Sirian's Restaurant of Eternity
Strategies for Galactic Civilizations


AFTER ACTION
Specializing in Nothing At All


Difficulty Rating: Masochistic
Galaxy Size: Medium
Habitability: Normal
AI Alignments: Standard
AI Intelligence: All Incredible
Political Party: Universalist
Bonus Picks: None - all 10 picks unused!
Ctrl-N: Once
Spoilers: No
Replayed: No
Version: 1.12
I decided to try my hand at playing without any of the bonus picks. Primarily, I wanted more challenge. Secondarily, I was curious as to whether my score would be boosted by leaving all the bonus picks on the table. I had to pick a political party, though, so I chose Universalist, the only one to fit with the theme. (We specialize in nothing in particular! So sayeth the startup screen.)
The first map it handed me, I had a sorry little patch of space, only a couple of stars. I didn't want to double up the challenge. I wanted to give "no picks" a run in a fairly normal terrain situation. So I hit Ctrl-N and got another map. This one looked good. I had my own cluster (or at least no major on top of me) and it had a fair share of stars. Unfortunately, Earth was at one far end of the cluster, so I would have to work hard to grab all of "my" planets before an AI could poach any of the most distant ones.
Earth was PQ19, and there was also a 16 in the Sol system. A few tiles to the south, a green star had two PQ14's and a 13. I decided to settle the PQ16 in Sol system with my colony ship, and as usual for me, I cranked my military production and started to build colony ships. From Earth every three turns, from Sol IV every five turns.
Unsettled stars were all to my east. The first colony ship was sent out with 200mil, the second with 160mil, the third with 100mil. My surveyor was also being used chiefly for scouting, though he did pick up the anomalies he passed.
Oh bad news. I've got three sectors in my cluster, in effect, and Sol is the only yellow in the first two! I hope I get some yellows in that far distant third sector! The middle sector had one star with three PQ14's, though, and this being a medium map, I would have to settle that just to extend my range to the far sector. So the third colony ship, with 100k on board (more than I'd like for a 14) will have to settle in the middle sector, while my larger colony ships speed on past. At least they won't have to sit waiting for range to extend, by doing it that way.
So the next four colony ships I built all got only 50mil on them and were sent to the PQ14's, which are worth grabbing right away because there is no life support costs to them. (No income, either, so the spending they do increases the rate of debt, but that's OK. They help out a lot with deficit research to speed those first couple of essential techs, and they have other uses, too, depending on the map: scouts, more colony ships, prebuilding for battleaxes, etc). I got a PQ event at one of the 14's in the middle sector: +20%, which turned it into a PQ17, but gave me a 5 or 6 point alignment hit. Meanwhile, my lead colony ships make into the third sector and find exactly two yellow stars. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. :) The most distant one is a PQ18, with also an 11 and a 12 there. The nearer one has a PQ16 and a 15. I lack a colony ship to settle the 15 right away! But no worries.
The very first colony ship I built, beelining to the far edge of my territory, beat out some Yor colony ships by only two turns. Yikes. Maybe it was actually lucky for me there were no yellows in the middle sector, as I would have settled there with the first colony ship if there had been, and missed out on the best planet in my space, and had serious woes with a major owning a planet in the same sector as my only other yellow star! That could have been a nightmare. Anyway, I built one more colony ship at Earth, to grab the PQ13 at the adjacent star, but would not actually settle the 13 (and start paying the life support costs) until I was ready to go 100% social spending and speed my way to soil/habitat.
I still needed a colony ship to grab the PQ15, and decided I might as well grab that 12, too, in the same system as the 18. I researched my own way up to Trade, and then while my planets in the east built colony ships, Earth and Sol IV built freighters. Three of them, to be precise. All the PQ14's prebuilt for defense ships. I soon met the Torians and Altarians. Yor were below me two sectors, and had two planets. Altarians were down in the SE corner, and they had two planets. The Yor and Altarian second planets were in the same sector, so one would eventually flip. We'd have to see which way that broke, almost surely depending on who grabs an influence starbase. Toria had four systems! Yikes. They were in the SW corner. I sent one each of my three freighters to these AI's. Drengin turned out to be just north of Toria, with two systems. The Arceans were packed in with the minors in the NW corner. Two planets for Arcea, two for Alex, one for Cari. When I settled the remaining PQ15, I drew a bad event: polar ice caps. I could take either a major hit on productivity at one of my few good planets (making it worth less than a PQ14) or I could take a ten point alignment hit (ouch!) and get a 23% productivity boost. I opted for the latter, which dropped me down to into the mid-30s on alignment. Good for getting along with the Yor, but could be rough vs those strong Torians.
