Master of Orion II - Battle at Antares

My ramblings on game mechanics and strategy.

Overview
How to install and run the game
Victory conditions
Defeat
Scoring games
Game setup
Races
     Traits  Built in races
Game control tips
Game concepts
     Food  Production  Science  Economy  Population growth  Diplomacy  Fleet  Ground combat  Spying  Antarans  Space monsters  Other
Overall strategy
Powerful tricks
Picking technologies
Battle strategy
Resources

Overview

Master of Orion II is an excellent game from 1996. I think it was the first game I bought on CD-ROM, and it even looked so promising I bought it without testing it first. Being a fan of turn based strategy, civilization, science fiction and hot seat games I could play with my friends, this game just rocked. I keep on getting back to it to play it again. Playing with friends sadly isn't as practical with friends now having families, but I still have fun playing against the AI. If you haven't played the game yet I'd recommend doing so. It's kind of like Civilization, but with less time spent moving units and a much more advanced and interesting combat system. A nice research design makes you make hard choices rather than just picking the order to research. There's also a great solution for customizing races which all the built in races also follow. Trying to play the optimal game, I felt the need for starting to write down stuff so thought I could try to put it together into something someone else might read at some point.

I don't claim to be one of the best players in this game, but I think the information below should be fairly accurate. I have not played any mods at all. The information below is for the stock game using the official 1.33 or the unofficial 1.40 patch.

How to install and run the game

The game was originally written to be run in MS-DOS or Windows 95. If you have a modern OS, you will likely not be able to run the executables directly. I use DOSBox to emulate MS-DOS and run it from there, which works out fairly smoothly. Simulating Windows 95 is trickier, and the MS-DOS version is the preferred version of the game anyhow. Thankfully the game designers didn't implement any copy protection so one can just copy the files from the original CD and adjust an ini file to tell the game installation where the CD files are. The game can still be bought at gog.com, which I assume also contains information on how to run it on modern hardware.

Victory conditions

To win the game you need to hit one of the victory conditions. No matter which one you want to go for, all typically require you to expand, grow, research and build a fleet to defend and attack, so you don't really need to pick a victory condition before laying out a strategy. Typically you first get the chance of winning having 2/3rds of the emperor votes. If you choose to not finish the game at that time you can either kill of the rest of the AIs, attack Antares or wait for another vote.

Being voted emperor of the galaxy

Once most of the systems in the galaxy are populated, the high council will convene each 25th turn to elect a leader to be emperor of the galaxy. The two players with the biggest populations will be nominated. Each player has a number of votes relative to their part of the galaxy population. If the election winner has 2/3rds of the votes, the winner get the option of whether to accept the ruling or not. If accepted, the player wins the game. If not, the opposing AI will be elected emperor, and all AIs will join together in a new republic, which are at war with you. I haven't seen it, but if an AI wins the election I assume he will always accept it.

This is the typical way you win the game. You have gotten so powerful that you should be able to win the game any way you want. This victory condition allows you to get a win without having to wait for techs to take out Antarens or hunt down every remaining AI planet.

At this point, especially if you are testing out something new or haven't played late game often, you might want to test one of the other victory conditions instead. This is typically done by abstaining to vote, hopefully having enough votes to ensure noone gets 2/3rds majority.

This victory condition is possible to win without ever going to war. By settling a fair share of systems, using housing, terraforming, planet construction, racial traits to get many colonists per planet, biospheres, etc, you may be able to get 2/3rds of the population while always at peace. This is attainable on impossible difficulty too. However, unless you're a master diplomat, you likely need to defend your systems, in which case you'll likely need a fleet anyhow.

Eliminating all other players

Once all other players are eliminated from the game, you win. To win this way you need production to build enough fleet to do the conquest, and research in order to make the fleet powerful enough. More production can counter less research and vice versa. A balance, maybe a bit research heavy late game, is usually good.

At some point while attempting conquest you will almost always get more than 2/3rds of the population, so unless you're quick about taking out the rest of the AIs at that point, you likely get the option of being voted emperor first.

Defeat Antarans

Once you have discovered how to build a dimensional portal, you can enter the realm of the Antarans and defeat them at their homeworld. Doing so wins you the game. The Antarans are pretty high tech with a half decent fleet, so the minimal turns to victory is probably higher than winning by killing all other players. Taking out the Antarans gives you an outro video sequence and as the game is named the Battle at Antares, I feel this is the right way to end the game.

If you're on equal footing with your opponents, or have just ignored attacking them you may get to the point of attacking the Antarans prior to being voted emperor. Typically though, you are dominating the galaxy prior to getting a fleet that can take out the Antarans.

Alternative challenges

Once you have tested out lots of game mechanics and won the various victory conditions you may want some alternative challenges to keep games different. Optimizing for score is sadly not an interesting route. Here are some suggestions for alternative challenges:

Defeat

You lose the game if another player reach a victory condition or your last system gets invaded. I have never seen the AI conquer the Antarans at the home world, so not sure if they ever will.

One typical defeat is to prioritize long term growth too long in the beginning and being wiped out early by an AI prior to having produced a half decent fleet. If this is happening often to you, you have three options. Improve your play, prioritize fleet earlier and/or play a race with more early game bonuses.

The other typical way to get defeated is having an AI doing a lot better than the rest and conquering a large part of the galaxy. You may not even have made contact with them to be able to spot that they have lots of systems, a large population, advanced technologies and a huge fleet. If this opponent attacks you, you may not be able to defend yourself.

To counter this, make sure you follow CNN reports to hear if someone has populated far more systems than anyone else. Also look at the number of votes the nominees have in any Emperor of the galaxy votes, indicating how big their population are compared to the rest. Try to make contact with the other players to be able to see their progress in the info and racial report screens. Being omniscient or having a leader with Galactic Lore will ensure you know what is happening elsewhere in the galaxy. You may need to attack the strongest player early even though it's rough. If gone far enough, it will only become harder.

Silicoids, Sakkra and Klackon are the races most likely to run away like this. Uncreative races, like Klackon and sometimes Sakkra, with poor luck on what they get to research, and not having stolen lots of technologies may be easier to deal with.

Scoring games

When you win a game, you get a score calculated by the game. This score is:

Sadly this is a poor way to measure games. Captured colonist points can be gathered as far as you'd like by giving away systems and recapturing them. Also you can sit around before ending the game to build up max population at every planet except for one for last remaining opponent. You can even start to destroy small planets and build larger ones artifically to get all planets to the maximum population size. The score is thus totally useless to compare how good two games were, and totally exploitable if used as a scoring mechanism. Actually, if you try to compete for highest score, the deciding factor might just be how the map was generated. Score is kept as a 16 bit signed number. If you go past 32767 you will roll around to -32768.

I suggest you don't care about the score. Ramp the difficulty up to where you're not sure about winning and play to see if you can win or not. You may need to give yourself handicap in some way once you're used to playing on impossible difficulty.

Game setup

The game has a number of parameters to set for your game. In addition, there will be random factors in map generation and what opposing players you face. Here follows some information about the various settings.

Difficulty setting

LevelExplanation
Tutor If you want to press random buttons and still have a fair chance of winning, this is the level for you.
Easy If you have never played the game before and choose to ignore many aspects of the game while learning, this is the level for you.
Average Some people say this is the level where the AI should have no bonuses nor penalties compared to you. I'm not sure whether that is true (in fact I would not be surprised if AI did not play as a human does at all). What I do know is that this is an appropriate level for the first few playthroughs of the game, providing you care to try and understand the various choices given to you in game and try to learn the details. If you care to read this guide you at least qualify.
Hard Once you know the game mechanics, this is a decent level to test out new strategies you don't know whether make sense or not.
Impossible Not impossible at all. If you try to optimize other game setup and race choices, this level is fairly easy to beat if you have a decent strategy. Once you get good at the game you might want to give yourself other handicaps too to increase the difficulty, such as playing unoptimal races.

For the rest of this document, I'm pretty much assuming you're playing at Impossible level. The mechanics of the game doesn't change much with difficulty, so most of the information should still be relevant. Some balance issues are different. For instance, regarding tech level described below, starting at pre-warp is typically a penalty on impossible but a bonus on easy settings.

Tech level

The tech level sets how advanced you are at the start of the game. The various levels are:

Level
Pre-Warp At this most basic start, you start of with one colony with 8 colonists, having a marine barrack (with 3 marines) and a star base already built. You start of knowing how to build colony bases, spies, trade goods, star bases and housing. You have no fleet at all. You have 50 BC to begin with and the year is 3500.0 (as for all other tech levels).
Average Here you start of with the same as pre-warp with the following additions. You have two scouts and a colony ship already built orbiting your home world. The early technology levels where everyone get all technologies anyhow are already researched. These are Electronics (Electronic Computer), Nuclear Fission (Freighters, Nuclear Bomb, Nuclear Drive), Chemistry (Extended Fuel Tanks, Nuclear Missile, Standard Fuel Cells, Titanium Armor), Physics (Laser Cannon, Laser Rifle, Space Scanner), Cold Fusion (Colony Ship, Outpost Ship, Transport)
Post-Warp Similar to Average apart from having researched some extra technologies. If you are not creative or uncreative this means that the game have just randomly picked some tech choices for you here. The tech levels are: Advanced Engineering, Astro Biology, Fusion Physics, Optronics, Advanced Construction, Military Tactics, Advanced Fusion, Capsule Construction, Tachyon Physics, Advanced Magnetism and Advanced Metallurgy.
Advanced In addition to Post-Warp, you start of with 5 colonies (typically spanning 3-5 different systems meaning you are likely in contact with a couple of neighbouring races) around 60% filled with colonists. Your colonies have also built more buildings. All have star base (or battle stations if you start with that tech), and some of the buildings that you have researched. Instead of scouts and a colony ship you start with 15 freighters, two battle ships and a destroyer. You also have 200 BC and have researched all technologies costing less than 900 RP.

Playing at impossible, the AI gets a lot of bonuses. In the early game the AI can do less stupid things, so their bonuses typically mean they outperform you. Starting on Average means you have kept up in tech up to that level and managed to build 2 scouts and a colony ship as fast as the AI, which you normally would not be able to. You are thus getting a bonus for starting later as the AI should have been past you at this point. This bonus increases with the later tech levels. Starting at advanced you have managed to create four additional colonies, having built a decent starting fleet and been able to keep up in science up until all techs below 900 RP. This is a huge bonus, especially if your race have no early game bonuses.

An advanced start on Impossible is practically cheating. I tested advanced start with a -10 race, and by refitting ships and taking advantage of poor AI ship design and tactical combat, you can take over their colonies before they have time to use their bonuses to get ahead of you.

I feel it is more fun to start as early as possible to be able to nurture your colony from the very beginning. To make impossible a bit challenging without every other penalty, I feel pre-warp is the way to go. This gives the AIs some turns to run away with colonization, ship building and research leaving you on your toes to level their advantage. Average is also ok as you don't get that much and the AI haven't made any technology choices for you.

At average difficulty, starting at pre-warp is an advantage as you can play more optimal than the AI. With a good race with early game bonuses, pre-warp might even be a bonus on hard difficulty (since AI races are less optimal and they play them less optimal). I can't guarantee that the optimal race played optimally can't make pre-warp a bonus on impossible too, but to me pre-warp feels like a disadvantage there.

Galaxy size

In a small galaxy, you quickly meet every other player. Early aggression is almost inevitable. At impossible levels this is likely the hardest setting as in addition to be open for early aggresion (and naturally you are playing pre-warp right?), the AI will be more advanced than you once you are able to start space conflicts. Whether you have bad luck and have no way of winning the game, or you manage to have a nice strategy and survive, the game will be decided early while the tech tree have barely been used.

Personally, I like bigger maps better. Then the game isn't all about early aggression. This means you'll likely get some time for yourself to colonize. Then you meet your opponents one at a time, and you can be tactical about what planets you colonize and use limited reach of opponent as a way to defend your colonies. As these games go on longer, you also get to experience more of the tech tree. These games are likely a bit easier the bigger the map is due to not being rushed into conflict that early with multiple opponents, but the longer you stay out of contact, the further the AI can grow and expand before you are able to start trading and stealing colonies too. If you have a poor race and/or a poor strategy you might very well find an AI that has progressed so far that you are not able to make up for it and you can be bullied into submission.

Galaxy age

Each type of sun is mapped to a color. Suns of a given type are more or less likely to have planets that are organic or mineral rich. I think this option merely decides the chance of a sun to be of a given type when the map is generated.

Some races cope better with poor living environments (tolerant, lithovore, subterranean), while others have an advantage in organic environments (aquatic). A bit sad that this can't be set to random so you don't know prior to building race. However, the difference of the three options aren't that drastic. Being aquatid in a mineral rich map is still great, and vice versa. My impression is that how good the randomly generated map is, isn't affected that much by galaxy age. It's more about whether systems close to you have rolled some decent planets.

Other options

You can pick how many races to play against. I like the fact that there are many players in the game so I always play with 8. If the AIs actually cooperate a bit, more players should be harder to play against. However, if they do not, they might stall each other a bit fighting amongst themselves which may make it easier for you to catch up. As I haven't tried having few opponents I can't say much about what is easiest. I guess that with heavy use of diplomacy, more are simpler though.

You can choose whether to use tactical combat or not. If you don't you will not be able to design ships and all ship combat is handled automatically. This leaves you with no chance to take advantage of poor AI ship design and combat movements to get an edge on the AI. Playing without tactical combat is thus harder (if you know what you're doing), but it is also less fun, leaving out very interesting parts of the game. I always play with it enabled.

You can choose whether or not random events are enabled. If disabled, I'm guessing lucky will be a worse racial pick than it already is, though I haven't tested it. Random events bring variety to games. I like them so I always have them enabled. If trying for a competative game though, playing against other human players, or playing the same map as other human players to see who does best, leaving this of might make the game more balanced.

You can enable or disable Antarans attack. I always play with this on too as it adds flavor. I don't think it matters that much to the game difficulty though. At the time of their first attack, your fleet is likely already able to handle them if it is close enough to the system that needs defending. If not, they will destroy your defenses and bomb the planet, but while it's a setback for that planet, you shouldn't use too much time to get back to where it was. You can also get techs by capturing their ships, which might be really overpowered if you manage it early. The techs you can get are the same you can get from Orion, but you should be able to board an Antaran frigate before you can conquer the Orion guardian.

The final option is for whether to use ship initiative or not. Strangely this option is in the game settings within the game and can be turned on and of as you like to. I typically always play with it on and can't remember how it works if its off.

Races

I like the system for customizing races and the fact that you can build all the built in races using the same system. I typically go for designing my own race as the standard races are far from optimal. However, playing the various stock races will give you some different traits to exploit and will make you play a bit differently each time. Not exploiting custom races to get the best options will make the game a bit harder which may give you a better challenge.

Stock races or custom races, in any case one have to start of understanding the various racial traits. I'll discuss all of them below, though for deeper understanding you might need to refer to game mechanics as not all mechanics will be explained in the contexts of the traits.

Colonist traits

Some bonuses or penalties are tied to a player, while others are coupled with colonists of the given race. By assimilating other races colonists you can get their colonist bonuses and avoid your own colonist penalties.

The colonist related traits are: Population, Farming, Industry, Science, Low/High G (except ground combat bonuses), Aquatic, Subterranean (except ground combat bonus), Cybernetic (not ship repair), Lithovore and Tolerant. All these can be considered early game bonus/penalties as you can get or avoid them later using captured colonists.

In the extreme case, you can in practise get the positive effect of up to 46 trait points without having any active penalties to worry about. For instance you can capture and breed Lithovore, Tolerant, Subterranean Silicoid population (Them being Repulsive doesn't affect you) while you start of with all negative picks related to your own colonists which you have replaced, and positive picks that are not tied to colonists. Doing it this extreme though, you are likely gimping your start and are also depending on starting next to good race to assimilate and being able to invade a colony while starting gimped.

You can still pick colonist traits that complement races you capture though. For instance, you often want to start of with Aquatic or Subterranean bonus. If you start of Aquatic, you can assimilate Subterranean colonists to add lots more colonists on top of your own, and vice versa. You can do this with Tolerant colonists too to some extent, though Aquatic on Terran and Ocean worlds leaves no extra space for Tolerant colonies. You can also make good use of colonists that have bonuses where you have none, or even a penalty, using captured Psilons to research for instance.

Early bonuses

Many traits are mostly affecting the game early on. If you want to play smallish worlds and/or finish the game in as few turns as you can, you will likely want mostly early game boosts. If you're playing huge worlds and want to get down into the tech tree and have a long game, you can prioritize a bit differently, but bare in mind that playing early game fast will be a huge bonus nevertheless, and may give you the edge you need to invade your neighbors to get the upper hand. An early game bonus is thus far from wasted on a huge map.

Population, Farming, Industry and Science doesn't sound like it but they are dominantly early game boosts. The reason for this, is that there are important inventions in the tech tree that also gives you plus to these attributes. Once you stack the bonuses, the initial traits have less and less to say. For instance, to begin with it makes a lot of difference whether you collect 1.5 food or 4 food per colonist. In the late game it matters less whether you're gathering 15 or 20 food per colonist. In either case a small proportion of your population need to farm.

Obvious early game boosts are the home world improvements. While they may sound expensive only affecting your home world they are pretty awesome. Take a look at the number of turns you use before you have other well developed colonies ready. This will be a large portion of the number of turns in the entire game, even if you play in huge galaxies.

Traits

TraitPoints
Effect
Population-4,3,6 -50%, +50% or +100% growth

This penalize or adds to natural growth of colonists every turn. You can get up to another +50% with research, additive so it cancels out the penalty. There are also other more efficient ways to grow, see mechanics for details.

As housing is so effective, a growth bonus may not be efficient use of trait points. Housing occupies your production queue though, so a growth bonus can still be useful, especially early game for races without production bonuses. Some people play with house rules against building housing (as some think its a bug that it's that useful), and in that case this trait becomes more important.

If you are creative, you can easily get cloning centers. If you have early production bonuses you can get a colony base to build housing earlier than others, and you'll have more production points to build housing. A penalty here is certainly workable if you are conscious about growing in other ways. The alternative is often penalties to ground combat and ship defense, and the latter will follow you through the entire game.

Farming-3,4,7 -0.5, +1 or +2 food/farmer

Farming in itself isn't a goal. The goal is to use most your population as workers or scientists. To do this you want to farm efficiently, such that farmers aren't a considerable part of your population. If you look at the farming efficiency table you see that getting 3-5 food per farmer really helps out, but beyond that you get considerably diminishing returns from farming bonuses.

With Soil Enrichment and Weather Controller, even with a farming penalty, you get 4.5 food/farmer. A bonus or penalty here thus mostly makes a difference early in the game.

If you want a food bonus rather consider aquatic, unification or lithovore. A penalty is something to consider, especially if you're aquatic and/or unification. If you're not you will be hampered until you discover Soil Enrichment. If you're lucky you might also find a gaia planet close or get an early farming or morale leader.

Refer to mechanics for details on how farming works.

Industry-3,3,6 -1, +1 or +2 production/worker

The production bonus table shows the actual effect of a bonus or penalty here in many different situations. Similar to farming, this is an early game bonus or penalty as you get bonus production with technology. The effects are a bit more complicated to calculate though:

  • There are more production buildings, many of which gives production that is not related to how many workers are used.
  • A bonus here applies only to production, while a farming bonus helps both production and research. The effect is more effectively seen on production though, as you may be running a lot more workers.
  • Pollution complicates the matter. The table linked assumes no pollution.
  • Different colonies have different mineral richness giving different base production.
  • Your main production worlds will likely be rich or ultra-rich, where the effect of this bonus is less.
  • On ultra-poor and poor planets where the effect of this bonus is largest, you will likely prefer to farm and research and not use the bouns more than you need to build the buildings that you need there.
  • The effect is highest on new colonies. Once you build production buildings the effect diminish. In this phase you very well might want to rushbuy production buildings which should reduce the time you are in this state.

If you want a production bonus, consider Unification first, as that percentage bonus scales with all the production buildings. For an early game bonus consider a rich home world instead. This bonus scales great together with unification and rich home world though, so you may want to take it in addition. See early game tactics for why you may want to create an extreme production race.

I read online that people say a production bonus is better than a rich home world in a huge galaxy, but they seem to be missing the point that a production bonus is an early game bonus anyhow due to all the production buildings you will research, and that increased speed early on will still matter greatly late game.

A penalty can be taken without harsh consequences once production buildings have been reserched and built, but it is noticeable early game, especially if you don't have other production bonuses and you mostly find poor planets. I typically avoid a penalty here, as I think there are other penalties that are easier to live with. I'd especially avoid it if you are in a multiplayer game. If you take one there are several ways you can reduce its effects.

  • A Unification government should get you through the early colony development easily.
  • Early game production is often limited by pollution. As long as you don't need to go all out building but only building what is efficient before pollution hits in too hard, you can compensate by adding a few extra workers.
  • Rich worlds are not affected that much.
  • A well funded economy enables you to rush buy the production buildings, causing this to not hurt new colonies that much either. This is a good reason to spend money anyhow as it kickstarts your new colonies to become useful quickly.
  • A production/morale leader helps make the penalty unnoticeable.
  • While there's a little pain getting poor colonies up and running, these will typically be farming or researching later, so this is a hopefully short startup period for every poor colony, and you can help out by rush buying.
  • If you assimilate colonists without penalties, that are otherwise as good as your own, you can start using these for production instead and the problems are gone. (Unlikely if your colonists are aquatic and subterranean for instance)

Refer to mechanics for details on how production works.

Science-3,3,6 -1, +1 or +2 research/scientist

The science bonus table shows the actual effect of a bonus or penalty here in many different situations. As we can see from the table, a science bonus or penalty is most noticeable in the early game. After Planetery Supercomputers have been aquired, the bonus is not really that noticeable anymore.

Before taking a science bonus I'd rather consider taking Democracy which boosts science a lot more as it stacks on top of later science buildings. I'd also consider an artifact world for an early game bonus instead. It is a +2 bonus for only 3 trait points. Quite a few turns will pass before you have created new colonies, grown population and built the most critical buildings. During this time most of your research will come from the home world. When you get other good planet to use as food source and fleet builder, you can make the home world a research world. Boosting the size of the population is also a good general boost which may help more than a science bonus.

A penalty here will slow down early teching when you have no bonuses. Together with Democracy or Ancient Artifact world it is less damaging. To cope with a research penaltyone can compensate by growing, getting many colonies and research mostly by static research building bonuses, or with more scientists. Production races that can grow fast can easily use this approach. Feudal governments are pretty much forced into doing so. Once you get to supercomputers a penalty is no longer an issue.

Refer to mechanics for details on how research works.

Money-4,5,8 -0.5, +0.5 or +1 incomine/colonist

Contrary to farming, production or science, there are no technologies giving bonus income per colonist. This bonus is the only way of affecting the base upon where percentage income bonuses work. For this reason this is not just an early game bonus/penalty. Normally you get 1 BC per colonist so this is -50%, +50% or +100% income per colonist, which typically is the main income driver.

A bonus could improve your economy quite a bit, but consider getting a growth / max population bonus instead, making you able to have more colonists paying while also doing useful jobs, rather than having colonists generating more income. In my opinion, subterranean is a lot better than +1 income/colonist.

If you take a penalty here you will likely be building trade goods to counter which will cost you production or research, and may have little money to spare for rush buying. I suggest finding another spot for a penalty. I think I'd rather take a growth penalty to get -4.

