Klackons, Impossible, Medium, 5 Opponents
With a 5-1 record to this point in time at Master of Orion, it was time to stop kidding around and move up to Impossible difficulty. As great as this game is (and I've really been enjoying myself thus far), on the other difficulty levels a competent human will eventually pull ahead from the AI races in all but the most handicapped of starts or against the most dominant runaway opponents. And I'm the sort of player who would rather play a close game and lose than sleepwalk over a feeble AI, so Impossible it is!
To ease my transition to the higher difficulty, I chose to play as the mighty Klackons, famed for their ridiculous growth curve and early economic boom. (If it weren't for the Psilons, the Klackons would be far and away be the most powerful race in the game. As it is though, the Psilons make even the Klackons look tame.) I drew a start in the southern part of the galaxy, at about 6:00 on the clock. There was only one star within 3-parsec range, so I could potentially be in trouble, but to my delight that planet was size 90, Fertile! Excellent. I sent one of the scouts coreward to the north, the other starting scout to the east where there were some nearby yellow stars. You can see them fanning out below:
I guessed from the yellow stars in this galaxy that there were two AIs in the north, one in the east, another one at one of the two yellows to my west, and a fifth AI clumped in somewhere randomly. That largely turned out to be correct, in fact (the extra AI was at one of the yellow stars in the east). I sweated a bit about a possible AI at the yellow star to the immediate southwest, but it turned out that no one was there, and so I not only had room to spread out, but a number of safe backline worlds down at the bottom of the map that I could hold off on colonizing for the moment.
After building the usual complement of Scout2s and shipping some population to the second colony, I settled in to do some factory construction. I was unprepared, however, for the disgusting rate at which the Klackons began churning them out. In fact, Kholdan was able to max out (100/200) as early as 2318! Geeze, Klackons. Here's what my neighborhood looked like as I was about to start colonizing:
To my delight, seven of the first ten worlds I scouted were habitable! I was able to expand to the Terran world to the south without having to research extended range, and then that planet would pull the Arid planet nearby within 3 parsecs as well. Kholdan could churn colony ships at the disgusting rate of every 3 turns, so I quickly filled out those backline worlds, standing them up with population from my Fertile second world (that's a seriously sweet combo for the Klackons to have in the early going). After that I needed extended range to expand further, so I plunked the homeworld down on researching Range 5 at max rate.
A few more words are in order for the above map. The Steppe planet in the southwest is Ultra Poor; since I had seen some red ships buzzing around over there (Silicoids), I planned to let the AI have that world and make no effort at colonizing it. The Tundra planet in the southeast was Rich, size 50! That would be a major priority down the road indeed. Assuming I could land the Ocean planet next to it (which was Poor unfortunately), I would be in good shape to get that one too.
My first colony ship after I researched increased range went to the Terran planet in the north, since I wanted to open up the opportunity to push further into the galactic core. However, things quickly began heating up at another location on the map, over in the east at the Arid planet (Seidon) you can see above. Even as my own colony ship was preparing to depart, my scouts were already chasing away Human colony ships!
Fortunately these were still the early unarmed variety (which would retreat), but clearly I had better get a move on over here if I planned to land anything on the eastern side of the map! Since I needed Seidon to have the range to get anything further east, this was already looking like a critical location.
When I settled Esper in the north, I was brought into contact with the Darloks:
Hmmm... doing better than expected for a Darlok opponent! The shapeshifters had the fortune to draw an isolated start with no other races in range, thus allowing them to spread all over the northwest quadrant of the galaxy. (This also meant that their poor diplomacy didn't hurt them as it so often does.) The Darloks would turn out to be my primary competition in this game, which I certainly had not been expecting.
Now take a look at the yellow star in the southwest part of the map. See my scout retreating? (It's very small.) As I expected, that planet is Cryslon and the Silicoids are crammed up against the west edge of the map. Due to the wide gap of space between our territories, hopefully I would be able to keep them at arm's length with minimal trouble.
While my colony ship was on its way I had to retreat another Human colony ship, but I did manage to plant my flag on Seidon first. That brought me into contact with the Humans:
The cursor is pointing to Sol above. From the looks of it, I've definitely managed to poach one of what should have been "their" systems, ha! (Gotta love that Klackon growth curve.) Now for the bad news: the Darloks have already cut me off in the north! That green star between their two yellow flags is Orion, and there's no way I'll be getting the range to go further north than that anytime soon. I'll also mention the purple star near there has no planet, and the green star just west of my territory has a tiny Radiated Rich world. (I plan to make sure the Silicoids don't get that one!) In other words, my borders are starting to look pretty stable in the north, but there's still a little more fluidity elsewhere.
After I missed out on grabbing a planet up there in the north, I had one extra colony ship. I expected the Silicoids to grab that Ultra Poor on our border, but they kept ignoring it, so eventually I just settled it myself. What else was I going to do with that extra ship?
Talk about a crummy planet, heh. But Bootis would become a major bone of contention later, which I'll get to in a minute.
50 turns into the game, I was highly pleased to see how competitive my bugs were doing:
Look at that Production stat! Wow, Klackons. Of course I'll fall drastically behind in Technology in the near future (since I'll be building factories while the AIs surge ahead with their discounted tech costs) but everything else is going about as well as could be hoped.
