IMG Archives
Archives  Features  Master of Orion III Beginner's Guide - Part One  

Master of Orion III Beginner's Guide - Part One
March 31, 2003 | Scott Winn

After years in development, MacSoft's Master of Orion III (Moo3) for the Macintosh is finally here. Whether you're a novice or a hard core gamer, we've put together a few hints and tips for those who need a little help getting started with this unique, complex, and in-depth game.

Make sure you can finish what you start: Initial game settings
Why would anyone need hints about setting up a game? Isn't that the stuff you randomly click through to get to the start button? It may be that way for twitching, instant gratification games. I know that's how I get when it comes to playing any kind of shooter. But with most strategy games you need to carefully consider your initial options, pick the right advantages, and decide what kind of game you are going to play. Such is certainly the case with Masters of Orion III.

All of the choices you will make when setting up your game revolve around the overall strategy you will use as you play. To determine what that strategy should be, let's start at the end of the setup process with Victory Conditions. You can always win by becoming the sole power in the galaxy. That's the classically militant "crush all of your enemies beneath your heel" kind of game. You can also win by being elected leader of the galactic senate (the diplomatic approach) or by discovering the five X's (the exploratory approach). I recommend turning off the victory conditions in which you aren't interested. That way you can focus on your own strategy and not be bothered by the fact that "so and so has just discovered another X."

Now that you have figured out what you are trying to achieve, it is time to go back and select the race you will lead to victory. Unlike Moo2, races in Moo3 have built in attitudes toward each other. Depending on which race you pick, you will find you get along better with some races than with others. Read the race descriptions! I didn't when I first started playing. I picked the Harvesters because they looked cool, and then I wondered why no one wanted to make any treaties with me.

You have the option to either play the race you have selected or customize their advantages and disadvantages to match your objective. I vote for customization, but if you prefer the challenge of playing a standard race, then more power to you! I find myself increasing the research prowess of most races I play. If you are out to conquer, research helps you get the best technology fast. If you are into diplomacy it gives you a lot with which to bargain. If you are trying to find the X's you will need the fastest warp drives and the best research facilities you can get. Any way you look at it, technology is key. Pick what makes the most sense for you and don't be shy about taking disadvantages in areas that aren't important. Note: the Reset button does not set all of your scores to Average. It puts your race back to its default settings.

The last few things to decide are actually some of the most important -- what size and shape of galaxy, and what type of star lanes you will pick. A huge galaxy is Huge. No, it is really HUGE!! Unless you are the direct descendent of some great explorer, it will be a hundred turns before you've seen part of one. A game of Sole Survivor in a huge galaxy could potentially run into thousands of turns. If you have a day job, you could be playing the same Moo3 game this time next year! You get the idea, but what does shape have to do with anything? Spiral galaxies have arms that can be isolated and conquered. Cluster galaxies are largely a free for all. Star lanes determine how fast you can get from Point A to Point B. Their placement also causes converging points on the map that become strategically important. Lots of star lanes will tend to open up borders and make it easier to explore, attack, and be attacked. Fewer lanes simplify defense, but may complicate attack and exploration.

Let's sum up what we have covered so far:

  • Decide the type of game you are playing up front and plan accordingly
  • Race relations matter, so be sure to read the race descriptions
  • Pick advantages that match your victory condition
  • More technology never hurts
  • The layout of the galaxy strongly influences gameplay


  • Archives  Features  Master of Orion III Beginner's Guide - Part One