The Slow Game

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ZedF
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The Slow Game

Post by ZedF » Thu Jun 21, 2012 12:37 am

So, while I often vary the kind of settings I use when starting games according to whim or a desired kind of play experience, I don't often dial the settings all the way to one extreme or another. But I know there are a number of folks around who prefer to play games on minimal economic settings, sometimes almost to the exclusion of other settings, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. I thought about writing a wall of text that would describe my test games in detail, but I figured that might just result in TLDR, so I'll try to sum up a bit.

First game, I gave myself too much of a handicap. 6 races (hard AI) in 180 star clusters map, default start for everyone except Hivers and Tarka who started with 10 planets each, diplomacy disabled. I drew a below average start position in my own cluster, and the clusters map limited my ability to poach territory from the Zuul and Morrigi. I was able to eventually defeat the Zuul and take a lot of their territory, but by that time I was way behind the Hiver/Tarka tech pace, the Hivers had a solid foothold in the Zuul cluster I couldn't dislodge, and the Tarka had eaten the Liir cluster and were threatening to do the same to the Morrigi. I would have had to resort to AI-abusive cheese in order to win that game.

In another game, I gave myself and the other weak stick players 3 starting colonies and a half-dozen extra starting techs, while leaving Hiver and Tarka at 8 colonies each, and played on 180 star mini-clusters instead. This made a huge difference in my initial ability to expand and I got to 17 colonies by turn 30. Granted, this was at the cost of devoting everything to exploration and expansion, with almost no tech development at all, but it was clear I'd be in the driver's seat in that game as I had claimed a huge volume of space very early (over half the galaxy explored and lots of forward bases established on hospitable worlds) and none of the AI races were in a position to seriously threaten my growth curve before most of those planets matured.

What I discovered was that the 50/50 settings in and of themselves don't add to the difficulty of the game, but they do act as a multiplier of sorts on any other difficulty factors that you introduce into your game. They make it take longer and require more investment to dig your way out of an economic hole, but the basic costs of doing business (exploration, minimal defense) remain unchanged, so you tend to have less discretionary funds available for investing. Moreover, there tend to be more obstacles in place to prevent non-stop economic development, both because you have a lower absolute income with which to invest, and because the gateway techs you need to enable certain kinds of investment are relatively harder to acquire. These key butter techs tend to be delayed not just because they cost more in absolute terms but because rivals with a head start will keep that head start longer and will still come calling; I often found myself needing to prioritize military tech development earlier than I typically would.

Anyway, that's the quick and dirty version of life at 50/50 from what I observed. It certainly could make an interesting change of pace to add challenge by making a moderately challenging game at low economic settings rather than adding challenge inherently by giving hard AIs a bigger head start. Perhaps worthy of a succession game at some point... :)
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

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DervMan
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Re: The Slow Game

Post by DervMan » Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:48 am

I love 50 / 50 games, because the focus is much more on intelligent design rather than the arms race. With 100 / 100, it feels relatively easy to cover up a bad decision whereas if it'll take you 20 turns to research either Point Defence or Ultraviolet Lasers, there's quite a decision to be made here.
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Warcat
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Re: The Slow Game

Post by Warcat » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:24 pm

From my little experience, 50/50 games on hard settings are a pain expecially when there's little space to expand, which not allows me to absorb the first early waves of attacks AIs usually send me without crippling my core worlds (usually HW, or extra starting colonies). So I usually don't play on these settings (10+ turns to research Waldo at max research sounds a bit odd for me...)

In your tests, I feel that a 180 stars cluster map provides plenty of space to build up a decent economy at the point that you should fortify the choke points where AIs continuously send their attacks or maybe sustain some colony losses without crippling too much your income.
I tested some time ago a ring map with about 20 stars per player (so not less than your test), but I give it up because enemies where too much close to my early borders and didn't allow me (I was Liir) to expand and maintain their tech/production pace at an acceptable gap.

Indeed this could be a good succession game idea (BTW I feel that the current SG12 have some economy/tech handicap too...)

