RBSotS1 SG12

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Gryfalcon
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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by Gryfalcon » Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:36 pm

I'm not sure I want to commit to another SG, and certainly not a Zuul one, at this point. I'm willing to take this one until it's over, however. Although it is looking like a game only ZedF can save.
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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by purplemarmot » Wed Aug 29, 2012 7:13 pm

I'd be willing to start a new Zuul SG.

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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by Summoner » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:58 pm

I'm feeling burned out in general; so I won't be playing the next SG whatever race is picked.

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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by ZedF » Thu Aug 30, 2012 3:45 pm

Well if you guys want to close this one down, by all means we can see if there is enough interest in starting another one up.
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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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by ZedF » Sun May 18, 2014 1:13 pm

Since this game proved to be a challenge for the SG team, and since I haven't played a 50/50 game as Zuul yet, I decided I'd give it a whirl and see what I can do with it. Note that I did not follow the SG team's actions very closely in this game, nor have I read the TAR in any great detail to see what they did. But at least one of the people in the SG team was interested in a critique, so the impulse to play out this game dovetails with that request for a critique and can considered to be an answer.

I do know the SG team eventually encountered a System Killer somewhere after T200, which was what ultimately caused them to give up. I'll at least play until I reach a winning position, and I might stick around long enough to take on the System Killer if it seems convenient. I'm not going to write this up as a roleplaying scenario, but I will try to record my decision making process.

For reference, from what I can recall this game is set up as follows:
Galactic Collision map, 50% economy & 50% research
Team 1: Player position, Zuul (1+1 PE), default start.
Team 2: Liir + Tarka, Normal AIs, each 4PE, no other bonuses.
Team 3: Hiver + Morrigi, Normal AIs, each 4PE, no other bonuses.

Now I normally play against Hard AIs, rather than Normal AIs, but I do note the SG team had trouble with this particular map due to bad planet luck near their starting area. So we'll see if I can't overcome that obstacle.


Turn 1: As usual on 50/50 maps, technology takes a long time to acquire. With 100% research on Waldos, it would take 20+ turns to acquire... which is too long. I need a bigger economic base before I research anything, in order to get the benefits of my research in any reasonable amount of time. Admittedly, Waldos would help my economy, but not as much as expansion will.

Generally, in SotS I find that technology often has the slowest return on investment. Both the 50% malus to economy and the 50% malus to research exascerbate this and make it even more preferable to invest in ships rather than technology. You need a certain base level of investment in ships to grow and defend your empire, so the 50% malus to economy reduces the pool of discretionary income after baseline shipping investments are taken care of, often by much more than 50%. The 50% malus to research itself is of course a flat reduction in efficiency of money spent on tech, as compared to money spent on ships. So in a 50/50 game, it does not pay to focus on tech in the early game, even more than is true on lusher settings. This is especially true with Zuul, who start with a sluggish economy, but cheap ships.

So, I turn off research and focus exclusively on ship construction: rip bores, tankers, colonizers, and a few ERs. Unfortunately my front line colony, Volans, is a resource poor world, so I can't afford to spend its I/O on colonizers for my initial bore fleets; instead they will have to come from the homeworld, once a route to Volans is bored.

I also opt to delay sending out my initial rip bore by 3 turns while I build a second bore, 2 tankers, and a couple escorts. This will mean I get to explore Talok a couple turns later, but I will be able to bore new routes twice as fast once I arrive. Sending out 2 rip bores in a fleet that's about to explore in a new direction is often a useful trick in the early game to explore faster... provided you don't run into a random encounter like the Swarm and get your bores killed. In this case, I only have one way I can reasonably go; if there is a swarm at Talok I'm screwed regardless, so I may as well.


Turn 10: Completed routes from the HW to Volans and from Volans to Talok. Talok is another mid-sized world with poor resources, like Volans, and would cost 45k to colonize. I do have 10 colonizers ready to go, however; they will arrive in 3 turns, with another 8 following in 5 turns to continue onwards from there, and more to follow later.

I decide to colonize Talok. If I max overharvest for terraforming, it is certainly possible to turn a profit with it in due course. If I were playing as another race with less early terraforming ability via overharvest, I would skip this world and hope to find something better; I think that even with Zuul overharvested terraforming this is a pretty marginal world to be a first colony, as its poor resource base will limit my ability to terraform with overharvest. However, it's right astride my only reasonable egress from my starting worlds, so its value as a refuelling depot tips the balance in favour of colonizing it.


