Wow. I just finished a game that really blew my mind, and I decided I wanted to write up what happened so that I could share the story.
I'm still test playing the new TA beta, which does not allow metaverse games. I've played a fair number of games at this point and it has allowed me to really play around with some new strategies.
I decided I wanted to play a game that really focused on the new fleet enhancement modules (specifically the Tulon module). I hadn't used it before... but the tech description says it adds +20% to fleet weapons bonus. I didn't know if this ability stacked, and usually I've been using modules that add +25% while in my own influence. I find I spend most of the game with my combat ships in my own influence, and I liked the extra 5%.
What I didn't know was did that 20% bonus stack? That is, if I had 5 mediums fleeted each with a Tulon Weapon module would I get a +100% across the fleet?
Seeing as I knew I was going to be focusing on kicking out some huge damage numbers I decided to play the game as the Arceans. I set all of the setting to "random" except for galaxy size which I set to Huge. Now normally I play on smaller galaxies, but I wanted to be sure that an AI or two managed to develop good militaries so that I could have something that wasn't a straw man to go knock down... I wanted a real military test. I wasn't planning on finishing this game, just getting in, researching the modules, logistics, weapons and medium hulls, fighting a few wars to see how it worked out, and quit.
For bonuses I selected ones that went with my strategy. I took +20% weapons and the War party, I took the +range ability (figured it would help on a big map), I took luck, creativity, +10% morale, and +20% hull hp. I wanted my mediums to be able to stick around.
I set my game to 9 random opponents and selected masochistic for the difficulty level. While I play most of my metaverse "official" games at suicidal because it gets me the highest score, I often don't have the most fun at suicidal. Suicidal is so difficult that it leaves you very few play styles with which to succeed. You need to worry more about optimal strategy at all times. As low as Maso the enemy bonuses are significantly worse so you can play around with sub-optimal strategies and get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses. I often like to play around with sub-optimal strategies... so when playing sandbox games I often play at the much-less-intense maso or obscene. This was going to be a casual in and out game where I wasn't pushing myself hard, but I would be able to test exactly what I thought of the fleet modules in a laid-back setting. I'd get a feel for their effectiveness and quit.
This was NOT going to be an AAR game (hence no screenshots, sorry).Year 1 - Discovery
Well, I really got a poor start. I ended up on the edge of the map near but not in a corner. I had a military resource right next to my home system. Arcea had only two bonus tiles on her, a +100% morale tile and a +100% research tile. I had wanted to play Arcea as an industrial sector with a starforge and man/econ capital... I like using an all factory strategy on larger maps. But with those planetary bonuses I decided to make Arcea a research capital.
My plan was to buy Arcea full of labs and research pretty far into the trees quickly on an all labs strategy while my colonizers found a good high PQ world. Then, I would land on that world, and fill THAT world with factories and my stellar forge. Then I would switch over to all factories and essentially abandon Arcea for the rest of the game... building over the labs with stock markets.
But my plan didn't work. I decided to ignore Hammer II and sent my initial colonizer out to find a second juicy world. I put my survey vessel and miner on auto, and got to work.
Early game I had fun picking my way through the new Arcean tech tree. I got sensors and the speed bonuses to counteract my racial penalties. I lease bought a few more survey ships. I also researched up the labs line including advanced computing and lease bought the tech capital. I went a ways down the diplo line to get trade and lease an econ capital... and then I started in on advanced govs.
But, well, early game wasn't going well. My single colonizer was slow, and kept moving to systems with 5 or 4 planets and none habitable. I finally started to run into habitable worlds, but they were already colonized by the Drengin. Finding no worlds was problem #1. Finding no anomalies was problem #2. Now I had researched sensors and lease bought several survey ships early, but apparantly this was a game with rare anomalies. I couldn't tell off the bat because I seem to recall thinking that on larger maps anomalies are spaced out more than on smaller maps. I got really nothing from my three research ships, and soon they head out in the blackness to try and find the rare stragglers.
