In which I play Realms Beyond Orion Imperium 27

Meklar, Hard, Small Galaxy, Four Opponents

Variant: Cannot settle any additional worlds. Cannot invade enemy planets. Homeworld of Meklon remains the only planet in the empire the entire game. Exploits listed on RBO list are off-limits. Random events disabled in save.

Pre-Game Strategy Think-through

(This is the rough game plan I drew up before starting the game. As you read the report you will see how closely I adhered to it -- or not.)

this is boring chatter - take me directly to the profusely illustrated account of the game

There are two basic ways I can play this game:

  • First, I can play as an insane turtled diplomat, who allows the AIs to grow and settle nearby, perhaps even nurturing them, and who steals all of their tech, while pulling strings behind the scenes to avoid losing a Council vote. Once the tech is in hand to build a powerful bomber I can sweep the galaxy and destroy all of my rivals in no time flat.
  • Or, I can play as an insane xenophobic maniac, who builds a fleet of boats that obliterate any newly founded alien colony within range. Although this will tick everybody off, so long as the AI is never within range anyway there can be no counterattacks, and so long as two-thirds of the planets are not colonized there is no danger of a council vote leading to final war. Then once the necessary tech is in hand, etc., etc.

This immediately raises two questions: 1. Which approach is fastest? 2. Which approach is more fun? I'm not sure of the answer to the first question. Neither approach seems particularly fast. In the first case you might be able to climb the tech ladder faster thanks to the stronger AI, but you might also have to climb higher thanks to the stronger AI. In the second case, you will probably have to do more research yourself, with one planet, since your contact with the AI races tend to be limited.

Which approach is more fun? Tastes differ, but to my mind the first option (insane diplomat) is much more fun. I don't like the idea of shuttling around fleets all day blowing up hapless infant colonies, and being the overlooked, unseen force guiding the course of galactic events definitely has its appeal. So, diplomat it is.

The Meklar are Excellent in Computers and have nice factory bonuses, so playing them as Darlok-lite is very doable (in fact, one of my favorite non-variant strategies with the 'bots). If I allocate most of my tech resources to Computers research, I should be able to easily outpace my opponents on Computer tech, even as a One Planet Empire on Hard. This will make research-by-espionage very easy.

Priorities for tech spying should be something like this:

  • Planetology: This is the Meklar's weak spot, and I need this tech, badly. If it's ever available, I need to grab it. There will be a lot of "Controlled..." duds earlier on, but the terraforming and cleanup will be worth it.
  • Computers: Less important as time goes on, but if it's available I'll take it. Under NO circumstances can I let my lead in Computer tech levels narrow -- until the final storm, of course.
  • Force Fields: Planetary shields are a must. Deflectors are a good idea too. Falling behind here would be really, really bad.
  • Construction: For waste reduction, and when the end comes I will need miniaturization. Since I'm pulling a OPE, I should have significantly better bomber/RP costs than my opponents, if at all possible. Support of a large fleet will be economically crippling. Decent armor on my bombers would be a good idea, too.
  • Weapons: I will need missiles and I will eventually need bombs. Other weapons techs will be good for miniaturization. Falling behind here is bad, but not nearly as bad as falling behind in Force Fields. Gropo techs are of very low utility; I will not be invading and if it gets to the point where the opposition is invading Meklon they will probably win, they will outnumber me in population by at least several to one.
  • Propulsion: This is the "latest" -- not the lowest, the latest -- priority. I do not need any Propulsion techs to start. I do not need engines; I'm not going to be building ships or shuttling tourists around. I do not need range, yet; I am not settling worlds and the AI will soon enough come to me. I will eventually need Thorium cells to win the game -- and the AI is unlikely to research it for me, at least not until very late in the game when they can put together a navy capable of shooting black hole generators and neutronium bombs at my missile bases. I don't want to go there. When Meklon is a fortress and I can build a fleet capable of winning I will need it; as that time comes (not when it comes, I need to start as it comes) I should be able to beeline up the tree pretty quickly. If there is nothing better to steal I will take a Propulsion tech and hope espionage gives me a decent jump start. When the time comes, however, I expect to have to do most of this research myself.

Those priorities will guide who I spend the most espionage resources on, as well as what I select when I get a breakthrough. After the early game, once I am built up and have contacted the AI races, I will always have a little spying on every race, so every turn I can check exactly what they have and target my spies accordingly. Some stuff, like planetary shields, good missiles, and improved terraforming, I cannot get soon enough.

No resources to counter espionage. Too expensive. They will have a tough time getting past my tech levels, won't destroy many factories or bases, and early on there isn't much tech that I care if they steal.

Now for research priorities. At first I will be putting most of the research in Computers. I'll leave everything else besides Propulsion open and with some research, however -- I want to see my first few choices; if I can grab IT+xx or something like that quickly, I will grab them with all haste. I will not be doing espionage until I can put up some defenses, anyway, so I'm not all in on Computers at first.

After the first few techs almost everything goes to Computers. Force Fields may get some RP as a march to planetary shields, should I not steal them first.

Later in the game, when I am about to the point where I can assemble a death fleet, every RP goes to Propulsion. I will simply take the cheapest available tech in the highest available tech level bracket and climb the ladder to Thorium Cells. I may be able to start building my fleet and beginning conquest before this breakthrough, but not TOO long before, ship maintenance is expensive.

The end will be like Final War one way or the other. Either I will destroy the AIs sequentially, leaving one opposing AI strong enough to vote itself High Lord, or I will go after them all at once, which has almost the same effect anyway. Doesn't matter. They will be exterminated one way or the other.

When the time comes I should have good engines (due to my quick Propulsion ladder-climbing, if not due to a good tech steal earlier). Fast, manueverable missile boats and bombers should lay the AI to rest in short order. We'll make this quick and, well, almost mechanical.

There can only be one attempt. If I fail I will have wasted so many resources and so many turns that I will be in a big hole. 1-0, Meklar the Merciless.

