Stellar Emperor (tm-Kesmai Corp.)

The Standard War

This is in no way any kind of official GameStorm or Kesmai document!

"Stellar Emperor" is a trademark of Kesmai Corporation.

The Stellar Emperor home page is  here.

This document is Copyright 1999, 2000 by Rod Montgomery. All rights reserved.

Comments and corrections:

Most recently revised: 19 January 2000

The framework used here comes from Herman Kahn, in his classic works on strategy [1] and on systematic thinking about the future [2]:

 possible_futures = surprise_free_scenarios       +
                    canonical_variations          +
                    forseeable_possible_surprises +

Kahn pointed out that the most surprising thing of all would be for any surprise-free scenario really to come true. He recommended surprise-free scenarios, not as prophecies, but as useful baselines from which to set out on explorations of possible futures.

[1] On Thermonuclear War  and  On Escallation: Metaphors and Scenarios
[2] The Next 200 Years,  Towards The Year 2000  and The Coming Boom

This document presents a surprise-free scenario for a Stellar Emperor (tm-Kesmai) War.

This is the barest start on a work in progress.
It will become the basis for at least one of the Dead Seeker Scrolls.

***** Please point out errors and suggest improvements! *****

Intended Eventual Contents:
A. Phases of the Standard War
B. Political Perspectives
C. Logistical Perspectives
D. Strategic Perspectives
E. Operational (Fleet Tactics) Perspectives
F. Tactical Perspectives
G. Technical Perspectives
H. Game-Design Perspectives
I. Real-World Resource Perspectives

A. Phases of the Standard War
  1. Land Rush: Probes R Us!
  2. Hunting for Targets: We've got ours -- where are theirs?
  3. Farming: Guns and Troops are free! -- if you have a Transport! (And if you can keep it!)
  4. Initial Conquests: Destroyers R Us! (But my kingdom for a load of Figs!)
  5. Midgame: The race for larger ships, planetary ping-pong, trust and betrayal
  6. The Victor Emerges -- or maybe not!
  7. Stagnation and Stability: Guns R Us!
  8. Endgame PM: Can I get 90% into Services?
  9. The Gnab Gib ("Sleeping in Light?")

A1. Land Rush: Probes R Us!

Everyone stampedes out of the Imperial Bases (Imps), looking for good planets.

Things to do:

Standard scouting procedure:

With evaluation online:
For each star system:
  Send a probe.
  If system scan shows probable hi-hab planet(s) then
    geo-scan each possible hi-hab planet
    if truly hi-hab then
      if worth taking now then
        survey it
        if owned then record owner
                 else go take it
        record it as "interesting".
  If system scan shows habitable planets
             but shows no probably-hi-hab planets
     the probably-hi-habs were really low-habs then
    either use the system for early shipyard(s)
    or     just record the system as "farmable".
  If system scan shows a single uninhabitable planet then
    record the system as a "Wormhole candidate".
  If system scan shows multiple uninhabitable planets then
    record the system as "uninhabitable".

With Evaluation Offline:
As above, but do not bother to do any system scans.

Just keep the probe moving from one system to the next, as fast as you can.

This process collects the star system characteristics in the wars\se##.gxy file on your PC. The SURVEY.EXE program -- part of the Game distribution -- lets you browse that file offline, do selective retrievals based on habitability and metal, manipulate the color codings (in wars\se##.txt) and dump the data to a textfile for additional processing using your own automation, like maybe a spreadsheet.

Early Shipyards:
Each serious player immediately sets up early shipyards on moderate-to-high-metal planets (hab doesn't matter) to grow

Running out of slots to fill moves you from "Land Rush" to "Hunting for Targets".


  1. A competent team will allocate scouting assignments to assure full coverage without overlaps.
  2. A player who runs out of slots, but not out of stamina, might help another player (teammate?) search for good planets.
  3. If your slots are full of 80-habs, and you find an unowned 100-hab/100-met, you'll know what to do.
  4. Scouts cannot take planets that have non-0 owners, so why do you need any troops at all until Destroyers are possible? You can fill those houses with colonists building houses!

A2. Hunting for Targets: We've got ours -- where are theirs?

Things to do:

A3. Farming: Guns and Troops are free! -- if you have a Transport! (And if you can keep it!)

In an un-accelerated (4-week) War, Transports are possible about 45 hours after the start of the War.

Things to do:

Standard farming procedure:
Pick up your TRansport from the early shipyard where you grew it.
ABAndon that base, to free up a slot.
For each habitable planet without a base,
  drive up to it in your TRansport,
  ESTablish a base there,
  pull off the 100 troops and 1 gun
    that come free with a new base,
  ABAndon the base to free up the slot again and
  drive on.
Periodically visit your bases to drop off the harvest.

Keep doing this until you either run out of planets, fall asleep at the keyboard, get your TRansport killed (either by the enemy or by your own stupidity), feel your defenses are good enough, or just get sick of doing it.


  1. Don't drop your troops on your growth bases until just before they're attacked -- you need the houses the troops would occupy for colonists building houses!
  2. Of course, if you wait too long, the Enemy will drive up with a Destroyer and take the base away from you before you drop any troops at all..
The situation reminds me of a discussion of watering schedules in a book I once read about Bonsai. One student's reaction was, "I understand perfectly! You wait for it to dry out completely, then go back and water it the day before!" Just so!

