Strategies and Rules Modifications
|FORMAT:||Disk or Tape|
|# PLAYERS||2 to 4|
|PRICE:||$18.00 to $24.00|
4517 Harford Rd.
Baltimore, MD 21214
ANDROMEDA CONQUEST (AC) is a relatively simple but exciting game for two to four players. You can also play the game solitaire, but it is not as entertaining as interacting with other players. Each player starts with one home star system and uses his resources to build faster-than-light ships to explore and colonize new worlds. As your advancing ships encounter ships or star systems of other players, you must decide whether to attack first or to initiate negotiations with the possibility of forging an alliance.
The best game is the full four-player version which has more possibilities for negotiating alliances, limited intelligence, outright deception, faithful cooperation with your allies (or stabbing them in the back), and seeking revenge against a treacherous ally.
Each player chooses one of nine possible life forms: the program uses his choice to identify the system he colonizes as the game progresses. The object of the game is to be the first to colonize and hold ten star systems. The program randomly generates a map of up to 48 stars, so every game is different depending on the relative location of the players’ home systems and the other systems. The non-player systems are initially either uninhabited or held by neutral life forms which are handled by the computer. They cannot build ships, but they may have system defenses which a player must attack and destroy before he can colonize the system.
Each star has a different magnitude (brightness) and resources, while each neutral civilization has a different number of defenses, technology level and “pliability”. These factors will influence your decision on whether the system is worth the expense of attacking and colonizing it. If a system has major defenses and few resources, it may not be worth the cost. The number of resource points required to establish a new colony at any system varies for each player-the closer the magnitude is to that of your home star, the cheaper the cost. Further, you have no way of knowing whether the system is neutral or is the colony of another player, if it is a colony, you will surely face reprisals if you decide to attack it. If, on the other hand, you try to negotiate, you give up your advantage of surprise and give the other player valuable time which may be secretly used to reinforce the system or possibly attack you. By announcing your desire to negotiate you must reveal the location of one of your fleets, which gives the other players valuable information about the direction of your exploration.
AC does an excellent job of simulating the “fog of war”, Each player enters his orders secretly The only information you receive about the other players are reports from your ships and from negotiations with allies. If another player secretly destroys one of your fleets or colonizes one of your systems, on your turn you will see that it is missing but you have no way of identifying the aggressor. It is possible to conduct secret warfare against your own ally even while you are pretending to be loyal.
Entry of orders is simple and moderately “user friendly”. Each turn you use your resources to establish a new colony, if possible, and build new ships or system defenses. Each new colony gives you more resource points on future turns. There are three types of ships: Rama, Echo and Nova. Rama ships are fast and cheap, and are useful for scouting, fighting and escorting other ships. Echo ships can establish new colonies, and they are slow, unarmed and expensive. Nova ships are most expensive, and have medium speed and fighting ability. Nova ships are similar to the “death star” in Star Wars in that they can obliterate undefended systems. System defenses are cheap to build but are useful only in the system in which they are built.
After you allocate resources, you issue orders to your fleets for movement and exploration. Then if appropriate, you decide whether to attack or attempt negotiations.
The graphics in this game are minimal, so you will be disappointed if you only like fast, colorful arcade action. This is also a long game. A four-player game could last as long as ten hours. There is a save game feature, but, if you prefer short games, this may not be your cup of tea.
If you agree on the following rules modifications, you can shorten the game considerably. Lower the victory objective from ten systems to eight. Setting it any lower than eight might make a dull game because one player might possibly achieve it quickly, without competing with the other players’ forces. You can place a reasonable time limit on entering orders: perhaps five minutes. A similar time limit can be placed on all “first contact” negotiations. Subsequent negotiations between allies should also have a time limit, should occur only once per turn, and should only be allowed when il non-ally is entering orders. If all players use paper and pencils to make a rough sketch of the strategic map and keep good records on their fleets and colonies, they can play their next move before they get to the console and thereby greatly reduce the length of the game.
Another alternate victory objective condition is to allow a player to win by using his Nova ships to destroy a home system of another player. This adds excitement to the game in several ways. First, it gives you a legitimate reason to build and use Nova ships which are useless in achieving the game’s original objective. Second, it can be quite a challenge to analyze all of the available information about the direction of alien fleet movements, location of systems occupied by the same life form, and the territorial ambitions of your allies in an effort to guess the location of a players home world. It you do have a strong hunch, it can be an exciting “all-or-nothing” gamble to send most of your forces deep into his territory in an attempt to nuke his home planet. Third, if your home system is not near a cluster of eight stars, this alternative may be your only hope for winning. If you are successful in destroying a home planet, under this rule modification the other player is required to announce that he has lost his home planet.
There is a slight advantage in being the first player to move, therefore I suggest you draw straws to determine the order of play. Under the original victory objective or under the modified objectives discussed above, it is possible that more than one player could win on the same turn, which does give more incentive for forming alliances.
