Starting Units Guide PDF Print E-mail
Written by Trifler   
Friday, 07 November 2008 10:20

Starting Units Guide and How to Use the Hull Designer

This is intended to be an in-depth introduction to creating some early starting units, first using just the components you start with and then with a custom Engine. This guide will attempt to explain the how and why in the creation of these designs. After you finish this guide I hope that you will be able to use what you learned to move on to bigger and better things. This guide assumes that you have at least one mineral at your disposal.

First of all, let's take a look at the specs of the four units you start with:

Hull: Fighter —> Light —> Interceptor I
Size: 70
Hit Points: 20
Weapon 1: Light Cannon - Front
Radar: Beginning Radar - Front
Engine: Beginning Engine - Left, Right, and Rear
Cargo: 7 Cargo Space - Right
Armor Front: 8
Armor Left: 6
Armor Right: 6
Armor Rear: 3

Hull: Small Vehicle —> Quad —> All-Terrain Vehicle I
Size: 100
Hit Points: 20
Weapon 1: Light Cannon – All-Arc (Turret)
Radar: Beginning Radar – All-Arc (Turret)
Engine: Beginning Engine - Left, Right, and Rear
Cargo: 4 Cargo Space - Front
Armor Front: 14
Armor Left: 11
Armor Right: 11
Armor Rear: 11

Hull: Tank —> Hover —> Striker
Size: 250
Hit Points: 50
Weapon 1: Medium Cannon – All-Arc (Turret)
Radar: Beginning Radar – All-Arc (Turret)
Engine: Beginning Engine – Rear
Armor Front: 58
Armor Left: 35
Armor Right: 35
Armor Rear: 35

Hull: Tank —> Hover —> Sentinel
Size: 340
Hit Points: 120
Weapon 1: Heavy Cannon – All-Arc (Turret)
Radar: Beginning Radar – Rear
Engine: Beginning Engine – Rear
Cargo: 38 Cargo Space – All-Arc
Armor Front: 63
Armor Left: 64
Armor Right: 64
Armor Rear: 19

These designs were intentionally made to be cruddy so that pretty much anything you create will be superior. First however, we need to know the requirements for the components we have available, namely the Beginning Engine and Beginning Radar. Here are their specs:

Beginning Engine
Power: 41
Thrust: 100
Speed: 25
Maneuverability: 10
Size: 23
Credits: 933

Beginning Radar
Weapon Accuracy: 50
Optimum Range: 50
Size: 10
Power Consumption: 19
Credits: 520,572

From these specs we can see that the Beginning Engine generates 41 Power. The Beginning Radar uses 19 power. A unit without a Radar cannot fire, so we have to have one. That leaves 22 power to work with. It’s important to know how much power you have available so keep it in mind or write it down. 100 Thrust means that the Speed and Maneuverability listed for the engine will apply for Hulls up to size 100. If you put this engine in a Hull larger than 100, the Speed and Maneuverability will be decreased accordingly. This is known as “underthrusting”. Roughly speaking, you can expect the Speed and Maneuverability to be halved if you use this engine in a Hull with a size of 300. One note of import: If either the Speed or Maneuverability are reduced to 0, the unit will not be able to move at all.

The size of the Engine and Radar tells you how much space you have to allocate in your Hull design for these components. The amount of space that a component takes up is often referred to as “hull size” or “HU”, which stands for Hull Units. If you don't leave enough space, you won't be able to add the component and you'll have to start over.

The specs for the starting weapons are:

Light Cannon

Type: Projectile
Damage: Impact 0-2
Rate of Fire: 2
Range: 30
Accuracy: 80
Hull Consumption: 1
Power Consumption: 8
Credits: 67,839

Beginning Pulse

Type: Pulse
Damage: Beam 0-5, Impact 0-1
Rate of Fire: 8
Range: 30
Accuracy: 80
Hull Consumption: 2
Power Consumption: 39
Credits: 241,066

Medium Cannon

Type: Projectile
Damage: Impact 0-4
Rate of Fire: 4
Range: 30
Accuracy: 80
Hull Consumption: 1
Power Consumption: 11
Credits: 363,663

Photon Cannon

Type: Pulse
Damage: Beam 0-5, Impact 0-1
Rate of Fire: 8
Range: 30
Accuracy: 80
Hull Consumption: 2
Power Consumption: 15
Credits: 80,388

Heavy Cannon

Type: Projectile
Damage: Impact 0-6
Rate of Fire: 6
Range: 30
Accuracy: 80
Hull Consumption: 1
Power Consumption: 14
Credits: 545,494

