When you join a game of Planets, a link to that game will appear on your My Games page. Click the Play button to the right to get started.
When the game opens, you'll start at the Dashboard. From here you can access every area of the game, and you'll see a broad overview of the situation. At the moment, you'll see that you have a few Reports to read, and that you own one Planet, one Starbase, and one Starship.
If you want to learn how everything works, you should check out the full documentation on the dashboard interface, but for right now we'll only be using the Starbase button. Clicking on it will bring up a list of all the starbases you control in the game; right now, you should own precisely one. Click on its entry and it should bring you to the Starbase Interface Screen for that planet, with the Starmap in the large pane on the right.
There are several things that you can do from here. In the top left, you'll see a picture of the starbase, plus a planet - your homeworld - with one ship in orbit. Clicking on any of those will bring you to an interface screen specific to each. Above those is the name of the planet with an arrow pointing left; clicking that arrow will close the interface, leaving only the starmap. Selecting anything on the starmap will open a new pane showing details of that object. Right now, we want the starbase interface for your homeworld open.
There are four information blocks on the starbase interface: Defense, Status, Space Dock, and Orders. We're here to build a ship. Whenever possible, you should build a useful ship every turn you can.
The Build Ship command button switches to the Space Dock interface, where you can select the hull and engine types you want and add weapons if possible (and desired). You've got a lot of choices and every race is different, but on the first turn you can rarely go wrong by constructing a Large Deep Space Freighter with Transwarp engines. Once you've finished, click the Build button. Your new ship will be constructed next turn.
When you're ready, go to your ship in orbit.
You begin the game with a Medium Deep Space Freighter. It can carry a cargo of up to 200 KT (Kiloton) and has top-of-the-line Transwarp engine. Like all freighters, it's unarmed, lightweight, and designed primarily to move things from here to there. Fortunately, that's exactly what you need right now.
First, load a cargo. You'll need Colonists, Supplies, Fuel (Neutronium), and maybe some money (MegaCredits) from the planet below. To get them, click the Transfer button and use the arrows to fill the ship. There are different schools of thought about the proper load for the first turn, but I like to bring 150 Colonists and 50 Supplies, plus 120 MegaCredits. I also like to load about 100 fuel -- not a full tank, because fuel is heavy and very valuable, but enough to move around to a couple of planets. Once you're ready, hit OK .
(Note: A Cyborg player will want fewer Colonists, perhaps 100.)
Now, click Speed and set it to 9. On rare occasions you may want to move a ship slower than its fastest speed, but not today. Once it's set, hit OK .
The last thing you need to do is pick a destination. Choose a vacant planet near your homeworld and click on it over on the map pane. A line should come up between your ship and its destination.
Once you're ready, click on your homeworld's picture in the top left of the screen.
There are three blocks showing information here: Buildings, Resources, and Colony. Clicking the name once will collapse the block and clicking it again will reopen it.
Click the Build button.
This will open a pane to the right which lets you construct more structures. Once built, they stay built unless something destroys them. This first planet starts with a few, but you'll need more. You can build them, using money (MegaCredits) and supplies, by clicking on the arrows to the right
Mines are used to bring minerals from the crust of the planet to the surface; these minerals can then be used. The more mines you build, the faster the minerals come out, but the less happy your colonists will be. Build a moderate number, somewhere around 150. (Federation players will need more; Lizard players will need fewer.)
Each Factory produces one unit of supplies per turn. Supplies can be converted to cash, used to build structures, or (with alchemy ships) converted to minerals and fuel. Even though they too reduce colonist happiness, build as many as you can; you'll need the money.
Defense Posts help keep your planet from being conquered, but you won't need more on the first turn.
The native race, population, and happiness, colonist population and happiness, native government system and tax rates are all shown in the Colony section. We're interested in the button marked Tax Rates . Click it now.
There are several strategies people use for taxation. What you're going to do is gradually adjust the tax rate up until the Happiness rate (near the population number) drops to -1, and then reduce it one click so it's 0. You may need to adjust it on future turns to keep your people happy. (To learn more about taxes, click here.)
Congratulations! You've just finished your first turn in a Planets game! It's now time to hit End Turn and call it a day.
Most of the things you've just done will need to be repeated every turn, for each and every starship, starbase, and planet you own. The good news is, there's a lot of automatic shortcuts built into the game to make things easy for you. The better news is, when the time comes, we've also got a guide for the second turn.
Good luck, and good hunting!