Most players who start to play MOO II online have a lot of experience playing against the computer, but very little experience playing against other human players. There is a steep learning curve when playing against human players, and many of the lessons that good players have learned offline have to be thrown away when playing against humans. This guide is designed to help players quickly get over this obstacle and start to enjoy their online games.
The strategies, tactics and techniques explained in this guide apply to the types of games usually played online against human opponents. Most online games are set up for medium or large universes, at the Pre-Warp or Average Technology setting, utilizing Tactical Combat, no computer managed empires (AIs), and no Antarans. Some parts of this guide are irrelevant for strategic combat games, and only loosely relevant for small universes or Advanced Tech games. Some parts of this guide do not apply when playing the DemoDict Mod.
One of the real joys of this game is the wide latitude to experiment with a huge variety of race combinations. While this is a great deal of fun, the Darwinian struggle of years of combat has proven that there are certain requirements for a competitive race. These include:
Population Capacity Modifier. Population is the ultimate arbiter of victory in MOO. A race without the ability to generate a large population will almost always lose the population competition, and shortly thereafter the game. It is essential that your race picks include at least one of the following pop capacity modifiers: Aquatic, Subterranean, Tolerant. Each of these picks increases the number of colonists that a planet can hold. Lithovore is also a viable pick: it does not increase the number of colonists a planet can hold, but by eliminating farmers, it does give you more usable population.
Government. Unification is the preferred form of government, and essential for any production oriented race. Democracy is also a viable pick, though generally a much tougher race to play. With a very few exceptions, Dictatorship and Feudal governments are suicide unless a player intends to jump an opponent very early on and gets lucky enough to find a convenient Worm Hole right to them. In theory, there is a fair balance between Production Races (Unified) and Tech Races (Democratic). In practice, Production Races rule. This is because Production Races can routinely out-colonize and out-populate Tech Races, which means they can ultimately even out-tech a Tech Race. It is also worth noting that a Production Race will settle a lot more planets, which means it can usually produce most of its research through its buildings, not its population, while a Tech Race, with many fewer settled planets, has to rely on its smaller population for most of its research, which hinders expansion and fleet construction.
Creative. Many new players start online with a strong affinity for Creative races. They quickly learn that a Creative race sacrifices so many other picks to be Creative that it cannot compete with Production Races, and usually not even with Tech Races. Creative can be a viable pick in the hands of a veteran player, but it is universally regarded as suicide for a novice online player. Avoid this pick until you have mastered winning with a Production Race.
Negative Picks. It is routine to select between 9 and 10 points of negative race picks in order to be able to choose between 19 and 20 points of Positive Picks. Since most online games do not include AI empires, Repulsive is the standard negative pick. It counts for -6 picks, but results only in a poorer selection of leaders, which makes this easily the best pick for the money. The remaining 3-4 negative picks are either -10 Espionage (DON'T pick this if you are democratic) or the combination of -10 Ground and -20 Ship Defense. DO NOT pick -20 Ship Offense. This is both a severe handicap to your beam weapons and, under the algorithm for Ship Initiative, will usually lead to your ships moving and firing second, which is a horrible handicap.
As a guide to new players, let me suggest a few good races to start with:
Production Race #1: Unified, Aquatic, Large Home, Rich Home, Production +2, Repulsive, -10 Ground, -20 Ship Defense. Comments: This is a very powerful race, but it is a little dependent upon good luck in finding wet planets, without which its population capacity will suffer. Its biggest advantage over Production Race #2 is its ability to pick Clones and rapidly grow its population.
Production Race #2: Unified, Tolerant, Large Home, Production +1, Repulsive, -10 Ground, -20 Ship Defense. Comments: This is a very stable race, and quite resistant to bad starts and poor quality planets. It is key with this race to get Soil Enrichment right after Research labs and Auto Factories. If this race finds a rich or UR planet for its first colony ship, it will do extremely well.
Balanced Race #1: Unified, Aquatic, Large Home, Rich Home, Production +1, Science +1, Repulsive, -10 Ground, -20 Ship Defense. Comments: This race can build well and tech well. It is an excellent race for launching an early attack on an opponent.
Tech Race #1: Democratic, Lithovore, Artifacts Home, Repulsive, -10 Ground, -20 Ship Defense. Comments: This race generates more early research than any other. Its Achilles Heel is the lack of any population capacity modifier. Taking an early monster is essential in order to secure a deep planet to store a lot of population. This race also does quite well if it can get Terraforming or Androids in the mid-game.
