Beginner's Guide to Sins of a Solar Empire
Benjamin A. Sorensen
A. Resources (How And Why To Get Them)
4. Neutral Asteroids
5. Bounties, Quests, and Other Sources
2. Construction Frigates
3. Logistics, Logistics Slots and Logistics Structures
a. Logistics Capacity -- Some Implications
b. Research Labs
c. Trade Ports
d. Orbital Refineries
e. Culture Producers
4. Adaptive Building
A. Combat Basics: Armor, Hull Points, Shields, Shield Mitigation, Antimatter
B. Planetary Defenses
1. Planet Health And Tactical Slots
2. Defense Platforms
3. Hangar Defenses
4. Repair Bays
5. Phase Jump Inhibitors
6. Nano Weapons Jammers
7. Advent Antimatter Recharger
8. TEC Planetary Shields
9. Culture Bonuses
C. Scouting And Intelligence
1. Early Scouts
2. Phase Movement Detection
3. Special Intelligence
1. Light Frigates
2. Long Range Frigates
4. Heavy Cruisers
5. Capital Ships
6. The Kostura Cannon
1. Flak Frigates
4. Capital Ships
F. Taking Planets
1. Siege Frigates
2. Siege Capitals
3. Aggressive Culture
4. The Novalith Cannon
5. The Deliverance Engine
1. Gravity Wells
2. Phase Lanes
5. Phase Lane Stabilizers
6. Moving Your Frigate Factories
H. Fleet Supply and Capital Ship Crews
IV. Research Schemes
I bought Sins of Solar Empire on the recommendation of a friend, went through the tutorials, and immediately began floundering. It's taken me several games to reach a point where I feel I know what the devil I'm doing. Looking on the strategy forums mainly brings advice about how to deal with the other fellow in multiplayer -- there isn't a single, clear cohesive guide to introduce completely new people to the game's concepts and mechanics, especially if you primarily intend to play single player. The closest you can get is the various ship guides, and these more often than not completely ignore the more important fundamentals -- economy and planet development. This guide is intended to help a completely new player learn Sins of a Solar Empire. It is written with two basic assumptions in mind:
1) No expansions; and
2) Single Player
The reason for the first is that a given player may not have an expansion, and even then, the expansions themselves tell a knowledgeable player how the game has changed from the original. A knowledge of the original is the point of this guide.
The reason for the second is obvious -- multiplayer is not about playing the game; it's about playing your opponent. Though engaging in its own right, the focus is on taking advantage of what your opponent is doing wrong. A multiplayer environment introduces too many variables for a guide meant for a beginner.
Comments are welcome so long as the above assumptions are kept in mind.
A. Resources (How And Why To Get Them)
Resources in Sins of a Solar Empire fuel ship building, research, planetary development, and orbital structures. However, the relative amounts necessary can vary between these priorities.
Credits are earned primarily from Planet Population. Do not confuse Planet Population with Planet Health, which helps a planet resist bombardment. You can increase a Planet's Population limit with the Civilian Infrastructure button of the planet's menu. This upgrade is also necessary to avoid the planet underdevelopment tax, which causes a planet to cost credits rather than generate them. When a planet's total population is lower than its maximum population, the population will grow at a fixed rate, resulting in a slowly rising tax income from the planet. This income can be boosted by the Trade Port and Media Producing structures discussed below (separate effects, but their result is Credit increase). In addition, some factions have specific technologies to increase the population limits on various planet types:
Keep in mind, however, that these technologies are a supplement to increasing Civilian Infrastructure on a given planet, not a replacement for it. Terran planets have the highest natural population cap, and the TEC is naturally poised to exploit this the most. The Vasari have the other end of the spectrum, making the relatively marginal (because of their low population cap) Volcano worlds stronger.
The Vasari have a level 2 technology that enhances the rate of population growth on all their planets. This does not change the maximum tax rate of a planet, but does affect how quickly a planet reaches that maximum tax rate.
Credits are also used to pay pirates to raid somebody else instead of you. A reserve can be handy for that purpose, but remember that you should be able to find the pirate base of a system early and plan defenses accordingly. With practice, there should be very few times when you feel you have to avoid a Pirate attack by spending money. The Advent has an edge on placing bounties with their Persuasive Offers Level 1 Technology that increases the value of each credit spent on bounty.
Finally, credits can be used to buy Capital Ship experience levels. This is useful in the midgame when you want newly purchased capital ships to have at least one level under their belt before sending them into battle. The amount required is likely too large for early in the game. To use this feature, click on the training button in the Capital Ship's ability selection window. Each faction has a technology to increase the maximum trainable level, with the Vasari coming earliest (Level 3) and the TEC coming in last.
Metal is earned by building resource extractors on Metal Asteroids. These are not found orbiting Ice planets, but are possible around all others and often abundant around volcanic worlds. Metal plays some role in researching, but takes a back seat to crystal in that regard -- level 1 technologies do not even require metal to research. Metal finds its primary use in building ships. The most basic of Light Frigates in the game still requires metal to build, and many times the metal cost of Frigates will outweigh the crystal cost. If you want to keep a steady fleet, you will need to look for metal.
Each faction can increase their metal extraction rate by 40% through technologies. The TEC has the earliest opportunity, with their metal extraction technology being level 1. The Vasari are the last to maximize this technology, but combine their metal extraction and crystal extraction technologies for greater research efficiency.
