These are the most common strategies for beating Master of Orion. Using these strategies will help you overpower your opponents, after which, you can win the game any way you please, by galactic senate, eliminating all opponents, or by destroying Antares (if enabled). These strategies mostly apply to the beginning of the game, during end game they all blend together. Your strategy will almost always be determined by your racial statistics. See Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares/Some effective race designs for some good races.
This strategy is most often used by feudalistic governed, production type races. Telepathic and Warlord traits are extremely useful for blitzing, so much so that lack of either might doom a blitz strategy to failure. Starting with space- and/or ground-combat bonuses is also an advantage, although less so than Telepathic/Warlord. Blitzing involves quickly finding and assimilating an enemy culture, taking their planets as well as hopefully capturing some key technology in the process. The idea is to overwhelm enemy defenses before he has the time to research high level technology or build a proper fleet. This strategy works best in smaller galaxies, and with fewer enemies, but even in huge galaxies it can be successful if you can get to the enemy soon enough. The most important thing to remember is that you must be fast.
Begin by concentrating only on the vital techs. The two easiest research paths to choose from for a Blitz are Fighters or Missiles. Blitzing with Beam ships is harder to pull off, as both heavily armed starbases and missile bases present formidable challenges to early-game beam-ship technology.
- Fighters - Works best if your race is creative (you won't need to make difficult choices to get all the best fighter-upgrade-techs). The quickest of the two paths to research, using fighters only requires Fighter Bays to start. You should then move your entire population into production to build a space fleet and launch your attack. Once the Blitz is underway, you can look to quickly gain other techs that will improve fighter performance: Fusion Drives, Fusion Beams, Tritanium Armor, Battlepods. One of the main drawbacks of blitzing with fighters is that you won't be able to bombard a planet during the subsequent troop invasion. Your troops will have to be strong enough to win the ground battle unaided (or use Telepathy to mind-control the planet).
- Missiles - This method is more research-intensive than fighters and thus takes longer to start, but advanced missile techs remain viable well into the mid-game. Getting Deuterium Fuel Cells is a great choice, as it will miniaturize your nuclear missiles, and allow you to more easily get to your enemy's planets. You can build ships and start raiding/blockading now, but it is doubtful you will be able to destroy an enemy Starbase with such missiles. So the next level should be to get Merculite Missiles and Battlepods (grabbing Reinforced Hull and Automated Factory in the process). This will allow you to use MIRV nukes and fit 50% more missiles into your design. Those are the only essential techs to capture their home planet. Further improve performance by researching Chemistry (missiles/armor) and Power (drives) tech sectors as necessary. If the enemy starts deploying ships with EMC-Jammers, then counter with Tachyon or Neutron Scanner.
- Beams - Blitzing with beams is trickier than hit-and-run fighter/missile tactics, since a beam-fleet will need to stay in-system and duke it out to the death. But it can work well for research-oriented races and/or races with the Creative or +50 attack picks. To start, research up the Physics tech tree to get Battle Scanner (or Tachyon Communications for "+50 attack" races). This brings miniaturization as well as enables Armor-piercing, Auto-Fire, No Range-Dissipation and Continuous weapon modifications for lasers. Now build a cruiser with Extended Fuel Tanks, Battle-Scanner and 1 Hv,AP,CO,NR,AF + 3 Pd,AP,CO,NR,AF laser cannons (or drop the B-S and add another Hv,AP,NR,AF laser canon for "+50 attack" races) and launch your attack. This ship can solo lone starbases having titanium armor and no armor mods. For tougher starbases and/or Missile Bases/Fighter garrisons, help defend the cruiser using several destroyer escorts with as many Pd,AP,CO,NR,AF laser cannons as you can fit in. Further improve ship performance by researching Space Academy and Battle Pods (which allows an additional Hv laser cannon on each cruiser) then research up the Force Fields tech tree till Class III Shield, so as to upgrade your fleet with Hv,AP,AF Mass Drivers and shields. For the mid-game, research deep into the Power tech tree: Fusion Bomb, Ion Pulse Cannon, Anti-matter Drive, Transporters. Once your Hv AP NR AF laser tech becomes obsolete, you can switch over your main weapon to AF Ion Cannons, and get much the same effect (ie. works vs heavily armored ships/bases but doesn't work vs planets, so add some bombs to your DDs for clearing planetary defenses or design an additional Planetary-Assault ship). Trade/capture/steal some better armor. That should keep your beam fleet pretty much invincible against anything that doesn't have Class-V shields or better well into the mid-game.