Tech Race #2: Dictatorship, Lithovore, Subterranean, Artifacts Home, Large Home, Repulsive, -10 Ground, -20 Ship Defense. This race techs very well and can also build up a large population. It is, however, quite weak at early production and expansion. It should research Cloning Centers right after Auto Factories to maximize population growth.
Tech Race #3: Democratic, Aquatic, +1 BC, Repulsive, -10 Ground, -20 Ship Defense. This is a fascinating race. The combination of Democracy (50% BC bonus) and +1 BCs per colonist generates enough BCs to be able to buy most of this race's production items when they are only half built (the most efficient time for purchase). You really want to focus on population growth to maximize this benefit, since the +1 BCs are generated per colonist.
The Opening Sequence, Average Technology Universes
Here are some general rules for your opening moves in an Average Technology universe.
All Races. Set your research option to research labs. Redesign your two frigates to eliminate the laser weapon, keeping only the Extended Fuel Cells (this maximizes the chance that your scouts will survive an encounter with a monster), and refit your scouts as the first two items in your production queue. Then add to the production queue your first colony base, a freighter (to ship food to the newly created colony), and then as many remaining colony bases as you can build. Finally add in a colony ship to store any unused production at the end of the queue. You may also want to consider scrapping your marine bases (unless you are Dictatorship), to cut your BC maintenance by 1 BC a turn and to get an extra 30BCs from the scrap. These extra BCs can then be used to buy your first colony base before it is finished.
Production Races. Move all population not needed to keep your food production balance positive into production, leaving none on research. Keep all available population on your home planet on production until the last colony base is built, then move all but one worker on the home planet into science to start researching Research Labs. Use the Housing Technique (see below) to maximize population generation on your newly built colonies, moving the newly created colonist back to the home planet to help building the next colony base.
Tech Races. Keep only one or two colonists on production, and move all remaining colonists not needed for farming into research. Keep them on research until you have gotten Research Labs (build or buy as soon as you get it), and then move on to Reinforced Hull and Auto Factories. Once the Auto Factory is built, then move all population into production and keep them there until you have built your last colony base in the home system.
Once all colony bases in the home system have been built and Labs and Auto Factories researched and installed, it is time to start building outposts and colony ships to start expanding your empire.
The specific technology path to follow varies by player preference, race picks and player strategy (early attack versus long development, for instance). Nevertheless, there is a basic technology path that applies to most situations and races.
For an Average Tech Game, the optimum path is usually as follows, in order:
1. Research Labs
2. Reinforced Hull
3. Auto Factories
5. Soil or Clones (take Soil if your race produces 3 or less food points per farmer, otherwise take Clones)
6. Neural Scanners
7. Super Computers
8. Battle Pods
10. Robo Miners
Past this point, it is usually best to get all remaining tech worth 250 Research Points (RPs) or less, before continuing on to Zortium Armor.
The Opening Sequence, Pre-Warp Technology Universes
The opening sequence for Pre-Warp Technology games is broadly similar to Average Technology games with a few extra technologies to research. Again, Production Races should research Freighters and then build all of their home system Colony Bases before beginning any further research (unless you are Lithovore, you will need freighters to feed those new colonies). Tech Races should research to Auto Factories and only then start to build their Colony Bases. Tech Races are at a severe disadvantage relative to Production Races in Pre-warp games, since the lack of a starting Colony Ship puts a real premium on production capabilities.
For a Pre-Warp game, the optimum Technology path is usually:
1. Freighters (skip this if you are not a Production Race)
2. Electronic Computer
3. Research Labs
4. Reinforced Hull
5. Auto Factories
6. Freighters (if you did not research them in Step 1)
7. Extended Fuel Tanks
9. Soil or Clones (take Soil if your race produces 3 or less food points per farmer, otherwise take Clones)
10. Neural Scanners
11. Super Computers
12. Battle Pods
14. Robo Miners
Past this point, it is usually best to get all remaining tech worth 250 Research Points (RPs) or less, before continuing on to Zortium Armor.
