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I really REALLY enjoyed working through the game mechanics via the solo game feature. The AI is pretty good (based on the automatically generated suggested orders logic, presumably) and it is certainly a surprise to see your AI enemies encroaching on 'your' space with first scout ships then fighters...

The solo game helped me understand the basic flow: a) chart uncharted systems, b) colonise them, c) shuttle the PV from the colonies back to the homeworld and use the production value to create new freighters, fighters, stations, battleships. Then repeat until you crush the enemy empires.

It was all going pretty well, but then ended abruptly on turn 89, both surprising and disappointing me - on one hand, that's a good thing (I was enjoying it), on the other hand it was frustrating: no empire had defeated another, we were all still growing (or I was anyway). Then poof! All over! Thanks for playing! The precomputed end turn had arrived.

I definitely prefer open-ended games for these reasons, but not every sandpit lends itself to open-ended play. However, this game ended prematurely (for me).

I look forward now to real games with real opponents Smile Bring it on!

It may not be apparent from the rule books, but there are very capable windows apps to help map, plan and perform turn orders. I'll include a few screenshots to summarise some of these. 

Overall: very much recommended - signup and have a play!
Thank you so much for the comments, Fungus! I'm really glad that you enjoyed the sample play. Planning your own turns is even better!

The AI (yes, for both your opponents and your suggested orders) is quite reasonable, but it's intentionally not militarily aggressive. I'd like to give it multiple personality disorder one day, though, and have different empires act differently (some passive and some violent, for instance) to give the solo games more flavor.

Understanding the basic flow of the game is also discussed in some of the introductory articles I wrote (available on the web site and old issues of S&D), so getting the feel of the game at the beginning shouldn't be difficult.

Galac-Tac is definitely a closed game, and your goal is to crush all your opponents within the game time limit. The time limit is random with increasing odds between 80-100 turns, so you never know exactly when the Masters will return, so your best bet is to kill everyone else before that happens. That tends to put time pressure on all the players, so conflicts should start fairly early and escalate continuously as the game progresses. If you just sit back and do nothing but defend then you're likely to be overrun pretty quickly. But that time pressure is part of the game plan and part of the strategy you need to be using. With human players, at least most of the empires will typically have been wiped out by game's end and you should be down to a few (or one!) empires left struggling.

Fungus, while you're waiting for more players to sign up, run another solo game but this time create your own turns (instead of using suggested actions) using your own ship designs and play styles and see how well they work against the (relatively passive) computer players. There's a lot of figuring out to be done of what works well and what doesn't, so you can illustrate good techniques against your upcoming human players. And while you're at it, drop us a note hereabouts from time to time with advice (particularly in the beginning) for those newer players. Everybody else signing up to play against humans should also play solo games for practice first to develop their own personal strategies.

BTW, you don't see it in a solo game, but with human players there's also an in-game communications system whereby you can send notes back and forth to the other empires (anonymously and in real time) so that you can negotiate (temporary) border truces or alliances or just threaten your neighbors and tell them to get out of "your territory". There's a lot of hidden fun in direct communications.

I hope lots of people sign up soon to play against you!
I'm sure you're right when it comes to planning your own turns, but using the sample autogenerated turns (available each turn) REALLY helped to speed up the process of getting familiar with the mechanics.

It was interesting however to see that the suggested turns quickly stopped growing the empire with chart/colonise/shuttle of new systems, so I took over that part and colonised many more, to grow the resources. It was a very addictive thing, growing and growing and watching the resource count pile up Smile
Yes, you must keep growing all the time or get left in the dust. Scouting is important to find out (a) who's where, and (b) what space is available for expansion. When you run out of expansion room you have to start taking it away from your neighbors, and of course they're trying to do the same to you. Sometimes, to get a military advantage on someone you may decide to pillage and burn their economics (and hope they don't do the same to you).