STAR FLEET BATTLES

SFT 40 - COLONY EVOLUTION

THE EVOLUTION OF A COLONY

By Steven P Petrick

One of the aspects of economics in the Star Fleet Battles background is the establishment and maintenance of colonies. Where colonies come from, how they grow, and how they are defended are considered here.

DISCOVERY AND SURVEY

The first stage in the life of any colony is the discovery of a suitable location for a colony. Within the confines of space as represented on the Federation & Empire map, and in the off map areas, exploration is always searching for new worlds to colonize. Much of the on-map exploration is conducted by warships as part of their routine anti-piracy operations. If a world is found that has potential as a colony, the warship conducts a brief survey and files a report with its government.

Within the Federation, Gorn Confederation, and Interstellar Concordium, a contract might be issued to a civilian developer. Most other races develop planets more or less centrally (i.e., under government control), with the government maintaining strict control. One major exception is the Lyran Star Empire. Depending on the strength of any given Lyran emperor, exploration might be centrally controlled or managed by each of the Dukes. In some cases, individual counts gained enough power to conduct colonization efforts without imperial or ducal sanction. In all cases, a given site might be passed over by a higher government and then picked up by a smaller one. In the case of the Romulan Star Empire, some colonies were developed by the central government, some by the regional or provincial governors, some by one of the Great Houses, and in a few cases individual fleet commanders established colonies when materials that would be of use to the fleet could be extracted.

In all cases, if a planet is deemed a possible colonization site, an exploration team (often on an exploration freighter) will be sent to study it and perform a comprehensive survey. Such surveys could take an entire year, or sometimes last longer. Within the Federation or Interstellar Concordium, civilian survey freighters might conduct the survey. Such civilian ships will include a representative of the respective Cultural Bureaus to ensure that if an indigenous intelligent life form is discovered, the planet will not be colonized. This is not the case in the other Star Nations, including the Gorn Confederation, which ignore the rights of indigenous species in favor of economic gain. It should be noted that the best known case of a failure to respect the rights of an indigenous species was that of the Slirdarians in the Klingon Empire. The Klingons proved unable to conquer the Slirdarians, and eventually incorporated the planet and the race into the Empire by treaty.

Once a planet’s suitability for colonization is confirmed by survey, the Federation, Gorn Confederation, or Interstellar Concordium will decide whether to plant a government colony, or to auction off the rights to the planet to private contractors or even private citizens who wish to set up their own colony. The other races’ governments will determine when a given planet will be colonized. Often this might be for purely military or political rather than economic reasons.

 

ESTABLISHMENT

The actual process of planting a colony can vary widely. If a government has a high interest in the success of the colony, or feels speed is an important factor, it might employ fleet assets such as tugs. In most cases, the colony will be transported to the planet by freighter.

Starting colonies might be no more than a few hundred people with few technological resources on an entire planet (common in the Federation, Gorn Confederation, or Interstellar Concordium), or several hundred or several thousand people backed by national resources. While the Federation, Gorn Confederation, or Interstellar Concordium might establish purely agrarian colonies populated with "back to nature" types, this rarely happens in the other empires. The vast majority of colonies are planned (even within the Federation, Gorn Confederation, and Interstellar Concordium). Whether a given colony will be agrarian, mining, scientific, or some combination of the three is determined before the first colonist sets foot on the surface, and often by the initial survey. (If valuable mineral deposits are found, a mining colony might be established immediately, especially in wartime, with the survey conducted by units based at the mining station. Such a survey might or might not find it plausible to set up agricultural facilities to eliminate the need to import food for the miners.)

The first stage of the colonization will consist of the planting of a single small ground base (Agricultural, Mining, Science), or sometimes two or more such bases. Then colonists land and begin the process of building a productive colony. At this point, the colony produces little in the way of exports, and its available imports will consist of necessities to allow the colony to continue to grow. Much of the subsequent commerce with small start-up colonies is conducted by the ships known as Free Traders, which are able to land on planetary surfaces to pick up and deliver cargo. Small start-up colonies will not normally have any ability to move cargoes into, or from, orbit at this stage. Some colonies might possess a few Admin or Heavy Transport Shuttles, but these are few and difficult for an isolated colony to maintain.

