Roles in Team GamesEdit
Depending on your start position, you may be in one of three different distinct "roles" for your team. These roles are more like guidelines than rules, and your actual situation might be a combination of multiple positions. As well, as the game changes your situation may change with it. The roles are as follows:
The most common role is the aggressor. You're the military muscle of your team, seeking out enemies and attempting to destroy them. In the most common 5v5 games, most players spawn with an ally on one side and an enemy on the other: their job is to stay alive and to destroy that enemy if they can. Aggressors need to play aggressively, threatening enemies and attempting to damage or cut them off at every turn. Your top priority in this position is to maintain a powerful and competitive military. A good economy can be useful, but the military should come first. Victory and defeat for your entire team usually rides on your ability to manage a balanced offense and defense on the front lines. The aggressor's job was very easy in the original game, but became slightly more difficult with the addition of starbases in Entrenchment, although this is debatable. Although starbases can provide a defending fleet with protection, Orkulus starbases are often used as a very effective offensive weapon.
Defender ("Suicide Spot")Edit
In this position, you are isolated and surrounded by multiple enemies. Your allies are too far away to help you either by directly sending military units or indirectly by distracting one of your nearby opponents. The odds are that you will be defending against multiple attacking players. Your goal here is not only to survive as long as possible, but to be a thorn in your enemy's side. If you can distract two enemies with your own fleet, the rest of your team will have a massive advantage across the rest of the map, even if you're slowly losing. The defender's position used to be called the "suicide" position, and the defeat of the defending player was pretty well assured, but it became more manageable with the introduction of starbases in Entrenchment. It's somewhat common to see defenders survive to the end of the game now.
Economist ("Eco Slot")Edit
The exact opposite of a defender, an economist begins in a position where he's surrounded by allies and the enemies do not have any real ability to attack him without going through one of his teammates first. This player is expected to avoid fleet and military altogether, and instead pursue the most powerful economy he can muster. This player is expected to quickly amass a large and profitable empire, then send excess cash to allies who are in need. Vasari economists are often asked to build Orkulus starbases for their nearby allies, for both attack and defense. In Diplomacy, those in the eco slot have to first research the ability to give credits and resources to their allies, which is on the second tier of the Diplomacy research tree with a single prerequisite.
Know your role and play it. The economist expects the aggressor to fight and keep him safe, and the aggressor expects the economist to pursue a powerful economy to fuel his team later on. Sometimes your role isn't clear, in which case you should try and find the way to best serve your team. Don't completely commit yourself to a role, especially later in the game: those in the eco slot often expand to the star and beyond and start bumping into enemies - build up a fleet and put another pressure point on your enemies!
Its All About DistanceEdit
Your top priority at the start of the game is to determine where you are and whether there are any enemies nearby. Sometimes you can look at the positions of your allies and guess where the enemies are. Random maps, which are popular in multiplayer, tend to distribute players somewhat evenly, so a large empty space probably is occupied by one or more enemies. However, this can occasionally be deceiving (they are random maps, after all) and you will need to scout to confirm whether there is a nearby enemy. If you suspect there may be an enemy nearby, you need to find out how close he is.
One giveaway to a close enemy is if you spot an enemy scout very early. You will often see an enemy scout before you actually locate their homeworld, so you can usually guess how far away it is by where you saw the scout and how far it might have traveled since the start of the game. Once you've located your enemy, you need to scout all the planets between the two of you. If there is a key tactical choke point, you want to own it, and it's much easier to capture it while it's still neutral than after your enemy has gotten to it.
The following is a general guideline to help you gauge how you should balance your military and economy. This is a guideline, not a playbook, and your specific situation may vary. If there's a Desert or Terran planet with a massive force of militia sitting between you and your enemy, that could prevent a frigate rush and you should treat that situation very differently than if it was a small asteroid between you. Alternately, a short string of asteroids might just be a trail of breadcrumbs that leads you into an early conflict despite a longer distance. This does not apply to you if you're in the economist position, buffered by allies.
- Sudden Death (1-2 jumps) (Common): Put every penny you have into military. Hesitation means death in this situation.
- Close Proximity (3-4 jumps) (Common): You're within rushing distance and you need to put your military first. However, you have time to colonize and maneuver before the fight. Just make sure your defenses are ready and you keep tabs on the enemy. The last thing you want is to be caught off guard. Building civic labs should only be done in order to access critical ice and volcanic planets.
- Moderate Distance (5-7 jumps) (Uncomon except in 2v2 or 3v3): Although you're still within rushing distance, it's great enough that you have time to colonize and build up. You do not have time to build trade ports or make any other fancy economic investments. Don't get caught off guard; just because you're far away doesn't mean you can't be rushed. If you get careless because of this, a rush can be even more deadly than on smaller maps.
