Imperium Eleven: Rise of the Triad

Klackon, Hard, Medium, 4 Opponents

This report details my results from Realms Beyond Orion's Imperium Eleven. To find out more information about RBO and the Imperia, please click here.

For our second game, I decided to bring back one of the more popular features from our Civ games: a modified "points" scoring system. Looking over the list of past games, I came across Sirian's threefold design of Civ4's Adventure Three. In that scenario, players were asked to compete in scoring points as farmers, priests, and soldiers. Although the design was perhaps a bit too complicated, and ran towards heavy time-intensive mopup work as far as the soldier scoring went, it was a grand idea that deserved to be revisited in another context. I decided that it would make a great fit for Master of Orion as well, and slotted it into the schedule after Imperium Ten's basic premise.

So what should be the basis for scoring points? Perhaps later on we can explore more exotic variants, but for now, I wanted to keep things relatively simple. You should be rewarded with points for doing things that you would be doing normally anyway, thus allowing our players to compete over who played the best game. Based on Sirian's farmer scoring, I easily came up with a modified colonist version, awarding points for settling planets and accumulating population. (I also had the bright idea to use the Council vote to determine population, rather than making the player add it up tediously by hand.) There's no religious element in Master of Orion, so I substiuted technology research instead. In Civ, it's often possible to trade your way to tech parity, thus it's usually not such a great measure of skill. Not so in MOO, where the AIs are extremely stingy with their discoveries; you will not just be walking away with their newest prizes lightly. Even better, in the early game there is a clear tradeoff between building more colony ships/growing population and stopping to do research. My hope was that these scoring elements would balance each other out to some extent, forcing interesting choices on the part of the player.

But the real meat of the scoring comes in the form of the third element, the diplomat points. Since there are few penalties attached to size in MOO, you always want to be as big as possible. Having more planets (colonist scoring) also ultimately allows you to research faster, and accumulate more technology points. Thus, if they were the only two elements to the scoring, the best course of action would be to run over the AIs as rapidly as possible and then sit back and milk the galaxy for score purposes. Ah, but what if the third part of the scoring were based on your relations with the AIs! The one downside to becoming larger in this game is poor diplomacy with all other races. This is one of the cooler and more realistic elements, naturally serving to create coalitions and balance of power politics. So that became the third part of the triad: to succeed in this scenario, you must amass planets/population and research while staying on good terms with the AIs. That's easier said than done! (The one downside to the diplomat scoring is that the AIs can be rather capricious at times, declaring war for little reason. There will definitely be some luck involved in this category, unfortunately.)

This scoring system should work well because it will allow newcomers to simply play the game and try to win, being rewarded for the sort of things that they would be doing anyway. Meanwhile, veteran players (who won't have trouble beating the map at all) can focusing on maximizing the scoring elements, competing against one another to see who can pull off the best gameplan. Designing these scenarios to fit a wide range of skill levels is not an easy task. I think and hope that I managed to pull it off on this particular occasion. We'll find out soon enough.

Here is the start for the game. I had to roll many, many different starts for this particular event because I wanted players to have a fair shot as far as the diplomatic scoring went. The Klackons are one of the weaker races in that regard, beginning at "Unease" with fully half the races in the game! Since you cannot choose your opponents in this game, that meant rerolling maps until I had a suitable combination, such as the one here. Reations with the Humans begin at "Relaxed", while the Psilons and Bulrathi both have the default "Neutral" attitude. Only the Silicoids start below that from the foes here. I'll also mention that I took out one opponent (four instead of the usual five) for scoring purposes, and to make it easier to keep track of the overall diplomacy. Variety doesn't hurt either.

My plan was relatively simple: play a control game of sorts, doing nothing different than I would do in a normal game, and see what score I turned up. That would allow me to tweak the scoring if necessary, to balance out the numbers and balance the scoring conditions against one another. Disclaimer: I knew what the scoring goals would be going into this game, but I didn't know the exact point VALUES. I would end up changing some of the numbers around based on the results of my completed game (especially the diplomatic scoring, which was far, far too low initially). I should be playing under the same conditions as everyone else, blind knowledge of the map and all, but if there is a request for my game to go into the shadow category, I have no problem with accepting it.

