I spent the previous page sticking pretty closely to my notes from the game, in order to make it easier to compare opening strategies. For the buildup to the second scoring benchmark, I'm going to pull back the focus somewhat and try to provide more of my usual wide-angle overview. Mostly due to the fact that I went back and re-read the last page, and it wasn't as interesting to go through as I thought it would be.
On the very turn after the 2375 scoring mark, I hit in both Planetology and Propulsion fields. Ouch! That would have been another ten or so points had the techs come in earlier. Still, that category was looking pretty good, so no need to complain. Controlled Toxic led to Terraforming +40 (no choice), which was a GREAT pick for an empire that missed out on both +20 and +30 options earlier. Propulsion served up the full choice selection between Energy Pulsar, Fusion Drive (warp 4), and Warp Dissipator. Since I wasn't looking to get into combat at the moment, I again picked the faster engines. That's warp 2, warp 3, then warp 4 in a row for those counting at home. But I didn't NEED the pulsar or dissipator, so better to take the incremental update over a useless theoretical tool, IMO. Controlled Toxic opened up three more planets for colonization, so I again queued more colony ships.
I finally did meet the 2 Planet Empire (2PE) Psilons in the east, drawing the very strange Honorable Industrialist personality. Perhaps that's why they performed so badly in this game, with neither of their usual focuses. A little too late for the scoring, sadly... I could have met them if I had researched Range 7 tech instead of warp 3 engines. But I can't say I regretted that decision one bit.
Amazingly, my scouts continued to find a few more unclaimed worlds deep in enemy space. There was a Dead planet, Laan, surrounded on all sides by Human colonies. The poor apes were all the way up to Terraforming +30 in Planetology, yet lacked any environmental techs beyond Controlled Barren. Their loss, my gain. I soon passed the third GNN population warning (2380):
As impressive as it was to reach this announcement peacefully, I still wasn't close to finished yet. There were several more Toxic planets on the Silicoid border, which I had been defending with a ragtag bunch of Scatter Pack V missile boats, and Klackon colony ships were en route to bring them into the fold right now. Within the next few years, I settled Neptunus, Incendius, and Laan. That gave me 21 planets; the other four AIs together had 23 planets. Uhh, can you say "game over"?
The new galactic map:
We now finally have a picture of the fully colonized galaxy. All of the stars left are either empty or contain Orion. I claimed three Hostile worlds on the border of Human space, one of them a Rich Toxic planet! Laan is the blue flag in the far north surrounded by yellow territory. Kailis is the other blue flag by itself east of the nebula; by now, it was finishing maxing factories and preparing for major missile base construction. That would eventually be a fortress world with 20+ bases. Further south, I had a group of three planets just south of Silicoid space, all of them relatively recent additions. Two of the three were Hostile (one Barren and one Inferno, I think) and so I had other non-Hostile worlds feeding them extra population constantly to go along with Reserve money to build up their factories. Klackons can stand up new planets like you wouldn't believe. Finally, there were three more Hostile worlds (all Barren, Tundra, or Dead) on the border of Bulrathi space, mostly small planets. The Bulrathi didn't have the environmental tech to colonize them yet, so I figured I had some time there before they made a move, but they were getting a lot of Reserve money thrown at them too.
All told, this is about as well as I've ever done as far as colonization goes. It wasn't that the AIs slacked off either, just that the growth curve was accelerated so much with the power of Klackons + Ultra Rich world. These are the kind of goals you can shoot for with dedicated scouting and practice!
One of the few tech areas missing in this game was the first-gen Robotic Control upgrade, to three factories per population. I saw that Robotics IV was available at the fourth tier, after discovering ECM III, and so made that a major focus. Still, that was a while away yet, and when I noticed that the backwards Psilons had Robotics III, I couldn't resist taking a stab at it. My spies managed to land the tech in 2391:
Excellent! I could now turn off Espionage, having grabbed what I wanted from them (no need to hurt relations over non-important tech thefts). This was the absolute perfect time to get the tech too: just about every world was maxed at 2x factory count, so Robotics III would provide a huge economic boost without slowing down development one bit. Ironically Terraforming +40 also hit on the same turn, so there were a LOT of economic upgrades to do over the next few turns. I happily picked Atmospheric Terraforming as the next Planetology option.
Over the next few turns, I finally started seeing the results of my bloated size. First the Bulrathi, then the Silicoids declared war on me. I wasn't worried in the least for my colonies (I had seen their tech levels and was not afraid, not with missile bases packing both Stingers and Scatter Packs to be used as the situation demanded). What did concern me was how in the world I was going to get any points in the 2450 diplo scoring, given my growing role as a galactic pariah. Ummm... well, 50 turns to go before that arises, so I'll worry about it later. On the plus side, being at war with the bears allowed me to turn my spies loose against them and their pathetic Computer tech. Their only tech in that field was BC II! I wanted their Planetary Shield V, and swiped it with ease in just five turns. That made my worlds even safer than they had been before.
