The core strategy (for both the Basic and Enhanced Game) is to move your spaceships to Earth and collect population until you win. But of course it's not quite as simple as that. You will have to make some decisions:
- Should I move to Earth right away with my starting spaceships so I can get started collecting population as soon as possible, or should I build more spaceships and then move to Earth, so as to be able to collect more population?
- Should I attack other players to prevent them from collecting population, or should I focus on collecting population myself?
- Should I use my Zap cards early on to gain an advantage, or save them until the end of the game when they might help me win?
Of course, the answers to each of these questions depend on the situation. But here are some things to keep in mind as you decide:
- If you plan to build any spaceships, it's more efficient to build them all at once and then move them all, rather than moving some, building another, moving that one, building another, and so on.
- The more spaceships you have, and the more population you collect, the more the other players will regard you as a threat. Since (except in the two-player game) they outnumber you, it may be wise not to get too much of a lead early in the game, unless you believe you can sustain it for the rest of the game. Diplomacy can help -- each player you ally with is one less player who will be attacking you (at least as long as the alliance serves their purposes).
- If one player is close to winning, you may be better off collecting population rather than attacking that player, unless you are the only player able to attack the leader. That forces other players to use their actions attacking rather than collecting population, which helps you.
Remember that Zap cards can be used to extend your action. If you have one spaceship in a populated area and three Zap cards, you can collect four population in a single turn. But that goes for the other players too! Keep an eye on how many Zap cards they have, because each Zap card brings them one population unit closer to winning.
In most cases it is probably not worth using Zap cards to extend movement. An exception might be if the game is almost over, you don't have any spaceships on Earth, and there's no other way you can get to Earth in time. Or if you are Pluto or you have been hit by a Q-Ray or Space Warp and one spaceship is farther away than the rest.
It may be worthwhile to use a Zap card to get an extra attack, particularly if that attack would keep another player from winning. But you get the most value from Zap cards by using them to build extra spaceships or collect extra population.
Some Zap cards are more valuable than others. Time Dilation and We Come in Peace are obviously very useful since they can let you collect double population, which can end the game right away. But Causality Fluctuation and Déjà Vu can be almost as useful, perhaps even more so, since they can apply to any other card.
The core strategy is the same in the Enhanced Game, but the key is to take full advantage of your Technology and Special cards. If you are playing Mars and you never mind control anyone, or if you're playing Ganymede and you sit on land areas, you are not likely to do very well.
Don't forget the research action! While Earth gets the most benefit from this, certain technologies are universally valuable (Pheromone Lures and Wide-Area Teleport), and some can be very beneficial to certain players, as noted below. Spending a turn or two at the beginning of the game researching technology can give you an edge later on, while not presenting an immediate threat to the other players. Plus, no one can take technology away from you once you've got it.
When you perform a research action to get an Upgrade you really want, and you fail your roll, it is very tempting to discard a Zap card to try again. Depending on the Zap card, this may be worthwhile, but remember that you only have a limited number of Zap cards, and the more you use on research rolls, the fewer you have left to build extra spaceships or collect extra population, not to mention the primary effects.
You start the game weak in almost every way. But your apparent weakness can be an advantage in that the other players probably won't bother attacking you, at least in the early part of the game.
The one area in which you have an advantage is that you don't have to move your spaceships to Earth. This gives you a bit of a head start at the beginning of the game (somewhat reduced because you don't start with any spaceships), but its real value comes toward the end of the game when the other players suddenly realize you're a threat and start attacking you. Any casualties they manage to inflict are easy to replace if you have Automated Assembly or Quality Control, which you probably do by that point.
Technology upgrades are the name of the game for you. You will be getting free research actions as your enemies attack each other, but it doesn't hurt to spend a few turns at the beginning doing research, especially if you can pick up Genius Pills or Electronic Brain, or both.
All of the technology upgrades are useful to you except for the fast movement. The question is not which ones to get as which ones to get first, and whether to take the intermediate ones (Gatling Lasers, Yttrium Alloys, Adamantium Armor, and Impervite Armor), which are easier to acquire, or skip straight to the high-end ones. The answers depend on the situation.
Remember that other players may want to upgrade as well -- you can't always count on a particular upgrade staying available until your next turn, especially if it's Pheromone Lures or Wide-Area Teleport. You can always use the optional discard at the beginning of a research action to bury a valuable upgrade until later in the game, when probably no one else will be doing research.
Your Alluring special ability is probably the strongest of any player. You could in theory win a game with four or more players in 5 turns -- one turn to build three spaceships (using two Zap cards), two turns to move all five spaceships to Earth, and two more turns to collect up to 26 population (using your Zap cards to collect 3 extra each turn). For that reason, however, the other players will probably attack you frequently.
So you have several strategies:
- Lie low. Just land a couple of spaceships in out-of-the-way places like South America and Russia and keep your score modest so that the other players focus on attacking each other and not you.
- Pre-emptive attack. Your Q-Ray is probably the most effective weapon in the game, its only drawback being an unfortunate tendency to backfire occasionally. But especially in a game with fewer players, you may be able to destroy or teleport enough enemy spaceships that they won't be able to rebuild in time to catch up with you.
- Research. Since you will be a frequent target, upgrading your defense technology is obviously a Good Thing. Since you will inevitably suffer casualties, the double build and fast movement technologies can help you get reinforcements into play quickly. And of course being able to collect an extra population per turn makes even a single spaceship on Earth very useful. If you decide to pursue this strategy, you may want to try to acquire Genius Pills or Electronic Brain early on, if they are available.
