The Birdmen


Race Overview

The Birdman Empire is one of the sneakiest races, possibly rivaled only by the Privateers.  The Birds are also the only race with a cloaking battleship, the Dark Wing, which also happens to be the third-best battleship in the game (after the Borg Annihilation and the Fed’s Nova).  They also boast the second-largest cloaker in the game, the Resolute Class Battlecruiser, and also the lightest cloaking ship in the game, the Swift Heart Class scout.  However, aside from the Large Deep Space Freighter (LDSF) and other support ships, these three Bird warships are really the only ships worth building in most circumstances.

If you want the #1 spot, and aren’t satisfied with 2nd place, then you need to kill any carrier races near you as soon as possible, or arrange, through diplomacy, for their demise at the hands of another race.  While you can stand up to other battleship-based races fairly well, you do not have the economic benefits to be able to trade well against large carrier races unless your economy is massively bigger than theirs.

The reason that the Birdmen’s win rate is typically low is that they have no economic bonuses whatsoever.  While other races might have ships or race traits that give them bonuses to growth, taxes, mining, or colonizing, the Birds have nothing. Thus, while there are some general strategies they should follow, there are two main approaches to the Birdmen.

General Strategies:

  1. Build 2 Resolutes first.  What you do with these depends on your approach (see below).  Pick one and go with it – mixing the two isn’t a great idea because you’ll likely just have an angry neighbour (instead of a dead one – see #1), and a mediocre economy (instead of a great one – see #2).
  2. Find a Ghipsoidal world and build a 2nd starbase ASAP.  Build Swift Heart Scouts with Transwarps and Blasters (you can’t kill a planet with 2 x X-Rays).
  3. Build LDSFs.  Send these to the best native worlds to drop clans, and bring back Duranium and money to your homeworld.
  4. Talk to other players.
    • Find locations of other races.
    • Find an ally.  This could be a neighbour, or a neighbour’s neighbour.
    • Find a target.  Pick a neighbour whose territory you covet, or whose demise would benefit your long-term chances of winning.
  5. Scout your own cluster.  Try to prevent HYP ships from having a planet to spy from.  Colonize all planets, even Amorphs, for this reason.
  6. Scout your neighbours.  You need intel.  Birds can hit anything they want, but they need to know where it is.
  7. Build a Merlin.
  8. Build another Merlin if you have 2+ Bovinoid worlds.
  9. Build a 3rd Starbase.  Use this for building Resolutes.  Ghipsoidal and Siliconoid worlds are both good for this, as you’ll want good torps for mine-laying.
  10. Produce Darkwings and Resolutes in equal numbers.  One Resolute supports one Darkwing (fuel and torps) on combat sorties.
  11. Go kill someone.  By this point, you are the strongest you are going to be, and if you’ve been doing it right, you will have developed all the good worlds in your area, and you should be looking for room to expand.
  12. Build more Starbases.  You want to hog the queue, or build up PBPs.

Approach One:  Hit Hard and Fast

This strategy involves taking out one neighbour’s homeworld starbase as early as possible – preferably before Turn 10.  The other player won’t likely have anything to stop you as you take 4 Resolutes (Transwarps, X-Rays, Mark 4’s) against his Homeworld.  The idea here is that you give yourself room to expand, while also taking out a hostile neighbour.  The real problem is colonizing and defending the resulting space.  Hopefully, your (new and old) neighbours won’t realize which cluster was your home cluster, and won’t be so eager to go all aggressive against you, especially if you have some Resolutes left over.  If they do come against you, you have enough space that you can give ground, and then make their life a living hell thereafter by hitting their freighters with all sorts of cloakers.  It’s worth noting that you need to build a second starbase in the new cluster ASAP, and get it self-sustaining as soon as possible.  Hopefully you’ll have spotted some planets with decent native life on the way in!

