October 15, 2226 (38 turns in)
Well, Kora was a good planet to add, with just the research centers it gave me a base boost of 346 research, and I was already upgrading those centers to acadamies. I have managed to up my weekly research to over 1400 per week. (As an aside, the fastest I ever got to Technology Victory on suicidal in DA was in 26 turns - July 15, 2226 - which is one reason I have to turn this victory option off. The time I did that, I didn't even have a precursor library. Out of curiosity, has anyone ever gotten the tech win faster
than 26 turns??) I have switched researching weapons lines, and already researched through plasma II, and I have researched hulls through to superier hulls. I put one turn into starbase defense, and that took me all the way to titanium armor III. I have a significant tech advantage across the board, even with selling tech I seem to have about 25-30 more techs than the next closest AI. I have still never once dropped off of 100% production capacity and 100% on my research slider.
But there is a real downside to my position. I'm running at -867bc/turn now, and that really is unsustainable. I switched over to the beam weapon line, but I've already sold through laser III for operating capital. I'm only running at a 47% tax rate to keep 100% morale, but increasing my tax rate won't make up for an almost 900bc per turn shortfall.
I design a fighter with my best tech. The next best ships any AI has are small hulls packed with stinger IIs, so this puppy should be able to win me a few wars.
But my economy is in a full collapse. I'm even below -500, and still have to wait a turn before I can tech whore for more money. I'm really being strangled by the lack of colonies on this map, I am used to being able to generate significantly more amounts of money from my own people by such a late date. So, at just 38 turns, it is already time for me to pull a Flip.
>> Strategy aside <<
But I should describe more what I'm talking about. The Flip is a tactic I developed about three months ago, and it really works wonders against the AI at any level. Not having enough planets, using it here is more of a desperation move, and I'm playing pretty clumsy to this point overall.
Here is the deal. You see, getting your Production Capacity to 100% is only half the battle. With a production capacity of 100%, if you split your buildings on all of your worlds combined between research and manufacturing, you are necessarily only running at 50% of your MAX potential. Take any tech slider combo you want, lets say 33/33/34. Here, your factories are operating at 66% and your labs at 34% of max capacity. Combined, it means you are running at an aggregate 50% of total max capcity. You really are not getting the most out of every tile.
Fortunately, there are two solutions to this, 1) only build research buildings or 2) only build manufacturing buildings. Lets look at each -
1) The all research building empire. This one is the more sophisticated option, is slightly trickier to use, but once you master it can give you unreal amounts of production and advantage. This works especially well on very slow or slow research settings (which I was hoping for, but didn't get this game). Research buildings produce more units and have lower upkeep costs than similar manufacturing buildings. The Discovery sphere produces 18 points with an upkeep of 4, vs. the Industrial Sector which produces 12 points and has an upkeep of 5. Or earlier on, a research center produces 10 points with an upkeep of 2, compared to an enhanced factory that only produces 8 units with an upkeep of 2. That research buildings produce more (and research cooridination centers are a one stop shop between anti-matter and quantum power plants) isn't a problem game balance wise, research is less versitile. Factories can produce both social and military, so this is a good balance. But to produce the most points possible out of every tile, you have to go all research buildings. Now, you still produce social and military points by using focus on a per colony basis. You will actually produce at a fair rate if you do this, try it and you will see. The difficutly is that you can never both upgrade buildings and produce military units, and you don't have the flexibility to jump into 100% military mode. But neither of these are as big a problem as they seem. First, many people already use the 1% military 99% social tactic. This is just another way of saying, build all improvements first, then build ships. That exact same strategy can be reproduced by using all research buildings, and focusing on social till your improvements are done, and then switching to a military focus. And as for not being able to flip into 100% military mode: you will find that the weapons and armor higher up the tech tree are more cost efficient. If you play with all research buildings, you will always have a significant tech advantage (even on suicidal, the AI builds mixes of factories and labs, so is only ever getting 50% of its real max production values empire wide) and the few ships you build by focusing your research points on military will far outclass the enemy.
Indeed, I have played my entire game to this point using exactly this strategy. I'm running into money problems, but that is a symptom of the number of worlds available, not the strength of the tactic.
