PHost - PHost Rules
This document provides a high-level description of the game rules as implemented by PHost. It contains links to the more detailed descriptions. If you are new to the game, you should read this.
Inevitable technical warning ahead: The things you can do also depend on the client program you use. Some will let you define multi-hop waypoints in advance. Some will automatically choose the right taxes or randomize friendly codes. Some include a report generator or a printable map.... All client programs should allow you to give all orders described here, although the presentation will differ.
VGA Planets is a space-combat strategy game. You start with a small empire in a star cluster, together with up to ten other players. Your objective is to enlarge your empire, conquer the other empires, and ultimately rule the galaxy.
You will start by building up an economy, and by exploring the galaxy. Newly-colonized planets give you room to improve your economy - which you will later use to support your demand for warships. And you will use those to make your neighbours' life hard.
You will play one of 11 different peoples, with unique abilities and a unique set of ships.
VGA Planets is a turn-based game. This means all players can do their turn without hurry on their own computer. Unlike in a real-time game, it doesn't matter how fast you play. Usually, there are several days, or even weeks, between turns. Everything that counts is your strategy, not the speed of your "fire" button.
You usually play against humans, which makes every game new and challenging. You don't play the same game over and over, but now in "hard" instead of "medium" skill, you don't play against the same computer again and again which always escorts freighters with a scout.
VGA Planets is a very flexible game, especially with PHost as the host program. It can be tuned to emphasize different aspects of the game - economy, war, equality of starting conditions, diplomacy, etc. Your actual objectives can differ, there can be different missions than just "capture everyone else". This depends on the person who sets up the game.
Planets is easy to learn and hard to master.
The game universe is either a flat plane with vast space outside the area populated with planets, or a wraparound map where the north and south borders are joined together, as well as the east an west borders. Coordinates are measured in light-years (ly). X coordinates increase from west (left) to east (right), Y coordinates increase from south (bottom) to north (top). Coordinates usually range from 1000 to 3000. Directions are specified in degrees, where 0° is north, 90° is east, 180° is south, and 270° is west. You do not have to compute directions yourself, but you'll get degree values when scanning ships or Ufos. See AllowWraparoundMap, WraparoundRectangle.
Usually, you see the positions of all planets in the universe. Foreign ships can be located only when they're close enough; ships which orbit a distant planet (that is, they are at the same position as the planet) can't be seen at all. To get information about distant planets, to find minefields and wormholes, you have to use the Sensor Sweep mission. See SensorRange, ScanRange, MineScanRange, etc.
Speeds are specified as warp factors. The distance covered each turn is the square of the warp factor (i.e. Warp 8 means 64 ly per turn). Players have access to warp factors 0 to 9, that is up to 81 ly per turn (162 ly with gravitonic accelerator). Objects like Ufos may move faster.
There are four minerals. Their quantities are, like all masses, measured in kilotons (kt).
The currency unit in Planets is the Megacredit (mc). An additional resource, Supplies, is needed for various tasks. Supplies are also measured in kilotons. On planets, you can sell supplies to the population, at a price of 1 mc per kiloton. You cannot buy supplies, though.
Populations are usually counted in clans where one clan is 100 people and their belongings. One clan weighs one kiloton.
Every object has an Id number which identifies that object: at any given time, there can be only one "ship #127". Numbers are allocated separately for each type, so there will also be a "planet #127" and a "minefield #127". These numbers are required at several places. For example, the Transfer Credits to Ship mission needs the Id number of the target ship as a parameter.
VGA Planets is a client/server game. The part which you as a player will most likely talk to is the client program. There are quite a number of clients available. See also the relevant glossary entry. The server program is often called host in the VGAP universe.
The client program displays your empire graphically, and lets you enter your moves. For example, you can tell a ship to move to a particular planet. This is just an order, the ship will not yet start moving. You can at any time cancel that order. If you tell your ship to rob someone, you'll not immediately get their stuff - you don't even know what they have.
When you are done with your turn, you compile a turn file and send that to your game master. He'll use the server program (which is probably PHost) to generate new result files. Here, the ship will actually move and rob, and the server (or host) program will tell you what happened.
Some orders, however, are already processed by the client. When you transfer cargo between two of your units, that will be immediately be performed.
