PHost - Glossary

PHost 4.1h



This document contains a glossary of VGA Planets terms. Unlike the other parts of the PHost documentation, it tries to cover all of the game, not just PHost (but has, admittedly, developed a PHost bias since it started).

360kt Bonus

The original HOST combat algorithm is slightly imbalanced. In an attempt to correct that, ships get an additional 360kt Combat Mass under certain circumstances in Host 3.20. This bonus is neither necessary nor usable in PHost.

3rd party

In the VGA Planets universe, everything not written by Tim Wisseman.


Shorthand for Alternate Combat.


Programs that extend the host program. Add-ons can do many different things; usually they provide new missions, special friendly codes, or change other details of the game.

Sometimes, this term is also applied to player-side programs.

agvp, the Planets newsgroup.


Converting supplies and minerals into each other. There are three types of alchemy, each associated with a hull function. Alchemy ships convert supplies into minerals (T/D/M) at a rate of 3:1. Refinery ships convert minerals plus supplies into fuel. Advanced Refinery ships use only minerals to produce fuel.

To convert minerals, just load the cargo onto the alchemy ship and wait one turn.

Alien Marauders

An alien race used by certain add-ons (Jumpgate being one). It has a race number of 12.


In PHost as well as in HOST 3.22.007 or later, players can formally declare their allies. The host will then respect that alliance. For example, allied ships will not fight or run on allied mines.

Alliance mechanics differ greatly in both hosts.

  • In HOST, offering an alliance by means of the ffX friendly code immediately grants the ally all the privileges. HOST 3.22.037 adds an additional level of alliance using FFX, which is therefore known as FF allies.
  • In PHost, offering an alliance by means of the allies add command just offers an alliance; the partner has to agree by offering back. The individual privileges can be offered separately using allies config and take effect only when both have offered the alliance.

Alternate Combat

An (optional) combat ruleset offered by PHost. Differs from the original ruleset in that it the impact of weapons is computed way different. Alternative Combat should only be played with shiplists designed for it.


An automated system for running the game. Generally, a server or BBS which does TRN processing, host runs and RST sending almost automatically. Often, also the sign-up for the game is automated. Some autohosts require payment, most do not.

The PHost site contains some links[Remote] to auto-host sites.

This term is also used for the software used to implement an automated host system.

Auto Task

A feature of some client programs: you can specify in advance what your ship or planet will do in the future. The main use is to specify multi-turn movement routes.

Note that auto tasks are handled by your client. If you miss a turn, your auto tasks will not continue. They are never seen by the host.


A program to run an automated hosting system.


The original host (version 3.20 and later) provides three places where add-ons can hook in. These places are usually called "auxhost":

  • Auxhost1 is run directly after processing the turns.
  • Auxbc is run between movement and combat.
  • Auxhost2 is run after host processing, before making the results.

Compare PControl.

Battle Order

Normally, combat in Planets is resolved by having pairs of two units fight each other. The winner will then fight its next opponent. Thus, it is very important to order your ships in a sensible way to achieve a battle outcome that pleases you. For example, if you have a capital ship escorting a freighter, you would want the capital ship fight first. This way, an attacker will face the escort ship first, before being allowed to attack the freighter.

Battle order is defined by using numeric friendly codes. See Order of Battle for PHost's battle order rules.

Beam Weapons

The most basic weapon in Planets. Almost every Capital Ship has one or more beams. Beams fire at the enemy in combat, and at the enemy's Fighters.

Beam weapons can also be used to sweep mines. Some other missions also require the ship to have beams.

There are 10 different beam types which differ in price and impact.

Blitz game

A game in which turn times are measured in minutes, not days.


A special ability of the Crystals and Privateers. These races can take over a fuel-less enemy ship by just towing it. A boarding team will beam over and secure the ship. Depending on the original owner of the ship, some parts of the crew will run traitor, otherwise, the captor gives up to 1/2 of its crew to man the ship:

  • Federation: 90% traitors
  • Privateers: 100% traitors
  • Empire: 40% traitors
  • Colonies: 70% traitors

All other races must tow fuel-less ships to their starbases and use Force Surrender to take them over.

This special ability is widely-known as Tow Capture. PHost now tries to avoid that term, to keep "capture" strictly reserved for capturing in battle, whereas "boarding" is boarding a ship using this ability.


Abbreviation for "Battle Simulator", a program to set up and evaluate battles before they actually happen in the game, used to plan and try your strategies.

Multi-ship simulators allow you to simulate matchups of many ships.

  • BSim by Thomas Voigt, simulates PHost 2 combat internally, uses the host program to resolve other combat.
  • CCBSim[Remote] is the simulator from PCC, it does HOST combat as well as PHost 2 to PHost 4 internally.
  • AFSim[Remote] by Sean Martens uses Tim's VCR to resolve combat.
  • Tanascius[Remote] simulates combat using a built-in HOST VCR.
  • PlayVCR[Remote] has a built-in simulator ("CCBSim 2") since December 2006. It supports HOST combat as well as PHost 2 to PHost 4.

Simpler simulators only allow you to simulate one ship against another one.

