The following excellent, though basic, example of a turn was put together by Jeff Engel (Rrowlk'aa Supremacy, FOTS Game 5).
Here's a stab at a description of what a turn involves, from the player's point of view, along with a thin basic example. A turn's activities divide up into (1) what goes into the turn orders submitted to the GM, and (2) everything else.
In the turn orders, you provide directions for how you're spending your resource points (RP's), and what your units are doing. RP's are spent primarily in the following activities:
1) Building ships, troops, bases, fighters, and the like;
2) Laying down additional colonies;
3) Conducting research into additional technologies.
Those aren't all the things to do with RP's, but they're the basics. Ships, bases, fighters, troops, etc. all get built at certain places with certain requirements - for instance, ships are built only at shipyards, which in turn have to be built and bought previously. The cost in RP's for such things is determined by their design - a huge high-tech battleship will cost far more in RP's and in yard use than a tiny low-tech corvette, naturally.
Colonies will require a certain amount of space aboard freighters, with those freighters moved in the turn from a colonized world to the target world. The cost in RP's of a colony is determined by the RP income potential of the world and the sort of world that's being colonized. Most species have worlds that are more easily colonized than others - we humans would have an easier time on another Earth-like world than on Mercury, for instance, and so it'd tend to be cheaper to colonize.
Research into additional technologies requires a certain RP investment, which results in a certain chance of making a research breakthrough in the following turn. If you don't make a breakthrough in a given research program, the RP's invested in it continue to be used in determining the chance of breakthrough so long as additional funds are contributed turn by turn. For example, if you put in 400 RP's in turn 6 and don't get a success, you could put in an additional 200 RP's on turn 7 and your roll for a success will be based on the total 600 RP investment. After 1-3 phases of research (Discovery, Research, and Development) in a field, you get the appropriate tech for use in subsequent turns and can often move on to the next level of technology, e.g., from beam weapons that produce 2 points of damage per space to ones producing 3 points of damage per space.
Units are ordered about to do various things. As it's a wargame ultimately, this is often a matter of invading enemy territory, patrolling one's own, reacting to invasions going on, and all the movements war can lead to. They can also be ordered to perform mapping missions to discover the layout of new sectors and survey missions to find out just what's in new star systems, nebulae, radiation zones, and other phenomena within sectors. This should lead to discovery of new places to put down colonies primarily, but also strange monsters, ancient ruins, alien derelicts, and new life - new civilizations! You may then conquer, chat with, ignore, or some combination these new civilizations, and deal with the rest however the GM lets you.
That's more or less what happens in turn orders.
In between turn orders being sent to the GM, there's a lot else going on. One of those things, naturally, is getting turn results back from the GM. The exciting part of those is finding out what research successes you may have gotten, what your surveys turned up, and what happened in any battles that may have resulted from your orders and others'. Additionally, lots of diplomacy can go on between turns, triggered by these results ultimately, but leading an active life of its own after them. You can form various forms of alliance with other nations (player-run or NPR's), conduct differing levels of trade to generate more RP's for you both, declare wars, strive for peace, end up in unwanted wars, end up in unwanted peace, exchange information, exchange technologies, exchange worlds and claims to sectors and stuff and who knows what else.
FOTS diplomacy is a very free-form thing. It can be conducted completely publicly (for example, on the G5 list also on eGroups), which is good for grandstanding and plain fun; it can be conducted among a limited number of players, as when a group of allies are attempting coordinated military and/or diplomatic action; or it can be conducted just among the GM and one other player, or even just with the GM in case of interaction with NPR's. The GM needs to get cc'ed in on any messages, else the diplomatic exchange did not occur.You also need to be able to establish some sort of communications link with your conversational partner.
The following is a stripped-down turn example. Call this Turn 7 for the Bland Star Empire, a modest state with 4000 RP's in colonies.
The BSE has a tax rate of 50%, so 4000 RP's in colonies provide it 2000 RP's to spend in T7. It has, let's say, 400 RP's in the treasury leftover from T6. It also has free trade agreements with, say, 3 partners, providing it 2500, 500, and 200 RP's respectively. (It's a very minor power making a huge amount in trade from much larger economies in two cases.)