Technology Research Tradeoffs
There are several interest research tradeoffs that are worth commenting on. The first concerns the Chemistry path. New players are often tempted to select Tritanium Armor, Pollution Control, Irridium and then Zortium. This is a sharply suboptimal path for two reasons. The first is that it leaves you without a decent missile, a handicap at best, and potentially fatal if you run into a Creative player (Radiation Shields are immune to most beam weapons and completely immune to nuclear missiles). Moreover, Merculite missiles are extremely nasty weapons when you can Mirv them at the Zortium level. The second reason is that Atmospheric Renewers eliminate TWICE as much pollution as Pollution Controllers. Accordingly, the tech path that I recommend up the Chemistry Track is Dueterium Fuel Cells (for range), Merculite missiles, Atmospheric Renewers and then Zortium. The risk is that you have no decent armor for your ships for a LONG time. You are not safe until you have reached Zortium. But if you can get there, your empire and your ships will all be much deadlier than an opponent's who has chosen any other combination (the one MAJOR exception is a Tolerant race, whose optimum path is Tritanium Armor for early advantage, Merculite missiles, Irridium Cells and then Zortium).
Another interesting tradeoff is between Class III shields and Warp Dissipators. Generally, Warp Dissipators are the better choice, because they ensure the complete destruction of an enemy fleet if you can win the battle. Warps are particularly nasty when used in combination with EMG missiles, because even a single EMG missile hit can eliminate a battleship and warps prevent the target for retreating from the strike. Class III is an excellent choice if you are facing a Creative race (it negates his deadly Ion Cannons), but should otherwise be chosen only if you are the underdog and need the extra edge to defend.
Many new players choose Hydrofarms over Biospheres. This is a bad tradeoff. The extra two farmers afforded by biospheres should be good for at least 4 extra food points above what they themselves eat, which is the equivalent of two Hydrofarms. Moreover, these colonists earn a BC each turn, whereas each Hydrofarm eats 2BCs each turn.
Perhaps the toughest choice in the game is between Auto Labs and Cybertronic Computers. There is no right answer here. However, as a general rule, the player who picks Auto Labs will pull away from his opponent rapidly in technology, while the player who picks Cybertronics will enjoy a huge but rapidly declining combat advantage. Production Races can make enough ships to launch a nasty fleet during the window of advantage for Cybertronics. Tech Races generally cannot, but they may also be generating sufficient RPs to be able to compete in technology without Autolabs. So take Cybertronic if you can launch a large fleet shortly after getting it, or if you can compete in tech even if your opponent gets Auto Labs and you do not. Otherwise, take Auto Labs.
If population is the key to victory in MOO, then the Housing Technique is the key to rapid population growth. The technique is to put just a single colonist on a planet to building Housing, with no other colonists present. This maximizes the production of population. When a second colonist is created, immediately ship it off planet to keep the housing planet at maximum production. The idea is to use your smaller planets as population factories, and ship the population they generate to your larger planets where it will do the actual work of your empire. If you can keep roughly 1/3 of your planets on housing like this, you can easily double the rate at which your population expands. The only exception to this technique is the case where you pick Population +50% or +100% as race picks. In this case, while the housing technique still works, the optimum population growth rate for planets not on housing occurs when they are 50% full, so your pop will grow almost as fast with no planets on housing if you can keep expanding your settlements fast enough to maintain the average planet at 50% population.
Obviously you want to expand your empire as much as possible. Less obviously, you need to stop at some point and concentrate on defending what you have, or better yet, taking what the other guy has from him. When do you reach that point? The answer depends on the races involved, the strategies employed, and the size of the universe you are playing in.
In a medium universe, it is generally a good idea to stop after constructing just one or two colony ships, and it is not hard to win without building any at all. In a large universe, building at least two or three is a good idea. Building more that five or six, however, begins to ask for trouble, and building ten or more is begging someone to come along and start taking them from you. In a medium universe, you should expect at least one enemy Battleship to attack you by turn 90 (turn 80 given a convenient wormhole). This means that you need to have your own Battleship, or suitable defenses, in place by that turn.
In a large universe, given the extra distance, you should expect at least one enemy Battleship to attack you by turn 110 (turn 80 given a convenient wormhole). You can often be hit by three or more battleships by turn 120. You can take risks, but if you do not have a fleet in being by these turns, you have probably over expanded.
It is generally a good idea to build every building you can on every planet you have. There are exceptions. Biospheres cost a BC every turn, so don't build them until a planet is almost full. Spaceports cost 1 BC a turn, so they make no economic sense on planets of less than 4 pop. Don't build a Pollution Control center or Atmospheric Renewer on a planet that is 100% dedicated to farming. If you get clones, do build them on every planet: they will add a flat 1/10 of a colonist per turn, no matter what kind of planet you put them on.
