Hey Galciv II fans. Well I've been slowly sinking my teeth into the new betas of TA. Its not finished or balanced yet, but if you haven't tried it I will happily recommend the expansion to those still on the fence.
Recently Beta 4 was released that packed a bunch of changes. The one that appealed to me the most was the inclusion of the Thalans and their unique techs. The Thalans have been my favorite race since I bought my first shiny copy of Galciv II, and I couldn't wait to see their new tech tree. In DL the Thalans were very well rounded, and a nice counter to the Yor which were one of the other most powerful races. In DA the Thalans really came into their own. With Super Hive and huge production and military bonuses, the Thalans became (IMO) the most powerful race in the game. Not even a custom race with Super Hive could come close to the sheer "rush" power or beauty of a well played Thalan empire. So what would the new TA tech tree bring to the race?
I played several games with the Thalans at a couple of difficulty levels, and overall am disappointed with them in their current state. But hey, what are betas for if not feedback, right?
I decided the best way to highlight my frustration with the current Thalan setup was to do another (my second) AAR. So here goes. First I try to play a Metaverse game. I get an error that some string is not defined. Sigh. Betas. Oh well, this will be a normal sandbox game.
First off I'm going to be playing as the Terrans. The Terrans are sort of the base point, the starting race with the "familiar" tech tree that other races are sort of deviations from or variations on. The new Thalan selection of buildings eviscerates their super ability making it very weak, so I decide to turn tech trading off to minimize any advantage my super diplomat ability might confer, to try and even things out. The new Thalans seem to be a "we can only develop 2 planets in the first year" race at this point, so I select a tiny map with rare everything. I hope that by pitting Terra against Thala in a one on one I can maximize the "super planet" bonuses the Thalans seem to get. I remove all minor races because those are usually a player advantage.
At this point I've given my enemy Thalans about every advantage I can think of going in for a quick game. In theory they should be able to completely outproduce me with super projects, and our superabilities are both nullified.
Now on to bonuses. It is vogue of late to suggest the game can only be played by taking all of the economic/morale/pop growth bonuses, so I immediately resolve to take none of them. I first choose huge soldiering and weapons and range bonuses... but then think better of it and decide on +2 speed and +20% weapons with my 10 ability points. I consider for a bit whether to take the war party or technologist party as neither supplies income. Thalan populations are small enough I decide against the war party because the soldiering bonus will help me too much (same reason I dropped the soldiering bonus from my abilities) - and so go with the technologist party. My starting abilities look like this:
Finally time to select my foe, this is easy enough. And suicidal for the difficulty and I'm off.
So what would I get?
Well, before I'm even able to look at my home planet a message pops up:
So the Thalans have decided to make Thala the one planet to rule them all. Ok, good for them. Now a look at my bonuses:
Not bad. I have a decent spread of abilities, but nothing spectacular. A couple +100% research tiles, a +300% factory tile, and waaaay too many farm bonuses. I decide on just building the new human super project because it doesn't have an upkeep on one of the research tiles, and I queue up a few more buildings.
Not that the queue matters. I put my capacity at 100%, and my research at 100%, and also put my espionage spending at full (just between us, I think I just won with this move. And I haven't even hit the turn button yet). Nothing I queued will get built. I don't see where the Thalans are yet, but I'm pretty centrally located, so they should turn up soon. I send my colonists to Mars, put my survey and mine ship on auto, and let the cage match begin!
Well, I set about researching to the all powerful Planetary Invasion, as well as rush buying things while I have starting money. A couple new constructors let me grab an economic and research resource nearby. I'm also able to develop my planet. I rush buy a research lab on my other +100% tile, and a factory on that +300% manufacturing tile. I still have never taken my sliders off of 0/0/100. Eight turns in my super powerful Terra now looks like this:
Cower in fear before my two research stations and technologist party!!
Also eight turns in I make first contact with the Thalans. Looks like they are right next door, and they grabbed a planet just 8 spaces from Earth! Suddenly I'm wishing I had done a better job scouting and had maybe rush bought one colonizer instead of those constucters. Oh well, I knew I was going to cede the planetary tile bonus to the enemy right off the bat.
