Anyone who has colonies, and therefore colonists, soon sees disasters approaching. The triple threat of pirates, disease, and corruption continually diminish your colonists unless you take decisive action to stop it. Since you get money from your colonists every two years, it's important to do whatever it takes to make sure you have as many as possible.
Or is it?
If the goal is getting the most money possible from your colonists, having a lot of colonists may not be necessary- or even desired. First, a review of the facts.
For each disaster, there are four options in how to handle it. From most expensive to least:
- Research the causes of the disaster. This costs a lot (roughly one ship cost) and you do not get anything up front. But if you do the research option for twenty times on a single type, you will have it fully researched and you will automatically handle it well from then on at no further cost. This is a great long term option.
- Take decisive action against the disaster. This is not as expensive as research, but is still a lot of money- approximately half the cost of a ship. It gets you an increase of one percent in colonists (though since you lost some already, the net gain is a bit less)
- Take some action against the disaster. This is far less expensive-- about one tenth ship cost-- but you get no colonists back. On the other hand, you don't lose any more, either. This is also the default option. If you choose nothing, you automatically spend the amount of credits required for this option.
- Cash in on the disaster. This option will lose you even more colonists-- approximately two percent-- but you get enough credits out of it to buy half of a ship. (Assuming they sold ships by halves...)
*Note that actual costs will be slightly lower if you have the right kind of colony.
Your colonies start out at about seventy percent of capacity, and you can not go higher than 150 percent. (Colonists move among colonies automatically, there's no benefit in having them in one colony over another)
When your percentages are low (under a hundred percent), you will occasionally get colonist windfalls-- colonists will move to you from some place that did not treat them as well as they hope to do in your colonies.
That said, as a new colony owner, you soon realize that the more colonists you have, the more income you get every two years. At that point, players begin spending lots of credits choosing good disaster options, and the prudent ones select a disaster to research. Many times, players make themselves poor by caring for their colonies.
But there may be another way to make money from them. How so, you ask?
First, always research a disaster fully. Once you have fully researched a disaster, you can in theory mostly ignore all disasters. The automatic "do a little" option, which does lose you some colonists is usually made up for by the occasionally well handled disaster that you researched.
Second, a disaster will happen approximately every four to six years. This means there will be two to three revenue Januaries. Multiply the amount of credits you get for your colonists by 2.5. Compare this to the amount of credits you pay for half of a ship. Is the half of a ship more? Then you can get more in a single "sell out" disaster from your colonists than you could in all the revenue they generate normally. It's time to sell them out to pirates, corrupt warlords, or disease (whichever two you haven't taken care of already.)
When doing this, your percentage falls precipitously. There is a temptation to occasionally do a "really good" option to counteract this, but that is probably not a wise thing. A well-handled disaster costs half of a ship for one percent-
so to gain colonists, you spend one ship's worth to gain two percent, but receive only one half of a ship's worth while losing two percent.
There are two ways in which your colonists can be replenished if you are consistently "strip mining" them. Have an ally pass you colonists, and the occasional colonist windfall. Also, if you miss a disaster and take the "some action" option (either accidentally or on purpose), you can slow the loss until more windfalls or an ally can help out. The "some action" option costs 1/10 of a ship, so one profitable disaster gives enough for five some action disasters.
What about upgrading colonies? If you are selling colonists out, does having larger colonies help? Possibly. With more capacity, you can still get more gold from the same percentage (and buying a new colony automatically gets you more colonists to sell... er care for.)
On the other hand, if you have an ally passing you colonists, having smaller colonies may be a better idea. Let's say that your ally has considerably larger colonies than you do. The number of colonists your ally can give is based on the
number of colonists they have. If you have smaller colonies, they can give you a larger percentage at one time. And since you lose colonists by percentage, that means the colonists they give you last for a longer period of time!
There does still remain one question... how low can you go? Is there anyone out there crue... smart enough to continually sell out colonists who can answer that question? Feel free to speak up now!