This is a strategy guide for a Sol system game centred around fully exploiting moons and treating them as starports of their world. Most themes will be relevant to any game start, though you need a moon around your starting planet to get the most out of it.
For the Greater Good? Or for the Greater Profit?
The financial interests of your company and the effective expansion of the human race do not directly align. The player who seeks maximum profit wants lots of humans in colonies, but wants them dependant upon imports, triggering subsidies.
The expansionist player seeks to establish local production as a priority to free shipping to push the frontier faster. Most play-styles will land somewhere in-between, but the game is rife with opportunities for profiteering. Something to bear in mind going forward.
The particularly evil profiteer can even actively hold back progress, by hauling machinery output somewhere and hiding it in a corporate hanger at a loss.
The predetermined game is dominated in the start-up phase by Luna, this is true any time the home-world has a satellite. Trip distance is negligible, both have healthy starports with gates in orbit and it demands goods in supply on Earth. Companies should participate in the initial rush to establish the satellite since income is extremely rapid and it provides the capital required to effectively reach further afield.
A significant cargo here is Machinery, the AI will haul it if you do not, it reduces dependency on imports of food, water and consumer goods and accelerates Rare Resource production (Also raw materials, though some will be used internally to fuel Consumer Goods production).
The Luna market is something of a bubble, prone to over-saturation very quickly, yet we should not abandon it when it's markets flood. It plays a critical role in the entirety of the rest of our strategy.
When we setup routes from Earth to Luna we do not use 'Unload All' as our delivery rule for Food, Water, Consumer Goods and Machinery; rather we use 'Deliver and Store'. If there is Demand then the goods will be sold on arrival, if not they are stored on Luna in your Hanger and are only available to you. Note this is not a maintenance hanger surface building, which is not related.
Well our next step is going to be other colonies, Mars probably, Mercury may pop up soon. The exponentially longer trip times than we experienced supplying Luna will make this a slower process, huge quantities of supplies will need to be delivered over the period of development, and beyond for many planets.
It is dramatically in our interests to supply almost everything else from this point onwards from our Luna hanger. This is because fuel cost calculations for routes are largely impacted by the planetoid size at take-off and landing. Simply put, it costs a lot less to take-off and land at Luna than Earth, and the gates are going to cost you a lot less to boot.
Added to this is the fact that early-game destinations are small starports for some time. Whilst they are still below lvl 5 they are on the surface, making fuel costs for trips even worse and compounding the poor efficiency of early ship classes. Anything we can do to relieve this is welcome, so we take advantage of the high level starports on Earth and Luna to run large class, efficient ships on this route and spare the small 909's and d500's from the crawl out of Earth's gravity well.
In the longrun this strategy will leave your Earth-Luna route struggling to turn a profit, we simply don't care, it all shakes out in the end through our routes from Luna outward. But we are able to use the large ports and short trip to fully leverage the largest slowest ships in the game which have the best efficiencies and suffer least leaving Earth, this is where a hullsize10 Geo really shines.
And of course last but not least, following this strategy reserves cargo for you at Luna since it's being tipped into private storage, you can easily starve an AI company who tries to supply from Earth since your ships arrive far more often than theirs and shuffle all the excess away.
Before we move on to other planets we want to make sure our logistics are firmly established. Running most craft from Luna means we need a maintanence hanger here and a good gate count, we also need taxi services on Earth to deal with the long turnarounds of the large ships and keep gate rental here to a minimum.
So with what we realise about Luna's advantages we move on to develop Mars. Any earlygame small ships we have kicking about, 909s and 500s mainly, can happily turn a profit hauling Luna Mars. They will do markedly better than if they were travelling Earth to Mars thanks to the reduced fuel costs, but getting the Martian starport to 5 is now a priority to further slash fuel costs.
Mars is a longterm goal. It has the capability to become a net food exporter when fully developed, and we do want this. But it's a fairly long road and will always import water. The average triptime to Mars is also the longest of the Inner Planets, so we will begin to work on other colonies alongside it.
If you are following a profiteering approach then dumping a lot of people on Mars and hiding as much Machinery as possible will create huge demand for water here.
