In our first Action Point, we looked at the basic actions to build your empire including Exploration, Colonization and Mining. In this Action Point, we will take a look at the Technology Tree, your ship building options and how to manage these elements for Space Empires 4X from GMT Games.
Space Empires 4X is a classic Sci-fi themed space exploration game, and what good, self-respecting space game doesn’t have a focus on technology? Players have many options to invest in technology that will assist them in building their economy (Terra Forming), increase Exploration options for ships other than your Scout Ships (Exploration), improve your Ship Size to access bigger ships (Ship Size), increase Movement (Move) and improve either Attack or Defense. You will notice that the game doesn’t play around with fancy named technology but simply gives you a name that follows function.
One unique aspect of Space Empires is that you have to do some book keeping with pencil (preferably equipped with a good eraser) and a double sided form that is provided with the game. Most 4X games use a player board with fancy cardboard tiles or wooden cubes to track technology advancements. On one side of the form is the Space Empires Production Sheet where you will track your economy and its growth and maintenance costs for each Economic Phase. At the bottom of this sheet is found the Technology Progression, or as I like to call it, the “Technology Tree”. Here are listed the various available technologies and your empire’s At Start Value for each. Then there is a box to the immediate right that has the New Technology Level with the various stages that can be purchased for a number of CPs listed.
When a player pays the required CPs for the next Technology level, they will simply circle the new level on their form to remind them of what they have access to. All new ships that are built after the technologies are purchased will come with those technologies enabled.
As you might imagine, there are several different types of Technology available. There is tech that allows you to increase the size of your ships, which is necessary to have as you try to build larger and larger warships. For example, the Destroyer (or DD) requires that you have upgraded to Ship Size 2, while the ultra powerful Dreadnought (or DN) requires Ship Size 6.
There is also tech that increases the Attack and Defense values for ships. This is an interesting one as certain smaller ships, such as the Destroyer, can only have their abilities increased to Attack 1 and Defense 1, but a larger ship, such as the Battleship (BB) can increase all the way to Attack 3 and Defense 3. These enhancements are absolutely vital as it makes your chances for hits on rolls much more effective and also allows you to increase your defensive rolls as well.
For example, a Destroyer normally has an attack value of 4, which means that it must roll 4 or less on a 10 sided die to hit. But, with the Attack 1 Technology purchased, the DD will now hit on a 5 or less. Same with the defense value. A DD has no defense value but with the Defense 1 Technology it gets a 1 value which means you have to roll a 1 but it is still a chance to save your ship from a hit. Technology is very important in combat.
Another example of a very underutilized Technology for combat is Tactics. In the Space Empires combat system (we will discuss this in more depth in our next Action Point), each ship is assigned a letter priority at which it fires. When you purchase this tech, you will gain priority over all other ships in the same firing class as long as your Tactics is higher than theirs. For example, if I have 2 DD’s attacking 2 enemy DD’s, they both have the same firing priority and will fire during the D phase, which comes after the A-C phase. If my Tactics rating is a 2 against my opponents 1, my DDs will fire prior to his units firing. Since units that are hit and destroyed are removed prior to them being able to fire, this is important because if I hit, I can make sure that my opponent cannot fire. This is all due to my investment in the Tactics Technology.
Another Technology that will usually be purchased by all players is the Ship Yards upgrade. This upgrade of your Ship Yards allows them to construct more hull points during a round. When a Ship Yard is not upgraded, it can only construct 1 hull point worth of ships per round. This means that a single SY can only construct up to a DD without having to rely on additional Ship Yards in the same hex to assist. When the Ship Yard Technology is increased to level 2, the same Ship Yard can now build 1.5 hull points, while at level 3 it can build 2 hull points. A very important upgrade for those players that are planning to win the game, as you have to be able to destroy your enemy’s Homeworlds.
Ship Building Options
I mentioned this in the previous section, but increasing the types of ships that can be built will require investment in several of the available Technologies, including Ship Size and upgrading your Ship Yards. In this section, I wanted to simply give you a quick look at the type of combat ships available to be purchased.
This table shows all of the available types, from the lowly Scout, that is really meant to be used as an Explorer moving around the system finding planets that can be Colonized and Minerals that can be used to pay the costs of a growing empire but can be used in a pinch to fight off your enemies, to the mighty Dreadnought. Each of these ship types require a minimum investment into the Ship Size Technology. A DD needs Ship Size 2, CA needs Ship Size 3, BC needs Ship Size 4, BB Ship Size 5 and DN Ship Size 6.
I will point you to the Attack Strength part of the table. You will notice that as ships increase size, they also increase in Attack Strength, their firing priority, Defense Strength and their Hull Size, which equates to how many hits they can take before being destroyed. This is very important as when you invest the dollars needed into the larger ships, you want to have some assurity that they will do more damage and also that they can defend themselves and take a greater number of hits. At a cost of 24 CPs, the mighty Dreadnought can do some damage. The DN will almost always fire first, as it has an A fire priority, attacks with a base 6 and has a defense value of 3 and a Hull Size of 3, which means it kills things it shoots at about 60% of the time and can also absorb a lot of hits. I personally prefer to wait to build my combat ships until I have a Ship Size 3 (so I can start with Cruisers) and at least an Attack 1 and Defense 1 so my ships will come with those tech already enabled. I am not going to cover combat in this Action Point but you will come to understand how this all unfolds in the next post.
There are also some Advanced Game ships that add some flavor and really require a large investment into differing types of Technology.
Such as the Raider, which is a small ship that has the ability to cloak themselves. This cloaking tech gives them an advantage against groups of ships that don’t have a Destroyer equipped with Scanners as seen in the different Attack Strengths in the above table. If they are cloaked and no Destroyer with Scanners is present, they attack at an A4. If they have Cloaking 2, this Attack increases to A5. But, with a DD with Scanners is present, their effectiveness decreased and they are reduced to a D4/5.
A Carrier (CV) can carry up to 3 Fighter squadrons, but to do so, they must have the Fighter Technology. The Carrier can participate in combat but cannot be targeted by enemy ships until all of the Fighters it was carrying are destroyed.
Fighters are little ships that can really pack a punch if they are upgraded to Fighter 2 and Fighter 3 Technology. A B5-B7 Attack is pretty powerful for such a low cost as 5CP.
The players will have to do some more book keeping with pen and paper as you will need to track the varying levels of technology on your Ship Technology Sheet. When you buy a new ship, it will gain the highest level of Technology that you have purchased at the time of its construction. But, once it is out in the field, it will not automatically gain the new tech that is purchased in later rounds. You will have to take time by parking it at a Ship Yard and paying the cost to upgrade it based on its Hull Size.
Therefore, you may have 3 or 4 different groups of ships of the same type out in space battling your enemies and will need to take great diligence and care to make sure you are up to date on your paperwork. All in all, the Technology is a very basic element of the game that will need some focus and care from players. A player that is not organized and detail oriented can find out later that the battle they just won, was incorrectly done, which is unfair to the other players who have made sure their paperwork is done correctly.
I hope you enjoyed this look at the various Technology and Ship Building options available to players in Space Empires 4X from GMT Games. In our next Action Point, we will take a look at an example of my favorite part of the game, COMBAT!