Colonies are the bread and butter of empire management. Each planet can support one colony, and with most systems having between one and three planets, competition for prime spots is fierce. If an empire loses all of its colonies, they are eliminated from the game.
A colony is the basic unit of your empire and managing them properly is crucial to victory. Colonies generate resources such as research points to unlock new technologies, income to fund the expansion of your empire, command points to maintain fleets and so on and so forth. The types of resources generated can be roughly divided into two categories:
- Global: Research points, command points, and credits. All three are pooled globally and affect, respectively, the research rate, total space navy size (command points determine how many ships can be supported without cutting into the treasury), and the size of the treasury.
- Local: Production, food, and defense. These determine, respectively, how fast items are built, the population growth rate and size, and the difficulty of invading a given planet.
Of these, generating research, production, and food requires assigning population (workers) to production tiles.
The inhabitants of your colony and the laborers who toil for your success make up the population. They are assigned to tiles for producing either of the three resources mentioned above (starting with the most productive), and are the backbone of the empire. The population requires food to grow and sustain itself (every unit of population consumes one unit of food per turn).
The effectiveness of the population is determined by morale. As it drops, more and more workers will go on strike, denying the use of a population unit. These can be shuffled around to ensure productivity in critical areas, but a much better solution is to simply ensure the morale never drops that low.
Another important feature of population is the fact that they generate income, determined by the tax rate and any applicable modifiers (such as those from the planetary stock exchange).
- The primary objective is maxing out the population as soon as possible. More population means more income and more production, which translates to the ability to effectively challenge other players and keep up with them.
- A secondary objective is profiling the colony. This is largely determined by its position and planet features. Huge planets (which should be settled first, even if their biomes are unfavorable) are good candidates all around, due to the number of tiles and total population they can support. However, they are not all born equal. A huge planet with a low mineral richness will thrive as a research world and lag behind as a production one. On the other hand, a rich or ultra-rich huge world is a phenomenal factory, especially if it possesses a moon (allowing for the construction of an orbital shipyard and a 20% cut to production costs).
- Finally, consider shuttling a number of colonists onto fresh colonies using civil transports. The worlds that provide the colonists will quickly grow back to the original size, while the new colony will receive a major boost in its ability to grow.
- While defensive emplacements aren't cheap, they can be the difference between life and death for a planet. In particular, a star base is a formidable opponent that all but guarantees the safety of the homeworld early on and helps slow down the enemies later. The command points it provides are a great bonus as well.