The start wouldn't look any different from any other game. You always want to expand rapidly in Master of Orion, and the Klackons are the best in the game at doing so. That's why I picked them for this scenario, actually. With only four opponents, there will be more planets available than in a standard game. Let's see just how well everyone does at getting that early growth curve up and running! I will tell you right now: you're going to have to work pretty hard to beat me.

There were two planets within 3 parsec range, a yellow and a purple star. I obviously sent the colony ship to the yellow one. The two scouts moved to a pair of blue/green stars in the northeast, the ones most likely to come under threat of enemy colonization. The key question was whether the yellow star just south of the nebula had an AI race present. That would dictate how much time and pressure my expansion would have.

Three turns later, the colony ship arrives. The yellow star held Maalor, a Minimal 50 - Ultra Rich!

Wow, what a planet! I colonized immediately. In a way, this was almost bad: was the start TOO good now? I considered for a few minutes, then ultimately decided it didn't matter all that much. Everyone is playing from the same start, and competing against one another. If the game were a little on the easy side of Hard difficulty, well, so be it. We're still trying to introduce some new players, after all.

Kholdan could now build 8 Scout2s (geeze, Klackons!), but I actually didn't need that many, since I was in the southwest corner with only limited worlds at hand. I instead set the slider for six scouts, and put the remaining excess production into more factories. The scouts produced on the following turn were enough to send a ship to every world within range, plus keep a scout over Kholdan and Maalor. Four turns into the game, the homeworld was now up to 51m pop, so I sent 6m to Maalor. For a size 50 planet, I will send a total of 15m, so that meant three more batches of 3m each over the next three turns. (Why 15m? I like to do things in batches of three, and 15m plus the default 2m from the colony ship would add up to 17m, right at the 1/3 target that I try to hit for new planets.)

The green star in the north turned out to have an Artifacts planet!

Artemis offered up Scatter Pack V Rockets, interesting. Not quite as good as an economic tech, but could have done far worse. My missile bases will be able to handle early game threats with ease. The other planet in the north (Anraq) was Barren, size 50. As it turned out, there was no AI race on top of me, but my action in sending the initial scouts here on the first turn could have been critical if there had been. I might not have gotten the free tech from the Artifacts planet otherwise.

The purple star actually turned out to hold a habitable world, Omicron (Minimal 30). It was only three parsecs, so I could grab that one quickly. Even though the planets in this area are really strong, it's going to be tough to expand. Lots of dead space in the southwest corner. Expansion would have to come by going north, and increased range would be needed to get up there.

By 2311, I had a final picture of the immediate neighborhood. There was an Arid 70 to the northwest (Primodius), but it was sadly mineral Poor. The other worlds were similar quality: Morrig (Barren 50) and Berel (Dead 35). So while there are a few dynamite planets here, the overall start was probably average, with a low density of worlds. This is where I decided the game was probably a good fit for the scenario. That is, as long as the AIs aren't all clumped together in a bunch in terms of starting positions...

Factories were already beginning to outstrip population at Kholdan, a mere dozen turns into the game! I started to consider actually growing pop using the Eco slider here, an extreme rarity in the early game. You'll never see me doing that so early with anyone except the Klackons or Silicoids.

Kholdan reached 70/160 in 2316, and I begin work on the first colony ship, which would take five turns. Here's where the opening strategy really started to get interesting. There was no point in building more factories that would go unoccupied due to production outstripping population. So instead I began work on a colony ship for the one planet I could grab without needing more range, during which Kholdan will keep growing and more bugs will go off to work in those extra factories. Now, ordinarily you would ship unemployed population from the second planet back to the homeworld to avoid this issue. BUT Maalor is Ultra Rich, and so it had actually already maxed its 100 factories this turn (!!!) A mere 13 turns after being colonized! Since population was only 32, I decided to spend the next couple turns growing population there, to avoid the same situation of having factories sitting around unworked. Maalor could grow 4 bugs/turn with the Eco slider, plus natural growth. Then, I would have the second colony probably take over colony ship construction while Kholdan finished maxing out.

Got all that? Whew! What a strange opening. I'm dying to see how all our players end up approaching this.

