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BlackNova Traders FAQ

New Players Strategies Misc Q&A


Welcome to the BlackNova Traders FAQ. This most recent update occurred on 01.10.2002 and is current for the version 0.3.1. Based on the original FAQ by Garrison.

Table of Contents:
  1. For Everyone:
    1. New Players Guide
    2. The Rules
    3. More Info
  1. Strategies:
    1. The Trader
    2. The Builder
    3. The Banker
    4. The Conqueror
    5. The Idiot
  1. Misc:
    1. Cool Tricks
    2. Planetary Production Values
    3. Hull Sizes by Tech Level
    4. Upgrade Costs by Tech Level
    5. The Particulars of Combat
    6. How... or How Not to Colonize a Planet

Questions and Answers:

For Everyone:

This is the section to read if you are a new player.

  New Players Guide  

This will take you to the New Players Guide. Click here to find out how to stay alive when you fist log on.

  The Rules  

These are the official rules for the game. As this is a web based game it's fairly hard to enforce these rules.

  1. You are not allowed to have multiple accounts. In other words, if you have more than one player in the game you are breaking the rules. As above, if you need two accounts to test a theory, host your own game. If you are caught with multiple accounts you can voluntarily self destruct all but one and keep playing that one or lose them all. Remember, the admin can always remove your player from the game.
  2. No inheritance exploits. I have to define this one first. A certain player (ok, me) got caught doing this and argued that it wasn't really cheating. Pretty much everyone on the forums agreed that he was full of crap and I do too. The deal is this. When you're new you get 200 turns. You can trade trade trade, leave the money somewhere safe and self destruct. Then sign on again with a new account and pick up the money. Keep doing this and you get a really high score right off the bat. The trick is that everyone knows you're doing this because your score is way too high for the low number of turns you have. There are measures being taken in the code to prevent this trick from being possible.
  3. Please, no cursing in the beacons or the forums.
  4. If you find a bug it is against the rules to exploit it. You must report it right away to the webmaster and preferably to the forums as well.

  More Info  

You are going to have more questions. I say this with a fair amount of certainty. There are two really good sources of answers I know of other than this FAQ. First, you can always send a message to one of the top 10 players in the game. They should know the answer, but they may not bother to reply. The second source is the official forum. This link is to the forum on The creator of the the game, Ron Harwood, runs



These are some generic strategies to help you get started. These aren't set in stone, and are very general. They should give you an idea of what works and what doesn't though. There are of course many more strategies, but these are the ones I thought up at 2 in the morning. :)

Special Note: For all of these strategies I am assuming that you have already survived your first couple of days in the game. If you are still a newbie, read the New Player Guide first.

  The Trader  

The Trader primarily spends his time trading. The best thing to do is find a goods port and an ore port in adjacent sectors. Trade back and forth until either you can afford a hull upgrade or the port's prices are no longer very good. Keep doing this. When you're engines are large enough to realspace (this varies on the galaxy size in each game, usually anywhere from 14 to 18) start doing trade routes between goods and ore ports. They don't have to be adjacent at this point. Be sure to buy a fuel scoop if you're going to realspace trade (trade route).

Be sure to have the maximum amount of EWDs and an escape pod at all times to ensure survival. You don't have to upgrade any techs except for hull, energy, and engines. Everything else is good for combat or colonizing. Your military techs can be zero as the EWDs are your primary means of survival.

PROS: Quick rise in score. Good to play catch up if you enter the game late.
CONS: Lack of planetary empire means that you'll lose out in the long run. I find that the Trader is only effective up to about a hull level of 18 or so. That's just my gut reaction. It might be wrong. It's probably a lower tech level in reality.

