Beginner's Guide

From SotS

This guide is meant for those who need a little help on what to do in Sword of the Stars. Many parts of the interface are intuitive and recognizable from many games, but the devil is in the details. I will break down the game's basics in several categories: Strategic turn, Combat turn, Research, and Weaponry. Feel free to add any help to this article, but remember, this is basics: Keep it simple. Any content requiring the Born of Blood (BoB) or A Murder of Crows (AMoC) expansions is noted below.

Remember to use this wiki for a more detailed look at the weapons and research in the game — it is a powerful resource.

What Race to play?

If you're unsure of the pros and cons or any other details that come with playing a specific race, the wiki has an in–depth tactics section including a gameplay section on each race. Here's a short run–down:


Humans Potentially the fastest start. Their ships are adequately equipped for combat.

  • FTL Travel is through a node drive that travels extremely fast down pre–existing paths between planets.
    • This can cause problems as there may be very indirect paths to physically close planets, or even no paths at all, forcing you to travel STL.
  • Humans are a very straight–forward race that might suit you for your first few games, but their FTL Travel gains it's high speed by limiting your choice of routes through the galaxy.


Tarkas: Potentially a slower start. Their ships have the best combat balance of all races.

  • FTL Travel is through a hyperdrive in the engine section that travels at a constant speed.
  • Tarkas are also a very straight–forward race that might suit you for your first few games. Their FTL Travel is slower but can go anywhere at the same speed.


Liir: Potentially a faster start. Their ships are poorly equipped for combat.

  • FTL Travel is through a StutterWarp drive that gets slower near planets, making them sluggish in combat at first.
    • The StutterWarp drive allows for fast deep space travel but the slowdown near planets makes sneaking up on planets useless.
  • Talented at research, especially BioTechnology.
  • Liir are weak in combat early but their tech advantage makes up for it later.


Hivers: Potentially the slowest start. Their ships armed to the teeth but very slow.

  • FTL Travel is through a network of gates in the mission sections of special gateships.
    • You have to travel at STL speed to get these gates to the planets.
  • Warning It is not recommended that you use the hivers on your first game. The Hivers are a bit more difficult to play, as they require a good understanding of the game, how to expand, and lots of forethought and careful planning.


Zuul: (BoB content) Potentially a faster start. Their ships are fragile, but inexpensive and heavily armed.

  • FTL Travel allows player to create node–line paths between planets using the Rip Bore ship and its larger counterparts.
    • Like Human FTL Travel but you choose where the nodes go. The tradeoff is that the node–lines decay with time and use.
  • Zuul planets will constantly lose resources at a rate of –10 per turn, however their planets can be bolstered with slaves.
  • Zuul are very aggressive but are limited in their tech options. Although they always have the slight chance to pick up tech from successful combat.


Morrigi:(AMoC content) Potentially a slower start. Their ships are well balanced for combat.

  • FTL Travel lets the Morrigi travel faster with more ships in the fleet.
    • Not every fleet will travel the same speed
    • Having a (fairly expensive) Gravboat ship in your fleet will boost its speed.
  • The Morrigi also get an economic booster early on with several AI tree techs.
  • The Morrigi really shine with Trade, especially with empires of different races.

Strategic Turn Walkthrough

"System update". Welcome to your section of the galaxy. As you will quickly learn, SotS is a highly graphical game — you will be able to get loads of information simply by looking at the space around you.

  • Your homeworld is highlighted by a five pointed star and your other colonies will be highlighted with your color.
    • If you are playing Human, you will notice blue nodelines extending from your colonies — these are your only routes of transportation for now.


The camera is fairly simple.

  • Holding down the right mouse button will allow you to rotate the camera around the object of focus
  • Using the mouse wheel (or holding down both mouse buttons and dragging) will zoom in and out.
  • Left clicking on a planet or fleet will select it
  • Double–clicking (or clicking an object with the middle mouse button) centers ("focuses") the camera on that object.


Now it is time to pick your research topic. See Technology.