Kholdan finished its first colony ship ahead of schedule in 2320, after only four turns due to population growth, and then went back to finish maxing its factories/pop. Maalor maxed out this turn (50/100), and began a colony ship for Primodius, the Poor planet in the northwest. Primodius was currently out of range, but would be only three parsecs distant after settling nearby Omicron. That planet was colonized three turns later (2323), taking the empire out to three planets. Kholdan maxed factories at 200 the same turn, now needing to finish growing its population (only at 87), so it went onto the Eco slider full force for a turn. Maalor finished the aforementioned colony ship, and with no planets to be settled at the moment, plowed its production into the Reserve for redistribution to Kholdan. (Always more productive to have an Ultra Rich put money in the Reserve than have it do research itself!) Scouts moved out to the unrevealed western two stars.

One turn later (2324) Kholdan maxed at 100/200, with a little Reserve help spending from Maalor last turn. I have never had two fully maxed planets so early in the game, ever! Usually you don't even get the homeworld maxed that quickly, much less max a second planet AND build a third colony ship during the proces! Quite an interesting opening; bless those insanely productive Klackons! The new colony of Omicron now had to be seeded with population, so I sent 11m (the max that Kholdan can regrow in one turn of Eco spending) offworld to get it started. Again, more heavy use of the Eco slider, but sometimes it *IS* warranted. Doing so is most useful for races where production outstrips growth; thus you'll do so a lot with the Silicoids, hardly ever with the Sakkra.

I opted to open research on the 2325 turn, spending a huge 319RP to get the initial tech fields seeded. This was almost double what Kholdan could normally produce, thanks to the Reserve coming from Maalor. I chose to open Construction in addition to the usual Planetology and Propulsion, since the Klackons specialize in it. Really hoping that Range 5 is available to spread out. Range 4 wasn't going to be enough to cut it.

Reduced Industrial 80% was the only choice in Construction (wow, what a cheap cost! only 520RP instead of the 1000RP it would cost normally on Impossible!). All three options available in Planetology, so I took +10 Terraforming to start (and be able to see the options at tier two before making another selection!) Range 5 was the only Propulsion choice, yay! Ouch at the cost though, 1090RP. Will get there quickly though with Kholdan doing full research. Thanks to that huge initial seed, +10 Terraforming STARTS in the percentages, at 11%. I have never seen that happen before. Never!

+10 Terraforming took a mere two turns to research. That was fast! Controlled Dead, the tech I wanted, was available at the next tier, so that allowed me to pick Improved Eco as the second option and then move on to Controlled Dead afterwards. Really getting some nice choices here, good stuff.

There was both good and bad news from the scouts. The bad news was that Rotan, the red star in the northwest, had no planet. The good news was that the yellow star below it was Herculis, a Fertile size 125 Terran planet!

Ye gods! That's the absolute max base size possible in this game. Better believe that Herculis will be the first target when I reach Range 5 tech!

Primodius was soon settled, making colony number four. It would get 13m from the homeworld to get it started, using Reserve spending + Eco spending to regrow instantly. Using the Eco slider quite a lot here in the early going, I must say! I wonder how others will do things? You've got to make sure that factories aren't sitting around going to waste, that's for sure. Sometimes growing lots of population is the best move. Kholdan and Maalor both remaxed at the new terraformed totals, while the scouts fanned out again, going further to the north. I need more scouts ASAP! The north looked ripe for colonization, the east not so much.

I discovered both Reduced Industrial Waste and Range 5 in 2334, rather early on. New tech options were II8 (no choice, although not a bad option) and Nuclear Engines, over Inertial Stabilizer. Scouts discovered Gion (Jungle 75) and Vox (Minimal 50) in the north, at 5 parsec range. Perfect! The colony gold rush was on once again, both Kholdan and Maalor set to produce ships quickly. Primodius, the Poor world in the north, will be in great position to seed these future colonies with additional population. That's about all Poor worlds are good for anyway...

Where are the AIs? Oh well, they'll show up probably sooner rather than later.

Shortly thereafter I did spot an AI ship, chasing a Silicoid colony ship away from Crius in the extreme north, literally ONE turn after I got there. How's that for aggressive scouting, eh? In the screenshot above, Crius was the yellow star immediately north of my scouts, just south of the nebula. This would turn out to be one of the pivotal turning moments of the game, denying the Silicoids an excellent planet and opening up the possibility to colonize it myself.

I founded Herculis, the uberplanet in the southwest in 2339, also receiving notice on the same turn from GNN that the Silicoids were up to six systems. Not bad, as Herculis brought me up to five. There were four more colony ships en route to other planets too. I would send 22m from Kholdan to get Herculis started, again using Eco + Reserve spending to remax population immediately.

