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From: jm79@andrew.cmu.edu
Subject: Grey Elf's Guide to Planet Taking

This a fairly long document, and has just about all the advice I can give on taking planets in netrek. The advice is freely given, not meant to be gospel, or necessarily helpful in any way. But, after some 300 hours, and some 2000 planets, I think I know something about this planettaking business. Note that most of this advice assumes that you're trying to help your team win, not to build stats, although that's certainly part of the game.

First of all, before anything, know what's going on. How you're going to take planets depends on which planets you're trying to take.  Are you taking back your own space? You'll have to be careful with your armies as you don't have many. Are you taking planets in the third space? You probably need a fast ship. Taking core planets? You either need something really heavy, (an AS), or something really fast. Know how many kills you need, there might be a planet with only 1 army on it, that you can pick off with a 1 kill ship. If you're trying to take an agri, you're going to need two kills and at least 4 armies, and your effort will be wasted if you don't get them all down.

Next, the key to winning the game is to take planets faster than the enemy is taking them back. There are a lot of skills to help you do this, but if you're serious about taking planets you don't have time to wander around trying to get your second kill. I'm sure that the most annoying thing about my playing style is just how FAST I can take planets when I'm playing well...over and over and over until the enemy is just plain out of planets. Grey Elf averages a planet every 9 minutes, and that's in addition to anything else I do to help my team. The key is speed...you have no time to waste. I hate flying Destroyers because I always burn out my engines getting to where I want to go.

To take planets, first you need kills. Getting kills falls under another chapter (Grey Elf's Guide to Making Yourself Useful) but I'll mention a few ways of getting quick kills. The classic method is twink bashing. It's cold, it's cheap, it works. You find someone with the nice 0.3 kill ratio and get him to come after you. My favorite method is to let the guy get a decent phaser on me. Then I start to run and he says "I've got him now!" and charges forward right into my beautiful line of torps. It's scary how quick you can rack up kills if the enemies line up right.

Another method is to get in front of your Starbase. If he's anywhere near the enemy he is probably attracting oggers...try to pick them off before your starbase gets at them. If he blows up someone you've just crippled, call him a kill thief and tell him you'd like some reward for destroying oggers for him.  He'll probably understand that you really want some kills to take planet. Note that I'm NOT advising you to sit behind your SB and scum a kill after he damages it... first of all it usually takes too long, and makes enemies to boot. You certainly don't want your team against you when you really need some help.

A third way is to try to force enemies into an outnumbered situation.  This requires some skill in not getting killed, and is difficult if there are several people ogging indiscriminately, or ogging you in particular. Basically you try to get behind a person so he can't get away. Then you sandwich him between your torps/phasers and those of your teammates, and out of the random spread you have an even chance of getting a kill, better if your teammates aren't as good.

Once you have kills, be careful. Good oggers will pinpoint anyone with more than 1 kill, and especially focus on known planet takers.  Always watch the long range scanner for cloakers, and know if good players are headed in your direction. If you spend 5 minutes getting 2 kills, you certainly don't want a battleship running you over when you least expect it. This holds true everywhere, at all times. Little sucks more than getting blown up at your home planet as you refit to an assault ship...especially if the guy them bombs the armies you were planning to pick up. (A little secret: when I head back to my home planet to refit to an assault ship, I pick up some armies from the front line and carrying them back with me...because there's no guarantee they will still be there when I get back).

There are a couple of ways to deal with oggers. First, you have to know they are there. Watch the long range scanner at all times, even when dogfighting. Remember that your ship still has weapons, and use them. If you are planning to take planets, don't get in close with enemies...they may just be trying to suicide into you. I'm not encouraging people to runner-scum, but don't close with the enemy either. If an enemy is coming in cloaked, there are two things to do. If he's coming in very fast, either blast some torps into his path, since he can't dodge, or cloak just before he gets within phaser range. Slow, spin to the side, and speed up again...he will uncloak, go flying past you, miss with his torp spread (which you just dodged), and try to come back after you, now rather low on fuel. If he's coming in slow, fly away around warp 6, burning no fuel, and wait for the ogger to run out of fuel.  Then go do what you were before he got there. Remember that most oggs are ineffective unless you don't see it coming, are already hurt, or the ogger is really good. Also, let your teammates help you, but don't hide behind their coattails: if you're going to be effective you have to take some risks, and sometimes you get burned. Take your loss and come back fighting.

