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Nebula Commander

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Nebula Commander


Developer Craig Aker
Publishers Classic Game Creations
Vectrex carts
Release Date 2005
Genre Real time strategy
Modes Single player
1-2 players simultaneous
Media Cartridge
ROM file


As of 2012, Nebula Commander is still the only real time strategy game for the Vectrex. One or two players must gather up resources and create and launch weapons to destroy the other’s space station while defending their own in turn. Two players can face off with each other or one player can go against the computer.


The player’s and enemy’s space stations appear in a sector of space. Space crystals fly about, which players can use their tractor beams to steer them into their own space stations (or sometimes the crystals will just collide with a station on its own) by positioning their onscreen cursor on the crystals and by holding button 4 for the tractor beam. Whenever a crystal makes contact with a space station, it raises up the station’s energy by a notch (which is indicated by the bar on the right side of the display inside the player’s space station; the bar to the left is the space station’s health meter). Each time a player uses their tractor beam, builds and launches a weapon, and uses their shield, it takes energy. If a player has no energy to perform a function, they must wait for their station’s solar batteries to recharge enough or acquire a crystal so they can then finish a function.

In order to launch an attack against the enemy’s space station, players can create up to five missiles (if they have the energy to do so), which are indicated by dots that surround their station. Players can plot a trajectory and launch missiles at the enemy’s station by positioning their cursor on or in the direction of the enemy’s station and by activating the missiles by pressing button 3, although if the missiles overshoot a target the player can place their cursor on or near the missile’s target and press button 3 again to redirect the missile. Once a missile makes contact with a target the missile is destroyed.

Space destroyers can also be used to attack an enemy’s station, which take more energy to create than missiles, but they take several hits from enemy missiles in order to be destroyed, plus they launch their own missiles at the enemy’s station. Creating, launching and redirecting destroyers can be done in the same manner as missiles, although they require pressing button 2 to be built and deployed. Only two destroyers maximum can be built at once.

(Note: missiles can be launched at an enemy's station and space destroyers, whereas destroyers can only be used to attack a station.)

Once a space station takes too much damage from attacks and is destroyed, a statistics screen will appear between rounds, showing the score and tally of destroyed stations before starting the next round (unless the rounds in games one and two become exhausted, then the game will end).


Main menuEdit

  • Choose number of players--button 1
  • Choose game--buttons 2 and 3
  • Start game--button 4


  • Shields–button 1
  • Create destroyer–button 2 (while cursor is positioned on the player’s space station that is creating the destroyer), then press 2 again to launch (after cursor has been positioned as to where the player wants to move the destroyer for attack)
  • Create missile–button 3 (while cursor is positioned on the player’s space station that is creating the missile), then press 3 again to launch (after cursor has been positioned as to where the player wants to move the missile for attack)
  • Tractor beam–button 4


  • Destroying enemy space station–1000 points
  • Building a space destroyer–150
  • Destroying enemy space destroyer–100
  • Hit enemy space station with missile–50
  • Collect space crystal–25
  • Building a missile–25
  • Deflect enemy missile with shield–25

Game variationsEdit

Game 1 is for three rounds, 2 is for five, and 3 is a continuous marathon that does not end until the Vectrex is either reset or shut off.




Nebula Commander is (to the best of my knowledge) a unique, original game, THE only RTS game for the Vectrex. Players have to gather up energy crystals to build a fleet of missiles and/or destroyers to take out the enemy starbase.

Even though all buttons on a Vectrex controller are used for a game, it's actually a fairly simple game to learn. Even though it can get intense at times, some players might prefer something with more action, rather than having their (mostly) autonomous fleet do most of the work (although I don't have a problem with it in the least). The computer can be a real jackass though, what with swiping crystals that are right next to your space station (which is dumb, since that'll take more energy than if he were to drag in one closer to his own station!), which is why you definitely need to try this out with another player. There isn't much going on with the graphics at all, but then with everything being small it would be difficult to give them any detail. Controls work pretty quickly and well, although it can be hard to position the cursor on a space destroyer during the heat of battle, although this might be due to the small graphics, rather than a problem with the controls.

There's very little at fault with this game; the few only very minor gripes I have is in regards to players that aren't very good at games might not be able to figure out how to deal with the blasted computer when it does the (above) behavior (hint: if there's two crystals onscreen at once, alternate between dragging crystals that you are fighting over, as he usually will let one go. However, if a third crystal shows up, then go for that one immediately and he'll let you have it, no questions asked). So a few skill levels would have been a good choice.

Also -- not that this would work with two player games, but it would with single player ones -- at times games can go on for quite a while, so it would be nice if you could plug in a controller into the second controller port and any button that you pressed on that controller would pause the game. It seems a bit unfair to lose out on a long, heated battle because the phone or doorbell rang or the cat threw up or something.

Still, these are very minor quibbles, as this is a pretty underrated, unique (again, to the best of my knowledge, as I know I have never played anything like it, and neither has the nephew!) game that is well worth it's less than $13 U. S. (not including postage). It also has severe replay value, since there are different starting points for the positions of the two space stations for each game; if this starts getting old, start a new game when you first turn on your Vectrex, then press reset, and you get a different assortment of starting places! And you can do this over and over too. Great!

