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Everything you need to know about Damage

Everything you need to know about Damage (but didn't know what to ask)

Combat plays a large role in the game and as such having a good understanding of how damage is dealt with in the game can prove the difference between victory and defeat. This article deals with all aspects of damage; inflicting potential damage, defence layers, damage assignment and repairing it.

Avoiding being hit
Before looking at how damage is dealt with, first and foremost, it is better not to be hit. There are a few methods of avoiding being hit. Some of the list below may be appropriate for one or both sides:
  • Missiles, torpedoes and space bombers can be countered before the hit. Point defence is useful against all three, while interceptors can only deal with bombers though they are much more effective at this than point defence. There are however many weapons that cannot be countered.
  • The dodge of a position will also count against the accuracy of the attacks against it. Certain weapons are highly accurate but deliver low damage while others are the opposite.
  • Certain weapons can only fire along a line of sight. Ground based systems using these weapons can only fire back against targets that are engaging them with line of sight weapons. An outpost for example cannot fire its photon guns against a ship that is firing missiles at it from orbit.
  • Active platforms attack a round before ships enter combat and if capable to destroying the incoming position, they will avoid being attacked.
  • Bases with starbase shielding cannot activate their weapons so cannot return fire even with space fighters. Their point weapons are however active.
  • Pre-combat ISR stresses can destroy very weak ships such as XL freighters.
  • Fleeing combat before it even starts (dropping cargo gives a speed bonus).

Inflicting Damage
Presuming that the attack was not avoided, the incoming hit will cause potential damage. Damage is delivered either from the weapon system or the ammo that it uses. The simplest case is the Photon Beam (in its various forms). The damage is indicated for the specific weapon. The Photon Gun (50mu) for example delivers a potential of 60 damage every time it hits a target. There are no random ranges involved in determining this potential damage. If 10 photon guns hit, 600 damage will be used as the starting damage before modifications.

Weapon systems that use ammo fall into a few categories:

  • Rail weapons deliver an amount of damage equal to the specific ammo damage multiplied by the specific rail weapon. For example, a Rail Gun (50mu) has an ammo damage multiplier of 4. When launching HE (high explosive) ammo with a damage of 30, each rail gun inflicts 120 damage. 10 rail guns will therefore potentially inflict 1200 damage.
  • Launchers only improve the accuracy of the missiles and torpedoes they launch. In these cases all damage is based entirely on the damage of the specific missile or torpedo.
  • Fighter bays launch space bombers. As with launchers, the damage inflicted is for the bomber.

Ground ordnance is the same as energy weapons in so far as the damage is based specifically on the item.
While there are no random factors involved in determining the amount of damage inflicted, this is however the potential damage and will be modified down through various mechanics.

Presuming the weapon hits, the damage has to pass through the defences of the target before it can inflict physical damage.

First of all, all hits are dealt with individually. This is important because each line of defence has a damage threshold and only damage that surpasses the threshold passes on to deal with the next line of defence. Further each hit has other information with it that determines how effective the hit is going to be against different layers defence and finally how the damage is assigned.

Each successful hit carries with it the following information:
  • Damage – this is the initial amount of damage.
  • Type – based on the weapon system. Photon beams are energy.
  • Armour Factor – is the multiplier to the thresholds of defences
  • Blast Radius – determines localisation of the damage
  • Ground Splash – how damage behaves against multiple items
  • Area Targeting – determines which items will be damaged first

Determining Potentials
Phoenix uses the 3d6 bell curve mechanic for determining averages (familiar to anybody rolling stats for AD&D and a bucket load of other roleplaying games). This is effectively three random numbers generated between 0 and 5 and added together. A total of 15 represents 100% while a total of 0 equates to 0%. Most numbers generated are around the 7-8 value, representing 50%. This is applied to every layer of defence against all individual hits.

Applying Armour Factors
Armour factor is the ability of the damage to penetrate the various defence layers. The threshold of each line of defence is modified by the armour factor associated with the hit. An armour factor of 0.8 for example means that a defensive threshold of 100 is treated as 80. A threshold of 100 being hit by an armour factor of 5 is treated as 500. Explosive weapons such as missiles (D200, AF 8) and HE (D30xrail weapon, AF 5) are highly damaging but also have high armour factors.