What ship you choose to take planets in is a difficult choice. Everyone has their favorite fighting ship: I prefer cruisers. In some cases another ship might be more effective: you lose time in changing ships (less if your starbase is nearby), but a different ship might be able to do more. Each ship has a different style to it. Scouts are useful for taking planets that are left undefended and weak. You can slip in very quickly and beam down two armies, which can either take a planet or weaken it for the next person to show up. (This tactic can be very useful when the enemy is low on planets...letting other people take the planet with one kill ships).  Destroyers are exceptionally good for taking lightly defended planets since they can carry 5 armies and are both fast and manuverable. Heavier ships are more useful for taking well defended planets, since they can take the punishment of random torps.  Remember that Assault ships can carry an army for every 0.33 kills... so an assault ship is much better for taking planets.  However, enemies know what assault ships can do, and will often suicide one without even checking how many kills it has.

Another choice is how many armies to carry. This depends on what you are trying to do, and how many armies your team has to use or lose.  If you expect that your team can defend the planet you're taking, only carry enough armies to leave one of yours on the planet, and let it grow. Carrying more is an invitation to be ogged, and is probably a waste unless you're sure that you can grab more than one planet in a single run. If you think your team can't defend the planet, and you're just taking it to deny it's growth to the enemy, try to carry enough to bring it to 3 or 4, so that the enemy will have to waste many armies to get it back. Again, carrying more is just an invitation to be ogged, and it actually reduces your effectiveness, because you'll be so timid defending your piles of armies that you won't be able to get anything done. Sometimes you gotta die to take a planet...If you are taking a planet that is heavily defended (like a last planet stand) then carrying more than 4 is probably useless, because you'll probably just die with them all, and there's no point in losing lots of armies at a time. Of course, it all depends on how many armies you have: if you have 15 planets with 20 armies each, it doesn't really matter how many you die with, while if you have few armies you have to conserve every one you can get. To know where your armies are, set your longe range scanner to show the planet resources (hit "B" twice, or is it "V"...). Planets with more than 4 armies will have a picture of a little army on the left side
of the planet. This makes it difficult to tell who owns which planets, but this trick helps: if you are using the standard ~games/bin client, or I think if you have the ~games fonts, then planets which are friendly to you have their names in boldface, while enemy planet's names appear in plain text. This makes it hard to identify independent planets (which look like yours, as well as friendly neutral planets), but I find that knowing where the extra armies are on every planet more than makes up for that difficulty.

There are several different situations in which one takes planets.  These are: your team is down, it's an even battle, you're driving the enemy back, you're trying to break core planets, or a last planet stand, or you're taking planets in the "third space": the planets originally belong to a team that was genocided. I'll discuss these in turn.

If you are short on planets, you are probably also short on armies,  so defending them is a must. Hordes of oggers will come for you as soon as you pick armeis up, if not sooner, so be ready. Don't just take a planet and fly away, because a planet with 1 army is easy pickings for anyone with a kill.  Stay and defend it, or make sure someone else is.  Othewise, you might as well have died with the armies for all the good they did your team. If you have lots of armies (sometimes all your planets grow at once) it can be useful to save some on your starbase, rather than taking lots of planets that are easily taken back. Planets with 4 armies can't be taken by a 1 kill ship, while a planet with 1 army can. Always take an agri first if your team has the ability to defend it, because it will grow armies much faster than a regular planet.  Who needs a home planet when you have an agri...

If the game is fairly even, then you want to take planets fast and stop the enemy from retaking them. Again, you are probably low on armies, and should be making sure the enemy is too. Only carry 5 at a time...go back for more after you take a planet. Carrying more is just too risky at this point in the game. Take agris first, then fuel, then repair. Your team will love you for it :-)

Try to con your team into clearing the planet so you can take it.  If they aren't, you can try to clear it yourself, depending on how good you and the target are. If you think you need help, but aren't getting it, try this trick: wait for a teammate to get near, then fire some torps and try to get the enemy to shoot back. Toggle your shields a couple of times too. Look like your having a really tough battle. Hopefully your teammate will get the idea and come chase the enemy off.  There's a lesson here that I'll mention again and again: people notice what happens on their short range scanner more than they notice the long  range scanner. This is more true with less skilled players. If you want someone to notice you, do something on their short range view: if you don't want people to notice you, stay off their short range view. We all have tunnel vision, and often see only what we want to see. Use this to your advantage.

