Darloks, Impossible, Small, 4 Opponents
I have the worst record of any race with the Darloks in Master of Orion. Worse than the Bulrathi, even worse than the poor Mrrshans. Something about the playstyle of the Darloks has never quite worked for me, causing me to lose games with them consistently despite the fact that they have abilities that should put them ahead of the other weak races. Aside from having a poor record with the Darloks, they are also my least favorite race to play in the game, which may be part of the reason why I've often failed to see much success with them. Since I've never written about a Darlok game previously on my website, I'll run through a quick refresher on their racial abilities. The Darloks are shapeshifters; you never see what they actually look like, only a cloaked and hooded figure in this game's still-awesome graphics from 1993. The Darlok specialty is espionage, and they get a massive bonus to their spying abilities: +30 to all of their espionage rolls, if I remember the number correctly. This makes them much better at stealing technology than any other race (at equal Computers tech a normal spy has 15% chance to succeed on a tech steal; Darlok spies have a 45% chance to succeed!), and tech thefts are very powerful indeed in Master of Orion. Furthermore, the Darloks are rated "Good" in Computers research which synergizes well with their spying abilities and allows them to get even better over time. They also have no penalties to their research in any other field. Based on this information, they would appear on paper to be one of the game's best races.
However, this overlooks the crippling penalty of the Darloks: they have horrendous diplomacy with all races. While the Humans start out with "Relaxed" relations with all races, the Darloks begin the game with "Uneasy" relations across the board. No one likes or trusts a shapeshifter, and with good reason. In Master of Orion, this is a serious penalty indeed. Unlike in the Civilization games, where the AI will always talk to the player and agree to sign peace after a set number of turns, the MOO AI offers no such crutches. When the AI thinks it's winning, it will refuse to sign peace under any circumstances. Given the massive bonuses that the AI enjoys on Impossible difficulty, avoiding early war is always to the benefit of the player, and the races that struggle to avoid early war typically provide the greatest challenge. When playing as the Darloks, warfare and conflict are almost unavoidable. Even the Mrrshans can sometimes draw a game without any of their racial enemies present and get a pass on diplomacy. Not the shapeshifters. They will always struggle with relations in every game, and when someone else inevitably comes attacking, this race has no economic benefits to prop them up like the Klackons or the Sakkra.
Their spying abilities also come with some serious drawbacks. While stealing techs is indeed very powerful, other races don't much like being spied upon. If the player wants to engage in tech thefts, it's inevitable that they will be caught eventually, and that will further sour the already poor relations that the Darloks suffer under. This is a brilliant piece of game design, by the way, with the racial strength of the Darloks being counterbalanced by a weakness that fits them perfectly from a thematic perspective. Success or failure on tech thefts relies on dice rolls though, and hinging the fate of your game on random luck can sometimes backfire badly. It's also worth pointing out a fairly basic truth about spying: you can only steal techs that someone else already possesses. That means the Darloks can, at best, equal the technology that another race holds using their racial ability, as opposed to the Psilons who can zoom out into fields that no one else understands. And it's not like espionage is the only way to obtain the secrets of other races either: invading and capturing their planets tends to work better and lead to a stronger position.
Now with all that said, the power of Darlok espionage is not to be overlooked. There's a giddy feeling when you're able to get ahead in Computers tech and start picking the tech tree clean of a rival empire. The Darloks can also wreck havoc by framing other races for their thefts, something that other races can only do when they have a massive advantage in Computers. While the Darloks have a high skill cap to use properly, they can be strong in the right circumstances. It's just that this race suffers from real penalties, and in order to use their racial ability, they have to make those penalties worse. Sirian summed up the Darloks by writing, "If you decide to play this race, you will have to take your chances at some point, and lady luck will not always grant you her favor." Darlok games tend to be... interesting. Not boring, that's for sure. Let's see what this one would hold for me.
I decided to play on a Small map this time. I love the gameplay on Small maps, where the miniscule number of stars (24 in total) ensures that every planet holds enormous value. There's little in the way of micromanagement, no need to go through three dozen worlds and build planetary shields or do terraforming on each one, and the player can focus almost entirely on strategic concerns. Now the tradeoff is that Small maps tend to be the hardest ones to play, just as Huge maps tend to be the easiest. Time is on the player's side in Master of Orion, and the more space there is between empires, the better it is for the player. Generally speaking, you want those AI death fleets to be 15 parsecs away and with each side holding two dozen planets (reducing the blow of losing one), as opposed to the AI being 3 parsecs away and each of you holding three or four planets. While I tend to play on Medium maps most often, I do enjoy the gameplay here in these tight quarters.