This is probably the next colony the game will found, though you may get Jovian moon first. Regardless this is going to be the easier option. Mercury works much like Mars except we have a smaller destination world and a shorter average trip. We can handle it much like Mars; it will be less productive in terms of food and have a smaller population, but is a better producer of raw materials to power consumer good production elsewhere. It is always dependant on water imports.
We can run the same small hull classes into Mercury from Luna and have nice low fuel costs.
Jupiter and Saturn
Once the Inner Worlds are coming along we can begin to look outward. Sometimes colonies will appear here early, but it's best to just throw a few rockets at them while you wait for ports to grow naturally and establish your other lines.
The long trip times out to these destinations makes things slower again here, craft that can carry significant cargo are slow enough that you need a lot to achieve a somewhat regular delivery. Ordinarily this is where the game's first few small craft begin to struggle and they have a hard time profiting from Earth, but as usual our Lunar departure makes this a possibility.
This is often around the point in the game where the Gorman Darter becomes available for purchase. This extremely fast small ship has horrendous fuel efficiency and is normally used for critical lines where profit from it is less important, but again our low gravity departure boosts the performance of these and it becomes feasible to run them as you retire the oldest 909/500s.
Water and food availability is in general ok out here if you can get them developed. Be very wary of allowing populations to boom without supplying Machinery in step unless you are playing for profit, inwhich case this is going to become a primary money maker as you run water into massive subsidies. If a moon has dilithium crystal availability (Europa, Titan) then the option to subsidise a mine will appear in '58 along with the ability to subsidise refineries.
Opening a refinery successfully requires access to significant water reserves and building one on an under-developed world will often trigger famines, this is another tool in the arsenal of the profiteer or a pitfall for the expansionist.
We can also replay a miniature version of our original Luna strategy here. Find the smallest of the moons and push it's starport to 5 (or even better 7) and use it as a Hub for local deliveries via the company hanger. Thus we only need to promote one of the starports here to handle the bulk import, this is my 909/500 graveyard, ancient ships no longer relevant in the inner system retire out here to handle the local routes.
Triton / Venus
These two are both pretty special cases that make them awkward. Triton is a long, long, long way away. It has good stats pretty much across the board and is productive if developed. But it's a long, long way away. You can run Darters Luna-Triton without breaking the bank and handle some stuff like Machinery and First-Class seats but for bulk transport solutions you have to bite the bullet and take some appalling triptimes or consider serious swarms of Darters. Avoid the very largest hulls despite the temptation, breakdowns on this route are a major issue with such long flights and Triton definately needs a Large Hanger to provide a rescue ship.
Venus has a entirely different set of conditions. It is the richest location in Sol for Rare Resources and can become the cornerstone of an expansionist's production of Machinery. It's also capable of self-development after being kick-started from Earth if you provide colonists and about a thousand Machinery, then subsidise both Resource mines and Machinery factories on the surface.
Despite these advantages Venus is the single most inhospitable location in the Solar System and the population will always require significant external supply of Food and Water. Best approached either late as other colonies begin to self-supply thanks to Earth-produced Machinery or very early in a rush in order to fast-track everything else and free up the supplies for Venus herself. Venus is a short enough trip that we can send just about anything and have it perform, but its a pretty large world, so get the port into orbit asap (to lvl 5).
At some point FTL will be discovered, you get the ability to produce fuel first in 2058, then warp capable ships begin to appear in the early 60s. You'll face either refining crystals into fuel out at the gas giant moons (if you have them developed enough to have the local water), or hauling the crystals to Earth and cooking the fuel there. Either way you want to haul the fuel to your Hub since thats where everything else is.
Mankind will found an extrasolar colony, within triprange of the first FTL craft. They are pretty smart about picking habitable worlds, you really dont want to be bulk hauling food and water between stars. Sometimes they dont pay enough attention to the local system, perhaps it totally lacks Rare Resources and all Machinery must be imported, maybe theres no Dilithium and its viable, but a dead-end. When choosing your own locations you can take these factors into consideration, and remember that you can always haul dilithium fuel as cargo and hanger it or use it to refuel and jump further/back.
Boot strap the colony if you like the system. Prioritise it's development, supply machinery and a reasonable population and get them off imports. You can now pick a system Hub and begin the process again.