Care and Feeding of a Fledgling Empire, version 2
Updated by Lynn Moore
Well, well. Here you are, starting out with your new empire and new star system in your hot little hands, and you're looking at SM#2 with a bewildered look to your destiny as an Emperor. Take heed, for I shall pass along pearls of wisdom that should place you on the path of success and victory!
Now, the first step is to take a look at your assets in your system. You start with a single Rich habitable world, 1-3 rocky planets, 1-3 Gas Giants (GG), 1-2 Ice Planets (IP), and 1 or more asteroid belts. The Rocky planets and GGs will have O2-type moons, and the IPs will have O1-type planets. Look at the GGs and Rockys for initial population emplacement sites. Note any Very Rich moons or planets; these give you the best short-term return in MC income. Also, note that asteroid belt; even a radius-1 belt can handle up to 480 PTU of population. With a capacity of 80 PTU per hex of asteroids, they make a good long-term investment in colonization possible. Now, even though O1s don't make very much in returns on colonization, they can be vital for early warning, if they are close to any of your warp points. If not, they will work for watching for any slicky-boys sneaking into your system.
So, since you start with 100 PTU to colonize your system, the best places would be VR O2 moons. These will earn 1.115 MC per PTU after the AST belt modifier. Don't max them out, though. The income you'll continue to gain through growth will outweigh the 1.2 PTU you gain for colonization from excess growth. If you have 4 or 5 VR moons out there, ship all 100 there. Otherwise, limit it to 20 each and place the rest in 10 PTU blocks in your AST belt. Although they'll earn 0.9625 MC per PTU, it gives you the building blocks for the huge capacity of the belt. As for your IUs, just stick them all on the home world. It's been my experience that they do not stay around too long; I usually burn them for colonization costs.
Now that your subjects are settled, time to take care of your setup money. First thing to take care of is your Survey assets. This force is the ONLY way you will expand your empire outside your starting system. IMHO, the limit of 60 hulls with X should be considered the minimum to build. With only 5000 MC to spend, though, the best hull for the buck is an intrepid Explorer-class hull. 2HHHQsX(Ic) 4 Cost: 79 MC/11.85 MC maintenance. Some people would say use (I) (I) instead for the tactical speed, but these are NOT combat ships. Plus, that's a waste of 16 MC per hull. Buy 57 of these mighty mites, for 4503 MC, leaving 497 MC. Now, since I didn't throw (AC) on these ladies, you'll need some ships to survey planets. An EX-class hull only allows 4 Bb points, not enough room. So, we'll go up the ladder a step to the ES-class hull. 2H(BbL)(BbM)H XQs(Icic)4 (AC) 10 Bb points 131.4 MC/19.71 MC. 3 of these ships cost 394.2 MC, leaving 102.8 MC left. 12 ct for the ES's costs 96 MC, leaving 6.8 MC in the Survey Fund.
Next thing to build up is the Battle Fleet. 5000 MC will get you more than a few warship hulls, but the biggest you can have is a Destroyer. Now, there are many thoughts on designs, and these designs reflect my personal preferences. You'll want a long-range combat ship, and here's my design: 3SSAAAH(I)Qs(I)RR(I)R(I)RRMg(I)Qs(I) 6/3 255 MC/38.25 MC An even dozen of these mighty warships (well, till you get higher in tech level) will cost you 3060 MC, leaving 1940 MC. Now, you'll want a fast ship for recon work and screen work. A good complement is the Corvette. It's 33 faster than the DD, but only half the size. 2 SAH(I)(I)(I)QsL(I)L 8/4 162 MC/24.3 MC. Adding the 6 MC from the Survey Fund, you can buy 12 of these too, leaving 2.8 MC from both funds.
The final thing to sort out is the Other Fund. First thing to spend is 3000 MC on starting HT2 research. Some people think more troops and troopships are a better investment, but if you follow SM#2's setup options, you'll have a 2-transit 'safe zone' where no NPRs will exist. The money's better spent getting your tech increased. For the first 10-12 turns, the limit on colonization will be the CFN size, not the amount of money you have. Next thing is to look to your shipyards. You don't need to really go to town on this installation; if the enemy gets to your home system, all the armor in the world's not going to save your SS. Might as well go bare-bones, which is free under the setup: 0 H(BbL)Qs(SYx10)0 0 MC/0.97 MC 6 Bb points. 3 st for in-system colonization will cost 60 MC, leaving 1940 MC. 18 more ct for the ES/X will cost 144 MC, leaving 1796 MC. 12 Mg of BM for the DDs cost 120 MC, leaving 1576 MC. Now, remember earlier when I mentioned the CFN limit? Taking an average setup, you'll have an income of 3273-odd MC a turn. That translates to 327 Q and 654 H in the CFN. That's only 65 PTUs that can be shipped 1 transit away and 32 PTUs farther. So, time to add to the CFN via the Government Pool. The best hull class with the bang for the buck IMO is the FT4. 3 H(BbS)(Ic)Qx5LhHx3(Ic)Qx5 LhHx4(Ic)Qs(Ic) 4 229 MC/17.175 MC. 6 of these hulls are 1374 Mc, leaving 202 MC. 6 st for these FTs cost 120 MC, leaving 82 MC. Add the 2.8 MC from the Warfleet fund gives you 84.8 MC. Now, for an added touch, we'll add a cheap PDC/Spaceport for your home world. 0 HHH(SP)HHH 0 83 MC/1.66 MC. Leaves 1.8 MC remaining. And you're done!
Now, how are you going to organize this mess? Easy, set up some fleets. 3 Survey Fleets with 19 EX, 1 ES, and 2 CT each, a Battle Fleet with 6 DD and 3 CT, a Mothball Fleet with 6 DD and 3 CT, and a Home Force with 1 SS, 1 PDC, and 6 FT4. Before you start Turn 1, though, move those FT4 to the Government Pool; you'll earn 23 MC per FT and pay 17.2 MC in maintenance each, for a positive income of 5.8 MC per FT4. Also, each FT4 adds 10 Q and 7 H to your CFN capacity. So that's another 6 PTU you'll be able to ship every turn.
Finally, a suggestion for Turn 1. Don't worry much about colonization for this turn. Your emphasis should be getting your Survey fleets to 25 EX each. So, send the 10 free PTU to the belt for 300 MC. Then, build 18 more EX. Problem is, all that will cost 1722 MC, and you'll only have about 1100 MC after maintenance and research upkeep. Best way to cover this is sell 21 IU for 630 MC. Leaves you about 18 MC holdover for next turn.