A starbase is a space object that can be built by a civilization's Constructor Ship. Starbases help a civilization in different aspect of the game.
There are 7 basic types of starbases.
Basic Starbase Types
In general a starbase can only be used for one of these purposes, with the exceptions that relic activation can be combined with any of the other types, and that an "outpost" starbase is free to perform any other function as may be suitable.
Cultural: Used to increase a faction's influence in the nearby area, either to extend your Zone of Influence (ZOI) or to prevent another faction from encroaching on your territory.
Economic: Can increase manufacturing, science, wealth production or improve morale with recreation centers or trade revenues with trade stations of any colony that is within range.
Military: Increases the combat capabilities of your star ships while within range.
Mining: Allows the starbase to collect resources which are necessary for building various items.
Relics: Starbases can also be used to activate Relics to obtain benefits which apply throughout one's empire.
Outpost: In this mode, a starbase does not necessarily use any of its abilities; it is created primarily to extend the range of a faction's fleet.
Shipyard: A shipyard is not a starbase, but is included in this list because it is an important alternative use of a constructor.
Creating and Deploying Starbases
Starbases are created and upgraded by using a Constructor, a type of ship built at a shipyard. A default Constructor design is provided to the player at the start of a game. However, it's important to realize that any ship designed with a constructor module can be used for these purposes, and that in particular, it is possible to place multiple constructor modules into a ship design, along with whatever engines or other modules a player has room to fit into the design. In this way, once the player has sufficient technology to build a large enough ship, a ship with multiple constructors can be created so that multiple upgrades can be performed at once.
To create a new starbase a constructor is sent to the desired location, where the player can click on the constructor and see a ship menu box appear in the lower left hand part of the screen. On the lower left hand part of this menu box is a button labelled "command". Click this button to get a menu. The top two choices are "construct starbase" and "construct shipyard". The button labelled "construct starbase" may be grayed out or may be white. If white it can be clicked to create the starbase; if it is grayed it is because the starbase cannot be built at that location. For example, starbases cannot be built within 5 hexes of another starbase or on top of any other object, such an asteroid, a planet, or a nebula. When a starbase is clicked on a hexagonal ring will be displayed that shows the range over which the starbase will have effect. Colonies, resources, or relics within this large hexagon will be within the starbase's range and modules built in the starbase may interact with those objects. Thus the placement of a starbase is of great importance. For example, it may rarely be possible for a starbase to built within range of two or more mining resources; mining modules placed into the starbase will then gain all such resources. Similarly, multiple colonies may be in range of a single starbase, and in that case economy modules will affect all such colonies. Furthermore, it is important to realize that placement of a starbase means that new starbases cannot be built within its range (5 hexes). For example, if a mining resource is near a colony, it is usually better to place a starbase intended for mining on the far side of mining resource, away from the colony, so that the mining starbase does not prohibit the building of the maximum number of economy starbases near the colony. Clearly there will be situations in which a choice of which type of starbase is preferable; this can only be determined by experience, the player's style, and by the game situation.
Of particular importance is a difference between starbases and shipyards: a shipyard may be "unanchored" and moved to a better location if deemed appropriate. Starbases, however can not be moved once built. If for some reason later in the game, the position of the starbase is seen to be inappropriate, the only possibility is to decommission the starbase (which destroys it) and to build a new starbase in the correct position. Fortunately with some planning and experience it should be possible to avoid this eventuality.
To upgrade a starbase, a ship with a least one constructor module must be built at any shipyard, and the ship sent to the starbase. A player may double click on the starbase to perform the upgrade or wait for the game to indicate that a starbase is ready to be upgraded, and click the "upgrade starbase" button in the lower right hand part of the screen . In upgrade mode a menu of possible upgrades will appear on the right hand part of the screen; previously installed modules will appear in a list on the left hand side of the screen. These lists will depend on what modules have previously been installed on the starbase and on what technologies have been researched. If in fact no suitable upgrade is possible, it is not necessary to use the constructor; it is possible to eject the constructor from the starbase (in the menu box in the lower left hand part of the screen, click the constructor ship icon and click the "eject" button) and send it to another location or put the constructor in "guard" mode to leave it until the appropriate technology is completed.
