Sitting just below empire management, system management concerns itself with strategic expansion and goals on a solar system level. While not giving results immediately, as is often the case with colony management, picking the right strategy for each system is essential to long-term success.
Not every system is born equal out of the Big Bang and not every single one will be equally useful. Systems can be roughly divided into several categories:
- Core systems that contain the largest and most productive planets that produce the bulk of an empire's research, fleets, and income.
- Border systems that connect to other empires or simply to the rest of the galaxy, with colonies.
- Corridor systems that serve merely as transportation to other systems, with or without any major astronomical features.
The types aren't exact and every system will usually have features that classify it into several categories. The classification is also affected by the chosen strategy, however, several common trends can be identified:
- The position of a system is a critical issue. Systems with few entry points are natural choke points and strongholds, particularly when they have rich planets with advantageous biomes. On the other hand, limited entry points make it easy to box a sector of the galaxy in and even cleave entire empires in two! Even something as simple as a military outpost set up at a choke point is enough to severely damage an empire's growth prospects.
- The number of planets and their biomes will determine the value of colonization. Naturally, B and C class planets, particularly with a high mineral richness, are top priority candidates and usually should be targeted for inclusion as a core system. Of course, the position is a caveat - a far-flung colony with a well developed infrastructure is a tasty morsel and can be easily targeted, unless ruthlessly fortified and heavily militarized.
- Which brings up infrastructure. Consisting of both space structures and planetside structures, these costly upgrades should be tailored towards the type of the system you're establishing. A border system would benefit from military outposts and plenty of planetary defenses, with research and economic infrastructure having a secondary priority (to reduce the enemy advantage should it fall), while core systems should focus first on production and research, with military production second (the exception is maintaining up-to-date fleets).
In general, when selecting a focus for systems, think how it will be ten, twenty, fifty turns down the road. A huge, rich, but radiated planet, for example, will provide a huge payoff down the road, but will be mostly unproductive early on. Conversely, a small terran planet will easily support a population, but its long-term prospects are limited.
Of course, remember that the interplanetary administration is a game changer and a system with multiple planets increases in value exponentially.
Part of system management is also setting down war goals for the inevitable conflict. It is essentially a mirror of your colonization policy, focused on answering not "how will it benefit the empire?" but how it will harm the enemy. A good rule of thumb is to focus on:
- Destroying command points: Destroying or occupying a planet with the enemy race's capitol can have a devastating effect early on, as it removes both the star base and the capital, resulting in a loss of 20 command points, on top of losing production, research, and income. For this reason, wiping out star bases even without conquering planets is a good idea.
- Destroying production: Self-explanatory. Large and mineral-rich planets should be wiped out first, to prevent enemy fleets from popping up right under your nose.
- Destroying commerce: As the good book says, money makes the world go round. And even if it doesn't say so, ruining the income of the enemy empire makes it impossible for them to hurry ship construction and if their fleets exceed command points, hastening their demise.