I soon spotted a Psilon scout at Klystrom, the Dead planet in the southeast. Looks like they started over in the east... Improved Eco discovered, on to Controlled Dead. I also decided to open up the other three tech fields this turn (2342), getting started on permanent research. When the tech fields opened, I chose Deep Space Scanner over ECM I, Class II Deflectors (no choice as always), and Hand Lasers from a huge weapons list. Artemis, the Artifacts world, colonized at the same time. (Sent 23m population from Kholdan, scouts began moving further east again.) I also found Orion, waving bye bye to that particular bug scout. Actually had a second one moving there for positioning, d'oh! Two ships lost.

Two more colonies planted in 2348, at Crius and Vox, which brought me into contact finally with the Silicoids. Here was the galactic map:

Crius is the yellow star with my flag in the northeast, Vox is directly west of it, and Gion slightly further west. Arietis, the Artifacts planet, is directly south of Crius. I'm focusing on Crius because that was the critical world; located on the edge of the nebula, it sealed off all of the planets west and south from AI colonization, while at the same time opening up the possibility to grab more planets further east and north. You can see three tiny blue scouts in the extreme east, one of them chasing off yet another Silicoid colony ship. (I have the cursor pointing to it.) Those worlds were mostly Tundra or Dead, but if I could build some laser fighters and chase off the rocks, I could potentially plant my flag there as well! At the very least, I had slowed the Silicoids down considerably.

Speaking of the rocks... they showed up as Aggressive Technologists. Strange. They had eight planets to my nine, and looked like the big competition in this galaxy. Not the first time that's been the case, believe me.

In the Weapons field, I had a tough choice between Fusion Beam and Stinger Missiles to move the tree forward. Since I wasn't really planning on going on the offensive any time soon, I went with the defensive missile tech, which might also be used for raiding/bombing if needed. Oh, and the Silicoids declared war on me too, for basically no reason whatsoever. Heh. I guess they didn't like me chasing off all their colony ships! Hopefully I could get peace with them before the 2375 scoring benchmark...

As these early years progressed, I continued to churn colony ships out of Kholdan and push them out behind my wave of scouts. The only real constraint was the slow transit speed, everything moving along at warp one. Classic Klackons! While Kholdan handled most of the colony ships (and research, when there were no planets to grab), Maalor continued to feed its production into the Reserve, every single turn. I fed that money into my developing worlds, over and over again:

That's really the best possible use for a Rich or Ultra Rich planet grabbed early in the game, unless you would happen to get into early combat and use it for shipbuilding. Now the Klackons are already the fastest race in the game when it comes to expansion and standing up new worlds quickly. If you take that ability, add in population migration to get the colonies going, and pile on massive Reserve spending at every new planet... well, the growth curve simply explodes at an unprecedented rate. This would become more and more apparent as the game progressed. When there was nothing else to do with the Reserve, I would plow it into Artemis (the Artifacts planet), and get 4x research from the doubling effect.

Nuclear Engines were discovered in 2353, and I chose Sublight Engines (warp 3) next. The new engines allowed me to develop a new ship for the combat zone in the north: Medium size, combat speed 2, carrying one Scatter Pack V missile. I found those missiles, might as well use them. Maalor can crank 6 per turn, so I decided to do that for a few turns, just to protect Crius and my other fledgling worlds. The new engines also allowed me to double the speed of my colony ships after a redesign, which was much appreciated.

The next few techs didn't allow for many choices. Class II Deflectors led to Class III Deflectors, no options. Deep Space Scanner and II8 came in together, with no choice on Battle Computer III (so no early Robotics, unfortunately) and no choice on Battle Suits in Construction. Rather empty Construction field for the best race in the game in that area!

Controlled Dead -> Controlled Toxic (2358), again no choice. Still, that wasn't all that bad, although another terraforming tech would definitely have been better. On the map, I counted six different Barren, Tundra, or Dead worlds that could be colonized. If I can manage to get five of them, I'll consider that very fortunate indeed. Kholdan and Maalor swapped back onto rapid colony ship production, now moving at warp 2 for much faster transit times!

Then the next turn I contacted the Humans, Honorable Industrialists, who started in the northwest. They had four planets to their name; I signed them up to trade the max amount, 225 BC. No reason to get off on the wrong foot, when the Silicoids were a larger power and gunning for my head at the moment. And at this point, anything that promotes good relations will score better in the diplo category.

