The Solar Federation
By Conrad Lesnewski
There exists a rather vocal group of players in the VGAP community who swear that the Feds are THE race to play. Let me make it clear from the start, that I am not one of these players. I'll take the Lizards over the Feds any day of the week and twice on Sundays, but that's a story for another time. Today we're here to discuss getting the most out of The Solar Federation who, while not my favorite race, do have a number of advantages to be exploited for fun and profit.
The first advantage the Feds have is money, lots of it. They make twice the money from taxes than any other race. This is the good news. The bad news is mining. They mine at a 70% rate, which means to really have a thriving empire, the Feds have to find a good sized Bovinoid planet early in the game and make building a Merlin Class Alchemy ship a priority. Likewise, finding a Reptilian planet with decent minerals at decent densities, is a godsend for the Feds.
The second advantage the Feds have is the Super Refit mission. This becomes apparent when you don't find that Bovinoid or Reptilian early in the game. When faced with a mineral shortage, other races must either wait to build, build a different ship, or put lesser components on a ship and make do with it. The Feds, on the other hand, need only ensure that they have enough minerals on hand to build the hull with stardrive 1 engines. The stripped down ships then remain in orbit biding their time until a sufficient supply of minerals can be procured. Once the minerals arrive at the base, the ships are refit with the best engines and weapons money can buy and then leave orbit to reign terror on their enemies. This means the Feds should be striving to build a ship every turn on every base. When the 500 ship limit hits, a decent Fed player should own 200 or more of those ships. Once the queue has started and few ships are being built, the Fed player can go back and refit his mothballed fleet into a power to be feared.
This strategy works best when in a "last-man-standing" game, where you know the 500 ship limit will be reached. Two caveats with this strategy: 1) A level 4 or 5 Ion storm can destroy half your fleet, so either play in games without Ion Storms or refit the fleet as early as possible and start moving it around, and 2) Guard your ships waiting to be refit with one Loki, and at least two or three fully outfitted battleships loaded for bear (Missouris/ Diplomacys/ Kittyhawks/ etc.) or you will find, much to your dismay, that one Resolute Class Battlecruiser can easily destroy 20 empty hulls.
The Feds strategy is slightly different in an invasion game. Many invasion games are over before the queue hits so the Feds can't afford to sit back and wait. However, their advantage in money means they can usually afford to raise their tech levels before any one else can. This means the Feds can usually get out two or three warships, with H. Blasters and Mark VII torpedoes very early in the game, with which they can launch an early blitz attack against their neighbor's ships and homeworld. This makes the Feds very dangerous in the first 20 turns of an Invasion game, but time is against them. Kill your enemies early.
Super Refit also gives the Feds an advantage in cloning. Let's assume The Feds and The Fascists both desire a Darkwing with Transwarps, H. Phasers and Mark VII Torps. Furthermore, let's say, for arguments sake, that The Birds are willing to sell them one Darkwing each at cost, outfitted any way they want, but they'll have to clone it to get more. The Fascists will have to order the ship with the desired equipment in place at a cost of $2,550, then clone it at a cost of $5,100. The Feds, on the other hand, will order the Darkwing with Stardrive 1's and no weapons at a cost of $452, clone it for $904, then refit the weapons and engines for $2,100. Bottom Line: Each cloned Darkwing cost the Fascists $5,100, but the Feds only pay $3,004 for the same cloned ship.
Of course, most ships being cloned are captured booty, rather than ships that were traded or bought. In many cases, the Feds can still clone these ships more cheaply than the other races. To do so, the player needs to understand how Super Refit works. In Host 3.2x, ships must be refit with a full complement of weapons (e.g., a Darkwing must be refit with 10 beams and 8 tubes). If the ship is set to refit and there is less than a full complement of weapons available (e.g. attempting to refit a Darkwing while only having 6 Beams and 5 tubes in stock on the base), then the current weapons will be stripped off and NO weapons will be added to the hull. The astute Fed player rapidly comes to the realization that this restriction can be used to his/her advantage when cloning a captured ship. Let's see how.
The Feds and Fascists both capture a Resolute with Transwarps, H. Blasters, and Mk VII Torps, and they wish to clone the ship. The Fascists simply clone it at a cost of $3,176. The Feds first build a single H. Phaser and a single Mk VIII torpedo tube on the base and set the Resolute to Super Refit. The following turn they will have a Resolute with Transwarps and no beams or Torps. They clone this stripped down ship at a cost of $1,960 and then pay an additional $608 to refit the clone with the 8 H. Blasters and 3 Mk VII Tubes for a total cost of $2,568. Each Resolute the Feds clone, and refit, is $608 cheaper than the same ship cloned by the Fascists (or anybody else). The restrictions on this technique are as follows: 1) It only works for weapons, not engines, 2) the beams have to be H. Disruptors or lower tech and the Torps have to be Mk VIIs or lower in order for them to be stripped off during the first refit. It should be noted that this technique can also be used to "downward" refit a ship (e.g. strip the H. Blasters and Mk VIIs off of a Missouri and replace them with Disruptors and Gamma Bombs). Using this technique the Feds can pretty much reconfigure their own or captured ships at will.
