Author Topic: The Strategic Merits of Zenith Traders  (Read 1663 times)

Offline Jotto

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The Strategic Merits of Zenith Traders
« on: January 27, 2016, 01:58:51 PM »
The Zenith traders offer some pretty cool toys, and I used to enjoy building them on my home planet.  But lately I've been reconsidering them.  All that metal could have been used to build mercenary ships, which I can use for defending my home planet (or any planet), and then in the end-game I can use them to make taking the AI home planets easier.  I wonder if traders might be better for players who don't invest much knowledge in defense, whereas I already invest lots there.

And on the other hand, the AI will use the traders to build their own devices.

But I would like the input of other players, as there could be some interesting strategies that I've missed.
I came to prefer 120 planet maps, alt champ, no automatic AIP or astro trains, and hybrids enabled.

Offline Elestan

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Re: The Strategic Merits of Zenith Traders
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2016, 03:20:38 PM »
Well, the ZPG is worth it in almost any game.  Other than that, I think the most useful one is the BHG, which allows you to block transit through a system even if it has several badly-positioned wormholes, something that is fairly hard to do otherwise.

Offline Jotto

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Re: The Strategic Merits of Zenith Traders
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2016, 12:42:19 AM »
Well, the ZPG is worth it in almost any game.  Other than that, I think the most useful one is the BHG, which allows you to block transit through a system even if it has several badly-positioned wormholes, something that is fairly hard to do otherwise.

I've always found enough capturable ZPGs.  Although building my own ZPG could save me 20 AIP...but then I often needed something to extend my planetary network's reach anyway.  I suppose it will depend on the map.

Hmm.  Perhaps I'll keep zenith traders enabled for now.  Still not completely certain that the benefit is commensurate.  Things die quickly on my home planet and it's not clear to me that taking the time to build a black hole machine is worth the metal.  But I remain interested in what other players say on the matter.

On the other side of the analysis: does anyone have any horror stories of trader structures that the AI built?
I came to prefer 120 planet maps, alt champ, no automatic AIP or astro trains, and hybrids enabled.

Offline Toranth

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Re: The Strategic Merits of Zenith Traders
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2016, 01:09:52 AM »
ZPGs are always worth it.  Saving 20 AIP is big, and saving yourself the headache of needing to protect the randomly placed ZPG from CPAs and Exowaves is huge.  Plus, you can capture the second one anyway, and build MOAR TURRETS.
Mass Drivers are fairly cheap and are the quickest way to deal with enemy Starships.  I always build one on my HW if I can.
The Radar Jammer II and the Armor Suppressor are big-Big-BIG if you are trying to build a serious defensive stronghold out of a system.
Ion Cannons are never worth it.

But, yes, the Zenith Traitor can easily give the AI tools, too.  The most annoying instance I can remember was one game when it sold a Black Hole Generator to the AI in a system that my entire fleet was using to return to my homeworld through, so I could defend against a wave.  The wave came, but the fleet hadn't arrived... and still didn't arrive... and my turrets were down and WHERE was my fleet?!  Three systems away, trapped in an AIP-free BHG.

And, of course, the badly timed OS Raid Engines, or poorly placed Superfortresses, or an extra FF Mk V over the AI Command Station, that can ruin a day.

Offline Elestan

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Re: The Strategic Merits of Zenith Traders
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2016, 04:09:55 AM »
Hmm.  Perhaps I'll keep zenith traders enabled for now.  Still not completely certain that the benefit is commensurate.  Things die quickly on my home planet and it's not clear to me that taking the time to build a black hole machine is worth the metal.
Well, you wouldn't build the BHG on your homeworld; you use it to blockade some strategic crossroads to keep the AI out of an area.

Offline Jotto

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Re: The Strategic Merits of Zenith Traders
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2016, 04:29:28 AM »
ZPGs are always worth it.  Saving 20 AIP is big, and saving yourself the headache of needing to protect the randomly placed ZPG from CPAs and Exowaves is huge.  Plus, you can capture the second one anyway, and build MOAR TURRETS.
Mass Drivers are fairly cheap and are the quickest way to deal with enemy Starships.  I always build one on my HW if I can.
The Radar Jammer II and the Armor Suppressor are big-Big-BIG if you are trying to build a serious defensive stronghold out of a system.
Ion Cannons are never worth it.

But, yes, the Zenith Traitor can easily give the AI tools, too.  The most annoying instance I can remember was one game when it sold a Black Hole Generator to the AI in a system that my entire fleet was using to return to my homeworld through, so I could defend against a wave.  The wave came, but the fleet hadn't arrived... and still didn't arrive... and my turrets were down and WHERE was my fleet?!  Three systems away, trapped in an AIP-free BHG.

And, of course, the badly timed OS Raid Engines, or poorly placed Superfortresses, or an extra FF Mk V over the AI Command Station, that can ruin a day.

That's certainly true.  In fact, I could just do this: when the trader comes by, start building whatever I might ever want regardless of metal, and then immediately pause construction.  Then resume building what turns out to be necessary, making a don't-build-decision easily undoable.