With zero diplomatic boost, my trading options were limited. I made some trades, but didn't get very much for what I gave. Still, what else could I do?
Relations with Toria started to drop before my freighter arrived, and I decided I had better distract them, to avoid an early war. So I paid for them to attack the Drengin, then paid for the Arceans to attack Toria. I hoped that the two of them would be a decent match for Toria and that this would buy me time.
Well, that worked at first. And the Torians even came to peace with both opponents without taking over any planets. While that was going on, I had settled three PQ14's, a 13 and a 12 out in the middle of the map, two systems in the dead center, one off the west of Yor space. The PQ14 in map center got a +14% PQ event, which I took, turning it into a PQ16 and dropping me to Evil 30, with a change of alignment officially to Evil that lasted about ten seconds, as I took a +1 good event when I settled the PQ13. So I'm now sitting on 31 alignment. Unfortunately, several things then went very wrong for me next. First, in the renewed war a couple of years later, the Torians really started giving it to the Drengin. Second, one of the two Alexian planets flipped to the Arceans. Third, a new minor showed up in the back corner of Torian space, and Toria took them over quickly. Fourthly, the second Yor planet flipped to Altaria. Fifthly, the Drengin collapsed and Toria took over their planets, giving them seven systems! Finally, the Altarians lost patience with my near-evil alignment and declared war on me, and Toria joined in with them, leaving the Arceans and Yor as my only trading partners, and the last Yor planet had rebels and might flip to Altaria! Here's the map at this grim point in the game, where being evil no longer looked so appealing.
My military at that point was almost all battleaxes. I partially funded my trade shortfall by selling a pack of techs to Alex for cash paid out over 20 turns. I had managed to research battleships, and then while building them, Arcea offered to trade me Dreadnaught tech for TerraComputers. I took it. The Altarians invaded and conquered the double-PQ14 system just off the Yor space, and I gave the other new settlements to the Arceans, but the Torians declared on them and took them over anyway! So for the first time ever, grabbing some extra low-PQ planets backfired and bit me hard. (Hard!) I had essentially handed five extra planets to my enemies!
I then spent all I could on shipbuilding, for many many turns in a row. Years in a row, even. I was in a deadly war against the two good civs. The last Yor planet flipped to Altaria. Before they vanished, I traded the dying Yor all my tech and trade goods for their five starbases on resources. My spanking new enemies then killed off four of the five in short order, but I did manage to protect the one military resource right on my southern border, at least for the moment. They stopped targetting it heavily after that, and instead started to bring the combat transports -- at least Altaria did. Torians were still sending only warships. I figure their transports were focusing on Arcean targets, which were closer to them.
I managed to build enough dreads to achieve a military stalemate. A couple of Torian dreads reached my border worlds, but I fought them off. Arceans traded me Cloaking for Drones. I made peace with Altarians and got a few minor techs out of them, even, and then concentrated my thin forces against the Torian fleet. As I got them weaker, I was able to pay Arcea to attack them again, for like 32bc over 99 turns. I built some Anti-Matter Missiles for the first time in ages, but they only managed to kill enemy targets half the time. Well, for the cost of two of those, I could have a Dreadnaught instead, which when it managed to kill, would survive, limp home, repair and fight on another day, with a more experienced crew. I stopped building the AMM's.
I took peace with Toria and spent the time between building a pack of trade goods. I lost the Tir-Quan Training to Toria, but I nabbed Micro Repair Bots, Ultra Spices, Virtual Reality Modules, Harmony Crystals, and Eyes of the Universe. Altarians traded me Ranger tech for TerraComputers. Then they were soon back to war with me again, and I was back to building ships at my best sustainable rate, fueled once again by having sold a pack of techs to Alex. In fact, I sold them just in time, a SINGLE TURN before Alexians got the "steal all the tech of the leading major" event. Whew, close call! Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
Despite getting Ranger tech, I had spent so many turns on 100% military, and then some on 100% social building wonders, my tech was really sad compared to the other powers now. The Arcean military was folding before the Avatars of the Torians, and I was feeling desperate, as even my new Rangers could not stack up against the AI once they started to produce Avatars. I had to do something!
