Empire Creation

Setup and First Month in Solar Starfire 6.02

This tutorial works through Example Ernie creating his new Solar Starfire empire and executing its first month. Ernie's decisions are not presented as optimal, but are generally reasonable. Ernie names his race the Earthlings.

Setup of an Empire

System Layout (K2.01)

Default rules for initial empire construction are in K2. First, the home system is generated. Of particular note, it will have one habitable world that will be Benign for the Earthlings and Rich in resources. Ernie’s SM, Steve, generates and assigns the system.

Ernie’s Earthlings have fully surveyed their home system, named Sol. All habitable and survivable bodies are open for colonization and their mineral richnesses are known. The Earthlings have also found three Warp Points (WPs) in Sol that link to new systems. WPs 1, 2, and 3 link to new systems Centauri, Eridani, and Pavonis, respectively. Each of those systems has been probed but not surveyed.

Probing the new systems accomplishes two things. First, it has allowed the Earthlings to refine their data on the WPs (D5.04). Second, it has allowed them to get a rough map of major system bodies in the new systems (R1) — the number and position of stars, planets, moons, and asteroid belts are known, as are their basic types (habitable, survivable, unlivable) and planetary masses. Knowledge of planetary mass allows for some additional inference — because the Earthlings are native to a mass 3 ST world, any mass 3 habitable planet (which is determined via simple probe) will be a Benign ST environment. Mass 2 habitable planets will by type T and therefore either Harsh or Hostile, but the distinction cannot be determined without a detailed survey.

Probe data of the new systems shows a mass 3 habitable world in Centauri — an excellent colonization candidate is already known! No habitable worlds are present in Eridani or Pavonis. System probes would likely have found an NPR presence if there was one, but initially-connected systems never have NPRs (K2.02). Centauri’s world, dubbed Eden, is ripe for the picking.

Population Dispersal (K2.02)

The Earthlings have 2000 PU on their homeworld of Terra, and 100 PTU and 100 IU to place within the home system of Sol (K2.02.1). All 100 IU are placed on Terra — IU productivity is restricted by population size (L3.03), and so it makes sense to concentrate them on the primary population.

The PTU cannot be placed on Terra, and suffer a penalty to be placed on Extreme environments. Extreme environments are inefficient anyway, from an income return standpoint, and so Ernie discards that option. He places 50 PTU on a Desolate Rich planet (named Mars) and 25 PTU each on two Desolate Very Rich moons (named Phobos and Deimos). The lunar populations will generate more income, due to the additional richness, but the planet has a much larger population cap — not that any of these populations will reach their maximum value for some time.

The Earthlings also have a large array of planetary facilities available at start, all located on Terra. Because Terra currently has a Large population, the Earthlings begin with 6 (RDS) and 3 (SA) (Table N4.03), in addition to the (CAP), (QTF), and (PSF).

The Earthlings have a starting Commercial Freighter Network (CFN), but calculation of its size will be deferred, as will the design of its freighters. The empire also owns a collection of 10 shipyards (SY) in a space station orbiting Terra. The design is extremely minimalistic: (SY)×10.

Ernie’s next task is to determine his starting leaders. K2.02.4 grants three leaders (an Admiral, a General, and a Governor, named Adm, Gen, and Gov, respectively) whose traits and other rules are defined in section S. Particularly, Ernie gets to select one specialization for each leader (S1, S6). Ernie decides that Adm will have the Navigator specialization so that his fleet will have increased mobility and that Gen will have the Medic specialization to reduce his troop losses in invasion events. Selection of Gov’s specialization has the most far-reaching consequences as Gov will be on the home world with immediate impact on vital resources. Ernie settles on the Industrialist specialization, as Terra has a large enough population to operate a sizeable influx of IUs.

Racial Traits (K2.03)

If Ernie’s game was using K3’s optional rules for racial customization, this would be the appropriate place to do that work. As it is, Ernie needs only select the success status of his three racial stats. This decision only affects amalgamation with other races (T3.14.2). Ernie glances over the NPR government types in Y20 and decides that the RD-success governments are interesting, and so he sets his own stats as RD Success and RC and RM Non-success.