- Long Distance (8-11 jumps) (Extremely, extremely rare): You have plenty of time to expand before your enemy arrives. Only the most aggressive of players would attempt a rush here, but they will need to establish a forward colony close to your empire to build frigates there. The distance is just too large for them to send units across the map. So long as you're watchful and don't allow yourself to be surprised, you will have time and opportunity to set up a fledgling economy and probably put up some trade ports if your situation is good for it.
Once you know where your enemy is, you should set an internal timer, and pace yourself so you know when your military needs to be ready to face him. Keep an eye on him all the same, he might try something tricky.
Capital Ship ChoicesEdit
First Capital ShipEdit
Picking your capital ship can be a dangerous game in multiplayer. Particularly after Patch 1.18, carrier-class capital ships became very powerful in early fights, and it's risky to attempt to do battle with one with a different type of capital ship. Battleships and siege captial ships in particular get no fighters of their own, and are easy prey to carriers laden with bombers. This makes carrier-class capital ships the most popular opening strategy for all factions. However, some players still favour the defensive edge of colony-capital ships, which enables them faster and easier colonization and better overall utility. Particularly in the economist's position, the colony-class capital ships are good choices. Some players still swear by the power of the Marza Dreadnought, Kortul Devastator, or Vulkoras Desolator, but these capital ships are all risky in their own ways.
Some maps tend to place you further away from your enemy than others, particularly the small 1v1 and 2v2 random maps. Colony-class capital ships are more favoured in these situations. Larger maps (such as the huge random 5v5) tend to place players closer together, and carrier-class capital ships are heavily favoured here.
Second Capital ShipEdit
Particularly if you're picking a second capital ship early on, the carrier-class remains a potent option. It's not uncommon to see players with two or even three carrier-class capital ships in the early game: they have strike craft (most importantly, bombers), are very durable, and have the ability to bomb. Many players who open with other varieties quickly bring out a carrier as their second. However, as your fleet becomes more mature, you'll have more leeway to choose other types of capital ships. The Marza, Kortul, and Vulkoras are very popular second choices. In general, you should pick capital ships that synergize with your army and provide you tools that are useful against the enemy. You need to be cautious about your second capital ship choice, as it becomes much easier to kill capital ships in this phase of the game. Sometimes, if you can't protect your capital ship, it's better just to pour all that money into pure frigate and cruiser muscle.
Later Capital ShipsEdit
Capital ships can be extremely useful in the long-term, and if you work hard to keep them alive they can pay off in a way that a trade port never could. However, it becomes harder and harder for a low-level capital ship to survive the late game bloodbaths, so you need to be very careful about which capital ships you choose and when. Provided you can get them to survive these fights, capital ships can level up very quickly in these scenarios, but that's a big if. You have a lot more options in the late game, and different capital ships become viable. Carrier-capital ships are no longer game-dominating forces, and are more useful for their support abilities. Capital ships like the anti-strikecraft Kol Battleship start to shine here, and in general any capital ship with uncapped area of effect abilities is a great choice. Again, pick capital ships that synergize with your fleet.
Common Multiplayer StrategiesEdit
If an experienced TEC player is within 4 or fewer jumps of an enemy homeworld, most players will attempt the Sova rush. The player will train the capital ship to level 3 while moving directly to the enemy's homeworld: once at level 3, the player will get level 2 Embargo, which will steal 70% of the enemy homeworld's income while also slowing ship production. While the initial training credit cost can be very expensive, a Sova Embargo rush will often completely cripple an unprepared opponent, since the homeworld is the only real source of income in the early-game. If there's a reasonable amount of distance between you (4 or so jumps), the best defense is to immediately spam as many LRF as you can (or, if you're Advent, spam Disciples). Although the carrier will likely come with fighters which will kill a few of your LRF, if you have a critical mass of LRF they will do heavy damage to the Sova and force it to retreat quickly. If the enemy is closer and will send a Sova quicker, often you simply don't have time to research LRF: in this case, you need to spam light frigates. Although they don't do as much damage to capital ships as LRF, they are agile, and are not weak to enemy fighters.
Especially when you start close to the enemy, a good strategy is to directly assault the enemy's homeworld. There is no better way to prevent them from attacking or expanding then pinning them down from the word "go". Vasari are especially vulnerable to this, and basically need to get a starbase in play either on their own homeworld or the enemy's homeworld in these situations. The Vasari starbase rush is highly feared, and usually supported by a Skirantra Carrier. The repair cloud ability can be used to heal the starbase as it constructs, while the Skirantra's fighters protect it from any bombers.
