Once most of the planets have been settled, the AIs will always begin probing around for weak spots to attack. You're generally pretty safe for the first 50-75 turns (although not always), but after that, anything goes. So too it was in this game. While I was still engaged in colonizing the southern cluster, the AIs initiated a series of brush wars on my borders. The first such move was at Yarrow, which the Bulrathi invaded and took over. The second such move came on the other side of my territory, on the border with the Klackons. It turned out they were coming for Trax, the Barren 50 world in the far southwest that formed my point planet in that direction:
As pathetic as this was, it nearly took the planet! I only had time to assemble a single missile base on Trax, which was stuck firing nukes (ugh) and holding out with Class II shields. The two volleys from the Hyper-V missile boats did a fair amount of damage, and the nukes from the base were almost useless against the three points of shielding on the two Horsemen ships. In the end, my lone missile base there survived with 11/75 hit points left. (Good thing I researched Duralloy Armor, eh?) The big problem was naturally the lack of better missiles. Fortunately Merculites were in the percentages, and ready to pop in the next few turns.
The Darloks declared war shortly thereafter, in 2389. I don't know if this was due to their usual paranoia, or as a side-effect of my war against the Psilons. (I had been asking the brains for peace over and over again, but they always refused. So much for trying to court them as an ally!) The Klackons returned to Trax in a few more turns, but with 5 missile bases and climbing there now, I smoked 'em and send them crying home to mommy. Wait 'til they get a load of my new Merculite missiles too! In other good news, Planetary Shield V was in the tree, after Class III Deflectors, and became the next tech focus.
I might need them too: the Humans declared war, and immediately sent a fleet after Crius!
I had no idea what was on these ships. Hopefully not too bad, this being only Average difficulty. I would manage to get 7 missile bases ready on Crius by the time that the Humans arrived, plus the new Merc missiles (picking Fusion Beam as the next option, excellent!) As far as the actual battle... ha! They were even more pathetic than I thought. Nothing but lasers and heavy lasers on those ships. The missile bases easily blew up the three Large designs and about 40 Small ones, no damage taken. I hope that wasn't the best that the Humans had.
In other tech news, I finished researching Controlled Radiated at about this time, opening up the final few planets in the southern cluster to coloniation. One of them was an Ultra Rich, size 35! Very nice. The Planetology tree then offered up another goodie at the next tier, in the form of Atmospheric Terraforming. With many, many hostile planets, that was a hot commodity. The Propulsion tree, however, was not so nice. Range 7 popped and the next options were... Energy Pulsar and Warp Dissipator?! What the hell! Where are my engines? No option for warp 2, 3, or 4 in the tree. Wow. Gonna have to crank up the Espionage and steal some then! I chose Energy Pulsar simply because it was cheaper, to advance up the tree faster.
At least everyone else who plays the game will be in the same boat. There should be some "fun" tidbits in the reports when this game closes.
There was also the 2400 election to deal with. I pulled 3 votes from the Bulrathi, while the Darloks (3), Humans (5), and Psilons (3) all voted against me. The Klackons still abstained with their 4 votes. The big news was that I now had 12 out of 30 votes, easily enough to block anyone else from getting elected. This game was therefore effectively over. And immediately after the election, the Bulrathi declared war. Ha! Dogpile indeed. I have to admit, I wasn't paying much attention to diplomacy, because all of these opponents were so feeble. I FEAR the AIs on Impossible. These guys, not so much.
Umm... what's this?
Looks like the Humans didn't get the message about how feeble they were supposed to be! They had a stack of 150 Hyper-V missile boats in their second wave fleet, and they were able to kill the 8 bases on Crius with a couple of volleys. Oops. Looks like I need that Planetary Shield V yesterday! Funding on the shield was stepped up pronto.
Once it became clear that warp 4 engines were not in the tree, I ratcheted spying up enormously on the poor Psilons, since they had warp 2 engines in their tree. After a couple of turns of successful penetrations, I landed the tech I wanted:
Excellent! Double the speed for ships (but not for transports, unfortunately). Nuclear engines also opened up the ability for combat speed 2, a virtual necessity for any real offensive action. With a little more Weapons miniaturization, I would be able to fit a Fusion Bomb on a Small hull, and then go after the AIs for the first time.