Occasionally a colony will discover an unexpected problem that has been missed by the survey. (Rakellian Tree Slugs, which all simultaneously turn into ravenous predators for six months once every ten years before reverting to slugs again, being a well known example.)

At this point, the colony is of little military interest to opposing races, and of little interest to pirates. Its primary defense, aside from its small size, is calling the nearest patrolling warship for help. Such an embryonic colony has no significant defenses or other military potential (although this has not stopped raids for political reasons, see Sherman’s Planet and Rita’s World). Pirates might consider the colonists themselves as a worthwhile resource (which is why even a new colony will usually have an organized militia), but the equipment and minimal resources present do not otherwise provide the possibility of making a trip to raid the planet economical.

 

INITIAL DEVELOPMENT

With the passage of time, successful colonies grow and accumulate both population and wealth. With success comes increased notice by both hostile races and pirates. Such colonies begin looking to their own defenses, but lack the wealth for significant weaponry. It is usually at this time that a colony will purchase a ring of Defense Satellites. Note that even a colony being established and fostered by a government will need to produce enough wealth to be worth the cost of setting up a Defense Satellite chain.

It should be noted that Defense Satellites have many functions not reflected in game terms. They operate as communications relay, global positioning, weather, crop survey, and meteorite defense satellites to name just a few functions. A significant function of Defense Satellites is their Transporter Repeater function, enabling transporters at the main colony to transport survey teams virtually anywhere on the planet to select sites for colony expansion. These additional functions make Defense Satellites a good investment since they perform many important daily tasks for the young colony, especially given their relatively cheap replacement cost if destroyed.

One function of a Defense Satellite chain is early warning. Since most starting colonies have few orbital platforms, the orbiting Defense Satellites will be able to scan in every direction for incoming trouble. In short, Defense Satellites provide a colony its first opportunity to maintain a global view to see anything approaching, and with a lower manpower cost (critical for a young colony) than three Ground Warning Stations. Unfortunately, Defense Satellites do not have the observation range of Ground Warning Stations. The colonists at this stage will maintain a militia force in an effort to repel raiding landing forces, and this force will benefit from the early warning the Defense Satellites provide. Over time, the militia may acquire more and more functions of the Customs Police, ensuring that all imports and exports are duly accounted for and taxed, and that dangerous or undesirable items (e.g., narcotics) are kept out.

While a set of five Defense Satellites may be more than a small raider can handle, they are ultimately not a deterrent for larger raiders, or squadrons of small raiders. Their principle defense function in this latter case is to delay attackers long enough for the ubiquitous warship or police ship patrolling nearby to arrive and drive them off.

It should be noted that at any point a colony might warrant placement of a Research Station, sometimes purchased by the colony for its own purposes, and sometimes imposed on the colony by a government interested in some local phenomena.

 

THE NEXT STEP

With continued success, a colony will purchase additional ground bases and spread its population to other parts of the planet to continue exploiting resources. Once a colony divides in this manner, it will usually purchase its first ground based defenses. Usually the defenses purchased at this stage will be of the phaser type, and the type of phaser will depend on several factors.

First, and most prominently, will be the relative wealth of the colony, which may have to settle for a phaser-2 system even though it wants a phaser-4 system. Sometimes a colony will be forced to purchase a weaker system not because it cannot afford the more expensive system, but simply because it cannot afford both the more expensive system and the transportation costs.

Second will be political factors, and these are varied. A colony’s own local political leadership may decide not to invest in top grade weaponry in order to use the funds saved for other purposes (or simple corruption). Klingon, Lyran, Kzinti, or Romulan leaders may want to deter a colony from becoming too strong too quickly for a variety of reasons. Mostly these have to do with suspicion that the colony may be willing to support a coup by a faction, or in the case of the Romulans, simply to prevent one Great House from gaining too much power.