Turn 20: Our bore fleet has discovered a derelict around an iceball at Cargg, and we've built a red laser destroyer to go strip turrets. A Liir scout was kind enough to snipe off the torpedo mount for us, so we can pass through with no worries. We have also scouted two more worlds: Procyon, another mid-size world with about 400CH, average resources, and an asteroid belt, and Rizdet, a medium-size world with high resources and about CH150. We also have bore fleets enroute to Po'chak, Gotham, and Altair, with others to come after that.


Turn 25: I had to defend Rizdet from a Hiver gate fleet and a Liir colony group, each 5 destroyers strong. Fortunately I had 9 destroyers with all gauss weapons, which did pretty well for themselves and took out both enemy fleets in autoresolve. I don't usually use a lot of autoresolve, but I will for early gauss fleets, especially if lacking CnC. Rizdet will be colonized shortly. Routes are being bored to Okara, Po'chak, Sera, and Altair. I'm planning to send another group to Muur soon to flip the Defenders of Muur the bird. (Of course the Morrigi are on the other team...)

Image
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

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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by ZedF » Mon May 19, 2014 6:47 pm

Turn 35: I've discovered several worlds in the last 10 turns: Po'chak is size 9, average resources, ~CH400; Okara is size 5, average resources, CH ~375; Altair is size 5, high resources, but ~CH600; Sera is guarded by a swarm but looks nice if I can clear them out, Fornax is an awesome world at size 7, above average resources, and almost perfect CH, Muur is another decent world for us at size 7 and ~150CH, but low on resources; Akrotiri is size 5, above average resources, but ~575 CH and guarded by a derelict; Tirol is an iceball for us; Boshal is guarded by a swarm but is a nice colony prospect; and, Tasia is an iceball.


Turn 50: I should talk a bit about expansion as Zuul. One of the Zuul's biggest strengths during the expansion phase is that they have the ability to colonize the widest habitability range of all the races -- they have the largest CH range for what is possible to settle, they have the highest population growth rate, they get a discount on all planetary development costs, and they have the ability to overharvest to zuulform high hazard worlds far faster than any other race can manage at the start of the game.

Of course, they had to give something else up to get this wide habitability range, and one of the things they gave up was the ability to scout; Zuul are the worst at scouting the map to find good planets to settle of any race in the game. One might think that the Zuul ability to settle almost anywhere makes them immune to getting bad map draws, but in fact their poor scouting abilities more than offset this advantage on maps with a dearth of good prospects to settle. For other races, if there are only a few good worlds to settle within a given distance of the homeworld, at least you can find them relatively easily to settle them, and then work on biotech from there. If the Zuul fail to expand their node network quickly, or get their early bore fleets eaten by randoms, or even fail to get lucky enough to pick the right worlds to explore first, it can cause them real hardship.

Putting the game on 50% economy and 50% research exascerbates the Zuulish scouting difficulties, because it makes it harder to afford to build the fleets you need for exploring; rip bores are expensive. Nevertheless, you have no choice; those fleets are essential. The only way you can succeed on 50/50 as zuul is if you really prioritize efficient and quick exploration of the map, and do your utmost to minimize your vulnerability to bad map luck by using good Zuul scouting techniques.

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For example, take the SG team's exploration efforts. One of the biggest difficulties the SG team had in the early game was finding worlds that were good to settle; in fact, after Talok, they didn't settle any other colonies until turn 45, when they settled Pylos. The biggest reason for this is not that there weren't good colony prospects around -- it's that they were not able to find them, because these good colony prospects were not close to home, and the Zuul node network had not been developed in an efficient and comprehensive enough manner to be able to find them quickly. Notice how there are few branches on the node network; this is a good indication that not enough bore fleets were operational.

Note as well that there are a lot of long node lines on this network. Having long node lines is not entirely a bad thing, but you don't want too many of them. Keeping node lines as short as possible is a good way to explore several planets in rapid succession; on this map, most of the short node lines (and a large percentage of the planets) are in the center, so having quick access to the center is important. The SG team ceded the center of the map to the AI races early on, when what they actually needed to do is make sure to get there quickly before other races had a chance to really fortify themselves in the center. Odds are good there will be at least some planets you can stand up quickly enough to be able to easily defend them, or that are outside the hazard range the other races are interested in -- especially in this game where the Zuul have significantly different CH preferences compared to the other races (which is the main reason why good planets for them are relatively scarce.)