After running some sims, I found the following “kill” requirements:

  • Typical homeworld starbase (20 fighters, 20 defense posts, 100 starbase defense):  1 Resolute w/Mark 4’s
  • Upgraded Planet Defense (20 fighters, 100 defense posts, 100 starbase defense): 2 Resolutes w/Mark 4’s
  • Full-fighter starbase (60 fighters, 100 defense posts, 100 starbase defense):  4 Resolutes w/Mark 4’s (middle two ships don’t need many torps)
  • Defensive ships in orbit:  +1 Resolute each*

*Damaged Resolutes are terrible at killing fighters – tow the defending ship away and kill it in open space to preserve your Resolute.  Even early ships like Patriots can’t stand up against 8 beams and 3 x Mark 4 launchers, but some medium ships CAN burn away your shields and torps, which can shift the balance slightly.  The only ships that stand up very well against the Resolute are Lizard Class Cruisers (due to the 150% damage they take), and the Emerald Class Battlecruiser, which is essentially the same ship but with more cargo space and no cloaking.

Specific Resolute Build (battle order):

Resolute #1:  Blasters, 10-20 Mark 4 torps (ship-killer)

Resolute #2:  X-Rays, 12 Mark 4 torps (fighter killer, starbase softener – you will most likely lose this ship).

Resolute #3:  X-Rays, 20 Mark 4 torps (potential starbase killer)

Resolute #4:  X-Rays, 25 Mark 4 torps (finishes the job, mops up defenders)

Starting Conditions:

With 10,000 Megacredits as starting money and a rich homeworld mineral start (which is common), you can build an LDSF and then 4 Resolutes right from the start, followed by as many freighters as you can.  After that, your build options are rather limited until you can get a freighter load back to your homeworld, as you will usually be short of Duranium.  However, a couple of Swift Hearts to sniff out good planets is not a bad thing, and your Resolutes can drop off / explore a bit on their way to hit your neighbour (just ensure to cloak when traveling in open space, or approaching his explored planets)!

The reason you build the LDSF first is that you need it to bring back Duranium before the 4th Resolute is built, or you won’t be able to build any more LDSFs.  While a Swiftie or MDSF isn’t all that bad, it’s not optimal – you’re already putting yourself a fair bit behind by investing in so many early warships, and you need the best freighters you can get.

With 15,000 Megacredits to start, you can actually build an early Darkwing + Resolute, and use those instead.  You need the Resolute to re-fuel the Darkwing, and thus extend its striking range.  However, on the Planets.Nu host, this would be a very unusual starting setup.

Tips:

  • Max your homeworld factories, and build at least 200 mines.  300 can work better, but hurts your tax income.
  • DO NOT reveal yourself.  The victim must not see your Resolutes coming, nor any Birdmen freighters flying around.
  • Beam up fuel whenever possible, BEFORE you reach any planet that the victim may have already explored (you can’t cloak and beam up fuel at the same time).  However, as long as you have fuel to find and reach his homeworld, that’s all you need.
  • Send your Resolutes to different planets on the way in, to both scout for his homeworld and also for good planets that you will develop after killing him!
  • Put colonists on your Resolutes, and drop them at the first native planets you find.  Doing this will help your economy a great deal.
  • The first Resolute that you use against the Starbase won’t survive to fire more than 10-12 torpedoes.  Your second or third Resolute, however, will need a good number of torps (18-24) to kill the planet, after all the enemy fighters have been shot down.  If you run out of torpedoes, you lose, as your X-rays won’t do much damage.
  • If Show Explosions is turned on, you need to rename all your ships to something generic (like “Warship”).  Otherwise, everyone will know that the Birds are fighting race X.  Your fight location will be revealed in any case, and good players will know who’s fighting by looking at the scoreboard, but try to make it less obvious for everyone.
  • Do not send any taunts or messages, before or after.  The less people who know what’s going on, the better.  You need surprise, and you need time to reap the spoils of war.
  • Follow up with a LDSF full of clans.  If you kill his homeworld, the deteriorating factories will still produce all the supplies you will need.  If you fail, it doesn’t matter anyway.  You want to drop these clans on a native world with a good temperature, so your clans will grow as fast as possible and supply the area with colonists.
  • Against the Fascists, have all your Resolutes arrive at the homeworld at the same time, and de-cloak them for final approach.  This will prevent Glory Device “trg” codes from triggering.  However, to FIND the homeworld in the first place, you’ll probably want to scout with a Swiftie, or have to lose one Resolute, and spoil the ambush.
  • Against the Lizards, if they have an Lizard Class Cruiser (LCC) on station, your Resolute will lose unless it has Blasters or better beams.  However, Blasters cost more Duranium, which will mean one less Resolute.
  • Against the Crystals:  you’ll need to minesweep to check for web mines in the area.  Although laying webs reveals his homeworld, it also makes it nearly impossible for you to sneak-attack him.  If you manage the sneak attack, you will still need Disruptors on one of your ships, because if he web-mines the whole area even after losing his home world, you’ll never get out of there if all you have is X-rays.  You do NOT want him capturing several Resolutes and sending them back into your territory with web mines!