The rule is simple: if you know all details of the participating units, there's nothing which could go wrong, so the order is executed immediately. All other orders are processed host-side.
Play-by-Email (PbEM): Traditionally, you send your turn file to the host using email, and receive your result file by email as well, which makes VGA Planets a Play-by-Email game. Today, many hosts also have a WWW turn upload function.
There can be up to 11 players in a game. Each of them can play one of 11 races, or even a completely non-standard race, but usually, player 1 plays standard race 1, and so on. See below for more information.
Players who do not submit a turn will be treated as if they had submitted a turn which contained no commands. Their units will continue their last orders. Only turns based upon current RST files are accepted, stale files cannot be used. Auto Tasks, as offered by some client programs, will not continue when the player misses a turn, they are handled by the client and are never seen by PHost.
Players can usually interact with the host by changing various protocol settings (bigtargets, bigminefields), their language (language, CPEnableLanguage), and their empire name (racename, CPEnableRaceName). They can also request some files from the host (send, CPEnableSend).
Players can send messages to each other, which can be anonymous or not. See AllowPlayerMessages, AllowAnonymousMessages. As a special case, players can also send command messages which are messages addressed to themselves, triggering a special action in PHost. This is used to support features for which not all client programs support a graphical interface.
Players can form alliances (this is one instance of a feature controlled by command messages). PHost offers a rather sophisticated alliance system which is described on its own page. In addition, matching friendly codes can be used for access control.
PHost has extensive support for add-on programs. Add-ons can heavily change the behaviour of the game. For example, there are add-ons which allow you to move minefields, to destroy planets, or to transport starship components with freighters. All rules in this document (and the rest of the documentation) are valid only for standard PHost, use them with care if add-ons are in the game.
VGA Planets is a shareware game. Like the original game server HOST, PHost enforces the registration rules: registered players can use some commands that unregistered players cannot; only registered players can buy all tech levels. If you want to use all features of the game, you must register an original client program (DOS Planets or Winplan) with Tim Wisseman. Third-party clients usually need such an official key to generate registered turn files.
See Registration in the Glossary for details.
Every player can play a different race with different properties, and therefore different tactics and strategies. There are 11 standard races. By default, player one plays race one, and so on. However, PHost allows hosts to configure any mixture of races (like: eleven Federations, or: five Rebels vs. five Empires), completely new races, and modify the existing ones. See PlayerRace, PlayerSpecialMission, Non-standard race assignments.
The following sections describe the standard races. These races are known by different names, depending on whom you talk to; this list shows the most common informal names. Players can change their race names using the racename command.
The list describes the important parts of the common racial configurations. These depend on lots of factors. For example, the Lizard's ability to take 150% damage is configured using PlayerRace, whereas the 30x ground attack bonus is configured separately using GroundKillFactor. Follow the links to the configuration items to read more. A cross-reference table for features that depend on PlayerRace and PlayerSpecialMission can be found under Non-standard race assignments. In addition, the ship list makes a big difference between races; this list shows the common properties.
These are the Good Guys. They have strong environmental laws which reduce their mining rate to 70%. Their efficient government gives them 200% tax income. The well-educated personell on their ships gives them various bonuses in combat: their ships behave as if they were 50 kt more massive, their carriers behave as if they had 3 more fighter bays, and their weapons are fully functional till the end.
The Federation can upgrade ships using Super Refit.
The Gorns can hiss at planets to increase happiness, for higher tax income.
The Gorn fleet includes a few cloaking ships.
The Romulans are a spy race. They can build many cloaking ships, including ships with advanced cloaking device. They can espy planetary friendly codes and change them using their Super Spy mission. Their armed ships are immune to NUK when they don't have fuel.
The Klingons are strong, proud warriors. They get a 15x bonus for ground attack. Up to 60 Klingon clans can survive on desert planets. They can build cloaking warships. Klingon ships are immune against attacking planets. They can build Glory Device ships which they can detonate in order to damage other ships.
Klingons can pillage planets to destroy planetary infrastructure and get their resources.
The Orion Pirates specialize in capturing others' ships. Their own ships generally are comparatively light. The Orions can build a number of cloaking ships, as well as gravitonic accelerators. Orion can tune their beam weapons so that they kill thrice as much crew as normal beams, in order to capture the ships instead of destroying them.