It should be noted that the downward refit only occurs if the ship has less than it's full complement of weapons. So a Darkwing with 9 H. Blasters and 7 Mk VIIs can indeed strip those weapons off by setting the ship to refit at a base that has but 1 Phaser and 1 Mk VIII launcher in stock. If, on the other hand, you try this on a Darkwing with 10 beams and 8 launchers, the ship will be left in it's original configuration.
Now that we've seen how the Feds can reconfigure their ships, the question remains, "Which ships should the Feds be building in the first place?" The Feds have a number of useful ships. Early on in the Game, the Nebula makes an excellent armed freighter. It carries 350 kts of cargo and when properly equipped can blow most mid-level ships into space dust. Later on in the game, it can be used as an effective mine layer. The work-horse of the fleet is the Missouri. The Feds are better off building 2 Missouris than 1 Nova. The cost is about the same and the Missouris are more versatile. The Diplomacy makes a decent small battleship for dealing with pesky Resolutes, Emeralds, etc. These three ships comprise the bulk of the Fed fleet, however, with the right Hconfig setting, the Feds have two more devastating weapons at their disposal.
Shield Tech: The Feds want it on and at 50%. Without this setting, the Feds will have a very hard time keeping the carrier races at bay. If the Shield Tech is on at 50%, the Feds have a very effective anti-carrier ship, The Thor. Four Thors with Transwarps, X-ray, and 32 Mk VIIs Torps, will kill any carrier in the game including Gorbies and Biocides with the last Thor surviving (often undamaged). Compare this to the 5 T-Rex's or 4 Victoriouses needed by the Lizards and Fascists to do the same. If Torp ships are the problem, The Kittyhawk with a 50% Shield Tech setting will destroy any Torp ship in the game except the Annihilation (and it takes a big bite out of that). Obviously, Shield Tech is of major importance to the Feds. If it's on and 50% (below 40% is the same as being off as far as the Feds are concerned), the Fed fleet should have quite a few Thors and Kittyhawks.
The Feds have four specialty ships; The Brynhild, The Bohemian, The Eros, and The Loki. The Brynhild is useful early in the game for quickly finding native races to exploit. The terraformers (Bohemian and Eros) are useful throughout the game for creating maximized planets (e.g. get the planet temp to 50, turn the taxes off, and watch a 6 million Bovinoid become a 15 million Bovinoid in 20 turns or less). If "Climate Kill" is on in the game, the terraformers move from useful to absolutely necessary and give the Feds a big advantage in expanding an empire. The Loki will protect the Feds from the Birds, Fascists, and Privateers with devastating effectiveness. If the Feds pair one (A LOKI) up with a Nebula on each important planet and send them as escorts with their fleets, the Privateer theft will be a rare occurrence. The Loki is also the Feds most valuable trading commodity. Other races will pay top dollar for this ship and since it cannot decloak Fed ships (assuming the Feds get a cloaker from someone else), there is little risk of it ever being used against them. The terraformers are also good trading material, again, even more so if "Climate Kill" is active.
One Hconfig setting benefits all Fed ships, namely the "Fed Crew Bonus." The default setting is on. If the host turns it off, quit the game. Playing the Feds with it off is equivalent to playing the Crystals without the ability to lay webs. The Fed Crew Bonus does four things for the Feds: 1) All Fed ships will always fight with their full complement of weapons regardless of their damage (e.g. If a Missouri has 90% damage, it will still fight with 8 beams and 6 tubes); 2) All Fed ships will regenerate 25% shields between battles so the Feds will always begin each fight with at least 25% shields; 3) All Fed ships will have an extra 50kts of mass during ship battles, and 4) All Fed carriers will gain three extra bays in battle.
This means that many so-called useless ships are actually a threat in the hands of the Feds. One example would be the Redwind carrier built by the Birds and Privateers. In the hands of the Birds (or anyone else), this ship gets captured by a Robotic Catspaw before it can bring the Catspaw's shields down. Give it to the Feds and it can reduce the Catspaw to debris without losing its own shields. "Fed Crew Bonus" makes any ship controlled by the Feds more dangerous in battle than it would be when controlled by any other race, with the possible exception of the Lizards.
By using the above advantages of money, Super Refit, Fed Crew Bonus, and ship selection well, the Feds should be a formidable opponent to just about every race in the game. They do have, what I consider, one natural enemy, The Lizards. The Lizards can match the Feds' money through Hissing, they can out produce them in minerals almost 3 : 1, they can safely ignore the Feds' Loki and use their Lizard Cruisers to ground attack Fed planets and bases, and their 150% damage ability can often match the Fed Crew Bonus. If the Feds find themselves near the Lizards early in the game, they have two choices: make peace or start an all-out, no-holds barred war. If the Lizards get an established foothold near the Feds, they can often overwhelm them far more quickly than any other race can. On the other hand, a Fed and Lizard Alliance is something that should send fear into the hearts of every other race in the cluster. The Feds are considered an economic race. Their advantages are used to build strong empires with a very high number of ships. If the Feds are not growing and building at twice or more the rate of the carrier races, they will lose the game. If played to their strengths, they can often be the rulers of the Echo Cluster.