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Subject: Bang, Zoom to the Moon! (Basic Game Strategy) rss

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Christopher O
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So, last game I played, I decided to try a quick Luna-Earth grab-and-industrialize strategy (the game previous to this one, I was originally gearing up for Mars, got beaten to the punch, so I set out for Ceres instead).

I drew PRC as my faction.

I aimed for the lightest robotnaut I could find with a ISRU that was good enough (ISRU 2) and the lightest refinery (in the basic game, Mass 3). In the end I missed out on both mass 3 refineries in the auctions, so I had to console myself with a Mass 4 refinery. I did manage to get an ISRU 2 robotnaut (I forget the card name), with a mass of 4 or 5, I believe.

I needed to be able to claim first, but I also wanted the 3 VP from the "Any Site" bonus.  I saw that one of my opponents was trying to get to the moon first, so I decided to leave off saving up enough to boost the refinery at the same time and sent up my crew and the robonaut along with the 4-2 thruster. Even with that shortcut I managed to beat him only by a single game turn - this game can definitely be a horserace at times.

I prospected successfully (of course) for the claim, but now I had a rocket with insufficient fuel to lift-off. My 4-2 thruster couldn't get me out of Luna's gravity well by direct take-off, so I spent a few (two? possibly three) turns refuelling at the pitiful rate of 1 WT/turn. Unfortunately in that time, my ESA opponent who had gotten the 3-1 thruster came back from Ceres with her crew and claimed the "Any" site VPs. 3 VPs lost. Oh well. I left the robonaut on Luna as a outpost, afterburnered off of Luna with the 9-6 PRC crew card thruster (spending 2 fuel, you can get off with direct flight instead of burning 9 for landing fuel) stopped at Earth's L1 so that I could use the other thruster on the next turn, and got back to LEO.

Meanwhile I had boosted the mass 5 refinery and sometime during all of this had also acquired the white robotnaut with the missile robonaut 4-1/3 thruster on the "S"-type black side. I ferried the refinery back to the moon with the crew for the landing thruster, decommissioned the refinery and the outpost robonaut and made the factory. In subsequent turns I ET-produced the black card, refueled, launched it back to LEO, this time leaving the crew as a colony and just doing the full 9 steps of fuel for take-off, since I'd only have to use 1 step of fuel for the return to LEO.

Sold it in LEO for 8 WT (no-one had gotten another S-site in the interim), produced it again, got it back to LEO again, sold it again (I used the extra WTs to secure the purchase of the Zubrin later), then set out with a new refinery for the Nysa family (at this point most of the other asteroid families were tapped out and I wanted Hertha).

Somewhere in between, I was trying to find two other "S"-type worlds for the Space Pharmacy venture, but my prospect rolls always crapped out, even though I had that 0 ISRU to let me prospect on low-hydration worlds, so those points never panned out.

Eventually I got the SWZ and I was blasting all over the inner solar system, so it worked out, but for a while I was lagging a lot.

Trying to get a Luna strategy to work is an object lesson in the benefits of mining in low-gravity (site < 4) locations vs. what seem to be "easy pickings" but are actually not. Even though it's physically closer to LEO, in terms of energy spent to ship things back, until you get a more efficient thruster for direct landings/take-off it's almost not worth it. The critical difference is that you can get off the moon with the starter crew card 9-6 thrusters, whereas you can't (without ESA help) on Mars. I know that the designer notes warned against the difficulties of setting up on Luna, but it was very interesting to see it played out.

I did win (21 points), but my closest opponent was at 18 VP, so it was a close affair. It really hinges on whether you can get a 2 ISRU robonaut and a light(er) refinery soon enough. If you can't, I don't recommend following Alice to the moon.
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Matthew Eklund
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I rarely take a shot at the Moon.

But it's important to remember that the liquids are much better at landing on the Moon than they are taking off of it. The reason? Leaving the Moon forces your rocket to enter a burn, thus forcing you to use your liquids for at least one burn, at their horrendous fuel efficiency of 6.

6 steps + 2 steps (for the afterburn) = 8 steps... and the lander fuel penalty you're eliminating is only 9.

However on landing you can take a more fuel efficient rocket (or sail) to L1, then at the beginning of your next turn switch to your liquids, afterburn, and then land for a total of 2 fuel steps (a much bigger savings).


Also i think factories can freighter goods off-world without penalty (can someone else confirm this?). So the Moon's gravity well is something you can freighter around if you need those black cards and you don't have solids.
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Christopher O
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Matthew_Eklund wrote:
I rarely take a shot at the Moon.