In fact, an efficient exploration pattern will tend to have a mixture of long and short node lines, because always choosing to bore only the shortest possible node lines makes it hard to develop an effectively branched node network, and because long node lines are a good way to access areas of the map that you think might be relatively vacant or otherwise good candidates for exploration. On this map, once you've explored a bit and taken notice of the star names that reflect the other races in the game, you can take a guess at which arms are more likely to have enemy races in them, and which arms are more likely to contain colonizable worlds instead. So getting routes bored into other arms where you might find good colony prospects is almost as important as exploring the center.

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My main strategy for exploring this map was to try to get to the center fairly quickly with several bore fleets and explore it early on, when the only things I would likely have to contend with (aside from Hiver gate fleets) would be lone scouts. From there, I would be able to try to push outward into arms which I suspected did not contain enemy starting colonies; I could take a guess at this by noting star names that seemed to belong to alien races, and by noting the origin points of enemy scouts. You can see the results of this strategy: I have pretty much completely explored the core and have several bore fleets exploring arms radiating from there. This exploration has not only netted me information about and routes to colony prospects, but I have also snuffed a few baby colonies founded by the other races, slowing their economic growth.

The biggest threat to my ability to explore was Hiver gates and gate fleets. If I ran a bore fleet into a gated world I could probably expect to kiss it goodbye. So, I tried to give the Hivers a relatively wide berth with my initial gate fleets, again by noticing their worlds of origin and projecting their likely exploration pattern and rate from there. Otherwise, I mainly just wanted to avoid enemy mature colonies, so I could keep exploring for good colony prospects. When I built defenses, they were mainly intended to protect my node network from a gate landing somewhere in the middle of it and cutting my network in two, and/or denying me a planet I might want to settle.

In order to afford this exploration and expansion, I left research turned off much longer than the SG team did. By turn 50, they had been researching Waldos for 40 turns, and were only 50% complete. So, they had put a lot of their early money into something that did not pay off in a reasonable timeframe. This sort of problem is what motivated my turning off research entirely in the early game, as described previously in the Turn 1 report. But obviously you can't leave tech turned off forever; you do have to be mindful of when a given tech is absolutely required or you will get spanked. Still, in general, having enough ships and colonies is usually more important than having advanced tech in use on those ships and colonies.

My plan was to turn tech back on once I had developed at least a couple colonies, so I could turn on research without compromising my ability to continue to expand. This wound up being around T40. By turn 50, I had almost half completed Waldos, so I was at nearly the same level of tech investment as the SG team, despite having only been researching for a quarter of the time. This was possible because I had built up a far more robust economy, precisely because I had been a lot more vigorous regarding exploration and, consequently, colonization.

For the curious, here is the T50 save file.
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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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by ZedF » Tue May 20, 2014 3:52 pm

Turn 60: Waldos came in underbudget. I think Mass Drivers and Battle Computers are the two best choices here because I suspect my rivals will start fielding DD squadrons soonish and I don't want to be too late to the party; so far I haven't seen any command ships floating around but that will change. I opt to get the weapon first and will likely follow up with battle computers. The only other useful weapon at this point in the game would be green lasers, but I don't plan to climb the laser tree. VRF can and should wait until after Mass Drivers have been acquired; Cyber Interfaces, likewise.

Since the last report, several of my colonies have matured and I have planted new ones at Po'chak and Marklar. In the next little while I anticipate founding several more.

I am starting to see more Hiver gate fleets floating around my territory. I'm letting them have all the iceballs in the core; I can't really contest those anyway, and it will hopefully give the Liir someone to worry about other than just myself. Right now rankings have the Liir in 1st place and myself in second; I am of course 1st in colonies, but I am also already 3rd in income, as well as 1st in population, 3rd in output, and 3rd in ships.