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Re: The Slow Game

Post by ZedF » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:46 pm

I'll note that extra expansion room (more stars per player) almost always favours the player regardless of other settings, when playing against the AI. Also if you draw a map where all the races start relatively close together as far as ideal hazard rating goes, this can also favour the human player who is quicker/smarter about expansion than the AI, as you're more likely to find good worlds nearby (i.e. less subject to blind luck determining early expansion prospects.)

More recently I have been trying a 50/50 default start on a 80-star ring map as Morrigi, with 3 AI players (20 stars per player) on hard difficulty and given extra starting colonies. In that game it seems my Morrigi and the Tarka on the far side of the ring have gotten the lion's share of the real estate, with the Zuul and Hivers having little left over for themselves (partly due to aggressive picketing and harassment on my part, especially regarding the Zuul.) I found that lots of early harassment has been very cost-effective at helping keep my rivals at arm's distance and preventing them from interfering too much with my plans. I'm fairly confident I could have done the same playing Liir as playing Morrigi -- I'm still working towards getting FTL Economics so I would have had an even better economy had I been playing Liir up to this point.

And yes, SG12 does indeed use restricted economy settings along these lines (50/50.) They may have drawn a poor enough start that, combined with those settings, it's too much. Or perhaps they will pull through. :)
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

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Warcat
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Re: The Slow Game

Post by Warcat » Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:08 pm

ZedF wrote:I found that lots of early harassment has been very cost-effective at helping keep my rivals at arm's distance and preventing them from interfering too much with my plans. I'm fairly confident I could have done the same playing Liir as playing Morrigi -- I'm still working towards getting FTL Economics so I would have had an even better economy had I been playing Liir up to this point.

With early harassment do you mean aggressive picketing and space denial actions? Morrigi can do that with some ease (i.e. taking few losses) thank to their good tactical speed and early drones, while Liir have harder times to even match enemy losses, without a good tech edge.

I think that early aggression with Liir is very hard and could cripple their game. I remember a game as Liir when I went to early war with a Morrigi empire, which started too close to mine, and managed to conquer their HW before turn 60 - 70 (I don't remember anymore). Even if I managed to win the Morrigi war and get a "second" HW, I lost the game because I had to spend too many resources in that early war that I was too far behind in economy compared to the other playing races (read: I had about the same economy without the "hard" bonuses) without a sensitive tech edge.

What are your consideration about early Liir strategies due to their objective difficulty about holding ground and early combats?

PS: SG12 seems to become a terrible Zuul game. Is it a normal difficulty game?

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Re: The Slow Game

Post by ZedF » Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:26 pm

Warcat wrote:With early harassment do you mean aggressive picketing and space denial actions?

Pretty much, though more picketing and colony denial. I try to avoid large battles at neutral planets without a clear objective in mind. Against the Zuul and Hivers (as in my Morrigi game), it's more about killing baby colonies and any weak bore or gate fleets I spot. Much of this early colony busting was done with red laser ERs, singly or in small groups of 6 or fewer ships; these are equally easy for both Morrigi and Liir to procure, so drones don't necessarily have to enter into it. The key is getting and maintaining good intelligence so you know (or can guess) when enemy colonies are newly established and weakly defended. Admittedly, the Morrigi superior tactical speed is helpful once it actually comes time to attack.

As far as tech edge goes, generally Liir get all the advantage they need from light emitters, at least against the AI. Unless of course the enemy happens to roll them as well. ;)

I think that early aggression with Liir is very hard and could cripple their game.

It can if you get overzealous. You have to be mindful of where you can get a good result for a relatively small effort. Opportunistic raiders, not full-scale assault fleets, are IMO the key to offensive early DD-era warfare. The assault fleets should generally wait until you can better afford to build, maintain, and properly support them (i.e. with cruiser-era support ships).

What are your consideration about early Liir strategies due to their objective difficulty about holding ground and early combats?

Good intelligence is really key for any race that wants to engage in or defend against early warfare, since you can't really afford to stunt your growth curve by overbuilding warships, either defensively or offensively. Fortunately Liir are pretty decent at building a picket network near enemy colonies since they are relatively quick in deep space. Take advantage of that.

PS: SG12 seems to become a terrible Zuul game. Is it a normal difficulty game?