As you advance into the enemy space, the game changes a bit. You start to have more armies than the enemy...you can afford to be more agressive in taking planets. Every army you kill is another blow, every planet is production lost by the enemy. A really strong push at this point can force the enemy into a last planet stand. The enemy will be fighting back hard, but they don't have enough people to defend all of their planets heavily. Use this to your advantage.

Oggers have an easy time at you when you are in their space, so watch for them all of the time. Don't be conspicuous; just kind of fly around until you see an opening. The key is that, as time goes on, different enemy planets will become weakly defended. People fly around, and others get killed. What you have to do is be ready for an opening to occur, and JUMP on it before the opportunity closes again. What I like to do is pick a promising side of the enemy space and float...careful not to get on the short range scanner of any enemies. A lot of times, someone might be floating perfectly aimlesly, headed somewhere else, but will zero in on you if they see you at short range. Even if you kill them, you've lost valuable time and opportunity, plus the person might very well look at the kill list and send out an og call on you. I wait for something: sometimes a planet just gets left open. Other times a teammate causes a distraction which keeps the enemy fom looking at the long range scanner. (Remember, it's hard to look for cloakers when someone is shooting at you). Sometimes my team just blasts the enemy off. When a chance occurs, you have to MOVE, and fast. You may only have seconds to get the planet and get out before you are noticed. Cloak, and scream in at max warp. As you get close, slow down so you can dodge a bit. Slow down more as you get close to the planet, because you have to be going slow to orbit the planet. Keep your shields down as you go in (to conserve fuel), but keep your finger on the shields key so you can toggle them instantly. I usually raise them once I'm close enough to take damage from the planet. At this point there are four keys you need: bomb, beam down, det others torps, and shields (these are by default "b", "x", "d", and "u" or "s"). I find it useful to remap the bomb key to something near "x" and "d"; I use s. This way you can hit all three keys without looking down. It's also useful to have the resource display on the short range view: this way you can see if you should bomb before beaming down armies. As soon as you start orbiting the planet, start bombing or beaming down. Be prepared to det incoming torps, and to raise shields if it seems necessary. If someone fires a plasma at you, it's almost always better to raise the shields to take the plasma, then comtinue. Remember that raising shields stops you from attacking the planet, so you have to hit the bomb key again. Look for the army picture to disappear, then start beaming down. As you beam down, look back and
forth betwen incoming torps and the little window above the message window which counts down the armies: 4..3..2..1..0..1..  As soon as you've beamed down all your armies, raise your shields and hit warp 6.  Try to dodge torps on your way out, and punch it as soon as you are in the clear. Spin parry dodge. Lower your shields if no torps are hitting you, to save your fuel. Also, uncloak as soon as is feasible to avoid getting caught without any fuel. Head for the nearest friend and have him get in the way of the oncoming enemy hordes.

For a beginner, it can be a real problem to remember which keys to hit, and to hit them in the right order. Practice on planets that aren't so defended: pretend there are enemies about, cloak, and take the planet as if someone were about to kill you. You never know, someone might be.....At all times, don't panic, and never give up: that battleship MIGHT just miss :-)

Taking last planets is even tougher, because there are less openings.  Usually you'll have to beat one, two, or even more enemies to take the planet.  An assault ship is usually necessary for this, unless the defenders are really clueless. You have to pick your attack carefully; you can't just charge in and take the planet. Wait for things to look good. Bide your time: if the enemy only has one planet, they probably aren't coming back anytime soon. Wait for their admiral to fly away, THEN crash the planet. Always be ready; sometimes the enemy home planet will be totally undefended for just long enough to get in and take it. One of the best times to take a last planet is when the enemy has burned most of their fuel dealing with others: they might not have enough fuel to finish you off, especially if you det their torps for less damage.  Sometimes you'll wait for 15 minutes for those 3 seconds that the starbase drifts away from the planet. Only three seconds, but you're in and beaming down before he can find his plasma. Try to get the enemy to forget about you; let them deal with other people, and then suddenly pop out of nowhere to take the planet.