Starting Technologies (K2.04)

The Earthlings begin at EL 2, and all open tech trees are fully developed at SL 1 (all items at or below SL 1 researched). There are no currently-active research projects of any sort (K2.04.1). Many basic trees are open for all starting empires, including Construction (which includes a list of all hull types that are already considered to be prototyped), Life Support, Sensors, Armor, and Shields (K2.04.2).

Ernie’s first decision here is whether his Earthlings use the Inertialess (I) engine, which trades lower tactical speeds for fewer engines required, higher strategic speeds, a larger firing arc, longer weapon ranges, and smaller WP transit sizes, or the Tactical (J) engine, which has a higher tactical speed in exchange for all of the other issues noted. Both selections also provide the (Ic) commercial engine, which is low-cost and high strategic speed but otherwise a significant combat liability. Ernie elects to start with (I) engines.

Ernie also needs to choose his starting weapons. He chooses lasers (L) and missiles (R) for his SRW and LRW, respectively. They are generally compact weapons and so make early unit designs somewhat more flexible. Selecting a weapon with ammunition (missiles) also adds magazines (Mg and Mgs) to his list of available technologies.

The Pre-Game Month (K2.05)

Ernie now needs to spend his pre-game month funds to provide the initial forces for his empire. First we note the design of the space station-based shipyard that the Earthlings begin with. Ernie does not need to pay the construction costs of this unit.

Shipyard-class SS                                                                                         800 HS


Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 6400.0 / 48.0                                SL 1

50 HTK

Maintenance for the shipyard is exceptionally low relative to the cost because (SY), along with other facility-type systems, do not pay maintenance on the system cost (though the HS they are mounted in do pay maintenance). Thus, the maintenance cost is strictly based on the HS of the station. Note also that it takes multiple hits to destroy an (SY) system.

Survey Fund

Ernie has 5000 MCr available for his Survey Fund, which must go towards no more than 60 ships, all of which must be equipped with X systems.

Survey Roles

Ernie first needs to consider what missions his survey fleet needs to accomplish. From the survey rules in R, he notes the major division of WP surveys and system body surveys. WP surveys can be accomplished by any X-equipped units, but system body surveys of habitable worlds (necessary for colonization) require the participation of small craft (smcft), and effective participation by large units requires that they either carry smcft or be atmospheric-capable. Ernie decides that most of his survey units will be armed for use in military operations and (AC)-equipped for planetary surveys, with a few larger units that are smcft-equipped to head up planetary survey flotillas.

Survey Designs

Ernie first lays out his planetary surveyor. In addition to the smcft above, Ernie decides that these ships should serve as flotilla leaders, and so he elects to add a Y sensor and an LRW emplacement. To manage all of the requirements, he builds a CT hull. Commercial Ic engines help minimize costs so that the empire can afford more hulls.

Planetary Surveyor-class CT                                                                                         16 HS / 12 TS

[2] S A×2 Hs Xa (Bsa) Ya Qa (Ic) Mgs (Ic) Ra  [4/4]

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 194.2 / 29.2                                SL 1

12 HTK             S×1 A×2                 LRW×1 (34 MSP)

While Ia engines could provide the strategic movement speed of 3 needed to effectively operate the Xa survey sensor, they would have cost 60 MCr (3 engines @ 20 MCr each). The Ica engines used instead, though using slightly more hull space, cost only 4 MCr (2 engines @ 2 MCr each). As this design is not intended to be a front-line warship, the trade-off is reasonable. The ship also gains an extra smcft in the form of the complimentary captain’s gig, which is included with every ship of at least 16 HS.