Crystal funds research and some of the more antimatter-based ship types. If you want to get anywhere in this game research-wise, you will want to have a steady crystal income. The inverse of metal, crystal is found around Ice planets and absent from Volcanic planets. The Advent has the latest initial access to crystal production enhancement (level 3 as compared to level 2 for TEC/Vasari).
Neutral Asteroids can be found wherever a non-colonizable planet is. While you cannot settle there, certain ships can expend Antimatter in order to capture these neutral asteroids. TEC uses their Protev Colony Frigate, Advent uses their Missionary Vessel, and the Vasari use their scout unit, the Jikara Navigator. This puts the Vasari at a distinct advantage in seizing neutral asteroids -- both the TEC and the Advent have to resort to slow, frail ships that may not even be built if a colonizing capital ship is used. Having a fast unit to go and seize neutral asteroids can be a big leg up at the start of the game.
Bounties, Quests, and Other Sources
Placing a bounty for the Pirates to attack someone does not always mean that the Pirates will get there first. When a bounty is placed on a faction, any faction other than the bounty's placer may collect it by destroying structures, ships, etc. The Vasari can gain a tidy sum of money this way with their Expert Bounty Hunters Level 1 Technology -- provided your military is capable of accomplishing the task.
Unless you are playing with locked teams, other AIs will occasionally ask you to accomplish a task. The reward for this is a general goodwill increase, the chance to form lucrative treaties, and often rewards of credits, metal, and/or crystal. While there are no technologies that increase the material rewards from these tasks, both the TEC and Advent have technologies to make diplomacy easier (Skilled Diplomats and Induced Leniency, respectively).
The Black Market allows you to convert resources from one to another; the rate acts somewhat like a real market -- the more you put in of any one resource, the less it will be worth. If you find yourself buying crystal like mad, the price will skyrocket. The TEC can research Favored Client Discount (Level 4) to get better deals than other factions.
The Vasari player can also research a level 3 technology which allows their Capital ships to pillage a percentage of any structures destroyed in their presence. This, combined with expert bounty hunting, furnishes a significant economic supplement to an aggressive Vasari player.
If you don't go colonizing other planets, you're probably not going to get very far in the game. Colonizing a planet costs antimatter. Colonizing Ice and Volcano worlds requires a Level 2 Technology each for all factions. You can either use a Colony Frigate (Protev, Missionary, Jarun) or a Capital Ship (Akkan, Mothership, Evacuator). Many recommend that your first capital ship be a colonizing capital ship because:
1. Higher Antimatter Reserves means quicker planet taking;
2. Planets that can be colonized are often guarded, and colony capital ships are more survivable; and
3. Colony Frigates are slow, slow things.
However, if you want to take any neutral asteroids, you will need a Colony Frigate if you are Advent or TEC. It is something to keep in mind. Sometimes a slow colony ship can be a worthwhile price to pay for a little more firepower from your starting capital ship.
TEC: As far as colonizing goes, the Akkan gives you free resource extractors as you level up the colonize ability. They don't appear instantly, but they appear soon enough.
Advent: The Mothership gives a discount for a time on all planet upgrades. Purchase them as you can while the effect lasts!
Vasari: The Evacuator allows you to build structures more quickly around a planet. What structures you choose to build are entirely up to you.
However, the first structures you'll likely build unless you have a high level Akkan are the the resource extractors for the asteroids. You're taking planets because you want to make a profit, and asteroids without extractors don't help much. Likewise, the first planet upgrades you purchase will likely be Civilian Infrastructure, because until sufficient levels are completed, the planet will be costing you credits rather than contributing. Do not neglect these planetary upgrades unless there is a more pressing need. The TEC has a level 1 technology that lowers the cost of resource extractors, but there is no technology to make Civilian Infrastructure cheaper -- only the Mothership can do that. The TEC also has a technology to make all types of Planetary Development faster.
Whatever name they go by, these are the things that build orbital structures. Each planet you colonize should start with one. You can increase the number of available construction frigates by purchasing Logistics and Tactical upgrades for you planets. This will enable you to build several orbital structures at once. You cannot directly build construction frigates. If one is destroyed, the planet will automatically begin working on a new one, but until then, you'll have to wait, and your orbital structures on queue will not advance.
Logistics, Logistics Slots, and Logistics Structures
Logistics structures are those which can be purchased through the logistics build menu of a planet. With the exception of extractors, each one takes up 4 logistics slots (extractors take up no slots). Most planets start with a very low logistics threshold and you must research to higher levels. An upgraded asteroid will get you 12 slots, or 3 non-extractor structures. When you have to juggle frigate factories, culture producers, trade ports, research labs, and matter processors, specialization and adaptive building become rather important. The roles of the non-extractor logistics structures are discussed below. The TEC can research a technology which gives each planet an extra 4 logistics slots -- essentially an extra structure at each planet. They also have a technology which provides a discount to purchasing logistics slot increases to a planet as well as speeding up completion of said increases.
These are fairly self-explanatory, but there are some nuances. If you're surrounded by Ice and Volcano worlds, you know you need to put down to Civic research labs in a hurry. If your neighbors are close by, you know you need a military edge. In the long term, though, these should be built in out of the way places that need not make use of the other buildings.