  The Builder  

The Builder is mainly concerned in building a planetary empire. As such, he should build his hull to a level 15-16. Then start colonizing a planet. Colonize planets to about 25-50 million before moving on to the next planet. The reason for not fully colonizing a planet is that you want the colonists to procreate for as long as possible. They stop when there are 100 million people on a planet. I guess sex is boring at that point. Didn't think that was possible. My bad. :)

Here's the deal on upgrading. When you hit a 15-16 hull level, upgrade everything to within 4 of your hull. Actually, forget about sensors. Builders don't need sensors. They don't need amour either for that matter. Always have full EWDs and an escape pod. Every time you upgrade your hull, upgrade the other techs. Quit upgrading engines when you can realspace anywhere in 1 turn. Upgrade as soon as you can.

So far as colonizing is concerned, realspace to a special port. Pick up a full load of colonists, fighters, and torps. Realspace to your new planet. Drop off colonists, fighters, torps, and the energy you made from realspacing. On each new planet, set the energy production to 5% and all other productions to zero. You'll need the energy to power planetary shields and beams.

Colonize constantly. Use the money made by your planets to buy the stuff to supply your planets. You don't really need to trade much in this strategy.

PROS: You make lots of cash in the long run.
CONS: Kind of slow to start. Conquerors can sometimes take your planets.

  The Banker  

The Banker builds one planet to full capacity. Upgrade as though you were a builder. Be sure that the planet is completely well defended. Keep adding fighters. If you think that the planet has a ridiculously high number of fighters, then it's probably the right number. I'd recommend spending something like 5-10% of your turns adding more fighters and torps to the planet.

Ok, here's the way the Banker makes his living. Put all your money on the planet and then land on the planet. It should be well defended enough to survive any attacks. Wait 600 turns, during which the money will earn interest. Play the 600 turns as though you were a Trader. At the end, put the new money on the planet and wait another 600 turns before you play again. The important thing is to let the money sit around and accrue interest for as long as possible.

This strategy works fairly well if you combine it with a Builder, i.e.. Build a bunch of planets, but Bank on one of them. Harder to defend your empire this way.

PROS: You can make a metric buttload of cash if you're patient.
CONS: You can only play every couple of days and you don't have many planets to produce for you.

  The Conqueror  

The premise here is that you build up your military techs (shields, armor, computers, torps, and to a lesser degree sensors) and use them to take other people's planets. You then use the money acquired from these new planets to upgrade even further. You end up with lots of ill gotten colonists and planets this way. They will make money for you and you will gain an empire similar to that a Builder might create.

Be sure to stock every new planet acquired with plenty of fighters and torps to be sure that the former owner won't come and try to take the planet back. Trust me, that sucks.

PROS: You can get a whole lot of colonists using a small number of turns.
CONS: Everyone will hate you and it's sometimes hard to defend new "acquisitions".

  The Idiot  

This is more a list of what not to do. I've seen people do things that boggle the mind, but the truth is that they just don't know any better. Here's a listing. Don't...

  1. ...scan over and over and over. It is a waste of turns. Don't scan ships or planets unless you actively plan on attacking them. For one, it's a waste of turns. Also, it pisses people off to be scanned. You will be marked if you scan someone more than once.
  2. ...waste your time trading energy or organics. Ore and goods will give you the greatest returns.
  3. ...realspace move unless you can get somewhere in 1 or 2 turns. I've seen people use 50-100 turns to move from where they are to sol. You could probably move from sector to sector and find a special port using less turns. Plus you might find other planets or trading ports along the way.

If I think of more, or you email me, I'll add them to this list.



This section contains some information on game mechanics. For example, if you want to know how many units of organics your planet can make in a turn, you could probably find it here.

  Cool Tricks  

Please send me any cool tricks you think of. I'll list the ones I know.

  1. Before you attack a planet check to see if it is set to sell. If it is, buy all the energy. The planet's beams and shields will be made useless.
  2. If you need to go to a special port and don't particularly care where you go afterwards, shop at good old sector 0. After you're done wait around and let the update that runs every 6 minutes place you in a random sector. You effectively get a free move. Of course, this only works if you're hull is over the allowed federation space limit. I call this the "sol bump".
  3. Whenever you buy an EWD, buy a warp editor to go along with it. That way, if you get attacked you can easily create a link back to wherever you were before. If being there is important that is.