Turn 75: I'm now up to 1st or 2nd in all categories other than technologies, which is, unsurprisingly, still at 5th. Mass drivers recently completed in time to help repel a Hiver attack at Fornax, but as you can see they are about to try again. This is a bit costly for me in terms of ships I need to have on hand there, because the Hivers have battle computers (and shaped nuclear warheads) and I don't; however, it's more costly for the Hivers because their missile destroyers cost more than double what my mass driver destroyers do. Naturally I've queued up Battle Computers to address the command gap; after that I'm not certain whether I will go for Cyber Interfaces or VRF, or possibly Gene Modification to see if I have Suspended Animation in my tree.

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Currently I have 19 colonies, as can be seen on the map. I expect to be able to colonize a few more without any more investment in biotech and/or industry boosters, but after that we get into the 500+ CH range, and I'll want another economy buff or two before I try and tackle overharvest-zuulforming those. Suspended Animation would be ideal for that purpose since it would enable me to land enough initial population to be able to get a good start, instead of having to wait for several turns with just the default 10 overharvest per turn before growth starts to kick in.

As far as my node network goes, a lot of my initial node lines are starting to decay out, and I am endeavouring to replace them with better ones as the opportunity arises. I haven't bothered reconnecting all my initial colonies to the node network; I don't expect they are really under any significant threat since they are relatively far away from the action and anyone who wants to attack me can certainly find somewhere closer by to do so. All I need to worry about down that way is the occasional scout or small gate fleet, which are generally no problem to deal with.

Also shown on the map are a couple swarm worlds I am currently in the process of dealing with. Right now I have 2 swarm queens enroute to my nearest colonies from these swarm hives as well. This will necessitate some extra defensive building, but I expect the cash boost from defeating the swarm queen will pay for that. I've also built a sizeable fleet in order to try and clear the Tarka off of Kor'Kora, where their fleet recently took out a Derelict I was intending to strip.
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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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by ivra » Tue May 20, 2014 5:50 pm

It looks like you have got a much better grip of this game than we did. I still get a lot of useful tips reading your battle reports. For instance, I hadn't thought of the possibility to put two rip bores together in a fleet to be able to create the second and third node line immediately after arriving at the target planet.
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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by ZedF » Tue May 20, 2014 9:34 pm

Glad it was helpful for you. :)

I think in this case the main issue was having the confidence to go for the centre quickly. Even if the AI has a big materiel advantage over you, it takes an awful lot for that to be able to overcome the advantage humans have when it comes to applying their resources effectively and intelligently. Your default assumption should generally be that you CAN succeed at any given goal until proven otherwise, not that you can't succeed. Lack of confidence and passivity are the two biggest gifts you can give the AI; instead, you almost always want to be taking the initiative and acting.

Of course, adapting one's play style to 50/50 is a significant change in mentality and a challenge all on its own, but it's always good to learn new things and grow one's skills. 8)
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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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by ZedF » Thu May 22, 2014 11:35 am

Turn 90: Up to 24 colonies now, and first in every category but tech. This count is without considering Procyon, which I had to abandon due to a surprise attack by the Morrigi; I should be able to evict them soon enough and reclaim the world. Battle Computers finished earlier and now Gene Modification has completed, and Suspended Animation is indeed in our tree -- good news for all those high CH worlds! Once I have that researched I shouldn't need any more biotech, since there's only 1 more small world I've explored that I would need AA in order to colonize. I might grab Cyber Interfaces after Suspended Animation, and possibly Expert Systems if I have it, since those will boost my current worlds as well as any new colonies, and I can afford those techs fairly easily now.

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Still, I don't know that I really want to spend a ton of time on economy buffs right at the moment. I'm seeing attack fleets incoming on a regular basis now: so far all destroyers, and nothing that I can't handle by virtue of being able to spam a ton of destroyers on short notice. Mind you, I haven't really had the luxury to think much about hitting back; I've more been trying to make sure I snag all the planets I possibly can, while keeping my holdings moderately well-defended. That said, pretty soon I'm going to get to the point where I want to start thinking about how I'm planning to take the fight to my rivals.

Now a lot of the time outside 50/50 games, I like to get cruiser fleets going in order to do that, because they can be a lot more self-sufficient than destroyer fleets. But the possibility exists, especially in 50/50 games where teching to cruisers can be a relatively slow process, to go on a significant offensive with just DD fleets. In the core of the map, a lot of the distances between stars are short enough that even with just fission engines, I can move between stars in 1 turn; if I'm going to attack anywhere, that's probably the best place to do it, as it will afford the possibility of surprise attacks (in the early fission DD era!) and will keep repair cycles short.