Refer to mechanics for details on how the game economy works.

Ship Defense-2,3,7 -20, +25 or +50 to ship defense

The ship defense bonus applies directly to each ships beam defense and missile avoidance. Having a bonus here drastically decrease the chance of opposing weapons to hit you, unless you are already out-teching them or are already hopelessly out-teched by them. This directly translate to take more or less damage during fleet combat. Note that some weapons are guaranteed to hit and for these this trait will have no effect.

Having a bonus here, it is easier to get into the desired situation where you can destroy the enemy fleet while your own fleet survives. If you don't, and especially if you have a penalty, you may be forced into more hit and run tactics, for instance the popular early missile strategy where you fire and retreat leaving a scout to try and stay alive until missiles hit.

It is hard to actually notice the difference of this in game unless you specifically test it, thus I think it is a bit too easy for people to assume that a penalty here is ok.

I would try to find another trait to take a penalty in. A bonus could be interesting to try and create ships that are very durable but I haven't tested it out. There's so many other nice traits to pick. Warlord and Trans Dimensional traits also gives you ship defense bonuses, and especially Warlord might be a better trait to go for as it is more versatile.

Ship Attack-2,2,4 -20, +20 or +50 to ship attack

This trait suffers the same as Ship Defense. It is hard to notice the difference without a serious testing effort. I think it is a fairly popular penalty to take, but I'm not so sure it's a good spot for a penalty. If you are out teching your opposition you probably can cope with this easy, but at that stage you are probably close to winning anyhow. If opponents are out teching you instead and you have a penalty here, you may end up where you cannot use beam type weapons unless they are guaranteed to hit.

On the other hand, missiles are, AFAIK, not affected by a penalty here. And there also exist beam weapons that are guaranteed to hit, so if you end up in a situation where this penalty is hitting you, there should be alternatives at least.

If you want a bonus to ship attack you may want to consider Warlord trait instead, as it is a bit more versatile.

Ground Combat-2,2,4 -10, +10 or +20 to ground combat

Refer to mechanics for details on what ground combat is used for. To summarize, ground combat isn't that important for actual ground combat, but it is also used when boarding ships in fleet combat, where it is more useful. If you are bad at ground combat you need to watch out for enemy vessels with assault shuttles or transporters. If you are good at ground combat you may use it to steal enemy vessels and steal their fleet technologies.

There's quite a few technologies that boost ground combat. As the game progress, who has discovered which may affect ground combat more than a bonus or penalty here. I don't believe a bonus in ground combat is good use of trait points. Rather this has been my favorite penalty to take. Do take care in fleet combat though, especially in combination with Low-G. If one of your ships is immobilized, the enemy may board it easily. See strategy section on avoiding being boarded.

Spying-3,3,6 -10, +10 or +20 to spying

Refer to mechanics for details on how big a difference spying bonuses or penalties make. There's quite a few technologies that help spying, and the AI isn't great at getting all of them so you may get a spying advantage as the game progress.

Starting with a spying penalty, especially coupled with being a Democracy, the AI will steal technology easy early on. This is annoying, but if you get some agents and research some spying bonuses, you should be able to stall their spying down to a level where it doesn't really matter unless they are really lucky and steal some great technology just after you research it. If you play Dictatorship or Unification you should easily be able to stop their spying, possibly with the exception of Darlok spies.

You can also get to a level where you can backfill quite a few technologies without any spying bonuses to begin with. Especially if you target Feudal or Democracy opponents. I don't think a spying bonus is well spent trait points. Rather improve science so you can pick what you need or go creative to avoid needing to backfill in the first place. If you research faster you can more easily keep a spying edge by getting spying techs before the AI.

Governments-4,0,7,6 Various bonuses depending on government.

Governments are harder to compare as they have many attributes which affect the game.

Feudal
  • Ship production cost reduced by 1/3. (Reduced by 2/3 with confederation).
  • -20% morale unless you have marine or armor barrack.
  • Research reduced by 50%.
  • Assimilate one captured population per planet every 8th turn.
  • Your colonists instantly assimilate if captured until you research confederation. This doesn't seem to work when I capture feudal colonists from AI.

The ship production cost reduction includes colony ships, output ships and transporters in addition to combat ships. Refitting ships isn't cheaper, which gives you an incentive for creating ships that pays most of the cost initially and less when refitting.

The resarch penalty affects the base and the per colonist bonuses, but not the static bonuses, as the +5/10/30 from research labs, supercomputers and autolab. A +50% research leader should thus nullify the penalty on the colonies it administrates. Morale is also great as it works of the base prior to the penalty. To compensate for the research penalty, get many colonies that can build research buildings giving you research without having scientists working.

A feudal government sounds perfect for quick games on advanced starts. It looks less suited for a long game as the research penalty is pretty harsh. To work around it as best you can, use the ship production bonus to expand quicker than normal and get a higher population. With extra colonies you should get more research from static bonuses from research buildings. You should likely play aggressive to take out opponents sooner rather than later. As percentage bonuses to research work additive to the penalty, research and morale leaders makes more of a difference than for other governments.

If you get to confederation you can produce really cheap ships which should hopefully allow you to overrun the galaxy.

Feudal might not be as bad as it sounds, but unless you're planning for a short game with little research you need to have a plan to cope with the research penalty. That plan better be good if you're planning a long running game. I typically try to stay away from this government.

Dictatorship
  • Defensive agents get +10 bonus (+20 once imperium is researched)
  • -20% morale unless you have marine or armor barrack.
  • Assimilate one captured population per planet every 8th turn.
  • When imperium is researched, you get +50% command points.

Not a bad government at all. It lacks early game boosts but it also lacks weaknesses and get full morale effects. Most built in races are dictatorships, and it is the baseline government. Not picking Democracy or Unification leaves you more options as to what other traits to combine.

Democracy
  • Defensive agents get -10 penalty
  • Assimilate one captured population per planet every 4th turn.
  • Research increased by 50% (75% with federation)
  • Tax increased by 50% (75% with federation)
  • Cannot annihilate captured population. (But after assimilation one can send them to full planet where they die when arriving if still full)

Democracies have a really efficient early research bonus. A much better bonus than having +x research per scientist, as you'll get those by research buildings too, and this bonus stacks on top of those. Extra money don't hurt either, allowing you to rush buy more buildings. You'll have to try and get some spies and spy bonuses to not lose your tech advantage due to enemy spies though.

It is a good government, and while it costs quite a few trait points it doesn't seem that bad compared to other traits. The research bonus is by itself better than a +2 research bonus which costs 6. The income bonus is also good, while not as great as the +0.5 BC/colonist it is still decent. The fast assimilation speed, while not as great as being telepathic, is also nice.

A democratic government is the natural start for a research race together with an artifact home world and possibly a research bonus. It allows you to research really fast to begin with getting crucial technologies early, while having extra credits to rush buy more buildings, which you will need to keep up with production races with no production bonuses.

Unification
  • Defensive agents get +15 bonus
  • All morale effects are ignored.
  • Assimilate one captured population per planet every 20th turn.
  • Food production increased by 50% (100% with galactic unification)
  • Production increased by 50% (100% with galactic unification)

A unification government is a huge early bonus. With the food bonus you can have more workers and scientists from the first turn, and with the production bonus your workers are extra efficient to boot. As you ignore morale the bonus is lost later in the game, but at that time the game may already be won. As the production boost is in percentage, other production bonuses become even better with unification. Growing the empire entails either building fleet to invade planets or to build colony ships and bases and housing. All in all, production is typically the limiting factor for growth. As production is so generally useful this government is really good.

The unification seems to be the favourite government of people online. In a multi-player enviroment it is crucial to get a decent fleet first, making the early game bonus a natural choice.

Unification seems a bargain at 6 points. This is the same price as +2 industry, but the production bonus alone is better and you get the food bonus and defensive agent bonus to boost. The slow assimilation is an issue if you're not telepathic. Alien Management Centers are a must if you want to assimilate other races. An alternative is to just annihilate them and grow your on population instead using the production bonus and housing.

Low-G / High-G World-5,6 Ground combat, planet production and maintenance effects.

Normal and Heavy-G races get -25% food, production and science in low gravity environments. Normal and Low-G races get -50% in high gravity environments. Low-G races get -25% in normal gravity environments.

Gravity penalties are calculated on top of per colonist bonuses, but any static or percentage bonus unrelated to colonists are not modified.

Most planets have normal gravity. Some planets have heavy gravity, typically rich large or huge planets with space for lots of colonists. A few planets have low gravity. Apart from starting worlds for low gravity races, these are mostly poor tiny planets with little room for colonists.

A gravity generator can be researched, which cause all gravity penalties to go away for 2 gold maintenance per turn. Note that if a planet has colonists with different preferences, all penalties go away even if there is no environment without penalties for both.

In addition to the above penalties, low gravity races get -10 ground combat and high gravity races get an extra hitpoint for ground combat. Refer to ground combat section for details.

I almost always pick Low-G as a penalty. This isn't a penalty right from the start as your home world fits your race, and it isn't much to speak of after you have researched gravity generator. You have a time slot in between where it matters, but you can try to minimize that time slot. If you're not creative you give up on Tractor Beam and Graviton Beam. Neither is essential and you can always hope to backfill with spying or trading.

High-G is not a great choice for 6 points. If you end up having it, your edge is to be able to use large, rich planets efficiently prior to teching gravity generator (if you even find any). This edge is very limited in time as you can get the generators relatively early, and that you can't take heavy advantage of the planets before you have terraformed them which is a tech you typically get not so long before the generators. You are also better at ground combat meaning you need to build less transports. At 100 production each they aren't expensive, but it's nice to need less command points too.

Aquatic5 Wet worlds counts as Terran and Terran as Gaia

Aquatic races treats Tundra and Swamp worlds as Terran and Ocean and Terran planets as Gaia, both for food production and maximum planetary population. Everyone else can get to the same state, but aquatic races gets gaia advantages before teching the late gaia tech at 7500 RP. (Also leaving you free to pick Evolutionary Mutation when the time comes) They also will get more good worlds before terraforming.

I have oftened picked subterranean instead, as that too gives quite a bit extra population, and that is on top of terraforming and gaia changes, so you can add those when they become available too. However, Aquatic also have a food advantage, and the game may very well be over before you get to gaia transformation. The early game bonus of extra food makes Aquatic a strong option. It is likely best in organic rich galaxies where the chance of finding Tundra, Swamp and Ocean worlds should be higher, but even if you don't find any, the extra population and farming bonus early on is great, and after terraforming you'll get a lot of gaia planets early.

Subterranean6 Max population increased with 2/4/6/8/10 for the various planet sizes.

In addition to max population increase, subterranean races get +10 ground combat on defense. Not that it matters much as you should never defend on the ground.

Subterranean colonists live underground. In addition to the extra space you get per colony, you can also fit in non-subterranean colonists above ground, thus a medium sized terran colony which originally can hold 12 colonists can hold 18 subterranean colonists on top of 12 regular ones for a total of 30 colonists. Whether this is a bug or a feature can be discussed. It seems a bit unintended, as you'll get more colonist than the listed max. Also you won't get there by natural growth but have to move them in from other planets. Using this effect, even a medium sized planet can reach the maximum of 47 colonists. You can even go past, but that seems to trigger bugs in the game.

As population is power, this trait is really good. Especially together with the Artificial Planet techs that give you huge abundant worlds to get tons of colonists onto. Combining this with housing or natural growth and you may win elections without actually having been in a war.

Assuming living together with colonists above ground is a bug and should be avoided I'd say Aquatic is better, but if allowed to take advantage of, subterranean is really great.

Large Home World1 Starting planet is large instead of medium.
This gives you extra population on your starting planet. It is especially useful if you have picked other home world advantages too. It is cheap, and typically what you pick if you have an unused point. Your home world will be your main source for food, production and science for quite a while. Being able to grow it bigger can be a great bonus. For instance, if you're also low gravity, you can reduce the time frame between having to count on other planets to the time you get gravity generator smaller, by being able to keep more colonists on home world.
Rich/Poor Home World2,-1 Starting planet is Rich or Poor instead of Abundant

For many, the starting planet will be farming food for all or many of your colonies until you have researched terraforming and started to get good alternatives. Thus, your home world may initially not have too many free spots for workers early on. Later in the game, the home world have built what you need, so it may be a good target to put free colonists as scientists on. Thus it doesn't feel like the best target for a rich production colony. However it will be producing your early colony bases and colony ships, so being rich certainly helps.

Being rich is a good early game bonus if you can afford it. Starting of poor isn't that sad if you have another planet in your starting system that you can make a production planet fairly quickly. An automatic factory should put you back in the game quickly.

Artifacts World3 Get 5 instead of 3 research/scientist.

There aren't many Ancient Artifact planets. While this bonus sounds a bit expensive for an early bonus that only affects your home world, it is still a very nice one. It really helps boosting early technology, and can give you a big tech boost later too by using your home world mostly as a science world as soon as you've found a planet to offload the food production. If you pick this, also pick a large world to be able to take better advantage of it. Also fits great together with aquatic or subterranean for even more population on your home world.

I typically pick this rather than a +1 research/scientist, as this boosts the early game more.

Cybernetic/Lithovore4,10 Affects food consumption of colonists

Normally all your colonists wants one food per turn. Cybernetic colonists want half a food and half a production unit per turn. Lithovore colonists need no resource whatsoever.

Lithovore is very nice in that you can totally ignore food and put all your colonists to work or research. However, it is also very expensive. I love assimilating silicoid colonists for just this reason, rather than spending so many points on it myself. After all, food is a hassle, but it's not that hard or expensive to get.

Cybernetic is a different beast. You still need food so you still have the hassle. It is just lower priority to be efficient at farming food. Early on, using up production to feed population isn't great as pollution sets in early. Adding more workers to work, they are half as efficient. After automatic factories you should not be penalized for eating production though. Later in the game, the lost production isn't really that noticeable. Cybernetic races also auto-repair 10% of ship armor and 5% of ship structure every turn, which helps in creating ships opponents aren't able to destroy.

I typically pick neither as I don't think they are worth quite as many points but both are interesting.

Repulsive/Charismatic-6,3 Various changes

Charismatic races make opponents twice as happy when they do something they like, and make them half as angry when they do something they don't like. Opponents also agree to their diplomatic proposals 50% easier. Additionally, they attract more leaders and halve their hiring cost. If that isn't enough they also capture conquered colonists twice as fast.

On the other side of the fence, repulsive races cannot perform diplomatic actions, or be the target of a diplomatic action. They cannot form trade or research treaties, have non-agression pacts or alliances, nor trade techs or gift or demand anything.

I haven't tested out being charismatic much. It might be powerful, but relying on diplomacy and getting better leaders seems a bit unfulfilling. Repulsive is a popular penalty. As the penalty is diplomacy you can get the maximum efficiency of your early game. However, if you're not going to attack everyone as soon as you contact them, diplomacy is really useful. At least by the pace I'm playing at, I can't really see why anyone would pick repulsive over Low-G. I'm thinking it is likely because they play multi-player or they are playing early aggression all the way.

Diplomacy can give you quite a bit of bonuses. Trade and research treaties gives you some extra money and research and non-aggression pacts helps to let you decide when it fits to go to war. Also, trading, while being a bit annoying at times, can really help you backfill those important techs you passed if you aren't creative. AIs are also suprisingly easy to demand techs from, even at impossible level, though if they don't accept the penalty is high by removing all relations and declaring war. If you plan to play long games you'll suffer less in the long run by grabbing another penalty pick in my opinion, unless most your opponents end up repulsive or you ignore diplomatic aspects of the game.

Uncreative/Creative-4,8 Research changes

I really like this concept in the game. You research from categories, and can just pick a single tech from a given level in a category, but if you are creative you get all and if you're uncreative you don't get to pick but get a random one. (You'll know what random ones you'll be picking all the way from the beginning of the game)

Being creative feels really good. It is a very popular trait. It's too tempting to take and I very often end up playing with it. As trading and spying is inconvenient getting all techs by researching really helps. Rather than having some outdated ship drives, armor, computers or missiles due to having to prioritize you'll have the newest one of all that you've managed to research. While a lot of research levels have fairly obvious choices of what to pick, the ones you don't think of as equally important still add up to quite good bonuses.

It costs quite a bit of trait points though, meaning you'll have to give up another great bonus. And even though backfilling technology through other means can be tedious, it is mostly doable without too much actual resources spent on it. Thus I don't think creative fits into the optimal race.

On the other hand, being uncreative is quite possibly the worst penalty pick you can make. Unless you're really lucky about what the game rolls for you to tech, you'll be at a serious disadvantage.

Tolerant10 Treats all planets as Terran for max population and ignores pollution

The tolerant trait is a really useful one. You can fit more colonists onto planets with non-ideal environments. Additionally, you don't care about pollution, meaning that from the very beginning of the game, you can have as many workers as you like without any production wasted due to pollution. This also frees up tech choices as you don't need pollution handling techs (unless you want to use captured colonists).

There are two caveats. You don't ignore environments for farming purposes, so if you aren't also lithovore you may have issues getting enough food early on. Also, this trait is expensive at 10 points.

Personally I stay away from picking this tech as it is expensive, but I love to capture tolerant colonists, especially silicoids to be able to get this bonus without shelling out the trait points.

Fantastic Traders4 Various monetary bonuses

Fantastic traders get 25% more credits from trade treaties, get 1 BC per surplus food instead of 1 BC per 2 food, and get twice as much credits when producing trade goods.

The gold received from trade treaties are usually a small portion of my income. Most of it comes from colonists. Running workers to produce trade goods is typically more efficient than farming surplus food, so the farming bonus isn't that interesting either. But getting 1 BC for one production sounds pretty good. That means that you can trade 2 production in one colony into 1 production in another colony if you rush buy at 2 BC per production point. You can do this with taxes too, but then you do it on all planets. With trade goods you can do it on the planets where you have nothing better to build.

I haven't tested this trait much, but it sounds useful in order to get new colonies up and running quickly using resources from already developed colonies.

Telepathic6 Spying, diplomatic and combat bonuses

Telepaths get a +25% diplomacy bonus negotiating with other races. The mechanics are unknown to me, but I'm guessing it's the same effect as charismatic races have, just half as good. I'm guessing it reduces the chance of the AI saying no to something you suggest in the diplomacy screen.

Telepathic fleets attacking a planet can mind control a planet and take it without any ground combat instantly assimilating all colonists. The defensive fleet and planet installations must be destroyed in combat first as normal. Telepaths also gain control over boarded ships in the next turn rather than after the battle. This is a double edged sword though as it makes the AI target the captured ship too which may make it harder for it to survive until scrap time.

Telepaths also get a +10% spy bonus.

As you instantly assimilate all colonists newly invaded colonies are instantly useful. Be careful shooting down planetary defenses to not overkill and destroy buildings and colonists. If you are able to create a fleet good enough to destroy the defenses the opposition have you can run over them as quickly as your fleet is able to move through their systems. Once you get going grabbing more and more colonies you quickly get more powerful and should be able to overrun the AI.

This is a great trait for early aggression. If you're not playing that fast it is less useful as you can keep up with transports easily anyhow.

Lucky3 No negative random events, better chance for good ones.

Lucky races are guaranteed not to get negative random effects targetting them specifically. Some random events can be really bad, such as reducing mineral rich planets to be less rich or freezing an entire system for lots of turns. They have a better chance to be targetted by good ones, and Antarans are less likely to attack lucky players, which might even be a bad thing not giving you an opportunity to board their vessels.

When playing a game with Gnolams in it where I was lucky too, I felt the Gnolams got all the luck anyhow. Might just have been bad luck on random generator though.

I'm having a hard time justifying spending 3 points on a trait without knowing what I'll need it for in front. Maybe I won't get bad events against me anyhow, and maybe I won't get any decent random event helping me even if I have it.

Omniscient3 All knowing about the galaxy

Omniscient players know about all races in the game instantly, including what traits they have picked. They know the layout of every system, their current population count, all planetary attributes and the built defensive systems. They cannot see what non-defensive buildings have been built nor what the colonists on the planet are working as. They know the size class, the ship graphics and location of all ships in the galaxy, even stealth ships, but they can not see anything about how the ships have been designed. However, if you have been in combat with an AI and seen what their ships look like, you can recognize the graphics to know where specific ships are. All space monsters are visible, and so are special properties like natives, gold deposits and splinter colonies. The history graph also shows all players immediately. All this knowledge can help you in many situations:

  • Seeing what planets exist in neighbouring systems means you can start planning where to expand prior to having a scout or fuel technology to get there.
  • Seeing splinter colonies can make you able to get to them before the AI for a huge early bonus.
  • Always seeing all ships, including stealthed ones means it will be hard to surprise you.
  • As you can see opponents ships, you can know whether an opponent can get their fleet to one of your worlds while you want to send it away to attack.
  • You can more easily spot runaway AIs and be able to try and get to them in time to fight them or figure out where to go to meet other AIs you may help in their fight against the runaway.
  • You see all map details from turn one, so if you want to try a few times to get a map and opponents that fit you, you can do so.

All in all, omniscient is quite powerful. The ability to make better long term plans and the war capabilities of knowing where all the ships and defensive installations are is very helpful. It feels costly to pay for information you can retrieve with scouts though. The exploring part of the game can be exciting, but it doesn't exist if you know everything up front. I had great fun with this trait in a multiplayer LAN game where I could annoy the other players by leaking information and making snide remarks about their choices :)

NB: Note that there are a few things you still don't see, for instance leaders waiting to be freed at a system, or similar type of random events. I remember one that can give you money too, and I think there's one where you can get some basic technologies. You may still want to build a scout.

Stealthy Ships4 Ships not visible to anyone but omniscient races.
This trait simply hides all your ships from the galaxy view regardless of what scanners they have. They only see your ships if you orbit their planets or planets where they also have ships. Omniscient races still see them everywhere though. I have no idea whether this affect the AI at all. Whether AI cheats and see them anyhow, or whether the AI is smart enough to take advantage of seeing ships on scanners or not. I'm guessing this doesn't make much of a difference when playing against AI. For multiplayer though, surprise is important and then this tech might be interesting.
Trans Dimensional5 +2 parsecs/turn between planets. +4 combat speed.

Combat speed gives you a tactical advantage in space combat. Being able to get directly into point blank distance can be very useful. Combat speed helps on beam defense and to a lesser extent missile evasion. Being able to fly faster between colonies is useful at times. Trans Dimensional races are also immune to hyperspace fluxes (unconfirmed) which will give you an advantage if they happen.

I've never used it and it sounds expensive. Might be a decent alternative to +25 defense. +4 combat speed should give +20 beam defense which is almost as good as +25. It also gives +10 to missile evasion, which is quite a bit less than 25, but the speed increase, both in space combat and on the galaxy map might make up for it.

Warlord4 +2 command points/colony, higher experience ship crews.

Warlord races have their ship crew function as they are one level higher. Elite crews become Ultra-Elites, which is unattainable without warlord trait. This gives them from +10 to a max of +25 bonus to beam attack and beam defense, and half of that to missile evasion. If you get to ultra-elites for the max bonus, you'll have a beam defense bonus equal to having +25 ship defense, a missile evasion bonus equal to a +17 ship defense, a ship attack bonus equal to +25, and on top of that you have the rest of the warlord bonuses. Training your crew to ultra-elites may be a challenge though.

Warlords also get 2 extra command points per colony which is a very nice bonus as it allows you a bigger fleet without paying lots of money in fleet maintenance. Getting command points can be tricky early in the game, and being able to field a bigger fleet than the opposition may be a huge bonus. Finally, warlord makes you build ground combat unit faster but that seems of little to no importance.

