NOTE: Game restrictions are extra rules users come up with and implement themselves to modify computer games slightly - usually things they won't allow themselves to do, hence the name game restrictions. For more on this, and why it works see |games restrictions]. The basic idea here is to make your old friend, game X, less tiresome and more exciting and unpredictable again. If you like Classic Gaming you may already be improving your gameplay with sets of restrictions without ever having sat down to think about the subject systematically.
Here's my set of restrictions for the original MOO:
As with many restrictions, these are to be applied to the second highest difficulty level or below:
1) No extra scouts beyond the two provided may be built until at least nuclear engine technology is discovered. Usually I interpret this to mean that no SMALL ships with extended fuel tanks can be built until nuclear engine tech, or better, has been discovered and ships can be built that move faster. The alternative interpretation is that only large ships, colony size and above can be given extended range fuel tanks before nuclear engine technology, or better, is discovered.
WHY: Because it's too easy to sequester a bunch of planets near you by building a bunch of scouts and parking them on every planet you can reach, and keep that screen up as you expand. Enemy scouts and colony ships will bounce of your unarmed scouts for quite a long time, well into the start of the game. To exaggerate a little, by the time they do, it may all be over but the shouting. Boring. Your computer opponents don't ever do this as a strategy, and if you do, it gives you such an advantage that you'll win too many games hands down, too early in the game before anything exciting has happened.
2) No micro-managed tactical combat. Instead, you use automatic tactical combat except that you allow yourself to stop/pause automatic combat twice and only twice, either to check how things are going, or initiate retreat, or both. This means that the second time you halt automatic combat between turns on the tactical map, you must make a decision to retreat or to stay permanently – even if your forces are destroyed by this decision to stay. This pushes you into making some very interesting decisions which often have exciting *#$&^$^@ results. No risk, no adrenaline - no adrenaline, no replayability.
WHY: This fixes at least two things. Tactical combat can be pretty mechanical and straightforward and boring, but the computer is so bad at it that you daren't just turn things over to automatic most of the time, even in lopsided battles. For one thing, it won't retreat you out of there even when you're obviously doomed otherwise. Also, because, the MOO computer AI is often perfectly hapless at tactical combat you not only become too powerful but this tends to narrow your choices in ship design, etc, down to a few boring choices that exploit the holes in how the computer AI handles ships in tactical combat. As well, especially if you lean towards huge ships, being able to easily retreat at any time may mean you almost never lose a ship once the game is properly underway - and that often makes your eventual win too predictable and how you get to that win so straightforward it's boring. Tactical combat is the most frequent complaint about MOO, this is at least a partial fix.
3) Keep you technology budgets as they are at the beginning of the game, don't touch them sliders. Ever.
WHY: I haven't found a lot of dazzlingly interesting decisions to be made there. For the most part, just obvious paths and biases that are pretty mechanical micromanagement that ain't the game. I actually find it more exciting if I make it a rule just to leave the sliders where they are. This also makes the game harder without having to choose the very hardest play level, an act which sadly alters the game beyond recognition by forcing any race of human player to be ludicrously warlike in order to seize enough tech advances and stay abreast of the computer players.
4) No circling back to continue a battle. (On the main map - we've already covered rules for re-engagement on the tactical map.) This is a patial return to the unrevised Version 1.0 MOO in which once ships were given orders, those ships' orders couldn't be altered. As well, if you lost a battle at an enemy (or friendly) star retreat paths were created for your ships to nearby stars and couldn't be changed. This restriction isn't as harsh, however - you can still change orders unless ships have just engaged in and lost (retreated from) a combat. You can even circle a ship or fleet back to a star if it arrived too early, ahead of other forces, and retreated without exchanging fire with the enemy at that star - simulating that ship or fleet waiting for it's fellows. However I still generally don't allow ships to choose where they retreat after an unsuccessful engagement.
WHY: Particularly with Huge ships, which are too much favoured in the game already, it's too easy for the human to circle back repeatedly and slowly, boringly and predictably attrit enemies until a battle can be won some turns hence - something your computer opponents never allow themselves to do. With this restriction extended to the human player as well, decisions about whether and when battles should be engaged become less easy, and outcomes a bit less predictable, with a larger penalty for your misjudgements. All of which makes for more interesting decisions.
5) Only at most two designs of any ship size may exist at any one time.
This one is optional - some games I use this restriction, sometimes not. (Sometimes I use it until it looks like I'll lose.)
WHY: This strengthens a restriction already in the game: that you can only have six ship extant designs at any one time. I used to hate that *$&% restriction when I first played the game. It was obviously there to save the programmers work, and keep the size of the data structure small, it was wildly unrealistic, and it forced me to make extremely tough, nearly undecidable decisions about when to scrap entire fleets of ships just so I could use my new tech. Of course, years later, this is what I most love most about the original game of MOO - that this restriction still forces me to make very interesting decisions about the game, with big consequences. So I've strengthened it a bit, in order to make those decisions come up more often, and so that they have larger consequences. As well, huge ships have too much of an advantage over other designs, and are a wee bit too invulnerable, tending to unbalance play between you and the computer late in the game since your computer opponents have no marked preference for them.
This may not be a complete list of useful restrictions, and you may have other restrictions to add of your own. Restrictions usually slowly accumulate with experience in a game and can be idiosyncratic - finely tuned to prevent a given player's laziest or most predictable tactics and mix the game up a bit.