  • VPA[Remote] includes a simulator for HOST combat.
  • EchoView[Remote] includes a simulator for HOST and PHost combat.
  • Sim[Remote] by Tim Wisseman is a simple simulator for HOST combat.

Build Queue

When the Ship Limit is reached, ship build orders are no longer performed immediately but are collected in a queue. When a ship slot gets free, it is filled again with a build order from the queue. The modus of this queue differs greatly between host versions. See also PBPs and PHost build queue.

Capital Ship

A ship that has at least one weapon (beam, torpedo launcher, fighter bay). Compare Freighter.


The programs used by the player are called "client-side programs" or "clients". This is standard computer terminology: the game server (Host) runs the game, and people use their client programs to talk to it and play.

Basically, there are two official clients available from Tim Wisseman (DOS Planets, Winplan), and a number of 3rd party clients. There's a gentlemen's agreement in the VGAP universe that all 3rd-party clients require a registered official client before they offer registered features.

3rd-party clients:

Cloaking Device

The most common hull function. The cloaking device allows a ship to get invisible from enemy sensors, and move unseen. It also gives them advantages when moving through minefields.

See also: Cloaking device rules in PHost

Combat Mass

A measure of the ship's resistance to enemy fire. Its main component (and in early hosts, the only component) is the ship mass. Some bonuses are added to this: the engine-shield bonus (used to reflect that better engines give better shields), the Fed crew bonus, and the infamous 360 kt bonus to balance carrier fights.

Command Message

PHost and some add-ons include a message transponder which reacts upon special messages. You send these messages normally using your client program, and the receiving program will read them and evaluate them.

For PHost, you send a message to yourself and include the commands.

Certain add-ons, for example Unity[Remote], expect you to send the message to the Host.

Computer Player

A program that plays a race, instead of a human player. Usually abbreviated as "CPlayer". Computer players are sometimes used to fill in for players who missed a turn or dropped out, or for practice games.

It is close to impossible to make a good AI for Planets, so most computer players have their weaknesses and do harm gameplay. In particular, managing resources (freighters, ...) seems to be a critical point.

Some computer players:

  • CPlayer[Remote]: the original computer player. Plays rather bad and cheats a lot. However, this one comes with source, so there are a few improved successors to it.
  • Dominate[Remote]: a CPlayer successor. Designed not to cheat. Therefore, it plays a bit weak, but is a good candidate for using as a drop-in for a human player.
  • The Q[Remote]: plays quite strong, but uses quite massive cheats (free fuel for Q ships).
  • Spacelord: unique in that it plays client-side and hence has no chance to cheat. Reportedly plays quite good. (Of course, every computer player author claims his player to have beaten all the others in test games :-)
  • Kattivik: a CPlayer successor.
  • Admiral[Remote]
  • ACP / Omega[Remote]


A Computer Player. In particular, this may refer to the original implementation of a computer player by Tim Wisseman, but this one plays so bad and cheats a lot, so it is rarely if ever used these days.

Crew Bonus

The Federation's ships have certain benefits in combat due to their good crews. This is commonly referred to as the "crew bonus" or "Scotty bonus".

  • ship shields are repaired by 25% between fights
  • ships have an extra 50kt combat mass
  • all weapons work on damaged ships

Dan & Dave

Authors of a handful add-ons (Starbase+, RacePlus, ...), the first to use the Auxhost mechanism of HOST 3.20.

Data Status

Host programs validate turn files before incorporating them into the game files. Doing so, they classify turn files into one of three colors:

  • a green file is completely ok, and will be used.
  • a yellow alert means that host found some minor problem with the turn file.
  • a red alert is a major error.

In PHost, it is a yellow alert when you lost some minerals. PHost will attempt to give you back the stuff. It is also a yellow alert if you set a mission which is not allowed (like intercept a ship you do not see). PHost will ignore the offending commands.

It is a red alert if you generate minerals, or do some really impossible things (like transferring stuff to a planet you are not orbiting). PHost will ignore the turn file completely and continue as if you had not at all sent in a turn.

The exact conditions for HOST are not known, but there, too, missing stuff is a yellow alert and appearing stuff is a red one. In HOST, sharing a registration also gets you a red alert and severe punishment.

The most common reason for a data status alert (red or yellow) is that a player is using the wrong ship list: if the client bills 100 mc for a small freighter whereas Host thinks it costs 120 mc, it looks as if 20 mc magically appeared. With a bug-free client program and correct data files, it is impossible to produce a red alert. Another common cause for a yellow alert is that a player tries to intercept a ship he does not see.

Another reason for data status alerts is that you are using non-standard starbase costs or other options that are incompatible with your client program. In this case, you must switch to another program which supports these options.

Death Ray

A new kind of weapon introduced in PHost 4.0 and first used in PList 3.0. Unlike normal weapons, death rays do not damage the target ship or its shields, they just kill crew. Death rays pass through shields.

Both torpedoes and beams can emit death rays.

Technically, a death ray weapon is characterized by having an Expl_power of zero. See Weapon Effects for details.


A widely-used Computer Player.