The Borg are a man-machine species. They assimilate natives and turn them into Borg. They can beam aboard debris after they destroyed an enemy ship in combat.
Borg ships can self-repair in open space.
Imperial starbases receive free fighters each turn.
The Robots are a robotic race which outlived their creators. They have a number of non-exciting ships; they like to solve problems by raw firepower. They can build a decent bioscanner, though. Up to 60 Robotic clans survive on desert planets.
Robots are very efficient in laying mines.
Robots can build fighters aboard their ships.
The Rebels can survive on ice planets, they can build colonies of up to 9 million colonists. On desert planets, 60 clans survive. Dark Sense does not find rebels.
Rebel ships can ground attack enemy planets, to destroy their infrastructure.
Rebel ships are rather standard. They are immune to attacking planets. Rebel carriers have service robots on board which automatically build fighters from cargo as soon as the required amount of minerals is available. Rebels can build a rather large hyperdrive ship.
Starships (usually just "ships") are your main means to get around in the universe, transport stuff around, and colonize or fight for planets.
Ships have a hull type which defines the shape, cargo capacity and fuel tank capacity of the ship. Every player can build up to 20 different hulls, some of them are exclusive to his race. Most players can also clone captured ships. The hull mass also is the most important component of a ship's battle mass (weapon resistance).
The ship types are defined by the person designing the ship list. You cannot design your own ships. The restrictions and possibilities of the ship types you can build make up an important part of the strategy and skill you need to win the game with your race.
Ships have engines. The number of engines are defined by the hull, you cannot build this hull with more or fewer engines. There are 9 engine types with varying efficiency. All engines can move the ships at all speeds from Warp 1 to Warp 9, but cheap engines burn much fuel doing that. Usually, you want the best possible engines. Engines can have an effect on the ship's battle mass. See AllowEngineShieldBonus and relatives.
Depending on their hull, ships can be outfitted with weapons. Except for fighter bays, you can outfit the ship with fewer weapons than the ship could carry; you can even leave them out completely.
No ship can have torpedo launchers and fighter bays at the same time. Beams are also called main weapons, and torpedoes and fighters are also called secondary weapons.
The components built into the hull (engines, weapons) are fixed when the ship is built, and cannot be changed afterwards. The Super Refit mission is the only exception. When a ship gets damaged, some of its components may cease to function, but after repair they will be again fully usable.
Some ships have special devices which are part of their hull. See Hull functions. Most of these devices are available to whoever owns the ship, but some only work for certain races, or require a certain amount of experience to operate. These devices are also assigned by the person designing the ship list, you cannot buy your own devices.
Ships have a crew. They can operate correctly as long as there is at least one crewman. However, when all crew is killed in combat, the ship gets captured.
Ships have a cargo bay. They can carry the three minerals (Tritanium, Duranium, Molybdenum), supplies and colonists, as well as ammunition for their secondary weapons. Ships can only carry ammo which matches their weapon: torpedo ships can carry just their torpedo types, and carriers can only transport fighters.
Ships also have a fuel tank to store Neutronium fuel as well as a locker in which they can carry up to 10000 mc.
Players can choose the names for their ships. Those will be cited in messages referring to the ship, including distress calls which everyone in the game universe receives.
Ships can be under remote control. Remote-control ships will behave as if they belong to their real owner, but receive commands from the controlling player. This is implemented by giving them to their real owner during hosting, but handing them to the controlling player for the result and turn files. See under remote control for more details.
Starship crews have experience. Experienced crews are better at certain tasks than others, including combat.
Each ship can perform one mission at a time. There are standard missions (those already offered by the original HOST program) as well as extended missions. See Missions for details.
A ship can have a primary enemy which is a standing order to attack units belonging to that race. Ships that do not have a primary enemy and not the Kill mission will not attack others, but they will defend themselves when attacked. In addition, you can set an empire-wide attack order for all your ships. See Order of Battle.
