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Official CommentsSpace Travel

Space Travel in MOO3: Star Drives and System Drives

Naturally, ships will be able to move between stars in Master of Orion III. The various methods they can use and basic technologies applied for doing so are described below:

Star Lanes and Wormholes

For the purposes of interstellar travel, each solar system is a "point." Between most (but not all) nearby solar systems, determined by the computer during setup, connect-the-dot-style lines called "Star Lanes" will exist. Between a few (but not many) distant solar systems, determined by the computer during setup, lines called "Wormholes" will exist.

Movement is allowed between any two solar systems in Master of Orion III (possibly within some technologically defined limitations that is as yet to be determined). It is slowest where there are no Star Lanes or Wormholes to travel and fastest through Wormholes.

Star Drives and System Drives

There are two basic engine types that a ship can be constructed with: Star Drives and System Drives. Star Drives are used exclusively to move a ship between solar systems along Star Lanes and via Wormholes; they are not meant for Deep Space Travel. System Drives are primarily used to move a ship within a solar system (and in particular during combat) and through Deep Space, but can also use Star Lanes after Star Gate technology is acquired.


At a solar system where Star Lanes exists, each Star Lane will have an entry/exit point in its appropriate relative location along the outer edge of that solar system. At these points, "Amplifiers" can be constructed that speed travel along that Star Lane. (Think of an amplifier as a "sling shot.")

Amplifiers are unidirectional. They only facilitate travel toward the opposite end of the Star Lane. Amplifiers can only facilitate movement via Star Lanes and only for ships equipped with Star Drives. Ships using System Drives to move between stars cannot use Amplifiers. Amplifiers allow regular ships using them to "exit wide" (a considerable operational advantage, see below). Amplifiers are a common Antaran technology, so any Amplifier can be used by every civilization.

Star Gates

Star Gates are an advanced technology which allow ships without Star Drives to use their System Drives to enter a Space Lane. While still considerably slower than Star Drives, movement with System Drives along Space Lanes will be noticeably faster than System Drive movement through Deep Space.

The Twin "Dials" for Ship Movement

[Note: the following is explained in board wargaming vernacular. This is not the methodology that will be in Master of Orion III, it's just easier to explain this concept in those terms.]

There are two variable "dials" that affect ship movement: the quality of the Star Lane (these can be improved on a 4 to +4 scale) and the quality of the Amplifier (which can be improved on a 1-5 scale; that's a 0 to 4 scale for all you engineers out there). These two aspects of ship movement are in addition to the two fixed aspects of distance and time.


The speed that a ship travels between stars generally equals the number/technology of its Star Drives plus the boost it receives from the Amplifier it moves though along Star Lane (represented by a lowering of movement cost).


Where "speed" can be thought of as "movement points" that ships spend each turn, moving through different types of space "terrain" are represented by varying the costs to move through them. For the sake of this discussion, imagine there are "hexes" covering the strategic map with a scale of about 2.2 parsecs per hex. Now, let's analyze the "movement allowance" of a ship and the "terrain costs" it pays from that movement allowance to travel through each of the various "hexes" on the map.

Traversing Multiple Star Lanes in a Single Turn

When a ship is on a journey that takes it along multiple Star Lanes, it must spend some time maneuvering around/through the solar systems where these Star Lanes connect. That is, it must expend a certain number of movement points in order to cross from the point where it exited a Star Lane to reach the point where the next Star Lane it wants to travel begins.

This number is equal to one "engine level" (that is, 100 movement points if the ship is moving via Space Drives, or 25 movement points if it is moving via Star Gate + System Drives). If a ship has insufficient movement points to make this Star Lane transition, its remaining movement points are lost and it ceases that turn's movement at that solar system (but see below).

If it has sufficient points remaining to do so, a ship may continue moving through the entry point of the next Star Lane it wishes to enter this turn. Otherwise, it must stop in that system and resumes its journey on the next turn with no movement point cost required before entering the next Star Lane. That is, all ships at all times are assumed to be ready to enter any Star Lane at that the solar system where it is located for no movement point cost.


  1. A ship has "Level 3" Star Drives. [No, we're not settled on "Level 3" as the vernacular. Chances are each level of Star and System Drive will also have an appropriate name.] That means that it has a base "movement allowance" for interstellar travel of (3 x 100 =) 300 "movement points" per turn. That ship travels along a Level 0 (i.e., discovered/natural/unimproved) Star Lane. The "movement point cost" for each "hex" of travel along a Level 0 Star Lane is 100 movement points per hex. If the star being traveled to was five hexes distant, it would take the better part of two turns to there (i.e., that ship must expend 100 x 5, or 500 movement points).
  2. That same ship moves along a Level 1 Star Lane. The movement point cost for each hex is reduced due to the improvement of the Star Lane from 100 movement points per hex to 85 movement points per hex along that five-hex distance. Now that ship must only expend (85 x 5 =) 425 movement points to get there, so the travel time will only be a little over one turn.
  3. That same ship moves along that same Level 1 Star Lane but enters it via a Level 4 Amplifier that reduces costs for one-way travel along that Star Lane by 40%. Now, that ship is spending (85 x .6 =) 51 movement points per hex along that five-hex distance. This ship must expend (51 x 5 =) 255 movement points to get there, so it can get there in a single turn.
  4. That same ship goes through a Wormhole that is 62 hexes long. It will spend a variable 4 to 10 movement points per hex (determined upon entry into the Wormhole). If the variable cost were 7' for this passage, the cost to travel it would be 434 movement points. That ship would, therefore, cover 62 hexes in distance in about a turn and a half!
  5. A ship with no Star Drives and Level 6 System Drives moves four hexes through Deep Space (remember, Star Drives "don't do" Deep Space). Since each Level of System Drive generates 25 movement points in Deep Space, it will arrive in exactly eight turns with no movement points to spare.