Layers of Defence

Optical Depth
This only applies when using energy weapons to fire through the atmosphere of a celestial body. This applies in both directions. Firing on a surface target from orbit and vice versa will have their damage reduced by the modified optical depth. A gas giant for example with an optical depth of 40 will reduce damage from photon weapons on average by 20.

Scintillators only work against energy weapons. They work by scattering the incoming energy. They are effective against all energy weapons to the same degree. The thickness of the scintillator field is the potential reduction to each and every energy type hit.

A scintillator field of 20 for example has the potential to reduce every incoming energy type hit by 20, though typically it will be around 10 (see Determining Potentials above). Having a scintillator field depth of 50 will on average counter half of all light photon guns (damage 25) hits penetrating this defensive layer will have on average been severely reduced. Some energy weapons have AF factors less than 1, giving them an advantage against targets with scintillator fields.

Shields work in a similar basis to scintillators though with two distinct differences. They can achieve much thicker depths (higher thresholds) and they apply to all incoming hits. Energy weapons that have already been reduced by scintillators for example will be further reduced by shields.
The thickness of a shield(its damage threshold) is based on the quantity of shield factors it has (modified by area of the target and starbase shielding). The greater the quantity of shield factors, the greater the shield depth. As with all layers of defence, the actual depth for each hit will be between zero and the thickness.
While the maximum number of factors is based on the quantity of shields, the generation of factors themselves is due to shield generators. These produce factors either every day or every round of combat, attempting to charge the shields up to a maximum. The drawback with shields is that their factors are depleted by the damage they absorb.

A shield surrounding an outpost has a depth of 80. This means it has potential damage threshold of 80. Presuming it is hit by a typical photon weapon that delivers 90 damage, at least 10 damage will pass through. On average however the depth will be 40 so typically 50 damage will penetrate. On average therefore 40 damage will be used to reduce the shield factors. As the depth of the shield is based on its factors, the shield is depleted.

The above example however does not give the full picture. There are exceptions and special cases:
  • Platforms and bases have better shield systems and are able to absorb minor damage. Only damage that actually penetrates the shield has the damage absorbed by the shields reduce its factors. For example, if the damage is 50 and all 50 is absorbed, then the shield factors are not reduced. If however the incoming damage was 60 and only 50 was absorbed, 10 would pass on and the shield factors would be depleted by 50.
  • Armour factor modifies down the amount of damage used to deplete the shields where armour factors are greater than 1. Example – Missile (D200, AF8) hits a shield with depth of 20. The shield is modified up to 160 due to the AF of the missile. It is then subjected to random modification (see Determining Potentials above) and in this case comes down to 105. 95 damage therefore penetrates. Of the 105 that is stopped by the shields, 13 (105/8) counts towards depleting the shield factors.
  • Starbase Shields increase depth based on the quantity of shielding complexes present in the base compared to other complexes and how long they have been charging for. This depth has a potential of 200 in addition to the thickness attributed to the shield factors.

Platforms and ships can also be covered in armour. The quantity of amount plates is dependent on the type of hulls used in the construction of the hulls and the size of the vessel. The overall thickness of the armour is determined by the quantity of plates (in proportion to the maximum) and the type of armour.

Armour behaves like shields in that as it absorbs damage. The primary differences are that while damage absorbed by shields depletes its factors, in the case of armour, the armour is burnt off. As it burns off it is no longer effective at absorbing (stopping) damage. The armour thickness therefore decreases. Unlike shields, armour is not restored through generators. Lost armour needs to be repaired, requiring sending the ship to the docks. Heavier armours (producing greater depths) such as ablative are more easily damaged.

A ship with Ablative Armour will have an armour thickness of 120 compared to 80 for a ship Armour Plates and is on the face of it the clear winner. An armour plate however will typically absorb 1,000 damage before it is burnt off while an ablative armour plate will only absorb 150 damage. In other words ships with Ablative Armour will be undergoing near seven times the repairs (and costs) of Armour Plated ships. This said, the extra armour in a short combat can be the difference between winning and losing.