A famous VGA Planets site, containing much useful information (formulas, rules, etc.). Mostly centered at the Wisseman host. If you have a rule question for the Wisseman host, look there first.


Common name for the DOS client by Tim Wisseman (planets.exe), by analogy with Winplan. The official name is "VGA Planets 3.0".

Echo Cluster

Name of the default star cluster the game takes place in.


A very popular viewer program by Stefan Glasauer, for Windows. Highlights:

  • Starchart displays ion storms, wormholes, minefields; zoomable.
  • Reports, searching and various starchart tags.
  • Turn history and prediction.
  • Nice functional Windows GUI.

A must-have for most of us.


When building a starship, you can choose from 9 different engine types. Although all engines can go Warp 9, the highest possible speed, cheaper engines are much less efficient at high speeds.

A common way of saving money is to equip the big ships that require many engines (a Basilisk requires 50 engines!) with a cheap type only, and build a cheaper ship with good engines that tows the big one.

The number of engines a ship needs is fixed. The engine count does not affect the fuel usage, though.


Abbreviation for "experience points" in PHost.


Shorthand for EchoView.


HOST: Ships gain experience by movement, alchemy, combat and ion storms. Experience helps them to manage strong storms.

PHost: Ships and planets gain experience by movement, alchemy, combat, and by aging. When reaching certain experience levels, they can get bonuses in combat. See Experience rules.


An Add-on that changes the starmap rules: you only know planets that actually see. Normally, you see all planet positions without ever having been there. With ExploreMap, you have to be in scan range to see a planet on your map. Obviously, this makes only sense when you are playing on a custom map.


A planetary structure. Each factory produces one supply each turn. A factory costs 3 mc and one supply to build.

FC / FCode

See Friendly Code.


Friendly Code Battle Order, i.e. the Battle Order defined by numeric Friendly Codes.

FF allies

The second level of Alliance, as introduced with HOST 3.22.037. Roughly corresponds to PHost's Vision level.


Fine-Grain Control, aka PControl.


Small flexible spacecrafts with weapons, used in combat to attack the enemy. These weigh 1 kt each and can only be used on ships that have fighter bays. When not using Alternate Combat, fighter ships (carriers) are the most powerful ships in the game. Fighters will fire at the enemy and at enemy fighters.

Planets and starbases also have fighters in combat.

The Colonies can also use their fighters to sweep mines.

Fine-Grain Control

Alternate name for PControl.

Fleet Combat

Whereas regular combat in VGA Planets resolves conflicts between multiple ships in repeated 1:1 matchups, there are add-ons which allow real fleet battles. In those, many ships fight at once, allowing for a variety of new tactics, more realism and usually more watching fun.

Fleet Combat systems:


A ship that has no weapons, but usually a big cargo room. Ships without weapons do not have shields. Any ship without weapons counts as a freighter, even if the hull could have carried weapons. Compare Capital Ship.

Friendly Code

Three-character codes you can set for each of your ships and planets. These have three functions:

  • They serve as passwords. When two objects have the same friendly code, they appear friendly, as if they were owned by the same player. This can be used for informal alliances.
  • Friendly codes define the battle order.
  • Several special codes trigger some actions or modify some missions. For example, the mkt friendly code on a ship makes the ship build torpedoes from the minerals it carries.

Friendly Planet

You can use several starship missions and friendly codes which interact with a planet. The planet must allow them this interaction. A friendly planet is one which fulfills at least one of the following conditions:

  • You own it. Obviously, your planets will support your ships. Note that in case of remote control ships are actually owned by someone else although they appear as yours in the client program.
  • The planet is unowned. Unowned planets won't refuse you a wish.
  • You're allied with the planet owner, and (PHost only) the planet owner offers you the planet level of alliance.
  • The ship has the same friendly code as the planet. This will override the planetary security systems. Because special friendly codes never match in PHost, this case can only be used for missions, not for special friendly code actions.


Alternate term for Client.

Game Directory

The directory containing the game-specific files.

Player Side: The directory into which you unpack your result files. Most DOS utilities accept a command-line parameter specifying the game directory. In Winplan, the game directories are called vpwork1 to vpwork8 and are subdirectories of your Winplan installation. Files in a game directory are, for example, genX.dat, shipX.dat, pdataX.dat, and so on.

Host Side: The directory in which hosting happens. The hosting programs as well as most add-ons accept a command-line parameter specifying the game directory. A host directory contains files such as gen.hst, ship.hst, pdata.hst, and so on.

Most Planets programs look for the ship list and starchart files in the game directory first, then in the root directory. In games with non-standard ship lists or maps, you can thus just copy the relevant files into the game directory. One notable exception is DOS Planets which only looks for these files in the root directory. The simplest way to work around this limitation is to install multiple copies of Planets, one per ship list.

See also: Root Directory, Hosting with PHost.

Glory Device

A self-destruct device built into some Klingon ships. When it explodes, it damages all ships at the same position, too.

See the appropriate hull function description for details.

Gravity Well

Alternate name for warp wells.

Ground Combat

Ground combat happens when you beam down colonists to a planet owned by an enemy. Your colonists will fight their colonists, and kill each other according to the ground combat strengths of both players. The survivor will own the planet next turn.

