Trying to decide if this particular space empire expansions sim is worth your time? Check out our Sid Meier’s Starships review!
Sid Meier's Starships is a pretty great game in its own right, but it doesn't do a very good job of helping new players get acclimated to its systems - or its star systems (bah-dum-TSHHH). That's why we've taken it upon ourselves to cover some of the basics, a few of the things you won't learn about in-game unless you dig through the menus, and some strategies that will hopefully keep your fleet mobile and allow you to dominate the galaxy.
- Keep it simple - For your first time out, don’t bother messing around with things like map size, difficulty, or victory conditions. There’s no shame in reducing the number of opponents, either.
- The Purity Faction is the most beginner friendly - None are necessarily the best, of course, but Purity’s ability to earn double rewards will really come in handy for newbies.
- Choose Bolivar or Fielding as your leader - There might be six other leaders to choose from, but these two are the most straightforward and will make the most sense to beginners.
- Make liberal use of the Advice button - The little “info” button to the far left of the row of icons at the bottom of the screen will be your only friend in learning how to play Starships - aside from this guide, that is. Try to tap it every time you’re ready to take a new action as its suggestions should point you in the right direction.
- Go out and explore - You won’t have much of a chance at any sort of victory if you don’t leave your home planet. So find those navigation lines that point to new planets, and get to visiting!
- Dump most of your Energy reserves into your Fleet - These starships are your lifeblood, so you’ll want to upgrade them whenever you can. Just tap on the various icons to learn what they do, and then Buy or Sell the upgrade. And remember: there are multiple tiers for each.
- Save some energy for repairs - As the missions get tougher your ships are more likely to take damage. Make sure you have a little energy set aside so you can fix them up in your downtime.
- Don’t be afraid to specialize your ships - As you expand your fleet, you’ll want to specialize a few of your ships by focusing on one or two upgrades (like Fighters or Stealth). This way you should be able to gain the upper hand in a wider variety of combat scenarios.
- Build a Warp Nexus as often as you can - When you travel from planet to planet, your crew will start to fatigue. And if they get too tired, their performance will tank. A good way to avoid this is to travel using a Warp Nexus, which will let you avoid exhaustion and let you take longer turns.
- Use shore leave to further influence planets - You can only increase your influence on a planet by visiting it and completing a mission, camping your fleet out in orbit, or by greasing some palms with a few (thousand) credits. since missions take a turn to appear on a previously cleared planet, and because you won’t have a lot of money starting out, ending your turn with your fleet hovering over an unconquered planet is the way to go.
- Always build something - Construction is instantaneous, although it will require resources. Regardless, you definitely want to upgrade planets as you expand your empire - especially the ones that are loyal to you. This will increase the amount of resources you earn each turn, and can make it more difficult for opponents to take them over.
- Research, research, research - The costs increase as you progress, but the benefits you’ll receive are totally worth it. And you won’t be spending Science on anything else, so burn ‘em if you got ’em!
- Check all conquered planets for Wonders - Once you’ve taken over a planet entirely, you might see a little “starburst” looking icon next to the usual construction icons. This is where you can purchase Wonders for credits. Not only will they give you special (and powerful) benefits for the rest of the game, but you’ll also win outright if you end up controlling seven of them.
- Use the Marketplace - Sometimes you’ll find yourself with a surplus of one resource and not quite enough of the other. Situations like that are exactly why the Marketplace is invaluable. Just tap on the little coin stack looking icon and you can buy and sell whatever resources you need.
- Know what you’re getting into - This is particularly important when your fleet is still small and not armed to the teeth. When starting a mission, if you tap on “Tell me more about the enemy vessels” you’ll get a breakdown of the enemies you’ll be facing. You can use this info to decide if the mission is worth it, or if you’re about to get blow into dust. If it’s the latter I’d suggest bugging out.
- Ignore the odds - When you view enemy details you’ll also see your odds for success, which are complete bunk. In my experience, a 40% success rate is just as easy as 80%. So pay no attention to the percentage and worry more about the enemy’s armaments.
- Never underestimate Fighter squadrons - They’re incredibly flimsy, but they can do quite a bit of damage - especially when they’ve been upgraded a bit. So whether you’re using them or being swarmed by them, make sure you don’t ignore them.
- Fighters make great distractions - Ships can only attack once per turn, so if you need to make a hasty retreat you might want to leave a trail of fighters in your wake. The more you lose the fewer points you’ll earn at the end of combat, but it’s better than getting your carrier scrapped.
- Asteroids make for great cover - A single cluster won’t stop an oncoming attack, but asteroids will reduce its damage. And if there are enough clusters between you and your opponent, they can block an attack entirely. Just remember that this goes for you and your enemies.
- Attack from the rear and guard your own - Shields cover most of a ship, but there’s an opening in the back that leaves them vulnerable. If you can, try to attack from behind. And also try not to leave your own flank unprotected.
- Missiles are your friends - They can be tough to aim, and you kind of have to plan ahead, but they ignore asteroids and if you can manage to hit an enemy with a guided missile it’ll do quite a lot of damage. It’s even better if you can manage to catch multiple enemies in the same spot.
- Use your Battle Cards - You’ll randomly get a new battle card at the start of each skirmish - located along the left side of the screen, towards the bottom. These can do a number of things (like repairing damage or boosting firepower), and they don’t carry over from one fight to the next. So there’s no sense in not using them.
- Take a shot, even if it won't do much damage - Why? Because even weak hits have a chance to disable a ship's systems. This can power down their weapons, cripple their engines, and otherwise make them easier targets. Even if they do still have a lot of armor left.