It's on normal difficulty, but the AI races started with some extra colonies, and the Zuul players drew a poor starting position. Also, it's hard for Zuul without deep scan to get good intelligence on what nearby rivals are doing, which doesn't help.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

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Zalzidrax
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Re: The Slow Game

Post by Zalzidrax » Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:44 pm

The Zuul, I find, are not good at really early game battles. You need a few basic techs (battle computers, mass drivers) to really put the hurt on, and they really need some room in the beginning to get a "running start" and take advantage of their ability to get colonies up and running fantastically quickly. So I expect a 50% econ/50% hurts the Zuul at lot more than, say, the Hiver, who early on are limited by the speed of their ships.

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Re: The Slow Game

Post by Warcat » Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:26 am

Yesterday I just started a 50/50 game, as Liir, in a 50 stars Ring map against two random hard AIs (no randoms, no alliances). As Derv stated, every choice made is a lot more important than in a 100/100 game and every resource cannot be wasted (I had to change my early scouting tactic for example, 'cause I couldn't spam scouts and grant a decent research rate).

In 80 turns I'm behind in tech, while I'm second in economy, thanks to an AI being Liir which is facing the same problems I have. Aggressive scouting, made by 4 strafe/ER fleets filled with gauss (no missile in the medium mount to lower ship's cost) were surprisingly effective to keep Liir at bay, which are my nearer neighbour. Unfortunately I couldn't stand against the other, which is Human and I fell it's starting to gain a considerable edge, because of the little resistance opposed by the two Liir empires and thanks to being started to the opposite side of the ring.
As now there were some combats on young colonies (I grabbed two Liir colonies and lost one to Humans) and the usual Liir sieges on my developed worlds. I had barely researched trade, one strong light weapon (LE of course), plus some other basic techs. Next turns I foresee a rise of the level of the war against Humans too and I hope to have some trade lanes up before that event occurs and to not face Cruisers for a while: otherwise I probably couldn't stand against a two fronts war...

Zalzidrax wrote:The Zuul, I find, are not good at really early game battles. You need a few basic techs (battle computers, mass drivers) to really put the hurt on, and they really need some room in the beginning to get a "running start" and take advantage of their ability to get colonies up and running fantastically quickly. So I expect a 50% econ/50% hurts the Zuul at lot more than, say, the Hiver, who early on are limited by the speed of their ships.
Indeed Hiver have very cost effective DE, so, with Humans, I feel they have less difficulties than other races. For Zuul I think they can do a great job even with a decent light weapon (green laser for instance, or gauss + VRF) in the early phase of the game. They can exploit their command point bonus to win pre CnC battles and they can ignore bio unless very unlucky in the rolls. So they follow Hivers and Humans in my personal ranking. Then Tarka and Morrigi, which have more expensive ships and fledging early economies. Then Liir, which are a real pain (slow expansion speed, very weak ships, need to grab techs as soon as possible before war starts to have any hope of surviving).

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Re: The Slow Game

Post by Zalzidrax » Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:36 am

And with those economy settings it took until turn 110 to get green lasers in the T.A.R. game. Could've been done faster in a solo game with a focus on tech, but the first few techs are worth the most in this game, and Zuul struggle to get them fast enough on normal economy settings.

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Re: The Slow Game

Post by ZedF » Fri Jul 27, 2012 2:59 pm

I have not personally played Zuul on 50/50 but I tend to think the difficulties in that game stem more from an overly-restricted landgrab phase than from the 50/50 setting in and of itself. As I mentioned earlier, 50/50 tends to act as a magnifier for any other problems your empire is facing; if you'd gotten out to a more typical Zuul start and had double the number of colonies you have now, I doubt tech would be a really big concern at this point. As has been said, there are only a couple key techs Zuul really need to start pressing other empires so as long as you get a reasonable expansion phase this shouldn't be a huge issue, even on 50/50.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

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ZedF
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Re: The Slow Game

Post by ZedF » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:49 pm

Currently trying another 50/50 Ring game as humans, this time as follows:

Grouped teams, 6 players, 90 star ring map:
- Playing as humans, 1 planet start, 2 Hard AIs (Tarka/Hiver), also with 1 planet starts
- Against 3 hard AIs (Hiver, Tarka, Zuul) with 2 planet starts
- Everyone has 4 starting techs, no extra starting cash
Game is now up to turn 100, I have stolen a large portion of my allies' expansion prospects and have 19 colonies. Hiver and Tarka allies have 4 apiece (Hiver ally lost a 5th to enemy Tarka probe.) I think our alliance has in total control over around 60% of the map.