WP Surveyor-class ES                                    (AC)                                         10 HS / 7 TS

[2] S Xa Qa La+ (iIc)  [4/4]

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 117.5 / 17.7                                SL 1

6 HTK               S×1                         SRW×1

The WP Surveyor is equipped with Ic engines for the same reason as the Planetary Surveyor above. In this case, the ship mounts a forward-arc laser cannon instead of a missile launcher. Lasers (as with all beam weapons) are normally turret-mounted, but because the laser is so large relative to the hull, it must be arc-mounted in this case. No smcft bay is present, and the ship is too small for a captain’s gig, so the design instead uses (AC) to make it an effective planetary surveyor. Additionally, this design is below the maximum hull size for its class (12 HS). The ship size was reduced in the process of determining survey fund purchases below; the exact tradeoff options are not shown here.

Baby Surveyor-class FT0                                               (AC)                                         5 HS / 4 TS

[2] H Xa Qa (Ic)  [4/4]

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 58.8 / 8.9                                     SL 1


Finally, Ernie constructs a minimalist survey craft – practically the cheapest that can be built. While his survey roles don’t explicitly call for such a vessel, it may be useful to help use up as much of the Survey Fund as possible, as no refunds or credits are issued for unspent pre-game month funds.

Survey Fund Expenditure

As before, the Survey Fund is 5000 MCr, with a limit of 60 hulls. With 3 new systems available at the start of the game, Ernie elects to build his fleet as close to multiples of 3 as possible. He starts with 3 Planetary Surveyor vessels, one per survey flotilla, and then sees how many WP Surveyors he can afford:

Ernie is easily under the 60 hull maximum, and with 69.9 MCr remaining, he can add one Baby Surveyor to his purchases. However, the numbers don’t quite break in groups of 3 – there is one spare WP Surveyor, plus the Baby Surveyor. Since two Baby Surveyors are nearly identical in cost to one WP Surveyor, Ernie replaces the spare WP Surveyor as follows:

This is Ernie’s build for the Survey Fund, creating three flotillas identically composed of a Planetary Surveyor, 12 WP Surveyors, and a Baby Surveyor.

As an alternative means of spending the Survey Fund, Ernie could have elected to pursue a build plan that maximized his hulls for more surveying throughput. In that case, Ernie could have built three identical 20-ship flotillas of one Planetary Surveyor, six WP Surveyors, and 13 Baby Surveyors, again spending about 4990 MCr of the available 5000.

Battle Fund

Ernie has a 5000 MCr Battle Fund to provide the basis of his military. Ships purchased from this fund must not have X systems, must be armed, and must be no smaller than ES. Bases and small craft can also be purchased (and small craft provide an exception to “must be armed”).

Battle Roles

Ernie elects to develop a large LRW unit, a smaller SRW unit, and a very small system patrol craft whose maintenance can be subsidized by planetary populations.

Battle Designs

First up is an LRW design built into the largest hull available, a DD:

LRW-class DD                                                                                  30 HS / 30 TS

[3] S×2 A×3 Hs Qa (I) (I) Mgs (I) Qa Ya (I) Ra×3 (I) Ra  [5/2]

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 432.0 / 64.8                                    SL 1

19 HTK             S×2 A×3                 LRW×4 (64 MSP)

Enough engines are present to attain max speed, 17% of the hull is given to passive defenses, and a relatively shallow magazine (16 salvoes per weapon, vs 25 per weapon if an Mg were mounted) accepted in order to incorporate a hold for long-range independent cruising (plus an additional HTK). A combat sensor is important to get full use of the LRW range. Passive defenses are tilted towards armor for economy.

SRW-class CT                                                                                   16 HS / 16 TS

[2] S A×3 Qa (I) (I) La (I) La  [6/3]

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 201.2 / 30.2                                SL 1

10 HTK             S×1 A×2                 SRW×2

Ernie builds his SRW design on the largest hull with a speed advantage over his LRW ship – a CT. 25% of the hull is given to passive defenses, though admittedly that sort of analysis breaks down at sub-DD ships; there is simply not enough hull space to be choosy about allocations.