Ships have a movement order, consisting of a waypoint and a warp factor. The ship will attempt to move towards its waypoint at the given speed. You can move towards any point in space you wish: to a planet, or to a point in open space. The fuel required for the move depends on the distance covered, and the total mass of the ship. If a ship is towing another ship, the towee's mass affects the fuel consumption as well. The number of engines does not affect fuel consumption. Instead of specifying the target coordinates, you can also intercept another ship. Intercept is a mission, so you cannot cloak or tow or do other interesting things while intercepting. See Movement Formulas.
Ships can transfer cargo to exactly one foreign ship each turn. Historically, only the four minerals as well as colonists and supplies can be transferred this way, but there exist extended missions to transfer money and ammo as well. Since PHost 4.0h you can also use the transfer command to transfer money and ammo without affecting the ship's mission. If not all of the cargo fits on the receiving ship, you'll get it back into the normal cargo hold. If you do not have fuel, you cannot use the transporter, either. The Privateers can rob such transfers in transit. This does not apply to transfers between same-race ships. Those have no limit, and are performed instantly.
Ships can also unload cargo to a foreign or unowned planet. Likewise, only the four minerals, supplies and colonists can be transferred this way, but there is an extended mission to beam down credits, and an unload command. The Privateers can rob such transfers, too. Dropping colonists to an unowned planet colonizes the planet (you own it next turn), dropping colonists to an enemy planet initiates ground combat.
Ships in free space can jettison cargo. You can only jettison stuff when you have fuel. You can jettison minerals, supplies, and colonists. Some Winplan-compatible clients also let you throw away torpedoes, fighters and money.
Many of the starship missions interact with other ships, too. Ships can be repaired (and re-crewed) or recycled at starbases.
Damaged starships will automatically repair themselves when they have supplies on board. 5 kt supplies repair one damage point.
Rebel carriers will automatically build fighters as long as they have the appropriate amounts of minerals available (ShipFighterCost).
Fueled ships which reach a planet which you don't own will send you an exploration report.
If a ship is moving faster than Warp 1, and ends up close to a planet, the planet's gravity will pull it towards the planet. See AllowGravityWells and friends.
Ships may be configured to require fuel for staying on duty, see FuelUsagePerTurnFor100KT.
Planets are your home bases. Colonists live and grow there, producing resources for you.
Planets have a position in space and a name, which can not be changed during the game. Normally, you see the complete map from the start of the game on. The popular ExploreMap add-on provides a dynamic map, that is, you only see planets you're close enough - like for ships.
Planets have varying amounts of the four minerals in their core, as well as already-mined minerals on the surface. Only the surface minerals can be used for building things. The core minerals must be extracted using mineral mines, depending on their density, you can extract minerals at different speeds.
Each planet can either be unowned or owned by one player. No planet can be shared by two races. A planet is owned when the player has at least one colonist clan on it. When that clan dies or is taken away, the planet gets unowned.
There can be a native population on some planets. Natives can have one of 9 races and a government. The race determines how beneficial the natives are for you, the government determines how "civilized" the natives are which affects your taxation.
You can tax colonists and natives in order to earn money. This affects their happiness. If you overdo it, the population will riot or even start a civil war. Colonists and natives have separate happiness, so it can happen that natives fight and colonists do not, or vice versa. You need colonists to collect the native taxes. Normally, one colonist clan collects one megacredit, everything above is lost. Benefits from Insectoid natives and improved NativeTaxRate apply after this limit (i.e., on an Insectoid planet, each colonist clan can collect two mc). See Happiness Formulas, Taxation Formulas.
Note that the percentages given in the above table affect the amount of money you get, not the maximum tax rate. When taxed at 15%, a Participatory population gives you twice as much as the same population in Tribal form.
You can build structures on planets. The amount you can build is determined by the colonist population.
Many mines or factories can make the population unhappy. Planetary structures cannot be destroyed when they are no longer used, so build with care. However, if colonists are taken away or die after the structures are built, the buildings will decay due to lacking maintenance. See Building Formulas, Production Formulas.
Planets have experience. Experienced planets are better in combat.
You can build one starbase per planet. The starbase will then orbit the planet. It does not affect the population on the planet. The starbase will be there one turn after you gave the order to build it.