There will be no navy until the end, besides my Scouts (which will all eventually be destroyed nobly in action; that is their function). I'll be spending a lot in espionage, ship maintenance will only suck more resource points, and a good sized fleet will only tick off my neighbors anyway. I'm right on their border, don't you know.

There will be a lot of slider micromanaging in this game for only one planet. Resource points are precious.

All of this is just the broad plan I drew up beforehand; something might happen that could, as they say, Change Everything(tm). A lot -- a lot -- depends on execution and, of course, the whims of the RNG.

Here we go.

First play session:

2300: Ship out scouts to the two yellow stars near Meklon. Transfer 147 BC in the planetary reserve to Meklon to accelerate factory building. Make sure the Eco slider is at "clean".

2303: Scouts discover Endoria (Terran 85) to the west, and Regulus (Terran 90) to the east.

2308: Meklon builds 5 new scouts. Even though I'm not going to expand, I still want to see if there are any Artifacts worlds nearby, and get some idea of where my neighbors are. Also, I want to be able to have some choice in my neighbors. Keeping a scout parked at a star gives me that choice... provided, of course, I spot their incoming fleet first.

Agonized over this decision for a few minutes. This is an unusual game in which I want the AI to expand to me. This move could also have been done a little later. But in the end, I decided that I must obtain whatever limited control I could get over my future immediate neighbors. I'm not Mr. Rogers, I definitely prefer not-Darloks over Darloks in my neighborhood, this game.

2311: Aquilae (Radiated 20) scouted.

2312: Misha (Jungle 75) scouted.

2313: Mrrshan scout encounted at Paranar (Arid 55) in the south, retreated. Orion found (the purple star SW of Meklon).

2314: Bulrathi scout encountered at Tao (Dead Rich 30) in the northwest. And speak of the devil:

GNN reports the bears have three colonies already. Excellent. Bulrathi and Mrrshan are about as good neighbors as I could hope for. Bulrathi like Construction techs, and frequently are Ecologists, emphasizing Planetology research, where I am weak. The Mrrshan are good with Weapons research, a field where I do not expect to spend many RP but do want to keep abreast in. Come on, bears! Come on, cats!

We already have a pretty good picture of the galaxy. My Meklar cartographers produced this chart of the sector:

Since there are only four yellow stars besides the three we know, we know exactly where the AI homeworlds are. Ursa is certainly the yellow star in the NW and the bear homeworld. Fierias, the cat homeworld, is almost certainly the topmost yellow world of the cluster of three in the south.

Of note is that three of the AI are cramped together in the south, including the rival Mrrshan and Alkari. Interesting.

2329: Meklon maxes out on population.

2331: Meklon maxes out on factories. I close off and lock the Propulsion branch of tech. I first put everything in Computers, then one click in everything else to see my first options.

2332: Deep Space Scanner (instead of ECM1), Reduced Industral 80% (only choice), Class 2 shields (only choice), Improved Terraforming +10 (instead of Barren), Hand Lasers (instead of Hyper-V). DSS is immediately in the percentages. I take several clicks from Computers into both IT10 and RI80%.

2335: Deep Space Scanner researched. Immediately choose IRC 3 (instead of ECM1 or ECM2).

2339: IT+10 pops. Go straight to IT+20 (versus Barren, Dead or Spores). I allocate points to "terraforming" to finish in one year with as little waste as possible.

2340: Meklon is terraformed, new planetary maximum is 110.

2344: Hit new population and factory maximum. 10 BC leftover in the planetary reserve, it immediately goes back to Meklon. Still no new incursions from the AI.

2346: Ahh. Reduced Industrial Waste 80% hits. Next up is IIT8, the only choice, not quite such a hot commodity with only one planet. I allocate more tech spending to Force Fields.

No, I think I'll keep them going full bore, thanks.

I notice an Alkari scout escorting a colony ship to Paranar. I send my scout there to Orion for a quick death. I'll let the birds settle on this planet. Better than having the Darloks expand near me (tough neighbors to spy on).

2347: The year we make contact.

(Alkari, Xenophobic Expansionist)

I let you intrude on my space, and you greet me by hacking up seeds all over my groovy techo-space-future-toga/bathrobe thing. I can tell already this will be a special relationship.

The birds now have three worlds. This is what the galaxy looks like:

We're going to have strong Alkari, those stars in the SE are ready for them to settle and they will almost certainly be able to claim them uncontested. I immediately get a minimal trade agreement (25 BC/yr) for relations and try to Exchange Technology to see what the birds have. "You have no technology which interests us." Well, okay.

No spies, yet. I need to conserve my RP at this point. With Xenophobic Expansionist neighbors I should be thinking about defenses, but I don't want to build missile bases yet, either. No shielding and nothing but nukes; if they attack at this point I'm sunk anyway. And every missile base I build now I'll be paying maintenance for throughout the rest of the game. BCs are very valuable at this point in the game.

2348: Major new computer tech:

A 25% boost in factories. I select ECM 3 over ECM 1, 2, or BC 4, as that is the cheapest tier three tech available. Want to move up this tree as quickly as possible as my Espionage success will depend primarily on Comp tech levels.

Since I have IRC 3 now, and am certainly the first race to have it, I'll try and exchange techs with the birds again in a few turns. If they have anything useful at all that I don't, they are likely to offer it for IRC 3. If they still see nothing of interest in my tech, they have diddly and squat. Cheaper than spies and almost as accurate.

2350: Hand Lasers come in. I select Hyper-X Rockets over Hyper-V. I increase Weapons research two clicks.

I offer to trade techs with the birds. This is all they offer:

As expected, they want IRC 3 for it. Uh, sorry. The birds are not technologically scary.


Wow, the Alkari are only #4 in fleet strength?

2353: Meklon reaches the new factory maximum, with nothing left over in reserve:

2354: The Alkari have picked up a fourth planet, one of the green stars in the southeast.

2358: Class II Deflectors finally are researched. I select Personal Deflector Shield over Class 3 shields; it's cheaper and I need to determine something important as quickly as possible. I need to see whether Class V Planetary Shields are in the tree; I'll know once this tech finishes.

