TAR - Seven at One Blow

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ZedF
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TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by ZedF » Wed Jun 27, 2018 1:24 am

Recently I've been playing games on 50/150 economy/research settings to emphasize tech a bit more while magnifying the AI's advantage regarding lack of maintenance costs. I've also tried out a few games versus 7 Hiver opponents in one or two teams, since this seems like it has the potential to be relatively challenging if I get the settings right. I've won as Humans a couple times against 7 allied Hivers, but this time I wanted to try Zuul and see if I can get them to succeed in a test of endurance. Hence, I've set up a game where mt Zuul have to start at one end of a chain of clusters and fight their way through all of them to the opposite end.

Map settings:
- 160 star clusters, 50/150 Econ/research, 200% randoms
- Player Team 1: 1 Zuul (5+1 PE) w/ 8 techs, $1M, starts at one end of cluster chain
- AI Team 2: 3 Hiver Hard AI, 10 PE, 5 techs, $10M, start in far clusters
- AI Team 3: 4 Hiver Hard AI, 2 PE, 0 techs, $1M, start in middle clusters

Variant Rules:
- Dedicated shuttle/slaver ships may not withdraw from combat until their riders are retrieved or destroyed.
- May not research Fusion until first contact is made with AI Team 2.
- May not research Rend Bore until a mature colony is lost to AI Team 2.
- May not research Jammers or Cloaking until a mature colony is lost to a Cloaked or Farcasted fleet.
- May not research Antimatter until 3 mature colonies are lost to Farcasted fleets.
- To qualify, a mature colony must be size 4+, and have 0 CH, 100+ infrastructure, and max imperial pop.
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: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by ZedF » Wed Jun 27, 2018 1:25 am

T023

I've finished exploring my starting cluster, and though it's not ideal as there are 4 iceballs I'll never get, I guess I can't curse my planet luck too loudly. I've colonized 5 new worlds, and am about to colonize a couple more. Since I knew there were no enemies nearby, I was able to focus on what few econ techs I managed to roll -- Suspended Animation, Cyber Interfaces, and Atmospheric Adaptation. But on the plus side I did manage to roll Light Emitters, so since I'm starting to move into the neighboring cluster now I picked that up next. I'll follow that up with Mass Drivers and Battle Computers, and then I'll re-evaluate.

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I was considering trying to farm Hiver civilians this game, and I even found a Hiver indy world in my home cluster that might be suitable in that regard. However, the Hivers natural hazard rating is just over 300 away from mine, which probably makes for a high slave death rate that I might not be able to sufficiently overcome with Xenotech research. I'm now reconsidering whether that's something I want to do a lot of investment in for this game.

I'm expecting the neighboring Hivers to have a few gates up -- maybe a bunch if they started close to the middle of their cluster -- but not necessarily a lot of new colonies yet. I can probably just steamroller them with main force... once I start building real warships, and not just colonizers and garrison ships, anyway.
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: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by ZedF » Wed Jun 27, 2018 1:30 am

T049

It took a while to get our first two attacks against the Hivers underway, at Axep'che II and Achaska... the pipeline between my cluster and the Jade hivers is relatively lengthy and my forward bases in their cluster are a bit on the resource-poor side for fast development and major fleet construction. However, we got there eventually and the attacks went off without a hitch. While we only brought 20 DDs to each battle, we have light emitters and mass drivers. They are only using lasers and missiles, so fighting even up to double our number leaves our forces battered but victorious.

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We'll have to colonize Achaska normally, and colonizers are already enroute. Axep'che II, however, provides us with the possibility of trying to overwhelm the colony with Zuul babies, since there are only a few million inhabitants and the hazard rating is on the far side of Hiver optimal from where we would prefer it to be. Hopefully a token investment in shuttles and wraiths will save us quite the bundle in development costs as we set up our new forward bases -- I haven't bothered to try this feature of Zuul conquest out in quite some time, so hopefully it's effective.

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On the tech front, we have followed up our acquisition of Battle Computers with more weapons and defenses in the form of Polysilicate armour and Point Defense, and then pushed for Cruisers, with the intent of quickly grabbing Salvage Technology for repair ships that will greatly facilitate subjugation of the Jade Hivers. After that, a lot of priorities are competing for attention... Data Synergy, Asteriod Mining, and Mega-Stripmining would help more on the war front, but if I plan on making significant use of slaves in this game I'm going to need to start making progress in Xenotech soon.
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: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by ZedF » Wed Jun 27, 2018 2:00 pm

Also... do please reply and let me know you are reading and/or any comments or thoughts. I’m not sure how many people are still paying attention to this forum or what kind of audience I might have.
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: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by willdieh » Wed Jun 27, 2018 2:34 pm

ZedF - I (and I'm sure many others, even anonymous viewers) really enjoy your TARs. You're a glutton for punishment fighting 7 hivers. I always appreciate the way you try new scenario rules to see how the game mechanics play out.