This particular map had three stars in immediate range of Nazin, two yellows and a green. That was good news, as neither yellow star could have an AI opponent this close and all three locations had good odds to hold Habitable planets. For strategic concerns, I sent the colony ship to the southern yellow, as it would help open a path to those stars off to the southeast if it held a usable planet. I sent my scouts off to the green and red stars to the southeast and northeast respectively, needing to control those locations as soon as possible. On a Small map, there's no time to waste. With only five other yellow stars on the whole map, four of them would hold AI opponents. There would very likely be AI races at the southern yellow star and at least one of the two northern yellow stars, maybe both of them.
My colony ship found an Ocean 65 world at the nearby yellow star, excellent. After the rest of the scouts fanned out, here's what they discovered:
The immediate neighborhood was exactly what I wanted: all three stars next to my capital held Habitable worlds! In addition to the Ocean 65 world to the south, there was also another Ocean 85 world with Fertile ecology at the green star to the southwest, and a Terran 90 world at the yelllow to the northwest. On face value I had colonized the weakest of the three options, but due to strategic extension of range I think it was still the right choice to grab the Ocean 65 world first. Off to the east, there were two more Arid planets, both of decent size. Unfortunately there were two empty stars to the north and south, although that might limit AI intrusions into my territory down the road. A Tundra and Toxic pair rounded out the bunch. I would definitely get the four planets in my immediate little box, and that's enough to be competitive on a Small map, if nowhere close to being in a winning position. The real key to this map would be those Arid planets. If I could get up to six worlds, a quarter of the galaxy, then I'd be in business.
That was going to be easier said than done, however. I had high hopes for the Arid planet in the southeast, which was only 5 parsecs away (the other one was 6 parsecs distant). This was clearly a Range 5 game if I ever saw one, since Range 4 would be useless to me. My tech tree in this game refused to play along, however: there was no Range 5 available, argh. I would have to research Range 4 and then hope that Range 6 was available at the next run of the Propulsion tree if I were to have any hope of claiming these planets. Making matters worse, my Planetology tree was an equal dud: Controlled Barren the only tech in the first rung, no Terraforming +10, no Improved Eco Restoration. Yuck. I was going to have to sink a sizable chunk of research into techs that did nothing in the hopes of getting further down the tree to techs that would actually be helpful. And I needed to do that before any of the Impossible AIs with their enormous bonuses could manage to claim the disputed territory. This was not going to be easy.
I dropped one turn's worth of research into Planetology and Propulsion to seed the fields, then tricked research from the second colony while the homeworld kept building factories. I did not need additional range to expand, and as a result Nazin went straight onto colony ships once it was close to maxing out in population and factories. While it was doing that, the cheap Range 4 research completed and I had my view of the next rung of Propulsion tech:
The good news was that all three techs were available. The bad news was the cost of those techs: 3240 RP to discover Range 6 tech? Ouch! That's ten times the cost of Range 4 tech, and more than triple the cost of Range 5. Well, at least I had Range 6 there as an option at all, which wasn't guaranteed. This could have been worse. I selected Range 6 and began crawling towards it at my best possible speed, which wasn't very fast. I did take the time to seed the tech with another turn's worth of research from Nazin, pausing the colony ship construction for a single turn. I generally only do this in the very early game, and this was significant enough to be worth the effort.
Turns passed quietly with minimal contact from the AI races thus far. I had seen blue Silicoid ships buzzing around in the southeast, and yellow Sakkra ships in the northeast. They were definitely located at the yellow stars in those directions. More concerning were the GNN reports about AI expansion. It was the Meklars who were the first ones to three planets, unusual for them, and then the Meklars again as the first ones to six planets. Uh oh. I guessed from this that the Meklars had started alone at one of the two yellow stars in the east, with no one next to them. That would give them free run on about a third of the galaxy, and create the potential for a runaway empire. The Meklars are one of the worst possible AIs to be in a runaway situation, if also one of the least likely to find themselves in that position. Could be trouble down the road.