  • Enter the "Research" menu by hitting its button or pressing R.
    • Holding down the right mouse button will let you rotate around the research screen, and the mouse–wheel zooms in and out.
    • Left clicking a research item will select it, and double–clicking will focus and zoom on it.
    • Click the i icon at the bottom of the screen to make all the tech names show-up regardless of zoom level.
      • Notice that at close zoom, research items give you a description when selected.

  • Take some time to decide what you want to research.
    • A few recommended early techs are listed later in this guide.
  • Hit the research button in the lower-left corner to start your scientists researching.

In the upper right, you should notice a pie graph.

  • This shows how much of your budget goes into research.
  • Slide the bar beneath it to put in more or less.
    • Notice that the time to finish the Research changes.

The round button in the bottom right always takes you back to the strategic map.


The first thing you need to do is explore the stars around you to find habitable planets.

  • Enter the "Design" menu by either hitting its button in the user interface or pressing D to make some scout ships.
    • All ships are made of 3 sections (some exceptions).
    • Command Sections are the front of the ship, they add various minor tweaks to the ship's function
    • Mission Sections describe the main function of the ship.
    • Engine Sections are your means of propulsion.
      • If you don't know what a section does, click the i button to pop up a short description. Various techs will unlock more sections.

You will see some existing designs have already been created for you. Try creating a new scout ship design.

  • Extended Range ships are inexpensive and have a long range so you won't have to send a tanker to accompany them. Unfortunately they carry a large explosive fuel tank.
    • You can also use Tankers to explore despite their cost.
    • If you are the Zuul, you'll need node-bore ships to get anywhere.
  • Right-clicking while selecting a weapon for a slot equips it to all slots of that size on the ship.
  • Pay attention to weapon arcs (you can rotate the ship model by right-click and drag) when placing weapons.
  • Many techs aren't automatically applied just because you research them. For example, to put reflective coating on a ship section you must click a checkbox on that section in the design screen. Adding options makes the ship more expensive - you may not want to bother putting such features on tankers and mining ships because those ships will die if they get into combat anyway. Similarly, you must add "suspended animation" to your colonizer designs after researching that technology.

Save your design.

  • In single player, it doesn't matter what you name your designs but in multiplayer your enemies can see the ship names. Naming your ships differently may confuse your enemy but at this stage may confuse you as well.
    • More experienced players will know what your ships are just by seeing them in battle.
  • While you're in the design menu, you may want to upgrade the basic ship designs you already have.


Time to create some scouts by going to the "Build Menu"

  • You can queue your scouts on your homeworld / colonies by selecting the planet and hitting the "Build" button or pressing B.
  • In the lower right, there should be a slider listing trade on one end and construction on the other.
    • For now turn this up to all construction. This will put all that planets resources into building. Later, after you research FTL Economics you'll want to dedicate resources to trade.
  • Remember, queuing a ship costs money, so early on, you should only queue up what can be completed by the next turn or two.
  • As you are queuing-up items, the bar at the bottom shows how much you are spending. If it goes into the red, you may accrue debt if your per-turn income isn't high enough.
    • Building also takes income away from your Research.

Strategic Map

  • You will encounter various "unknown menaces" in the early going.
    • You can click the yellow "sticky note" icon on the system card to leave yourself notes about what you met
    • You'll need a small fleet with a Command and Control ship to be able to deal with most of these menaces.
  • You'll want to send ships exploring in all directions to find suitable planets for colonization
  • Once you have a good number of scouts heading towards their destination, begin constructing colonizers in anticipation of fresh worlds.
  • You can use the Tab key to cycle through your colonies.


There are several sliders you will utilize during strategic turns.

  • The savings / research slider determines what your profit funds.
    • The total cashflow in the savings / research slider is dependent upon any construction projects you have going on elsewhere
    • For example, building lots of ships and colonizing high–hazard planets will take up a large portion of your income, and you will notice slower research speeds and lower profits.

There are five planet sliders: overharvest, construction / trade, terraforming, infrastructure and ship construction.

  • Overharvesting literally burns resources on your planet for increased production.
    • It's good to overharvest new colonies when you first settle them (you will get warnings every 5 turns or so - I suggest keeping the overharvest rate below 10 resources/turn until the colony is fully-developed and then turn it off).
    • The Zuul have a minimum overharvest rate of 10 resources per turn on all of their worlds.

