A guide to trade cluster construction for the civilized emperor
Step 1: The Core Worlds. Locate a group of 3 worlds close together with lots of space around them, like this:
Step 2: Setting up the administration. Designate them as sector capital, trade hub and foundation respectively. You will need to wait 24 hours while the sector capital is established before continuing. In the meantime...
Step 3: Conquest. Capture all the worlds within a 200 light year radius of those 3 worlds. Once the SC is online: designate them to produce resources as follows:
a) Consumer goods: Earth-like, ocean and underground worlds.
b) Trillum: inhospitable worlds (everything except the above) with "abundant" deposits, if none are available "major" is also OK.
c) Hexacarbide: barren worlds with "abundant" deposits.
Leave anything with "minor" or "trace" deposits for now. If they aren't at TL5+, temporarily designate them to anything to allow them to reach TL5 so a spaceport can be built.
Step 4: Setting up trade routes. Ensure all those worlds are at or above TL5 and have a spaceport built. Now select your trade hub (from Step 2), right click on one of those worlds. A trade route should have been formed between the two worlds, with an arrow pointing towards the hub. Select the world you just right-clicked on, and right-click on the hub. The trade route should have an arrow pointing back towards the selected world.
Repeat this procedure for every single world you conquered. Make sure you don't miss any worlds! If you forget to right click once on the hub and once on the world, it will be only importing or only exporting, not both. And that's really bad.
Do the same thing for the 3 core worlds! They should all be importing from, and exporting to, each other. If a world doesn't have a trade route connected to it, you've done it wrong.
Step 5: Increasing tech levels. If your foundation is at or above TL8, select every single one of those worlds and right click on the foundation. If your foundation is at TL9 or 10, you need to click on the center of the trade route, click on the "tech level improvement" button in the bottom panel and manually set the tech level to uplift to 8 (antimatter).
If you don't do this every single world will be uplifted to TL 9 or 10, which is very hard to sustain for an inexperienced player.
Step 6: Increasing population. Leave your empire alone for a few hours. When you come back, all the worlds in that "cluster" will be at a high TL. Now click on each of them, go to the "Structures" tab and build a "habitat structure". This will be named something like "subtropolis", "planetary arcology" etc. Anything that has a description hinting towards increasing population. They will take anything from 2-4 days to build. There are often multiple "levels" of upgrades, so check back after the first tier is built.
If you have done everything correctly up to this point, your cluster on the zoomed out map will look like this:
Step 7: Building units. Remember the worlds with "minor" and "trace" deposits? Click on them and redesignate to a unit-producing world of your choice (jumpship yard, starship yard or infantry academy). For every unit-producing world you should aim to have at least one matching "autofac" world (jumpship/starship parts autofac, infantry equipment autofac), also preferably built on worlds with poor deposits.
For worlds with "major" and "abundant" chronimium deposits (rare), designate them as chronimium refineries and connect them to the network. You'll need this to produce high tech units.
Step 8: Fixing underproduction. Click on the trade hub, go to "Production" tab:
This is probably the most important screen: it shows you if any shortages are present in the trade network with brackets around the required amount. As you can see, this cluster is slightly underproducing chronimum, and as a result: advanced jumpdrives, which requires chronimium to make. To fix this, simply designate more worlds to produce the resource that has a shortage.
Continued in next post, due to the 3 attachment limit.