See Ground Combat in PHost.

Growth Taxing

A taxation strategy. Taxes are set to the highest sensible value to get the happiness down to (usually) 70% in one or two turns, then to 0% to get happiness back to 100%. During the no-tax phase, population grows at the maximum possible rate, so in the next cycle, your income will be higher. When the planet has extreme climate so that there's no growth, Safe taxing is simpler and safer.


Abbreviation for "Graphical User Interface". This is standard computer terminology.


The HOST configuration file resp. the program used to edit it. When people talk about changing something "in the hconfig", they mean to edit these settings. Using this configuration file, many rules can be enabled and disabled, and many "magic numbers" (ranges and rates) can be changed.

When talking about a PHost game, we usually talk about the PConfig.


Your first planet. Generally, homeworlds start out with quite a number of colonists, minerals and cash. Homeworlds tend to stay the strongest planets throughout the game, otherwise they are not special in any way (except if you play a scenario with a goal like "capture your neighbor's homeworld", of course).


1.) The VGA planets game server program, host.exe ("THost", "HOST") or a replacement such as PHost. This is the program which reads the TRN files, checks the rules, performs all actions, and spits out RST files. The host is often extended with add-ons and wrapped with tools that do mail handling (incoming/outgoing), backups and stuff.

2.) Job title of the person doing the hosting (i.e. supplying the computer, running the host program, etc.).


A version of the Wisseman host that supports 999 ships (instead of only 500).

Hull Functions

Some special ship abilities (cloaking, alchemy, ...) are keyed to various ship hull types. For example, in the standard ship list, only the Aries class ship can do advanced refinery.

In the original host, these abilities are hardwired to ship types.

In PHost 3.x, ship list designers can freely configure which ship does what. In addition, these abilities can be allowed to certain players/races only. PHost 4.x even allows hull functions tied to individual ships, and functions restricted by experience. See PHost hull functions for details.

Compare Racial Abilities.


A special engine built into a handful small ships. Using this engine, the ships can jump about 350 ly in one turn, avoiding all minefields. See also the description of the respective hull function.

Id Number

Every object in the game - planets, ships, minefields, etc. - has a number which is used by programs to identify the object. Numbers are allocated separately for each type of object. There are...

  • ...up to 500 planets, numbered 1 to 500
  • ...up to 999 ships, numbered 1 to 999 (most hosts have a ship limit of 500)
  • ...up to 10000 minefields, numbered 1 to 10000 (most hosts have a minefield limit of 500)
  • ...up to 1000 UFO objects, numbered 1 to 1000
  • ...possibly other objects.

It is important to know about Id numbers of your objects because most actions are performed in Id order. For example, a low-Id ship will rob before a high-Id ship, so the lower one will get the goodies and the high-Id ship will get what's left.

See also: Per-Player Id order


A player-side program that used to be popular in HOST 3.15 times. Its key feature was graphical display of minefields and ion storms. Nowadays, EchoView, VPA and friends have taken its place.

Intercept Attack

A special part of battle order: ships that have a cloaking device will attack their intercept target before normal battle order. This way, they can pick the target they want to destroy.

This feature is often erroneously called cloaked intercept, because it is only available to cloakable ships. However, since the intercept itself happens uncloaked (the ship is using mission Intercept, so it cannot at the same time use mission Cloak), we prefer to call it Intercept Attack.

See also: Battle Order, Intercept Attack rules for PHost.

Ionic Pulse

A counter-action to successful Super Spy Deluxe. When the friendly code is changed successfully, and the planet has at least 30 defense posts, it can sacrifice 10 of them to pop all ships in orbit out of cloak: in particular, the Super Spyers. This chance is normally 20%, except when the friendly code was changed to one starting with mf (universal minefield friendly code); there, the chance is 100%. This is an automatic response of the planetary defense systems; there's nothing you can do to force or prevent this.

Ion Storm

Circular subspace disturbances that move through the universe. Inside a storm, cloaking is impossible and mines inside a storm can't be seen. Strong storms also damage ships and pull them around.

See also PHost's Ion Storm Rules.


A Java client program by Lars Dam.

JVC home page[Remote]


A Java client program by Kero van Gelder.

JVPC home page[Remote]

Killing Floor

A multi-ship combat engine for Planets. Instead of resolving combat one-to-one ship each, this actually implements mass combat (all ships at once). Generally abbreviated "TKF".


A program for removing a particular race from a game. Generally, this destroys all their ships, starbases, and minefields, and makes their planets unowned. Also used as a verb.

Locking Alliance Friendly Codes

Name of the eeX and ffX alliance friendly codes introduced in HOST 3.22.007.


The program used to create new games. It initializes a game directory, assigns homeworlds, etc.

Used as a verb, "to master" means the act of initializing a new game.


The currency unit used in Planets.

Meteor / Meteorite

Meteors and meteorites hit planets from time to time, and add some minerals to the planet's core. While meteorites usually only bring small amounts of minerals and don't harm anything, large meteors generally bring big amounts with them. However, they'll also make massive damage on the planet. Normally, everyone gets a message when a large meteor hits a planet.