Blitzing works best against aliens that don't have Dauntless Guidance System, as avoiding enemy missile fire can be a problem till you get better drives. In this case, use a nimble Scout to hang back in system and wait for the attack to hit home while your other slower ships retreat to safety. Once the enemy has researched Warp Dissipater, you might need to radically alter your own ship designs or risk taking heavy losses.
Begin producing outpost ships to quickly find/locate the enemy and make a path to their territory. If you have Warlord skill, each settled outpost will also increase your CP limit. As soon as you locate an alien civilization, start building your military fleet (see Warship design). If you don't have Telepathy skill, you will also need to build some transports. Using transports often results in target-out-of-range difficulties since they don't get extended fuel pods. Sometimes it is necessary to settle an outpost directly within the target system itself, to make it possible for transports to reach. Adding extended fuel pods to your own warship designs ensures they will be able to reach their targets.
- Fighters - Your initial ship designs should simply fill the hull with nothing but Fighter Bays (if you launch your attack early enough, your ships will be hard enough to kill even without defenses). A fleet of 4 such Destroyers (8 FB total, 8 CP used) or 2 Cruisers + 1 Destroyer (10 FB total, 8 CP used) should be able to handle any enemy Starbase they are likely to encounter in the early game (10 FB can take out a lone Starbase outfitted with Battlescanners, Tritanum Armor, Reinforced Hull and Heavy Armor). Cruisers outfitted with Extended Fuel Pods also make excellent early-game carrier ships for blitzing. Once you research Battlepods you can consider either adding more Fighter Bays or defensive systems (priority on more FB till the enemy starts developing an effective counter).
- Missiles - Similar to fighters, but you likely won't be able to make a fleet that can effectively take out an enemy starbase till you have mirved nukes (ie. researched to Merculite-level in the chemistry tree). Hence why blitzing with missiles is slower than using fighters. An added advantage of building missile-ships is you will be able to attack and kill space monsters easily using a swarm of frigates armed with battlepods and 2 mirved nukes.
- Beams - Your ships need high attack ratings to be effective, so having Space Academy helps. You will probably find it works best to specialize ships designs dedicated solely to either Hv AF beams (for the long-range kill power) or normal/Pd-beams (for shooting down missiles/fighters). Destroyer escorts are much more fragile than cruisers, but you may need to make due early on for your first conquests (they can be built w/o a starbase). With Battle Pods, you should be able to fit 3-4 Hv primary weapons or a heck of a lot of Pd-firepower into each cruiser, though interestingly using battleships without BPs can also be an option. As alien tech improves, you will need to modify your own designs to compensate and your older beam ships will occasionally need to be refitted with upgrades at a friendly starbase to remain effective. Thus staying ahead of the tech curve is much more important for Beam-blitzers than for the other two blitz strategies. Once you start encountering planetary shielding, add a dedicated Planetary Assault ship to your fleet designed to take out the defenses using bombs.
Once you have a route, move your military fleet and transports into orbit, and begin the invasion. Do your best not to harm the populace, just take out the defenses. Usually taking their home planet is the key to decisively weakening alien resistance. Early enough and most races won't be able to recover from that loss. Beware of newly conquered planets being liberated by rebels (not a problem for Telepathic races)! Now that you have a "slave empire" of captured enemy planets, you might be able to use the alien's racial quirks to improve your own empire's efficiency. Relocate captured alien colonists to best use their skill where needed. Then start filling in the gaps in your own tech tree, and improve your fleet for your next conquest. See Planning and winning wars for more information.
This strategy is most often used by tolerant, subterranean or aquatic races and is complemented by rapid population growth. It is best used against tech heavy races, and does not work very well in multiplayer games. The expansion strategy is simply colonize everything. It works best in large galaxies where you can go a long time without even meeting other races. Given the time to set up, an entrenched expansionist empire can be nearly undefeatable as it will literally outnumber all the other players in every respect.