Much as planets automatically generate construction frigates, Trade Ports automatically generate Trade Ships, which go looking for Trade Ports at any planet next to their current Trade Port. The key is to make sure that they find one in a long, uninterrupted chain. Build Trade Ports in a string of worlds (the income level does not matter -- trade ports generate a flat rate regardless of the planet they are near/allegiance level), and your income will rise by a significant amount. You will be able to see if you are correctly building a Trade Port chain by hovering the mouse over your credit income -- a white line will show up denoting your longest trade route. If no white line shows up, you have done something wrong. Trade Ports can be stacked -- a planet will benefit from more than one, especially if you have had the inclination and free resources to discover a bonus to Trade on that planet. The Vasari come late to the Trade Port structure (Level 4) but can eventually increase trade ship revenue by 30%. The TEC gets Trade Ports extremely early (Level 2) and can increase their trade ship revenue by 30% while also increasing Cargo Ship (see below) yield at the same time. The (literally) poor Advent gets their Trade Ports at level 3 and cannot increase the Trade Port revenue. The TEC clearly gets the most out of Trade Ports, given their early access combined with the efficiency of the upgrades, but Trade Ports should be considered vital for all factions. Also, a trade agreement with another player opens up the possibility of extremely long trade routes with an added bonus for being foreign. Buddy up with your neighbor!
Whereas Trade Ports increase credit income through long strings of adjacent ports, Orbital Refineries send Cargo ships to their own asteroids and all adjacent ones to increase metal/crystal extraction depending on the available asteroids. Thus, one should seek to place these in the middle of large groups of asteroids to maximize their value. The TEC unlocks theirs at level 4 and combines boosting cargo ship yield with trade ship yield as mentioned above. The Vasari, while unlocking theirs earlier at level 3, have no means of boosting the resource yield.
The Advent do not have a Refinery as such. Rather, they research a technology which allows them to stop their trade ports from bringing in credits in order to boost the resource extractor yield in that gravity well only. Further research enables them to boost that yield, but without the ability to harvest from resource extractors in neighboring gravity wells, this makes Advent refining rather inefficient in terms of Logistics slots.
A word of warning -- certain pirate vessels take a positive delight in going after trade ships. If you don't watch your own ships while attacking an enemy territory, you may find they are following suit -- attacking Trade Ships instead of the Trade Port producing and receiving them.
Each faction has a culture-generating building, but the Advent get a jump on it by being able to unlock these at level 2. These buildings provide several key benefits, but the one that concerns us here is allegiance. Culture helps the allegiance of every friendly world it touches, and the amount of income a world gives is proportionate to that allegiance percentage. A planet's maximum allegiance is determined by its distance from your capital. Culture can spread through several planets, but the rate at which it spreads is reduced by each planet it must pass through. If the allegiance of a planet you have colonized drops to zero, you will lose that colony, which is the pits as far as economy goes. You also cannot colonize a planet if the enemy's cultural presence is too strong there. This is especially prevalent when taking enemy's worlds later on.
You may need to change the logistics structures as the game goes on. Don't assume that because you have built something in one place it must remain there as an eternal monument to your immortal glory. Instead, learn to use the scuttle button. You'll get some of your resources back. As an example, you may have needed to crowd some research labs in your capitol early on -- but your capitol can be a great place for Trade Ports, a Culture Producer, and even possibly an Orbital Processor. Scuttle those research labs after having built their replacements near an out-of-the-way asteroid and maximize your capitol's profits. Speaking of which, there can be profit in moving your capitol itself from time to time, as a planetary development option. Since maximum allegiance is determined by distance to the capitol, a centrally located capitol can yield good dividends. Starting Capitols are almost always on the outer rim rather than centrally located. The Vasari are better at scuttling than other factions, being able to research an increase in the amount salvaged at Level 1.
All right, you know the basics of getting rich. Unfortunately, this all revolves around colonizing other planets and keeping their allegiance. Most of them don't want to be colonized, and your opponents certainly do not, so you will have to force them. Likewise, they will be trying to force their colonization on you. Military builds and actions in this game should have as their ultimate goal either the colonizing of new planets or the destruction of an enemy's.
A. Combat Basics
Armor refers to the amount of damage taken off the top of each attack. Hull Points are the equivalent of health -- when they reach zero, the entity in question explodes, and often rather dramatically if you zoom in when it happens to something important. Shields get hit before hull points. Shield Mitigation is the percentage of damage not done to a ship if many sources are attacking it (roughly speaking -- the intended effect is to make sure that not focusing your fire is not rabidly inefficient). Antimatter is used to power special abilities, and phase jumping drains available antimatter while not requiring it (i.e. a unit without antimatter can still phase jump, but a unit with full antimatter will find that they have lost some by phase jumping).
While all factions can research technologies to increase these stats on their ships, etc, there are some general themes:
Advent: Firepower/Special Abilities.
Vasari: Mobility/Shield Bypass.
B. Planetary Defenses
With you and your opponents trying to take each other's planets, a wide range of planetary defenses are available. Before discussing them, it is necessary to emphasize what planetary defenses are not. Planetary defenses are not a way of overcoming a serious invasion. They are a way of delaying a serious invasion in time for the cavalry to arrive. They are also a means of dealing with the occasional pirate attack or small raiding party. They are a boost to military capacity which does not consume fleet supply.
