The Complete New Player's Guide to Master of Orion

We break down every early-game element you need to know to get going in Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars.

Master of Orion, like any 4X game out there, can be a bit complicated to get into. Although the game offers one of the best entry points available to users new to the genre, it can still be confusing to dive into at first. This article will serve as a comprehensive guide to help you get your first game started, as well as walk you through all the necessary elements of the game's interface.

The first thing you'll find upon launching the game is the Main Menu.

Select Single Player to get started.

To start up a singleplayer game you'll want to select the Singleplayer option, and then choose New Game

You can start a New Game, jump into a Quick Match, or Continue a game from here.

From here you'll be tasked with either choosing a premade race, ten are included with the Standard Edition of the game, or you can create a custom race.

There are ten races to choose from in the Standard Edition of the game.

If you choose to create a custom race, you'll be moved to this screen.

You start off with 10 points to use, but can get more by choosing negative attributes.

Here you will allot different points into both positive and negative traits. Choosing negative traits will give you additional points that can be invested into positive traits. You start off with 10 total points.

With your points invested, and your base race chosen, it's time to move forward.

Some traits can't be used with others. They'll be marked yellow.

On the next screen you can choose the game options, like pace, victory conditions, and what kind of galaxy you will play it. You also have the option to choose your opponents, or you can just leave them set to random. Choosing Pre-Warp for your Starting Age means you'll have to discover all the necessary technologies that make space travel possible. We suggest sticking with Post-Warp in order to speed up your first batch of turns. 

Don't forget to set up your game the way you like it.

Upon starting the game, you will be shown your homeworld. This is the location of your race's capitol, and is the system you'll want to protect the most.

Your homeworld is your most prized possession. Protect it at all costs.

Planets are set up within different star systems throughout the galaxy. As you can see here, our system, Fieras, is made up of our homeworld and a second planet we have yet to discover (planets can easily be discovered by flying a ship beside them).

You should also take notice of the line between our home system and the next system over. This line, called a shipping route, is the only way for us to move ships to the next system. In this particular instance our system only has one shipping route, however, systems can offer multiple routes in and out, making them harder to defend from incoming enemy forces.

To use a shipping route all you have to do is select a point beyond the line, and the ship will automatically warp to the new system by following that particular shipping route.

We don't have any ships quite yet, though. So let's focus on our home planet for a few moments.

Change your population focus from the Planet Details menu.

Clicking on the planet will bring up an interface that showcases all the colony's details. Here you can choose a production for your planet, as well as dictate where the planet's population focuses most. In this example we have most of our focus on food, which speeds up population growth, allowing us to settle additional planets more quickly.

Starbases are a good structure to build early on for additional Command Points, which are used to pay for ship upkeep.

The Production window will grow as you continue to play, researching and unlocking new items. For now, it's pretty basic. The top right-hand corner is where you'll find advisor icons. These work as a guideline from the game's AI, which can help you focus in on the things that might be important for your civilization. 

The bottom left corner shows the area that each production will help. The yellow circle with a BC in it means that production will yield additional currency each turn, and the purple icon with a star on top is a signal for military structures.

This is your technology screen. Because we began in a Pre-Warp game we must first research and discover Space Travel. As you play the game this list will grow. You can hover over the technologies listed to get an idea of the benefits that it will give you. Researching and unlock Space Travel will allow us to build the Colony Ship, Space Factory, Frigate, and Scout.

Research Space Travel to unlike the ability to build your first starships.

You can also click the View Technology Tree button in the bottom left-hand corner to see the full list of technologies that you can unlock throughout the game.

The technology tree is vast so make sure you prioritize the tech that helps you most.

Once you have your first research item chosen, and your first production going, it's time to move on to the next turn. You can do so by either pressing the Next Turn button in the bottom left corner, or by pressing Enter on your keyboard.

Each time a research item completes, or something happens in the galaxy you will receive a notification in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. These can be dismissed by right-clicking them, or by completing your next turn.

Dismiss notifications by right-clicking on them.

When research completes you can select the button to be shown a full screen image that breaks down the items that you unlocked. As you progress through the technology tree some technologies will force you to choose between different components of the tech. That screen will also be displayed within this area.

You'll be given a full breakdown of all the items included in a completed technology!

Now let's talk about the different options available in the upper right-hand corner of your screen.

The first icon is for your Empire Management screen. Here you can see information about your planets including, Morale, Pollution, Their current production, and their population, credit output, attack power, and defense statistic. You can also manage your empire's Tax Rate here as well, which is a handy way to keep credits flowing into your coffers in hard times.

The Empire Management screen lets you change your tax rate, see how many planets you have colonized, and more.

The next icon is for your Research Management screen, which we covered already. In this particular image, though, you can see that our advances through a few technologies has opened up even more options for us to choose from.

You can select your current research goal in the Research Management screen.

The third icon is your Diplomacy interface. This is where you can see information about the various races that make up your game, as well as your relationship to each one. We hadn't met any other races at the time we took this screenshot, however, as you make your way around the Galaxy you will be able to meet and trade with other races by simply clicking on their icon in this window.