2361: I offer to trade techs with the birds again. They still only offer Range 5. They refuse a boost in trade to 100 BC/year. Gee, don't get your feathers ruffled.

2362: IT+20, excellent. I select Enhanced Eco Restoration over Spores, Controlled Barren or Controlled Dead.

2367: Meklon hits population and factory maximum together. The trade contract with the birds goes into the black.

2370: Watch out, runaway Alkari!

The birds are about to expand to the terran worlds next to Meklar; a colony ship is incoming at Warp 1. I begin working on planetary bases. Good missiles or no, maintenance costs or not, I need to have some defenses up now.

2371: ECM 3 comes in. I choose Robotic Controls 4 over BC 4 and BC 5, a no brainer.

Copy protection.

One missile base comes in, it eats up about 0.5% of my empire's production. Too bad, I'll throw up a few more.

2374: The Alkari destroy the scout at Regulus and settle.

Personal Deflector Shields come in, and... NO PLANETARY SHIELD!

Too bad, maybe I will be able to steal it from somebody. I go for Class IV shields. I also reduce Force Field spending, putting it on Planetology and Computers.

2375: Meklon puts up its fifth missile base; I stop building them for now.


The Mrrshan must have a monster fleet.

The Alkari settle Endoria, the other Terran world. Too bad, I was hoping the Bulrathi or Mrrshan would make it over here. This causes the first vote:

The bears and birds are nominated.

Bears: 3 votes, themselves
Cats: 2 votes, birds (!)
Birds: 3 votes, themselves
Darloks: 2 votes, abstain
Me: 2 votes, birds

Hmm. I would suppose at this point the shifters are a one-planet empire, but the cats? The Alkari are really spread out, at this point they have eight (!) worlds but only three council votes. No trading Planetology tech to the birds, they'll vote themselves in.

After voting for the Alkari, I finagle an increased trade contract (150 BC/yr) and a NAP.

I also attempt to exchange technology: they have Nuclear Engines, but want IRC 3 or ECM 3 for it. No, Computer tech is a non-starter, birds.


Yowtch. I wasn't counting on the birds being Expansionists when I let them settle at Paranar. Or Xenophobes, for that matter. The Alkari are a bit out of character this game.


Go, space teddies!

2386: Meklar scientists reveal the secrets of Hyper-X Rockets! Scatter Pack V are the obvious next choice.

2387: I finally allocate a couple clicks to the espionage slider for the birds. I will want up-to-date intelligence at all times from here on.

2394: Enhanced Eco is researched. Controlled Radiated is the only way forward, ugh.

2397: My first spy report comes in, giving the first glimpse of the birds' full research.

They have planetary shields. They are not willing to trade them, but I can steal them. With my Computer tech levels, and their pathetic Computer research (ECM 1 is their best tech?) I should not be caught. Even if I am, their current weapons will not be able to penetrate my shields to harm my missile bases.

I jump right in with espionage on the birds with all haste.

2398: My first penetration. Three fields:

No Force Fields, but still a free tech. I pick Propulsion, and get a sweet little prize:

I frame the Darlok.

Excellent! Boris, Natasha, more spying on moose and squirrel Emperor Farseer!

Improved Robotic Controls IV comes in the same turn -- along with Improved Industrial Tech 8, just in time to make this factory upgrade a little cheaper.

ECM 5 is my next choice in Computer tech (over BC 6); Reduced Industrial Waste 60% is my next choice in Construction (only pick -- but a nice one!)

2399: The vote, Birds against Shifters:

Bears: 3 votes, abstain
Cats: 2 votes, birds
Birds: 6 votes, birds
Shifters: 4 votes, shifters
Me: 2 votes, birds

2401: Another spy penetration, this time Computer, Planetology, Propulsion and Weapons. I choose Propulsion and receive Range 5. No frame, and the birds are miffed. Oh well. I dial down espionage spending and hide my spies; at the very latest I figure the next vote will give me a chance to repair relations. Once I have the Planetary Shield though, I don't care about war with the birds.

2402: Meklon maxes on factories. I note that the Alkari are currently allied -- allied! -- with the Mrrshan.


I select Fusion Beam next, but Weapons tech is dialed down in favor of Construction (RIW 60%).


I don't know what's with all the space fleet reports, but it certainly seems like nobody keeps the lead for very long. The Darlok must be at war with factions in the SW (the cats or bears), though... they've picked up votes in the council and were certainly a OPE not long ago.

I build another five bases on Meklon. This brings base expenditures to 4.4% of the empire's production, but I think I will want the bases soon enough.

2415: Alkari relations have repaired up to Neutral. I put my spies back to work.

2417: ECM 5 comes in. Battle Computer VII is the way forward. My Computer tech levels are 22 right now. The birds recently researched BC 3, though, so it's good this tech was finished.

2419: Hello!

Well, Boris, Natasha, I guess you can go back to sleep. Jeepers.

There's a council vote soon, hopefully I will be able to vote for the birds without them winning.

2425: The vote. Birds versus shifters again.

Bears: 3 votes shifters.
Cats: 2 votes birds.
Birds: 7 votes birds.
Shifters: 4 votes shifters.
Me: 2 votes birds.

Just barely! Boris, Natasha, back to work!

2426: RIW 60% pops. Zortium is a little cheaper than IIT 6, so I go with that.

2430: Still no penetration. Mr. Xenophobe must be a bit paranoid.

2439: Battle Computer VII. BC 8 is the only way forward. My Computers tech level is now 30.

2440: Ah, yes. Finally. All six fields available.

I pick Force Fields, of course, and am greeted with...

Helllloooo there. Come to mamma.

Wasn't caught, either. Boris, Natasha, good work!

2442: "Meklon has completed a Class V Planetary Shield".

Ahh, home sweet home. That is a thing of beauty.

2443: Another Alkari hit, everything except Force Fields. I pick... Computer!

I get ECM 1, of course. I frame the Mrrshan. Hopefully that will drive a wedge between these natural enemies and unnatural allies.

Sure enough, a check of the report shows no more bird/kitty alliance. I note that the Alkari have IT+30 and Repulsor Beam now also, besides their usual Propulsion techs. Those would be nice to lift.