Damage Assignment
Damage assignment is dealt with differently for enclosed structures (ships and platforms) than for positions consisting of standalone objects (ground parties and bases). In the case of enclosed structures, the damage is split into two sets of damage based on the ratio of internal volume to overall area based on the hulls used. In other words, hits are attenuated by the hulls of the ships and platforms. For heavy hulls 23% (30/130) of the damage of each hit is pushed into the interior of the ship, the other 77% is channelled into the hulls.
Damage is now assigned to items. This is based on Targeting assigned to the damage though with a special exception. If no targeting was opted for, damage assignment is random. Where random assignment occurs in the case of ground parties and bases, there is an initial spread check to determine if ground zero is empty space (indirect hits).

If an attack had targeting assigned (Structure, Weapons, Lifeform Disable), the chance to hit has been modified. If the attack succeeded in hitting, the damage passed on for assignment will have the appropriate target tag. If the attack failed to hit, a second check was made without the targeting penalty. If this attack succeeded, the damage passed on does not have the target tag. Some weapons (tractor beams, proximity torpedoes) have highly accurate but are flagged as unfocused. They ignore targeting.

A position is a collection of items each with a location. This can be structure such as in the case of hulls that form a ship or complexes that form a base. There are other areas such as cargo, installed etc. Further items can be assigned to groupings, such as lifeforms and weapon systems.

When assigning damage to a discrete type for example structure, all the items are sorted, pulling out the appropriate ones. The chance of the damage being assigned to a specific item is based on the relative size of the area compared to the overall area of all the appropriate items.

A Dome complex for example has a size of 20,000, compared with 1,000 of a mine. Damage is 20 times more likely to be assigned to a dome than a mine. Armour has a very low area. This means that any damage that penetrates a ship’s defences has a small chance of being assigned to the ship’s armour through random assignment.

Installed Area Modifiers
Installing items can necessitate putting them on the outside of a ship or deep within it. This equates to a modifier to its area when installed. For most items this is 1 but a few have higher values. This makes them more vulnerable.

Special Exceptions
Bases that have actively participated in naval combat will have all incoming damage assigned to their weapons irrespective of targeting. Once these have been eliminated, all damage is assigned normally.

Items with Defence
Before damage is actually assigned there is a check to determine if the item is speficially defended. Bunkers for example have the ability to defend lifeforms while magazines defend ammo. This means that any damage that would normally be assigned to the defended item is instead assigned to the defending item. In the case of damage that would be assigned to a missiles in the cargo section of a ship, the incoming damage is instead assigned to the magazine. This will only be the case where the total cargo space of the defending items is greater than the mass of defended items. Where there is insufficient cargo space, the % coverage determines whether it will be defended or not. For example, having 100mu ammo cargo space and 200mu missiles means that the first hit has a 50% chance of being assigned to the magazine.

Destroying Items
At this point there should be a specific item, e.g. Metals(1) and a remaining amount of damage to assign to it. If the item has Damage Reduction, the damage is reduced by the modified (see Determining Potentials above) Damage Reduction. In this case the bell curve is centred on the damage reduction value, i.e. if an item has a Damage Reduction of 2, it will on average stop 2 damage. This equates to the items ability to simply absorb small amounts of damage. If this has not reduced the damage to zero there is now a check against the defense of the item.

If damage is greater than item defence, the item is destroyed, the quantity is reduced by 1. Excess damage is carried over.

If damage is less than item defence, there is a % chance that the item will be destroyed based on damage: item defence, e.g. 50 damage against 200 defence equates to 25% chance of destruction. If the item is destroyed, the quantity of the specific item is reduced by 1. Due to the mechanics of averages, the overall damage soaked by items will be equal to their defences.

Heavy hulls and platform hulls also provide internal protection for items due to the increased use of internal bulkheads as part of their design (items get x3 defence which can be increased up to x4 through officer damage control training). This can mean that even penetrating damage may appear to be less effective against warships.

Damage Carry Over
Excess damage after an item is destroyed is randomly assigned based on the weighted areas of the position. For example, targeting a few humans in a base that is little more than a massive ore stockpile means that excess damage after a human is killed is very likely to be assigned to ore.

The excess damage is modified by the blast radius of the hit. For most naval weapons this is 1 though for some it is much less. A weapon with a blast radius of 0.7 for example with 50 damage remaining after destroying an item will have 35 damage to assign to another item.

