Stellar Frontier newbie guide – REPOST

A/N: Found via Wayback Machine, reposted.

Newbie Guide:.

[resource taken from Anaxian Research & Fabrication Institute]


The game comes with a comprehensive guide. The official guide is very good. It has good tips for beginners at the end. This playing guide will make more sense after you have read the official guide. Because the game grew faster than its documentation, you may find this essay based on one player’s perceptions offers an additional mix of useful tactics and tips to help you more quickly get up and enjoying playing Stellar Frontier. There’s plenty more where this came from, and questions, comments and suggestions will be gladly and gratefully received by the author, Anaxis, at If this essay proves to be helpful to you, please be kind to other new players and pass on these tips and those you discover on your own.

Object of the game

You are accumulating credits and points toward ever bigger and better ships and components.

Your „credits” spend at your Starbase to upgrade your ship’s weapons and other features.

Your points *and* your credits qualify you for promotion to higher ranks.

Higher ranks get you bigger ships. (An announced but not implemented feature: buying the Stellar Aces will get you ships not otherwise available.)

To get promotions, you have to get two things: kills and „points”, not to be confused with „credits” which are what you use to buy better ship components at Starbases. All three (kills, points and credits) are important to you.

You get the most points (anywhere from 50 – 1000, depending on how much work you did) by being on the winning side of a game „win”. You get a few points (anywhere from 3 – 20) and also credits when you kill an enemy ship or successfully conquer an enemy planet.

A game win is when one race „conquers the system” as the message reads when it happens. In general, you plant colonies on vacant worlds and asteroids until your side has the magic number (Press R to see a screen that summarizes the race to conquest by colonizing). You can get „points” for other things in the game, I see them from time to time, but I don’t understand this part and it’s not significant compared to „conquering the system”. Press Shift + R to see how the Rank / Promotion ladder works – you need both the kill number and the points („TS”) number to advance. When you get promoted, you get a message (upper left corner of screen) saying you are promoted and can proceed to nearest Starbase to upgrade your ship.


Your ship needs its Tractor for this operation. To pick up a colony you orbit a planet that says planet available, press J and a colony is generated and attached to your ship. Pressing J again will increase the population of your colony if the planet can spare the colonists for you. Now you are ready to carry it to its destination. You can press N, then parse through the possible destinations with the , and . keys, and click „conquer” on your selection to make the AI ships (we all just call them robots) carry colonies there too. Your number pad keys 5 and 8 make you go, although you can use the N (navigation) screen to select the destination and click Go or press G and your ship’s „computer” will automagically drive you there on auto pilot, albeit at normal engine speed, whereas if you drive yourself, so to speak you can press 8 and use Boost speed until you run out of it. When you get there, you fly over the destination and press the / key to release the colony onto its destination. Try to get a nice hit, it’s easy after a few practice runs.

Fighting Planets

You can’t drop a colony on an occupied planet without a fight from the colony on it and from ships from its side. So you need planet-reducing weapons. Flames were invented for that, and Rapid1 and Laser1 aren’t too bad either. You need a good Shield if you are going to try to fly over with a colony in tow that has a bigger population than the target planet’s colony. I like to zoom over and release and run, saves time reducing the target population, but it depends on circumstances what’s best.

Fighting Ships

Ai robot ships will attack you and you will have a „dog fight”.

If you win the encounter, or go around attacking AI ships, it seems they try to gang up on you and come at you as if for revenge. This is wonderful if you are prepared for it, because you don’t have to hunt them down when you are trying to rack up some kills. Notice I did say if you are prepared for them.

Human players will seek you out as prey, too, of course, and you will seek out them, too. Some players are very touchy about being killed and whatever tactic you use that wins will draw their often angry denunciations. This is part of the fun. On the other hand if your tactics permit them to win, they will consider that their tactics are divinely inspired and greatly to be envied and praised, and tell you so.

This too is part of the fun. Some players are more in good sport vein and will give you (and expect) the equivalent of „Touché” when one of you wins a fight.