Planet Health and Tactical Slots
The primary factor in planetary defenses is the Planet Health. This is the amount of damage any siege-capable ships must do the planet before it loses its allegiance to its colonizer. Upgrade Planet Health by building the Emergency Facilities on the planet menu. The Vasari have a level 1 technology that provides a discount on this planetary upgrade, but this is a useful purchase for any faction in their border planets. Additionally, the Tactical Slots Increase planetary development choice not only provides more constructor ships, but increases the amount of defensive structures you can place in orbit around a planet. The Advent can research a level 5 technology that gives each planet 5 extra tactical slots to work with. Unlike Logistics structures, though, tactical structures can have wildly varying slot costs.
These are stationary guns that shoot at the enemy. They cost one slot. You can spam these like there's no tomorrow, and if you're relying on them to damage an enemy, you'll need to, because they are stationary. Because of gravity well limitations, you cannot place them to hit an incoming fleet from a phase lane, and there's too wide a possible arc to efficiently cover all avenues of entry. Even an AI fleet will simply go around stationary defenses or attack them from beyond their range. What do you use them for, then? There are two main uses: siege protection and structure protection. No matter what, if an enemy wants to damage a planet, they'll have to move their siege ships in. Close-knit defense platforms can do significant damage to such a ship and easily defend a planet against raids and feints. Likewise, an enemy will attempt to target more dangerous structures such as hangar defenses or repair bays. Place defense platforms to help protect these structures. Essentially, place these where you can be sure the enemy will have to deal with them rather than going around.
The TEC increases the rate of fire and firing range of their defense platforms, but as far as I can tell cannot directly increase their damage. The Advent increases the damage of their beam platforms by researching beam damage technology. The Vasari platforms use Phase Missiles, so upgrades to phase missiles help them considerably.
These have the advantage over the defense platforms in that they house strikecraft, capable of attacking anywhere within the space around the planet and even potentially killing annoying scouts. Strikecraft are built/rebuilt from antimatter, so there is no resource cost for them. However, the Hangar Defense structure costs a whopping 4 tactical slots (6 for Advent) each not to mention significant resources. Unlike defense platforms, you cannot simply spam them, but you will want a nice cluster in heavy spots to attack anything that is trying to stay out of range. The TEC and Advent gain access to these as a level 1 technology, while the Vasari player needs a level 2 technology. Additionally, the Advent can research an increase to the number of strikecraft in each squadron (as I understand it -- strikecraft: an individual unit in a squadron. squadron: a group of either fighters or bombers). The Vasari strikecraft use phase missiles as well, so their hangar defenses and defense platforms are improved by same technology. Advent Bombers are improved by the same technology which improves their defense platforms. The technologies which improve TEC fighters and bombers have no synergy with their defense platforms. Thus, while these are useful to all factions, the TEC is at a slight disadvantage thereby while the Advent can research what works out to almost an extra hangar defense per planet.
For 2 slots each, these things are a bargain. They use antimatter to restore hull points of damaged ships and structures. If your fleet is losing a battle, run them back to the nearest defended world and let them sit around your defenses and these things. Alternatively, when the enemy attempts to take out your defenses, Repair Bays give them a longer lifespan. The Advent must wait for a level 2 technology to unlock this, and while the TEC and Vasari both can unlock them at level 1, the TEC can research upgrades to the healing ability of repair bays.
Phase Jump Inhibitors
The invading fleet has stalled, and your reinforcements are on their way. The enemy ships are damaged, perhaps crippled, but if you can't force them to stay where they are, they're just going to come back at another time. The purpose of the Phase Jump Inhibitor is to prevent an enemy from fleeing an aborted attack before you can crush them. They have as a secondary purpose preventing ships from bypassing your border worlds. Their cost of 2 slots means that while you should place these in your border worlds, you should not place too many. Phase Jump Inhibitors also have a tertiary purpose of distracting the careful enemy -- a nearby Inhibitor might reasonably be a prime target of an early invasion if the outcome will be in doubt. The Vasari have earliest access to these as a level 2 technology, while the Advent comes in at level 3 and the TEC at level 4.
Nano Weapons Jammers
These structures are unique to the Vasari and cost two slots. They use antimatter to increase cooldown on enemy ships' weapons. With the primary purpose of planetary defenses being to slow down an invasion, slowing down the opponent's rate of fire is probably the most direct application of this principle. This is a high-end technology, though, so don't expect to be fielding these early on.
This is the Advent's unique defensive structure. It costs 3 slots, and increases antimatter regeneration in nearby ships. Since phase jumping costs antimatter, you can't precisely run an offensive fleet back to your home to recharge, but you can keep a steady supply to nearby defensive ships. Unfortunately, it seems this effect does not aid structures, dampening its utility.
Planetary Shield Generator
The TEC's unique defensive structure has its place, but it's not a large one, unfortunately. At 3 slots, you could probably build 3 extra Gauss Platforms to shred incoming siege ships. If the opponent is coming with a mass of siege, parking one of these at an spot where it's unlikely to be attacked may be worthwhile, but siege frigates are among the most fleet supply-costly ships in the game, meaning the opponent won't usually be bringing lots of them, and if the enemy is coming with a horde of siege capital ships, you've probably lost the game already.
Each faction can research a specific advantage for fighting in their own culture. The Vasari get a damage bonus, the Advent get a shield mitigation bonus, and the TEC gets an antimatter regeneration bonus. These are not insignificant. Furthermore, a strong enough culture prevents hostile colonizing even if the colony itself is wiped out. Do not neglect your culture when looking to your defense.