  Planetary Production Values  

Planets can produce all sorts of things. Here goes. By the way, all of the commodity production rates assume you're producing at 100% capacity. If you're putting 50% towards a commodity, for example, it would take twice as many colonists to make the same number of said items.

  1. Colonists reproduce at the rate of 1.0005 * your current population each turn. So, it takes 2000 colonists to have one baby each turn. Man, these guys need some more mood music I guess.
  2. Money left on the planet will increase at the rate of 1.0005 * current money on planet each turn. In other words, you get .05% interest on your cash every turn. This works out pretty well if you have lots of money.
  3. It takes 20,000 colonists to make 1 fighter each turn. The number of fighters produced is as follows: number of colonists * .005 * .01
  4. It takes 20,000 colonists to make 1 torpedo each turn. The number of torps produced is as follows: number of colonists * .005 * .01
  5. It takes 800 colonists to make 1 unit of ore each turn. The number of ore units produced is as follows: number of colonists * .005 * .25
  6. It takes 400 colonists to make 1 unit of organics each turn. The number of organics units produced is as follows: number of colonists * .005 * .50
  7. It takes 800 colonists to make 1 unit of goods each turn. The number of goods units produced is as follows: number of colonists * .005 * .25
  8. It takes 2000 colonists to make 1 unit of energy each turn. The number of energy units produced is as follows: number of colonists * .005 * .1
  9. It takes 67 colonists to make 1 credit each turn. The number of credits produced is as follows: number of colonists * .005 * 3.0

  Hull Sizes by Tech Level  

This list will show you how many items you can store in your holds. This list also represents armor, shields, beams, torps, and fighter capacity. I show up to tech level 24 That's the highest I've ever gotten to. The formula for figuring out the capacity of your holds or other tech levels you will have is 100*(1.5^(the tech level in question)). Round off that number and you have your answer.

  1. 100
  2. 150
  3. 225
  4. 338
  5. 506
  1. 759
  2. 1,138
  3. 1,709
  4. 2,563
  5. 3,844
  1. 5,767
  2. 8,650
  3. 12,975
  4. 19,462
  5. 29,193
  1. 43,789
  2. 65,684
  3. 98,526
  4. 147,789
  5. 221,684
  1. 332,526
  2. 498,789
  3. 748,182
  4. 1,122,274
  5. 1,683,411

  Upgrade Costs by Tech Level  

This is a listing of how much it costs to upgrade to a certain tech level. For example, upgrading from 0 to 1 costs 1,000 credits.

  1. 1,000
  2. 2,000
  3. 4,000
  4. 8,000
  5. 16,000
  1. 32,000
  2. 64,000
  3. 128,000
  4. 256,000
  5. 512,000
  1. 1,024,000
  2. 2,048,000
  3. 4,096,000
  4. 8,192,000
  5. 16,384,000
  1. 32,768,000
  2. 65,536,000
  3. 131,072,000
  4. 262,144,000
  5. 524,288,000
  1. 1,048,576,000
  2. 2,097,152,000
  3. 4,194,304,000
  4. 8,388,608,000
  5. 16,777,216,000

  The Particulars of Combat  

Combat is tricky. I'm going to lay it out one step at a time. First we'll do ship to ship combat, and then we'll do ship to planet combat. This is basically an English representation of the code. Now, those of you who complain about not being able to read the PHP code can quiet down.

One very important thing that I want to stress is this. In a fight, you use 100% of your fighters. You only use 2% of your torps. This is because the torpedo launchers mounted on your ship can only launch a salvo equal to 2% of the maximum torps you can carry. Make sense? I hope so.

Combat now requires energy for beams and shields. If you have 20k energy on your ship and your beams can support 25k beams and your shields are at 25k shields, you'll actually get 20k beams and 0 shields. The reason is that beams use energy before shields do. In this example, you'd have to have 50k energy on hand for beams and shields to both be at max power.

Ship to Ship Combat

Ship to ship combat happens in a very straightforward manner. Here we go. I'll be using the following method to determine who is the attacker and who is the defender. a_shields is attacker shields. d_shields is defender shields. No here we go.

