Bulrathi, Impossible, Medium, 5 Opponents
Watch this game on YouTube (Playlist Link)
This is the short summary of a game that I played on Livestream at the beginning of 2020 as part of my ongoing Civ Fridays series. I suppose it's a bit of a stretch to include Master of Orion in a "Civ Fridays" series but "Turn-Based Empire-Building Strategy Game Fridays" doesn't have quite the same ring to it. I'm never entirely sure how much interest there will be in an old game like this one, with Master of Orion rapidly approaching 30 years (!) since its release date in 1994. Somewhat to my surprise the viewer turnout for this game was excellent, significantly higher than it had been for Civ6 when I streamed the more recent game a few months earlier. We were hitting 50 concurrent viewers at max and averaging between 30-40 viewers at a time to watch an old DOS-based game, amazing. The suggestions and running commentary from the viewers always makes these games a blast to play and I'm greatful for how many people were interested in stopping by to watch.
As far as the gameplay went, this ended up being a fairly standard game for Impossible difficulty. The starting point was in the northeast corner of the galaxy and I was fortunate enough to have no AI races in the immediate area. There would be a safe backlines area to expand into over time. At the chat's urging, the homeworld was named "Forbearance" and all of the planets colonized would get various bear-related names upon their initial colonization. I never rename the planets in my normal Master of Orion games and it's always a bit of a trip seeing names like "Teddy" and "Udyr" on the galaxy screen. The bad news was that there were a lot of Hostile planets in the initial neighborhood: 2 Tundras, 3 Deads, and an Inferno world. I would only be able to colonize about half a dozen planets initially and then would need additional environmental tech to be able to get the rest of the local region. The good news was that I had the tools to do so: two large Artifacts planets tucked into the northeastern corner! My second colony founded with the starting colony ship landed at the first of those two worlds (Ocean 70) and I would be guaranteed to control the other one (Ocean 100!) after locking down more pressing border worlds. The free techs were nothing special, just Terraforming +10 and Hyper V missiles, but sheesh, those two planets were incredible finds.
The early turns were pleasantly quiet as I raced out colony ships to secure the frontier. I was trying to push in two directions at once, towards the northwest where I'd been seeing Mrrship ships and to the southeast where I'd spotted a Meklar presence. Early research went into Improved Eco Restoration and then Controlled Tundra on the Plantelogy side (Controlled Dead not being available) and I was able to pick Range 4 over Range 5 in Propulsion after being offered both choices. This was a game where I could get by with minimal range tech and still expand. Long turns of factory building took place, and this was where having an Artifacts world for the second planet was such an advantage. The second planet usually carries the research load (with only a handful of factories) while the homeworld constructs colony ships, and I was getting double RP investment every turn from the planet we had named Licky. This kept me from falling too far behind on tech while speeding along towards Controlled Tundra. (You're always behind in tech on Impossible but this kept me only modestly behind, not BEHIND behind if that makes sense.)
When Controlled Tundra fininshed I began grabbing the Hostile worlds along my southern border. I managed to snag two of them only to lose a large Jungle planet in that area to the Klackons. I had to loop around to the east first in order to have enough range to reach it, and by that time the bugs were able to slip in with an escorted colony ship and claim it first, therefore also denying me access to the Tundra planet further south. While that was a slight disappointment, I was pleased with what I managed to colonize in this game. Controlled Inferno followed next in the Planetology tree and that unlocked four more worlds, a trio of Dead planets and the one Inferno environment in the area. The southernmost Dead planet was Ziost with a base size of 10, the weakest possible location that didn't have a Poor or Ultra Poor malus attached to it. I worked hard to stand up that location with population transports, Reserve spending, and lots of terraforming to transform it into something worthwhile. Every single location on the map becomes useful eventually with enough technology, and Ziost was up to size 125 with more than 600 BC in production by the time that the game ended. Well worth the earlier effort.