8/10 (Review by Darrylb500)

Strategy guideEdit


  • Do NOT run out of energy at any given time if you can help it!! This can be difficult to recover from (especially when playing against the computer, who is notorious for swiping space crystals), and things are especially bad when you have almost no energy and there is a dreaded space destroyer headed your way. You have to be nearly full of energy to create a destroyer, and when things get hectic, at worst, you’re dealing with enemy missiles, destroyers, using shields, crystals AND/or your opponent swiping a crystal. So try to have a fair amount of energy around at all times and try to limit the times where you cut things too close with low energy levels when building a destroyer or whatever.
  • Probably 90% of the time in any given situation, gathering energy should be your number one priority. Constantly be on the lookout for and suck up as many crystals as you can, since energy is one of your lifelines (the other one being station health).
  • Be patient!! It is not uncommon for you to be gathering crystals, you’re about to make and launch a destroyer, and then your opponent launches one, so you’ll have to build missiles and destroy it, delaying plans for your own. This could happen several times (especially when you’re dealing with a round where you and your opponent’s space stations are far away, making it difficult to send a destroyer over before it gets blown up), but sometimes you’ll just have to grit your teeth and wait. It’s not always a good idea to build and launch a destroyer that could not only get blown to pieces before it makes a dent in the enemy’s space station, but also when it will take up just about all of your energy to build one and you hope that a crystal will just happen to come by and replenish your station quickly afterwards. Games can go on for quite a while (even if you’re only playing for three rounds) so it’s not always a good strategy to try to rush into victory.
  • Cross beams are fairly common, so watch out for those, where two crystals can cross each others’ paths and your tractor beam could suddenly switch to another crystal, one of which might be more to your opponent's advantage and/or could latch onto another crystal that would be more of a nuisance to tractor in, rather than the one you were trying to draw in beforehand. So make sure to keep your eye open for those times and switch back to tractoring in the original and/or easier crystal to bring to your station as soon as possible.
  • Reposition space destroyers and missiles as you see fit. Destroyers can miss their target, so make sure they are not; if they are, then reposition them by moving the cursor at a different angle on or behind the enemy space station, then press button 2 to correct this. Every time a destroyer is shooting and missing its target, valuable time is being wasted when the enemy is building up enough energy to create and deploy the next missile that could annihilate your destroyer. Sometimes you can position your destroyer closer to the enemy’s station too (thereby cutting out on crucial time and distance it takes for its missiles to hit the station); just make sure to enable the command right after it fires a missile: if you do so after the missile has hit the target and the destroyer gets repositioned, there will be a pause for several seconds before it resumes firing again. Also reposition missiles if there are any left over when you blow up a destroyer; don’t let them go offscreen! Instead, send them to the enemy’s space station by redirecting those as well. It can also be difficult to judge the trajectory of a missile to the enemy’s station if the bases are far away, so make sure to reposition any missiles that you can tell are going to miss the base to ensure a hit. Even if the enemy zaps the missile with a force field burst it’s still going to use some of their precious energy up that way.
  • Even though you can tell (with experience) with the trajectory a space crystal is taking that it is going to go offscreen no matter what you do, try tractor beaming it for a few seconds anyway. For one reason, if you can’t have the crystal, neither should your opponent. And for another reason, your opponent might go after it (especially if you’re playing against the computer), which, they might start to tractor it, then end up going for another crystal instead, which they might vary its course enough so YOU might get a chance to grab it after all!
  • Also as experienced players should notice, crystals’ starting positions are NOT random, which you should become familiar with their patterns after a while as you play game after game. And memorizing where they appear isn’t necessary, but you should get a feel for them at certain times, as an extra split second or so if knowing when to use your tractor beam as soon as possible (and how the computer reacts) will add to your advantage. Also, destroyers and even missiles can take a while to make it to your station, so you can keep on tractor beaming crystals your way for a while until any enemy weapon is within striking range.
  • Space destroyers work well when your opponent doesn’t have enough energy to bring them down immediately. However, this strategy changes a bit when space stations are far away and the enemy has plenty of time (and possibly energy) to build missiles and blow up a destroyer before it even does any damage to their station. Missiles, though, don’t take anywhere near as much energy to build and launch against the enemy as a destroyer does, so build these to chip away at the enemy (and reposition them to make sure they collide with the enemy station, as mentioned before) or at least bring down their energy reserves when they use their force field for protection until you have enough energy for a destroyer...and your enemy doesn’t have enough energy for five missiles to take it out of commission immediately.
  • Even if the enemy station is low on health, keep on building space destroyers (in case one gets annihilated) and/or missiles in case you’re wrong with thinking “ok, this missile that is being launched right now is THE last one, which will destroy the station”. Also, you earn points for every destroyer and missile you build, so keep on building them until the station IS gone! And speaking of which, right when the enemy space station is being destroyed, build as many destroyers and/or missiles as you can before the next round starts (depending on how much energy you have remaining), as you will earn points for everything you build. (Every little bit could help during a close match :) )