  • The construction and trade slider will determine where your colony is putting its industrial output.
    • Points reserved for trade generate savings (they'll support trade routes when you have freighters). Points available for construction go towards terraforming, building-up infrastructure, and building ships.
      • Unused construction points points generate savings.

  • Infrastructure and terraforming will only appear on planets that have recently been colonized or colonies that have been damaged in combat. Once the hazard rating reaches zero, terraforming will disappear and when the infrastructure is at 100%, that slider will go as well.
    • I recommend doing something along the lines of an 80 / 20 split between terraforming and infra, since lower hazard ratings will lower the costs for developing your colonies.
    • Also remember, colonizing a system with extra colonizers will add more population and infrastructure while assisting in terraforming until the colony is fully developed.
  • Finally, the ship construction slider allocates cash to your shipyards. The higher it is, the more money goes into building and the faster ships will be completed. However, that means less cash in pocket next turn.

Civilians and Morale

Introduced in AMoC, Civilian Population and their Morale merits particular attention.

  • The Zuul do not have Civilians, instead having the ability to capture Slaves.

Civilians supply both increasing Tax revenues and additional Trade routes.

  • Each species may grow up to half of the total Civilian Population available for a colony without causing any issues.
  • If you decide to let any one species grow beyond the halfway point, then each such colony will incur an overharvest effect as a result.

Morale effects occur once Civilian Populations increase above 100 Million.

  • The morale is shown in an icon on the top-right of the system card.
  • You can see what is affecting morale by clicking the "person" icon on the top-left of the system card.
  • One way to reduce the impact of morale events across your Empire, or on a per Colony basis, is to reduce or restrict your civilian populations to levels below this figure.
    • Building (loading-up) colony ships reduces the population and avoids overcrowding.
  • High Morale values ( 80+ ) increases the output of the Civilian populations.
  • Low Morale values ( 25- ) incur the risk of rebellion and reduces the output of the Civilian populations.

There are two types of Morale modifiers — fleeting and continual.

  • Fleeting morale modifiers are one time bonuses or penalties that are applied after various events throughout the Empire such as gaining a new colony or losing an existing colony.
  • Continual morale modifiers are recurring bonuses or penalties that are applied every turn depending on the situation either throughout your Empire or on a particular Colony.
    • Empire examples include bonuses for savings above certain values ( 1 Million, 5 Million and 15 Million ) and penalties for imposing Temperance.
    • Colony examples include penalties for restricting Civilian population growth to less than 100% and bonuses for having all Trade routes active.

It is important to try and offset any continual morale penalties with continual morale bonuses. You should bolster Morale at every opportunity to give you a buffer for when bad things happen. The research of Fusion and FTL Economics allows you to build Police Cutters which can offset some continual morale penalties and halve some fleeting morale penalties.

Empire Management

Once the game gets underway, you may start to lose sight of what you built or what planets you have found. Thankfully, there is an empire management screen that summarizes most everything in your empire. Press E (or just click on the pie chart) to access this screen.

  • The Colonies/Budget tab lists all of your colonies in a sortable list(Right click) and a list of your income and expenses. This screen is useful to find your more productive planets - just sort your colonies by Industrial Output(I/O).
    • The colors on the pie chart categorize your spending. Dark blue is fleet maintenance. Light blue is colony development (don't colonize too many planets at the same time in the early game or this will take-over your budget and leave no money for research or ship-building). Red is debt (on which you are paying interest) which occurs if you overspent in the past and your savings last turn didn't pay it off.
  • The Fleets tab list every fleet that you have including ships, location, destination, eta, etc. You can also filter by types of ships in the fleet and sort by clicking on the column headings.
  • The Explored Systems tab is pretty important. It keeps track of every system you have been to. Very useful if you sort by cost to find easy planets to terraform.
  • Enemy Colonies tab lists the colonies you know about and any incoming (possibly enemy) fleets.
  • The History tab is the most important tab. It shows everything that happened the previous turn and you can double click it to be taken to the event. You will use this constantly to keep track of your empire.
  • The Stats tab shows all your stats over all the turns. With the right techs you can see stats on your opponents.
  • More tabs (and more information on the existing tabs) will show-up later, as you research various technologies.

