"Ascendancy" PC Game Analysis, 1995

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From the ReadMe.txt of my Ascendancy Analysis .Zip file:

Contents of Mike Fay's Ascendancy Analysis 12/20/95 version
These docs represent an analysis of Logic Factory's Ascendancy game, primarily how Research, Industry, and Population work, but also with some strategy, race, and ship speed comments thrown in. Docs, content, and ideas can be freely copied and transmitted *as long as you credit me*.

The Zip file has this Word document which is reformatted for wiki below, and this spreadsheet.

ASCENDANCY ANALYSIS

12/20/95 version
Mike Fay, Ph.D.
Atlanta GA

These are the results of a fairly deep analysis of how Ascendancy by Logic Factory works under the hood, followed by a discussion of the game in general. Comments invited; two heads are always better than one. Also, if anybody wants to summarize all this, have at it; my writing can be pretty thick! Just be sure to credit me.

DISCLAIMER

Like a lot of other folks, I found Ascendancy certifiably lame as a strategy game. The producers made a nice, pretty shell for a game, and could have done a lot more--but didn't. The AI is a certifiable moron, and the game is wall-to-wall micromanagement. The Antagonizer has made the AIs begin to be tough, but their poor management skill still leaves them in the dust.

Still, I like to analyze numbers. And I suppose I'm just desperate for a good space strategy game. Thus, I did this analysis.

DISCLAIMER # 2

This report was largely written in mid-November, before the Antagonizer was released. Although I have stuck in a few notes here and there, not all changes due to the Antagonizer are likely to have been incorporated. In the meantime, while trying to polish this doc, I got into numerous other projects (as usual) and pretty much lost interest in Ascendancy. Therefore, you will have to read this entire document keeping in mind that some things might no longer apply. I would be willing to bet that few or none of them have, however.

BEFORE WE GET STARTED

What about the red, green and blue squares? How do they work?

Unlike what I thought (prior to analysis), they do not *multiply* the effects of the structure on them, they simply add one point if an appropriate structure is on them. So it makes no difference, for example, if you put an Industrial Megafacility, Metroplex, Factory, or Colony Base on a red square: As long as the structure produces industry, it will add the one point from the red square to your raw total Industry Points.

As a result, it makes a lot of sense to put your Colony Base directly on a red or green square. This way, you get its benefit right off the bat. I recommend a green square, if you have a choice, because Prosperity is generally the more challenging aspect of colony growth.

The exception would be planets with a lot of black spaces – a small or tiny planet with any black spaces, a medium with a fair number of black, or a larger planet with PILES of black spaces. Here, the more pressing problem is simply a lack of space, so grab a little right off the bat by putting your colony on a black square. You'll get to the colored square soon enough.

Note: Red squares do not increase the *multiplicative* effect of a Hyperpower Plant. It might still add one point; I didn't test enough to tease this out. But I know it doesn't multiply. So, there is no particular advantage to putting a Hyperpower on a red, an Internet on a blue, etc.

Note #2: In the following, I frequently use the terms "raw", "observed", and "actual" when referring to Research, Industry, and Population Points. To make sure there is no confusion: "observed" is always the same as "actual"; both mean what you actually see when you click to see your Industry IPs, for example. "Raw" is what you get when you total up how much your people and structures input. Read on...

RESEARCH, easiest and therefore first

Research simply adds up the research points for your research structures (see below). As usual, one point is added for each research structure on a blue square.

Internet adds 50% more points to your raw research.

Example:

 #  Type                Points  Adds
 2  Labs on white        2x1      2
 2  Labs on blue         2x2      4
 2  Res. Camp. on white  2x3      6
 1  Res. Camp. on blue   1x4      4
                                 --
                        Total    16

           x 1.5 for Internet    24 total RPs for this planet

RESEARCH BUILDINGS

RP=Research points, IP=Industry points, PP=Prosperity points:

                     Cost   $/RP   Points
Laboratory             50     50    1 RP
Research Campus       160     53    3 RPs
Metroplex             200    200    1 RP, 1 IP & 1 PP; +2 spaces
Engineering Retreat    80     80    1 RP & 1 IP
Logic Factory          80     80    1 RP & 1 PP

Obviously, the Research Campus will let you pack the most RPs into a planet in the long term. Other buildings are shown just for completeness (everything that makes an RP); not necessarily because I recommend them. I never make Retreats or Logic Factories.


INDUSTRY, a little tougher but not too bad

Industry starts off with your raw IPs (Industry Points), much as for research, but modifies them using an exponential function:

 Observed IPs = Round ( (Raw IPs)^0.85 )

This exponential leveling causes the amounts of IPs produced to drop off as the raw IPs increase. You get a 1-to-1 raw-to-observed only up to three IPs, then it starts slacking off. The curve drops off quickly then is less severe. For example, when going from 1 to 2 raw IPs, you only add 0.803 observed IPs (80%, but rounding obscures it); from 3 to 4 raw IPs adds only 70.3% observed (or actual) IPs (and observed stays at 3), from 9 to 10 raw IPs adds only 0.606 (observed goes from 6 to 7), by 30 raw IPs each raw IP adds only about 0.50 actual IPs (now in the 18 observed IPs range), by 140 raw IPs each new one adds only 0.40 (in the 67 observed IPs range), by 360 raw, each adds 0.35 (the 150 observed range). So your facilities always add something, but it is progressively less. IMFs already add only two actual IPs instead of their three raw IPs by the time raw is at about 5, and are down to 1.5 actual at around 30 raw/18 observed. It approaches 1 observed way out past 400 raw/163 observed. (Note, all the preceding are WITHOUT Hyperpower; see below--multiply observed by 1.4 for Hyperpower.) See Appendix A for a detailed tabulation of Raw vs. Observed IPs.

As usual, red squares just add one Raw IP to your total, if an IP-producing structure is on them. It does NOT multiply what is on the square; there is no difference between putting a factory, IMF, or colony base on a red square.

If you want to calculate your IPs, you have to examine your colony and add up all your Raw IPs, then run it through the above equation. (Or just use Appendix A as a look-up table!) I tested this function with dozens of datapoints from one of my games, and it seems very predictable. There were some very minor variations of +/ one point that seemed to be due to some rounding within Ascendancy's algorithm; they only happened when the decimal remainder was very close to one half (.47 to .53), and went in unpredictable directions. It only caused my sample to be off 3 times, so the correlation seems very good.

INDUSTRY BUILDINGS

RP=Research points, IP=Industry points, PP=Prosperity points:

                     Cost   $/RP   Points
Factory                30     30    1 IP
Ind. Megafacility     110     37    3 IPs
Metroplex             200    200    1 IP, 1 RP & 1 PP; +2 spaces
Colony Base          (120)   120    1 IP & 1 PP
Engineering Retreat    80     80    1 IP & 1 RP
Shipyard              240    240    1 IP
Orbital Docks         170    170    1 IP

Obviously, the IMF will let you pack the most IPs into a planet in the long term (see Discussion of Planet Packing). As usual, this is everything that makes an IP, not necessarily something recommended *for* making IPs. If you are trying to use or check my equation, don't forget to add in IPs from, e.g., your Shipyard, Colony Base, Orbital Docks, and Metroplexes, including adding a point for each one on a red square.

