I set my space boffins to work immediately, but in the meantime, there might as well have been a gigantic Space Wall blocking me off from expanding towards Graham. Expansion to the East and South was more open, geographically speaking, but would quickly cause me to run into Sponge's and Kieron's territory, respectively. Expansion to the west was possible, but not without first veering southwards, leaving me with a large front to defend against Kieron. Yes folks, starting in the middle sucks!
This is not to say that the starting layout screwed me entirely. I could still have done okay had I not forgotten to log in for a while. Forget playing to win; I wasn't even playing. When I finally awoke, the entire galaxy had already been colonised. Although I now had the tech to penetrate the Space Wall, I couldn't actually do it without declaring war on Graham, who had taken advantage of my limited range/intelligence/attention span to annex everything to the Space Wall's north. Oops.
So I focused on improving the star systems I had managed to grab, established alliances with my northern and eastern neighbours (Graham and Sponge), and engaged in some minor skirmishes with Kieron, who I figured would be an easier target than the others since he was surrounded by other players on all sides. Clearly, I am a tactical space genius.
Poisoned Sponge: I'd like to say how I'm one of those simple and elegant RTS players, but I'm not. I'd love to be one of those grand chess masters who can think a dozen moves ahead, predicting all my opponents moves before even they can think of them. Problem is, I'm not one for strategy games in general. I can just about handle the tactics of organising a squad to flank a position or set up a pincer movement, but the more complicated nuances required to handle an entire empire of galactic proportions is mostly beyond me. So I've got a very simple concept when dealing with this sort of game; I stick as many grimy fingers in as many delicious pies as I possibly can. And in Neptune's Pride, pies are people.
So, first things first; I survey the map. I'm surrounded by four different people, at least three of which enjoy, and are good at, this sort of game. So I pick the two I expect to betray me the least, Jim and Graham, and leave Kieron to smoulder in his own filth. Then, looking further afar, Hentzau is the geographically furthest from me on the map, so my greatest natural ally. Quinns and Tom are similarly far away, kept from attacking me by a tricolour of Kieron, Crispy and Jim. So basically, I need to get chummy with everyone I'm not intending to invade.
This is made even simpler by the technology system: there are four different types to research. If I can rope three other people into helping me out, we can literally cover all the bases. And if I'm the only one they know of, I can be the only one with all of that tech, and I can dole it out to who I see fit. Basically, I'm planning to win through wealth of ideas, rather than overly aggressive tactics. If I'm the one with all the tech, everyone wants to be my friend, right? I'm pretty sure that's how it works.
So that means investing in science, and then economy. If I do that, I get more money tomorrow to spend on industry and all the tools of war, just in case one of my chums decides that my ever so delicate shade of light blue is best served decorating their wall rather than their battlemaps. This also means I need a hell of a lot more stars than the poxy amount you get to start with. Messages to potential allies sent, I shift out my ships, picking the biggest stars, because I like them chunky. (It may or may not also be that the bigger the star, the cheaper it is to build on them. I'm just glad that my intergalactic persuasions happen to coincide with sound tactical nous.)