The necessity/possibility of managing taxes and industry on every single planet is called micro-management. Too much micro-management can make a game un-playable, while too little will make the game too simple or unrealistic.

VGAP offers a level of micro-management which is "just right" for most of us. Although it's still manageable to do everything by hand, many players use tools like RandMax to help them. This way, the tool does most of the work, but you can still intervene if you think you have a better way of managing a planet.


A (circular) region in space paved with explosive mines, intended to trap enemy ships. Ships can turn torpedoes into a minefield using the Lay Mines mission (and some of PHost's extended missions), and search and destroy them using mine sweep.

The Crystal People can lay web mines.


A planetary structure that extracts minerals from the planet's core. You need these to make use of minerals in ground. When the planet is mined out, mines get useless. Depending on the mineral density, mines can extract different amounts of mineral from the planet.


Starship missions are specified by a mission number (M), a "tow" number (T), and an "intercept" number (I). When the mission is Tow, the "tow" number specifies the ship to tow, likewise for intercept. Add-ons can provide additional missions. To set these, you must use a program that supports "M.I.T.", that is, it lets you enter the mission numbers and arguments manually, instead of restricting you to the handful of standard missions.

Message Parsing

You receive much information by means of subspace messages. Many programs attempt to read and understand (=parse) these messages to display them graphically. For example, programs will extract your mine laying/sweeping messages to show you your minefields on the map.

The main implication of this is that, if your client program relies on message parsing, you should not change the language of your messages, or your program will no longer understand them.

The Winplan RST format obsoletes some but not all message parsers (for example, PBPs still are only in the messages).

PHost sends you most information from messages also in machine-readable form in a file util.dat. Programs aware of that (and good programs are aware of util.dat) will display things even when they can't read the messages.


Some planets are already inhabited by natives. You can tax them for additional money, and most races give you additional benefits. Cyborgs will assimilate natives and turn them into colonists. There are 9 different native races.

Sometimes, you discover new natives on a planet. You'll from then benefit from their special abilities.

See also: Information on Planets.


Player Activity Level. PHost uses this to control the ship build queue. A score is computed from the things you do (combat, capturing ships, etc.); the higher your score, the faster you can build.

Compare PBPs.

Pancaking Effect

A natural phenomenon where an ion storm vastly increases in size but loses most of its voltage.


Play by Electronic Mail. Common abbreviation for the style of games like VGA Planets.


Priority Build Points. A system to balance the build queue after the Ship Limit. Essentially, this one works as follows:

  • you receive points for destroying ships
  • when you have reached a particular score, you are granted a Priority Build. One of your build orders is executed, no matter how deep in the build queue it is. This costs you a particular amount of points.

Details differ between host versions.


Planets Command Center. A 3rd party client program. Its highlights are:

  • Nice GUI, easy to learn, with extensive help.
  • Starchart displays ion storms, wormholes, minefields; zoomable.
  • Built-in Scripting Language.
  • Built-in fast unpack/maketurn.

PCC home page[Remote] (DOS version), PCC2 home page[Remote] (32-bit version).


The PHost configuration file, pconfig.src. In older versions, there was also a program named pconfig which compiled this file into a binary file pconfig.hst.

The HOST equivalent is HConfig.


In addition to the Auxhost hooks, PHost can run add-ons at many places inbetween (for example, between mine laying and mine sweeping). The mechanism used to set this up is called "PControl". A PControl add-on is one that wants to be run this way.

See PHost Hosting Sequence.


A programming library for writing Add-ons. Generally, PDK add-ons are PHost specific, but a few ones also work for the original host.

The PDK is licensed under the GPL, hence it comes with source. Because of this, PDK add-ons are generally quite portable.


A client by Oleg Shpakov, especially popular in ex-USSR (probably because it only has Russian docs).


A tool to manipulate ship lists.

Per-Player Id Order

Many actions are traditionally performed in order of ship Id. Since this gives players with low-Id ships advantages over those with high-Id ships, PHost starting with version 3.4e/4.0a will perform certain operations in Per-Player Id order:

  • Every player's ships operate in Id order, so players can easily predict their own operations.
  • All 11 players' sequences are intermixed randomly.

To make it a bit more plastic: PHost first sorts all ships onto 11 stacks, as if it were sorting a deck of cards. Then, it repeatedly picks the first ship from a randomly-chosen stack, until all ships are processed.

When ships compete for a global limit, per-player Id order chooses between all ships that want to do something (for example, in mine laying). When ships compete for a resource at a particular position (like in Rob or RGA), per-player Id order selects ships at every affected position.


A 3rd party Host (sense 1) written in C, originally intended to make hosting on non-DOS systems possible. PHost now is a completely different program which can emulate the original host, but has a lot of additional or different features.

PHP Abyss

The PHost equivalent of the Tim Continuum. "PHP" here stands for the "Portable Host Project", not "People Hate Perl" (probably because the Portable Host Project people actually like Perl :-)

The PHP Abyss punishes players for giving away registered copies of their client programs: it will stall their empire, their ships will not move, their factories and mines will not produce.

See here for detail information, and how to avoid invoking the PHP Abyss.