Long stretches of this game passed in peace and I was more than content to keep things that way. Time is always on the side of the player in Master of Orion since the AI doesn't know how to use the lategame tools very well, and this was a game where I had lots of small Hostile worlds which would benefit enormously from terraforming. There was no reason to fight so long as they were building up and gradually strengthening my position. The Klackons were Erratic in this game and they eventually flipped out and declared war; I was able to tie them up in fighting with the Meklars and didn't see much of anything from them in the midgame. I also asked the Mrrshans to declare war on the Silicoids and they agreed, removing any chance of losing the Council vote to Silicoid cheese alliances in one stroke. This was probably more use of the Spectator Wars ("let's you and them fight") mechanic than I should have used here, one of the weaker parts of MOO's gameplay balancing, but this wasn't a competitive game so I didn't feel too bad. Just needed some time to distract these AI turkeys with meaningless conflicts while continuing to develop and get stronger.
By about 2450 my planets had all maxed out in size and built enough bases to feel reasonably safe. It was time to look for opportunities to gain in territory against one of the other empires. My biggest weakness in terms of ship design was lacking faster engines; I tried to trade for them and couldn't get anything useful. I ended up having to steal them from the Mrrshans, and while I did manage to lift warp 4 engines, they caught me spying and declared war. Oh well, I wouldn't have initiated espionage with the cats unless I could survive losing their vote in the Council anyway. As a weak empire in the northwest corner of the map, the Mrrshans were an ideal target for offensive warfare. The Humans and the Meklars had been allies throughout the game, the Klackons were too strong to fight, and the Silicoids were too far away. Once again, for the ten millionth time, kitty had drawn the short straw in the galaxy.
Up to this point in time I had effectively been playing a blank race in terms of bonuses. The Bulrathi are one of the game's weakest races since they must engage in ground combat to make use of their racial bonus, and if you've reached the point where you're landing soliders on another empire's planet, you've already done most of the hard work. With that said, they really do shine in the one specific situation where they get to take advantage of their innate brute strength. I began the campaign against the Mrrshans by taking their border world of Ukko, a small Tundra planet that wasn't very well defended. It didn't have much in the way of factories and failed to provide anything significant from being captured. The cat homeworld of Fierias was a different story, with it being a pain in the neck to capture due to its location inside a nebula. No shielding meant heavy casualties while attacking and slow movement for ships and transports. The Mrrshans had significantly better ground technology (+10 from Armored Exoskeleton, +10 from Absorption Shield, and +15 from Fusion Rifle) with my only advantage lying in Andrium Armor which was canceled out by them being the defender. Fortunately the Bulrathi combat bonus took their +35 advantage down to a mere +15 advantage, turning something like 4:1 casualties down to less than a 2:1 edge in their favor. A lot of bear marines died but I flooded the planet with transports and landed enough to get the job done. Armored Exoskeleton and Fusion Rifle were both looted from Fierias and that immediately flipped things around in my favor. Now the Bulrathi would have the edge in ground combat.
It took longer than I expected to grind down the cats, but grind them down I did to an ultimate elimination. There were two things that dragged out this process, the cats having a sequence of unusually large planets (lots of base sizes around 90 or 100) and the presence of an obnoxiously placed nebula at their homeworld. Population transports heading to the cat planets from Ruxpin, Pinicbasket, and Teddy had to pass through that blasted nebula every time and it slowed down the transit speeds significantly. I also had to pause the offensive multiple times to drive enemy ships away from Fierias after capture since it couldn't build shields for its missile bases due to that nebula. There was one attack where 100 missile bases failed to stop the incoming attackers - it's tough when your bases have zero points of shielding! The outcome of the campaign was never in doubt but the cats did manage to drag things out for some time.