Always have at least one missile built at any time in order to use against a space destroyer, to use up some of the enemy’s energy reserves in case they activate their shields against an attack/to cause damage, or just to launch against the enemy’s space station in order to deactivate their tractor beam for an instant, which could be long enough to tractor in a space crystal that you need. It is not always a good idea to have several missiles waiting in case they have to be launched, as one by one they will all be launched in case you hit the launch button (button 3) more than once, even if by accident. It is also not a good idea to launch them all at the same time – space them out – since if they all launch as one group then one lone activation of a force field could absorb all the missiles in one swoop, plus your enemy will earn points for each missile they vaporize. Also, if you launch missiles one at a time, every single time the enemy has to use their shield it takes away energy; send over a bunch of missiles in one swoop, the enemy could use the shield just once and wipe them all out, doing no damage and not using up as much energy rather than if you launched them one at a time and the enemy used their shield every time (or at least once or more) to deflect each and every one.


These are a best bet against the enemy in general, since five missiles are needed in order to destroy them, which takes energy to build from the enemy’s station. They also fire their own missiles. However, sometimes they can miss their target, so keep an eye on them (as was mentioned earlier) and reposition them so their missiles will not only hit the enemy station, but it could also hit the station faster if the destroyers can be brought in closer.

And on the defensive side, build and deploy as many missiles as possible against a destroyer if one is headed your way but you do not have enough energy for five missiles. Build and launch a missile as soon as possible to bring these down as quickly as you can!


Due to the computer being stupid at times, it doesn’t always play like a rational human being would (such as going after a crystal that’s half an inch away from your station, yet there is/are one or more crystals that are a lot closer to its own station that it chooses to ignore). So certain precautions should be taken.

One thing to keep in mind that it is only on THE very rarest of occasions where the computer ever runs out of energy for its tractor beam, and even if it ever does it isn’t out of commission for long at all. So if you are engaged with a crystal, are low on energy and/or no other crystals can be seen, chances are you’ll probably just have to let the computer have it. However, if another crystal shows up, go for that one. At times the computer will alternate going after crystals, which you should do the same until it lets one crystal go in favor of another, so make sure to go after the unattached crystal then (especially when you’re fighting over two crystals, then a third one shows up, which the computer will usually let you have that one, no questions asked) and/or launch a missile (if one is available) at the enemy station so it will either take a hit or use their force field, which will deactivate their tractor beam. It can also be a good idea at times to keep a tractor beam on a crystal in case another crystal appears and the computer decides to go after the other crystal instead. Also, tractor beam in a crystal even if it’s right next to the computer’s space station/it’s very far from your own base, as the computer could be trying to beam in another crystal elsewhere. (Remember, the computer can be very stupid over this at times!)

If you have launched a space destroyer, are involved with a tug-of-war over a crystal with the computer, and the computer has live missiles that is changing the coordinates of, go ahead and keep on dragging in the crystal. The computer will keep breaking off it’s own tractor beam until the missiles hit your destroyer, which usually (depending on the situation) will allow you to tractor in a crystal, no matter how far away it originally started from.

See one of the last notes before the MISSILES section in regards to knowing the whereabouts of crystals’ starting points (they’re not random) and when they appear for your advantage. Also – and unfortunately – you won’t always be able to allow a crystal to just float into your space station and to save yourself some energy, so be alert to the times when you suddenly have to get your tractor beam onto a crystal when it becomes obvious the computer is about to start swiping it. And again, don’t run out of energy EVER if you can help it!


  • Certain scenarios call for different strategies, like when space stations are far away from each other (use missiles quite a bit, rather than risk getting a space destroyer sent and destroyed before it does any damage). One tip is for when the stations are close to each other, which, as the photo at the right shows, with the 1 being player 1's station, and the 2 being player 2's station, if a space crystal is coming in at about a 45 degree angle towards player 1's station (marked with
    letters A through C at right, with the slashes [or / marks] representing the angle towards the player 1’s station they are heading for), even if player 2 has a tractor beam on the crystal, player 1 will still get the crystal(s) at those angles if they have their beam on. Certain angles help with various situations, so it would be good to become familiar with which situation produces the best result during a battle, whether it be easily swiping a space crystal in a manner such as this or using missiles and/or space destroyers to your best advantage. (Note: there is also a scenario where there is no player 2 station at the position marked with a D.)
  • There is a glitch on one setup where player 1 cannot launch their destroyer. It involves one of the scenarios where their space station is at the bottom, near center of the screen; if they try launching it at the enemy’s space station, it will not move. To correct this (and minimize any risk to having the destroyer being blown up before it reaches the enemy, along with any possible damage the player’s station could receive from enemy missiles striking it), position the cursor to the left of your station and launch the destroyer. Once it starts moving, reposition it towards the enemy’s space station and redirect it. It will then start heading for the enemy’s station for an attack.

Happy commanding!

(Strategy guide by Darrylb500)

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