The warlord trait is pretty nice. With points to spare this is an option to consider. Take it ahead of ship attack or ship defense bonuses, and make sure you read up on space academies and how crew experience work. If you haven't beat the enemy once you get to Evolutionary Mutation, Warlord is also a great target for those four extra race trait points, allowing you to be able to create a huge fleet to finish the game.

Built in races

There are a set of built in races with various different starting traits. These showcase almost all possible picks in the traits selection, though not all possible combinations of course. None of them are close to optimal in my mind, but playing them might make the game at a more suitable difficulty level, and the games are likely to be noticeable affected by the different starting traits creating game variation.

At impossible level, the AI races gets some extra picks to improve on the race. Typically their starting penalties stay, but the starting bonuses might be improved if it doesn't have the max bonus. They may get extra traits, both positives and negatives. It appears fairly random, but I can't remember ever seeing a race having more than 26 positive picks at least.

Alkari

Main traits: Ship Defense +50, Artifacts Home World.

Played by AI: I have never seen Alkarai be among best performing opponents. They have no growth or production bonuses and are likely not making great use of their artifact homeworld.

Played against the AI: Try to take full advantage of the artifacts home world. You might need the home world as a food source for a while, but one should make it a priority to produce food elsewhere so the home world can focus on research. With the artifact home world you can almost stay on top of research throughout the entire game. During my example game, only the runaway silicoids scored higher on tech after the initial rounds to get population and research going.

Getting inertial stabilizer and augmented engines and possibly leaving some free room in ship designs, you can get outragiously high beam defense, making it almost impossible for AI to hit you with beam weapons. Get quite a few point defense weapons to deal with missiles and fighters, and you should have ships that are very hard to kill. In my example game I ended up running neutron blasters to kill marines and capture quite a few ships of the runaway silicoids to get advanced ship technology.

Otherwise basic strategy work. Get a good start building up a small fleet, attack a suitable AI, I picked silicoid as they were in risk of running away tech, fleet and pop-wise, also they were a bit away from my planets (I reached them through wormhole) so they would have a hard time of attacking my worlds. Additonally, they have great colonist traits I could take advantage of.

In my test game with scores shown on right side here, I started in the middle of the galaxy with everyone around me including 3 repulsives. I was afraid I would get blitzed early or attacked by many, but got into good relations with those I could and they stayed friendly long enough.


Bulrathi

Main traits: Ship Offense +20, Ground Combat +10, High Gravity.

Played by AI: I have never seen Bulrathi dominate among the AIs. They're starting traits are not very impressive. Offense bonus isn't big enough to make much of a difference. Ground combat bonuses helps boarding enemy ships and reduces number of transporters needed to invade a world. The AI doesn't make good use of this though. I can't remember being invaded by Bulrathi ships with transporters or assault shuttles. Some of the best planets are heavy gravity, meaning the Bulrathi can use these efficiently early. This can be a decent bonus if you start close to some of them. Sometimes rolls repulsive on Impossible which can be annoying.

Played against the AI: The Bulrathi is the heavy gravity race, and that's not an awesome trait. Your edge is to have some large, rich high gravity world close which they can take full advantage of early, and that you are good at ground combat. Hopefully that should give you a little production edge you can use early on to build colony ships to grow or a fleet to invade. Make sure to build transports so when you take down enemy defenses, you can invade them using your superior troops without having to bomb them. This should allow you to take over worlds with lots of colonists and buildings. Try to get alien management center fairly early to assimilate aliens quickly. Keep expanding when you can. If you start turtling while your empire is still small your opponents may be able to run away researching and growing to the point where you cannot take them. You get your ground combat bonuses anyhow so feel free to use assimilated colonists everywhere and start growing them instead of your own. The ground combat bonuses means you are great at boarding enemy vessels. Strongly consider getting assault shuttles or transporters to be able to take over enemy vessels. Orbiting bases are also easy to board.

In first test game we started next to Darlok and found no planet able to support any food production at all without heavy terraforming, actually getting growth limited early due to lack of food. We met Klackon second which had run away in tech and didn't want anything to do with us. Darlok framed us and they attacked in force. We did not have range to counter attack nor ships to withstand their attack. Not expanding towards the Klackons until we were a bit more ready to war would probably have been good. Prioritizing fleet a bit more instead of growth could have made a difference too. Typical case of AI running away too fast and not being able to stall them with diplomacy. You might need a bit of starting luck with the Bulrathi.

Second attempt we had a better starting system with an ultra rich, barren, high gravity planet in our starting system to take advantage of early. Klackons started next to us and we were forced into war before we were ready. Had to get early fuel cells to have range to attack back so war barely worked out as we had no armor upgrades nor shield or heavy armor. Managed to take out Klackons with destroyer missile launchers to start with without any upgrades at all, as we had no war tech nor star bases yet. After that the Silicoids had run away controlling 15 systems and having wasted another AI and warred against several others. Being subterranean they also had lots of population and power. They had gotten adamantium armor prior to us having any armor upgrade so it looked rough.

Beelining to Zortrium Armor while building star bases and battle ships, our battleship missile platforms had enough staying power to empty their missiles and we took out the enemy defenses and battleships protected with Adamantium Armor with basic minituarized nuclear missiles. Was able to steal quite a bit of war techs from silicoid and overrun them. They were strangely defensive during the war, I guess because I took initiative fast. They made a massive blunder by letting me hit a quarter of their fleet and then moving in their fleet to counter attack in parts, always against my full force. It was still fairly close due to their tech advantage but it worked out.


Darlok

Main abilities: Espionage +20, Stealthy Ships.

Played by AI: Typically not a well performing race when played by the AI. It is annoying when they steal technology from you, but they probably need the techs they steal to keep other AIs at bay. With their spying bonuses, the chance of other AIs stealing it from them is slim. As long as they don't trade them with the runaway AI (which I think is unlikely), you likely don't need to worry too much. More annoying is that they steal from other AIs and frame you for it, causing other AIs to be aggressive and attack you more often. Thus you might want to take the Darlok out early anyhow unless you are military superiour to all the AIs. Rolls repulsive on Impossible occationally.

Played against the AI: The Darlok are the stealthy spy race, which isn't really a great combination. I have not seen anything to confirm that Stealthy Ships has any effect when playing against the AI. I don't know if they care where your ships are if they see them, or whether they cheat and see them if they do. As for the espionage bonus, see Spying mechanics for details on how to take advantage of that.

During a game you can steal some useful technologies but you will also:

When playing the Darlok of course you need to try and take advantage of the spying edge. To do this, prioritize teching the spying bonuses. A plus to spying bonus is much better if you already are good at spying. You also want to try and spy a lot, so you likely get the good techs just because you steal most techs you don't have eventually. Until you have a decent fleet for defense, try to steal mostly from the AIs that can't wipe you out that easily.

In my test game, I started in a corner with a regular growth strategy, though with no early bonuses it naturally wasn't too fast. We met the Mrrshan, the Trilarian and the Elerians first. We hurried to get a missile battleship and took out the Mrrshan once we had one. At this time we had a good amount of colonies and population and we stole techs and built up, demanded a system from the Trilarian when we were ready to attack. Got it, and that pushed us to win the next emperor vote. I don't think neither Stealthy or Spying bonus made a huge difference to my game though. What made it was taking out Mrrshan early and getting more colonies and population than the opponents to make up for not being good at something else. I demanded Autolabs from the Mrrshan really early and got it which made me tech lead a lot faster than expected. I also managed to steal Zortrium armor which was great, but for a lot of the backfill techs I actually traded normally. The game might have been pretty similar if I played a default race with no racial bonuses.


Elerian

Main abilities: Ship Defense +25, Ship Offense +20, Telepathic, Omniscient, Feudal.

Played by AI: I typically play using the Elerian image myself and thus seldom play against them. From the experience I have had playing against them they are either a strong opponent dominating their neighbours with their mind control, or a dominated small empire left behind in research and not able to keep up. They are really poor at growth and development, but if they manage to dominate someone early they can become very strong.

Played against the AI: The Elerian has ship fighting and building bonuses, but are penalized in research. To take advantage of that, early aggression is key. A cruiser who manages to find an undefended planet, or a small fleet that manage to take out a star base quickly gives you great colonies to work with. Being omniscient is a great tactical advantage and you can plan who to hit and hit them as fast as you can.

The problem though, especially when starting pre-warp, is to get initial tech and ship fast enough before opponents have researched far beyond you and have a fleet or planetary defenses you can't cope with. You develop slow though, so the faster you can grab their colonies to up your development speed, the better. If you're lucky, the first opponents have some nice racial traits you can take advantage of.

The research penalty only affects scientists, not the static bonuses from research buildings. Early aggression should hopefully leave you with many colonies, leaving you with many planets to build science buildings on. The trick is to get the techs for these buildings though. If you're lucky you are able to steal or demand some from your opponents.

In my example game I was facing the Mrrshan as first opponent which proved tricky with their bonuses to combat. Managed to take them with a cruiser, a destroyer and a frigate though. This took me a while and the Sakkra seemed to get a good advantage, but when I finally managed to tech pollution processor to outfit mirv nukes as I finished my first 2 battleships I started to tear down their worlds and from there victory was quick.

All in all, the Elerian are very dangerous if allowed to run over an opponent early, but easily whipped if closest opponents have sufficient defenses while they build, tech and grow way beyond them. They showcase both omniscient and telepathic which both are cool techs, and feudal government which gives you a big incentive for early aggression. If they had gotten some building bonuses also, like large rich home world, they would kick ass.


Gnolam

Main abilities: Money +1, Low Gravity, Fantastic Traders, Lucky.

Played by AI: The gnolams doesn't appear to stand out while played by the AI. They just generate annoying CNN messages of their good luck :) They are an opponent you may be able to beat early when other opponents are too hard to take on, or an opponent you can leave alone for a while with little danger of them running away into a big lead.

Played against the AI: The Gnolams bonus is basically the amazing economy. I haven't gotten any positive random events while playing Gnolams, so the luck part doesn't seem to amount to much. The economy boost allows a lot more rush buying than one would normally do. This is quite a good production boost. They are also a low gravity race, and without any other early game bonuses that means they're a bit slow of the bat, but they worked better than I expected in my test game.

I had a good start with a huge ultra rich heavy gravity planet in our system. A decent production world early on, and an amazing one after terraforming and gravity generators. However, at that point I had pretty much won the game anyway. We started in the middle of the galaxy, concentrating on peaceful growth for the first 150 turns.

The amazing economy was really useful. Throughout the game, we could buy automatic factories on all new colonies, and pretty much rush buy everything once half built. At later stages of the game, we got like 1500 BC per turn with 0% tax. Trade treaties with 4-5 AIs accounted for around 250 BC. The rest from lots of colonies with fairly high population.

We then prepared for war and attacked the annoying spying, repulsive Darlok in turn 170. They succumbed easily to a battleship with mirv nuclear missiles and some scouts for support, and I took over their worlds fairly easy. At this time, the game was basically under control. The Trilarian was quite big at that time, being aquatic, but we had got some Trilarian colonists from the Darlok, and the Darlok themselves were subterranean. That enabled us to big large populations on our colonists, and farm as we were in gaia environment. (Also found 2 gaia planets so aquatic didn't make much of a difference). The plan was to take down the Trilarian at which time we should easily have 2/3rds of the population. They had battlestations though, so we needed to tech and build a bit of fleet first. While doing that the humans declared war on us. We regrouped and wasted the humans instead which had a smaller defense. After taking them, we had so many planets, and had gotten planet construction, and we won emperor vote by just growing some more colonists.

All in all, the Gnolam seemed better than I'd expect based on how AI play them, but the AI may not make good use of rush buying, for instance by not prioritizing buying the production buildings first.


Human

Main abilities: Charismatic, Democracy.

Played by AI: The humans doesn't appear to stand out while played by the AI.


Klackon

Main abilities: Food +1, Production +1, Large Home World, Uncreative, Unification.

Played by AI: The Klackons are, together with Sakkra and Silicoids, one of the best performing races when played by the AI. For the Klackons part, probably mostly because of their unification government. They build fast and have an easy time to provide food, making them expand really fast. If they roll some random growth bonus on top of that they are in really good shape. Watch out.

Played against the AI: The Klackons are a pretty good race. They just need to cope with being uncreative. Not only do a new game roll the world, but it also rolls what you can research. These choices impact your game quite a lot.

In my example game we could research automatic factories, research labs, robo miners and food techs, which should give us a good start, but we lacked biospheres, leaving a lot of planets at max size 1-4, supercomputers, pollution processor, atmospheric renewer, battle pods, space ports, radiation shield and gravity generator. The list goes long of stuff we need to counter for.

We could not research fuel cells before Irridium (range 9 at 1150 RP). I figured that would be a good spot for an attack as we then should also have minituarized nuclear missiles some, making up for not having battlepods. Around turn 135 we researched the fuel cells, which made us come in contact with all but one opposing player. I redesigned two almost complete battleships and went to war against the population leading Sakkra, which were Feudal, Repulsive, High-G, Subterranean, Tolerant, +1 food, +100% pop growth, -10 spying, Uncreative and Large Home World. That's -17 penalties and 33 positives. Can't remember having seen that much before. We had around six systems colonized at the time. Was a bit annoying with the Sakkras having +10 more ground combat bonuses than me and having extra hitpoint from high-G too boot, but we prevailed building some extra transports and bombing their planets some. In turn 156 we had taken over their 5 systems in the middle of the galaxy and met the final opposing player.

At this time I think game is in the bag, but will finish it after vacation.


Meklar

Main abilities: Production +2, Cybernetic.

Played by AI: Meklars have a production bonus, but it's not much to speak of. They typically don't perform that well under AI control.

Played against the AI: The meklar isn't a great race. Their +2 production makes up for having to pay production to feed people and a bit more. Basically you end up with a race that consumes half food having a bit extra production. As they have no science or growth bonuses, my strategy is to get labs and factories first as usual, but then prioritize colonizing what I can and build housing to get population. Build as many labs as possible and hopefully get some tech going by getting a decent population.

In my example game I started in the middle of the galaxy with less than awesome planets around me. Ended up spreading out in a position that would be hard to defend. I had spread out to 5-6 systems and was close to getting star gates in most when first enemy attacked me. No repulsive AIs this time around but failed to get in good relations with Klackon so was kind of expecting it, at least having my fleet close.

Being out teched I had issues defending myself. Right after klacon were gone trilarians declared next. As I didn't get to fight when I was ready I ended up using quite some time here, finally wasting sakkra with doom stars to get his population down enough so I'd win on population count.

First wars fought with all upgraded nuclear missiles. Second war with titans with fully upgraded pulson missiles. Still needed to use pulson on doom stars as I was still stuck with electronic computer. Finally won with phasors and extra combat round in the end for the win.


Mrrshan

Main abilities: Ship Offense +50, Rich Home World, Warlord.

Played by AI: Good offensive ship combat abilities here, but with no tech nor growth bonuses, they are typically not one of the better performing AIs.


Psilon

Main abilities: Research +2, Low Gravity, Large Home World, Creative.

Played by AI: The Psilons tech fast, but grow slow. They typically don't perform that well under AI control. Not being able to expand fast, other AIs often tech just as fast or faster without the tech bonuses, just because they have much larger populations. The Psilons are the only stock creative race, which is useful when you're looking for that tech you really want none of the others have managed to tech. You can even trade techs with them if you're able to stay in front in some tech categories. Trading with them is often ok even though the trade isn't fair, as they'll get it anyhow when they do tech that way, and they are often not the run away candidate anyhow.


Sakkra

Main abilities: Growth +100%, Food +1, Espionage -10, Subterranean, Large Home World, Feudal.

Played by AI: The Sakkra are one of the better performing AI races. They grow quick and expand fast, but they are often behind in technology and may be a ripe candidate to steal colonies from. Their growth, food and subterranean bonuses make them excellent candidates for colonists to assimilate too. They may even add on tolerant as a random roll to make the deal even sweater. They pickup repulsive fairly often on Impossible to which is a bit annoying if you ain't planning to deal with them fast.


Silicoid

Main abilities: Growth -50%, Lithovore, Repulsive, Tolerant.

Played by AI: The Silicoids are one of the best performing AI races. Being able to ignore food and planet environments probably make the AIs job of optimizing a whole lot easier. Especially cool when they add in Subterranean. If the silicoid start close to you, consider a strategy to assimilate their population as soon as possible. They have at least 20 trait points invested in them that you can use. They might even have added to that with random improvements.

As they perform well, watch out for them becoming a runaway AI. You may need to try and control these before they have laid waste to several other AIs and grown beyond proportions.


Trilarian

Main abilities: Aquatic, Trans Dimensional.

Played by AI: The trilarians seems to pick up repulsive fairly often on Impossible, which I find annoying due to lack of diplomacy option. Other than that they don't typically perform top of the class with the AI controlling them at least.


Game control tips

Keyboard shortcuts

Game concepts

Food

To grow your population and avoid them dying, each colonist requires one food with the following exceptions:

When all colonists on a planet are well fed and the planet is below max population, you get some natural population growth each turn. When one or more colonists on a planet are not well fed you get a negative natural population growth. The more food that is lacking, the bigger the negative growth is. Unless countered by housing or cloning centers turning total growth positive, colonists will die. A planet can never get less than 1 colonists due to starvation as far as I have seen.

Natives will die before other colonists if you have is starvation on a planet with any. Note that even though the native planet itself is producing a food surplus, they may be transferring their food elsewhere and have starvation locally. To see which planet you are actually starving on, you have to check out farming status on all planets and look for it. Lacking food you get shipped in is darker than the other food, while starvation is shown by being outlined in red. The algorithm deciding which planets will take the starvation is unknown to me, but from examples it looks like your newest colonies will be the one starving.

Surplus food does not increase your population growth. For each two surplus food you get 1 BC income. However, you can also use colonists to produce trade goods to build money, and that is in practise more efficient. Think of money for surplus food as something that means you lose less if you keep a little surplus to avoid having to move colonists around every turn to keep the value close to zero.

Note that when a colony grows, and that colony is not self-sufficient with food the game likes to assign the new colonist as a farmer even if you already have surplus food and you farm terribly inefficient on that planet. You thus sadly need to fiddle with who is farming regularly.

Mechanics

You can get food either by using colonists as farmers, or through buildings that has per turn maintenance cost. You can transfer food between planets using freighters. The game calculates how much food is lacking from all your planets. It then checks how much food you have in surplus on other planets. The number of food you are lacking, up to the amount you have surplus elsewhere, will automatically be moved between planets if you have freighters available. Each freighter used to transfer food costs you 0.5 BC in upkeep each turn and each freighter can transfer one food (But you build 5 freighters at a time and don't pay maintenance for freighters not used that turn). Movement of food is not affected by drive speed or distance. It is simplified to be instant transfer. You can view in overview screen whether any planets are starving. If either the food or freighter numbers are showing negative numbers in red, you are starving somewhere.

Refer to food production table to see how much food is produced in various environments. On top of that you can get the following bonuses. (In addition you can also get penalties from unfitting gravity, blockades, morale and conquered colonists not mentioned below)

Racial trait - Food penalty or bonus.
Either -0.5, +1 or +2 per farmer.
Racial trait - Unification.
+50% to food production.
Colony leader - Farming Leader
Have seen up to around +75% to farming on late game good leaders. Might be possible further too.
Colony leader - Spiritual Leader
Increases morale bonus. Don't go as high as Farming Leader bonus, but I've seen at least 22.5% morale bonus from leader.
Soil Enrichment (Biology II, Advanced Biology, 400 RP, 120 PP, 0 BC/turn)
Gives +1 food per farmer, on planets that have a base above zero. This bonus is not shown separately in game but is part of the base food value once built.
Holo Simulator (Computers IV, Positronics, 900 RP, 120 PP, 1 BC/turn)
Increases morale with +20%.
Weather Control System (Biology V, Macro Genetics, 1500 RP, 200 PP, 3 BC/turn)
Gives +2 food per farmer, given that the base is above zero.
Astro University (Sociology IV, Teaching Methods, 2000 RP, 200 PP, 4 BC/turn)
+1 food per farmer (and +1 production per worker and +1 science per scientist)
Android Farmers (Computers VII, Cybertechnics, 3500 RP)
An android is a colonist you can build that is created for a specific role, a farmer in this case. They count just as colonists with a few exceptions. They consume one production instead of one food, you don't get a gold income from them, morale bonus have no effect on them and they can only do one type of job. Androids are not your race and doesn't get your race bonuses, but any government effect still count. Androids are tolerant, so they may be able to use space on the planet you otherwise could not use, and if you have tolerant workers the farmers will not create pollution for being there.
Virtual Reality Network (Computers IX, Galactic Networking, 4500 RP)
Increases morale with +20% on all planets with immediate effect. No building required.
Galactic Unification (Sociology V, Advanced Governments, 4500 RP)
Unification food bonus up from 50% to 100%.
Pleasure Dome (Computers X, Moleculatronics, 6000 RP, XX PP, X BC/turn)
Increases morale with +30%.
Biomorphic Fungi (Biology VIII, Trans Genetics, 7500 RP)
+1 food per farmer on all worlds. Immediate effect. No building required. This also works on toxic, radiated and barren planets, but that is a mute point if you ask me. You still won't get other bonuses working, so this is just an annoyance that means that the game might automatically assign new colonists to be farmers that only manage to farm enough food for themselves.

The percentage bonuses from leaders and morale are calculated after modifying the output for all of the per colonist values. Multiple percentage bonuses are additive and not multiplicative. That is, if you have a terran planet with Soil Enrichment and Weather Control Center and a farmer with +1 food, in addition to a +20% and a +30% morale building and a +60% farming leader, then you get (2 + 1 + 2 + 1) * (1.0 + 0.2 + 0.3 + 0.6) = 12.6 food. After adding food from all sources the result is rounded. Half a food or more is rounded up. Haven't verified if less is rounded down or up.

There are also buildings you can build to provide food. Using these buildings you can use less or no farmers. You thus have extra colonists to use as workers or scientists at the cost of paying some maintenance cost for the buildings instead. For the farms, this is simply one BC per food provided. For food replicators this is more complex having a credit cost that is not relative to the number of food created, and additionally you pay 2 PP per food created.

Hydroponic Farm (Biology I, Astro Biology, 80 RP, 60 PP, 2 BC/turn)
Gives a static +2 food bonus on planet. Not modified by percentage bonuses.
Subterranean Farms (Biology V, Macro Genetics, 1500 RP, XX PP, 4 BC/turn)
Just like a Hydroponic Farm, only that it provides +4 food and has twice the maintenance cost.
Food Replicators (Power VI, Matter Energy Conversion, 2750 RP, 200 PP, 10 BC/turn)
Converts 1 BC and 2 PP into 1 food while colony is not self sufficient with food. Planet will never import food while replicators exist. Even if you don't have enough production to pay for food you get negative production instead.

Farming efficiency

Shows how efficient farming is at various levels and how improving farming or getting Lithovore will affect the situation. Numbers are a bit cryptic. Refer to the legend below to see what the actual numbers are.