SDF Patrol-class ES                                                                                         9 HS / 9 TS

[2] A×2 Qa (I) La+ (I)  [6/3]

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 115.7 / 17.4                                SL 1

6 HTK               A×2                         SRW×1

Ernie’s final Battle Fund design is this SRW-armed ES. As it is at least three hull types smaller than the largest-fielded vessel (ES, CT, FG, DD), its maintenance costs can be covered by the System Defense Fund of systems with large populations like Terra’s. Ernie is not certain that he needs any of these ships, but they may be useful to fill out the 5000 MCr he can spend on warships. It bears noting that the SRW-class CTs above will become eligible for the SDF maintenance rebate as soon as the Earthlings’ first CL is fielded – the utility of a warship this small, on the basis of maintenance payments, has a definite expiration date.

Battle Fund Expenditure

When spending his Battle Fund, Ernie elects to go heavy on his LRW ships, reasoning that he has nearly 40 SRW-armed vessels in his survey flotillas. His final build plan ignores the SDF Patrol ES entirely, and he commits the residual funds to three shuttles that will be assigned to his Planetary Survey craft from the Survey Fund, plus two additional shuttles for later assignment:

Other Fund

Finally, Ernie has a 2000 MCr “Other Fund” with few restrictions on its usage – primarily, it cannot be used to substantially circumvent the limits on X-equipped ships from the Survey Fund. While the Other Fund can build X-equipped ships, they must be no smaller than DD (much larger than anything Ernie actually built out of the Survey Fund). The rules recommend that at least some of this fund go towards freighters to be leased to the CFN, a means of increasing income.

Other Roles

The Other Fund is a catch-all for miscellaneous usage. Ernie will purchase some freighters for leasing to the CFN (and will re-use that design for CFN-owned freighters), some shuttles for his survey craft, some basic defense modules for his shipyard, some bases to picket the WPs in Sol, a tug for moving infrastructure, and a small PDC as a starting defensive presence on Terra. The bulk of the money will go to freighters as a way of boosting imperial income.

Other Designs


First, Ernie lays out some CFN freighter designs. Larger freighters are generally more efficient (they devote proportionally less of their internal space to non-cargo systems), and so are preferable for imperial construction. The largest freighter hull that Ernie can construct in the pre-game month is an FT4, so that is the basis for his designs. Steve may require Ernie to submit CFN designs for smaller freighters at some point, even if the Earthlings never build any imperial freighters at those sizes.

There are two major types of cargo that freighters carry: bulk goods, which are shipped in holds (H), and personnel, which is shipped in cryo quarters (Qv). Also important are cargo bays (Hb), which are used to load and unload cargo of either type. CFN-eligible designs must use as many Hb as the hull is able to mount. Ernie lays out a freighter optimized for each type:

CFN-H-class FT4                                              (AC)                                         30 HS / 21 TS

[2] Hb H×20 (Ic) (Ic) Qa (Ic) (Ic)  [4/4]

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 157.5 / 11.9                                SL 1

13 HTK


CFN-Qv-class FT4                                           (AC)                                         30 HS / 21 TS

[2] Hb Qv×19 Qa (Ic) (Ic) Qa (Ic) (Ic)  [4/4]                                                                                               

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 252.0 / 18.9                                    SL 1

13 HTK                                                                                            

The Qv freighter has fewer Qv than the H freighter has H. This is because H is one of a few exception systems that does not require life support, and so only one Qa system is needed on that freighter; the Qv freighter requires 2 Qa systems to provide life support throughout the ship. With other core ship design features identical, this reduces the space available to the Qv freighter by 1 HS (the size of the second Qa). Ernie then considers: what about a mixed freighter that carries some H and some Qv but only requires 1 Qa system?

CFN-Mixed-class FT4                                      (AC)                                         30 HS / 21 TS

[2] Hb H×14 Qv×6 (Ic) (Ic) Qa (Ic) (Ic)  [4/4]

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 184.5 / 13.9                                SL 1

13 HTK

Starfire empires have much less Qv capacity in their CFNs than they do H capacity. As such, Ernie decides that his imperial freighters will emphasize Qv capacity, and so he will only construct freighters of the CFN-Qv and CFN-Mixed classes (though the CFN-H class will be present in his CFN).

