Meklar, Impossible, Medium, 5 Opponents
This report details my results from Realms Beyond Orion's Imperium Twelve. To find out more information about RBO and the Imperia, please click here.
The goal with Imperium Twelve was to try out a difficult variant I conceived a while back: refraining from ever discovering or employing any Planetology tech. This has any number of effects on the gameplay, ranging from never being able to settle Hostile worlds (unless another race colonizes the planet and employs Atmospheric Terraforming) to being unable to increase the population of your own worlds. A lesser-known aspect of Planetology tech is that it adds to the productivity of your own population as well, making standing up planets more difficult. Finally, in order to prevent players from looting Planetology tech in invasions, a variant rule was added that all worlds had to be razed and replaced with new colonies. That substantially added to the difficulty of the variant, as you'll see below.
The Meklar were a perfect fit for this game, from both a role-playing and gameplay standpoint as the only race defaulting to "Poor" in Planetology. Their extra factories would definitely be needed with fewer people manning each planet. This variant seemed way too difficult for Impossible, so I went with Hard instead. Everything else was default settings.
The first map I tried had a nice corner start, and three good starting worlds. Unfortunately, everything beyond that was mostly Hostile, and the only other decent planets in the area were a Poor and Ultra Poor pair. I played that game all the way up to 2450, when I finally wrote it off as hopeless. Just too little on hand to work with, given the variant rules. The Poor/Ultra Poor pair were an absolute killer, and it would not have been a fun game to play for the community.
The second game I attempted accidentally was set to Impossible instead of Hard. Whoops. The third game is the one that went out to the community. I had to do it in a rush, already past the starting deadline, so there were some blantanly obvious edits in the scenario. I gave Paranar (originally a Poor world) a standard economy and swapped around the habitability rating of some other planets to create a buffer zone between the player and the nearby Klackons. Otherwise the two races would have been fighting from the outset, and that wasn't really the situation I wanted in this game. Overall, I think I gave the community a decent start, one from which they will have every chance of succeeding, without being as ludicrously fertile as in Imperium Eleven.
Of course, I don't really know that because I never played out the final start. By the time it was released to the community, I was already more than 150 turns into the second start, the one that turned out to be on Impossible difficulty. This then is the story of that game, the one that everyone else DIDN'T play.
My game would have been a shadow anyway, as I had checked quickly in the OREO editor to see if there were any nearby Artifacts worlds (there weren't) and saw that the Bulrathi were right on top of the player's start. Once you've seen that kind of info, you can't "unsee" it, even though I played something like 98% of this game unspoiled. Anyway, there were three planets within 3 parsec range. I sent the starting colony ship to the green to the south, the two starting scouts to the two other planets in range (red and green stars). Usually you want to push coreward as fast as possible. That backfired here, as the northeast green was a Terran 95, while my colony ship was at an Arid 55, Maalor. Rather than turn around and spend six turns in transit, I colonized on the spot. The third planet was a Barren 35, completely useless for this variant.
Since I knew the bears were very close, I kept one of the starting scouts over Maalor. That worked out really well:
Without a scout in orbit to chase away the Bulrathi scout, they would have immediately sent 50m population from Ursa (yes, the AI can invade planets it doesn't have the range to reach) and being the Bulrathi, the planet would have fallen. This is something you may want to keep in mind if ever you start right on top of a rival empire - especially if playing on a Small map, where such a situation is much more likely to happen.
On turn 2313 a scout actually managed to explore the bear homeworld! On Impossible! That's the first time I've ever done so that early in the game. Would have taken a picture if I had known this was Impossible and not Hard difficulty, like I thought it was while playing! In the local neighborhood there were two extraordinarily good worlds: Mu Delphi (Terran 95) and Cygni (Terran 105). The only other green world on the map was Centauri, a Minimal 45 in the southeast near Bulrathi space. Tons of other planets were Barren, Tundra, or Dead - which could not be settled in this game unless another race grabbed them first and performed Atmospheric Terraforming. Still, this map looked pretty interesting, without being ridiculous like the first one I tried. Ursa was only 6 parsecs away, and Nazin only 8. (The arrow is pointing to Nazin below.) Interesting times indeed!