Rare habitable planets and rare anomalies. Unexpected.Year 2 - The Darkness
Year 2 began with an ominous sign. Hammer II was colonized by a Drengin colony ship. See, I had never had the funds to build a second one. I had gained no anomaly boosts, and the tech rate, whatever it was, was slow enough that it was a struggle to fund that research I was doing. My colonizer had never found my "second world" on which I was going to put my stellar forge, so that still wasn't built, and I had no manufacturing buildings.
Not only did I only have one world, I was sinking into the red fast. My leases only totaled 166 bc per month, but that was well more than my small population on Arcea could support through taxes. I had cash coming in from nowhere, and my exploration started to show I was huddled between two fairly influential empires, the Drengin and the Terrans. My gamble on survey ships had backfired badly, as had my gamble to run into the darkness looking for better worlds. And an all labs strategy was already going to be tough on this map size.
I was being beaten by the environment, and there wasn't even a military in the galaxy yet. Fortunately my survey ships, those useless survey ships, had seemingly struck off deep into the darkness in random directions, and had managed contact with half a dozen civs. I met the Terrans, Thalans, Iconians, Drengin, Korx and Paulos. I decided my only hope for getting money was to trade for it.
Now I had spent some time in the diplo line, but I hadn't even got alliances yet. Still on Maso the game is much easier so I was hoping I could do alright in the trade screen. And that is about what I did. I managed to trade for some money, 3 research treaties, a few low level weapons, and some low level infrastructure (xeno engineering, xeno economics, xeno entertainment).
This was a decent haul for how few of my techs I was willing to trade. But it wasn't close to enough. My colonizer finally found a world that wasn't already taken... a PQ 12 world! Sadly it was Heavy Gravity, and with no money I couldn't sniff extreme colonization. Well, I had nothing better for my far-flung colonists to do, so I sat them next to my hope for their future world. And I sat and hoped. My money sank. It sank far and fast. I ended year 2 with less than -5000bc, with my empire having produced nothing for most of the year.Year 3 - A Bright Idea
While I couldn't fund my research, I wasn't without hope. I had managed a +45% creativity bonus and I did have those three research treaties coming in. Still, my position was mostly hopeless. I had one world while most AIs had somewhere between 5 and 20 worlds. The Drengin were one of the most powerful civs, and they were so right next door they had Hammer II. Trade was clearly not going to make me enough money to even be able to operate my empire for one turn. I was never going to see the elysium fields of -499bc to try and do something. This was supposed to be a casual, easy game and I was losing badly.
I thought about just restarting. I saved and quit the game, mentally drained and frustrated. For some reason several days later I decided to re-load my hopeless situation. Given some time I thought about what I could possibly do. It was only a Maso game, the AI didn't have that many bonuses. If I'm as good as I like to think I am (ha ha) I should be able to fight out of this. At the very least I should make the AI actually invade and kill me. I did have that +soldiering bonus after all... I shifted gears from thinking of this as a casual game to more of a serious game. Come at it like I'm in a suicidal death match! Game on!
Great bravado, but my treasury continued to sink down to -8000 bc. However, all was not lost... thanks mostly to creativity. See, while I could never research anything the new creativity gives you a chance to just finish a tech... and a +45% means this procs fairly often. I started by researching Heavy Gravity colonization, hoping that a moment of inspiration amoung my scientists could let me colonize my second world. And voila! 168 turns of research were finished in just 12! I plopped my colonists down and had a second world.
Now, I knew I needed money, but i couldn't afford to build any buildings, so economy buildings were out. Instead I decided to research higher governments. While my people were unhappy our empire had been in debt so long, I had kept their tax levels low so that they were fairly happy anyway because there was no point in sacrificing happiness for a few extra bc when I was losing hundreds a turn. Advanced governments were supportable with my happy people, and would let me get more from my tax rate. I creatively researched up through Federations (Federations was finished more than 300! turns ahead of schedule thanks to creativity... but remember my empire is producing nothing. Those 300 turns was based on research treaties) and changed to the top gov form. Doing this almost stopped the bleeding.
I then started to research down the planetary invasion line. All of a sudden several things happened in quick succession to make the game more interesting:
1) I got really lucky on my creativity and got down to tidal disruption in just a few turns
2) I decided to trade away my Heavy Grav techs for cash, and managed with my diplo bonuses to pick up basic Barren colonization. Selling Barren colonization, Heavy Gravity colonization and Advanced Heavy Gravity colonization to 12 different civs netted me almost 11k! I'm in the green!