EFFECT OF HYPERPOWER

The equation seems to be:

 Observed IPs = Truncate ( (Raw IPs)^0.85 x 1.4 )

In other words, almost exactly Observed IPs plus 40%. It is important that the 1.4 is outside the ^0.85; you wind up with a bit more (because it's not "held down" by the 0.85), especially with a high number of IPs.

I didn't do a whole lot of sampling on this one (about a dozen datapoints), because it seemed very straightforward. However, it definitely suffered worse from the rounding error (i.e., observed was randomly +/ 1 versus predicted). For one of the planets I sampled, my predicted was correct if values were *rounded* instead of truncated, but that threw most of the other samples off by one. "Shrug."

SCIENTIST TAKEOVER

This appears to be a straightforward calculation:

*ADD* to existing RPs:  TRUNCATE  (Raw IPs)/4

In other words, ST adds (not replaces) 25% of your Raw IPs to your Research IPs.

If you have Hyperpower:

ADD:  TRUNCATE  1.5 x (Raw IPs)/4

In other words, Hyperpower adds 1.*5*, not 1.*4*, to ST, unlike how it usually affects IPs.

We don't see the 0.85 that enters into the observed IPs equation here; just your raw IPs, which means your IPs are used better (linearly)--30 to 50% better, depending on how many IPs you have (see discussion of observed vs. raw IP drop-off, above).

[If you don't want to add up your raw IPs, you can always use Appendix A as a sort of "look up table"--find your Observed IPs (with or without Hyperpower) and slide over to the left to get a raw IP estimate. (It's an estimate because more than one raw IP can have the same observed IP, after rounding.)]

Also note, Internet does NOT help (i.e., increase) Scientist-Takeover RPs.

The net effect is that ST is a very poor substitute for "real" (Research Campus) research. Each colonist devoted to an Industrial Megafacility (IMF) generates 3 raw IPs which converts to 0.75 RPs vs. 3 for a Research Campus. Best case: an IMF on a red square with Hyperpower generates 1.5 RPs ((3+1)x1.*5*/4), but a Research Campus on a blue square with Internet generates 6 RPs. So Scientist Takeover is definitely just something optional to do with otherwise wasted IPs; it is *not* somehow a better way to make RPs.

Actually, I suppose it is marginally better if you have IMFs and/or Hyperpower before you get Research Campuses and Internet (so you're stuck with Labs), but at that point in the game I'm usually furiously building stuff, and otherwise just putting Labs on all blue squares.

Note that I did not test whether having industry on blue squares helps you with Scientist Takeover. I would guess that it wouldn't, though. And--"what does it matter". :)

PROSPERITY POINTS (pretty messy)

First things first: it takes 50 Prosperity Points (PPs) to give birth to a new colonist.

HOW PPs ARE CALCULATED

Unlike Research and Industry, where I could just take off structures one by one and generate a long list of datapoints, most of my colonies only had a few to a dozen Prosperity points, no matter what their size, so there wasn't a whole lot I could take off. Neither was there much room to avoid rounding ambiguities, since all observed PPs were low (max 12 or so; most in 1-5 range). I wasn't able to make my predicted algorithm real pretty; there may be a number of roundings compounding within Ascendancy's calcs, or I may have my algorithm slightly off.

That's the problem with black-box reverse engineering: There are a dozen ways to do anything mathematically. For example, their program might walk through each of the structures on a planet, compounding something as it goes--this could make an exponential-like function, while possibly also introducing subtle rounding differences, depending on their level of precision. While it makes a reverse engineer wince, they had no obligation to make their algorithms precise and predictable to the Nth decimal for reverse engineers; they just had to make the game playable. So, who knows.

Anyway: The best I can figure the Prosperity Points equation is:

PPs = Round( (Raw PPs)^0.85 - Round( (0.4 x Pop)^.85 ) ) + 1

(Pop = Total Population, used and unused)

In other words, add up your raw PPs on one hand, but subtract a PP for every 2.5 people, too -- and muddle both with 0.85 exponentiation. If you compare your planets' populations and raw PPs, you will see that you only get observable PPs if you have more raw PPs than people/2.5.

I had 63 datapoints (planet results from the game), and this equation got all but 9 correct; for 7 of these, my calculated value was one less than the observed value, the eighth value was one more, and the ninth, two more than the observed. (Yes, I triple-checked the latter planet to make sure I got its data right, sigh.)

With this kind of equation, there are any number of ways to play around -- round or truncate before or after exponentiation, add 1 inside the first exponent, subtract it inside the second, etc. etc. etc. I feel confident in my general approach toward Ascendancy under the hood, since the IP equation was such a good match. But this is the closest I could get to PPs before getting tired of trying yet one more variation (I tried dozens). See Appendix B for a table of PPs, but be warned, 10% of the time my result was one lower than I observed, and a couple of times it was off by more.

FWIW, I did test for effects from Industry, number of buildings, and used vs. unemployed people. I could not see any real effect (try it; just take a saved game and whack off lots of stuff). Some things are quite difficult to test, though, such as the number of free spaces left in a planet. If you've got the time, let me/us know if you can pin it down better!

In summary, Prosperity points are like a "tip of the iceberg" effect: Your raw PPs have to rise to the point where they are higher than people/2.5 (since both have the 0.85 factor). Then, raw PPs suffer from the same exponential reduction as IPs. Thus, if you have 9 raw PPs, a Hydroponifer only adds approx. 1.8 observed PPs (3 x 0.6 raw PPs).

PROSPERITY BUILDINGS

RP=Research points, IP=Industry points, PP=Prosperity points:

                     Cost   $/RP   Points
Agriplot               30     15    2 PPs
Art. Hydroponifer     100     33    3 PPs
Metroplex             200    200    1 PP, 1 RP & 1 IP; +2 spaces
Habitat               160     80    2 PPs; +3 spaces
Colony Base          (120)   120    1 PP & 1 IP
Logic Factory          80     80    1 PP & 1 RP

As you can see, the Agriplot is a *much* better deal than the Hydroponifer.

News Flash: I initially wrote the Prosperity section without having realized how easy Automation can make things, if you have it and want to spend the bucks. So, read this all with a grain of salt if you lean toward Automation. A discussion of Automation has been put at the end of the Prosperity section.