Beam Laser

Type: Beam
Damage: Beam 0-8, Pierce 0-4
Rate of Fire: 12
Range: 30
Accuracy: 25
Hull Consumption: 2
Power Consumption: 30

You only have 22 power to work with so you're pretty limited. You might think one Heavy Cannon would be best, but take a look at that six second rate of fire. That means it only fires once every six seconds. To calculate the average Damage Per Second (DPS) you take the average damage (minimum damage plus the maximum damage, divided by two), and divide it by the rate of fire. Thus: (0 + 6) / 2 / 6 = 0.5 DPS. If you do the same for the Medium Cannon and the Light Cannon you'll find that they all have an average DPS of 0.5. This is good to know because the game only looks at the maximum damage when it displays DPS in the Weapon Designer (something I wish they would change…). Keep in mind that this is before even considering accuracy, which would decrease the DPS value further due to shots that miss. I would include accuracy in the calculation, but accuracy varies according to the size and maneuverability of the enemy unit.

Another important consideration is the type(s) of damage that a weapon does. If the enemy is using armor that’s highly resistant to Impact damage, then none of the three starting cannons would be a good choice.

Question 1: Can you tell which weapon in the table is completely pointless and should never be used?


Early Unit #1 – Starter Firefly

All of the starting units are armed with only one weapon. You can immediately improve your situation by using two. With only 22 power, the only weapons you can have two of are the Light Cannon and the Medium Cannon.

Select one of your Research Facilities and click on the Tech button. Next, click on the Hull button to open the Hull Designer. In the “Select a Frame” box, where it says “Escort Ship”, click on the right arrow until it says “Fighter”. On the second line down, click on the right arrow so that it says “Medium”. Now on the third line down, click on the arrow until it says “Firefly”. We’re going to use the Firefly Hull primarily because it has a trait that we can make use of. Look in the middle of the right side, just above the “Design Flaws:” It says that this hull receives +10 to Maneuverability and +1% to its chances to cause critical hits. The Beginning Engine only has 10 Maneuverability to begin with, so when used on the Firefly hull, it will have 20.

In the "Hull Design Details" box we can see that the allowable hull sizes for this Hull are 70 through 120. Since the Beginning Engine we're using has 100 thrust, set the hull size to 100. This will provide the highest maximum speed possible without designing a new engine. Set the Hit Points to 100. You can experiment with adding more Hit Points later if you wish, but as a rule you’ll find the lowest cost when the hit points are equal to the hull size (setting hit points lower than the hull size costs just as much).

On the right you should notice a rule that says your fighter is limited to 3 weapon groups, which means Medium Fighters are limited to a maximum of three weapons. The small amount of power we have to work with limits us to two weapons anyway, so for this design it’s not an issue.

Click on Weapons in the "Slot Palette" box and add two squares to the front (blue) part of the Hull. Blue is the front, purple the left, red the right, and green the rear. As you add the Weapon squares, notice that in the upper-right in the "Hull Allotments" box, there's a number shown for "Weapon Group 1". This number indicates the amount of hull space allocated to Weapon Group 1. With two squares this should be 1.72. This means that there is enough room to mount a weapon with a size of 1. In the bottom left you’ll see the number .86. This is the amount of space in one square on the hull diagram. If you count all the squares in the hull diagram and divide the Hull Size (100 in this case) by the number of squares, you will get .86. In the Weapon Group box type in a "2" then add another two squares to the blue part of the Hull. The "Hull Allotments" box should show both a Weapon Group 1 and a Weapon Group 2.

Next select "Radar/Comms" from the Slot Palette box and add 8 Radar squares to the left (pink) section of the hull diagram. Then add 4 Radar squares to the right (red) section. It should say "Radar/Comm: 10.3" in the Hull Allotments box on the right. We know we need 10 space for radar because the Beginning Radar has a size of 10. Anything less and it won't fit in our design. Don't add more than 10.4 because that's just wasted space that could be used for armor.

The Beginning Engine takes up 23 hull space. Ideally you want to have the engine (or any other component) entirely in one section (one color) of the hull diagram. This is because if all of the armor gets taken out on a side that the engine is in, the engine can be destroyed. If the engine is only in the rear, and the fighter gets hit in the side, then the engine will not be damaged unless the whole fighter is destroyed. Now we could get 23 Engine space using just the rear, but on this fighter that leaves very little room for armor. So, click on “Engines” in the “Slot Palette” box and add 23 squares of Engine to the Rear and 4 squares to the Right. This should provide 23.3 Engine space according to the Hull Allotments box. It should also show 19.0 space available for armor on the front, and 14.7 on each side and on the rear. You should end up with a layout similar to the example below:


If you make any mistakes or if you want to move anything just to make it look better, you can return squares to blank using the "Reserve for Armor" selection in the Slot Palette box. Submit your design when ready.