Before this damage is assigned however the spread of the target needs to be taken into consideration. A target with a packed spread has this damage assigned to the next item, though with increasing spread there is a chance that the damage will be assigned to empty space. There is only a 20% chance that damage will hit another item in a dispersed ground party for example. In other words, 80% of all excess damage is effectively lost. The chance of hitting another item is: Packed 100% (5/5), Close 80% (4/5), Normal 60% (3/5), Open 40% (2/5), Disperse 20% (1/5)

In the case of a ground party being the target, if it is in space it will be considered disperse, which means 80% of all excess damage has hit empty space instead of being assigned to another item even when the damage has a blast radius of 1. There is a chance that something else could be nearby. The damage is attenuated to the spread, i.e. reduced by 80% in the case of being dispered and a new hit check is made. This continues through iterations until all the damage has been attenuated for all hits. When attacking however the ground party has a spread equal to the position it is engaging. This makes ground parties attacking a packed base vulnerable to damage. While the packed base is equally vulnerable to damage, excess damage is more likely to be assigned to structures and other non-combat items simply due to its relative mass compared with the defending force. A packed base does however make it more vulnerable to orbital bombardments.

One further modifier made to excess damage is Ground Splash. This increases chance of excess damage being assigned to another item by the ground splash %. Missiles for example have a ground splash of 20%. This means if the target has a spread of Normal, there is 80% chance of excess damage being assigned to another item. In the case of disperse, this increases from 20% to 40%. Further, as all damage that fails to be assigned is attenuated to 40% of its damage and tested again, there can be significant quantity of casualties even in disperse targets.


Two attacks against a disperse ground party consisting of mercenaries; 100 kinetic missile(D60) and 100 missiles (D200, GS25%). Presuming averages. While in both cases 100 strikes hit the ground party, the quantity of direct hits on items is based on the spread plus ground splash.

Kinetic –20 direct hits (80 indirect) 60 damage kills 20 mercenaries. 20 direct hits of 59 damage and 80 indirect hits of 12 damage carryover. 20% chance of it hitting another, 20 more die. 4 hits of 58 damage, 16 hits of 11 damage, 16 indirect hits of 58 damage, 54 indirect hits of 2.4 damage carryover of 58 damage. 16 more die. The iterations continue and maybe another one or two die.
Total kills: 60 on average.

Missile - 40 direct hits (60 indirect) 200 damage kills 40 mercenaries. 40 direct hits of 199 damage and 60 indirect hits of 80 damage carryover. 40% chance of it hitting another, 40 more die. 16 hits of 198 damage, 24 hits of 79 damage, 24 indirect hits of 74 damage and 56 indirect hits of 32 damage. Basically, each pass up to 200 hits (direct and indirect) and passed on until each chain has less than 1 damage.
Total kills: 260 on average.

Against vehicles
Two attacks against a disperse ground party consisting of light tanks (defense40); 100 kinetic missile(D60) and 100 missiles (D200, GS25%). Presuming averages

Kinetic – 20 direct hits (80 indirect) 60 damage destroys 20 tanks. 20 direct hits of 20 damage and 80 indirect hits of 12 damage carryover. 20% chance of it hitting another, 2 more destroyed from 20 damage and 5 from 12 damage (=20%x12/40) due to having 40 defence. No more kills.
Total kills: 27 on average.

Missile - 40 direct hits (60 indirect) 200 damage destroys 40 tanks. 40 direct hits of 160 damage and 60 indirect hits of 80 damage carryover. 40% chance of it hitting another, 40 more destroyed. 16 hits of 120 damage, 24 hits of 20 damage, 24 indirect hits of 64 damage and 56 indirect hits of 32 damage. Basically, each pass up to 200 hits (direct and indirect) and passed on until each chain has less th damage.
Total kills: 115 on average.

Empty Space
Platforms retain something of their structure during a combat which means that as they are damaged, there is an increasing chance that items targeted are already destroyed and as such the damage is ignored. Once combat is over, the platform is updated to its new size and empty space is ignored.

Damage Report
The report for each type of weapon comprises a few lines. The important line is the second in the below examples, indicates the quantity of the weapons that hit, the actual damage that penetrates all layers of defence and the potential damage in [].

