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Subject: Building the Perfect Rocket rss

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Chad Marlett
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At first glance, there appears to be a near-infinite combination of cards available for building a rocket. However, careful review of the cards reveals that many cards do not work together at all and there are many combinations that may work, but will not result in a game-winning rocket.

Basically, there are 9 effective non-black card rockets you can pursue, 1 for each type of thruster, and 1 robonaut-driven rocket. The following is a description of the ideal (IMHO) combination of cards for each rocket. Fixating on a specific rocket is probably not workable, especially in a 4-5 player game ; the other players will either make it too expensive, or impossible by hoarding a necessary card. A better strategy is figuring out what everyone else is building, and going after a rocket that is not getting attention.

There are a couple of more uses to this list. Most important is that some rockets require a very specific set of cards to work well; be careful going after these as you may be foiled in your auction/trading attempts. A more devious use can be blocking someone that has all of the cards except one for a great rocket. In the long run, I don't think hoarding tech is a viable strategy, but making someone pay 1-2 WT more than they want to pay, though, is a golden strategyarrrh.

Mirror Steamer

Generator: Flywheel Compulsator
Robonaut: Neutral Beam
Refinery: not Basalt Spinning Fiber (Carbo-chlorination ideal)

The Mirror Steamer gets no respect; 4 fuel per burn seems outrageous. This, however, ignores the mass (zero!) and lack of necessary supports for this fine device. The actual number of WT to get to close sites is quite comparable to more efficient but heavier rockets. The PRC, in particular, should love this rocket for a Luna trip. This rocket is rad-belt safe, and the PRC can get Luna in two trips (decommission the crew after landing the robonaut and generator). Turn the Mirror Steamer into the mighty Salt-Water Zubrin and fire up the Neutral Beam in combat. Aside from this, it is probably limited to Mars.

MET Steamer/Tungsten Resistojet

Generator: Photon Tether Rectenna
Refinery: not Basalt Spinning Fiber (Carbo-chlorination ideal)

These thruster-less rockets function much like the Mirror Steamer, only lighter as their higher thrust allows a less rad-hard generator. The resistojet is really only good for a Mars shot, while the MET Steamer can get Luna with a thruster crew (ESA/PRC/NASA). For the Luna run, you should pick up the S card you want to produce in advance.

Photon Kite Sail/Photon Heliogyro

The first sail should always head out with just crew for a Eureka glory shot. Build up for the next mission while this is underway. Required reading is Peet's guide to sailing the solar-system.

ESA-special
Generator: Photon Tether Rectenna
Robonaut: Flywheel Tractor
Refinery: not Basalt Spinning Fiber (Carbo-chlorination ideal)

Minerva (3C), using the Venus+Mercury slingshot, should be worth style points. Two trips will be necessary for all targets.

UN-special
Generator: Stirling Engine
Robonaut: Flywheel Tractor
Refinery: not Basalt Spinning Fiber (Carbo-chlorination ideal)
Radiator: Bubble Membrane

Two trips will be necessary for all targets. The flimsy radiator really limits this to the UN.

All-Faction Sailer
Reactor: Mini-Mag RF Paul Trap
Robonaut: Cat Fusion Z-Pinch Torch
Refinery: CVD Molding or Basalt Spinning Fiber
Radiator: 1 Therm

This rocket has a huge number of viable targets with an ISRU 2 buggy robonaut. A difficult combination of cards to win in auction, though, and you will probably need to use a 2-Therm radiator and decommission one step when going through the rad-belt. Two trips will be necessary for all targets.

Heavy Sailer
Reactor: Penning Trap
Robonaut: Kuck Mosquito
Refinery: CVD Molding or Basalt Spinning Fiber

'The Heavy' has the special ability of a single-trip Mercury industrialize trip (no fuel!), with a manned return for glory, assuming you have a thruster crew. Getting the refinery could be a hard auction task, though, and you need a V card for your production.

Cermet NERVA

Reactor: D-T Fusion Tokamak
Generator: AMTEC Thermoelectric
Robonaut: Flywheel Tractor or MET Steamer
Refinery: any (Carbo-chlorination ideal)
Radiator: 3 Therms

The brute-force option. Smart factions will make you pay for this thruster/reactor combination. Once you have it, go where ever you like. The generator and robonaut can be many other combinations, but mass and radiator requirements can easily get out-of-control. Several other rockets can really use the AMTEC; so bidding for this should go high.

De Laval Nozzle

Reactor: Project Orion or Penning Trap
Robonaut: Explosive Gas Dynamic Laser
Refinery: CVD Molding or Basalt Spinning Fiber
Radiator: 1 Therm

Project Orion has the ultimate style points, brute force doesn't even describe it. The refinery requirements can be the killer; they won't go cheap. If you lose out on them, you will need to add a generator, upsetting the whole mass equation.