FERTILIZATION PLANT

By this point, I was getting quite tired of sampling data from the game and playing with it, only to find something always off by one <grin>. Anyway, based on nine planets, the effect of the Fertilizer Plant (FP) appears to be that it increases the raw exponential PP half of the equation by 40%, much as Hyperpower does. Then, the Population factor is subtracted. If you *really* want to see the best (god-awful) function I could come up with, here it is:

TRUNCATE  (  ROUND( (Raw PPs)^0.85 ) * 1.4         [Raw PP part]

             ROUND( ROUND( 0.4*Pop ) ^.085 ) + 1  )  [Pop part]

With this equation, my predicated PPs were one less than observed PPs for two of the 9 samples; the rest were dead-on. Here, though, the frustration of tweaking can be seen clearly. There must be dozens of permutations to try, and however I flipped these around, a different set of datapoints would be off by one. So, the general observation is that the FP increases PPs by 40%, but exactly how it rounds, I can't say.

Throughout this article, I make no claims to have totally figured out what the algorithm is doing. I just know in general what's going on, and may have actually hit a few of them pretty closely <grin>.

The above shows why you can see something strange with the FP: It has little apparent effect on some planets, but lights a few planets up like Christmas trees. A big change means you had a large PP base (i.e., a large, developed planet) that was just barely at the Population/2.5 hurdle. When the FP was added, "the rest was gravy"--the 40% shot the large PP base way up over the Population factor. On small planets there is not enough PP base to have a big effect (or observed PP would have been large already, given the small Population), and it will have no observable effect on large planets that still don't have enough raw PPs to make it to the Population/2.5 cutoff.

Although I haven't looked at it closely, I would imagine that the FP starts being a viable proposition just like the Hyperpower plant: When raw PPs are around 9, the FP is equivalent to adding another Hydroponifer, and above 9 raw PPs, the FP does better (for the one colony space utilized) than a Hydroponifer. But, since your Pop may be masking your PPs, you will have to look at your colony to estimate how many raw PPs you have. Appendix B can also be used to estimate it, *if* you have observable PPs.

CLONING PLANT

What it says: It just increases your Pop by two, instead of one, when each new colonist is born. An alternative way to build your pop. It still requires enough raw PP base to get your observed PPs above the Pop/2.5 cutoff, so it is not a "magic bullet" for the problem of a highly developed planet with no PP base that needs to increase its Population. Its advantage is that it does not require ever more and more Prosperity buildings to double what little you might have on a large planet; it just needs the one clone plant, and all your Pop increases are doubled. It's a bargain in anyone's book; indeed, it may even be "too powerful" (wasting excess generated Pop) in some circumstances--but, who cares?

A Cloning Plant is probably best used for situations where rapid growth is needed, such as very large planets with lots of space to fill.

ENDLESS PARTY

If I thought Fertilizer Plants were bad, Endless Party (EP) was the worst. Like a drunk who couldn't remember what he did the night before (but was sure it must have been dumb), by this point I had swum through so many numbers I didn't want to see another one--and I still had EP to do.

I took 15 data points for EP. The equation is something like:

ROUND ( (raw PPs)^0.85 + (Observed IPs)/3 - 

         ROUND( (0.4xPop)^0.85) ) + 1 )

If you look closely, it's simpler than it seems: It's pretty much the regular PP equation, but adds in PPs equal to observed IPs divided by three. (After all, the description of EP basically says it converts IPs to PPs.) You still subtract out the Pop/2.5, so you can still have masking. This equation was correct for 10 of the 15 datapoints, and was off by +/- 1 to 3 for the other five. (This was for observed PPs, with EP, ranging from 0 to 23. That both the highest value and many of the lowest ones were precisely correct tells me I'm on the right track.) So it's close, but not totally there. You are welcome to tweak the equation all you want. Just make sure you get all the input data right! <smile>

You will remember that Scientist Takeover is based on Raw IPs, as opposed to EP, which uses Observed IPs. It's consistent, though, with how RPs are generated linearly, but PPs attenuate by ^.85.

Sorry, but I did not test for the effects of the Fertilizer Plant or Hyperpower on Endless Party. I know informally that Hyperpower increases it; I can only imagine, by the 40% it increases observed IPs. I don't know if the FP increases it, since Internet did not increase the effect of Scientist Takeover (there was just a straight conversion of IPs to RPs).

PARTY OR PRODUCE, the perennial question (for me, anyway):

Should you build more Prosperity structures or just say "screw it" and start Partying, if your colony has gotten fairly advanced and you're short of PPs?

* * BIG MATH WARNING * * — Skip all the way down to the "Conclusion" paragraph at the end of this section to avoid a lot of numbers!

It takes 100 observed IPs to make a Hydroponifer, which provides 3 raw PPs on a continuous basis. These 3 raw PPs will be decreased by exponentiation to approx. 50 or 60%, depending on the size of your raw PP base. In other words, the Hydroponifer will actually contribute approx. 1.6 observed PPs on a continuous basis.

(I'm discussing Hydroponifers instead of Agriplots because, using Agriplots, your colony is probably well advanced before you start running into Population problems. At that point, you will probably have plenty of Industry but little space. So the question will probably be whether to make more Hydroponifers, not Agriplots. Increase the 1.6 PPs to 3.3 PPs per 100 IPs, if you are considering whether to make more Agriplots to increase population.)

By comparison, with Endless Party, 100 observed IPs would contribute 33 actual PPs (before subtracting Pop) on a one-time basis.

Obviously, Partying is a *very* cost-effective way to increase PPs in the short term. It would take approx. 21 turns (33/1.6) before the Hydroponifer has "broken even" with Partying, and generated more than 33 actual PPs. Ten turns if you're talking Agriplots. To understand the difference, let's look at a colony in progress.

Colony Murgleblast is an enormous planet (73 spaces) with about 30 colonists, and about 40 left to go. The player has all relevant research (IMFs, Hyperpower, Hydroponifers, etc.) done and has developed a strong industrial nucleus. How to strategize the rest of the planet's population development? Let's say this is a highly industrialized planet (best case scenario), and the player has 80% of his Pop in IMFs at any given time.

If he used Endless Party exclusively, it would take 6,000 IPs (40 colonists x 50 PPs/colonist x 3 IPs/PP) at face value, *but* this would be reduced by the growing population. Here we go; skip to the next paragraph to avoid this math: At 30 pop, subtract 8 observed IPs ( (0.4*30)^0.85 ); with 80% in IMFs, he's making 53 IPs (30x.8=24; (24x3)^0.85 x 1.4 for Hyperpower). So he puts 45 IPs (53-9) into EP, generating 15 PPs/turn, and gets a new colonist in 3.3 turns. When he's up to 50 colonists, he's generating 82 IPs, subtracting 13 for Pop, leaving 69 for EP, or 23 PPs a turn: a new colonist every 2 turns. When he tops out around 70 colonists, it's 109 IPs minus 17 equals 92; divided by three is 30.7 PPs/turn, or a colonist every 1.6 turns. Doing a weighted average of the three snapshots (In case you haven't gathered, by this point, I'm just writing stuff on paper; this is not solid modeling off of a spreadsheet. I told you I'm getting tired of these numbers!): The player devoted 10x3.3 turns of production to go from 30 to 40, 20x2 for 41 to 60, and 10x2 for 61 to 70 (but it doesn't let you carry forward PPs *when generating a new colonist*, so anything below two turns is wasted unless you have enough IPs to do it in one turn (thought that would be 150 observed IPs, equal to 250 raw IPs with Hyperpower, or 83 IMFs--more than an enormous planet can hold). However, all through this time, the player will also have been planting Metroplexes or Habitats, which add some PPs already. Let's say that these reduce the needed turns from 90 to 80 (that two-turn minimum cutoff is a bitch!).