"Narrow" and "Wide" Entry and Exits

In addition to the movement points generated and spent in interstellar travel, there is the important tactical matter of "narrow" and "wide" entry and exit when moving along a Star Lane. Wide entry or exit offers an advantage because ships don't have to travel to or from the specific point at a solar system to enter/exit that Space Lane. This can be important for bypassing hostile forces that might be deployed at that point.

  • Ships using System Drives or those using Star Drives without an Amplifier must enter and exit narrow.
  • Ships using Star Drives with an Amplifier must enter narrow but may exit wide.
  • [Super-secret item deleted]

Designers Note: "Exiting narrow" means you have to engage enemy forces guarding that Space Lane's entry point into the system before you can start heading out to the planets there and picking them off. It implies nothing about the tactical combat situation of that "frontier battle." Only the operational situation (i.e., you have to get through the "wall" before you can start sacking the system). So, there will be little room for operational (pre-battle) maneuver, but the tactical battlefield is still wide open.

"Exiting wide" means you can skirt past those defenders and go right for the planets. HOWEVER, if you lose and have to leave that system (i.e., pull off an "enter narrow" through that Space Lane), the defenders at that bypassed point may still be waiting for you and will have a field day ripping you to shreds as you "run the gauntlet."


Interdictors act like anti-amplifiers (i.e., "anti-slingshots") to non-friendly fleets, effectively lowering the Space Lane level by 1 per level of Interdictor.

Interdictors also force ships using Amplifiers of a level or more less than the level of the Interdictor to exit narrow.

Improving and Downgrading Space Lanes

At the beginning of the game, all existing and potential Space Lanes are determined. Most will begin at Level 0. Those near Orion will begin at Level 1. All others represent potential Star Lane construction possibilities and begin at Level -4. These represent Lanes that require varying degrees of improvement to bring up to normal travel standards.

The improvement or degradation of a Space Lane is a System-level project, and is accomplished by spending AUs.

Actual prices are actually to be determined, but here's some numbers to so the various costs' relations.

Space Lane Improvement/Downgrade Costs


To Level





























Movement Points Per Turn for Interstellar Travel

    Star Drives = 100 per level; cannot perform Deep Space travel.

    System Drives = 25 per level; Deep Space only until Star Gate technology is discovered.

Amplifier Boost (reduces Space Lane costs)

    Level 1 = -10%

    Level 2 = -20%

    Level 3 = -30%

    Level 4 = -40%

    Level 5 = -50%

Space Lane Costs

    Level 4 = Unusable must use Deep Space movement (totally undeveloped or completely blocked)

    Level 3 = 175 mp/hex

    Level 2 = 150 mp/hex

    Level 1 = 125 mp/hex

    Level 0 = 100 mp/hex (i.e., the basic discovered, unimproved, unhindered or "natural" state)

    Level 1 = 85 mp/hex

    Level 2 = 70 mp/hex

    Level 3 = 55 mp/hex

    Level 4 = 40 mp/hex

Wormhole Costs (Space Drive only)

    Variable 4-10 mp/hex

    Deep Space Costs (System Drives only)

    300 mp/hex*

*Reduced to 255, 210, 165, and 120 if "off-road space travel" technology [no, that's not what we're going to call it] level 1, 2, 3, or 4 (respectively) is build into the ship. If a Star Lane has deteriorated and off-road movement improved to the point where it's faster to travel at the off-road rate along a Star Lane, ships will do so.

Additional Terrain Effects

    Nebula: All Space Lanes function at one level lower. In combat at a system in a nebula, no regular shields are used. A racial pick (probably a fairly expensive one) will be offered to start in a nebula, in which case the above penalties do not apply to that civilization for the duration of the game.

    Dark Matter: All Amplifier boosts are halved.

    Interdictor: Incoming Space Lane functions at one level lower per level of Interdictor for non-friendly ships only.

Yes, we know all of the terminology is "vanilla." We also know that we haven't explained the "science" behind why all this stuff works the way it does. We're going to "reverse engineer" all that. That is, first, we're going to make it work right in the game, then we'll rationalize why it's that way.

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