So what to do? There are only military victories enabled here, so I can't really use my diplomacy to sue for peace. Time to scout out the Thala. I send my survey ship in the general direction of the Thalan influence, hoping to find Thala. And voila, just two turns later I discover Thala. Time to cripple their super planet. I already have two spies, and I set them out to do their dirty deeds....
Ah, except I don't even have two good targets yet, so I just nab the economy building. The Thalans have apparently decided to try and kill me with embassies. A sneaky plan on their part. Quickly looking over their other world all I find are more embassies.... So I decide spy #2 is just going to stay at home. I spend turns 10 and 11 kicking out a couple of troop transports... it's ON!!
By turn 12 it looks like its time to fight. My survey ship has discovered that the Thalans actually also picked up a third planet (Westerfield IV), so I'm not only out tiled and out bonused... I'm just straight outnumbered. If I were facing the Korath I'd be in real trouble. Fortunately, the AI in its colonizing zeal has failed to leave defenders in orbit. Sander IV is ripe for the picking.
As the Terrans I have huge diplomacy bonuses, so I briefly consider using my huge bonus against the Thalan -30% diplomacy to try and get some goodies before war starts. But, well, that isn't really my style. After a moment of consideration I decide this game has already gone on long enough... this cat and mouse posturing is over. Attack!!
The first of my transport ships lands and easily conquers the surprised Thalan colonists.
The Thalans respond to my declaration of war by building Xanthium Hull Plating!! What to do, what to do? But wait a minute, the Plating Factory can be sabatoged by spies. I finally have a worthy tile to place that second spy.
My miner finishes building the last asteroid, and its time to upgrade him into a transport as well. I do have a problem however. Both Thala and Westerfield IV have orbiting "defenders". Thala has a pair of scouts, and Westerfield has a constructor and a colonizer. For my transports to hit home, I'm going to need some sort of attack ship. Fortunately I still have never taken myself off of 100% research, and those two initial research buildings are doing themselves proud. I research up the missile line as they are pretty cheap, and design the ULTIMATE EMPIRE DESTROYER ship:
And people say tiny ships are useless. Ha! I am starting to run out of my starting money at this point though, so I'm going to have to act fast. 16 turns in is no time to dally. After my super ship is designed, I quickly rush buy one of the suckers before my economy goes in the red.
Through the next two turns my economy does sink alarmingly fast... but I know the Thalans will rue the day some game designer made their military techs too slow to unlock! I press my advantage. My super 2 attack bomber easily blows away the defenders of Westerfield, and my second transport lands to liberate the planet in the name of Earth.
Well, so now it is time for the Thala homeworld, their super planet with all of those galactic achievements on it. A tall order. While I now have 4 planets, only 1 has any working buildings, the others are smashed ruins covered in embassies... or worse, like Mars, completely barren save for the starting colony. I've wasted money rush buying two factories, one on Earth on the bonus tile, and one on Sander, and yet I've never once dropped off of 100% research to actually fund those factories. My economy is in ruins, my planets are useless... and I only have 3 ships left. An simple tiny bomber, a troop transport, and a survey vessel. To face the combined might of Thala and their future techs now I'd have to be mad.
Well, I never claimed sanity as one of my virtues.
On turn 20 I decide to take my chances and attack Thala. Interestingly, I also decide to stop research war techs and get onto an infrastructure line. My spies have been killed, so no longer can I stop the Thalan juggernaut by destroying buildings. I attack, and mercifully my troops route the Bug soldiers:
Well, it was a rough, tension filled edge of your seat 20 turn Suicidal game... but in the end the day was won:
Too bad it wasn't a metaverse game. Of course, if it had been a metaverse game I would have sat around score grinding for 5 years after having cornered the Thalans on one planet... and I wouldn't have left them with Thala to rebuild from. The quick kill is a little more satisfying.
Stay tuned, next up my analysis of the game and the beta and the Thalans!