That's my first Ranger rolling off the assembly lines at Earth, where I had all my unique manufacturing items stacked. I've actually got two starbases. One is an Economics starbase to my north. The other is the military base I got from the dying Yor, inside my population bubble, on the south side of my blue region. I've managed to sneak out a few more contructors here or there, to mine that military resource. I eked out Nano Mining tech, too, to allow me to mine some more, though it was painful to divert even that little bit of production into research. Once I had the thing mined up to 53%, though, the boost from it was significantly reducing my death rate. I could even attack an enemy ranger with a Dread and win, sometimes. Other times, my first ship would die, the second would win and limp home. There was one heroic Torian ranger that took out three full capital ships and nearly killed a fourth, but most of the time, in fact, my ships would kill and limp home with a few hit points, or lose one attacker but follow up strong with a second. My attrition rate was not quite sustainable, I was slipping, but the slip was slow, rather than catastrophic. Still, I HAD TO find a way to turn this around.
Defense wasn't going to cut it. So I built some combat transports and gathered most of my ships into a stack and set off to attack the former Yor homeworld. I managed to divide the largely beaten down Altarian forces, meanwhile distracting the Torians by buying the Arceans back into the war a second time. My attack force reached the Altarian target as their first Avatars were coming out to greet me. Luckily, I had built the Grav Accelerators in the early game, along with most of the early trade goods -- Aphrodisiac, Translators, Ultra Spices, etc. So I had a speed edge, and my ships were able to outrun Altaria's slow Avatars whenever I wanted, as they didn't have enough to triangulate me. I managed to land an attack force on the Yor planet, take it over, and capture Transporter tech. That gave me access to Teleporters, which my pathetic morale situation sorely needed. I actually stopped producing military during a war to build morale buildings, as all my planets were sitting on 51 morale. The next turn, though the Yor planet I had captured was already threatening to flip back! My influence was BEYOND PITIFUL. Of the entire map, I controlled only two sectors! That's right. I didn't even control all three of my OWN sectors! The middle sector saw the Torians with 300+ influence, and my triple PQ14 planet with about 230 influence. Wow. So there was nothing for me to do but to abandon the Yor homeworld. At least I had managed to hurt Altaria a little bit.
I accepted peace from Altaria, built a round of freighters, and sent them south. My tribute from Alex had dried up, and my economy was so totally in the drink, it was beyond sad. I took the time to build economic exchanges everywhere, which only put me further behind on the tech tree, but my trade ships had been shot down by the Torians and I had no trade at all. I could only manage 18% research spending! Very very sad. For all my shaky military position, the upkeep on the dreads and rangers I did have was killing me. I had to get my economy up, both morale so I could raise taxes and pure economy, as most of my planets were well short of their 4X-PQ income ceiling.
As my freighters were arriving -- one actually connected -- Altarians redeclared war, informing me that evil scum like me had to be purged. I turned my freighters around. I had sent six, even though I only had five trade routes total. One connected and that was lost. Another got shot down, but four actually made it back out of there, after being within one or two turns of their target planets. Whew. The Altarians tried to resettle the Yor homeworld, which was a PQ16 now. I shot down two colony ships with 6bil to 7bil Altarians on each one. (Wow, billions dying in space. Nasty way to go). Their third attempt snuck past me somehow, or came from a different direction. I had to go after the same planet again! I loaded up about six full combat transports and sent two toward the Yor planet, the rest deeper into Altarian space with my whole fleet.
On the recapture of the Yor world, I learned Planetary Destruction tech. The Arceans then offered to trade me Avatar tech for that, and I was in business! Plus I had used WMD's to diminish the planet quality, so when I abandoned it this time, the AI lost interest in resettling it. My second effort to capture a planet targetted the Altarian econ/manu capital system. I did not manage to win -- they had star system defenses -- but I did take the pop down from a combined 60bil to about 15bil. That helped weaken them.
I made peace with both Altaria and Toria at that point, nabbing Terraforming and some other techs in the peace deals, and was ready to sit back and do some social spending. I wanted to terraform all my planets, try to boost my economy and such. But for reasons unknown to me, Altaria was back at war with me the next turn. No message saying why, no notice of being attacked. Just... war. And Toria was right back to war, too, ance their new alliance with Altaria kicked in.