Naturally, you want as much research as you can get, consistent with being able to build what you have researched. Players naturally think of their scientists as the engine of research. This is not necessarily correct. Actually, it is quite possible for a Production Race to construct a winning empire with virtually no colonists on science after the discovery of Auto Factories. This is because buildings (Research Labs, Super Computers, Auto Labs and Galactic Cybernets) can also be the engines of science. A Production Race can generate all of its research by settling a large number of planets and making sure every one has all available science buildings in place. From this perspective, EVERY planet is a good planet, because even the humblest tiny ultra poor low gravity planet can host the same number of science buildings as a huge ultra rich gaia.
There are a few subtleties to production, most of which revolve around pollution. The first is that within any one planet, it is better to have just a few workers on production over a long period of time that to whipsaw between everyone and no one on production. The first worker on production generates very little pollution, the last generates a ton, and so is not nearly as productive. Accordingly, keep 2-3 colonists on each planet on production at all times, and when there is nothing in particular that you are itching to build, use a colony ship, starbase, or battleship as the first build item solely as a store of production. When you are able to construct a new building, insert it in the build queue ahead of the item storing your production, and it will likely be built immediately. In this manner, your overall population will be most productive.
A second key point is that small planets generate more pollution per worker than large ones. So use your large planets for production, and your smaller ones for housing, farming or science.
A final point is how to use BCs to buy construction items. If you run the math on time versus money, your BCs buy the most production when you purchase an item that is 50% built. So try to time your key purchases for this point in the item's build cycle.
Androids deserve a special note because they are often not well understood. Androids are Tolerant and are unaffected by gravity penalties. Because they are tolerant, a player may find that after a full planet has built its first Android, suddenly its population capacity has increased dramatically. The increase is the extra planetary capacity available only to the tolerant Androids, and can be filled only with Androids. Any attempt to ship in normal colonists will see them die on arrival. On some types of planets, with Aquatic and Subterranean races, the largest pop capacity is achieved only when BOTH normal colonists AND Androids are present. Because Androids can farm, produce, or tech on a HG or LG world without any gravity penalties, it is a good idea to ship out all of your normal colonists and fill your HG and LG planets solely with Androids. Because Android workers are Tolerant, they suffer no production penalties for pollution. However, if normal colonists are present, then the pollution penalty kicks in proportionately to the mix of tolerant and non-tolerant population. Androids benefit from Government effects but do NOT benefit from specific race enhancements such as Production +1 or Research +1. Androids require no food but they do consume a point of production each turn. Androids do not produce BCs like normal colonists, so don't build a spaceport on a planet that is mainly populated by Androids.
One of the most commonly asked questions from new players concerns what weaponry to put in ships early on, versus the mid-game or the end game. We will answer this question specifically, but first there is a general observation to be made. Almost without exception, a fully modified "primitive" weapon is more destructive and more efficient than your most recently researched "advanced" weapon. For instance, if you have just gotten to Neutron Blasters, it is FAR better to arm your ships with fully modified (Enveloping, Continuous) Fusion Beams than with unmodified Neutron Blasters. This also holds true for all missiles.
Not recommended, but the earliest "emergency" weaponry that packs a punch is Fighter Bays (you need to get Battle Pods as well to put a single Interceptor Squadron in a Frigate, a Destroyer can carry two squadrons, three with Battle Pods). If you need to get some combat power up very early in the game, Fighters are your best bet. Note that a Fighter Squadron's firepower is increased by 50% if you get Fusion beams instead of the default Laser beams. Fighters are not recommended because to get them you have to pass up Reinforced Hull, which is usually suicide later in the game.
The best military tech to reach early in the game is Laser beams. To get ANY beam weapon to have a reasonable chance of hitting a target, you need to have Battle Scanners aboard. Conveniently, at the Battle Scanner level, your Laser beams get all available modifications (Armor Piercing, Auto Fire, Continuous, No Range Dissipation). So your earliest military ships should be equipped with Battle Scanners and as many fully modified lasers as you can cram in (tho you will need room for other items, which we will cover under ship design).
The next easiest set of military techs to reach is Nuclear missiles at the Pollution Control or Merculite level, which is the level that allows your nuclear missiles to be fully modified (MIRVed, Fast, Heavy Armor). Again, always use all of the mods.
