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Master of Orion III Beginner's Guide - Part Two
April 1, 2003 | Scott Winn

In Part One of our extensive Beginner's Guide to Master of Orion III we covered topics such as initial game settings, colonization and early game strategy, and technology. In Part Two we will be covering shipbuilding, fleets and fighting, and a final wrap-up.

More than half the battle: Shipbuilding
Last time we covered the best ways to get new technology and protect your imperial intellectual property. Since Moo3's economic model doesn't allow you to sit around waiting to sue other players for patent infringement, we'd better discuss the ultimate way to use hard learned (or stolen) technology -- shipbuilding.

By the time you have built up your research capacity, your scientists should be turning out something interesting at least every ten turns or so. A great many of those new technologies can be applied to ships: beam weapons, missiles, fighter improvements, shields, armor, drives, etc. Others will increase your ability to build bigger and more powerful ships. Production bonuses, new ship classes, and shipyard improvements fit nicely into this category. Make sure your best planets always have the latest production improving and waste reducing technologies.

A shipyard improvement generally accompanies each new class of ships. You won't always get these technologies at exactly the same time, but they will typically be within a research level or two of each other. As soon as you get one, be on the lookout for the other. If you obtain the shipyard improvement first, start building it on your best production planets and try to time its completion with the release of your new ship class. That will let you begin producing bigger ships immediately, rather than waiting until you have both technologies before you start your shipyard upgrade.

In a previous hint, we discussed a few ways to get inside information on other races' technological advances. Remember however, that just because the opposition has researched a technology doesn't mean it is included in any of their ships. Chances are it won't be for quite a while. My advice is if you are going to micromanage anything when you play Moo3, give your undivided attention to shipbuilding. The object, as Lieutenant Colonel Forrest so quaintly put it, is to "git there fustest with the mostest." That means roll new technologies into your ships and fleets as soon as possible to give yourself the maximum advantage. Don't be caught standing in your battle proven chariot when the enemy's Panzer division rolls over the hill.

No, you don't have to redesign all your ships every time a new technology becomes available. Look at what technologies will become available to you in the short term and see if it is worth postponing your ship redesign. For example, you just researched the latest in sensor technology, but a shield upgrade is only a few turns off. Instead of redesigning your entire armada twice in a matter of a few turns, wait until you have finished researching both technologies and then redo your ships. This may seem like an incredibly obvious hint, but you would be amazed how many players are too lazy to keep their ships up to date.

Finally, we've come to the part where we can talk about actually building ships. The types of ships you build as the game unfolds should follow a logical progression. When you start the game you need to defend yourself and expand your territory. That will primarily involve ship-to-ship combat. I find that Long Range Attack ships seem best suited for that kind of "space superiority" role. Once you have gained control of your borders and moved into enemy territory, you will begin attacking and bombarding planets. At this point, Long Range Attack ships become much less effective. Multiple Indirect Fire ships will work much better at hammering down planetary defenses without putting themselves into range of a planet's beam weapons. As you continue to upgrade and increase the class size of your main battle fleet, you should think seriously about building Escorts and creating fleet task groups. More on that later.

Obviously, the type of ships you build will depend on what particular technologies you have been given. If you happen to be the tops in missile technology, then I would build little else. The same goes with fighters, although I think you'll agree that missiles tend to be far more effective. The progression from building Long Range Attack to Indirect Fire to Escorts may not always apply to you, but it is a good rule of thumb.

If you design ships like I did when I started playing Moo3, your mantra is "As many BIG GUNS as possible". I've built numerous ships like that. One particularly favorite strategy of mine was to find the biggest Spinal Mount gun available and try to squeeze it into the smallest possible ship. That's a lot of bang for your buck, right? It is! I still smile a little when I think about it, but I've learned that Spinal Mounting everything it isn't the best strategy. First of all, great big Spinal Mount guns only fire down the long axis of your ship. You have to be pointed right at your target to use them. Second, their rate of fire isn't very good, and the fact that you need to line up on your target usually slows down your firing even more! Third (and worst of all) they can (and often do) miss the target. That makes combat with Spinal Mounted weapons a little painful to watch. "Okay, okay, I'm lining up for a shot. Nope he went the other way. Okay, here we come again. Dodged. Once more . . . Ah we missed!" Meanwhile, any ship with a Standard Mount weapon is happily blasting away at you. They don't always hit, but they fire in any direction and they fire much faster.

Here is our obligatory recap of shipbuilding tactics:

  • Outfit your best producing worlds with the latest production tech
  • Keep an eye out for shipyard and ship class improvements
  • Micro-manage shipbuilding to keep your forces up to date
  • Be sensible about when to revamp your entire line of ships
  • Build Long Range, Indirect Fire, and Escorts as the game progresses
  • Use Spinal Mounts sparingly

    That's it for building ships. Feel free to rampage and maraud your way across the galaxy. Next up we'll be talking about the when, why, and how of building fleets. They are probably more useful than you think.


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