What If This Doesn’t Work?

Your strike should never completely fail – you can choose to abandon it if you run sims and realize that you are unlikely to kill his homeworld.  You actually have several choices:

  1. Wait.  Your Resolutes don’t need fuel to cloak, so you can afford to wait until he does something dumb like move his defending ships away from his homeworld.
  2. Abandon the attack and push out your border.  With that many of your warships in the area, he’s unlikely to be able to contest the space.
  3. Change target to his ships (LDSFs) and colonies.  You can do massive damage with a strike force this size in the early game.  Don’t waste it.
  4. Ally with this player and help him attack his other neighbour.  This choice is worst because you’ve already wasted a lot of time getting there, and you’ll actually need your ships on your other border to defend against the neighbour you didn’t ally with!

Okay, I Tried and Failed

I’m personally of the opinion that negotiating a treaty at this time is pointless – he’s going to hold it against you that you tried to wipe him out, and is unlikely to negotiate in good faith.  Thus, you still need to be aggressive against your target neighbour.  Send some Swifties against him, harass his shipping, and force him to use escorts or lay minefields – slow his growth in any way possible.  Meanwhile, build freighters at home and try to catch up economically.  If he sends ships against you that you can’t defeat, give ground and pull off the fuel and whatever other resources you can, until you can build enough warships to push him back again.  If he’s a cloaking race, you may need to lay minefields, but at this point in the game, it is best to lay them, scoop them, and lay them again elsewhere, or he’ll just go around the small minefields you’re able to lay.

You also need to secure a safe border with your other neighbour, at whatever cost.  Try to trade him some of your lesser cloakers (Swiftie or White Falcon) if necessary to secure this border.  At worst, use some resources to drop minefields to at least deter him from poking around and finding your valuable planets.

Approach Two:  Full Economy and Strike

While it may seem strange to focus on economy when you’re not a late-game race and you don’t have any economic benefits to work with, this strategy ensures that you’re a pretty tough opponent to attack even into the midgame, and even after the ship limit.  However, you will also rely on diplomacy and finding a solid ally, and a solid economy will create a good score, which will tend to impress friends and deter enemies.

For this approach to work, you need to do several things:

  1. Build lots of freighters at the start (6-8 LDSFs).  Build Swifties when you can’t afford an LDSF.
  2. Survive any early strikes.  Scouting and at least one (1) defensive ship (Deth Specula) helps, but add some defense posts to your home planet as well.
  3. Focus on developing the best worlds first (see Fast Development).
  4. Stay hidden as long as possible, without sacrificing too much freighter time.
  5. After being discovered, negotiate a border treaty with one neighbour.  The border treaty should expire around Turn 30-35, allowing you to attack (see below)
  6. Negotiate an alliance with the other neighbour, or one of the neighbours of your neighbours, so you can crush someone between you.
  7. Scout your neighbours’ territory (leave out “no ships in each other’s space” as a condition of the treaty, if you can, so you can scout his space “legally”).
  8. Build 4-5 starbases (minimum) by the ship limit for extra PBPs and building capacity.
  9. Build 1-2 Merlins before the ship limit (2+ if you have good Bovinoid worlds)
  10. Build as many Darkwings as possible* by the ship limit.
  11. Build at least one Resolute for each Darkwing, without slowing Darkwing production
  12. Lay minefields (or have the ability to lay them instantly) in the direction that you do NOT intend to attack, to slow any aggression while you hit your other neighbour. This step is important even if you have an ally at your back, because it gives you a chance if you’re back-stabbed.