Sometimes, a large meteor hits a planet. This will add large amounts of minerals, but also do damage to the planetary structures and make the population unhappy. The resulting explosion is so big that everyone in the universe will detect it. See LargeMeteorsImpacting, RandomMeteorRate.
Sometimes, new natives are discovered on a planet. See NewNativesPerTurn.
Starbases are space stations that can build and maintain ships and weapons.
Starbases are built in orbit of a planet which you control. Every planet can have at most one starbase. Starbases use resources (cash, minerals) from the planet, and inherit its friendly code.
Every starbase has four tech levels, for the areas starship hulls, engines, beams, and torpedoes. You need an appropriate tech level to build starship components. At tech 1, you can only build the most simple components. You can buy upgrades for money. Registered players can buy up to Tech 10, unregistered players can buy only Tech 6. Starbases start with Tech 1 in all areas when built, but some native races give you a free Tech 10 on one area. Tech levels are local to each base. To build parts on many bases, you have to buy the appropriate tech level on all of them.
Starbases have storage for starship components (hulls, engines, beams, torpedo launchers) as well as ammunition (torpedoes, fighters). You can build these components and store them on the base.
Every starbase can have one of six primary orders. One of these is to repair starbase damage. A starbase which is damaged in combat loses some tech levels.
When a planet is involved in a battle, the planet and starbase will fight as one unit. Starbases can have defense posts which improve the battle power of the team. The starbase defense will allow more weapons, the tech levels will improve the weapons' types, and torpedoes and fighters from starbase storage will also be used.
You cannot scrap a starbase. The only way to get rid of a base is to remove all colonists from the planet so that it is unowned for one turn. This will remove the base. Sometimes it can be useful to do that, for example, when the base got heavily damaged, or when beneficial natives were discovered on the planet.
The main task for a starbase is to build ships. You first put the required components into storage, and then assemble the ship. Modern clients allow you to do that in one step. The ship will be built as soon as possible, using the build queue if needed.
Starbases can also fix (repair) or recycle (scrap) one ship per turn.
Each starbase can perform one of six primary orders (missions).
Minefields are regions in space paved with explosive mines, intended to trap enemy ships.
A minefield has a fixed position in space. Once laid, its position can't be altered. Minefields are circular, the radius is the square root of the mine units laid into the field.
Minefields have an owner which is determined when the minefield is laid and can't be changed afterwards.
There are normal and web mines. The type of minefield is determined by the mission used to lay it, and can't be changed afterwards. Normal mines just damage ships when they go off. Web mines do less damage, but have much higher hit odds. A ship which hits a web mine must stop and burn some fuel. Web mines also drain fuel from ships which just sit in the field.
Only Crystals can lay web mines, but everyone can lay normal mines. To lay a minefield, you need a ship with torpedoes; the torpedoes are converted into mines. Each torpedo converts into a number of mines which equals the square of the torpedo type (i.e. one Gamma Bomb, which is type 4, yields 4*4=16 mine units). Robots are more efficient at this, they get four times as many units. See UnitsPerTorpRate.
New minefields cannot be laid inside an existing minefield of the same type, but you can enlarge your existing minefields to make them overlap.
Players who submit their turn with Winplan or a compatible program will automatically see all their minefields. Others will only see minefields they scan this turn. See MineScanRange, ExtendedSensorSweep.
When two hostile minefields overlap, mine units from both fields explode until they do no longer overlap. Normal mines usually don't destroy web mines and vice versa. See AllowMinesDestroyMines, AllowMinesDestroyWebs, AlternativeMinesDestroyMines, MinesDestroyMines stage.
Ships moving through a minefield risk running on a mine unless the minefield owner offers a mine-level alliance to the ship owner. For every light year inside the minefield, a dice is rolled whether the ship hits a mine. Cloaked ships have a lower risk of hitting normal mines than uncloaked ships. For web mines, it doesn't matter whether the ship cloaks. The mine hit odds may depend on the ship's speed and experience. See MineHitOdds, MineHitOddsWhenCloakedX10, WebMineHitOdds, EModMineHitOddsBonus, and MineOddsWarpBonusX100 and friends.
Ships moving slower than a particular speed can be safe from mine hits. By default, only ships which do not move are safe. Ships which do not move normally (hyperdrive, gravity wells, chunnel, being towed) are safe, too. See MineTravelSafeWarp etc.