Farming efficiency overview
Food/farmer 0% farming (farmer%) 1) 50% farming (farmer%) 2) Lithovore worker/scientist increase 3)
1.580.0% (66.6%) 32.0% (44.4%)200% (80.0%) [50.0%]
2 33.3% (50.0%) 16.6% (33.3%)100% (50.0%) [33.3%]
2.519.0% (40.0%) 10.4% (26.7%)66.7% (36.4%) [25.0%]
3 12.5% (33.3%) 7.14% (22.2%)50.0% (28.6%) [20.0%]
3.58.89% (28.6%) 5.23% (19.0%)40.0% (23.5%) [16.7%]
4 6.67% (25.0%) 4.00% (16.7%)33.0% (20.0%) [14.3%]
5 4.17% (20.0%) 2.99% (13.3%)25.0% (15.4%) [11.1%]
6 2.86% (16.7%) 1.36% (11.1%)20.0% (12.0%) [9.09%]
7 2.08% (14.3%) 1.32% (9.52%)16.7% (10.5%) [7.69%]
8 1.59% (12.5%) 1.01% (8.33%)14.3% (9.09%) [6.67%]

1) - Shows the increased number of workers or scientists you will get if you get another +1 food/farmer bonus. In parentheses you see how large chunk of your population needs to be farmers at the given farmer efficiency.
2) - As 1), but assuming you have a +50% farming bonus either from farming leader, morale or unification (instead of +0%) 3) - The increased numbers of workers or scientists you would get if you were lithovore instead of having the given farmer efficiency. In parentheses you see the numbers given that you have a +50% farmer bonus and in square brackets you see the numbers given that you have +100% farmer bonus.

Should you use farms or not?

The farms are identical in that they provide the same cost to benefit ratio. Whether to use them or not can thus be calculated independent of whether you have one or both available, that just limits how much of your needed food they can supply. Simply put, farms let you use credits to get food, freeing up farmers to be workers or scientists instead. Whether it is worth it thus depends on whether what you get makes up for what you pay. This differs depending on whether the alternative is to provide food locally, or you need it shipped in from somewhere else. If you need to ship it in from somewhere else, you are paying 0.5 BC per turn per food, paying half the cost of the farms already.

When you start the game with a stock race, you get 2 food per farmer and 3 production per worker. Due to pollution this goes down to 1.5 production per worker. A scientist earns 3 science per scientist. If you could build a hydroponic farm, you could free up one farmer, and get 3 science or 1.5 or 3 production depending on how much you are already producing. You have bought this for 2 gold.

Whether this is worth it or not, depends on what you otherwise would use the gold for. Assuming using farms just changes how much surplus gold you get each turn, and the knowledge that I use most my surplus gold for rush buying buildings. I'm sacrificing 2 gold, which is 1 production point I can buy anywhere (assuming I wait with rush buying until I get the best ratio), in order to produce this 1.5 or 3 production or 3 science. That sounds like a fairly good deal.

There exist more boosts for production and science, than exist for farming. Thus, as long as you have reasonable control of pollution, you typically get more production or science from a colonist than food. Also note that for production this also depends on the mineral abundance on the planet. A rich or ultra rich planet will get a lot extra production for an extra worker, though for these planets the alternative to building food buildings is typically to transport food to avoid wasting colonists as farmers on a rich world.

If you build a lot of farms without having a good economy, you might ending up red numbers on your budget. If you have a 2:1 ratio of worker production to food production. (1 colonist produce 2 food or 4 production for instance), then you can build trade goods to turn 2 production into 1 gold, and you can thus get the money you use for farms back without selling the farms. Note that you cannot build trade goods with only part of your production, but you can build trade goods every 10th turn somewhere, and then use the money you get to pay for farm maintenance for 10 turns to come. If you have a better ratio than 2:1, you thus improve your economy using farms, if you have a worse ratio you are worsening your economy (but improving production or science).

If the alternative to building farms is to ship food from elsewhere, you are using 0.5 BC per turn per food to maintain freighters. That means that using farms instead will just add 0.5 gold per maintenance extra. However, then you are likely getting food from your preferred food producing planets which may have really good farming leaders and be able to farm for food very efficiently, so you will also be able to remove less colonists from farming jobs than you would otherwise. Lets say your farming planet is a gaia planet with soil enrichment, weather controller and astro university together with a 50% bonus from Unification or morale and a 50% farming leader. Now you're getting 14 food per farmer. Say that you're paying 14 gold for 7 farms, and are able to put one farmer to be a scientist instead. This will save you 7 gold as you no longer need to transfer 14 food. You may have research labs and supercomputer here, and have researched heightened intelligence. But since it's your farming colony you may not have a science bonus on your leader. Assuming you got 50% from morale bonus that should net you 10.5 science. You are thus sacrificing 7 gold for 10.5 science. That doesn't sound too great. However, if you would end up using that gold to rush buy buildings, even for the best ratio (2:1), that means you're sacrificing 3.5 production points you can buy to get 10.5 science instead. That sounds much better.

Summary: Be cautious of building too many farms if you are having issues keeping a surplus on your budget. Whether you use farms or not isn't a big deal. They aren't as expensive as they initially look. Not using farms will leave you a bigger budged surplus which can be useful to be able to rush buy many buildings on new colonies, however, using them may get you some extra production or science on already established worlds. Unless you're creative you should need to trade or steal techs to have farms as an option. They are not good enough to be your preferred pick over Biospheres or Weather Control System. As long as you have them available anyhow, your economy is in decent shape, and you have nothing more important to produce, feel free to use them everywhere with the likely exception of your main food producing planets.

When are Food Replicators worth it?

Food Replicators sounds terribly expensive. Are they as useless as they look? At a maintenance cost of 10 gold and having to pay 2 production per food in addition, you will at least prefer farms for planets with population of 6 or less. As shipping a few food is cheap, you will likely need a planet with at least 10 colonists before it can be considered. There's also an undocumented feature/bug. Food Replicators cost you 1 BC per food created in addition!!

Looking at the other end of the spectre. Say you have an infinitely large world where the 10 gold maintenance thus doesn't matter, how bad is it to pay 2 production per colonist instead of 1 food? For that to make sense you need to be able to produce production points twice as fast as food to break even, and that ignores the fact that you are paying 10 gold in maintenance cost. Thus, replicators are not worth it on planets with decent farming efficiency. That basically leaves toxic planets with at least 10 population as a possible target.

Comparing replicators against transferring food from your best food producing planets, instead of paying 10 BC for the replicators you could be paying for 20 freighters to feed 20 people, thus you need a huge population before you're saving money. Your main food producing planets will have good farming efficiency. To compare some numbers. Lets say your planet has 28 colonists, and you are either going to use 2 farmers on food producing planets to farm 28 food and use 14 gold to transfer it to planet. The alternative is to pay 10 gold for the replicators and get 56 less production there, which might need you to run 3-10 workers extra there to counter for it. This does not sound good at all.

Summary: To me, the replicators indeed sounds far from the optimal solution. The only scenarios I can think of where you'd want to use them are the following:

To produce locally or remotely

Producing food remotely have some advantages. However, to get them you need to build enough freighters and shell out for the cost of transferring the food each turn. The advantages are as follows:

On the other hand, you quickly save the cost of maintaining many weather control centers by not having to transfer food between planets and soil enrichment have no maintenance cost. All non-toxic planets can end up as gaia planets and improving environment is great for fitting in more colonists anyhow. If you're planning to get good environments all around, all colonies can easily get all food bonuses apart from the leader bonus. Using local farmers saves you money, enabling to to rush buy more buildings anywhere you want. With efficient farming, few colonists need to be farming to get enough food for everyone.

If the enemy manage to blockade your systems, you are affected less worse being able to create food locally to avoid starvation. However, blockades are a horrible penalty so you better avoid being blockaded anyhow.

Summary: Both options are perfectly valid, and in practise one often end up with a bit of both. Personally I prefer to transfer food to my best production worlds and to whatever colonies farm inefficiently, but farm food locally for other mature colonies that have a decent size.

Are android farmers any good?

Android farmers have a +3 farming bonus (not stacking with your racial food trait bonus or penalty). Other food bonuses apply except for morale. Unification food bonus still apply. Androids cost one production per turn and does not generate 1 BC income per turn. If you don't create enough production points to pay for them they disappear. Androids ignore gravity, but at the time one get them, you should have gravity generators.

For a unification race they are the best farmers. Then it is just a question of whether the farming bonus makes up for the cost in money and production. Androids aren't available that early. Once you get them you should have or be close to getting soil enrichment, weather control center and astro university. On a terran world a regular farmer should get 9 food. An android farmer should then get 13.5 food. Thus, while you'd need to run 3 regular colonists to get 27 food, you'd only need 2 androids. Since you also should have space ports and stock exchange at that time, you should be trading away 5 gold and 2 production in order to have an extra colonist as a worker or a scientist.

Assuming you would use that gold to rush buy units you'd likely get more out of it running a worker, even if you deduct the 2 production in maintenance, however, the production will appear on that planet, but money can be used to rush buy anywhere. Anyhow, using android farmers sounds perfectly sane for a unification government if you have the money to spare and can make good use of another worker or scientist on the planet.

Personally I like to run a high money surplus for freedom to rush buy and I like to be able to switch my colonists around freely so assuming I have the option of a colonist or an android farmer, I typically pick the colonist even for a unification government. However, the androids are tolerant, and unless you are already having gaia advantages or have tolerant colonists, the androids may be able to occupy space on the planet your colonists can not. In that case one is comparing whether to use an android or nothing, and then the androids are great. You may also be able to build androids faster than you grow population, in which case androids give you an advantage.

For non-unification races you don't get morale bonuses. That means that if you have 50% morale bonus for instance, the android farm bonus is nullified once your food production is 6 prior to percentage bonuses. That you typically have already at the time you are able to build androids. So unless you expect to have little or no morale bonuses, there is no gain in using them if you otherwise could use a colonist. But again, if you extending your colonies above your colonists maximum population size they are still great.

All the above also assumes that you don't need to reprioritize what your colonists are doing. Regular colonists can switch between jobs at any time but android farmers can only farm. It makes sense to fill up free tolerant spaces if you have them, but you have to decide at build time whether you'd want to run android farmers, workers or scientists. You may want to pick a role your colonists perform poorly.

Summary: If you are filling colony spaces your colonists can't fill, by all means add on androids. Otherwise, a unification race with a good economy might use androids to manage with less farmers, however, you're trading considerable to be able to do it so whether you should do it or not might depend on your strategy. For non-unification races it is likely not worth it if you can field a colonist instead unless you are not able to get morale bonuses. (Which is a valid scenario as some morale techs come late, and you won't pick holo simulators over supercomputers)

Production

Production is used to build various types of items, like buildings, ships and spies. Everything you can build is listed with a given amount of production points you need to accumulate to finish a build. You get production by assigning colonists as workers. Alternatively you can use credits to rush buy buildings, but since it is much harder to come buy credits than workers, you need to rely on workers for the most part.

To build a fleet you need production. If you have a good enough fleet you can win the game. Thus, being able to produce efficiently is one of the most important aspects of the game.

Mechanics

Workers produce a given number of production points. These are kept in a pool per planet until the pool has enough points to complete the current production target. Say you're building something needing 60 production points, the pool starts of empty and you produce 8 production each turn. After 8 turns the pool will have 64 PP and you'll have enough to produce the building. 60 points will be deducted from the pool and you will finish the build. The 4 leftover points will be there to start of your next production job.

At any time you can change what you're building without losing any saved up production. You can never complete more than one project each turn. If you produce more points than you need to produce the pool keeps getting fuller. For instance, if you are repeat building freighters with 250 PP/turn, you'll get 200 PP more saved up every turn. If you produce a lot of points per turn and you need to build several cheap things and one big thing, you can save total turns by building the cheap ones first which will start saving up for the big one. Possibly the surplus can add up so you can build the big one in one turn too, losing less turns you could use to build other stuff.

There are two special build targets. Housing and trade goods. Trade goods turns 2 PP into 1 BC (Or 2 for fantastic traders). Housing turns production into population growth. Building either of the two does not change how many PP you have saved up. You will not deplete your saved up production to create lots of money if you start producing trade goods after having saved up. (Some surplus production might add to the pool though. I think that if you build housing until you max out population, the production you didn't need to get to max pop the last turn might be added to the pool)

Each worker you assign will produce a number of production points depending on the mineral richness of the planet. Respectively 1,2,3,5,8 for ultra poor, poor, abundant, rich and ultra rich planets. On top of that you can get the following bonuses: (In addition you can also get penalties from unfitting gravity, blockades, morale and conquered colonists not mentioned below)

Racial trait - Production penalty or bonus.
Either 1, +1 or +2 per worker.
Racial trait - Unification.
+50% to production.
Colony leader - Production Leader
Have seen up to around +75% to production on late game good leaders. Might be possible further too.
Colony leader - Spiritual Leader
Increases morale bonus. Don't go as high as Farming Leader bonus, but I've seen at least 22.5% morale bonus from leader.
Automated Factories (Construction II, Advanced Construction, 150 RP, 1 BC/turn)
Gives +1 production per worker and +5 production independent of workers.
Robo Miners (Construction V, Robotics, 650 RP, 150 PP, 2 BC/turn)
Gives +2 production per worker and +10 production independent of workers.
Holo Simulator (Computers IV, Positronics, 900 RP, 120 PP, 1 BC/turn)
Increases morale with +20%.
Recyclotron (Construction VIII, Advanced Manufacturing, 1500 RP, 200 PP, 3 BC/turn)
Gives +1 production per unit of population on the planet. This production does not count against pollution levels.
Robotic Factory (Construction IX, Advanced Robotics, 2000 RP, 200 PP, 3 BC/turn)
Gives a bonus of 5, 8, 10, 15 or 20 depending on the mineral richness of the planet, which is not per worker.
Microlite Construction (Chemistry V, Nano Technology, 2000 RP)
Gives +1 production per worker. Takes effect immediately, no building reuqired.
Astro University (Sociology IV, Teaching Methods, 2000 RP, 200 PP, 4 BC/turn)
+1 food per farmer (and +1 production per worker and +1 science per scientist)
Deep Core Mining (Construction X, Tectonic Engineering, 3500 RP, 250 PP, 3 BC/turn)
Gives +3 production per worker and +15 production independent of workers.
Android Workers (Computers VII, Cybertechnics, 3500 RP)
An android is a colonist you can build that is created for a specific role, a worker in this case. They count just as colonists with a few exceptions. They consume one production instead of one food, you don't get a gold income from them, morale bonus have no effect on them and they can only do one type of job. Androids are not your race and doesn't get your race bonuses, but any government effect still count. Androids are tolerant, so they may be able to use space on the planet you otherwise could not use, and if you have tolerant workers the farmers will not create pollution for being there.
Virtual Reality Network (Computers IX, Galactic Networking, 4500 RP)
Increases morale with +20% on all planets with immediate effect. No building required.
Galactic Unification (Sociology V, Advanced Governments, 4500 RP)
Unification food bonus up from 50% to 100%.
Pleasure Dome (Computers X, Moleculatronics, 6000 RP, XX PP, X BC/turn)
Increases morale with +30%.

What production buildings are worth it

Short answer, just about all of the production buildings are great. If you're not creative you might have issues teching all while still getting the other techs you need, but you should think twice before skipping a production building. As you can build trade goods, all the worker buildings pays you back in spades as noted above. In addition they rock to add production when you need it, which is likely the better part of the game.

Assuming you don't need the production and you are converting the extra production to gold. Most production buildings are still a huge plus. An automatic factory gives you +5 production not reduced by pollution. That's 2.5 gold per turn if you use them to build trade goods. That's a 1.5 gold per turn surplus each turn, and additionally you get +1 production per worker when you are running workers. Recyclotron pays for itself already at population 6. Robotic factories pays back in gold for all but ultra-poor planets, and it almost pays itself there too. Astro university pays back on a planet with 8 workers from the worker bonus alone. In addition it boosts food and science too.

How about android workers?

Read up on android farmers as the argument is pretty similar. However, there is one massive difference, which sounds like a bug. An android worker does get morale benefits, even though the in game tech description says the opposite. This means that they are equally useful for Unifications and other governments. Basically, use if you cannot use a colonist instead. If your race doesn't have a decent production bonus you may want to run some android workers to get a higher production, although at the time you get this tech you already have many production bonuses anyhow so the effect is not massive. They do make you less flexible as you cannot change them into scientists or farmers when you want to.

Android workers are the most effective workers. As they are tolerant they don't care about pollution either. As they don't need food, you can fill your best production worlds with androids workers only. If you have subterranean colonists though, you may want to have some of those in addition, and in that case you likely care about pollution anyhow. Androids won't generate much regular income, but you can run tax or build trade goods or something you can sell to compensate. They should generate enough production to make up for the cost, at least if the alternative is to use workers with +1 bonus or less. Such worlds are inflexible though. You cannot revert to research or create food if needed for some reason.

Effect of production bonus/penalty

The following table shows how much, in percentages, an industry bonus or penalty affects actual production for a set of example situations. To summarize, +1 production/worker together with automatic factories and robo miner plants, gives around 15-20% production for ultra-poor colonists, around 12-15% for poor colonies, 11-14% for abundant, 9-11% for rich and 7-8% for ultra rich planets. With only automatic factories, the effect is around doubled and with most of the production buildings the effect is around halved. A +2 production bonus is double that, and a -1 penalty is the same as +1 only negative.

Situation -1 +1 +2
Pop 1Pop 5Pop 10Pop 30 Pop 1Pop 5Pop 10Pop 30 Pop 1Pop 5Pop 10Pop 30
Ultra-Poor -100.0%-100.0%-100.0%-100.0% +100.0%+100.0%+100.0%+100.0% +200.0%+200.0%+200.0%+200.0%
+AF - 14.3%- 33.3%- 40.0%- 46.2% + 14.3%+ 33.3%+ 40.0%+ 46.2% + 28.6%+ 66.7%+ 80.0%+ 92.3%
+AF+RM - 5.3%- 14.3%- 18.2%- 22.2% + 5.3%+ 14.3%+ 18.2%+ 22.2% + 10.5%+ 28.6%+ 36.4%+ 44.4%
+AF+RM+DCM+Rec+RF+MC+AU - 2.2%- 5.9%- 7.4%- 9.0% + 2.2%+ 5.9%+ 7.4%+ 9.0% + 4.4%+ 11.8%+ 14.8%+ 17.9%
Poor - 50.0%- 50.0%- 50.0%- 50.0% + 50.0%+ 50.0%+ 50.0%+ 50.0% +100.0%+100.0%+100.0%+100.0%
+AF - 12.5%- 25.0%- 28.6%- 31.6% + 12.5%+ 25.0%+ 28.6%+ 31.6% + 25.0%+ 50.0%+ 57.1%+ 63.2%
+AF+RM - 5.0%- 12.5%- 15.4%- 18.2% + 5.0%+ 12.5%+ 15.4%+ 18.2% + 10.0%+ 25.0%+ 30.8%+ 36.4%
+AF+RM+DCM+Rec+RF+MC+AU - 2.0%- 5.4%- 6.8%- 8.2% + 2.0%+ 5.4%+ 6.8%+ 8.2% + 4.1%+ 10.8%+ 13.5%+ 16.3%
Abundant - 33.3%- 33.3%- 33.3%- 33.3% + 33.3%+ 33.3%+ 33.3%+ 33.3% + 66.7%+ 66.7%+ 66.7%+ 66.7%
+AF - 11.1%- 20.0%- 22.2%- 24.0% + 11.1%+ 20.0%+ 22.2%+ 24.0% + 22.2%+ 40.0%+ 44.4%+ 48.0%
+AF+RM - 4.8%- 11.1%- 13.3%- 15.4% + 4.8%+ 11.1%+ 13.3%+ 15.4% + 9.5%+ 22.2%+ 26.7%+ 30.8%
+AF+RM+DCM+Rec+RF+MC+AU - 1.9%- 5.0%- 6.2%- 7.5% + 1.9%+ 5.0%+ 6.2%+ 7.5% + 3.8%+ 10.0%+ 12.5%+ 15.0%
Rich - 20.0%- 20.0%- 20.0%- 20.0% + 20.0%+ 20.0%+ 20.0%+ 20.0% + 40.0%+ 40.0%+ 40.0%+ 40.0%
+AF - 9.1%- 14.3%- 15.4%- 16.2% + 9.1%+ 14.3%+ 15.4%+ 16.2% + 18.2%+ 28.6%+ 30.8%+ 32.4%
+AF+RM - 4.3%- 9.1%- 10.5%- 11.8% + 4.3%+ 9.1%+ 10.5%+ 11.8% + 8.7%+ 18.2%+ 21.1%+ 23.5%
+AF+RM+DCM+Rec+RF+MC+AU - 1.7%- 4.3%- 5.4%- 6.5% + 1.7%+ 4.3%+ 5.4%+ 6.5% + 3.4%+ 8.7%+ 10.8%+ 12.9%
Ultra-Rich - 12.5%- 12.5%- 12.5%- 12.5% + 12.5%+ 12.5%+ 12.5%+ 12.5% + 25.0%+ 25.0%+ 25.0%+ 25.0%
+AF - 7.1%- 10.0%- 10.5%- 10.9% + 7.1%+ 10.0%+ 10.5%+ 10.9% + 14.3%+ 20.0%+ 21.1%+ 21.8%
+AF+RM - 3.8%- 7.1%- 8.0%- 8.7% + 3.8%+ 7.1%+ 8.0%+ 8.7% + 7.7%+ 14.3%+ 16.0%+ 17.4%
+AF+RM+DCM+Rec+RF+MC+AU - 1.5%- 3.7%- 4.5%- 5.4% + 1.5%+ 3.7%+ 4.5%+ 5.4% + 3.0%+ 7.4%+ 9.1%+ 10.7%

Pop X indicate that there are X workers on the planet. AF = Automatic Factories, RM = Robo Miners, DCM = Deep Core Mine, Rec = Recyclotron, RF = Robotic Factories, MC = Microlite Construction, AU = Astro University

Science

To begin with you only know some very basic technology. By researching you can discover technologies that optimize most aspects of the game. If you lag behind on research you need to do that much better on all other aspects to compensate. Unless you have a strategy so fast that your opponents don't have time to research much, you need to prioritize science to get anywhere.

The game have several ways of aquiring technology, however, some methods are by far easier than others. The main way is to build science buildings and have colonists work as scientists to produce enough RP to complete a research project. Common alternatives are to trade with, spy from or demand technologies from opponents. To a lesser extent you can get some technologies by capturing their ships and scrap them to learn how they are built or invade opponent worlds and hope you find some of their secrets. There are also some leaders you can hire that comes with technologies and you can get some by taking care of guardian at Orion or capturing Antaran ships, but that are just a few special techs and not a way to get technologies in general.