A third factor will be an estimate of the threat the colony is under. Recent wars and the level of nearby piracy can have a dramatic effect on the willingness of a prosperous colony to try to purchase the best defenses possible. Colonies far from hostile races and which have not heard any reports of piracy nearby can (and in many cases have) become complacent and not develop local defenses. Unfortunately, many refuse to learn that pirates change their hunting grounds when pressed too severely by the fleet elsewhere. Further, information from agents they have placed in various government offices will, sooner or later, clue the pirates in that there is a wealthy and relatively undefended planet. Pirates are known to pay well for such information from underpaid civil servants in various governmental offices.

A fourth factor is purely military. At any point in most empires a decision may be taken to fortify a planet for use as a base or staging area. Within the Federation or Gorn Confederation, the colonists have recourse to the courts to try to overturn such a decision, and have even won some decisions (in peacetime). The Interstellar Concordium, in its rush to raise defenses against the madness outside of its space, overrode the rights of citizens on small colonies near its fringes, and applied that standard within its own space as piracy increased.

Trade in this period is still primarily conducted through Free Traders, and the principle means of defense is still the local militia and a call for help.

 

GROWTH

If a colony remains successful, it will import additional ground bases, perhaps more of the original type, such as agricultural, perhaps it will expand into other fields. A colony doing very well might import its own Scientific Research Station to investigate other uses for local fauna and flora. Additional ground based defenses might be brought in, but these will generally be deployed to grant more protection to the entire planet while maintaining some degree of defensive fire over the main colony.

The growth rate of a given colony will depend, more than anything, on whether the planet is habitable (breathable atmosphere and drinkable water) or requires the construction of controlled-environment habitats. Planets which are habitable will see the population begin to expand of its own accord beyond the original site; this will be difficult or impossible if expansion requires the construction of a sealed artificial environment. Colonies on non-habitable worlds will never experience the growth of those on habitable worlds, and the remainder of this article will focus on the habitable world type. Even in this case, however, it is possible that mineral resources will encourage economic expansion in any case, see the Annox system.

It is at this stage that a colony will begin seriously evaluating its need to support or expand trade. There are three paths that might be followed.

Colonies that are still financially weak will continue to trade through the ubiquitous Free Trader.

Stronger colonies will seek to begin trading with the larger bulk cargo carriers. Some colonies will import large numbers of HTS shuttles to be able to move cargoes into orbit to be loaded onto freighters, but this is a short-term solution due to the high maintenance cost. Cargoes will be held on the planetary surface, necessitating long layover times. Each HTS shuttle must carry its load into orbit, transfer it to the freighter and load up with return goods, and then return to the surface to be unloaded before it can be loaded for its next trip.

A very strong colony will purchase both a number of HTS shuttles and a Commercial Platform. The advantage of a Commercial Platform is the speed at which cargo can be transferred to a freighter docked to it. Further, the cargo facilities of the Commercial Platform can be filled over time (using a much smaller fleet of HTS shuttles) avoiding a last minute rush to organize a transfer. Any deliveries from the freighter can be marshaled into the cargo bay of the Commercial Platform and then brought to the surface at leisure. Cargo modules can be added to the Commercial Platform at a later date when the volume of material the colony has to trade increases.

Commercial Platforms, because they will almost always be full of bulk storage of the best trade goods coming from, or going to, the colony are significant targets for attack by Orion Pirates.

The primary function of the Colony’s defenses remains the deterring of attack by small raiders, and delaying larger raiding forces until a warship can respond. Ground forces will still primarily be militia.

