Imperium Ten: Return to Glory

Sakkra, Average, Medium, 5 Opponents

This report details my results from Realms Beyond Orion's Imperium Ten. To find out more information about RBO and the Imperia, please click here. We can always use more faces interested in playing a fifteen-year-old game.

Imperium Ten is the first Master of Orion (MOO) game sponsored by Realms Beyond in almost four years. Why did I want to bring it back? For the same reason that Sirian created the Imperia in the first place: to bridge the gap between Civilization games. As I write this in 2008, we're currently three years past Civ4, and at least another year away from Civ5 (which has not been officially announced yet, but everyone knows will be coming sooner or later). What better time than the present to return to one of the greatest strategy games of all time, and introduce it to a whole new generation of gamers?

So for Imperium Ten, we're playing as an average race (the Sakkra) on a Medium map, on Average difficulty. (Most of the Imperia will likely be played on Hard or Impossible. However, I'm hoping that we will be able to draw some fresh faces for this first game, and it's best to ease newcomers into this game gradually.) My choice of the Sakkra is not entirely coincidental either: they are probably the easiest race for an inexperienced player to use. Why? Population growth. There's much less of a need to move population around with the Sakkra and their crazy breeding, to the point where you can do OK without seeding new colonies at all. Ironically, this actually makes the Sakkra somewhat weak for an experienced player - their biggest advantage can be compensated for through skilled micromanagement. (The Sakkra are the polar opposite of the Silicoids, an extremely difficult race to play that can be very strong with skilled population management.) The other big disadvantage of the Sakkra is that they have poor diplomacy, which again tends to be a minor point for new players who don't focus much on diplomacy. So they are a good fit for this scenario, and their Excellent rating in Planetology will surely help out a lot of our newcomers.

The map editing tools for MOO are much more primitive than for Civ, so I will mostly be rolling random maps until something interesting comes along that fits my goals for the game. The first map I tried had only one planet in range at the start, a Poor one, and then the third planet that that opened up turned out to be Ultra Poor. The fourth planet I scouted was Orion. Uhh... not what I had in mind for the scenario! The second map I tried had seven of the first eight planets come up Hostile. Again, a little rougher than I wanted!

The third map was finally a keeper. The player started out in the center of the map, with four different planets within three parsec range. I liked the notion of having several different outcomes at the start, and with so many planets nearby, some were certain to come up habitable. I sent the colony ship (blindly) to the yellow star, which had the best odds of a nice planet. The two scouts I sent to the other two planets at 3 parsec range, the white and red stars. This would allow me to follow my usual tactic of three turns pumping factories, then squeeze out a round of Scout2s.

The yellow star turned out to have Romulas, a Jungle 80 world. Excellent! I settled there immediately. The white star (Antares) had no planet while the red star (Beta Ceti) had a Desert 45, medium-quality planet. I moved the two Scouts on to new worlds further afield, while Sssla swapped over to Scout2 production. (Sssla already had population 65 after three turns. Geeze, Sakkra!) Seven Scout2s were produced the following turn and sent on to various destinations. I now finally had Sssla send 20m population to Romulas, which would be plenty to get it started. (I would not send this many with anyone other than the Sakkra; this dropped Sssla back to 50m, right in the center of the population bell curve!) After one more turn of Scout2 construction (for an even 12 overall), Sssla went back to factory construction.

The first interesting event popped up in 2306, as the Desert planet of Arietis turned out to be an Artifacts world:

And I pull Fusion Bomb from the planet. Hmmm. Not as good as an economic tech, but certainly not bad either. Is this something that would have been in the tree ordinarily, or did I land a unique tech that no one else will possess? Impossible to say until report day! Comparing what everyone pulls from this planet should be fun. And players who opted to settle here with the initial colony ship will still come out OK, as will those who went to the red star. Only those who went to the white star at the start will come up empty (but you should never send a colony ship blindly to a white star over a yellow, green, and red!)

On the very next turn, the scouts found Argus (Jungle 80) in the southwest, unfortunately Ultra Poor. And there was a dome there - it's a Klackon colony! Mmm, only six parsecs away. We live in interesting times indeed. I noticed at the same time a Psilon scout incoming to Beta Ceti, which was already blocked by a Scout2:

Early action already! Perhaps that Fusion Bomb tech will be used sooner rather than later...