The Humans also tried a probing attack with 7 Large ships (Heavy Lasers) against Gion. I saw it coming many turns ahead of time (even without a great scanner) and had 9 bases ready, which smoked them easily. Not even worth snapping a picture over.
At the 2400 Council meeting, I saw abstentions from the Humans (6) and Psilons (2), and votes for my Silicoid opponent from themselves (7) and the Bulrathi (5). I now had 19/39 votes (49%), so I had to abstain again. Good to see the overall vote percentage still climbing. I had a dominant lead in Total Power, and with the new Robotics factories was starting to pull decisively ahead in Production as well. It was only a matter of turns until I started pouring that production into Technology, and then run away with the bars in that category permanently.
To give you an idea of how Terraforming +40 and Robotics III increased the strength of my empire, the Total Income from Planets number went from 6500 to 10,300 in a matter of ten turns - an increase of about 60%. Even better news: Robotics IV was now in the percentages and about to pop as well.
All terraforming and factory construction aside, I was reaching the point where it was time to go on the offensive for the first time. With the discovery of Fusion Rifle technology, I now had enough miniaturization to design a powerful missile boat. I went with one of my favorite Stinger designs: Medium size, warp 4, combat speed 3, one five-rack. Using the huge Reserve that had built up over time, I doubled the production at my Ultra Rich world for 6x normal military construction! With the help of several other large planets, I could produce about 40 missile boats per turn - bad news for my Bulrathi and Silicoid foes.
The first strike against the bears in 2411 was a success! Ground transports were ordered to follow in the wake of the invasion. I also lifted Fusion Bomb tech from the bears with my spies, which might prove useful in the future. A strike against Ursa (seen above) followed just a few turns later. The bears actually had pretty good shielding, Class V plus Planetary Shield V for 10 points of defense, but a critical gap elsewhere in their tree: they were still firing nukes! Even a mere 100 missile boats were therefore enough to crush the defenses at the ursine homeworld.
Ordianarily the Bulrathi are the hardest race in the game to invade, but I had so much gropo tech that *I* actually had the advantage!
The bears have only Duralloy Armor (+5) and the default 5 points for being the defender, for +30 overall (with their innate twenty point racial advantage). My Klackons have Zortrium (+10), Battle Suits (+10), and Fusion Rifle (+20), which meant that I had a ten point advantage overall even with their racial bonus. Paranar was thus easily mopped up, with three backwards techs coming along in the invasion. Grabbing this world also triggered the fourth GNN population warning, as I hit 50% of the total planets in the galaxy. Very nice.
As I've stated numerous times, I always prefer to capture rather than raze and replace planets in this game, if at all possible. For this scenario, however, it had less to do with speed in standing up the planet (the Klackons could do that plenty fast!) as with looting technology. Remember, extra techs would mean higher tech levels in the 2450 scoring, and espionage is a little too chancy to get them all that way. Thus I would take my time and keep grabbing one world after another, until I could leave the bears with a single planet left.
I rapidly ran over Ursa, Vega, Proxima, and Jinga - the last one belonging to the rocks, the others all to the bears. Noteworthy techs looted included Warp Dissipator, Antimatter Bombs, and Autorepair Special. With the Bulrathi finished, I also signed peace with them, hopefully permanently (genocide does not pay in this Imperium's scoring system). My Klackons now had control over the southeast corner:
As usual, I was nominated against the Silicoids in the 2425 Council election. The Humans abstain (7) along with the Psilons (1) while the rocks cast their 8 for themselves along with the Bulrathi's single vote. I had 27/44 votes = 61%, so naturally must abstain again. Should win the game in the next election, right in time to score points and have no mopup! Looks like I did a good job of picking the two scoring dates.
With the bears finished, the Silicoids were the obvious next target. I planned to invade their worlds leisurely over the next 25 turns, taking time to bomb them wherever possible and raise my relations with the other races that way (most of whom were also at war with the rocks). Diplomacy was really getting difficult to pull off; I was being warned almost every turn from someone about my size, and how they would have to "save the galaxy from the Klackon menace" or whatnot. Although the game was of course in the bag, I had a real struggle on my hands trying to piece together a patchwork coalition and keep everyone happy with me!
The other scoring goals were non-issues. I had tons of planets and about a billion little Klackons running around. Research was over 11,000 points per turn, and I had turned off research in all but Construction, Planetology, and Weapons - my three highest tech fields - to boost them higher for the final scoring. Diplomacy was my main focus going forward.
The destruction of the Silicoids was so easy, I don't even have much to say about it. The Silicoids also had weak weaponry, using Hyper-X missiles, and lacked the shielding that the Bulrathi had possessed. One volley from my 500+ Stinger armada was enough to trash the defenses of any world. And when it came to gropo combat...
I had a disgusting 30 point edge over them (55 versus 25). To give you an idea of what that meant, 40 Klackons landed and took out Silicoid 140 defenders here at Cryslon. Wow, nice to have a tech lead for a change! Usually I'm the one on the raw side of those numbers playing on Impossible. It was a strange feeling to do invasions without needing massive overkill in terms of numbers.