Research mechanics

Researching using scientists is your only option to begin with. It will likely be your main source of technologies. A scientist generate a base of 3 RP, unless he's on a planet with ancient artifacts, in which case you get 5 RP. You get bonuses from the following: (In addition you can also get penalties from unfitting gravity, morale and conquered colonists not mentioned below)

Racial trait - Research penalty or bonus.
Either 1, +1 or +2 per scientist.
Racial trait - Democracy.
+50% to science.
Colony leader - Science Leader
Have seen up to around +75% to science on late game good leaders. Might be possible further too.
Colony leader - Spiritual Leader
Increases morale bonus. Don't go as high as Farming Leader bonus, but I've seen at least 22.5% morale bonus from leader.
Research Labs (Computers II, Optronics, 150 RP, 60 PP, 1 BC/turn)
Gives +1 research per scientist and +5 research independent of scientists.
Planetary Supercomputer (Computers IV, Positronics, 900 RP, 150 PP, 2 BC/turn)
Gives +2 research per scientists and +10 research independent of scientists.
Holo Simulator (Computers IV, Positronics, 900 RP, 120 PP, 1 BC/turn)
Increases morale with +20%.
Astro University (Sociology IV, Teaching Methods, 2000 RP, 200 PP, 4 BC/turn)
+1 research per scientist (and +1 food per farmer and production per worker)
Autolab (Computers VI, Cybertronics, 2750 RP, 250 PP?, 3 BC/turn?)
Gives a +30 bonus to science. A great way to trade a little money for a lot of science without running a single scientist.
Heightened Intelligence (Biology VI, Evolutionary Genetics, 2750 RP)
Instant +1 science per worker.
Android Scientists (Computers VII, Cybertechnics, 3500 RP)
An android is a colonist you can build that is created for a specific role, a scientist in this case. They count just as colonists with a few exceptions. They consume one production instead of one food, you don't get a gold income from them, morale bonus have no effect on them and they can only do one type of job. Androids are not your race and doesn't get your race bonuses, but any government effect still count. Androids are tolerant, so they may be able to use space on the planet you otherwise could not use, and if you have tolerant workers the farmers will not create pollution for being there.
Galactic Cybernet (Computers VIII, Galactic Networking, 4500 RP)
+3 research per scientist and +15 research independent of scientists.
Virtual Reality Network (Computers VIII, Galactic Networking, 4500 RP)
Increases morale with +20% on all planets with immediate effect. No building required.
Federation (Sociology V, Advanced Governments, 4500 RP)
Research bonus of Democracy up from 50 to 75%.
Pleasure Dome (Computers X, Moleculatronics, 6000 RP, XX PP, X BC/turn)
Increases morale with +30%.

Technology trading mechanics

Trading technologies can be a powerful tool. On impossible level you will likely not get a fair trade, so to get a tech from the AI you likely need to give them a considerably more advanced tech. If you have many trading partners you can make up for this effect though. If you have to trade away a tech that is twice as good as the tech you're getting, if you manage to do that with 4 different partners, you end up with 4 techs half as good as the one you gave away.

To be able to trade you need to not be at war with potential trade partner and neither you or the opponent can have the repulsive trait. You can pick one of their techs they are willing to trade away and you'll see what they want for it before accepting. The list you get to pick from depends on how good technologies you have to trade for it, but there also seems to be another effect. It might be linked to how well you like them, or it might differ a bit based on AI personality or something. I haven't seen anything consistent but I've noticed getting a worse selection after creating treaties in the same turn for instance. If the technology trade option is grayed out, that doesn't mean one of you have all the technologies of the other, it can also mean that you have no technologies that interest them enough to be willing to trade any of their own techs for it.

It seems like the random generator or some unknown algorhtm is helping to decide what tech the opponent wants for what you want. If you don't want to trade away your best tech for something, you might want to try and trade for something else instead and see what he wants for that tech. What he wants can change the following turn even though none of you seem to have researched something.

Note that looking through the techs and checking what AIs want in return doesn't seem to count for anything until you accept the deal. You can check every tech and go out and the game is like it was prior to you testing.

Demanding technologies

If neither of you are repulsive and you are not at war, you can try to demand techs from your opponents. If the opponent agrees you get the tech and the AI attitude seems unchanged (but it might be tracked and affecting something later which is hard to relate to it). If he doesn't agree he typically insults you and declare war.

The chance of the AI agreeing seems a bit higher than one would expect. Even if you're lagging behind the AI he may still accept your demand. Saving and loading games this can be taken advantage of to get a considerably amount of techs for free. There might be some limit causing AIs to be less likely to accept demand later but I haven't tested enough to confirm. It also seems like some races are more likely to accept a demand than others. Loading and saving will by most be counted as an exploit. However, without doing it, you might still want to make the occasional demand, either because you want to go to war with that AI anyhow and you can see if you can get techs before doing so, or if you really need a tech and are willing to take the chance and live with the consequences.

Note that you can also use the demand option to just view what techs opponent have that you don't have. Unless you pick a tech you can cancel with no diplomatic effect. You can also do that with the report, but the demand option gives you an easier overview.

Summary: Demand prior to declaring war to see if you can get anything extra. If a tech an opponent has would really make a difference for you, you might dare to try it, though you better learn to live with the consequences.

Stealing technologies with spies

Stealing technologies using spies is a nice way to backfill technologies when you're not creative and/or if you're lagging behind in research. Spying seems like what the Darlok are designed to do to get technologies. However, trying to use spies as main technology source have lots of drawbacks.

See spying mechanics for details on how spying works.

Summary: Spying is very useful to backfill technologies you don't have when you are not creative. Especially so if you happen to be suffering uncreative trait. Once you get a good economy going and have free production to spare to build a bunch of spies, feel free to try your luck. Especially so versus opponents you are at war with or wants to go to war with soon anyhow.

Stealing technologies from invading planets

When you invade a planet you have a chance of stealing one technology from the race you are stealing the planet from. You obviously need to lack some technology they have. I'm unsure whether you can get all techs this way or a subset like techs you have used to build buildings on the ground or that the defending soldiers use. I have no clue what effects your chances of getting one if there is an eligible one, however it seems to be more likely from a well developed colony. Giving away your planets to retake them in order to steal more technologies seems like a silly option, so the number of technologies you can get from invasions are limited.

My memory is fuzzy, but I don't think you can get technologies by taking over worlds using telepathy trait.

Scrapping opponent ships for technology

If you manage to capture opponent ships you can scrap them somewhere you have an orbital base, and you have a good chance of discovering one or more technologies used to create the ship. I can only remember getting technologies that are directly related to ship equipment, like armor, computer, weapon or similar. This is especially useful if you capture Antaran ships as you can get awesome late game technology. Antaran ships are a bit tricky to capture though.

If you manage to create a fleet decent at capturing enemy ships, scrapping enemy ships is a great way to remove an opponents technology advantage in their fleet.

Getting technology from leaders

Some leaders come with technologies you get the second you hire them, these technologies are:

You can't rely on getting these techs from leaders of course, so it's an added bonus when it happens. I've also gotten some of these techs without realizing it. I think you might get them from rescuing a leader from a system you scout. Then they join from being rescued you don't get the hire screen and don't see that he comes with a tech.

If an AI has one of these technologies ridiculously early, it is likely that he has hired the leader that provides it. I've wondered several times how an AI managed to get to Autolab that early. There's a good overview of the leaders at strategywiki.org.

Getting one of the more advanced technologies early can really make a difference for a game.

Getting technologies from Orion

If you manage to defeat the guardian at Orion you get 4 technologies. If you have invented all techs you get 4 of the otherwise unavailable advanced ones below, otherwise you may get a tech you haven't invented yet instead. None of the Orion techs are must haves though. Xentronium Armor is probably the most useful one, especially if you manage to take Orion early. The weapons, while good, take a lot of space in your ships so normal weapons are better ones minitiaturized. These advanced techs counts as tech level 99 or something, meaning you'll never get to the point where they are minituarized. Some of these techs are also available by scrapping Antaran ships.

Effect of science bonus/penalty

The following table shows how much, in percentages, a research bonus or penalty affects actual research for a set of example situations. To summarize, +1 science/worker together with research labs and supercomputers, contribute around 10-15% on a regular colony and 8-12% on an ancient artifact world. The bonus is almost doubled with only research labs and less than half on well developed colonies with most of the research bonuses. A +2 research bonus is double that, and a -1 penalty is the same as +1 only negative.

Situation -1 +1 +2
Pop 1Pop 5Pop 10Pop 30 Pop 1Pop 5Pop 10Pop 30 Pop 1Pop 5Pop 10Pop 30
Normal Planet - 33.3%- 33.3%- 33.3%- 33.3% + 33.3%+ 33.3%+ 33.3%+ 33.3% + 66.7%+ 66.7%+ 66.7%+ 66.7%
+ RL - 11.1%- 20.0%- 22.2%- 24.0% + 11.1%+ 20.0%+ 22.2%+ 24.0% + 22.2%+ 40.0%+ 44.4%+ 48.0%
+ RL+PSC - 4.8%- 11.1%- 13.3%- 15.4% + 4.8%+ 11.1%+ 13.3%+ 15.4% + 9.5%+ 22.2%+ 26.7%+ 30.8%
+ RL+PSC+AL+HI+GC+AU - 1.4%- 4.3%- 5.9%- 7.7% + 1.4%+ 4.3%+ 5.9%+ 7.7% + 2.8%+ 8.7%+ 11.8%+ 15.4%
Ancient Artifacts - 20.0%- 20.0%- 20.0%- 20.0% + 20.0%+ 20.0%+ 20.0%+ 20.0% + 40.0%+ 40.0%+ 40.0%+ 40.0%
+ RL - 9.1%- 14.3%- 15.4%- 16.2% + 9.1%+ 14.3%+ 15.4%+ 16.2% + 18.2%+ 28.6%+ 30.8%+ 32.4%
+ RL+PSC - 4.3%- 9.1%- 10.5%- 11.8% + 4.3%+ 9.1%+ 10.5%+ 11.8% + 8.7%+ 18.2%+ 21.1%+ 23.5%
+ RL+PSC+AL+HI+GC+AU - 1.4%- 4.0%- 5.3%- 6.7% + 1.4%+ 4.0%+ 5.3%+ 6.7% + 2.7%+ 8.0%+ 10.5%+ 13.3%

Pop X indicate that there are X scientists on the planet. RL = Research Labs, PSC = Planetary Supercomputer, AL = Autolab, HI = Heightened Intelligence, GC = Galactic Cybernet, AU = Astro University

How about android scientists

Android scientists works the same as android farmers. Great if their tolerant ability means you can fill up your colonies more, but otherwise not that big a deal. Ok for unification government but not great for others due to ignoring morale. Research worlds still need to build stuff after you research good buildings, so having too many on a planet makes you inflexible and using extra time to build buildings when you need to. I don't really see any big upside with using them, so rather use colonists if you can.

Economy

Money can be retrieved in game in the following ways:

Income per colonist
Each non-native, non-android colonist gives 1 income by default. A racial bonus or penalty alters this number. You can research space ports for a 50% bonus, stock exchange for +100% and late game galactic currency exchange for a last 50% bonus. All in all, you can get a +200% bonus. Morale bonuses and penalties also apply. Colonist income should contribute the better part of your income. NB: Racial money bonus is not tied to colonist race. If you assimilate colonists of another race they'll still pay the same tax as all your other colonists.
Extra tax
You can set the tax level from 0 to 50% in the galaxy map. This reduces your total production with the tax percentage. This deduction is multiplicative with all other bonuses and penalties including the static production bonuses from buildings. You then get extra money on the planets, 1 BC per production point. You thus actually get more money than you would get by producing trade goods. Sadly this hits all your colonies equally, so your main fleet building ultra-rich planet will also lose the same production percentage. You may want to rather build trade goods on some planets that doesn't really need to build something else, rather than converting production to credits everywhere. Also, you can build buildings to sell rather than building trade goods. A star base sells for 200 gold and costs 200 production so you can actually convert production on one colony into gold at 1 to 1 rate through building too.
Building trade goods
You can build trade goods with workers. Two production produce one gold. This use your production to produce gold rather than buildings or fleet, but what you are spending money on may more than make up for this. Needing to build trade goods is a typical sign of having many buildings compared to colonists. This may be just fine if the buildings are good, but you may also be paying for buildings you really don't need. Typically you might need to build trade goods while you're growing fast and building important buildings on all your colonies while they still have little population. Later in the game you might consider building trade goods in one place just to be able to rush buy in another colony.
Food surplus
Two food gives one gold. Unless you have fantastic traders trait and get one gold for each food. Once you get control of pollution you typically produce production points more efficiently than food, so you'd rather make money building trade goods than having surplus food. However, you migth get away from some micromanagement by constantly having some food surplus rather than building trade goods every 10th turn to earn enough money.
Selling buildings
You can also sell up to one building per colony each turn. This way you can get rid of buildings you no longer need and get rid of future maintenance cost too. Most buildings give you 1 gold per 2 production used to build it, thus giving back the same you would get if you just built trade goods. However, a star base gives you 1 gold per 1 production, being as cost effective as adding tax.
Income from megawealth leaders
Some leaders you can hire have a megawealth skill which makes the leaders work for free and contribute 10 BC per turn. If you get one of these leaders early in the game they can really contribute a lot to your economy. Late game 10 BC more or less is not really noticeable unless you have a crap economy. At some point you might want to get rid of the typical famous megawealth leader to have a chance to get one with other good boosts instead.
Income from trade treaties
Trade treaties with other players can give you some money each turn. Initially this can be substantial, but late game, this is a small contributions to your economy. While the bonus increase over the course of the game, your budget grows a lot faster.
Demand monetary compensation from opponents
Likely not really a viable way of getting a lot of money, but it is an alternative. I haven't tested this much though, so unsure how likely it is to work or what the consequences is.

On the other hand you can use money for the following:

Building maintenance
All buildings have a maintenance cost you need to pay per turn. If you're out of money you will lose buildings.
Fleet maintenance
Each freighter currently in use requires 0.5 BC in maintenance each turn. Freighters not currently in use cost nothing, so feel free to use available production to build some more.
Spy salaries
Each spy costs 1 BC maintenance per turn.
Leader salaries
Each leader without Megawealth requires 1 BC per level in salary.
Rush buying production
Rush buying follows a strange formula, I'm guessing to make it performant on old hardware. Initially it starts of at 4 gold per production. Once it is half built, the remainder can be bought for 2 gold per production. The cost falls from 4 to 2 following a strange pattern. You can obviously get the most for your money waiting until something is half built, but paying extra may be worth it if you can afford it. For instance to get an initial production building on a new, possibly poor, colony. At least initially, you can't rush buy everything. Try to prioritize what gives the best effect.
Bribe opponents
Seems like an expensive way to improve relations. I prefer trying to find some techs they won't have too much use for to gift instead.

Population growth

Population is power. You use population to create production and research which is what you need to win the game. Having a high population can counter any penalty you have at production or research, and put you ahead of your competition.

Mechanics

The base planet growth is given by how full the planet is. When half full, the base value is at its highest. I haven't plotted the values but they look like a parabola with values zero at pop 0 and pop max and the top being at half population. Thus, if you build biospheres when the planet is beyond half full, more colonies can be fitted, you get closer to half full and you thus get a higher base growth.

The racial bonus applies to the population you get each turn. A race with no penalties or bonuses initally get +73k population every turn on their 8 pop planet with capacity of 12. With +100% racial growth you get twice that, and with -50% you get half that.

Microbiotics or Universal Antidote can be researched for +25% or +50% growth (Antidote replaces microbiotics bonus). This is an additive bonus, so universal Antidote cancels out a -50% growth penalty. Colony leaders with medicine also adds additive to this value.

As you get less population growth when being closer to a full planet, and you always start with 8 colonists, starting on a large planet makes you start of with a higher growth.

You can also use production to build housing. When doing so, you are converting production points to colonists. The number of production points you need to invest to get a number of colonist increases as your population increases. Thus your production investment is most efficient having only a single colonist on a planet. As production buildings like automatic factories give a static bonus independent of number of colonists, you can build housing really efficiently at pop 1. Pop in a factory and get + ~180k population every turn. Add on a Robo Miner plant and get ~360k population per turn. Move of all but one colonists from one of your established planets with all the production buildings and get more than one colonist (1 million population) per turn. Some test data:

PopulationProductionGrowth
1 of 40 PP+38k
1 of 410 PP (worker + factories)+190k
1 of 421 PP (worker + factories + robo miners) +357k

You can also tech and build a cloning center that adds +100k production every turn. This is typically considerably more than you grow naturally, especially when a planet is not close to half full where natural growth is at its highest.

While both growth bonuses and cloning centers are useful, building housing is so efficient that any other bonus to growth is not really that important.

You can also get population by assimilating alien colonies. If you can invade their planets without killing too many colonists, and are able to assimilate them quickly, that can be a really efficient way to increase your population.

Diplomacy

Making deals with the opposing AIs and have peace until you want a war really helps a game out. However, doing so seems very tricky at times.

Each AI have a relation bar saying how much they like you. High up in the green and they are happy and low down in red part and you are at war or in danger of getting there any time. This affect relations as far as I know:

The AI has different personalities that you can view in the report screen. This personality is likely affecting relations with that AI. For instance, the Klackons are often a bit hard to make treaties with. Personalities may make some AIs more trustworthy than others.

It's hard to know what's best to do when it comes to Diplomacy. Some of the options are tricky as depending on what the AI answer it may backfire. Here's what I typically do:

Fleet

Hull sizes

The hull size overview is available in game (with errors) by rightclicking on a hull size. I didn't notice this before finding an image of it online. I'll repeat correct values here:

Hull Size Space (With battle pods) Marines Armor and Structure Size class and Command points used Armor per command point Space per command point Minimum cost (With battle pods) Cost per space
Frigate 25 (37) 541425 20 (40)0.80 (1.08)
Destroyer 60 (90) 8102530 70 (130)1.17 (1.44)
Cruiser (*) 120 (180) 123031040 250 (425)2.08 (2.36)
Battleship (*) 250 (375) 2050412.562.5 600 (1000)2.40 (2.67)
Titan (*) 500 (750) 3080516100 1500 (2300)3.00 (3.07)
Doom Star (*) 1200 (1800) 50150625200 4000 (6500)3.33 (3.61)

(*) - A star base or similar is needed to build these ships. Technology advancement needed to build titans and doom stars.

As can be seen by the table, the bigger the ships, the more bang you get for the buck. You get more armor and structure points for enemies to destroy per command point, and more space for weapons per command point. The difference is huge. However, you also see that the cost of the ship increases compared to how much you can pack onto the ship. Thus, to build a fleet that can shoot a given number of missiles, using small ships will make you able to build it fastest, but you will use lots of command points to support it. In general you might want to build some smaller ships for emergency defense or to create an attack force quickly, but you'd prefer the biggest ships you can create when you have time to make them.

Command points

You get a number of command points. Each ship use some of them. If you use more commands point than you have, you have to pay 10 gold in maintenance for each of these command points, which can get very expensive, especially early on. Non-combat ships like colony ships and transporters use 1 CP. Warships use command points equal to their size class. Respectively 1 to 6 going from frigate to doom star. You can get command points from the following:

As you see, there aren't that many effects that help producing command points. Another issue is that the technologies needed here all come together with other very useful ones. Battlestation is on same tech level as Robo Miners, Star Fortress on same level as Advanced City Planning, Tachyon Communication is together with Battle Scanner, Sub-Space Communications together with Jump Gate and Hyperspace Communications is together with Mauler Device and Sensors. If you're not actively planning how to get command points you can easily end up taking none of these and have major issues supporting a fleet. Being warlord is great here as that gives you lots of extra command points.

Summary: Getting enough command points can be tricky if you're not creative as you typically want to prioritize other techs at same level. When you get to the point where you pick between Jump Gate or Sub-Space Communications, unless you've managed to trade for battle stations or Tachyon Communications by then, you sadly need to consider to take Sub-Space Communications instead of Jump Gate. The easiest sacrifice is probably to pick Hyperspace Communications over the other choices there but that's at 6000 RP and having only one command point per star base up until that time may be tricky.

Crew experience

Ship crew start of as a green crew with 0 XP by default, but if you have a space academy where you build the ship they start of as Regular with 50 XP. Each crew get +1 experience per turn. Additionally they get +1 XP per space academy in the system they are orbiting. Leaders with instructor skill also increase XP per turn. If you have multiple such leaders, only the one with the highest bonus count. Only warlords can become Ultra-Elite. Warlord races count as one level higher than normal, so use the XP requirements from the level before.

When refitting ships, the crew remains, so you don't need to start over. Make sure you don't sacrifice old ships with experienced crews unless you want to stop using ships of that size class.

LevelXP requiredBonus
Green00
Regular50+15
Veteran150+30
Elite500+50
Ultra-Elite*+75

Note that XP requirements above have been found by testing and rounding of to what looked like the closest number. I got small variations so not sure if there is some effect I'm unaware of. The crew bonus applies to beam attack, beam defense, and half of it applies to missile evasion too.

Ship designs

Designing the best ships are a major part of the game. Here follows some suggestion for ships to design.

The Missile Launcher

Early game you haven't teched much. You have lousy beam weapons and your beam attack rating is bad due to bad computer, inexperienced crew and maybe lack of a battle scanner or space to keep the battle scanner. Your survivability is also low, so if you try to create a ship with beam weapons having to get in close to attack, it may be destroyed all too soon. A strong and popular contender here is thus the missile launcher ship, which is basically a ship filled to the brim with missiles that launch some missiles and retreat from combat. The concept work without any tech at all besides being able to build ships but there are several aspects that make it stronger. The missile launcher is a hit and run ship that operates together with a ship that will not retreat, for instance the evader described below.

Use missile launchers only having 2 missiles each
You should do damage as quick as possible and get out. Doing it all at once keep combat short, saving your ships, and also gives enemy shorter time to shoot at your missiles.
MIRV modification
If you tech to Advanced Chemistry, two Chemistry levels above nuclear missiles, your missiles can get the MIRV modification causing your missiles to split in 4 for four times the damage. The missile takes up twice as much space on your ship, so in effect this doubles the damage you do with missiles if we ignore other factors.
Tech chemistry to minituarize missiles
The more tech levels you have the less space missiles use and the more you can fit. Nuclear missiles will be your best missile for a long time due to becoming smaller and smaller. Good enemy shields or miniaturizing better missiles will eventually make them better. Compare enemy ship shields with the missile damage and the space used on your ship to see when the breaking point is. It is further than you'd think.
Dauntless guidance system
While you can't pick this over research lab, it is a nice missile tech. When you have it, and you destroy a target in combat, all missiles that were also targetting that target will pick themselves another target instead. Note that missiles that hit the target at the same time blow up at the same time, so you need missiles to not all hit the target at the same time for this to be useful. They can be in line to hit the target in the same turn though, just as long as the missiles that take the target out reach the target first.
Fast Missile Racks
With fast missile racks you can shoot all your missiles and retreat in the first turn. This makes a max size damage burst and leaves your ship vulnerable to counter attack the shortest time. However at 900 RP together with advanced damage control and assault shuttles you might not want to prioritize it.
Ship armor
No matter how short you are going to stay in battle, the opponent will have a chance to shoot at you. If he out techs you or are using mass drivers or have the initiative he may very well be able to kill of your ship before it has launched missiles, or before it manages to escape. Getting some ship armor helps a lot here. Nicely enough, armor is in the chemistry branch so you can do this at the same time as you tech for minituarization levels.
Fast modification
With the fast modification, missiles get +4 speed and corresponding beam defense. This means your missiles get faster to your target, which should leave opponents less time to shoot at them, have a bit worse chance hitting them and live a bit shorter, being able to shoot less at you. If you are already using MIRV missiles, having fast missiles cost you little extra in missile space. Fast adds 25% to space usage, but that's 25% to the base, not the space including MIRV modification.
Heavily Armored modification
Another option adding 25% to space usage, which doubles the amount of hitpoints a missile have. If the opponent are shooting at your missiles he should thus only be able to shoot down half as many.
ECCM modification
Halves the effect of jammers for the cost of using +25% space for the missile. I haven't gathered statistics on how often the AI use jammers, but it doesn't add much to size if you are using the other modifications.
Emissions Guidance modification
This comes from Computer V at 1500 RP where you might have preferred Cyber-Security Link for +10 spying if you're not creative, and at 1500 RP this is quite a bit into the game, so you will likely start warring ahead of having this available. However, EMG is a pretty awesome missile modification so you may consider it when you get it. For a massive +300% space usage, you directly damage the ship drive if you pass the shield. Ships can take very little drive damage so this can quickly destroy big ships even if just a few missiles get through.
Faster ship drive
A faster ship drive makes your missiles move faster. Not critical but useful.
The Evader

The Evader is basically a ship that will just try to avoid damage and stay in combat long enough for it to be won. This is typically used together with hit and run ships that need to retreat before they are destroyed. You need to have a ship still in the battle until the battle is won, or your ships will retreat.

