Planetfall makes big changes to 4x expansion and exploitation. However, while you are fumbling around the AI is rapidly expanding its empire. This guide provides a basic understanding of the mechanics and strategy behind knowing where to place colonies and how to exploit sectors. It does not cover build orders as they are faction specific and we're all still learning the game balance.
Other Age of Wonders: Planetfall Guides:
- Cheat Codes (Console Commands).
- NPC Factions.
- Colonies Guide.
- Resources Guide.
- Diplomacy Guide.
- Operations Guide.
- Secret Tech Guide.
Introduction - Sectors and Resources
Just to review basics, since I will refer to them but they are not the focus of this guide.
Sectors are the most significant change in Planetfall. Basically, whereas the smallest unit of space is still the hexagon, these hexes make up a sector, a bordered region sharing features that define its resource output. There can be special resources like cosmite in the region and various special buildings that also influence resource output. Moving onto the pin in the middle will open its sector sector menu.
Below you can see the faint blue lines for around each unclaimed sector. The white outline on the left is the border of my claimed sector (my team color is white).
Typical of 4x, you have energy (money), production, food, and research. Sectors can also provide Cosmite (used in buying mods) or influence (used to... influence factions). Always keep an eye out for Cosmite since it is rare and necessary for keeping core units competitive until mid/late game.
Below shows how sector features and locations contribute to resource output.
NOTE: If any (even ally NPC) army is on a location, it will show "Occupied" and will not contribute production. They have to be removed or bribed for the location to function.
Some of these buildings provide a bonus if the sector exploit (covered later) is of the same resource type. Hover your mouse over it for this helpful information.
Strategy - In Brief
Originally posted by Agent Smith:
You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus.
Most 4x games balance expansion by decreasing happiness across your empire for every added colony. This at least slows your roll as you build buildings to compensate.
Planetfall has no downside for colonies besides the traditional population cost to start them. Expansion becomes a mad land-grab for resources.
The issue this creates is that adding colonies increases production of resources exponentially faster than simply focusing on growing your existing colonies, with no downside (building wide versus building tall, as we say in 4x). The difference between these strategies would have the wide player doubling and tripling unit production and research over the tall player. This makes expansion the only viable strategy unless you can hole up somewhere and focus on a Doomsday tech win. The AI will definitely expand aggressively so you need to, as well.
Wide, but efficiently so...
As every land empire has struggled with, over expansion can break you. You need sufficient infrastructure to travel quickly across your empire and sufficient defenses to protect its borders. Roads are built automatically between colonies AND militia buildings provide cost efficient and effective defense against many single stack armies, depending on difficulty. However, when two stacks roll up and your armies are half way across the map, you're going to take some losses. If you keep an army to defend every remote colony, you won't be able to field enough offensive armies to attack. The key is to plan your colonies to border each other once they've fully expanded, so one or two defensive armies can quickly respond to threats. Picking colony locations is the meat of this guide.
Disclaimer: I actually suck at strategy games. Most of this is just an explanation of how the mechanics work that are not readily apparent until you've lost a few games. Any tips are what I've seen on forums and Reddit that have worked for me. That is all.
I am not going to tell you build orders as they are faction specific and everyone is still learning the game anyway. However, to make the most of each colony you need to focus each colony's production.
- At population 4, 8, 12, and 16, your colony can annex a sector next to an already claimed sector.
- You can only claim sectors 2 away, or a sector neighboring one adjacent to the center.
- This means one center sector and 4 annexed "exploitable" sectors.
Annexed sectors can then be "Exploited" to focus their production of one resource, under the Sector Building tab seen below. This is done through the build queue like any building. Each colony can only have 2 of each exploit. Finally, each sector can further add ONLY one of two or three buildings to further maximize output. These buildings provide an additional bonus if you have two of them (meaning two sectors of the same Exploited resource, each having one of the buildings).
All of This Means Each Colony Should Specialize in Two Resources
Look at your starting colony and see what is available within 2 sectors and decide which 2 resources are best represented, based on what we already know about evaluating sectors. One of your early bases needs to be food focused, as it will be constantly pumping out colonists as soon as it can. Optimally, I like Food/Production for my capital since it can quickly produce new colonies and capital specific buildings or units between more colonists. My next colonies will focus on Energy/Research to drive my economy, but that is a very general strategy and again, I suck.
Choosing New Locations
Keep It Tight
Remember our strategy, right? While the sector is always greener on the other side of the fog, starting a colony in the nearest optimal region to your capital means it is developing sooner and our goal is rapid, then optimal expansion. You can leap frog another colony past it and grab that sweet site in a few more turns.
Now that we are choosing our locations, we need to keep in mind our current colonies. You should always know exactly which sectors you are going to annex ahead of time and place new colonies accordingly. So considering your Capital, decide which central position will give you the best return on two resources. Once again, I'm not telling you what to pursue when, but obviously that should be driving your decision of where to settle next, unless there is just too good a deal to pass up.
Special Resources and Locations
When a special location is within reach, obviously take advantage of it. If it is a Silver or Gold landmark, realize that it will take a tough fight to clear it out and if you are not up to the challenge it is a wasted sector. These landmarks will decide one or two of your specializations due to the significant resource production they provide. Don't waste them.
Cosmite and Influence can also be found. Cosmite is vital to competitive unit production and can only be accessed through rare map sources and a couple higher level techs. Grab it when you can, even if the resource output is otherwise lame. IMO Influence is nice but I don't beeline for it like I do Cosmite.
Finally, look out for hazards. They are tough to see until your army is in the sector or you pull up the sector menu. Even then, it is tough to see where they actually are. Below are examples. Hazards can be very rough on a colony and should be avoided until you get the tech to remove them.
Here it is on the sector menu.
Conclusion - Or TLDR
- Expand as quick as you can. Have a dedicated food colony producing colonists as often as it can.
- Each colony can have 4 exploited sectors.
- Focus each colony on only two resources, having 2 Exploits for each of those resources.
- When a colony has maxed its growth, have it contribute food for new colonies in the Colonist Management tab of the colony.
- Keep your colonies tight together. Easier to defend with fewer armies.
- Plan out each colony's growth ahead of time for max use of space.
- Try not to overextend for that "perfect spot" but prioritize the direction of your empire towards high value areas or Cosmite.
- Be aware of Hazards and make sure the Silver or Gold landmark can be defeated before you plop down a colony next to it.
This is only supposed to help beginners figure out how Planetfall's rapid expansion differs from most 4x games. Strategic tips could be wrong or outdated but the underlying point is to get out there. The incel approach to romance is not going to cut it here. You can't hole up in your base and wait for the world to come to you. At the same time, if you head out without a plan to succeed, you've planned to fail.