The early game was pretty quiet for the most part. Meklon hit a perfect 100/200 pop/factory count in 2325, at which time I spent a single turn seeding the tech fields and then went into colony ship construction. Early research went into Reduced Waste 80% (chosen over II9) and Range 5 (over Range 4). The Darloks soon contacted me (2326) upon obtaining Range 6 tech. Xenophobic Expansionists, they were living up to their focus by spreading out to four worlds already in the north-central part of the map. Could we see a strong Darlok in this game? That's pretty rare. (Good news for me if it does happen, since they are almost always hated by the rest of the board and make for a good target!) They did agree to minimal (25BC) trade, which was by no means guaranteed.
I quickly grabbed Mu Delphi, the sweet Terran 95, then went back to finish Range 5 tech in order to spread out further. It entered the percentages at 9% in 2336, at which time I started building colony ships at Meklon again. Well, the darn game made a mockery of my strategy by taking forever to pop; ELEVEN turns later, Range 5 finally popped at 44%! Good grief. This seriously and painfully slowed my growth curve. What a bad break. New scouts and two colony ships finally moved out. As if to add insult to injury, Inertial Stabilizer was the only option moving forward in Propulsion. Argh!
I soon colonized Cygni (the Terran 105) and moved south to the last two habitables in range, Centauri and Dunatis. They were both on the small size, 45 and 30 I think, but beggars can't be choosers. Never hurts to have more secure bases on the edge of AI space either. Techwise, I finished Reduced Waste 80% and had the desired hop available to II8 at the next tier. I had no choice in any of the other trees, forced to take Deep Space Scanner, Class II Shields, and Hyper-Vs.
More scouting by 2364 had brought me to an important decision:
I had found two new unclaimed worlds in the extreme south: Incendius (Ocean 65) and Simius (Steppe 25). The only problem was that they were past the Bulrathi space, sitting at 8 and 7 parsecs away respectively. Without the ability to do Planetology research, I wouldn't have any chance of fitting a Reserve Fuel Tank on a large hull anytime soon. So the question became, is it worth it to go after these worlds with a Huge colony ship?
My answer: no, it's not. I couldn't get a ship down there faster than 15 turns, and by that point the Bulrathis would definitely get there first. It was better to focus on pushing growth and tech in my core for now. 1000BC of production going into a colony ship was a lot that wasn't going into technological research. This was another time where the lack of Planetology miniaturization of colony ship designs really had me feeling some pain!
I met the Klackons when they settled the Barren world in the nebula, Erratic Expansionists. Great, just what I need. They were leading the bar graphs in every category, and had six planets to their name. I was sure that they would cause trouble down the road, and I was right. Trade 100BC for now. Amazingly, I was still not in contact with the Bulrathi, as all of our planets were six parsecs apart, and we both lacked Range 6 or better tech!
The last few decades of the 24th century were spent focusing on tech research. I was again somewhat unlucky when it came to techs popping:
We're waiting on BC III, II8, Class III Shields, Inertial Stabilizer, and Neutron Pellet Gun here. They would all come in sometime around 2390. Notable new projects included Merculite missiles and Class V Planetary Shield, a great duo for early game defense. Of course, I wasn't doing all that hot compared to the leading AI race:
The bugs are equal with me in Computers (although my Meklar are "Excellent" in that field) and Propulsion (their worst field), several tiers ahead in Construction, Force Fields, and Weapons, plus about a billion techs ahead in Planetology. The only dangerous weapon was their Fusion Bomb. They would trade it for Inertial Stabilizer though - ouch! Tough call. But I felt that I needed a bomb, so I went ahead and made the trade. I'm really going to be peeved if Omega-V is the only option to move the tree forward a little later on! Good news was that the bugs had no engines faster than warp 1 still, in their typical fashion.