The Diplomacy screen allows you to make deals with other races. 

Your Espionage interface, which is the fourth icon on the top bar, is where you will handle all your spywork. Once you have built a Spy Center you will be able to move agents around, as well as choose their missions from this area of the screen.

Train spies and give them orders in the Espionage menu.

Next is your Blueprints. This is where you can customize and upgrade all the ship blueprints that your race currently holds. We've only discovered the Frigate at this point in time, but later technologies will open up ships like the Destroyer, Cruiser, Battleship, and Titan.

Customize ship loadouts and more with the Blueprints interface.

The sixth icon is for your Known Planets interface. This area will showcase any and all un-colonized planets that you discover throughout the galaxy. Expect it to fill up quickly, and be sure to check it for planetary information when looking for new worlds to colonize.

See all the un-colonized planets you've discovered in the Known Planets dropdown.

Just to the right of your Known Planets is the Fleets tab, which lets you see your detailed fleet information, including each fleet you have, where it is located, what it is doing, and how many turns it has until it arrives at its destination. It also showcases your overall Military Power, which is an important factor for the Conquer victory path.

Keep an eye on all your starship fleets using the Fleets menu.

The last important icon on your top bar, the Path to Victory interface, showcases the various paths that your race can use to be victorious across the Galaxy. We already covered how to complete each of these paths, so we won't go into detail here. You can also see your current ranking towards each victory condition via this screen.

The Path to Victory dropdown shows you your current standings in each of the five victory paths.

Sometimes you'll be alerted to Anomalies, which are located outside the normal bounds of the game's shipping routes. You can explore these areas to find more population or credits by simply choosing a ship and then selecting the marked area.

Explore Anomalies for extra population and credits.

One of the most dangerous things to your fledgling empire is pirate bases and pirate fleets. These bases, which are marked dark red when discovered, constantly produce fleets of ships that can attack your colonies and fleets. The easiest way to deal with them is to equip your Frigates with a Nuclear Bomb (after you have researched it), and then attack the colony from above. Not only does this wipe out the pirates, it also gives you a quick and easy way to earn more credits or population.

Pirate bases will continue to produce pirate fleets until they are destroyed.

Now that you know how the interface works, it's time for us to teach you about colonizing other planets. Colonization is one of the most important things you can do in this game. Once you complete the Space Travel technology, you can produce a Colony Ship on your homeworld. When created, these ships hold +1 population, which is pulled from the producing planet's current population.

Use Colony Ships to expand your galactic empire!

Find a nearby planet you want to colonize and send the ship to that location. Colony Ships are unarmed, so we suggest having some kind of military vessel nearby in case of pirate attacks.

Once you arrive at the planet you wish to settle, select the Colony Ship and locate the flag icon, which you'll need to press to finish the colonization process. A short cinematic scene will play and then you will be able to start selecting your new planet's production queue.

New planets only start off with one population, so it is highly recommended to send a Civil Transport (which can be produced after you finished researching Deep-Space Exploration) along to help out with production tasks.

We've already shown you a lot of information and we know it is a lot to take in. But before we leave you to it, we want to cover one of the most important features of the game; Space Combat. Combat in Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars works quite a bit differently than it did in previous Master of Orion games. Instead of turn-based strategy, the space combat takes on more of an RTS-styled interface. 

When an enemy fleet moves onto the same planet or shipping node (the circles that make up each end of the shipping routes) as your fleet, you'll be given the option to instigate combat. To do so you'll need to select the crosshair icon that shows up when you have a ship selected. Once you initiate combat, a screen will pop up with detailed information about your fleet, as well as your enemy’s ships. It will also give you three options: Auto-Resolve, Take Command, and Retreat

Make sure to check your Victory Chances before engaging in a battle.

Right above those options it will also tell you your Victory Chances. In this example the scales are balanced, meaning the battle could go either way.

Choosing Auto-Resolve will simulate the combat for you, giving you no control of your fleet. Retreating will back out of the combat screen, allowing you to return to your view of the galactic map. If you choose to Take Command, however, you'll launch an RTS style combat screen, where you'll need to control the fighters and take out your enemies.

The RTS-styled battle system allows for fine-tuned strategies that can help you take out your enemies faster.

Controlling ships in combat works just like it does in any RTS game. Select the vessels you want to move, then right click somewhere on the screen to have them fly that direction. As you grow closer to your enemy, your ships will automatically open fire, damaging the enemy ships with their weapons.

Combat ends when one group either retreats using the Retreat option, or all of a party's ships are destroyed.

After Battle reports showcase how many ships were lost, the damage inflicted, and more information.

These are the basic things you need to know to get your galactic empire started in Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars. While we haven't quite yet covered every facet of the game, this guide will help you get your first game started, as well as point you in the right direction to stay ahead of your enemies. In future articles we'll cover the espionage system, going to war, and more in-depth looks at some of the various parts of the mid to late-game features that help make Master of Orion such an intense and interesting 4X title.