The Dread Lord Menace
At the dawn of the 23rd century of humanity, mankind was a rising star in the galaxy. Amongst the younger races, they were in ascension. The humans had defeated the vile Xendar only 10 years earlier and many of the minor races looked to the humans for guidance.
The humans are different. Having only recently joined the interstellar club, they were open to other cultures and believe in building coalitions. This is a stark contrast with some other civilizations such as the powerful and malevolent Drengin Empire who see the humans as a dire threat.
But long before there were humans, when life on Earth was still new, the galaxy was inhabited by a single Precursor civilization called the Arnor. These powerful beings had technologies and abilities that we can't even begin to grasp. Their empire's duration could be measured in the millions of years. And in that time, they began to watch life on various planets evolve into sentient life forms -- a troubling issue. What should be done with them? One group wanted to guide these new beings. Another group wanted to exterminate them. In time, this disagreement grew to a galaxy-wide civil war in which the opposing faction came to be known as the Dread Lords.
Today, these Precursor races are gone.. or are they? This game play example highlights that sometimes, there really are giants amongst us.
This is the story of a particular game of Galactic Civilizations II. It is a strategy game that tries to do for strategy games what games like Baldur's Gate did for RPGs. RPGs and Strategies games, under the covers, are essentially spreadsheets. Companies such as Bioware have brought new life to role playing games by giving their games depth and giving more context to the spread-sheet underpinnings to create a living world.
Stardock's goal with Galactic Civilizations II is much the same. To have a strategy game in which each new game feels different. The scenario we are about to play involves the Dread Lords and puts the player in the position of having to build a coalition to stand against them. The game you see here will likely never happen quite like it again. The game is designed for replayability. That means randomly generated maps, ability to play as any race (you can play as the humans or the evil Drengin or any of the other major younger civilizations). The point being, the game puts you in charge of creating your own epic.
The Scenario is called "Apocalypse".
Long ago, they and their brethren, called the Arnor, controlled the entire galaxy. The two battled for control and in the end, both disappeared largely from the galaxy. I say largely because on occasion, an individual Dread Lord ship would be found and lay waste to a colony or fleet of ships. Until recently, we had no idea who they were. The other civilizations we have had contact with have always referred to the Arnor and Dread Lord as the "Precursors".
Their ships are organic in nature. But even if put together into a single massive fleet, it wouldn't number more than a few hundred ships. But each Dread Lord is enough to take out an entire fleet of ships. The Torian colony Uthias III was conquered and occupied by a force of only 10 Dread Lords against an army of 2.1 million troops.
There is something happening in Epsilon Sector
This log takes place during the events of 2225 in the Epsilon sector...
The TAS Voyager had been assigned to explore the entire quadrant to determine what the situation is. For my display, I had customized the look of my on-screen display to be more muted and the Terran Alliance's territory is a lighter blue (bottom right corner) than the default is. Much time has been spent elsewhere to build up our technology. One of the great feats of the human race these past few years has been the development of Plasma beam weapons and shield defense. We are now the most advanced of the younger civilizations.
We have allies though. The Torians are with us.
The Terran Alliance had picked its main base well in this quadrant. Outpost 3 was probably the best world we've seen outside of Earth yet.
Outpost 3 has an abandoned Precursor mine on it. I have actually never had a world that had a Precursor mine and any manufacturing plant built on the site will produce 7 times as much in production as a normal factory would. But it also should give us a pause -- that's how powerful the Precursors are, one of their mines when hooked up to our relatively primitive technology is 7 times what we can do. We also found two sites that have artifacts from the Precursors which will double the research of any labs we build there.
||Name: F-10 Octopi|
Weapons: 3 Westinghouse NC-12 Mark II Plasma Beam Cannons.
Mass: 55.2 metric tons.
Length: 15.2 meters
Span: 32.2 meters
Range: 1.3 sectors
Sensor radius: 2 parsecs (adjusted)
|Representing Earth's state of the art heavy fighter, the F-10 Octopi has a unique shape designed to provide greater maneuverability than other fighters available.
The Octopi is all punch. Critics have labeled it the fighter with a glass jaw because despite its impressive weaponry, its survivability is only rated at 10hp and it has no defense measures on it at all in order to make room for a third NC-12 beam weapon.
Its advocates point out that right now, the key is the ability to get the thing out there and with a cost of only 147 billion credits each, we will have a lot of these out there.
The military has not been terribly concerned about the Dread Lords. There numbers are so few and while their ships may have seemed devastating in the age of lasers and hyperdrive, humanity has progressed far. If the Dread Lords were foolish enough to tangle against us now, well, things would probably be different. A squadron of Octopi are almost certainly enough to deal with an isolated Dread Lord.
