** Tactical alert, incoming wall of text **
Last week, when so early game balancing changes were announced, I found myself starting a new game, this time Humans.
New playng humans is challenging, at least for me. Without a homeworld you need to be soewhat lucky with planets in your surroundings or things get ugly fast.
In my first start I had only pirates next door and 1 single medium arid planet that I could colonize. This colonization lead to another arid planet and that was it. Soon I discovered that the Ashdar Imperials next door, sitting on their size 20 hive world had declared me the prime evil of the galaxy and showed me the difference between 1 moderately improved hive world and 2 meager, unimproved desert worlds. Since additionally the early Ashdar ships seem to pack more missiles than the human ships that battle soon went downhill. It resulted in the first game of SiS I ever had to give up.
The second game went better, but I was infinitly more lucky with planets this time. I had an ocean planet (not sooo great if you play humans) and Tyl next door (oh yes, oh yes, oh yes!) While Tyl took ages to properly pimp up it now pumps out battleships at a rate of 1/5 turns. Again I met the Asdar next door and we began something like a cold war military build up. He built 1 light cruiser (=4 missiles per turn) per 2 turns and I frantically cranked out anything that could fly and mount missiles - most were destroyers which are cheap, mount 2 missiles and some PD. When he had 30 or so ships I began to worry.
Luckily he never attacked. He proceded to waste a lot of production on a stream of colony ships that he sent always to the same planet where they were always intercepted by my fleet. Too bad boarding didn't work, I would have loved that free population. While he kept sui-nizing (suicidal colonizing) I kept building my fleet.
While I still hat far less military power than the Ashdar I encountered the Orthin, which I had to eliminate by bombing. Usually I do not like that but it had to be, they were simply to powerful and would have needed too much military commitment. The last planet got invaded and provided much needed ocean dwellers for the human ocean planets.
The Human-Ashdar stalemate of arms was disturbed by the Gremak showing up with a fleet roughly twice the size of the Ashdar's which promptly wiped away the Ashdar home defense fleet and bombed Ashdar Prime to dust. Then, for some strange reasons the left. I then colonized Ashdar Prime, dusted off the factories and labs and had a hive world. Lucky me. While building up population I suspiciously eyed the Gremak fleet, which had around 40 fusion-type missile flinging light cruisers (=around 160 missiles per combat round or 4000 potential damage per round) The human arms facories glowed red hot while pouring out ships in all sizes but we were still nowhere compared to that fleet.
The Gremak AI was flying around its massive fleet, but also didn't attack me. I went after the colonies it left behind and bombed/invaded them, which seemed to weaken the Gremak economically a lot as the huge fleet began to get smaller. Maybe another empire had to do with this as well but I highly doubt it. Maybe the Gremak split their fleet as well, but when I saw then with around 25 ships vs my 40 I attacked. Tactical combat was epic but due to a bug/feature/oddness, I won with only 1 ship lost. This was because all 25 enemy ships fired their missiles at one of my missile cruisers. This ship got pulverized to subatomic particles but the rest survived the initial missile onslaught. The second turn had the Gremak lose about half their fleet while shooting another deadly salvo at one of my cruisers, but massed PD weaponry (turbolasers + rapidfire = win!) even saved that. The rest was just mopping up.
With the Gremak fleet gone their planets fell fast. There were still Ashdar Colonials and Phidi on the map, but in the meantime clever human scientists claiming to follow the dark paths of some "Force" invented a mobile planetoid whose presence alone instills enough fear to "keep them in line". A very, very satifying moment after so much tension. A second planetoid is being built at a secret location just in case some rebel scum manages to blow the first one up.
That was a very tense and enjoyable game one of the best so far, I will upload it for you to look at when I get home.
Things I observed:
- Retreating is now no problem. Colony ships make great scouts, too.
- AI builds HUUUUGE fleets of rather small ships.
- Missiles are OP. (we discussed that in every detail already)
- The AI sends colony ship after colony ship even if they get destroyed every time. (also a known issue)
- The AI does not crush the player even if it would win by a huge margin (lucky for us players...)
- The AI does not protect its colonies at all (we already had that, too)
- The AI does not move population around, which means their new colonies take forever to grow and usually only have one type of population on them.
- Tactical combat: the AI will pile a lot of missiles on one ship while spreading them out a bit would benefit it more. (that was 25 ships firing their missiles at 1 target)
- Tactical combat: it's still possible to somehow take control of the enemy fleet, even if it means the game is stuck after the enemy turn is over.
- Playing Humans is definitly "hard mode"
- I love "Turbolazors" combined with "Rapid Fire"