3) Some of those first turn leases actually started to expire, dropping my lease expense. The shame of it all.
4) The Drengin declared war on me...
What what what? Ok, that last one was a worry. Almost as soon as I could run my empire again and I'm being attacked. And the Drengin had by far the strongest military in the game... I don't have a single starship. Had I fought my way out of debt only to be destroyed?Year 4 - An Alliance
I should backtrack slightly. Right BEFORE the Drengin declared war I had culture flipped Hammer II back to me, which had been hurting relations. See, I had a large, happy populations and all those advanced governments... and the people on Hammer II just thought I was more advanced culturally... and they didn't want to work in the slave pits. Not that I could blame them. So I actually have 3 worlds now. Sadly my high PQ world has no buildings save two farms, and it is three sectors away!
But I wasn't going to go down without a fight! I switched my funding from 100% research to 100% military... even though all I had were base colonies and no factories. I stayed researching the invasion line for a bit, before going for better hulls. I tech traded up a storm to get some basic weapons (Pulse cannons anyone?)... and I started to build freighters.
Now I know that last bit probably doesn't make sense... but I had a plan. The Drengin ships were slower than my ships at 4 speed vs. 7 speed on my freighters. The Terran Alliance was friendly and also next door. My plan was to build freighters and send them to Terran space. With luck the Drengin war machine would give chase out of its influence. IF I won the war and my "kiting" freighters survived, I could establish trade routes later. But for now they just existed to be fast distractions that flew away from my worlds. Plus all those war ships in Terran space would strain relations, and I knew the two were neighbors.
Several Drengin transports showed up at Arcea... and I was happy to have all those soldering bonuses. 3000 crack Drengin assault troops were repelled over several months time, but Arcea still took heavy losses, dropping from 16billion people down to just over 7 billion.
Worse, the Terrans, my OTHER neighbor also decided I was weakly looking, and demanded a large bribe (2600 bc with only 800 in my treasury). What could I do? I paid them
Yes, the game lets you pay any bribe, I just went deep into the red again. But when you pay a bribe your relationship improves greatly. This time I gambled and won. I paid the bribe hoping to improve relations. Then ON THE SAME TURN I landed all of my freighters that had been kiting on Terran worlds. The resulting relations boost got me to "Close" (whew) - and I traded everything including the farm (well, xeno farming) to get an alliance as soon as I could. And it worked! Yaaay! I have a big brother.Year 5 - A Foothold
But the alliance came after the war declaration, so the Terrans were still watching passively by as more Drengin troop transports approached my worlds. I traded with all the other civs for some more cash and a few more weapons and waited for the Terran trade fatigue to wear (thank goodness super diplomat). When I could finally trade again I paid the Terrans to declare war on the Drengin (and they were itching for a fight, it only cost me 18 bc!!!!!). I then also lease bought a few tiny fighters with some guns.
I know, I should have learned my lesson about leasing from the first TWO years of this game, right? But I needed to slow down the waves of Drengin transports... they were unescorted but packed 32 beam attack each, so unarmed ships couldn't cut it.
Fortunately the Drengin weren't expecting me to have ships, and with only 1HP the cargo hulls were easy pickings for my Super Warrior. With three tiny ships (3 attack each) I was able to wipe out 6 Drengin Transports in 1 turn (and they had a combined 192 attack!). This bought me some more time while the Terran war machine started to grind against the Drengin war machine.
Fortunately the Drengin force was out of position. Much of it was deep in Terran territory still chasing my few surviving freighters. They were easily surrounded and destroyed by the Terran military. Then the Terrans launched their attack, and looking I could tell the Drengin couldn't fight them.
Of course, I couldn't fight anyone either. But the Drengin's attention was now held by a real threat. I switched from building freighters to building troop transports, and on a few occasions rush bought the last few turns (no lease buying here, I just spent any excess cash I happened to have). I built half a dozen troop transports (which were fast) and flew them out to huddle near the Terran fleets rampaging through Drengin space.