The next achievable military configuration can come from either of two tracks. You can go for Fusion Beams and then Neutron Blasters (or Neutron Scanners), which allows you to employ fully modified Fusion beams. Or you can get Mass Drivers and then work up to the Warp Dissipator/Class III level, which allows you to employ fully modified Mass Drivers. The Fusion beam track produces more powerful weapons (Enveloping increases damage fourfold for Fusion beams versus Auto Fire which increase damage threefold for Mass Drivers) and also more accurate weapons (the Continuous Mod for Fusion Beams adds +25 to you chance to hit, while the Auto Fire Mod for Mass Drivers subtracts -20 from your chance to hit, which is a huge relative difference. On the other hand, the damage from Mass Drivers does not diminish with range, and the Warp Dissipator/Class III techs are much more useful than either Neutron Blasters or Neutron Scanners. Generally, a race with Creative, Warlord, or Plus Ship Offense should go for Mass Drivers because they will not be so affected by the Auto Fire accuracy penalty. All others should go for Fusion Beams.
The next major increment in firepower comes at the Zortium level, when you can fully modify your Merculite missiles (MIRVed, Fast, Heavy Armor). Mirved Merculite missiles become even more deadly when you reach EMG and can put this mod into the missiles. A single Mirved Merculite EMG missile can reliably detonate a Battleship equipped with Zortium armor and Reinforced Hull if it can get through all defenses and actually strike the target.
Note: I cannot emphasize too much how critical it is to always pick Merculite Missiles. Many players go for Pollution Control instead, but failing to get Merculites leaves you without any powerful missile. Pulsons are an inferior choice because to MIRV Pulsons, you have to go all the way up to the Neutronium Armor level, and a MIRVed Merculite missile does 56 points of damage versus just 20 points for an un-Mirved Pulson missile.
The final major military tech level that is sometimes reachable before an online game is concluded is Gauss Cannon, which are truly awesome weapons when they can be fully modified at the Class VII level. Alternates include Anti-Matter Torpedoes or Phasors. Anti-Matter Torpedoes are particularly useful if your opponent has chosen Cybertronic Computers or is Creative and is therefore capable of shooting down any missile salvos you are likely to launch.
There are a few basics for ship design. The first is that you should always equip every ship with Battle Pods (50% space increase) and every ship larger than a frigate with Augmented Engines (faster in combat but more importantly you get better Ship Initiative, better Attack rating and better Defense rating), and Reinforced Hull (or Heavy Armor if you are Creative). The second basic is that you should ALWAYS equip any ship that is going to carry beam weaponry with Battle Scanners (+50 Attack rating, adds directly to your chance to hit with beam weapons).
The third basic is that you should always avoid mixing beams and missiles on the same ship. There are exceptional times where enemy tactics and ship designs may override this rule, but generally it strongly applies. The logic for this rule stems from the fact that beam ships always need Battle Scanners aboard if they are going to hit anything (+50 Attack rating). Battle Scanners take up a lot of space aboard any ship, and it is most efficient to use that limited space remaining entirely for beam weapons. Putting your missiles aboard purely missile-armed ships allows you to dispense with Battle Scanners and pack in the maximum number of missiles.
I recommend that when you design a ship you use all of the available weapons slots rather than lumping all similar weapons on one line. This affords you more combat options to split your fire. For example, say you have a beam armed ship and you are close to immobilizing an enemy ship you hope to board and capture. If you have all of your beam weapons lumped together on one line, you lose the flexibility to stop shooting after immobilization has been achieved, and may end up firing so much that you blow up your intended target.
The order in which you place weapons on a ship matters. The order in which you place weapons is also the order in which 1) beam weapons fire and 2) missiles and torpedoes strike the target. This distinction can be crucial. Take missiles, for example. Point Defense beam weaponry must do the same amount of damage to shoot down a normal missile as a mirved one. But MIRVed missiles take up a lot more space aboard the firing ship. So it makes sense to place missiles modified with Heavily Armor and Fast, but NOT MIRVed, in the top few rows of your missile ship and place the fully modified (MIRVed) missiles in the lower rows. That way the enemy's shots at your missiles will chew through the less valuable missiles first, preserving the missiles with the most punch. This approach also suggests that you place any EMG equipped missiles in the very bottom rows, so that they will be the last to get shot down, and the most likely to strike the target.
The same logic can be applied to beams. Say your opponent has Class III shields that you will need to punch through to damage his ships. You might place Neutron Blasters, which cannot be made Armor Piercing, in the top rows of your beam ship to blow down his shields and then Armor Piercing Auto-Fire Mass Drivers in the lower rows to inflict the actual damage to his vessels.