2449: Contact with the Darlok! A view of the current galaxy map at this point might be in order:

Looks like, indeed, the Darlok have been putting the hurt on the Bulrathi and the Mrrshan both. The galaxy is right now abount split between the shifters and the birds. This is not a bad situation to be in, although I would have preferred the bears or cats to the shifters (harder to spy on, of course). Nonetheless we do not at the moment have a race dominating the galaxy, which is good.

Despite uneasy relations, the shifters are willing to trade.

They also have some interesting technologies. Their cost for Fusion Bombs, of course, is far too high (BC 7? Get real, Shador or Sherlock or Skeletor or whatever your name is.)

A couple clicks of hidden espionage to keep an eye on the shifters is in order. Now, the vote!

2450: Surprise! It's birds versus bears! (Wow.)

Bears: 3 votes bears
Cats: 2 votes birds
Birds: 7 votes birds
Shifters: 3 votes bears
Me: 2 votes birds

This was way too close. If the Darloks went for the birds I would have been sunk.

The Darlok colonize Tao, the Dead Rich colony in my NW.

2457: I notice a Mrrshan colony ship checking out Aquilae, the Radiated colony to my southwest.

2459: Zortium Armor hits. I select IIT 5.

Also, this:

What is Farseer smoking? He can't penetrate my shields to hit my bases!

2461: I assume this is what is coming my way.

I doubt this is scary, the birds don't have good beams, bombs or spores. Unless Boris and Natasha are lying to me.

2463: Ah, more birdie espionage fun. Again, everything except Force Fields. I pick Planetology.

Improved Eco Restoration. I frame... hmm. I go ahead and frame the Mrrshan. I don't really want the Darlok beating the snot out of the birds and controlling almost the entire galaxy. Poor kitties.

2465: Here we go.

Nothing at ALL scary here. My scouts might get killed. I concentrate my fire on the stack of Pelicans, since they are the missile boats; the entire stack goes poof with one hit from my bases. Then I start firing on the other big stacks.

They retreat, of course. I only lose my scouts. With my Scatter Packs and planetary shield I don't have anything to fear from planetary invasions for a while.

2467: Espionage breakthrough on the Alkari. Computer, Construction or Weapon. I pick Computer. I get ECM 2, blame the Mrrshans.

Also, I love how, in this game, an AI can be officially at peace and "Relaxed" relations while they fly the biggest honking stack in their fleet to your one and only world in an attempt to take it. The fuzzy demarcation between war and peace is one of the interesting features of the game.

This year my spies get their first glimpse at Darlok technology:

While they can get through my shields, their lack of Computer technology is encouraging.

2468: The cold war is cold no longer.

Bring it on, bird boy. Boris, Natasha! Double-time! It's open season on the Alkari!

2469: Class IV Deflectors are researched. I select Repulsor Beam as the only choice forward; knowing I might steal it first, I dial down Force Field tech spending to minimum.

2473: Oh yeah. Feel that Computers superiority.


2475: Vote time. Alkari versus Darloks.

Bears: 3, abstain.
Cats: 2, birds. (What is with the cats and birds this game?)
Birds: 9, birds.
Shifters: 4, shifters.
Me: 2, shifters.

2476: Fusion Beam is researched. Next up: Anti-Matter Torpedoes.

2477: What's this, a new face?

(Bulrathi, Aggressive Technologist)

I immediately dial up 200 BC of trade and ask to exchange techs. They have Fusion Bombs, Sub-Light Drives, and some assorted junk to offer. They ask too much for all of it, of course.

So, with the bears, the galactic map now looks like this:

Boris and Natasha get a couple clicks. If their computer tech is stinky and they aren't too scary on the offensive I may have another victim. Hopefully their Planetology tree is strong.

Also, the Alkari are thinking about suiciding another stack on Meklon.

2478: Steal IT+30. Frame the bears.

2480: My computer tech lead is getting ridiculous.

IRC 6 is next. Not bad.

Here's a look at my tech levels:

Fairly lop-sided, but I intend to pick my rivals' trees clean.

2481: Sure enough, the Alkari fleet arrives at Meklon.

Surely, after your woefully obsolete fleet is obliterated against my bases, the solution is to throw at me MORE OF THE SAME.

They retreated immediately.

2483: New factory and population maximum at Meklon.

Here's a snapshot of the bears' technology:

Some juicy stuff there. Not as rich a Planetology tree as I'd like, but still. The Weapons are nice. I decide to spy on the bears and steal some tech from them, too. Their Computer levels are also pretty sad.

The Alkari have Impulse Drives now. Mmmm. Experts in Propulsion right next door. Good thing, too, I haven't spent a research point on it.

2487: Unknown spy destroys a missile base. Irritating. The Alkari researched IRC 4 this turn. Nuts.

2490: A hit on the Bulrathi, everything except Computers. I take Planetology for Controlled Barren and an angry diplomat. Nuts again. Spies into hiding, for now.

2493: No surprise here.

At least I can spy on them with reckless abandon now.

The bears are now allied with the birds, which is potentially trouble.

2497: An all-fields hit at the Bulrathi. I take Weapons for the Gatling Laser. No frame, unfortunately.

The Darlok are at war with the bears and birds both.

2499: Another all-fields hit against the Bulrathi. This time, Computers.

I get BC 4, their best battle computer, and a frame of the Alkari! Excellent.

Not a good screen to see just before the vote!

I ask the birds to break their alliance with the bears, but unfortunately, no dice.

2500: Vote of Doom. Let's see how it breaks:

EXCELLENT. Birds versus Bears, not Shifters.

Bears: 4 votes themselves (yay!)
Cats: 2 votes birds (boooo!)
Birds: 9 votes birds (boooo!)
Shifters: 4 votes bears (yay!)
Me: 2 votes bears (why not? the bears are scarier than the birds)

This vote scared me. If it was Alkari vs. Darlok again, the bears would have gone with the birds and it could have been the end of the game.

Somehow or another, my rivals must be equalized.