Tactical Turn Walkthrough

Eventually, you will end a turn and a window will popup with details for a tactical encounter.

  • The window will show a list of your fleet, your enemy's fleet and give you various options for fighting the battle.
    • Manually resolve the battle (the default, crossed SMGs) with you controlling your ships.
    • Automatically resolve the battle
    • Manual if the other player chooses, otherwise automatic resolution
    • Resolve Peacefully.
      • If the other player doesn't resolve peacefully the battle will be fought with the AI controlling your ships.
    • Demand surrender (AMoC)

I recommend fighting through battles manually as it gives you greater control over the outcome of the battle, see what weapons are effective, and move your fleet intelligently.

Manual Battles

After a brief animation of your ships entering the combat area, you can take control of your ships. As is conventional in RTS controls, you can select multiple ships by bandboxing them while holding down the left mouse button. You can assign combat groups by selecting ships and using CTRL + a number. These combat groups will not be remembered into the next combat. You can switch between all ships under your command by using tab.

  • Manual battles are fought on a 2D plane. Your ships will move to avoid collisions in a 3D plane though.
  • The camera controls are identical to the strategic turn controls. Note that you can use the middle mouse button or the 'F' key to focus on any object in the combat area.
  • If you are entering combat for the first time against that particular opponent, your weapons will be disabled as noted by the little red circle on the upper left hand side. Depending on your idea of Diplomacy, you can either leave it set to fleet hold fire or click it to allow your ships to fire automatically whenever they are in range and a turret has a firing solution.
  • To give your ships a move order, simply right click anywhere on the plane of combat. Remember that SotS uses Newtonian physics, so ships have realistic momentum. If you put your engines on full bore towards a target, they'll have to turn around and face thrusters in reverse to stop.
  • Ships will automatically fire on any target within range, however you can specify targets by left clicking on them. A red circle will appear around the enemy ship. If you left click a second time on the target, your ships will fire as close to where you click as possible. This allows you to target subsystems that you want destroyed. You can even shoot off individual turrets, though you might not notice this until you research weapons with greater accuracy.
    • Targeting the right places on ships becomes very important, especially since different sections are more or less difficult to destroy. Destroy an enemy's engines to leave it stranded, destroy a tanker section and the enemy fleet won't have access to that fuel, take out an armor section and those weapons will be destroyed with it.
  • You also have access to several fleet wide command behavior buttons in the upper left. You can have the fleet "close to attack", for example. You may find it more effective to order all movements manually rather than rely on the AI protocols, as it keeps your fleet together and under your control. If you select only part of your fleet, you can give those specific ships orders (e.g. "pursue") with the icons in the top-right of the screen that are different than the last fleetwide order you gave.
  • Almost all the information in battle is graphical. You will not find any health bars on your ships or the enemies. Ship sections will show signs of damage, allowing you to see which of your ships is about to blow or which enemy targets are the easiest pickings.
  • Squads try to maintain formation by moving together at the speed of the slowest ship selected.
    • You can double right click the desired location to move your ships to and each ship selected will move there at best speed.
  • Sensor view(Space bar) gives you a clean overview of the battle, and is very useful for sorting out where everything is during a battle. You can research better command abilities which will allow you to control fleets from the sensor view as you would from the battle view itself.
    • Note that until Integrated Sensors are researched, you MUST have a ship selected to see anything in sensor view.
  • Once you research Battle Computers, you can build ships with the Squadron CnC mission section. This will allow you to field more ships if a CnC ship is in the battle, as well as give you a reinforcement list. Fleets will reinforce themselves on their own before CnC, but with the CnC you can select the order they come out in.
    • Fleets will also reinforce on the CnC ship if present on the battle field. The mission sections of enemy CnC ships can be important targets in tactical combat.
  • Note: When using biomissile ships, mine laying ships or assault craft ships, you must click on the weapons slot holding the missile, mine or assault ship (and then click on a target ship/planet) in order to launch the relevant weapon. Simply targeting the planet or area of effect will not launch these special weapons.