Early on, I built a few Long Range laser ships and sent them down to the Arid planet (Rana) in the southeast. These were the standard pathetically weak early designs: Medium size packing a whole 2 lasers each, almost useless in actual combat. They can chase away an armed colony ship or a handful of Small ships though, and that's what I needed while tediously researching to Range 6 tech. Over time, I chased off several Silicoid attempts to claim the planet:
Here's my proud fleet pushing away the third or fourth Silicoid effort at colonizing Rana. Cryslon had to be the yellow star located to the south of this area, at what looked to be 5 parsecs distance. Fortunately the rocks seemed to be more interested in colonizing elsewhere on the map, and never sent much in the way of a fleet against me. This was essentially a bluff, a token military force designed to look tough and hopefully scare away anyone else. It would fold right away against any actual show of force. Meanwhile, my Planetology research had also riped into completion, and I found another tech gap at the second rung. I had a choice between Terraforming +20 and Controlled Dead, but no access to Controlled Tundra. That was what I needed for the planet in the northeast, Willow, where I was also hoping to stake a claim. I decided to go after Controlled Dead tech, as otherwise I would be entirely conceding control of that planet up there. Perhaps that was a mistake, but I felt that I could always trade for terraforming techs, or simply steal them as the Darloks. Colonizing an additional planet is a big deal on a Small map.
The Council met very early in this game, about as early as I've ever seen it. It was sometime in the 2340s, and the first vote was followed shortly thereafter by another meeting in 2350. I was nominated against the Meklars both times and was able to vote for the borgs in each election. This boosted relations all the way up to the "Relaxed" range, which was very good news. The Meklars were clearly shaping up to be the big dogs in this galaxy, and I wanted no part of an early conflict with them. The discovery of Range 6 tech brough contact with the Silicoids and the Sakkra, located in the southeast and northeast as expected. It also finally let my colony ship reach its destination at Rana:
I was pleasantly surprised that I managed to claim this located as my fifth planet. When Range 5 was missing from my tech tree, I thought there was a good chance that someone else would beat me here. A little bit of planning and a good bit of luck was enough to see me through to the prize. Note as well the line of ships streaming over to Rana behind the colony ship. Those are batches of laser fighters out of Nazin; I would construct about 60 of them in the hopes of holding the planet. Rana was very exposed and I would need to spend heavily on defenses there for safety. Fortunately, the planet would never come under serious attack in the early game - perhaps because I did have those laser fighters there? - and I was able to build up its factories in peace.
Sadly, I did not have as much luck elsewhere in the center of the map. The Sakkra colonized the other Arid planet, and the Psilons chased away my Long Range laser ships that were guarding the Tundra planet in the northeast before I even had Controlled Dead tech finished. Yeah, that was probably a bridge too far. Between the bad luck on the Range tech situation and also missing Controlled Tundra from my Planetology tree, these weren't going to be planets I controlled, at least not out of the gate. Thanks to the new Psilon colony, I now had contact with all races and a good view of the galactic map:
As mentioned above, I ended up with five planets, four in my central core and then Rana out by itself. The Silicoids had four scattered planets, including a pair of Toxic worlds near my area of space. It was slightly unlucky having the Silicoids close by, since I would have had a good claim on one or both of those planets under other conditions. Then again, perhaps another race would have focused more heavily on Rana instead of sending their ships off to new colonies at the Toxic planets. In the north, the Sakkra and Psilons each had a pair of planets, and they appeared to be the weaklings of this particular galaxy. Finally, the Meklars were off in the far east, with six planets and room to expand down the road when their Planetology tech improved. While one of those three empty stars had to be Orion, the other two likely held Hostile worlds that they would get eventually, unless the Silicoids could hop over there via an AI cheese alliance and lay claim to them. I was hoping that would happen; the rocks were looking a lot less dangerous than the cyborgs.
My relations were surprisingly good for a Darlok leader. For the most part, anyway. I had gotten on the good side of the Meklars by voting for them twice in the Council. With the Silicoids and the Sakkra, I had done all I could: signed trade agreements and crossed my fingers. A lot of what the AI does in these situations comes down to chance. Relations had been boosted over time up to "Neutral", and I was hoping they would continue to climb from there. The Psilons though, they were the fly in the ointment. I signed them up to a trade deal as well, only for them to declare war two turns after first contact:
That was despite their Pacifist personality too. Ah well, it wouldn't be a Darlok game without some kind of early conflict to work around. Now the Psilons themselves were not a major concern. They were a weak empire and lacked the range to threaten most of my planets. In fact, I was hoping that I could get some additional technologies and then make a play for their Tundra world in the northeast, once I could settle there. No, the danger wasn't the Psilons themselves, it was the fear that they would bring in other races against me via the AI alliances. Since the default state of relations with the Darloks is "Unease", relations with everyone else would be under constant pressure to return to that natural state. It's quite easy for one AI war declaration to spread to others via the network of cheese alliances, and suddenly the player is at war with the whole galaxy and facing a diplomatic defeat in the next Council vote. I had to do everything possible to avoid that.