  1. First, a_engines and d_engines are compared. A chance to attack is determined by this formula: success=(10-d_engines+a_engines)*5. This number is then compared to a random number between 1 and 100. If the random number is higher than the success number, the attack goes on. Otherwise you get a message saying "Target out maneuvered you!".

    Here's an example. If your engines are 13 and his engines are 16, then we calculate the success rate as (10-16+13)*5. The result is 35. Hence, you have a 65% chance (35% chance to fail) to succeed.

  2. Second, a_sensors and d_cloak are compared. A chance to attack is determined by this formula: success=(10-d_cloak+a_sensors)*5. This number is then compared to a random number between 1 and 100. If the random number is lower than the success number, the attack goes on. Otherwise you get a message saying "Unable to get a lock on target!".

    Here's an example. If your sensors are 7 and his cloak is 3, then we calculate the success rate as (10-3+7)*5. This result is 70. This means you have a straight 70% chance of success.

    I know this looks the same as the above engines check, but here you get the success percent right away. There you have to subtract from 100. Looks like two different people wrote this code. Incidentally, there's always at least a 5% success or 5% failure chance. Nothing is certain.

  3. Okay, now combat is a go. If the defender has an Emergency Warp Device, it is used and the defender is sent to a random sector between 1 and the max sector number, which is 5000 in this game. Combat, of course, would end. If the defender has no Emergency Warp Devices, combat is continued.

  4. First, beams are exchanged against fighters. The a_beams will destroy up to half of the d_fighters and vice versa.

    For example, you have 20,000 beams and he has 14,000 fighters. Your beams will take out 7,000 fighters (half) and leave you with 13,000 beams left over. If you had 20,000 beams and he had 47,000 fighters, you would take out 20,000 fighters. That would leave you with 0 beams and leave him with 27,000 fighters.

  5. This step only happens if either player has any beams left. Assume we have beams left. The a_beams will go against d_shields. If the beams are higher, they will negate all of the shields and there will still be some beams left over. The same thing goes for the defender's beams against your shields.

    For example, you have 7,000 beams left over from the previous step. Your opponent has 20,000 shields. Your beams would take away 7,000 shield points and your beams would be done. If he had had only 6,000 shields, your beams would have taken away all shields and left you with 1,000 beams left over.

  6. This step also only happens if there are beams left over from the previous two steps. In this step, a_beams are matched up against d_armor. If your beams are greater than his armor, then he is going to die. If your beams aren't high enough, you just take away that many points of armor.

    For example, you have 3,000 beams left over and the opponent has 40,000 armor. You'll take away 3,000, leaving him with 37,000 armor. If he had 3,000 armor or less, he would die in the conflict. Death equates to an armor rating of 0 or less.

  7. Now we have an exchange of torpedoes. In this version of the game ( 3/6/01) torps have a damage rating of 10. This is something that can be changed in the config file, so it might not always be the same. First off, torp damage is calculated by multiplying the number of torps you have by the torp damage rate. So, if you had 400 torps, your torp damage would be 4,000 (400*10).

    If the defender has any fighters left, the torp damage will take out up to half of them. It's basically the same as with the beams. So, if your torp damage is 4,000 and d_fighters is 5,000, you will take out 2,500 fighters. That'll leave you with 1,500 worth of torp damage to work with. If he had had 10,000 fighters, you would have taken out a full 4,000 of them. You wouldn't have any torp damage left though.

  8. If you have any torp damage left, it is applied to the defender's armor. So, if you had 4,000 torp damage left, you'd take away 4,000 armor.

  9. Now, fighters attack. Your original fighters total is subtracted from his fighter total, and his original total is deleted from yours. This might not seem immediately intuitive, but it is. I'll give some examples.

    You have 40,000 and he has 36,000. You'll end up with 4,000 left over and he'll end up with 0.
    You have 20,000 and he has 20,000. You'll both end up with 0.
    You have 15,000 and he has 27,000. You'll end up with 0 and he'll end up with 12,000.