C. Scouting And Intelligence
Every faction has a scout unit initially available. There is a general principle in this game: the TEC and Advent units are cheap and low supply, while the Vasari unit is expensive and high supply. The TEC and Advent use of scouts is straightforward -- build some, set them on auto-explore, and let them map for you. The Vasari player is better manually controlling his scouts, because of their ability to seize neutral asteroids early. An auto-exploring Vasari scout will waltz right by these significant early-game boosts. The main use, though, of all of these early scouts is to get a grasp of the map -- nearby resources, enemy locations, the pirate base, etc.
Phase Movement Detection
Every faction can eventually unlock the ability to detect incoming ships along phase lanes. The Vasari can do this at level 1, putting them at the forefront of this information. This can eventually be upgraded another level to detect phase-jumping ships two moves away from your planets. The Vasari, at the end of their tech tree, have the ability to see any phase movement anywhere in space. They also have access to mobile phase detection with a level 5 upgrade to their level 4 Overseer unit. The importance of these technologies cannot be overstated. Knowing when an opponent is going to arrive before they actually do is integral to maintaining a well-defended empire. Additionally, observing troops movements along phase lanes can give an indication of a possible weakness.
Obviously, though, the best possible vision is that of the enemy planets themselves -- if you know where the enemy is or isn't, you can plan your attacks accordingly. Thus, scouts reenter the late game through some unlockable upgrades. All scouts eventually can gain immunity to phase jump inhibitors, allowing them to continually explore enemy worlds with a minimum of fuss. The TEC can unlock the sensor drones for their scouts at level 1, an ability that continues to be useful well into the game. Essentially, the scout leaves behind a camera at a location for a time, allowing you to see whatever is happening thereat. Advent seekers can be upgraded with the level 2 Lingering Presence technology, but this unfortunately requires the Seeker vessel in question to kill itself to achieve what the TEC does without. While the Vasari do not have a persistent effect after a scout has left, they do have the level 4 Phasic Cloaking upgrade, allowing their scouts to become immune to damage for a short time. Thus, a Vasari player might send a scout in first to see what the defenses are like. Said Scout can resist attacks for a short time while the cavalry arrives.
The Advent level 6 Eyes of the Converted technology is extremely useful as well, in that you gain vision anywhere your culture is strong. Lay out some Temples of Communion where you can, fire that Deliverance Engine a few times, and gain an almost complete knowledge of the map.
The main key is to remember that scouting is not just something you do at the early game, and scout ships do not have to fade later on. Keep on observing what the opponent is doing, and you will play more effectively.
As is shown by the multitude of posts and articles in the Sins strategy forum, most players are passionately concerned with how quickly you can lay an opposing ship on the ground. Let's face it; if we didn't like blowing things up, we wouldn't be playing the game in the first place, would we? This is not meant to be a complete guide to all the ships in the game, their advantages, etc. There are more than enough posts/stickies to cover that. This is meant to give an overview of the types of ships and what roles they play. There are two rough divisions of ships; this section covers the first.
In the early game, these are your attacking unit. You haven't unlocked any others. As per the general formula, the TEC and Advent ships are cheap and low-supply, while the Vasari ship is expensive and high supply. While they are the unit you use to attack at first, their role will change to defense for your primary damage dealer, and ultimately all of them become specialized damage-dealers (all 3 factions unlock an ability for the light frigate that makes them more effective in fighting antimatter/ability reliant ships). The Vasari Skirmisher also can unlock an ability allowing them to shut down and regenerate in mid-battle. Given that focused fire is generally the rule, having whatever ship is being focused on concentrate on repairing itself gives you a good edge.
Long Range Frigates
These are the primary damage dealers of the game. In fact, that's the only thing they do. These things are not about the fancy abilities; they are about doing the greatest damage at the longest distance in the shortest amount of time. They are extremely efficient at it, and they are designed to be. Don't complain that Long Range Frigates do a lot of damage. They're supposed to. It's part of the game design. The Vasari unlock theirs at level 1, and theirs benefits from phase missile attacks, making them potentially the deadliest. The TEC must wait for level 2 to unlock theirs, but they are extremely cheap. The Advent only gains access to theirs at level 3, and recent patches have toned down their damage, so the Advent has the longest wait before delivering a heavy hitter.
Carriers are mobile Hangar Defenses, so to speak. They cost an awful lot of fleet supply, but that is because they generate squadrons of strikecraft to do their fighting for them -- killing the strikecraft only means a loss of antimatter, not a loss of resources as you rebuild the ship. These ships are great for staying in the back and harassing the enemy as well as taking out defensive structures from beyond their range. This is a level 2 unlockable for the advent while coming in at level 3 for the TEC and Vasari. Vasari strikecraft use phase missiles, with all the benefits attending thereunto.
These are exceptionally tough, powerful ships -- the toughest you can get before capitals. Do not let this fool you, however, on either offense or defense. Heavy Cruisers are not immortal. A neutral planet defended by a Kodiak can still be taken early, provided you have enough cheap ships. Heavy cruisers are not meant to replace earlier attack ships. They are the apex or crown of a cohesive attack force. Most often, their damage type upgrades are shared with very few other ships, so each one is an enormous investment of resources to unlock, build, and upgrade. The Vasari Heavy Cruiser mitigates this somewhat with the Reintegration ability shared by the lowly Skirmisher -- Vasari Heavy Cruisers can heal themselves mid-battle to prevent losses.
