Mission Impossible

Here was the galactic map following the 2400 election:

Relatively little change on my part since the last map, although notice that I've settled another planet in Human space (a Dead world that happened to be Rich!) Just north of my territory, the Humans and Alkari continue to fight over control of Neptunus, a Poor planet on the eastern edge of the map. Meanwhile, in the west I had returned to Bootis with my newly-produced Huge design and gained space superiority, then bombed the colony into oblivion. There were so few factories left there that it was better just to raze and replace than go through the hassel of a ground invasion. The Silicoids have piggybacked off of various alliances and grabbed a number of hostile planets in the north, but their three core worlds in the west look to be ripe for plucking. Dealing with the rocks would be my immediate priority for the moment.

Hey, look at this:

Wow, doing much better than expected here as well. I guess the AI races ARE doing a lot of warring! Everyone except the Darloks seem to be mixing it up with someone.

I had been holding off on designing new ships for quite some time, since I had several important tech discoveries about to pop. When the new tech did come in, I drew up an improved Huge ship design packing many times more firepower.

The technology for Zortrium Armor, Sub-Light Drives (warp 3), and Fusion Beams have all just been discovered. In addition to much better computers and shields, this ship has twice the hit points and more than twice the firepower of my previous LaserHuge design. Since the Silicoids were still stuck with nukes for their missile bases, the Auto Repair special made this design all but invulnerable to their attacks. I also created a warp 3 missile boat, medium size, packing Merculites to serve as a complementary force. With those two pieces, I felt I had enough on hand to go for the juggular against the Silicoids.

I started out by invading the Silicoid world in the southwest corner of the map. To my surprise and delight, it turned out to be an Ultra Rich Inferno planet! It took a little longer, but I made sure to take that one intact. (Two turns after taking the planet, I was already into double-digit base count there!) Along with the discovery of Controlled Radiated and the settling of Mobas, the one Radiated planet on my western border, that gave me a grand total of FIVE Rich or Ultra Rich planets:

With so many strong planets, I was able to have pretty much every non-Rich planet do research and rely on them alone for military production. I also socketed a lot of cash away into the Reserve - a LOT. It would have been nice to have an Artifacts world too, but I certainly wasn't complaining with the draw I got here.

I got hit with a number of bad events, but fortunately none of them came at critical moments. Beta Ceti got hit with the Quake event, but that wasn't too painful to deal with. Artemis caught the Plague, but I had plenty of Reserve money to deal with it. Beta Ceti also got hit with the Radiated event, but that was actually a GOOD thing because the event happened on the same turn I discovered Atmospheric Terraforming, and I was able to terraform it to a larger size immediately! Then finally, when I was hit with the Rebellion event it targeted a brand new colony where I already had population en route to stand up development:

One out of the two colonists on Mobas are rebelling, oh no! Better call the authorities. On the whole, I was quite lucky in terms of the events in this game.

After gathering my fleet together, I made a major move against the Silicoid homeworld:

40 bases were no joke, but with no Planetary Shields or missile upgrades it could have been a lot worse. I had the missile boats fire at the planet while my pathetic LaserHuge worked over the Silicoid fleet. Each volley from the Merculite boats was killing about 5 bases, so they alone would not be enough to get the job done. After I retreated the boats, the remaining Silicoid ships also retreated and I was able to start dropping some of the Fusion Bombs on my Huge design. Here's what things looked like at the tail of the battle:

I was not quite able to wipe out all of the bases, but I would retreat and return on the following turn to finish the job. I have to say, that LaserHuge design proved to be more sturdy than I expected. It took a humongous pounding in the battle, but managed to regenerate enough hit points to survive. Once my improved Fusion design started rolling off the production lines, the rocks would really be in trouble.

I definitely wanted to capture Cryslon intact, not just to stand it up faster but to pick up some techs that I lacked in my tree. The only problem was that the Silicoids had researched Personal Deflector shields, which put my troops at a significant disadvantage. By sending large numbers of bugs in waves, I eventually wore down the Silicoids over the course of four or five turned and captured the planet:

The most significant tech I picked up there was Terraforming +20 (which the Silicoids are always guaranteed to have in their tree). Aside from Terraforming +10, there wasn't a single terraforming tech in my tree until +50! In fact, let me show you just how barren my Planetology tree was:

The first couple techs there were very helpful, no doubt, but I went from Controlled Tundra to Controlled Toxic (useless), and then on to Controlled Radiated (only marginally more useful). I'm finally about to get some significant improvements going with Atmospheric Terraforming (and I will select +50 as my next project), but for a very long time I wasn't getting much of an advantage from my considerable size. Argh!

Diplomatically, I continued to hold good relations with the Humans, although they gave me some long faces over my continuing expansion. (Not going to stop that, sorry.) The Alkari remained insufferable, and eventually declared war on me, which made them the clear next target for attack. The Darloks... well, we didn't have very good relations, but they still were holding off on any aggression, for which I was glad. They were the only race that legitimately scared me.

I spied on both the Silicoids and Alkari; initially I hoped to steal from the rocks, but once I looted their tech tree from ground invasions I shifted most of my espionage to the birds. This penetration was the most significant one:

Yep, that's the one I was after. I was hoping to loot it from one of the Silicoid planets, but it never showed up among the prizes. Say goodbye to the one advantage the rocks had over me in combat.

With the Silicoids thoroughly smashed, I shifted my fleet over to the east side of the map and initiated plans to roll up the birds. It wasn't until my ships were over there and out of reach that this fleet came to my attention:

Yikes! Darloks, wow. They still haven't made any aggressive moves towards me, but that can't be a good sign. I'm piling up the bases as quickly as possible on Mobas and Esper, but - depending on what's on those ships - it may not matter. Now if (and it's a big IF) I can research Planetary Shield X in time and deploy it, I may be safe. I shifted tech funding to roughly 50% in Force Fields, but for the moment there wasn't much I could do beyond cross my fingers and hope the Darloks wouldn't attack.

Against the backwards birds, the campaigning was routine:

Unfortunately for them, I had researched new Fusion Rifles since my last ground combat. That gave me a Bulrathi-like advantage over the Alkari, who still lacked even Hand Lasers!

A couple turns pass, and here comes the Darlok fleet! Slowly meandering in at warp 1, of course, but it probably won't matter (I did not have enough time to finish researching the Class X shield). Esper would manage to construct more than 60 bases by the time the bogeys arrived, and I had a fairly sizable fleet in orbit to defend my planet as well. Now let's get a scan of those designs, shall we?

845 Spiders, each carrying a Fusion Bomb? And moving at Speed 3??

I only have 4 points of shielding for my bases... I'm dead. All I can do is try to kill as many of their bombers as possible. As it turned out, it wasn't really that many.

One of my best core worlds was just destroyed. I barely even touched their fleet!

"Welcome to Impossible, n00b!"