Planet Hopping

Moving (almost) invisibly by jumping from planet to planet instead of using the direct route through space. This way, you cannot be seen by enemies.


The successor game to VGA Planets 3.x. "Bigger, better, more stuff, ...". In public beta for a few years already. Opinions diverge. It should be noted that Planets4 is a completely different game than VGA Planets 3.x.


A VCR player for Windows and other operating systems. Plays PHost combat as well as HOST. It comes bundled with the PCC2 client.

PCC2 download site[Remote]


A Ship List designed especially for PHost and Alternate Combat.

Home page: at the Vagabund[Remote].


Commonly used to refer to ships with glory devices.


A commonly-used scoring program. Unlike the standard score, this one awards you more points for big ships than for small probes, and also counts resources on planets and bases, thus reflecting your strength much better.


The VCR player for PHost combat.


An implementation of a wrapped map.

Racial Abilities

Every race has their special abilities unique to their race. These abilities can not be given away (however, compare Remote Control). These race specialties include:

  • each race can build a different set of ship designs. For example, only the Bird men can build advanced cloakers.
  • each race has a different mission 9 on their starships. For example, only Privateers can rob.
  • many ranges and rates can be configured for each race (HConfig). For example, by default, Lizards have doubled mining rates and a 30:1 ground attack rate, Klingons have a 10:1 ground attack rate, Robots have a 4x mine laying bonus and the Empire gets free fighters on starbases.

SRace and PHost allow you to arbitrarily assign racial abilities to players.

See PHost Races for a high-level description of the standard races, and PHost Racial Abilities for details.


A device that gathers thin interstellar matter while moving, and turns that into fuel for the ship. See the description of the corresponding hull function for details.


A popular program to do globally randomize friendly codes and adjust taxes for maximum income.


Configuration program for Ref, i.e., the program where you choose the scenario to play.

Red error

See Data Status.


The automated referee program for THost, used to automatically decide the winner of a game. Features election, ship tonnage, and some capture-the-X scenarios.


Alchemy ships that produce fuel are often called "Refinery ships".


VGA Planets is a shareware game. While the hosting programs are free, you should register an official client program if you play often. You get a few benefits when you do that:

  • registered players can buy all tech levels. Unregistered players can only buy up to tech 6. Unregistered players can still access tech 10 (when they find a planet with the right natives), but registered players can do so much easier.
  • there are a number of registered-only friendly codes and missions. These will simply not work for unregistered players.
  • the registered Winplan offers many more features over the shareware version (for DOS Planets, differences are minor).

There is a gentlemen's agreement in the VGAP world that 3rd party Client only offer you registered functions when you have registered an official client.

When two players share a registration key, they will be attacked by the Tim Continuum. When you play two races in one game, you must play them both in the same directory, always run Maketurn at the same time, and send in the TRN files as a group to avoid being attacked.

Remote Control

A PHost feature that allows allied players to take control over each other's ships. For example, a Lizard player can take control over a Cyborg ship (provided the Cyborg allows it, of course). The Lizard player will then see the ship as if it were his, so he can give commands to it. For the whole host run, however, it will be owned by the Cyborg, and can use the Cyborg special abilities (here, the Self Repair mission).

See also Remote Control description.

Root Directory

The directory containing the never-changing game files, such as programs, help files, and the standard ship list and starchart. In one sense, this is the root of your VGA Planets directory tree.

Player Side: The directory which contains your client program. Usually, your game directories are sub-directories of the root directory.

Host Side: The directory which contains the hosting programs. The game directories often are sub-directories of this one.

Normally, you cd into the root directory (or, configure the working directory accordingly under Windows), and start the programs you wish. PHost also allows you to specify the root directory name on the command line if it differs from the current directory. Some programs can also find the root directory on their own.

See also: Game Directory, Hosting with PHost.

RST Files

The file sent from the Host to the player. A RST file contains the universe as seen by the player. Players can unpack it and play, to finally produce a TRN file they send back to the host.

RST files contain planets, ships, starbases, messages and combat recordings, plus some administrative information such as the scores. When you play with Winplan, you'll also get ion storms, minefields and explosions in your RST. The RST does not contain the ship list, nor the starchart.

PHost also sends a file UTILx.DAT to each player which contains the subspace messages in a machine-readable format.

Safe taxing

A taxation strategy. Tax levels on a planet are set so that the happiness stays at a constant level (usually 100%). Yields the optimum income on planets without growth. When there is growth, experienced players prefer Growth Taxing.

Science Ships

Alternate name for terraform ships.


As every game, Planets has a score to sort players according to their strength in a particular game. The standard score is very simple:

Because this is only a very coarse measurement, different scoring systems have been developed; one very popular one is PTScore.

Some games use the score as a victory condition: the player with highest score at turn X wins.

Scotty Bonus

Used to refer to the Fed crew bonus. Scotty was the engineer on USS Enterprise.


A program originally for registered Planets users: can list ships, planets, etc. to files and printer. Several 3rd-party programs now also include a report generator which can do the same.

Ship Limit

The total number of starships in the universe is limited. The standard limit is 500 ships; Host999 and PHost 4 allow up to 999.