What's your typical first turn zuul play? I usually skip research in order to put out 4x tankers + 2x rip drives for a total of 4x rip drives + tanker combos to get exploration underway. Also, how are you running your over harvest in this game?

Thanks!!

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Re: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by ZedF » Wed Jun 27, 2018 9:16 pm

I’m glad to hear you are a fan of the variant rules, willdieh! I find they do a lot to help extend replayability and increase the challenge level.

I often turn off tech for a while at the beginning of a Zuul game, depending on my starting cash and economic conditions. In this game I didn’t need to do that much because I started with extra planets and a $1M bankroll, but it can be a good idea.

I definitely will consider packing an extra rip bore and tanker in initial bore fleets where I expect to want to split off more routes ASAP, though I try to be judicious about it as this can get expensive fast. I will often pack a few colonizers into my scouting bore fleets as well — Zuul colonizers are fairly cheap and getting a head start on a nice planet or two by not having to build and send the colonizers up from the rear can be a big advantage to growth. Having a couple armours or ERs can be handy too, especially if you might run into enemy shipping or baby colonies. But I try not to have more than 1 extra construction turn for colonizers/escorts since it is important to get exploration under way quickly and without too much extra expense.

At the start of the game I mostly overharvest for terraforming. Currently I like to overharvest at max rate in order to get the hazard rating down to 100 or so, then stop. I could go all the way to zero CH to get the cost off the books, but over a moderately long game I’m not convinced the extra cost in lost resources is worth it. At CH 100, Zuul reproduce quite fast enough and you don’t actually save much time to colony maturity by dropping hazard to zero ASAP.

I’ll in some cases consider overharvest for fleet construction as well, especially to build emergency defenses. However, I tend to find I am more limited by long-term income and travel time than fleet construction time, so I don’t do a lot of this unless I have a real bottleneck somewhere. And it’s very rare that I would turn up overharvest for research money in the short term; this usually does not pay off, except in very specific 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

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

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Re: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by willdieh » Thu Jun 28, 2018 12:30 am

Well, TARs are about as close as I can get to playing SOTS at work, so thanks for posting and please keep them coming :)

-William

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Re: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by ZedF » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:25 am

T053-T057

Slave farming isn't an activity I usually pursue as Zuul. Normally I just want to eliminate my enemies as efficiently as possible, so that they can't inconvenience me with counter-attacks or tie up forces and attention I might want elsewhere. Slowing my conquest by wasting time and resources trying to manage a slave-farming-and-transport operation is usually counter-indicated; the opportunity costs (both material and otherwise) seem like they would tend to pile up to the point where the benefits are debatable.

For example, Translate K'en-ken costs the same as Data Synergy, Incorporate Hiver costs the same as AP Drivers (or the recently-completed Asteroid Mining), and Translate Tcho’to-Ken costs more than that. I could easily spend as much on these as I'd spend on Fusion -- they aren't cheap. What's my payoff horizon here? I'd need an awful lot of slaves for the return on such an investment to be reasonable, and thus worth making. Other considerations include the fleets, money, time, and potential colonies taken away from other priorities, any or all of which might be more important at any given point in time.

In the past I've been willing to consider picking up slaves as part of conquering a planet, then dropping them back on the surface after it's colonized, and moving on from there. This isn't necessarily an ideal way to get the most out of the slaves captured, since you might be better off with the extra I/O at a different world. However, it does have the benefit of being minimally invasive to other conquest plans, assuming you are bringing your colony ships with your war fleets, and are generally colonizing immediately after conquering an enemy world.

A more idealized slave farming approach would entail deliberately planning conquest around the idea of running large-scale slave-farming-and-transport operations to take captured slaves away from their native worlds, then letting those worlds recover while still in unfriendly hands. Implementing and defending that kind of operation could take a lot of resources and make for a lot of micromanagement, above and beyond my usual expectations for conquest.

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One way I might be able to help keep costs under control is if I can do my farming at indy Hiver worlds, rather than actual enemy colonies, which might try to research new techs or otherwise fight back. If I can strip the defenses and imperial population off mature Hiver worlds without eliminating the civilians, then leave, a portion of the remaining civilians will convert into an indy government suitable for farming purposes. Alternatively, some Jade colonies might just surrender and turn indy if I beat up their empire enough. That could simplify the logistics of slave farming, as I wouldn't for instance have to worry about anyone building warships to defend the slaves or hunt down my slave-takers.

I'm also helped here by the fact that my enemies are all Hivers, so I only have one batch of Xenotech to research and they can't reinforce one another except by gate. The cluster map layout is also a boon in this regard as it will make it take much longer for the other allied Hivers to get a gate fleet to a besieged Jade colony. In some ways, apart from the natural Hiver CH being relatively distant from mine, this sort of map is a good one for trying out slave farming.