When your Research Facility finishes with the Design, click View Details to see the pricing. If you are satisfied, go ahead an click "Research". When the Research phase is complete, it's time to design a Prototype.

In the Research Facility Build menu, click on the Prototype button. The first thing you want to do is select the fighter Hull you just created. Next, select Beginning Engine, Beginning Armor (Beginning Impact Armor is all right if you’ve upgraded the Spaceport so it can build faster.), and Beginning Radar in the appropriate drop-down menus. If you chose to design and research a better-than-starting Armor before doing this step, then use it instead. On the right is a box labeled "Weapons:". Set the Type to "Projectile", the Weapon to "Light Cannon" and leave the Group at "Primary". Now click the Place button and click on the 1s on the hull diagram. You have now added a Light Cannon to your fighter. Click the Place button again and click on the 2s in the hull diagram to add the second Light Cannon. Since they are located in the Front firing arc, they will fire at enemies the fighter is facing. Currently there is no way to do something like place a weapon on the side and have it fire towards the front. Placing a weapon on the side will make it fire towards the side.

Go ahead and set all of the armor sliders to maximum. On larger Hulls you will rarely want to use all of the space available for armor, but this is a medium fighter and 14 HU for armor on each side isn't excessive in the slightest. When you're finished, go ahead and Submit. When the Prototype Design is complete, you may View Details to see the final costs, then click Research. Once research on the Prototype is complete, your new fighter will be available for production at your Spaceport. Unlike the starting designs, your Spaceport will need to produce the components separately and ahead of time for designs of your own creation. It will add them to the queue automatically.

Conclusion: This fighter is a good improvement over the four starting units. Thanks to the Hull’s trait that adds 10 to Maneuverability, this fighter ends up having a Speed of 25 and a Maneuverability of 20 instead of only 10. The second weapon provides some extra firepower. As a flying unit, it is unaffected by terrain, and it can travel into space and to other planets. This is probably the most effective fighter possible using only the components you start the game with. The main downside is that, like all fighters, it requires 100 minerals to build the hull.

Now, I could have chosen to use two Medium Cannons instead of two Light Cannons. I chose the Light Cannons because their DPS is no lower than the Medium Cannons, they're a lot cheaper, they build faster, and perhaps most importantly, they have a much higher rate of fire. Fighters are unique in that they are able to target subsystems on Ships, and the amount of damage their weapons do is irrelevant when they do so. Therefore, the higher rate of fire will be the most effective in that situation.

Question 1 Answer: The Beginning Pulse is completely pointless. If you haven't figured out why yet, compare it to the Photon Cannon. It has identical stats except it costs more credits and uses much more Power.


Early Unit #2 – Multi-Cannon Buggy

If you get into an early ground war, you’ll most likely be better off with ground vehicles, especially if you create an engine for them. We’re going to create an engine for this one.

First go into the Hull Designer and find “Small Vehicle” in the first line of the “Select a Frame” box. The third line should read “All-Terrain Vehicle I”. Change it to “All-Terrain Vehicle II”. Look at the “Frame Based Attributes” box to the right of the “Select a Frame” box. In it you can see that the permissible hull sizes for the All-Terrain Vehicle II are 75 to 130. Notice that this hull has a Trait that gives it +30 to Maneuverability. Also notice the note in the Design Flaws box that says Small Vehicles can use a maximum of five weapons. Go ahead and close the Hull Designer by clicking on the Cancel button.

Open the Engine Designer. In the “Engine Type” drop-down box, select “Small Vehicle”. This will cause the rest of the Designer to appear. In the “Power Generation” field, type in a “1” and then press the Tab key or click on the next field. The Power Generation field will automatically change to its lowest permissible value, which for a Small Vehicle is 125. That’s plenty for this design and 84 more than the Beginning Engine. Next if you hover your cursor over the “Thrust Generation” line, the tooltip says that the maximum permissible Thrust is 120. We know from looking at the All-Terrain Vehicle II hull that we would prefer to have 130 Thrust to match the largest possible hull size for that Hull. Unfortunately there’s no way we can get it, so leave at 120. Set the Speed to 30. Normally you would probably set the Maneuverability to 30 as well, but since the Hull has +30 to Maneuverability, we can set it to 5 to keep the Engine really cheap and small. You could set it as low as 1 for this, but I left it at 5. Set a mineral for all six of the Engine’s parts and then click on the Auto-Balance button. Don’t worry about the Engine Color for ground units since they don’t have engine trails.