2501: Alkari, Computer/Construction/Weapon, I choose Weapon.

One Bulrathi frame, coming up.

Also, an unknown spy blew up a missile base.

2502: The latest attempt at an Alkari invasion fleet!

This is embarrassing, birds. Really just sad. How did you get to be the number one race in the galaxy again?

Result, again: Meklar victory. Whrrr. Beep.

A five field breakthrough with the Bulrathi, everything except Computers. I choose Weapons.

I'll take that. By the way, Teddy Ruxpin, Emperor Farseer is stealing all your weapons tech.

2505: Another Alkari fleet attacks Meklon!

Ahh, Altair's finest. Don't get some real weapons anytime soon, birds.


I outclass the Alkari in everything except Propulsion at this point, so the GNN droid is surely smoking something.

This turn, the Darlok also conquered Tao, which broke contact with the Bulrathi. Bummer, as I hoped to steal Fusion Bombs from them and leave some special droppings on Alkari worlds.

Ah well. Time to dial up ol' Sherman and see if he'll deal for them.

Thank you Mr. Darlok Scientist, sir. Wait, Darloks have scientists? As in, people that do RESEARCH, scientists? Wow. Wonders never cease.

I gave Enhanced Eco. Hurt like heck, but the other choices were worse.

I have bombs now. Hee hee.

And now, the Meklar Strike Back! Maybe. Provided I can wreck a few of their missile bases with spies, first, of course.

Not the greatest design, but provided I get a solution for the bases a few hundred of these will tear Regulus, the bird's nearby Terran world, to shreds; this will cost them 1 and perhaps 2 votes in the galactic council. That may be enough to keep me alive.

Meklon switches over to producing bombers. Lots and lots of bombers.

2509: Penetraded an Alkari research base, everything except Planetology. OK then, let's take a look at Propulsion, the birds' big strength. I get Warp Dissipator. Okey-doke. The Alkari are up to Ion Drives already, let's get some engines next time, please?

2510: Again, opportunity to steal some Alkari research, everything except Planetology. Propulsion again!

Warp 3, better than nothing. I frame the 'Loks, because they are big. If they caucus with the bears, no big deal. If they caucus with the birds...

I turn my spies over to sabotage. I want to take out some of the missile bases before I go on my bombing run.

2512: The Alkari attack! With something other than laser fighters!

Okay, still not much. Those Space Gulls are going down. They do take out my bombers, however, which is extremely annoying. Caught me sleeping, them doity boids.

I take this as an "opportunity" to design a new bomber with warp 3 engines.

2515: Controlled Radiated finally comes in, and the only tech to advance is Atmospheric Terraforming, which I can't even use. Good thing I'm not concentrating in Planetology. The Meklar stink at it.

2516: Sabotage hits. I attempt to take out bases on Regulus. I get one (!) base and frame the Darlok.

Another big fleet incoming to Meklon. This time I move the bombers to Regulus, to keep them safe, and turn Meklon back to research.

2517: The Alkari fleet attacks, and immediately retreats. My bombers attack Regulus... and immediately retreat. Hooray. So far this striking back business is a bit absurd. Meklon back to ships.

2519: Alkari want peace? Sorry, buddy.

...What? Seriously? Hmm, let me consult a moment with my cabinet.

Another fleet is coming into Meklon. Time to shuffle the bombers again.

The Bulrathi have retaken Tao. The bears are back in town! They are no longer allied with the birds, I note. I send Boris and Natasha to go scope out Winnie the Pooh in his Hundred Acre Wood.

The Darlok are at war with EVERYBODY except me. Not particularly surprising.

2520: The cowardly Alkari flee from Meklon. The noble Meklar wisely and perspicaciously retreat from Regulus.

2522: I accept an offer of peace from the bears. They even give me Range 4 tech. Goody, one dud less for my spies to steal.

Boris and Natasha, you're still on duty.

2524: There is no way that I can get my stack of bombers past the bases at either of the Terran planets next to Meklon; they both have about 20 installed still. I was counting on my saboteurs to soften them up the bases for me, but no such luck. I will not attempt an attack before the 2525 election. I reluctantly scrap my bombers -- they cost too much to maintain -- and plow the money into reserve. Meklon goes back to research. The Alkari spies go back to espionage; with better engines my next attack will likely be more successful.

2525: The vote. Boids versus bears.

Bears: 4 votes, themselves.
Cats: 2 votes, bears. Excellent.
Birds: 10 votes, themselves.
Shifters: 4 votes, bears.
Me: 2 votes, bears.

The two top races, as things currently stand, are nearly evenly matched. I must keep the anti-Alkari hatred at a white-hot pitch, however.

Open a 375 BC/year contract with the Bears.

2526: Another huge Alkari fleet decides to suicide itself at Meklon.

What they lack in quality, they do not make up in quantity.

I decide it is time to try and get my new bestest bud, Emperor Burrp or whatever is name is, into the fray.

Ouch. That's an expensive price to pay, especially since I want to keep spying on you. Well, if you insist. (The Bulrathi are not so far from researching Computer techs this level anyway.)

The Alkari are now at war with everybody, including the cats. What fun.

2527: The power graphs:

I've taken the lead in technology. So long as I fend off a bad council decision, this may be winnable, knock on wood.

2530: The birds want peace again.

This is a bit tempting. I accept. Yes, it's a fake peace. Espionage will continue unabated. Meklon gets a windfall to boost production for a few turns, and hopefully bring in some more tech.

Even after losing or scrapping all those fusion bombers, looks like I've come out ahead in this war after all. I dial down spy spending a bit, but it's still open season on bird espionage, as far as I'm concerned. What's the worst that happens, they declare phony war on me again and throw some spitballs at me?



Cats were two votes last election. Take them out and you have 10 votes birds, 10 votes bears, even-steven. That's assuming the birds didn't pick up a couple votes by conquering the kitties, which they almost certainly did.

If the birds land a good terraforming technology, I am in deep doo-doo. Hardly out of the woods yet. Fortunately, their tree seems quite thin there.

I decide to attempt to gift or trade terraforming technologies to the shifters and the bears. It's a bit crazy but we need more votes that don't have FEATHERS.