The galaxy at the century mark, in 2400:
I still did not have official contact with the Bulrathi, if you can believe it. I knew by this point that the Klackons were going to be the main competition in the game, with the Darloks as the #2 AI power. The bears had been thoroughly unimpressive, while the other two AI races (Sakkra and Humans) both had to be squished into the cluster of three yellows between the Darloks and Klackons. They likely only had three or four planets each, if that. The biggest issue for me now involved chasing away AI colony ship poachers with NPG fighters. Although this would inevitably drop relations, I had no choice. I couldn't let them swallow all those Hostile worlds near my start without a fight!
The Darloks settled a Tundra world in the far north in 2402, setting off the first Council Election, me versus the Klackons. I pulled votes from the Sakkra, Darloks, and Humans, ending up with 16/29 overall. If the Bulrathi had voted for me rather than abstaining, the game would have been over. Naturally I cast my votes for the bugs to gain some free brownie points. Overall, I felt like my situation was pretty good. If I could tip the scales a little further in my favor, I might be able to escape with an early win. Time was not on my side, given the issue of terraforming.
I soon found myself essentially fighting an undeclared naval war with the Darloks, keeping them off of the unsettled planets in my area. On one such turn, 150 NPGs blasted a fair-sized Darlok fleet off of another hostile world in my region. Meanwhile, I also finally got hit with a bad event, the Nova, which wasted a fair amount of production to clear up in time. Virtually every planet had to go onto Reserve spending to stave off disaster. Then Klackon Erratic-ness reared its ugly head, as they declared war on me in 2413. I could only hope that they would be too busy with the wars in their core systems to come charging at me...
Mu Delphi was saved from the Nova, just barely on the last turn - and that was with every planet pouring money into the Reserve. Sheesh. It stinks playing as the Meklar sometimes, since those events are targeted based on number of factories. All my exposed worlds were on a major base-building program at the moment, going from their token one base to around 10. I couldn't afford to sleep on the Klackon threat. At least I now had Planetary Shields and Mercs to play around with.
The 2425 election was again split, with exactly 12 votes for me and the Klackons before I cast my five votes to them for more brownie points. I was able to use this boost in relations to get peace with the bugs, but not before their alliance with the Bulrathi brought my furry neighbors into the war as well. Still, that was actually OK! I had been building up to attack the bears anyway, building a fleet of Fusion Bombers and NPG fighters to peel off a couple of their core worlds for myself. Here was my early navy:
I did a redesign of the NPG fighter when Inertial Stabilizer was discovered, adding more movement and beam/missile defense at a cheaper cost. I did have to downgrade to a lower Battle Computer, but I think it was worth it. By 2432, I had about 150 fighters and 350 bombers ready to go and ordered the attack. The target was Pollus, a medium-sized bear world that had fewer defenses than Ursa:
Fortunately for me, the Bulrathi had weak shielding and outdated missiles. However, I still took some serious casualties against the 19 defending bases; my bombers were only moving at combat speed 2. Once the bombers actually reached the planet, it was all over. Lost about 160 bombers total to take out the planet. Now the major question: could I stand up the new colony against the Bulrathi fleet? That was going to be a lot harder than simply trashing their world...
Regardless, I had to try. Since the Bulrathi fleet was superior to my own, I wanted to secure peace as soon as possible to stand up my newfound gains. While the war was going on, I took advantage of my major edge in Computer tech to steal Duralloy Armor and Reduced Waste 60% from the bears, both noticeable upgrades from what I had been using. Meanwhile, my faster ships danced around their unbeatable fleets to bomb out another target:
This seemed to push the bears over some kind of pain threshhold, and they were willing to sign peace when I asked:
Good thing I had some cash in the Reserve to burn! It's always useful to have something in the tank for exactly this reason. Anyway, so far so good. I could only hope that my military bluffs would continue to work as well as this first one.