Research necessary techs to quickly create colony ships. Automated Factories, Pollution Processor and Soil Enrichment is usually enough to be able to pump them out every 10 turns or so. If it is still taking too long, go for robo-miners.
Research Laboratory is an indispensable must-research and must-build technology for expansion and production strategies. Each Research Lab (which can be built in as little as 4 turns) provides a flat 5 research points even with NO population allocated to research. Given enough colonies this allows for competitive levels of research while having every single unit of population focus on Production and/or Farming.
Have your home planet start pumping out colony ships. Colonize the best planets first, but once you run out, colonize the bad ones too. When your second planet reaches its max population, (or near to it) consider building a missile ship to defend your sprawling empire.
For defense against the Antaran attacks in the early to mid-games: on systems with gas giants and/or asteroids, build outposts for each non-colonizable area in a system well in advance of the Antaran attack. The Antarans will attack those outposts buying you time.
Soon, you will be able to make a colony ship in just five or six turns. Don't stop colonizing. Have a second planet build a defensive fleet, and climb the tech tree with your remaining colonies. Given enough time, an expansionist empire can "out-tech" nearly any other race, and have the production power to use it. Begin plans for crushing your enemy, or just elect yourself ruler of the galaxy.
The Research strategy is useful for races obviously geared towards technology; usually either creative, democracy or having research bonuses. It is very effective vs. the computer and very difficult against human players because expansionist and blitz races can easily overpower them early on. The important thing to the technologist, is time. It works best in Pre-Warp games, the larger the galaxy the better; as it will keep alien empires off your back until you can reach the point where your superior technology will give you an edge.
See research order here, which basically entails unlocking robo-miners before planetary supercomputer. Employ the production stockpile technique so that you maximize research yet still buy/build your researched structures quickly.
Ideally we want to colonize all the planets in a star system, because we want lots of scientists. But prioritize high population Normal-G planets (5 pop or more), since those offer the best payback vs effort regarding scientists. Even mineral-poor, toxic and high/low gravity are all fine if they can fit enough scientists to make colonizing/building a lone research lab worth the effort (science being the priority; research is not affected by gravity). Use the 1-pop Housing Colony technique to grow your population if you aren't creative. Don't worry about building colony ships till you have robo-miners. Then, with your colonies concentrating on research, have your home planet buy/build colony ships to settle all the biggest planets within range. Make sure to build missile bases on all your planets. Do not overextend beyond what you can protect.
Work towards terraforming all your planets to maximize scientist populations and keep them from starving, all the while researching like mad.
Battlefleet from Hell
With your research quickly moving up the Physics and/or Chemistry tech trees, you can stay ahead of the technology curve with high-level miniaturized weapons. Leverage your superior tech advantage to beat down your opponent's hopelessly outdated ships.
Creative Turtle Strategy
Creatives can blitz, but if they want to do so they should follow a proper Blitz Strategy using fighters or beam ships. Instead, this variant on the Research Strategy aims to make the best use of the Creative race attribute to consolidate a solid empire and defend it with a few well-equipped ships. To do that, it obviously has to do as much research as possible, so any racial research bonuses are handy.
Time is important. Ideally, by the time you get attacked by any aliens, you will have colonized all useful planets in your home system and can defend them with merculite-armed Missile Bases and found at least one Rich/Ultra-Rich planet to use as a production center. From a pre-warp start, that'll take 40 or 50 turns. It therefore works best in large or huge galaxies.
If starting Pre-warp, you want to maximize science research and essentially following the same tech paths as a non-creative Researcher. However, being creative you'll want to make quick detour after Research Labs to unlock both Hydroponic Farm/Biospheres as well as Soil Enrichment/Cloning Center. All four of these techs help maximize # of scientists on your planets.
You'll also want to research Merculite Missiles early on, as Missile Bases are a key part of your early defensive strategy and with it become much more deadly vs likely aggressors. Then either go for Robo-Miners or Planetary Supercomputers (the former picks up Spaceport and Fighter Garrison along the way, creatives are always strapped for cash; while the latter picks up Holo Simulator, an excellent all-round boost to your citizens).