I get this for Controlled Radiated. Maybe the bears can get some new colonies? Wouldn't accept any terraforming as a trade or tribute, for some reason.

I gave the shifters Improved Terraforming +30 outright. GAVE them it. The Alkari already have it, they can't capture it in war.

Probably the nicest thing anybody's done to a Darlok. They gleefully give me a NAP and relations go through the roof.

I also take advantage of the large planetary reserve boost in my economy to raise my trade treaties while I'm here.

Hmm, I notice that the Darlok are at war with the Bulrathi, but not with the Alkari. If this situation continues and it comes down to birds versus bears again, the Darlok will still side with the birds, possibly with an increased number of votes! Not an acceptable outcome.

I boost espionage spending on the birds. Let's see if we get things right.

2532: Tao was obliterated from orbit. Contact has been lost with the Bulrathi. Nuts.

2533: Four fields on the Alkari, Computers/Construction/Force Field/Weapons. I go for Computers and get BC 3. I do not get caught, however. A shame, that. I hope I have not been too clever for myself.

I am having nightmares about the Darlok growing votes for the Alkari. That must not happen. Maybe they will terraform and jump straight into the number two spot. If that happens, I'm golden. We will see.

2535: Another hit, yay. Construction and Weapons. I choose... Construction! IIT 9. My goodness! The same technology the birds hoped to buy peace with!

Obviously, the outrageous theft of such a pivotal technology should precipitate wa... actually, it goes unnoticed. Oh well.

Let's do this the old fashioned way and ATTACK the Alkari. That might work, right?

2536: Another espionage hit, excellent! Construction, Force Field, Weapon. Force Fields!

Not bad, actually. I get to work on Class X Planetaries next... EXCELLENT!

2537: Another year, another spy penetration. Boris and Natasha are truly fine agents. My choice is between Construction and Weapon... hmm, Weapons, I suppose.

Oh my. Where did YOU come from, my little beauty?

The birds had just researched this. Nice.

Guess what? Improved Robotic Controls VI came in this turn, too! My production will skyrocket! Or at least go up a lot! The next target is Battle Computer Mark X -- Mark TEN.

Current Computer tech level: 42.

I set Meklon to building some bombers. Maybe if I send these to an Alkari planet they'll jump.

2541: I send a few quickly-assembled bombers over to Endoria to get blown up. Maybe I'll get a declaration of war? No such luck. The birds are scared of me and my One Planet Empire, I think.

2542: Spies versus the birds, Construction and Weapons. I pick Construction, and get Duralloy Armor.

Good news from GNN!

The next council should be birds vs. shifters. Looks as if those Darlok have gone love-happy after my little gift (and no, I do not want to think about what this rapid Darlok reproduction entails.) In that case, the bears should abstain (at war versus both the birds and the shifters). Even if the bears manage to climb back into the #2 spot, that means that the Darlok and Bulrathi are almost equal, and there will be no two thirds majority either way the Darlok break.

So the next council vote should be dandy like candy.

Since I could not equalize the powers by thinning the bird ranks I fattened the ranks of the shapeshifters. That might give me problems down the line but, for now, securing the council vote was the important thing.

2544: Force Fields or Weapons from the Alkari? Mmmm, Force Fields. I get Class III deflectors, and blame my good buddies the Darlok.

2547: Construction, Force Fields, Propulsion or Weapons. No brainer: Propulsion!

Oh yeah, that's the stuff.

I now have a pretty lead in technology, and am keeping pace with the Darlok in production despite having a fraction of the population.


This is a slight surprise, but only slight. The shifters and the bears are still very close, I see. As I figured, it works well this way too.

Bears, 4 votes themselves. Birds, 9 votes themselves. Hmm. Shifters, 4 votes bears. Me, 2 votes abstain.

OK. The birds, for the moment, have been clipped. I need to worry about one of the Darloks or Bulrathi getting stronger and running away with #2, at the moment. I'm already checking the spy tech reports almost every turn for each race, and the stats as well.

2554: Alkari penetration, only Weapon available. I pull Graviton Beam.

I need better shields and more bases. If the birds get a large stack of Omega-V bombers together the result will not be pretty. I tell my spies to hide. The birds have been nearly picked clean for the moment anyway.

2555: This mean little tech comes in:

Phasor is the next choice.

2561: I have 50 missile bases at Meklon; this drains 9.4% of my empire's income in maintenance. Necessary, unfortunately.


2567: Good. About time.

Class VII shields are the way up.

2568: "Meklon has completed building a Class X Planetary Shield." I commit a small amount of research to Propulsion. Hmmm. I want to see what tech is available, and I'd also like to get back in touch with the bears if possible.

2571: I offer the birds a trade treaty. No dice.

2575: Birds vs. bears again.

Bears: 4 votes, themselves.
Birds: 7 votes, themselves.
Shifters: 4 votes, bears.
Me: 2 votes... birds!

The birds are out of tech I want at the moment. I want to boost relations somewhat.

Can't increase trade with the shifters; I made the current treaty when my economy was inflated by Farseer's generous peace offering.


My computer lead is getting embarrassing. I've been focusing on that almost the entire game. IRC 7 is my next choice. My tech level is 49 in Computers.

I put Boris and Natasha back to work against the birds. I want their Ion Drives, Class VI shields and Armored Exoskeleton.

The top Darlok computer tech is only Improved Robotics Controls IV, level 18. Even with their substantial racial bonus I'm at least even with them on spying. I start espionage on them, as well. May as well leverage this lead since I have it.

The Darlok, like the birds, are Xenophobic (I believe the shifters always are, although they aren't supposed to be -- a bug.) Should I get caught the diplomatic penalty will be pretty harsh. I don't want sour relations with the shifters, but if I am caught once, even with Xenophobes, this should not terminate my trade or ruin my relations completely and immediately. I can give the Darlok more tech tribute if necessary.

This still isn't a particularly pacifistic move.

2589: Put a few clicks in Defense on Meklon. A few more bases can't hurt; I'm down to only 8% spending on those.

