|Master of Orion III Beginner's Guide - Part One
March 31, 2003 | Scott Winn
Get ahead and stay ahead: Colonization and early game strategyIt is time to expand your fledgling empire. How do I know? Because no matter who you are or what kind of Moo3 game you are playing, it is always time to expand your empire! Now, where to begin? First, take a good look at your home system. If there are any planets that have decent mineral or fertility ratings, build a System Colony ship. A decent second colony in your home system is easier to defend and take care of than an ideal colony anywhere else in the galaxy. Building System Colonies early on in the game gives you production and population advantages, so do it if it makes sense.
When you have determined that further colonizing your Home System isn't an option, it is time to build a Colony ship and start looking for a nice place to land it. Hopefully, you have used the Scout Ships you started the game with to visit several different systems. That will increase the number of planets you can choose from and give you a much better chance of finding someplace good. Once your Colony ship is built don't worry about putting it into a Detachment Fleet and sending it out by itself. Yes, its weak and defenseless, but you aren't sending it into battle either. Exploring with a Colony ship can be dangerous though, so try to avoid systems your scouts haven't visited.
Use the primary and secondary sorting on your Planets screen to pick the best world for your new colony. If you think you might be hurting for food soon, then finding a planet with an average fertility of at least "Arable" would be ideal. You can do that by sorting on "Fertility" first and "Terraform Zone" second. That should put the best places right near the top of the list. If food isn't a problem, you'll want to find the best possible mineral rating on the most habitable planet. Set your sorting to "Minerals" and "Terraform Zone". Try not to colonize any Red Terraform Zone planets and only take the exceptionally good Yellow planets. When choosing a colony site in the Planets screen, make sure that "View By" is set to your race; otherwise you may wind up colonizing a planet that is absolutely ideal. . . for someone else.
You will typically find yourself building colonies in one of two places: safely within your own borders or on the frontier. Build on your frontier only after you have generally secured the region. If you are landing a colony on someone's front door (or even within a hostile system) the opposition should be 1) very inferior technologically or 2) heavily subdued militarily.
Remember, the system you choose to colonize can help or hinder your empire's internal security. Look for systems that are at the "bottleneck" of star lanes. Try to control systems that are close to your opponents, effectively cutting them off from further expansion. That keeps more of the good planets within your borders for you to colonize later. It can even prevent your opponent from coming into contact with other races, forming alliances, and really making your life difficult. If there are no decent planets in a strategically critically system, build an Outpost. That way you will be able to see enemy ships as they try to cross your borders. It is also a good idea to keep a decent ship or two parked in a system while your colony is young and defenseless.
Once a colony has built up some defenses you can decide just how far away the cavalry can wander. A big part of this decision will depend on the colony's food production and population. If your colony has a small population and there is any danger of an enemy blockade in the near future, you are better off leaving some space-based protection in the system. Yes, it ties up some of your forces, but it beats having your colony downgraded to an outpost because you couldn't lift a blockade in time. On the other hand, if your colony doesn't need to import any food and you can stand to lose some production while your fleets are coming to the rescue, then you can afford to leave a colony on its own.
Here is a list of our colony-building strategies: Look for good planets in your home system to colonize first
Make sure your scout ships are always on the move
Keep your planets mostly Green with some Yellows and very few Reds
Pick systems to colonize that will define your territory and cut off your opponents
Control those star lane bottlenecks
Keep some forces close by until your colony can stand a lengthy blockade
That wraps up our look at colonies. On the next page we will marvel at the miracles of advanced technology.