In total, you will have used very roughly 80 turns of production to take a planet from 30 to 70 colonists using Endless Party alone (with a minimum of PPs thrown in from structures). Now let's look at using Hydroponifers. Skip to the next "In total" paragraph to avoid the math. :)

First, the player wants enough PPs to be able to keep building constantly. 50 points are needed for each colonist, and let's say he wants a new colonist every three turns. (If he's already at 53 observed IPs, he can soon make a new IMF in two turns, but will also be sprinkling in Metroplexes, which take 3 or 4 turns (2 turns at the very end of development), Hydroponifers, Internet, etc.

So, he needs 13 *observed* PPs to make a colonist every four turns (50/4). Since we're looking at the sum total, by the time he reaches 70 colonists, he will need to overcome (0.4*70)^0.85 = 17 base PPs, and still generate 13 observed PPs. Based on the Prosperity equation, this will be about 52 raw PPs ( 52^0.85 17 + 1 = 13). That's about 17 Hydroponifers (we're pressed for space). Let's give the chap a break (and also account for longer projects that let Pop grow by itself) and say we have a Fertilization Plant. This adds 40% to the 52^0.85 part; to make 13 observed PPs, we then need about 36 raw PPs, or 12 Hydroponifers. (This is for *70* colonists; they will have been constructed evenly over time to keep up with Pop growth.) By the time he reaches 70 colonists, he will have used 1,400 IPs (12x100+200 for FP) to make his 12 Hydroponifers and FP. Using the same 53/82/109 IPs/turn weighted average from the previous discussion, the player will have wound up devoting about 22 turns to Prosperity structure development. Finally, there will have been quite a bit of Habitat and Metroplex development that will have added Prosperity, so let's drop that number to say 15 or 18 turns.

Conclusion: It is *much* better to develop and rely on your Prosperity infrastructure *for long term population growth*, and much better in the short term to use Partying to your full advantage.

Sounds like a good recipe for life to me! (ooh, bad)

GROWTH BOMB

As far as I can tell, the Growth Bomb adds ten more population slots to your planet, period. In very informal observations, it does not seem to have any effect on PPs/fertility or how many black squares you have (IOW, I didn’t actually check this very much, but can’t remember it happening). Growth Bombs can only be used once, as far as I can tell.

One serious drawback to these babies: You CAN’T TELL WHO YOU’VE USED IT ON. Ascendancy is stupid enough to let you use it again without warning. Your two options would appear to be (1) keep an exhaustive list of Bombed planets (holy shit, thanks very much LF!), or (2) build some cheapo thing on the planet that you wouldn’t normally build, that is a “flag” that This Planet Has Been Bombed.

I make one cheap orbital shield in the lower left space slot of all planets RIGHT after they have been bombed. This means you have to pay attention and not fly through your “this planet made…” notices real fast. I consider it pretty important to always make the shield immediately, so that I don’t forget (I make myself a little note in cases where it can’t be avoided… with SO much micromanagement, it’s triple easy to forget).

Making something in space means it doesn’t take up important ground/IMF space. Making it super-cheap means it’s easy to crank out, and easy to Automate. Finally, it never hurts to have shields around, especially with the Antagonizer.

MY PLANET'S MAXXED OUT, NOW WHAT?

If your planet is maxxed out with useful structures and you have a lot of Prosperity infrastructure hanging around, you will ask yourself, do I really need all those Hydroponifers any more? If it's a tiny colony, probably not; scrap'em once you've used up all the space you can. Let's look at the situation for larger colonies a little more closely.

An enormous colony has 73 spaces for people, and you will likely have a couple of spare bodies hanging around, for a total of 75. (I keep a couple in my closet, how about you?) I usually have approx. 25 Metroplexes (23-28; maybe 17 Habitats) on such a large planet. So you already have 25 to 35 base PPs, while the amount subtracted for the Population is 18 ( (0.4x75)^0.85 ). This means just about exactly even ( 30^0.85 = 18 + 1; see equation). So you're basically already set for instant pop-up of the Population with either Endless Party or, for a more chronic situation (like a Ship production planet), a Fertilization Plant.

Smaller planet sizes will work on a similar basis. The smaller the planet is, the less Prosperity you will have built into Metroplexes (MPs) or Habitats, but you will also have fewer Population. A large planet has 45 spaces + 2 = 47, and I generally have about 16 MPs on full Larges. This works out to about 12-12+1=1 observed PP, for a similar situation. So, scrap all your Agriplots and Hydroponifers when your larger planets are maxxed. This will be a little tighter if you use the Growth Bomb because it doesn't require you to build more structures that provide prosperity. (It might be severe if you are the Mebes; I don't know how much their special ability increases the max colony size).

PROSPERITY WRAP-UP AND ETC.

As your Pop goes up, you must continually build your Prosperity base. Agriplots are *much* better deals for the buck *early on*, so use them liberally until available planet space is maxxed. I watch my observed PPs and if my next Factory (or whatever) will be ready before my next person, bam: another Agriplot. (A.k.a., "farm in advance" so it's working for you while you construct something else.)

Once the initial planet space is maxxed, you probably have a fairly powerful Industrial base (25 observed IPs, possibly much more) that can crank out the more expensive Hydroponifers and other Prosperity structures much better, when the squeeze is on space. And, as each old Agriplot is abandoned, a new person is freed up for another Prosperity structure (or whatever). As shown, 12 observed PPs is a great clip to keep your Population rolling along--possibly a bit too good. Just look at what you're building with a planet; how long it takes to build the Campuses or IMFs you're concentrating on (with Metroplexes, Hydroponifers, and/or Habitats thrown in), and have enough observable PPs that you will be generating 50 PPs every x number of turns it takes you to make whatever you're making, on the average.

As your planet maxxes out and you want to cut out most of your Prosperity structures, you might find the Fertilization Plant a better choice than the Cloning Plant. If your observed PPs (without an FP) are hovering right around 0 or 1, as shown above, a Cloning Plant could mean a long time is taken to make another person, although it will be two when it is made. A Fertilization Plant on top of PPs hovering around 0 or 1, though, means about 6 or 7 observed PPs, for Pop growth every 8 turns or so. Buttressed by a planet-wide Party and it will likely just be 2 or 4 days. (WHAT are they DOING when they PARTY?)

For maxxed-out Ship-producing planets, try to leave *two* unused colonists around (via Metroplexes, etc.). Then, when each Ship leaves and takes a colonist for crew, you will immediately have another available--no waiting for the PPs to add to 50--and you will meanwhile be producing the replacement colonist while working on the ship, assuming you have a modicum of PPs. Much smoother than the other way around. (Why don't they roll the 50 forward and let somebody appear as soon as one leaves, if a planet is maxxed??)

