How can a game be considered "lucky" when it features the Dread Lords, the Jagged Knife, the galactic plague, and the galactic disease? Read on to find out...
Common stars, planets, and habitables
Part 1: The Storm Before The Calm
As 2227 dawned, my peace-loving Altarian civilization found itself located in a mid-sized cluster in the "north" half of the galaxy, home to a decent number of habitable planets. I swiftly made contact with four other major races: the Thalan and Korx, who were quite weak and immediately friendly, and the Torians and Drengin, who could not be described with either of those terms. Hostile Drengin are nothing new, but in this game the Torians were also quite aggressive, even to other good civilizations. Both also came out better in the colony race then I did, which was a serious concern. I did not meet any minor races, and it eventually proved that none actually existed, which may partially explain why this game had so many random events.
The galaxy as the colony rush ended. The Korx are in the cluster above and to the left of mine. The Torians and Thalan are in the two clusters immediately below.
Fortunately for the future of Altaria, just as both the Drengin and Torians began to make demands, I got a stroke of luck: the Jagged Knife mega event.
Incredibly, the JK had only taken two of my planets, both along the border I shared with the Torians and Drengin. This, along with the planets they had lost, created a buffer zone. This, combined with my lack of real trading partners due to the Thalan and Korx's feebleness, led me to make an unprecedented decision: I would leave the Jagged Knife alone, and even send freighters to them, so that they could absorb or at least slow down any Torian/Drengin offensive. In retrospect, I don't know why I expected this to work (given that the JK are usually pretty stupid), but it more or less did.
Well, at least until the Drath started bribing wars like mad.
I soon found myself at war with both the Drengin and the Torians, both of whom were also at war with each other and the Jagged Knife. This was obviously a complicated situation, and did not last long: after I gave the Torians a bloody nose, they made peace with me to concentrate on the Drengin, who were quite nasty. About this time, the galactic plague also broke out, further causing chaos.
I did have one key advantage over the Drengin, though - they absolutely would not research any defenses. And since both they and the Torians (to say nothing of myself and, as it turned out, every other major race but the Thalan) used mass drivers, I had been able to quickly race up the armor tech branch without fear of leaving my ships vulnerable to some other threat. This let me take most of their planets in my cluster and make a fair peace.
The wars slowly began to wind down.
Part 2: The Tide Turns
Around this time, the pathetic Iconians - an already-small civilization who had lost their best planet to the Drath, had three more defect to the I-League (who had shown up a while back) and were subsequently shoved around by anyone with a two-bit defender and an axe to grind - finally gave up the ghost, surrendering to the Korx.
I had no idea this could even happen in TOA.
This, along with conquering some Jagged Knife worlds, helped give the Korx a boost, allowing them to graduate from "non-entity" to "minor power". It was just in time - the Thalan, themselves newly strengthened from some extreme colonization, declared war on them.
Despite this annoyance, however, the situation was beginning to look up for the Altarians. My own extreme colonization techs had let me correct my poor showing in the first colonization race, and I had meanwhile flipped all but one of the remaining Drengin planets in my cluster to my control. In expectation of a second war with the Drengin, I had undergone a major military buildup, and as their Super Dominator Corvettes became technologically obsolete, they fell behind. Even the Torians seemed quiescent.
Then, this happened:
But once again, luck seemed on my side - they were absolutely nowhere to be found in the (by now fairly large) portions of the galaxy I had explored. Deciding to ignore the Dread Lords until they actually appeared, I slowly built a large alliance against the Drengin and nullified future threats from the Drath (who turned out to be very weak) by allying with them as well. Eventually the Drengin declared war on the Arceans and the second round began.
Almost immediately, I got another piece of luck:
In the span of literally two turns, the Yor - the most powerful civilization in the galaxy - became "good" and joined the war against the Drengin. In retrospect, by effectively eliminating the last potential hostile civilization, these two weeks were the moments where the game was won.
At the time, things looked a little more difficult, though. Of my allies (either formal alliance partners or just other civilizations fighting the Drengin), the Arceans, Terrans, and Yor were too far away, the Drath were too weak, and the Korx and Thalan were both weak and engaged in their own petty side conflict. This meant the only other race actively fighting the Drengin was the still-unfriendly Torians, who I did not want to see profit from the Drengin's demise.
Unexpectedly, however, the Torians - who I had thought were the stronger civilization - proved to be no match for the Drengin, and their military crumbled like moldy bread. My forces, which by now were beating the Drengin at every opportunity, were forced to step in and save the Torians, which had the side effect of raising their approval of me quite a lot. In the span of a few months, the Torians had gone from "Cool" to "Friendly".
Eventually, after a year or two of fighting, the Drengin caved and offered me peace. Since their military was utterly shattered and the Yor - still at war with them - at this point had a higher military rating then the Dread Lords, I agreed in the hope that they would quickly surrender to me (the AI is usually more likely to surrender to civilizations it's not at war with, it seems). The Drengin did surrender a few turns later, but it was to the Torians. However, by now they were my allies, so it didn't matter much.
