HINTS AND TIPS FOR "BUZZ ALDRIN'S RACE INTO SPACE" from Interplay
by Ken Fishkin
GAME TOPIC Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space (BARIS) is a great game of space
race simulation. It's also devilishly hard - after 2 solid weeks of
playing, I have not yet managed a lunar landing before 1969 on the easiest
level (level 1), and I have never won on level 2.
This article is designed to share the insights and tips I've developed so
far - I'm certainly no expert, but the lessons I've learned may be of use
to you. I welcome feedback - I can be reached as firstname.lastname@example.org, or
K.FISHKIN on GEnie.
For the rest of this article, I'll assume you're playing the American side.
The tips are applicable to both sides.
-) SLOW AND STEADY LOSES THE RACE The single greatest thing I've learned is
that you _cannot_ afford to hit every milestone, and buy every piece of
hardware. This approach is best for getting you short-term prestige in the
first few years, but it will take you a long time to advance to lunar
- you have to buy many programs, and launch many missions. Furthermore, the
computer player won't give you any slack time. Which leads me to...
-) MINIMIZE MISSIONS It's easy to forget, but you should aim to minimize
the number of missions. First of all, they cost money (especially the later
missions). Second of all, they tie up launch pads. Third of all, and most
of all, you only need one catastrophic failure to severely derail your
program. Every manned mission, especially a Mercury mission, is a game of
Russian roulette - sooner or later, you _will_ have catastrophic failures.
The fewer missions you fly, the greater your odds of avoiding a
catastrophe. Finally, you will rarely be able to fly more than 1 manned
mission a season anyway, due to the number of crews available.
-) WHO NEEDS UNMANNED MISSIONS? With the exception of unmanned docking
missions, fly few unmanned test flights - cutting down on these really
helped me speed up my program. An unmanned flight is just not worth it -
you pay full price for the mission and suck up a launch pad, and, most
importantly, delay your program, all for the chance of a _one_ percent
increase in hardware reliability. Let's face it, those manned missions are
going to be risky, and you just can't get around that: are you really going
to schedule _14_ unmanned missions before you launch your first manned
Mercury? If you do go the slow-and-steady route, you won't land until 1974
or so, even assuming the Soviets haven't landed by then.
-) KEEP MONEY FOR THE FALL Every once in a while, you will get a random
event informing you that hardware purchases are 50% off for one season
only. Every time this has happened to me, this has been in the fall. This
is a _wonderful_ random event - it's a shame to miss out on enormous fiscal
-) WATCH FOR FAILURE MODE PREVENTION Every once in a while, you will get a
random event informing you that scientists have found a failure in the
such-and-such system (Gemini, say), and will prevent it in the future. This
means that you get one free missed step in your next mission with that
system. This is _very_ valuable. If you get this, scrub any upcoming
unmanned mission involving that system - save it for when you really need
it, on the next manned flight.
-) PLANETARY FLYBYS ARE A TRAP Wow, 7 prestige points for Venus! 5 for
Mercury! You already have the Ranger! Easy pickings, right? WRONG. The
longer I play the game, the more non-lunar planetary flybys seem a loser.
First of all, they still cost money - $15 per mission. In a game where
you're always out of money, this adds up. Second of all, the way the
missions run, if _any_ mission step fails, the mission fails. The
interplanetary fly-bys have a success percentage of only around 60%. This
gives you an "expected value" for the Venus mission, the best mission, of
60%*7 - 40%*3 = 3, with an expected monetary cost of $21. Just not worth
it. The only planetary flyby that's worth it is the Lunar flyby, because
each one gives you 5% more on photo reconaissance, which is needed for
Lunar probes and lunar landings.
-) DOCK EARLY, DOCK OFTEN Other than direct ascent, any path to the moon
requires a docking module. It requires a lot of missions to make docking
modules reliable - between 5 and 10, usually around 8. Furthermore, the LM
tests, another 3 missions or so, require reliable docking. If you are not
going the direct ascent route, then
1) Buy the docking module as soon as you have rockets that can support the
payload, and lift early, lift often.
2) As soon as this happens, make sure you have at least 2 launch pads.
3) Think twice about skipping the Gemini program - with it, you can do
unmanned docking missions for only $6. Without it, you have to wait for the
Apollo, which costs $11 per mission, and requires better rockets.
4) Rather than spreading your unmanned docking missions around through the
lifetime of the Gemini, think about delaying your Group II astronauts, and
spending an entire year doing nothing but flying unmanned docking missions.
You'll have to fly 'em anyway, and this way the Gemini will be up to a nice
reliability by the time the astronauts are ready, and you can do a manned
docking mission almost immediately.
-) SAVE EARLY, SAVE OFTEN I never thought I'd recommend this for any
computer game, but I do recommend that you use saved-game cheats for BARIS.