Then - disaster! In 2436, a mere 14 turns before the next vote, the Humans declared war on me out of the blue! What a tough blow, as I was counting on lining up an anti-Silicoid coalition in the next vote, to boost relations with the other three races. Or... actually... hmmm. I check the info panel with each race again, and it turns out that the Psilons, Bulrathi, and Silicoids were all at war with the Humans already. You know what... this might work out perfectly in my favor! Rather than organize an anti-rock coalition, let's try an anti-human one instead. Everyone else already hated them, so let the bombing commence! I signed peace with the Silicoids and diverted my attention to the west side of the map, where the Human worlds were ripe for the taking.
The Human missile defenses were no better than the Silicoid ones, so my Stinger missile boats continued to enjoy a field day. I could have designed a more advanced ship, but why bother? The ones I had were getting the job done just fine, and my Rich/Ultra Rich planets were the only ones even building new ships. All the other planets were researching frantically to pump up my tech levels further for the next vote. In gropo combat, the Humans were even sadder yet; I had a 55 point advantage on the ground, leading to better than 10:1 casulties. In one fight, I lost 11 marines and they lost 140 defenders. Ghastly stuff. Bootis was the first world to fall, then I sliced through Sol, Uxmai, and Denubius.
The race at the end of the game was whether I would run out of Human planets to bomb before the vote managed to arrive. I had to keep bombing them somewhere every turn to keep my own "allies" happy with me! The pressure for the other races to turn on me must have been enormous. Still, I kept it up, and the slaughter of Humans must have been like nectar and ambrosia to the other races, as they slowly crept all the way up to "Pleased" on the relations screen.
When 2449 arrived, here was the final galactic map:
I finished with 34 planets. There wasn't much left standing that wasn't flying the blue Klackon flag. Somehow the Psilons (the PSILONS!) ended up tied for the most AI planets with a whopping three.
The final tech fields. I nearly reached the end of the tech tree in all three of my best categories. In Construction, I had just completed Adamantium Armor in 2448 (and knocked that out in a mere eight turns, if you can believe it!) and selected Neutronium Armor as the next option. That's tech level 50, tops in the field. Planetology was working on Terraforming +100, which is in the next-to-last tier. I would actually discover that tech between turns, but just too late to be included in the scoring. A couple turns earlier, and I could have stacked another 40m bugs on every world, argh! In Weapons, I had just finished Plasma Cannon and was researching Pulse Phasor. That's a much lower tech tier, but I had looted so many Weapons techs in invading other races, the overall number remained comparable to the other fields.
These scores should be highly competitive, as I had nearly every tech known by the AIs plus very high tech levels in my own tree. Nearly 30,000 research points/turn at the end! I'll also mention here that my philosophy is almost always to push as far up the tree as possible at all times, rarely if ever researching two different techs in the same tier. That likely served me well in the scoring for this particular variant. If anyone can get to tech level 50 or above by 2450, I will be seriously impressed.
And my final diplomatic screen. Surprise! Despite suffering through horrendous diplomacy throughout most of the final 75 turns, my carpet bombing of the Humans resulted in pristine numbers for the scoring mark. I even signed alliances with the bears and rocks the next-to-last turn (2448) to get them up to Unity. Would have done the same with the Psilons, if they had been willing to talk to me! So we end up with the hilarious result of being in "Unity" with the two races I fought almost the whole game! Crazy. We'll see how everyone else manages to do in this category. I think this will stand up pretty well.
And so I cast 42 votes for myself in the final election and won a Conquest victory in 2450, with 42/49 = 86% of the overall vote. A nice and easy finish.
The last picture I have to show is my fleet. I scrapped no ships aside from old Colony designs, so this is the sum total of everything I built in the game. It may look unimpressive, but everything here contributed mightily to the final outcome. My scouts first found all sorts of important worlds, then ran blockade duty against AI colony ships, allowing me to get worlds that I had no real business settling. The Scatter Packs also helped me claim territory in the early game, fending off several Silicoid colonization attempts over Hostile worlds I wanted. Finally, the barebones Stinger missile boat was enough to run over the weak defenses of every opponent. The AI just doesn't build enough bases to defend properly on any difficulty below Impossible. With an explosive start out of the gate, they never had a chance.
34 planets colonized, 42 Council Votes = 76 points
Tech Levels 45 + 43 + 44 = 132 points
2 "Unity", 1 "Peaceful", 1 "Discord" AIs = 82 points
Colonist: 81 + 76 = 157 points
Researcher: 57 + 132 = 189 points
Diplomat: 30 + 82 = 112 points
Total: 157 + 189 + 112 + 100 (victory) = 558 * 2 = 1116 points
I hope you had fun with the game. I won't try to guess a winning score, but I will say that I believe it *IS* possible to score 150 points in each category. I did not set that number up as an impossible goal. It will definitely take some luck in the diplo category though. Thanks for reading.