Each faction has a capital ship devoted to damage and one devoted to enhancing and producing strikecraft. These are, respectively, the first and second choices on the capital ship menu. (The Advent strikecraft enhancer is in their fourth slot.) The damaging capital ship's advantage is obvious -- bigger numbers mean more damage. The strikecraft enhancers, while buffing your carriers, also have the advantage of regenerating strikecraft without consuming antimatter. These are staggeringly effective when used correctly.
The Kostura Cannon
Every wonder what do with those unused tactical slots on interior worlds? One of the Vasari's solutions is the Kostura cannon. At a whopping 18 tactical slots consumed, you can't put these on your border worlds. Essentially, this fires an enormous beam at an enemy planet to damage and stun all the ships/structures there. Since the beam takes time to arrive, your opponent will likely flee -- unless you use your enhanced phase lane detection to see where he's going and, with a little timing and luck, catch him with his pants down. Alternatively, fire this at a planet to force him to clear it of defenders before bringing your own fleet in. Don't worry about getting caught in the blast; your ships are immune. These are not limited to their own solar system in multi-star maps, but the time it take for the blast to reach another solar system is long enough that it's impractical to so use them.
Firepower alone will not win you a battle. This is because your enemy also has firepower. The efficient use of support ships, then, is integral to success. Though these ships can attack, their primary role is not that of attacking. It is of enhancing/preserving your firepower ships.
Located on the extreme right of your frigate build menu, these ships have only one purpose: destroying strikecraft. Strikecraft are fast, replenishable, and far-ranging. Without these defensive ships, strikecraft can eat you alive. Flak frigates are designed to take down the strikecraft while your firepower is destroying the source of said strikecraft. Do not neglect these, especially as the AI, in most of the games I've played, loves to build Carriers. All factions unlock this defensive frigate at level 2.
This group of cruisers encompasses the Hoshiko Robotics Cruiser (TEC level 3), the Advent Iconus Guardian (level 3), and the Vasari Severun Overseer (level 4). These ships are in a battle primarily to keep your more important ships alive. As such, they also become pretty important. The upgrade abilities vary wildly for each of them, with the TEC crippling enemy ships, the Vasari detecting incoming enemy ships while assaulting an enemy planet, and the Advent pushing ships to the far side of the Gravity Well. Make sure to check if your opponent has these and get rid of them first -- there's no sense in attacking something that's just going to be healed by eight separate cruisers at once.
This group of cruisers includes the Stilakus Subverter (Vasari), Domina Subjugator (Advent), and Cielo Command Cruiser (TEC). These are the ships in the game that most emphatically should never be by themselves. A group of Hoshikos could conceivably heal each other while the cavalry arrives, but a group of Cielos is lost without firepower to order around. The purpose of each of these ships is to make your firepower that much more effective at damaging and more particularly at actually killing enemy ships. Given the wonderful capacity in this game to run away and survive if things are going badly, you need a ship whose purpose is to prevent enemies from fleeing/surviving to flee. Like the flak frigates, these are unlocked at the same level (5) for all factions.
In the fourth slot of the capital ship build menu is the support capital ship. (The Advent Support Capital is in the fifth slot.) These ships more than any others do their work when they have a fleet around them, and as such are usually a poor choice for your free initial capital ship and a fantastic choice when your fleets are really starting to get massive and diversified -- around midgame. Their individual abilities, however, are too varied to be touched on, even briefly, in this guide. Experimentation will be your best tool in learning these ships.
F. Taking Planets
There is only one reason to be destroying enemy ships: you want their planets, and he is using his ships to defend them. Once the ships are out of the way, the planet can be yours. However, as one might expect, the process can be intricate. You need to bomb away a planet's health and clear out opposing culture, and only then can you bring your colonizers in. Not only that, but enemy structures left in a planet's gravity well consume logistics slots, so they must be destroyed as well. Destroying orbital structures can be left to your main fleet. Bombing a planet can be done by any capital ship, but will be extremely slow. There are two ship types in the game which specialize in damaging planets:
Siege Frigates are the most expensive and supply-consuming frigate in the game. Moreover, they are fairly lousy at actual combat. Their single role and purpose is to initiate widescale ruin on an enemy planet. If you bring them to a hostile planet, they will attempt this to the exclusion of all else, including any nearby defense platforms. If you invest in these, you must safeguard them. Which brings up the question: why invest in these? Here are a few points in their favor:
- They come extremely early (level 1 for Advent and Vasari, level 2 for TEC)
- Siege Capital Ships are expensive (for the cost of researching a capital ship crew upgrade and buying a siege capital, you could likely field 4-5 siege frigates)
- Unless their total supply consumed is higher than 50, you're saving a little supply; and
- The AI is paranoid about these things -- with a little management, they're a great distraction.
That being said, trying to field too many of these early on will bring you to economic ruin. They greatly increase the speed at which you take enemy planets, but you usually only need that increased speed starting in the midgame.
The last of the capital ships for each faction specializes in killing planets. (Fifth slot for TEC/Vasari, second slot for Advent). This is usually a good choice of a second or third capital. Most of them boast a good combat ability as well to heighten their utility. Their advantage over siege frigates is primarily their durability -- siege frigates will die like flies if you're not careful. With these, it's often the opponent's ships that die like flies if they're not careful. If you're taking forever to wear down a planet's health, these are the best and most direct answer. Note that the Advent's Revelation Battlecruiser, while doing the most damage of all their capital ships against planets, does not gain any particular planet-killing special abilities until it reaches Level 6. Thus, the Advent is more likely to rely on Siege Frigates than other factions.