Concerning beam weaponry, I recommend a mix of all three weights (Heavy, Normal and Point Defense) on your Battleships. I like to have at least one Heavy beam weapon on each Battleship to prevent the enemy from standing out of range and doing damage while forcing me to charge into his missiles to get into beam range. I will then use two thirds of the remaining space for normal beam weapons and one-third for Point Defense beam weapons. I do not usually create Battleships with different mixes of Heavy, Regular and PD weapons (with one exception), but rather make them all one general design. This way if a particular ship is destroyed, the remainder of my beam firepower is not significantly unbalanced. The exception to this rule is ships equipped with Structural Analyzer (generally only a tech that a Creative will get). For such ships, the overhead of the Structural Analyzer equipment is so high that I tend to put only Heavy beams aboard and use these ships only for offense, meaning that other beam ships will have to protect them from enemy missile fire.
Finally, concerning beam weaponry, I recommend that you always make your beams 360 degree enabled. This is wasteful of space, and may seem inefficient, but the benefit is that your beam ships can encounter an enemy fleet armed with missiles and will not have to stay locked facing forward to fire. Instead they will be able to turn and run from enemy missile salvoes while shooting at those same salvoes for three to four combat rounds. Once the salvoes have been destroyed, then the beam ships can turn around and go after the enemy's ships. A ship with beams facing only forwards will only get one or two shots at the incoming missiles before they strike, which makes it much more likely that it will suffer catastrophic damage.
For missiles, the speed of combat really demands that you pick the ammo load option for just two missile salvoes. Anything higher means that you are shooting so few missiles each turn that the enemy's PD beam weaponry is likely to kill all of your salvoes before they strike. You really need to overwhelm him with mass to win with missiles.
The first rule of ship of ship construction is to always ensure that every military ship larger than a frigate or scout is built at a planet that has Space Academies. You can start a ship at a planet without Space Academies and then switch Space Academies to the head of the Production Queue before the ship is actually completed, but the ship must be completed AFTER a Space Academy is present. This will give the ship a Regular Morale Rating instead of a Green Morale Rating. Each improvement in Morale Rating adds +15 to a ships Attack and Defense Rating.
I also recommend trying to build a fleet composed mainly of Battleships, rather than smaller craft, simply because this is the most efficient use of the limited Command Points most races will generate. The exception is Warlord races, which have more leeway to build a fleet made of smaller craft.
Online combat is a very different environment than offline combat, principally because humans are much smarter opponents and move and fight their ships very differently than the computer. They will not simple charge or retreat the way AI empires will, rather they will employ a much broader range of tactics.
Always make sure that you have the following Combat Options turned on: Grid Squares and Missile Warning. This way you can always control your ship moves to avoid things like giving the enemy the ability to move a missile ship into point blank missile range of one of your key ships, or moving your own ship into an enemy EMG missile salvo before you get a chance to fire all of your beam weapons first.
The first thing a player needs to consider, when the combat screen opens, is what his strategy needs to be: retreat, accept defeat but stand and fight to inflict maximum damage on his opponent, or fight to win. So, of course, your first action should be to scan the enemy fleet for capabilities and Leaders. If you decide to stay and fight, then you need to identify which enemy ship(s) are the greatest threat to you. You should then bring the maximum firepower you can bear on the highest threat ship. A common mistake that new players make is to spread their fire among a number of ships. This leaves the entire enemy fleet firing back for a much longer time than necessary. Always try to eliminate the biggest threat and start reducing the enemy's ability to fire back as soon as possible.
The biggest threat may not always be as obvious as you might think. For instance, assume that your missile ships and your enemy's missile ships are the ships most capable of doing damage to each other. You still might want to target the enemy's Point Defense beam ships first to allow your remaining missile salvos to get through unharmed. All other things being equal, you also want to target enemy ships that carry Leaders, since this will hurt your opponent more and cause the loss of their combat bonuses in each combat round after their death.
One of the trickiest questions is whether to charge your ships forward or turn and run for the mapedge. If the enemy possesses significant missile weaponry, it often makes sense to retreat towards the mapedge to get a few extra shots at either the incoming missiles or the missile ships themselves. If the enemy possesses EMG missiles, then it is usually a very bad idea to charge. On the other hand, if you have a lot of beam firepower, you have combat initiative, the enemy has thrown his first missile salvoe at you, and you have the luxury of moving second in the combat round, sometimes it makes good sense to charge forward. The idea is that you charge forward until your ships are just about to get hit by the incoming missiles, and then halt and shoot at them at point blank range. At the start of the second combat round you take the initiative to move first, take a second shot at the missile salvoes, and then move through the remaining missiles to get behind the enemy missile ships. You can then run away from the second salvo, firing backwards at it to attrite it. This maneuver can be quite a surprise to your opponent and very effective.