Still, this very much strikes me as a "win-more" way of doing things. Sure, if you sink a lot of time and money into it, maybe you can turn a nice profit eventually. Is it enough more of a profit than just conquering enemy worlds, setting up shop there yourself, and capping your ongoing costs in the area relatively quickly, to justify the hassle? Seems like a dubious proposition. That said, this is theory; I might be surprised. I probably should research my way at least to Incorporate Hiver at some point, and try to make sure I have some Scavenger cruisers floating around. Then I can at least potentially do some more experimentation on slave farmimg to back up my analysis with some empirical data.

I did also say I was planning to experiment a bit once again with the Zuul version of assimilation plague, and I now have a successful result at Axep'che II. But again, the process is fairly finnicky. You'll likely have to be pretty careful about micromanaging how much damage you do to the enemy populace prior to sending in the Wraiths, probably over multiple turns and with a good idea of just how fast each weapon will kill the inhabitants, to get the imperial population low enough for a quick infection without getting too low and having the Wraiths just kill all of them. You might also need to be a bit patient and wait around a few turns while the infection spreads, depending on how closely you've managed the population dynamics.

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One interesting question might be whether this approach works better on worlds with lots of civilians but few imperials. I tend to think it might be more effective on such worlds, at least if they aren't indys. But it seems that independent worlds are immune to infection entirely, so since most worlds with initially low imperials and high civilians are independent worlds, this might be tricky to test.
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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willdieh
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Re: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by willdieh » Fri Jun 29, 2018 2:34 pm

I hope your slave trading analysis brings back some hard data on a good strategy for zuul. There was a thread a long time ago that studied this topic but I've forgotten where. As you mentioned, the hardest part is "damage control" when harvesting slaves - you don't want to wipe out the entire colony. This just required too much micro for my style so I usually just did what you mentioned - suck up the population on conquer and drop it down again on colonization. I'm fascinated about your approach though. At least hivers reproduce quickly!

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Re: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by Starknight » Sat Jun 30, 2018 3:17 pm

Hmm. Interesting concept; maybe I'll give it a try, although I don't particularly care for playing crack-weasels... :)

Yeah, still here, still reading, just being quiet.
My Morrigi fleet-speed calculator for SotS Prime
The Holy Lands - Hivers vs. the infidel Liir (and others)
Currently working on getting my board game Dragon Raiders into final condition before going to Kickstarter...

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Re: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by ZedF » Sun Jul 01, 2018 1:16 am

T059

One of my fleets arrives at Ozhyk, where the Jade Hivers have gate & 61 DDs but no colony. I have 40+ DDs with better guns & a repair ship, and I consider that I can maybe lure more defenders here next turn if I don't destroy the gate. I probably need to keep away from the gate anyway if I want to maximize giving damaged ships an opportunity to withdraw, and I don't need to make a fast kill here since colonizers will take a couple turns to follow up anyway. So I make a fighting withdrawl to a position close to the edge of visual range from the gate, and make my stand there. This allows me to kill about 40 enemy destroyers for few outright losses.

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Next turn the Jade Hivers do indeed gate in more of their fleet, and I make repairs and repeat the process. I do take a few more casualties, though; once the enemy runs out of command ships, I have to close on the gate to finish their forces off, making it a bit harder to evacuate my wounded in time. Still, it's a good result none-the-less and did allow my forces establishing other node lines and attacking enemy colonies to have an easier time of it. That's probably the bulk of the Jade Hiver navy, from what I can tell, so now I'll just have any new construction to deal with.
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: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by ZedF » Sun Jul 01, 2018 1:18 am

T065-66

My fleets have now visited what I believe are all the remaining Jade Hiver colonies. Some of these have been given the gift of death, so that I might plant my own in their place and eventually build fleets there. Others are less fortunate, are currently besieged, and will be used as a source of slaves henceforth.

When choosing which Hiver colonies not to kill, good candidates have dense civilian populations, are small or resource-poor and less profitable to colonize, are close to Zuul colonies for quick turnaround on slave shipping, and are not right on a border where you need ship production. That said, the first of those qualities is the most crucial. If I can kill all the imperials without simultaneously killing all the civilians, and without relying on the baby Zuul plague to do it, then that makes a potential indy world for farming. But there are really only 2 Jade worlds that have relatively high civilian counts, those being its initial two colonies, Chiskatet and the homeworld Pyzak'tot. One of the drawbacks of slave farming is you might not get a lot of good farming spots among the enemy colonies... sometimes you just have to take the slaves where you find them.