When fighting the AI, it may be useful to "speed up time" by pressing Ctrl+PgUp (up to 8x). You can also pause the battle with the Pause key to issue orders to your ships.

Auto Resolve

Auto resolving battles is a quick way to resolve combat. The game just calculates the result of the battle. It's like the ships just lined up and shot each other. Weapons that require user input, like mines, are not used in the calculations. The only real reason to use this option in single-player is if you are guaranteed to win or lose. In multiplayer, manually fighting all the battles would delay the game so it's recommended to manually-fight only important battles that are relatively evenly-matched.

Manual if the opponent chooses

This option will auto resolve the battle unless your opponent chooses to manually fight the battle.

Resolve Peacefully

If both players pick this option, they will not fight. If only one person chooses this option, then a fight will occur, and if the other player chooses to resolve the battle manually, the game AI will control the fleet of the player that chose peace.

Demand Surrender (AMoC)

Once you research the level 3 language technology of a race, you can demand a planet of that race to surrender to you. You may want to bring a large enough fleet to convince them to give up because if they don't surrender, they load up extra planetary missiles to tell you to get lost.

Important Early Research

There are several techs which are very important to remaining a competing power in SotS. I will list a few of them here.

Remember, for many upgrades, you will need to redesign your ships to receive bonuses.

  • Waldo Units — These lower the cost of all ships you build, and also give you access to the Hammerhead command section, which gives you extra forward mounted turrets. Generally the first tech you should research
  • Pulsed Fission (also, Recombinant Fissionables, Fusion) — This increases the range of all ships and the speed they move at.
  • Battle ComputersVery important! Gives you the Squadron CnC mission section, which lets you field more ships, manage fleet formations before combat and manage reinforcements in tactical.
  • Translation — When you start playing a match, you won't be able to understand or initiate diplomatic sessions with any of the other races in the game. After contacting them, you will be able to research their language.
  • Point Defense Tracking — Gives you the ability to create Point Defense turrets, which shoot down missiles and torpedoes, as well as asteroids and certain other targets. This is not a core technology, so may not appear, and requires VRF as a pre-requisite.
  • Armor — There are two types of starting armor, Reflective Coating and Polysilicate Alloys, which improve your defense against laser and ballistic fire respectively. These are not core technologies, so may not appear.
  • Industrial Output Techs — Various technologies dramatically increase your planets' production capabilities. The earliest example of this is the Cybernetic Interface tech. Other examples include Expert Systems and Heavy Platforms.

While there are many core technologies that every race will get every game, there are many random technologies, as well as race specific technologies.


Finally, I will break down the different weapons types in the demo. Remember, weapons are limited by turret slots. There are small, medium, large and special weapons slots. Medium slots can also hold missiles, a cluster of small turrets, or a single medium turret.

  • Lasers — Lasers come in three flavors in the fission era — Red Lasers, Green Lasers and UV Lasers. As you climb the research tree from red to UV, lasers become more powerful and accurate. Occasionally, you will be able to research directly from red to UV, skipping green laser development entirely. You will have to judge for yourself whether this is the best course of action, since UV lasers are more expensive to research, but more powerful.
  • Emitter — Emitters are first introduced with their smaller form, the Light Emitter. They are random techs and very powerful anti–swarm weapons. Emitter blasts are able to jump from ship to ship, making them very effective against clusters of smaller ships, however they are woefully ineffective against planets. Note that Emitters have a relatively short range however, so maneuvering is crucial for effectiveness.
  • Missiles — Missile warheads will automatically upgrade throughout the game for all ships. The most powerful warhead in the game is the Antimatter Warhead. They are very long range, but can be shot down by enemy weapons. Research can upgrade missile speed and turning radius.
  • Ballistics — Ballistics weapons fire hunks of metal at enemy targets — Gauss Cannons and Mass Drivers. While much less accurate than other weapons, ballistics pack a punch, and can also physically knock ships around. VRF Technology will increase their rate of fire. They are also devastating against planets.
  • Torpedoes — There are several types of torpedo in the game. The Plasma Torpedo can track enemy ships and can be shot down, while Disruptors and the Electro-Magnetic Pulsar are line–of–sight fire. The Photonic Torpedo is very long range, and rapid fire, but highly inaccurate. Eventually you can research torpedo variants with detonate after a certain time, causing area damage to all ships around them.
  • Energy Cannons — Energy cannons come in three flavors as you advance up the tech ladder. While having a slow refire rate, they are heavier hitters.
  • Turreted Beams — Beams are long range heavy hitters. They range from medium turret mounted Phasers to heavy, large turret weapons like the Particle Beam. In order to use larger beams on destroyers, you must research the Spinal Mount Section.
  • Heavy Beams — These are fixed mounted beams, designed to take out enemy capital ships. Due to their immense size, they can only be mounted on larger ships in special slots.
  • Mines — Little packages of explosive joy. To lay mines simple click the mine icon and tell the ship to go somewhere. Mine payloads to not upgrade automatically like missiles, and minelayers must be redesigned with their desired payloads.