Image

Currently the Hivers have the strongest presence of the AI empires in the core of the map, with gates around just about everything I haven't colonized myself. Most of those planets are iceballs to both myself and the Hivers, which don't do me a lot of good right now... but there are a number of worlds in the core that I haven't explored, yet have Hiver gates. Some of them have to be Hiver colonies, and if so then it would be to my benefit to take them away, as the Hivers are closest to the Zuul in CH preference.

I think this is starting to sound like the beginnings of a plan...
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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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by BlueTemplar » Thu May 22, 2014 4:54 pm

Yes, especially since I doubt Hiver AI is smart enough to deal with 1-turn surprise attacks by moving their fleets on the vulnerable planets in advance...

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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by Torezu » Thu May 22, 2014 5:47 pm

It isn't, unless you have attempted to attack the same planet before and failed. Then it tends to focus pre-assault ship buildup at those planets (sometimes), which has the same effect as a defensive screen. If you blow their gate in the first round, though, you usually only have to focus on the remaining ships, and what few they can build at a planet that's being blockaded.

Of course, this all assumes they don't have Farcasters, which in this game I seriously doubt.

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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by ZedF » Thu May 22, 2014 6:01 pm

BlueTemplar wrote:Yes, especially since I doubt Hiver AI is smart enough to deal with 1-turn surprise attacks by moving their fleets on the vulnerable planets in advance...

Well they do notice the bore fleet moving in and creating the route and send ships to defend against that. Of course, the attack fleet that follows up is far larger... :twisted:
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

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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by Trygvasson » Fri May 23, 2014 9:28 am

Poor little AI gets his butt kicked by Zed - again. Zed's not dead! :twisted:

I really appreciate reading your stuff Zed, it's in-depth and analytical, and very knowledgeable. Your strategic thinking is excellent and flexible, you - crucially - don't attempt to implement a single 'winning' formula for any given situation(like the good old self-sufficient cruiser strikeforce), but instead look at the current situation and adapt your plans to that.

What about Wraith Abductors at this point? I've always considered them a strong early-game Zuul card, especially against an opponent with a large CH difference. You presumably have the economy now to swarm a few worlds and let the zuul newborn do what they do best...
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Re: RBSotS1 SG12

Post by ZedF » Fri May 23, 2014 12:25 pm

It used to be relatively easy to subvert new worlds with Zuul younglings, but they changed things in a patch awhile back to limit the amount of damage those younglings can do, even with large drops. Nowadays, even if you land a large number of things capable of dropping off Zuul babies, you're still only going to get a relatively small infestation, capable of subverting a planet with no more than a few hundred thousand imperial population. I suspect (guess, really) they made this change when they increased Wraith abduction capacity from 50k to 500k.

Since then, I've found it has become quite tricky to make Zuul subversion of an immature colony actually work. The granularity of the population signature bar on the tactical interface doesn't distinguish between a few hundred thousand and several million population, so it can be hard to bombard just enough to get the planetary population low enough for a successful subversion without going over and killing the colony entirely.

I haven't really given Wraiths a shot since the old days when they captured 50k pop max. Back then I found them impractical to use as a follow-up to bore fleets because of the cost to build them; early on you need every dollar to be going into expansion via rip bores and colonizers, not gambling on maybe being able to subvert a colony. I also tried including a single wraith in my bore fleets back in the day, with mixed results, and ended up concluding even that wasn't worth the expense, though this tactic may be worth re-visiting now that the wraiths have gotten an upgrade to their planetary bombardment/slave-taking potential.

Thinking about it now, it seems to me that since they upped the amount Wraiths abduct, and reduced the power of subversion, the mission profile of Wraith Abductors has perhaps changed. Instead of being something you drop on new colonies as you find them, they can instead perhaps be used on formerly mature colonies, after you've already hit them once with assault shuttles and cleared away the defending navy, in order to fine-tune your planetary bombardment to more easily approach the levels you need to make subversion happen. If so, they are still an expensive luxury, but if you are at the stage where you are capable of conquering enemy worlds, then you can afford luxuries a lot more easily than you can at the start of the game.

I haven't given them another shot during this game, but next time I play Zuul I may give them a whirl...
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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