But it's important to remember that the liquids are much better at landing on the Moon than they are taking off of it. The reason? Leaving the Moon forces your rocket to enter a burn, thus forcing you to use your liquids for at least one burn, at their horrendous fuel efficiency of 6.

6 steps + 2 steps (for the afterburn) = 8 steps... and the lander fuel penalty you're eliminating is only 9.

However on landing you can take a more fuel efficient rocket (or sail) to L1, then at the beginning of your next turn switch to your liquids, afterburn, and then land for a total of 2 fuel steps (a much bigger savings).


Also i think factories can freighter goods off-world without penalty (can someone else confirm this?). So the Moon's gravity well is something you can freighter around if you need those black cards and you don't have solids.


My opponent pointed out the lift off plus burn entry issue, which makes you spend 8 fuel steps, as you say, but isn't the alternative using lander fuel = site size (9) plus burn entry (2, in this case, using a 4-2 thruster) so the total fuel steps would be 11 with the lander fuel method vs. (2+6 =8) using the liquid fuel afterburner method?
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Matthew Eklund
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Good point! It does save you a burn!
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Peet Smith
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In my last game the PRC player built a moon colony and was able to do so relatively quickly thanks to the PRC ability of decommissioning crew. He would use the crew card to get something on to the surface of Luna, then decommission the crew card and boost it again to LEO. Two trips gave him a refinery and robonaut (we were playing the basic game). He didn't bother worrying about getting the crew card back from the moon the first time though he did once he had built a factory (and he got the any site bonus that way).

This seems to be superior because spending time on Luna refueling tends to be time consuming. If you have a few WT at LEO then it's faster to just provide your 2 burns of fuel plus the 2 spots for the afterburner in order to land. You can even land with 5 mass as long as your afterburner uses the last of your fuel.

Also, yes, the factory can launch a freighter with the black card. This will take 2 turns to arrive at LEO so if you want to sell something you built on the moon for WT then this is the way to go. Getting a rocket back to Earth with your crew card is feasible but requires you to spend an extra turn refueling. Unless you're going for the any site bonus, in my mind it's better to just turn that crew into an extra cube as a space colony.
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Jeff Chamberlain
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I also usually avoid going for the moon. Though I do love to pick up one of the ISRU 2 lasers and pause on the way out for my main mission next to the moon to scan it from orbit and stake a claim. whistle
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Christopher O
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Klintus Fang wrote:
I also usually avoid going for the moon. Though I do love to pick up one of the ISRU 2 lasers and pause on the way out for my main mission next to the moon to scan it from orbit and stake a claim. whistle


I knew instinctively that the Moon was more trouble than it was worth, but I thought I would try it out any way.

I hadn't thought of the flyby raygun prospecting option. It's so obvious I should have thought of it before - quick 1 VP (assured, as long as you have 2 ISRU or less) for virtually no effort in fuel.

I think next time I'll go for the Mars strategy with a Phobos-Deimos option with a buggy robonaut for re-rolls and buggy roving on Mars.

Quote:
In my last game the PRC player built a moon colony and was able to do so relatively quickly thanks to the PRC ability of decommissioning crew. He would use the crew card to get something on to the surface of Luna, then decommission the crew card and boost it again to LEO. Two trips gave him a refinery and robonaut (we were playing the basic game). He didn't bother worrying about getting the crew card back from the moon the first time though he did once he had built a factory (and he got the any site bonus that way).


It did occur to me that I could simply decommission the crew, but my thought was to try to get the crew back from the Moon for the "Any site" VPs, but the player who went to Ceres beat me to the punch (another horse race). Later it wasn't an issue.

Also, I try not to decommission crew unnecessarily. I know it's the special ability of the PRC, but it rubs me the wrong way.

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Jeff Chamberlain
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Which strategy I go for each game is largely dictated by what cards I am able to acquire early on. I will tend to tailor my goals to that. Mars, for example, is really only worth it to me, if you have a 'C' product card with a useful black side.
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Christopher O
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Klintus Fang wrote:
Which strategy I go for each game is largely dictated by what cards I am able to acquire early on. I will tend to tailor my goals to that. Mars, for example, is really only worth it to me, if you have a 'C' product card with a useful black side.


Yeah, that's definitely the feeling I get - similar to the strategy of card management in the wargame Combat Commander: Europe - you plan what you do using the cards you can get, not try to get cards to fit your plan - though that becomes more feasible later on in the game.
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Ben Vincent
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I like going for the moon. S factories can be pretty hard to come by, since the S asteroids are generally small and dry. The key is to just land once. One way to save propellant is to ferry parts to and outpost at the L1 point above the moon. You can do this with a sail or an efficient thruster. Then assemble your rocket and make the landing. Prospect, build a factory, and you don't have to worry about getting your crew back - just turn them into a colony. Alternately, factory refuel and take off.