There are reports of a small Dread Lord base in this quadrant. Our mission is to remove it. The first step is to set up our logistics -- build a series of starbases right up to their front door so that our ships can safely make the journey from Outpost 3.
If anything, interference from the Drengin and Yor, who are also lurking in the quadrant are the real threat. The Drengin and Yor are a match made in hell. The Drengin are evil. We don't use that term lightly. They take great pride in cruelty. The Yor are worse in some ways as they want to exterminate all life. They are working with the Drengin only as a short term solution to accomplish their larger goal. But they are not currently very strong in this quadrant and with the Altarians, Iconians, Arceans, and Torians all here, they should be no real threat.
The Iconians agree.
The TAS Dave Short has come in contact with some strange ship.
We order the DavShort to return home since we have no military units in the area. We don't hear much more about this strange sighting. We presume it's some sort of Dread Lord scout.
The DavShort also discovered Markus II. Upon getting there, we notice something unusual about it.
We decide to take the middle ground on this one. The hawks are unhappy and the doves are outraged. I must have done something right.
Meanwhile, the TAS DavShort has built a starbase called Watcher. The crew has returned back to Outpost 3. However, the Iconians, who were once quite brash, are now thinking a bit twice about the Dread Lords (Dark Arnor as they call them). It's easy to forget that the Iconians once served the Arnor themselves long long ago.
The Iconians remain out of contact for several weeks after that. However, by December odd reports from the rim start to float in:
|Confidential Report: December 1, 2225
Starbase Watcher in sector 6,6 has been out of contact for 6 days now. They are approximately 10 parsecs from the nearest confirmed Dread Lord outpost. We will be sending a team to investigate.
-Terran Naval Intelligence
Two weeks later a confirmed sighting in sector 7,3:
The ship (known affectionately now as "bugs") merely flies near Weber and then leaves doing no harm. The ships are quite small and seemingly harmless. It is time to send in some of the new Octopi to demonstrate the might of the Terran Alliance.
Looking out at our strategic view (rolling the mouse back):
I can see that one of my planets is not currently producing ships (the yellow diamond over on the right by the planet means a shipyard is currently idle). All planets are currently building planetary improvements (filled orange circle). The Dread Lord scout is not moving. It's just sitting there..waiting. Then they move off out of sensor range.
Time to send in some Octopi to deal with them.
Sensors, however, intermittently pick up..something. It's too far out to tell what exactly it is but it's bigger. Much bigger than the scout.
As it gets closer we scan it. An invasion transport. With 10 troops. 10? This has got to be a joke. Perhaps a bug in our display?
Our colony on Weber has 3.5 billion colonists on it. It's quite well defended.
My..god. They invaded! They aren't successful but they wipe out all but 330 million colonists! 10 guys! Unbelieveable! As our squadron of Octopi arrive a not very large ship but one that we are labeling a Dreadnought anyway because of its destructive power intercepts:
Three shots and three destroyed ships. They're gone! And another troop transport is on the way! We've lost contact with the colony!
Torian and Altarian fleets however are closing in to relieve my planets.
Both fleets are destroyed. However, an Altarian fleet manages to intercept an invasion ship on the way to Outpost 3. Outpost 3 is saved thanks to my allies, the Altarians.
The Octopi have an engagement with a Dread Lord fighter.
The Dread Lord weapons are incredible.
We escort a Torian battle fleet into battle. However, both of us sacrifices sensors to fit more weapons onto our ships. Two different Dread Lords come in. Neither group is ever heard from again.
At the dawn of 2228, the Dread Lords have conquered several colonies including two of ours. It's no longer a laughing matter to talk about how a dozen Dread Lords can conquer an entire world. Not funny at all.
Thank goodness our allies are effective. The Arceans and Altarians have continued to mount an excellent defense. We use this time to build up squadrons of the Octopi. It takes 4 Octopi to destroy a single Dread Lord fighter.
But 4 to 1 odds we can do. Because the Dread Lords are so few in number, that we may be able to overwhelm them if we can survive long enough and combine our forces effectively.
Slowly, the other forces combine up. The Dread Lords recognizing the ships coming in, withdraw from the area to preserve their forces. Their ships move far faster than ours. Their strategy has been to come in, destroy vulnerable targets, and then leave. Arcean, Human, and Altarian fleets converging is not their style. Now, if we can retake one of our worlds we will have made real progress. While we can take out fighters, their frigates are another matter. The Altarian fleet was destroyed but weakened the Dread Lord frigate.
Meanwhile, the Drath are in desperate shape. They are one of the civilizations who are buffering us. As bad as things have been for us, the Drath have borne the brunt of it.