*These Darkwings should have Transwarps and at least Mark 4 torps (Mark 7’s are better, and Mark 8’s when you can afford it).  While you can use Resolutes for minesweeping, eventually you want all your ships to have Heavy Blasters or better, since mine-fields are one of the counters to cloakers.

What you are trying for here is a really good position just as the ship limit hits.  At around this same time, you want to attack one of your neighbours with overwhelming force, and in multiple locations, which will:

  • give you even more PBPs, helping you to build an even bigger fleet
  • ensure that you’re not fighting in your nicely-developed territory
  • destroy your chosen enemy’s infrastructure and inhibit his ability to replace ship losses
  • give you room to expand, and expand quickly, leveraging your existing, massive infrastructure

Diplomacy as the Birdmen

The main advantage your have as the Birds is your fleet.  DO NOT trade away any Resolutes or Darkwings.  In general, you don’t need to trade at all, except perhaps for a terraformer if you really need one to be able to use that 8 million Unity Bovinoid/Insectoid planet.  In such a case, try to trade a Swift Heart scout for it, which is the only ship you should even consider trading, and even if you do, your trading partner can still hurt you with it if he turns on you (never underestimate the value of cloaking scouts!)

What you really want is a solid alliance that will last all game.  This fact is the main reason why you do NOT want to trade away any decent cloakers (especially cloaking minelayers).  If you trade away your good ships (Resolute and Darkwing especially), and your “ally” gets a chance to clone a lot of them, then he won’t need you.

Best Friends

The Crystals:  Resolutes as cloaking web-minelayers are really, really annoying.  While Crystals use the “slow approach”, gradually edging into enemy space, the Birds can provide a fast-strike capability to rear areas, in addition to web-laying of freighter routes.

The Robots:  Similar to the Crystals, the Robots wants a good, cloaking minelayer, but don’t give them one before the ship limit hits, as if they can clone them all they want, then they don’t need you.  Cloakers make good scouts, so the heavy-hitting carriers aren’t wasted on the wrong targets.  The Robots would also like a torpedo battleship to take down the shields of enemy carriers, so their Automas and Golems can clean up without taking hardly any damage.  Allying with the Robots also removes one of the biggest threats to the Birds, which is massive minefields.

The Rebels: The Rebels make a good ally because they have a really good carrier, and can use your Swifts to sneak up on planets, scout the good ones, and RGA them to soften them up.  The Rebels also benefit from having an allied battleship to soften up enemy carriers so that their Rush Carrier can easily finish it off.

Worst Enemies

The Fascists: Glory devices are a big pet peeve of the Birds, as they not only do damage but also prevent ships from re-cloaking.  The Fascists can otherwise stand toe-to-toe with Birdmen ships for the most part, and also like to attack early.  Worse, a single Glory Device ship can completely ruin a sneak-attack attempt, as the damage will put the Resolutes at 55% damage and 5 beams, giving them 1/3 of the fighter-killing ability.  I ran some sims, and 4 Resolutes with mine-hit damage against even an un-upgraded starbase don’t have enough fighter-killing power to even get into torpedo range.  Because Fascists have cloakers of their own, they can “do as you do to others”, and use cloaker tactics against you.  What you really want is for the Fascists to get killed off by someone else, or to arrange a two-vs-one, where you get help killing them off.

The Crystals & Robots:  Why you want to ally with them is partly because of how difficult they are to deal with.  If you don’t think you can ally, both of these races should be hit hard, and soon, else they will have WAY too much mine-laying capability to thwart your cloakers.  Unlike the Fascists, however, you have a lot to offer them.

Birdmen Combat Tactics

The birds should make heavy use of Cloaker Tactics, and engage in battles only of their choosing.  As Resolutes will beat pretty much any medium warship in the game, and wolfpacks of them can easily destroy even heavily-stocked starbases, they should be used to draw battleships and carriers away from your intended target.  Resolutes also have a really good range, thanks to their large fuel tanks.

Use Resolutes large tanks to re-fuel Dark Wings, to extend their attack range as well.