So how to win a fight? Well, the T key tells you what your ship is targeting, the A key acquires a new target, the , and . keys cycle through the targets after you press T or A. Having chosen a victim (be optimistic), pressing F (for Fight), lets your ship’s autopilot take you there and fire your weapons. Against AI opponents this may be all that’s necessary. Against other players, more cautious tactics will help keep your Kill/Loss ratio positive.

Details on tactics appear in the next section, but a word about strategy first: it’s a Darwinian universe out there. The big fish eat the little fish and the little fish that learn when to run away live to be big enough to eat other little ones in their turn.

Resist invitations to stand toe to toe with someone in a fight.

Usually, they will have some advantage you don’t know about and you’ll just be a positive statistic in their K/L ratio in a few seconds.

Tactics and Key Game Controls

Everyone has a different idea about the best fight tactics. That’s what makes it a game.

First learn a few controls. Pressing F1 in the game can identify some controls not covered here. Then scroll through the list of command keys and their short descriptions. Other players you meet in a game may be willing to explain any you don’t understand. Ask.

Main Screen

The – and = keys on the top row of your keyboard zoom the main screen in and out. I find two taps of the – key do wonders for keeping the surrounding area in view. You have to zoom all the way in to be able to see your, you hope, Green shield indicator around your ship. So you zoom back and forth as needed.

Radar Screen

The – and + keys on the right side of most keyboards zoom the radar screen in and out. I find that zoomed out so you can still see the triangle symbol that displays a ship location is useful. You can zoom out more from time to time to check the neighbourhood for planets and asteroids.


You set a destination any of several ways in your Nav computer, then press G or F or to have your autopilot take you there. If you set a destination far enough away, and if you have Q-Drive, and if your ship has a mass low enough to allow Q-Drive, you’ll enter Q-Space and fly there unseen and unexposed to any dangers from other ships. If you always have a destination set that is far enough away, you can Q-Drive away quickly enough to avoid enemy fire. I try to have my Nav computer always pointed to a planet or asteroid my race controls so that I can press G if I get damaged and go there to refresh and recharge my ship by orbiting it. You have one more advantage for this preparation however. When your ship is entering Q-Space you see an animated flash on your ship. If you press the 5 key on your number pad during this flash, your trip will be suspended temporarily and you will be frozen in Q-Space, safe from enemy fire, but still at the scene of the fight and able to see all that’s going on.

In a few minutes your ship will recharge itself anyway, so it can be a good idea to do it this way. Or you can see things develop around you that make you use this as an opportunity to set a new destination or a new target.

Curious why it’s „Q-Drive”? Game developer Doug Hendrix posted this in May 2001:

„I asked Neil if we could have a Warp Drive. He came back with a Q-Drive. After a while of using it I finally asked, what is a Q-Drive? The answer . . .

Quantum Drive

It uses the energy in the background Quantum photon field that we exist in (but can’t measure) to power the ship. In case, anyone is wondering, this is a real thing. Look up a book or a webpage on Quantum Field Theory for reference.”


You have to pick the weapons that suit your mission.

If you are colonizing, if no one else is playing against you, you might choose a pair of FlameII weapons to reduce the population of target planets.

If you are dog fighting, you might choose missiles or torpedoes. If you won’t be carrying colonies for a while, if you can dock at a Starbase you can select the Tractor (press S, then , or .) and then press Shift + \ to „sell” it to the Starbase and open up that slot for something else in your ship’s „load out”. You get 7 million credits for your Tractor. That will buy a lot of guns or shields.

Your own experience and tastes will tell you what weapons you want.

As a general guide, in the game, as in real warfare, the object of weapons is to concentrate as much fire as possible on the enemy.

