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Sniping planets (AKA "how to spend your second turn")

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Sniping planets (AKA "how to spend your second turn")

Postby mcmillen » Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:29 pm

I'd like to introduce a simple but powerful tactic which is very useful on the second turn (and throughout the early game). I call it "sniping". The main idea is that you send a fleet to arrive at a neutral planet *right after* your opponent. Your opponent's fleet takes damage from the neutral ships, and then your fleet arrives and finishes off the opponent. You end up with a growth advantage (because you captured the planet) and a material advantage (because the enemy lost more ships than you did). It's super important because it's the only tactic in the game which can get you *both* a growth advantage and a material advantage.

It's easiest to think about this with an example. Let's say that there's a growth-5 planet with 30 neutral ships that's T steps from your starting planet and the opponent's starting planet. On the first turn, your opponent sends 35 ships to capture the planet. On turn 2, you send 11 ships to the planet. Here's what happens:

Turn T: Your opponent's ships arrive, and capture the planet. They lose 30 ships, leaving them with 5.
Turn T+1, advancement phase: Your opponent gains 5 ships from the planet's growth rate. They now have 10 ships.
Turn T+1, arrival phase: Your 11 ships arrive and capture the planet, killing 10 ships on each side and leaving you with 1.

Calculating it out: your opponent lost 30+10 ships, and gained 5 ships (net loss: 35 ships); you lost 10 ships and are guaranteed to gain 5 next turn (even if the enemy has sent a super-huge fleet to counter yours). So you have a net gain of +30 ships on the board and a +5 growth rate for as long as you keep the planet.

The crucial thing here is the timing: you need to arrive *as soon as possible* after the opponent's fleet in order to take advantage of their weakened force. Every step that goes by, your opponent gains +X ships, which makes the planet harder to take over. This means that you'll generally be looking to snipe planets that are reasonably close to your existing planets; it's not worth sending a fleet all the way across the board to snipe, because a good opponent will be able to reinforce in time. You definitely don't want to arrive *before* the opponent, or they'll be sniping you!

Therefore, the more general version of this tactic requires you to "look into the future" a bit: given all the fleets currently headed for this planet, you can figure out which time step the planet will switch from neutral -> opponent, and how many opponent ships will remain afterwards. Once you know that, you just need to figure out how to send a large-enough set of fleets from your planets such that they arrive on the very next turn.
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Re: Sniping planets (AKA "how to spend your second turn")

Postby mcmillen » Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:56 pm

On IRC, sigh pointed out that "equally important is not getting sniped yourself".

Indeed! That's a good point, which is why my guide for turn 1 suggests not to attack planets that are closer to your enemy (and even equally-distant is dangerous because it's a prime target for getting sniped.) In general when reading strategy hints, it's always good to think not just of "how can I use this strategy effectively?" but also "how can I keep the opponent from *using* this strategy effectively?" :D
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Re: Sniping planets (AKA "how to spend your second turn")

Postby Evgenius » Mon Oct 04, 2010 1:55 pm

The problem is, what if there's a planet right in the middle between you and your enemy. You are trying to snipe but the next turn enemy also sends fleets to "oversnipe" you. What are you gonna do?
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Re: Sniping planets (AKA "how to spend your second turn")

Postby Terr » Mon Oct 04, 2010 6:09 pm

A while ago I went back and renamed bits of code from "sniping" to "poaching". I think it's carries a bit more meaning ;)
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Re: Sniping planets (AKA "how to spend your second turn")

Postby krokkrok » Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:18 am

This is neither a snipe nor a poach. It is a ninja. ;)
I think ninja's will fall out naturally from a good algorithm, probably code specifically designed to do this is overly complicated and not looking at the big picture.
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