So, the BSE has 2000 (tax income) + 400 (treasury) + 2500 + 500 + 200 (trade with three partners) to spend in T7, for 5600 RP's available total.
Unspent funds become next turn's treasury; spending over this amount will constitute deficit spending, which is generally a Bad Idea.
The player decides to build: 1x233 RP dreadnought, which will probably take several turns to finish building; 40x10 RP fighters, which might well be finished in a single turn and so ready for action in T8; 8x23 RP space marine divisions, again probably a one turn affair; and 1x900 RP base, a huge one, which is probably a project of several turns length. That's 1717 RP's spent on building things.
The BSE has only two worlds they're both able and willing to colonize. One has an RP potential of 73 RP's, and is Class M, perfectly Earthlike. Let's assume the BSE's species has the same taste in planets humans do: Earthlike is great, Mercury-like sucks, and Jupiter-like is just big scenery. The multiplier for a Class M world in this case is 1.0, so 73 RP's of potential costs 73 RP's to colonize. The other candidate colony world is Class P - basically Earthlike, but a fair distance from ideal. Think of, oh, a whole planet that's like Utah or Norway all over, or worse in parts. The Class P world happens to have a RP potential of 389 RP's, which is fairly "big". The Class P multiplier is 1.5, so that's going to be 389 x 1.5 RP's to colonize, or 584 (rounding up). Colonization comes to 657 RP's, and those new colonies will make for a base income of 4462 RP's for the BSE next turn - assuming no colonies otherwise get taken or destroyed on the one hand, and assuming no one else just gives the BSE some colonies either, a pretty safe assumption.
On the research front, let's assume the BSE has no projects ongoing for simplicity. The BSE player would like to pursue 6 different avenues of research. He's a fan of nice even numbers, and so figures putting 300 RP's into each of them would be a suitable way to start. That's another 1800 RP's spent.
The total spent in T7 comes to 4174 RP's right now, which will leave a hefty 1426 RP's in the treasury. At this point, the player might well decide to go back and put some of those RP's to immediate use by, say, colonizing a third world (probably one less nice than Class P that he'd passed over previously), or increasing the funding on some or all of the R&D projects, or whatever else. Or he might decide just to enjoy a nice treasury.
In the moving units around part of the turn orders, he's got some freighters to move around colonizing. He's also got some ships to move about too. He orders, let's say, one of his modest fleets from the home system toward the trade partner from which he's making 2500 RP's a turn, with orders to patrol the space between his empire and it - enemy commerce raiders or pirates might disrupt those trade routes, and so take out nearly half of his effective income! Another fleet remains in the home system, with orders to guard it, while a dozen survey craft work to map out more sectors for exploration and survey more sectors to see what they can see.
That sums up the BSE's turn 6 orders.
In the rest of the turn, the BSE player,
(1) gets a message from that big trading partner that he'd better fork over that technology for 3 pt missiles now or else the trade deal's off. Somebody's an economic bully. The BSE, being a third world star nation, agrees. On T8, he'll be paying 250 RP's for the transfer and handing over the technology, so the Great Big Interstellar Thug State (GBITS) can now shoot big scary missiles,
(2) meets a fourth interstellar power and arranges mutual tech exchanges (two techs from them to the BSE, two techs back from the BSE to them), a trade agreement, and some rights of passage for their ships,
(3) sends out a message to that power and the other two trading partners excluding the GBITS, proposing a full military alliance between the four of them, free communications in their research, massive technological exchange, and preparations to freeze out the GBITS economically at a minimum and to attack it collectively if that doesn't work, because the BSE is sick and tired of being screwed for being smaller than the GBITS,
(4) gets several hearty agreements from (3) and begins plotting with them the Fall of the Great Big Interstellar Thug State,
(5) goes back and trades those 3 pt missiles to each of his new alliance friends in exchange for a different technology from each of them; he'll be paying another 250 RP's in T8 for each of these transfers too, and,
(6) downloads DoGA and cackles maniacally while making lots of pictures of BSE dreadnoughts shooting up the evil GBITS ships.
That's the gist of a FOTS turn.
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