Another recommendation is to put your Colony Base on a green square, whenever possible. This gets your Population building faster right off the bat (*while* you work on other things), and continues to contribute for the rest of time.

Unlike IPs, PPs can be masked and carry over from previous turns. Thus, a brand new colony always says it will take 50 turns to make a new colonist (25 if the Base is on Green). But, later in the game, you might drop to zero PPs, then later come back up. You might then see something like "3 PPs per turn; population will grow in 2 turns". In this situation, previously-generated PPs are being carried forward.

The thing that struck me after this work is how strongly Prosperity is likely to take a hit if you don't develop it smoothly. Remember, Prosperity works *against* what it is *for*--every 2.5 colonists eat another PP. Any time you stop building Prosperity, growth will eventually halt. Indeed, in my first game (before this analysis) my highly developed planets were often waiting on Pop (Partying their fool heads off) so they could increase. By using Agriplots liberally at first, then keeping a better eye on it, it's not nearly so much of a problem this time around.

AUTOMATION

After having written all the above, Viper on CompuServe made me realize that I had overlooked the benefit of automation. I had gotten it late in the one game I had completed, and I have yet to reach it in my current game, so I hadn't really had much chance to play with it.

In a nutshell, automation is a simple way to stop worrying about making space for more people (so you can put structures down on all the squares of a planet). With Automation, you can simply automate another structure when your population maxxes out. There is no reason to have as many "population holes" as there are squares on a planet.

Automating a structure costs the same amount as the structure does (e.g., an IMF costs 110 IPs to automate). Therefore, it makes beaucoup sense to automate your cheaper structures first. For the successful emperor, this usually means IMFs. And, while you might automate very cheap structures that you are going to remove later (such as agriplots), you wouldn't want to automate expensive structures that you'll remove later (assuming there are any cheaper structures around!). In general, though, there will probably be plenty of permanent structures.

Let's look at the economics.

The preferred population structure is the Metroplex (MP). If you were to build a planet to full capacity using MPs, you could fit in two IMFs for each MP. That's 200 plus 2x110 = 420 observed IPs per three squares, plus some IPs sunk into population growth, one way or another. Final cost, approx. 450 observed IPs. This configuration produces seven raw IPs and approximately four actual IPs (six with HPP) for every three squares in a largish colony.

In contrast, you can use automation to get three IMFs on those three squares. That's 3x110 plus 3x110 for automation = 660 observed IPs. These IMFs will make nine raw IPs or something over five observed IPs (approx. eight with HPP) in a large colony.

In summary, the MP route costs 450 IPs and makes six, while automation costs 660 and makes eight. So, the automation route has about 200 observed IPs to amortize. Since it makes a surplus of two IPs, it will take about a hundred turns to break even.

Given the nauseating length of this game, probably automation is the better buy in the long run. :) Just be sure to automate your cheap, permanent structures first.

OUTPOSTS

On CompuServe, Viper (among others) argued with me that Outposts did have a use in the game. Perhaps I am dense, but I simply see no usefulness for Outposts, and _never_ make them. Here’s my reasoning.

Outposts give you another population slot (period), but they take up a surface square and cost money. Usually at this point in the game, you are hard up for all your bucks; meanwhile, there is always something more to be done with your IPs, while waiting for better population-control technology. You’d undoubtedly want to rip up your Outposts later. To me, it smacks of IPs and time poorly spent, at a critical growth time. Therefore, I concentrate on other stuff and don’t make them.

AUTOMANAGER

The “automangler” does exactly that: Mangles what your colony will build. I never use it. What a shame this is not better; not even in the Antagonizer, I hear… as usual, LF won’t tell the full poop on what they did in the Antagonizer’s planet AI, although folks say it will use colored squares better now. The AI would probably be much more of a challenge if only it could build worth squat.

I have heard some folks say that they will set their smaller, unimportant planets to Automanage, and concentrate their attention on better ones. Sounds good to me.

END OF MATH & FINDINGS, BEGINNING OF GENERAL STRATEGY SECTION

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

** ALERT ALERT **

Most of this FAQ was originally written prior to the release of the Antagonizer, and I simply don’t have the oomph to play this game more (I have six recent blockbusters sitting unopened on my desk!). So, take it all with a grain of salt. Most of it is still relevant.

ASCENDANCY, A STRATEGY GAME? I THINK NOT

Like most of the folks on Internet c.s.i.p.games.strategic, I have found Ascendancy an absolute pushover. The AI is a total moron; by around Turn 1,000 of a regular-density game, I hold most of the planets in the galaxy while the AIs only have 3 or 5 each, and half of my planets individually produce more than all of any given AI's planets. While you may not do quite this good (or may do better!), suffice it to say, You may not be a very experienced strategy gamer if you lose to the Ascendancy AI <smile>. (They have promised an update to the AI; we'll see that when we see it.)

That having been said, I have still gotten pleasure out of playing the game as a software toy, like SimCity. I like to play with numbers (aw, who told you??), and it lets me do that. For those who are still hanging in there, here are my notes on playing the game. Discussion welcomed!!

GENERAL STRATEGY

PLANET DEVELOPMENT

One of these days, I may write a little program to model the ideal planet development. It's hard to guess exactly how everything works together. Until then, here's what I do.

Build up Industry as soon as possible, but *keep laying down Agriplots to keep pace*. Usually, an Agriplot is the first structure I put down, even if the Base is on a green square. (I'm not totally sure this is the best route, though.) For an all-white planet, I build something like: Agriplot, Factory, Agriplot, Agriplot, Factory, Agriplot, etc., gradually edging over toward industry, but making sure I always have enough of the cheapo Agriplot Prosperity.

Switch over to IMFs (Industrial Megafacilities) as soon as you get to 3 or 4 IPs. (From here on out, I mean Observed Points--what you see on the screen--unless otherwise indicated.) Once you get to about 9 or 10 (observed) IPs, make a Hyperpower.

When you make your first IMFs, there will be a long lull where your population gets a chance to grow. I usually find myself plopping down one more Agriplot to get PPs up to 3+ before plunging into IMFs, so the little population dudes will make plenty of babies during construction. (Reminds me of the Pepsi commercial with the office girls watching the construction worker.)

ALWAYS be laying down your structures so as to build toward special (colored) squares, even if you don't currently need them--be there for them when you do. ("I was there for ya, man! Where WERE you??")

During lulls in production (waiting for Pop to increase), plop down a Lab or Research Campus if blue squares are available. Both take longer to build and so will let your Pop grow in the meantime. Once you have Research Campus technology, only put *them* down, *once* your planet has decent IPs (at LEAST 10, preferably 20+). Prior to Research Campus technology, make Labs for blue squares at the slightest hint of a wait for Population. (You need all the research help you can get if you don't have Campuses yet! Use those blues!)