So you've finally beat down a planet's health to zero, and a triumphant voice announces the liberation of the planet -- and when you mouse over the planet, it tells you that you cannot colonize because hostile culture is too strong. The first thing to do is make sure you've destroyed any culture producing buildings in orbit. As long as those are there, you just plain can't colonize. Secondly, you must be aggressively spreading your own culture -- otherwise, it takes ages for enemy culture to deteriorate, if at all. While the Advent are the undisputed masters of culture in Sins, do not ignore culture with the other factions -- its economic benefits are matched by military benefits -- even in an aggressive setting.
In fact, with a good enough culture push, you might not have to bomb a planet at all. While it is difficult, enough of your culture on a hostile world can push it back into neutrality, at which point you can hopefully waltz in and colonize. This can be tricky to set up and pull off, though, especially since the AI is fairly diligent about spreading its own culture.
The Novalith Cannon
The TEC, of course, doesn't have to bring as much siege to a planet at all, once they research far enough. The 18-slot Novalith cannon is the ultimate in planetary bombardment, firing a shot through space to damage a given planet's health. On the other hand, you still have to go colonize it if you want to reap the benefits, but after several sieges you begin to appreciate anything that lessens the down time of watching the bombs fall. There is an unfortunate drawback to this weapon, much as with the Heavy Fallout ability of the TEC's Siege Frigates, which is that it hampers population growth for a time after it hits -- newly captured worlds subjected to this weapon will not soon be profitable. You also need not fire it at a planet you plan on taking soon -- forcing an enemy to repeatedly recolonize a key world is useful in its own right.
The Deliverance Engine
In counterpart to the Novalith Cannon, the Deliverance Engine fires a huge bolt of culture directly at an enemy world. This can result in a revolt, of course, but it is also highly useful in suppressing enemy culture so you can colonize a world immediately after bombing it into submission.
Of all the games I've played, Sins is the one that emphasizes strategic movement the most. On the planetary, interplanetary, and interstellar levels, Sins makes you plan out your movements. There are a few nuances below.
Be warned -- in and around planets, ships have to deal with acceleration, momentum, and turning speed. You can't just instantly flip around and fire the other way, nor can your ships stop on a dime. Turning ships around from the planet and fleeing takes time -- even without opposing Phase Jump Inhibitors. Ships that go chasing after decoys may take a long while to come back to the main battle -- precious time in which they are not contributing to a fight. While you can zoom out to the stellar level and let the AI manage the units, you will soon learn to recognize some fights/situations where a more personal touch can by useful.
Phase lanes are the means to travel from planet to planet. Each jump will cost antimatter if applicable to the ship in question. The most important part of phase lanes is that once a ship begins jumping, they cannot stop until they have reached their destination. You cannot idly hop from planet to planet with your fleet, even a defensive one. Instead, determine some optimal fleet placements that enable you to reach worlds in a minimum of time. The amount of time necessary to travel between worlds is why Planetary Defenses are necessary to delay enemy fleets. Also, ships must often travel between gravity wells when going from phase lane to phase lane, further increasing travel time.
Once you have researched the appropriate technology, wormholes allow you to travel from one wormhole to another in a solar system. The existence of wormholes generally allows players across the solar system quick access to each other. If you can't tell where a fleet's been building up all this time, look for a nearby wormhole as the culprit. Wormholes are a prime candidate for stationary scout units.
On single-star maps, suns act as enormous gravity wells that can take forever and a day to pass through. On multi-star maps, they act as the departure and arrival points for a solar system once the appropriate technology is researched (read: don't bother researching long-range jump technology on single-star maps). This is what makes multi-star maps a logistical nightmare; suns often have several phase lanes in and out of them, making effective defense/control exceedingly costly and sometimes impossible.
Phase Lane Stabilizers
This tactical structure is what makes the late game Vasari truly frightening. With a little effort, they can set up a phase lane between any two planets they control. This unprecedented and unmatched mobility, combined with their ability to detect all phase travel -- not to mention the node stabilizing ability of the Marauder -- make the Vasari guerrilla warriors of the first degree. They can easily and almost contemptuously hit two planets on opposite sides of an opponent's empire with their main fleet, and can get by with far fewer defensive fleets than any other faction. Playing with phase lane stabilizers as the Vasari can spoil you badly.
Moving Your Frigate Factories
Travel across gravity wells takes time. Travel through phase lanes takes time. Travel from sun to sun takes time. Given all this, leaving your capitol as the only producer of frigates is a bad idea. Make sure you have multiple frigate factories, and make sure that they're in places where the ships they produce can readily move to a key area. If you're doing your job and taking enemy planets, feel free to scuttle old frigate factories and replace them with more profitable logistics structures while building new ones closer to the action.
In essence, the game makes it impossible to be everywhere at once, so you must place yourself in a position where you can be everywhere important in the necessary amount of time.
H. Fleet Supply and Capital Ship Crews
This is a specialized kind of research fueled by your total number of research labs, not their type. Fleet supply research is necessary. Your starting 100 slots just aren't enough when 50 of them are going to be taken by an initial capital ship. The light penalty to income should soon be counterbalanced by the appropriate civic research. This is the great balancing factor of fleet supply -- you do it to enhance your military capacities, but the way to pay for it is to enhance your civic capacities. From the other perspective, do not be afraid of the income penalties attached to fleet supply increases. You will be using the larger fleet to take enemy planets, which will give you a broadened resource base to pay for the increased fleet supply. As your empire grows larger, more and more ships will be needed to provide adequate defense, so between the fleet supply upkeep charge, civic research, logistic structures, and conquered planets, you should usually be breaking even between the bonuses/penalties, and eventually come out ahead.
