Planning to Plan in StarCraft: the Board Game
By William Shick
If there is one phase that defines StarCraft: The Board Game it is the Planning Phase. Whether you are a veteran or a newcomer at some point you’ve found yourself shaking an angry fist at the heavens (or in my gaming group’s case, at your opponents) cursing that mobilize order you just turned over on your planet, leaving your glorious invasion forces stuck on extended leave rather then smashing your enemies PDF forces to bits. To achieve victory it is imperative to understand how and when to place your orders.
StarCraft is a game of galactic conquest, so it is only right that we begin with the offensive tactics of the order stack. When the game begins there will be lots of uninhabited planets ripe for the picking, and later game success hinges on quick control of those free resources. Therefore it is essential to have a solid invasion protocol. The best formula for fast invasion breaks down into three orders. First place a build order on the planet you plan to invade. Next place a mobilize order on the planet you want to invade! I can’t stress that point enough, too often have the best-laid plans been for naught because the player placed the order on the invasion force’s home planet. If this happens all it will do is let the forces shuffle around at home, instead of smiting your enemies. Finally, place a build order on the invasion force’s home world. When it comes time to activate your orders simply activate them in reverse.
During your first build you want to make sure of a few things. First make sure you have a transport that leads to the target planet. If not, build one immediately! Then you can think about bolstering your forces by building units, but be sure to leave enough resources to construct a base later on. Once that is done you can move on to your invasion by activating your mobilize order. The best targets are Conquest Point zones or high unit capacity zones. If you are invading an empty planet take both zones if your forces are large enough, but beware of spreading yourself out too thin, especially if your opponent has placed orders on that planet too. Finally you should activate your build order and construct a base, making the once uninhabited world yours! This step is very important because the base allows you to control all friendly or empty zones.
By knowing when and how to place orders, conquest becomes a simple process. Unfortunately, there are always people who are trying to take things that are rightfully yours. Luckily, by cleverly using the order stack, you can cause them no end of problems for their unwillingness to bow before the rightful galactic ruler!
The order stack benefits the defender in several crucial ways. Most importantly, since the attacker must place his order on the target planet, it provides a warning of an imminent invasion. In this case there are several moves you can make. One is to save a build order and place it as close to the top of the stack as you can. This way, not only can you obstruct your opponent’s order, hoping to either bleed him dry with an invasion of your own (the best defense is a good offense) or, even better, having someone else do it for you! Also, once you activate your build, you can use it to bolster your defense units, lessening the chances of being overwhelmed by a superior force. Finally, it must be noted that throwing an order onto your opponent’s planet can force them to completely readjust their initial plans or risk being caught unprepared for a counter-invasion. This works whether you actually invade or not, as it forces your opponent to react to you. Bluffs are a powerful tool at your disposal, and thanks to the secret nature of the order stack, players must continually weigh real threats versus perceived threats.
Conquering planets and effectively defending them is great, but the order stack can provide one more powerful tool — the ability to "run the clock". The event deck is basically a timer, and when Stage Three event cards appear you can be sure that the game won’t last much longer. Thanks to each faction’s special objective, a player who is behind on conquest points can still win by meeting their faction’s special objective in Stage Three. Since the drawing of event cards can either speed or slow the "end game" using the order stacks to influence the speed of the game in order to achieve the objective becomes the greatest weapon at a player’s disposal. Remember that orders may be forfeited in order to draw event cards, so a player could conceivably draw four cards by passing his entire turn. However, by obstructing other players' orders you can also force them to draw event cards as well. This strategy is best used mid to late game, and can catch the other players unaware, especially if the event deck has been moving at a rather consistent pace. Watching in horror as the three turns you expected to have disappear in a flurry of event card drawing, granting victory to the player who has been pummeled all game is an eye opening experience indicative of good strategy.
Hopefully this article has introduced some new and helpful strategies as you compete to rule the galaxy. So go forth and plan your dominion!