The simplest Evader is just a frigate with no gear at all. No weapons, no computer, no fuel tanks or anything. It is important that it has no weapons because that make the AI not target it while there are other targets to shoot at. You want to keep it empty to have a good combat speed. If you don't mind the extra cost, Battle Pods and Augmented Engine helps it run away faster. Inertial stabilizer or similar upping beam defense and reducing turning costs might be worth the drop in speed to take less damage and turn quickly.

This ship will basically just turn around and hit the corner of the map, hoping for the combat to be done before missiles reach it. If you need more time you can use two, one in each corner.

The Boarder

A ship able to board enemy vessels and steal them is also great. Here there are many possibilities:

Techs to improve how much damage the ship can take are good as the ship may need to get into close combat. Troop pods to get more troops to use for boarding may also be useful.

The Beamer

Once you get a decent beam attack rating, you should consider beam weapons. Then you never go out of ammunition and can deliver instant damage. A beam ship needs to have a good chance of hitting. At least early in the game that likely implies battle scanners. An updated computer is also important for beam attack. Augmented Engines means you move faster toward targets. You often want to shoot at close range to increase chance of hitting. It also adds to beam defense indirectly through speed. You want to use some beam weapon you have minituarized some and gotten some nice modifications for. You may want some defensive modules to survive longer, but don't add too many or you don't have enough space for enough beams.

The Booster

Later in the game you may have Warp Dissipators, Wide Area Jammers and/or a combat leader that boosts the entire fleet decently. At that time you may want to create a ship to stick all these bonuses on to boost the rest of your fleet. Ideally you have a phasing cloak to put on the ship to make it virtually invincible for 10 turns, in which case you can use a small ship with just the minimal available space for the boosting parts. If you have survival pods you may opt for a small ship anyhow which can be replaced, but in that case I think I'd likely go for a big ship with priority on boosting and surviving. Basically a tank with all your defensive survival techs.

Ground Combat

Ground combat bonuses are used when you attack or defend a colony or when you board or defend against boarding in fleet combat.

Mechanics

The following bonuses exist to ground combat:

Racial Trait - Ground combat penalty or bonus
-10, +10 or +20 to ground combat.
Racial Trait - Low Gravity
-10 to ground combat.
Racial Trait - High Gravity
+1 hitpoints per marine.
Racial Trait - Subterranean
+10 to ground combat defense.
Laser Rifle (Physics I, Physics, 50 RP)
+5 ground combat. Not stacking with other Rifles.
Fusion Rifle (Physics II, Fusion Physics, 150 RP)
+10 ground combat. Not stacking with other Rifles.
Phasor Rifle (Physics VII, Multi-Phased Physics, 2000 RP)
+20 ground combat. Not stacking with other Rifles.
Plasma Rifle (Physics VIII, Plasma Physics, 3500 RP)
+30 ground combat. Not stacking with other Rifles.
Powered Armor (Construction V, Robotics, 650 RP)
+10 ground combat and +1 hits to kill. Not a ship armor. Stacks with everything. Powered Armor isn't listed in the Attack Summary list but is shown as a yellow suit below. If you add together the numbers you see that it is there even though the +10 isn't listed specifically. Tech is at level with Robo-Miners so you need to be creative or get it in alternative ways.
Anti-Grav Harness (Force Fields II, Gravitic Fields, 650 RP)
+10 ground combat. Stacks with everything else. Tech is at level with Inertial Stabilizer which may be a higher priority.
Personal Shield (Force Fields IV, Electomagnetic Refraction, 1500 RP)
+20 ground combat. Stacks with everything else. Tech is at level with Stealth Suit which is very useful.
Tritanium Armor (Chemistry II, Advanced Metallurgy, 250 RP)
+10 ground combat. Not stacking with other Armor.
Zortrium Armor (Chemistry V, Nano Technology, 2000 RP)
+15 ground combat. Not stacking with other Armor.
Neutronium Armor (Chemistry VI, Molecular Manipulation, 4500 RP)
+20 ground combat. Not stacking with other Armor.
Adamantium Armor (Chemistry VII, Molecular Control, 10000 RP)
+25 ground combat. Not stacking with other Armor.
Xentronium Armor (Only available from Orion or Antares)
+30 ground combat. Not stacking with other Armor.
Battleoids
Robots having +10 to combat rating and taking 3 hits to destroy. Cannot be employed on offense, but on defense they can be used.

In total, this adds up to +100 ground combat and +1 hit if you ignore the trait. Traits can add another +20 offense (+30 defense) and +1 hit, or a -20 penalty in the worst case. If you manage to keep a tech lead, you can make up for a ground combat penalty with more bonuses than the AI, but unless you're creative some of them may be hard choices.

I don't know the details of how ground combat mechanics work but I'm guessing it is a fairly similar mechanic as spying use, but with another number for success. Instead of stealing a technology you cause a hit, and it repeats until one side is gone. From experience in game it does seem that you lose less troops if you attack with more, thus it sounds like you get a bonus from having more than you need, I am guessing similar to spying bonus for having many spies.

I am guessing combat works exactly the same for boarding. I have no basis to know that, but I see no reason why they should implement a separate algorithm to use in that case.

Invasions

When invading a planet using transports, the attacker has the option of picking how many transports to use. He can see how many soldiers are on the ground and can keep bombing the planet until his odds are very good. In theory he can also use the reports to check every tech the opponent have and calculate their bonuses, however that is tedious for a player.

As a result, you really want to avoid defending colonies on the ground. You want to defend in space. It is not needed to be good at ground combat to manage an invasion. However, being better at ground combat you can build less transports (saving you production and command points) or invade planets with more defenders, allowing you to capture more intact colonies. Starting with lots of colonists to assimilate and many buildings already built is a good bonus if you can avoid or battle revolts.

Boarding ships

When boarding enemy vessels in space, Neutron Blasters can be used to kill of enemy marines prior to attacking, leaving ground combat of little importance. However, Antarans are immune, and not needing to use Neutron Blasters is also a good thing.

Defending against boarding is the one case where you would really like to be good at ground combat, but unless the opponent come with transporters or assault shuttles, he needs to immobilize your ships first. The AI isn't very good at taking advantage of a ground combat bonus to board, but do take care to scan the opposing ships and see if there are some boarding ships you need to be aware of.

Spying

At all tech levels you start with the spying network technology allowing you to build spies for 100 PP each. Each spy costs you 1 BC maintenance each turn. You can use spies to destroy an enemy building (sabotage) or to steal an enemy technology that you haven't researched yet (espionage). In addition you can have spies as defensive agents stopping opposing spies or just hide on enemy planets.

Hiding doesn't sound useful, but it may be useful when an enemy is wiped out. You can only have assigned up to 63 spies at any location. When an enemy is wiped out the spies currently targetting this player will be moved to become agents if there is space, if not they are lost. By hiding some spies at other races you currently don't want to spy on you have more free space for agents. (Taken from memory. Verify that spies can't spill over to other opponents.)

How spying works is not visible in game nor explained in manual. Found a forum post online where Overlord2 claims the chance of tech stealing is the following:

  roll = (spying bonus + 0-100) - (agent bonus + 0-100)

  roll > 60 - Successful stealing tech.
  roll > 80 - You frame another race for spying.

  roll > 70 - Sabotage is successful.
  roll > 90 - You frame another race for sabotage.

  Spying/Agent bonus: Race spying bonus + Spy number bonus + bonuses listed in table below.
  Spy number bonus:
  Spy 1-5: +2
  Spy 6-10: +1
  Spy 11-63: +0.5 (rounded down)

To steal or sabotage you need to have at least one spy assigned to that role. Spying and agent bonuses are mostly the same and should be covered in the list below.

Trait/TechSpying bonusAgent bonusComment
Dictatorship0+10Racial trait.
Imperium0+104500 RP. Requires Dictatorship.
Democracy0-10Racial trait
Unification0+15Racial trait
Telepathic+100Racial trait
Neural Scanner+10+10400 RP. Together with Scout Lab and Security Stations.
Telepathic Training+5+5900 RP. Together with Microbiotics
Cyber-Security Link+10+101500 RP. Together with EMG and Rangemaster Unit
Psionics+10+102750 RP. Together with Heightened Intelligence.
Stealth Suit+10+101500 RP. Together with Personal Shield and Stealth Field

The technology spying success report doesn't show who you stole it from, but you can get multiple such reports in one turn if you are lucky. I am guessing you roll for spying results independently versus all the races for which you have spies.

There is also a chance that you lose spies, both offensive and defensive ones. The mechanics of this is unknown to me, though I'm guessing that if you roll high enough on the roll above you end up killing a defensive agent, and that if you roll low enough you lose one of your own. My impression from playing is that I lose far less spies when I'm having a spying advantage.

The part of the mechanics above I can confirm is that there is a random chance to do a spy action each turn. If you load the game and do something that triggers the random generator to roll a number more or less you often get another spy result. Load/Save can for instance be exploited to reload game if you lose a spy to do things a little different to get another result.

Using the report function in the race screen you can see all the technologies a player has researched, and in the info screen you can see their racial traits. With this information you can calculate their spy and agent bonuses, giving you some idea how many agents you need for a decent spying defense and get a feel for how many spies you need for a decent shot at stealing or sabotaging. Using statistical analysis one can calculate the expected number of turns between successfully stealing or sabotaging.

Spying - Agents Steal probability Expected turns to steal Framing probability Comment
-25 1.2 % 85.0 0.0 %-10 spying race vs Unification
-10 4.6 % 21.9 11.8 %-10 spying race vs Feudal
0 8.0 % 12.4 25.6 %No bonus to spying vs Feudal
5 10.1 % 9.9 31.4 %+20 spying vs Unification
10 12.5 % 8.0 36.5 %+20 spying vs Dictatorship
20 17.9 % 5.6 44.8 %+10 spying vs Democracy
30 24.4 % 4.1 51.3 %+20 spying vs Democracy
40 31.8 % 3.1 56.5 %
50 40.1 % 2.5 60.7 %
60 49.5 % 2.0 64.2 %
70 59.0 % 1.7 68.1 %
80 67.4 % 1.5 73.4 %
90 74.9 % 1.3 78.7 %
100 81.5 % 1.2 82.8 %

As seen from the table above, assuming mechanics it is based on is correct, when you get around a 20 advantage in spying the probability of stealing becomes high enough such that your chances average out in a decent timeframe. I'm not entirely convinced the formulat is correct though. When dominating I have often had a big spying advantage, but I can't remember stealing techs this fast on average.

Antarans

The Antares are a master race in another dimension. One of the victory conditions of the game is to get to their dimension and defeat them on their home world. If enabled when setting up game, the Antarans will attack a player once in a while, possibly at specific periodic intervals.

Last time I checked in an average game, Antarans showed up first on turn 259. Antarans have great technology. Being able to board their ships and steal some technology can really help you out. I'm not entirely sure when they appear but I can't remember having seen one before turn 200 at least.

It is a bit tricky to capture Antaran ships. Marine killing effects like Neutron Blaster does not work. If they think their ships are exposed to boarding (like immobilized or having few crew left), they often self-destruct, and if you do manage to board them they have Quantum Detonators giving it a 50% chance to blow up. You want to capture the first frigates to get tech early, and if you manage to capture several it is great as it is random what technologies you manage to find when you scrap. Attacking with lots of Assault Shuttles might be the simplest way.

Do take care to notice when their attack is announced so you have as many turns as possible to react and get a defense or capture fleet to the location.

Space monsters

There are space monsters protecting various systems at the start of the game. Some may kill of your scout when you're scouting the system. Most have one or more great planets to colonize, so you should try to take them out early. Random events can also cause space monsters to come from nowhere to attack systems.

The table below is not complete. Will try to update it as I encounter the monsters and take note of their attributes and see what fleet I need to take it out.

MonsterComment
Amoeba

Beam Attack / Beam Defense / Missile Evasion +50 / +40 / 0%

8 combat speed, 400 structure, 1 caustic slime

Hydra

Beam Attack / Beam Defense / Missile Evasion +50 / +40 / 0%

8 combat speed, 500 structure, 3 plasma breaths, energy absorber

Crystal

Beam Attack / Beam Defense / Missile Evasion +125 / +60 / 0%

12 combat speed, 500 structure, 1 crystal ray, 5 death spores

Took it down with two volleys of 46 unmodified nuclear missiles. Crystal took about all armor in one attack. Ship had 100 structure and armor (battleship). Had +95 beam defense as I was alkari (+50 defense)

17 fully upgraded mirv nuclear missiles also do the trick.

Dragon

Beam Attack / Beam Defense / Missile Evasion +125 / +100 / 0%

20 combat speed, 500 structure, 8 phasor eyes, 1 dragon breath

Took it down with 15 fully upgraded nuclear missiles using 2 volleys. Second volley at point blank range as I couldn't afford to be hit more than once. Had heavy armor and reinforced hulls, 300 structure and armor. Armor gone, structure just 114 left. Had 95% beam defense and a good galactic leader.

The galaxy

The galaxy consists of a set of star systems, black holes, and likely a few Nebulas. Ships move slower through Nebulas, and while fighting there they can't use normal shields. Hard shields still work though. To go through a black hole you need a navigator leader.

Each star has 0-5 orbits filled with planets, gas giants and asteroid belts. You can make an outposts on gas giants and asteroid belts, but not regular colonies. You can invent Planet Construction, which can be used to create a planet from an asteroid belt or gas giant. It must be built by another colony in the same system though. A stellar converter can blow up a planet leaving an asteroid belt instead.

Star systems are a given amount of parsecs apart. Use F9 tool to measure the distance. There also exist wormholes which is a way to travel between two starts in a single turn.

The table below shows how many colonists fits onto different types of planets depending on your racial traits. In addition you can invent techs giving you space for 7 extra colonists on any planet. This gives a maximum population of 42 on a huge planet where you can use all the habitable area plus the subterranean bonus. However, due to the bug/feature with subterranean, you can actually add non-subterranean colonists. With the 7 colonists from technologies, a small gaia planet can host 21 subterranean and 17 others for a total of 38 colonists. Medium and larger planets can all reach the maximum of 42. It is possible to get above but that trigger game bugs.

Population limits for planetsHabitable AreaTinySmallMedium LargeHuge
Normal race
Toxic, Radiated, Barren, Desert, Tundra, Ocean 25%13456
Swamp 40%246810
Arid 60%3691215
Terran 80%48121620
Gaia 100%510152025
Aquatic race
Toxic, Radiated, Barren, Desert 25%13456
Arid 60%3691215
Tundra, Swamp 80%48121620
Ocean, Terran, Gaia 100%510152025
Tolerant race
Toxic, Radiated, Barren, Desert, Tundra, Ocean 50%3581013
Swamp 65%37101316
Arid 85%49131721
Terran, Gaia 100%510152025
Subterranean race
Toxic, Radiated, Barren, Desert, Tundra, Ocean 65%37101316
Swamp 80%48121620
Arid 100%510152025
Terran 120%612182430
Gaia 140%714212835
Tolerant Aquatic race
Toxic, Radiated, Barren, Desert 50%3581013
Arid 85%49131721
Tundra, Swamp, Ocean, Terran, Gaia 100%510152025
Tolerant Subterranean race
Toxic, Radiated, Barren, Desert, Tundra, Ocean 90%59141823
Swamp 105%511162126
Arid 125%613192531
Terran, Gaia 140%714212835
Aquatic Subterranean race
Toxic, Radiated, Barren, Desert 65%37101316
Arid 100%510152025
Tundra, Swamp 120%612182430
Ocean, Terran, Gaia 140%714212835
Tolerant Aquatic Subterranean race
Toxic, Radiated, Barren, Desert 90%59141823
Arid 125%613192531
Tundra, Swamp, Ocean, Terran, Gaia 140%714212835

Food production0123
Non-Aquatic Toxic, Radiated, Barren Desert, Arid, Tundra Swamp, Ocean, Terran Gaia
Aquatic Toxic, Radiated, Barren Desert, Arid Tundra, Swamp Ocean, Terran, Gaia

Two tables above borrowed from strategy wiki.

Other stuff

Revolts

When you have captured worlds and have colonists that are yet to be assimilated there you have a chance of a revolt occuring. If the revolt is successful, the planet is suddenly owned by the revolting colonists race again.

I am not entirely sure what helps against a revolt, but I think there are two different types of effects. Some might reduce the chance of a revolt to happen in the first place. I'm guessing an Alien Management Center might help. At least it helps to shorten the time window when you have conquered colonists. Once they are all assimilated they will no longer revolt. It might help that the revolting population is a small part of the total population too.

Once a revolt do happen, it seems like the conquered colonists fight it out with the defending marines. Having good ground combat and a decent force of defending marines might thus help a lot. Remains to be confirmed though.

Blockades

When enemy races are orbiting your system it is blockaded. If you don't have a non-agression pact or alliance they count as enemies in this case, even though noone has declared war. It doesn't help having orbitting ships of your own too. A blockaded system can not transfer export or import food from other colonies, not even locally in the same system. Additionally food and worker production suffers a -50% penalty, causing you to easily get starvation. Note that research is not reduced while blockaded. If you have to live with a blockade for a little while you may want to use the local colonists to research.

Due to the penalties, having such ships orbitting is very annoying. If opponents are blockading you, you should either try to get a non-aggression pact, ask them to remove their ships from their system or attack them an wipe them out or at least make them retreat. If you can do neither you're in a bit of a bind.

Overall strategy

Research is worth nothing without a fleet. A fleet will be wiped out easily without research. With twice as many colonists you can build and research twice as fast. Depending on your racial traits, the current galaxy, your opponents and the current state of the game, you get variations for what kind of prioritization is locally optimal and what to do first, but the overall strategy is basically the same.

You need the capacity to produce many production points in order to build your fleet. Some techs improve your production efficiency, typically by allowing you to build some production buildings. Increasing your population and finding mineral rich planets will also help you to produce quicker. You need to find a balance of how to plan for long term having enough production capacity to win by building up an offensive fleet and short term to get enough production to help fuel population growth, research, provide sufficient defense and possibly taking advantage of opponent weaknesses and invade their systems (which indirectly boosts your population growth and can give you free research too)

To research you, at least initially, need to use scientists, which takes away from production. You have to prioritize between research that makes further research more efficient, research that helps production, research that helps growth and research that helps offense/defense. Researching some specific technologies may give you a decent edge on the opposition. This may provide decent timeslots to take advantage of that to improve growth by taking some opposing systems, to quickly boost population and get access to more planets where you can procude and research more. For instance, after researching Zortrium Armor you may have a window to war prior to all opponents having the same.

To defend and attack you need a fleet. It takes a little while to get one when you start pre-warp, especially if building one isn't your first priority. Early in the game a small fleet may still be very useful on offense, so don't turtle in too long before trying to spread out. Try to understand when you will not be able to win a fight before you engange or at least before you lose your ships, at which time you should play for defense until you get a bigger fleet or better tech to enable you to expand further in that direction.

Early game tactics

The default race starts of being bad at producing food, building and researching. On top of that you only have a few colonists. Optimizing early growth makes a huge difference. That's why races with early game bonuses do so well. It's easy to waste 200 turns building up your home system with some colony bases, while experienced players may be close to winning after 100 turns. Your first priorities are typically:

The big question is how to do all of the above and finish fastest. Races with good production bonuses might want to start of prioritizing colony bases. These can be used to build housing and get your home world to max population really fast which leaves you more colonists to use for research. A specialized production race can actually finish a colony base in 4 turns after the start. Races with research bonuses may start of researching and saving up production points to build buildings researched fast. In either case you might want to speed up production further by using money to buy the last half of the production.

Races with no bonuses to production nor research typically end up using quite a bit more time to get up and running. While other types of bonuses might be very useful, a slow start is very noticeable. I don't think such races are viable in multiplayer games, but against the AI anything is viable and variation is fun. Researching takes a while without good research bonuses. You may want to choose a middle way where you prioritize building a colony base, but you research with the workers that would otherwise mostly generate pollution and speed it up by rush buying half built buildings.

Exactly what to do depends on your race and the map but I'll give you some things to think about:

After the having worked out the above priorities you need to consider whether to expand by colony ships or transports. A colony ship costs 500 production and create a colony with 1 colonist and no buildings. A transport cost 100 production and can potentially get a colony with several colonists and buildings already present, and to boot you can steal technologies from the opponent when invading. Of course, to invade you need to be in range and at war and have a fleet able to perform the attack, and you should be able to defend your systems too. The risk of it backfiring is larger but the upside is awesome. There may also be issues with conquered population rebelling and using some time before they are efficient willing workers in your empire, but the colonists may also have properties your own has not which you can take advantage of.

There are many great techs at around 1000 RP to research. You will likely want to start of with Planetary Supercomputers to research the rest more efficient. Terraforming is great to increase maximum population and get more planets where you can farm, gravity generators are great in order to utilize heavy gravity planets that are often mineral rich, radiation shield is great to turn radiated planets into barren which can be terraformed further, and stock exchange is great for increasing your income enabling more rush-buying and building all the useful buildings without needing to build trade goods to cope.

That should conclude the early game. Try to build up your colonies as fast as possible and add new ones when possible. Get fleet, find a decent timewindow to exploit an AI and wage war to take over enemy systems.

Providing your colonists with enough food

One strong long term strategy is to assimilate Silicoids or possibly another race having rolled Lithovore. These races have used a lot of racial points for traits that are tied to their colonists. The best race I have assimilated is Silicoids that were Subterranean to boot. Building housing on 1 pop planets you should be able to grow lots of assimilated population and you can also replace your starting population eventually if the game drags on.

But a suitable race might not be in the game, nor be close enough for you to assimilate colonists early, or you may have picked colonist traits yourself and don't want to use other colonists. In which case I typically try to follow these suggestions:

Growth strategy

First things first, make sure you know what systems exist around you, so you can make an informed choice as to what options you have for colonization and prioritize colony ships accordingly. You may want to build a few outposts to scout further than the initial range. If you find an enemy you may choose between a peaceful growth or a war to invade the enemy systems. The latter is typically better if it works but may backfire hard.

Early on you are looking for a planet or two to take over food production from your home world. At the start, your home world with all its population will be your main production and science world, so you don't want to have it use most its resources farming because you have created a lot of small colonies that not yet contribute much to your empire. If you're lucky you can find an ocean, terran or gaia world that doesn't give you gravity penalties. If not you might have to live with home world being food source for all colonies until terraforming, in which case terraforming should be put on your priority list.

Secondly, you should look for good production planets. These are often rare to begin with as you'd want it to be rich or ultra rich, and often these are also heavy gravity or very small supporting few colonists. A large abundant world can also work well though. An ultra rich planet with heavy gravity still produce more than an abundant world to begin with so no need to wait with colonizing it.