Even though my humans have by far the most colonies of anyone, however, they are still only ranked 2nd economically (behind enemy hivers) and are well behind technologically. I was able to research Suspended Animation early on, and then nothing at all for a very long time as I had all my economy tied up in fleet construction (25%) and colony maintenance (75%). There were a couple times I had to colonize worlds before I really wanted to take on their development costs in order to prevent the Hiver allies from grabbing them (I can use the income a lot more intelligently than they can.) I only started researching in earnest again since about turn 75. State of the art human military is now light emitter DDs with DD CnC; I also have researched Cyber Interfaces and Expert Systems, and am starting on FTL Economics now. Still, for a long time I was defending worlds only with large-ish swarms of gauss DDs. A couple times I got an assist from a swarm queen who arrived at an uncolonized planet at the same time as a Zuul fleet, which was certainly convenient. :)

I've got a fairly well-established border with the enemy hivers and Zuul now, though the Hivers have enough armour that my gauss DDs are obsolete and the Zuul have teched up to CA CnC (though fleets are mostly still destroyers.) On the other side of the map, I can't make any aggressive moves due to an unusually bad node line setup that completely prevents me from entering the enemy Tarka's space, so they are free to take potshots at my Hiver ally and myself without me being able to do anything about it (at least unless my Hiver ally can settle a colony on the other side of the node gap so I can get there via trade lanes, or I work my way all around the map through Zuul and enemy Hiver space.)

Still, I'm not too worried about being steamrollered at this point. The point I wanted to bring up, though, is just how much expansion I needed to do in order to be in a position of being able to say that. Another facet of 50/50 I didn't touch on earlier is, not only is it harder to start your economic snowball rolling relative to enemy AIs with bonuses you don't get on a 50/50 setting, and not only does it take much longer for your investments to pay off... but you need relatively *more* investment opportunities to keep up with the AI's bonuses. If this were a normal speed game and I had 19 colonies where my allies had 4 apiece I would be running away with the game; here it feels more like I have a slender advantage. Where I would normally be probing my opponents and looking for weak points in a normal speed game with this kind of expansion advantage, here I am content just to defend the border and try to keep my enemies at arm's length and continue to grow my economy.

Additional evidence regarding the importance of expansion room on 50/50 maps can be drawn from a previous 50/50 game where I was on a similar ring with similar allies and enemies, but everyone started with 10 colonies insead of 1-2 (my allies on Normal, enemies on Hard) and there were only 80 stars to begin with. I got to freighters and cruisers much sooner, of course, and my allies were better off at least to start with, but even wtih 13 colonies and a full DD freighter network I didn't feel very confident about my ability to afford enough of a navy to really make a significant dent in the enemy alliance; moreover, after DD freighters I ran out of easy ways to grow my economy peacefully simply because of the huge tech investments required for further peaceful econ buffs. I didn't want to resort to AI-abusive cheese tactics, so that game has been shelved for now; I doubt I'll return to it.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

Strategy & Tactics Forum Archive -- More posts on strategy, tactics, and TARs

fredNN
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Re: The Slow Game

Post by fredNN » Wed Oct 09, 2013 9:04 am

Most my game are 50% economy game. But I do not start with default setting (1 planet, 50k money) - too slow, too hard to move, too restricted, too much problem with civilian morale.

My start is 2 planet, 1M money.
And I really like Silicoid Queen - they start come when I need money for build more freighter. :) In large game I play is almost always one Queen going to planet with my gate. In early game I even leave them have some planet I can not not use, to spawn new Queen ... and money for me. :)

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Re: The Slow Game

Post by ZedF » Fri Feb 28, 2014 2:19 pm

So, earlier I posted about this game...