An alternative method to upgrade a starbase is to use the "Request Constructor" button which can be found in two places: either the menu box once a starbase is clicked on, or in the starbase upgrade menu, after one double clicks on a starbase or clicks the "upgrade starbase" button in the lower left corner of the main screen. Each time "request constructor" is pressed, a constructor will be ordered to automatically arrive at the given starbase. If no constructor is currently available one will be queued for building at the nearest shipyard and sent when completed. This takes a lot of micromanagement out of the upgrade process; when you are looking at a particular starbase, just figure out how many constructors you would like and click the "request constructor" button an equal number of times. Be careful when doing this because if extra constructors are ordered there is no way to cancel the order. You will have to "eject" the constructor when it reaches the starbase to release it for other duty. Also, "request constructor" only calls a default constructor; if you have designed custom constructors, with perhaps additional constructor modules or extra engines, you will need to direct those constructors manually. Still, the "request constructor" can be an enormous time saver, as you can queue the precise number of constructors you want and do not have to either manually build a constructor at a shipyard or manually direct it to the appropriate starbase (and meanwhile remembering which starbase that might be! The game will prompt you with an "upgrade starbase" message in the lower right part of the screen when the constructor has arrives at the starbase.
Starbase Types in Detail
Cultural: Cultural starbases are created for the purpose of increasing one's influence in the vicinity of the starbase. They tend to be of greatest use near the borders between rival factions, in an attempt to extend one's Zone of Influence (ZOI) into another factions territory or to prevent the other faction from doing the same thing to you. As with any starbase modules appropriate technologies must be researched before upgrades can be performed that increase influence. Appropriate technologies will be found in the lowest branch (blue) of the technology tree. For example, "Universal Translator" provide the "Cultural Forum" module for a starbase, the first upgrade module available.
Economic: This is the most common type of starbase; economic modules provide colony boosts for factories, laboratories, wealth buildings, approval buildings, and trade. All of these modules may be added to the same starbase if they provide a benefit to a colony or colonies. It should be immediately apparent that if a colony or colonies being supported are specialized for a particular kind of production (say research) that in that case only one kind of production module need be added. Of course whether one chooses to specialize their colonies is a game situation decision, but this is pointed out to indicate one advantage of so doing. Trade modules, for example trade stations, are useful if a colony connecting a trade route is in range of the starbase, and increase that value of any such trade routes. Approval buildings, for example, recreation centers, will help improve the morale of any colonies in range and will have increasing value as the size of one's empire grows (unless one has the racial trait which eliminates the large empire penalty).
Military: Military starbases allow the addition of modules that enhance the combat power of friendly ships in range of the starbase. Because starbases are stationary, this use of a starbase becomes a special case that will not often be used. There are situations in which such a starbase might suggest itself; for example, during an invasion of an enemy territory the placement of a military starbase in range of target enemy colonies may prove useful in overcoming the enemy defense. On the other hand, once a battle is completed the military starbase may be seen to have little further use. Employment of military starbases is therefore a special case requiring careful judgement.
Mining: Adding mining modules allows an empire access to resources, such as Durantium, Prothenium, Elerium, Anti-Matter, and Thulium, that are used to build special ship parts or buildings. A typical first such module is the Mining Ring. Researching the appropriate technology allows additional mining modules to be added which increases the number of resources obtained. In addition, all mining resources in range of a mining starbase are obtained using a single module. For example, in a fortunate situation a starbase might be in range of three Durantium nodes. The first mining module placed in this starbase would then provide three Durantium for use as desired. Adding a Mining Barracks will give an additional amount of Durantium for each node; in this example, this starbase with a Mining Barracks would then obtain six Durantium. Types of mining resources can be mixed; if a mining starbase accesses both Durantium and Elerium, for example, the starbase mining modules will obtain use of both types of resource. Obviously, locations that are in range of multiple mining resources have high priority. Note that the only ways to replace an enemy mining starbase with your own is either to buy the starbase from the other faction or to destroy it in combat and replace it with your own starbase. Furthermore, once a starbase accesses a node, any new starbases are not eligible to mine those resources until the initial starbase is removed. Therefore, adding additional starbases near mining resources that are already active is fruitless.
