Part 7: Fast OB Creation window and Basic Fleet Orders
The Fast OB Creation window allows you to quickly set up your starting forces without having to build them. Go to the main menu bar and select the Fast OB Creation menu item. This opens the a small window with the title Create Racial Order of Battle. The top left section will show your Empire and Species, a dropdown with available task groups, a dropdown of available classes, a text entry box for Number and a read-only field for Total Cost. Below that is the Remaining Build Points section with a suggested amount of build points with which to create your starting forces. As you add starting forces, the amount of BPs will be deducted from these values. If you have been following the tutorial, these values will be 5000 for ships and 2500 for PDCs. Lets start by creating a couple of geological survey ships. Select the Survey Task Group and the whatever class name you used for the geosurvey ship. If you can't remember which one that is, select each class in turn and look at the right-hand panel, which displays the class summary. Type 2 in the Number field and press the Add button. The Remaining Build Points for ships will be reduced, probably to 4399.
Leave that window for now and open up the Task Groups window (F12). In Aurora, most players use the terms 'task group' and 'fleet' interchangeably so this is often called the Fleet window. You will use this window a lot and it contains many different functions. I am only going to cover a few of them right now but we will revisit this window as the tutorial progresses. In the top left is the Empire dropdown with your Empire selected. The second dropdown is a list of task groups. Select the Survey Task Group. You should now see the two survey ships listed in the grid control in the top right of the window. Several useful pieces of information are shown including the fuel and maintenance situation, their ammo and shields (if they had any), how much time they have accumulated on their maintenance clocks since their last overhaul, their thermal signature, their grade bonus and their task force training points. I'll cover the last two columns later in the tutorial
There are three list boxes in the left centre of the window entitled System Locations Available, Actions Available and Plotted Move. System Locations contains a list of the all the places in the system where you can set an order. At the moment there will only be the nine planets listed (Aurora hasn't caught up to dwarf planets yet). There is a section called System Location Display Options above this listbox, which contains a series of twelve checkboxes. These can be toggled on and off to show addition system locations. Try clicking on Moons for example and you will see all the moons in the solar system have been added to the list. Uncheck the Moons checkbox to get rid of them. Now click on Mars in the System Locations list. A list of possible actions for the two survey ships will be shown in the Actions Available list. As an example, select Geological Survey and press Add Move. An order for Geological Survey Mars appears in the Plotted Move list. Now click on Venus. This time, instead of using Add Move, just double-click on Geological Survey. A second order now appear for Geological Survey Venus.
If we advanced time at this point, the small fleet of two ships would begin following those orders. However, there are a lot easier ways to survey the Sol system then selecting every planet in turn. Press Remove twice to delete the orders. Now change to the Special Orders / Organization tab. Down the left hand side of this tab are several options for setting up automated orders for fleets. The first section, Protect Threat Axis, is used to create formations for battle fleets and we will look at in detail later. Essentially though, it means you can select one fleet as the main body of a larger formation and set other fleets to maintain positions relative to that fleet's course or relative to both the fleet and a hostile contact. It could be as simple as telling an escort to maintain a position 200,000 kilometers from the fleet in the direction of contact xyz, extending the point defence coverage of the fleet in that direction. You might set two escorts at 500,000 kilometers twenty degrees either side of the line of movement, or perhaps two scouts out at 10 million kilometers, forty degrees wither side of the line of movement, to act as sensor pickets, etc.. A supply ship with the battle fleet might be set 2 million kilometers away at a bearing of 180 degrees from a specified threat so it will always remain at the far side of the fleet. As the main body moves, all those fleets with formation orders will change their positions accordingly, although ships without fleet training will be shaky when it comes to holding exact formations. Each escort can be set with a different threat direction so you can create quite complex formations.
The next section, Default Orders, is the first one we are really interested in. If a fleet has no orders, it will attempt to carry out its primary default order. If that isn't possible, it will attempt to carry out its secondary default order. Look down the list of possible primary orders and select Survey Next Five System Bodies. This means that if the fleet has nothing else to do, it will choose five system unsurveyed bodies, starting with the closest to its current position, then whichever is closest to that system body and so on, until it has selected five. Then it will work its way down the list.
While we are in this section, lets set up some conditional orders as well. In the Conditional Order A section, select the Condition "Fuel less than 30%" and the Order "Refuel at Colony within 4 Jumps". Conditional Orders are checked every increment and will override any existing orders. As soon as this ship's fuel is less than 30% it will stop whatever it is doing and head for the nearest source of fuel. Once refuelled, it will have no orders so it will fall back on its default orders again.
Survey ships work best independently so lets split the fleet into two. Select one of the ships in the grid control and press the Detach button (bottom right). This is now a separate fleet. Set up the same default and conditional orders for this fleet too and then reselect the original Survey Task Group. As this is a single ship as well, press Rename TG (bottom left) and give it the same name as the ship so the two geo survey fleets have similar names. Now swap back to the Task Group Orders view. In a text box at the centre right you should see a summary of the default and conditional orders you created.
Moment of truth time. Open up the F3 System Map and press the 5 second button under Increment Time, on the far left of the upper of the two time bars. This will advance time by 5 seconds and give the two survey fleets an opportunity to work out their orders. If you check the order list for each of the two fleets, they should have selected some destinations for geological surveys. Notice that they have picked different destinations. This is because the two fleets are aware of what each other is doing and they will avoid duplication. Even if you had six fleets, they would still all work as a team. Later in the game you may meet alien races and set up geological survey treaties that mean the two Empires will share new geological survey data with each other. If survey fleets from two Empires with such a treaty are in the same system, they will also work as a team as if they were all from the same Empire. Essentially, you have setup all the orders you need for a geosurvey of the Sol system. The two ships will get on with their task, notifying you of any mineral deposits and returning to Earth to refuel as necessary. Eventually, you may receive a message that they cannot find anything else to survey, at which point you will need to decide where to send them next.
Lets now set up their gravitational survey cousins. Go back to the Fast OB Creation window and find the Gravitational Survey Design. Add two of them to the Shipyard TG task group. Now go back to the F12 task group window and open the Shipyard TG Window. Select one of the gravitational survey ships and press Detach. Set up a default order for Survey Nearest Survey Location and select the same conditional orders as the geo survey ship. Go back to Shipyard TG and Detach the second gravitational survey ship. Set up the same default and conditional orders. Advance time 5 seconds and let them pick their first destinations. These two ships will now carry out a gravitational survey of the Sol system, searching for jump points. As with the geo ships they will work as a team. Your system map view should now look something like this:
Once you start advancing time, it is a good idea to have the events window open (Ctrl-F3) so you are kept up to date about events in your Empire.