Build strategies differ greatly in a game "before the ship limit" and "after the ship limit". When there are enough ship slots free, you will build all ships immediately, before movement. When all ship slots are full, your orders will walk the Build Queue, and you will usually only be able to build after combat, when some ships were destroyed.

In PHost, Clone orders are normal ship build orders and walk the build queue. In THost, cloning does not use the build queue; after the ship limit, cloning is virtually impossible.

Ship List

The list of ship types, weapons and engines available in the game. The choice of the ship list largely affects gameplay. There exist various ship lists trying to fix problems with the original list; some others just want to be different.

A ship list consists of the following files:

  • hullspec.dat: all the ship types in the game (105).
  • truehull.dat: assigns to each player the hulls he can build (up to 20 types per player).
  • engspec.dat: the engine definitions (9).
  • beamspec.dat: the beam weapons (10).
  • torpspec.dat: the torpedoes and launchers (10).
  • shiplist.txt (optional): configuration and ship function settings.


A computer player that plays client-side.


An implementation of a wrapped map for DOS.


A special version of Tim's HOST which removes the restriction that each of the 11 races can play only once in any given game. This allows to assign each of the player slots any of the eleven races. For example, you can play 11 Feds against each other. Games in which this is used are commonly called "SRace" games, even when hosted by PHost which does this way different.

Note that SRace is actually the name of the program to set up such games, not the name of the host itself.

Stale file

A TRN file not made from the current RST Files. These files are not usable by host.


A space station built in orbit of a planet. You can build at most one starbase at each planet. You need starbases to be able to build ships and ammunition, and to repair ships. In addition, starbases increase the strength of the planet in combat, and can perform some useful missions.

See Starbase Rules.


Technically: the definition of the star cluster you're playing in: the names and locations of all the planets.

Generally, you see the whole cluster (i.e. all planet positions) from the start. The popular add-on ExploreMap changes this so you only see planets in scan range.

The starchart consists of the files:

  • xyplan.dat: planet positions. In Explore Map games, each player has his own xyplanN.dat file.
  • planet.nm: the planet names.

Of course, the term starchart is also applied to the section of a client program where you can browse through the universe, compiled from the above files and usually much more information.


Did I hear someone say "Jehova" here?

Super Spy

The Bird Men special mission. Bird Men can espy enemy planets' minerals, cash and -- most importantly -- friendly code. With Super Spy Deluxe they can even change the planets' friendly code. Note that Super Spy Deluxe is not a genuine mission, it's just a second part of the normal Super Spy mission. Essentially, normal Super Spy happens after movement (i.e. at the planet you move to), and Super Spy Deluxe happens before movement (i.e. in the next turn when you are at the planet).

When the friendly code change succeeds, the victim has a certain chance to counter with an ionic pulse.


Goods needed to survive in a colony: food, tools, material, ... Supplies are an additional resource which can be used for many different things:

  • build planetary structures
  • repair ships
  • build fighters
  • alchemy
  • survive in bad climate


A famous small tool that contains some useful functions to do micro-management, not unlike RandMax, plus Windows user interface and some prediction stuff. A must-have for most Winplan users.

Tanascius home page[Remote]


Commonly used word for the enemy ships you see on your star chart. Generally, you see the hull type, direction, speed and owner of the ship (Visual Contact).

DOS Planets has a limitation that it can only display 50 visual contacts; for the others it just displays position, owner and mass. With Winplan, or with PHost and a 3rd-party client, you can usually see them all.

Tech Level

A measure of how advanced your technology is. The higher your tech level, the better the ships and weapons you can build. Each starbase has four tech levels for the areas starship hulls, engines, beam weapons and torpedoes. You can buy additional tech levels by spending money. Raising the tech level on one starbase gets you the additional components only there.

Unregistered players can only buy up to Tech 6, registered ones can buy all levels up to Tech 10. Some natives give you Tech 10 for free, even when you're unregistered.


Terraform ships can change the climate of a planet to a more friendly temperature. See the HeatsTo50 hull function and its relatives.


The original host program by Tim Wisseman. The "T" obviously stands for Tim. This spelling is often used to make clear you're talking about this particular host program, not about host programs in general.

The PHost documentation often uses "HOST" to refer to that program, and "host" to refer to hosting programs in general, but that distinction is quite un-pronuncible, hence it didn't make it to mainstream :-)


Without further qualification: Tim Wisseman, creator of VGA Planets.

Tim Continuum

The built-in cheat check in the original host. It punishes players for cheating and giving away registered copies of their clients: ships will be thrown through the universe, planets will lose stuff ("Tritanium dump exploded").

Time stamp

TRN and RST files are marked with the date and time of the host run. These time stamps are embedded within the files and have nothing to do with the time stamps your operating system puts on the files.

This is used to tell whether a file really belongs to the current game and turn, in a more reliable way than just comparing turn numbers.


Abbreviation for "The Killing Floor".


A powerful weapon. Ships with torpedo launchers fire their torpedoes against the enemy in combat. Torpedoes usually do much more damage than Beam Weapons, and are armed earlier than beams. However, a torpedo that's fired is gone and can't be used again. There are 10 torpedo types that differ in price and impact.