Sigh. This meant I got no break, no reprieve. So I built another massive wave of transports and used my few new warships to fend off Torian attackers. My four frieghters made an end around to the far north and finally connected with Arceans to give me some trade again. That helped. Yet I essentially had to make hay while the sun was shining. Altaria was building new Avatars, but they were slow. I ran several of them out into deep space, chasing a ranger, and then finally got my transports down into Altarian space. I used WMD's on invasion to kill the planet quality. I captured then abandoned one of their smaller worlds. I then finally (barely) managed to take out their econ capital. Both worlds were hit so hard by the Core Detonation, they dropped to PQ11's (not counting soil/habitat). AND YET... the Carinoids had a live trade route with that system, which more than paid for the costs of keeping one of the planets there as a PQ12. So I kept the planet this time, and I also kept it because it extended my range to allow me to attack two VITAL starbases at the bottom of the map. One was the Altarian influence base that was so dominating me on culture. The other was the built-up Torian military resource that was giving them an equalizing factor to my military starbase. My lone Ranger in the area, being chased by four or five Altarian Avatars and with Torian Avatars now closing from the west, managed to take out these two vital starbases. And that was the turning point in the game!
After the longest, most grueling, grind-me-down war I've ever played on Maso (and not lost), playing from a hole, against two major superpowers with me having only one sorry little ally, I had turned the tide. I could now KEEP the Altarian planets I captured, and not have them flip away. I could not fight Torian ships with many fewer losses. Torians would be weakened vs Arcean allies too. And I had the bulk of the Altarian fleet doing circles in deep space while my transports, with bare bones escorts, closed on their remaining planets.
I also finally got some more morality events, and choosing (as some significant cost for my current treasury and economy) the good options, brought my alignment back toward neutral and eased up on the Torian pressure between wars.
I managed to finish off the Altarians, but as I did, an Arcean ship that had orders to attack a Torian ship, which I had killed, attacked me instead because I was in the tile it was sent to attack! (That has GOT TO BE a bug. Friendly fire is one thing, but this is ridiculous. Allies who have a friendly fire incidient do not automatically go to war over it! Stardock needs to fix that, because it's unfair and it's broken). I now lost all of my trade again!
Well, I managed to weather that storm, get the Arceans back to peace. Meanwhile, I spent like twenty turns in a row doing terraforming, plus picking up the wonders from Regeneration, which I traded for. Well, blah, Torians beat me to Pain Amps by one little turn. Very frustrating. But I did get the Regenerators. Torians went to war with me one more time, and our avatars clashed a bit. I won the brunt of that, though, me now backed by a full military resource, them no longer having any.
So I re-establish trade with the Arceans, and what happens? I draw the random event where terrorists (from my side) assassinate their leader while on a visit to one of my systems. Back to war with Arcea, my trade routes wiped out YET AGAIN (worst trading situation I've ever had in a game where I wasn't just rolled up in the early game by an enemy frigate rush while I'm in my infancy). And corvettes pop out all over the map to support the Arcean war. They only managed to kill of my many starbases, and I would get it back, but still. That was interesting. I should not have cheaped out on espionage with Arcea. The event would have been avoided if I had invested in some espionage with them.
With the Torians also at war with Arcea, they had nowhere to send their freighters except to me, and me to them. So we traded freighters. ALL of our freighters. Relations went from Wary to Cool, to Neutral, to Warm. Go figure. My arch-enemy Torians, now solidly engaged in relations.
I tried for the Terraformer, investing fully thirty turns at max research into EvolutionControl, only to have Arcea beat me to the tech by six turns and to the wonder by about two. Blah and double blah, lots of bad breaks for me this game. I mopped up the rest of the game's available wonders and trade goods, ended in the high 50's on alignment (which was recorded as Chaotic Good, when in fact I was Chaotic Evil for almost the entire game). The Torians eventually beat down the Arceans, who surrendered their last planet to me in August 2204, at which point I took my well deserved Alliance Victory and eked out of one of my most grueling, came-close-to-losing-but-pulled-it-out games ever. Only my Beyond Human win early in my Maso career was a tighter game.
Was my score boosted by going short on picks and embracing a stiffer challenge? Nope, not at all. Just a typical Medium map score, just short of 30k points, no fanfare.
My only reward for undertaking a brutal challenge? The satisfaction of overcoming it. So much for the vaunted scoring system. My two roughest games ever, my two strongest victories in the face of long odds, have both been dissed by the scoring. Go figure. :)
I had a blast, though. This was one of my most intense GalCiv games to date. You can be sure I'll try another no-picks game again at some point!
Check that military performance! And no respect for that, either, it seems. 1600 points? Who do I have to lay to get a decently representative military score around here anyway? :)
Well, I hope you had fun reading this. If you try your own no-picks game, I wish you luck. You may need some!

- Sirian

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