As good as the Octopi are. They are not tough enough to take on the Dread Lord ships of the line. Luckily, Earth has sent us the specifications and materials to construct a Frigate class ship of our own.
||Name: Nova class Frigate|
Weapons: 4 Glavanax Corp. P-107 Phasor Beam Cannons.
Defenses: 3 Global Electric Turbo-Shield defense grids.
Mass: 4.5 million metric tons.
Length: 391 meters
Span: 84 meters
Sensor radius: 3 parsecs (adjusted)
|Dubbed the "Dread Lord killer" at the Earth shipyards, the Nova has an attack rating of 12 in the beam category and a defense rating of 6 against beam which is what the Dread Lords keep using.
The Nova has few critics, it has been considered the pinnacle of human engineering. It is a very lethal weapon and by far, the most powerful ship in the galaxy other than the Dread Lords. Even the Drengin would think twice about doing single combat against it. It is also relatively cheap. Only 244 billion credits each. That's only 100 billion credits more than the Octopi even though this packs twice the punch and has significant defenses.
There is speculation that a Nova could take a direct hit from a Dread Lord Dreadnought and survive.
We have managed to reclaim Lasitus I. And when we got on there we were amazed at how much the Dread Lords had upgraded what's there already.
"Industrial Sector"? What the heck is that? 24 manufacturing units per week is what our scientists have rated it at. That's 4 times what our factories can do. But now this world is ours. This will be an immensely powerful world.
The Nova doesn't make the Octopi obsolete. It is still a very potent weapon when used in mass.
In groups of 5, the Octopi are quite lethal against a Dread Lord frigate.
In battle, the Novas turn the tide. There is something majestic seeing the Novas firing their weapons in the darkness of the night of space.
Where only the lights on the ship illuminate it. Far from any stars, the Nova brings light to the darkness of the Dread Lords. Its powerful shields aborbing much of the blast from a Dread Lord "Doom ray" hit.
But it is not enough. The Nova is powerful, but it is still no match for the Dread Lords. Our strength will come from numbers.
One lesson the Dread Lords teach: Escort your transports. They are not like the other powers. They move so fast that they can come from beyond sensor range, navigate around nearby pickets, and take out a transport. The Transport will have to have Novas serving as part of its escort.
Meanwhile, the Torians have thrown in the towel. The Arceans take over for them.
Nova crews have complained about having to escort the ground pounders. But the army is the only one who can conquer the actual planets and we've already lost millions of soldiers in space. But we can only coordinate two Novas per transport due to our logistics limits. Will it be enough?
Frigate vs. Frigate action. Two of our state of the art Nova "Dread Lord killer" frigates vs. One of theirs.
There are no survivors. At the start of 2229, there have been several battles in which we have won. When we can mass forces, we win. But the Dread Lords tend to flee when faced with a larger force. We need to improve our logistics capability so that we can escort transports with more protection.
The Korx, the mercenaries of the galaxy put their fate in my hands. They do not want to deal with the Dread Lords themselves.
The problem is, I have no forces near them to protect their people. The Dread Lords, however have plenty of forces. The Dread Lords quickly exploit this and the Korx have new masters -- the Dread Lords.
But in the meantime, I've taken Weber I back. I am, after 5 years of fighting, back to where I began. The Dread Lords upgraded the planet with those incredible factories of theirs which shall now turn out Novas.
It is now time to go on the offensive in a big way. To spear head this I have 4 veteran Novas. 4 Novas that have reached level 13 in experience (very rare). They have twice the strength of a typical ship. Their crews are so good that some say they could take on a Dread Lord frigate one on one.
The Dread Lords retaliate. They sneak into deep into my space and target my main transport production world. In a single week, 6 new transports are destroyed. They then flee back to their territory. Nothing I can do.
Because of complaints of Dread Lord hit and run tactics, we've designed the "Peeper" class ship. This bizarre looking ship has advanced sensors to spot far far away from it.
My spearhead force of my most elite units though has walked into a trap. The Dread Lords have surrounded them. My spearhead is tough but it is not in a condition to take this on.
The Dread Lords are far more powerful than I had thought. They make no move on my ship. They block me in so that I have to fight my way to the planet.
By the time I fight my way in, there's only two ships left.
And the planet is filled with enemy ships. But they don't attack. They won't attack me because my ships are powerful enough and the Dread Lords have as yet, not had a good ability at coordinating their ships. For all their power, they apparently have no logistics ability. So time passes.
I put together an assault fleet, but in the meantime, the Dread Lords have started coordinating their ships. Now they have fleets of these ships. Not big ones, but it's an ominous start...
My wonderful elite ships are no match now.
The battles are on.. Across the galaxy. It's no holds barred.
It boils down to this: It takes 4 Novas to destroy 3 of their frigates. If there is even one less than 4, no Novas will survive.
