Twitch Livestream Playthrough: Cyberpunk 2377 (Meklars)

Meklars, Impossible, Medium, 4 Opponents

Watch this game on YouTube (Playlist Link)

This is the short summary of a game that I played on Livestream in August 2022 as part of my ongoing Civ Fridays series. I continued to receive more requests to play Master of Orion on Livestream and I was perfectly fine with that since I had enjoyed the last few games with the online viewers. Several people had asked me to run a Meklars game since they were one of the races that I hadn't showcased previously on stream and therefore I ended up naming this venture "Cyberpunk 2377" in a reference to the disastrous big-budget game Cyberpunk 2077. The Meklars are a slow-developing economic race in Master of Orion, with the ability to stack up truly massive amounts of factories countered by the fact that it takes forever to get all of those factories built. They also have a perfect weakness to counterbalance their strengths by being rated "Poor" in Planetology tech, making it more difficult for the Meklars to develop waste cleanup technology and terraform to larger planet sizes. Note that the Meklars are not less likely to have Planetology techs show up as research options (it's a straight 50% chance for all races on every tech except for the Psilons who have 75% odds for techs to appear) but it does take them significantly longer to research any Planetology techs that do appear in their tree.

The only minor tweak that I made to the game settings was to set the number of AI rivals to four instead of the default five. (I don't suggest going any lower than this or else the player can start getting some weird stuff in terms of map generation.) This galaxy immediately presented an oddball scenario with almost all of the yellow stars concentrated on the eastern side of the map leaving the northern and western parts looking pretty empty. In fact, some of the viewers pointed out that AI homeworlds can't spawn at the edges of the galaxy (one of the map generation rules that I didn't know about) which suggested that I would have a massive empty backlines region off to the west. This game should be a total cakewalk, right?

Well not so much as it turned out. There were four stars within the initial 3 parsec region and I sent my starting colony ship to the yellow option off to the south. Much to my shock, the yellow star held an Inferno 35 planet which was horribly unsuited for colonization - ugh! It's quite rare for a yellow star to hold a hostile world and this was going to set back my initial growth curve substantially. There was another blue star right next to that planet where I opted to send the colony ship next and sure enough, that star also had a hostile planet that rolled as a Radiated 20 world. I wasn't exactly shocked to have something hostile at a blue star but this was another annoying hurdle to clear. The colony ship was forced to limp north to the other two stars where I eventually sent it to a Steppe 45 planet which turned out to be the only colonizable option since the fourth star in range held a Tundra world. Sheesh, four planets in 3 parsec range and only one of them habitable?! I didn't get the second colony established until 2309 and the drain on factory construction while paying the maintenance costs for that colony ship had been considerable. Not good.

And it wasn't just the misfires with the colony ship holding me back here in the early turns. My scouts that fanned out during these early turns found a relentlessly bleak environment when it came to habitable worlds: seven of the first nine planets to be explored were hostile! Even worse, they weren't sitting at the lower tiers of habitability like Barren or Tundra, there were four different planets which would require Controlled Radiated tech at the higher tier of hostile-ness. My leisurely walk to colonize the western side of the galaxy had run straight into a brick wall of nasty planets. Sure, a bunch of them were Rich or Ultra Rich, but that wouldn't matter if I was unable to settle them. I would be able to grab the Arid 70 planet to the north without having to research extended range tech and that would be it for ages and ages.

Fortunately there were two things working in my favor. One was the racial attributes of the Meklars: if you're going to be stuck on a limited number of planets, there's no race better in that situation than the Meklars with all of their additional factories. The other big advantage was the weakness of the AI races on this map. They also seemed to be struggling with a galaxy inundated with hostile worlds as I remained out of contact with anyone for long turns on end. There was such a wide gulf of space off to the east that I didn't even see anyone's scouts much less come into direct contact with them. There were no GNN messages popping up to indicate that someone had 6 planets or 12 planets out in the fog, nothing like that. The lack of contact with anyone to the west also confirmed that there was no one over there and I had plenty of room to expand if I could simply colonize the dang planets! This would have been a godly game for the Silicoids who would have dominated the galaxy in crushing fashion and I was fortunate that they weren't present as one of the four opposing AI empires.