The game's one great flaw is that the fatality rates for missions are, it
seems to me, far too high. I would guess that around 20% of my US manned
missions end in a fatality while historically, the US had a fatality rate
The problem is that there are many steps, and a failure in any one of them
seems about 50% likely to cause a fatality. Here are some common missions
and their failure rates in the game. This assumes the Basic model, with all
hardware reliability half-way between the "Max R&" and "Max Safety"
ratings - for example, 83% ((76 + 90) / 2) for the Mercury. Further assume
that the astronaut bonus cancels out the milestone penalty.
MISSION SUCCESS RATE
Orbital Satellite 84%
Manned sub-orbital 63%
Manned orbital 43%
"D" Duration 32%
Docking 32% [assume docking @ 70%]
Lunar flyby 62%
Lunar probe landing 29% [photo recon @ 70%]
Earth LEM test, joint 29% [assume docking @ 80%]
Apollo, Titan/Booster, Eagle
Lunar pass 25%
Gemini, Titan, A-Kicker
Lunar LEM orbit 17% [assume docking @ 90%]
Apollo, Saturn, Eagle
For all the lunar landings, assume docking and photo recon @ 90%:
EOR Lunar landing, joint 6%
Gemini, Titan/Booster, Cricket, B-kicker
Historical Lunar landing 11%
Apollo, Saturn/Booster, Eagle
Direct Ascent landing 23%
Pretty depressing, huh? OK, here's the odds with every mission
step at its max possible success rate:
EOR Lunar landing, joint 25%
Gemini, Titan/Booster, Cricket, B-kicker
Historical Lunar landing 29%
Apollo, Saturn/Booster, Eagle
Direct Ascent landing 37%
The odds seem about right for the earlier missions, but much too low for
the later ones. For example, even if every possible system is at its
maximum possible safety rating, a Historical Lunar mission will experience
failure 71% of the time.
The problem isn't so much the odds for _success_, though, as the
consequences of _failure_, which tend to be much too harsh. The "Manned
Orbital" may have only a 43% chance of success - that's not the problem.
The problem is that too much of the remaining 57% results in fatalities. Oh
MISSION SCHEDULING Suppose you have a manned sub-orbital planned to lift
off this season. What do you plan for next season? The first thing you
might think of is to schedule nothing, and wait until you see the results
of the sub-orbital. Don't do this! You will delay your program
unacceptably. Instead, consider
-) DOUBLING DOWN Go ahead and schedule an orbital for next season. If the
sub-orbital works, you're in great shape. If not, scrub the mission - you
lose nothing but the launch pad.
-) HEDGING YOUR BET Schedule a second sub-orbital for next season. If the
first sub-orbital works, scrub the second - nothing lost but the launch
pad. If the first sub-orbital didn't work, you'll be glad you have your
second shot ready to go.
If you have two launch pads and >= 4 crews available, combine these. Make
your first launch of next season a sub-orbital, and your second launch of
next season an orbital. If the first sub-orbital works, scrub the second,
and go ahead with the orbital. If the first sub-orbital doesn't work,
launch the second. If _it_ works, go ahead with the orbital - if not, scrub
-) PULL MERCURY CREWS OUT OF BASIC TRAINING If you recruit your Mercury
astronauts in Spring of 1958 they will all graduate Basic Training in
Spring of 1960. They can be assigned a mission starting in Fall of 1960.
From Spring of 1960 to Fall of 1960, then, you go from having zero
available astronauts to seven. This is a waste! Much better is to
"pipeline" their availability. In Fall of 1959 (when they are in "Basic
Training III"), pull out 2 men. This allows you to schedule 1 mission in
the Spring of 1960, while still having 2 missions available in the Fall,
and only minimally affecting overall crew skill.
By the way, the computer takes this even farther - it will commonly
yank them out of "Basic Training II".
-) ALWAYS BUY THE EXPLORER, AND FLY IT MULTIPLE TIMES
You might normally consider skipping the Explorer - it's only used for one
mission, after all. However, in addition to the "regular" advantages
(fulfills the orbital satellite milestone, dirt cheap, lets you leverage
off the Atlas missile), there's one "hidden" use. If you look carefully,
most of the space missions have a "hardware power-on" step. That step is
rolled against your "orbital satellite" level, which I think is the same as
your Explorer level.
For this reason, fly the explorer until it's up to 98% reliability, instead
of the typical 95% - this 3% difference may not seem like much, but
remember that it's going to be applied to virtually every mission you fly
for the rest of the game.
-) DELAY THE SURVEYOR
If you do use the Surveyor, try to delay it until after the Ranger has
gotten several flybys, and/or you've gotten manned lunar passes.
Regrettably, the Survery requires a photo reconaissance step to be
successfull. Without any help, this is only at 55%. It's tough to send your
probe all the way to the moon and then lose 5 prestige points because of
missing that 55% step. Better, in my opinion, to wait until the 55% is up
to 70% or so. It's still risky, but them's the breaks.