The important things to pay attention to at this point are the Hull Required and Production Time fields, as well as the fields that show the material costs. If you’ve stuck with the numbers I provided, the Hull Required should be 8. Go ahead and name the Engine and submit the design.

Now open the Hull Designer again and return to the All-Terrain Vehicle II. Set the Hull Size to 120 since that was the most Thrust we were able to assign to our Engine. Add 12 Engine squares to the rear (green) and 14 Radar squares to the All-Arc (yellow). The All-Arc, when available, allows weapons placed within it to fire in any direction. Next, add 3 squares for Weapon Group 1, 3 squares for Weapon Group 2, 3 squares for Weapon Group 3, 3 squares for Weapon Group 4, and 2 squares for Weapon Group 5, all in the All-Arc. This fills all of the All-Arc space. By providing 2 HU for weapons 1-4, we have the option of using Photon Cannons if the enemy starts using Impact resistant armor.

Before you click on the Submit button, check the Hull Allotments box. Notice that the Radar only has 9.7 HU. The Beginning Radar we’re using requires 10, so the design won’t work as it is. We could subtract a square from one of the weapon groups and give it to the radar, but that would limit us to three Photon Cannons. In this case we have the option of increasing the hull size, so let’s do that. Increase the Hull Size field to 123. The Radar now has exactly 10.0 HU according to the Hull Allotments box. This does underthrust the unit slightly, but it’ll be fine. Now you can go ahead and click on Submit.

Go ahead and research the Hull and the Engine now.

With those items researched, it’s time to open the Prototype Designer. Give your Prototype a name. This is the name that will show up in your Factory’s Build Window. Click on the arrow next to “Hull:” and select the name of your Small Vehicle Hull. Next, select the Engine you created. Choose your Armor, and the Beginning Radar. Add the maximum amount of armor you can to each of the four arcs.

We have some flexibility with the weapons. You could add five Light Cannons and designate them all as Primary. You could add four Light Cannons as Primary and one as Point Defense. You could also add four or five Medium Cannons. Also, since we provided 2 HU for weapon groups 1 – 4, we could choose to add four Photon Cannons and one Light Cannon, two Photon Cannons and three Light Cannons, etc. For maximum DPS for the lowest price and construction time, choose five Light Cannons. However, keep the Photon Cannons in mind in case you run across an opponent using armor with resistance to Impact damage.

Conclusion: This Quad is a good improvement over not only the AT Jeep, but also the two starting tanks, if you create your own armor. Thanks to the Hull’s trait that adds 30 to Maneuverability, it ends up with a Speed of 30 and a Maneuverability of 35 instead of only 5. The additional weapons provide far more firepower. The main downside is that it requires 100 minerals to build the hull. As you can see, creating a custom engine for this unit provided more speed, more maneuverability thanks to the hull trait, far more power, and the engine itself is also much smaller than the Beginning Engine.

I won’t walk you through it, but you can do the same thing you just did with this Buggy using a Tank. Tanks can have a maximum of 12 weapons (only possible using starter weapons) and they can carry a lot more armor. For this type of Tank, I recommend using the Striker Hull for its +10 to Maneuverability.

Early Unit #3 – Octo-Cannon Minnow

Escorts have far more Hit Points than Fighters but their engines are considerably less expensive to produce (in both credits and minerals) than those for Corvettes. I chose the Minnow because it has more than enough All-Arc space for eight starter weapons, the maximum number allowed on Escorts.

Open the Hull Designer and select the Minnow. Notice that the largest size you can make the Minnow is 1300. Now close the Hull Designer and open the Engine Designer. For Engine Type, select “Escort”. Set the Power and Thrust to 1 and press the Tab key. Notice that the minimum Power is 268 and the minimum Thrust is 1350. Both are actually higher than we need, but that’s as low as it goes so leave it at that. Set the Speed and Maneuverability to 30. Fill in the materials and click Auto-Balance. Escorts have Engine Trails, so before you Submit, select an Engine color. Make a note of the Hull Required.

Return to the Hull Designer, select the Minnow, and give it a name. Since we know the Engine produces 1350 Thrust, and then maximum size of the Minnow Hull is 1300, go ahead and set the Hull Size to 1300 and the Hit Points to 1300. Also select a Hull Material.

The Hull Designer requires all All-Arc space to be filled, so first add three squares of Radar to the All-Arc cluster on either the left or the right side. Add three squares of cargo to the other. The cargo is useless, but it’s something to fill the squares with. Now add one square of Weapon Group 1 to the left All-Arc cluster. Add one square of Weapon Group 2 to the right All-Arc cluster. Go back to the left All-Arc cluster and add Weapon Group 3. Continue alternating sides until you’ve added eight Weapon Groups.