Even if you have to pay 9 fuel to land, I think it's still worth the effort. You can build, transport, and sell an S card in LEO every 3 turns or so, which is a better income stream than anything you can do earthside. That will easily pay for you to reboost all those cards you decommissioned and fuel your next rocket.
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Jeff Chamberlain
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SabreRedleg wrote:
I like going for the moon. S factories can be pretty hard to come by, since the S asteroids are generally small and dry. The key is to just land once. One way to save propellant is to ferry parts to and outpost at the L1 point above the moon. You can do this with a sail or an efficient thruster. Then assemble your rocket and make the landing. Prospect, build a factory, and you don't have to worry about getting your crew back - just turn them into a colony. Alternately, factory refuel and take off.

Even if you have to pay 9 fuel to land, I think it's still worth the effort. You can build, transport, and sell an S card in LEO every 3 turns or so, which is a better income stream than anything you can do earthside. That will easily pay for you to reboost all those cards you decommissioned and fuel your next rocket.


It is also worth noting that once you have the factory and can fuel up quickly, getting off the moon is actually fairly easy if you have also brought along a high efficiency low-thrust thruster and are willing to dump the 9 fuel for the take off. Solar sails are very good for this, though you need to keep the weight of the rocket low enough so that the sail has at least 1 thrust. This is generally true of taking off from any of the heavy (9+) hexes on the map.
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Volko Ruhnke
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In the last 3 games that I've played, the side that got to Luna first won. We are having a hard time breaking the "Moon Rush" or "Moon Race" strategy. - vfr
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Jeff Chamberlain
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That has not been my experience. In all the games I have played, the side that focused too much on the moon usually lost, and the ones that ignored it usually did best.

Luna in my experience is a bit of a tease. Certainly, if everyone goes for it, the one who gets there first will win. But there are a large number of thrusters I could use to set up two factories on mars in the time it takes to build a single factory on luna.

Luna seems good, but it is expensive. It is large, has no atmosphere, and has a low hydration level. Mars has the benefit of an atmosphere making it much easier to land heavy equipment, and the number of burns it takes to get to mars is only 1 greater than the number required to get to luna.

Even when you are trying to build the 15*1/2 thruster (which requires an S factory), it is often quicker to head straight for the asteroid belt and build it there than to try and build it on luna.

That said, I like to claim the moon with an ISRU-2 laser during a fly by even though I rarely ever have any intention of building anything there.
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Christopher O
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Volko wrote:
In the last 3 games that I've played, the side that got to Luna first won. We are having a hard time breaking the "Moon Rush" or "Moon Race" strategy. - vfr


I played the expansion game for the first time over the holidays and found myself pulled back into the Moon strategy when Mars turned out as a "busted mine".

In a two-player game playing the advanced game for the first time, it was a super-slow start. To get the equipment necessary to land on the moon, plus all the associated supports for a factory, it was quite a few years. It's even harder than it is in the basic game, and that's pretty tough to begin with. In the time it took me to gear up for a moon landing (you are virtually forced to take two trips at minimum) my opponent was off to Ceres. Fortunately, once the Moon factory was up and running, I snagged a number of "S" cards which I alternated selling and using, and built up quite a water tank reserve by freighter shipping back to LEO.

In the end, though, my opponent almost beat me because of the head start I had given him while I had used all those turns to build up the necessary equipment. I also found that I had to really re-fit my rocket stack to make it efficient for the long distance travel that became necessary later, which also took a lot of time.

Another close game... but the Moon strategy doesn't seem to me to be the clincher. If my opponent had figured out a way to be a little quicker (he ended up using a combination of low energy thrusters and sails, which slowed him down as well), he probably would've ended it earlier.
 
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Volko Ruhnke
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the number of burns it takes to get to mars is only 1 greater than the number required to get to luna.

Yes, but that includes waiting on a Hohmann pivot and then risking an aerobrake hazard. And back to LEO, Mars takes an extra fuel or thrust to lift off from, and adds the LMO burn. Freighters from Mars take twice as long to deliver. Mars has so far been a loser for us.

All that said, I've got plenty of experimentation to go before I even suspect that there is any dominant strategy or other play problem here.

For one thing, I think we've been unnecessarily letting the "Moon Firster" claim the "any site" glory. An easy 3-burn green-path hop to Phobos and back should be much easier to pull off than getting a crew off Luna.
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Jeff Chamberlain
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Volko wrote:
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the number of burns it takes to get to mars is only 1 greater than the number required to get to luna.