The ultimate leech, as the Terran military destroyed defenders of a world my transports would swoop in and take it. Remember, I had researched all the planetary invasion techs, and my soldiers had a great 112 soldiering level. With the tag team of Terran combat ships to take care of defenders and my Arcean transports to finish off worlds not only did the Drengin start to fall quickly, but I tripled my world total.
Of course, as I started to get more worlds my expenses increased... and I needed to adjust again. I switched from military building to social building to start to build on all my new worlds (many were empty because there were so many improvements I couldn't use, and I've put no money to social for the FIRST five years of the game
). I ran out of money to rush buy transports so just decided to consolidate what I had taken. The Terrans, while slow about invading ended up taking several more Drengin worlds.
But I had Kora. And it was only a matter of time before Kona culture flipped to me. And when it finally did, it also happened to be the last Drengin world, so I got credit for conquering them. Not bad when I had only 3 tiny hull ships to my entire army.Year 6 - An Aggressive Partnership
But I finally, FINALLY had something to work with. I filled my planets with farms, banks and factories and went to an all industry, research focused strategy. I switched my sliders to 1/99/0 and started to kick out transports.
See, that was all I needed. I continually traded with the Terrans, who seeing me as their weak little brother were fairly happy to continually trade me military tech (but not miniturization or bigger hulls, grrr. That's what I really wanted!). And I was too happy to continually bribe them to fight war after war.
See, while my corner of the galaxy had been tense the rest of the universe had its own problems. The Korx had conquered the Iconians, and there were several races with only a half dozen worlds engaged in multiple wars, barely hanging on. One by one I bribed the Terrans to declare war on the civ near my borders, then I had my transports sulk behind their increasingly large and impressive fleets, and then I would grab a few more worlds. The Terrans usually finished the wars and grabbed the last few planets, but I was expanding.
The Korx were rather large, having already conquered several foes, and they had sent many freighters to my worlds. Still, I was starting to get my machine in place, so I bribed the Terrans to attack them and helped in cracking the Korx cartel to end this year...Year 7 - The Machine
You wonder what my survey ships had been doing, because near the end of year 6 I had first contact with the Yor! Here I thought some races had just been killed before I met them. The Yor also piled in against the Korx, and they were defeated under insurmountable numbers.
At this point the galaxy had an interesting balance. The Terrans owned just slightly less than half the galaxy, the Yor had about a third of the galaxy, and I had the tiny remainder. I was confident that combined with the Terrans we could defeat the Yor, but I hate Alliance wins... and really I would know that if it finished that way it was the Terrans who would have won the game. Still, I had never built a military outside of a few tiny ships, and with their huge military rating and worlds I couldn't risk breaking my Alliance with the Terrans as they were likely to turn on me.
So I had to be sneaky. I started to build constructors. Lots and lots and lots of constructors. I was willing to just sit back (Yor and Terrans had maxed the tech tree at this point, so slowing things down was advantage me... I needed to pick up some of those last techs everyone else had. For them more time gained them no more advantage at this point)
Sadly, war broke out between the Yor and Terrans anyway. I was along with my transports to get a share of the spoils, but I would wait to invade until a Terran transport was just a year or two away (they would then move to the recently conquered planet and get "stuck"... sitting there doing nothing adjacent to my planet for months) so that the assimilation of the Machine worlds went as slow as possible.
I spread out my constructors so that I had 16 in every Terran sector. Once I had done that I finally, finally started to test combat ships (remember, the point of this game).
I didn't have large hulls yet, but I did have black hole guns. I built a few ships with the Tulon component and fleeted them. Hmmmm, the bonus didn't stack. I see now how they are supposed to work, you have a "command ship" with the fleet booster - and because they are a large component that ship will be targeted last as it has the lowest total attack, and you surround it with higher attack craft.
My command fighter was called the Mobster - and came with a base attack of 80 guns. With all of my bonuses that went to a 177 attack, and then the Tulon component added another +35 for total attack on my medium command ships of 212. But I surrounded them with basic fighters called Thugs - and these puppies had a base attack of 176. With my bonuses that went to a 390 attack, and the Tulon module from the command ship added +77 to each of them for a total of 467 attack for each Thug (remember that +25% luck I had taken... oh yeah!). This meant that my fleets of 10 mediums had a total fleet attack of 4882.