Next it's time for warship tech: research in the Fields tech tree all the way up to Class III Shields. This unlocks Mass Drivers and both miniaturizes them and enables their Auto-fire modification. It also unlocks Radiation Shield which greatly improves the toughness of planetary defenses vs early tech.
After this, continue up the Chemistry tech tree till Zortrium Armor/Nano Disassemblers/Microlite Construction, picking up Pulson Missile/Atmospheric Renewer/Iridium Fuel Cells on the way - two successive tech levels that provide 6 immediately useful techs, including two bonus techs that immediately boost your industrial production everywhere! Your missile bases become even stronger plus you now have the technology to be competitive with any production-oriented or tolerant race.
You've got the tech to grow large populations quickly and want to amass plenty of scientists, thus making pretty much any planet type viable. Use production stockpiles and the 1-pop Housing Colony technique to help speed up your building/expansion. You may even want to sell your homeworld starbase and use the 200 bc towards buying your first colony base. Your production really picks up once you have robo-miner, hence why that tech is one of the first main goals. Creatives need extra cash to pay for all those buildings, so putting up spaceports once they become profitable should also be prioritized. Build Missile bases on planets near other empires -- they're cheap to build and will discourage attacks for quite a while.
Eventually, Rich and Ultra-rich planets will become shipbuilding centres; the others will become research planets.
Your first warships should be destroyers (battle pods, battle scanner, class III shields, reinforced hull, either of ECM-jammer/inertial-stabilizer depending upon alien adversaries and 1 Hv AF mass driver, 3 AF AP mass drivers) and cruisers (same specials, two extra mass drivers of each type). Several of these can kill most space monsters and also make enemy warships think again. Once you have Zortrium armor, make Battleships (augmented engines, class III shield, reinforced hull and fill the rest with MIRV ECCM FST ARM merculites). You can start raiding even strongly defended alien planets with those.
Creative Android Gambit
This high-risk strategy was specifically proposed for UniCreSci2, as it takes advantage of all those racial perks. With some clever tech-trading, it might work for non-creative research-oriented races as well. The idea is to forgo many early weapon techs and instead relentlessly strive towards unlocking Androids Workers before your first war. If it works, even a modest-sized empire will quickly have access to insane levels of research and production. It works best for Pre-Warp games, where other alien empires might not get to you for a while. It likely won't work at all in multi-player games.
The goal is to populate all home-system planets as fast as you can, and set up auto-factories, research labs and cloning centers on each... Divert all homeworld population into making colony bases. Turn 1 sell your starbase to gain +200 bc immediately and +1 bc/turn savings on upkeep. Then turn 2 sell the barracks for +30 bc and +1 bc/turn. Try and buy colony bases at close to 50% completion (ie. 1 prod to 2 bc ratio). Before your first tech is even researched, you should have bought your second base. Don't worry about freighters, as starvation never kills off the last pop on a planet.
Sometimes you get offered heroes early game. So if you you don't mind delaying purchase of new colony bases or delaying research/production a little, you may decide to hire a useful hero.
So the early tech goals are research labs > auto factories > freighters > cloning centers and to build those on all planets. Build hydroponic farms to keep as much of your pop on research as possible. Once that's done, switch your pop back to science and research. Pick the planet with the highest mineral resources and have all workers there start building your 1st colony ship. Make a scout to explore all nearby systems in range.
The next research goals is planetary supercomputer. Stockpile each colony's production by assigning 1 worker towards building a colony ship (costs about the same as a SC; minimizes pollution but maxes science); by the time you have unlocked supercomputer, each colony should have enough production to buy one. After that, go for deuterium/tritanium so you can explore even further afield looking for heroes and the best possible location(s) for your 1st interstellar colony(s). About this time you will start having money problems with all those hydro-farms and cloning centers, so research spaceports as needed, or set a planet to 'trade goods'.
Then work up the tech-tree to get robo miner plant (almost doubles production output per worker). While they are building on your planets, research laser cannons.