First game, I gave myself too much of a handicap. 6 races (hard AI) in 180 star clusters map, default start for everyone except Hivers and Tarka who started with 10 planets each, diplomacy disabled. I drew a below average start position in my own cluster, and the clusters map limited my ability to poach territory from the Zuul and Morrigi. I was able to eventually defeat the Zuul and take a lot of their territory, but by that time I was way behind the Hiver/Tarka tech pace, the Hivers had a solid foothold in the Zuul cluster I couldn't dislodge, and the Tarka had eaten the Liir cluster and were threatening to do the same to the Morrigi. I would have had to resort to AI-abusive cheese in order to win that game.


Now even though I got handed a below-average start in that game (and made a couple questionable tech calls that didn't help), and wound up in a hole that would have required AI abuse to dig out of, the premise of the game (minor threats early / major threats late, plus 2-front war to contend with and no alliances to get out of jail free) was compelling enough that I had to try again. After experimenting a bit with the game settings I found a set of tweaks I liked and have since started a grudge match. I am still in the 'minor threats' stage of the game, but my expansion is going much better this time around and I feel confident that I'll be able to avoid being hopelessly out-teched by the big boys when they enter the stage.

That said, the main reason I brought this up is because it highlights something I don't often do, and really ought to practice more: large scale warfare in the DD era. Right now I have something approaching 100 combat DDs (mix of green laser armours and shuttles) rocking the core worlds of one of my two neighboring Zuul empires, and it's not really proving to be nearly as much hassle as I normally associate with large scale DD era combat. Partly this is because humans are fast, and partly this is because I managed to stand up a couple mature colonies at productive worlds immediately adjacent to the Zuul core, without drawing enough of a retaliatory strike to imperil them. But another significant factor is the tech levels involved, especially on the part of the defender. I'm used to fighting AI empires that have both a head start on colonies and Hard AI bonuses; my expectations for how punishing fixed defenses are at mature enemy colonies are baselined at fusion warheads and heavy planet missiles. The Zuul neighbor I'm currently grappling with never had the chance to research beyond fission warheads, and consequently I'm really only having to contend with his fleets. Thus far the latter haven't been too impressive.

So my conclusion is that early-DD era large scale warfare can easily be worthwhile, in the right circumstances.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

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Trygvasson
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Re: The Slow Game

Post by Trygvasson » Wed Apr 30, 2014 12:41 pm

I've played a lot of 50/50 games - I find it a lot more rewarding since
- your attack fleet doesn't become obsolete after 10 turns
- the AI has more time to react to and counter your preferred weapon systems
- I like slow games, it has a more epic feel to it and you more often end up in the Grand Encounter phase(oh the joy of tackling the System Killer)
- it acts as a malus accellerator, for example the resource loss of the Zuul can quickly become crippling
- everything slows down except your starships! Meaning you can spend 15 turns building up a massive fleet and move it around for another 30 turns, before its weapons and armour are outdated

My latest 50/50 game was as Zuul ended up in the extreme end in a barbell, with a Hiver empire blocking the way to the rest of the galaxy. Using every trick in the book, I was able to advance veery slowly against the Hiver, but with 30+ colonies losing resources every turn, conquering the rest of the galaxy seemed a remote possibility. Ended up throwing in the towel after realizing that a 15-turn running battle wasn't going to swing it my way in the long run. But it was touch-and-go for a loong time! I don't allow myself to reload, but I can provide a save game if anybody feels like checking this scenario out. The rest of the galaxy is Liir/Morrigi/Human IIRC, and how far along they are on tech is anybody's guess...
Brute force. If it's not working, you're not using enough.

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Re: The Slow Game

Post by ZedF » Fri May 02, 2014 12:42 am

If you are looking for some advice on how best to continue from the position your Zuul are currently in, I could take a quick look. Right now I have another project I am working on (apart from the current TAR game) so I probably wouldn't play it out myself based on your save.
Zed's TARs (sample):
Fractious Allies -- Hiver vs. Hiver, with allies
Who Let The Bugs Out -- Hiver vs. Tarka and Zuul
Tarka Ascendant -- Tarka vs. Hiver and Zuul

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