The First Fleet begins the game in a winning position, which it shares with Cryos, so its primary objective is to defend that winning position. It starts with a large stockpile of Food, and it has a good chance to make more Food if it can secure a water supply. It also has a Skill Card, Lizard Munchers, that allows it to save food during Consumption Phases. This superiority in the Food race means that, during Recruitment Actions, it may be better placed than all other factions to Recruit new population tokens. Given that end-game scoring is based on population, FF is an attractive ally for most other factions, potentially able to offer the largest pool of points in the final scoring.
In theory, if scoring were to take place at the start of the game, Cryos and FF would win. For Cryos, FF is the most attractive scoring partner. For AI, UE and SF, Cryos is the most attractive scoring partner, because of the Cryos monopoly on Water, but FF is the second.
As the principal farmer on the planet, FF is also well-placed to profit from Trade. When trading, it is important to note that Farms do not produce a net gain in tokens for the farmer: two resource tokens go into a standard Farm (1E+1W) and two come out (2F). This is in contrast to Energy and Water Mines, which generate a net gain in tokens. If the First Fleet player ever accepts a 1:1 Trade of E or W for Food, they are, effectively, achieving nothing, because their farms will merely convert that back to Food at the same 1:1 ratio (and if they trade Food away on the Black Market, they are going backwards). The farmer’s only means to increase the number of tokens in their stockpile is to trade their Food at a higher price than 1:1, getting more than one token back for each token of Food traded away. A reasonable starting price for Food should therefore be about 2 E or W tokens for each 1F.
Against its obvious advantages in terms of Food and population, FF has some major disadvantages. In particular, it is militarily and economically weak. It does not have a monopoly on Food – two other factions begin with Farms, and the AI faction can extend their farming site at E5 to catch up with FF. The First Fleet’s initial supply of Energy is only 1E per Round, from its poorly sited Solar Array. It can fix this by building a new Energy Mine at C11 as soon as possible, but it is unlikely to get a chance at initiating an Industry Action and building a second E mine until Round 4 – and it may need to use that chance to start a new Farming space, instead.
As a military power, though, FF may be surprisingly tenacious, especially in defence. Because it has a high population, it can muster Civ Units throughout its Friendly Area, and these Civ Units may harry and delay much stronger Units. A weak Civ Unit placed in the path of a large ground force will make that larger force battle the weaker one at a site of the First Fleet’s choosing, delaying disaster by at least a Round. The defeated Civ Units can be replaced during the next Recruitment Action. A Civ Unit placed in the path of a Bomber may prevent the Bomber from reaching a more important target in the space beyond. If First Fleet manages to get hold of the right Location Cards, it may also muster Civ Units in occupied spaces to use them as Demolition crews.
FF has a Skill Card allowing Ground Units to Move across cliffs – the card represents the enhanced local knowledge of the early colonists. This allows FF to place defensive Civ Units in regions with cliffs, where they cannot easily be attacked by Mechs or other Ground Units.
Like the AI, the FF faction also has a Skill Card that allows Missile launches. Although the Chance Deck is used to resolve the damages, Missiles are usually effective when aiming at nearby spaces, especially when attacking Units have moved into a space and not yet had time to build a Shield. In combination with the delaying tactic of sacrificing Civ Units, this may be used to fend off a single-pronged attack. A multi-pronged attack would be much more challenging to withstand, and the Governor should use his diplomatic skills and the promise of Food to keep peace with as many neighbours as possible.
First Fleet has a wide choice of allies, but each potential ally requires a somewhat different strategy. If FF combines with UE, then FF will need to push south for water – taking the abandoned Water Mine at F2, or building a new Water Mine in the F or G Zones. If FF combines with Cryos, it will need to push north and establish a couple of E mines. Cryos may be able to help with the northern push by building orbital Bombers. If FF combines with SF, they can both aim to become independent, pushing north and south to secure E and W, or the northern push can be left to SF while FF pushes south. If FF combines with AI, then AI can help take the abandoned Water Mine at F2, AI can push north; the main population build-up can be done by FF, with AI providing military support.
In the early and mid-game, FF should try to keep at least a couple of these alliance structures viable, while waiting to see how other factions progress.