Hmm.  Perhaps I'll keep zenith traders enabled for now.  Still not completely certain that the benefit is commensurate.  Things die quickly on my home planet and it's not clear to me that taking the time to build a black hole machine is worth the metal.
Well, you wouldn't build the BHG on your homeworld; you use it to blockade some strategic crossroads to keep the AI out of an area.

I can see this being useful in some situations, but is this still useful with the following conditions?
1. Map has "realistic" wormholes, which makes blockades less feasible
2. Player never captures more than 25 planets, even on 120 planet maps, which need to be spread out in order to reach the two AI homeworlds and grab whatever capturables are needed.  This makes something like a chokepoint even less likely to be useful.  It's not that I need to build a wall to protect land that is mine  - both sides of the wall are enemy territory, and my kingdom consists of just some scattered strongholds.

But you're right, it probably wouldn't go on the home world.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2016, 04:56:42 AM by Jotto »
I came to prefer 120 planet maps, alt champ, no automatic AIP or astro trains, and hybrids enabled.

Offline Elestan

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Re: The Strategic Merits of Zenith Traders
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2016, 07:21:27 AM »
I could just do this: when the trader comes by, start building whatever I might ever want regardless of metal, and then immediately pause construction.  Then resume building what turns out to be necessary, making a don't-build-decision easily undoable.

Indeed.  That's exactly what I do...though it kind of feels like a cheat to just speculatively "buy" the toys.  I think the Trader should demand a 10% down payment to discourage such speculation.

Well, you wouldn't build the BHG on your homeworld; you use it to blockade some strategic crossroads to keep the AI out of an area.
Quote from: Jotto
I can see this being useful in some situations, but is this still useful with the following conditions?
(snip)

Well, if you don't have a use for making chokepoints, then no, the BHG is probably not that useful for you.  But in a lot of games, making chokepoints can be pretty important.

Offline Kahuna

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Re: The Strategic Merits of Zenith Traders
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2016, 07:52:24 AM »
The Zenith traders offer some pretty cool toys, and I used to enjoy building them on my home planet.  But lately I've been reconsidering them.  All that metal could have been used to build mercenary ships, which I can use for defending my home planet (or any planet), and then in the end-game I can use them to make taking the AI home planets easier.  I wonder if traders might be better for players who don't invest much knowledge in defense, whereas I already invest lots there.

And on the other hand, the AI will use the traders to build their own devices.

But I would like the input of other players, as there could be some interesting strategies that I've missed.
In my opinion Mercenary ships aren't worth the price. They're very expensive and very likely to be destroyed so there goes that metal investment. Traders' toys on the other hand will last for the entire game if you place and defend them correctly. And they're very powerful. Traders' toys are good regardless of the amount of knowledge you have invested in defenses.

Black Hole Machines are for threat control and for controlling the AI's movement. To prevent the AI ships from fleeing when they get outgunned by your defenses. And to not have to build your defenses on top of a friendly wormhole (to defend that friendly planet). So if a planet has a lot of wormholes to defend then building a Black Hole Machine can be an excellent idea. Perhaps even a must.

If you have invested a lot of knowledge into turrets you're probably gonna wanna get a Zenith Power Generator or two since turrets use a lot of energy.

Mark I Radar Jammers are usually a waste of metal (unless you have Mark IV sniper and spider turrets) but Mark IIs are very powerful. They double the effectiveness of Gravitational Turrets and allow for easier kiting with fleet ships and riot control starships.

Armour boosters basically double the health of your force fields.

Mass Drivers are fairly cheap and are the quickest way to deal with enemy Starships.  I always build one on my HW if I can.
The Radar Jammer II and the Armor Suppressor are big-Big-BIG if you are trying to build a serious defensive stronghold out of a system.
Ion Cannons are never worth it.
I'd like to add that Mass Drivers are very effective vs AI Carriers. That's because of the way Carriers work. They're basically big ass ships (starships) that have as much health as all the ships inside combined. Try it and watch how the OMDs rip the Carriers to pieces hundreds of ships at a time.
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Offline Jotto

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Re: The Strategic Merits of Zenith Traders
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2016, 03:28:22 AM »
Well, if you don't have a use for making chokepoints, then no, the BHG is probably not that useful for you.  But in a lot of games, making chokepoints can be pretty important.
I see.  Makes sense.

I'd like to add that Mass Drivers are very effective vs AI Carriers. That's because of the way Carriers work. They're basically big ass ships (starships) that have as much health as all the ships inside combined. Try it and watch how the OMDs rip the Carriers to pieces hundreds of ships at a time.
That's definitely something to consider.


I will keep using traders.
I came to prefer 120 planet maps, alt champ, no automatic AIP or astro trains, and hybrids enabled.

Offline tadrinth

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Re: The Strategic Merits of Zenith Traders
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2016, 03:24:45 PM »
I built a black hole machine on my homeworld last campaign, and am working on one for my homeworld in my current campaign.

I would rather have waves stay and die then turn around and leave and turn into threat that doesn't give salvage.

It also makes GravIII turrets vastly more effective.  I liberally coat the mine trail with GravIIIs, and if there's no black hole machine they just turn around and flee before ever getting to my turrets.