Round 3:  3 Photon Cannon mkIVs

- 3 hits - 360 [360] damage - 95%
5 Photon Gun mkIVs
- 5 hits - 1091 [450] damage - 95%

The damage from the photon guns is interesting as it suggests that the damage inflicted was superior to potential damage of the photon guns. This occurs when items targeted explode or in some way causes more damage by its destruction. Examples including exploding ammo (unprotected by magazines) and collapsing caves. In these cases the damage from the exploding items is added. On the damage report for the position suffering the damage there is an entry such as this:

Civilian Damage: 1 Cave (1021) [+500 Internal Damage]

Explosion Damage
Exploding damage is added to existing damage still to assign and takes on all the qualities of the damage such as blast radius and ground splash. HE's hitting a base with a large stockpile of ammo without sufficient magazine coverage can prove pretty devastating.

Is open for business...
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Wimbles Crisis Solved ***

The Wimble Crisis of 217 has come to an end with the human Baron making way to the wimble Grandfather Paden Mastaak. Celebrations were held in Wimbledon upon the news with crack teams of Wimble security staff guarding all the pies.

It’s unclear how long the Wimbles will enjoy this new era of peace and self-determination.

Vocal Wimble Dinasha, one of Paden’s early backers, has chosen this precarious moment to bait Dewiek, Flagritz and humans who were initially disposed to be friendly to the new administration. Whilst the Wimbles' history with the former-slave-loving Flagritz could be understood, their animosity towards the Dewiek and humans was more mysterious. One insider alluded to a rise in the number of cases of foot-and-mouth across the herd as being a likely cause.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Storm in a Teacup *** Yahn Bares All * &etc

***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door ***

The stargates are closed! Reports from multiple sources indicate at least three of the stargates, all within Dewiek controlled systems, have been closed.

Two different sources have indicated that the TCA have been spotted recently in a number of systems and may be behind this turn of events. A scan sent to the SSS indicated eight TCA ships were recently spotted first in the Faery system and later near the Kasmer stargate.

Another source, suspiciously put the blame on the ARC, suggesting the ARC and DEN were working together because they “need to trap [the TCA] and try and finish them off after the DEN bodged their operation to protect the ARC while they incinerated the MEK homeworld, which ended up with several ARC ships being destroyed and the job only being half done."

However, with no public statement from the Dewiek themselves, its hard to know whether these rumours are reliable.

Lord Igor of the Dominion and Erasmus Andersen of the Garcia Family both offered public apologies at the delay in meeting their trade commitments because of the recent closures. The not-so-subtle subtext being that someone will pay with blood for this interference in their business. Or at least with a stealthy price rise.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Wimble Civil Strife * Who Sniffs the Sniffers? * Largin’ It * &etc

***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Videtis quantum scelus contra rem publicam vobis nuntiatum sit? ***

The Flagritz Empire is no more! The Flagritz Republic is reborn! Quick on the heel of the collapse of the Empire, the Fessin caste declared a new era of foreign and economic policy with a rapid withdrawal behind the Black Gate.

The new ecologically-friendly Prime Minister Kayxaer, asked for patience as “economic” reforms were undertaken. It remains to be seen whether there will be any price to pay for the dramatic changes being made by the reclusive Flagritzi or whether it will all be sunshine and rainbows going forward.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Large at Large * &etc

***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Bravo for Freedom ***

Naplian Forces have attacked three human pirate outposts in the Morroglyph system. A spokesperson for Naplia HQ told the press that the plucky duct-tape loving free people would continue their war against slavers and pirates in their home periphery.

One salty Naplian libertarian told the SSS, “The people of the Naplian Home Periphery are sick and tired of human criminals coming here just because their homeworld is an overcrowded hell. It’s time for them to go back home.”

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Igor of Fang and Horns * Admiral Loves Dick Turpin * &etc

***** Inter Galactic News *****

.What is It?
..a wOrmhOle?.
…No.. worse..
….the KANG singularity!…
…..It pulls us IN…..
……lOOks sO familiar……
…….yet so strange…….
……..what is……..