Meanwhile, although I had colonized eight planets, the AIs continued to probe my defenses and push against them where they seemed weakest. The Alkaris had started near the Humans, and they managed to gain space superiority over Seidon with some of their warships, chasing away my Scout2s. I already had some laser popgun fighters en route to chase them away, but scouting the system allowed the birds to send transports. Here they come from Altair, with the max amount!
55 transports, urp! That could be tough. I don't have anywhere near that many people on Seidon, and it's not even close to having enough production to add some bases. All I can do is rely on the ships I have in orbit shooting down enough of the transports to give me a chance to win the gropo combat...
My laser fighters managed to take out 8 of the transports, turning this into a 47 on 40 battle. That still probably wouldn't be enough, except for one thing: I've already researched Hand Laser technology.
As Sirian once said, yes it IS good to research those Hand Lasers. Cheapest opportunity to save an entire planet that you will ever be afforded. I flooded Seidon with additional population from nearby worlds to replace those lost in battle, and the Alkari would not challenge my control of this system again. Whew! It had been quite a ride, but I had managed to plant my flag firmly on Seidon. The AIs might attack me there again, but they wouldn't do so flippantly.
For the immediate future, I concentrated on building factories and bases, both of which the Klackons were able to do at a fairly disgusting rate. I felt this notice from GNN was significant:
Klackons. Heh. Even on Impossible, I'm still #2. Go figure. (Guess how the Mrrshans are doing?)
Most of the events in this game are usually bad, but I pulled one of the best ones relatively early on:
Another Rich planet, fantastic! Yarrow was a bit on the small size (I think it was base size 50), but I was still able to use it as a shipbuilder. In fact, I converted Kholdan over to research and used Yarrow either for defense spending or to socket cash away into the planetary reserve, depending on the needs of the moment.
After researching Terraforming +10 and Improved Eco Restoration, my next Planetology option was Controlled Tundra. I sped there with a significant portion of the budget and was thus able to settle two additional worlds in the east, including the one Rich planet identified earlier. That got me up to 10 planets:
Now here's the bad news: remember the green star just to the west of my territory that held a Radiated Rich planet? I had some laser popguns there to prevent the Silicoids from colonizing the place, but they managed to sneak a ship by me when I was shuffling some units around. And that colony granted them the range to attack virtually all of my core worlds. Well, I had made a silly mistake but I wasn't going to stand for that! I came back to their fledgling colony and bombarded it out of existence, which of course caused the Silicoids to declare war. I was expecting that, but it still wasn't good.
You can see the Silicoid ships incoming to Bootis, my Ultra Poor point planet above. (The cursor is pointing to it.) I had some more laser popguns there, but nothing that could stand up to a significant attack. Nevertheless, I was not particularly afraid of the rocks. Their fleet strength was only barely above mine on the power graphs! And even if they managed to take Bootis away from me, so what? It was Ultra Poor, after all. Mostly I was just hoping to delay them as much as possible at that throwaway world while my real planets continued researching better tech.
In better news, I now had enough tech to fit a Reserve Fuel tank onto a colony ship. For no apparent reason, the Humans had left alone two worlds in the southeast corner of the map, so I snagged two additional planets, including a size 100 Terran!
I guess they didn't have the range to settle there. What a coup for me!
On the Silicoid front, I chased away some of their early probes, but then the rocks sent a Huge ship after me. Uh oh!
Needless to say, my little popgun fighters were not going to be able to kill something with 900 hit points. I was forced to retreat, thus opening Bootis to invasion. Even though I still lacked any gun better than lasers, I had to respond to that Huge ship threat. Having just discovered the Auto Repair special, I put together one of the most pathetic Huge designs you will ever see:
This thing is totally laughable. 100 lasers?! But with that Auto Repair special, I knew it would be all but invulnerable against the Silicoid Monitor design (which was packing nuke missiles and lasers). I ordered Yarrow, my Rich world, to produce one of these things. In the meantime, Bootis would have to take care of itself.
I successfully resisted the first invasion there, but when the Silicoids came back they were wearing new Personal Deflector Shields. Game, set, and match.
Of course, as an Ultra Poor planet it wouldn't be any use to them either. Still, I felt as though I had better take it back - it's the principle of the thing, you know?
I was definitely worried over in the east that I might get attacked by someone. My relations were good with the Humans, but much less so with the Alkari. Stupid birds kept refusing all my efforts to trade with them and then dismissing their ambassador. My older colonies had enough bases to be relatively secure, but some of the newer ones probably could have been swatted with ease. So when I noticed this, I was a bit worried:
Alkari piggybacking off an alliance with the Humans, are they going to attack Imra? Then I check the Races screen, and find out that the Alkari DIDN'T have an alliance with the Humans! Looks like they're fighting each other, perfect. Just the sort of thing I needed while I was tangled up with the Silicoids on the other side of my territory. The Humans did a nice job of serving as a meat shield against the birds for me.
The votes were exactly split 50/50 in the 2400 election:
I gained votes from the Humans and Mrrshans (who I still hadn't met yet but who obviously disliked the Darloks), while the shapeshifters got votes from the Silicoids and Alkari. Naturally I abstained to avoid irritating my opponent unnecessarily, but the two general sides in this galaxy appeared to be evenly matched at this point. Now obviously what I have to do next is find some way to increase my tally while decreasing that of the other guys.
Taking it to the Silicoids seemed like a good first step in that direction.