Anyway, I built up factories to 2x population on Meklon and then built a colony ship for the one Arid world that I had the habitability tech to settle. There wasn't much more to do at that point beyond max out the factories at 4x population and then start researching more tech to expand out of this suffocating box. With no AI rivals to worry about, I limited my research to the Construction, Planetology, and Propulsion Fields in the hopes of getting some useful stuff. Construction had Reduced Industrial Waste 80% into Improved Industrial 8, both good options even if I had no choice on either. The other two fields, uh, were more lacking. Propulsion had only Range 4 into Nuclear Engines which turned out to be a problem when I found a Minimal planet at 5 parsec distance in the northwest. I would either need more range tech (dicey with Range 6 missing from the tree) or have to put Long Range Fuel Tanks onto a colony ship for further expansion. Planetology was the worst though: Terraforming +10 into Death Spores, no choices on either. I missed out on Improved Eco Restoration and all three of the early hostile colonization techs, no Controlled Barren or Tundra or Dead. Having to research the utterly useless Death Spores at the "Poor" penalty while being unable to colonize the nearby Tundra and Dead planets was a true kick in the rear for this start.

Eventually it became clear that the only way to break out of this start was colonizing the Minimal planet off to the northwest. There were a couple of other habitable worlds further to the north and west beyond that location but I wouldn't be able to expand towards them without grabbing the Minimal planet first. Unfortunately there wasn't enough space to fit Long Range Fuel Tanks along with a colony base on a Large hull and I would need to finish teching the super-expensive (for this point in the game) Death Spores to have enough miniaturization. That would require way too many research points to be practical at the moment and therefore I fell back on the extremely rare option of slapping a colony base special on a Huge hull. The player can always fit Long Range Fuel Tanks onto the Huge hull size but the tradeoff is that the colony ship costs more than triple the normal expense, 1800 BC instead of 500 BC. Amazingly, it was the correct decision in this situation since I did have plenty of production on Meklon and could crank out the ship in about six turns thanks to having 440 factories on hand. I built the gigantic Trollbuster colony ship, watched it lumber off to the northwest at the default warp 1 speed, and finally had the chance to break out of this starting trap when it arrived safely. Four planets to my name in 2360, what a game.

The AI empires were finally and belatedly beginning to appear on the galactic map around this time. I found the Psilons first directly to the north beyond the nebula that divided our regions of space. There was a Barren planet inside the nebula that I still lacked the technology to colonize and I was content to let them have it since I would never be able to defend it. Instead, that planet would end up being colonized by the Klackons who turned out to be the runaway AI on this map. Everyone else was tiny and stunted while they were doing an effective job of spreading out across the galaxy. I think that this was due to the bugs having a bunch of hostile environment techs in their tree that the other races lacked, precious commodities indeed on this blasted map. The Klackons would also grab the Tundra planet to my immediate east (again thanks to my total lack of Controlled Tundra/Dead technology) and they would be the only AI race to come into formal contact with my Meklars for a very long time. I signed them up to trade and we actually became good friends, much to my surprise. I was in absolutely no position to fight anyone and peaceful coexistence was a real blessing. Basic spying revealed that the Klackons had some pretty sad Weapons technology and all their ships were running around with Lasers and Nuclear missiles which was great news for me.

Long turns of peaceful factory construction followed as I slowly developed my position. This is exactly what the Meklars want as the "Financial/Organized" race in Master of Orion, lots and lots of time to construct all those factories on their planets until they can slowly max out at 4x population count. The AI frequently doesn't give the player time to keep pushing the growth curve in purely peaceful fashion which is the biggest reason that the Meklars grade out as an average race instead of one of the best. I was also colonizing more worlds along the western and northern edges of the map even as I continued to find a completely absurd number of hostile planets. The crucial Minimal planet that we named Narnia was almost immediately hit with the Industrial Accident event that turned it into a Radiated world but it did provide enough range to reach a nearby Jungle planet and then leapfrog further west to the Arid and Minimal planets pictured above. Another gulf of space to the north holding Dead and Radiated planets kept the Psilons from expanding in that direction; I still didn't even have contact with them despite knowing their homeworld was there. The southwest held a sea of deeply hostile worlds, six different Radiated planets along with an Inferno and a Toxic planet. I can't recall ever seeing a map like this in all my years playing Master of Orion: 21 planets scouted outside the homeworld and 15 of them were hostile. The Cyberpunk naming theme turned out to be accurate here, some kind of horrible disaster had befallen this galaxy and rendered it virtually uninhabitable.