Planetary Assault

  • Bio Missiles — These deliver bio weaponry to the surface. You must research one of the viruses in game, such as Plague, to use them. Once fired, you must repair the biomissile ships to replace the missile.
  • Assault Shuttles — The Assault Section launches assault shuttles at enemy planets. If a assault shuttle mission section is destroyed, the Assault shuttle will try to dock with another ship, or else will be lost at the end of the turn. Likewise, if an assault shuttle is destroyed, the ship with its section must be repaired to gain a new shuttle.

Tips to success

SotS is a very complex game, and as you learn more, you will discover and develop your own way to play, but here's a few tips to make sure you do not get frustrated early on.

  • Expansion is the most important key to survival in Sword of the Stars. If you are not constantly trying to explore and colonize, expect to quickly find yourself losing ground to other players. Though various Colonizing Strategies exist, rule of a thumb for the early empire development — keep pumping out new ERs / scouting fleets, keep colonizing planets and you will be golden. Do not colonize too many planets at once (pie chart light blue section) or you won't have money for anything else. Try to colonize planets with under 200 climate hazard rating, especially in the early game.
  • When setting up fleet formations, keep in mind the armaments of your ships. Placing a heavy beam cruiser right behind another ship will not stop it from attempting to fire on the enemy. Also, ships need space to move — if they ram into each other, they will suffer massive damage.
  • Be careful when queuing up ships to build, as they will instantaneously pull funds from your empire's coffers. Building a turn or two ahead can net you an extra ship, but building ten turns ahead will leave you teetering on the brink of economic ruin
  • Hivers — Just because that planet you found is a dustball, does not mean it is not useful. You can, and should, send out a gate or two with every STL fleet, and set-up a gate at every planet you can. This increases your gate capacity and saves you from making the same trip twice.
  • The best way to learn about SotS is to experiment and adapt. Keep your designs up to date, and don't be afraid of a little variety. What works against one enemy might not cut it against another — this becomes especially important when you are up against other human players.

Racial Exploration Tips

  • Human — Send multiple ERs down every nodeline, as these will branch off at each new planet. Humans can explore the map at a very rapid rate.
  • Tarka, Liir and Morrigi (AMoC) — As the Tarka and Liir, employ starburst scouting pattens, massing ERs on all populated worlds and sending them outwards to all reachable planets. Doing this will give you intelligence on all surrounding worlds, as well as post a sentry ER there to detect incoming ships.
  • Hiver — NEVER send out a fleet without a gate or two in tow. Since you don't have FTL travel, you want gates on every world. You don't want to make the same trip twice. Common starting hiver fleets are the gate / tanker pair, or the armor / tanker / gate group.
  • Zuul (BoB) — You start with Rip Bore ships to construct node–lines and each planet can support at this time 3 different node lines(Higher star drive tech increases this limit). Pair a Rip–Bore with a tanker and optionally some escort ships — which you will need to build — for a basic exploratory fleet.

So there you have it. This should give you a basic rundown of the early game. The best way to learn is to play a couple of games and the wiki is a wonderful resource for learning more.

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