 

EXPANSION

If a colony continues to be successful its next move will be to branch out to other locations on the planet. This will be accomplished in two ways, usually somewhat simultaneously. Individuals in the colony (even one tightly controlled by the government) will seek "free air", a place they can call their own. Some will set up local farms or ranches, some will open their own small mines. At the same time, the colony’s leadership will seek to control the growth of the colony.

Wealthy colonies will select sites for expansion and purchase additional ground bases as the centerpiece for these sites. Often they will include new ground defense bases at these new sites. Less affluent colonies will site the new bases with previously positioned ground bases from the "Growth" period. The expansion period is a clear indication of the success and growing affluence of any colony.

Trade will increase dramatically, and among "free" colonies complaints will be heard about the exorbitant costs of imported goods due to the markups charged by freight companies. Free Traders will gradually cease servicing the colony during this period.

It is also a time of great peril for the colonies as the movement to expand will also be met by an increase in the interest of the tax collector. With the interest of the tax collector, the colony at last achieves the enviable status of being of interest to neighboring races. It is now worth while to an enemy race to send a cruiser, in time of war, to stop the colony from providing resources to its national government. This may be through occupation by ground troops, or destruction of the major facilities, or simply by a periodic blockade and disruption of shipments. It is, however, too small to warrant the permanent deployment of fleet vessels, or construction of a permanent base, to protect it.

During this period the colony will begin organizing its local defense forces into a more formal standing force augmented by the militia. A flight (4-6) of fighter shuttles may make an appearance among the defense forces, later expanding to a full squadron. The Colony’s own defense forces are now adequate to drive off a single light cruiser, and at least keep a heavy cruiser occupied. Squadrons of frigates might wish to avoid such a colony.

 

FLOWERING

The Expansion Phase flows into the Flowering. Such a colony might have a second Commercial Platform or a Systems Activity Maintenance Station. With a strong local economy and regular cargo service, the colonial leaders may well start placing small colonies on other planets, moons, or asteroids in the same star system. These off-site colonies will always remain tiny, as they will doubtless not be on worlds with breathable atmospheres. The first such off-site mining colonies will be used to produce materials needed by the main colony; later ones will produce raw materials for export. These off-site mining colonies could be serviced by shuttles or the main colony’s own free traders; as they will usually have no atmosphere and a weak gravity well, cargo service will be less difficult than the original colony.

A successful colony will deploy ground defenses for all around fire. Ground Military Garrisons of organized defense force personnel (i.e., a standing full-time Army, which conveniently will convince any free-spirited sub-colonies to rejoin the fold) will exist and the colony may have one or two fighter squadrons (8-24 fighters). Two or three Ground Warning Stations will be deployed to allow the defenses the maximum possible time to prepare for attack. Militia will still be available, but in real terms the defense of the planet will actually fall upon full-time professional troops paid for the task. The troops will be backed up by a least light armored vehicles and some shuttles in addition to the fighters.

Federation Colony planets may deploy a third fighter squadron of the best available fighters in late General War years and later. Other race’s colonies will begin acquiring a flotilla of PFs for local defense.

Colonies of this type are wealthy enough that the government may permanently assign police ships to help defend it, or at least freighters in nearby space. Significant threats to the colony would warrant assignment of a monitor to protect it from attack, although this would normally be a step toward construction of a battle station. (It should be noted that the Federation and Interstellar Concordium might assign a monitor to an otherwise valueless planet during peacetime to protect citizens from pirate attacks, but no other race will do this.)

Only a squadron of cruisers or larger forces would attack such a colony.

 

BASTION

The final phase of a colony in its march to become a "civilized world" is the Bastion Phase. The colony deploys more ground defense stations, and will build up its Commercial Platform into a Civilian Base Station to facilitate trade. The colony will seek to increase its net income by dispensing with freight companies, acquiring its own freighters, and moving its own cargoes. Some of the freighters might be armed types for use as auxiliary warships in defense of the colony (if they are present when the colony is raided). The Base Station is necessary to maintain and repair the Colony’s fleet of freighters.