Naturally relations had been plummeting with all races due to the growing size of the Bulrathi empire. I had picked up 12 planets (a quarter of the galaxy) in the initial landgrab and then taken half a dozen more worlds from the cats. My bears also had a fertile Planteology tree in this game and stacked up lots of terraforming technology: both Atmospheric Terraforming and Advanced Soil Enrichment, along with Terraforming +40, then +60, then +80. All of those little Hostile planets had been transformed into Minimal environments and with Advanced Soil Enrichment plus standard terraforming they were all growing gigantic. I'd already possessed a veto block in the Council even before running over the Mrrshans (I turned down a Diplomatic victory at the 2475 Council vote) and with the passage of time the advantage was only increasing. The Silicoids were next after the Mrrshans were gone and they didn't put up much of a fight. The rocks had been my Council opponent for most of the game but they'd simply been outscaled by this point. I ran over world after world in the southwestern part of the map and slowly rolled them up from west to east.
This left the Klackons as the only opponent of note still left standing. They had eliminated the One Planet Empire Humans from the game and eventually took over the Meklar homeworld, confining the cyborgs to a pair of planets in the far southern corner of the galaxy. The Klackons had drawn an Erratic Technologist personality in this game and that was reflected in their performance: weaker expansion than normal along with better teching than usual. The bugs had maxed out their Construction tech and were up at Advanced Construction II or something ridiculous like that along with deadly Scatter Pack X missiles to protect their planets. They were too well defended for me to attack them until I'd managed to reach the end of the tech tree myself. But with the rest of the galaxy lying prostrate at the feet of the Bulrathi, and with Class XI shields and Neutronium Bombs on hand to crack their bases, this was the best opportunity to surmount the final remaining opponent.
I suffered some substantial losses in attacking the Klackon planets. I'd been using a standard Huge design packed full of my best guns and bombs for most of the game, upgrading from Fusion Beams to Auto Blasters to Pulse Phasors to Tri Focus Plasmas as the game went along. The most recent version of that design managed to add in the High Energy Focus and Advanced Damage Control (big brother of the Autorepair special) along with Neutronium Bombs to replace the Omega Vs that I'd been using for ages. These ships weren't always sufficient when hitting Klackon planets with those Scatter Pack X missiles though; an attack at Kholdan was turned back when the defending missiles annihilated two separate stacks of my Huge designs. Whoops, looked like I needed to bring more ships - my poor bear pilots! However, the tactics of these battles almost didn't matter because the big picture strategic factors had shifted so decisively in my favor. I had a dozen different planets over size 200 population, each of them sporting 1000+ factories thanks to Improved Robotics V, and I was cranking out 4-5 of my Huge ship designs every turn. Not to mention, I'd also captured no less than four Rich planets and an Ultra Rich planet off the Silicoids in the southwestern corner of the galaxy, all of which were fantastic for fleetbuilding. The numbers were simply overwhelming.
So I ran over the Klackons in the finishing stages of the game and only stopped because time ran out on another Council vote. Amusingly, I ended up with the absolute highest possible ground technology combination: Neutronium Powered Armor, Personal Barrier Shield, and Hand Phasors... while playing as the Bulrathi! The Klackons had fantastic ground tech of their own (I'd looted much of that stuff from them) and they were still dying in droves any time that bear transports could make it down to the surface of their worlds. The bugs kept launching attacks against my own planets but they were too weak to make any headway, even with thousands of Small ships packing Antimatter bombs. Initially I was shooting them down with Stinger missiles and they could at least pinprick my bases to some extent. Eventually I looted Scatter Pack X tech from the Klackons and, well, that was pretty much it for those Small bombers. I included a picture of one such attack up above where 1000+ Klackon ships died in a single volley. With my own planets invulnerable and a new Klackon planet falling every other turn, this game was finished.
The final vote took place in 2575 where I was able to vote myself the winner, a Conquest victory by Realms Beyond nomenclature. It would have been easy to walk from here to an Extermination win but I almost never take the extra time for that. Too much micromanagement for too little end result. For that matter, I don't take any joy from eliminating the other races and the Meklars had been a loyal ally throughout this game. During the final turns, I moved my fleet over to Orion and killed the Guardian in a single volley from my best gunship stack. I think the Livestream viewers got a bit of a kick out of how anticlimactic that whole process was; as I've said before, if you're strong enough to take Orion, you're almost always strong enough to win the game anyway.
This was a very routine game but it was certainly fun to play regardless. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to watch live or caught the saved videos later.