Written by Greg Lindahl
So you signed up for a game of Galaxy, and then you read the rules, and then you wondered, "How on earth do I play this game, anyway?" Or, like I did, perhaps you thought it was all obvious. Then you lost your first game or two, and finally realized that you don't know it all.
For those of you who've reached this stage, here's a little sage advice from another beginner.
First off, let's talk about economics. In order to win, you're going to eventually build up your population and industry to many times its starting value. Since your home world starts off fully developed, you must start colonies on other worlds. The best worlds to colonize are ones which you can reach quickly, that are relatively large (more than 500 possible population), and that have Natural Resources ratings of at least 1.
Once you've picked several worlds to colonize, you must bring in colonists and capital. Since 1 unit of frozen colonists unfreezes into 8 colonists, it is relatively cheap to ship in colonists and relatively expensive to ship in capital. The best cargo ship is one that is as small as possible, i.e. with a cargo capacity of 1. I design my cargo ships with no shields, and with engines just big enough to reach several close-by planets in one turn. I pick this engine size by drawing up a map of local planets and figuring out the size of circle needed to enclose a reasonable number of worlds. Remember that a full cargo hold weighs twice what it does empty, and take this into account when you are picking the engine size.
Once you start colonizing a planet, it will start growing its own colonists, at 10% per turn, and more capital, at 14-16% per turn, depending on the Natural Resources rating. Note that a Natural Resources rating above 1 really doesn't help you much more, but a rating blow 0.5 really begins to hurt. I generally only bring in 1/4 the maximum number of colonists and capital; then the world can fill itself up in about 14 more turns, while I colonize more worlds. (Clue for the non-financially-minded: divide 72 by the growth rate in percent to find the doubling time. It's called the "rule of 72".)
In order to be able to colonize new worlds, you have to be able to defend them and capture territory, if necessary. So, we now arrive at the general subject of ship design. The first time that I tried to design a ship, I totally goofed it up, so I'd advise playing with the numbers a bit.
The first thing to note is that shields become less effective as ships become larger and larger: the number of shields is divided by the cube root of the ship mass. Since a ship with an attack of 10 has a 50% chance of hitting a ship of size 30 with 10 shields, this means that ships smaller than 30 will have shields stronger than an attacking weapon of the same size, and ships larger than size 30 will have shields weaker than an attacking weapon of the same size.
A corollary of this point is that a very small ship with a shield of 1 can barely be hit by a very small ship with a weapon of 1. So, if you want to design some small armed ships, it is much better to put a small shield on the ship than to put no shield on the ship.
So, let's say that you want to design a big ship with no engines to defend your home world. If you have 1000 industry and a Natural Resources rating of 10, the biggest ship that you can build is of size 90. Let's say that we want to design this ship so that if a similar ship attacked it, each ship would have a 50% chance of destroying each other -- hence, you want an equal effective attack and defense rating.
This isn't what happens if we have 1 weapon of strength 45 and a shield of strength 45. The mass of our ship is 90, so the effective strength of the shield will be:
strength = 45 / 90^(1/3) * 30^(1/3) = 30.8
So, a weapon of strength 31 would have a 50% chance of destroying our ship with a shield of 45 -- so let's build a bigger shield and a smaller weapon.
If you play around with the math a bit, you will discover that a shield size of 53 and weapon size of 37 is optimal. The effective shield strength is
53 / 90^(1/3) * 30^(1/3) = 36.7
Now, you may be wondering, why am I multiplying by 30^(1/3) above? This is a fudge factor that takes into account the statement in the rules that a ship of size 30 with 10 shields and a weapon of size 10 has a 50% chance of hitting itself.
Designing a ship with engines is a similar process. Generally I pick the speed that I want first, and then buy the weapons and shields to be equal.
Once the game has been running for a while, you will want to purchase higher technology. I would advise waiting to do this until the price, 5000 for one level, is no longer many times one turn's production. The first level is the most important, as it doubles your movement, firepower, etc. Once you are spending a lot of income buying ships, it is often more economical to buy tech and ships than just ships alone. Eventually, the smaller players without advanced tech will find themselves easily wiped out.
Now, I'll pass along a few pieces of sage advice, mostly courtesy of Howard Bampton. Armed scouts can get you into trouble in the early game because many players won't declare peace until they have a reason -- which means you'll be in a war with them if you encounter any of their armed ships. I generally declare peace on everyone, but I seem to be unusual. Ships that move will not fight any battles at the planet that they start the turn at. Finally, you cannot load a group, move it to a new planet, and unload it all in one turn. Ships do not arrive at their destinations until after all your orders are processed, so the 'U' order must be given on the next turn. It is possible to unload cargo, load new cargo, and move all in the same turn.
Hopefully these Galaxy tips will help you survive those first dozen turns or so. Good luck.