The galaxy near the end of the Second Drengin War. All of the major civilizations' primary clusters were either known or could be guessed.
Part 3: The Long Peace
At this point, the game was all but won. The only civilization I was not yet formally allied with were the Yor, and they were friendly. However, I decided to try and play on until I had defeated the Dread Lords. They had still not been seen anywhere in known space, but their rising military might frightened most of the other civilizations into ending their wars. Thus began another unprecedented time in my GalCiv history: a period of over a year in which no major civilization went to war with another. The only conflict at all (beside the brief elimination of some ex-Drengin pirates) was the Yor's continuing efforts against the Jagged Knife, which effectively ended when the last JK world in their cluster fell. This long peace let me expand peacefully across the galaxy, rising to a total of 33 colonies, the largest in the game.
The era was almost immediately marred by the outbreak of galactic disease (this is a different event from the plague earlier - the plague kills populations, while the disease affects ability scores, which is actually much worse). But luck was on the Altarians' side yet again, in two ways (actually three, but more about that later). First, the fact that the disease appeared when it did was a big relief - if it had appeared only a few weeks earlier, it would have at the very least inconvenienced my cleanup of the Drengin. Second, much to my shock, I discovered that the I-League had somehow instantly developed the Disease Cure. Since they were perpetually bankrupt (apparently a product of the worthless Iconian worlds that had defected earlier), it was not hard at all to get it from them. The dreaded disease thus ended in a period of only a week.
There was only one problem with this easy solution: with tech brokering off, it was impossible to trade the cure to the AIs. The powerful Yor and Terrans got it on their own with no trouble, and the Torians and Korx eventually researched it as well. But the Drath, Thalan, and Arceans never did, leaving their increasingly enfeebled civilizations to flounder around uselessly throughout the years. Particularly bizarre was the case of the Thalan, who repeatedly began researching the cure, but always abandoned it to instead study such vital techs as Space Mining II.
This sequence in particular gave a whole new meaning to "research bug".
Still, this wasn't really that much of a problem: with the Dread Lords still MIA, it wasn't as if I actually needed their help for anything.
Part 4: The Dread Lords Finally Arrive
Eventually, over a year since the end of the Drengin war - and quite a few years since they had actually arrived - I finally discovered the shocking truth about what had happened to the Dread Lords: they, too, had been affected by the galactic disease. Because of their unique nature, most of their important abilities weren't actually affected, but one was: speed. I had long since guessed that their homeworld was located in the small cluster on the very "southern" edge of the galaxy (as can be seen in some of the screenshots above). And what the disease meant was that Dread Lord ships would have to make the long trek from that cluster to known space at the blistering speed of...
2 parsecs per week.
Eventually, the Dread Lords' main battle line (five ships moving as a group, including a 175-attack battleship) managed to shamble its way to one of the Terrans' distant mining starbases and destroy it. In response, the Terrans descended upon them en masse with a vast horde of literally dozens of fleets, resulting in a protracted and incredibly bloody battle. Four of the Dread Lord ships were destroyed, but their battleship was not, and the Terrans lost at least a hundred ships.
Pink icons are Dread Lord ships, blue icons are Terran fleets.
While this apocalyptic confrontation raged on, I sent a fleet of twelve fast, heavily-armed Altarian warships to the Dread Lord homeworld in order to quickly take it and end the menace. The Yor had declared war on the Arceans (forcing me to break my alliance with them), and while I was glad of the chance to finally ally with the Yor, I wanted to go ahead and eliminate the Dread Lords so I could accomplish my self-imposed goal and win my alliance victory. But one obstacle stood in my way: a Dread Lord "escort" with ten points of armor that guarded their homeworld. Because of how the combat system works, this meant almost certain death for any fleet of mine that engaged it. The only option was to switch to another weapons tree and slowly work my way up it.
And then came the final, hilarious moment of Altarian luck. For no reason that I will ever understand, the Dread Lords launched their escort and sent it to attack the Torian planet of Nugent II - literally the entire galaxy away - leaving their homeworld defended only by three transports and an unarmed scout. I eliminated this joke in a single turn and invaded with 4,500 legions. In a final moment of surreality that I can only attribute to the effects of the disease, the "invincible" Dread Lord ground defenders failed to inflict a single casualty.
The Arceans had surrendered during the meantime, so I had been forced to break off my alliance with the Thalan in order to prevent the game from ending. Fortunately, they were heavily dependent on my trade, so it was only a matter of weeks before they went back to "Close" and I was able to reestablish my alliance. I won my questionably-earned Diplomatic Victory one week later on January 1, 2235, thus ending eight years of one of the more random event-filled and generally strange games of Twilight I've ever played.
(Since I know this is going to be mentioned at least once in the comments if I don't say something - my ongoing Terran AAR will resume no later than Saturday).