Attacking the homeworld directly is a powerful "killing move" when you're in a position to overpower the enemy. Often times players will build starbases on their front lines and leave their homeworld practically defenseless. If you have a very large fleet, you can just go around his starbases and attack his homeworld directly. Because your fleet is so much larger, he cannot fight you away from his precious defenses. Likewise, be mindful of this when building your own defenses. A smart enemy may ignore them and ravage your inner worlds.
Homeworld rushes are common against defenders, and it's difficult to hold against two fleets pressuring you from the start of the game. Building a starbase is a great way to alleviate the pressure, but an enemy might just try to bombard the homeworld directly while ignoring the starbase. The solution is to use Auxiliary Government, or whatever your faction's equivalent is called. This will make it so you cannot lose the planet while the starbase is still around, forcing the enemy to attack the starbase first. This can enable you to play effectively in a 2v1 situation.
Sometimes, a big fat starbase is standing in your way, and you don't have the military might to break it. Why not just go around? Sometimes you have to take a long round around many gravity wells, other times you cut past the starbase and just avoid getting into weapons range. Either way, this is a risky gambit. It will be difficult for you to get back to home turf to defend if need be, and you're cut off from reinforcements. On the flip side, you've just completely bypassed your enemy's front-line defenses. This is often used to get past aggressors to attack juicy economists in the back, or to simply go for a homeworld or other important planets behind the front lines. There are two different responses to this. The obvious one is to defend and try to drive the enemy back, but this can be foolish if their fleet is much stronger and you don't have much in the way of defenses behind your front lines. A better option may be to attack the enemy - whose fleet is now far from home. If they need to retreat, it's either the long way or the hard way, and either way takes pressure off your empire.
- This strategy works well with all three colony-class capital ships, including the Progenitor Mothership and Jarrasul Evacuator, but is most popular with the TEC Akkan Battlecruiser.
In this strategy, the player will choose a colony capital ship as his first capital ship, then quickly build a carrier capital ship (or another useful combat capital ship, but usually carrier) as his second. The second capital ship will lead the fleet while the first heads off into the sunset to continue colonizing. The player then fights a defensive battle and his enemy may not even know that he has a second capital ship off acquiring new planets and building a powerful empire. This strategy is sometimes called the "cancer" strategy, since a player who successfully pulls it off can choke the rest of the map by taking all the good expansion areas early, and is nearly impossible to completely wipe out.
This strategy can also be a great late-game surprise, since your first capital ship is likely to reach level 6 while it's out colonizing, which is a great surprise to drop on the enemy. Good players will be actively scouting and will probably see you doing this, but they still have to deal with it...
Common from economists, trade spam is about building a long trade route, then building a large number of trade ports to capitalize on it. Using and abusing this strategy is key to becoming a top-tier player in the eco slot. Trade spam requires a large number of planets and a long trade route to be effective, but can easily result in income in excess of 100 credits per second within the first hour of the game, enough to bring superweapons into play or enable allies to reach massive fleet sizes with relatively small empires. Trade spam is rarely pursued by aggressors (who don't have the time to build such an extensive piece of infrastructure when they're busy fighting) and completely out of the question for a player in the suicide spot, who has very limited logistics space to begin with.
The term "LRF" stands for Long Range Frigate. They are the Javelis LRM Frigate, Illuminator Vessel, and Kanrak Assailant. All three appear relatively early in the military tech tree (level 2, 3, and 1 respectively) and deal some of the highest damage (on a per-cost basis) of any unit in the game. Many players will simply research them and start building them in huge numbers. If you do not see it coming, you can be simply overwhelmed by their massive damage before you can even react. Their long range and damage type means they're ideal for focusing their attacks on capital ships, and they're quite deadly as a result. In previous versions, building large numbers of scouts was considered the best countermeasure, but Patch 1.19 made this a less effective option because it significantly reduced scout DPS. Flak are considered the most practical counter these days; large numbers of flak can deal huge amounts of damage to enemy LRF, while also being durable enough to withstand quite a lot of damage. Carriers with fighters is a possible option, but a smart opponent will then field flak which will quickly cut down all of your fighter squads down to nothing. Later in the game, heavy cruisers become viable: they are very effective against light armor targets like LRF.
This strategy is most deadly if you're caught off guard by it. Low numbers of LRF aren't that deadly, but high numbers can deal massive amounts of damage before you can react.