In order to build capital ships, you must research capital ship crews. At first, you only get one capital ship slot for each level of research, but later levels unlock multiple capital ship slots. These techs are extremely expensive, however, and hazardous to indulge in early. They find their greatest use in large maps of long duration, when you will likely see the greatest return on the investment. Keep in mind that capital ships cost fifty slots each, so commensurate fleet supply research needs to be done, further increasing the effective cost of researching extra capital slots.
IV. Research Schemes
It is worthwhile to point out that if the Vasari will spoil you with their Phase Lane Stabilizers, the Advent will spoil you with their research speed. End game techs take roughly twice the duration of eternity to research, and the Advent have a level 1 technology that cuts the time required to research. That being said, there are a few basic research paradigms in the game: Balanced, Research As Needed, Leapfrogging, and the Gambler.
Balanced: Balanced is what I would recommend for beginning players. Build a lab of both types, research all the level one technologies, then build another lab of each type and move on to level 2 and all the technologies. Obviously, if you want to settle Volcano/Ice worlds, two Civics labs will be instantly necessary. Other than that, though, this makes sure you're not putting yourself too heavily into one area or the other, and lets you experiment with factions and their abilities, feeling out how the pieces fit together. Once you've done this a few times, you can get a feel for when and why to research particular technologies, which should be your goal. Attempting to do that from the get-go can result in overlooking useful technologies because you don't see the effects immediately in play. Once you have learned the faction and its technology tree, you'll want to shift away from this into a "research as needed" policy.
Research As Needed (Courtesy Darvin3): This scheme is purely pragmatical -- you look at what you need, find the technology that helps, and build with this in mind. This relies on your ability to read the flow of the game so that you don't find out too late that you should have been going in another direction, but is most likely where you will go once you're comfortable with the game.
Leapfrogging: Leapfrogging, on the other hand, points out that several higher technologies actually have no prerequisites other than the number of research labs, and puts down the requisite number of research labs in order to get to those higher technologies. This is a very risky strategy for a potentially great reward -- having early high-end units can tilt battles in your favor, and it can be a painful wait for the Vasari before they get Trade Ports. The risk involved here is the high level of economic investment for no immediate return -- you're dumping roughly three thousand credits alone just to get four of a certain lab type in place. That's not an insignificant sum. If your opponent comes and wipes out two or three planets before you get your Subverters up and running, don't be surprised. This varies from "research as needed" in that you're assuming what you will need before actually knowing if it's the research that will be required.
The Gambler: This is the type of whimsical, silly research where, given spare resources and a choice between military and civilian technologies, the player will explore a planet they haven't explored yet in hopes of finding an artifact. Most often, you'll find nothing, but you can fairly frequently uncover a planet bonus of some sort and sometimes even achieve that artifact you've been looking for. The AI likes to do this. True devotees of this philosophy enjoy the Advent for their unlockable discount on planetary exploration. Note that a capital world starts the game explored, so you should never explore an enemy's capital you have taken. Also, a yellow arrow at the bottom of planet indicates that some sort of artifact is there and that somebody else has taken the trouble to find it for you; go take such a planet and spend your research there first. While definitely not an optimal strategy, Planetary Exploration provides a fun and random element, especially during consolidation periods where a fleet is healing/assembling and you can't think of anything better to spend you money on.
More seriously, though, and especially on larger map types, you'll find that you've bought the research you can and are waiting for it to finish, with resources piling up and all your fleet supply used. In this case, you use Planetary Exploration not for the chance at an artifact, but for a chance at planetary bonuses, which are actually fairly common. Any artifacts you may discover are not the goal; the goal is rather a bonus to trade, metal extraction, crystal extraction, population cap, etc. While Planetary Exploration should not be overindulged in, there are periods in the game where its fairly rapid speed and ability to run at the same time as your current research goals does make sense.
This should be enough information for a beginning player to understand what they're doing in the game. More advanced discussions can be found elsewhere, but hopefully this has been a pleasant and worthwhile read.
Incorporated Ryat's info on the Antimatter Recharger.
Incorporated InfiniteVoid's info on the Novalith and Kostura cannons.
Incorporated Darvin3's comments about:
1) In the Credits section: Planet Underdevelopment (but not Trade Ports or avoiding Pirate attacks -- those were already there )
2) In the Trade Port section: Corrected my misunderstanding about base Trade Port gain.
3) In the orbital refinery, deleted my comments about the relative strengths -- though I'm not sure why this is so, I'm prepared to take his word for it. In-depth explanation, though not within the scope of this guide, would be interesting.
4) Revising the research section.
Fixed some typos, added some comments on the various cannons and planetary exploration.
Based on some old threads I found, I updated the Refinery section to account for the Advent's weirdness. Hopefully, it is now more accurate. Also fixed some typos.
Changed commentary on the Illuminator to reflect patch changes.
Updated to reflect the Advent's odd positioning of capital ships on the build menu; also commented slightly on the Advent's Siege capital. Tightened up some terminology in the economics section. Fixed a few more irritating typos.