While settling your first new colonies, try to have some extra freighters on hand and use some of your colonies as 1 pop house building colonist factories. Transfer colonists to your new colonies to avoid them using forever to build the initial buildings. To start with a colonist factory will just produce housing with no buildings built. It will want to get automatic factories once available, and Robo Miners once they come. If your colonist factories are in the same system as other colonies you might be able to move over many colonists while the colonist factory is producing production buildings to increase efficiency.

Cloning centers are fairly expensive to build on colonist factory planets. I typically rather use them later in the game on worlds that are building them up themselves over time. At this time it might be tedious to manage manual movement as you may have more than one screen of colonies on the colony list. Don't prioritize cloning centers over soil enrichment, but if you get them and you are able to build them fast or buy them, feel free to.

As natural growth is so slow compared to having colonist factories, microbiotics and universal antidote does not need to be prioritized either. However, the bio-terminators are pretty useless anyhow so I typically get the antidote. At 4500 RP it's too late to matter much though.

Try to fit in as many colonies on each planet as possible. Population is power. Biospheres and Advanced City Planning is awesome for this. The subterranean, aquatic and tolerant traits are also a great addition. So much so that they having one of them is almost mandatory for a competative multiplayer race. Terraforming is also great, enabling you to create better environments that can support more people.

Most important thing of all. When you have filled up all your planets, don't be satisfied with that. Try to get techs that give you more space soon or try to colonize more worlds that you can spread to. You will be blocked by population cap on your colonies from time to time, but if you think that you have enough of the galaxy when you're giving yourself a handicap. Note that when you are expecting the game to be close to an end, then you might slack of as new colonies are unlikely to get to the point where they contribute before the game ends.

Summary Use small colonies building housing to grow fast. Keep expanding to new systems peacefully or by invading. The latter is better but carries higher risk. Including a racial trait to increase maximum population is a big bonus.

Production strategy

Try to prioritize researching the production buildings. They make a huge difference. You should get atmospheric renewer. You don't really need core waste dump and if you get it you might not build it on planets without a huge production due to the maintenance cost. I typically get the pollution processor too as it is a very nice early pollution bonus which is cheap to build and maintain.

Build production buildings first, including any morale/pollution control/gravity control type buildings in the order that finishes all of them in the shortest time. Typically automatic factories and robo miners first. When economy is good you can buy the factory immediately and buy robo miners after they are half built. Figure out how good your economy is and see at what level you can rush buy. Try to prioritize being able to rush buy production buildings on new colonies first.

After production buildings, build growth improvements. Build Biospheres and Terraforming when your population comes close to maximum. Build cloning centers when you have time. Then build research buildings to help your total research. Finally if you reach a good environment so you can farm efficiently, build soil enrichment and weather controller and save money by producing food locally.

You ideally want to have a couple of big and rich planets as your main fleet builders. These need space academies. Try to keep them busy building ships when you have command points to spare. When you are out of command points, see if you can help that by building more bases or trade for some communication tech.

Scientific strategy

If you are feudal, you are bad at research. Put research buildings extremely high on your priority list (they should already be high), try to get loads of colonies. Build every research building on every colony to be able to research decently without running scientists. Use your ship production bonus to try and get some early aggression going. You will of course still need to run scientists, especially in the beginning. Remember to demand a missing research tech from an opponent prior to declaring war.

Extreme production races may want to delay starting of researching a bit as they can efficiently build colony bases and housing from the very beginning. Researching later once you have a higher population reduces your production in a shorter window. They should be able to grow very fast and use a fairly similar tactic as a feudal race is kind of forced into.

Science races may want to mostly research to begin with to get to a point where they can build and grow a bit more efficient. Delaying too long will screw you over though.

A common science order for me (without claiming it is close to optimal, in any case what's optimal is way depending on the current state) is something like:

Depending on when you want to or have to wage war, you may want to juggle these around a bit. I typically play huge worlds so I might get through quite a bit of the above before I can or want to wage war. Also, getting the most critical parts done before going to war, I can have efficient growth within my empire while I prioritize fleet and waging war. Look out for early opportunities for invasions though.

Use your fleet for defense

When looking at how the AI play, it's easy to think that defense is building buildings like missile bases and the best orbital base you have available. In my opinion though, you should rather use your fleet to defend your planets and try to avoid needing pure planetary defense buildings:

You still need orbital bases for command points and to be able to build large ships. If you are not omniscient and can get a hold of Battlestation or Star Fortresses, you might want to have one per system for better detection of enemy ships in transit. When you have the production to spare you want to have the best orbital base available to you to get as many command points as you can though.

Remember that orbital bases are very easy to board as they are always immobile. They are often captured early before they have done major damage to opponents. Their primary function is to get command points and to be able to build huge ships, not to defend against opposing fleet.

Defense buildings can still be useful at times. They are fairly cheap, so you might be able to rush produce/buy a defensive building when a small opposing fleet is incoming and you don't have any ships that can make it there in time for defense. (Though if there are many colonies in the system you may rather want to rush produce/buy some defensive ships)

Optimize for using a fleet defense

I'd say the most important defense tech in the entire tree when playing against the AI, is the Warp Interdictor. It makes opposing fleet slow to a crawl to move the last two parsecs, using one turn per parsec. This means that you typically see the opposing fleet 3 turns or more before they come to your planet. This works great together with Jump Gate which considerably increase your speed when moving between your own systems. A Star Gate is of course awesome here too, but it is only available late game, when game might be long over. A reasonably fast base warp drive and a navigator leader also helps a lot. An Anti-Matter drive should allow you to cover great distances in three turns in combination with the rest. You might also get there you need to go in one or two, meaning you may have time to refit some of your ships prior to moving them over for defense too. If you are not currently at war and your fleet is able to get to defend any planet within time, you can keep all of your fleet in a system where you have lots of space academies to train your crew.

NB: Warp Interdictors does not guarantee that you get a three turn warning. If opponents are coming through a wormhole they will still travel in one turn. AI won't take advantage of that knowingly, but will accidentally if his fleet is on the other side of the wormhole and your system on the other side is the one he wants to attack. Also, I hear that if you are able to give new commands to your fleet at a long range, then you can set a course to a planet on the other side getting very close to the planet you want to attack, and if you manage to do that such that you're only 1 parsec way from it at some point, then you can reroute to the planet to get there the next turn. I've never seen the AI do this though. Sounds like a multiplayer issue. Also, warp interdictors will slow down stealthed ships, but that won't make them any more visible. If you have opponents with stealthed ships you're in war with, then take care.

NB: Grabbing Jump Gate means you'll not get Subspace Communication for +2 command points per starbase. You really want both, so you may consider checking what you can possibly get from trading/spying and research the other.

Using this strategy you should be able to face small parts of AI fleets with your entire fleet, allowing you to keep a fairly small but efficient fleet, and to overpower in numbers when you need it to cope with being out-teched.

Using same fleet for offense and defense

When the fleet is not busy defending, and it is strong enough to take other systems then you'd likely want to do so. However, moving it towards these systems may mean you leave your systems unprotected. You can try to avoid this using the following strategies:

Still, if you can spare it, having some separate ships for defense while you're attacking may make it easier to be able to defend anywhere. Especially when your empire has grown big. Sometimes, especially early on, you may also want to take the chance of leaving your planets undefended too, in order to take down another system.

Powerful tricks

There are quite a lot of tricks that are powerful and make the game simple. Some are likely unintended and could be considered exploitative, while others are just good strategic moves.

Saving and reloading

The main intention of saving and loading is to be able to continue a game later. It is also very useful in order to learn and improve, by replaying specific situations you are in to see how it can be handled better. What's the best build or research order here? Is there a way for me to win this combat by moving my ships smarter? But it can also be used in other ways that might be considered exploitative, like for instance:

One particular nasty trick is to take advantage of the fact that the game stores a random seed with your savegame. If you reload and end turn, the same will happen as it did the last time. But if you manage to add or remove one or more random rolls, later outcomes will change. Random rolls are used in ship combat where lots of rolls will be made, so the results after the combat are likely to be different every time you try. They are also used when asking AI for treaties or trying to spy on them. Thus, you can trigger different events merely by moving a spy around. This can be used to among other things:

Populating both above ground and below ground

Having both subterranean and non-subterranean colonists you are able to keep a lot of colonists on a planet. Even a medium sized one can get the maximum of 47 colonists. The game behaves a bit strange here, so it's an open question whether it was intended to work this way or not. Regardless it is a very powerful to be able to have so many colonists per colony.

Missile boats

Early hit and run strategies using ships filled to the brim with missiles enables you to win victories against bigger and more advanced forces. You may be able to destroy the enemy in waves and retreat between each time to reload missiles and prevent taking hits. This is a very powerful battle strategy when lagging behind in tech early on.

Miscellanious tricks

Picking technologies

Here follows the list of technologies you can build with short comments as to which ones I deem most essential. This section is mostly intended for when one is neither uncreative or creative and need to pick what to research, but also to be able to identify the most critical technologies to try and backfill. Each tech is classed into one of the following defined below. A tailing question mark means I have limited confidence in whether the classification is correct.

ClassificationExplanation
EssentialThis tech makes a big difference and something you should always try to get unless you're gimping yourself on purpose.
RecommendedThis tech is really useful and you should try to get it if you can
UsefulThis tech is not required to perform well but is still useful and something you should consider to trade for.
Not neededThis tech is not important. It might be a bit useful in some situations, but generally you can ignore it.
UselessYou should never need this tech.

Some technology levels have very hard choices because you really want more than one of them. If you're not creative you should be trying to use other means of getting technologies. When getting to these hard choices you migth speculate in which of them will be easiest to get by other means. Also, for the technology types that are different variations of the same, you may want to try and trade for the current best type in order to being able to not prioritize the next level when you get there. Then, in case you don't manage to trade for the technology later you know you have the previous version.

Tech levelName
RP cost
Computers IElectronics50
Electronic Computer (Not needed) First computer to give +25 to beam attack. You likely want to run missile ships while you don't have a better computer though.
Power I (Required to build ships)Nuclear Fission (You always get all techs here)50
Freighters (Essential) Needed to transfer food and colonists between planets.
Nuclear Bomb (Not needed) Carrying bombs is not really necessary.
Nuclear Drive (Essential) You need a drive to fly around in space.
Chemistry I (Required to build ships)Chemistry (You always get all techs here)50
Extended Fuel Tanks (Recommended) Useful to get extra range on scouts, or on a combat ship if you're in a pinch having too poor fuel cells.
Nuclear Missile (Recommended) Very useful early game weapon.
Standard Fuel Cells (Recommended) Need fuel cells to travel anywhere.
Titanium Armor (Recommended) Initial armor type of ships.
Physics I Physics (You always get all techs here)50
Laser Cannon (Useful) First beam weapon. Decent as point defense weapon but you will likely prefer missiles until you get a decent beam attack, at which time you should have a better beam weapon.
Laser Rifle (Useful) Rifles increase ground combat bonuses.
Space Scanner (Useful) Scanners make you able to detect ships in space close to your systems. This is the worst one but still useful while ships are slow.
Construction IAdvanced Engineering80
Anti-Missile Rockets (Not needed?) Rockets to shoot down enemy missiles only. Unknown how useful compared to other missile defenses. I typically prefer hit and run to avoid missiles to begin with and point defense beams later.
Reinforced Hull (Recommended) Ship gets three times the number of structure points making it harder to destroy. Takes up 10/15/25/50/100/250 space. Useful survivability module for ships.
Fighter Bays (Not needed?) Each bay has 4 fighters with best point defense beam you have invented. Can fire 4 times before returning to ship. I hear people have used this as an effective weapon, however I have not used them much myself. Like missiles, they are not instant unless at point blank range. Unlike missiles, they are not a one-shot type of weapon doing a lot of damage fast. They fly out to do limited damage for several turns but return to restock and fly back out. This doesn't sound too great, though I guess the upside should be a high damage potential compared to space used.
Biology IAstro Biology80
Biospheres (Recommended) Population is power. Two more is awesome. Especially on small planet. Two population generate 2 BC before money bonuses, so more than pays back the 1 BC maintenance of Biospheres.
Hydroponic Farm (Not needed) Use money to be able to use less farmers. However, you're not able to make that much food so it won't make that much of a difference. Might be useful early game prior to finding another food source than your home world. See details for argument.
Power IICold Fusion (You always get all techs here)80
Colony Ship (Essential) Needed to colonize empty planets.
Outpost Ship (Useful)

Build to extend range of your ships. Building a colony on a planet with an outpost turns outpost into marine barrack. If you extend too far, you might get in trouble defendingy your systems. Building an outpost ship means you can get a marine barrack using production on an established world rather than the new one. However, a marine barrack is typically not on the top of your priority list anyhow, and with -20% morale until the first production buildings are built isn't a big deal.

Later in the game they have some strategic value when fighting the AI. The AI may waste some time taking them out, and you can use them to use jump gates or star gates to move far very quickly (unconfirmed that they work with jump gates and star gates)