Fortunately, warfare is often a situation where the Darlok racial abilities shine. With no need to worry about the diplomatic consequences, I could cut my spies loose against the Psilons and tell them to steal everything in sight. I emphasized Computers tech in my own research as soon as I had the initial Propulsion/Planetology techs for the opening sequence, and my spies didn't disappoint me:
Over the following two dozen turns, I stole one technology after another from the poor Psilons. First I went for Improved Eco Restoration, the gold standard tech for jump-starting economic growth in Master of Orion, and managed to land it on the first Planetology attempt. Next up I went for more Computer tech and managed to land the top Psilon tech in the field, Battle Computer II. (They weren't very advanced in tech.) That was a nice pickup for me, since I had opened my Computers research with Deep Space Scanner. Then I began selectively taking the techs that appeared to be most useful, picking up Duralloy Armor and Fusion Bombs, before returning back to Computers tech whenever it was available. My spies were stealing new data from the brains almost every turn; that research center at Willow must have had a revolving door on the front entrance.
Even better, I was able to start framing other races for my tech thefts. Despite what the image shows, I decided to frame the Silicoids and did so about three times in a row. This caused the diplomatic result that I had hoped for, getting the Psilons to declare war on the Silicoids. Since the rocks had an alliance with the Sakkra, it also brough the lizards into the war against the Psilons. In big picture terms, I knew that the Meklars were going to come after me eventually. It was inevitable, and since they were always going to vote for themselves in the Council, I didn't need to worry too much about building up relations with the cyborgs. It was more important to keep the Silicoids and Sakkra happy with me, ideally holding their votes in the Council while pursuing a campaign against first the weak Psilons, and then the powerful Meklars. For the moment, my goal of lining up a galactic war of Darloks/Silicoids/Sakkra versus Meklars/Psilons seemed to be working.
I did catch one major break: my Terran 90 planet of Bootis drew the mineral Rich event!
When you only have five total planets, one of them going Rich is a huge deal. In this image, Bootis was cranking out additional factories following the discovery of Improved Robotic Controls III. The additional factories were of course a major help, yielding additional production from my limited number of worlds. Unfortunately, this good luck was countered by the reverse event about two dozen turns later: Yarrow drew the mineral depletion event and became a Poor planet. Yuck. Still, it was better to have a Rich and Poor pair of planets than two normal planets, since the Rich planet could fuel the Planetary Reserve and do shipbuilding while the Poor planet could contribute fully on the research front. And Yarrow had already built factories equal to three times population, so this wasn't nearly as bad as needing to colonize a Poor world and stand it up from scratch. I could live with this setback.
There's some additional bad news in this screenshot. Nordia was the Arid planet in the center of the map that had been colonized by the Sakkra earlier. They had been drawn into a war with the Meklars by this point, and the cyborgs managed to take it over. (Their fleet actually failed to take out the missile bases, but the Meklars sent enough population transports that they made it through and then took the planet.) Meklar control of Nordia was bad news for me, as it allowed their fleets access to the western half of the galaxy. Now my core worlds were potentially in range of their fleets, and that would make this game much more dangerous.
I did manage to swing a key tech trade with the Meklars:
I traded them Improved Robotic Controls III for Terraforming +20. You might recall that I had skipped over that tech earlier in favor of Controlled Dead, which had proven to be a mistake when the Tundra planet to the northeast was taken before I had a chance to colonize it. Then after Controlled Dead tech, there was no Terraforming +30 available, only Controlled Toxic and Enhanced Eco Restoration. (I selected Controlled Toxic since I had stolen Improved Eco Restoration and there were two Toxic worlds nearby.) Later on, when I discovered Controlled Toxic, the next rung of the Planetology tree had... Controlled Radiated tech, with no choices again. Hmmm, not the greatest Planetology tree in this game. Anyway, I badly needed to get some terraforming going, and sending Robotics III to the Meklars would be giving them much less of a boost than any other race. For anyone else, that's a 50% bonus to factories; for them, it's a 20% bonus. Far from irrelevant, but a worthwhile price to add 20m population and 60 factories on each of my worlds.