Ernie also examines the lease income of his designs. Imperial freighters can be leased to the CFN, which pays 1 MCr/month per H and 1.6 MCr/month per Qv, though the empire must still pay the maintenance of the ships. Ernie shows the following rates of return for his designs:

Of note are the “Net” and “% Return” columns. “Net” is the net income provided by a freighter after maintenance is paid, and “% Return” is the percentage of the hull cost that the net income represents. This ROI should be compared not only within freighter classes but also against the default 2% of unspent treasury and the roughly 3% return on IUs. However, the cost of a freighter cannot be converted back into MCr as readily as the cost of an IU. In particular, the CFN-Qv, which requires the additional life support system, provides less return on investment than the single-Qa CFN-H and CFN-Mixed designs.

Space Station Module

The Earthlings’ shipyard is in a space station core module orbiting Terra. SS core modules may not mount military equipment, which makes them highly vulnerable to attack. However, SS cores may attach up to 6 SS outer modules (one on each facing) that may mount military systems, are automatically datalinked together, and can be expanded after initial construction out to 1000 HS each. At minimum, to cover attacks from all directions, two outer modules are required (and must be mounted on opposite facings). Ernie decides to equip his shipyard with some very basic shields and armor.

SS Defense-class SS                                                                                        4 HS

S A×2 Qa

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 30.0 / 0.6                                        SL 1

4 HTK               S×1 A×2

WP Picket Base

Ernie wants a permanent outpost at each of the WPs in Sol as a precursor to an eventual system of fortifications. In Starfire, non-mobile units are always cheaper (both in initial costs and in ongoing maintenance) than similar mobile units. Space stations aren’t an option, as they must orbit the nearest significant gravitational body (moon, planet, star) and so cannot hold position on a fixed non-orbiting position like a WP. Asteroid forts are also low-maintenance, but are more difficult to work with. Ernie elects to build bases. During the pre-game month, his empire can build BS0 – BS2-class bases, but the small BS0 bases are sufficient for now.

WP Picket-class BS0                                                                                       7 HS

S H (4) Qa

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 41.5 / 2.1                                     SL 1

4 HTK               S×1

Two pieces of the design are particularly noteworthy. First, the shield prevents an intruder from immediately scanning the base and determining its threat level (which is, in this case, absolutely zero). Second, the base has four empty HS in the midsection (the “(4)” in the component string). This is done with an eye towards eventual development of the (CC) cross-WP communication system, which uses 4 HS and is a lynchpin of eventual lightspeed communications throughout the empire. A hold is present in the design, though the capability for maintenance storage is not really essential. That system could be swapped with a Y sensor, a (Bs) shuttle bay, or perhaps expanded into a weapons emplacement.

Also, as bases are not mobile, Ernie’s empire will need some way to move them from the shipyard to their destinations.


Immobile units are moved via tugs, which are units equipped with tractor beams and, frequently, additional engines to increase their effective power. Basic infrastructure-hauling tugs can be built on freighter hulls rather than military hulls, minimizing their ongoing costs to the empire. Ernie decides on an FT2-based tug as an appropriate balance of up-front cost and long-term utility.

Cheap Tug-class FT2                                      (AC)                                         16 HS / 12 TS

[2] H (Ic) (Ic#3) Qa Ta (Ic)  [4/4]

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 92.3 / 7.0                                        SL 1


This design has an effective HS of 46 for tug speed purposes (16 actual HS plus 10 HS each for the three engines in the tug engine room). The single Ta tractor beam means that the tug can haul only up to 50 HS at a time; combined with the effective HS of the tug, this means that the strategic speed of the tug under load will never drop below 3. This ship could be upgraded to a Tb tractor beam, which would double its tug capacity to 100 HS while still maintaining the speed under max load.