If you possess a mainly missile armed fleet and the enemy does not have EMG missiles, one very nasty tactic is to fire all of your first missile salvo during your first combat round and then charge your missile ships forward. The second combat round you do the reverse, you charge forward first (at least right up to the point before his missiles are going to hit you) and then fire your second salvo. This technique will usually place BOTH of your missile salvoes hitting the enemy ships in the same combat round, making it very hard for his beam weaponry to stop the strike.
Monsters are best killed by frigate fleets, since these are easiest to built and ship losses are easily replaceable (losing your first battleship to a monster will almost certainly cause you to lose the game). The best ship for killing monsters, by far, is a frigate equipped with Battle Pods and armed with two Fast, MIRVed nuclear missiles. It is also possible to get the same effect with frigates equipped with Battle Pods and a Fighter, but researching Fighters means skipping Reinforced Hulls, which is normally suicide later in the game. With some monsters it is best to charge forward and hit the beast with missiles at point blank range (this means you must be in grid square right next to the monster). With other monsters this is a bad idea. It is best to run towards the mapedge, firing your missiles backwards at the beast. This little matrix gives you a conservative idea of the fleet strengths needed for different monsters and whether to charge or run:
Monster Frigates Tactic
Eel 10 Charge
Dragon 10 Charge
Hydra 10 Run
Crystal 8 Run
Amoeba 5 Run
These monsters can sometimes be taken out with 1-2 fewer frigates, but you risk missing them entirely. The above numbers will safely guarantee the kill.
If you use Fighters, remember that they will not work well against Dragons (6 Point Defense Phasors will knock out a lot of your fighters before they even fire once). If you choose to attack a monster with your first battleship, you will generally not have the armor to survive more than one or two shots from the monster, so charge to point blank range against ALL monsters and take along two armed frigates as well. Usually the monster will target the frigates first allowing your Battleship to survive.
Kali Rules of Play
There are very few rules of play on Kali, but there are some that are tried and true. Here they are, along with an explanation of why we use them.
Definition: In a battle, the Attacker is strictly defined as the player who initiated the combat, regardless of whether he is defending the system or attacking it. The Defender is defined as the player who did not initiate the combat. Note that it is possible for the player owning the system to attack first, and in this first battle he will be defined as the Attacker. If he loses the battle and retreats, his opponent may then have the option of attacking him in the same turn. In this second battle the opponent then becomes the Attacking player.
Rule: Each Combat round during a battle the Attacking player may use the Ship Wait option ONCE. After a ship has been waited once, on its next chance to move it MUST do whatever movement and fire the Attacking player wishes and then the Attacker MUST hit the Done button for that ship. The Defender may wait his ships as many times during a single combat round as he wishes to. This means that the Defender always has the option to move and fire his ships last each combat round.
Reason: Before we invented this rule, each player would wait all of his ships each chance he got to move hoping to get the advantage of firing last (this is not always desirable, but usually is). This meant that the first combat round never even started, and the game would break up with the players fighting over who should have moved and fired first. To eliminate this argument, we invented this rule. If the Attacker does not think he can win a battle if he has to move and fire first, he simply should not initiate it. This also means that pointless battles are not fought and time is not wasted for other players.
Rule: If the game crashed in the middle of a combat, both players will refight the battle EXACTLY as they originally did before the crash. While this may be beyond players' memory capacity for a long and large battle, please try to keep faith with this rule.
Sometimes the game will change the order in which players get to initiate combat. If the original Defender now gets the option to attack first, and picks it, then there is no requirement to refight the battle exactly as before. However, if he elects not to attack, then when the original Attacker's chance to start the battle comes up, he MUST take it and both players must refight the battle exactly as before, up to the crash.
Reason: NOTHING will anger your opponent more than watching you lose ships and then refight the battle after the crash differently to take advantage of now knowing what didn't work the first time. This rule avoids a lot of nastiness between players and the destruction of otherwise good playing relationships in the community.