I also did trade Range 7 tech to the Klackons at this point in exchange for Personal Deflector Shield. (Yeah, my friends, the Klackons. Only power in the galaxy not at war with me!) It didn't hurt much to give up a range tech, as everything in our portion of the galaxy was already colonized. Even so, I ordinarily wouldn't make the trade, except that the Humans were bringing an invasion force to Crius. Those extra gropo points could potentially save an entire planet! Instead...
...it was close but no cigar. Heh. Doesn't get any closer than that! Losing Crius was a bit painful, and I vowed to take it back soon. The Humans won't get anything else though, not with Planetary Shields going up everywhere. It hurt a lot to lose this one, since it was a single turn away from finishing its own Planetary Shield. Not to mention, the Humans swiped my brand-new Reduced Waste 60% tech! Argh.
The next Human target was Vulcan, the planet that had been hit with the mineral depletion event earlier in the game to become Poor. Clever AI, going after the location with only minimal defenses. Would I be able to get the Planetary Shield up in time?
Yes, in a photo finish. Narrowly beat off the attack, getting the shield up just in time (on the very turn!) to meet the attack. It would not have happened without heavy Reserve spending. Instead of losing another colony, however, the Humans were turned back with no losses, having no weapon strong enough to punch through 8 points of shielding. Their Hyper-V launchers were now useless. If they wanted to burn down my worlds, they would have to reach a higher tech level and then try again. We would soon make peace (me with no chance to move on the offensive as yet), but I still vowed to reclaim Crius from their filthy hands.
To my complete and utter shock, I drew one of the other few "good" events in 2413, as Cygni became a Rich planet! Of course it was only a size 10 Inferno world, but beggars can't be choosers. Two good events in one game, amazing. And one of the bad events even happened to someone else! This game really was taking it easy on me.
I had earlier designed a Small bomber, warp 2/combat speed 2, packing one Fusion Bomb. I built about 120 of them, and sent them after Mentar. Now on Impossible, I would need something like 1000 of them to go after an AI homeworld... but this wasn't Impossible, and so the small numbers I sent were enough to get the job done and strip bare the Psilon defenses. Then it was time for the ground invasion:
Invading any planet with warp 1 transports is an exercise in tedium. Still, you make due with what you've got, and I saw no reason to raze and replace when I could capture. (I hardly ever burn down worlds in this game, not unless absolutely necessary.) After several turns of invasion, the planet fell in 2420:
Mentar taken! Several turns of population swarming sufficed to wear down the defenders. Noteworthy prizes include Inertial Stabilizer (!), Class IV Deflectors, and II8. I did not land the big tech prize though, Improved Robotics III. Two more Psilon planets remained to grab, so hopefully it would turn up. Relations were beginning to tank with all races though, due to overwhelming size, so I decided to go ahead and destroy the brains completely, ignoring everyone else's complaints. Could have done this incredibly faster with decent engines, of course!
Atmospheric Terraforming discovered at about the same time, on to Advanced Soil Enrichment! I could probably turn off all research but Planetology and simply outgrow the AIs from this position. But what fun would that be?
Energy Pulsar discovered. And what's this? An actual engine up for research! (Impulse Drives, warp 5). Propulsion received a major kick in the pants in terms of funding. On the next turn, I noticed the Humans just discovered Sublight Drives; I therefore traded them Controlled Radiated for it:
This benefited them little (they already had Controlled Toxic) and me enormously. Now transports will move at warp 2, double speed! Woohoo. We'll see if they regret that decision later on.
In the 2425 Council Election, everyone voted against me - as expected. However, I had 16 of the 34 votes, so this made little difference. The main question in the air was, how long until I can reach the Conquest threshhold and simply vote myself the galactic emperor? Methinks no one else will be giving much support for the Sakkra in this galaxy.
With transports now moving twice as fast, I overran the pitiful missile defenses of the Psilons and snapped up their remaining two planets. Exis and Dolz both fell in 2427. So much for the brains in this universe:
I ignored everyone else's protestations. This galaxy is mine. Gimme gimme gimme.