If there are no blue squares, you can also avoid time wasted waiting for Pop to grow by Terraforming or, earlier in the game, making needed Transportation Tubes (assuming you don't want to build an Agriplot at the moment; timing hiccoughs happen). This requires that you see the Pop bottleneck coming *before* you build the structure that ties up your last Pop.

You can also spend IPs on other things that take longer, such as Metroplexes, Shipyards, etc., if a bottleneck is imminent. Another thing to do is scrap older buildings, such as scrapping Factories for IMFs, if you run into a Pop bottleneck. Start with your most useless structures, working backwards (see next section).

RESEARCH STRATEGY

Perform research!! Early on, be sure to start putting Labs on your blue squares a.s.a.p. (once you have 3 or 4 IPs). When you get Research Campus tech, only build them; why waste your time on Labs if you always ultimately want your people in RCs.

EXPANSION STRATEGY

EXPAND! As soon as your home planet gets approx. 20 IPs, it's time to build that Shipyard and move out.

Always make Medium ships with the barest minimum of equipment needed to move it, and otherwise chock it full of Colony Bases. Your first ship needs only one Starlane drive, one engine, and one power plant. (Always use the best tech available but, early in the game, do NOT wait for some better tech to come out--grab, grab, grab planets! It's always firstest with the Basest!) ForGET about all the sensors, shields, etc. for your first fleets of colonizers--(a) you'll meet few people, (b) rarely will they fight you, and (c) even if they do, they can rarely hurt you early in the game. They're less friendly with the Antagonizer, but who cares if they waste battered old ships that have run out of colonizers out on your fringes?

Early in the game, whoever gets there first gets the planet. Especially if you're not at war with anyone. Even if you are, they are very totally lame about taking your colonies. They do not reload Invasion Units into their ships, and are as likely to take a worthless planet from you as a good one. Meanwhile, it will take them forever to build it into something decent... and you just capture it back. "Thanks, guys!"

Let your first few ships go far and ONLY get juicy planets OR the only planet in a system OR a bad planet with ancient ruins. Aliens generally only go for juicy planets early on, defined as medium or larger planets that are not hulks or a large percent black. So should you! This means they generally will NOT get less-good planets in systems where you have the better planets, violating your lock on the system. So don't try to get every planet in nearby systems early on. Forget about the Tiny and Smalls, unless it is a Small Cornucopia (Cornucopias can be quickly built into a ship servicing station). Don't worry! Your long-term strength is in a huge flat base of planets, not a few totally-held systems.

Always get a planet that is the only one in its system, no matter how crappy, because it blocks the other players from doing the same, ensuring that you can build another ship.

Likewise, anytime an alien has a planet in another system, ALWAYS try to get at least one planet, no matter how screwy--this keeps HIM from being able to build more ships. If yet another race already has a planet in the system, though, you don't need to place a colony just to block system ownership.

Finally, ancient ruins are important. They can give you tech it will take hundreds of turns to get. After the above priorities, get these planets too, even on Husks.

Starting with maybe your second or fourth ship, start putting on two Starlane drives. As SOON as possible, make an Orbital Dock(s).

Cornucopia planets at the farther reaches of your empire are GREAT for ship-servicing centers. Always work hard to make Orbital Docks along major routes or chokepoints. Early in the game, you need to keep cycling your Colonizers back and forth, and restocking Bases and upgrading their equipment; later in the game, you will need to upgrade ships as they move, and/or service Lane Booster ships. If you have a Small or even Tiny planet as the lone sucker in a key system, forget about research! Let that dude be fully industrialized to service ships. Your huge backyard planets will crank out far more Research Points than those little suckers ever could, anyway.

DIFFERENT PLANET TYPES

Make sure you have robust industry and Orbital Docks on key shipping-lane planets. Important point! Go ahead and put research on blue squares, too, *if* there is still enough space to make a strong industry (25+ points). Use your judgment if you already have a long string of ship-support planets; there are exceptions to every rule.

Otherwise, use all your red and blue squares for industry and research, respectively, then let your fancy determine whether your larger planets will become huge production facilities or research facilities. Generally, I let the propensity of special squares guide me: If the planet has many reds it becomes an industrial giant; if it has blue squares or simply no reds at all, I make it a research center.

RESEARCH PLANETS

Research planets are generally developed by, first, building up the industry and using Agriplots until the planet is maxxed or, for larger planets, you have IPs of 40+ or 53, whichever comes first (so you can build Research Campuses in 4 or 3 turns, respectively). If it's an early planet maxxed with Factories, rebuild with IMFs a.s.a.p. Add Hyperpower to any planet with 12+ observed IPs a.s.a.p., unless it's a small planet already maxxed at about that level. (Or if it's a key planet location-wise and there is a lull in servicing ships; go for the final ounce of strength there. But then it's not a research planet.)

Once your industry is built up, start packing in Labs or, as soon as available, Research Campuses (only; to heck with Labs once you have RC tech). As space on the planet becomes totally maxxed (you have added structures to let the planet hold all the people it can), start ripping out your least-useful structures and work backwards until almost everything is Research Campuses. The general order would be something like Agriplots on non-green, then Agriplots on green, then Hydroponifers on non-green then green, then factories, and, lastly, IMFs on white. (Usually I have converted all Factories on red squares to IMFs, and then don't scrap any IMFs on red, so I'll have some token industry. Research planets usually have few red squares, or else it wouldn't be a research planet.)

Of course, add an Internet to almost ANY planet with more than about eight RPs when it becomes available (except really tiny ones cramped for space, or if you have very little IPs on a small one and it would take forever to make Internet).

Which reminds me, hang on to a few IMFs at small planets until Internet comes, so it won't take forever to build. (Obviously, save IMFs on red squares and HPPs for last.) If you feel VERY confident you'll never need anything more on a planet again, scrap the final IMFs and Hyperpower, but I usually leave at least one or two industry on even the smallest planet.

Your large research planets may have enough IPs through Metroplexes (if you used them) that you can scrap ALL the IMFs (esp. if there's not a single one on red). Hold on to your Hyperpower, though, because it's costly to build should you need it again, and it jacks up IPs you can't get rid of (Metroplexes) so that Scientist Takeover is higher. The last thing to be replaced by a Research Complex (on a large planet) might be your Fertilization Plant, if the planet is totally secure and the Pop is maxxed. Big planets with Metroplexes and Hyperpower should generally be able to make a FPs in a reasonable amount of time again, anyway, should the need arise.

Most tiny and small planets will be developed into research planets, unless they are strategically important (i.e., the sole thing on a shipping lane). Max them out with industry and Pop, then cut back intelligently until all you have left is Research Campuses, an Internet, and maybe a modicum of industrial power. And, of course, always turn remaining IPs over to Scientist Takeover.

METROPLEXES VERSUS HABITATS

Before you get Automation, should you make habitats or Metroplexes to hold your burgeoning pops? Let's do a little thought experiment.