A common mid-game strategy used by Advent players is the battleball. This strategy involves using the Iconus Guardian and the Progenitor Mothership in tandem to give the entire fleet a massive bonus to shields. If the enemy has large numbers of strike craft, a Halcyon with Telekinetic Push may also be in order. For larger fleets, Energy Amplification Aura from the Halcyon is also a must-have. There are two different flavours of the battleball. One is illuminator-based, using the long-range unit within the safety of the guardian's protective sphere. The guardian can be upgraded with the Repulsion ability that will literally push enemy units away. Short-ranged units like heavy cruisers may be unable to attack. Repulsion is ineffective when you're using your own heavy cruisers, however, since they will have to move forward in order to attack with their own short-ranged weapons. This is the other flavour of the battleball, forgoing repulsion in favour of relying on tough heavy cruisers. Repulse is usually still researched in this case in order to keep light frigates away from guardians (they can drain antimatter if they get too close).
The TEC have very little to answer a mature Advent battleball, and will need to use the healing ability of their Hoshiko Robotics Cruiser combined with a numerical advantage (they have cheaper units, thankfully) to break down the Advent. It can be very difficult to defeat the Advent while they still have working guardians and progenitors, since they will just keep restoring shields. It's very difficult to bring enough firepower to bear to overpower this, especially if they're using repulse to keep your short-ranged units away. The Vasari, however, have a very good response to the battleball, as described in the next section.
Using either the Stilakus Subverter or their more wicked Kostura Cannon, the Vasari are actually capable of shutting down enemy frigates completely. The Jam Weapons ability of the Kortul Devastator can shut down entire scores of strike craft. The enemy army can be rendered entirely helpless for a short duration... long enough for the Vasari do something dastardly like lay a minefield around your fleet, or just pummel you with high firepower units. The Vasari may also use the opportunity to start building a starbase, and they have tricks up their sleeves here, too.
Vasari phase missiles are highly prized for their ability to bypass shields. This can be very effective against a battleball. No matter how much shield power the Advent has, they will eventually be defeated on shield bypass damage alone. This is a great way to deal massive amounts of damage during a lockdown. The Subverter's second special ability even makes the enemy more vulnerable to phase missiles.
Vasari Starbase Construction SupportEdit
The Serevun Overseer and the capital ship, Skirantra Carrier, both have the ability to heal units. What most players don't know is that they can actually heal starbases while they are still in construction. Used to support a constructing starbase, overseers and skirantras can make it nearly impossible to take down before it completes, and continue to provide healing as it upgrades and fights. Fortunately, multiple jumps will deplete overseers of antimatter, giving them a limited number of heals unless they traveled a very short distance to reach you.
Sometimes, a defender is just too dug in to beat. Often times players in this situation will opt for a simpler solution. They will build a starbase (or multiple starbases) to pen in their opponent and then leave. A less attentive defender might sit around doing nothing, but his opponents are no longer distracted and are busy helping their allies or building more powerful economies. A defender must recognize this situation and fight against the pen, at very least to keep one enemy fleet occupied. If he allows himself to be marginalized, it's as if he's already been defeated. Sometimes opponents will use culture instead to slowly kill someone who is penned in. With limited logistics space, it can be very difficult to defend against this.
Reduce, Reuse, RecycleEdit
Money is big in Sins of a Solar Empire, and every penny you can pinch counts. In this sense, "reduce, reuse, recycle" is a great mantra.
You need to reduce your spending as much as possible, particularly in the early game. Four or five frigates costs only about 1500 credits, but can be the difference between victory or defeat in an early skirmish. Every cost you can remove, every corner you can cut, is well worth it. Those pennies will add up into more units, and more units will add up into victory.
Reuse is a huge boon. Every unit you can keep alive through healing or by selectively retreating it in battle is another unit you don't have to replace. This can make repair bays one of the best economic investments in the game, and is what makes the Hoshiko Robotics Cruiser effectively mandatory for any serious TEC player. The power of repair cannot be understated, and many players in economic positions will build military labs just to access repair bays.
Recycling may seem odd, since you get very little for salvaging buildings you no longer need (unless you're Vasari). However, managing your logistics slots is a big deal. Logistic planet upgrades are expensive, and can easily run you massive amounts of money early game. However, if you colonize effectively you should have enough logistics throughout your whole empire to make due. Recycle those logistic slots on your core planets and plan ahead, and you can very effectively manage without spending money on logistics at all. Try to repurpose any outdated investments as best you can, and if you don't need 'em anymore and the logistics space is necessary, scrap 'em.
A risky but high-payoff option when you start close to an enemy is to build two civic labs to access ice and volcanic planets. Once the research is done, scuttle the labs and replace them with military labs. While this allows for useful colonization, depending on how close the enemy is, this may either give you just enough room to build up a military, or allow the enemy to completely overwhelm you before you start producing combat frigates.