can do with them. A colony with 5000 colonists will harvest, research, and build five times faster than one with 1000 colonists. For that reason, reaching max population is generally my first priority. My build order goes like this:
You need a Refinery to build most of the other buildings.
Wasting no time, we get started on our first biodome upgrade right away. More colonists = more production!
If you're supplying your colony with resources bought from starports, you can keep them on 100% Construction. If you're able to do that, then you can easily build both biodome upgrades AND a Solar Cannon before the end of UN protection. So, if I have resources available, I build biodome 2 right after biodome 1.
Heater Core - Arctics
On Arctic worlds, this is where I build my Heater Core. The extra production will help my later structures build more quickly.
The RR costs no resources, and will build in about 2 hours once you have 5000 colonists. Might as well get it done now.
The Solar Cannon MUST be built before UN protection ends, no question. I can't even count the number of colonies I've taken over and seen a Solar Cannon ready to go with 2-5 hours left on it. Oops! My colony now!
After the Solar Cannon goes up and UN protection gets close to being over, I build my planets based on what I need them to do. Harvesting worlds go Refinery 1-2 (then Atom Smasher on Mountainous) right away, Volcanics get the Weapons Factory/Lava Mill, most other planets get a Broadcast Receiver next. You eventually need a Refinery 2 upgrade on every planet to keep pollution low, and with 5000 colonists, you'll need a Broadcast Receiver to keep morale high. I eventually build every structure on every planet. I usually set planets that have completed construction to 75% Construction (experience), 25% Military.
What is research? What does it do? Research is a way to upgrade your colonies. Once you make a research breakthrough, it affects that colony (and that colony only) for the rest of the game. Research upgrades can double the harvesting speed of a resource, increase production, increase the construction speed of weapons, reduce pollution, increase population growth, and more. Read the Starpedia for details on what you can research.
Every hour, your colony has a random chance to learn a new research advancement. This chance is primarily dictated by how many colonists you have assigned to Research. The chance is increased by having a Directorship government, having the Superconductors research already, and having a Deep Sea Explorer (Oceanic worlds only). When the game determines that your colony has learned an advancement, it randomly selects one from the list of advancements you don't have yet. There are 16 total advancements. There is no way to choose the advancement you'd like.
Not all of the advancements are useful for every colony. The Spice Mining advancement (doubles spice harvest) is not useful on an Earthlike colony (no spice harvesting) for example. There is one advancement that doubles the harvesting for each resource. Of the remaining advancements, these are the best:
Hands down the best, AA increases the rate of production on the colony by 50%. Every single colony should strive to research this advancement.
Double nuke production can't be bad, right?
Increases the defensive value of all of your existing flak cannons.
Lets you sell resources right out of your Refinery, but at a very low price.
The best way to conduct research is to do it all at once. After your Solar Cannon is built, during a time when your colony isn't doing anything important, set your Research to 100% under a Directorship government for 8-10 hours or so. You'll pretty much be guaranteed an advancement every hour, and hopefully you'll catch all the good ones. If not, let it stay that way until you get Advanced Architecture and any other advances you need. Then never think about it again.
Setting the tax rate will cause the colonists on your planet to generate credits, at the cost of some morale. During UN protection, the amount of credits you receive from tax revenue is greatly reduced. If you're in need of a steady source of cash over time, bump the tax rate of some of your colonies up a few percent.
Morale is a measure of how happy the people on your colony are. Structures like the Radio Receiver and Broadcast Receiver will increase morale, while overcrowding and high taxes will lower it. If your colony's morale reaches -300, the colonists will revolt. No taxes will be paid, and all productivity will cease (no harvesting, no research, etc). Colonists will die by the droves until morale climbs back over -300. Avoid revolt. The only way to make a colony revolt is to tax them excessively for a long period of time, so just don't piss your colonists off and you'll be fine.
A colony with +1000 morale will achieve "Unity" status, granting it a +50% boost to productivity as long as it stays Unity. Having 5000 colonists all Constructing Experience on a Unity Arctic planet with a Heater Core is the best way to earn experience in the game (just below 500/hour).
Here's another secret, because I like you. If your colony's morale is not revolting and not Unity, then it doesn't matter much. Sure, you might gain or lose a few rep points every hour for high or low morale, but there is no effect on the production of the colonists unless they're revolting or Unity. So go ahead, abuse them a little. They like it, I promise.
This can all be found in the Starpedia, so briefly:
Directorship: +100% chance to learn a research advancement.
Democracy: Improved morale.
Prison: Decreased morale, +50% productivity.
Anarchy: Random morale, no real point to this.
I'm going to be very broad in this part of the FAQ. Colony defense is the hardest part of Starport: GE hands down, and so I'm not going to give away all my secrets. But here's what you need to know.
- Solar Cannons deal about 1000 damage and drain 100 energy from ships they hit and cannot be destroyed.
- Flak Cannons deal about 100 damage and drain around 50 energy from ships they hit.
- A ship must have 1000 energy to penetrate a hostile biodome.
A little logic will tell you that you can't take over a biodome if you're being hit by cannon fire. Logically then, the object of planet defenses are to make sure that invaders are hit by cannon fire when they try to attack the biodome. All else is secondary. You don't get experience or credits for kills your cannons get, so worry more about REPELLING invaders than KILLING them.
One more tip. The best ship for planetary invasion is a Starcruiser with a Grav beam. The Starcruiser's photon torpedos have better range than flak cannons, meaning the Starcruiser can destroy cannons you put at the end of long corridors. The Grav beam can shoot half a screen through walls, so the Starcruiser can also destroy cannons placed near corners and along thin walls. Remember these two things when placing your cannons.
Your colony is not "defended" unless it has a Solar Cannon and at least 30 flak cannons. Anything less than that is more of a speedbump than a roadblock.
Producing Maximum Experience
Several people have asked me how a colony can produce "almost 500 exp/hour." Well, here's how:
5000 Colonists on Construction (Experience) will produce 125 experience per hour. Prison government, Advanced Architecture (Research upgrade), and a Heater Core (Arctic planet unique building), all provide +50% production each. Unity morale, if I'm not mistaken, provides +100%. With all four of those factors in place, your colony produces +250% experience, or a total of 437 exp/hour.
My math might be a little fuzzy, but the optimal experience output comes from an Arctic planet with a Heater Core, Unity morale, Prison government, and Advanced Architecture, with 5000 colonists all producing experience.