Transport (Essential) Needed to transfer soldiers to invade planets for non-telepaths.
Physics IIFusion Physics150
Fusion Beam (Useful) A beam slightly better than the laser cannon. They have enveloping mod which make them a pretty effective point defense weapon, as an enveloping weapon can actually take out 4 missiles in one go.
Fusion Rifle (Useful) +10 ground combat. Laser rifle is +5, so this is a +5 improvement.
Computers IIOptronics150
Dauntless Guidance System (Recommended) Missiles whose target get blown up before they get there will find a new target instead. Automatically in use once teched. No ship module needed. Note that missiles that hit target at the same time will all blow up and still overkill. This is for missiles that has not yet reached the target when it blows up. However, they don't need to be a whole turn away, just not there yet, so one ship can launch some and then move a bit before launching more. You won't pick this over laboratory but this is a very useful tech early on as you'd like to run hit and run missile ships. Trade for it if you can.
Optronic Computer (Useful) +50 to beam attack. Having a good computer is needed to efficiently use beam weapons. But there are better ones to come and you can't prioritize this over research laboratory.
Reserch Laboratory (Essential) +5 science and +1 science per worker. Just as automatic factory but for research. This is an essential tech to boost early research and typically your first research target.
Construction IIAdvanced Construction150
Automated Factories (Essential) Stock starting planet with 4 workers will increase from 9 to 16 PP (77%). Essential for early production efficiency.
Heavy Armour (Recommended) Useful for creating ships that can take more damage before dying. Also stops armor piercing weapons. These are better than Reinforced Hull but harder to get for non-creatives.
Planetary Missile Base (Not needed) Prefer defending with fleet rather than defensive installations.
Sociology IMilitary Tactics150
Space Academy (Recommended) New ships get crew at one higher experience level. Stationed ships in system get +1 xp per space academy. (See Crew levels)
Power IIIAdvanced Fusion250
Augmented Engines (Recommended) Great ship module to move faster in combat and improve beam defense.
Fusion Bomb (Not needed) Carrying bombs is not really necessary.
Fusion Drive (Useful) A faster drive is always useful. Though faster drives come soon. Go with augmented engines.
Construction IIICapsule Construction 250
Battle Pods (Essential) Adds 50% more space on ships. Very useful to make more efficient fleet.
Survival Pods (Useful) If any of your ships survive combat, your combat leaders survive even though their ships gets shot down. This is an immediate effect and not ship equipment so fairly useful, though prefer to not let them shoot down your ships.
Troop Pods (Not needed) Takes up 12/18/30/60/125/325 space to double marines on board. Way too much space to be something you build for boarding defense. Killing enemy marines with Neutron Blasters or similar seems a better way to go than using troop pods for ships used to capture enemy ships, but could be a mechanic here I'm not aware of.
Physics IIITachyon Physics250
Battle Scanner (Recommended) +50% to beam attack can end up doubling your beam damage due to increasing your chances to hit considerable. How useful depends on your total beam attack versus opponents beam defense.
Tachyon Communication (Recommended) As you typically have star bases only at this point, this will double your command points which is really useful. Really useful, but hard to pass up battle scanner too.
Tachyon Scanner (Useful) See ships further away and give enemy ships -20% missile evasion which is really useful for your hit and run missile ships.
Force Fields IAdvanced Magnetism250
Class I Shield (Useful) Absorb x5 ship size, reducing each attack by 1. Not much but better than nothing and useful against lasers.
Ecm Jammer (Recommended) 70% missile evasion can be pretty useful, though opponents will still be able to hit you with missiles and they will do massive damage.
Mass Driver (Useful) Beam weapon doing 6 damage with no range penalty.
Chemistry IIAdvanced Metallurgy250
Deuterium Fuel Cells (Recommended) Gives ships 6 parsecs base range rather than 4. This might be essential for early expansion but it depends on how your galaxy map looks. Use range tool (F9) to ensure you can get around prior to skipping this tech. Colony ships and typically scouts have extended fuel tanks and can move 50% further, but having to send combat ships with extended fuel tanks to expand is pretty sad.
Tritanium Armor (Recommended) This gives your ships twice the amount of armor and structure, basically being able to take twice damage before destroyed. This really helps in early battles. However, if you can't get to the battle due to poor fuel cells you might be in trouble.
Computers IIIArtificial Intelligence 400
Neural Scanner (Recommended) +10 spying is great whether you want to spy or just defend. If you don't keep up on spying techs and AIs do, then you may have a hard time to avoid them stealing all your technology advancements. If you want to be able to spy from the AI you also need to keep up to have a decent chance.
Scout Lab (Useful) Creates science and improves chance to hit against monsters and antarans. Have never used it but it might be useful.
Security Stations (Not needed?) Marine defense to help avoid boarding. Doesn't help much if enemies have Neutron Blasters or similar killing of your crew though. Ship system using up 3/4/7/15/30/75 space depending on ship size. Not that much, but still quite a bit considering how specific the bonus is.
Construction IVAstro Engineering400
Armor Barracks (Useless) You never want to fight defensively on the ground. You may be forced into a fight with captured colonists, but I'd rather land a few transport with marines rather than start to build armor barracks to reduce the chance of losing a revolt.
Fighter Garrison (Not needed) Prefer defending with fleet rather than defensive installations.
Spaceport (Recommended) Gives +50% income on a planet for a cheap 60 PP and 1 BC/turn maintenance. Worth it on all planets with 3+ population.
Biology IIAdvanced Biology400
Cloning Center (Recommended) Good for improving growth. However housing building colonist factories better, so not essential. Decent trade target though. Look at growth section for more details on growing.
Death Spores (Useless) I seem to be able to bomb planets into submission without any bombs anyhow.
Soil Enrichment (Essential) Really helps early farming efficiency. Not taking this you'll have to run a lot of farmers until you get weather controller. (Less important if Cybernetic and not very useful if you're Lithovore)
Sociology IIXeno Relations650
Alien Management Center (Recommended) When assimilated colonists are on the same world as colonists of your own race you get -20% morale unless you have this building. (Colonists of different races but none of your own seem to work fine without this) Also helps assimilate captured colonists twice as quick, so really good on planets you invade with lots of population. Assimilating quicker means less time window for revolts.
Xeno Psychology (Useful?) I have no idea what +30 diplomatic point means, but it sounds like it basically means that the opponent is more likely to accept deals you offer them. Is that research/trade/non-agression pacts and alliances only, or does it allow you to get better tech from them? Unconfirmed testing indicate that a diplomatic bonus reduce the chance for an unprovoked war declaration.
Chemistry IIIAdvanced Chemistry650
Merculite Missile (Useful) These do more damage but use up more ship space and you need more tech levels to get the missile refinements. You can live with nuclear missiles for quite a while, and will likely prefer them until you cannot improve miniaturization for them anymore or opponents get too good shields (Level V shields maybe?)
Pollution Processor (Recommended) Pollution is pretty harsh to begin with. Reducing pollution helps a lot. Atmospheric Renewer next level is better, but they work together too. As you might not be able to get Core Waste Dumps (Construction X) you may want to have both too.
Force Fields IIGravitic Fields650
Anti-Grav Harness (Useful) +10 ground combat. Nothing important, but useful to get away with building a few transporters less.
Gyro Destabilizer (Useful) Turns ship around which can give them issues if they have forward facing weapons, but no longer does much damage. Too much space needed to be really useful.
Inertial Stabilizer (Recommended) +50 beam defense and half turning cost in combat. Good boost to beam defense.
Construction VRobotics650
Battlestation (Useful) More command points than star base, better defense and scans deeper into space. 1000 instead of 400 PP though.
Powered Armor (Useful) Build less transports or bomb enemy less before invading. Decent for non-telepaths.
Robo Miners (Essential) Considerable production boost.
Biology IIIGenetic Engineering900
Microbiotics (Usable) +25% growth isn't incredible. You get more growth from cloning centers and a lot more from building housing. Though can still be useful.
Telepathic Training (Recommended) +5 spying is useful whether you want to spy or just defend. There are several +10 spying techs though, so this one seems less essential.
Computers IVPositronics900
Holo Simulator (Recommended) +20% morale is great for non-unification governments. However, cannot prioritize it over supercomputer. Try to trade for it.
Planetary Supercomputer (Essential) A great research tech, similar to robo miners for production, and basically the same as research laboratories just twice as effective and costly.
Positronic Computer (Useful) +75 to beam attack. Next computer down at 2750 RP and you don't want to pick it over autolabs. Try to trade for this one so you have an updated computer when you get to Cybertronics (2750 RP).
Power IVIon Fission900
Ion Drive (Useful) A faster drive is always useful. Though faster drives come soon. If you can research next power level in not so long, pick cannons for utility.
Ion Pulse Cannon (Recommended) Naturally skips armor and damage ships engines. Takes a lot of space in ship so likely not your primary weapon, but should be useful to immobilize ships before they are destroyed so you can capture them.
Shield Capacitors (Not needed?) I guess this is +70% of what is normally recharged. I can't remember having been saved by this.
Force Fields IIIMagneto Gravitics900
Class III Shield (Recommended) Absorb x15 ship size, reducing each attack by 3. Very useful. Make lasers almost useless. Reduce nuclear missile damage considerably.
Planetary Radiation Shield (Essential) 80 PP, 1 BC maintenance. Turn radiated planets into barren. Once terraformed one step beyond they can be destroyed without becoming radiated again. This allows radiated planets to become much more useful terran planets. Especially impotant if you have many radiated planets close. You may want to beeline here.
Warp Dissipator (Recommended) While on a ship in your fleet opponents can not retreat. A good option to eliminate enemy fleets instead of letting them escape.
Construction VIServo Mechanics900
Advanced Damage Control (Recommended) Ships automatically repaired to full between battles. Very useful. Not too hard to trade for though. A fairly cheap leader comes with the tech.
Assault Shuttles (Recommended) Send marines to board enemy ship. Works without enemy ship being immobile, so very useful together with Neutron Blasters or something else that kills enemy marines.
Fast Missile Racks (Recommended) Early on, the easiest way to put together a dangerous fleet is to use ships full of missiles. With fast missile racks all missiles can be fired in one turn and missile ship can retreat. If you have trouble keeping ships alive long enough to fire 2 missile volleys this ship module is really useful.
Chemistry IVMolecular Compression1150
Atmospheric Renewer (Recommended) Really nice pollution control building. The renewer on its own makes pollution livable for the rest of the game. Together with pollution controller, Core Waste Dump isn't really required, although still nice.
Iridium Fuel Cells (Useful) 9 parsec base range. You likely want Adamantium Armor, so Thorium Fuel Cells are unavailable. If you're not willing to pick Urridium Fuel Cells when the time comes you may want to pick this. Though, Atmospheric Renewer is likely good right now, so if you are ok with your current range that might be fine. You can hope to trade or spy for fuel cells too.
Pulson Missile (Useful) As you might have skipped merculite for pollution processor, pulson missiles could be useful to have an upgrade once opponents get too much armor for nuclear missiles.
Sociology IIIMacro Economics1150
Planetary Stock Exchange (Essential) +100% money from your colonist. Stacks additive with space ports.
Construction VIIAstro Construction1150
Battleoids (Not needed) AFAIK, these are only for planet defense. Thus not needed. Never need to defend your planets on ground.
Ground Batteries (Not needed) Prefer defending with fleet rather than defensive installations.
Titan Construction (Recommended) Bigger ships are more space efficient per command point used and easier to keep alive.
Biology IVGenetic Mutations1150
Terraforming (Essential) Built up to 3 times to improve environment. Barren planets become Desert if in inner 2 orbits, Tundra if in two outer orbit, and 50/50 one of them if in the middle orbit. Desert becomes Arid, Tundra becomes Swamp, Arid, Ocean and Swamp becomes Terran. Really awesome as it both makes the planets good for farming and increase maximum population substantially. One of the techs to prioritize getting fairly early.
Physics IVArtificial Gravity1150
Neutron Blaster (Recommended) Beam weapon that in addition kills defending marines. Decent damage to take out ships and also very useful in order to capture enemy ships.
Neutron Scanner (Recommended) A better scanner isn't available before 6000 RP and then you have other really great choices too. I typically end up picking Neutron Blaster but if you can live without them, this is also a good choice. Being able to see enemy ships helps you, especially on defense. However, once you get Warp Interdictor you should be able to see enemy ships in reasonable time with a bad scanner too.
Physics VSubspace Physics1150
Graviton Beam (Useful) Another beam weapon. Haven't found anything especially good about this one.
Planetary Gravity Generator (Essential) Essential building, especially for any race that isn't a heavy gravity race. My favorite racial penalty is Low Gravity, making this building extremely important. You often want to beeline for this tech.
Tractor Beam (Useful) Being able to slow or immobilize enemy ships can be useful, especially when you want to capture them. There are ways to board without immobilizing that might be a better option than tractor beams though. Immobilizing targets can also be used to get out of opponents weapon range if he has forward facing beam weapons for instance.
Physics VISubspace Physics1500
Jump Gate (Recommended) +3 parsecs/turn speed between own systems. Really useful to be able to move your fleet in time to mount a defense. Typically used together with Warp Interdictor.
Sub-Space Communications (Recommended) +2 command points per base. Replaces Tachyon Communication. This really adds to your command points and is really useful in order to afford having a large fleet. Though, having a fleet that gets to where it needs to defend may be more important.
Construction VIIIAdvanced Manufacturing 1500
Planet Construction (Essential) Not essential as in that you cannot live without it, but being able to create a considerable amount of large or huge barren, abundant planets which you can quickly build up as you already have developed planets in the same system makes you able to grow population really quickly. This is a very powerful tech. Yes, you can invade other planets instead, but doing both is much better, and if you're not able to invade other planets easily, you can overcome opponents by outteching and outbuilding them instead.
Automated Repair Unit (Not needed) Ship combat kills ships too quickly for this module to be really useful. Only useful if you are able to create ships opponent have a very hard time to destroy, but in that case you have pretty much won with or without this tech.
Recyclotron (Recommended) Very useful production building. Can create quite a bit of production without having a single worker assigned. Try to get it.
Biology VMacro Genetics1500
Subterranean Farms (Not needed) Use money to be able to use less farmers. However, you're not able to make that much food so it won't make that much of a difference. See details for argument.
Weather Control System (Essential) Really improves farming efficiency. Use this if you need food.
Force Fields IVElectromagnetic Refraction 1500
Personal Shield (Useful) +20 to ground combat. Not that important but can save you building some transports.
Stealth Field (Not needed) Ship module to render ship invisible on main screen for non-omniscient races. Have never noticed any difference in AI behavior due to this. Sounds a lot better in a multi-player game.
Stealth Suit (Recommended) +10 spying is great whether you want to spy or just defend. If you don't keep up on spying techs and AIs do, then you may have a hard time to avoid them stealing all your technology advancements. If you want to be able to spy from the AI you also need to keep up to have a decent chance.
Computers VArtificial Consciousness 1500
Cyber-Security Link (Recommended) +10 spying is great whether you want to spy or just defend. If you don't keep up on spying techs and AIs do, then you may have a hard time to avoid them stealing all your technology advancements. If you want to be able to spy from the AI you also need to keep up to have a decent chance.
Emissions Guidance System (Recommended) If missile gets through shield, damage drive directly, skipping armor and structure points. This kills big ships very fast if shield is down.
Rangemaster Unit (Not needed) I haven't felt the need for this and it takes up space in the ships if you want to use it. Often you want to hit and run you typically use missiles where this has no effect. Might be useful for beam attacks waiting for enemy to close the distance and doing more damage while you are not up close.
Physics VIIMulti-Phased Physics2000
Multi-Phased Shields (Useful) +50% shield strength. Not sure whether it is worth the space used on ship, but might be decent.
Phasor (Recommended) Phasors are great naturally shield piercing weapons. Does great damage compared to space used on ship. This is a contender for best end game weapon.
Phasor Rifle (Useful) +20 to ground combat. Not something to prioritize over other choices here.
Force Fields VWarp Fields2000
Lightning Fields (Useful) Gives a 50% chance to destroy missiles, torpedoes and fighters before they damage the ship. Haven't tested this out but it sounds pretty useful.
Pulsar (Useful?) Inflicts 2-24 damage per size class of ship damaged. Also damages missiles and fighters. This sounds very useful as missile defense. Should test this out.
Warp Interdictor (Essential) This is THE tech for defense. Enemy ships slows down to 1 parsec/turn for last two parsecs to move towards your system. This should give you 3 turns warning before an enemy force gets to your system giving you some time to get your fleet over there.
Chemistry VNano Technology2000
Microlite Construction (Recommended) Immediately gives +1 production per worker. At this point you should have +3 from automatic factories and robo miners, but another +1 is still nice. However, ensure you can live without Zortrium Armor before grabbing it.
Nano Disassemblers (Not needed?) At this stage, you should have decent control of pollution with Pollution Controller and/or Atmospheric Renewers. Getting Microlite Construction should net you more production. If you can get it in addition it is of course useful as it is an instant effect and not depending on a buildig with maintenance or anything. A decent bonus on new worlds, before you get to build pollution controlling buildings.
Zortrium Armor (Recommended) Zortrium armor doubles the survivability of ships compared to Tritanium and quadruples compared to Titanium. This is a huge survivability boost that make all the difference for an offense. There are better armors coming, but they cost quite a few resource points, and you might not want to prioritize the next one. Depending on your current situation getting Zortrium armor can be great.
Sociology IVTeaching Methods2000
Astro University +1 food/production/science for farmers/workers/scientists. At 200 PP and 4 BC/turn that doesn't sound that awesome to me for some reason. You definately will want to prioritize factories and robo miners before this one, but it is a nice bonus, especially on planets with lots of population. With 8 workers getting +1 production each, that could produce trade goods for 4 gold and pay the building back, so I'd say that planets with 9+ population should get this at some point.
Construction IXAdvanced Robotics2000
Bomber Bays (Not needed?) Carry bomb that can be used on a ship. Not tested too much. Some bombs do a lot of damage so may be decent.
Robotic Factory (Recommended) Another really useful production building not requiring workers to be used.
Power VAnti-Matter Fission2000
Anti-Matter Bomb (Not needed) Carrying bombs is not really necessary.
Anti-Matter Drive (Recommended) If you have skipped earlier drives as recommended, you might want to take this one as the other options here are not great and there is several more levels until you get an improvement on this one.
Anti-Matter Torpedoes (Not needed?) While these does not need ammunition like missiles, missiles seem superior and you do want combat done fast anyhow. If I can't finish combat fast, I think I'd prefer beam weapons to this one too.
Computers VICybertronics2750
Autolab (Essential) 30 RP for each colony having this. Can really boost research.
Cybertronic Computer (Recommended) Next best computer. Best computer comes together with two other very useful techs. You likely want to pick Autolab over this, but if you manage to trade or spy for this, you might feel less required to pick the best computer.
Structural Analyzer (Recommended) Very useful to double damage of your weapons. Hard choice what to pick here. If you're currently fighting a lot and you have a decent computer, the analyzer might be very helpful.
Force Fields VISubspace Fields2750
Class V Shield (Recommended) Absorb x25 ship size, reducing each attack by 5.
Gauss Cannon (Useful) Beam weapon causing 18 points of damage regardless of range. Supports autofire, armor piercing and heavy mount modifications.
Multi-Wave Ecm Jammer (Useful) Adds +100 to ships missile evasion.
Biology VIEvolutionary Genetics2750
Heightened Intelligence (Recommended) Instant +1 science per worker without building anything is always useful, though at this time you should have labs, supercomputers and autolabs and then this tech is far from essential. Contrary to the other science techs mentioned above, this has no effect without running scientists.
Psionics (Recommended) +10 spying is great whether you want to spy or just defend. If you don't keep up on spying techs and AIs do, then you may have a hard time to avoid them stealing all your technology advancements. If you want to be able to spy from the AI you also need to keep up to have a decent chance. Psionics also give +10% morale for dictatorships and are an obvious choice for those as that will also help science. At this point you should have around 7 science per scientist so +10% morale should be +0.7 science per scientist. At 4500 RP you can get Galactic Cybernet which should make this tech as good as Heightened Intelligence for dictatorships with spying bonus and +10% for farmers and workers to boot.
Power VIMatter Energy Conversion2750
Food Replicaters (Not needed) These are too expensive to be really useful. Could be an option if you're lazy and prioritize reducing micro management in a big empire.
Transporters (Recommended?) If memory serves correct, you can board without immobilizing ships as long as facing shield is down. Sounds great together with Neutron Blasters. Haven't tested it out lately.
Force Fields VIIDistortion Fields3500
Cloaking Device (Useful) Ship hidden from long range scans. +80 to beam defense and missiles have 50% chance to miss as long as ship does not attack. Recloaks if not firing during a turn.
Hard Shields (Useful) Reduce all damage by 3 points. Allows shields to work in nebulas and prevent enemy transporters even after shields have been dropped. Stops shield piercing weapons from piercing shields. I typically go with this option but others are also interesting and neither is essential.
Stasis Field (Useful) Place target ship in suspended animation. Useful to disable some of opposing fleet while you take out the rest.
Computers VIICybertechnics3500
Android Farmers (Not needed) See here for details on how they work. If you want to run androids, you likely want to run workers.
Android Scientists (Not needed) See here for details on how they work. If you want to run androids, you likely want to run workers.
Android Workers (Useful) See here for details on how they work. Contrary to the tech description, Android Workers also get morale bonuses, making them more useful than farmers and scientists. Also, all worlds can use production while you need more limited farming, and you likely want scientists that are flexible enough to work when wanted, making workers the most obvious android choice.
Physics VIIIPlasma Physics3500
Plasma Cannon (Useful?) An interesting weapon dealing damage to all four sides of a ship at once. Not sure what it has to offer that is really useful compared to other weapons though.
Plasma Rifle (Recommended) Haven't really found the need to use the weapons here, so often pick this to get a decent ground combat bonus to be more efficient at invading enemy worlds.
Plasma Web (Not needed) Another weapon alternative dealing damage over time. I like to deal a lot of damage instantly and combat doesn't seem to drag on so not sure what this is useful for.
Power VIIHigh Energy Distribution3500
Energy Absorber (Useful) Have not really made great use of this. I like to try to avoid getting hit in the first place and keep combats short.
High Energy Flux (Useful) Beam weapons get +50% damage. This is a good tech, but not as good as megafluxers in my mind. Deducting space used for modules, you should get more than 50% extra weapons using megafluxers. Good if you can get it on top though.
Megafluxers (Recommended) Adds +25% free space in ships. Should increase combat speed and beam defense on all your existing ships immediately. More space makes more efficient ships.
Construction XTectonic Engineering3500
Deep Core Mining (Essential) Another awesome production building. Get it.
Core Waste Dumps (Recommended) Removing all pollution is great, but deep core mining should add more production than pollution removes, especially if you have managed to get pollution processor and/or atmospheric renewers. It is nice to be able to remove all pollution though. Try to get it if you can.
Physics IXMulti-Dimensional Physics 4500
Dimensional Portal (Useful) Needed to attack the Antarans. However, this tech is also available from leaders and fairly easy to trade or spy from AI as you don't need it before you're ready to end the game.
Disruptor Cannon (Useful?) 40 damage not reduced by range. Another weapon alternative. Not sure how useful it is.
Computers VIIIGalactic Networking4500
Galactic Cybernet (Recommended) Science variant of deep core mining. Really useful tech just like research labs, just three times as useful and expensive.
Virtual Reality Network (Recommended) An instant +20% morale on all your planets is great for non-unification governments. If you're really lucky you've already gotten this tech from a leader. Another rough choice where you very much want both.
Force Fields VIIIQuantum Fields4500
Class VII Shield (Recommended) Absorb x35 ship size, reducing each attack by 7.
Planetary Flux Shield (Not needed) If you for some reason downprioritized radiation shield you can get one working here. But the extra defensive effect is pretty useless as you should avoid to have enemies shooting at your planet to begin with.
Wide Area Jammer (Recommended) +130 missile evasion for this ship and +70 for rest of fleet. Nice to be able to give some missile evasion to entire fleet without using space for it everywhere.
Power VIIIHyper Dimensional Fission 4500
Hyper Drive (Useful) A faster drive is always useful. Though fastest drive coming on next level.
Hyper-X Capacitors (Recommended) All beam weapons get to shoot twice, but after using the bonus, you must wait a turn before using them before you can do it again. These can be so good you'd call it an exploit together with Phasing Cloak and Time-Warp Facilitator, but good just to get in an extra turn of beam weapons the first turn you can use them given that you don't have to carry much less of them to fit this module.
Proton Torpedoes (Not needed?) Upgraded version of Anti-Matter Torpedoes. Same argument applies.
Biology VIIArtifical Life4500
Bio-Terminator (Not needed) I seem to be able to bomb planets into submission without any bombs anyhow.
Universal Antitode (Recommended) You get more growth from building housing and cloning centers but bio terminators are useless so get this one anyhow. It is still a useful boost.
Chemistry VIMolecular Manipulation4500
Neutronium Armor (Recommended) Get x6 ship armor/structure. 50% better than Zortrium armor. A good upgrade until you get Adamantium Armor, but as you get that at next level you may want to prioritize differently here.
Urridium Fuel Cells (Recommended) The best fuel cell comes together with the best armor. The best armor is by far the best choice (unless you have managed to steal armor from Antarens). Thus, you might want to consider the next best fuel cells.
Zeon Missiles (Not needed) This is the best missile available. However, at high tech level I prefer beam weapons that can hit instantly, thus I never use missiles this late. They may still be useful though. Especially if you have to use hit and run tactics still.
Sociology VAdvanced Governments4500
Confederation (Feudal only) No longer automaticaly assimilate when others capture you. Reduce ship build cost by 2/3 instead of 1/3.
Imperium (Dictatorship only) +50% command points. +20% defensive spies. Both useful.
Federation (Democracy only) +75% to research and income rather than +50%. 2 turns to assimilate new colonists.
Galactic Unification (Unification only) +100% to food and production. 15 turns to assimilate.
Physics XHyper Dimensional Physics6000
Hyperspace Communications (Recommended) Best communications. +3 command points per base and give commands to ships at any time during transit.
Mauler Device (Recommended) A great weapon doing 100 damange that always hits so you can ignore beam attack bonuses and that minituarize well.
Sensors (Recommended) Best scanner, seeing 8 parsecs +1 per size class of ship and gives enemy ships -70% missile evasion.
Sociology VIGalactic Economics6000
Galactic Currency Exchange (Recommended) +50% money from colonists, stacking additive with space port and stock exchange for a total of +200%.
Computers IXMoleculatronics6000
Achilles Targeting Unit (Useful) I don't think armor piercing bit work if opponent has heavy armor, and if he doesn't he doesn't have that much armor. More likely to damage weapons and shield systems which help render enemy ships useless. Not bad, but hard to pick over the other choices here.
Moleculartronic Computer (Recommended) +125 to beam attack. Best computer available. You want it, but Pleasure Dome is also really good. I typically don't pick this unless I haven't been able to get Cybertronic Computer, or unless I think I'm in a war currently where the outcome will decide the winner of the game.
Pleasure Dome (Recommended) +30% morale is awesome for non-unification governments. However, if the game is close to completion, the computer might be more instantly useful to seal the deal. This is the long run choice to out-tech and out-produce the opponents.
Construction XISuperscalar Construction 6000
Advanced City Planning (Recommended) +5 max population on all planets instantly. Really useful to get more colonists and research and produce faster. Might count this as essential too.
Heavy Fighter Bays (Not needed?) I have never seen the need for these, but there might be useful situations or synergies I'm not aware of.
Star Fortress (Useful) More command points than other bases, better defense and scans deeper into space. Better if you do not have battle stations either, in which case it might be worth it for the extra command points.
Construction XIIPlanetoid Construction 7500
Artemis System Net (Not needed) You should be able to have a big enough fleet for defense to make this system not very useful. I've never been saved by this one.
Doom Star Construction (Recommended) Bigger ships are more space efficient per command point used and easier to keep alive.
Force Fields VIITranswarp Fields7500
Displacement Device (Useful) Gives all weapons a 30% chance of missing regardless of other considerations. 70% will still hit though. Haven't found this massively useful.
Inertial Nullifier (Recommended) +100% to beam defense and turn the ship around without movement cost. Very nice defensive installation, and it allows you to use only forward facing weapons as you can turn around as much as you like.
Sub-Space Teleporter (Recommended) Teleport up to 20 squares in combat. With this you can get up close and personal instantly, which can be really great.
Biology VIIITrans Genetics7500
Biomorphic Fungi (Useful) +1 food per farmer. I see no reason why you would pick this over gaia transformation which will do the same while giving you more space for population also, but if you can get both, great.
Evolutionary Mutation (Recommended) Getting 4 extra racial trait points to pick something for can be awesome. Maybe warlord for better crews and loads of command points to finish of the AIs once and for all?
Gaia Transformation (Recommended) Given you are not aquatic but you have terraformed your worlds to terran, you can convert them to gaia for another great population and farming boost. A really great tech.
Power IXInterphased Fission10000
Interphased Drive (Recommended) Best drive available. Other choices here doesn't seem too useful, so I typically pick this.
Neutronium Bomb (Not needed) Carrying bombs is not really necessary.
Plasma Torpedos (Not needed) Upgraded version of Anti-Matter Torpedoes. Same argument applies.
Chemistry VIIMolecular Control10000
Adamantium Armor (Recommended) Get x8 ship armor/structure. Best armor unless you manage to steal armor from Antarans or Orion.
Thorium Fuel Cells (Useful) Infinite range. Nice, but armor is more important. You can get range by expanding empire too.
Physics XITemporal Physics15000
Star Gate (Recommended) Awesome defense bonus being able to move your fleet instantly between your colonies.
Stellar Converter (Useful) Can be used to destroy planets. Decent way of laying waste to galaxy without having to protect planets taken afterwards.
Time Warp Facilitator (Recommended) Really awesome ship module giving you 2 turns between each opponent turn.
Force Fields VIITemporal Fields15000
Class X Shield (Recommended) Absorb x50 ship size, reducing all damage by 10.
Phasing Cloak (Recommended) Invisible in combat while not attacking. Very useful for a ship that just needs to stay around to boost the others. Also useful for ships to be sure to get first turn and start combat from whatever position you like. Can also be exploited together with Time-Warp Facilitator, attacking one turn and recloaking the second before the enemy get to fire back.
Planetary Barrier Shield (Not needed) Another radiation shield with more useless defenses.

Battle strategy

I might not be the greatest one to take advantage of battle strategy, but I'll try to outline some of my views. Ships cost a lot to build so basically the strategy is always to be able to take down the enemy while saving your own fleet. This leads us to:

There are basically three strategies to manage this:

Hit and run

Use missile ships that can fire of their missiles and then retreat. Either have a scout you can sacrifice run backwards hoping to stay alive until your missiles hit, or if you are able to you can use a ship that can take quite a bit of damage while waiting for the missiles to hit. You may need some defensive capability on the missile carriers themselves, as opponent may be able to hit them prior to you being able to retreat. Alternatively, if your missile carriers can take a hit or two, keep them in the game to take a hit before retreating it. Just make sure you don't lose them.

This is the typical powergame strategy people use to fight with little technology and build points invested. It also works quite well even if opponent out techs you.

Tank the enemy

A different strategy is to create a fleet that the opposing forces aren't strong enough to kill. The basic notion is to build ships that have great defensive power that can stay alive long enough until the enemy is dead. This works fine together with hit and run vessels for some extra firepower.

This is the typical strategy when you have already won the game. Typically when you are out-teching your opponents so you can use bigger ships, better armor and more miniaturized equipment to make ships that outrank them considerably.

Apart from having big ships with good armour and shields, try to get good beam defense, typically by using augmented engines, inertial stabilizers or neutralizer, and leaving some free space in your designs to not lose too much speed.

You will likely not get enough missile evasion to stop all missiles, so point defense weapons to take out missiles and fighters is good to have.

Quickly overpower enemy

Another strategy is to overpower the enemy quickly. Basically, shoot them down before they have a chance to counter. This is typically done with beam weapons and not missiles, as you don't want to wait for the missiles to hit.

This is a typical late game strategy when you do not outtech the opposition. Use phasing cloak, sub space teleporters or plain high combat speed to close distance with enemy fast. Use beam weapons, typically together with tech that doubles their damage one or more times or that skips shield and/or armor. Time Warp Facilitator is awesome with this strategy.

The phasing cloak makes this really easy, though that is not available early. Just moving works too, if you can outlive their first volley. One possibility is to wait first turn to have their shoot their beams with range penalties, and then move in late turn and shoot down missiles and fighters and close in second round before they have had time to move.

It is hard to do this strategy without losing ships, especially then the opponent have many ships with equal tech level. Try to make sure you can engange a part of their fleet with your entire, or at least, a much bigger fleet, such that you can hopefully kill them of in one or a few rounds.

Boarding enemy vessels and bases

Boarding enemy vessels and bases is a great way to gain a combat advantage. If you manage to take a vessel using technology you don't have, you can scrap the ship at one of your bases to have a good chance at getting it. If you fail to hang onto it because enemy vessels shot it down they used their firepower to do so instead of yours. Boarding bases is also a great way to disable them. As they are always immobile these are easy targets to board if you are decent at ground combat.

All vessels are able to board another without any special equipment. However, to do so the opposing vessel needs to be immobilized. There are alternative ways to board that does not require an immobile target, but that requires certain technology and ship equipment. There are also technologies and equipment to simplify immobilizing a target.

Immobilizing a vessel

After passing through the shield, a vessel is typically hit in the armor. When no armor remains, further damage is typically done to structure and with no more structure points the ship is destroyed. The trouble with immobilizing is that you need to damage the engine somehow. Sometimes ships are immobilized during the course of combat without me really knowing why as I don't have an overview of what may damage the engines. It seems you have some random chance of damaging engine when you damage structure.

Ion Pulse Cannons are useful in this matter as they skip both armor and structure and hit engines directly.

Defending against boarding

Will write this section after understanding more details on boarding itself.

Resources

Various links:

There are also some small forums discussing the game online, though not that actively anymore: