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The center of your spaceship board is on the '7's in all four directions. Since the odds of rolling a certain number increases as that number approaches 7, it seems reasonable to build toward one side if persuing a small ship strategy.

You cannot look at the event distributions until you have placed a single component, so what is the best side to build toward (based on all card events per level), so that you can choose the possibility of a small ship that will take the least damage, before having a chance to look at the events?

Should I only place a component with 1 or 2 open connections as my first piece, and if so on which side?

This question is related to When should I avoid a small ship strategy?

For reference (rulebook), here is the Small I, Medium II, and Large III maximum ship sizes for each stage.

A reference of the 144 ship tiles (original size is available with a BGG account), until I can discover a way to describe the components in text.

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Why not just "waste" five seconds placing one tile in any direction, and then look at the cards? –  The Chaz 2.0 Jun 29 '12 at 1:02
    
@TheChaz, because if you place a tile with 4 open connections, you will increase the size of your smallship by at least 1 tile. You should be able to place any of the 1-2 connection components (85/140) on any of the 4 faces, or most if not all of the 3 connection components (31/140) if you place those on the left/right with the open connection facing downward. –  user1873 Jun 29 '12 at 2:56
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1 Answer

I find it's more important to get a solid, sizeable piece in early than it is to worry about exactly what that piece is. Since you're building in real time against opponents, part of the strategy is not letting them have the chance to take all the good pieces. Solid choices are most 4-ways, or cargo, or a gun/engine at the ship bottom. Avoid powered pieces if you can, until you know that you're going to want to build for/with them.

Avoid crew for the first piece if you can, due to epidemic. Shields and batteries become more useful with the expansion, where you can perfectly protect a ship with boosted shields. That said, if there's incoming laser fire that you see and you're going to have to deal with it,

As you mentioned, 7 is the single most likely result. Having guns covering each 7 row/column is a good safety measure.

A couple of side/backwards guns are great for protection from meteors.

As with all ships, more important than the exact piece in the middle is that the middle is connective, and that the ship is built without open connectors.

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