Let's try something a little different, Kotaku. You know about the community review. It's the best review in the world, because it harnesses the power of the community. Now let's try doing the same thing, but with a guide. Let's put our heads together and figure out all the little tips & tricks needed to become uberpros. In honour of our diary concluding, this time let's do Neptune's Pride 2.
The Neptune's Pride 2 diary was my first proper time playing, but the game was long enough for me to come out of it with a fair few tips. It's simple enough. I'm certainly not a beginner anymore.
But I am aware of my weak spots. Diplomacy is a big one that comes to mind. So I'm going to go ahead and post what I know below, and if anyone wants to fill in the gaps of my playstyle, please do go right ahead. I already know some players have a different philosophy with regards to how much should be built on one planet. Unfortunately, the diary game wasn't the best test of my strategies, because my starting advantage made things really easy on me.
So by all means add your own philosophy, or diplomacy tactics. Or anything else. Here are my notes:
No matter how much you knuckle down on equations and figure out how to run your empire efficiently, it’s no substitute for diplomacy. A very powerful empire will crumble if fighting two lesser forces on separate fronts. If you're only good at one thing in Neptune's Pride 2, try and make it this.
Scanning tech is more useful than you think
Think of it as giving you a few extra hours to react across your entire border. As the galaxy gets more crowded, it's impossible for rival empires to keep certain things from you. Clever commanders will have fleets and warp gate highways stationed just outside of Scanning range, but that's very hard to do when someone has high Scanning tech.
Develop your Industry and Science right after the cycle ticks over. Develop your Economy right before.
Simple enough. Might as well not let your enemies know you're Eco booming until the last minute. But with Industry and Science, they start producing as soon as you build them, so do it ASAP.
Use dud stars to scout
Some stars go neglected. I know some players just go right past poor quality stars. But they can be valuable for scanning. Later, as terraforming tech grows, they can be useful for the odd bit of Economy or Industry, too.
Keep tabs on your enemies
Duh. Neptune’s Pride 2 actually does a lot of this for you. From letting you see their fleet size, tech, and total Economy/Industry/Science, to automatically showing you their Scan/Hyperspace range when you click on their star. Use that info. They’ll know you know, too, and you can use THAT info. Checking the Intel screen from time to time was very useful.
When Pink (Joab Gilroy) squatted on the middle planet of the galaxy and instantly built 5 Industry on it, he was very hard to displace. It also made him a target - but a very annoying one.
Star clusters on the border of enemy scanning range are very useful. Preferably, with one star in and one star out of their scanning range. That way, if they send a fleet, hopefully you can respond with just enough ships to defeat it with the defensive advantage, arriving at your planet before they do. As scanning tech goes up, however, they’ll be able to see more of your cluster.
Without static defences, seemingly the only defence is a nearby fleet or building factories on border planets - though the risk that carries with it is, if capture by enemies, those factories now fuel the offensive against you. The best defence, as I see it, is open space. Time. No one wants to lose ships and become weak, so most attacks are based on surprise. Taking dud stars to use for scouting, not developing Economy or Science on them (you might lose it), can give you a heads up in time to protect your valuable bases. Use open space as the wall between you and other empires. A 7 hour travel time will make them think long and hard about an offensive.
The defensive advantage lessens as Weapons tech grows. A 2-1 Weapons advantage is much bigger than 10-9.
The best time for combat is when you level up tech
Enemies will expect an attack and plan accordingly, but this is when you can truly take them off guard. Levelling up Weapons will throw out their combat calculations. Another level of Hyperspace will let you reach planets they haven’t accounted for. Levelling up Scanning might catch someone red-handed.
The Best Attack Route
If you're confident your enemy won't react, target the star with the least ships. But if you're unsure, it might be better to target the star where carriers are at. That doubles their time to reinforce, as the carrier has to fly away, and then back. In the above image, targetting the carrier stars adds 2-5 hours of reinforcement time, taking into account your travel time is slightly longer. If the defender checks the game that little bit too late, you've got your foothold.
The 2am snipe
This is for those who care about winning. The game’s economy may tick over every 12 hours, but ship movement and production is real-time. Whether you’re up that late anyway, or you do a quick roll over in bed, starting those ship movements in the wee hours might give them the jump start they need. Target a nearby planet with less ships, and they might wake up too late for their “big daddy” planet to respond. Now you’ve taken their factories and have the defensive advantage. If you can't do it late-night, a riskier option is jumping to a nearby star and back before moving in. That'll add a bit of useless travel time, ensuring the attack starts much later.
Being the first to trade with someone seems preferential. They’ll get it elsewhere, otherwise - and then rivals have more tech than you. Your tech might be more valuable for that stage of the game, but letting rivals trade with you out of the loop means risking falling behind. Even if someone wants to trade me something less useful, like Banking, I'll still trade them something like Weapons or Terraforming. Trading puts you on top, and you should always be trading.