*** Flagritz Liberalise Economy ***

In good news for all the galaxy the Flagritzi have vowed to liberate all slaves across their Empire. Furthermore, the hectapods have given up eating other sentient species; taking up a strict diet of veganism and soy chai lattes. Sales of turtle neck sweaters and Forbidden Fruit laptops have skyrocketed.

The news was cautiously welcomed by the benevolent Felini Tyranny who looked forward to reducing the War phase of their daily Nap-Lick-Nap-War-Nap-Eat-Sleep cycle to a perfunctory forty winks.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Baron Womble * A Short History of the DPP * &etc

***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Empire Strikes: Solo ***

A massive fleet of some 1600 warships, including large numbers of super-heavy capital 300 and 400 hullers, attacked the DEN in the Solo system, catching them with their metaphorical pants down. The DEN gate platform and some two hundred DEN freighters were subject to antimatter missiles amongst other high tech ordinance.

Jack the lad, Viceroy of the Empire, claimed a victory for freedom and the Imperial (right of) way leaving the sullen Dewiek unusually unresponsive.

With DOM platforms firing on CIA ships, will the IMP now demand the DOM add them to the Do Not Fire lists as well? And what exactly is the nature of the DOM and DEN alliance in light of the sustained attack from the Empire? And will the DEN’s alien friends stand idly by as the Empire fleet camps in the vital gate system of Solo? How will the DEN retaliate for this action or are they ready to roll over and have their bellies rubbed?

All this remains unknown. All that is certain is the “feel good” factor across the DTR has increased, with citizens reassured that for some time yet, they may continue in their slumber with the easy assurance that their number is not coming up anytime soon.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * New BHD Guy * DOM Statement * &etc

***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** To Ur Is Dewiek ***

Dewiek forces had a hefty smackdown against the mysterious living ships known as the T’Cath (TCA). Seven adult TCA 400 hull capital ships, each firing eight of their notorious plasma cannons, were killed by a DEN and DOM fleet of some 700 ships.

Of the minimal losses suffered by the DEN / DOM, one-eyed Magnus and Nevets Motnhap of the FEL were amongst the dead.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Caribbean Congo Continues * Ur Witness Report * * Hive Briefing * &etc

***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** The Long Quiet Season ***

There’s no sound of anger or of annoyance,
There’re neither cruisers racing on the jump lanes
Nor there jump lanes for them to race on,
There’re neither monks chanting on the battlegrounds
Nor bells calling us to the True One.
There’s neither the lightning cracking of the sky
Nor the persistent Naplians pattering on my roof.
There’s no Dewiek arm in arm to admire the magnificent view
There’re no war drums to feed Human ears
Nor Hive sirens to steal the boredom away
There’s no unfamiliar wing creeping underneath the Falconian sun
Nor floods to enshroud the Aquaphid grounds
The land lies lonely out here
On this lazy summer’s day
There’s no pollution to poison the airs of Inversion
Nor forests to give them life
All I hear is the hushing sound of the wind
Assisting the sand to fall into beautiful undulations.

Whilst we’ve been away: * Operation Giantslayer * Naplian Liberation * Back in the DTTR * &etc

***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Falconians Saved ***

The Imperials have cunningly saved the Falconian Republic from being consumed by the Dewiek Elder Nation and at no small cost to the DEN either. Whilst the new pro tem Consul crowed about the “victory”, all former FCN systems besides Acropolis have been taken over by the two warring Empires - Human and Flagritz.

Was it all worth it? For the IMP / GTT it clearly was, for the movement of a few hundred thousand troops is surely nothing to the cost they endured trying to and failing to knock the DEN out of Solo after the fact. The FCN now plucked off most of their navy and wider assets are a tiny nothing of their former self. The DEN may have resorted to some dirty namecalling but can the costs endured to save an enfeebled FCN have really been worth it? Time will tell.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * INDignation * FELicitous Caribbean * Nah Plan for Naplia * Mercs Trouble DEN * &etc


Free Ship when you sign-up
Complete missions for in game rewards
Control everything, up to an entire empire
Dedicated human moderators
Player and Moderator driven plotlines
Discover new worlds to explore, exploit & colonise
Over 20 years of content development
Persistent Browser-Based Game (PBBG)

I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).