This was the crowing jewel of my coloniation attempts:

Kailis was northeast of Crius, and even further up into AI space. This was another world where I chased away Human and Silicoid colony ships from the very moment that my scout arrived. I honestly had no business claiming this planet, but if you push those scouts out aggressively, sometimes you can pull off miracles! I also grabbed the first of the Hostile worlds in the immediate vicinity of the start. In fact, I reached the second GNN size message and even exceeded it, reaching 13 worlds.

This resulted in the first Council Election (2363), me versus Silicoids. The Humans vote for me with their three votes, the Silicoids vote for themselves with 4, the Psilons cast their 2 for the rocks, and the Bulrathi abstain with 4 votes (wow, they're pretty big, wherever they are!) The count right now is 3 for me, 6 for Silicoids, which means I can cast my 7 votes for the rocks and gain brownie diplo points! Maybe they'll stop attacking me now. Even better, a veto block already, woohoo! (7/16 = 44%).

Two turns later I met the Bulrathi, with their usual Aggressive Ecologist personality. They were indeed in the southeast corner, as predicted, and had five planets to their name. I signed them up to a 100BC trade agreement, trying to boost relations with everyone. That meant that the Psilons had to be located in one spot:

Probably running some one or two planet actions. Second straight game where the Psilons are a weak non-factor? Well, that does happen sometimes. I wonder if they will become the dominant power in the southeast in some games (?) MOO has more variability in the AI performance than Civ4 does, so it's quite possible.

2369 saw me settle Nyarl, the last new colony for the moment. Need more Planetology tech to grab one or two more planets. The result was a staggering landgrab, 17 planets acquired peacefully on a map with only 48 total. There shouldn't be much of a chance to lose this game... I finally did get the rocks to agree to peace, and signed them to a large 250 BC trade agreement. Maybe that will keep them out of my hair. The good news is that I managed to patch things up before the scoring mark.

More tech news, as Class III Deflectors gave way to... Class IV Deflectors. Not the most interesting Force Field tree so far. Hopefully I can avoid combat, seeing as how I lack the first Planetary Shield. Once again Computers and Construction came in at the same time: BCIII and Battle Suits discovered, yay! This was a big deal, as they arrived in 2374 - just in time for the first scoring deadline. I actually decided to pick ECM III over BC IV next in Computers, since it was cheaper and I didn't need two nearly identical Battle Computers. (You'll almost never see me do this, but I think it was the right move here.) There was no choice in Construction, just Zortrium Armor. Now I likely would have picked that anyway, but still, come on! Best race in the game at Construction, and four straight no choice tiers. Bizarre.

In the 2375 Council Election, I was again nominated against the Silicoids. I pulled votes from the Humans (4) while the Silicoids of course voted for themselves (5) and draw support from the Psilons (2). The Bulrathi still abstaining with their 4 votes. Unfortunately I must abstain with my 10 votes, otherwise the rocks would win the game! My overall percentage of votes actually dropped slightly (10/25 = 40%) due to AI population growth, but this was definitely a good situation.

Now for the tech levels:

Two techs in the percentages was a bit of a bad break. Still, I wasn't complaining, as I had just hit in both Computers and Construction. I had really been pushing research over the last few turns, and that 2400+ research points was pretty impressive for so early in the game. I'll be interested to see how this compares to our other players!

And the diplomatic screen. I had the very bland result of three Neutral AIs, for a total of 30 points here. It's a shame I hadn't met the Psilons, as that would be another 10 points! I expect that this will be the hardest of the three categories to maintain. Keep in mind though that I had been at war with the rocks as little as five turns earlier, so this was probably a pretty good result, all things considered.

Scoring (2375)
17 planets colonized, 10 Council Votes = 81 points
Tech Levels 10 + 11 + 10 + 10 + 6 + 10 = 57 points
3 "Neutral" AIs = 30 points

The colonist score should be really strong here; I don't think it's possible to do too much better than this. I will be seriously impressed if someone else gets more than 17 planets! The researcher score is OK, definitely not bad. It can be bettered though, as I was plowing most of my resources into expansion. That number will also be affected by whatever tech everyone pulls from the Artifacts planet. The diplo score is not impressive at all - plenty of room for improvement there! Well, we'll see what happens at the next scoring mark in 2450, eh?