Torpedoes can also be turned into minefields.


Alternative (and probably better-known) name for boarding, see there.

TRN checker

A program that validates the contents of TRN files, and tell you before the actual host run whether your TRN will be accepted or not. Some only check time stamps to reject stale files, others contain a complete cheat check.

TRN file

The file sent from the player to the Host. A TRN file contains all commands the player gave using his client program, in the form of differences to the RST file.

The Host can only process TRN files made with the current RST file. Other TRN files are rejected as being stale. It is impossible to use TRNs not made with the current RST.


Unknown Flying Object. Add-ons can use a mechanism called "UFO" to let a player see objects they generated. The host will send these to Winplan clients, which will display them on starcharts. Each UFO comes with a short description that says what it actually is.


Normally, you have to unpack your RST file before your client program lets you give commands. A RST file contains several other files, the unpack program will extract them and place them in the game directory.


A file written by PHost, intended to be sent to the players along with their RST file. This file contains messages in a machine-readable format to reduce the need for Message Parsing.

See Utility Data Files.


Shorthand for Planets4.


A group of people whose mission is to optimize and balance the PHost game. Their website The Vagabund[Remote] features discussions of configuration settings, the PList ship list, and a number of useful programs. Worth a look for anyone.


Visual Combat Recorder/Recording. A file containing information about battles you fought, respectively the program used to play it.

In VGA Planets, battles work as follows: the Host stores all the starting parameters of the fight in a file, along with a starting value for the random number generator. From this information, the VCR player can reconstruct the whole outcome of the battle. It must use the very same algorithm as the host for that.

This is the reason why PHost battles must be played with PVCR, not the standard VCR. Any other program that replaces parts of the combat comes with an own VCR, too. In DOS Planets, you usually replace the vcr.exe file. In Winplan, there's no such hook, you have to invoke the VCR manually.

Version 4

Shorthand for Planets4.


A 3rd party client program for the Atari.

Visual Contact

A ship on your scanners (Target) of which you see the mass, owner, name, type, direction and speed.

With Winplan, or with PHost and a 3rd-party client, this is the case for all ships; DOS Planets has a limitation that it can only display 50 of them.


VGA Planets Assistant. A popular 3rd party client program, probably the most popular of them all. Its highlights are:

  • Compact display.
  • Starchart displays ion storms, wormholes, minefields; zoomable.
  • Complete turn history.
  • Fast & small.
  • Built-in fast unpack/maketurn.

VPA home page[Remote]


A used-to-be-popular host addon. This one offers many features with HOST 3.1x that became standard in HOST 3.2x. It should be noted that, despite its name, this is not a complete host replacement.


A popular (well, in 1995, that is) client program for Planets. Text-only (i.e. no starchart), but can do some things not doable at that time with planets.exe (most notably, moving fighters and torps between ships in space). Includes fast unpack/maketurn. Nowadays, this one is no longer as popular as it used to be.

Warp Wells

A planet's mass will pull every ship in a certain distance towards the planet (default: 3 ly). This can be used to save fuel: move just to the edge of the warp well and let the planet pull you. To move inside a warp well, you must go at Warp 1; Warp 1 ships are not pulled.

Web Mines

A special type of mines which only the Crystal People can lay. Ships have a much larger chance of hitting a web mine than a normal mine, even when cloaked. Web mines don't do much damage, but they drain fuel from ships.


The Windows client program by Tim Wisseman ("VGA Planets 3.5"). It includes many features missing in the DOS version, such as a zoomable map, storms and minefields on the map, search, etc.

Winplan generates a special TRN file format, and HOST 3.20 answers with a special RST file format containing some information not in a standard "version 3.0" RST. A "Winplan-compatible" program usually is one which can understand these extended file formats.


Commonly used to refer to a group of ships, usually with large fuel tanks, that are out there to rob someone.


A multi-dimensional connection between two points in space: when you enter the wormhole at one end, you leave it at the other. This usually has negative effects on your shields or other equipment.

There exists a few host addons that provide wormholes. In addition, PHost has wormholes built in.

Sometimes, the tunnel created by a Firecloud is also called a wormhole (see Chunneling).

Wrapped Map

Normally, the starchart is an infinite plane. You can move "infinitely" to the right, into the void. A wrapped map changes this so that when you leave the Cluster to the right, you re-enter at the left, and vice versa -- as if the map were wrapped around a cylinder. Likewise, you can leave to the top and enter at the bottom.

There are at least four implementations of this concept: Sphere, PWrap and Zeus (which are host add-ons), and PHost has this built-in.

The most common wrapped map mode is a wraparound rectangle, where the universe is virtually tiled with identical copies of the map. This mode is widely supported by third-party client tools, and is very easy to play. A less common mode uses a wraparound circle, which is harder to play because the universe behind the circle is very distorted. Therefore, it is not as widely supported as the rectangle model.


A client program for Linux/X11 by Hans Wilmer.

xk download page[Remote]

Yellow error

See Data Status.

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Last updated 31 May 2015.

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