2) Response number two to the problem is to only ever build manufacturing buildings, and then just focus worlds on research production for all of your research. This is slightly less sophisticated and easier to pull off, if you have the right map settings. Conversly to strategy #1, this strategy works best with research set to fast or very fast. The problem with this strategy is it requires a minimum 30-50 colonies to really pull off effectively, otherwise you run into a huge tech hole early (on suicidal). In this current game, with only two colonies, I would be so far behind in research at this point the game would be over. The Korath could have invaded ME already, and I would have been far away from starting the soldiering tech. You generally will have lower research, but will kick out a lot more ships. You are not producing max per tile per turn for your empire compared to research buildings, which slightly lowers overall score IME, but you can quickly go to 100% military spending and kick out lots (think hundreds or thousands) of weak ships quickly with little effort. This is more of a brute force approach (hence less sophisticated), and if you are practicing using one of these two strategies I recommend learning on all manu buildings before trying what I'm doing, which is the all research buildings approach.
BUT, I'm not done. Perhaps the single most advanced empire management trick I know (and I'm giving it away for free right here, so pay attention) I refer to as "The Flip" or "Flipping". This lets you have your cake and eat it too. Basically, you start out using strategy #1 to get an unsurmountable tech lead, and then, ideally around turn 60, you flip your entire empire and build over every research building with manufacturing buildings. Upgrading in this way doesn't really take very long, and you will find that then you are able to kick out hundreds of very high tech ships. When this tactic works perfectly, on very fast research (with lots of worlds) I flip on about turn 61, and will have finished ALL techs except for the extreme colonization techs, two weapon trees, all starbase upgrades, and the tech victory techs past discovery sphere. Except for those, I can have everything else in the tech tree finished by around March/April of the second year (2227). This is a devastating strategy against the AI, and it really can't recover. The speed of the flip depends largely on your income. When you first switch your sliders to 0% research, your spending will drop dramatically, only your home colonies are getting funding instead of all those buildings. If you make enough money, you can then rush buy your first few upgrades of labs>>factories, and complete the flip in around 8 turns for the whole empire. If you can't afford to rush buy, going to 100% social usually will get most of your empire flipped in about 20 turns. That is a pretty fast change, still.
>> end strategy aside >>
So, at turn 38 I queue up enhanced factories to build over all of my research centers and acadamies. I have wasted two of my 30 tiles between my worlds on the two technology capitals, but that is a price I can live with. I switch my sliders to 40% military, 60% social, and 0% research. My per turn deficit drops all the way down to a manageable -24. The terrans recover in terms of trade quickly, and I am able to trade with just them for a few hundred bc to get me back above -500 with a few turns of low empire production. I'm pretty upset that not only am I using my own strategy poorly by having to flip so soon, but that it had to happen while I'm doing my first AAR. Oh well. Stupid rare settings.
And after starting the flip over to a factory empire, my military rating really jumps.
Studying the graph I'm happy to see the Krynn are in second place in military, and the Terrans and Thalans are starting to militarize. Now that I have gone neutral and these empires have militaries, I will really be able to throw my weight around. If an enemy declares war on me, they will have plenty to deal with. This lets me play a little looser than I otherwise might in this situation.
I still have serious long term problems though. My economy only seems manageable because I'm actually producing almost nothing. When all of those factories come off the assembly line, I'm going to need to pay for them to produce. My income is low, so my flip will start slow, but when my trading recharges hopefully I will be able to inject some speed into the process. I would rather sell every tech and planet and the first born child of my empire's leader than ever run one turn at less than 100% production capacity, so I'm really going to have to dig deep into my bag of tricks here.
Also note, my research drops a lot, but not off completely. I still have 8 research treaties being sent my way (I'm not focusing any of my three planets on tech yet, it is still too soon) - so those research treaties are going to help my tech to continue to limp along.
Going over how to boost my economy, I come across a bug(?) that nearly crushes my spirit.
My economy rating is too low. I started with a +60, and should be at 60(starting) +10 (xeno economics) + 5(xeno banks) + 20 (democracy) + 4(anamoly boosts) = 60+10+20+5+4 = 99. But I'm only listed as a 74%!!!!!?!?!?!?!?! How did I lose 25% to my economy. If this is a penalty for playing on suicidal, I've never noticed it. I double check that my government is set right, all of my techs, etc. No explanation. Not only has the game given me no planets to use, but now it is randomly taking away what little money I should have. Frustration levels are rising.
However, notice, 40 turns in or so, I might be 10th place in production, but I'm first in both military and technology. This is exactly how I planned to win from before I even started the game. My strategy is working. My biggest enemy now is my economy, followed by the Korx who have colonized several worlds and have a decent military and are close. If I can handle my economy and the Korx, I've got this one in the bag.
Posting this is taking me too long, so I'm going to end the roleplaying story for now. Hadrian lived through the attack on Kora, although he is injured. This section was going to be more Eleys brooding and the unveiling of the Rebel Eclipse prototype.