Eventually I was able to finish researching Death Spores technology which was significant because it allowed Long Range Fuel Tanks to fit together with a standard colony base on a Large hull. (Controlled Tundra or Controlled Dead techs would have achived the same thing at cheaper costs while being about a million times more useful.) This allowed me to grab the Arid and Ocean planets that had previously been outside my range without needing to construct more of those Trollbuster monsters on their Huge hulls. I could also see what was lurking in the far southwest corner of the map for the first time and it turned out that there was a true gem in the form of a Terran 105 planet along with two largeish worlds that rolled Poor and Ultra Poor respectively. At least they would be far in the backlines where they wouldn't have to build missile bases and could potentially max factories over the course of centuries. Now I simply needed more time to continue this glacially-slow expansion phase by grabbing all of the unclaimed worlds, filling them up with population, and constructing the oodles of Meklar factories that all of them could hold.

Relations with the Klackons had been good enough to sign them up to a Non-Aggression Pact along with a sizable trade agreement. This became somewhat problematic when the Klackons researched up to Controlled Inferno technology and began grabbing some of the hostile planets along the corners of Meklar space. I couldn't force them away with ship blockades in neutral territory since the NAP prevents combat except over the planets owned by either side. This wasn't great but I had absolutely no fleet to speak of and little desire to clash with the bugs over planets that I could never defend from them anyway. My Weapons tech tree was embarassingly sad when it came to missiles technology, with Hyper-Vs present but no Hyper-X or Merculites or Scatter Pack V or Stingers - yikes! I definitely did not want to get into a shooting war with my completely toothless bases unable to harm anything carrying a decent shield. I also lacked any scanner techs at all (both of the first two tiers missing in my Computers tree) and thus it was a nervous deal watching the bug fleets flying all around my territory without knowing where they were going ahead of time. I remained patient and didn't object to their colonizing even as they claimed the Dead and Inferno worlds right along my borders.

I also came extremely close to losing the first Council vote of the game through no fault of my own. The Council was very late at meeting (due to all of the hostile worlds in this galaxy) and didn't pop up until 2409. I was expecting to be up against the Klackons given how many planets were flying their yellow banners and was shocked to see that the Humans were my opponent. How in the world the Klackons weren't nominated with triple the planets of the Humans was a total mystery, they must have been mismanaging their population badly. I was fortunate that the Psilons abstained or else the game would have been over with a loss right here - and there would have been nothing I could do about it! I still lacked contact with anyone other than the Klackons and therefore couldn't influence diplomacy in any way nor see the wider picture of how the races felt about one another. Everyone likes the Humans and sometimes they can cheese their way into a victory on the first vote by dumb luck which nearly happened here. On the positive side, I was approaching the magical 1/3 veto block already and the voting confirmed that the Psilons and Bulrathi were both pathetically weak in terms of population. As usual, the Meklars simply needed more time to keep building up.

The next big tech that I was pushing towards was Controlled Toxic which appeared as a Planetology option after researching Death Spores and which would finally unlock the chance to colonize all of the non-Radiated planets. I was hoping that Controlled Radiated would be available at the next rung of the tech ladder since there were so many of those planets hanging out in my portion of the galaxy. What I did not expect was the importance of the next Propulsion tech as the discovery of Range 7 technology proved to highly significant. Jumping up from Range 4 to Range 7 brought me into contact with all three of the remaining races and allowed me to see the full galactic map for the first time. Now I could dial them up in diplomacy and start signing trade agreements which I was happy to do with everyone for the moment. No one had an Erratic personality in this galaxy so I might even be able to keep the trade deals long enough to start turning a profit. I also swung one of my best rounds of trading ever in Master of Orion, exchanging Range 7 technology to all three of the non-Klackon AI races in exchange for Duralloy armor, Improved Eco Restoration, and Hyper-X missiles. I also picked up the initial scanner tech from the Humans in exchange for Battle Suits, another example of how powerful rampant tech trading can be. These tech trades helped plug some of the critical shortfalls in my own tech tree and didn't give away anything to the small-fry empires that I particularly cared about.