Then put all effort into researching autolab. While working towards that goal, your richest production colony will probably make a colony ship or 2, and overpopulation from cloning centers can be freightered to the new planet. Once unlocked, build an autolab on every planet ASAP, as it bestows an outrageous +30 research.
Now invest 100% into research to get androids as fast as possible and start producing 1 android worker/turn on all planets. Now here's a nifty
trick bug... since you didn't mess with taking aquatic or subterranean, your population can stack with androids in a special way. Clear off all colonists from terran, large, or high-resource planets such that only android workers are left, then build more till the android population is maxed-out. Then return the citizens and overpopulate a planet up to 50 pop. (Note: even without exploiting this bug, being able to maximize pop on Rich/Ultra-Rich planets exclusively with tolerant, gravity-immune androids enables colonies with insane production).
Direct research into the 'chemistry' tech tree for armor, missiles, fuel cells and pollution reduction... at this point setting up treaties, exploring and colonizing planets is the goal. If you are getting messed with by an alien race by now, research assault shuttles and some of the low-hanging fruit in the Power and Force Field tech trees (you'll be able to research these in 1-2 turns). A destroyer with battle pods and augmented engine can fit 3 shuttle bays and pretty much capture any battleship.
After researching atmospheric renewer, your blitz phase vs enemies begins. Pick a high-production planet to make a fleet of escort destroyers loaded with a mix of missiles + assault shuttles and battleships outfitted with battle pods, augmented engines, reinforced hull, class-1 shields, heavy armour, 1 assault shuttle 1 EMG ECCM ARM merculite missile (to disable/capturing enemy battleships), the rest of the space filled with 2-shot MIRV ECCM merculite missiles. Alternatively try class-3 shields and ecm-jammer instead of heavy armour / reinforced hull. Any more than 1 assault shuttle per battleship makes them ill-suited vs space monsters. The augmented engines + emission guidance combo ensures quick capture of enemy ships or star bases, while the mirv missiles take out planetary defenses. Heavy armour + hull + augmented engines ensures you make it to the star base alive. This tactic works for early game domination.
Later on titan class ships with lots of assault shuttles/beam weapons (usually CO neutron blasters & battle scanner or late-game disruptors) may work better vs races with large developed fleets. Such a titan class ship with stasis field/cloaking device can solo the guardian at Orion. If you gain the special Orion techs, protect them at all costs; if other races capture/steal any of those techs your starbase-raiding days will abruptly end.
Expand fast and hard using androids with the goal by mid-late game to unlock deep core mines/galactic unification/advanced city planning. At that point, each planet will have 60 research from the building alone. Then maximize production and terraform each planet, eventually replacing the android workers with android scientists and shipping the unneeded workers off to develop fledgling new worlds (build auto-factory, more worker-droids, robo-miner, core mines, then fill to max-pop with android scientists). If done right, the highest techs can be researched at 1 tech per turn!
This strategy is similar to the blitz, but not quite the same. It is used by high production races, with non-feudal governments, races that have the ability to research fairly quickly. It is the most average of the strategies, moving through the game at a good pace and relying on production bonuses to get a fleet up faster than the technologists, and better equipped than the blitzers.
This strategy is most often used by races with good production bonuses and the unification government, like the Klackon.
Start by researching some good production technologies. Automated Factories, Hydroponic Farms, Soil Enrichment, and Pollution Processor will do nicely. Colonize the biggest richest planet you can find, which is probably barren/radiated. Use freighters to feed it.
Take advantage of your ability to build Research Laboratories and Supercomputers quickly and produce as many as possible, freeing up more of your population for production rather than research.
Expand your empire with colony ships, but make sure you keep some scientists at all times, falling behind in technology will often be fatal. Use your production advantage to construct the maximum number of ships your command points will allow (the Warlord ability is useful here), and constantly build new ships and refit your existing ships to the most advanced technologies available to you.
You should now have a good sized empire, with decent technology. It will be flexible since you can switch from scientists to speedy shipbuilders quickly. You can continue to expand or begin production of a fleet. Graviton beam or higher is recommended as your weapon of choice.