The „BigOne”, essentially a massive, 10,000-strength warhead on a 5 second fuse, is a timebomb with a real kick, introduced with the .99.99 version update. Its volume (1,000) is so large, you have to give up something in order to carry it. You only get one at a time. But if you drop it and qdrive out of there in time, very little in the immediate area survives. (Unless it’s activated in the DAT file of the game you play, you won’t see it available as an option. Game developer Neil Hillis told me he put it in as an ethical test of mod makers and the players of their mods: when available, would they use the „ultimate” weapon? Short answer: of course!)

Even beginners can pilot an extremely lethal ship with the BigOne. If you are nimble, you can transform a Scout into a deadly weapon, able to kill anything in the game.

The BigOne will just fit in a Scout if you sell back to your Starbase your Sensor, your Boost, your Cloak, and your Tractor.

Configure your remaining systems as shown in the table below.

Lethal Scout Power 3 Shield 3 Engine 3 Qdrive 1 BigOne Laser1 Laser1 Armor2

As long as you get close enough to your victim, err, target, and as long as you can qdrive out of there immediately after depositing the BigOne, you can kick some serious butt and accumulate some serious kill numbers — and credits. You have to get within 100 pixels of a Starbase to be certain of a kill, but what’s gameplay without a little challenge, daring and excitement?

Less extreme methods of concentrating fire provide possibly more flexibility.

Consider the 3 missiles, smart, heat and dart. Their warheads are 180, 400 and 150, respectively, but their speed of fire and speed of travel are different. You might hit a target with more darts than you could with the slower flying heats. So darts might be the better choice; certainly they cost the most, even though they have the lightest warhead and you only get x of them. Smarts, on the other hand, provide you with 300 shots and they fly at a medium speed. If you are planning on firing them at the rear (an often less protected area on a ship) of a target ship, smarts might do a better job. It depends on which weapon will score the most hits and that depends on the target and the circumstances.

Or consider the 4 torpedoes shown in the table.

·  Torpedo Table

Race Torpedo 1 Torpedo 2 Torpedo 3 Torpedo 4
Arcean Blaster Stinger Rapid1 Rapid2
Terran MassDriver PlasmaTorp Rapid1 Rapid2
Drengin PhotonGun Disruptor Rapid1 Rapid2

Torpedo 1 has a warhead of 150 and a launch speed of .6 c.

Torpedo 2 has a warhead of 500 and a launch speed of .35 c.

Torpedo 3 has a warhead of 100 and a launch speed of .7 c.

Torpedo 4 has a warhead of 400 and a launch speed of .8 c.

Torpedo 4 has a high mass and volume. Only Starbases or Dreadnoughts with very little else in them can carry them. The other torpedoes will generally fit in regular ships, depending on other components being carried at the same time.

So let’s restrict this comparison to Torpedoes 1 to 3.

If you are in a Scout, you might consider carrying 3 of Torpedo 2 if you are going to attack ships you could hit with most of these relatively slow moving torpedoes. Other ships carrying colonies, for example, make pretty good targets for this weapon, especially if you attack them head on or directly from behind. A Scout is the fastest ship, the smallest target and the most nimble. It has the least protection, too, but nevermind. If you are attacking faster craft than colony carrying Scouts and Destroyers, perhaps Torpedo 3 may make more sense, or even Torpedo 1, if they are more likely to hit the target.

If you fire 20 shots of Torpedo 2 at a target, but only a few hit because of the target’s speed and evasive tactics, if a faster torpedo could land more hits, it might be a better choice.

Cannon achieves more „hit points” than the others. Cannon „costs” you more mass and volume. A Torpedo 2 achieves 500 „hit points”. Only two Torpedo 2 shots would seem to need to hit before you are ahead of the damage a Cannon can do. Except a Cannon hurts Armor more than the other torpedoes. So, you have to try the possible mixes of weapons („load outs”) and see what works for you.


Shields and Armor and your recharge times (Power and Engine levels determine these) and your ship’s speed (the smaller, the faster) are your given defensive factors. Your skill in anticipating shots and in maneuvering are your individual defensive factors. Shields come in 7 strengths. Each increase in Shield power takes up more volume and raises your ship’s mass. The newly introduced „Armor” comes in 3 levels, each progressively bigger in volume and heavier in „mass”. Every ship component does this, of course, so „loading out” a ship is a juggling act.