Also worth noting is the H at the front of the unit. The Qa system only provides 15 HS of life support (its exception for CT hulls does not apply to the CT-sized FT2 hull), and so one HS of the tug must be of a type that does not require life support. The tug could instead be built smaller, but tugs benefit from being as large as possible to protect their maximum towing speed.

Home Defense PDC

A planetary defense center, or PDC, is a ground-based facility that can fire into space and also help defend a planet during a ground invasion. Like SS modules, they can be renovated and expanded piecewise, so new construction can be deliberately limited with an eye towards future improvements as resources permit. Ernie decides to construct a basic LRW platform.

Home Defense-class PDC                                                                                              16 HS

A×6 Mg Ya Ra×2

Trg: 1                Def: 0                      Cost: 150.0 / 4.5                                      SL 0

10 HTK             A×6                         LRW×2 (80 MSP)

It’s worth noting here that immobile units (bases, asteroid forts, space stations, and PDCs) gain range bonuses to their LRWs, plus corresponding bonuses to their Combat sensor range. PDCs have the largest such bonuses at 7 tH, so this PDC will be able to fire out to 24 tH instead of a shipboard Ra’s range of 17 tH.

Other Fund Expenditure

Ernie first notes his non-freighter purchases, and then fills in freighter purchases around those to maximize the use of the Other Fund’s 2000 MCr. Ernie will buy one PDC, two SS defense modules, three Picket bases, and one Tug. These purchases come to 427 MCr. With the remainder, Ernie can afford one of three freighter mixes: six CFN-Qv freighters, eight CFN-Mixed freighters, or a half-and-half of four CFN-Qvs and three CFN-Mixeds. The pure CFN-Qv option spends the most of the Other Fund but provides the least income; the pure CFN-Mixed option spends the least and provides the most income. Boosting the Qv capacity of the CFN for colonization purposes is also a consideration, though, and so Ernie elects the middle ground (in fact, there is another option – one CFN-Qv and seven CFN-Mixeds, which is the combination with the highest lease income – but Ernie still wants more Qv in his CFN pool than that solution provides). With 12 MCr remaining, he spends the residual money on two gigs – Ernie has no plans for them, but they pay no maintenance and the funds would otherwise be lost. The final expenditures follow:

Records and Forms

Ernie needs to maintain the state of his empire, as laid out in rule K5. Examples of many of these records and reports will be shown below in the First Month summary.

Final Setup

With all of the pre-month spending completed, Ernie needs to disposition his units. He divides his Survey Fund into three equal survey flotillas (Survey 1, Survey 2, and Survey 3), as discussed above, and places a shuttle from the Battle Fund in each Planetary Surveyor CT. Each flotilla deploys at one of the three WPs in Sol, ready to transit into the new systems. Survey 1 is at the Centauri WP, Survey 2 at the Eridani WP, and Survey 3 at the Pavonis WP.

With a heavily-armed survey fleet, Ernie decides that he can mothball the majority of his Battle Fund ships. He keeps four LRW DDs in commission, designated First Fleet and under the command of his Admiral, deployed within 30 tH of Terra. The remaining six LRW DDs and all three SRW CTs are mothballed in space at his shipyard.

To disposition his Other Fund, Ernie places his PDC on Hexside 1 of Terra (numbering is arbitrary here) with his General in command, and locates all of his ground facilities – (SA), (RDS), (CAP), (QTF), and (PSF) in the same hexside. The SS Defense modules are placed on the shipyard SS on Hexsides 1 and 4, and the Cheap Tug is stationed at the shipyard. One WP Picket BS0 is placed at each WP, 3 tH starward of the WP hex. The freighters are leased to the CFN and so their precise location is not tracked. The extra gigs and shuttles (2 of each) are crated at the shipyard. The populations of Mars, Phobos, and Deimos are all on Hexside 1 of their respective worlds.

Ernie's initial astrogation chart is attached below, as are his unit designs.

Next: Month 1