Over the next half-dozen turns, my scouts spread out and brought back info on all of the planets in the vicinity. By 2312, I had a good picture of the surroundings:

In addition to Sssla, there turned out to be five different habitable planets in the neighborhood, plus another Minimal world (Yarrow) beyond the nebula in the northeast. There were also quite a few hostile worlds as well, for a nice mix. All of the hostiles were Dead or better though, making them colonizable in the near future. Depending on how aggressive players get with scouting and Planetology research, there is the potential to do very well indeed here in the landgrab phase.

As far as rival races go, the Klackons are obviously in the cluster of worlds to the southwest. I'd seen some Psilon ships buzzing around my scouts in the east, and yellow star scouting meant that there was only one possible place they could be: at the location where the cursor is pointing above. That could prove interesting indeed, as there were no other yellows in the southeast corner - if the Psilons grab a half-dozen worlds over there, things would be tough later on. I soon ran into Bulrathi scouts in the northeast, and Human and Darlok ones in the northwest. Looks like we've got a map with the player in the center, surrounded by AI races on all sides! Very, very interesting indeed. I hope our new players don't get roughed up too bad, this game might turn into a wild ride! If nothing else, this map is going to slam home the importance of scouting early and planting your flag over every unclaimed world!

So for the next dozen turns little happened, as I had Sssla max out its factories. Dathon and I have debated the merits of this on numerous occasions; I still feel that you come out behind by doing anything other than maxing the homeworld immediately, unless there is a dire and immediate need for colony ships right away. Since I needed at least four colony ships to fill out the surroundings, no need to rush here. Sssla maxed factories in 2323 (it had long since maxed population!) and started working on colony ships, at the usual four-turn pace. I also opened up the Planetology and Propulsion fields on the same turn, with no choice on Improved Eco or Range 4. Research was split 2:1 in favor of Planetology.

I was most worried about Mu Delphi (the Arid 65 in the east) falling to the Psilons, so I sent the first colony ship in that direction. Of course I had to settle the Desert planet in the middle first to extend range, so Beta Ceti became the third Sakkra colony in 2330:

This extended the range to the east, so the scouts began moving again. (I produced some extra ones a while back out of Romulas.) 15m population moved to the new colony from Romulas, which was carrying the research load - as the second colony so often does.

Improved Eco was discovered on the following turn, woohoo! The most critical early tech to land in terms of improved the economy, it also cut a good chunk off of colony ship construction. Range 4 popped at the same time in another nice boost. I opted for Controlled Dead (over +20 Terraforming) and Range 6 (no choice). A bit of a tough call in Planetology, but there were no less than five different planets in the area that were Barren/Tundra/Dead, so I had to grab them! Hopefully Terraforming +30 would be available at the next tier to keep moving up the tree. With the Range 6 dud in Propulsion, I decided to turn off research entirely in that field and open up Construction instead, still alloting 2/3 of the research to Planetology overall. Given the choice between Improved Industrial Tech 9 and Reduced Waste 80% there, I went with the former, since I already had Improved Eco. That will boost factory construction by a cool 10% at every new planet - and dirt cheap to boot.

While waiting for Beta Ceti to be settled, the next colony ship out of Sssla headed southwest, to the Artifacts world of Arietis. (Improved Eco dropped the colony ship ETA to 3 turns each, a tremendous improvement!) When I colonized the planet in 2333, I was brought into contact with the Klackons:

The thumb on the cursor is pointing to their homeworld of Kholdan. They drew the odd personality of Ruthless Diplomats (?) Weird. The Klackons were doing quite well for themselves though, with five planets to their name thus far, all in the southwest corner. A potential candidate for early warfare, given the poor relations we started out with. (Don't forget, I drew Fusion Bomb from that Artifacts world!) I did not initate trade for the moment, focusing instead on colonization.

Note also the scouts fanning out all over the place in that screenshot. They actually chased away a Psilon and Bulrathi scout in the shot, if you look closely. I had even reached the planet just north of Mentar, a Tundra 20 - it would be sweet to poach that location right out from under the Psilons' brainy heads! More scouting reports continued to come back from the south, where there were a group of nice planets in a region far away from everyone's starting positions. I started thinking of this as the "southern cluster", which featured a gem of a planet in an Ocean 80 world. If I could land those planets instead of the Psilons, I would be sitting pretty indeed!

Sssla produced its last colony ship for the moment in 2338, and assumed the research load from Romulas, which went back to factory construction. At this point, every planet aside from the homeworld was busy building factories. When I settled Mu Delphi shortly thereafter, I met the Psilons, Honorable Technologists - who were running some One Planet Empire action in the southeast. Ha! They were likely to be stable neighbors with that personality, so I initiated minimum trade with them. Their pitiful economy could only support 75 BC/turn, but I took it.