Relic: A starbase can access precursor relics in its range by adding precursor modules, such as the Xeno Archeology Lab. These benefits apply to the entire empire and are therefore quite powerful. Additional modules can be added as the appropriate precursor technology is added by sending a constructor to the starbase. The presence of precursor modules does not preclude the addition of other types of modules, so that it may be possible to add economy modules, for example, in addition to precursor modules if a colony is in range.
Outpost: A starbase can be constructed only for the purpose of extending the range of a faction's fleet. In so doing, fleets with inadequate range can be enabled to reach their goal. Examples would include enabling colony ships to reach planets that would otherwise be out of range. A starbase or a string of starbases can be constructed as "stepping stones" to allow a fleet to reach a goal. That goal may be the invasion of another faction's colonies that would otherwise be unreachable. For this latter reason, among others, the construction of enemy starbases near one's territory is a serious matter. Construction of a starbase in another faction's Zone of Influence (ZOI) will provoke a demand from that faction to remove the starbase or face a worsening of that faction's opinion of the player. In some cases this may even provoke a war.
A large number of starbase defense modules are available to assist in protecting the starbase from enemy attack. Note that this is somewhat controversial, however. Some players feel that it is more flexible and more economical to build ships to defend a starbase rather than investing in additional modules for the starbase. Naturally for starbases created in dangerous areas, such as borders or inside enemy Zones of Influence (ZOI) a case could be made that adding starbase defense to supplement the defense of a key starbase is reasonable. The player will need to experiment to find out what system works best for his or her playstyle.
Constructors for Shipyards
The same constructors used to create and upgrade starbases can also be used to create shipyards, as mentioned above. Because constructors as ships can be upgraded with engines so that they can travel with reasonable speed, it can be quite useful to send a constructor built by an older colony to a new colony to allow the immediate construction of a shipyard there without using a substantial amount of the new colony's production for that purpose. Of course the presence of a shipyard at a new colony will activate the Social/Military slider and adjustments as to how much production is to be divided between the two will have to be made; nevertheless, this is a very fast way to help build up a new colony.
Summary and Comments
Looked at from the point of view of the "generating" unit, i.e., the constructor, it is clear that there are very large number of ways to use constructors, all but one involving building of starbases. One point of view, with considerable validity, is that managing a large number of constructors so as upgrade properly all the various starbases one may wish to build involves a great deal of micromanagement, despite the rather helpful tool of "request constructor". Additional means of reducing this overhead would certainly be welcome. There are two other comments, however, that are appropriate in such a discussion that ought to be considered carefully when suggesting what might be termed logistical support. First of all, the constructor system does provide an enormous flexibility in operations. Thus, once a constructor is built, it can be used in a wide variety of ways that need not be decided on until actual use is made of the constructor. Any change to the system ought to be concerned about the effect it may have on this rather useful flexibility. Secondly, for several reasons, not least of which is economy of production, one should consider carefully what upgrades are actually necessary for any given starbase. The fact that a huge number of upgrades may be possible to any starbase does not imply that it is wise to actually perform all of them. It has been mentioned above, for example, that building fleets may be superior to adding defensive modules to starbases. As a further example, if the colonies near a supporting starbase are specialized, then the number of modular upgrades appropriate for that starbase is reduced significantly. In any event the building of any item in game, including constructors, should always be viewed from the point of view of "opportunity cost", that is, what could one be doing with the resources tied up in the construction instead of building a constructor.
In summary, the most important concern to bear in mind is that Galactic Civilizations III is game that undoubtedly will evolve and change well beyond release. Particularly in the area of constructor management, it is likely there will be changes that have a greater or smaller impact on the process of managing starbases, and indeed, considering the extremely accessible ability to mod GCIII it is probable that there will be program driven as well as player driven alterations available to the current system.