This trade was well-timed, as the Meklars declared war shortly thereafter. Relations had been dropping since I hadn't been able to vote for them in either of the 2375 or 2400 elections, and I had seen the writing on the wall ahead of time. Making matters worse, the Silicoids also declared war on me around this time, although I had seen their tech tree and I wasn't particularly scared of them. I would use the war with the rocks mostly as an opportunity to steal additional low-level techs; I didn't see much of anything in the way of their ships. But the Meklars, they were a different story. They were ahead in tech, of course, and unfortunately had acquired some very deadly weapons from their research. Fusion Beams were dangerous enough, more than enough to break through the shielding of my missile bases. I had Planetary Shield V under research, and that would largely end the threat from their Fusion Beams. However, the Meklars had something else far worse:
Omega-V Bombs?! Wow. Now that was very bad news indeed. Those are the third-tier bombs in Master of Orion, and they deal 20-50 damage against planetary surfaces. The absolute maximum planetary shielding possible in the game is 35 points, and that's with Force Field tech maxed out. I had all of 4 points of shielding at the moment, and that much only because I'd manage to steal Class IV shields from the Psilons earlier. If even one of those ships packing Omega-V bombs reached my planetary defenses, they were going to be destroyed instantly. It's always bad news when the AI races manage to roll a bomb technology in their tech trees, and this was among the worst situations I'd ever seen in that regard. *ALL* of the new Meklar designs were packing Omega V bombs, and I had no choice but to try and shoot them down before they could kill my planets.
The only good thing about these ships is that they were working with a tactical combat speed of 1 and the default 100 HP from Titantium Armor. That gave me time to whittle them down with my missile bases before they could close with the planet's surface. I was also working with some Hyper-X missile boats for defense, the best weapon I had available, and those ships contributed by firing away with their missiles to help out. You can manipulate the AI by getting it to retreat backwards with its ships when it tries to dodge the missiles, thereby gaining more time for your bases to shoot at the ships. I wasn't deliberately trying to abuse this issue here, but it definitely helped me out a lot. For what it's worth, I was legitimately trying to use my missile boats to stop the AI ships, not firing obsolete missiles solely to manipulate the AI's movement. Anyway, I did the best I could to keep the Meklar ships back. I would have killed for the Warp Dissipator here, as it would have been a perfect counter to their designs, but no such luck. I managed to keep them off of Nazin, Bootis, and Yarrow (often with some serious Reserve spending), but they managed to get a large fleet over Gion and destroy the defenses. The result:
Yikes. There goes one of my core planets. I thought I might be able to buy myself some time by fighting off a ground invasion (I had stolen Personal Deflector Shield from someone else and was roughly equal in ground combat), but the Meklars weren't interested in playing along. They bombed the planet repeatedly until there were no factories left and the population was reduced to a small fraction of its original size. Then they sent in the transports, and that was enough to take the planet. Gion had fallen.
Meanwhile, I had built some bombers of my own a little earlier using the Fusion Bomb tech that I stole from the Psilons. They were very slow at only warp 2 speed, but that was enough to bomb out one of the planets that the Meklars were trying to stand up:
They had taken Paladia from the Silicoids earlier. I was able to hit them here and keep them from fortifying their position, keeping it locked in hot potato status for the moment. This was a crucial move politically more so than it was tactically; the Meklars had understandably stepped on a lot of toes in this galaxy, and they were at war with almost everyone else. Bombing out this colony improved relations with all of the other races, especially with the Psilons who had signed peace with me earlier. They were also at war with the Meklars, and our relations suddenly went from "Troubled" all the way up to "Peaceful". My friends the Psilons, heh. The race that attacked me immediately on first contact earlier in the game. However, that kind of thing can happen in Master of Orion. We both had a bigger foe to deal with in the form of the Meklars, and that was enough to put our earlier enmity aside. I collected votes from the Psilons and Sakkra (who I had lost contact with but who were also still fighting the Meklars) in the 2425 Council election, and that was enough to keep the game going and avoid a diplomatic loss.
For the moment, a path to victory was out of sight. All I could think about was keeping the game alive in the Council and stopping the Meklars from running over my worlds. My empire was on the brink of a dangerous precipe; if I lost another world or two, I was going to fall past the point of no return, unable to keep any research going as I snowballed towards an eventual defeat. The Meklars might only have +20 Terraforming at the moment, however eventually they could get up to +100 Terraforming or whatever and simply vote themselves the winner in the Council, even if they failed to take all of my planets. I had to stop the bleeding right now if I was going to have any chance of winning down the road.