Add enough Engine squares to the Rear (Green) to fit the engine. Click on Switch View and customize the unit’s appearance if you wish. Click on Submit when you are ready.

Open the Prototype Designer and choose the Minnow Hull you created. As before, select your Engine, Armor, and Beginning Radar. Add your weapons. You have enough space and power for the Photon Cannons. You may want to make two Prototypes: one with projectile cannons and one with the Photon Cannons. A Beam Laser version might be worth considering for use against enemy facilities since their large size and the fact that they don't move will compensate for the Beam Laser's low accuracy. Whether or not there's a benefit really depends on whether your enemy is using armor that's resistant to Impact damage or not.

Don’t adjust the Armor sliders just yet.

Unlike Fighters, Tanks, and ATVs, which automatically have one or two crew added automatically, Escorts and larger ships must be assigned crew during the Prototype stage. Notice that it lists a Suggest Crew size of 12 in the upper-left corner of the layout diagram. Type “12” in the field for Security. The text for “Suggest Crew:” should change from red to gray. Reduce the number to 11. Keep reducing the number until “Suggested Crew:” changes red again, then increase it by one. You don’t want any more crew than necessary as they take up space that otherwise could be used for armor. The reason you can’t just add 12 is because components can have crew requirements for production, and those crew get added as well. Thus, when you designed the engine, it added 1 Colonist, 1 Enlisted, and 1 Officer automatically using Auto-Balance. However, the Engine Designer allows you to set them to zero if you prefer. If you didn’t change them to zero, then you should only have required nine Security because the engine added three. Weapons and Radar can do this as well, but none of the starting components add any crew. Regardless of whether the crew are added via components or via the Security field, the amount of space they use is the same.

Now adjust your Armor sliders and click Submit.

Conclusion: At this point it’s definitely time to start experimenting with custom weapons. While the firepower of this unit is vastly superior to any of the designs that come with the game or that I’ve covered so far, it’s still paltry compared to what custom weapons can do. However, when facing other players who are just starting out, this unit offers a lot of flexibility, with lots of different starting weapon configurations. The hull still costs 100 minerals; no more than a Fighter or a Tank. While the engine does cost more, it’s easily worth it. Since the weapons are all in the All-Arc, they can fire in any direction. These can still be built using the starting Spaceport, if you haven’t designed a new one yet.


Early Unit #4 – Faster Scout

So far, I’ve talked about designing new hulls and using starter weapons. There are a few cases where you can make use of custom components in the starter hulls instead. This allows you to gain the benefits of not having to use minerals to build the hull. Other than structures, one of the best examples of this is upgrading the speed of the Light Fighter and using it as a scout.

Since the Light Fighter makes use of the Beginning Engine, which uses 23 HU, we’re able to take advantage of the fact that custom designed engines for Light Fighters are much smaller. Simply create a new engine for a Light Fighter that will go as fast as your current technology permits. Watch the credit and mineral costs for the engine though. If it gets too expensive, it sort of defeats the purpose. Create a new Prototype and use the starter Light Fighter Hull, the Beginning Radar, and your new Engine. You can add a Light Cannon if you wish, but it’s one more thing to have to produce so you may want to leave it off. Research the new Prototype and voila, you have a vastly faster and super-cheap scout unit that you can use to look for Wormholes (Note: there are no Wormholes in Aurelium).


In Closing

If you haven’t created some custom armor yet, you should definitely do so now. The Beginning Armor only provides 1 HP per HU. A very basic custom armor would be 1 HU with 10 HP and 100 Resistance in something. Impact resistance is a good choice for starting out.

I've been informed that you can't really design a better radar than the Beginning Radar unless you're in the Live game. If you're in Aurelium you can still mess with the Radar Designer, but keep this in mind so you don't die of frustration from not being able to get one to fit.

You could continue on with a design for a Spider Heavy Fighter with four starter weapons in the all-arc slots and a Corvette of some kind with the maximum permitted number of weapons, but your time would be better served at this point by starting to work on custom weapons. The capabilities of custom weapons are so far beyond those of the starter weapons as to make them seem irrelevant to anyone who has already moved beyond them. You’ll need a lot more HU and Power to use them, but they’re more than worth it.

My hope is that this guide has helped explain the interrelationships between components and hull design, how to use the Hull Designer, and some things to think about when creating your own designs.

Now a freebie:

LF Engine

Power: 250
Thrust: 90
Speed: 30
Maneuver: 30

Choose any mineral. Choose the same mineral for all six material selections. Type "2" into all six materal fields. Now click Auto-Balance. Done.

Last Updated on Sunday, 08 April 2012 07:51
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