Let's say we're going to enlarge our planet by twelve spaces. You could do it either by making four Metroplexes and eight target structures (usually IMFs or Campuses, depending on the planet's orientation), or three Habitats and nine target structures.

     Industry Oriented:            Research Oriented:

                RPs IPs PPs                   RPs IPs PPs
                --- --- ---                   --- --- ---
 Metroplex x 4   4   4   4     Metroplex x 4   4   4   4
 IMFs      x 8   0  24   0     RCs       x 8  24   0   0
                --- --- ---                   --- --- ---
                 4  28   4                    28   4   4
  versus                        versus

 Habitats  x 3   0   0   6     Habitats  x 3   0   0   6
 IMFs      x 9   0  27   0     RCs       x 9  27   0   0
                --- --- ---                   --- --- ---
                 0  27   6                    27   0   6
 Habitat
 Vs. Metroplex  -4  -1  +2                    -1  -4  +2
                RPs IPs PPs                   RPs IPs PPs

To me, the Metroplex always comes out ahead: It provides enough Prosperity to keep you moving (although it may need a little nudge), and it otherwise delivers on RPs and IPs in a way the Habitat can't touch. When a planet is fully developed, there is often little need for Prosperity (although it can be quickly ramped up with Metroplexes, if so). So, I prefer Metroplexes over Habitats.

"One small detail"--Habitats usually (but not always) are available before Metroplexes, and you may well want to use them to keep planets growing. If you want to switch to Metroplexes once they become available, it can be tough to do because of how your Pop may be maxxed. To convert to MPs, you have to make *two* MPs and then quickly (remember to) remove the Habitat thereby freed up, before the Pop grows.

(Ascendancy will NOT let you blithely kill Pop by removing structures holding them. I think this is a good touch of realism, although I wish there was some way around this. Ironically though, you can kill ships much too easily... Lords knows I've accidentally pressed Abandon instead of Cancel on a ship more than once! Sigh.)

You'll need to decide whether you want to bother converting Habitats to Metroplexes; it's not cost effective considering how expensive they are, but does look neater. <smile> If you have Metroplexes first, though, don't even bother with a single Habitat.

Despite having written all the above, you may prefer to hold out for Automation and Growth Bomb, and build few or little population buildings.

BLACK SQUARE STRATEGIES

Terraforming is a great way to spend some IPs while waiting for population to increase. Just be sure to keep an eye on your population, to ensure that you always have at least one left when building things. This means you won’t run out of folks to do work. (This is, of course, always important.)

Try to build your black squares toward a colored square, even if it is very far away. Place your next buildings so that they extend along this line, assuming there aren’t any other colored aquares that are easier to get to. A penny saved is a penny earned; sooner or later, you *will* get to that colored square; much faster than if you ignored it because it seemed so far away.

Terraforming only costs 50/square. These means that there are some definite break points where you can accomplish terraforming faster, in the typical developing colony. Most specifically, between 25 and 50 observed IPs is a long stretch where some IPs are “wasted”. IOW, you use your IPs much more efficiently if you terraform right at or above 25 (complete in two turns) or 50 (one turn). Obviously, if you *have* to terraform a square and don’t want to delay it, go for it. But these are good places to pause and do some serious terraforming, other pressing needs notwithstanding.

NOTE RE: CHEVRONS

The chevrons that begin to show up on your older ships are supposed to denote age and perhaps combat experience. I believe I have heard a rumor that they can move faster and fight better.

FINAL STRATEGY NOTE

While I have made specific suggestions for how to build colonies, I really think that it would take a modeling program to be sure of optimal paths. I haven’t gotten around to it, but may one of these days, even though I’ve lost interest in playing Ascendancy… it could be a good way to learn VBA.

QUICK TAKES ON THE RACES (VERY informal look)

Many of the races have fairly useless special abilities, since many are combat advantages, but combat is a joke, with your tech way ahead of theirs. Others are just "shrug" advantages.

Here are a few that catch the eye. (Refer to the hack of ASCEND00.COB if you don't have the Races list.)

The ORFA can build on black squares, a nice advantage to speeding planet growth, but hardly critical versus your ability to speedily snap up more than enough good planets (defined as, faster than you can keep your ships supplied with Bases!). I rate this one as a low level but ever-helpful nicety.

The GOVOROM ability to make their least-populated planet into a rich world (frequency: every 150 days) is a very nice, although not incredible, touch. What this does is take your planet with the least people (read: a planet you just colonized) into a Cornucopia. The subtle advantage to this is it means that, if you work it right, you get a Golden world out at the edge of your empire. You can quickly grow it into a ship-servicing center (Orbital Dock) and move your boundaries forward that much faster. You need to watch your timing, however--do your best to capture an *ideal* planet just before the ability is ready, and make sure the rest of your planets have more population. (It does NOT necessarily take the final planet in your list; it chooses from among whichever have the lowest pop, which is usually your brand new colonies with two people.) This is one time when you might *not* want to put your Base on a green square! Conversely, you might be able to separate a new colony that you want to enhance from another one you just colonized by putting the Colony Base on a green square for the one you *don't* want to enhance. But remember, it takes 50 or 25 turns for population to increase the average player has taken MANY planets during the last 50 turns in her expansion phase. Does anyone know if the Govorom always target a large planet?? Or any other way to predict or control which get enhanced?

Consider yourself Queen of the Nature Goddesses if you turn an Enormous Husk on the edge of your kingdom into a Cornucopia!!

The DUBTAKS ability to steal technology any two races have is a rip. Just like in Master of Orion, you will be far ahead of the others in research; you're much better off using the Chamachies ability than this one, if you want research (see below).

What it really means is that if there is a Dubtak in your game, he is liable to have a lot of technology: You will be way ahead of everybody, and then all it takes is one other person to get something (through ancient ruins or whatever) and he's got it too. Dubtak and Chamachie as opponents in the same game could be interesting indeed, unless the Chamachie AI is real dumb and just gets whatever sorry next little piddling thing he was already working on (I half suspect this would be the case).

Dubtak is liable to be the most technologically advanced race you will come across, with the possible exception of the Chamachies.

The MEBES have the interesting ability to increase the maximum number of population on their worlds. I have yet to try this to see how often, and how well, it works (I suspect it is equivalent to a one-time Lush Growth Bomb per planet). If so, this would be in the class of the Orfa building on black squares, only not as good. It helps a little, and broadly since it affects all planets -but is roughly equal to simply giving you a few habitats per planet. "Eh." I'd rather be able to build on all black squares, and avoid all the terraforming hassle, any day.

The OCULONS see all star lanes from the beginning of the game. (Not the planets, just the lanes.) This is nifty but of limited usefulness; you will find out star lanes soon enough. Its main advantage is to keep you from sending too many colonization ships down a dead end early on, but this is a rather minor aid. Otherwise it helps you move a little more efficiently, but only for the short while it takes to discover lanes. A novelty, nothing more.