My corner of space was a sad sight at this point in time. Gion was lost, Nazin and Yarrow had come under heavy attack, and now Bootis was about to be the next focus of their aggression. Thank goodness that planet had gone Rich, or else I don't know that I would have had enough Reserve spending available to stave off some of these fleets. Oddly Rana had been completely ignored by the Meklars to this point, perhaps because it was the planet where I had the most defensive bases. Nordia was a complete fortress of the Meklars by now, unassailable by anything that I had on hand. At the time of this picture, I was constructing Planetary Shield Vs on each of my worlds, and that did help a lot. It meant that only the Omega-V bombs could now hurt my worlds, not the Fusion Beams that the enemy ships were packing. I might have been able to hold Gion if I'd had the shields a bit earlier, as I'd been forced to target a ship design with a whole bunch of Fusion Beams instead of being able to concentrate purely on the bombers. During these dark and desperate turns, I had my hands full juggling enemy ships and trying to protect the four planets that I had left.
I was doing a good job of killing Meklar ships though, and that did make a difference. The Meklars would never retreat their ships because their bombs could always hurt my bases, and I was destroying their ships in batches of 5 or 10 Large ships at a time. Even with their massive production and Impossible bonuses, that was making a difference. When I finally had a break between incoming Meklar fleets, I gathered up my bombers and blasted Gion, destroying the few factories the Meklar had built and killing dozens of their population. Then I sent in my own transports and took the planet back for the Darlok empire:
This was a very sweet feeling indeed. Note that I actually had the advantage in ground technology, largely because I had swiped Battle Suits from the Meklars earlier. I'm kind of glossing over just how many techs I stole this game, but it was quite substantial. I had probably taken about fifteen in total by this point, with the Psilons as my initial major target, followed by the Silicoids. I didn't have as much success with the Meklars, although I did get some useful goodies from them too. I had gone for Computers first and lifted their top tech, Advanced Space Scanner, in a major coup. Nothing else was quite as helpful as that tech, and I never had as much success with them in this era as I did with the brains and rocks. Still, it all added up over time, and the thefts were a nice boost given that my own research had stalled out considerably as a result of this war.
While I had taken Gion back, the more important question was whether I could hold onto it. I was using the Reserve to double factory construction and sending 10m population every turn from nearby (Poor) Yarrow, using the Eco slider to regrow the lost population. However, any significant Meklar fleet would be able to wipe out my fledgling effort here without breaking a sweat. Instead, they targeted my Rich world of Bootis with their largest fleet yet:
That was 22 Large ships; even on Impossible, that's a scary fleet. Especially so given the 61 Omega-V bombs that this fleet was packing. I stacked up 26 missile bases here and did my best to shoot them down with the help of my remaining missile boats. Unfortunately missile bases and missile boats were still shooting Hyper-X missiles; I had researched up the Weapons tree and found that there were no Stingers, then backtracked to Merculites just so that I would have something better to use. The Meklars had Scatter Pack VII missiles and those would have been amazing, but they were out of my reach for now. With the help of my Hyper-X missile boats getting these ships to dance backwards, I was able to shoot down all of these ships before they could destroy the missile bases, albeit just barely. Another four or five Large ships and they would have made it through to the planet's surface. Whew.
This precarious balance couldn't last much longer. Those bombs were way too deadly, and it was only a matter of time until a fleet large enough to break through was going to hit another one of my planets and destroy it. Furthermore, I also needed a reprieve to rebuild Gion and reestablish its missile base defenses. When I saw that another huge Meklar fleet was headed to Rana, enough that it would surely be able to take the planet, I sought out a diplomatic solution to end the war. The Meklars were actually willing to sign peace, probably because I had given them a black eye by shellacking so many of their ships. They weren't going to sign a white peace though: they demanded the Inertial Stabilizer tech. That was a painful price, since the Meklars could slap that on their bombers and come back with a faster combat speed next time. Still, they honestly could have done that anyway; they had warp 4 engines and were zipping around on the galactic map. There was nothing stopping them from designing new ships with a tactical combat speed of 3. Peace at any price was worthwhile right now, since I needed to rebuild at Gion and I was about to lose Rana, and therefore I swallowed my pride and handed over the tech. My empire was now at peace for the first time in almost a century... and still a long way from a resolution to this game, one way or another.