When II9 was discovered, I picked Duralloy Armor over II8 for my next Construction option. (Made a pretty good selection in the first tier! Sometimes it works out that way.) I also met the Humans at this time, upon settling the planet of Kronoz in the northwest:

As usual, the cursor points to Sol. You can also now see the sad state of the Psilon empire, if it can even be called that. The Humans drew their usual Honorable Diplomats personality, and seemed like they would make good neighbors. I hoped that would be so, as the Klackons were a potential burr in my backside elsewhere.

A couple turns later, I actually drew a good event: Mu Delphi became Fertile, yay! A minor issue for the Sakkra, but amazing to get an event that's not bad. This took the base size of the planet from 65 to 85. I then opened up the rest of the tech fields (with Controlled Dead in the percentages), taking Battle Computer II (no choice), Class II Shields (no choice), and Hand Lasers (many, many choices!) The plan here was to go Hand Lasers, then Merculites, hopefully grabbing a gun at the next tier after that. It's always a little weird when choosing from three tiers at once, thanks to landing an Artifacts tech.

Controlled Dead finally popped in 2347. I chose Terraforming +30 over Controlled Toxic (hoping for Radiated to be an option at the next level!) It will be interesting to see how this compares to those who went +20, then Controlled Toxic. With all the Barren/Tundra/Dead planets near the start, I think my path was superior, even not knowing that +30 was at the next tier. Here was the new look at the galactic map:

Sssla began cranking out the (Dead) colony ships, beginning a new wave of colonization. Look at all those green habitables up there! Romulas would max out the following turn, and then joined Sssla in the settling gold rush. Research would once again be sacrificed temporarily to expansion - just as in any good turn-based strategy game. Civ3 was exactly the same in this regard! (MOO is NOT like Civ4 in this aspect. There are no disadvantages to owning more planets, no maintenance costs to deal with. You always want as many planets as possible. Of course, there are only a set number of possible planets on each map, so the competition for them gets pretty fierce!)

Incidentally, the cursor in the screenshot above is pointing to Nazin, the Darlok homeworld. I didn't have formal contact as yet, but my scouts had found the planet. It would be sweet to poach some of the hostile planets in their region out from under their noses. Down in the south, I still lacked range to reach the southern cluster of planets. They would become available with Range 6 tech, however. I'm sure that I would not land those planets on Impossible. In this game though, it looked likely.

In lighter news, the Psilons gave me a warning over sending a scout to a Toxic planet that they couldn't settle yet:

Uh, OK. The AI is a little wonky sometimes...

Status report 50 turns into the game (2350): six planets so far, another colony ship on the way, two more in production, and almost ten green planets awaiting colonization. If I can get those and stay out of war for the next 75 years, this game is over.

When I settled Crius (the Tundra 20 planet in the far northwest) a little later, I was brought into contact with the Darloks for the first time. They drew a confusing Xenophobic Diplomats personality. Lots of diplomats in this game, it seems. They had three total planets, Nazin and two others in the extreme north. As often is the case, it didn't look like the Darloks would be much of a power in this galaxy. The Humans had grabbed all of the good worlds in the north.

Vulcan and Yarrow colonized on the same turn in 2359. Now the green flags were really going up all over the center of the galaxy. This triggered the Nova event in the Kronos system; it's inevitable that bad stuff will happen to the score leader. Sigh. I think I can hear dathon's frustration already.

Yarrow brought contact with the Bulrathi, who had their typical Aggressive Expansionist bent. (OK, they're usually Ecologists, but you know what I mean.) They had four planets in the far northeast. I now had a complete picture of the galaxy, and it was indeed a circle with the Sakkra in the center. The total failure of the Psilons to expand has resulted in all kinds of opportunities in the southeast, however. Look how my scouts have completely pinned them in! The only planets not covered are the purple star east of Mentar (which happens to be Orion), and the red star in the extreme southeast, which is out of range. I've staked at least a provisional claim on everything else. In their defense, the Psilons did get a terrible starting position, with all planets within 3 parsecs coming up Hostile. I wonder if they will prove to be so stunted in all games?

Speaking of the Psilons... A few turns later, they chased away one of my scouts in the extreme east and finally manage to get a second planet. (At an Ultra Poor world though, ha!) And they, umm, declare war at the same time. Wasn't expecting that... Poor brains must have been under intense pressure to expand, and I'm the only race they had contact with. Well so be it. If poaching planets from the Psilons results in their declaring war, that's a price I was willing to pay.