Carry 100 supplies on your Dark Wings.  If they happen to hit a mine, they will repair themselves and be able to re-cloak.  Resolutes can carry 275 supplies and also repair themselves completely, but this assumes you don’t want more than 5 torps on your Resolute… but if you give it good beams, it makes a really good minesweeper, and you can still capture freighters with it (use Heavy Disruptors if possible in this case).

The Birdman Fleet

Best Ships:

The Birds will mostly only ever build the following ships:

Swift Heart Class Scout:  a decently tough scout with cloaking and a long range.  Use it for scouting and to pounce on freighters.  It should be equipped with at least Blasters, as killing freighters deep in enemy territory is usually better than capturing them.  You can always Super Spy to gather fuel when needed.

Resolute Class Battlecruiser:  this ship is arguably the toughest mid-level warship in the game (tied with the Crystal’s Emerald), and it cloaks without using fuel to do so.  It has a decent cargo and fantastic range.  Though expensive, it makes up for it in flexibility – you can use this ship for mine-laying or sweeping, planet or ship killing, although its main role is to support your Dark Wings.

Dark Wing Battleship:  this ship is the 3rd best Battleship in the game (after the Annihilation and Nova), and its the only capital ship that cloaks.  Because it uses no fuel to cloak, you can even use it as a “sleeper” ship – leave it cloaked somewhere for awhile, and wait for prey or opportunity.  Unfortunately, it won’t stand up that well against carriers, and you’ll likely lose one or two against them, although the third Darkwing should finish off the carrier with little damage.  Because you want to be able to cloak, it does little good to build under-equipped Darkwings, as you cannot tow and cloak at the same time.  However, if fighting carriers, your lead Darkwing could have only X-rays for fighter-killing.

Large Deep Space Freighter:  the most useful of the freighters.  The Birds want lots of these to develop a good economy

Merlin Alchemy Ship:  especially good in lower-mineral games, this ship is always useful because of the Birds’ heavy Duranium and Molybdium requirements.

Neutronic Refinery: you’ll probably want one of these when your planets begin to run low on fuel, or when invading an area where your opponent has pulled all the fuel off his planets.  Use Tritanium to convert into fuel, as your ships use less of that mineral.

Situational Ship Choices:

White Falcon Class Cruiser:  this ship is about 3/4 the cost of a Resolute, and can be built when you can’t afford the bigger ship due to tech level.  The White Falcon has a decent range and cargo hold, and works fairly well as a mine-layer.  It is not strong enough to be a combat ship, and it’s a bit heavy as a freighter-hunter (use Swifties instead).

Deth Specula:  while only slightly cheaper than a Resolute, it has a decent beam count and an additional torpedo tube for softening up bigger targets, and acting as a decent base defender.  I still prefer building the heavier and more flexible Resolute whenever possible.

Red Wind Class Carrier:  the only reason to ever build this is to have a cloaker to ferry fighters around if you have an ally that makes fighters cheaply.

The Other Ships:

I’m really not impressed by the rest of the Birdman fleet.  Sure, you can use the other ships, but the ships above will almost always be better unless you’re using host add-ons or campaign features.

Against the Birds

The Birdmen have good torpedo ships, and the best cloakers in the game, and they are immune to Loki de-cloaking effects.  By using various cloaker tactics, they can choose when and which ships they fight, but they have to de-cloak to minesweep or lay mines.  Thus, minefields are a good defense by any race, if you suspect the Birds are coming, as it will greatly slow their advance and prevent them from using carrier-towing tactics risk-free.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, attacking the Birds early isn’t actually a bad strategy, because it not only weakens them and keeps the fight in their territory, but it keeps their focus on defense, rather than on cloaker mischief in your territory.  They also have great difficulty catching up, if you manage to inflict damage, as they don’t have any economic racial bonuses to fall back on.  However, if you start attacking the Birdmen, you’d better be prepared to completely destroy them, as even a crippled Bird can come back at you and do enough damage that another race will finish you off.  You may also need to lay defensive minefields at home, because the first thing a smart Bird player will do when attacked is send small to medium warships to destroy your freighters, and reduce your ability to continue sending ships at him.

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