Yes, but that includes waiting on a Hohmann pivot and then risking an aerobrake hazard. And back to LEO, Mars takes an extra fuel or thrust to lift off from, and adds the LMO burn. Freighters from Mars take twice as long to deliver. Mars has so far been a loser for us.

That depends on how you get there. The red path isn't necessarily the best way to get to mars. I prefer a solar sail along the green path It's technically more burns, but there is no hohman and it doesn't have to cost any fuel.

Either way, it isn't the number of burns that makes the moon difficult. Unless you get a rocket that uses the orion project going, you will have to do a lot of careful maneuvering to get the water you need in place at the right time to pull off the luna landing and that effort will take far longer than the time spent waiting at one hohnmann on the way to mars (or ceres), and will likely cost you more than the 4-8 WT in the long run than you would have to spend to avoid the aerobraking die rolls during martian insertion. But if your rocket is lite, you can really just take the risk on the die rolls, even if you burn up, you can likely get a second mission on its way to mars quicker than a luna landing would be finished.

Not saying it is a dominant strategy or anything. Just saying, it is usually a lot easier than the moon because there are so many different ways to make a mars landing work. There really is only 1 way to get a luna landing to work unless you can get a rocket built that has a base thrust >10.

Quote:

All that said, I've got plenty of experimentation to go before I even suspect that there is any dominant strategy or other play problem here.

For one thing, I think we've been unnecessarily letting the "Moon Firster" claim the "any site" glory. An easy 3-burn green-path hop to Phobos and back should be much easier to pull off than getting a crew off Luna.


There are definitely very easy ways to get the "any site" bonus only a handful of turns into the game if you just go with thruster+crew and don't bring any robonaut or refinery along. If you get the solar sail early in fact, you can easily sail out to pheathon and back before anyone else has gotten anything out of LEO. Claiming both the any site and the science site bonus. Though that can only work if you are FIRST to be moving about the triangle burn spots because you have to get there before the solar cycle enters red.

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Jeff Chamberlain
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Also, you don't have to get the factory product back to LEO in a freighter. You don't have to bring it back to LEO at all. I very rarely bring the factory product back to LEO from any of my factories unless the product is my only thruster, and the thruster requires a support that sits at LEO. Otherwise, I'll fly the factory product back as a rocket, or just send my rocket out to intercept it.
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Volko Ruhnke
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Either way, it isn't the number of burns that makes the moon difficult. Unless you get a rocket that uses the orion project going, you will have to do a lot of careful maneuvering to get the water you need in place at the right time to pull off the luna landing and that effort will take far longer than the time spent waiting at one hohnmann on the way to mars (or ceres), and will likely cost you more than the 4-8 WT in the long run than you would have to spend to avoid the aerobraking die rolls during martian insertion. But if your rocket is lite, you can really just take the risk on the die rolls, even if you burn up, you can likely get a second mission on its way to mars quicker than a luna landing would be finished.

Not saying it is a dominant strategy or anything. Just saying, it is usually a lot easier than the moon because there are so many different ways to make a mars landing work. There really is only 1 way to get a luna landing to work unless you can get a rocket built that has a base thrust >10.

Hm, interesting. We just have been getting a 9-6 crew to L1 with some other thruster. As long as the rocket has 2 steps remaining for the Crew Thruster afterburner and Dry Mass 5 or less, it can land the next turn. Is that wrong?

We then don't take off, just prospect, outpost, and followup with a refinery. Industrialize and factory refuel, and go home.

This takes some maneuvering, but for us less than industrializing Mars. The long pole in the Lunar tent has been getting an ISRU2.

The other advantage of Luna is that S seems far more lucrative than the more common C of Mars, especially with those two killer black thrusters in the decks.

We've been freightering stuff home from the Moon to quickly build up a pile of LEO water, then heading out for elsewhere.

vfr
 
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Jeff Chamberlain
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Volko wrote:

Hm, interesting. We just have been getting a 9-6 crew to L1 with some other thruster. As long as the rocket has 2 steps remaining for the Crew Thruster afterburner and Dry Mass 5 or less, it can land the next turn. Is that wrong?

We then don't take off, just prospect, outpost, and followup with a refinery. Industrialize and factory refuel, and go home.

This takes some maneuvering, but for us less than industrializing Mars. The long pole in the Lunar tent has been getting an ISRU2.

The other advantage of Luna is that S seems far more lucrative than the more common C of Mars, especially with those two killer black thrusters in the decks.

