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VGA Planets - A Classic Empire Building Game

Updated on May 21, 2015

Planets - Teaser

So what's VGA Planets about?

Simple - it's a game about conquest of the galaxy. However, it's very unique as computer games go. I will quote Planets Magazine:

"[As] opposed to most other computer games, Planets is played at a slow pace. Each player can open and play his/her turn as often as he/she likes and communicate with other players until the hosting deadline is reached. Then all [turn-commands] are processed and the next turn begins..."


"One of the biggest differences in Planets to normal computer games is that you play with human players and you cannot save the game. Each mistake and each heroic attack will go down in the history of the game once the turn has been processed [by the host website]. All 11 races are played by a human player which sometimes causes wild (but friendly) interactions to process trades, to co-operate, or ally for tactical collaborations."

What's so good about this game?

  • Eleven (11) races to play, and they are all fairly well balanced.
  • Strategy is very "deep", and long-term.
  • Play against other human players of your experience level, or practice against the AI.
  • Lots of time to plan your strategy between turns.
  • Choose games that suit your schedule.
  • Create private games and play against only your friends.
  • Cheap to play: either play for free with some limitations, or $30 USD / year for as many games as you want to participate in.
  • Small but friendly community, with lots of volunteer support

It's a Big Place...

Okay, okay... maybe it's not about a galaxy, but it's pretty big map - a 500-planet sector of the galaxy is the standard game set-up, and that's plenty big.

Eventually, you're aiming to conquer at least half the map, possibly with the help of an ally, but fortunately there are multiple browser plug-ins that can help you manage your massive empire.

The Starmap

The Starmap, and a small but developing empire...
The Starmap, and a small but developing empire... | Source

Homeworld Starbase

Homeworld starbase, with planet and freighter shown in background.
Homeworld starbase, with planet and freighter shown in background. | Source

But what's the game really like?

Every race starts with a Starbase orbiting their home planet with several million colonists, and a single medium-sized freighter. You also start with quite a bit of megacredits (MCs), some fuel, and a good reserve of minerals, much of which you have to mine out of the ground. You use these resources to build new ships, build new bases, improve your tech levels, and even lay minefields.

While you can see the planets around you, you have to explore each one to find out whether there are good reserves of minerals, whether there are natives that will work for you, or whether there are amorphous blobs that will eat your colonists if you don't beam down enough of them to beat back the vicious worms!

The first 10 turns or so move slowly, but very soon, the number of ships you have becomes larger and larger, and by Turn 15-20, you'll usually end up in negotiations or border skirmishes with your neighbors, or even all-out war.

Combat is conducted sequentially, with two ships squaring off in an order determined by each player prior to the battle. The winning ship proceeds, even if damaged, against the next ship in the opponent's line-up.

Combat

The ship on the left has fired beam weapons at the opponent's fighters, which are launching to attack the left player's ship, which will fire energy torpedoes when it gets in range.
The ship on the left has fired beam weapons at the opponent's fighters, which are launching to attack the left player's ship, which will fire energy torpedoes when it gets in range. | Source

Strategy Tips

If you're trying out the game, here are a few good tips to help you from making typical newcomer mistakes:

General Tips:

  • Stay hidden: move from planet-to-planet in a single turn each time, and don't announce your location to other players. Many will try for a quick strike on your starbase!
  • Big ships matter a lot more than little ships
    • Little ships for harassment, big ships (big carriers and battleships) for actual fighting
  • Minefields are a very important defensive resource. Renew your minefields!
  • Spending time on diplomacy is never a waste. Don't just "play your turn". Talk it up!
  • New players give up easily, and often much too soon. You can still have a significant impact on the game, even if you're not the winner.
  • A lost battle doesn't mean a lost war. Don't quit too early!
  • Score isn't everything:
    • A high number of planets often means a player's forces could be really spread out
    • A high number of ships can mean that the player has a lot of weak, smaller ships and only a few really big capital ships. Big ships can't be everywhere at once!
  • Build a second starbase by turn 15. More bases means you can build ships faster.
  • Build a Merlin Alchemy ship by turn 25, to improve your mineral income.
  • Higher numbers of starbases become more important as the game progresses.

The Races

One of the best parts of the game is the variety - the eleven races all have special abilities, and you can choose one to suit your playstyle. There's a definite nod to various different movies, including Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica, and the races of Planets resemble these iconic movies in various ways.

Race Overview - Planets Guide to Choosing a Race

Hosting Sites

The primary, and probably most popular hosting site for Planets at the moment is Planets.Nu. They have done a great job at revamping the interface, documentation, and fostering a great community complete with championship games and new challenges.

What do you think?

Would you give this game a try, or recommend it to one of your gaming friends?

See results

Planets Emperors

All hail the Planets Emperors!

- Emork of the Lizard Alliance

- Spacesquad of the Crystal Federation

- Dungeonmaster of the Cyborg

- Mentar of the Colonies

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