Many „senior” players who are eligible to fly Dreadnoughts enjoy flying a scout or a destroyer. Dreadnoughts are powerful but they are bigger targets, too, and slower than smaller ships. Watch (press the P key to see the Pilots screen) who’s playing and when you see a player with a fantastic Kill/Loss ratio, say 10 to 1 or better, notice (use your targeting computer by pressing T and select their ships) what power, shield and engine settings they are using. I often see these players using a 4-4-4 pattern, or a 5-5-3 pattern, or a 4-5-3 pattern, depending on their preferences and the rest of their load out. I believe your power and engine settings affect your recharge time and your firing rate.

Ship Load Outs

A Deadly Scout

Scouts have a vacant „slot”, so you can dock at a Starbase when you get/find/earn at least 10 million credits and buy armor for that slot.

Example: A fairly deadly Scout can be equipped with Power 4, Engine 4 (or Power 5 and Engine 3), Shield 4, Armor 3, Qdrive 2, Sensor 3, Boost 3, 1-Stinger, 2-Stinger, 3-Stinger. Note omission of Tractor.

Useful Freighters

The game’s developers added the Freighter after demands from those who thought beginners would find it useful or even exciting as an easy target when the Artificial Intelligence pilots (or „robots”) fly them. The Freighter, a one-weapon tube ship design, has the hull volume of a Dreadnaught. Because beginners can select a Freighter, this ship can be thought of as a one-weapon tube Dreadnaughtj. The real Dreadnaught requires a player to accumulate points and kills to qualify to fly it. The Freighter even flies at the same speed as a Dreadnaught. So here we have an extremely interesting unit, if you apply some imagination to it.

Hospital Ship:

Power 5
Shield 5
Engine 4
Armor 3
Sensor 3
Boost 3
Laser 1, Blaster or Stinger

Siege Ship:

Power 5
Shield 4
Engine 4
Armor 3
Sensor 3
Boost 3
Laser 3

Other Considerations When Equipping Your Ship

Shields don’t protect you when Cloaked, armor does.

Armor burns off quickly in combat – so if you snooze, you lose!

Other ships have all 12 „slots” taken with components. You have to swap in and out while at the Starbase, depending on your supply of credits. If you aren’t carrying colonies, as already mentioned, you can „sell” the Tractor for 7 million credits and create 400 units worth of room in your ship’s volume.

Remember, maximize Power and Engine to maximize rate of fire.

Grenade 1 and Lasers set to Auto can be good defenses against missiles.

Counter is „counter measures”. You press the ‚ key, if you include a Counter in your ship’s load out, and any enemy missiles within 100 pixels of your ship will have their autopilots „scrambled” and fly back at who sent them. When you are zoomed all the way in with the = key on your main viewer screen, 100 pixels is approximately half way or less across the viewing area. The LaserI range is 200 pixels, as another comparison of distance. Cloak, if you have room for it, can be useful in concentrating your fire on your target. You cloak, glide right up to within 100 or 200 pixels of your target, press C to uncloak and, if you were in attack mode (the F key), unload a volley right into your target. If your volley is composed of the Torpedo 2 weapon, and if you are close enough so that most of them hit, you may destroy your target with that one pass. But beware, your shields don’t work when you’re cloaked and some senior players can tell where a cloaked ship must be . . .

Practice Ideas

Create a „throw away” character and choose „Play Against the Computer”.

Then when you are ready, join an online game. When you are pretty good (comes quickly), create a new character and „campaign” this identity in the Stellar Frontier universe.

Game Chat Precautions

Have fun! Oh! I always go to Qspace before typing in the chat window. It’s very easy to get distracted by an interesting conversation in the chat window and get killed if you leave your ship exposed.


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