  10. If there are any fighters left, they are applied to the defender's armor. So, if you have 34,000 fighters left, you can do 34,000 damage to d_armor. If the defender doesn't have enough armor left, too bad.

  11. The last step is to test whether or not either player is dead. If either player has armor of 0 or less, they are dead. If you die, life sucks. You learned a hard lesson. If your opponent dies and you live, you get some money based on salvaging his ship. If you want to know how much, look in the code. I'm tired.

Ship to Planet Combat

This works almost exactly the same as above. If the defender's ship is not on the planet, then the planet is considered defeated if its shields and fighters are reduced to 0. The planet has no armor, so skip the part where you attack the opponent's armor.

If the planet's owner is on the planet, then things are somewhat more complicated. You should understand how combat works from the above listing, so I'll just list the order in which things happen.

  1. Your beams can take out up to half of the planet's fighters.
  2. Planet beams take out up to half of your fighters.
  3. Owner beams take out up to half of your fighters.
  4. Player beams go against planet shields.
  5. Planet beams go against your shields.
  6. Owner beams go against your shields.
  7. Your beams go against owner armor.
  8. Planet beams go against your armor.
  9. Owner beams go against your armor.
  10. Your torp damage takes out planet fighters.
  11. Your torp damage takes out up to half of the owner's fighter.
  12. Planet torps take out up to half of your fighters.
  13. Owner torps take out up to half of your fighters.
  14. Your torp damage goes against owner's armor.
  15. Planet torp damage goes against your armor.
  16. Owner torp damage goes against your armor.
  17. Your fighters go against planet fighters.
  18. Your fighters go against owner fighters.
  19. Your fighters go against planet shields.
  20. Your fighters go against owner armor.
  21. Planet fighters go against your armor.
  22. Owner fighters go against your armor.
  23. If your armor is 0 or less, you die. Bozo.
  24. If owner armor is 0 or less, he dies. Good job.
  25. If you're alive, he's dead, and the planet has no fighters or shields, you win and get the planet. Well played.

See, I told you it was easy.

  How... or How Not to Colonize a Planet  

This is something I wrote in the forums... thought it belonged here. Standard cut 'n' paste action. Here goes:

Also, I've seen planets that have 100 million colonists on them already. I'm gonna give a short lesson right now on why you should NEVER colonize a planet to 100 million people.

First, I pose a question. How many extra, and conveniently free, colonists does a maxed out planet make per turn. The answer is zero.

Now, how many new colonists could be produced by 100 million peeps if they were allowed to reproduce. The answer is 50k peeps. At 5 creds per peep, that's a value of 250k per turn for free. You don't even have to transport them from a special. They take care of that on their own.

Now imagine that you don't have 100 million peeps on one planet, but 50 million each on two planets. Now, each planet will make 25k peeps per turn and you'll get your 250k credits worth between the two planets.

Those two planets will take exactly 1387 turns to reproduce until they are full. You will gain free colonists, which means free money, on every one of those turns. If you had just the one planet, you'd get nothing for free.

Now imagine that you had spread those colonists over four planets instead of two. It would take each of those four planets 2774 turns to go from 25 million peeps to 100 million peeps. You'd be getting free people for that many turns. Ultimately you'll get an additional 300 million people for free. At 5 creds per person that's 1.5 billion credits for free. It's spread over 2774 turns, but it's still a damn lot of credits for free.

I assume you see where I'm going with this. Residual income is a gold mine. By spreading the same number of colonists over a greater number of planets you are increasing the total future amount of residual income. The only downside is that you have more planets to defend. The upside is that even if you lose one, you have other equally large planets to rely on for income.

Hence, the moral of this story is not to colonize to 100 million. It's dumb. I am going to suggest a maximum colonizing limit of 15-25 million colonists. That gives you a solid planet, but also gives you plenty of time for the planets to grow. That's just a suggestion. Use your own judgment.

Questions and Answers:

When people send me questions, I'll answer them here. I'll reprint the question and answer it to the best of my ability.


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