Metastable Helium

Reactor: Penning Trap
Robonaut: Cat Fusion Z-Pinch Torch
Refinery: CVD Molding or Basalt Spinning Fiber

A very specific set of cards, so difficult to arrange. Two other X reactors are useable, but then the rad-belt becomes an issue to all but the UN. All factions should have a hand in making sure that the UN does not get this combination, or that they pay far too much for it. One drawback of the rocket is that it doesn't match well with good ET production sites, so you need other cards for good black-card choices.

Mass Driver

Reactor: Dual-Mode Fission
Generator: In-core Thermionic
Robonaut: Free Electron Laser or Solar-pumped MHD Excimer Laser
Refinery: none or CVD Molding
Radiator: 3 Therms

I have yet to see the Mass Driver be a game-winning rocket, at least used conventionally to create factories. Boosting all that mass and fueling it to get to a site where regolith refueling works just takes too many turns. The above is an attempt to do something different with it. The first option is skipping a refinery and using the Free Electron Laser to go for space ventures. The second option allows the creation of a factory without decommisioning the base rocket. Let me know if it works! Getting a 3-Therm radiator through the rad-belt could be a trick; either swing a deal with the UN, use a thruster crew, or get the super rad-hard radiator.

Ponderomotive VASIMIR

Reactor: Dual-Mode Fission or Pebble Bed Fission
Generator: AMTEC Thermoelectric
Robonaut: MET Steamer, Tungsten Resistojet, or Flywheel Tractor
Refinery: any (Carbo-chlorination ideal)
Radiator: 1 or 2 Therms

While the VASIMIR looks efficient, in practice, it can easily turn into an heavy, too-low-thrust anchor with the wrong cards, esp. if you use a solar-powered generator. The above should be light enough make it work. With a thrust-adding reactor and afterburning, you should have a realistic shot at getting through the rad-belt.

Hall Effect

Reactor: Dual-Mode Fission or Pebble Bed Fission
Generator: Rankine MHD
Robonaut: MET Steamer, Tungsten Resistojet, or Flywheel Tractor
Refinery: any (Carbo-chlorination ideal)
Radiator: 2-3 Therms

Another tough-to-use heavy rocket. Unlike the Mass Driver and VASIMIR, the Hall Effect has good C and M black card upgrades. A solar generator will make this thruster a ESA-only option. Getting through the rad-belt presents some challenges.
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Robb Minneman
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This is a terrific article, and one I've referenced often while thinking about High Frontier. I think, however, that it sells short two important generators: The In-Core Thermionic and the Rankine MHD.

Anytime you see the Basalt Fiber Spinning refinery listed you can instead substitute the In-Core or the Rankine plus another refinery instead. (Exception! This won't work for the Penning Trap-Metastable Helium combo, as neither of those generators work of of X reactors.) The Brayton Turbine also works, but adds 1 mass.

Remember: When industrializing you don't need to provide radiator cooling. That means that the Rankine and the In-Core can run your refinery and you don't need to lug along a radiator. This is a key rules point that I think often gets missed. It also goes a long way towards improving the value of the Rankine MHD, the In-Core Thermionic, and to a lesser extent the Brayton Turbine.
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Chad Marlett
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The file I uploaded is further analysis of the points above.

http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/82513/rocket-build-options...

Robb, good point about using the ICT and RMHD as a replacement for the Basalt Fiber Spinning. I will have to find a way to fit that into r3.

Note that the rockets in the file are listed somewhat in a ranking order. The farther they are down in the list, the less I like trying to use them. De Laval and Cermet aren't first because of the difficulty (i.e. expense) one should have getting them together. If you have the means, however, I highly recommend them.

Another note is that the intention of the file is not so much that you pick a rocket off the sheet at the start of the game and try to build it; the intention is that you use it to see what can be built with the cards that are available, and to see what other players might be building.

I think the optimal strategy is to build the best rocket you can get cheap, which means for the most part avoiding the absolute best rockets - get the cards for them, but sell them, using the profits to take a good rocket somewhere faster.

In the words of George S. Patton:

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.
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Chad Marlett
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The file should be updated shortly to v2.

I added my new favorite rocket:

Metastable Helium thruster
Lyman Alpha Trap reactor
Kuck Mosquito robonaut
CVD Molding/Basalt Spinning Fiber refinery
Bubble Membrane or other 1-therm radiator

It might only work for the UN, due to getting thru the rad-belt.

But what it does really well is go to Ceres/Callisto on the cheap. For Ceres or the Callisto C-site, you should get the Mini-Mag RF Paul Trap reactor-it turns into a great replacement for the Lyman reactor. For the Callisto V-site, the ISRU Sabatier would be useful for it's -2 D-site prospecting.
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