Ships which hit a mine (normal or web) take damage and must possibly slow down. Ships which hit a web mine must stop their movement completely and burn some fuel. See Mine Hit Effect formulas.
Ships can sweep mines using their beam weapons. Ships can also scoop up mines owned by the same race and build torpedoes. See MineScanRange, MineSweepRange, WebMineSweepRange, MineSweepRate, WebMineSweepRate.
Ion storms are natural subspace disturbances, moving through the universe at random, possibly affecting your ships.
(v4.0j:) PHost now supports Ion Storms. Rules are similar to those of HOST, but not identical.
Ion storms are unaffected by player actions. There is nothing you can do to force ion storms to appear or disappear. The number of ion storms can be configured using IonStormActivity, set that to zero if you do not want to use ion storms.
Ion storms are circles, defined by position and radius. They move through space, with a speed and course that changes over time.
Storms have a voltage measured in MeV, which defines their strength. According to that voltage, storms are grouped into classes:
With PHost, all players see all ion storms. Every turn, you receive messages reporting the speed and course the storm took this turn.
When ion storms form anew, they start growing. During the growth phase, they shrink in size, but gain strength. When they are strong, they will ultimately start to weaken. During the weakening phase, they get larger but lose strength, until they drop to voltage zero, when they disappear. For compatibility with HOST, growing storms always have odd voltages, weakening ones always have even voltages.
Storms that come too close will merge. They will form a new, larger storm.
All ion storms decloak ships. Only advanced cloakers can cloak inside a storm.
Storms of class 4 and higher affect uncloaked ships (except those that have an ion shield):
Ion storms hide minefields. If an ion storm covers a minefield's center, and it is larger than the minefield, the minefield will become invisible to Mine Sweep. Only your own minefields remain visible. See IonStormsHideMines.
If a ship is pulled off-course by an ion storm, it will automatically try to reach its waypoint again. If, for example, a ship is sitting in orbit of a planet with Warp 9, you will most likely not see it move. After the storm pulled it away, it will move back to the planet. You will only see that it consumes fuel, and that it may hit mines while moving. To prevent the ship from moving back to the planet, set it to warp 0.
Wormholes are imaginary connections between two points in space. You can travel through wormholes with your ships.
Wormholes have two endpoints. Both endpoints have an Id number; unlike the other Id number sequences, wormholes are numbered starting from zero. A wormhole can be unidirectional or bidirectional. A unidirectional wormhole only allows travel from the lower-numbered (even) endpoint to the higher-numbered (odd) one, whereas bidirectional wormholes allow travel in both directions.
Wormholes have a mass. This mass affects various things:
Wormholes have an instability. The higher the instability, the higher the risk for a ship of getting damaged during a wormhole travel.
The wormhole endpoints can move towards a waypoint, and otherwise have general jitter. The wormhole disappears if both endpoints reach the same position. Likewise, the mass and instability of a wormhole can change over time.
Ships can scan for wormholes using sensor sweep or WRS. Exact scanning rules are documented on the formulas page. Only wormhole entry points can be seen this way, the exit point of a unidirectional wormhole will not be seen!
The results of a scan are reported as messages and through util.dat. For Winplan clients, wormholes are mapped to Ufos. PHost allocates two Ufo slots for a bidirectional wormhole, one Ufo slot for a unidirectional wormhole. PHost uses up to 200 Ufo slots starting with WormholeUFOsStartAt. Existing Ufos in that range will not be seen.
Ships can travel through wormholes. If WrmVoluntaryTravel is enabled, travel is voluntary. Ships must move into the wormhole entry point and set their friendly code to WRT to say that they want to travel through the wormhole. If WrmVoluntaryTravel is disabled, ships will move through wormholes simply when they enter the wormhole entry point, no matter whether they want or not. You need not scan a wormhole before you can enter it. See Traveling through wormholes for more details.
Wormhole travel imposes stress on the wormhole. That, plus the general instability of the wormhole, put the ship on risk of being damaged by the ride.
You cannot tow or intercept through a wormhole. Unless enabled in configuration (WrmTravelCloaked), ships must decloak after the ride.
Last updated 31 May 2015.
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