It is possible that such a colony will have enough financial value that its empire will save it the cost of a Civilian Base Station and construct a military Base Station or Battle Station. In rare cases, however, a relatively primitive planet may poessess resources of such value and be so near a hostile border that a Battle Station may be constructed long before it reaches the Bastion Phase; see Morkedian III.

 

ORION COLONIES

An exception to the procedure of founding colonies is the Orion Pirates. The various Cartels are constantly on the lookout for marginal planets that can be used as temporary shipyards. Much of the population of an Orion shipyard colony will be slave labor. Farmers and miners will be abducted from other planets to extract at least some of the minimal resources of the planet, and construct the cradles needed for Orion ship hulls to take shape. Most of the materials needed to actually construct the ships will of necessity come from off planet. No temporary colony is able to produce the electronics and support systems needed to build a starship.

Most of the materials will be brought from the Orion Homeworld (a monopoly lost when the Cluster Cartel signed its deal with the WYN), and brought to the shipyard colony by Orion-owned freighters. It is not possible for the Capital Cartel to produce all of the Orion warships as such a huge construction effort would inevitably draw Federation interest.

These temporary colonies produce enough ships to keep the Orion Cartels operational, and if the local fleet gets too near, the colony can be quickly abandoned. Sometimes an abandoned Orion colony (consisting of abandoned slave labor with some support from the local government) will manage to evolve into a stable colony after the fact. Most times abandoned shipyard colonies quickly degenerate into barbarism (or the slaves are evacuated to other worlds) if they do not become extinct due to a lack of food, air, water, medicine, or other vital resources.

 

SELTORIAN COLONIES

The Seltorians only built one official colony (although there were rumors that other unofficial colonies had been created elsewhere), on an obscure planet that the Klingons could not use because it required intense hand-labor. For the Seltorians, able to hatch entire divisions of laborers from stored eggs and raise them to maturity in months, this was no problem. The Seltorian colony quickly evolved through all of the stages into a full-fledged world producing everything that the Seltorian Hive ship needed to build a continuing supply of new ships. Being a major fleet base, it was provided with minefields and defense satellites, but the hive ship itself took the place of an orbital base. Dozens of HTS shuttles, and later three entire flotillas of cargo PFs, were used to bring raw materials from the deep mines to the orbiting Hive ship.

 

JINDARIAN COLONIES

The Jindarians set up colonies only rarely, and then only on large asteroids not on planets. (The Jindarians basically took their colonies with them.) Sometimes a suitable asteroid might be found and conversion to a hollow asteroid ship begun; work crews might be left behind as the caravan moved on to complete the conversion. Sometimes this was done when the caravan intended to return to pick up the new asteroid ship, and sometimes this was done when a caravan divided into two new groups, and the weaker group found itself needing to build ships from scratch rather than take a share of the ships from the original caravan. In at least one case, known to have happened in Gorn space, a group of Jindarians expelled from the caravan set up in the asteroid belt of an uninhabited system, started converting the larger asteroids into ships, but ultimately never left (at least during two centuries of recorded history) and remained as a more or less permanent habitation.

Sometimes Jindarians would set up temporary colonies on large asteroids, or even smaller moons, to facilitate extensive and prolonged mining operations in a given system.

 

WYN COLONIES

All WYN colonies are inside their cluster. Even at the end of the General War, there were several entire worlds that had only been barely exploited, with small colonies and research stations placed there to survey or begin extracting resources.

The WYNs never established colonies outside the cluster. One attempt to do so (in Lyran space) lasted only a few months until the local Lyran count changed his mind about having a WYN trading post in his territory and ordered the WYN colonists to pack up and go home. The experiment was never repeated.

 

LDR COLONIES

The LDR had every reason to actively and aggressively set up colonies on every semi-suitable planet in their territory. Being a minor power with porous borders, LDR colonies tended to have stronger defenses than any others. Even remote research stations were protected by DefSats, and minefields would quickly follow if valuable resources were found.