2590: Oh ho, what is this?

A surprise attack zipping in at Warp 6?

Sweet salamanders it's the negative fleet bug!

"Do you feel lucky, punk?"

They, er, immediately retreat. Whew. "Hey, just wanted to say hi! Uh, goodbye!"

Apparently Emperor Farseer now believes that the only way he can triumph is an INTEGER OVERFLOW.

2591: Er, it might make nice tribute someday, yes?

Hey, I have good choices here.

I pick up IT+50 first, and I'll get the somewhat more expensive Advanced Soil Enrichment next, probably.

Since these techs are important, I shift some of my Computers research to Planetology.

2592: Espionage time against the birds. I choose the only open field, Weapon. I pull Ion Cannon, which I believe is the only tech they had in that branch that I didn't already.

2594: The Darlok colonized Aquilae, the Radiated planet near my Meklon.

2598: IIT 5 comes in, Andrium Armor is next.

2600: The vote! It's birds versus bears again.

Bears: 5 votes bears.
Birds: 8 votes birds.
Shifters: Uh-oh, 5 votes birds!
Me: 2 votes abstain.

Close. Far too close. I hide my spies on the Darloks. I need to stay at peace with them. And I need to go back to hot war with the birds. While the bears and shifters are even, the birds are still too strong. I turn my bird spies to Sabotage.

2601: A hit! I elect to target the bases on Regulus. I destroy 4 missile bases there.

2603: "Alkari spies steal the plans for: ECM Jammer Mark V". Maybe so, maybe so.

Another sabotage hit. Regulus bases again. I get 3, and blame the Darloks. Good.

2604: Yet another sabotage hit. (Did I mention I have a slight lead in Computers by now?) Regulus bases get smacked again.

I get five! Good deal!

2607: No new sabotage hits; the Alkari have built back 3 of the bases I've destroyed.

2608: Destroy 4 bases on Regulus.

Oh yeah. That's the talk, birdie my friend. Clattering of sabres.

Meklon has 87 missile bases now; about 9% of my empire goes to base maintenance.

2609: Hmm, more sabotage? Yes, I think bases at Regulus is good.

Get em! Get em! Blow em up!

This time, I blame the bears. They are currently allied with the birds. Can't have anybody feeling good about the Alkari. Too dangerous, that.

Correct that. They were allied with the birds.

2611: Three more missile bases at Regulus are destroyed. The Darlok take the fall.

2614: The Alkari send another fleet to Meklon. What are they packing this time?

Two of those buggy 32K stacks and something with F-bombs. Bah.

All stacks immediately retreat. Big whoop.

2615: 3 more bases on Regulus go kablooey. Darloks are blamed.

2617: The last bases on Regulus somehow spontaneously explode. The Darloks are thought to have something to do with it.

Happily, the shifters are now at war with the Alkari. I switch my spies back to espionage on both the Alkari and the Darlok.

2618: Fusion Drives comes in, the first Propulsion tech I've actually researched all game! I go straight for Range 10.

2623: A hit on the Alkari. Breaking into Force Fields research gives me the birds' best:

On the same turn, an all-fields hit on the Darlok!

I choose Weapon, the field where they have the most research, and am given Hard Beam.

2625: Spies hit the Alkari again. Construction is the only thing open. I get Armored Exoskeleton, the birds' best ground tech.

Also this turn, the vote.

Birds versus bears. Who will win?

Bears: 5 votes themselves.
Birds: 10 votes themselves.
Shifters: 4 votes bears. Good! Good!
Me: Uh, 2 votes birds, I guess.

All that sabotage was absolutely necessary. Absolutely.

I dial down espionage on the birds. All they have that I don't is Ion Drives. That's it.

2629: Hey, a really nice weapon!

Gauss Autocannon is the next Weapons project, in preference to Hand Phasor.

Tao is a bear colony again. Been too long since I've spoken to my good friend Paddington. Hey, how you doing?

Hey look, I got a really good tech from them! It was an absolute steal, too! I only gave them something called Atmo... eh, Atmospheric Terraforming, I think. Nothing really important. But look! This makes missiles go PEW! Pew pew pew!

No point in making a trade contract, they are just renting Tao.


It's time for the decennial ritual suicide of the Alkari fleet.

They are getting a little more imaginative, I will give them that.

Immediate retreat again. Was this trip really necessary?


Good, it's been a very long time since IT+30. Advanced Soil Enrichment is next, and it's an even bigger deal. More research to Planetology.

2637: I hit the Alkari Propulsion research and finally, finally pick up Ion Drives. I frame the Bulrathi, because there is no reason to frame the Darlok right now.

Espionage on the Alkari is out and sabotage is in.

2639: Another attack on my homeworld.

They aren't retreating this time. Well, those 32 Space Gulls might put a dent in my defenses. Except the Gulls go down with one blast from my scatter packs. Immediate retreat follows.

The Alkari are finally fielding better fleets. Only slightly better, but better. Eventually they might be able to fit an Omega-V bomb on a small hull, and that would be real trouble.

I notice that the Darlok and Alkari are -- get this -- allies now. That situation should not continue. I dial up my good buddy Shazam to register my disapproval:


I increase sabotage spending on the Alkari. Have to do more work with Boris and Natasha. But I can't keep doing this forever. There are only eleven years until the next vote.

I am being far too meek. It is time, finally time to go on the offensive. And I have to do it fast. Blow away a vote or two and there is nothing the birds can do.

I can make a small Omega-V bomber with combat speed 3. I have to use warp 5 engines instead of the state of the art, and no computer, but that's OK. It doesn't need to fly far. And even with Mark Zero computers these will still hurt.

2640: Next year I blame the Darloks for the destruction of Regulus missile bases.

2644: With a stack of 542 (!) Omega 5 bombers, I strike at Regulus. There are still 9 missile bases. I'll have to run past them.

Being fast, they make it to the planet with 407 remaining.

Bombs away!

Missiles whittled them down, but that's all she wrote for the bases.

Let me think about this for a second...

Six-tenths of a bird vote down.

Boids are not happy.