The call goes to Earth, we need a real capital ship. A BIG ship. Something that can take a pounding.
Even my peepers are taken out..
This time, we design a truly massive, powerful ship. One that can really take a hit from a Dread Lord and survive.
||Name: Doom Star battle cruiser|
Weapons: 5 Glavanax Corp. P-200 Phasor Beam Cannons.
Defenses: 6 Global Electric Turbo-Shield defense grids.
Mass: 9.4 million metric tons.
Length: 847 meters
Span: 129 meters
Sensor radius: 3 parsecs (adjusted)
|The Doom Star was created in an environment of humility. The Nova, while an impressive ship, was still in no condition to take on a Dread Lord. After 5 years of fighting, the war was not going well. The Dread Lords had improved their tactics and we had not. The Doom Star was designed to be an assault ship but also one that can survive a Dread Lord attack.
It is a big ship. It's 9 football fields in length. It also costs a fortune as we start to head towards half a trillion credits to build a single one. This will be a battle of industrial might.
It gets its first battle testing very quickly. The results are inconclusive. The fleet it is part of is victorious but only the Doom Star survived.
As 2230 came to a close, the Drath had given up the fight as well. Now only the Altarians, Arceans, and Iconians were left in the quadrant to fight the Dread Lords with us.
By 2232, the war is starting to go in our direction. The Iconians, content to have wiped out their ancient enemy, the Yor, put all their focus on the Dread Lords. The results are impressive.
The Iconian equivalent to our Doom Star has an attack rating of 27 and a defense rating of 19.
It is superior to our ships in every way. Faster, longer range, and using a beam defense called "Barriers". As we've conquered Dread Lord worlds, we've stolen some of their tech. We sell some of this tech to the Iconians in exchange for the Barrier shield technology. For now, the Doom Stars will have to do. An Iconian battle fleet is now near the equal of a Dread Lord ship.
The first hybrid human-Dread Lord ship is called the Omega. It uses the Dread Lord "Quantum Torpedo" technology and it's incredible.
Combined with some technology purchased from the Iconians, the ship has a 44 attack rating and moves at 4 parsecs per week base. It's very fast. It is over half a trillion credits to build though so it's not quite a replacement for the Doom Star since we'll only be able to afford to maintain a handful of these. But as a flag ship..
The turning point
The Dread Lords are on the run. The Altarians and Iconians have moved their forces and between the three of us, we slowly grind the Dread Lords down. The Altarians have a different strategy -- they build lots of frigate class ships. But they're quite tough. All of us have adapted to the Dread Lord beam weapons.
The weakness of the Dread Lords is that they don't adapt. Combine that with their small numbers and they're doomed. Of course, in our 7th year of war in which the Dread Lords occupy half the galaxy, it's a long slog before they're put down for good.
The Altarians are equipped with Phasor III weapons and Barriers. So their ships are quite powerful. But they also cost quite a bit. The Nova is only rated at an attack of 12 and a defense of 6 overall but costs only around 240 billion credits. The Altarian equivalent is 17 attack and 9 defense but costs 334 billion credits. The Altarians are going for fewer but higher quality ships.
Task Force 1 is prepared to take out one of the last conquered Dread Lord worlds.
Dread Lords are incredibly powerful and resist to the end. But 20 individuals are no match for a full legion of troops no matter how powerful they are. Still, lost 800 million troops in the attempt. Planetary invasions are immensely costly in lives.
Remember how big the Nova looked? I thought it looked pretty big. But compared to the Doomstars, it's pretty small and the Doomstars are smaller than the Omega.
The Nova is the little ship on the right. Now we're going toe to toe with a Dread Lord battleship. Okay, well, not toe to toe, since there's 4 of us and only one of him. But still pretty impressive.
As we near the main Dread Lord home bases, the defenses get more desperate. Attacking my transports -- escorted by an Omega and a Doom star.
An Omega crumbles. Can the Doom Star take it out?
The answer is: No. All are lost. A significant defeat. But there are now too many of such fleets. We can absorb 4 to 1 losses. They can't. The last world remains to be taken. Two million troops are on the way escorted by the TAS Midway and TAS Reliant.
The Dread Lords have put together a last ditch defense. It's quite impressive. Moreover, time is on their side now -- my economy is in ruins. To break even, I have my industrial might down to nearly nothing. The Omegas are simply too expensive and I have too many to support.
It's is done.
The Dread Lords are defeated. But the price..is very high.
6 years of fighting. Millions dead. But the Dread Lord menace has been removed from this quadrant. But it is also ominous -- 6 years of fighting due to 3 small Dread Lord outposts. But the quadrant is free, the people rejoice!