 

THOLIAN COLONIES

The Tholians regarded colonies as a vital part of their border defenses. All were equipped with monitoring stations and webs; many had ground defenses and even minefields. Given the considerable resources of their "home planet", the Tholians built colonies more as military defenses than to gather resources.

MINEFIELDS

Minefields are rarely deployed around colony planets. Young colonies, or those just starting, cannot afford the economic cost to simply purchase the mines, much less the facilities to support and maintain them. Minefields are very high maintenance as malfunctioning mines must be destroyed and replaced, and the entire field must be continuously monitored. (Minefields placed in border regions are also monitored, but the monitoring is not as continuous because such belts are intended to block entry into shipping lanes, not access to "the harbor".) Personnel must be assigned to watch the "entry points" of the minefield to turn-off, and –on, command mines that allow access.

While wealthier colonies, or well established ones, can afford both the manpower and the economic costs of deploying and maintaining a minefield, they usually consider them to be a hindrance to commerce, and the insurance premiums for merchant ships that might encounter a drifting mine to be an unnecessary expense.

Most colonies that have minefields have them imposed by their government, usually for purely military reasons. Sometimes a minefield is imposed on a wealthy colony simply because forcing the colony to pay the costs of maintaining the field (and paying the insurance as noted above) is cheaper than permanently assigning a fleet unit or building a Battle Station to discourage Orion raiders.

Some otherwise insignificant planets on which important research is being conducted may also have minefields, monitored by naval personnel, to release ships for patrolling duties. Such planets may have little more than one or more research facilities but otherwise be uninhabited.

Of course, if a colony of any size is selected to become an operational base of the fleet, a minefield might be installed to defend the fleet’s assets. The fleet will, in this case, monitor the minefield and (more importantly to the colony, at least when not under attack) pay the insurance costs for the occasional merchantman that runs afoul of a malfunctioning mine.

Within the Federation some planets have minefields (and a small listening station) as part of the "Prime Directive". These are planets that the Federation is allowing to develop on their own, and the minefield will deter unscrupulous traders or delay Orion raiders until a fleet ship can arrive to drive them away. (The ISC follows a similar philosophy, and began deploying similar minefields to free ships for its pacification campaign. Prior to Y165 such planets usually had a police corvette assigned to keep unscrupulous traders away, but such deployments were insufficient after the Orions arrived.)

A notable exception to the above is that sometimes a minefield is deployed around a planet to keep whatever is on the planet from getting off. Two such cases in Federation space are the planets Aberdeen-III and the Gremlin planet.

Another such case is the planet Lavler-IV in the Romulan Empire. The Romulans tried to colonize what appeared to be a very desirable planet in Y150. The initial colonists vanished, but scans showed none of their equipment was damaged other than by normal weather effects. A second effort in Y162 aided by Klingon technology also vanished. In Y163 a Praetorian team landed on the planet to determine what had happened, and stopped reporting literally in mid-word with no outward sign of any cause, all life signs simply stopped. The second half of the team also landed, and also vanished with absolutely nothing out of the ordinary registering on any instruments. The Romulans deployed a minefield around the planet in Y165 to keep whatever was there, there. In Y174 the Gorns attacked the Romulans and, while driving into Romulan space, encountered the planet. Detecting emissions from still operating electronic systems at the colony site, the Gorns diverted their elite Seventh Brigade to take the planet en route to a major Romulan base. The Gorn marines met the same fate as the Romulan colonists. The disaster may have been critical to the Romulan’s ability to patch together defenses as the Gorns were forced to delay several ongoing operations to bring up additional ground troops. Several derelict Romulan ships, a Gorn Troop Pod and various shuttles remain on the planet’s surface to this day. The Gorns reinforced the Romulan minefield and left the planet alone thereafter.

 

Copyright 1998, 1999 Amarillo Design Bureau, All Rights Reserved

Updated 16 May 1999