-) THE COMPUTER HAS A FIXED OPENING It appears that the computer will
always try the following opening:
Sub-Orbital mission in 1/58
Manned Sub-Orbital in 1/60
Orbital/Spacewalk in 1/60
2-Man craft/docking, in 2/61
The above sequence may seem impossible to duplicate, but it is in fact
barely possible. You can do it by
1) yanking the Group I astronauts out of basic in 1/59 2) investing in
boosters rather than in the Titan 3) moving all Group I astronauts from
Mercury/Vostok to Gemini/Voskhod program in 2/60. 4) Being very very very
Each of the 4 missions above is very risky (especially with the rushes) but
the computer seems to pull them off no problem. I'm beginning to question
again whether or not the computer cheats. For one thing, he never gets
At any rate, once you know his strategy, you can dance around it. For
example, you may want to concede that he'll be the first to get a two -man
capsule and docking, and go straight for the Titan rocket and the Ranger
instead of diverting resources into the Booster. Similarly, you may want to
concede the "Spacewalk" milestone, and save the EVA money for later. If
you're feeling cocky, you could try to "beat him to the punch" at his own
strategy, but I warn you that it's very very difficult - try it, and you'll
The Mercury is mandatory if you want to take a shot on those valuable early
prestige boosts. In fact, if you really want to, you can fulfill up to 4
milestones with the Mercury: sub-orbital, orbital, space-walk, and duration
"B". However, it's a very dangerous craft - it can only be made 76%
reliable through R&D, and has no long-term value. On the other hand, if you
skip the Mercury for the Gemini or even the Apollo, you will find your
program significantly behind by the time the more advanced capsule shows up
- it's nice not to have to worry about a sub-orbital when you're dealing
with the Apollo program.
I usually buy the Mercury, fly it for 2 missions (sub-orbital and orbital),
pray, and then drop it. Depending on your second capsule, the Mercury
astronauts can either be transferred directly, sent to advanced training to
increase their endurance, or ignored.
I love the Gemini program. It's not very expensive. If you buy boosters,
which are dirt-cheap, you can do a lot of missions with the also dirt-cheap
Atlas rocket. Even without any kickers, you can do all endurances up to
"D", docking tests, space walks, and earth orbit LM tests.
Furthermore, you can take the Gemini all the way up to and including a moon
landing. In order to do that, you have to buy the B-Kicker, the Cricket LM,
and either the Titan or Saturn rocket.
You can either use a Saturn rocket and use a Historical landing, or do an
LOR/EOR mission with the Titan. If you can possibly afford it, the Saturn
route is the way to go - if you look at the success rate table in this
article, you will see that an EOR mission has only around a 6% chance of
The Apollo can be directly compared to the Gemini. For earth orbital
missions, the Apollo is clearly worse. For lunar orbital missions, the
Apollo is clearly better. For historical lunar landing missions, the
Gemini requires a B-kicker and a more expensive LM, the Apollo requires
In my experience, this decision is usually made for you - sooner or later,
the Gemini will have a catastrophic failure, requiring you to switch to the
I haven't tried this approach yet. It seems like a loser - it's about the
same as a Gemini in capability, but costs far more and weighs much more.
JUPITER Ahh, the Jupiter. The capsule of choice for that ever-so-tempting
direct ascent route. No messy docking modules, lunar modules, or kickers -
just strap 'em in and let 'em go. Well, not so fast. Consider that:
1) Its hugely expensive - unless you have prestige coming in through other
paths, and significant amounts of it, it'll take you forever.
2) Before landing on the moon, there are no less than 10 milestones: 2
unmanned [lunar fly-by, lunar probe] and 8 manned [ sub-orbital, orbital,
B,C,D, space-walk, lunar pass, lunar orbit]. If you go straight for the
moon without chewing up these earlier milestones, you'll be in big trouble.
3) This may just be my luck, but in my experience any failure with a
Jupiter mission tends to be a catastrophic one.
If you do decide to go the Jupiter route, I strongly recommend the
1) invest in both the Ranger and the Surveyor. You'll need their prestige,
and you'll need their milestones - since the Jupiter will only fly a few
missions (one hopes), its reliability won't be all that terrific, so you
really want all those earlier hurdles out of the way.
2) invest in the Gemini. You have to buy the Group II astronauts anyway, as
you need the Group III astronauts to staff the Jupiter. Since you now have
the Astronauts and the rocket, it's a waste not to invest in the capsule,
as it can knock off 6 of the 8 manned milestones. For the price of an A-
kicker, it can knock off all 8.
In my (limited) experience, the opening game goes pretty much the same
regardless of your long-term path: get the Explorer, the Titan, and the
Mercury. Knock off the "Orbital Satellite", "Sub-Orbital", and "Orbital"
milestones. Generally, I do get the booster rockets - even though the Titan
can lift the Gemini, it's more expensive (both to build and to buy), and
takes longer to develop. The boosters also let you get more mileage out of
After that, the path to take depends on catastrophic failures, Soviet
actions, and random events - good luck!