Stockpiling ships at Imps:
You can switch from a non-Scout to a Scout only at an Imp.
Your non-Scout will be safe while in Imp mothball storage
it must be relatively undamaged when you mothball it, or the Imp will scrap it
it can be exciting getting it into and out of the Imp.

WARNING: Ships mothballed at Imps lose all figs+guns+troops aboard!

A4. Initial Conquests: Destroyers R Us! (But my kingdom for a load of Figs!)

In an un-accelerated (4-week) War, Destroyers are possible about 60 hours after the start of the War.

Things to do:

This is the Springtime of useful combat: Destroyers are hard enough to see that large packs of well-coordinated Scouts are the only effective way to hunt them down when they operate solo.

Farmed guns dominate defenses.

But a Transport hauling in defenses to a base under attack is dead meat on the attacker's table, unless friendly Scouts go in first to kill the attacker or drive him out of Space.

A5. Midgame: The race for larger ships, planetary ping-pong, trust and betrayal

This is the High Summer of useful combat:

Guns from grown shipyards gradually dominate defenses.
Farmed guns become relatively unimportant.

Planetary defenses eventually become strong enough to resist single-ship attacks, even using stagers.

But no planet can support enough troops to man enough guns to resist a simultaneous attack by a large force of large ships. So the best planets sometimes bounce back and forth between the leading teams.

The importance of having enough attacking ships to overwhelm the defenses drives the formation of large teams.

But the importance of surprise -- to strike, conquer, and haul in defending troops and guns before the defenders can mobilize an effective opposing battle force -- makes spies valuable, and betrayal tempting.

Planetary growth rates fall as the cost of building a house rises once population passes 100,000.

A6. The Victor Emerges -- or maybe not!

As planetary defenses harden up -- and maybe as enemy ships and shipyards get destroyed? -- one team becomes dominant and the others become demoralized.

Or maybe not!

A7. Stagnation and Stability: Guns R Us!

The planetary defenses on the major planets of the dominant team(s?) become too strong for anyone else to challenge effectively.

A8. Endgame PM: Can I get 90% into Services?

The Master-class PMers who still have the very best planets duke it out in the PM menus.

A9. The Gnab Gib (Sleeping in Light?)

They kick us all out of the Galaxy, run the Final Scoreboard, and post the winning scores.

And we all catch up on sleep so we'll be ready for the Next One! 8-)

B. Political Perspectives

Politics is the art of acquing the power to govern -- that is, to direct the activities of the group.

The fundamental political act the SE Game automation supports is Alliance Formation.

But the invite/accept dance in the Alliance Management Center is an almost negligible part of the social process of forming a cohesive team of players who can exploit the abilities the dance provides, to gain mutual advantage in the Game.

And it is commonplace to find cohesive groups of cooperating players who don't bother to go through the dance:

C. Logistical Perspectives

Logistics: "the stuff that if you don't have enough of, the war will not be won as soon as."
(Thorpe, Pure Logistics, cited in Thompson, The Lifeblood of War, page 3.)

Fundamental choices:

D. Strategic Perspectives

E. Operational (Fleet Tactics) Perspectives

F. Tactical Perspectives

F1. Early Planet Attacks -- One Defending Scout vs One Attacking Destroyer

Strategic Context:
Typical of "Initial Conquests".
Key questions about the tactical situation
Repair in target system or not?
Scoop in target system or not?
How many free slots? (0/1/>1)
Staged or not?
Ammo stocked on stager or not?
Own target or not?
Repair at target or not?
Get ammo from target or not?
Rebuild in target system or not?

G. Technical Perspectives

H. Game-Design Perspectives

I. Real-world Resource Perspectives
  1. Player Time Management
  2. Multiple Accounts: Mules and Spies
  3. Automation
"Time is always the scarcest resource, and if it isn't used effectively, nothing else will be either."
-- Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive.

Efficient use of time:

  • Scout while farming
  • Scout while hunting
  • Scout while hauling

  • References
    Axelrod, Robert, The Evolution of Cooperation.
    von Clausewitz, Carl, On War, trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princeton University Press, 1984. ISBN 0-691-05657-9.
    Drucker, Peter F., The Effective Executive.
    Hughes, Wayne P., Jr., Fleet Tactics: Theory and Practice. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1986. ISBN 0-87021-558-2.
    ______, Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, 2nd ed. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2000. ISBN 1-55750-392-3.
    Kahn, Herman, On Thermonuclear War. Princeton University Press, 1961.
    Leonhard, Robert R., Fighting by Minutes: Time and the Art of War. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1994. ISBN 0-275-94736-X.
    ______, The Art of Maneuver: Maneuver Warfare Theory and AirLand Battle. Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1991. ISBN 0-89141-403-7.
    ______, The Principles of War for the Information Age. Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1998. ISBN 0-89141-647-1.
    Luttwak, Edward N., Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-674-83995-1.
    Thompson, Julian, The Lifeblood of War: Logistics in Armed Conflict.
    Thorpe, G.C., Pure Logistics.