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Pyzak'tot is a homeworld and has a lot of civilians, but also a ton of imperial population. If I were to reduce it strictly with weapons fire, I'd kill off the civilians at the same time as I killed off the imperials. Fortunately I am helped here by a quirk of Zuul Scavenger disks: not counting disk-mounted weapons, they take somewthing like 99-100% of their slaves from the imperial population, and largely leave the civilians alone. I don't have a lot of Scavengers in the area, but the ones I do have will try to help ensure this world becomes a slave farm one day.

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Chiskatet is only a size 2 world, but it was the site of the last major battle with the Jade Hiver navy. This was where their new construction was being built after I eliminated their original fleet at Ozhyk. Their forces included just over a dozen relatively modern UV laser / stormer destroyers that were significantly more painful to deal with than their older missile boats. But in the end, it was too little, too late for the Jade empire. Three scavengers are enroute to grab most of the imperials off this world.

The third and last Jade colony I would like to convert into a slave farm is Chyprek, which is size 8, but relatively low on resources. The problem here is this planet has full imperial population but just under 100M civilian pop, so it will be a long time and a lot of slave disk runs before the civilians outnumber the imperials. I'm hoping to convince the Jade empire to surrender, which might speed this process up.

Of course, in order to keep the Jade military suppressed and its people's morale dropping, I'm having to besiege these worlds with most of my current navy. Ideally I would like to start making progress on the next empire up the cluster chain from here, but until I can free some ships up I don't have the force levels necessary to do it. I'm a couple techs away from next-generation APMD destroyers, so I could plan to build some next-gen forces with which to press onwards, but that will take still more time. It will also leave me a bit worried about how much I'm spending on guns relative to butter, and about how well my fleet maintenance budget will fare relative to income growth. I might have to do it anyway, but this feels like a significant gamble that all this time spent trying to manage slaves will prove worthwhile in the end.
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: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by willdieh » Mon Jul 02, 2018 4:34 pm

Man I really hope you can find a way to pull off the slave harvesting! I think it would be really interesting to know if it was a feasible strategy. It'd be nice if the game gave you a research bonus based on slaves or something, anything that would offset the time/resources required to implement a slave based economy.

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Re: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by ZedF » Mon Jul 02, 2018 8:15 pm

T075

After a few turns of consecutive combat over Jade Hiver worlds, I got a message from them indicating they would never surrender. I'd managed to convert only the smallest Jade colony to an independent world, by dint of depopulating the imperials by taking them all as slaves. The other two planets I was planning to turn into farms... well it was taking too long, so now they are Zuul colonies too.

I'm beginning to reach the conclusion that my earlier analysis was correct, and slave farming's benefits, while real, simply fail to outweigh the costs. Fighting constant combats every turn over supine enemy worlds to try to grab slaves or encouage them to turn independent was getting annoying. I suppose if I had already researched the next couple levels of Hiver Xenotech, so I could demand surrender, it might have helped encourage them to throw in the towel... but since I'm Zuul, I'm not sure if would they surrender their worlds into my custody, or become independents.

The other main problem I was having was that I was really regretting having tied up the fleets assigned to slave farming, and not having them available to keep pushing on the offensive. Pulling some of those fleets over to the border and using them to attack now is going to mean that by the time I'm able to build and deploy next gen fleets, I will hopefully have a beachhead in the next cluster from which to launch them. I can't really afford to sit back while my neighbor grows stronger, as do the big empires on the far side of the map.

It's not like I am getting nothing out of the slaves I have taken. The math says that at these hazard ratings and this level of Xenotech, 200% output is the way to go, and I figure the extra economy output of a couple hundred million slaves at 200% output is worth about the same as a mature Zuul colony at a medium world. If I could consistently build up a population of slaves, this would add up. But slave death rates are still too high to maintain large populations, even with slave raids every 5 or so turns. And I have to factor in the lost income from slave worlds I could be colonizing myself, and the opportunity cost of not gaining new conquests faster.

Maybe for some folks the idea with slave farming is to think of it as analagous to trade, in that you spend a lot of money and some attention on doing some activity that doesn't directly help you beat up on your neighbors, but boosts your income over the long haul. For me, though, that analogy doesn't really hold water. You need a lot more upfront investment to make slave farming profitable than you do with trade, because the tech and opportunity costs are much higher. Moreover, trade is relatively ubiquitous and fire-and-forget as an investment, whereas slave farming requires just the right circumstances and constant attention even just to maintain existing investments, let alone find or create new investment opportunities.

Slave farming increasingly feels like something that might be profitable if you already have a huge economy and nothing better to do than blow a lot of it on Xenotech to make slave farming worthwhile. But if you already have a huge economy and nothing better to do... why aren't you busy winning the game?
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

ZedF
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Re: TAR - Seven at One Blow

Post by ZedF » Mon Jul 02, 2018 8:20 pm

Some teasers for next time...

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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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