In more bad news, up at Yarrow both the Bulrathi and Darloks were trying to invade:

I don't know quite what will happen, but I will probably lose the planet. C'est la vie. This is why you try to grab everything in sight, so that losing an odd planet or two doesn't hurt so much. Lots of eggs in lots of baskets. As Sirian once said, if you aren't losing some planets to AIs in the landgrab, you aren't reaching far enough. And while the AIs are messing around at Yarrow, I've secured Willow (just a few parsecs north of Mentar!) and opened the way to yet another Dead world further east. Never be afraid to stick your neck out with colony ships; even if it looks like a forelorn hope, make the AIs take it away from you.

As expected, the Bulrathi did take Yarrow away from me (2364):

The only bad thing was that I had population migration en route to the colony, which will be interpreted as an invasion. Argh! Really wish the game would allow you to cancel an unintended "attack" like that. Fortunately the Bulrathi ignored this move with only a minor relations hit, and we patched it up with trade. Whew.

The first Council election took place at the same time that I lost Yarrow, my Sakkras against the Humans. The apes cast their 5 votes for themselves, and also pulled votes from the Darloks (3) and Psilons (1). The Bulrathi (3) and Klackons (4) both abstained. I had to abstain with my 5 votes as well, as otherwise the Humans would have enough to win. Need to increase population further to get a 1/3 voting bloc. Still, this wasn't too bad overall. By the time the other races got in contact with one another, I would be in position to avoid an election loss.

In terms of events, I successfully prevented the Nova at Kronos (yay), and had the fortune to avoid drawing the next poisoned apple: the Bulrathi drew the Assassination event against the Darloks. Nasty stuff there, glad I didn't get hit with that one. This drew the Humans into the war as well, apes and shapeshifters against bears. The galaxy soon exploded into warfare (with no prodding from me), which would last for the duration. That essentially eliminated the possibility of all the races lining up against me in the council vote.

In terms of technology, I had been pulling some pretty bare fields. Class II shields were followed by... Class III shields, no choice. Battle Computer II was followed by... Battle Computer III, no choice. And right on the heels of Range 6, we have... Range 7, no choice! Yeesh! Now Range 6 did open up the southern cluster to colonization, so not all bad, but warp 1 engines were not what I wanted to be running around with for much longer. Maybe the next Propulsion level would be better?

In the 2375 Council Election, it was me against the Humans again. Since the Bulrathi were at war with them, I collected their 3 votes, while the Humans picked up votes from their Darlok allies (3) and Psilons lizard-haters (2), along with their own 5 votes. Klackons still abstaining with their 4 votes (don't have contact with Humans, don't like me enough). I must abstain with my 6 votes again (6/23, getting closer to a veto bloc). The 2400 election will probably be the last one with any danger of losing.

I discovered Duralloy Armor on the next turn and wow, we have the full choice of options for Construction tier three: II7, Automated Repair Special, and Reduced Waste 60%. Since I skipped the first waste reduction tech, I will go with RW60% here, also because I have no Robotic Controls as yet to increase factory costs. Probably return for ARS a little later on, but don't need it now, so go with the economic techs instead. (Normally I wouldn't talk so much about the tech choices, except that this is a competiton game, so we can compare notes and discuss these things later on.)

And the biggie tech: Terraforming +30 came in the next turn. I took a major penalty by delaying it for so long, now all my little worlds could grow like crazy. Got a lot of 20s, 25s, and 30s which will double in size! And the ideal leapfrog is available, as Controlled Radiated is the only tech available at the next rung. I did not know that that would be there, but I still think I made the correct prioritization all along the way. It also helps to get lucky! Perfect route through the Planetology tree so far. (Improved Eco, Controlled Dead, Terraforming +30, Controlled Radiated)

In less good news, Vulcan gets hit with the Mineral Depletion event, turning it Poor. Since it was a base 25 planet, that wasn't too bad.

I soon landed Centauri, the gem of a planet in the southern cluster (2381):

If you didn't reach these locations in your game, these are the kind of targets you can shoot for. Get those scout blockades going, back them with military force if you are worried about losing them, and grab everything that's not claimed! This game will probably be a clinic on the merits of aggressive expansion.

With the colonization of the southern cluster, the landgrab phase of the game was essentially finished. Next up: the brush wars phase, as the AIs began to test my claim to all of these planets.