I ask the 'Loks to void their alliance.

Done. (I do not tell Mr. Nazgul here what the Bulrathi gave me for that.)


Wait, what's this? I actually register on "Fleet Strength"? How did this happen?

2645: On the next turn, I am treated to a comical sight. An Alkari fleet... with guns... meets my bombers at Regulus.

They retreat. Against a fleet of bombers that cannot shoot at them. Very good. Very good indeed.

This was an unwise decision, Mr. Farseer.

I pull the Darlok into full-on war. Why not?

A beautiful sight. An unspoilt virgin yellow star, harboring a quiet terran world. And with unusually nitrogen-rich soil, I might add.

I decide to press my advantage by moving my bombers to Endoria, the other terran world near to my Meklon.


No retreating here. Turn around, mighty bombers. You will be needed on another day.

2647: Destroy 3 missile bases at Endoria. Blame the bears. The Darlok settle Regulus.

I have to be very careful that the Darlok do not now become the dominant race; I should set the Bulrathi against them now. They are still close in size.

Espionage ordered up on Emperor Burrppp.

2648: That was quick.

Propulsion, I guess.

I pull range 7. No frame, unfortunately.

2650: More sabotage at Endoria... but my spies fail!

In more important news, the vote:

It is still birds versus bears. Good.

Bears: 6 votes, themselves.
Birds: 10 votes, themselves.
Shifters: 4 votes, bears.
Me: 2 votes, bears.

I am glad to see that the Darloks are not gearing up as #2 race, yet. The bears definitely are. The birds still have altogether too many votes.

Regulus is now an Alkari colony again. Hot potato.

2651: I send a fleet to Endoria.

I retreat a fleet from Endoria. See, I can do it too!

2652: The Alkari destroy a missile base, one of roughly a billion on Meklon.

2653: I send my bombers unescorted to Regulus, which the Alkari just resettled. They forgot to leave a fleet there. Whoopsie!

Get used to that, birds.

2654: Of course I haven't abandoned tech.

Battle Computer XI, top of the line, is next.

2656: New factories maxed on Meklon.

I have a few.

2662: Six fields hit on Bulrathi, I go for Planetology.

I blame the Darlok.

I send my mighty fleet after Misha in the NW. It has next to nothing guarding it.

Prepare to have your planet blown up, birds.

Nuts, the missiles got too many. Strategic withdrawl.

2666: The Darlok bombed Regulus back into the stone age. I note that the bears have been dragged into the war. Fine, fine.

2674: A larger bomber fleet arrives at Endoria.

No messing around this time, over 400 reach the planet.

Victory. Another former jewel of a world is slagged into oblivion.

2675: Destroy one base on Misha, blame the Darlok.

The vote has arrived again. How do things look now?

Birds versus bears, umpteenth chapter.

Bears: 7 votes bears.
Birds: 8 votes birds -- heh. Heh heh.
Shifters: 4 votes bears.
Me: I'll play along. 2 votes bears.

The bears are shaping up to be the next power. That is an unfortunate position to be in.

2676: 4 more bases on Misha gone.

2677: 3 more bases on Misha. The bears are to blame, honest.


What, nobody protecting Misha?

Half the bases down, then retreat.

Six field penetration on the bears again. Weapon. I pick up Fusion Rifle, hope I don't need it.

Cry me a river.

2679: 4 more bases down on Misha, bears blamed. I note that the birds have Tachyon Beam.


Nobody has settled Endoria. Or rather, folks have settled it and then other folks immediately destroyed it. It is fun to watch.


Another six field penetration on the Bulrathi. Propulsion. I get range 8, blame the Darlok. Hey, have to make everybody hate each other right now. This is some dangerous juggling here; wouldn't do to neutralize the birds and then have the bears win.

2684: Bears again. Everything except Construction. I choose Planetology. Advanced Soil Enrichment. Hey, that's familiar. IT+60 next.

Bear diplomat even more peeved.


Really now?

The Alkari sue for peace.


What crap. I accept anyway. Doesn't hurt.

I do not call off Boris or Natasha, of course.

I'm done for my first play session. I save the game to return later. I am in a position where I can win, but it isn't certain, and if I wait around too much longer it will become more difficult, not less. I am getting tired, which is certainly not conducive to good play.

It is all well. We are entering the endgame.

I can't simply turtle much longer, relying on my missiles and my shields to save me from homeworld incursions. The bears, for certain, and the shifters, perhaps, have reached a productivity level where they can outresearch me AND build bases and ships, and my Computers tech level lead is narrowing, so espionage will not be as reliable a leveler as it has been, especially against the damned Darlok -- at this point I am almost at a disadvantage spying against them, even with Computer tech levels over 50.

I think that we are at a point of near equilibrium, where the three AI powers are nearly evenly matched, thanks to the planetology gifts. The bears, for certain, have been terraforming. That means that the council vote is not, at the moment, a major concern. This is a time I can quietly focus on winning the game, rather than pulling the right strings to survive the next vote. But this situation won't last forever, soon enough the birds will have the techs too and once they use them, look out. They have the substantial planet lead. But for the immediate future I think I am safe in the council vote.

The birds, or anybody else, are dangerous if they figure out that a stack of several thousand Omega-V bombers is all they really need to beat me. Really expensive, but not impossible for them to build.

I will have Range 10 technology soon, and nobody else has my range. If I can fan out and beat all of the colonies near to me back -- and I can, I have leveled the largest and most developed ones -- then they will not be able to bring the fight to me. They will probably waste resources building colony ships and sending colonists to fill the void over in empty space. They won't realize that it isn't empty, it's Meklar space. I may have to demonstrate that several times by bombing out skeleton colonies. Too bad for them.

The plan is that by the time I strike out it will not much matter what fleets they build or how they vote. I will wait until I have the winning fleet, then open up the maw of hell.

It is time to beeline Propulsion research.

Espionage and sabotage should still continue in the interim. I have to instigate wars between AI factions as long as I can. Keep them fighting and warring among themselves.

I'm not the real threat, after all. I only have one planet.

Continue to the second session