We've been freightering stuff home from the Moon to quickly build up a pile of LEO water, then heading out for elsewhere.

vfr


That is not wrong. But it does require you to have a 9*6 thruster with afterburner, which not everyone has. It also requires the entire rocket to be dry mass 7 or less, which as you point out, usually takes multiple runs. And that is the real rub. Once you land the first party on the moon and create the outpost and your crew 9*6 thruster is now stuck on luna. How do you land the refinery on the second run? Or are you assuming you must be chinese (so you can decomission crew) or that you must have the mosquito (so you can decomission that)?

I know that what you say is doable, but it takes a fair amount of time and requires you have very specific thrusters at your disposal.
 
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Jeff Chamberlain
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As for the killer black thrusters that use S...they are powerful. Though in the expanded game, you can combine the Orion Project (a white) card with a large number of the other thrusters to get something almost as powerful (close enough in power at least that the difference doesn't matter much). Also, in the expanded game, the solar sail that gets a gravity boost every time is passes through a radiation L-point is amazingly powerful too. And that you can build on a C factory. You can get quite deep into the outer solar system with that thing if you start close to the sun and hit as many rad-boosts and grav-boosts as you can along the way. You'll need to bring some water for landing, but won't need any water for the trip itself.
 
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Volko Ruhnke
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Quote:
it does require you to have a 9*6 thruster with afterburner, which not everyone has

The majority have it (ESA 8*6 + Beam = 9*6), but, yes, two powers are at a disadvantage.

Quote:
It also requires the entire rocket to be dry mass 7 or less, which as you point out, usually takes multiple runs.

Not really. Decommission the white thruster used to get to L1, then land crew plus ISRU2 robonaut, say "MET Steamer" at Mass3 for a total dry mass of 4.

Quote:
your crew 9*6 thruster is now stuck on luna. How do you land the refinery on the second run?

Reboost the same white thruster that you used to get the original rocket to L1, then pay the 9 lander cost. VASIMIR can do that on one run even with a Mass4 refinery. De Laval can do it with a Mass3 refinery. ESA can do it easily with a sail.

(In any event, time is less of the essence once the claim is made since, with the crew there, even PRC is helpless to do anything about it.)

So stuck crew doesn't matter much, since the refinery just has to land to produce factory refueling. And using a crew is only one way to do it--white thruster and decommission works too, if PRC is not around.

Good stuff re the expansion game -- I've ordered it and am looking forward to digging into it.

Overall, the responses are comforting me that there is no dominant strategy.

Thanks! - vfr
 
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Volko wrote:
(In any event, time is less of the essence once the claim is made since, with the crew there, even PRC is helpless to do anything about it.)


Unless the jihadists set up a WMD there before!
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Volko Ruhnke
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Volko wrote:
Quote:
it does require you to have a 9*6 thruster with afterburner, which not everyone has

The majority have it (ESA 8*6 + Beam = 9*6), but, yes, two powers are at a disadvantage.

Quote:
It also requires the entire rocket to be dry mass 7 or less, which as you point out, usually takes multiple runs.

Not really. Decommission the white thruster used to get to L1, then land crew plus ISRU2 robonaut, say "MET Steamer" at Mass3 for a total dry mass of 4.

Quote:
your crew 9*6 thruster is now stuck on luna. How do you land the refinery on the second run?

Reboost the same white thruster that you used to get the original rocket to L1, then pay the 9 lander cost. VASIMIR can do that on one run even with a Mass4 refinery. De Laval can do it with a Mass3 refinery. ESA can do it easily with a sail.

(In any event, time is less of the essence once the claim is made since, with the crew there, even PRC is helpless to do anything about it.)

So stuck crew doesn't matter much, since the refinery just has to land to produce factory refueling. And using a crew is only one way to do it--white thruster and decommission works too, if PRC is not around.

Good stuff re the expansion game -- I've ordered it and am looking forward to digging into it.

Overall, the responses are comforting me that there is no dominant strategy.

Thanks! - vfr


I agree. That is why I was saying it gets complicated. It usually requires two landings, and unless you are PRC or have the mosquito, you can only use the 9*6 thruster to pull off one of the landings. So for one of the two landings, you are going to have to cart 9 units of water up there to do a lander based landing. That is the part that tends to take a bit of finesse, and time.

And, of course, without the 9*6 thruster at your disposal, it takes a LOT more effort. Which is what I meant when I said "there is pretty much only one way to do it".

For Mars on the other hand, as long as you have enough fuel to make the 3 burns, you can pretty much use anything you want to get there.
 
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Volko Ruhnke
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I think next time that I play, I will try manned Phaeton with a sail, then Mars robonaut following up with Mars refinery, while my opponent goes for Luna, and see how it plays out. Thanks! - vfr

PS I'll also try to keep those 2 killer S products out of my opponent's hands.
 
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