As you fly in, you're expecting to get fired upon, so be ready for it.  Have one finger on the shields, and use your other fingers to change speeds. I usually try to slide in at about warp 5, dodging the enemy torps as I go in. I accelerate as I see a clear path to the planet, and hope I can orbit quickly.  Always remember that you'll probably have to lock on the planet again, as you've been spinning around in circles all this time. Once you lock on, keep the shields up
and move your hand over the beam down key. As soon as you orbit, start beaming down, and have another finger ready to det the incoming torps.  This is probably a suicide mission, so don't worry about what to do after you take the planet. Only stop beaming down if a plasma is incoming: then it might be worthwhile to take the plasma to the shields, then continue beaming down. Usually it's all over before you can think about making it out alive. If you somehow manage to get all your armies down, try to fly away and get to your friends...but even if you die, you've really done a lot for your team.

If there's more than one defender, or the one is fairly good, you'll probably need help to take it. What you want is to have your enemies too busy to look at the long range scanner to see if cloakers are incoming. This usually means you want the distraction uncloaked, so that the enemies will focus on the distraction. Try to come in from a different angle; few people expect a planet taker to come from behind them. Make sure the good defenders are occupied, or have your teammates assigned to take them out. There are two plans: either have your teammates kill most of the defenders, or just keep them so busy that they won't see you. Killing works better at planets farther from the home planet, since the returning ships can't get back in time.  Killing also is needed against good players, because they are probably going to see the cloaker anyway.

If you are helping someone take a last planet, your job is to keep the enemy busy...too busy. If there are only a few (3 or less), and no SB, then pick out the best of the defenders and suicide into him. They will all burn fuel shooting at you, and you'll take out the person most likely to kill your planet taker. The planettaker can then come in and take the planet in those few seconds before the enemy looks back at their long range scanner. If there are too many defenders for this to work, you have to be more sneaky. You somehow have to get the defenders to focus on you instead of the planettaker coming in from a different angle. One of my favorite tricks is to fly in cloaked, and then fly cloaked or uncloaked in the opposite direction from the real planet taker. If all goes well, the enemy will come chasing off after me while the real planet taker slips in behind before the defenders notice the deception. A lot depends on how good the defenders are: a few really clueful battleships can defend a planet against all comers.

This is all well and good, but usually you just get blown to bits without getting a single army down. If this happens, hurry back out and get some more kills. Pick up more armies, and start floating around again. You know you're doing well if the enemy says "You have kills AGAIN???" Hang around, look, wait, and then sneak in from behind, and get blown to smithereens. Come back again...and often that third time, they'll have just a little too fuel, and be a little too far away...and it's all over.

The last type of planet taking is when you are attacking the third space.  This is different because there are not as many ships there, and the planets are harder to defend. If you are invading this space, especially if is diagonally across from you, you should probably have a good army supply before trying, and should make sure the enemy is low on armies. There are two plans of attack: either have a fast ship (a destroyer probably, for fuel regeneration) that can shuttle armies quickly, or a many kill asault ship that takes several planets in one trip. This is one of the few times when it is good to carry many armies, although the transport needs to be well defended.  Some fighting ships should go along with the planet takers to bomb nearby armies (making it harder to take back the planets) and to kill enemies trying to fight back. Usually the best way to defend third space planets is by ogging;
there's just too much space to concentrate on planets rather than planet takers. A planettaker needs to know this, and use the vast space to run in. There's another planet to be taken just around the corner...

So that's the advice I have to give on planet taking. I'll just summarize:

  1. move: don't waste time
  2. get kills quickly
  3. watch for oggers always
  4. know what planets need to be taken, and who the defenders are
  5. choose the right ship and the right number of armies
  6. try not to attract attention
  7. try to get undefended planets
  8. wait for an opening, then jump on it
  9. attack when the enemy is too busy too deal with you
  10. come back again...and again...and again...eventually the enemy will collapse

And remember, there's little more satisfying than breaking a long last planet stand, or knowing that every player gets to see your name in the final message: : "Galaxy has been conquered by Ff (Grey Elf) and the Federation".  But the best compliment I ever got was when I took Romulus as a Fed three times in a row, and one of the Romulans sent to the all board: "damn elf".  Makes my day everytime I see that line.

Good luck, and good netrekking!

Andrew Markiel Rear Adm. Grey Elf
(ex-jm79@andrew.cmu.edu) Admiral Neutrino

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