Yes, but it's always about the price of the fuel, not about the total lack of it.
Then again, space conquest is in the foreseeable future. Some serious experiments involve using water as fuel because of the scarcity of fuel left as we speak, so I don't think it is very sci-fi to consider shortage of fuel.
In a game you usually have no trade and "minerals alchemy", so it might lead to "I have these 100,000 tons of titanium, but hey, I have no fuel so lets dump it since it's totally useless".
VGA Planets had mineral alchemy at higher levels, which was the one feature I actually didn't like. Not everything can be turned into everything else just so that its convenient. I like the way fuel is finite and represents a threat of its own.
In a real world situation you could always sell the titanium to obtain all the fuel you need (to the point where the relative price of titanium and fuel will become balanced).
To the point where titanium would be worthless you mean. In a real world economy, if your supply is larger than demand, the price lowers and won't stabilize at the same price as another commodity. It will keep going down:
StarKnights emulated real world economy very well, to the point where selling abundant coal and petroleum to get rare crystals would eventually lead to an inability to sell your products altogether (whether because there was simply no demand throughout the galaxy, or just because the price was smaller than 1)
In a real world you would never have a shortage of fuel (long term at least, short term is possible), it just might be prohibitely expensive.
This is a Maltucean view, which has since been discarded by most scientists. He believed that lack of finite resources would translate into a means to find an alternative solution to the problem (much like Hybrid cars translating into electricity-fueled cars by lack of fuel). The truth is that it often applies, but not always.
One good example would be Voyager or Curiosity. They pack RTGs as their primary power sources, which has a half life of 87 years and packs 50W per cell. You'd be led to imagine that this is a very potent alternative to fuel, but you'd be wrong, and here is why:
- Cost of production for a Plutonium cell is considered to be a few millions at the moment, and because it is even rarer than fuel, don't expect a massive decline in costs.
- Radiation levels imply that this is ideal for an unmanned shuttle or vehicle, definitely not for a space-crew.
In other words, alternatives to common commodities exist, but they often are a very specific solution to one of the problems initially solved by the resource. Fuel is widespread in use and purpose, RTGs, not so much, electricity-powered cars couldn't launch a space shuttle into orbit and sustain a year-long space expedition.
But don't forget that "expensive fuel = defence is better than offence", if you go too far that way you could make it all about turtling.
Defense plays an important role. And offense is mostly a question of scouting/information.
I don't envision this game to be aggression-based. The reason why turtling will be impossible is that it requires concentration of force. But by design, the game will require you to spread out across different planets.
Thus, you can turtle on one or two planets, but doing so means you'll be extremely vulnerable at your resource colonies or production centers, which you can't afford.
I would speculate that some of the best strategies would include having a lot of weak forward outposts with fast scouts, just to get a visual on the enemy fleet, and then, moving your own to engage where you expect them to hit.
Alternatively, having a few warships on border planets would also make sense, so long as they're fast enough to make chase should the opponent's fleet pierce across the border lines and go deep in your cluster.
I just don't see a viable strategy that involves turtling all planets at once with enough strength to defend it all against outsiders, plus if you can, this means you'll have nothing else you can invest on, meaning that, in the long run, your economy will be crippled compared to your opponents which have chosen to expand aggressively.
One key decisions would be to decide when to expand, and take advantage of an opponent turtling by aggressively claiming more colonies and eventually overpowering them with even more ships, but that's an endgame I would find less satisfying and I would anticipate a clever player would understand that turtling altogether is not a viable strategy, but that going all out isn't either.
You could counter it by giving some advantages to attack (like ambush bonus, or something).
Picking off undefended freighters or lightly defended convoys would be just that: a quick way to capitalize on resources by, not only removing them from your enemy's zone of influence (and thus cripple their economy) but escort them back home to yours, and increase your economy. Any given efficient raid against enemy freighters results in a potential gain, without the need to strike at a planet or base.
Personally, I would make all ships use fuel all the time which would make fuel completelly transparent to defence/offence desirability (but that has obvious disadvanages in terms of the realism).
I see fuel as a cost of option, in relation to the speed at which you want things to happen. It is a means to define priorities. For example:
You want your warship to reach a planet:
- If time is critical, you might want it to reach that area for the next turn because of imminent conflict, thus forcing the fastest speed (and a very taxing fuel cost).
- If time is not critical, you might want to save up on fuel, accepting as much as a 3 turns delay, knowing that the fuel cost will be so low that the ship will still be able to easily make the trip back.
- If you intend to explore to the outer edges of space, you might actually accept a delay of 5-7 turns to that planet, knowing that the fuel cost will be so low that your ship will be able to go across the galaxy before meeting fuel shortage
Well, it all is about numbers. Depending how you set these values it might be a problem or no problem at all. Just don't go "it's all about fuel and about fuel only"
Fuel is vital, ut what's fuel without a ship? Most other components find their inherent value in the fact you need a fleet before you need fuel. They will all be indirectly related in ship building, even if only remotely (building mines requires minerals that may not be necessary in a specific ship design, but you still need to have the mines up first).