The CHRONOMYST can "move quickly through star lanes". I tried them a little and didn't see any noticeable advantage, but it's hard to compare since you can't generate the same map for two different races to see how much faster. In any case, they did NOT have immediate movement or somesuch magic. Maybe they move through red links the same as blue. Shrug.

The CHAMACHIES immediately discover anything they are researching (frequency: every 90 days). Now, THIS is a real advantage. You can jump WAY ahead of the game, as long as you can see something in your research tree. Obviously, knowledge of where things lead in the research tree can be put to great advantage here (many discoveries are fairly useless ship equipment; the AI opponents are doomed from the word go anyway). Concentrating on Ancient Ruins can also boost your ability to choose future discoveries.

If you use the Chamachies, be sure to target research you can get in a short time in between using the ability. This might include either waiting a little longer before you use the ability, in order to finish some research, or, if that would take too long (don't cut into the 90 days too much!), falling back on something useless that can be gotten immediately anyway with the RPs you've already accumulated. Go ahead and discover the cheapie and the NEXT day, use your ability to get WHATEVER you want. Who knows, the cheapie may lead to something nice.

It's a lot of fun to get something marked for "485 days" overnight! Even if most of it is fairly useless combat equipment <big grin>. If you're a real stickler for detail, keep an eye on the Ability countdown so that you don't lose a day finishing your current research before getting the freebie.

The NIMBULOIDS also have a useful bonus: All your colonies' projects are immediately finished. This is another diffuse yet helpful advantage. On the next day, *everything* you were working on is done. Here again, it can be useful to go in and switch planets over to the worst thing they could try to make (but still need). It is most useful for newer colonies; older ones have enough power to make anything (except enormous ships) in a few days anyway. Don't forget to use it to make, for example, Orbital Docks, Internet, Metroplexes, Growth Bombs (then remove your MPs and build more RCs), or the like on little colonies with minimal industry. I can't remember if it can be used for ships, but it would be an absolute godsend if you discovered, for example, enormous ship-building through ancient ruins early on, and then made a fleet of enormous colony ships. You'd have the game in the bag!!

Reminder: Review your newer planets before using; why NOT make a Hyperpower on a brand new colony? And, if you really want to maximize it, take an extra day (or keep your eye open and do this a day before the ability is ready) and have colonies finish up whatever they can, if they can complete some intermediate thing already.

Then there are some nuisance abilities:

MINION invasions always succeed. Read: if you're at war with the guys, your planetary defenses are useless! Only your orbital shields (preventing orbit) and defenses to kill their ship before they enter orbit will help! (This advantage won't help YOU much because your invasions usually succeed anyway vs. the AI morons.)

The FRUTMAKA can warp you out of systems with their colonies. A pain in the butt, but they can only do it every now and then. I guess it means that if you're at war with them, either keep moving through systems they are in, or do your best to take their planets in one turn. Maybe if you orbit a planet at the end of your turn they can't bounce you?

The ARBRYLS can block all star lanes entering their systems. I'm not sure how this works; whether it bounces you back out of star lanes, or sets up a lane blocker. If the former, it could make getting across certain Red Links impossible, if used properly!

The MARMOSIANS can make aliens strongly dislike anyone at war with them. So, be careful about picking a fight with the Marmosians, unless you want fleas crawling all over your hide!

SUMMARY: I would rate races to pick as follows: Chamachies > Nimbuloids ~ Govorom > Orfa ~ Chronomyst > Mebes > Oculons >>> all the rest (they're pretty useless, unless/until the AI is improved). (The tilde (~) means, roughly equal.) This is my informal take; how can anyone have played them all several times to see all the nuances? (How can anyone play this game several times, period?)

FREEBIE: SHIP SPEED

Starlane drives were tested and entirely consistent out to five drives; the rest is projected (testing is underway).

The algorithm *divides by* the square root of the number of drives. This value is truncated at the first decimal point. *SIZE OF SHIP DOES NOT MATTER*, only number of drives. Nor power plant. In-system motor not tested but presumed to have no effect.

Starlane drives -- (NON Advanced S.D.s*):

C1     C2     C3      C4      C5     Actual Example (Red Link)
--    ---   ------   ----    ----    --------------
 1    1     100.0%                     91
 2    1.4    71.4%   28.6%   28.6%     65
 3    1.7    58.8%   17.6%   12.6%     54
 4    2      50.0%   15.0%    8.8%     46
 5    2.2    45.5%    9.1%    4.5%     42
 6    2.4    41.7%    8.3%    3.8%
 7    2.6    38.5%    7.7%    3.2%
 8    2.8    35.7%    7.1%    2.7%
 9    3      33.3%    6.7%    2.4%
10    3.1    32.3%    3.2%    1.1%
11    3.3    30.3%    6.1%    2.0%
12    3.4    29.4%    2.9%    0.9%
Column 1 = Number of drives
C2 = Square root of C1 truncated at first digit
C3 = 1/C2. Shows absolute percent time taken to cross link, with 1 engine = 100%. This is easier to visualize if you think of “100%” as “100 turns”, “71.4%” as 71.4 turns, etc.
C4 = C3_i/C3_i-1 ("sub i") -- shows relative performance increase from each successive star drive, e.g., a third engine makes you go 17.6% faster than two.
C5 = C3_i - C3_i-1 -- shows performance increase on an absolute basis, e.g., the *absolute speed increase * (relative to 100%) when a third engine is added is 12.6%. Visualize this as the number of days saved on a 100 turn link by adding an additional engine.

Notes:

There is no difference between blue and red links, from this perspective. Red links apparently simply mean you have much farther to travel.

*ADVANCED STAR DRIVES MERELY DIVIDE REGULAR DRIVE TIME BY TWO (IOW, they are twice as fast for a given number of engines). Round up since "you can't get there before you get there". In the above “actual example”, two advanced drives would get you there in 33 turns (not 32; 91/1.4=65; /2=32.5; round up). You will get the exact same relative and absolute reductions for number of Advanced engines as shown above, *if* comparing strictly within Advanced engines (i.e., one Advanced engine = 100%, two = 71.4% of one Advanced, etc.).

There are obvious breaks in “engine efficiency” at two engines (last .4 difference between engines), four engines (last .3 difference) and nine (last .2). Four seems to be about the most you would reasonably want, unless you REALLY wanted a ship focused on speed. As you can see, going to five engines would only save you four or five days on a 100-turn link, and would be liable to save you *nothing* on blue links with less than ~22 turns baseline (1/.045). Gains (in terms of real turn time) are even less with Advanced drives, since here your 4.5 day advantage for a 100-turn link has been halved to 2.25, etc., and the ~22 turns baseline has increased to ~44 turns to see any effect.

If you have two different data points (turn measures from , you can "triangulate" and confirm the equation; use red links for best accuracy.

**I only tested this out to about five engines, so I really can’t say whether this equation holds as far as shown. ** But I did test it extensively to five, and it is quite solid there. Who’s going to have twelve engines, anyway?