This wasn't bad, but it wasn't good enough. Yor fleets of Dreadnaughts piled up with doom ray type weapons were packing 5k a fleet (thank goodness no suicidal bonuses for the Yor in this game, those should have been 8k attack fleets). I couldn't afford to let the Yor ever attack me, with medium fighters my attrition rate would be too high. But if I could attack I could wipe out the dreads without taking any damage due to super warrior. The Yor ships also were faster than me (9 to 8 speed). Therefore I had to add one more ship to my fleets.
To go with the Mobsters and Thugs I also built tons of Minions. A Minion was a tiny fighter with no guns and all engines. These suckers had 13 move, and would "pack up" around my fleets. Basically, for a fleet of 10 mediums I would also send maybe two dozen Minions. They would sit three to a square in the 8 squares around my fleet not in fleets themselves. Each one of those tiny fighters would soak up an entire move of those 5k Yor fleets. In the end, I was able to fight the Yor huge hulls without ever taking a single loss of a ship with guns on it (the Minions died in droves) and most of my Mobsters and Thugs had advanced to somewhere between level 7 and level 13.
I like how this works, although without the tiny hulls to prevent attrition I'm not sure I would approve of using medium hulls for an endgame-everyone-else-has-the-tech-tree-maxed game. While I've lost plenty of ships, I've never lost a "combat" ship, only unarmed ships all game. However, my starting to add damage to the Terran war machine meant that the Yor were being ground to nothingness.Year 8 - Betrayal
Well, I didn't have any large or huge ships, but I figured this was as good as it was going to get. I had to break my alliance with the Terrans before the last few Yor worlds disappeared, and they were down to 5 worlds between 3 systems.
I decided to make my move against the Terrans. I broke the Alliance, and broke my own bank building starbases...
I knew this was going to be a problem, so I had been stockpiling money. On the same turn I broke the alliance I built 3-4 military starbases in every Terran sector with a planet (those 16 constructors I had moved the previous year) and loaded them each up with -3 enemy speed and +1 to my speed. The Terran Alliance was larger, more powerful, and more wealthy than me... but if I declared war now their entire army was now also going to be instantly stuck.
I moved my fleets of minions to the starbases, and nervously started to move my fleets within 1-2 turns of the bordering Terran worlds. To their credit, the Terrans were pretty upset with all those aggressive starbases, but we had a long history of friendship, so they decided not to declare war. Their mistake.
Once my Minions were in place I attacked the border worlds. With my 4.8k attack fleets, luck and Super Warrior I could attack with no worry of the Terrans doing damage. Their fleets turned to fight me... and stopped.
See, their fleets were all reduced to 1 move, and it took them that one move to kill a single Minion. I had tarpitted the entire Terran force without firing a shot. This let my 3 fleets (I only had 30 medium fighters) roll the edge of the Terran Alliance at my leisure, easily destroying defenders without damage and then invading. They couldn't move, even when building and launching transports the transport would only get one space away. AND my forces had a between a +3 to a +4 speed boost from those same military starbases.
I lost Minions in droves, but never lost a single starbase, and conquered a little less than half of the Terran worlds in the year. I also conquered the last Yor worlds.Year 9 - Death by Paralysis
In fact, the Terrans never were able to move a ship more than a single space the rest of the game. Because they could never bring their numbers or economy to bear it was just a matter of time before my small, focused fleets turned border world after border world into my territory. In September of the 9th year the last Terran world fell.
I was excited, I was ecstatic! I had done it. I should have been dead. This was by far the single greatest comeback I have ever had. One world on a huge galaxy and -8k in the bank three years in and I came back to win. Whew. And then, I realized, no screenshots, nothing to memorialize the experience to show anyone how I did it. So, I decided to write this long and boring text-only AAR. Hope you enjoyed it.
And thanks Stardock for such a thrilling game. It was only possible through your hard work. Now I need to take a break with a nice relaxing suicidal game I think....