Rule: Technology Trading between human players is specifically banned for Kali games. This rule may be ignored only if a majority of players vote to ignore it before the game is started. If AI empires are included in the game, players need to agree up front if Technology Trading is allowed with AIs only. Note that Treaties, including Research Treaties, are always allowed
Reason: Technology Trading is fun but the chat and barter consumes a LOT of time and slows down play considerably. We ban it to speed play. Technology Trading with AI empires does not involve a lot of chat, so that is sometimes permitted, though play with AI empires is rare. A further objection to Technology Trading is that it has also been known to allow friends to conspire to help each other while trading with no one else, which is not fair in games where the assumption is every man for himself.
Rule: You may scout the Orion system but you may NOT deliberately attack and take the system.
Reason: Orion is often not placed centrally on the map, giving a big advantage to the player who happens to be closest. So for fairness, we ignore it. In online play, your targets are your human opponents, not the Antarans.
Rule: It is extremely easy to gain an advantage in the game by deliberately crashing it during play and hotseating the game offline to review the enemy's position before returning online. It is even easier to hotseat a save. This is strictly forbidden.
Reason: This is considered cheating. You can win this way, but there is no honor in it.
Most game bugs have been fixed by the wonderful patches designed by Lord Brazen. The following bugs remain (note that some of these only happen in online play):
Retreat From The Mapedge: There is a game bug that will cause the game to immediately crash if you retreat a ship that is touching the edge of the combat map, meaning the results of the whole battle are lost. Always turn on the Combat Option for Grid Squares and NEVER retreat a ship from combat if it occupies a grid square at the edge of the map.
Annihilation: Another bug occurs when you choose to Annihilate a captured enemy population. Once the population goes to zero that planet can remain yours while also being invulnerable to enemy invasion (your opponent drops his marines but the game does not allow him to recapture the planet). This condition usually ends after a random number of turns, but in the meantime it gives the owning player an invulnerable outpost he cannot lose to enemy action. The community does not have a permanent rule to cover this, but I suggest that you agree with your opponents up front as to whether Annihilation is allowed or not.
Androids: Under certain conditions you can build or import more Androids on a planet than the game gives as the maximum pop capacity for that planet. The community has agreed not to abuse this bug, so if a planet reads 17/17 colonists do not add an 18th Android.
Monsters: If two players hit the exact same type of monster on the same turn, both while have combats but one of the two monsters will remain intact even if the player killed it. There is nothing to be done about this, but the player with the surviving monster will be given the option to fight again the next turn if he keeps his fleet at the monster's system.
There are a number of very useful learning techniques that you can employ on your own to rapidly pick up useful knowledge.
I strongly recommend that when you first start playing online you hotseat each game after it is finished and study your enemy's technology choices, the allocation of colonists on each planet, his probable expansion pattern, and especially study his ship designs. There is a great deal to be learned from a veteran player's ship designs.
A second excellent learning technique is to play with the Omniscient race pick for your first few games. This is generally not a great race pick for most games, and you probably don't want to do this once you start feeling confident about your skills. But the ability to watch veteran players turn by turn as they develop their empires can teach you a great deal and will give you much more perspective on good (and bad) play than this one writer can. You will then start to win earlier than you might have otherwise.
A third technique, often overlooked, is to ask your opponent after the game is over to critique your play and offer tips. Almost all players in the Kali community will gladly share with you what they think you were doing wrong and what you might try instead. Kali is a mature community and very few of us take any pleasure in beating new players. Our fun starts AFTER you have first beaten us, and we can then enjoy the challenge of playing you. So help us help you by asking as many questions as you want. In my experience, it is the players willing to ask for critiques who start winning earliest.
Even highly experienced offline players can get very frustrated when they first come online by the fact that they keep losing games they feel they should have won. This is only because online play against humans is very different from play against the computer. After observing literally over a thousand new players come online for the first time, I suggest that you should expect to lose your first 10-20 games online. This is perfectly normal and does not mean you are not a good MOO player. If you can stick with the frustration through those first 10-20 games, and if you are willing to adapt to the different conditions of online play, you should enjoy many hours of great fun.
About The Author
Cybersaber has been playing MOO II online since early 1997, first on TEN and then on Kali. He was also the elected President of the TEN MOO II League and then the Kali MOO II League. The experience contained in this document reflects not only his own knowledge, but also the collective experience of the TEN and Kali MOO II gaming communities. There are many player guides for MOO II available on the web. Most of them are useless for play against humans. The author hopes that this guide will help those players who wish to play human opponents online.