The Klackons continued to be the biggest threat and passive espionage soon revealed that they had discovered Controlled Toxic technology which threatened more uncolonized worlds in my backlines. I was also researching the same tech and discovered it not long after the bugs, setting off a race to grab the remaining non-Radiated planets in the southwest corner of the map. I was able to get everything except the Dead planet in the far north while picking up everything in the deep south, including an Ultra Rich Tundra planet in the far southwest corner. Now for the bad news: Controlled Radiated was *NOT* an option in my tech tree. If ever there was a map where I wanted Controlled Radiated it was this one and the tech failed the dice roll to appear, sigh. I would have to steal or conquer it from someone else if I was ever going to claim all of those worlds clogging up this part of the galaxy.

The 2425 Council vote brought the good news that I had enough population to secure a 1/3 veto block which meant that the biggest danger of losing the game had already passed. I had traded for Terraforming +20 and prioritized growing population with Eco spending, accepting the growth curve inefficiency to guarantee that there would be no chance of the game ending prematurely. My growing population meant that relations would inevitably start tanking with the AI empires and the Bulrathi were the first to open hostilities with a war declaration. They were too far away to send a fleet but wound up pulling the Psilons into the fighting as well via one of the cheese alliances that the AI is so fond of signing. I was staring at a potential full-on dogpile here and did my best to work the diplomatic channels with the Klackons and Humans to stop them from joining the fray. Eventually I was able to get the Humans to declare war on the Psilons by giving them a bribe of 400 BC and that was enough to lock them down on my side in the growing galactic war. The Klackons stayed peaceful with me for much longer than I expected before finally launching their own invasion. Hopefully they had given me enough time to max out factories everywhere except my Poor/Ultra Poor pair before initiating the fighting.

Despite the Klackons being the largest AI race in the galaxy, it was the Psilons who caused the most problems from a military perspective. They sent their entire fleet to the border world of Neuromancer where I had been stacking missiles bases and wound up with 23 of them at the time of the attack. I thought that this would be sufficient to fend them off but was caught off guard by the Huge Nova design sporting 19 Fusion Bombs. My planetary defenses had 8 points of shielding and Duralloy armor but were stuck firing Hyper-X missiles which were highly ineffective against the Psilon shields. The Nova and Coraona designs had 5 points of shielding which dropped the Hyper-Xs down to 3 damage per missile, not exactly impressive against Huge hulls with 1350 HP. I made a major tactical blunder in this battle by focusing my fire on the Nova designs, planning to kill one of the two Huges and then shift over to the Coraonas afterwards. Their Heavy Blast Cannons did more damage than I expected though and I should have been targeting them since the Novas would eventually run out of bombs and Death Spores. Long story short, the Nova design survived with less than 100 HP remaining and I lost all 23 bases. The Psilons gained space supremacy over Neuromancer and began sending their ground soldiers for an invasion - I had lost the first real battle of the game.

Now it's never fun to lose planets in Master of Orion and something to be avoided if at all possible. However, it's not the end of the world either and anyone who has played through the Negative Fleet Bug has plenty of practice at dealing with unbeatable AI fleets. I've won some games in the past where the AI simply could not burn down worlds faster than I was able to rebuild them by dancing around their invincible fleet and striking back wherever it wasn't on the map. These Psilon ships were far from invincible and I might even have been able to hold at Neuromancer with better tactics on my part. What I really needed was a better missile tech than Hyper-Xs and I was actively trying to steal Merculites from the Bulrathis (who somehow kept fending off my spies despite their abysmal Computers tech). I was able to take advantage of one of the weaknesses of the AI in Master of Orion: it does not have a killer instinct. The Psilons held their fleet over Neuromancer while waiting for invasion transports to arrive and they were slowly crawling through that northern nebula at warp 1 speed. I was regrowing population at Neuromancer as fast as I could (not terribly fast after the Psilons bombed out all the factories) while letting them waste their time conducting this very slow invasion. The ground defenders nearly held the planet when the invasion finally arrived, killing all but 2 Psilon marines in a narrow fight. Thus I did lose the planet while gaining more time to come up with a response to their threat.

