is a graphical real-time battle game originally developed on
systems running X
, though clients have been developed
for both the Macintosh
personal computers. Games require
a minimum of 4 players on each side and can go up to 8 players on each
The goal of netrek is to capture all of the opponents planets. This
is done by beaming armies from a unit carrying them down to an enemy
planet. To carry an army, you must have a kill. Kills are awarded
for destroying enemy armies (rate varies, but about 1/10th of a point
for each army killed) or destroying an enemy ship (1 point + 10% of
the kills of the opponent). This will allow the player beam up two
armies for each kill. The kills you have are reset when your ship
All ships are capable of cloaking (hiding from your team and the other),
raising and lowering shields.
firing phasers (beam weapons) and torpedoes (projectiles), destroying
torpedoes (for some damage yourself), pushing and pulling others with
tractor beams (the larger the ship, the more you get to push or pull),
and bombing planets. Some ships are better at some things than others.
As the hull of a ship gets damaged, the max speed of the ship slows down
until it is repaired.
Repairing can be done whenever the ship has its shields down, though
is much faster at a friendly planet with a repair yard or while docked
to a starbase.
When a ship explodes, it does damage to all ships around it - the
larger the ship, the more damage. This can often trigger
chain reactions of explosions with massive battles (frequently around
starbases). This makes the tactic of 'ogging' useful when the
ships can get in close enough to do large amounts of damage before
the (most often) starbase can repair it.
The architecture of the game is that of a client to server. While
this does require a dedicated server, it means that a single player
on a slow link does not slow down the game for everyone else. Furthermore,
it allows for verification of actions by the server to make certain that
no one is cheating. Clients are cryptographically signed and expire
after a period of time so that only authorized versions of a client may
connect to a server.
There are two major branches of the netrek universe - bronco (classic)
and paradise (new). While paradise clients may play in bronco games,
a bronco client cannot play in a paradise game.
Bronco dates back to 1988 with the first sources posted in the fall
of 1989. Within standard Bronco games there are 5 types of ships:
- Scout (SC)
- Fast and light with very little firepower. Wonderful for harassing
other ships and scouting enemy planets. While it has a small fuel tank
it doesn't use much in movement.
- Speed: 12
- Max armies: 2
- Max damage: 75 (75)
- Torp damage: 25
- phaser damage: 75
- Destroyer (DD)
- Larger than the scout with less armies per kill than others.
While difficult in the hands of a beginner, it can prove a very effective
ship for getting in, taking a planet and getting out in the hands of
- Speed: 10
- Max armies: 5
- Max damage: 85 (85)
- Torp damage: 30
- Phaser damage: 85
- Cruiser (CA)
- The general purpose ship. Heavy enough to withstand some damage,
fast enough to make pursuit debatable, and nasty enough to do some
damage. Your general jack of all trades.
- Speed: 9
- Max armies: 9
- Max damage: 100 (100)
- Torp damage: 40
- Phaser damage: 100
- Battleship (BB)
- A large and slow ship with big weapons. Eats fuel like there
is no tomorrow, but has a large tank.
- Speed: 8
- Max armies: 6
- Max damage: 130 (130)
- Torp damage: 40
- Phaser damage: 105
- Assault (AS)
- The master of planetary conquest. Bombs much harder than other
ships, large hull, but small shields and not as spectacular ship to
ship weapons. It can carry 3 armies per kill
and has large max carry capacity, but a small fuel tank.
- Speed: 8
- Max armies: 20
- Max damage: 200 (80)
- Torp damage: 30
- Phaser damage: 80
- Starbase (SB)
- A floating weapons platform that allows teammates to refit, refuel
and store (or retrieve) armies (they're safer there than on a planet).
It can only be commanded by a person with high enough rank. Tractor/pressor
beams that stretch forever allowing it to push other ships around either
keeping them at bay or moving a friendly ship into the line of fire to
protect itself (a good thing).
- Speed: 2
- Max armies: 25
- Max damage: 600 (500)
- Torp damage: 30
- Phaser damage: 120
Paradise was first announced in 1993 and is seen as some as an update
to netrek, to others an unnecessary complication to the game.
Paradise changes the classic map to a much larger one with separate
solar systems and large voids. To cross these voids the concept
of 'warp' was added. Furthermore, several new ship types were added
in several places that fit between the classic ships. Missiles
were also added, and in some cases carriers that turn armies into
Warp allows a ship to travel at speeds in excess of 30. It requires
a warm-up time where the ship sits just barely moving, then suddenly
the screen flashes and the ship is cruising at very fast speeds. While
in warp, a ship cannot fire weapons.
- Frigate (FR)
- Kin to the battleship, but slightly lighter and faster and a tad
bit less powerful.
- Warbase (WB)
- The younger brother of the starbase. A bit more maneuverable (it
can move at speed 3 rather than 2!), the same weapons, but not as
much armor. Can't carry armies, but very useful at the start of the
game in defending planets from the initial wave of attackers or bombing
an opponent planet at the end of the game. Furthermore, it serves
as a starting point for patrol boats.
- Light Cruiser (CL)
- While the Destroyer is a nice taker, the Light Cruiser serves as
an escort - able to match speeds with most other ships and a bit
tougher than than the lighter ships. However, it can't carry as many
armies as other similar sized ships and thus is poor at taking other
- Carrier (CV)
- While not found on all servers it often serves as a planetary defense
or base attack ship. It is the only ship that is able to convert armies
into an attacker. It is rarely used, even on servers that have it except
for the novelty of it - armies are just too valuable.
- Utility (UT)
- Like the Carrier, this ship is not found on all servers, but is
much more useful (at least in my opinion). Its primary use is
that it is able to serve as a launching platform for patrol boats,
bringing them much closer to the offensive action. In a coordinated attack,
it can be deadly without firing a single shot.
- Patrol (PT)
- A small (smaller than the scout) missile boat. While it does carry
phasers and torps they do very little damage. The key to this ship is
its maneuverability and missiles. These provide for a very annoying gnat
that can bite. Patrol ships can be launched from starbases, warbases or
- Jumpship (JS)
- A flying engine. This base has 'natural' speeds in the 20s and
warp speeds in the 40s. It moves, it moves fast. While a sneeze would
knock it over and its weapons can be shrugged off by any ship - this
does provide a way for slower ships (such as the assault ship) to get
to distant points quickly, or rescue a ship with armies on it in
a hurry. It has spots to carry four ships around and with teamwork
and an some experience, a JS / AS team can devastate the opposition.
(My story: once upon a time, while playing paradise I was a reasonably
respected (up a few levels) player in an assault ship doing some planet
taking. Two destroyers came in, crippled me, but I beat them off. At
that time I had 5 more armies and several kills. A distress call went out.
A fast thinking, experienced player switched to a jumpship and was there
before the two DDs came back to finish me off. He was able to pull me
out of harms way while my other teammates came in to fend off the DDs
that were returning. Following that, as a team we were able to take
the vast majority of the planets and eventually victory.)
- Starbase (SB)
- In addition to the things mentioned up top - the paradise starbase
has the ability to build resources on a planet. This allows it to
enhance the army production or build forward bases to get closer to
There exist other variants of these games. Hockey, Chaos... however
Bronco and Paradise are the two major branches of the game and often
the best for beginners to play. Your choice is completely up to you
as to which to prefer. The debate as to which one is better rages on.