The essence of your strategy is Mind Control, which effectively doubles your strength when collecting and attacking. But it has more subtle advantages as well.
- Other players will tend to avoid areas in which you have spaceships that aren't controlling anyone. You can take advantage of this to stake out areas on Earth that you want, and if you keep one or two spaceships in Orbit, other players may delay moving to Earth, which can give you a head start on collecting.
- When you control another player's spaceship, that's one less spaceship available to that player. If you control 2 or 3 spaceships from the same player, you can pretty well knock them out of the game temporarily.
- When you control another spaceship, attackers have two possible targets if they want to weaken you. In most cases your spaceship will have a better defense, so attackers may go after the controlled spaceship instead, which leaves your spaceship free to control someone else. If the player whose spaceship you are controlling is close to winning, destroying your spaceship might enable that player to win, so again attackers may leave your spaceship alone.
Don't forget about your Magneto-Blasters! A useful tactic is to have your spaceships operate in pairs: one uses its Magneto-Blasters to pull a victim into the same area, and then the other mind controls it. If you're willing to burn a Zap card, a single spaceship can pull an enemy spaceship into its area and mind control it on the same turn. More subtly, you can use them to move while attacking -- if you have a spaceship on Earth, it can pull a spaceship in Orbit down to Earth, and then that spaceship can attack or push the first spaceship into a different area. Meanwhile, any spaceships you control can be attacking.
Most technology upgrades are probably not worth the effort to acquire for you, the exceptions being Pheromone Lures and Wide-Area Teleport.
Your basic strategy is clear -- build all your ships, land in the oceans, and start collecting population. You probably want to spread out to avoid Zap cards like Native Resistance and Bad Weather. Spreading out also gives you more choice about which areas to collect population from. On the other hand, spreading out may leave some of your spaceships stuck with no population to collect toward the end of the game, which would argue for concentrating on the Western Pacific and Indian oceans.
If you are willing to hold back one or two spaceships in area 9, you can land your others on Earth without ever stopping in Orbit, which is where you are most vulnerable. Plus, the spaceships in area 9 can attack Orbit! Your opponents probably don't remember that. And if you do have spaceships in Orbit, they can attack enemy spaceships in areas 1, 4, 7, 8, and 9, and even on Mars and Venus.
Beware of Venus and Mars, whose weapons are not affected by your spaceships' higher defense in oceans -- especially Mars, which will be attacking frequently to make use of its special ability. Try to keep your spaceships away from them, and if you are attacking and you have a choice of targets, favor them (the more so since you have an attack advantage against Venus).
You can benefit from upgrading your weapons or defense technology (but don't bother upgrading to Adaptive Shield or Phased Shield Array, since you'll be spending most of your time in the oceans anyway). And Pheromone Lures and Wide-Area Teleport are almost always worth trying to acquire. But you have the least need to upgrade technology of any player -- you're probably better off focusing on the basic actions.
Your Parasitic special ability is very powerful, but can be tricky to set up. You want to try to get as many spaceships as possible to Earth so as to infect a lot of population right away. Ideally, you will use We Come in Peace or Time Dilation to get an extra population action up front, so that the other players won't be able to wipe out the infection before it can start spreading. Logistical Difficulties is also very useful, for the same reason.
In the early stages of infection, it's usually better to concentrate your infected population in one or two areas rather than spreading out right away. That will tend to reduce the amount of infected population that other players can collect.
At some point, you will want to stop infecting and start sending infected population back to Titan. If Ganymede or Pluto are in the game, you will want to have a large "buffer" of infected population built up before you start sending population back home -- it's much harder to restart an infection after you've sent half of the infected population home already.
In general, you should only attack before starting to infect, so as to reduce the number of enemy spaceships that can interfere with establishing your infection. Once the infection is under way, your spaceships (while helpful) are essentially superfluous.
You don't need much in the way of technology. You have a good defense, you shouldn't be attacking much, you already have fast movement, and once you've built your initial fleet you probably won't need to build any more. However, if Wide-Area Teleport or Pheromone Lures comes out early in the game, it is almost always worthwhile using a research action to try to acquire it.
Your biggest problem is that you're so far away from Earth. True, your Wormhole Generator gives you a 50% chance of moving to a space area adjacent to Orbit, but you're likely to have one or more spaceships stuck farther away unless you spend several turns moving them up. (If you do this, it's better to keep all your ships out of Orbit until you're ready to move them all to Orbit -- that way you don't expose your ships to attack unnecessarily.)
However, this can work to your advantage. If you only move 2 or 3 ships to Orbit, with the others scattered throughout space, you'll appear to be less of a threat. Then when other players do manage to take out your ships in Orbit, you'll have a ready reserve to move in and hopefully snag those last few population units!
Also, you're not quite as far away as you look. Since you don't have to land on Earth to collect population, you're effectively only one turn farther away than Ganymede, even without your wormholes. If you manage to acquire a fast movement upgrade, you're only two turns away -- the same distance as Venus or Mars.
Key technologies for you are the defense upgrades. Fast movement and double build are nice, but if you have a fleet of three or four spaceships with defense 9 or 10 in Orbit, it will be very tough for anyone else to take you out. Of course, Pheromone Lures and Wide-Area Teleport are as useful to you as to everyone else.