Elsewhere, there was an Ultra Poor Bulrathi planet in the far north with no defenses whatsoever that I invaded in the hopes of picking up some of their techs. I was able to grind down the defenders over four or five turns of invading only to find 22 factories and zero techs present, argh! I guess that was to be expected with an Ultra Poor planet but it was still annoying. More important was the discovery of a number of powerful techs: Improved Robotics IV, Terraforming +40, Class V Deflectors, and Warp 4 engines. The economic techs allowed for more population on every world and six factories for every population point; Meklar was up to 140 x 6 = 840 factories and even the smaller planets could crank out research with 40m additional population plus all those factories. Updated shielding and engine technologies allowed me to design two warships for the first time, a lumbering Huge gunship packing about 50 Mass Drivers and a Small bomber with the Inertial Stabilizer and Fusion Bombs. The AI races were doing a poor job of teching in this galaxy, probably because so many of the planets were hostile, and I didn't feel threatened by any of the weapons that they were packing. Once I could start deploying a fleet in sizable numbers - not something that would take long with Meklar factories - I'd be ready to shift to the offensive.

First up was recapturing Neuromancer which proved easy to do once the Psilons moved their main fleet away. I used the retaken world as the rally point for my fleet as I poured population and Reserve spending into the planet to rebuild all of its lost factories. Once Neuromancer was safe, I began snipping away at the Klackon planets scattered around the edges of Meklar space. I started at the Inferno planet of Tao, the yellow star that trolled my initial colony ship at the beginning of the game, and took it easily. The Klackons had Scatter Pack V missiles but each shot could only kill one ship at a time and I was swarming them with thousands of Small bombers moving at combat speed 4 to close with the planet almost immediately. The Klackon bases only had 4 points of shielding which was little more than tissue paper against the bombs that I was dropping. From there I simply worked my way to the north, capturing a new planet every few turns while taking the time to stand up factories and missile bases on each captured destination before moving to the next. The Klackons were completely unable to respond and my Small bomber design was often fast enough to outrun their Scatter Pack V missiles on the tactical screen. I took a bunch of Klackon worlds, then took the two Psilon core planets and left them with a single Ultra Poor planet at the northern edge of the map. The only hiccup took place at the planet in the nebula (Stalaz) where a Klackon fleet temporarily gained space superiority due to the lack of functioning shields; I was able to chase them away with my fleet shortly thereafter.

Once the Psilons were reduced to a single worthless Ultra Poor planet, I agreed to their offered peace treaty and relations immediately climbed up to "Peaceful" status thanks to my bombing of the Klackons elsewhere. This ended up being unexpectedly important because I found myself with 21/32 votes (65%) at the Council election that took place in 2500. I had earlier discovered Atmospheric Terraforming and had Advanced Soil Enrichment in the percentages so I would easily have the power to vote myself the winner at the next meeting while finding myself just barely short at this one. However, the Klackons had now dropped below the Humans in population which meant that everyone else voted against me... except the Psilons who gave me their 1 vote to put me over the top at 22/32. Ha! My friends, the Psilons, the only race who captured a planet from me in this game, go figure. This game was long since finished so I accepted the victory and put this game to bed.

This was one of the weirdest games that I can ever recall playing in Master of Orion. The presence of all those hostile worlds made for an utterly bizarre setup that stunted the development of everyone in the galaxy. No one ever discovered Controlled Radiated tech and I counted ten different such planets scattered across the map, including more of them off in the east where the AI races all started. In the end, I guess this had to be counted on the easier side of Impossible difficulty because the AI empires weren't able to handle the wacky map as well as a human player. Their tech rate was simply awful on this map and the inability of the Klackons to come up with a threatening weapon was the main reason why this game eventually became so easy. The Meklars need time to develop and I was able to get it on this map thanks to the struggles of the whole galaxy. Anyway, thanks as always for following along through text and video forms, I hope this made for a memorable game.