Strategic planning is fairly simple in AC. The direction of your exploration is largely determined by which star clusters are nearest to your home world. On your first turn you should first identify the eight nearest stars and estimate the distance to each of them. Using all of your resource points, build one Echo ship and send it out unescorted on the first turn. There is a small risk that it may be destroyed before escorts can catch up with it, but it is important to get an early start in the race for colonies. You can only establish one colony per turn, so it is important to plan routes for future Echo ships so that you can reach all eight of the nearest stars as quickly as possible. If you are lucky enough to have eight systems nearby, and no other player’s home system nearby, you may be able to win easily without ever fighting another player. In general, you should try to explore toward the corners and edges of the map if at all possible, not toward the center where you are more likely to encounter competition from other players in the later stages of the game.
If the nearest star is only two spaces away, you should build a Rama fleet on turn two and begin attacking its system defenses. With luck, you should be able to establish your first colony on turn two or three. If no alien fleets were spotted on the tactical map during turn one, you might risk gambling again on turn two by sending out a second unescorted Echo ship. By turn three, you should begin building Rama ships. Most of them should be accumulated in one or two large fleets advancing before the Echo ships to scout for the easiest systems to colonize, to attack system defenses, and to intercept and destroy any alien fleets; before they get within striking range of the valuable Echo ships. A small number of Rama ships should be sent out singly or in pairs on long-range reconnaissance in order to probe any approaching alien fleets as far away as possible, and to possibly initiate negotiations, even if only for the purpose of gathering information about the other players intentions and strengths.
If you are unlucky and your home system is not located near eight other systems, you will not be able to win early in the game simply by sending out Echo ships. Instead you must use the more difficult long-term strategy of attacking the “early starters” and hopefully forming alliances with other “late starters”. On the first turn you should send out one Echo ship toward the nearest cluster of systems. Then build Rama ships on subsequent turns and accumulate them in one large fleet. They should have a few single Rama ships in front of them to scout for good targets such as unescorted or weakly escorted Echo ships, or to initiate negotiations with other “late starters”. If you can develop any strong hunches about the location of another home system, you should consider trying to win by the alternate victory objective. Although this is the more difficult way to win, it may be your only hope. Your scouts can usually identify a home system, as it has resources of ten, the same life form as most of the surrounding systems, eleven or more system defenses, and appears to be centered among and equidistant from numerous alien fleets. As soon as possible, build one Nova ship and send it to join your main battle fleet. When you attack the system defenses of the suspected home planet, you must do it with overwhelming superiority in order to destroy it in one turn. For, if you fail to destroy it on your first attack, the enemy will reinforce that system on his next turn, and you may never be strong enough to take it. On your first attack you must have odds of four-to-one in order to have a fifty-fifty chance of destroying the system in one turn. I recommend odds of at least six-to-one, which will: give you a 66% probability of destroying the system in one turn. Obviously, if you have any loyal ally whose order of movement is either just before or just after yours, you might invite him to coordinate his own attack with yours in order to increase the chance that one of you will succeed in destroying the system. If the enemy reinforces the suspected home planet so you cannot get good odds, change your plan and hit one of the weakly-defended nearby systems of the same life form. He cannot afford to strongly defend all of his colonies and, if you continue destroying his colonies, you may be able to prevent him from getting eight.
Your negotiations with other players are the heart and soul of this game. There are only two ways to win in this game, and you, negotiating strategy will depend on which victory objective you choose to pursue. If you choose to try to win by getting eight colonies, you really don’t need allies to help you. The only thing they could offer you would be peaceful coexistence and a pledge to stay away from your area of planned expansion. But, if possible, you should not risk telling them where you plan to expand. I recommend that you promptly destroy any small scouting forces that intrude into your territory. This will hopefully discourage any further intrusions. If a very powerful fleet enters your domain, you should try to initiate negotiations via the scouting force which first detects it. If he does negotiate, you might suggest that he expand toward another nearby cluster, and offer him your pledge of mutual nonaggression and respect for his territory. Do not reveal any more information than is necessary and, of course, never reveal the location of your home planet. Even if the negotiations are not promising, you may be able to pick up valuable information from him or delay any further advance so you can bring up reinforcements and prepare your defenses.
If your home planet is in a remote location and you choose to try to win by destroying another home planet, you will need loyal allies to have a good chance of winning. You should send out many long-range reconnaissance parties and try to initiate as many negotiations as possible with alien fleets. If you encounter another player who is also in a remote location, it is obviously in your mutual interest to exchange some information and hopefully develop a long range plan for a strong allied attack against a suspected home planet of an “early starter”. These negotiations will require a great deal of mutual trust. I therefore recommend that, short of revealing the location of your home planet, you show much more candor than in other negotiations.
It is of course permissible to tell huge lies in this game and later stab your ally in the back, but I do not recommend it. Even a veteran “poker face” will have a rough time maintaining a lie throughout the numerous negotiations in this long game. If, during a negotiation, the other player raises a subject that you do not wish to discuss, I recommend that you simply refuse to discuss the subject at all rather than lie.
Whether you play straight or slightly slanted, ANDROMEDA CONQUEST can give you hours of gaming enjoyment with your friends.